Mock Cooking Competition

This activity is best for B1-C2 levels after vocabulary for food and cooking has been introduced. I even use it with business clients when we discuss entertaining and explaining local dishes to guests.

  1. Create cards with various ingredients and also cooking utensils.
  2. Put the learners in pairs and give them some cards (say 6 ingredients and 4 utensils). Explain they are going to have a cooking competition using these ingredients and utensils.
  3. The learners look at the cards and discuss what kind of “new” recipe they want to create. After a few minutes of discussion, ask them to write the recipe out.
  4. Then swap partners and they describe their dish/recipe/cooking procedure and utensils to their new partner. This step can be repeated until everyone has heard everyone’s recipe.

Alternative: have the learners present their recipes to the class as a whole. Vote on the recipe that sounds the tastiest, craziest, yuckiest etc.

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Shapes & Designs & Descriptions

This is a very simple but effective exercise to practice anything from shapes and patterns to people and homes or even for prepositions.

  1. After introducing the target vocabulary, have the learners work in pairs. Each will need 2 pieces of paper.
  2. Tell them to draw the thing they should describe (if you are just practicing shapes, make them draw shapes of different sizes in different places on their paper, they can overlap or be inside each other etc.). They should work in a way so their partner can not see. Alternatively, you can draw and photocopy designs and give them to the pairs.
  3. Now they have to describe it to their partner who draws what they hear. You may need to give more language like: in the top right corner/bottom left corner etc.
  4. Then they compare the pictures.
  5. Repeat with the other partner describing.

1-1: This works well in 1-1 as described above with the trainer as one of the partners.

Comparison Drawings

This activity is good freer practice for A1-A2 levels especially when teaching comparatives and/or superlatives.

  1. Find/draw and print images of three things that are similar, e.g. 2/3 cartoon rabbits, flowers, people, vehicles etc. Print the three images on one page. NB use 2 for comparative and 3 for superlative.
  2. Put the learners in pairs. Explain that one partner will have 2/3 images. This partner will not show the images to their partner, but will describe the images. The other partner should draw what they hear. They can also ask questions. NB For lower levels I elicit the formula before the activity:
    1. 1 syllable adjective + er
    2. 2 syllable adjective with y = ier
    3. more + 2 syllable or more adjectives
    4. For higher levels add the superlatives and even “not as… as” etc.
  3. Allow the learners to begin. Circle and help with vocabulary and grammar as necessary.
  4. When finished have the learners compare the originals to the drawings.
  5. If there is time you can swap roles (though usually one round is OK for this activity)

1-1: Use as above. The trainer is the describer. Otherwise, get the learner to quickly draw 2/3 images and then describe them to the trainer.

Taboo

Many of you know this game for native speakers. It can easily be adapted for most levels. Warning: Do not attempt to play the store-bought game with any level other than C2! It is extremely difficult and demotivating. However, customized cards can work well.

  1. Choose about 20-30 recent words from lessons and write them at the top of a slip of paper.
  2. Next, add 2 words that are related, but are “taboo”. For example, if the word at the top is advertising agency the taboo words could be TV and magazine.
  3. Put the learners in groups of 3-5. Explain that you will set the timer for 1 minute and one person in the group will take the first card from the stack and describe it to their group. They are not allowed to use the taboo words (or parts of the word itself). If they use a taboo word, that card is discarded. If the team guesses the word and there is still time, the player takes another card and describes again. NB all the other teams are listening as well but not speaking at this point.
  4. Then the next team plays and so on.
  5. The winning team is the team with the most points.

Alternative: Have the learners themselves create the cards with the taboo words. Don’t worry if there are doubles (i.e. if two learners have the same head word).

1-1: This game can not be adapted for 1-1 lessons.

One Before You Go

This simple activity is hugely popular with all my learners.

  1. At the end of the lesson (1-2 minutes before it ends) announce: Please tell me one new word you learned and then you can leave.
  2. The first person to raise their hand and say a new word can leave.
  3. If the group is small enough and if you have time, I sometimes ask them for the translation or an example definition as well.
  4. The person who gave the word can now leave (and the rest remain until they can give a word).

As they realize they can not leave until they say a new word for them. I do this very often and they get quite good at it.

1-1: For 1-1 I usually ask for 3 words instead.

Lists from Cards

This activity is good for any level.

  1. Divide the class into groups/pairs. If the class is small or if the learners are strong enough, each learner can work alone, but the dynamics are better if they can work in pairs or groups of 3.
  2. Give each group a deck of cards (or photocopies of a deck) and a handout with a list of categories (alternatively, write the categories on the board). The categories should be a review of recently learned items such as: environment, finance, animals, foods etc. There should be 11 categories.
  3. The first person turns over the first card in the deck. They then choose the corresponding number on the worksheet/board. For example, if a learner turns over a 3, they check the list and see that category 3 is (for example) “clothing”. They then need to list 3 items of clothing in English. Team members can challenge them to define a word and the person must defend it. Should the player not be able to list the items, or doesn’t know the word in English, or can not defend a word, they receive a mark (I usually play “horse” meaning if they fail once they earn an “h”, the next time an “o” etc. The first person to collect all the letters of “horse” is out of the game).
  4. Continuing playing as above.
  5. Face cards= skip a turn. The Ace is 1.

Variation: for higher levels you could additionally have the player create sample sentences for the words in their list and their team mates decide if they will accept the sentences based on use of the word and grammar.

1-1: This can work for 1-1 but only if the trainer lists their words inĀ  the learner’s L1 to keep it fair.

Hot Seat

Many teachers know and use this activity. I only use it occasionally with the right group. If you have a group with learners who don’t like to be in the hot seat/have all the attention on them, then try a different activity.

  1. Divide the class into two (or more) groups. All learners should be facing the board.
  2. Put one seat for each team and place it with its back to the board. These are the “hot seats”.
  3. One member from each team comes to the front and sits in the chairs with their back to the board.
  4. The trainer has a list of review vocabulary and writes one of these words clearly and in large print on the board so the class can see the word, but not the person in the hot seat.
  5. The team describes the word in whatever means possible to their teammate in the hot seat. The first person to guess the word, wins a point for their team.
  6. Then, change learners in the hot seats and repeat with a new word.

1-1: This activity is not possible for 1-1 lessons. For an similar alternative see the activity here called PASSWORD.