First things first


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


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


  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.


  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…)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Little Prince


This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the word HEART. Students first match the expressions to their definitions, divide them into 2 categories and then answer the questions and discuss their responses with their classmates.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes


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


  1. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly Worksheet, one per student or display it on the screen for everyone to see.


  1. Hand out or display a copy of “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Worksheet and ask students to briefly discuss the quote from The Little Prince at the top of the page.
  2. Next go to Exercise 1 and ask students to go through the facts about a human heart and choose the one they were most surprised by and compare their opinions with their classmates. Mine were surprised that a woman’s heart beats faster. Any idea why?
  3. Tell them to, on the word GO, scan the expressions on the left in Exercise 2 and try to, as fast as they can, find the one body part that completes all expressions. At this stage it should be quite obvious what the word is so the students won’t take too long to guess the right answer.
  4. Next ask students to match the idioms on the left to the definitions on the right.
  5. Ask them to compare with their classmates before you check together as a class. I always encourage students to defend their choices and justify their answers and quite often I won’t give them correct answers until they all agree and provide me with identical answers. More often than not they manage to get the majority of their answers right. Just don’t give in too quickly when they start complaining that it is too hard (which they always initially do). Confidently explain that it is an opportunity for them to learn from their classmates or maybe to teach their classmates something. Also show them how much they can deduce and guess on their own before you spoon-feed them the answers.
  6. Next ask the students to divide the expressions into two categories: ones they associate with positive experiences and feelings and ones they have a negative association with. In class today I asked students to read out the idioms they put in the “positive” and “negative” section but only discussed the ones that they decided to put “in the middle” or the ones that they disagreed on with their classmates.
  7. When the students have finished, go to Exercise 4 and from memory try to correct the mistakes in red. I tried to think of words that have something in common with the words used in the actual idioms to give students some clues. You could try and turn it into a competition and ask students to do it individually or in small teams.
  8. When you are finished students answer the questions.
  9. If you have had no time to discuss all questions in class ask students to answer a couple of them in writing.

Food for thought:

Why not encourage your students to practise their listening skills with this great audio book:

P.S. This post is dedicated to my BIG prince:)

Related posts:

Home sweet home

I spy with my little eye

Cats & Dogs

What a zoo

There is no place like…school

Ups and downs

Somewhere over the rainbow 

Pronunciation station


This is an activity for students to identify and practise the pronunciation of ‘ed’ in the past simple/past participle forms of regular verbs. Students brainstorm vocabulary in groups, divide the verbs into three categories and write a short description of the holiday they went on using the verbs in question. I have done this activity with one of my adult classes and it worked really well. You give students ownership by letting them choose the verbs instead of providing them with a list that might be irrelevant to their needs.

Level: A2+

Time: 50 minutes


  1. To practise the pronunciation of ‘ed’ in the past simple/past participle forms of regular verbs.
  2. To write and read a short description of a holiday the students went on using regular verbs.


  1. A board


  1. Put students in groups of 2 or 3, and ask them to think of a holiday they really enjoyed. As they describe it to each other briefly in teams ask them to write down the REGULAR verbs others use when speaking. As a result students immediately have a reason to listen and something to concentrate on.
  2. Divide the board into three sections: / ɪd /, / t / or / d / and ask them if they know that there are three ways of pronouncing ‘ed’ in the past simple/past participle forms of regular verbs. For more information go to:
  3. Explain to students what the rules are and provide some examples to get them started.
  4. Put the students in the same groups of 2 or 3 and ask them to now divide the verbs from their verb list into three groups depending on the pronunciation of ‘ed’ in the past simple/past participle forms of these verbs.
  5. Check as a class and write students’ answers on the board adding them to your examples.
  6. Now individually ask students to WRITE a short description of the holiday they talked about at the beginning using the regular verbs from the board.
  7. When the students are finished they read their pieces to each other. Ask other students to look at their lists and tick off the verbs used.
  8. Correct when necessary, ask other students to help you identify the mistakes first though.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to look for three new verbs they could add into each category. Make sure you tell them to write down the meaning of the new words, a great opportunity to enrich their vocabulary, and if time allows, write down an example sentence with each verb as well.

Recommended podcast:

Check out my friend’s podcast. This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by her. We talked about learning a foreign language from scratch and I think it makes for a great episode. Enjoy.



The old man and his grandson


This is a listening activity for advanced students to practise listening skills. Students discuss quotes and questions related with age and growing old, listen to a short fairy story by the Grimm Brothers, try to predict the ending and put the sentences from the story in the correct order.

Level: C1


  1. To discuss quotes and questions related with age.
  2. To listen and come up with three possible endings to a short fairy story by the Grimm Brothers.
  3. To put the sentences from the story in the correct order.

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

  1. The old man and his grandson Worksheet, one per student.


  1. Give students a copy of The old man and his grandson Worksheet.
  2. In pairs, ask students to discuss quotes and questions in Exercise 1.
  3. When the students have finished, ask them to share their opinions with the rest of the class.
  4. Tell students they are going to listen to a short fairy story by the Grimm Brothers. At this stage you could pre teach the vocabulary if you think your students might struggle with the text. I found the words my students struggled with were: dim, broth, stove, earthenware, to scold, to sigh, thus, trough, henceforth.
  5. Play the story and stop the recording at 1:25 (‘What are you doing there?’ asked the father).
  6. Ask the students to first summarize the story to each other and if necessary play the first part of the recording again.
  7. In pairs, ask the students to try and predict how the story ends and BRIEFLY write down their ideas (Exercise 2).
  8. Play the rest of the story and ask students to compare their ideas with the original ending. Elicit some answers from students and ask for their reactions to the ending. My students were both emotional and surprised when they heard the ending.
  9. In pairs again ask the students to order the sentences in Exercise 3. You can find the story here
  10. Then play the recording again for students to check.

Fast finishers:

  1. I asked my students to translate the story into their own language (Spanish) and some pairs turned the story into a modern, updated version of the original text. It was a wonderful class.

P.S. “Seek the wisdom of the ages, but look at the world through the eyes of a child.” Ron Wild

Related posts:

Ir(regular) Xmas