What a zoo

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. Although the activity is quite hard I have done it with many different levels and by encouraging, providing the right scaffolding and guiding my students I managed to keep them going despite the difficulty.

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:

  1. What a zoo Worksheet, one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Hand out each student a copy of What a zoo Worksheet.
  2. Tell students to, in pairs, answer questions in Exercise 1.
  3. Next ask students to complete the idioms with the missing animals. Bear 🙂 in mind that they will not know the majority of the expressions, but resist the urge to give them the answers. In one group I had all the students working relentlessly to try and come up with the right answers by applying logic, giving examples in their mother tongue (Spanish) until eventually they got ALL the answers right. It was an absolute pleasure to watch them and guide them. I have to add that I have an unshakeable belief in my students’ abilities and they can clearly sense it and as a result often are happy to deal with tasks that, initially, seem far too hard for them. With time however the VAST majority accepts the responsibility for their own learning in my classroom and they try and work things out for themselves.
  4. Check together as a class. Again here I always ask EVERYONE to compare FIRST rather than list the right answers. At this stage people often have some mistakes and if they do, 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. Again students 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. I don’t want my students to ever become too dependent on me. I value autonomy greatly and try to help them develop tools to be as independent of me as possible.
  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 and write down the animal idioms that match the definitions in bold. I encourage them to do it from memory first as it’s a great way to start recycling vocabulary and make them think and engage. I often turn these exercises into mini competitions to add some excitement.
  8. When they have finished, ask them to compare with their partner. Again comparing never means mindlessly looking through each other’s answers but justifying your choices which is always a great extra speaking activity and an opportunity to use the idioms again and again.
  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:

Cat got your tongue? Speak up

MEOW!

All hands on deck, kids

Can’t stop dishing out idioms

Nothing changes if nothing changes

P.S. Happy Birthday Natalusia.

 

Random words (Getting personal)

Introduction: 

This is a creative writing activity inspired by a book by Edward de Bono called “Creativity Workout”. Students obtain random words and write down what they think happened either before or after an event given to them by the teacher. To increase curiosity and engagement, I used examples from my own life and it worked like a dream. 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. Draw a 6 x 6 grid on the board.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Before the class think of some interesting things that happened to you and that your students might not know about you. Give them the first sentence (look at the examples below) and ask them to write down what they think happened BEFORE or AFTER that event using the random words. This activity proved very motivating for my students as they wanted to find out what actually happened. You can also make it more competitive by telling your students that the pair who gets closest to the truth will win/ get a point. I encourage you to come up with your own examples or even to ask students to prepare their own sentence(s) each before they begin the activity. If you want to use my examples and make it a creative activity less based on actual events, use my sentences and alter them according to the level of your class.

Examples:

  • Obtain four random words and guess what happened next: We have deleted each other’s contact details and decided to meet at the main train station in Milan in EXACTLY six month’s time.
  • Obtain four random words and guess what happened the night before: I woke up in the middle of the night completely soaked.
  • Obtain four random words and guess what happened next: On a cold December night, my mother was walking home from work when suddenly she was stopped by a stranger. He did his best to cover his face and my mother began to feel uneasy.
  • Obtain five random words and guess what happened next: I was getting ready to move to Zaragoza and was about to book my flight to Spain when my ex called. “Wait, don’t book anything, I will drive you to Spain”.
  • Obtain four random words and guess what happened the night before: I woke up and realised I had missed my flight. I was in Salamanca and had to be back at work, in England, the following day.
  • Obtain five random words and guess what happened before: I was drowning. My whole life was flashing before my eyes and I could see people looking at me and laughing. Cameramen, local journalists and my coworkers just kept staring and nobody moved.
  • Obtain five random words and guess what happened before: We were taken to a large room and told to wait. After a few minutes Pope John Paul II entered the room.

Related posts:

Random words

Random words return

Holiday heaven & hell

Two-round boxing match

Introduction:

This is an activity for FCE students to practise the passive and the active voice in a fun and competitive way. Students change the sentences from the active into the passive voice or from the passive into the active voice. The activity could also be used as a warmer or a plenary if the students are already able to use the target language confidently.

Level: B2

Time: 30 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To change the sentences from the active into the passive voice or from the passive into the active voice.
  2. To get a winning line of four noughts or four crosses in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row.

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

  1. Round One Worksheet, one per pair.
  2. Round Two Worksheet, one per pair.

Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into pairs and hand out a Round One Worksheet to each pair.
  2. The players start with Round One.
  3. Each player takes a turn to change one of the sentences from active into passive voice. If they manage to do it correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board. The first player to line up 4 of their symbols in a row wins. The students must write each answer in the space provided below the table.
  4. Repeat the procedure with Round Two Worksheet.
  5. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences together at the end of the class.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to write 4 sentences in the active voice and 4 in the passive voice using a variety of tenses, e.g. Stuart is going to buy Karolina coffee this afternoon. Karolina was invited to a storytelling event by Brittany. When the students have finished they swap their sentences with their partner and change the eight sentences into active or passive voice.

Related posts:

Noughts and Crosses

P.S. “Never use the passive where you can use the active.” George Orwell

Noughts and Crosses

 

Introduction:

This is an activity for PET students to practise Part 1 of the Writing Exam in a fun and competitive way. Students complete the second sentences in bold so that they mean the same as the first. The examples for this exercise are similar to the ones students could find in the PET exams (Writing Part 1).

Level: PET

Time: 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To complete the second sentences so that they mean the same as the first.
  2. To get a winning line of four Noughts or four Crosses in either a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row.

Materials:

  1. Noughts and Crosses Worksheet, one per pair.

Procedure:

  1. Divide the students into pairs and hand out a Noughts and Crosses Worksheet to each pair.
  2. Each player takes a turn to complete one of the second sentences in bold to mean the same as the first sentence using no more than three words. If they manage to do it correctly, they add either an O or an X to the board. The first player to line up 4 of their symbols in a row wins.
  3. Monitor at all times and go through some of the most problematic sentences together at the end of the class.

Fast finishers:

  1. Write 4 sentences about yourself using the structures from the sentences in bold, e.g.  I prefer working alone to working with other people. I have eaten a grasshopper before.

Whodunit

Introduction:

This is a fun creative writing activity to practise making predictions. Students come up with a short crime story, write a description of a crime scene and try to predict who the murderer is in the short stories written by other students.

Level: B1+

Time: 60 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To develop speaking confidence and come up with a short story.
  2. To write a detailed description of  a crime scene.
  3. To confidently and correctly use prediction language to guess who the murderer is based on other students’ descriptions of a crime scene.

Materials:

  1. Whodunit worksheet, one per pair.

Procedure:

  1. In pairs, ask students to discuss and describe their favourite crime series or a detective story.
  2. Write who, why, what, where, when, and how on the board.
  3. In the same pairs ask students to orally come up with a short crime story making sure they answer AT MINIMUM the following questions: Who was killed and why? What happened? Where and when the crime took place and how did the victim die? Encourage students to enrich their story with as many details as possible. You could also brainstorm crime vocabulary at this stage.
  4. When the students have finished, hand each pair a Whodunit worksheet. Still in the same pairs ask the students to describe JUST the crime scene but without revealing who the murderer is and why they committed the crime.
  5. Once the students have finished they swap Whodunit worksheets with another pair.
  6. Students now read the description of the crime scene written by their classmates, and using the expressions given, try to predict who the murderer is and why they committed the crime, e.g. The chances are that Dorothy was killed by her lover’s jealous ex-girlfriend. There is no doubt that Stu killed his business partner over financial differences.  Tell students to underline the expressions to make them more visible.
  7. Students then pass the Whodunit worksheet to the next pair who, without reading what the previous pair wrote, continue making predictions, e.g. It’s likely that Stu poisoned Karolina to claim her life insurance.
  8. Students continue passing their Whodunit worksheet round until each pair in the class have made their predictions.
  9. At the end of the activity, students read the predictions made by other students about their case and decide who came closest to their story.
  10. Ask students to briefly tell the whole story to the rest of the class.

P.S. To a very special Coroner’s Officer who inspired this post. Thank you.

Hypothetically speaking

Introduction:

This is a short writing activity for intermediate students to revise the second conditional. The students answer the questions individually, read and match their classmate’s answers and further discuss the responses that caught their attention.

Level: B1

Time: 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To answer questions using the second conditional.
  2. To match their classmates’ responses to the questions.
  3. To discuss the questions that caught students’ attention using the second conditional.

Materials:

  1. Hypothetically speaking worksheet, one per student

Procedure:

  1. Give each student a Hypothetically speaking worksheet and ask them to answer the questions in random order, e.g. write the answer to question 1 next to letter d etc.
  2. Put students in pairs, or groups of 3, and ask them to swap papers. The students now read each other’s answers and match the responses to the questions. Encourage students to correct any mistakes they might come across when they go through their classmate’s sentences and ask them to underline the responses that catch their attention.
  3. Monitor throughout the activity.
  4. Now ask the students to swap the papers and check if their classmates matched the responses correctly.
  5. Elicit some answers from the students. When I did this activity for the first time I couldn’t believe how many original responses the students came up with.
  6. In the same pairs or groups of 3 now ask the students to explain in detail the underlined answers using the second conditional.

Fast finishers

  1. Ask students to take 4 of their responses and use them as beginnings of new sentences, e.g. If everyone in the world was madly in love with me, I would be over the moon. I would be over the moon, if I could speak English with an Irish accent.

Related posts:

(Un)conditional love

 

Flying the nest

20170816_174627.jpg

Introduction:

This is an activity for intermediate students to review vocabulary related to ‘household chores’. Students divide the chores into three categories, come up with a cleaning schedule in a house they have just moved into and write a short advert for a new housemate. They seem to need help with the bills. ☺

Level: B1+

Time: 45 minutes

Objectives:

  1. To review vocabulary related to household chores.
  2. To come up with an effective cleaning schedule.
  3. To write a short advertisement for a new housemate.

Materials:

  1. Flying the Nest Worksheet – one per student.

Procedure:

  1. Write the names of various rooms on the board, such as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc. In pairs, ask the students to name two chores they perform in each of those areas of the house; monitor, and when they have some suggestions, nominate students to write them on the board by the room names. Clarify meaning and check spelling.
  2. Hand each student a Flying the Nest Worksheet and ask them, individually, to separate the household chores into 3 separate categories (Exercise 1).
  3. When the students have finished, they compare their tables with their partner’s and explain their choices.
  4. In their pairs, ask them to think about what they find most difficult when sharing a flat/house with other people, such as their parents, a partner, friends, a housemate, e.g. having a curfew, finding dirty dishes in the sink, etc.
  5. Put students in small groups of three and tell them they have just moved into a beautiful new house with a garden and they are now sitting in the kitchen, trying to decide how to divide the chores (Exercise 2). They must negotiate with their housemates and try to agree only to do chores they like or don’t mind doing around the house. Encourage negotiation and compromise.
  6. When the students have reached an agreement, ask them to compare their cleaning schedule with the other groups.
  7. In the same groups, students now move on to Exercise 3. They must write a short description of an ideal new housemate.
  8. When the students have finished, ask them to read their description to the other groups.

Fast finishers:

  1. Ask students to choose 8 chores from the list and decide how much they think it would cost in their country to have them done, e.g. your shirts ironed, your windows cleaned, etc.

Flying the Nest Worksheet