Ups and downs


These are activities to introduce and practise happiness and sadness idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing words, divide the idioms into ☺ and ☹ and do a Find someone who activity with their classmates.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes


  1. To introduce happiness and sadness idioms.
  2. To complete the idioms with the missing words.
  3. To divide the idioms into ☺ and ☹.
  4. To interview other students.

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

  1. Ups and downs Worksheet,one per student.


  1. Write the following quote on the board and ask students to discuss it in pairs:

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life.” Mandy Hale

  1. Hand the students Ups and downs Worksheet.
  2. Individually, students complete the idioms in Exercise 1 with the missing words.
  3. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  4. Check the answers as a class.
  5. Now, individually again, the students decide if the idioms are related to positive or negative feelings.
  6. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner and if they have any differences to give reasons for their choices.
  7. Elicit answers from students.
  8. Next, students complete the missing words in the idioms again. Ask them to fold the sheet and try and do it from memory first. I try to use every opportunity for students to play with the new vocabulary as much as possible and in as many ways as possible to increase their chances of remembering the idioms.
  9. Students now mingle and try to get affirmative answers from their classmates, e.g. find someone who cried their eyes out when they watched Titanic. If the other student says ‘yes’ they have to elaborate e.g. Of course I cried my eyes out when I watched Titanic. It was heartbreaking watching Jack die. Allow no more than 3 minutes for each interview. When the time is up ask students to switch partners.
  10. When the students have had a chance to ask everyone’s opinion, ask them which answers surprised them the most.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to briefly describe the happiest or the saddest day in their lives using at least 5 of the idioms studied.

Related posts:

Actions speak louder than words

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

There is no place like…school

You make my heart BEET 😉

Somewhere over the rainbow 

It’s game time


Nothing changes if nothing changes

The proof is in the pudding

P.S. Thank you Alex.


Stop beating around the bush


This is an activity for B2+ students to review some of the common phrasal verbs related to communication. Students use context to come up with their own definitions of the ten phrasal verbs, answer the questions and share their examples with other students.

Level: B1 +

Time: 45 minutes


  1. To familiarise students with some of the most common phrasal verbs related to communication.
  2. To write down definitions of the phrasal verbs using the context provided.
  3. To discuss students’ examples with another classmate.

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

  1. Stop beating around the bush Worksheet


  1. Write the following questions on the board and ask students to briefly discuss them in pairs: What is good communication? What are the greatest challenges to effective communication? What role does body language play in communication? Do you believe people could benefit from communication courses?
  2. Elicit some answers from students and then write the following phrasal verbs on the board: to back up, to bring up, to cut off, to open up, to point out , to rant about, to speak up, to talk down to, to tell off, to tune out.
  3. In pairs, ask students to briefly define the phrasal verbs they know or think they remember. Tell the students all the phrasal verbs are related to communication.
  4. Hand each student the Stop beating around the bush Worksheet.
  5. Individually, students look at the questions in column 2 and complete the first column, e.g. Definition/ synonym: Support. Name two people who you know would always back you up.
  6. In pairs, students compare their answers with a classmate.
  7. Correct and provide feedback.
  8. Individually, ask the students to answer the questions in column 2 using the appropriate phrasal verb, e.g. Name two things you find yourself unable to stop ranting about. Your examples: I can’t stop ranting about men. I am constantly ranting about work. Encourage students to vary the structures slightly to give them an opportunity to play with the form of the verbs.
  9. When the students have finished, ask them to switch their worksheets, read each other’s answers and circle all the examples they have in common with their classmate, underline 3 examples they want to know more about and cross out 3 examples they completely disagree with.
  10. In their pairs, students now discuss their examples. Encourage students to use the phrasal verbs in their responses. You can ask students to switch pairs again to provide them with more opportunities to practise the target language.

Fast finishers:

  1. Students choose 4 questions from the worksheet and try to predict what the teacher’s answer would be or the classmate’s that they haven’t spoken to, e.g. What two topics make you tune out in the middle of a conversation?  Karolina tunes out when people talk about board games and the weather. When they are finished they give their sentences to the teacher/classmate to check if their predictions were correct.

Related posts:

Phrasal verbs can be put off, never forgotten

Brace yourselves. Phrasal verbs r bk

How do you …?

You talkin’ to me?

Know thyself


This is a free board game to talk about philosophy. I have done this activity with some of my advanced and proficient students just because sometimes they fancy talking about something exciting and less mundane, without focusing on a specific outcome in mind. Many students also often ask me to give them an opportunity to talk about more challenging topics, so this is for them. If you feel uncomfortable about having no objectives, you could turn this activity into a debate and introduce some lovely agreeing and disagreeing expressions. If you are feeling rebellious just join the discussion and have fun with your students.

Level: C1


  1. To have an inspired conversation about life in general.

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

  1. Know thyself, one PDF board game per pair or group of 3.


  1. Put the students in pairs, or groups of 3, and give them a copy of the board game and a die.
  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 players must then speak on that topic for as long as they find it interesting and in as much detail as possible. Do not rush the students but give them absolute control over the activity, as long as they answer the questions in English. Monitor and help with vocabulary as needed.
  4. The game continues in a circle going left.
  5. At the end, ask the students to choose one topic they would like to explore further and ask them to write an article or an essay at home. I did it with my students and they produced very interesting pieces.
  6. Encourage students to watch How philosophy can save our life Ted talk