Circle Translated Vocabulary

Some teachers debate about using L1 in the classroom, and that is a valid conversation. However, some teachers use it judiciously and this is an activity to exploit that. It can be used at all levels.

  1. Create cards with the vocabulary item in English and another set with the item in the learners L1 (if the group is monolingual).
  2. Spread the L1 cards on the table. Explain that you will call out the English word/phrase and the learners should touch the translation as quickly as possible. The person who touches the card first wins the point. You can reverse this by putting the English cards on the table and then calling out the L1 translations as well.

Alternative: If the class is really big, distribute a list of the words in the L1. Then call out the translations and they circle the words. Then check with a partner or as a whole class.

Alternative: Write the words in the L1 on the board. Divide the group into 2 teams. Call the first person from each team to the board. Call out 5 words and the two players touch the translation on the board as quickly as possible. The person who “wins” the round by having the most correct touches remains at the board. The person who “loses” the round sits down and is replaced by a new player on their team. Repeat until everyone from one of the teams “loses”. The person remaining at the board is the champion.

Alternative: Create flashcards with the English on one side and the L1 translation on the back. Use the cards for individual or group drilling. Flip the cards and test again. Hand the cards to the learners and have them quiz each other in pairs (to reduce anxiety). Good as a warm-up or review at the beginning/end of the lesson.

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Collocation Card Match

Collocations are something I focus on from A1-C2. This is good as a lead in to test what they know or as review to check phrases that have been introduced.

  1. Before the lesson, I select the collocations and type up a word document with a table. Break the phrases in two and type half the phrase in one box and half in the other, e.g. to take / a photo, to go / on vacation, peace / and quiet (usually focused on a theme, here vacations). Print and cut into cards, enough for one set per pair of learners. Tip: You can add a THIRD card with a definition (either in their L1 if monolingual or in easy English).
  2. Explain to the learners that in pairs they will match the cards to create the collocations. If you use the definition card, then that would need to be matched as well. Monitor as they do this. Check as a whole class.
  3. Then ask them to turn over the FIRST card in each pair and quiz each other. For example on the table they will now see the cards XXX a photo, XXX on vacation, XXX and quiet. Then have them turn over just the second card and quiz each other again. If you are using the definition cards, have them turn over both cards of the collocation and try to remember the collocation based on the definition.
  4. Now collect the cards. Redistribute one set of cards among all the learners. Every learner should have at least one card, up to about 5 or 6. Explain that you are going to say the first part of a collocation and the person who thinks they have the second part should shout it out. For example, I say : “peace” and all the learners look at their cards and one shouts “and quiet”. If the class agrees it is a correct match, continue to the next learner.
  5. Once this memorization is complete, you can use the phrases in free practice, such as an interview exercise with Q&A (Where did you go on vacation last year? Did you take a lot of pictures? etc.). Alternatively, use a conversation game like those outlined in other posts here (search VOCABULARY category).

This can be used for 1-1, but the learner must be active in matching and the trainer gives hints.

Catch & Count

This is good for A1 or review at the A2 level.

  1. Choose a ball or stuffed animal or other easy-to-throw and not dangerous object.
  2. Learners should all stand (if possible in a circle).
  3. Explain you are going to count using the ball. Start by saying “one” and throwing the ball to a learner. That learner says “two” and throws the ball. Continue until someone makes a mistake or until you decide it’s enough practice.
  4. Vary the next round by counting in twos (2, 4, 6, 8…) or threes (3, 6, 9, 12…) or backward from 100. You can also do sequences like plus 1 (or 2,3,4). For example, 1 plus 5 (sequence 1, 6, 11, 16…). Another fun variation is that every other learner does NOT say a number but says BUZZ (or MOO or another funny word) so the sequence goes: 1, BUZZ, 3, BUZZ, 5, BUZZ… This variation is funny because of the funny word and it is easier to make mistakes (but in a fun way).

For 1-1 This is also possible to play as described above if the trainer is the active partner.

Word Snakes

There are many versions of word snakes, often used at A1-B1 levels. You can create word snakes yourself. Can be adapted for higher levels and 1-1 (see below).

  1. Choose a list of words (either new or for revision) and connect them using the overlapping last letter of one word and first letter of the next.

2. Example for animals: dogooselephantigeratermitelk

3. The learners (alone or  in pairs solve it by breaking the words apart. The solution should be: dog goose elephant tiger rat termite elk

Variation: Have the learners create their own word snakes in pairs. Collect them and check them (make sure their spelling is correct!). Then copy them and use them in the next lesson. Add a timed element (say 60 seconds per snake) to make it more competitive (learners can solve alone or in pairs).

Variation 2: For higher levels give a topic and do it orally in a circle. For example: Things in a house. The first person says: chair. The next person says a word that begins with R such as “rail” and the next for example “light switch” and so on. If someone can not think of a word in a certain time frame, say 10 seconds, or repeats a word, they are “out”. Continue playing until there is a winner.

For 1-1, use the exercise as described or even Variation 1. Use Variation 2 where the learner and the trainer play.

Word Cloud

This is a great way to preface a text (especially a longer one), finds the main vocabulary needed to understand the text, and presents it in a cool way. Best for B1-C2 levels.

  1. Find the text in digital format, for example, an article or wikipedia entry. Copy the text into a word cloud generator (there are a ton, just check the ones that are compatible with your computer). Press enter and voila, you have a word cloud. (you can make adjustments to the settings).
  2. Show the word cloud to the learners. Explain these are the most frequent words from a text (the larger, the more frequent). Ask them if there are any unknown words, pre-teach them or ask the others to explain if they know.
  3. Then ask the Ls to predict what the text is about. I usually write a few of the guesses on the board.
  4. Then read the text (using whatever strategies you normally use for texts). Check if their predictions where correct.
  5. Then have them write or give an oral summary of the text using the words in the word cloud. This is where the unknown words will move from passive understanding to active use.

This is basically a great confidence booster. When the Ls get a long text with lots of new words, it can be demotivating. But when you explain that they just need the main words, that helps. Usually, however, they don’t KNOW what the “main” words are. A word cloud helps out in that area as it pulls the words with the highest frequency (usually omitting words like a, the, it etc which can be changed in the settings).

1-1: This works perfectly for 1-1 as described above.

Body Parts

This can be adapted to levels from A1-C2, depending on the target vocabulary.

  1. Elicit what the learners already know. Draw a person on the board, point to a part and ask, “What is this?”. If someone knows it, write the word on somewhere along the side of the board (you will have 2 lists along the sides of the board at the end) in random order.
  2. Continue eliciting, and giving words that they don’t know.
  3. Then give two of the learners a marker and tell them to connect 3 words on the board with a line to their corresponding body parts.
  4. Then they pass the marker to another learner. (So they CHOOSE which words they want to connect).
  5. Check the answers as a group, drilling pronunciation.
  6. Then erase the lines but leave the words. Go down the list and say “Where is your X?”. Once everyone has it, erase that word. Go through the entire list this way so that only the diagram of the person is left.
  7. Then quiz them the other way by asking “What is this?” when you point to your own body (or the diagram). You could split the group in two and give points for the first/correct answer.

This is the introduction of the vocabulary. I usually follow with Simon says (for lower levels) and/or other exercises. At higher levels I introduce more advanced vocabulary like organs, ear lobe, knuckles etc. and do exercises on the verbs connected to these (bend one’s knees, kneel, slouch, stretch etc.) and idioms connected with body parts (foot the bill, eye s.o. etc.). This exercise is really just a springboard.

For 1-1: This works perfectly in 1-1 situations as well.

Vocabulary Quiz from the Learners

I use this exercise with any level from B1-C2. I usually use it with a text, for example an article.

  1. After doing an interactive lead-in to the topic and prediction questions based on the headline, distribute the text/article.
  2. As homework have the learners read the text (if it is long, break it into sections and one group reads one section).
  3. Then they should create a vocabulary quiz (including collocations, phrasal verbs, idioms etc.). The quiz can take various forms and they are allowed to choose:
    1. match the definition to the word (they get the definitions from a dictionary)
    2. find the word in the text with this definition… (from a dictionary)
    3. gap fill (they type a sentence from the text and leave one word/phrase out)
    4. label the diagram with words from the text (they bring a diagram)
    5. broken collocations (match the first part of the collocation to the second part)
    6. etc.
  4. I usually limit it to 5 or 10 words. The learners are already familiar with these exercises from me, books, workbooks and worksheets from the training, so remind them to look at those for inspiration.
  5. They bring enough copies for everyone in class.
  6. You can do the quizzes as a straight up “test” or I like to make a game out of it. Give them a few minutes alone (or in pairs if weaker) if needed or do it spontaneously for stronger learners. Then “Who has number 4 on Maria’s quiz?” and give a point to the first team to correctly answer it.

It’s great to see them create these quizzes. Once they are strong on the vocabulary, of course we return to the actual text and then do various discussion/comprehension activities.