I’ve spent so much time reading books about classroom activities, looking at websites and blogs only to reject the vast majority as not being suitable for my level of students. Here are a couple of games that have been successful over the years, in different centres and with different ages, though I usually employ them with students aged between 6 and 10. Adapt them as you wish, and have fun.
This is based on the old paper and pencil game (later upgraded for the electronic and computer age).
Board a grid as above (add more cells as required). Put the class into teams.
[I let them choose their own names, and if a student says, ‘Errrrrr,” then that’s the name I give them … additionally, this always gets a laugh]
Ask the teams questions based on previous lessons, general knowledge, whatever suits your class. You could either elicit an answer from the team as a whole, or individual members.
If the student answers correctly, they are allowed to choose a cell, example “C3.” On a separate sheet, have the same grid with scores assigned to each square. In the example that follows, C3 would score 25 points.
The following questions were used to review past tense grammar, as well as forming collocations:
Put the sentences into the past tense (simple past). Say complete sentence.
1 Last week we learn about technology
2 I buy a new iPhone last night.
3 Michael Jackson write many good songs.
4 Oh, no … I do not do my homework !
5 Have they decide what printer to buy ?
6 He see all the ‘Avengers’ films in one day !
7 It’s Friday ! I think today was Wednesday !
8 On holiday, I walk along the beach.
9 My grandmother send me an email.
10 Have you play the new video game ?
Complete the collocation
11 (go) to the cinema [I _______ to the cinema]
12 (play) guitar
13 (take) a photo
14 (chat / go) online
15 (do) voluntary work
16 (make) a decision
Snakes and ladders
Another activity based on a classic game. I first used this in a very energetic class of 9 – 11 year olds and, thanks to the size of the room, I was able to draw a grid on the floor and use students as ‘counters’, to move around the ‘board’.
If that isn’t possible, just board a grid like so:
GO FORWARD 2
GO BACK 1
GO FORWARD 1
HA HA BACK TO START
GO BACK 3
All you need is a die or dice and different colour board markers. As before, arrange the class in teams, then ask each team a question. The student who answers then throws the die (preferably NOT at the teacher but one thing at a time), and I chart their progress on the board. You can decide whether or not the students need an exact score to land on Finish or not … play it by ear.
[ ‘dice’ is generally accepted for both singular and plural. For English-language learners it’s probably better to use ‘dice’.]
Working in pairs or small groups, gather information about these countries, then make a presentation. Add something about yourself ;would you like to visit these countries ? Why ? What would you do there ? What would you eat and buy ?
Brasilia (Brasil) Seoul (South Korea)
Ottawa (Canada) Egypt (Cairo)
Brasil 183 888 841 // South Korea 51 047 000
Canada 37 000 000 // Egypt 97 055 000
Brasil – Portuguese // South Korea – Korean
Canada – English & French // Egypt – Arabic (EgyptianArabic)
To make the lesson come alive, have the students act out scenes or give them a set time to make up sentences containing as many phrasal verbs as possible.
Same as Shakespeare … English is meant to be USED and SPOKEN … not just studied in a dry text book.
So, without further ado:
the cat out / the fire out / up with it (something unpleasant) / on a happy face
it in your own words / up or shut up ! / it away / it another way
well soon / over it ! / on with it / away with murder / on the bus
stuffed ! (impolite) / with the program (US) / some fresh air
a career move / your move a pig’s ear of something / a wish /
up for lost time / the best of something / fun of someone /
the right thing / away with that old technology / your best /
a funny walk / the dishes / your hair
it on ! / it to me / “my bow of burning gold” (poem) / about change
it up at the next meeting / a smile to my face / up children well
turns speaking / it up with the manager / up my trousers a little /
a good look at yourself / a hike ! / medicine / a deep breathe
look after/ think about / wear out / give up / grow up / takes after
tell off / look up to / hang up / go for / passed away
Phrasal verbs work like normal verbs, so they can be used in the infinite (look,think), the past tense (I wore out, I looked up to ..) and in continuous (I am hanging up now).
Make sentences using phrasal verbs in:
I need to think about that for a while. (present)
He gave up smoking ten years ago (past)
We are looking after our niece today (present continuous)
verb + particle e.g. find + out = find out (learn something)
The verb can be present, past, future or continuous:
I give up
I gave up
I’m finding out about HCM City.
I will (I’ll) find out about the cost.
buy out / up
give up / away /
CLUE: first identify what tense is being used
They were __________ free samples
The computers are down; we have to ________ the meeting
A soldier has to _______ orders
The company was ______ by a Japanese company
The stocks are very low, we should ________ as many as we can
Don’t ________ on your dream 🙂
Make sentences with these phrasal verbs:
take care of // hold on // move on // take over // think it over
look after // think about // give up // grow up // takes after // tell off // look up to
Which phrasal verbs fits here ?
She really …………. her father, they are so alike.
I can’t go out, I have to ……….. my nephew.
Mandarin is too hard, I just …………. (past tense verb)
Many Vietnamese ………………. Uncle Ho
I’m not sure which bank is best. Let me ………. it and get back to you.
I had to ………….. my son because he ate all the cakes.
My manager is very immature. He needs to ………… and quickly !
give up / go for / grow up / hang out with / hang up / look after / look up to / tell off / passed away / takes after /think about / wears out
Izzy is talking to Kate on Skype. Izzy can’t go out on Saturday because she has to
____________ (take care of, be responsible for) her little sister, Georgie. Izzy says she’ll __________ (consider) bringing Georgie too. Georgie interrupts, and Izzy has to
_____________ (end the phone/Skype conversation). Georgie’s hamster has ________
(died) and she’s upset. Izzy says she loves her little sister but she __________
(makes her tired).
Meanwhile, Sam is wondering why Izzy doesn’t want to _____________ (spend time with) them. He thinks Izzy should bring Georgie to the cinema, but maybe Izzy won’t ________
(like, agree to) the idea.
Izzy is annoyed because her sister is trying to look like her, but Kate says it’s sweet that Georgie _____________ (respects and admires) her big sister. Izzy disagrees that they are similar; Georgie ______________(is similar to an older relative) her dad, whereas Izzy is more like her mum.
When Georgie asks Izzy to get her a hamster, Izzy gets angry. She tells her sister
to ________ (become an adult). Georgie says their dad will _______(Izzy)_______
(speak angrily to Izzy because she’s done something wrong). In frustration, Izzy says
“I __________ (admit defeat)!”. Fred and Sam take Georgie to look at some kittens, then they all go to the cinema. Georgie is the only one who isn’t scared by the film.
The video has a lot of new words, so I will pause the clip and board new words. Following the video, I’ll ask these questions. Being a large class, the students can work in teams, maybe each team having the name of an animal (that should be fun for Team Monkey).
Which big cat has spots, which has stripes ? Why do they have patterns ?
What is the name of the line that goes around the middle of the Earth ?
Rain forests has two things … what ?
What fruit can you find ?
What animals live at the top of trees ?
Is Vietnam in the tropics ?
Why are rain forests important ?
They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen
They are home to lots of different wildlife
They produce water and rainfall for the planet
Moving on rapidly – Adverbs
Give me a sentence for these photos:
The jaguar runs quickly // The jaguar with black spots, runs very quickly
How do I follow that !
The remainder of the lesson is given over to reading, the theme being a music recital, so I can lead in by asking who play an instrument (then explaining that my long nails on my left hand are for playing guitar, not for scaring students).
Yes, keep on Rockin’ in the Free World … but first, you’ve got to get there.
As spoken, we would say:
“First, ya gotta get there.”
So today’s lesson will be in the form of a game, a challenge or quest, if you will, where the students, assigned to one of two teams have to get from:
What a prize ! The dirty filthy insalubrious streets of Ha Noi to the cozy comforts and warm welcome of east London, and my local, the Birkbeck Tavern.
Said task is achieved by earning points, said points are earned by answering questions, and using a wide range of linguistics features namely: adjectives, adverbs, discourse markers, relative pronouns, low-frequency words, expressions, idioms and, naturally, displaying a wide array of para-linguistic attributes, to wit: intonation, stress, eye-contact, body language, gestures, clear pronunciation, turn-taking and rhythm because, contrary to popular belief, when it comes to speaking English, NOT all God’s children got rhythm.
(Yes, the above sentence contained an example of non-standard English, but the vast majority of people do not speak pure standard English all the time).
Now, we have a massive task to undertake … without further ado … let’s go !
First up, a revision and practice. In the last lesson, the class learnt (a-hem!) four new words: ubiquitous, significant, consequently and, it was on my blog, extrapolate. The teams, and let’s name them after famous English explorers, Drake and Cook:
… the teams have to use all four words in sentences. One point for each correct sentence. However; incentive, three points for using two in a grammatically-correct sentence, five for using three words and TEN points for using all words words in one sentence. That should get them some air miles and off the runway.
Next up, the teams challenge each other. They offer points to the other side if they can use these words or expressions correctly:
however / with that in mind / quantum leap / in order to / cats and dogs / kick the bucket / therefore / dribs and drabs
It works like this. Team Drake will say, “We offer 5 points for Team Cook to use the word ‘however’ in a sentence.” If the task is accomplished, Cook gain the 5 points. If the team is unable to use the word, then Drake win the points. The skill is in guessing which words or expressions will be hard to use, and offering high points accordingly.
Moving on, creative writing. My class can use relative pronouns IN THEORY, but not so much in practice. One may even say, NOT AT ALL in practice. Thus, I will give information about our two friends from last week. The teams have to compose a short piece combining all the information, but in the form of complex sentences with relative pronouns and discourse markers.
Johnny Rotten, Real name John Lydon. Born 1956. Was in the Sex Pistols from 1975 – 1978. Formed band PIL. Changed name back to Lydon. Married Nora Forster in 1979. He was going to be on the Pan Am flight that crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland. He wrote a book, published in 2008.
John Lydon, who performed under the name Johnny Rotten while he was in the Sex Pistols from 1975 – 1978, is married to Nora Forster, and has been married since 1979. After leaving the Sex Pistols, he formed a new band, PIL, and wrote a book which was published in 2008. He escaped death by missing his flight on the Pan Am flight that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland.
Our young lady is
Sakuri. 21. Born in Tokyo. Studies History at university. Works as waitress. Wants to be a film star. Has two sisters. One sister elder, one younger. Her father is a piano salesman. Mother designs clothes. Sakuri likes reading, films, anime, shopping, going out with friends. Uses Apple iPhone X. Always on Instagram, FB, and Yalo. Is learning English.
Haruto. 23. Born in Okasuka. Left school at 16. Plays keyboards in a band. Likes Beethoven, Jazz and Elton John. Works different jobs. Was TA in a school but was sacked after four hours. Has no siblings. Father left home when Haruto was 4. Mother works 6 days a week in a factory. Uses Samsung Galaxy. Hates social media sites. Listens to music all day.
Points awarded for creativity and relative pronouns and complex sentences.
And now for something completely different: London.
Quick-fire round: I want a list of three. Start a sentence and give THREE examples
In London, you can eat British food …
In London there is public transport …
London has many famous buildings …
There are many famous football clubs in London …
Plan a day for my friends Tina and Michael:
I have two friends arriving in Sai Gon. They want a typical, authentic experience. Plan a day for them. It must include:
Somewhere for a snack
An interesting building or location
Something to do in the evening
Give tips and advice.
How do they travel around ? What are the pros and cons ?
What are their options and estimate the prices.
Try to use as much new vocabulary as possible, words and expressions.
Finally, pronunciation. I will show Drake and Cook two clips, one from ‘Twin Peaks’, the other of the actor Peter O’Toole being interviewed. The teams, all members, have to imitate or copy the voice, gestures and intonation. Points out of 50 for this task.
The quote is, “Oh, I’ll shuffle through my memory.” Said quote appears from 0:45 – 0:51 in the clip.
And that, as they say, is a wrap. The remainder of the lesson can be devoted to book work, possibly, had-outs, unlikely, or general chit-chat, undoubtedly. Who says English can’t be fun … probably my students !
Sometimes the best way to learn is just to see mistakes … and correct them. Look at this letter:
grammar – simple or continuous form ?
tenses – are verbs in the right tense ?
Right phrases or idioms
Every days I wokes up at between 6.00 am and 6.15 am. I always usually do the same thing namely get up, brush my tooth, put the kettle in and make coffee. Nowever, on last yesterday I getted up at 5.00 because I must to go to the airport to meeting my friend.
I had a hard time get a taxi because it was cats and dogs raining. On the airport there was so much people, all looking exhausted and depressed by the weather bad. I have never come on a plane without one time when I flyed to Ha Noi.
I seemed to wait forever for my friend. Maybe she had a problem immigration. But no I seed her and she looked very cute but also exhausted and also a little smelly.
Instead of wenting to home, we came to a nice coffee shop with great coffees and good music and also so many people so we having to waited for a sit. The coffee made us to wake up so then we came to home but first she wants to doing some shop.
I taked her to Diamond plaza and we saw many shops, a whole multitude of things to see and do. We saw beatiful dress from silk made but it was too very expensive; it cost a leg and an arm. So instead we did window shopper which is more cheaper.
Class activity. Assign each student, or group, a paragraph and see who can correct the mistakes first. Other teams listen to make sure the answers are correct.
Hi Thay Paul
I want to talk about our next class schedule. Handy for the rest of you on Sunday. I think we can study on Saturday night. I finish work at 5pm and go back home. Therefore, we can start studying English at 7pm.
How do you think about that schedule? May you think and get back to me anytime?
Thank you and hope you have a great day!
This is a real email I received.
Can you write a better version ?
“I want” = can be too strong … “I would like” sounds better, more polite
“Handy for the rest of you on Sunday.” What does this mean ?
Ask a question rather than tell the time.
Reply to me but don’t write “anytime” – give me a time (“before tonight.”)
OK … you try:
I would like to ask about our lesson time tonight.
Today, I finish work around 5 so would it be possible to have our lesson at 7 ?
I hope this is more convenient for you so you can rest on Sunday.
Could you get back to me before tonight?
See you later
Ms Na xo
(xo in the west is a friendly way to end a letter between close friends; it means kiss and hug)
Correct this text: a young lady is talking about her likes and her best friend.
For higher level students, try to rearrange making complex sentences, using clauses, relative pronouns and discourse markers.
I very like pineapple and all fruits. Because it are healthy. Today was wet very, it rained cat and dog. Sometime I read book and watches movie. My work is very boring, same thing, day out, day in. I wants to play badmington with my friend. She am very good, she play for the school team. Together, we is the bestest. She is more tall as me but I am pretty more. We likes to see movie Korean on cinema.
Upper – Intermediate Level
A teacher writes to his HR manager recommending a new teacher.
How would you reply ?
What do you think of the email ?
Could you improve it ?
Dear HR, this is John Smith. I wanna let you know of a super cool friend of mine who would be a brilliant teacher here She’s 24 full of energy and enthusiasm. I know she will be well good. Her names Agnieshzska … Agneeszka … or something like that and she’s from Poland, but her english ain’t bad. She went to high sChool and got sum exams in geography and cooking. I hope you take her on the students will love her like, yer know, lots. See ya
Activity 2: you don’t feel the candidate is suitable. Write an email back to Johnny
CORRECT THE MISTAKES IN THIS EMAIL:
[A sample answer follows the photo.]
Thank you for your introduction.
Unfortunately, We need experience teaching teacher, over 2 years. Beside, they must have degree, Tesol,… Especially, native speakers.
It’s so sorry. Ms Agnieshzska is not suitable for this position.
If you have any friends, who satisfy necessary conditions as above, please introduce to us.
Have a nice day!
Penny Lane English School
Dear Mr John (Johnny could be a little too informal)
Thank you for your introduction.
Unfortunately, we only employ teachers who have at least two year’s experience. In addition, they have to hold a degree and a recognised teaching certificate. Finally, we only hire native speakers.
As such, your friend would not be suitable for this position.
If you have any friends who satisfy the necessary conditions, please feel free to introduce them to us.
Have a nice day!
Penny Lane English Centre
NOTES: see ‘year’s experience’ – possessive
I didn’t use the friend’s name because John couldn’t write it properly !
Today’s theme is the use … the correct use … of discourse markers.
Furthermore, speakers MUST NOT say ‘like’ or ‘kinda’.
It is a pet peeve of mine to hear people interrupt the flow of a conversation with the unnecessary and incredibly irritating application of the word ‘like’ as a … totally incorrect … discourse marker [or discourse particle]. To illustrate, at a previous centre, a centre with a very prestigious reputation, I heard some US teachers say the following:
“I went out last night and had, like, two beers.”
“Are you looking for, like, an apartment
This filters down to the students, some of whom deliberately say ‘like’, because they think it makes them sound American and cool. I correct that misconception; it makes them sound that they are unable to complete a simple sentence. When I notice this as a problem, I tell the student to listen to themselves and count how many times they use ‘like’ erroneously.
And so, to work …
Practice how to speak fluently and with the correct use of linking words. For example:
however // having said that // although
firstly // following that // after that // and then finally
Just a minute
Students must speak for a minute with no deviation, hesitation or repetition.
Students can select a subject and then ask another student or team to speak for a minutes. Otherwise, choices could be:
books // local food // foreign food // clothes shopping // music // siblings //
You meet a fellow traveller at the airport when your flight is delayed. Make small talk conversation including idioms and expressions.
To make this more of a competition, award two points for every idiom, one for every expression, and additional points for discourse markers.
Topics can be:
Talk about the flight. How bad the airline is, frequently late. Do they fly often ?
Introduce yourself. Why are they flying ? Business or pleasure ?
Ask about work – do they like it ? Where do they work ?
Ask about family … but not too personal
Ask about where they live
REMEMBER to react, and to use stress and intonation.
Oh, really // how interesting // tell me more // where is that exactly ? // Oh, right // Me too ! // I had a similar experience //
You have plans to go to a new restaurant but one of you can’t make it because something turned up. Apologise and give the reason why you must change the plan. Offer alternative suggestions.
Hello, Sharma ? I’m so sorry, I can’t make it tonight.
Sharma will ask why. Give your reason
Have to work late // family member is ill // have an exam tomorrow // missed bus // not feeling well // have to attend a family event //
In the UK we try to hide our emotions, keep a stiff upper lip, but sometimes people can get angry. Repeat the exercise, but this time, the person waiting is in a bad mood.
Now the person waiting does not accept your excuse.
This the the third time you’ve cancelled ! // I’ve already been waiting 30 minutes // You only tell me NOW ! // I don’t care, get here now or never call me again ! //
How could you apologise and offer to make it up to her ?
Today’s blog, or activity sheet, is about persuasion; the ability to change someone’s opinion or make them do what YOU want THEM to do. This is known as having ‘the gift of the gab.’
This skill is mostly associated with salesmen who, without cheating or lying, make their product sound so wonderful that you simply HAVE TO buy it … and then you get home and realise you have parted with your hard-earned money for something you don’t want, don’t need and will never use.
Before we kick off, let’s roll out some new expressions:
One born every minute = negative, means that the person is an idiot, who bought something useless.
He/She saw you coming = negative, means the seller thought you would buy the poor quality item or pay too much for it.
Paid over the odds = negative, means paying too much for something.
Could sell sand to an Arab = positive, means the seller is so persuasive, he could sell anything to anyone (here, people who live in the desert do NOT need to buy sand).
Unique = positive, only one or something totally different and special.
You paid £50 for that shirt ? He must have seen you coming !
The hotel was $75, I think I paid over the odds.
She’s such a great seller, she could sell sand to an Arab.
I can’t believe he though it was a real Rolex watch … for €30. Oh well, there’s one born every minute !
Mr Paul’s Wonderfully useful store
Here, you can find all sorts of incredibly useful and wonderful items.
The students have to practise their selling and persuasive skills, in order to sell these … ‘wonderful’ … items. As always, an example:
One grey sock
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up, I have an absolute unique items for you. As you see, I have, just today ONLY, one beautiful delightful almost never-used silver-coloured sock, perfect for men, women or even children, yes, they can grow into it !
This amazing item, one of a kind, can be used for so many things, for example … have crying children ? Simply put the sock on your hand and … a PUPPET ! Guaranteed to stop all tears. Been shopping and have so many dirty, heavy coins ? No problem, simply put the coins in the sock. Having a party ? What would look better than this magnificent sock hanging proudly above the door ? Can use it for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Tet Holiday, Easter, Passover, Ramadan, Birthdays, Weddings … you name it … You CANNOT live without it …
You can have this priceless item for just £100 … OK, to you, today only … £75
Now … your turn
Write a ‘sales pitch’ for one of these items, think of some uses for it, then set a price. Try to convince your classmates to buy your unique item.
Some ideas for uses are at the end of the blog
Tips and ideas:
teabag – mint tea – gets rid of spiders & mice : put on eyes to reduce puffiness