grammar

Lesson idea: ‘used to’ for describing past appearance

I made this activity up in class and it worked well! Really creative, loads of interesting language, and also a good way to practice ‘used to’ for describing past appearance.

Procedure:

  • Students work in pairs
  • Everyone has some scrap paper (or the back of their handout). Tell students they have 1 minute to draw their partner. 1 minute only.
  • So, Student A has drawn student B, right? Now, Student As swap drawings with each other. Student Bs swap too. They have one minute to add loads of random features onto each drawing. Random things like strange tattoos, unicorn horns (!), I don’t know… anything they want. Then they give the sketch back to the original artist.
  • Pause for some laughter
  • So, Student A now has a distorted sketch of their partner, Student B. Tell them that this is what their partner looked like 10 years ago. Back then, Student A and Student B were old schoolmates… They haven’t seen each other in ages!
  • Board part of a dialogue, like this…

(more…)

‘so’, ‘such a’, and cheap cocktails

Another one of my ‘making things up as I go along’ reflections. This time, something that actually worked!

The materials from one of our in-house, pre-int lessons the other day reviewed so/such (a) in the context of travel / holidays / hotels, that sort of thing.

The task was ‘describe a place you’ve visited or hotel you’ve stayed in, and shoehorn in some such a nice place/so lovely style phrases’. It was alright. Apart from that none of the students seemed that bothered about each other’s stories, none of them felt much like using a ‘so/such a’ phrase, and none of them really needed to either. But hey, that was the lesson aim, so I kind of had to run with it…

I spent some of the task time listening/assisting/etc, and the rest zoning out thinking ‘if I’m supposed to get learners using this language then I’m failing – so what other tasks have a got up my sleeve?’

I scribbled down (i.e. typed out on the IWB) a dialogue like this…

(more…)

Twist on a classic: Harry the Hippo

A nod to TESOLTOOLBOX here…

Harry the Hippo is a fun guessing game to use in the class. It can be adapted for practicing various grammar structures. I can’t remember where I first played the game or who taught it to me, but I’m sure it’s well-known by many TEFLers! (more…)

Lesson idea: present perfect time markers

activity from Gateway (Macmillan)

Here are a few fun activities for practising time markers used with the present perfect. There’s a review of these markers in a B1 level teen coursebook we’re using (Gateway, Macmillan). I found the meaning/rule activity in the book useful, but the practice tasks following it were a bit boring so I made up a few more.

Time markers practised: already, for, just, never, since, yet

BEEP game

  1. Students write one sentence for each time marker. They should personalise this.

e.g.

I’ve never been to Laos

I haven’t done my homework yet

Etc

  1. Students self-correct / peer-correct sentences with a partner. You could draw attention to possible errors (e.g. are the time markers in the right place?) or typical errors you know your learners make (e.g. *I’ve never been yet), just for a bit of direction
  2. Students change partners. They keep their sentences a secret. They read each sentence to their partner, but replace the time expression with the sound ‘BEEP’. Their partner guesses the missing word by repeating the complete sentence, like this….

(more…)

Teaching functional language

A newly-qualified CELTA teacher has asked me for advice about how to deal with functional language. So… this is one of my approaches to teaching functional language! The example is from a lesson I did last weekend about the World Cup. The target language was phrases for making suggestions/giving advice, along with agreeing and disagreeing with the advice. (more…)

Lesson ideas: football and conditionals

Looking for a way to teach/review conditionals? A former colleague at LTC Eastbourne (cheers Angel) told me that football was his ‘go to’ topic for conditional structures…

Show the students a league table (or part of it):

Use actual upcoming fixtures, or make them up to suit the part of the table you’ve chosen:

Chelsea v Man City (Saturday)

Arsenal v Tottenham (Sunday)

Etc…

Model some conditional sentences based on the information:

e.g.

1st conditional: If Man City beat Chelsea on Saturday they’ll move up to 2nd place.

 

You could provide scenarios for students to write about, or sentences for them to complete:

If Arsenal beat Spurs… (highly likely)

(more…)

Present perfect game

I’m on good form! It’s been a fun weekend of classes.

Today I tried out a new task for practising the present perfect (life experiences). Well, it wasn’t exactly new, just a variation on a few well-known tasks. Still, it worked well – lots of practice and lots of smiles!

Preparation

  • Put a few topics on the board:

Travel, sport, studying English, animals, food

  • Elicit a few verbs (past participle form) related to each topic:

Travel: been, seen, travelled…

Studying English: studied, passed…

Animals: owned, fed…

Etc.

These will help students with ideas.

  • Give students 5 slips of card each. They write one sentence on each card (one for each of the topics). The sentence should be about their life experiences. Rules are…
  1. The sentences must be true (that narrows things down a bit!)
  2. They can’t be too easy to guess
  3. You must keep your sentences a secret

Easy to guess for Thai students: I’ve been to Chiang Mai (most of the students have)

Harder to guess: I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China (quite specific)

(more…)

Lesson idea: should and shouldn’t…

A repeat of the must/mustn’t game I mentioned a while back. I used this for should/shouldn’t the other day, in the context of illness.

should

Choose an illness, or some kind of problem related to your context. Prepare three pieces of advice, keep them hidden. Students work in pairs/groups and write down as much advice as they can using ‘you should/shouldn’t’. Allow a few minutes. Reveal your answers. If students’ ideas match the advice on the board (or it’s close enough) they get points.

shouldnt

Always seems to be fun and engaging. Let me know if it works for you.

A fun way to drill

A bit of repetition never hurt anyone! It might not be the most riveting stuff, but sometimes I come across these ‘listen and repeat’ drills in our materials or in books. They’re ok. I used to like substitution drills myself. You know, teacher models sentence, students repeat, teacher changes a word or phrase, students repeat again, etc. The British Council explain it better than me.

Anyway, I’ve taken to adding flipchart slides like this into my lessons when a bit of drilling is needed:

1709k

(image rights: credit.com, sweetpics.site, traceylind.wordpress.com, corrupteddevelopment.com)

I got the idea from JB, Senior Teacher at British Council Vietnam. The text at the top is a hint to the target language – in this case it was ‘Can you… Could you… Would you be able to…’, phrases for making requests. Then there are some pictures for things to request, then the YES/NO symbols.

Procedure:

Get yourself one of these

1709l

(image from cleaningshop.com.au)

  • First, do a bit of practice. Say the name of a student. Quickly slap the phrase (e.g. CY) then the picture with the fly swatter. The student says the full phrase – ‘Can you pass me the salt?’
  • Repeat this a few times, quickly so students have to think fast. You could do it in pairs, groups if you want, up to you.
  • Bring in the ‘YES/NO’ button. Just say a student’s name and slap the tick or cross. The student says one of the target phrases you’ve taught for agreeing to undertake the request (e.g ‘sure, no problem’) or refusing (e.g. ‘sorry, I can’t’). Practise a bit.
  • Put these together. Say two students names, then slap the phrase, a picture then YES or NO. The first student you say must make the request, the second student must respond.

What’s good about it?

My adult classes find the fly swatter funny. They like the quick fire nature of this, and it leads to some lively collaboration and correction. Only giving clues for the phrases keeps them guessing. You can get students to take over the swatting if you want. It only takes a few minutes to make a few different flipchart slides like this. It’s a nice 5 minute activity leading in to more controlled practice and it livens up a sometimes boring activity.

The feature image for this post is another example (in the future, eventually, one day, at some point)

Give it a go. Let me know what you think. Any other tips for drilling new structures?