This is a creative speaking activity inspired by a great book by Edward de Bono called “Creativity Workout”. Students obtain random verbs and describe something they have done for the first time using the verbs from the board.

I have also included two audios for you to play to your students. Two of my friends kindly agreed to model the activity for you. My friend Adam talked about the first time he travelled abroad and my friend Claire spoke about the first time she visited Spain. Both of my friends are British English speakers and come from Norwich, UK. You could play the recordings to your students and they could tick the verbs they hear. This way your students get some great listening practice too.

Teacher tip/ reflection:

It is easy to get stuck in a rut and only do things we like or are good at. It happens to me in all areas of my life but particularly when it comes to physical exercise. When I finally manage to perfect a certain exercise routine I tend to do it over and over again simply because it makes me feel good to be able to do it well and also because I am able to switch off as the moves have become automatic through constant repetition.

Any attempt at changing the routine is met with a negative reaction from my body. It is natural. We want to go back to the old and familiar. So I gently steer myself in the direction of something new e.g. by choosing new exercises but sticking to the same time of day, selecting the same trainer (Yoga with Adriene) but a longer/shorter video or starting a new routine and “rewarding” myself with something “old and comforting” from time to time. In other words, I trick my brain to get out of my comfort zone.

The idea behind random words is exactly the same. It is to challenge your students to use the verbs in a new creative way and encourage them to come up with structures that they might otherwise avoid because it is uncomfortable and requires too much effort. The resistance to the unfamiliar is huge and I think that these types of exercises help to shake things up a little. And on that note, I would like to commit myself to doing some new yoga poses tonight. If I expect my students to try new ways of doing things, I might as well do the same 🙂

I am going to end this little reflection section with a quote:

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”- Brian Tracy


  1. To use irregular verbs in a new and memorable way
  2. To revise irregular verbs
  3. To get out of your comfort zone


  1. One die per pair or small group
  2. First things first board game
The first time I travelled abroad by Adam. Thank you.
The first time I visited Spain by Claire. Thank you.


  1. Hand out First things first to each team or simply display it on the screen.
  2. To obtain verbs for the activity students throw the die twice: the first throw indicates which column they are going to use and the second indicates which row they are going to use e.g. Obtain four random verbs and describe the first time you bought something really expensive. Below I have written down some ideas to get you started:

Describe the first time you: 

  1. Cooked something 
  2. Drove a car 
  3. Gave a presentation in English
  4. Got dressed up
  5. Got into trouble 
  6. Had to apologise to someone 
  7. Played truant 
  8. Slept in a tent 
  9. Stayed at a hotel 
  10. Swam in an ocean
  11. Told someone you loved them 
  12. Took a flight 
  13. Took a train
  14. Tried spicy food
  15. Was offered a job 
  16. Went abroad
  17. Went on a school trip 
  18. Went on holiday 
  19. Went to a club 
  20. Went to a live concert
  21. Went to a wedding 
  22. Went to school
  23. Went to the cinema 
  24. Were in a hospital
  25. Were late for work/school
  26. Wore makeup

Related posts:

Random words

Random words return

Random words (Getting personal)

Random words (Once upon a time…)

2 thoughts on “First things first

  1. This looks like a very interesting activity but I am a bit confused! The students pick 4 random verbs. Do they then have to use all of these verbs in their answer? Even if some of the verbs have no relationship to the topic? All the best, Peter

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Peter,
      Thank you for your kind comment.
      Yes, the students have to use random verbs especially if they are unrelated to the topic. It forces you to be creative with your language, break your usual patterns and think outside the box. Also by having to creatively use random verbs they often come up with great and memorable stories/ examples which helps with vocabulary retention and attention. I’ve done this activity thousands of times and even if students resist at the beginning ( as it’s hard 😉 they always get into it. Just be confident and model it for them first. Hope it helps. Best wishes 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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