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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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.

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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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Ir(regular) Xmas

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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 😉

Active noughts & passive crosses

Introduction:

This is a free board game to practise/revise active and passive voice in an entertaining way. Students change passive-voice sentences to active voice sentences or active-voice sentences to passive voice sentences. 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.

Level: B1

Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To revise passive and active voice.
  2. To change a passive voice sentence to an active voice sentence or an active voice sentence to a passive voice sentence and line up 6 symbols (O or X) in a row.

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

  1. Active noughts passive crosses board game one per team.

 Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into teams and hand out Active noughts & passive crosses board game  to each team or simply display it 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) turns the sentence from active into passive voice or passive into active voice (the sentences in the dark blue squares are active-voice sentences and the ones in light blue squares are passive-voice sentences. 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.
  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 transform the sentences in all the squares without an icon into either a passive or an active voice sentence.

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Two-round boxing match

 

Home sweet home

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with HOME & HOUSE. Students first complete the expressions with the missing words, match the idioms to their definitions, complete the questions in Exercise 2 and answer the questions in pairs or small groups. 

Level: B2

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms with the words ‘home’ and ‘house’.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To complete questions with the missing words and then answer the questions in small groups or pairs.

Materials:

  1. Home sweet home worksheet, one per student or if you are currently using Zoom simply display it on the screen.

Procedure:

  1. Write the following questions on the board and ask the students to briefly discuss them in small groups or pairs. Do you like the place where you are living? Where do you feel most at home? What is your favourite room in your house? How have you changed your home since you started living here? How many different homes have you lived in? If you could change anything about your present home, what would it be? Idea: Since we are all currently teaching from home this could be a great opportunity to ask students to “show you around” their homes.
  2. Hand out or display a copy of Home sweet home Worksheet and ask students to complete the expressions with the words home or house. When they are finished ask them to compare with their classmate(s). Always encourage them to justify their answers to each other and if they are sure of their answer, to try and convince others they are correct. 
  3. Check together as a class.
  4. Ask the students to match the expressions to their definitions. The students could first work individually and then compare with their partners, but once they get into groups or pairs they must agree on the answers. It encourages discussions and forces students to engage and defend their answers rather than mindlessly / distractedly doing the task before moving on to the next one. 
  5. Check together as a class.
  6. After the first exercise and depending on how quickly the students complete the first two tasks you could ask them to mime the expressions they have learnt. The other students try to guess the correct expressions and receive a point for each correct guess. You can skip this stage if you are pressed for time, but I find that students love this stage and are always eager to compete and have a laugh 🙂
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to complete the questions in Exercise 2 with the missing words. I usually ask students to fold the paper in half at this stage to try and encourage them to do it from memory which makes the task more challenging. If you are using Zoom simply display page 2 and go back to page 1 when students are finished.
  8. When they have finished, go back to Exercise 1 and ask them to self correct before you check as a class.
  9. Next students answer the questions in pairs or small groups.
  10. At the end of the class ask students to choose two questions and answer them in writing at home. Oops they are probably already home 🙂

Food for thought:

Award Winning Animated Short Film: “Home Sweet Home”

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Zooming it

Introduction:

This is a board game to get to know your classmates better, disconnect and have some fun. Students ask and answer some interesting questions and if they happen to land on a green field they can either answer a question or perform a dare.

I have given you some dare ideas but please feel free to come up with your own or change them to make them appropriate for your groups or even ask the students to invent some dares, although that could potentially turn ugly very quickly :). I have deliberately chosen the questions that hopefully only evoke positive 🙂emotions from learners to make them feel good throughout the activity and take their minds off things. If you are using Zoom ( which I am guessing you probably are) just display the board on the screen for everyone to see or send it to your students before the class. Also when I use my games on Zoom these days I am the one in charge of the dice:) Hope you enjoy the activity.

Level: B1+

Objectives:

  1. To ask and answer interesting questions and perform challenging dares to inject some fun into our Zoom lessons

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

  1. Zooming it board game
  2. 20 dare ideas

Procedure:

  1. Give students a copy of Zooming it 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 as the idea is pretty much the same although I have added a few twists this time.
  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. You could indicate who starts and then players continue clockwise or anticlockwise.
  3. If a player lands on a green field they can choose either to answer a question or perform a dare. I have given you some ideas but feel free to make changes. If a player lands on an orange field they answer the question themselves and if they land on a blue one they nominate someone to answer it.
  4. At the end, ask the students to give you three new things they have learnt about their classmates and three funniest dares they have seen their classmates perform during the lesson.

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Also have a look at one of my activities that has recently been published on onestopenglish 😉

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

 

 

My bucket list

You can now access this activity by clicking the links below:

  1. http://www.onestopenglish.com/community/lesson-share/pdf-content/lesson-share-my-bucket-list-worksheet/558308.article
  2. http://www.onestopenglish.com/community/lesson-share/pdf-content/lesson-share-my-bucket-list-teachers-notes/558307.article

Food for thought:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

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Cats & Dogs

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with cats & dogs. Students first complete the expressions with the missing words, match the idioms to their definitions, complete the questions in Exercise 2 and answer the questions in pairs or small groups. 

Level: B2

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms with the words cat and dog.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To complete Would you rather questions with the missing words and then answer the questions in small groups or pairs.

Materials:

  1. Cats and dogs Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Write the following statements on the board and ask students to decide if they are true or false: Cats have 32 muscles in each ear. Cats have no collarbone, which is one reason they are so flexible. Cats have 100 vocal sounds, while dogs have about 10. A dog’s sense of smell is 1000 times greater than a human’s. Every dog has a unique nose print with no two alike. Dogs sweat through their foot pads to keep them cool. All the statements are true Source : http://www.animalmedical.org
  2. Hand out a copy of Cats & Dogs Worksheet and ask students to complete the expressions with the words cat (meow, meow) or dog (woof, woof). When they are finished ask them to compare with their classmate(s).
  3. Check together as a class, but before you give students the answers make sure they compare as a whole class. Always encourage them to justify their answers to each other and if they are sure of their answer, to try and convince others they are correct. 
  4. Ask the students to match the expressions to their definitions. The students could first work individually and then compare with their partners, but once they get into groups or pairs they must agree on the answers. It encourages discussions and forces students to engage and defend their answers rather than mindlessly/distractedly do the task before moving on to the next one. 
  5. Check together as a class.
  6. After the first exercise and depending on how quickly the students completed the first two tasks, I divided them into groups and asked them to first draw and then mime the expressions they have learnt. The other teams tried to guess the correct expressions and received a point for each correct guess. You can skip this stage if you are pressed for time, but I find that students love this stage and are always eager to compete against each other and move around a bit, especially if you ask them to draw on the whiteboard.
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to complete Would you rather questions in Exercise 2 with the missing words. I usually ask students to fold the paper in half at this stage to try and encourage them to do it from memory which makes the task more challenging.
  8. When they have finished, ask them to go back to Exercise 1 and self correct before you check as a class.
  9. Next students answer the questions in pairs or small groups and justify each choice they made, e.g. I would rather be as sick as a dog every time I eat vegetables as I very rarely eat vegetables anyway, so I don’t think it would affect me.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to come up with sentences that are true for them using the expressions they have learnt. Always encourage them to write down what is TRUE for them. It makes the activities much more personal and memorable.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Mateo and Nero.

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Random words (Once upon a time…)

Introduction: 

This is a creative speaking/ writing activity inspired by a book called “Creativity Workout” by Edward de Bono. Students obtain random words and rewrite some of the most popular fairy tales. I have to say I absolutely love this activity since it takes me back to the times my dad used to read The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen stories to me. Enjoy.

Level: B1 +

Time: 45 minutes

Objective:

  1. To recycle recently studied vocabulary in a new and memorable context.

Materials:  

  1. One die per pair or small group.

Procedure:

  1. At the beginning of the class ask students to write down the titles of some of their favourite fairy tales and short stories, e.g. Cinderella, Emperor’s New Clothes, Frog-Prince, The Gingerbread Man, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs etc.
  2. Draw a 6 x 6 grid on the board.
  3. Ask the students to review recently studied vocabulary and provide a word for each square. Make sure the students know the meaning of all the words.
  4. When the grid is complete, put students in pairs or small groups. To obtain words 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. Depending on the task, they must roll for the number of words and use them repetitively to complete the activity.

Examples:

  • Obtain four random words and choose one of the tales above or any other you would prefer to work on. It would be best if all groups worked on the same tale as they could later compare their stories and have a laugh. Using the random words create four discussion questions based on the tale of your choice.
  • Obtain four random words and create a different ending of the chosen story.
  • Obtain four random words and create a different beginning of the chosen story.
  • Obtain six random words and justify which character should be removed from your chosen story and why.
  • Obtain four random words and retell the story from the perspective of a different character, e.g. one of the Seven Dwarfs or the wolf’s perspective in Little Red Riding Hood. 
  • Obtain five random words and write a sequel to one of the stories, e.g. Cinderella 2.
  • Obtain four random words and write a contemporary version of one of the stories.
  • Obtain five random words and describe how you would act if you were one of the main characters in your chosen story.
  • Obtain five random words and present your chosen story as a TV news item.
  • Obtain five random words and write 5 quiz questions about the story for the other teams.

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