Guess who I am

This one is a very simple exercise perfect for A1-A2 level learners.

  1. After you have introduced and practiced the verb “be” and some other basic verbs, tell the learners they are going to describe a famous person. They should use simple sentences like: I am a man. I come from Austria. I have big arms. I live in California. I am a movie star. I am a politician. (answer: Arnold Schwartzenegger)
  2. As the learners are writing their clues, circle and help when needed.
  3. Then in small groups (or as a whole class) have the learners read their clues one by one. I usually have them read the most vague clues first. The others should guess who the person is.

There is no “winner” but this is a great confidence boaster and they usually enjoy this exercise.

1-1: Do the exercise as above. You can also have the learner write 2 or 3 descriptions as home practice (and you do the same).

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Folding Stories

This is something I used to do with my friends back home. It is best for levels from A2-C2. As the teacher, you should also take part!

  1. Give each participant a page with one sentence at the top (a different sentence for each sheet), such as: Bob had a problem at work./An old woman named Martha needed help./Sarah received an email with the best news of her life.
  2. Allow the learners to read their sentence and explain that they will write the next sentence under the original sentence.
  3. Then, everyone should fold the paper in such a way that only their sentence is visible.
  4. They then pass their paper to their left. When they receive the new sheet, they read the visible sentence (again ONLY THE LAST SENTENCE), they continue the story for that sheet.
  5. The process repeats for a certain period of time or until the sheets are full.
  6. Finally, the learners open the sheets and read their stories out loud to the group. Some of the stories will be quite funny, others strange, but everyone enjoys hearing them!

1-1 Adaptation: this exercise does not work for 1-1 situations at all. There need to be a minimum of 3 people who write.

Infographics

I have been using more and more infographics with all my courses. Here are some of the ways they can be used.

  1. To introduce a topic. Google the topic and the word infographic, e.g. “e-health infographic” or “online marketing infographic” etc. Choose one that your learners will easily understand and generate conversation. Use it like any other text (pre-teach vocabulary if necessary, gist questions etc.) but most importantly get them to talk about it. Is it surprising for them? Do they agree or disagree with the information? Is is similar to their company/experience? etc.
  2. As a lead-in to a written task. Ask them to change the infographic to be true for their country/company/experience.

1-1 variation: Infographics are perfect for 1-1 situations.

Lost in the Post

Lost in the Post

I learned this one from Scott Thornbury in a workshop on the dogme movement. I have adapted it a little and use it often because it is so easy and such a great hit. It’s best for elementary-intermediate levels.

  1. I explain that I had an interesting weekend/vacation and they can ask me questions about it.
  2. Put them in groups of 2-3. Hand out slips of scrap paper that they can write one question on and deliver it to you at the front. If the question is formulated grammatically correct, you will answer it. If not, the slip gets sent back to the group as it is. They can then correct and resend the slip. (If they still can’t get it, I underline the part that needs to be corrected or give little tips like “tense?” or “word order”). Note, you can also have the groups do this via whatsapp, text message etc. And if the question is not formulated correctly send a “?” as a response.
  3. Allow this to continue for about 10 minutes.
  4. Next, stop the groups and explain that they should order there slips of paper in a way that is logical, as when telling a story.
  5. Then have them write the story out. You can have them do this individually or as a group. All the while, the trainer should circle and help with language points. Encourage them to NOT just write the answers, but to embellish and add their opinion or information that is missing and connectors/linking words. For example if the slip said “Where did you go? I went to Malta”. They could then write “Justin went to Malta because he likes islands and warm weather.” This may also be given as homework. Just have everyone in the group photograph the slips with their smart phones.
  6. Finally, you can have the groups read out their stories. I ask the groups to compare the differences which often sparks new conversations.

1-1: This can work in a 1-1 setting, though it is quite (which might be a nice little break).

Baby Picture Mix

Baby Picture Mix

  1. Ask everyone to bring in a photograph from when they were a baby. They can print it out (but don’t use their phones/FB pages) bring in your own as well!
  2. Depending on the level you can do various things with the photographs:
    1. Beginner: Spread the photographs on the table/board/wall and the participants ask “Is this Marcus?” or “I think this is Marcus”.
    2. Elementary and Pre-intermediate: Have them write a short text about themselves from when they were babies/small children. Then have the groups match the descriptions to the photographs and then guess who the babies are.
    3. Intermediate and up: Similar to Elementary and Pre-intermediate but encourage uses of “used to do” and “would do” in addition to the other past tenses. Instead of writing, have them orally tell their story and the others listen, ask questions and then find the matching photograph.

(Dream) House Description Swap

(Dream) House Description Swap

This one is good for describing rooms in a house and the things you find in those rooms. Also good for prepositions at lower levels. For intermediate levels include the activities they do in those rooms and for more advanced levels have them describe in as much detail how they would furnish/renovate and why.

  1. Have the participants write the description. They should NOT write their names on the paper. This could be homework or a timed writing (I usually give no more than 7 minutes).
  2. Collect the descriptions and redistribute them (it’s OK if someone gets their own back).
  3. Next have them read the descriptions alone, circle and help with any vocabulary or handwriting questions.
  4. Next, have one person read the description (making changes to the third person singular) and everyone else listens carefully. They should then guess whose description is is and ask at least one follow-up question.
  5. Continue until all the descriptions have been read and the authors identified.

 

How They Met

How They Met

 

This one is good for practicing the past tenses and vocabulary connected to stages in a relationship. If you feel it is too personal, you can have them describe a celebrity couple or even their parents etc.

 

  1. Explain that they should write the story about how they met their partner, best friend or neighbor. Again, if this is too personal, they can also research a famous couple or write about their parents etc. You might give this as home practice so they can take their time writing it. However, it is important that everyone does this activity for the it to work. If you want to be prepared for those who forget, bring extra celebrity stories that you can distribute. It is best if they type these stories so they are easier to read and less easily identifiable by the handwriting.
  2. Collect the stories (with no names of authors) and redistribute them. It is OK if someone gets their own back. Allow them time to read the text. Circulate and answer any vocabulary questions they might have.
  3. Have the participants read out the stories or summarize them in their own words and the others listen and guess who wrote the story. If it is a personal story, allow for follow-up questions. If it is a story about a famous couple, allow others to add information that was not in the text.

Variation:

Collect the stories and redistribute. Have the participants write questions about the texts such as “Who met his future wife in 1988?” or “Why did X go to Cuba in 2009?” etc. Then collect the question slips and redistribute them (NOT to the person who wrote the slips or the person who the slips are about).