Tag Archives: revision / recycling

Say what you see – vocabulary and images

23 May

This is an activity that I used as a warmer with my classes last week with great results!  It works really well for vocabulary review, with lower levels, but also with extending and developing the range of vocabulary that exam classes use when they are confronted by images.

  1. Select an image to use.  It could be topic related to reflect a particular lexical set (e.g. one of Carl Warner’s foodscapes to review food vocabulary with a lower level group) or more general.
  2. Students work in groups of three.  Each student has three lives.  Students have to say something they can see in the picture.  If they can’t, they lose a life.  The winner is the last person to still have a life left.  There should be no repetition of items and students can challenge if they think someone is making it up!
  3. Show students the image and off they go!
From @eltpics on Flickr

From @eltpics on Flickr

Variations:

With my exam classes I introduced a couple of variations – I selected pictures that were linked by theme, such as might appear in a First or Advanced speaking exam, and they weren’t allowed to use single words.  They had to use collocations or at least add a layer of additional description or comment to the item.  So they couldn’t say “a car” but they had to say something like “an ugly green car” or “a vintage BMW”.  They found this quite challenging, but reacted well to it and I found that when they then went on to do a comparison and evaluation task (like the speaking part two), they were able to not only do it more effectively, but also to demonstrate a stronger range of lexis.

With my young learners I found that weaker students, perhaps not surprisingly, were out of the game quite quickly, so as an alternative I gave the groups two minutes to write down as many items as they could and then did a board race to get the language up onto the board – with the proviso that there be no repetition across groups (so if group A writes “balloons” up, none of the other groups can).  This made it more collaborative initially, still keeping the competition element, and added another layer of peer teaching.

 

Collocation Connections

13 Oct

Here’s a little test for you to see how good you are at spotting collocations.  The words in the grid below can be put into four collocation groups.  Can you figure out (a) what the groups are?  (b) which word(s) collocate with the groups?

Collocation Connections

For example, if you had found the words “a distinction  /  attention to  /  a line  /  up plans” in the grid, then you would have the four words for your group and you would (of course) have correctly identified “draw” as the word that collocates with them.

Obviously, in some instances more than one answer is possible and words might be able to fit into more than one group, but that is all part of the fun!

How long do you need?  Two minutes?  Five?

It’s ok – you can take your time!  Answers at the bottom of the page!

This is an activity I thought of after watching the popular UK quiz show “Only Connect“, which has a round called “the wall” where contestants have to find four categories and describe the connections.  If you visit the website, you can play for yourself – but be warned – they aren’t easy!

You can easily adapt it for different ages and abilities and it is is nice way of reviewing vocabulary.  Two ways you could use it in class:

  1. Have one grid displayed (or written) on the board and the students are in teams, trying to be first to find the correct answers.
  2. Have the students in teams with different grids competing against the clock (three minutes?).  Then they can swap and try each other’s.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

ANSWERS:

  • Heavy:  going  /  smoker  /  traffic  /  rain
  • Do:  something  /  business  /  me a favour  /  your best
  • Time:  extra  /  waste  /  spend  /  spare
  • A pack of:  cigarettes  /  wolves  /  lies  /  cards

 

Warmer / Filler: What are my words?

20 Jan

This vocabulary revision activity requires minimal or no preparation on the part of the teacher.  I’ve been using it with classes that found “Don’t make me say it!” too difficult or time consuming.  It’s certainly easier for lower levels!

The minimal preparation version is where you choose the words before the class.  The no preparation version is where they choose the words themselves.  This latter option is not without pitfalls as the students may choose words they don’t know the meaning of, but in this activity all that really does is make it a lot easier for their partner to win the game!

So, assuming you have chosen your twelve words, divide them up into a set of six for student A and another set of six for student B.  Give each student their words written down on a table like this one:
What are my words – where the left column has the target words and the right column is blank.

Elicit some conversational topics to the board.

The students now have to try and use their words in conversation – but without being noticed!  As the conversation progresses they also try to write down any words their partner uses which they think is on their partner’s list.

Set  five minute time limit for the conversation.

At the end of the time, students get one point for each of their words they said unnoticed and one point for each of their partner’s words they correctly identified.  The person with the most points is the winner!

Acknowledgement – again, I have a vague memory of seeing something like this in an input session at IH Katowice – I think this was either Richard Venner or James Lambie – or possibly someone else completely (in which case apologies!)

 

Warmer: Don’t make me say it!

12 Jan

This is a vocabulary revision activity that I used as a warmer with my classes last week – from intermediate to proficiency.

I went back through the previous couple of units of the coursebook and chose 12 items (words, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions, short phrases) that I thought the class would probably know and I divided those items into two sets of six, trying to make sure there was an even balance of “difficulty” between the two lists.

I put these on a handout as follows:

IMG_20150109_153542056 (2)

The instructions are as follows:

  • Have a conversation with your partner. You can talk about any topics.
  • During the conversation, try to get them to use the words or expressions in the list below.
  • You get one point for every word they use.
  • You lose one point for every word on their list that you say.

What happened:

Predictably, very few of the words on the lists actually got said.  That doesn’t really matter because, as a vocabulary revision activity, what’s happening is the students are creating contexts for the use of the vocabulary, so even if student B doesn’t say student A’s word, they have a pretty good idea of what it is.  However, in hindsight, (and the next time I play this) I’m going to take out the rule about losing a point – it just makes everyone unnecessarily uncooperative.  That said, everyone had a lot of fun.

I also tried this with a group and let them choose their own words from previous units of the book.  This backfired spectacularly as (a) it took far too long, (b) they chose words they didn’t know the meaning of.

It needs a bit of tweaking, but I like this activity because of the way the students are creating these contexts for the items and because it’s prompting them to think about how the items are used – yes, it’s completely artificial, but it also seems to be a lot of fun, which is what you want in a warmer.

Do try it out and let me know how it goes for you – and any changes you made!

Have fun!

(Acknowledgement – I have a vague memory or being shown this or something similar in an input session at IH Katowice about ten years ago, so apologies if this is someone else’s idea!  If so it was probably Richard Venner as it seems like the sort of thing he would do!)

Starting a Vocabulary Box / Wordbag

8 Oct

As mentioned previously, I’m making more of a focus on vocabulary this year, and one of the things I’m going to be working with is the vocabulary box.

Now this is obviously not a new idea and it’s not even a new idea to me, I think the first time I came across this was almost exactly eight years ago in an seminar run by Bronwen Allen at IH Katowice, where she introduced the idea of wordbag cards (which is the term I’m going to use here).

Vocabulary revision and recycling is incredibly important – in “Working with Words” Gairns and Redman say that most (80%) of what we forget is forgotten within 24 hours of initial learning – clearly then it is our duty to help learners move items into long term storage and to recycle constantly.

Gairns and Redman quote Peter Russell’s “The Brain Book” as setting out the following revision schedule in order to maximise retention:

  1. a quick review five minutes after class
  2. a quick review 24 hours after class
  3. a further review one week later
  4. another review one month later
  5. a final review six months later

Obviously, as teachers, we aren’t always in a position to conduct all of these reviews with our learners, but we can help them out with the next best thing – the vocabulary box or the wordbag.

Here is an example of a wordbag card, bearing the school logo for a nice bit of additional branding….  To give you an idea of actual size, I have eight cards per piece of A4 paper.

It’s fairly straightforward – I have it down as “the chunk” to try and emphasise that words don’t always exist in isolation.  With higher levels I try to make sure that the things that get written down are indeed chunks, with lower levels I play it by ear.

One of the problems I’ve had in the past is simply starting the wordbag off.  It can be difficult for students to understand the purpose of the wordbag cards and what they are expected to do with them, you can’t always guarantee a steady stream of relevant vocabulary and it might take some time for there to be enough wordbag cards in the wordbag to actually do anything meaningful with!

So what follows is a “lesson” that I came up with this year to try and get things going.  It borrows from an idea expressed in Morgan and Rinvolucri’s classically titled “Vocabulary” – namely that we have relationships with words, we have preferences and associations with them and that making use of these relationships can help the learning process.

What you need:

three wordbag cards per participant (including the teacher), already chopped up onto separate slips of paper and preferably on different coloured paper, but that’s just because it looks pretty…

Some of your favourite vocabulary games and activities (there are some ideas given below).

What you do:

On the board draw three separate three box grids, like so (only neater):

And into the top section of each grid, write a word, collocation or short phrase.  I grade these according to level, so with my CAE group I might have “to insist on doing something”, but with my elementary group I might have “company car” .

The three words I used the other day were:

THEREFORE          TO TOP UP          FLABBERGASTED

I gave the learners two minutes to work out what connected the three items.  The answer of course is that these are three of my favourite words.  They are my favourite difficult word, my favourite useful word and my favourite fun / fantastic  word.

I then asked learners if they knew what any of the words meant – if they came up with a suitable definition or expression of meaning, I put that in the second (middle) section.  But if not, I gave them a contextual sentence and wrote it in the third (bottom) section – e.g. “I ran out of credit so I had to top up my mobile this morning.”

Eventually, you get all of the boxes filled and then I check what goes into each section and label the sections with “the chunk”, “meaning” and “example sentence”.

I then asked all the learners to think of their favourite difficult, useful and fun/fantastic words and note them down.

One problem I’ve had with this stage is duplication of items, particularly if the learners are struggling to think of something suitable and overhear their colleagues coming up with a good idea.  So I’ve done this on a “first come first served” basis, making clear there should be no duplication and writing up the words the learners choose on the board next to their names.

Once everyone (or most of the class) have got their three words, I give out some wordbag cards and the learners fill them in.  For the fast finishers, the answer is simple – just give them another wordbag card and tell them to add another item to the mix!

So by the end of this stage you should have at least three times as many wordbag cards as learners and can then finish off the class by doing a number of different vocabulary based activities with the learners, using their new wordbag cards.

With any luck, by the end of the lesson, the class will understand what a wordbag card is, what should go on it and how it’s going to be used in classes.  They’ll have a basis for ongoing additions to the wordbag, plus a foundation for future revision / recycling activities at the start of end of the class – and it gives the teacher a chance to hit the ground running with the wordbag so that you don’t lose momentum while trying to build up a sufficient stock of cards in the wordbag.