On top of the world

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the word TOP. Students first complete the idioms with the missing word, complete the sentences in Exercise 2 with their own ideas and then complete and answer questions (Exercise 3) in pairs or small groups.

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

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

Materials:

Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of On top of the world 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 find ONE word that completes ALL expressions. Tell students the SAME word is missing from all the expressions.
  3. Check together as a class.
  4. Ask students to complete sentences in Exercise 2 with their own ideas. They will now have the opportunity to see the expressions in context.
  5. When they have finished, ask them to discuss their answers with their classmates and provide more detail.
  6. Next students complete the expressions with the missing words (Exercise 3) and answer the questions in pairs or small groups.
  7. When the students have finished, ask them to share what they have learnt about their classmates.

Fast finishers: 

Ask students to draw, define, describe and write a sentence with 4 chosen expressions.

Related posts:

I spy with my little eye

From head to toe

What a zoo

Somewhere over the rainbow 

Cats & Dogs

BFF

With my BFF 🙂
Image property of Karolina Wyrzykowska

Introduction:

This is a board game activity to talk about friends and friendships. It is a great way to help students practise speaking and develop fluency, and prepare for speaking exams.

Don’t forget to feed students new vocabulary throughout the activity, correct and/ or find opportunities to help them express themselves more precisely and accurately. Ask students to research the topic before the class and then teach others the vocabulary they have prepared.

As always encourage students to comment on each other’s responses and elaborate as much as possible.

Level: B1+

Objectives:

  1. To practise speaking about friends and friendships.
  2. To increase fluency and confidence.

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

A die (use an online dice roller) 

Procedure:

  1. Brainstorm relationship vocabulary. 
  2. Give students a copy of the board game or display it on the screen.
  3. The teacher (or one of the students) 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 must then answer the question and provide their classmates with as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask additional questions and ask for clarification and details. Whilst the student is speaking you could ask others to note down specific vocabulary related to friends and relationships in general that he/she used and that were mentioned in the brainstorming session at the beginning of the activity.
  5. At the end, ask students to give you three unexpected things they have learnt about their classmates.

Related posts:

How well do you know your folks?

Single and ready to mingle

Quite a conversation piece


Reaching for the light
(All images are property of Karolina Wyrzykowska)

Introduction:

This is a board game activity to talk about the weather. It is a great way to help students practise speaking and develop fluency, prepare for the FCE /CAE speaking exams and a great excuse to chat about, surely, everyone’s favourite topic.

Don’t forget to feed students new vocabulary throughout the activity and obviously draw their attention to any mistakes they might be making or find opportunities to help them express themselves more effectively and precisely. You could always prepare a thematic vocabulary list and send it to the students before the class or even ask them to research the topic themselves and then teach others the vocabulary they have prepared.

As always encourage students to comment on each other’s responses. 

Level: B1+

Objectives:

  1. To practise speaking about the weather.
  2. To increase fluency and confidence.

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

A die (use an online dice roller) 

Procedure:

  1. Brainstorm weather vocabulary. 
  2. Give students a copy of the board game or display it on the screen.
  3. The teacher (or one of the students) 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 must then answer the question and provide their classmates with as much detail as possible. Encourage students to ask additional questions and ask for clarification and details. Whilst the student is speaking you could ask others to note down specific vocabulary related to the weather that he/she used and that were mentioned in the brainstorming session at the beginning of the activity.
  5. At the end, ask students to give you three unexpected things they have learnt about their classmates.

Related posts:

Triple Treat

Triple treat makes a comeback

BIG3

First things first

Introduction:

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

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

Teacher tip/ reflection:

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

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

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

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

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

Objectives:

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

Materials:  

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

Procedure:

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

Describe the first time you: 

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

Related posts:

Random words

Random words return

Random words (Getting personal)

Random words (Once upon a time…)

Clothes do (not) make the man sequel

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise clothes idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing items of clothing, match the expressions to their definitions and complete the sentences with the missing items of clothing.

Teacher tips (Me being wise after the fact and after testing the activity with a few groups): 

  1. Make sure students know that the clues in Exercise 1 are clues to help them determine the items of clothing missing from the expressions. The clues are NOT the definitions of the idioms.
  2. Draw students’ attention to the fact that below the belt and to have under one’s belt are TWO different idioms with two different meanings. My students got a bit confused since the idioms are quite similar. I guess studying expressions that are alike is not the best strategy as it’s easy to get them mixed up, but I didn’t want to eliminate either of the two.
  3. Show students a picture of a bonnet. None of my students were familiar with the word so showing them some photos definitely helped. I don’t think the definition itself was enough to drive it home. I also showed them images of different types of hats especially cowboy, straw and top which were the last clues on the list.
  4. Research the origin of each idiom before the class. It is not only entertaining but also helpful for students to know the story behind the expressions they are studying and it is so much easier to memorise something you can associate with an image, an anecdote, a joke etc. 
  5. The examples in Exercise 3 are all true for me. I have noticed students really appreciate it if I personalise the activities or reveal something about myself so I would encourage you to create your own memorable examples to help your students get to know you better. It encourages discussion and cements your relationships.

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce clothes with idioms.
  2. To complete the idioms with the items of clothing.
  3. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  4. To complete the sentences with the missing items of clothing.

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss the three fashion quotes below: 1. “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” —Miuccia Prada. 2. “Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress on their days off that are the most intriguing.” —Alexander Wang. 3. “Elegance is elimination.” —Cristóbal Balenciaga
  2. Hand out a copy of Clothes do (not) make the man sequel to each student or display it on the screen.
  3. In pairs, ask students to complete the expressions with the missing items of clothing. I have come up with some clues (on the right) to help students out and to make it less daunting. Even if the students don’t know any of the expressions they will still be able to complete the task with the clues provided which sets them up for success from the start. 
  4. Check together as a class.
  5. Ask students to match the idioms to their definitions (Exercise 2).
  6. Check together as a class but again ask students to first compare their answers with their partners and justify their answers to their classmate(s).
  7. Go to Exercise 3 and ask students to complete the sentences with the missing items of clothing. Encourage them to do the exercise without looking at the expressions. Turn this into a mini competition, provide students with new clues, images etc. or ask them to give clues to each other if they know the answers but their classmates don’t. 
  8. Check together as a class.
  9. In pairs or small groups students now tell their classmates if the sentences in Exercise 3 are true for them.
  10. Last but not least go to Exercise 4 and ask students to complete the sentences with the missing clothes again and yet again try to do it from memory. 
  11. Check together as a class.

Fast finisher ideas:

  1. Ask students to choose 4 or 5 idioms and draw their literal and figurative meaning
  2. Order the idioms according to how often you wear (Can you wear a pocket ?) the items of clothing in each idiom. I have a feeling a bonnet will not make it to the top of any list 😉 Just a wild guess
  3. Choose 3 idioms and write down what an antonym of each idioms is 
  4. Research the origin of a chosen idiom and later share your findings with the rest of the class

Related posts:

Clothes do (not) make the man

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

Describe me

Somewhere over the rainbow 

What a zoo

How to…

Introduction:

How to board game is a great speaking/writing activity to describe a process and/or procedure using the appropriate linking words. The activity can be easily adapted to different levels and ages.

I have also included three assignments completed by my students who kindly allowed me to share them online. Thank you.

Level: A2+

Time: 30 minutes +

Objectives:

  1. To describe a process/procedure
  2. To revise/practise linking words used to describe a process

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

Procedure:

  1. Hand out How to board game to each team/pair or simply display it on the screen if you are working online.
  2. Before you start the game go through expressions to describe a process e.g. first, once, having, the next step is, next, then, finally etc. 
  3. The teacher or a student throws the die twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the question.
  4. Now student(s) describe a process using the expressions provided. Encourage students to use passive voice and especially the Present Simple Passive. It will instantly make them sound more capable and in control.
  5. Monitor and make sure students use linking expressions throughout their description. I would also encourage them to use the linking words in the middle of the sentence as well as at the beginning to avoid sounding repetitive. You want your students to sound fluent and natural rather than robotic so discourage them from peppering the entire description with linking words. I have some students who love doing that and it doesn’t always elevate their speech 😉
  6. Monitor students throughout the activity, correct mistakes and feed them new vocabulary.
  7. At home ask students to choose one example from the board and do a piece of writing. I have asked my students to do the same and they very kindly allowed me to share their creations on my blog. Feel free to have a look and use the pieces as sources of inspiration because that’s what they are…inspiring 😉

Related posts:

How do you …?

Click!Click!Click!

The art of conversation…

Name three

Soap Opera

The art of conversation…

Introduction:

The art of conversation is an activity to practise functional language and discuss a variety of topics. The expressions I have used in this activity have been “extracted” from a variety of podcasts I listen to daily. I actually found the task of fishing for these expressions quite fascinating as I don’t normally pay much attention to functional language when I am not working. I have come to realise just how rich some people’s functional language is and how helpful it is (especially) for language learners to know how to use it with ease. One of my students told me that these expressions, once assimilated and automated, served as stepping stones or mini pauses, that gave him more time to think and formulate his next idea. Thank you for your feedback J.

I have also asked two students to record a short conversation where they used the expressions provided to give you an idea of how to do it with great flair and passion 😉 A massive thank you to C&G for sharing the recording. You are a dream team.

Level: B1+

Time: 30 minutes, but it can vary depending on the number of students and of course on how talkative they are

Objectives:

  1. To revise and practise using expressions to: start a conversation, express your opinion, agree and disagree, get back to the point and round it all off 
  2. To practise fluency by discussing a variety of topics

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

The art of conversation, C&G radio show. Thank you guys 😉

Procedure:

  1. In pairs ask students to brainstorm expressions to: start a conversation, express your opinion, agree and disagree, get back to the point and round off a conversation.
  2. Go through the expressions together and when the students run out of ideas, hand out The art of conversation to each team/pair or display it on the screen.
  3. Write a debate topic on the board and give students a few minutes to prepare. The expressions are color coded and each colour corresponds to a different category (the ones listed in point 1). During the conversation/debate students should use at least ONE expression from each category. Encourage them to use NEW expressions or ones that they like or are likely to incorporate into their existing vocabulary.
  4. For a list of debate topics feel free to use my Yay or Nay board game. You will find the link in Related posts section at the bottom of the page.
  5. Switch to the new topic if the students have lost momentum or once they have each used at least 6 expressions. Ask students to tick off the expressions as they go.
  6. Of course as always, correct mistakes and feed students new vocabulary.
  7. At home, you could ask students to record a similar dialogue to the one my students have recorded for you. It was a great opportunity for them to use the expressions again and by the looks of it… they had a whale of a time. Thank you again C&G.

Related posts:

Yay or Nay

Compare & contrast board game

Agony Aunt with a twist

Click!Click!Click!

Never have I ever…

Introduction:

Never have I ever … board game is a great game that incites stories with players sharing what they’ve done and haven’t done which helps classmates get to know each other better. The activity can be easily adapted to different levels and I am sure you have played this game yourself more than once, although I would guess you played it in an entirely different setting 😉

I have also included a Never have I ever … Travelling edition board game if you fancy doing something related to summer holidays. Perfect timing.

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 answer Never have I ever questions…
  2. To recount stories from the classmates’ lives 
  3. To get to know other better 

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

Procedure:

  1. Hand out Never have I ever… board game to each team/pair or simply display it on the screen.
  2. Before you start the game, ask students to take two pieces of paper and write Yes, I have on one and No, I have never on the other and tell them you are going to ask them ALL a question which they have to answer by raising one of the pieces of paper they have prepared.
  3. The teacher then throws the dice twice – the first throw indicates which column they should use, and the second throw indicates which row, to obtain the phrase/question e.g. Never have I ever cut my own hair. 
  4. Ask students to explain their answers. I deliberately chose not to take score or drink (like you would in a traditional version of this game) as I wanted to concentrate on speaking more than anything else, but if you think it could work with your younger learners (not the shots of course but playing with points) go for it. Depending on the group I do this activity with, I choose whether to join in or just manage the game instead which allows me to monitor more effectively. This too depends on the relationship you have with your students.
  5. Of course as always, correct mistakes and feed students new vocabulary. 
  6. At home, ask students to choose 3 things from the board they haven’t done but would love to try and ask them to briefly explain their reasons in writing.

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.

Related posts:

A good old chin wag

So, what brings you here?

Zooming it

Know thyself

Looks & personality

What a zoo sequel

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. 

To my mum and Nero

Teacher tip/ reflection:

I would suggest getting some images of animals for this class especially of a moth, a weasel and a herring as those three were problematic in the groups I’ve done the activity with. At the beginning you can ask students to quickly match the images to the names of the animals. It seems like a simple task, but it engages students more than a mere list of words, and we can often forget how powerful images can be. I know that I often forget 🙂 and could definitely do with using more visuals in my own classes. The images can then be used throughout the activity to give students clues as they go through the tasks. I strongly resist the urge to feed my students the answers and usually come up with a series of clues to gently 😉 GUIDE them towards the answers instead. It’s more empowering, they are more engaged, proactive and take responsibility for their own learning and it also helps them create new associations. I also often ask other students to give clues to their classmates after I’ve checked they completed the tasks correctly of course.

Here are some examples of clues I’ve given my students for the following idioms in today’s activity:

  1. Till the cows come home: Asturiana, Pascual (two major dairy brands in Spain, where the majority of my students are from. If not, Milka should do the trick 😉
  2. The lion’s share: A famous Broadway musical, Hakuna Matata, the king of the jungle
  3. Black sheep: Wales is famous for them; we make hats and scarves out of their beautiful warm wool
  4. A sitting duck: Donald, a famous story in which this animal turns into a beautiful swan

Reinforce the clues with the images if necessary and have fun;)

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:

Procedure:

  1. Hand out copies of What a zoo sequel Worksheet 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 animals. Check if they know the meaning of moth, weasel and herring.
  4. Check together as a class. I always ask EVERYONE to compare FIRST rather than list the right answers. At this stage people are unsure and doubtful but 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. Students first 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. 
  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 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 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:

What a zoo

MEOW!

Cats & Dogs

Cat got your tongue? Speak up