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.

 

 

Random words (Once upon a time…)

Introduction: 

This is a creative speaking/ writing activity inspired by a book called “Creativity Workout” by Edward de Bono. Students obtain random words and rewrite some of the most popular fairy tales. I have to say I absolutely love this activity since it takes me back to the times my dad used to read The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen stories to me. Enjoy.

Level: B1 +

Time: 45 minutes

Objective:

  1. To recycle recently studied vocabulary in a new and memorable context.

Materials:  

  1. One die per pair or small group.

Procedure:

  1. At the beginning of the class ask students to write down the titles of some of their favourite fairy tales and short stories, e.g. Cinderella, Emperor’s New Clothes, Frog-Prince, The Gingerbread Man, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs etc.
  2. Draw a 6 x 6 grid on the board.
  3. Ask the students to review recently studied vocabulary and provide a word for each square. Make sure the students know the meaning of all the words.
  4. When the grid is complete, put students in pairs or small groups. To obtain words 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. Depending on the task, they must roll for the number of words and use them repetitively to complete the activity.

Examples:

  • Obtain four random words and choose one of the tales above or any other you would prefer to work on. It would be best if all groups worked on the same tale as they could later compare their stories and have a laugh. Using the random words create four discussion questions based on the tale of your choice.
  • Obtain four random words and create a different ending of the chosen story.
  • Obtain four random words and create a different beginning of the chosen story.
  • Obtain six random words and justify which character should be removed from your chosen story and why.
  • Obtain four random words and retell the story from the perspective of a different character, e.g. one of the Seven Dwarfs or the wolf’s perspective in Little Red Riding Hood. 
  • Obtain five random words and write a sequel to one of the stories, e.g. Cinderella 2.
  • Obtain four random words and write a contemporary version of one of the stories.
  • Obtain five random words and describe how you would act if you were one of the main characters in your chosen story.
  • Obtain five random words and present your chosen story as a TV news item.
  • Obtain five random words and write 5 quiz questions about the story for the other teams.

Related posts:

Random words (Getting personal)

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Random words

 

4 elements

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the elements: air, earth, fire and water. Students first complete the expressions with the missing words, match the idioms to their definitions, complete the sentences in Exercise 2 and then decide if these sentences are true for me, the teacher. I came up with my own examples to personalise the activity. You could do the same or simply ask students to decide if the sentences are true for them.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To increase familiarity and correct use of idioms with air, earth, fire and water.
  2. To match the idioms to their definitions.
  3. To complete the sentences with the missing idioms and then decide if the sentences are true for the teacher or the students themselves.

Materials:

  1. 4 elements Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of 4 elements Worksheet and ask students to complete the expressions with the words air, earth, fire and water. When they are finished ask them to compare with their classmate(s).
  2. Check together as a class, but before you give students the answers make sure they compare as a whole class. Always encourage them to justify their answers to each other and, if they are sure of their answers, to try and convince others they are correct.
  3. Ask the students to match the expressions to their definitions. 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.
  4. Check together as a class.
  5. When the students have finished, ask them to complete sentences in Exercise 2 with the missing idioms.
  6. When they have finished, ask them to swap their sheets with a partner and peer correct.
  7. Check together as a class.
  8. Next students look at the sentences and try to decide which of them are true for their teacher (you can obviously use my examples but I would encourage you to come up with your own to make it more personal). Encourage students to give reasons for their choices to keep the conversation going, e.g. I think number 3 is correct. Karolina is constantly talking about her sister and all the things they do together. I imagine they must have a great relationship and get on like a house on fire.
  9. When they are finished ask them to ask you questions to check if they were correct, using the new expressions, e.g. Are you still up in the air about where to go on holiday in July? This also gives you the chance to correct and for students to yet again recycle the idioms.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to come up with sentences that are true for them using the expressions they have learnt. Always encourage them to write down what is TRUE for them. It makes the activities much more personal and memorable.

Related posts:

Clothes do (not) make the man

Zzz

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

There is no place like…school

Somewhere over the rainbow 

P.S. “Some women are lost in the fire. Some women are built from it.” ― Michelle K.

I spy with my little eye

Introduction:

This is an activity to introduce and practise idioms with the word EYE. Students first divide the expressions into 3 categories and then answer the questions and discuss their responses with their classmates.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

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

Materials:

  1. I spy with my little eye Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out a copy of I spy with my little eye 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 try to, as fast as the can, find the one body part that completes all expressions. My students all loved this mini competition at the start of the class and instantly became very engaged.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the word EYE or EYES.
  4. Check together as a class.
  5. Ask the students to divide the expressions into three categories, into those that they know well (I could define it with my eyes shut), those they have heard of but have never used (There is more to it than meets the eye), and those they have never come across before (Please open my eyes to it).
  6. When the students have finished, ask them to answer questions in Exercise 2 out of order on a separate piece of paper or in their notebooks and in as LITTLE detail as possible. Tell students to avoid writing just a YES or NO.
  7. When they have finished, ask them to swap their sheets with a partner.
  8. Students now try to identify which answers correspond to which questions.
  9. When the students have finished, ask them to swap the sheets again and check if their classmates were correct.
  10. Next students discuss their answers; with the same classmates they swapped their sheets with, in GREATER detail.
  11. When the students have finished, ask them to share 2 answers that they had in common and 2 that were different.

Fast finishers:

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

Related posts:

All hands on deck, kids

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Zzz

There is no place like…school

Somewhere over the rainbow 

You make my heart BEET 😉

Actions speak louder than words

Ups and downs

All rise please

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Half full or half empty?

 

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.

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Phrasal verbs can be put off, never forgotten

Brace yourselves. Phrasal verbs r bk

How do you …?

Single and ready to mingle

 

Half full or half empty?

Introduction: 

This is a board game to introduce and practise idioms and phrases related to happiness and misery. Students divide the idioms into two categories: jumping for joy and running on empty (sad) and answer questions about happiness using the new idioms.

Level: B2

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To introduce idioms related to happiness and misery.
  2. To divide the idioms into happy and not so much.
  3. To answer and ask questions about happiness and misery whilst playing a board game.

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

  1. Half full or half empty board game, one per group.

Procedure:

  1. Ask students to briefly discuss in pairs whether they consider themselves to be positive or negative people and give examples from their own life.
  2. Next write the following idioms and phrases on the board:
  • To be a bundle of joy
  • To be happy as a clam
  • To be in bits
  • To be on cloud nine
  • To be reduced to tears
  • To be walking on air
  • To feel like a dog with two tails
  • To have a face like a wet weekend
  • To have a whale of a time
  • To have the blues
  • To mope around
  • To take something hard
  1. In pairs ask students to divide the idioms above into two categories: jumping for joy (happy) and running on empty (sad).
  2. Check together as a class and make sure students know the meaning of each idiom.
  3. Put the students in groups of 2 or 3, and give them a copy of Half full or half empty board game and a die.
  4. Now ask the players to write down the “happy” idioms in the orange squares (orange supposedly evokes feelings of happiness, optimism and energy) and “unhappy “idioms in the blue squares (said to express sadness, but can also be calming and soothing so not all hope is lost).
  5. 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.
  6. When a player lands on a square they must answer the question from that square in as much detail as possible AND using two idioms (they can choose from either the idioms in the same row or the same column). Encourage students to ask each other additional questions to obtain more information. When a player lands on a square with an idiom they must use it to form a question for their partner(s), e.g. Do you always have a whale of a time when you go out with your friends?
  7. The game continues in the circle going left.
  8. At the end, ask students what they found out about their classmates.

Fast finishers:

Give students the scrambled up idioms and ask them to unscramble them from memory:

  • A time have of a whale to
  • Like to with tails feel two a dog
  • Of a joy be bundle to
  • To clam be as happy a
  • To hard something take
  • To weekend face like a wet have a

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Ups and downs

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Zzz

There is no place like…school