Journals

Journals can be used for any level from A1-C2.

  1. Give the learners (or request the learners to bring) a notebook that will be used ONLY for journal entries.
  2. Explain that you will give them a topic at the beginning of every lesson (alternatively this could be homework. Sometimes it’s good to do “timed writings” in class though) and they will have X minutes to write (if you only have 90-minute lessons, limit this to say 5 or 7 minutes, if it is an academic English course at university or school you may want them to write for 10 or 15 minutes) about a topic/topics you give them.
  3. After they write, you can either collect the journals and read/comment on them and return them OR have the learners volunteer to read their entry OR swap journals with another learner and read silently what the other has written and comment on it. If I collect the journals I usually don’t correct mistakes, but use symbols to indicate mistakes like TENSE, SP (spelling), WW (wrong word), WF (wrong form) etc. A follow up activity might be for them to rewrite the entry making the corrections. I always comment on the content as well.
  4. Topics: Anything you want. I sometimes choose a topic that we are going to have in the lesson/next lesson to get them thinking about it before hand. Or, world holidays (google them, almost every day is a special day), or I take a day from a book I have called “Writing down the days”. I sometimes write a question “Do you think it’s a good idea to XXX” or I write a statement like “Today is international vegetarian day.” and they respond, or I just write a word like: DOGS or BROCCOLI and let them go wild. Sometimes I offer two or three options if I feel they would benefit from the choice.

1-1: For a 1-1 lesson you can also do this, but I would probably only do it if the learner wants/needs to practice writing. Ideally I would probably assign this as homework, then the learner brings it in, I read and comment and return it in the following lesson.

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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.

Eyewitness

This is a version of a game I read about on the British Council’s teaching page (with a few changes). It’s good for B1-C1 levels, especially for questions and tenses.

  1. Choose a video clip from youtube or a DVD etc (or a photo/photos) of a crime taking place. Show the clip (with or without sound) to half the class. These are the eyewitnesses. The other half of the class are police officers.
  2. The “police officers” should prepare (in pairs) questions that they can ask the eyewitnesses while the eyewitnesses are watching the clip (send the police officers out of the room). Allow a few minutes for eyewitnesses to discuss what they watched in the scene (and help with vocabulary as necessary).
  3. Pair up on police officer with one eyewitness. The police officers interview the eyewitnesses and gather as much information as possible. The police officers should take notes (and draw the crime scene if appropriate).
  4. Then have the police officers write up a “police report” and have the eyewitnesses check it for accuracy (either in pairs or as a whole class).

1-1: This activity works for 1-1 as described above. The trainer can take the role of either the eyewitness or the police officer.

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).

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).