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…)

Before and after


This is a Before and After board game to practise/revise past perfect and past simple in an entertaining way. Students create sentences in the past perfect and past simple tense depending on the sentence they start with. The idea is to create a character and relate the sentences to each other which can later be used as a foundation for a short writing task.

Level: B2+

Time: 50 minutes


  1. To revise the past perfect and past simple tense.
  2. To come up with sentences related to each other which can be used as an inspiration for a writing task.

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

  1. Before and after board game, one per team.


  1. Hand out Before and after 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 sentence. 
  3. If a player lands on a square with a sentence in the past simple tense they have to try and predict what happened BEFORE e.g. After he had managed to finally save some money, he bought a new car.  If they land on a square with a sentence in the past perfect tense, they predict what happened AFTER e.g. He had set up a successful company by the time he was 20. Since the students are working together or in small groups they discuss their ideas first, make their predictions and later write down their examples. Before the activity tell students that all these sentences are about one character and they should try and connect the sentences. This way it is more engaging and the students get more invested in the task. 
  4. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences together. At home ask students to write a short story about the character they have created in class, using some of the sentences they came up with.

Related posts:

Simply perfect

A trip down memory lane

Summary of past or recent events

Double Decker

Best birthday ever

Ir(regular) Xmas