Describe me

Introduction:

Describe me board game is a great activity to either teach or revise adjective word order. The activity can be easily adapted to different levels and keeps the students engaged as they progress through writing simple descriptive sentences to creating short, also descriptive, stories. One of my lovely students kindly allowed me to share their work to give you an idea of how they have dealt with the task. They have written four short stories using Describe me board.

I have also made three other boards if you want your students to describe something more specific or revise vocabulary related to a particular topic: a crime scene, a holiday or a perfect outfit. Take your pick and enjoy 😉

Level: A2+

Time:

45 minutes, but it can vary depending on the number of students and of course on how talkative and engaged they are or how engaged you make them;)

Objectives:

  1. To revise the correct order of adjectives in a sentence
  2. To write sentences using the correct adjective word order
  3. To write short stories/ descriptions using the correct adjective word order and the nouns provided

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

Procedure:

  1. Before you start the game ask students to give you examples of adjectives and write them on the board. Encourage students to think of a wide variety of adjectives e.g. shape and material and not only colour and size.
  2. Go through the basic order of adjectives with your students: Opinion, size, shape, age, colour,origin, material, and purpose. Write down a few example sentences on the board before you play the game. Also ask students to categorize the adjectives they gave you at the beginning.
  3. Hand out Describe me board game to each team/pair or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other online platform.
  4. 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 a noun. The nouns in the Describe me game are divided into six categories: a place, an object, a job, a piece of clothing/accessories, a situation and an animal to ensure a wide variety of adjectives used.
  5. Now students write, individually, a sentence describing the chosen noun and using as many adjectives as possible but making sure the sentences actually make sense e.g. She bought a beautiful small white Scottish cat.
  6. Students then read the sentences out loud and get a POINT for each correctly placed adjective. Encourage students to listen to others and award extra points if they manage to spot a mistake in a classmate’s sentence.
  7. Next, students choose a noun from each category and write a short descriptive story. You can put the students in pairs or groups or ask them to work individually. Decide what is best for your students based on their age, level etc. Have a look at the task sample I have provided and which you can find in the materials section.
  8. Monitor students throughout the activity, correct mistakes and feed them new adjectives. 
  9. At the end of the class ask students to share their stories with their classmates 😉 You will be surprised how creative they can get.

Alternative ideas:

  1. Describe me Crime Scene. Students describe a crime scene after choosing six nouns from six categories: a piece of evidence, a type of weapon, a person, a place, a type of crime and a punishment. 
  2. Describe me Hols. Students could describe their last holiday, their dream holiday, plan an ideal holiday for their best friends etc. using the nouns from the following categories (all colour coded so it is easier to navigate): a type of holiday, holiday activities, a means of transport, a place, a person and a season/type of holiday.
  3. Describe me Outfit Ideas. Students could describe an appropriate or inappropriate outfit for different occasions, using the nouns from the following categories: a piece of clothing, an occasion, a person, an accessory, a place and a time of day.

P. S. This post is dedicated to two lovely small fluffy kittens U&F 😉 and their two amazing and caring owners A&H.

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Wanted

Ask a Q board game

Name three

Introduction:

Name three board game is a great speaking activity to get to know each other better and to revise linking words to express reason. The activity can be easily adapted to different levels.

Teacher tip/reflection:

This is one of those activities where I would strongly encourage teacher participation.

I have been teaching for over 11 years now and my approach keeps changing as I grow older. Sometimes I go back to the things I used to do when I first started teaching, sometimes I become too attached to a certain methodology or a technique and struggle to let go of it, and sometimes I just trust my gut, tune into my students and let my intuition guide me. After finishing my Delta I became fiercely attached to accomplishing all the lesson objectives, ticking things off the list, and often I think, to the detriment of my students. It resulted in me emotionally withdrawing from my classes, as I thought my priority was to diligently go through all the points in the lesson plan and not disappoint anyone (I am thinking of an imaginary tutor watching my every step). I became what I would call “clinical”and thorough, but somehow life was sucked out of my lessons. I was trying to comply, to be formal and as a result came across as detached and hard to reach. It was not until a couple of years ago that a few students actually asked me to get more involved, to share my personal opinions with them and shorten the distance I created. I initially resisted as I thought I was robbing them of speaking opportunities. Then slowly I become comfortable with opening up again. I am not saying you have to reveal secrets to your students but we create relationships with the people we work with and I want these relationships to be more authentic, more real. My students are curious, they want to know about the culture I come from, my experiences and opinions and they really appreciate it if I show them the vulnerable, human me instead of an ‘authority’ on a pedestal.

That’s why I actually participated in today’s activity and did not hold back. We had a lovely time and I would encourage you to do the same. You might be surprised how much you will discover about yourself.

Level: A2+

Time: 30 minutes, but it can vary depending on the number of students and of course on how talkative and engaged they are or how engaged you make them;)

Objectives:

  1. To name three things in a given category 
  2. To revise linking words to express reason
  3. To get to know others, and frankly, yourself, better 😉

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

Procedure:

  1. Hand out Name three board game to each team/pair or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom or any other online platform.
  2. Before you start the game go through some common linking words to express reason e.g. because, because of, so, since, as, etc. I have attached a list of appropriate linking words with my own examples so feel free to use it.
  3. 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.
  4. Now students must list three things that fit that category and think of the reason WHY they chose these things. 
  5. Monitor and make sure students use linking expressions other than because 😉 as we all tend to stick to what we know best and what we are comfortable with so insist on using a variety of expressions.
  6. An alternative idea is to ask students to try and predict what their classmates’ answers might be. I have done it with a class of students that have known each other for a very long time and it worked like a dream, but you could also make it work with students that don’t know each other that well. It might be fun for them to see what others think and it will definitely encourage them to listen very closely as they will have to correct their classmates if their predictions are wrong.
  7. Monitor students throughout the activity, correct mistakes and feed them new vocabulary. 
  8. At home ask students to choose 3 categories that speak to them and answer them in writing. Tell them to try and use a different linking word in each answer.

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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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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:

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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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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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 🙂

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