From head to toe

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise body part idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing body parts, match the expressions to their definitions, complete the questions with body parts and then the sentences with the idioms.

Teacher tips: 

  1. Ask students to define what the expressions mean before you give them your definitions. I found that they were able to define the majority of the expressions if not all of them. Here are the examples of some definitions my students gave in class (in brackets): To be off your head (crazy), To find your feet (to get to know something, to settle down, to adapt to smth), To get out of hand (to lose control), To get a slap on the wrist (to be warned, to be threatened, to be punished), To give someone the cold shoulder (to stand someone up, to ignore someone), To keep your nose clean (to do things correctly, to do what is expected of you, not to draw attention to yourself, to avoid making a mistake), To keep someone on their toes (to control, to keep track of), To play it by ear (to improvise, let’s see how it goes), To stick one’s neck out (to be brave, to have courage). Well done you guys 😉
  2. Make sure students understand the difference between to keep sb on their toes and to keep your nose clean as some of my students got a bit confused.
  3. When introducing new vocabulary and embedding it in a sentence, think of examples that make the meaning of the new word/ expression very clear. This is not the time to be subtle. I have often made a mistake of providing students with examples that were either too vague or contained more new vocabulary which confused them further. Exercise 4 example 3 He had only been out of prison for a month, so he was trying to keep his nose clean caused some confusion and students thought to find your feet also made sense.
  4. Research the origin of each idiom before the class. It is not only fun but also helpful for students to know the story behind the expressions and it is so much easier to memorise something you can associate with an image, an anecdote, a joke etc. My favorite idiom in this lesson is to find one’s feet which is believed to refer to babies standing up and learning to walk (Source: http://www.theidioms.com)

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms with body parts.
  2. To complete the idioms with different body parts.
  3. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  4. To complete the questions with the missing body parts.
  5. To answer the questions containing the target language.
  6. To complete the sentences with the missing idioms.

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of From head to toe to each student or display it on the screen.
  2. In pairs, ask students to unscramble the letters in each sentence to form the names of body parts. Even if the students don’t know any of the expressions they will still be able to complete the task with the letters provided which sets them up for success from the start. 
  3. Check together as a class.
  4. Ask students to come up with their own definitions of the idioms using the context provided. Many of my students were able to do it really well and it motivated them even more which was very satisfying to watch.
  5. Now ask 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 classmates and justify their answers. In most cases they will be able to see how similar their definitions were to the actual definitions of the idioms, which builds students’ confidence and shows them how much they can get from context and without the teacher’s help.
  7. Go to Exercise 3 and ask students to complete the questions with the missing body parts. Encourage them to do the exercise from memory. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner and then check together as a class. In pairs or small groups students now answer the questions.
  8. Last but not least go to Exercise 4 and ask students to complete the sentences with the missing idioms and again try to do it from memory. 
  9. 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. Research the origin of a chosen idiom and later share your findings with the rest of the class.

Related posts:

I spy with my little eye

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

Click!Click!Click!

Introduction:

This is a fun activity you can do with students to practise describing photographs using speculative language. The activity could be used simply as general speaking practice or to help students prepare for Cambridge speaking exams. Students look at a photo and answer questions using language of speculation. All the photos are of me (Please don’t laugh) but feel free to replace them with your own photos to make it more personal.

I have also included a written task sample courtesy of one of my younger learners to show you how they handled the task and a recording of a description of Image 1, courtesy of my lovely friend Adam. Feel free to use it to model the task to your students or turn it into a listening task 😉

Level: A2+

Time: 35 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To describe a photo using the questions provided 
  2. To make predictions about the photo
  3. To practise using speculative and deductive language  

Materials:

A description of Image 1 (by Adam). Thank you 😉

Procedure:

  1. Before you start the activity ask students to give you some examples of language of speculation e.g I suppose…, I expect…, It is possible…, It is probable that…, I can’t see… etc. 
  2. Display one of the images on the screen ( I have prepared 5 photos of myself that you are free to use but you could use your own photos too) if you are teaching online.
  3. Put students in pairs or small groups and ask them to describe the photos to each other using the questions provided (ask students to answer ALL the questions AND in order) using speculative language displayed next to the photos. Monitor and offer help whenever necessary.
  4. Next, still in the same groups, ask students to try and agree on the answers especially when the more speculative questions are concerned. Once they have come up with one version per group/per pair, ask them to choose a spokesperson who is going to present their answers to the rest of the class.
  5. When all the groups or pairs have finished presenting their versions, you can give them the REAL story behind the image. BOOM. Of course you can skip this stage if you are using my photos. This is actually the most enjoyable part of the activity as students get to see if their predictions about the snippets from my/your/their life are accurate or not. So often we ask students to describe random images that are completely irrelevant to their lives instead of using our own images which makes it so much more exciting. 
  6. The group with the highest number of correct answers wins. I deliberately choose photos with interesting background stories.
  7. You can continue the activity with my photos or ask students to use their own images. Make sure students are still using speculative language throughout the activity.
  8. Enjoy 😉

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If my memory serves me right…

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

Somewhere over the rainbow Part 2

These are activities for students to introduce and practise colour idioms. Students complete the idioms with the missing colours, then complete the sentences with the missing expressions and in pairs answer questions containing the idioms.

Level: B2+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce colour idioms.
  2. To complete the idioms with the missing colours.
  3. To complete the sentences with the missing idioms.
  4. To practise the new expressions whilst asking and answering questions.

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

Procedure:

  1. Put students in pairs and ask them to briefly discuss questions in Exercise 1.
  2. Hand students Somewhere over the rainbow Part 2 Worksheet or display it on the screen for everyone to see.
  3. Individually, students first try to complete the idioms with the missing colours (Exercise 2).
  4. When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  5. Check the answers and elicit meaning. Clarify the expressions that are new or not quite clear.
  6. Now, students complete the sentences 1 to 12 with the missing idioms (Exercise 2). When the students have finished, they compare their answers with a partner.
  7. Check the answers as a class.
  8. Go to exercise 3 and from memory ask students to correct the mistakes highlighted in different colours. You could turn it into a mini competition and maybe even time the students 😉
  9. Now students answer questions 1 to 12 in pairs. Encourage them to ask their classmates additional questions to obtain more details.
  10. If you have had no time to discuss all questions in class ask students to answer a couple of them in writing at home.

Fast finishers:

Ask students to rate the expressions from the most to the least useful, according to them.

Related posts:

Home sweet home

Cats & Dogs

Ups and downs

What a zoo

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

I spy with my little eye

Somewhere over the rainbow 

P. S. This post is dedicated to my lovely student Raquel, who was tickled pink about learning new colour idioms today. Thank you for a wonderful class my dear 🙂

Who are you? Sequel

Introduction:

This is a fun activity for students to talk about personality. Students match the expressions to their antonyms, decide which expressions apply most to them and look for classmates whose answers are either identical to theirs or very different.

Level: C1

Time: 50 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To revise/ introduce adjectives and idioms describing personality.
  2. To decide which adjectives and idioms apply most to students and give examples.
  3. To compare students’ choices with other classmates.

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

Procedure:

  1. In pairs ask students to tell each other what personality types they get on with best and what personality types they just can’t stand.
  2. Elicit some answers from students.
  3. Hand each student a copy of Who are you? Sequel (or display it on the screen) and tell them to cover up the words at the bottom.
  4. Individually ask students to provide definitions of the expressions in the first column.
  5. When the students have finished ask them to compare with their partner.
  6. Check together as a class.
  7. Next students look at the antonyms provided at the bottom of the page and complete the table.
  8. Check as a class.
  9. Individually now ask students to consider each pair of adjectives/ idioms and choose the number (1 to 5) closest to the expression they feel applies most to them. Number 1 applies to the adjectives and idioms in the first column and 5 to its antonym in the third column.
  10. Once the students have finished, put them into pairs and ask them to compare their choices with their classmates and provide specific examples where their numbers are identical or very different.
  11. Change pairs two or three times to give students a chance to compare their answers with as many classmates as possible.
  12. Ask students to give examples of unexpected answers they received whilst interviewing their classmates.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to pick three positive and three negative expressions from the table that best describe them and justify their answers to their classmates.

Related posts:

Who are you?

Mirror Mirror on the wall…

MEOW!

Wanted

Know thyself

Can you see the error of your ways?Threequel

Introduction:

This is an activity for (lower) intermediate students to review some of the most common mistakes they make. The students correct the mistakes individually, write sentences that are true for them and interview their partners. The mistakes in the exercise are genuine  mistakes made regularly ;( by my own students.

Level: A2/B1

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To identify and correct common mistakes made by (lower) intermediate students.
  2. To practise changing statements into questions.
  3. To develop fluency and confidence in speaking.

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

Procedure:

  1. Write I have 2 childrens on the board and in pairs, or groups, ask students to highlight the error and correct it.
  2. When they have finished, ask them what the error was and underline it on the board. To the right of the sentence, ask them to write gramatically correct sentences that are TRUE for them. e.g. I don’t have any children, I have one child, I have two children etc. Go through them together and clear up any doubts.
  3. Then, in their pairs or individually, ask students to change the statement into a question, e.g. Do you have any children? How many children do you have? Write their examples on the board.
  4. Clarify understanding and explain any incorrect suggestions.
  5. Give each student Can you see the error of your ways threequel… or display it on the screen if you are using Zoom and individually ask students to circle the mistakes in sentences 1 to 30.
  6. When they have finished, check together as a class.
  7. Individually, students then write correct sentences in the second column, making each statement true for them, as per the example ( if you are using Zoom ask students to make notes on a piece of paper and when they are finished copy the examples on the board).
  8. Check together as a class.
  9. Individually, ask students to change the statements from the first column into questions and write them down in the third column, as per the example.
  10. Monitor closely. When they have finished, they check the answers with a partner.
  11. Explain any mistakes on the board.
  12. Then, put students into pairs, or groups of three, and ask them to interview each other using the questions.
  13. If students need more practice, ask them to switch pairs / groups and repeat the process.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to write down 4 things they have learned about their classmates.

Related posts:

Can you see the error of your ways? Sequel

Can you see the error of your ways?

My favourite mistakes card game

Make no mistake

Correct me if I am wrong

Bid it 2 Win it FCE Sentence Auction

Bid it 2 Win it Sentence Auction

To err is human

Job interview

Introduction:

These are two board game activities (one prim and proper and the other a bit on the cheeky side) to practise answering common job interview questions. They can be used together or separately, and are a great way to help students practise speaking, develop fluency and of course prepare for a potential job interview.

Level: B2+

Objectives:

  1. To practise answering common as well as bizzare job interview questions

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

A die and a timer if needed or wanted

Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into “interviewer(s)” and “interviewee(s)”and give them a copy of one of the board games and a die or simply share it on the screen if you are teaching online.
  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. The “interviewees” must then answer the question with as much detail as possible. Encourage “interviewers” to ask additional questions and make notes to be able to offer some constructive feedback at the end and also to help them decide who to “hire”.
  4. Allow 10/ 12 minutes for each interview and then ask students to either switch roles or interview a different applicant. Make sure however that all students get to play both roles and do a practice job interview at least once.
  5. At the end, ask students to say which answers they were impressed by and also to give others some constructive feedback to improve their next performance.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Javier. Best wishes for the interview(s).

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BIG3

Triple Treat

Triple treat makes a comeback

Zooming it

So, what brings you here?

You’ll never guess what

Would you rather…?

Let’s Get Better Acquainted 🙂

When & where board game

Ask a Q board game

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.

Related posts:

BIG3

Zooming it

Do you believe in ghosts?

A good old chin wag

So, what brings you here?

Triple Treat

Triple treat makes a comeback

 

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 😉

Keep calm and wash your hands ;)

Introduction:

This is a fun activity to review the most common collocations with break, come, keep and pay. Students divide the expressions into four groups and then play a board game where, if they manage to complete a sentence with the right verb correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board until they line up 6 symbols in a row. I currently use the stamps available in Zoom, stars and hearts, which actually makes the board look very pretty and if a student makes a mistake I stamp the square/ field with a cross ( I put the stamps in the bottom right hand corner).

Level: B2

Time: 45-60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To practise and review common collocations with break, come, keep and pay.
  2. To divide expressions into four categories: ones that collocate with break, come, keep and pay.
  3. To complete a sentence with the correct verb: break, come, keep or pay and line up 6 symbols (O or X) in a row.
  4. To answer a question containing the target language.

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

  1. Keep calm and wash your hands Worksheet
  2. Keep calm and wash your hands Board game

Procedure:

  1. Elicit some common collocations with break, come, keep and pay and write them on the board e.g. break a leg, come to an agreement, keep a secret or pay the price.
  2. Put students in small groups of 2 or 3 and give each group Keep calm and wash your hands Worksheet.
  3. To make the activity more competitive, tell students that the first group to complete the task correctly wins or you could give them a point for each correct answer. Much better.
  4. Monitor and check answers as a class. As an alternative you could do the exercise together with the class, depending on the level of your students. I went through all the phrases with my students making sure they were clear on what each expression meant.
  5. Divide the students into teams ( if you have a small group or just one student they can of course play individually) and hand out Keep calm and wash your hands board game  to each team or simply display it on the screen if you are using Zoom.
  6. To see who starts do rock, paper, scissors.  Whoever wins chooses the square they want to start with. Next the player(s) completes the sentence with the missing verb (break, come, keep or pay). I have put smiley faces where the verbs should be to make the board look nice and chirpy. 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. Also as the students complete the sentences make sure they use the right form of the verb (they could get additional points for that) and of course answer the question. Encourage them to use the collocation in their answer and avoid a simple yes or a no.
  7. At home ask students to choose five questions from the board ( preferably with the expressions that were brand new to them) and answer them in writing.

Related posts:

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Go Get ‘em tiger!

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P.S. A massive thank you to my friend Stu, a genius creator of my new templates. I love them and I love you too potato head.