Let it snow…

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise winter idioms. Students first answer a few questions, complete the idioms with the missing ‘chilly’ words, match them to their definitions and answer some questions using the target language. I think this activity is quite appropriate not only because it is actually winter but also because we have recently enjoyed the biggest snowfall in decades here in Madrid. I have seen people put on their skis and snowshoes as well as sledding down the slopes all over the city. I hope your students are going to enjoy this activity as much as I am trying to enjoy the snow ;). Also don’t forget to check out my thematic fast finisher ideas at the end.

Teacher tip/reflection: 

One of the things I love doing when teaching idioms is to tell my students about the origin of the idiomatic expressions we study. It is not always clear where these expressions come from and not all sources can be trusted, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying. I have found that students find it easier to memorise the expressions if there is a story to go with it and it also often gives them the opportunity to learn more about the culture that speaks the language they are studying. My favorite idiom in today’s activity is to go cold turkey. Allegedly the phrase comes from the similarities between a drug addict in withdrawal, who is cold to the touch and covered in goosebumps and looks like a refrigerated turkey. Who knows?

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of chilly winter idioms.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To answer questions containing the target language.

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of Let it snow to each student or display it on the screen.
  2. Tell students to, in pairs, answer questions in Exercise 1.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the missing chilly winter words. 
  4. Check together as a class but ask students to first compare their answers with their partners. Always 😉
  5. Ask the students to match the idioms to their definitions. 
  6. Check together as a class but again ask students to first compare their answers with their partners. 
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to look at the questions in Exercise 3 and first try to complete the sentences with the missing words. The first letters have been provided to make this memory workout slightly less daunting. You can turn this task into a mini competition to add some excitement.
  8. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner and then check together as a class.
  9. Students now answer the questions in pairs or small groups using the chilly idioms as often as possible.

Fast finisher ideas:

  1. Ask students to write a brief weather report describing what the weather has been like recently where they live, what it is like at the moment and what it will be like for a period in the future. 
  2. Write a list of 5 things to do to get your car out of a snow drift e.g. travel with a bag of kitty litter. You can tell I have been inspired by the current weather conditions.
  3. Come up with a dish using the following ingredients: Buckwheat, tuna, two tomatoes, mayo, half a pepper, three avocados, curry sauce, almond milk and pumpkin seeds. Make sure the food lasts for at least two days (Note: the supermarkets were closed for two days in my area and there were no deliveries so I was quite limited as far as cooking was concerned and these were the only things I had in my fridge 😉
  4. Come up with a list of simple pleasure to savour in winter e.g. cosy blankets, hot chocolate, drinks beside the fire etc.
  5. List as many winter sports as you can e.g. ice dancing, ice skating, Nordic walking ski bobbing etc. 

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Lovely day, innit?

2020 Round-up

Introduction:

This is a board game activity to reflect on the past year. Students answer questions about the challenges they faced, things they learnt, things they would have done differently, etc. This time I have decided to add what I myself learnt in 2020. Scroll down to keep reading 😉

Level: B1 +

Objectives:

  1. To reflect on the past year.

Materials:

PDF board game and one die per pair or group of 3.

Procedure:

  1. Put the students in pairs, or groups of 3, and give them a copy of the board game and a die or display the game on the screen.
  2. Players take it in turns to throw the die twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question.
  3. All three players must then answer the question in as much detail as possible.
  4. At the end, ask the students to name three new things they agreed on with other classmates.

Lessons I learnt in 2020:

Life is unpredictable;) We try and put things in place to fool ourselves into thinking we have everything under control, yet we do not control anything other than our own reactions to what happens. Before 2020 we might have been under the illusion that life bent to our will, but I am sure that with the arrival of the pandemic those illusions were quickly shattered. What I learnt, faced with unpredictability and uncertainty on a daily basis, is to let go, accept and to drop resistance. I know now that the more I resist reality and the present moment the more painful it is to move forward.

The power of positive habits and routines. I have been meditating now for a long time and I can not even begin to explain the power of meditation and how key it has been in moments of both happiness and pain. It helped me relax, stay grounded, realise the impermanence of things and allowed me to detach from what I strongly identified with e.g. my life story, people, material possessions, places etc. As I have realised, we fall back on our habits in the times of crisis, so I wanted to make sure my routines in 2020 were solid and definitely supportive of my health and well-being. I established a strict routine of yoga, meditation and walks in nature which helped keep me calm and reduced anxiety. Bringing myself back to centre also helped me control my negative emotions. I was acutely aware I did not want to project my fear and anxiety on others and did everything I could to manage and process my emotions in solitude and avoid taking things on other people. I apologise to anyone I took my anger out on last year. I am sorry;) 

Being surrounded by the right tribe. Energy is contagious and surrounding yourself with people who will lift you up and support you is key, but letting go of relationships that are no longer serving us is hard. In 2020, I had to let some relationships go. No hard feelings. It is what it is. We meet others to learn and grow but not everybody is meant to stay in your life. I have learnt not to force, push and try to fix things that maybe, at this moment in time, are not meant to be. The people that are meant to stay in your life, will stay or if they have only momentarily left, will return 😉

Authenticity. A year like 2020 certainly brings you to your knees. It has forced me to be more authentic, to be less of a people pleaser in search of validation and approval, to finally face certain things I’ve been avoiding or distracting myself from. I am no longer able to look away. I feel like the masks I have been wearing are coming off. Although I am still far from living in alignment, I am definitely striving daily to only keep things in my life that align with my values and goals. Lockdown helped/ forced 😉 me to turn even more inward by eliminating every distraction I surrounded myself with before the pandemic.

Responsibility. I have seen how much of what we do, we do unconsciously, automatically, without taking into account how it might affect others. We are quick to blame, judge, point fingers and criticise without pausing to examine how we might have contributed to problems we are now facing. We all want great things in our lives, but everything comes with its own set of positive and negative characteristics that we have to take responsibility for. I have tried to stop, not to react so quickly, to create a gap between the stimulus and my reaction and then if necessary respond. I am slowly trying to become more intentional, deliberate and responsible in my choices. More conscious.

There are more lessons I am sure but that’s all I have been inspired to share today 😉

Thank you to all my lovely students for making 2020, despite everything, beautiful and enriching. I love you 😉

Thank you for my new template Stu 😉

Thank you for inspiring me to write what I learnt in 2020 Vanesa E. 😉 and for sharing the podcast below.

Food for thought:

Looks & personality

Introduction:

These are two board game activities to talk about physical appearance and personality. They can be used together or separately, and are a great way to help students practise speaking and develop fluency, as well as prepare for FCE /CAE and CPE 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 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 physical appearance and personality.

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

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs or small groups and give them a copy of one of the board games or display it on the screen for everyone to see.
  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(s) must then answer the question in 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.
  4. Switch to the second board game when/if appropriate. 
  5. At the end, ask students to give you three new things they have learnt about their classmates.

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Wanted

To err is human Sequel

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 actual 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 worksheets below to download the PDF files):

Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into teams and display To err is human Sequel 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 or question 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. I actually use inserted predefined icons on Zoom (a star and a heart) as it looks 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.

Alternative idea/ procedure :

  1. Players take it in turns to throw the die twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question or a sentence.
  2. When a player lands on a QUESTION all players find and correct the mistake in the question first and then answer the question from that square in as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask each other additional questions to obtain more information. When a player lands on a square with an AFFIRMATIVE SENTENCE, they find and correct the mistake in the sentence first and then say if the sentence is TRUE or FALSE for them and OF COURSE at length 😉 explain WHY.
  3. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences/ questions together at the end of the class. At home ask students to correct the sentences and questions you didn’t finish in class.

Related posts:

Can you see the error of your ways?Threequel

Can you see the error of your ways?

Can you see the error of your ways? Sequel

Make no mistake

My favourite mistakes card game

Correct me if I am wrong

Bid it 2 Win it FCE Sentence Auction

To err is humanBid it 2 Win it Sentence Auction

Somewhere over the rainbow Part 2

These are activities for students to introduce and practise colour idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing colours, then complete the sentences with the missing expressions and in pairs answer questions containing the idioms.

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce colour idioms.
  2. To complete the idioms with the missing colours.
  3. To complete the sentences with the missing idioms.
  4. To practise the new expressions whilst asking and answering questions.

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

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs and ask them to briefly discuss questions in Exercise 1.
  2. Hand students Somewhere over the rainbow Part 2 Worksheet or display it on the screen for everyone to see.
  3. Individually, students first try to complete the idioms with the missing colours (Exercise 2).
  4. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  5. Check the answers and elicit meaning. Clarify the expressions that are new or not quite clear.
  6. Now, students complete the sentences 1 to 12 with the missing idioms (Exercise 2). When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  7. Check the answers as a class.
  8. Go to exercise 3 and from memory ask students to correct the mistakes highlighted in different colours. You could turn it into a mini competition and maybe even time the students 😉
  9. Now students answer questions 1 to 12 in pairs. Encourage them to ask their classmates additional questions to obtain more details.
  10. If you have had no time to discuss all questions in class ask students to answer a couple of them in writing at home.

Fast finishers:

Ask students to rate the expressions from the most to the least useful, according to them.

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Somewhere over the rainbow 

P. S. This post is dedicated to my lovely student Raquel, who was tickled pink about learning new colour idioms today. Thank you for a wonderful class my dear 🙂

Who are you? Sequel

Introduction:

This is a fun activity for students to talk about personality. Students match the expressions to their antonyms, decide which expressions apply most to them and look for classmates whose answers are either identical to theirs or very different.

Level: C1

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To revise/ introduce adjectives and idioms describing personality.
  2. To decide which adjectives and idioms apply most to students and give examples.
  3. To compare students’ choices with other classmates.

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

Procedure:

  1. In pairs ask students to tell each other what personality types they get on with best and what personality types they just can’t stand.
  2. Elicit some answers from students.
  3. Hand each student a copy of Who are you? Sequel (or display it on the screen) and tell them to cover up the words at the bottom.
  4. Individually ask students to provide definitions of the expressions in the first column.
  5. When the students have finished ask them to compare with their partner.
  6. Check together as a class.
  7. Next students look at the antonyms provided at the bottom of the page and complete the table.
  8. Check as a class.
  9. Individually now ask students to consider each pair of adjectives/ idioms and choose the number (1 to 5) closest to the expression they feel applies most to them. Number 1 applies to the adjectives and idioms in the first column and 5 to its antonym in the third column.
  10. Once the students have finished, put them into pairs and ask them to compare their choices with their classmates and provide specific examples where their numbers are identical or very different.
  11. Change pairs two or three times to give students a chance to compare their answers with as many classmates as possible.
  12. Ask students to give examples of unexpected answers they received whilst interviewing their classmates.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to pick three positive and three negative expressions from the table that best describe them and justify their answers to their classmates.

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Who are you?

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

MEOW!

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Know thyself

Can you see the error of your ways?Threequel

Introduction:

This is an activity for (lower) intermediate students to review some of the most common mistakes they make. The students correct the mistakes individually, write sentences that are true for them and interview their partners. The mistakes in the exercise are genuine  mistakes made regularly ;( by my own students.

Level: A2/B1

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To identify and correct common mistakes made by (lower) intermediate students.
  2. To practise changing statements into questions.
  3. To develop fluency and confidence in speaking.

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

Procedure:

  1. Write I have 2 childrens on the board and in pairs, or groups, ask students to highlight the error and correct it.
  2. When they have finished, ask them what the error was and underline it on the board. To the right of the sentence, ask them to write gramatically correct sentences that are TRUE for them. e.g. I don’t have any children, I have one child, I have two children etc. Go through them together and clear up any doubts.
  3. Then, in their pairs or individually, ask students to change the statement into a question, e.g. Do you have any children? How many children do you have? Write their examples on the board.
  4. Clarify understanding and explain any incorrect suggestions.
  5. Give each student Can you see the error of your ways threequel… or display it on the screen if you are using Zoom and individually ask students to circle the mistakes in sentences 1 to 30.
  6. When they have finished, check together as a class.
  7. Individually, students then write correct sentences in the second column, making each statement true for them, as per the example ( if you are using Zoom ask students to make notes on a piece of paper and when they are finished copy the examples on the board).
  8. Check together as a class.
  9. Individually, ask students to change the statements from the first column into questions and write them down in the third column, as per the example.
  10. Monitor closely. When they have finished, they check the answers with a partner.
  11. Explain any mistakes on the board.
  12. Then, put students into pairs, or groups of three, and ask them to interview each other using the questions.
  13. If students need more practice, ask them to switch pairs / groups and repeat the process.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to write down 4 things they have learned about their classmates.

Related posts:

Can you see the error of your ways? Sequel

Can you see the error of your ways?

My favourite mistakes card game

Make no mistake

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Bid it 2 Win it Sentence Auction

To err is human

Job interview

Introduction:

These are two board game activities (one prim and proper and the other a bit on the cheeky side) to practise answering common job interview questions. They can be used together or separately, and are a great way to help students practise speaking, develop fluency and of course prepare for a potential job interview.

Level: B2+

Objectives:

  1. To practise answering common as well as bizzare job interview questions

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

A die and a timer if needed or wanted

Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into “interviewer(s)” and “interviewee(s)”and give them a copy of one of the board games and a die or simply share it on the screen if you are teaching online.
  2. Players take it in turns to throw the die twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question.
  3. The “interviewees” must then answer the question with as much detail as possible. Encourage “interviewers” to ask additional questions and make notes to be able to offer some constructive feedback at the end and also to help them decide who to “hire”.
  4. Allow 10/ 12 minutes for each interview and then ask students to either switch roles or interview a different applicant. Make sure however that all students get to play both roles and do a practice job interview at least once.
  5. At the end, ask students to say which answers they were impressed by and also to give others some constructive feedback to improve their next performance.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Javier. Best wishes for the interview(s).

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Let’s Get Better Acquainted 🙂

When & where board game

Ask a Q board game

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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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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