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.

 

 

What a zoo

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise animal idioms. Students first answer a few questions, complete the idioms with the missing animals, match them to their definitions and answer some questions using the target language. Although the activity is quite hard I have done it with many different levels and by encouraging, providing the right scaffolding and guiding my students I managed to keep them going despite the difficulty.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of animal idioms.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To answer questions containing the target language in pairs.

Materials:

  1. What a zoo Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out each student a copy of What a zoo Worksheet.
  2. Tell students to, in pairs, answer questions in Exercise 1.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the missing animals. Bear 🙂 in mind that they will not know the majority of the expressions, but resist the urge to give them the answers. In one group I had all the students working relentlessly to try and come up with the right answers by applying logic, giving examples in their mother tongue (Spanish) until eventually they got ALL the answers right. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them and guide them. I have to add that I have an unshakeable belief in my students’ abilities and they can clearly sense it and as a result often are happy to deal with tasks that, initially, seem far too hard for them. With time however the VAST majority accepts the responsibility for their own learning in my classroom and they try and work things out for themselves.
  4. Check together as a class. Again here I always ask EVERYONE to compare FIRST rather than list the right answers. At this stage people often have some mistakes and if they do, 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.
  5. Ask the students to match the idioms to 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 of me as possible.
  6. Check together as a class.
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to look at the questions in Exercise 3 and first try and write down the animal 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.
  8. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner. Again comparing never means mindlessly looking through each other’s answers but justifying your choices which is always a great extra speaking activity and an opportunity to use the idioms again and again.
  9. Students now answer the questions in pairs or small groups using the animal idioms as often as possible.

Fast finishers:

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

Related posts:

Cat got your tongue? Speak up

MEOW!

All hands on deck, kids

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Nothing changes if nothing changes

P.S. Happy Birthday Natalusia.

 

All hands on deck, kids

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise transport idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing words, match the idioms to their definitions, do a few vocabulary games and later interview their classmates.

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To present students with transport idioms.
  2. To complete the idioms in Exercise 1 with the missing transport words.
  3. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  4. To answer questions containing the target vocabulary in pairs or small groups.

Materials:

  1. All hands on deck, kids Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Ask students to briefly discuss their favourite/ least favourite means of transport.
  2. Hand out a copy of All hands on deck, kids Worksheet and ask students to individually complete the idioms in Exercise 1 with the missing transport words. There are two extra words to make the activity slightly more challenging.
  3. When the students have finished, ask them to compare in small groups and then check together as a class.
  4. Next students match the idioms to their definitions on the right. When the students have finished, ask them to compare in small groups again and then check together as a class.
  5. Clarify meaning if necessary.
  6. Divide the students in small groups (2 or 3 students in each group).
  7. One student from each group draws one of the expressions on the board and the players from the other teams try to guess what the expression is. Each team only has two opportunities to guess. Ensure ALL the students have had an opportunity to draw an idiom (you might have to do 2 or 3 rounds depending on the number of students on each team). Each team receives 1 point for a correctly identified expression.
  8. Next, the students take it in turns to act out the expressions silently, with the players from other teams trying to guess the idiom.
  9. Then, the students describe the expressions using THREE WORDS only (thank you Alex) but must not use any of the words that are in the expressions.
  10. Finally, in their teams of two or three, ask the students to complete the idioms in Exercise 2. Tell them to fold the paper so they do the exercise from memory. I gave one point to the team who finished first and one point to the team who completed all the idioms correctly.
  11. When the students have finished, ask them to discuss the questions 1-12, Exercise 2 in pairs.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to write down as many expressions as they can remember without looking at the paper.

Related posts:

There is no place like…school

Actions speak louder than words

Ups and downs

All rise please

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Half full or half empty?

 

Money Money Money

Introduction: 

These are activities to introduce and practise phrasal verbs related to money. Students match the phrasal verbs to their definitions and play a board game.

Level: B2

Time: 70 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce phrasal verbs related to money.
  2. To try and define the phrasal verbs using the context provided.
  3. To match the phrasal verbs to their definitions.
  4. To answer and ask questions about money whilst playing a board game.

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

  1. Money Money Money Worksheet and Board game, one per student.

Procedure

  1. Write ‘“Money often costs too much” Ralph Waldo Emersonon the boardAsk students to discuss the quote in pairs and give examples from their own lives, books, films etc.
  2. Hand the students Money Money Money Worksheet.
  3. In pairs, students try to first define the phrasal verbs (in bold) without looking at the definitions. Monitor and encourage students to keep trying but do not give them correct answers at this stage. The majority of my students managed to get 80% of the answers right, just from context.
  4. Individually, students match the definitions (a-l) of the phrasal verbs in sentences 1 to 12 and write them down in the spaces provided.
  5. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  6. Check the answers as a class.
  7. Next put the students in groups of 2 or 3, and give them a copy of Money Money Money board game and a die.
  8. Players must first complete the empty squares with phrasal verbs. Each player describes a situation with a particular phrasal verb in mind but without using the phrasal verb itself, e.g. Last week I went shopping and I spent a huge amount of money in Lush and Body Shop. I just couldn’t resist all those deliciously smelling potions and concoctions. When the other student(s) guess the phrasal verb is splash out they all write it down in the same square. Students continue until they have filled in all the squares. It’s a great way to start recycling vocabulary and personalising the activity straight away.
  9. Now 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 /phrasal verb.
  10. When a player lands on a square all three players must answer the question from that square in as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask each other additional questions to obtain more information. When a player lands on a square with a phrasal verb they must use it to form a question for their partner(s), e.g. Have you ever been ripped off?
  11. The game continues in the circle going left.
  12. At the end, ask students what they found out about their classmates.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to write down some money tips/ financial advice for other students using the phrasal verbs studied, e.g.  Make sure you put some money aside each month.

P.S. Happy Birthday Queen B. I love you.

Related posts:

Keep up the good work

Stop beating around the bush

Phrasal verbs can be put off, never forgotten

Brace yourselves. Phrasal verbs r bk

How do you …?

Single and ready to mingle

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Introduction: 

These are activities to introduce and practise idioms describing physical appearance. Students complete the idioms with the missing words, divide the idioms into Beauty and Beast categories, do a Find Someone Who activity and play a board game. As you can see there are plenty of opportunities to recycle new vocabulary. By the end of the lesson students will have used each idiom at least 6 or 7 times.

Level: C1

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms describing physical appearance.
  2. To complete the idioms with the missing words.
  3. To divide the idioms into two categories Beauty and Beast.
  4. To find students who, e.g. think that new born babies are as ugly as sin, write their names next to the sentences and ask for more details (Exercise 2).
  5. To answer questions about beauty whilst playing a board game.

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

  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Worksheet, one per student.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder board game, one per group.

Procedure:

  1. Write The beholder eye the is beauty in of on the board. Ask students to unscramble the phrase and in pairs discuss if they agree or disagree with it.
  2. Hand the students Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Worksheet.
  3. Individually, students complete the idioms in Exercise 1 with the missing words.
  4. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  5. Check the answers as a class.
  6. Now, individually again, the students decide if the idioms are used to describe attractive (Beauty) or unattractive people (Beast).
  7. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner.
  8. Elicit answers from students.
  9. Next, students complete the missing words in the idioms again (exercise 2). 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.
  10. Students now mingle and try to get affirmative answers from their classmates, e.g. find someone who thinks newborn babies are as ugly as sin. If the other student says ‘yes’ they have to elaborate on their answer. Allow no more than 3 minutes for each interview. When the time is up ask students to switch partners.
  11. When the students have had a chance to ask everyone’s opinion, ask them which answers surprised them the most.
  12. Next put the students in groups of 2 or 3, and give them a copy of Beauty is in the eye of the beholder board game and a die.
  13. 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.
  14. When a player lands on a square all three players must answer the question from that square in as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask each other additional questions to obtain more information. When a player lands on a square with a phrase they must use it to form a question for their partner(s) e.g.  When was the last time you were dressed to kill?
  15. The game continues in the circle going left.
  16. At the end, ask students what they found out about their classmates.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to briefly answer one of the questions (in writing) on the board game using at least 3 of the idioms studied.

Related posts:

Cold reading

Who are you?

MEOW!

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

Wanted

Recommended podcast:

http://activateyourielts.libsyn.com/ielts-vocabulary-tips-for-teachers-and-students

Check out my friend’s podcast. This week we talked about learning and recycling new vocabulary and I think it makes for an interesting episode. Enjoy.

 

Cold reading

Introduction:

This is a great reading activity I have done with my advanced and proficient students and without a doubt one of my most memorable activities. Unfortunately the activity doesn’t work with just any class. You have to make sure the group is just right; ideally the students are relatively new and aged 15-24.

Level: C1

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To read a description of one’s personality and decide how accurate the description is.
  2. To read a description of another student’s personality and try to identify who the student is.

Materials:

  1. Personality reading PDF (adapted), one per student (Source: https://www.secrets-explained.com/derren-brown/cold-reading)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6uj1ruTmGQ

Procedure:

Stage 1:

  1. A week or two before the class tell students you would like to try something different with them. It works better if you revise personality adjectives before the class too.
  2. Ask each student to take a piece of paper and draw an outline of their hand, write their date and time of birth at the top of the page and a name of an object that is not immediately recognized as theirs.  When the students have finished ask them to fold the papers, mix them up and hand them to you.
  3. Tell students you are now going to try and write a description of their personality based solely on the information they have provided. Tell students you will try and be as specific as possible and that it will take quite a long time for you to finish all the descriptions so they must be patient. The first time I did this activity my students waited a month for me to “complete” the descriptions and couldn’t wait for me to finish.

Stage 2:

  1. Print Personality Reading PDF and make as many copies as there are students in your class. The readings are all exactly the same so sometimes I change the font and the colour to confuse the students slightly if the happen to sit next to each other and see another classmate’s reading.
  2. Before you hand the students the papers tell them you have tried very, very, very hard to be specific and you would like them to read the descriptions carefully and to honestly tell you at the end how accurate they think you were.
  3. Sit the students as far away from each other as possible and tell them to use their phones/dictionaries to check the meaning of new words.
  4. When the students have finished give each student a post it note and anonymously ask them to rate the accuracy of the description (1%-100%). You don’t want the students to be influenced by others when the rate their description.
  5. Collect the post it notes.
  6. Now ask the students to mix all the descriptions and try to identify the classmates based on the description they now have.
  7. After a few minutes students will look confused. Ask them to shuffle the papers again until pretty soon they will realize all the descriptions are exactly the same.
  8. Students’ reactions to this experiment are priceless and I have even had one student return to my school a year later asking for a copy of the reading.
  9. Explain to students that it is a technique called cold reading and it is often used by psychics and astrologists. At the end show students the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6uj1ruTmGQ

Related posts:

Who are you?

Interactive reading class

All rise please

Introduction: 

These are activities for students to introduce crime idioms. Students match the idioms with their definitions, complete the sentences with the missing expressions, rate the crimes, answer questions about crime and interview their classmates.

Level: C1

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce crime idioms.
  2. To match the idioms with their definitions.
  3. To rate the crimes from the most to the least serious one.
  4. To answer questions containing the target language and interview a classmate.

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

  1. All rise please Worksheetone per student.

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs and ask them to discuss the following questions: What do you think the most common crime in your country is? Should police in your country be more strict or less strict? Do you think criminals can change? What crime would you commit if you could get away with it?
  2. Hand students All rise please Worksheet.
  3. Ask students to cover the definitions on the right and in pairs see how many idioms they could define before they match the expressions to the definitions provided. I found my students could accurately predict at least half the expressions given.
  4. Individually, students now match the idioms 1 to 11 to the definitions provided.
  5. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  6. Check the answers as a class.
  7. Next ask students to complete the sentences 1- 11 with the missing idioms.
  8. Check the answers as a class.
  9. Individually ask students to underline and rate the crimes in 1-11 from the most (1) to the least serious (11) one and then discuss their choices with their classmates.
  10. Now students individually answer the questions 1-11 (in RANDOM order and in as little detail as possible (Exercise 2).
  11. Once the students have finished ask them to cut the paper along the dotted line and give the sheet with JUST their answers to their partner.
  12. In pairs students now interview each other, e.g. Student A: Why did you write plenty of time to read in number 1? Student B: Because it is one of the advantages of doing time. Encourage the students to ask additional questions to obtain more details.
  13. After a few minutes ask students to switch partners and repeat the exercise. Repeat a few more times to make sure students recycle the expressions and use them in a variety of contexts.
  14. At the end ask students if they have spoken to anyone whose answers were identical to theirs.

Fast finishers:

  1. I asked my students to invent a crime and agree on the main points, e.g. a man was killed by his wife who found out he had been cheating on her with her best friend. Individually or in pairs students now write a police report describing the incident in great detail and using the expressions studied.

Related posts:

Wanted

Ups and downs

Actions speak louder than words

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

You make my heart BEET 😉

There is no place like…school

Zzz

Somewhere over the rainbow 

The proof is in the pudding

Nothing changes if nothing changes

It’s game time