Making small talk

Introduction:

These are two board games to practise the art of making small talk.  I have created two games with questions on the same topics but version A is for lower level students and version B for higher level students. Different font colours on the board correspond to different topics: work, sport, family, travelling, food and entertainment. This activity is a great way to help students practise speaking, develop fluency and prepare for exciting conversations with English speakers in the future.

Also I find these games extremely useful since most of us are now teaching online. You simply display a board game on the screen and that’s a speaking activity sorted for you. Do not forget to feed students new vocabulary and obviously draw their attention to mistakes. 

As always encourage students to ask each other additional questions and comment on each other’s responses. Do not let it be a monologue. I often tell students that if I asked them the same questions in a bar or outside the classroom, the conversation would flow much more naturally so aim towards that and have fun.

Level: A2

Objectives:

  1. To practise speaking about work, sport, family, travelling, food and entertainment.
  2. To master the elusive art of small talk. Sorry, the weather is not one of the options;)

Materials (Click on the worksheets below to download the PDF files):

  1. Making small talk A
  2. Making small talk B
  3. A die ( use an online dice roller) and a timer ( or no timer, play around and see what works for your group)

Procedure:

  1. Give students a copy of one of the board games or display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other platform. Choose the board game depending on the level of your students. 
  2. Tell students that they have just arrived at a party and they are about to start mingling. Of course all of them are trying to make a great impression on others, network or even find the love of their life 😉 so being a boring conversationalist simply will not do this time.
  3. The teacher now throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question.
  4. The player(s)/ partygoers must then answer the question and provide their ¨classmates¨ with as much detail as possible. If you have a bigger group, split your students into pairs or small groups at this stage. Encourage students to ask additional questions and try to make sure the conversations don’t run dry too quickly. 
  5. When the teacher throws the dice again and moves on to the next question, the students could speak to someone else this time.  You don’t want them to be “stuck” in a corner for the rest of the “party” speaking to the same person.
  6. At the end, ask students to name people they would like to have another conversation with based on how well the previous one(s) went and how interestING and interestED the speaker(s) seemed to them.

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BIG3

Zooming it

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So, what brings you here?

Triple Treat

Triple treat makes a comeback

 

Yay or Nay

Introduction:

This is a fun debating board game that can be adapted to both bigger and smaller classes. Students practise the language used in debates and get a chance to discuss and explore a variety of interesting topics.

Level: B2+

Time: Till the cows come home

Objectives:

  1. To revise and practise using agreeing and disagreeing expressions.
  2. To practise fluency by discussing a variety of topics.

 Materials (Click on the worksheet below to download the PDF file):

  1. Yay or Nay board game, one per team or class

Procedure:

  1. Hand out Yay or Nay board game to each team or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other online platform.
  2. Split the class into two small teams ( of course this will all depend on the size of your class). 
  3. The teacher throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the topic.
  4. Tell each team to think of arguments FOR and AGAINST the particular topic. Give the class about five minutes to brainstorm some ideas. Monitor and help if necessary. 
  5. Before you begin the actual debates, go through some agreeing and disagreeing expressions. I have written a few expressions in a box above the board game so they are easily accessible for both the students and the teacher.
  6. Next, tell one group they are FOR the topic and one group that they are AGAINST the topic unless you want students to freely discuss the topics which often works better. I found that when I tell my students that they are for or against a certain statement, they often run out of steam quite quickly and feel they can no longer participate and contribute. You know your students best so decide on the course of action based on what encourages them and makes them come alive.
  7. Discuss the topic for as long as you see fit or as long as the students find it interesting and keep coming up with new arguments. Avoid setting a timer and interrupting your students if they are engaged, since it could potentially lead to loss of interest and motivation. It is not always about achieving objectives and getting to the end of an activity as fast as possible but actually enjoying the process and having fun.
  8. Monitor and take advantage of this speaking activity to feed students some new expressions. 

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BIG3

Triple Treat

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Lollypop debate

 

Before and after

Introduction:

This is a Before and After board game to practise/revise past perfect and past simple in an entertaining way. Students create sentences in the past perfect and past simple tense depending on the sentence they start with. The idea is to create a character and relate the sentences to each other which can later be used as a foundation for a short writing task.

Level: B2+

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To revise the past perfect and past simple tense.
  2. To come up with sentences related to each other which can be used as an inspiration for a writing task.

 Materials (Click on the worksheet below to download the PDF file):

  1. Before and after board game, one per team.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out Before and after board game to each team or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other online platform.
  2. The teacher or a student throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the sentence. 
  3. If a player lands on a square with a sentence in the past simple tense they have to try and predict what happened BEFORE e.g. After he had managed to finally save some money, he bought a new car.  If they land on a square with a sentence in the past perfect tense, they predict what happened AFTER e.g. He had set up a successful company by the time he was 20. Since the students are working together or in small groups they discuss their ideas first, make their predictions and later write down their examples. Before the activity tell students that all these sentences are about one character and they should try and connect the sentences. This way it is more engaging and the students get more invested in the task. 
  4. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences together. At home ask students to write a short story about the character they have created in class, using some of the sentences they came up with.

Related posts:

Simply perfect

A trip down memory lane

Summary of past or recent events

Double Decker

Best birthday ever

Ir(regular) Xmas

A trip down memory lane

Introduction:

This is a fun board game to practise asking and answering questions in the past simple tense. Students ask and answer questions about a variety of topics and get points for each correct question.

Level: B1+

Time: 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To practise asking questions.
  2. To answer other students’ questions.

Materials:

  1. A trip down memory lane board game and an online dice roller if you are teaching online 😉

Procedure:

  1. Display the game on the screen and put students in pairs or small groups of 3 or 4.
  2. Students take it in turns to throw the dice and move the numbers thrown.
  3. To obtain a verb for the speaking activity students throw the dice twice. The first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw which row they should use to obtain the verb.
  4. Next students write down as many questions as possible related to the expression in the square making sure they use the actual verb in some of the questions. You can set the time limit and tell students they will be racing against other teams/students. If the students land on 2:1 (To argue with a friend) they could think of the following questions: When was the last time you argued with a friend? What did you argue about? Did you reach an agreement? Did you cry/get upset/ shout at each other etc.? How long did you argue for? Who started it? etc. Encourage them to start with Who, What, Where, When, Why and How and not just an auxiliary verb. You could take this opportunity to also revise subject and object questions.  A quick reminder: Subject questions (Question word + verb in simple past in this case +object e.g. Who started the argument?). Object questions (Question word +auxiliary verb + subject + main verb e.g. What did you argue about?).
  5. Go through the questions together and award a point for each correct question.
  6. In their groups, the students then answer the questions in as much detail as possible.
  7. The game continues until you run out of steam or are saved by the bell 😉 Just kidding.
  8. At the end, ask students to write down 4 additional questions for their classmates about a topic that sparked their interest the most.

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Simply perfect

Double Decker

Best birthday ever

Summary of past or recent events

Ir(regular) Xmas

Soap Opera

What’s with all the questions?

How well do you really know your place of work?

Also have a look at one of my activities that has been published on onestopenglish where students practise forming questions and affirmative or negative sentences whilst using the time expressions typically used with the past simple and present perfect tenses:

http://www.onestopenglish.com/community/lesson-share/winning-lessons/grammar-and-vocabulary/time-expressions/556365.article

P.S. Happy birthday dad 😉

 

You’ll never guess what

Introduction:

This is a You’ll never guess what  board game which is great for revising vocabulary or maybe filling up a slot if you are running out of materials at the end of the class. It is an extremely versatile game and can be used for any age group and different levels of students.

Level: A2+

Time: 30 minutes but it can vary depending on the number of students and the variations of the game

Objectives:

  1. To revise and/or expand vocabulary

Materials (Click on the worksheet below to download the PDF file):

  1. You’ll never guess what board game

Procedure:

  1. Hand out You’ll never guess what board game to each team or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other online platform.
  2. The teacher or a student throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the category.
  3. Now teams/students must try to think of as many words as possible that fit that category. Give the teams a set amount of time to come up with their answers. Depending on the level of your group you can also choose a letter of the alphabet for them. I then asked my students to not just list their words but to DESCRIBE them to the other team(s) to encourage speaking, defining, explaining and interacting. I always try to use vocabulary in context and avoid simply listing words. What I also did, was to ask students to WAIT until the other team finished describing and awarded points for correct guesses BUT only allowed them to guess TWICE. It works beautifully as the students don’t just shout out the answers but actually pay attention to the descriptions and think before they answer. I have given you some other variations of the game which you will find at the top of the You’ll never guess what board game.
  4. Monitor and also use this opportunity to feed students some new vocabulary. One idea for introducing new vocab and maybe starting the game could be to come up with your own list of words from each category, that your groups are unlikely to know, (1 word is enough) and make it a race among individual students/teams to match the words to their categories. At the end of the class/ activity you could test them and see how many new words they remember or encourage them to use the words throughout the game.

 

P.S. Thank you for the new design Stu 😉

BIG3

Introduction:

These are three board game activities to talk about culture, the unexplained phenomena and sports. They can be used together or separately, and are a great way to help students practise speaking and develop fluency, as well as prepare FCE /CAE speaking exams.

Also I find these games extremely useful since most of us are now teaching online. You simply display a board game on the screen and that’s a speaking activity sorted for you. Do not forget to feed students new vocabulary throughout the activity and obviously draw their attention to any mistakes they might be making.  You could always prepare a thematic vocabulary list and send it to the students before the class or even ask them to research the topic themselves and then teach others some new words they have learnt.

As always encourage students to ask each other questions and comment on each other’s responses. Do not let it be a monologue. I often tell students that if I asked them the same questions in a bar or outside the classroom, the conversation would flow much more naturally so aim towards that and have fun 😉

Level: B2+

Objectives:

  1. To practise speaking about culture, the unexplained phenomena and sports.

Materials (Click on the worksheets below to download the PDF files):

  1. Culture Schmulture board game
  2. One, two, three, BUNGEE! board game
  3. The unexplained board game
  4. A die ( use an online dice roller) and a timer ( or no timer, play around and see what works for your group)

Procedure:

  1. Give students a copy of one of the board games or display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other platform.
  2. The teacher throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question.
  3. The player must then answer the question and provide their classmates with as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask additional questions and ask for clarification and further explanation. As I said in the introduction, do not let it be a monologue but a starting point for a great conversation.  Last week, in a 90 minute session my students answered only 2 questions, as they got so involved in the topic I didn’t dare interrupt their flow. I simply provided necessary vocabulary and correction and of course enjoyed listening to their ideas and opinions.
  4. At the end, ask students to give you three new things they have learnt about their classmates.

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Triple Treat

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To err is human

Introduction:

This is an activity for lower intermediate students to review some of the most common mistakes they make in an entertaining way. The students correct the mistakes in the sentences on the board. If they manage to do it correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board until they line up 6 symbols in a row. The mistakes in the exercise are genuine  mistakes made by my own students on a regular basis.

Level: B1

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To identify and correct common mistakes made by lower intermediate students.
  2. To line up 6 symbols (O or X) in a row.

 Materials (Click on the worksheet below to download the PDF file):

  1. To err is human board game one per team or display on the screen for everyone to see.

 Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into teams and display To err is human board game on the screen if you are using Zoom. If you have smaller groups students can also play individually.
  2. To see who starts do rock, paper, scissors.  Whoever wins chooses the square they want to start with. Next the player(s) identifies and corrects the mistake in the square they have chosen. There is only ONE mistake in each sentence e.g an incorrect preposition, article or a verb form etc. If the player(s) manages to do it correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board. The first player to line up 6 of their symbols in a row wins. Since I have been using Zoom I have actually inserted predefined icons ( a star and a heart) when I played with my students as it looked cleaner and much cuter on the screen than an O or an X . You can find the stamps in the annotation tools when you start screen sharing.
  3. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences together at the end of the class. At home 😉 ask students to correct the sentences in all the squares without an icon.

P.S. Thank you for your feedback Mr. Potato. As always taken on board.

P.S. Have a look at one of my activities that has been published on onestopenglish this month ;). 

http://www.onestopenglish.com/community/lesson-share/pdf-content/lesson-share-my-bucket-list-worksheet/558308.article

http://www.onestopenglish.com/community/lesson-share/pdf-content/lesson-share-my-bucket-list-teachers-notes/558307.article

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Can you see the error of your ways?

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Bid it 2 Win it FCE Sentence Auction

Keep calm and wash your hands ;)

Introduction:

This is a fun activity to review the most common collocations with break, come, keep and pay. Students divide the expressions into four groups and then play a board game where, if they manage to complete a sentence with the right verb correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board until they line up 6 symbols in a row. I currently use the stamps available in Zoom, stars and hearts, which actually makes the board look very pretty and if a student makes a mistake I stamp the square/ field with a cross ( I put the stamps in the bottom right hand corner).

Level: B2

Time: 45-60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To practise and review common collocations with break, come, keep and pay.
  2. To divide expressions into four categories: ones that collocate with break, come, keep and pay.
  3. To complete a sentence with the correct verb: break, come, keep or pay and line up 6 symbols (O or X) in a row.
  4. To answer a question containing the target language.

Materials (Click on the worksheets below to download the PDF file):

  1. Keep calm and wash your hands Worksheet
  2. Keep calm and wash your hands Board game

Procedure:

  1. Elicit some common collocations with break, come, keep and pay and write them on the board e.g. break a leg, come to an agreement, keep a secret or pay the price.
  2. Put students in small groups of 2 or 3 and give each group Keep calm and wash your hands Worksheet.
  3. To make the activity more competitive, tell students that the first group to complete the task correctly wins or you could give them a point for each correct answer. Much better.
  4. Monitor and check answers as a class. As an alternative you could do the exercise together with the class, depending on the level of your students. I went through all the phrases with my students making sure they were clear on what each expression meant.
  5. Divide the students into teams ( if you have a small group or just one student they can of course play individually) and hand out Keep calm and wash your hands board game  to each team or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom.
  6. To see who starts do rock, paper, scissors.  Whoever wins chooses the square they want to start with. Next the player(s) completes the sentence with the missing verb (break, come, keep or pay). I have put smiley faces where the verbs should be to make the board look nice and chirpy. If the player(s) manage to do it correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board. The first player to line up 6 of their symbols in a row wins. Since I have been using Zoom I have actually inserted predefined icons (a star and a heart) when I played with my students as it looked cleaner and much cuter on the screen than an O or an X . You can find the stamps in the annotation tools when you start screen sharing. Also as the students complete the sentences make sure they use the right form of the verb (they could get additional points for that) and of course answer the question. Encourage them to use the collocation in their answer and avoid a simple yes or a no.
  7. At home ask students to choose five questions from the board ( preferably with the expressions that were brand new to them) and answer them in writing.

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Make or do? Have no clue 😦

Go Get ‘em tiger!

Do, make, have or take? An instant headache

P.S. A massive thank you to my friend Stu, a genius creator of my new templates. I love them and I love you too potato head.

 

 

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Little Prince

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the word HEART. Students first match the expressions to their definitions, divide them into 2 categories and then answer the questions and discuss their responses with their classmates.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of idioms with the word HEART.
  2. To develop fluency and answer questions containing the target language in pairs.

Materials:

  1. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly Worksheet, one per student or display it on the screen for everyone to see.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out or display a copy of “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Worksheet and ask students to briefly discuss the quote from The Little Prince at the top of the page.
  2. Next go to Exercise 1 and ask students to go through the facts about a human heart and choose the one they were most surprised by and compare their opinions with their classmates. Mine were surprised that a woman’s heart beats faster. Any idea why?
  3. Tell them to, on the word GO, scan the expressions on the left in Exercise 2 and try to, as fast as they can, find the one body part that completes all expressions. At this stage it should be quite obvious what the word is so the students won’t take too long to guess the right answer.
  4. Next ask students to match the idioms on the left to the definitions on the right.
  5. Ask them to compare with their classmates before you check together as a class. I always encourage students to defend their choices and justify their answers and quite often I won’t give them correct answers until they all agree and provide me with identical answers. More often than not they manage to get the majority of their answers right. Just don’t give in too quickly when they start complaining that it is too hard (which they always initially do). Confidently explain that it is an opportunity for them to learn from their classmates or maybe to teach their classmates something. Also show them how much they can deduce and guess on their own before you spoon-feed them the answers.
  6. Next ask the students to divide the expressions into two categories: ones they associate with positive experiences and feelings and ones they have a negative association with. In class today I asked students to read out the idioms they put in the “positive” and “negative” section but only discussed the ones that they decided to put “in the middle” or the ones that they disagreed on with their classmates.
  7. When the students have finished, go to Exercise 4 and from memory try to correct the mistakes in red. I tried to think of words that have something in common with the words used in the actual idioms to give students some clues. You could try and turn it into a competition and ask students to do it individually or in small teams.
  8. When you are finished students answer the questions.
  9. If you have had no time to discuss all questions in class ask students to answer a couple of them in writing.

Food for thought:

Why not encourage your students to practise their listening skills with this great audio book:

P.S. This post is dedicated to my BIG prince:)

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Cats & Dogs

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Sometimes too much ain’t enough

Introduction:

This is a board game to practise too and enough. I have noticed that a lot of my students often mix them up so I prepared a short activity for them to practise both. Students get sentences that they have to react to and the person with the most polite, ingenious, creative sentence wins. If the students are not feeling very creative you can just settle for ( never a good idea, why not push them and demand more) correct responses but I would encourage students to stretch their imaginations a little and come up with some exciting ideas.

Level: A2+

Objectives:

  1. To create sentences with TOO or ENOUGH in response to sentences provided on the board.

Materials (Click on the worksheet below to download the PDF file):

  1. Sometimes too much ain’t enough board game

Procedure:

  1. Give students a copy of Sometimes too much ain’t enough board game or display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other platform. If you are not currently using Zoom just follow the instructions of my other board games.
  2. The teacher throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column the students should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question. 
  3. The player now gets a sentence they must respond to using either TOO or ENOUGH. The idea though is for the players to be as polite as possible or as original as possible and of course correct. If their sentence is correct they receive one point, e.g. if they land on the first square I am not going to eat this soup, the possible answers could be: There are not enough flies in it, the starter was too filling and I couldn’t possibly eat more, the soup is not salty enough, too salty etc. etc.  The sky is the limit.
  4. The player with the highest number of points wins. Since the game could actually go on indefinitely, with students giving different responses to the same sentences, you can decide when to end the game.
  5. At the end, ask students to write down 3 ideas their classmates came up with that made them laugh, surprised them or provoked any other intense positive or negative reactions.