University of Oxford Video Tour: Lesson Plan and Material

Lesson plan

It seems fitting that I continue past blogging performance with another lesson based post, but rather than post another authentic listening lesson, I would prefer to focus on authentic video.  The authentic video is related to a tour – which is rather educational itself – of the University of Oxford.  There are various gist and more detailed activities which revolve around the video itself with a final memorisation game.  A lovely supplementary lesson idea, as mentioned by a wonderful colleague, Peter Clements (ELT Planning) – who I might add is rather new to blogging but has some wonderful lesson ideas and I would highly recommend you reading his blog – suggested a tour of our school, whereby students prepare their own video tours of the school – which could be replicated by any other institution and their very own school.

Anyhow, I do hope you enjoy this lesson idea and you are able to incorporate it into your very own teaching.  All materials are available as part of a PDF download and the video of the tour of the University is embedded below.  As ever, it would be wonderful to hear how you got on with this lesson.

University of Oxford Lesson Plan and Material (Downloadable PDF)

“I Have Never Seen Star Wars”: Radio 4 Listening

In my last post, I decided to create a lesson plan on an authentic news clip from Radio 2.  It has worked remarkably well and in light of this, I have now decided to create another listening lesson but based on the Radio 4 show “I Have Never Seen Star Wars”.  The main focus of the radio show is to get participants to do things that they have never done before such as wallpapering, cooking a meal or doing the ironing.  It is a really engaging and comical show which is available on their website and I would recommend anyone to have a listen.  The presenter is Marcus Brigstocke and he really does get listeners engaged in the show.  Anyhow, back to the lesson plan.

Aim: By the end of the lesson, students will listen to someone talk about a life experience that they have never done.  They will also listen to an authentic radio program.

Level: Upper Intermediate +

Grammar Focus: Present Perfect

Time: 60 – 90 minutes

Speakers: Marcus Brigstocke, Reece Shearsmith and a Driving Instructor

1. Draw up a picture of a car on the whiteboard and ask students whether they can name any parts of a car.  Label any parts that they can name and include the following:

Mirrors Brake Seat belt Engine
Clutch Accelerator Indicator Gear lever
Seat belt Hand brake Neutral

2. Ask students if they know any verbs or phrasal verbs related to driving a car.  Write down any language that they mention but also pre-teach the following vocabulary as well:

To pull away To pull in Brake
To signal/indicate Mounting the curb To give it some gas

Other vocabulary that would be good to pre-teach would include:

Curb (n) Pavement (n) Blind spot (n)
Death traps (n) My heart was pounding (expr.) Nice and steady (expr.)
No harm done (expr.)

3. Speak to students and tell them an experience that you have never done: rode a motorbike, done bungee jumping, etc.  Ask the students to see if they have not done anything during their life up to now.  As language emerges, make a note of this on the board and provide feedback at the end of the conversation.  Ask any students if they have or will take driving lessons in the future: Have you taken a driving lesson before?  Will you take a driving lesson in the future?  What was it like? What do you think it will be like?

4. Tell students that they are going to listen to a story about someone but show the pictures up on the board and elicit from them what they think the story is about.  Board up elicited stories on the whiteboard and help out with some vocabulary.  Pictures include the following:

Car crash Robin Reliant Driving Lesson Dukes of Hazard

Radio 4 listening

The story is that a person never took a driving lesson as his grandfather was involved in an accident with his Robin Reliant, which he also experienced.  He describes the accident like a scene out of “Dukes of Hazzard”.

5. Tell students that they are going to listen to someone talk about their experiences of their grandfather driving his Reliant Robin and have a driving lesson. Whilst they listen, ask students to choose whether the following sentences from the listening are true or false.

  • You have to be 18 when you learn to drive. (False – you have to be 17)
  • His granddad crashed his Robin Reliant by hitting the side of the road. (True)
  • The person had his driving lesson on an airfield. (False – he thought it would be on an airfield, it was actually in London)
  • He doesn’t know where his blindspot is located. (True)
  • During his driving lesson he got into second gear. (True)
  • His instructor’s name is called Jason. (False – he is called John)
  • He marked himself 8 out of 10 for his first ever driving lesson. (False – he marked himself 9 out of ten)

Get students to compare in small groups before eliciting the answers from the students.

6. The next part of the listening is to get students to put the following excerpts into order that they are mentioned. Play the recording a couple of times and get the learners to work individually before checking their answers in pairs or small groups.  Here are the following excerpts in order:

  • “You told me, and I was surprised actually, you told me you’d never driven a car or had a driving lesson”
  • “We hit the side of the road, in the Robin Reliant, and it literally – Dukes of Hazzard – went upside down rolling”
  • “I now feel really bad sending you on a driving lesson.”
  • “You thought you’d be taken off to a special track?”
  • “Umm … is it accelerator, brake and that’s for this, the clutch”
  • “When you go to pull away, where is your blindspot?”
  • “Now check your mirrors and gently, nice and gently, away we go.”
  • “Have a go at pulling away, getting in to second gear, pulling in.”
  • “Nice and steady now. Wait until we get round a bend before we hit second gear.”
  • “On your first lesson, you got up to second gear.”
  • “Not all of it on a London street, some of it on a London pavement!”
  • “I thought I would be more panicked than I was.”
  • “Do you think you’ll do it again?”
  • “Excellent! Sounds like you are both back safely.”

As an extra to getting students to re-order the text, you could get students to listen to the audio again and decide who said what.  For example, “You told me, and I was …” was mentioned by the Presenter, Marcus Brigstocke, so students could put (P) next to the quote, (DI) for the Driving Instructor, and (I) for Interviewee, Reece Shearsmith.

As a final activity, and practice, get students to speak to each other using the Present Perfect and Past Simple form.  Use the board game, available in the download, to prompt students to talk to each other.  Monitor the speaking practice and provide feedback and scaffold language, where necessary, at the end of the lesson.

Well that is all from the lesson plan but all necessary material is available as a download and the audio is accessible from SoundCloud below.  Again, I hope this lesson is useful in getting more authentic listening inside the classroom and getting your learners used to a natural speed of spoken English.  Have you adapted any authentic listening for the classroom?  Do you think it empowers students to listen to more natural English or do you think that any adaptation of authentic listening reduces its authenticity?

I have never – Upper Intermediate: PDF material and lesson plan download

Authentic Listening in the Classroom: Lesson Idea

The majority of the listening that we play in the classroom is as inauthentic as possible, despite the fact that many coursebooks these days are using various authentic material such as radio interviews, podcasts or music.  However, what is incorporated to develop materials conducive to a classroom and learning environment is rather inauthentic in its application.  Nonetheless, I thought I would steer clear from coursebook listening for once and create my very own authentic listening activity to develop my learners’ ability to listen to various radio stations in their own time.  I just hope that the activities provide the confidence to my learners to listen to the radio in their free time and is not so inauthentic in its application during the lesson.

Lesson Plan

The lesson is aimed for Upper Intermediate students or above and should last between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes.  By the end of the lesson, students will be able to listen to a 4 minute radio clip featuring 5 news items and prepare them for authentic listening outside the classroom.

  1. Ask students to discuss the initial questions to each other. Give students a few minutes to discuss in pairs or small groups and then feedback as a whole class, nominating students questions and board up any emergent vocabulary.
  2. After preparing students for the topic of the lesson, handout the three gist questions for the radio listening and play the recording once or twice.  Get the students to compare their answers with each other before eliciting the answers from students.  Here are the answers to the questions:
    1. What is the name of the news presenter on the radio? Jason Kay
    2. What is the radio station? BBC Radio 2
    3. How many news items were mentioned in the radio clip? 5 news items plus 1 weather item
  3. The next stage is to get students to first use the images as prompts to help them discuss the news items.  Once they have discussed the news items, get students to put the images in order that they are mentioned.  The order of the news items are:
    1. Foreign Office summons the Russian Ambassador due to 2 bombers flying near the UK
    2. Discs containing investigations have been lost in the post
    3. Jordan wants proof that their pilot being held hostage by extremists is still alive
    4. The number of Secondary schools underperforming has doubled
    5. OFGEM say that energy companies will increase tariffs to customers despite a large fall in the price of oil
  4. Once students have discussed the news items and put the pictures in order, handout page 2 and set students to find out the definitions for those words on the worksheet either in their dictionary or online.  Allow around 15 to 20 minutes and play some background music.  Just monitor and assist where necessary.
  5. Once students have finished looking for the vocabulary, elicit possible meanings and definitions with nominated students.
  6. The next activity is for students to put the vocabulary in the corresponding gap in the transcript from the radio clip.  You can either get students to put the vocabulary in the gap from memory or get them to listen and do this while the clip is being played.  Play the radio clip a few times.
  7. Once students have finished this activity, get students to write the correct vocabulary on the whiteboard and play a final time to check the answers as a class.

I hope that this lesson plan is useful.  Have you used authentic listening before?  Have you played clips from the radio before?  How did it go?  If you have any feedback on this lesson, that would be great.

Radio News Authentic Listening (Downloadable PDF document)

“How To Teach English To Young Learners”

My latest publication, “How To Teach English To Young Learners“, is now available to download completely free of charge.  This publication focuses on the teaching of English for Young Learners and I hope you enjoy this book.

You can download this eBook on your iPad or other Apple device.  Thank you for your support, and I hope you enjoy this book.  There is a PDF version available to download attached to this blog post as well as accessible via Scribd.

Downloadable PDF Version: Teaching Young Learners

10 Websites for English Language Teachers

All teachers enjoy reading and gaining access to more resources for lesson ideas or developing material for classes and I thought I would share the ten websites that I like to refer to when I am seeking for lesson ideas or material to use in possible lessons.  These ten websites below are my favourite websites that I like to refer to when preparing lessons, reading up on methodology or creating material.  So without any further delay, these are my ten must visit ELT-related websites.

1. British Council Teaching English

British Council Teaching English

For me the British Council Teaching English website is such a wonderful resource with many videos and blog posts that you can find a lot of information about teaching in particular contexts.  I do enjoy the regular updates that this website offer for those in English Language Teaching (ELT) from lesson plans and materials to interesting blog postings about language learning.  I use this website a lot with their videos for in-house Teaching Training sessions, particularly related to young learners.  This website is now also offering webinars which you could register and watch either live or at a later date. To add to the already abundant resources which you could gain, there are also the annual seminars which you could attend at the British Council or watch streamed via the internet.


2. ISL Collective

ISL Collective

There are not many free websites around for lesson material but ISL Collective really is a gem and would highly recommend teachers to consider using this website to seek for lesson ideas or materials.  You can search for material based upon grammar focus, skill, level of student or age.  Naturally, you have to consider the appropriacy of materials and edit them where necessary but the best thing about this website is that you can download the material in Word format and edit them where you see fit. If you visit other EFL-related websites, much of their material is in PDF format and non-editable. And unless you enjoy the unhappy task of recreating the worksheets, you will not be able to edit the texts.


3. ELTChat


One of the first websites that I was introduced via Twitter was actually ELTChat.  The aim of the website is to create a “freely available social network for ELT professionals” in order to assist CPD.  ELTChat host weekly chats on Twitter on a range of topics ranging from blended learning to dealing with mixed ability classes.  Their chats on Twitter are usually every Wednesday in the afternoon at 12pm or evening 9pm (GMT) and the chat is followed through the use of a hashtag (actually #ELTChat). Despite the chats remaining on Twitter, the transcript is then downloaded, analysed by us bloggers and then written about. It is a wonderful resource and you can find various blog posts about the discussions on all the various topics that ELTChat has incorporated in their weekly chats.  Summaries of discussions can be seen here.


4. Designer Lessons

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If you are quite keen to incorporate Dogme into your lessons but don’t know where to start, worry not as there is a wonderful website which offers teachers a wonderful selection of Dogme-esque teaching ideas which you could incorporate into your lessons.  Designer Lessons is a wonderful resource full of teaching ideas for those teachers which are keen to experiment with Dogme ELT and I would highly recommend teachers to consider using this resource to develop their repertoire of lessons and ideas for developing lessons for a range of levels.  As well as Dogme style lessons, there is also a range of lessons catered for exam preparation lessons as well as more traditional lessons organised into levels.


5. Wordle

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If you have seen other teachers create words clouds (essentially text generated in an easy to read and quite artistic manner) but do not know how to create such works of vocabulary art, then I would recommend Wordle.  I usually use Wordle on a weekly basis to create word clouds and I usually create key vocabulary or a review of vocabulary from the previous day this style of word cloud.  It is incredibly easy to create and it generates student interest straight away, as it is usually different to the standard “Do you know this word?” or “Let me explain this word that I have just written up on the board!”.  You can create an interesting and engaging introduction to key vocabulary by printing out the word cloud and doing the following:

  • Students look up words in a dictionary and then write out the definition in their notebook.
  • Students try to create groups of lexis – usually quite useful if you have a range of vocabulary with different groups (i.e. jobs, verbs, etc).
  • Look for the words in the text (if it is a reading).
  • Guess the topic or story.


6. One Stop English

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You are searching on the internet for a lesson related to Thanks Giving but most lessons which you have found seem rather boring as well as a bit teacher centred. Worry not, as One Stop English is offering a variety of engaging and motivating activities to suit a range of levels as well as ages.  If you want to develop the students’ awareness of American culture, then there are a range of engaging activities to achieve this ranging from webquests to listening.  Yes you have to pay for becoming a member of this website but the range of lessons offered really will benefit teachers and there are numerous activities and blog posts which support newly certified teachers.  I do pay for membership of this website and would continue to do so in the future as the activities involved with listening lessons are wonderful and it is such a relief to steer away from the coursebook from time to time.  Finally, this website is a great resource for those young learner teachers who are keen to develop their CLIL-related material as there are lessons and activities for teachers to incorporate in class.


7. BBC Learning English

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This was one of the first websites which I started using and referring to back in 2005 in my first year of teaching in order to gain an understanding with teaching.  I remember being asked why I used this website in my CELTA interview and how I use it.  I essentially mentioned that the BBC Learning English was a wonderful website and I prepared lessons using some of the ideas posted on the website, which was mainly geared for self study language learners.  However, I do enjoy browsing the activities and lessons for students as well as incorporating some of these ideas in the classroom.  There is a wonderful podcast which is updated on a regular basis which offers a grammar focus for students.  I usually enjoy preparing lessons involving the listening from the podcast to supplement a grammar point and some of the practice activities are great.  I really enjoy browsing this website and looking at some of the lesson ideas which are recommended.  Although this website is aimed for self-study, it is a free resource and with a little bit of work, the lessons developed could be adapted for a range of classes.


8. Cambridge English Online

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If you are looking for a website to develop flashcards related to the phonological chart or phonemes, then Cambridge English Online is an invaluable website.  You can create your own flashcards using their stock of images or uploading your own images, inserting phonetics for words.  It is a great website and I have used the applications on their website with my young learner and adult lessons.  There are other applications which focus on idiomatic language or the phonemic chart and you could use these within a classroom should you have an IWB or projector and computer in your classroom.  You could get students to create their own flashcards and print these out and then laminate them for possible flashcard games.  For more ideas for games involving flashcards, read my previous post here.


9. Lesson Stream

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A few years ago I was looking for lesson ideas related to images and fortunately I came across a wonderful website which contained loads of suggested lessons. I remember that I prepared a lesson related to the Mr Men series with the help from Lesson Stream.  Jamie Keddie has a lot of suggested lessons graded by level which teachers could incorporate in their lessons.  There are teacher notes and material all available on Jamie’s website and much of the material could be incorporated into adolescent classrooms with the correct amount of adjustment.  It is a wonderful resource and would supplement any coursebook.  Furthermore, this great website is free of charge for any teacher and all material can be downloaded for use with potential classes.  Personally, I used lesson ideas with both adolescent and adult learners and is a refreshing change to the coursebook.


10. An A-Z of ELT

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The final website which I would recommend any professional English language teacher to view is Scott Thornbury’s A-Z of ELT blog.  It is a wonderful website stocked full of rich and engaging content in relation to the theory of language learning, acquisition and teaching.  It supplements the ELT dictionary, published in 2006, which is also called “An A-Z of ELT” and is a must read itself.  Nevertheless, there is a lot of content which is not included in the original edition of the book published on this blog.  Unfortunately, it is now no longer a live website but Scott has kindly allowed access for readers to view – “Thanks Scott!” – and if you are curious about the methodology of language teaching, learning and acquisition then this blog will assist you delve dipper into the profession and become more knowledgeable.  It has always been a useful ‘go to’ website, especially when studying a post-graduate or diploma in ELT as it has been invaluable for teachers looking at developing professionally.

So these are my ten favourite and must visit websites which I would recommend other teachers to visit.  I hope this helps you develop as a teacher and also support you when creating engaging and motivating lessons for your students.  Anyhow, what are your favourite ELT related websites?  What websites would you recommend that I visit?

First Lessons: Ten GTKY Ideas

You are probably wondering what on earth “GTKY” means.  Well, put simply, it means “Get To Know You”.  You usually teach your first lessons with similar activities so that you can get to know your students.  Nevertheless, every teacher, whether they are young learner teachers or adult teachers, have to deal with the fact that they are going to be meeting some new students on a regular occasion.  I don’t know about you, but for me I feel slightly nervous when meeting a new class of students and I usually have several thoughts running through my head during this time: “Will these students like my lessons?”, “I wonder what the students are going to be like.”, “What lessons will my students respond to?”, etc.  This post looks at ten lesson ideas to instantly develop rapport, learn more about your students as well as help you relax in first lessons.

1. True or False?

This is one of my favourite activities that I like to start with my first lessons.  I write up three sentences up on the whiteboard about myself and usually in this order:

  • I have lived in 6 different countries. (true: France, Germany, Cyprus, Korea, Romania and the UK)
  • I can read and write Korean. (true: usually quite badly though)
  • I am 34 years old. (false: a bit of a surprise to some I imagine but I am actually 35 years old)

I get students to discuss in pairs/small groups which sentences they think are true and which is false.  I mention that there is only one false sentence whilst there are two true sentences about myself.  I almost always write the false sentence about my age as I like to hear how young, but mostly, how old the students believe I am.  It is always nice to hear that students believe that I am 30 years old but I try to forget those thoughts that some students think that I am much older.

This is a wonderful little activity you can do first to the students and generates great rapport with all in the classroom.  After demonstrating the activity, you could get students to create their own true or false sentences about themselves.  Students love for you to learn a bit more about them as well.

2. Student Posters (Young Learners)

If you are teaching young learners, then you could get students to create a poster about themselves.  I usually demonstrate about myself with the learners and bring in a prepared poster with my name on the top on the A4 piece of paper and then other pieces of information.  I show this to all the students and ask students to create their own posters about themselves.  This art activity is really not suitable for adult learners so I would recommend that you don’t do this with them.  Additional information you may wish for students to add could be written on the board so that students have a good what they would like write.  For example, you could include the following:

  • Family
  • Sports & Hobbies
  • Likes & Dislikes
  • School
  • Pets

Students could also include images with their posters but you could also get students to create a digital version of their poster.  If your school has a class set of iPads or a dedicated Computer Room, then you could get students to create their own posters with access to their Facebook, etc.  Tablets and laptops will help with the creation of a digitised version of the student posters.

3. Five Fingers

On the whiteboard, draw round your hand.  For each finger write down information about interests or alike.  For example, you could include the following information for each finger:

  • A number which is important to you.
  • An important or personal place that you have visited.
  • A name of a person who is important to you.
  • The name of a sport or hobby that you enjoy.
  • The name of a song that you enjoy listening to.

Once you have demonstrated the activity on the whiteboard, get students to do the same activity on a spare piece of paper.  Get students to trace round their hand and then include information about themselves.  Get students to share information about themselves and get them to ask and answer questions.  When you are monitoring, you will be able to assess ability, possible language problems to remedy in a future lesson as well as provide some error correction at the end of the lesson.

4. Adjective Names

For this first lesson icebreaker, you will need a small sponge football and obviously some students.  It is a wonderful lesson to remember names.  Get students to stand in a circle and then pass the ball to a student and say their name but precede it with an adjective that starts with the same letter of the name.  For example, with my name “Martin”, you could think of “Magical Martin”.  If it is “Julio”, then it could be “Jealous Julio”.  It is probably best to explain this via the whiteboard initially.  If students have a problem thinking of a suitable adjective, then they have to sit down.  The person that remains standing at the end of the activity is the winner.  This GTKY activity is a wonderful chance for you to remember names, get the students to think of suitable adjectives as well as have a bit of fun for the first lesson.  It is possibly best suited for a strong Pre-Intermediate group of learners.

5. Creative Name Cards

One of the most important things to consider when you are teaching a new class for the week, month or term is learning the names of students.  One way is to get students to make their own name cards which could be displayed from their desks and then brought to future classes.  If you are anyway as bad as I am with names and faces, it always does help if you have student name cards to hand which you could glance to when you have a sudden moment of uncertainty.  To make them a bit more creative, you could ask students to draw things which are important to them (ideas could include numbers of importance, hobbies, family, etc).  It is all a good conversational starter and it will prompt learners to share experiences with each other (hopefully in English).

6. Find Somebody Who …

This is possibly the most common get to know you (GTKY) activity which has been used by language teachers the world over.  It was used in my university when I started my undergraduate degree.  It is simple really and you can create your own worksheet for this.  You get students to find out about each other and is best used when learners don’t really know about the other students in the classroom.  You can get students to find someone in the class who:

  • has met a famous person; or
  • has more than one pet at home; or
  • can play a musical instrument; etc

It is very simple and you can collect the worksheets after the activity that could be analysed afterwards so that you can then learn a bit more about your students.  A template of this simple activity is attached to this blog post so feel free to download it and incorporate it into future lessons.

7. Who Am I?

This is an interesting activity does require a little preparation but nothing too time consuming.  Cut up strips of paper and say to students that they need to write an interesting sentence about themselves: “I have a younger brother and an older sister” and students should not write their name on their strip of paper.  It is probably best to tell students to write at least no more than four sentences (with each sentence on a strip of paper).  You mix up all the student contributions and then pick one up and read it to the class and students have to guess who wrote the sentence.  It is an interesting activity and at the end of it, you could get students to recall anything that they can remember about their peers.

8. The Questions

Have a think about some common questions you usually ask when you meet a person for the first time (What’s your name?, Where are you from?, etc), but before you write anything on the whiteboard try to think of personal information about yourself and write this on the board.  This could include the following as an example:

  • 35 (How old are you?)
  • Maidstone (Where were you born?)
  • Germany, Cyprus, Romania, France and South Korea (Which countries have you lived in?)

Students then have to guess the questions (correct questions above in brackets) for the answers above and go through the first answer as a demonstration with the whole class together so students are aware what they have to do.  Get students to work together in small groups and so that they can check their answers, then work as a whole class and get some suggested questions for the answers and board these up.  You could then get students to find out about their partners/small groups with the boarded questions which could prompt them.

9. Classroom Rules

It is always a good opportunity to set the scene for students with rules, particularly for younger learners who are aged between 12 to 16 years of age.  This activity is suitable however could be used with any students no matter the age.  First you ask students to think of what they “Can” and “Cannot (Can’t)” do in the classroom and split up the board in half.  Learners walk up to the board and then write up their own ideas for each section.  Common ideas suggested include; “Only speak English”, “No mobile phones”, etc.  Once you have a lot of ideas boarded up, you could give the whole class a piece of A3 paper and ask students to create a Classroom Rule Poster which could be stuck up in the classroom and referred to in the future.  For example, if students are chatting in their L1, I remind them that they suggested that they should only speak in English and point to the poster.  It is a reminder and less authoritarian in its application as all ideas come from the students in the first lesson.

10. Guess Who We Were?

The final GTKY lesson idea is probably one of the best if you are able to organise it effectively. This first lesson idea has been done in our school before with our young learner classes.  It does require a little preparation and you do need some access to photos which could be scanned but with most teachers being on Facebook, you have access to half the material required (hopefully).  First ask all teachers/staff to bring in a really old photo of themselves as a baby or young child and a recent photo.  Scan these photos and create a worksheet where students have to match the corresponding photo of the baby/child to the more recent photograph.  Students work in groups and coordinate together.  It is a fun activity which is aimed at relaxing students in the classroom and you could extend it by getting students to create a similar worksheet or presentation and getting the teacher to guess which photo is connected to the student in the classroom.

What are your favourite get to know you activities?  Do you have a different first lesson warmer/icebreaker?  Have you tried any of the lesson ideas suggested and how was it?

10 Ideas for Games in the Classroom

The teaching of English can be a demanding profession for many, but if you are able to motivate or encourage participation from your learners during the lesson, you will have no classroom management issues. The key for encouraging interest and maintaining motivation during the lesson is to incorporate games or competitive activities during the lesson.  Most teachers tend to start or finish lessons with a ‘game’ to engage and interest their learners, but some of the ideas that I put forward could be included at anytime during the lesson.

1. Rolling Questions

Dice pictureIf you want to get students chatting, particularly adolescent learners, it can sometimes be quite difficult to motivate them to converse naturally in English.  One idea that I have used before in the past is to get a set of six-sided dice for small groups of students, prepare six questions prior to the lesson and write them up on the whiteboard.  Learners then roll a dice and the corresponding question is then asked.  You could change this activity slightly by getting students to un-jumble questions or to speak about a topic for as long as possible.  It is a great activity to promote speaking and enhance fluency and it requires very little preparation.

2. Role Play with a Twist

Every teacher has, at one time or another, used a role play to develop functional language.  However, you could spice it up a little bit.  Get students to think of two people, a place and a topic that these people are talking about.  For example, you may get Justin Bieber and Madonna talking at a bus stop about their weekend.  Before you get into class you do need to cut up some paper and a funny sentence on it such as, “You eyes are beautiful!”, “I can’t stop thinking about coffee!”, etc.  Place the pieces of paper (folded) on a table in the middle of the role play scene and mix them all up.  Get students to start their role play and get into their character and when you clap or blow a whistle the two students then have to pick up one piece of paper and then insert the phrase or sentence naturally into the role play.  It is incredibly funny and students find it very amusing.  I have used this with adult learners as well as young learners.

3. Chinese Whispers

Almost every teacher I have met have used this game at one point in their teaching career with young learners or adult students.  It is an activity which usually can be used as a filler for the last 10 minutes of class.  Most teachers know the game but if you are one of the very few who doesn’t know the game, here is what you do.  You get students either into a line or two lines.  I usually organise two teams to make it a bit more competitive.  Place students in a line or get them to sit down facing the board.  Give the student(s) at the front of the line a board marker and then you reveal a word, sentence or grammar point to the student at the back of the classroom.  The students whisper the word, sentence or grammar point to the person in front and this continues until the person at the front of the row has heard it and then they write the word on the board.  I usually give two points to a team which correctly completed the activity first, one point for those that finished second and correctly wrote the word, sentence or grammar point and minus one point to a team that wrote it incorrectly.  It is a very energetic game when you put students into pairs so expect a lot of enthusiasm in class.

4. Silent Chinese Whispers

A different take on Chinese Whispers is Silent Chinese Whispers!  What is “Silent Chinese Whispers?” I hear you ask.  Well the difference is that students are unable to whisper and have to remain silent during the game.  When students at the back of a row are shown a word, they must write the word on the back of the student in front of them.  It is best to start with small words which are quite easy to write (see, go, red, etc) and build the vocabulary up to something a bit more complicated.  Learners will find this different and they will have to focus a lot during the game.  You can sometimes see the tension rise when one student flounders a bit.  However, it is a wonderful take on the classic game of Chinese Whispers and demands a lot of focus from students.

5. Snowball Writing

You walk into classroom and each time that you try to get students to write they get bored very quickly.  Does this sound familiar?  Well not a problem!  You can do a fun and easy activity which encourages writing with all students.  It is called “Snowball Writing”.  You give each group of students lined paper and you tell them that they must write for a sentence.  When they have finished their sentence, they must scrunch up their paper to a ball – so that it resembles a snowball – and then when you blow your whistle or clap that students must start throwing their pieces of paper around the classroom.  If they see a piece of paper they must pick it up and continue to throw it.  When you clap your hands or blow your whistle again, students must pick up a piece of paper near them and then must continue writing another sentence.  Just repeat the activity as many times as possible.  You will find a lot of written input from students which you could then use for correcting at a later time.  It is a great and energetic activity which I would encourage any teacher (whether teaching young learners or adults) to include in their lessons.

6. Hangman

Hangman is another activity which many teachers have used over the years.  I remember using this with my young learners when I first started teaching and it was a great lesson warmer.  If you have not seen this game in action, don’t worry!  I shall let you know what to do.  You choose some words that you would like to introduce at the start of class, otherwise you could choose a number of words to review at the end of the lesson.  Write them on a piece of paper and make a note of the number of letters in a word.  For example, “helicopter” has 10 letters in it.  Keep a note to the number of letters in each word that you would like to use in the hangman game as this is important.  I always find it easy to have a list of words ready to hand and make a note of the number of letters next to each word.  It makes it easier to prepare the game.  To understand the game more fully, there is a wonderful video on YouTube by ESLClassroomGames describing the game.  I’d recommend that you watch the following video.  There are also some online hangman games available to play which has been created by the British Council.  These are great activities to use in class should you have a projector and internet access.

7. Sentence Hangman

So you have tried hangman many times in the classroom before but have you tried “Sentence Hangman”?  It is a twist of the original hangman but using sentences instead of individual words.  Have a think of a sentence or grammar form you would like to cover in class and write them out on a piece of paper.  Make a note of the number of words in the sentence and number these.  When you come to write out the words on the board, replace them with an underline – so if you have 8 words in your sentence, draw eight long lines to represent each word.  Split the class into two to four groups and each group decides on a word and they score one point if the word exists in the sentence, two points if they can guess correctly where it goes and minus one point if they choose a word which is incorrect.

For example, if you have a sentence such as “I(1) have(2) been(3) studying(4) English(5) for(6) eight(7) years(8)”, you must draw 8 lines on the board which are also numbered: ________(1) ________(2) ________(3) ________(4) ________(5) ________(6) ________(7) ________(8).  The first team shouts out a word such as “for” but they say it is in line 4.  They get one point and you write “for” in line 6.  The second team shout out “I” and say it goes in line 1 and they get two points – 1 for a correct word and one for placing the word in the correct line.  The third team shout out “was” but they score minus one point for an incorrect word.

It is a great game for all ages and it will really get students engaged in the lesson.  It is a wonderful idea to get students interested in sentence construction and getting them more aware of the grammar in an exciting and competitive way.  If students are having difficulty choosing the correct words, you could draw a picture which corresponds with the sentence.

8. Board Games

Talk AboutBoard games are wonderful to use in the classroom with many being created in MS Word or available on the internet but why do you have use the board games that have been created by someone else?  You could create your own board game for use in the classroom.  Or better yet, get the students to make their own board game.  You don’t necessarily need any dice, you could use a coin – heads move two spaces, tails move one space.  If you make your own board game, it is best to use A3 paper and use some felt tip pens.  Create a start and a finish position, add some bonus squares (move two spaces forward, next person misses a turn, etc), add some trapped squares (move back one space, miss a turn, etc) and then either write prompts for questions or discussion topics.  Board games can be used in class to prompt learners into talking English in the classroom and they are suitable for any ages.  You can even get young learners to create their own colourful board games for future lessons.  They are a wonderful resource and teachers should use them more in class.

9. Vocabulary Grab

You have taught some new vocabulary to your students but you want to check whether they can remember it.  What is the best way to check their knowledge?  Well you could test them, but you would have to be really mean to do this.  I would recommend a game which I call “Vocabulary Grab”.  If you have taught some new nouns, get some pictures of these, laminate them so that they don’t get destroyed, and stick them up around the whiteboard with BluTack.  Put students into two separate groups – it becomes a lot more competitive at this point – and when you call out a word, the students have to grab the corresponding picture and the team with the most amount of pictures are the winners.  It is a simple but effective game for all ages and if you use this game as a vocabulary review at the end of the lesson, learners will be leaving the classroom with a smile on their faces.

10. Twenty Questions

The final game in this blog post is another well known classic game called “Twenty Questions” which I assume many teachers have used in the past.  For those that have not come across this game, it is incredibly basic.  A student will be sitting at the front of the classroom and the teacher will give this student a word on a piece of card or show a picture.  This student is the only learner in the classroom who is aware of the word/picture and the other students have to guess the word by asking him/her closed questions.  The student at the front of the class can only say “Yes” and “No” so the students asking the questions have to aware of closed questions and they have twenty questions to ask to find out what the word/picture is.

For example, you show the student at the front of the class a picture of a watermelon and the rest of the class start asking: S1: “Are you a person?”, S2: “No”, S3: “Are you an object?”, etc.  After a bit of practice, the learners will start to understand the concept.  I usually demonstrate by telling students that I am holding a picture of something and they must ask me closed questions – questions where I can only answer “Yes” or “No” – and that they must find out what the object is.  Once the students have had a bit of a demonstration, I then nominate a student to come to the front of the class and then the students ask them closed questions.  During the demonstration process, I encourage learners to raise their hands if they wish to ask a question – it is a lot more controlled and rather less chaotic.

There you have it, my ten favourite games that I usually use in class for both adults or young learners.  What are your favourite games?  Why don’t you share them by either commenting or blogging about them!