Tag Archives: vocabulary

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.

 

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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

 

Words with Multiple Meanings

19 Feb

Here’s a nice infographic from the Kaplan blog about words with multiple meanings.  I can think of three immediate ways to exploit this with a class:

(1) Prediction – give students the keywords.  Students then think of as many phrases or uses of the keywords as possible and then compare their ideas to the infographic.

(2) Identifying parts of speech – black over the labels on the colour coding key, and ask students to look at the phrases in provided and get them to come up with the categories.

(3) Make your own posters – either you or the students choose your own set of keywords and they then create their own phrase based multiple meaning poster / infographic.  This would be a perfect opportunity to introduce learners to working with corpuses – like corpus.byu.edu.

I can see this working particularly well with exam classes – and in fact if you combined all three activities, you would probably have the basis for quite a nice lesson!

words with multiple meanings

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!)

Anagram spelling dictation

6 Oct

Quite a nice vocabulary revision activity, this is something I tried with an intermediate kids class the other day.

Kids in particular, often persist in using L1 pronunciation to spell words in English and this is quite a good way of reorienting them towards English alphabet norms, as well as being a focusing task, helping build bottom up listening skills and reviewing vocabulary items.

It is, of course, remarkably simple and as such I very much doubt if it’s original, but if it was shown to me in the past I forget by who or when or where.  (If it was you, let me know!!!).

Essentially, you choose your list of vocabulary items, which in my case were:  BABY, CHILD, TEENAGER, STUDENT, ADULT, PARENT.

Then you write them as anagrams:  ABBY, DILCH, NAGRETEE, DENTTUS, TAULD, TRAPNE.

I didn’t tell my students they were getting anagrams, I just told them to write down the words I would spell for them.  Which they did amongst much consternation….   😉

Then I asked them how many of the words they knew and I pointed out that ABBY could be rearranged to BABY.  And I let them get on with sorting the others out.

It occurs to me now that this makes quite a nice warmer activity, and I suspect it might be a nice way to introduce / pre-teach vocabulary before a reading task or some such.  Though obviously if the students don’t know the target language, it does make rearranging the anagrams effectively impossible.  Which might slow down some of the faster finishers….!

anagrams

 

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.

All is not what it seems – The Little People Project

9 Jan

Back in December I posted on “nine pretty pictures” – ways of exploiting images with learners.

I recently came across “The Little People Project” – though unfortunately I can’t remember where – it might have been The Guardian, but I’m not sure.

I really like the images – the composition is quirky, the use of every day materials is inspired and the locations are very unexpected.  The initial images, the close ups (as above), will no doubt provoke lots of speculation amongst the learners – but in many cases other images, showing the works in their wider settings are also included.

A great collection of images that can be used for most of the purposes in the “nine pretty pictures” post – story prompts, caption competitions, role play prompts, mind-mapping & speculation tasks all spring to mind!

The Twelve Days of Geekmas: Fo(u)r Recalling Words…

13 Dec

On the fourth day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  fo(u)r recalling words

Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration!  Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:

and fo(u)r recalling words – or at least four areas to consider for helping students to recall words.  The term vocabulary is not used in this post to denote only single word items, but also includes multi-word items, chunks, short phrases….  it’s all good.  As you’ll see from the mind map below, I think there are four stages to maximising vocabulary learning:  Encounters / Recording  /  Revisiting  and Producing – and within these stages there are things to be thinking about and ways we can help learners through these stages.

Encountering Vocabulary

The importance of the item to the learner promotes intake.  If you don’t need to know it, why bother remembering it?  My daughter has, for example, perfect mastery of the chunk “Shaun The Sheep”, but can’t tell me what she wants for breakfast.  Everyone’s priorities are different – is it any wonder our classes wallow turgidly through the lexical mire, when half of what we teach them is irrelevant to their needs?

“Lumbago”.  A great word, once used in a seminar as an example of a low-frequency word.  If you’ve not already met it, you might be struggling with an idea of its meaning.  How about “My lumbago’s acting up.”?  Now it could be a part of the body?  An Italian sports car?  So how about “My lumbago’s acting up.  The Doctor’s told me to go see a chiropractor.”  Assuming we have knowledge of the other items, we can now deduce it’s a problem relating to the spinal column.  Thus the context clarifies all!  Exposure to an item in a variety of contexts helps this.

Our relationships to items is also worth considering.  This may sound slightly odd as most people think of our relationship to words as typified in the “master-slave” dynamic, yet because we encounter words in different contexts, words hold different values for us and these values skew our perceptions of the meanings.  For instance:  define “happy”.  OK, so that’s a loaded example, but think for a moment of the word “house” – what did you visualise?  The connections are there to be made and developed – forging these connections can help learner retention.

Recording Vocabulary

The written record is surely the cornerstone of any classroom?  At the end of the day if it doesn’t get written down, does it get remembered?  But this does put a certain onus on us teachers to make sure that the language on the board is relevant, meaningful and useful – not just random collections that arose out of whatever else happened to be going on that day.  Not that there isn’t a place for that, but keeping things in touch with the topic can help.  Partly, because if you do ask learners to make a written record, then if they write down everything that goes up on the board, they might end up doing little else – which would be a shame!  But the written record – the simple question “Can you write that down please?” is another step along the path to retention.

Having written the day’s selection of useful items down in their class books – it would be interesting to find out from learners what they do with the language next.  Do they review it regularly or does it just sit there?  The problem with only recording vocabulary in a class / lesson  based notebook or folder is that the language is essentially grouped chronologically – and this makes it hard to associate items to each other.  Walters & Bozkurt (2009) have demonstrated that keeping vocabulary notebooks, as distinct from class notebooks, has a significant effect on learner retention of items and on learner use (production) of the target items.  A good study habit for learners to adopt therefore, and something we as teachers should encourage, is for learners to create their own vocabulary notebooks and to transfer items from class book to vocabulary book on a regular basis.

This brings up the question of systemic organisation of notebooks.  If you have access to the teacher’s books for the Cutting Edge series, then somewhere at the back in the photocopiable resources section are some learner training worksheets designed to help learners choose a suitable system. They’re definitely in the back of the “classic” Cutting Edge Intermediate teacher’s book – not sure about the others.  There are any number of systems available.  There are mind mapping techniques (see above graphic),  bubble diagrams,  picture labelling, diagram labelling, alphabetical lists, translation lists, timelines (not sure about this one myself), parts of speech organisation…  and it goes on!  The trick is for the learners to find a system that works intuitively for them, and not to have a system imposed upon them.  An alternative to the vocabulary notebook per se, is the learner vocabulary diary – Simon Thomas provides a template, discusses how to use them and provides a series of activities in this excellent post here:  Vocabulary Diaries for Language Learners.  For more ideas on organisational structures – here’s a link to the “Periodic Table of Visualisation Techniques” which may provide some inspiration!  Thanks to @Marisa_C via facebook for that one.

Revisiting Vocabulary

There is the old adage that a learner needs to “meet” a vocabulary item seven times before it moves into their active lexicon, I don’t know where this comes from, whether it’s based in fact or just one of those taken for granted tefl truths – in any event simply seeing a word once and writing it down is only the start.

As teachers, the easiest way to recycle vocabulary is simply to use it again – and the simplest way to do that is to incorporate it into future teaching materials.  Thus every lesson / every day becomes part of a building process in which the learners encounter some old familiar friends, draw some new acquaintances closer and meet some items for the first time.  In fairness, most coursebooks do work like this and grade their input from the early modules to the later modules.  But not all – some coursebooks are produced “at level” and are intended as a target for learners to aim at.  And in either situation it’s not uncommon to find coursebooks using language, especially in the rubrics, that learners wouldn’t even begin to understand!  Know your coursebook!  It’s relatively easy to find out this kind of information from the publisher websites, most of will be given on the back of your book (or will turn up fairly rapidly in a quick internet search.

There are also specific class activities that you can use as warmers or fillers which recycle vocabulary items.  Backs to the board is a great warmer, but also handy for reinforcing incidental vocabulary at the end of the lesson (if you have time).  Also on this site is “Pointless“.  Maria Zabala Peña has 5 quick games for vocabulary revision on her blog.  Taboo, where learners have to describe an item without using the target item or five associated keywords (e.g. try describing Santa without using the words snow, reindeer, sleigh, north pole or elves) is another alternative.  Learner lesson bingo – where learners create a bingo card for the whole lesson based on items they think will arise from the lesson topic and tick them off as the lesson progresses….  I’m sure you have your own favourites – feel free to add them below (via comments)!

There are also self-study activities – a friend used to write down his vocabulary items on blank business cards.  He’d put the target language on one side, his own language on the other and used to flick through them on the bus on the way to university in the morning.  Every day he’d add new cards to the pile, but he’d go through the pile and select “known” items to go into the archive.  Once a month he’d go through the archive and any items he’d forgotten would come back into the working pile.  That was almost 20 years ago and I think it’s now possible to purchase apps for your smart phones that do more or less the same thing!  If learners do have a vocabulary notebook, simply reviewing the pages every now and again will help.  Simon Thomas’ vocab diaries (mentioned earlier) includes a revision timetable that aims to optimise the intake of new items.

Producing Vocabulary

It is a constant source of amazement to me the number of times you get a truly excellent vocabulary presentation section in a coursebook, followed by the standard practice phase – and then nothing further.  It is one of those unwritten rules of teaching that learners will consistently fail to use the target items in any activity that has been designed for their production – but still, give them a chance!  If nothing else it helps create a meaningful context!

It might be helpful here to differentiate between “Spontaneous” and “Considered” production.  Both types can be either written or spoken – I would characterise the difference as the amount of planning or forethought that went into developing the utterance / text.  So for example, the difference between answering the question “How was your holiday?” at the office water cooler and sitting down to write your mother a postcard as you sip cool drinks by the pool!

The difference is worth highlighting for two reasons – firstly to help characterise errors and secondly to help think about activity types and providing opportunities for spontaneous and considered production in the classroom.  As regards errors – my theory (and I should stress I have no evidence for this!) is that “mistakes” occur more frequently in considered production and “slips” more frequently in spontaneous production.  I posted back in October on error types – so take a look here for more background.  But the point is that if a learner has taken the time to think about what they want to say and how best to say it, and they still make an error – it’s more likely to be evidence of a systemic lack rather than a performance error, and consequently in more need of correction.

The other point to make is to remember to include opportunities for both types of production in lessons.  Again, it seems obvious but it’s easy enough to follow coursebook programs and processes which don’t always include production opportunities.  Dogme types will no doubt be nodding along to the request for spontaneous production opportunities – and the informal general chat is a good way, possibly the only authentic way, of providing such an opportunity.  It can be a nice way to welcome learners to the class as you wait for everyone to arrive – and by building social chat opportunities into the lesson, you can (sometimes!) reduce the amount of L1 social chat that occurs during other parts of the lesson (especially with teenagers!).

Considered production tasks might be more structured and offer the learners more support.  These might be tasks where the learners know they are meant to produce a language type, or not.  Either way, these are usually outcome based, have a clear objective or goal, and would be followed by some type of feedback (both language and content).  They could range from a pyramid discussion to a formal essay.

Almost done…

The main point here is not that anyone should dogmatically follow each and everyone of these recommendations – I don’t.  The idea is more that effective vocabulary learning happens when an integrated approach is taken by the teacher and when the learners are made aware of how they can best help themselves.  As such, I hope this post provides a few ideas to take forwards, try out, discard, adapt and with any luck adopt – as a useful way forwards with this process.

The Twelve Days of Geekmas: Five Favourite Things

12 Dec

On the fifth day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS

Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration!  Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:

12 blogs worth clutching

11 tips for writing

10 tricks for reading

9 pretty pictures

8 talks worth watching

7 simple statements

6 games worth playing

and five of my favourite things.  No brown paper parcels tied up with string here – just five simple activities that I use all the time and can help break up the monotony of the lesson.  I don’t claim authorship of any of these – in fact most of these can be found in the one extent copy of ” diht aet álaeran englisc to aelfolc” – a primer that was in wide use after the 1066 invasion of England after which none of the Norman lords and masters could talk to their Anglo Saxon serfs and had to arrange hasty lessons.  “diht aet álaeran englisc to aelfolc” can be found on the shelves at the Bodleian Library, next to a copy of what appears to be the publisher proofs for the very first edition of Headway Elementary (or héafodaerneweg folcsóp).

(1)  Backs to the Board.  

I’ve mentioned previously, how this activity was demonstrated to me on the CELTA and how I use it with virtually every class (though sometimes I give it a rest to avoid overkill!).  The following description is from the teflgeek “Activity Reference

Essentially a vocabulary review game / activity.  Divide the class into two teams (they can choose a team name?).

Take two chairs and turn them round so that anyone sitting in them will have their backs to the board.  One person from each team comes up and sits in the chair.  The teacher writes a word on the board and the other members of the team try to explain the word, without actually saying the target word.  The first person (sitting in the chairs) to say the correct word wins one point for their team.  Change the person sitting in the chair after each word, so that all team members get a chance to be the guessers.  You can use this with single vocabulary items or with collocations, phrasal verbs, or even full sentences!

Rules:  People sitting in the chairs may not look at the board.  Explainers may not say the word OR ANY FORM of the word – for example if the target word is “teacher”, teams cannot say “teaching” / “teach” / “taught” and so forth.  The only language allowed is English (or your target language).  No mime or gesticulation is allowed.  No writing things down.  no saying the first letter of the word or spelling the words.  Points can be taken off for infractions!

Obviously, these rules can be relaxed for lower levels.  Fun for all ages and abilities!

(2)  Running Dictation

I have a suspicion this one might have come from Nick Kiley, almost ten years ago in China.  A running dictation is a great way to get your classes up and moving – especially if they’ve been sat there for a while.  It practices all four skills and because there’s a focus on accuracy (i.e. correct transfer of information) can be a nice way to introduce a language point.

What you do – take a target text, not too big, probably about 75-100 words (this will depend on class age and ability – I’ve done this with a list of ten words, or with ten short sentences, or with a short letter).  Stick a copy of the text somewhere nearby, ideally outside your classroom – the door to the DoS office is a favourite location – but out of immediate communication range.

The learners work in pairs – person A runs to the text, tries to remember as much of the text as they can, returns to their partner and tells them what they can remember.  Person B listens and writes it down.  When person B has finished writing, they run to the paper and read the next bit before returning to tell person A who writes it down and so on.  At the end of the activity, you can ask pairs of learners to compare their texts for accuracy, or if you’ve extracted the text from the coursebook, they can check it against the original.

Generally, I use these as a means of providing the target language, so I tend to follow the activity with some kind of language mining task – for example if the text had been an anecdote designed to highlight narrative tenses, the task might be to sequence the events in chronological order.

(3)  The Domination Game

It sounds worse than it is….   And it’s another one I’ve mentioned before, but seeing as that was two days after this blog first started I don’t think anyone noticed.  So I feel no guilt about reproducing it here!  This one is, I think a teflgeek original:  I originally cooked it up as a comparatively fun way of doing revision / practice of an entire FCE Use of English paper without melting the learners’ brains or causing everyone in the room to lose the will to live….

The term “comparatively fun” is used advisedly – this one can easily run past it’s “use by date” if you let it – if you feel that learners are beginning to shift uncomfortably around, then just cut the whole thing short and declare a winner!

As mentioned, it was originally designed for an FCE Use of English, but it can be used with absolutely any Grammar / Vocabulary revision task – basically all you need is 42 questions.  In the past I’ve used it with three separate “revision” pages of a course book – as long as the question references are clear, it’s all good!

Basically, the game is a combination of “blockbusters” and “reversi”.  Teams have to try and get the greatest number of connected squares they can.  Teams win a square by answering a question correctly.  The strategy element is introduced as teams can obviously block each other, cut each other off – and steal squares from each other by surrounding a square on two separate sides.

A full procedure, game grid and question reference sheet are attached and available to download as a pdf file here:

teflgeek – The Domination Game

(4) The Never-Ending Mingle

We’ve all done those “Find Someone Who” tasks, where learners walk around the classroom with a bit of paper, asking the same question to ten different people – and usually getting the same short and effective answer – “No!”  The never-ending mingle avoids some of this by imposing two simple rules on the activity  (1)  learners aren’t allowed to ask a question to the same person twice  (2)  Learners swap cards after each Q& A encounter.  This way, learners will ask as many questions are there are people in the classroom, quite possibly talking to each person as many times as there are people!

Variations: (1)  let the learners think up the questions.  (2)  learners think of more than one question (three seems like a nice number)  (3)  learners include a follow up question (to avoid short Yes / No type encounters)

Feedback:  “John, what was the most interesting thing somebody told you?”

(5)  Reason to believe

This is one of my ultimate cover lessons – particularly useful at short notice.  I do it at least once with every class I teach, in one form or another.  It’s one of those that works better at higher levels, but I think could work anywhere from Intermediate upwards, as it relies on learner ideas rather than language per se.  There are opportunities for language input built in, and these could be developed further if necessary.

Essentially it’s an opposition debate, where learners debate the things they believe in – or not as the case may be!

Downloadable pdf version of the plan is attached here:  teflgeek – Reason to believe.

On another note:  Reason to Believe was my very first post on this blog!

So these were a few of my favourite things – what’s your favourite five?

(NB  Apologies to all students and teachers of “Old English” for the very dodgy book titles at the top of the post….  You can blame my general ignorance of old English grammatical structure and inappropriate use of the Old English Translator for any and all mistakes contained within!)