All talk and no cider

Introduction: 

These are activities for upper intermediate students to introduce and practise idioms related to communication. Students unscramble the expressions, match them with the correct definitions and answer some questions in pairs.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce communication idioms and expressions.
  2. To unscramble communication idioms and expressions.
  3. To match the expressions with their definitions.
  4. To practise the new expressions whilst interviewing their partners.

Materials:

  1. All talk and no cider, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs and ask them to briefly discuss the following questions: What makes it easy to talk to someone? Who is the best conversationalist you have ever met? What percentage of a conversation do you spend talking? What do people do that drives you crazy in a conversation? How can you improve your conversation skills?
  2. Hand students All talk and no cider Worksheet. In pairs, students try to order the idioms to discover what the correct expressions are (bring order to chaos). Bear in mind that they will not know the majority of the expressions, but resist the urge to give them the answers. My students usually work relentlessly to try and come up with the right answers until eventually they get the majority of them right.
  3. Check the answers as a class.
  4. Now the students, in pairs again, match the expressions with their definitions. Again students work in pairs to encourage cooperation and show them how much they can learn from each other and that the teacher is NOT the only source of knowledge in the classroom. I don’t want my students to ever become too dependent on me. I value autonomy greatly and try to help them develop tools to be as independent as possible.
  5. Check the answers as a class. I always ask EVERYONE to compare FIRST rather than list the right answers. There is usually someone in the classroom who is able to peer correct. It makes students so much more confident when you show them they can do it without your help but you are always present to provide the support and guidance if they are at a loss.
  6. When the students have finished, ask them to look at the questions in Exercise 2 and first try and write down the idioms that match the definitions in bold. I encourage them to do it from memory first as it’s a great way to start recycling vocabulary and make them think and engage. I often turn these exercises into mini competitions to add some excitement. Last time I did this exercise the students thought I was insane and asked for the impossible, but as soon as they started, they saw that they remembered more than the thought and the majority managed to complete the task PERFECTLY and almost entirely from memory.
  7. Students now answer the questions in pairs or small groups using the communication idioms as often as possible.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to choose expressions that best describe them and in writing justify their answers.

Related posts:

You talkin’ to me?

Clothes do (not) make the man

Ups and downs

Stop beating around the bush

Nothing changes if nothing changes

P.S. This post pays homage to cider, cabrales, rich homemade almond turrón and of course Kompacho.

My bucket list

Introduction:

This is a free board game to talk about things students would like to add to or put on their bucket lists. I have done this activity with a variety of classes already and unexpectedly had students both overcome with emotion and excited about things they suddenly felt inspired to try. I have purposefully chosen ONLY irregular verbs for this game, so you could use it either to revise irregular verbs or as a fun speaking activity.

Level: B1

Objectives:

  1. To revise irregular verbs
  2. To talk about things students would like to put on their bucket lists

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

  1. My bucket list worksheet
  2. PDF My bucket list board game per pair or group of three.

Procedure:

  1. Write to kick the bucket on the board and elicit some answers from students as to what the expression means. None of my students knew the expression, so just make sure you explain it at the beginning of the class. Other “fun” expressions you might want to add are : pushing up daisies, to sleep with the fishes, six feet under, your number is up, to pop one’s clogs, on the wrong side of the grass, dead as a doornail, to fall off one’s perch, to go home in a box.
  2. Next ask students if they know what a bucket list is and give them a few personal examples to create interest and elicit the answer e.g. be a black belt in karate, speak fluent German, run a marathon, drive a race car etc. ( These are all the things I would love to do)
  3. Once the concept is clear, put the students in pairs or groups and give them a copy of My bucket list worksheet and ask them to write a few examples of the things they would like to do before they kick the bucket and write them down in I am all in column. When they are finished ask them to briefly compare with their classmate(s).
  4. Next give the students My bucket list board game and a die.
  5. 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.
  6. The players now speak about the idea e.g. win a bet at the races (Well done Adam) and each player must explain to the others if they are all in and WHY, if they have already done it (been there, done that) and if so describe the experience, if it is not their cup of tea and WHY or if they are on the fence about it at this moment in time. After discussing each idea the students write down the name of the activity in the appropriate column. Do not rush the students and give them control over the activity as long as they answer the questions in English. Monitor and help with vocabulary as needed.
  7. At the end, ask the students to choose a few ideas they didn’t have time to discuss in class and in writing give reasons why they would like to add these ideas to their bucket lists.

Food for thought:

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

Related posts:

So, what brings you here?

Simply perfect

Summary of past or recent events

Double Decker

Time to keep up with the times

 

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.

Related posts:

What a zoo

Cat got your tongue? Speak up

MEOW!

 

 

Taking the leap…

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms related to success and failure. Students first answer some questions in pairs or small groups, divide the expressions into two categories, complete the questions in Exercise 3 with the missing idioms, and then answer the questions in pairs or small groups.

I would start this class with a story, something you initially struggled with and that you managed to turn into a great success. To create interest, first introduce the problem and then ask students to predict in pairs how you managed to overcome it. This way you will give students an opportunity to see you in a different light, someone more approachable and able to share your challenges and difficulties. 

My personal favourite for this type of class and the type of topic is the story of when I went to a bilingual secondary school at the age of 15 with no English to speak of. ZERO. I was in the bottom of my class. I worked my socks off for two years to get to the level of the other students. When I finally did, the momentum, my sheer determination and drive, together with my passion for English was already so strong that I became of one the best students in my class, graduated from an English university and years later became an English teacher, who the English themselves confuse with a native speaker from Ireland Impossible is nothing.

Side note: This post feels special to me and the time of its publication is not an accident. After working in a language school in the north of Madrid for a decade, yes a decade, I have decided to take the leap and go freelance. I am feeling a mixture of excitement, fear, and uncertainty but underpinning all this there is an unshakable belief that I have made the right decision. I loved working in the same school for such a long time, it gave me an amazing opportunity to work with wonderful students for years and years and a chance to get to know them really well. However, the time has come to leave my comfort zone and to take on a new challenge.

P.S. I have also made a Taking the leap conversation board game that I used with one of my students who recently created her own company. Well done! Feel free to download it and use it if it is appropriate for your students. 

P.S. I don’t really believe in failure myself. You either win or you learn. Here comes a book that inspired me in many ways.

John Maxwell “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”.

Level: B2

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms related to success and failure.
  2. To answer questions about success and failure.
  3. To divide the idioms into two categories: one associated with success and one with failure.
  4. To complete questions with the missing idioms and then answer the questions in small groups or pairs.

Materials:

  1. Taking the leap Worksheet, one per student.
  2. Taking the leap board game board game, one per student/ small group.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of Taking the leap Worksheet and ask students to discuss the questions in Exercise 1. Elicit some answers when they are finished.
  2. Ask the students to divide the expressions into two categories: success and failure. 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. 
  3. Check together as a class and ask students to try and come up with precise definitions of each expression. Help with the ones students were unable to figure out themselves. 
  4. When the students have finished, ask them to complete the questions in Exercise 2 with the missing idioms. 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.
  5. When they have finished, ask them to go back to Exercise 1 and self / peer correct before you check as a class.
  6. Next, students answer the questions in pairs or small groups and give examples.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to think of some inspiring stories they have read or heard about and write a short summary, using the expressions learnt, of how the character in their story overcame the challenges they faced.

Related posts:

The proof is in the pudding

It’s all a numbers game

Nothing changes if nothing changes

It’s game time

Somewhere over the rainbow 

You make my heart BEET 😉

There is no place like…school

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Actions speak louder than words

Ups and downs

All rise please

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Half full or half empty?

P.S. Thank you Alex, Stu, Nat, Adam, Penny, Lorna and Kompacho for your support and encouragement.

 

 

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.

Related posts:

Random words (Getting personal)

Random words return

Random words

 

4 elements

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the elements: air, earth, fire and water. Students first complete the expressions with the missing words, match the idioms to their definitions, complete the sentences in Exercise 2 and then decide if these sentences are true for me, the teacher. I came up with my own examples to personalise the activity. You could do the same or simply ask students to decide if the sentences are true for them.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of idioms with air, earth, fire and water.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To complete the sentences with the missing idioms and then decide if the sentences are true for the teacher or the students themselves.

Materials:

  1. 4 elements Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of 4 elements Worksheet and ask students to complete the expressions with the words air, earth, fire and water. When they are finished ask them to compare with their classmate(s).
  2. 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 answers, to try and convince others they are correct.
  3. 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.
  4. Check together as a class.
  5. When the students have finished, ask them to complete sentences in Exercise 2 with the missing idioms.
  6. When they have finished, ask them to swap their sheets with a partner and peer correct.
  7. Check together as a class.
  8. Next students look at the sentences and try to decide which of them are true for their teacher (you can obviously use my examples but I would encourage you to come up with your own to make it more personal). Encourage students to give reasons for their choices to keep the conversation going, e.g. I think number 3 is correct. Karolina is constantly talking about her sister and all the things they do together. I imagine they must have a great relationship and get on like a house on fire.
  9. When they are finished ask them to ask you questions to check if they were correct, using the new expressions, e.g. Are you still up in the air about where to go on holiday in July? This also gives you the chance to correct and for students to yet again recycle the idioms.

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.

Related posts:

Clothes do (not) make the man

Zzz

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

There is no place like…school

Somewhere over the rainbow 

P.S. “Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.” ― Michelle K.

I spy with my little eye

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the word EYE. Students first divide the expressions into 3 categories and then answer the questions and discuss their responses with their classmates.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of idioms with the word EYE.
  2. To develop fluency and answer questions containing the target language in pairs.

Materials:

  1. I spy with my little eye Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of I spy with my little eye Worksheet and ask students to place the sheets of paper in front of them FACE DOWN.
  2. Tell them to, on the word GO, turn over the worksheet, scan the expressions in Exercise 1 and try to, as fast as the can, find the one body part that completes all expressions. My students all loved this mini competition at the start of the class and instantly became very engaged.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the word EYE or EYES.
  4. Check together as a class.
  5. Ask the students to divide the expressions into three categories, into those that they know well (I could define it with my eyes shut), those they have heard of but have never used (There is more to it than meets the eye), and those they have never come across before (Please open my eyes to it).
  6. When the students have finished, ask them to answer questions in Exercise 2 out of order on a separate piece of paper or in their notebooks and in as LITTLE detail as possible. Tell students to avoid writing just a YES or NO.
  7. When they have finished, ask them to swap their sheets with a partner.
  8. Students now try to identify which answers correspond to which questions.
  9. When the students have finished, ask them to swap the sheets again and check if their classmates were correct.
  10. Next students discuss their answers; with the same classmates they swapped their sheets with, in GREATER detail.
  11. When the students have finished, ask them to share 2 answers that they had in common and 2 that were different.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to draw four expressions they have learnt in class in their notebooks.

Related posts:

All hands on deck, kids

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Zzz

There is no place like…school

Somewhere over the rainbow 

You make my heart BEET 😉

Actions speak louder than words

Ups and downs

All rise please

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Half full or half empty?