Earlier this week, I was teaching a wonderful afternoon class of elementary adult learners who were really enthusiastic and engaged. Their enthusiasm and commitment to communicate made up for their lack of language ability. I decided, for their second lesson, to tell them a story and made a dictogloss activity. The main focus for a dictogloss is for students to listen to the story a number of times and then, in a group, to rewrite the story using any of their notes. I was so pleased with their progress and the amount that they had written from my story.
If you are unsure what dictogloss is, then the video below will help how to incorporate into your future lessons.
Have you ever tried dictogloss before? Do you have any questions? If so, don’t hesitate.
It has been a while since my last post, about two months actually. Apologies it has taken so long for this post but it has been a very busy period for us at LTC Eastbourne with a lot of young learners coming through for the summer school. Nevertheless, this blog post is all about the different ways us teachers could introduce or elicit target language during lessons. The benefit of getting students aware of target language is to activate schemata/schema which essentially means getting students tuned into the language and preparing them for the lesson. For example, if you say to students let’s talk about food, they can predict that the conversation will obviously focus on vocabulary related to food and nothing related to jobs. Anyhow, let’s get started!
1. Antonym Matching
The usual way to introduce key language is to just write them up on the whiteboard and provide the definition. This, in itself, is rather mundane and predictable. So, to liven things up a little more is to write up the words on pieces of paper all cut up and then write the opposite meanings on different pieces of paper. Get students to match words with their opposite meaning. Not only does it give the learners a chance to think about the target language but it also gets them thinking about corresponding words which have an opposite meaning. An additional idea is to just type up all the target language on one side of paper and their corresponding antonyms on the other side – all mixed up – and then learners have to match it that way.
2. Definition Matching
A similar activity to above is to write out the target language on one side of a worksheet and the corresponding definition on the other side and get students to match the word with the suitable definition. It is a good activity for learners and it is best to have some learner dictionaries to hand in case students want to check definitions if they are unsure. This activity is also a useful exercise at the end of the lesson for students to review the target language they have acquired during the lesson. An optional activity is to split up the class into two groups, give one half the class the target language to find and write out the definitions from a dictionary on a separate piece of paper and give the other half the class the remaining half of the target language to find in a dictionary. Once they have finished, collect the words and definitions from each group, redistribute the words and definitions and then the groups try to match words and definitions. It is a useful exercise and it would provide an opportunity for students to review language at the end of the class.
3. Unjumble the Words
A simple and effective way for students to work out the target language is to jumble up all the letters from target language. It is such a popular activity for teachers and it takes little time to prepare for this activity. I just find it easier to write out the target language on a piece of paper and then write out the letters in any order just underneath it. When I go to class, I can refer to this when writing up the jumbled words on the whiteboard. Very simple and then you could then use one of the other ideas in this post to introduce the language to your learners.
4. Missing Vowels
This is another quick and easy task for learners to focus on and is especially invaluable for Arabic learners of English, due to their weakness of reading and writing in English. It is very easy to do in MS Word and all you need to do is type out a few underscores where the vowels are. It is simple to do, type the word in MS Word and then highlight the vowel by pressing “Shift” and using the arrow keys. Then type the underscore where the vowel is located. Handout the worksheet to learners and give them a time limit to complete. Once learners have finished, you could nominate students to come up to the whiteboard and write out the words, without their worksheet, from memory. Again it places students to focus on the spelling when reviewing the language and you could then use some of the other activities in this post to exploit target language fully.
5. Flashcard Drills
This is one of my most popular activities for introducing target language and one that students also enjoy. You first show a picture or a word and then read it out in a clear voice and then get students to repeat. All students could repeat or you could nominate particular students to repeat. Another activity is to sit in a circle, select a flashcard, speak the word or phrase, pass the card to another and then that student repeats the word or phrase. The flashcard is then passed around the circle of students until it arrives back to you. This activity could be sped up by passing the flashcards to students on your left and on your right, with learners trying to keep up with saying the target language and all the flashcards being passed around.
6. Stress Patterns
An alternative activity is to write out the target language that you would like to introduce and then determine where the stress is placed within the word. You then create a table with the different stress patterns and ask students to complete the table by placing the words under the corresponding stress pattern. It is a useful activity which could then lead on nicely to a pronunciation focus with target language.
7. Phonemic Words
Another activity to focus on pronunciation is to write out the phonemic script for target language to get learners to become more aware how words are pronounced. It is also a great idea to get students thinking about how they would spell these words and they will start to see patterns with vowel sounds and the spelling of these. The teacher could first introduce the words one-by-one with the use of flashcards – and using idea 5 above – or the teacher could place all words on the whiteboard and nominate students to pronounce selected words. It is a quick and easy activity and it does not take a lot of preparation for this activity.
8. Lost in Translation
I like this activity and used it a long time ago when I first started teaching elementary learners. I first translated target language into Korean and then asked students to try to find a suitable translation in English – this is called back translation and quite effective. Learners could use their mobile devices and electronic dictionaries to translate the target language. You may find that learners will discover synonyms of target language. A different activity which involves translation could include translating the target language in the learners’ first language and also having the language in English, on separate pieces of paper, and getting learners to match the translated words with the corresponding Korean words. Translation goes a long way and can be useful for students wondering what the language is in their first language or the other way round.
9. Disappearing Words
A previous colleague of mine, Pete Clements, from LTC Eastbourne demonstrated this activity to me a few years ago and I was quick to use this in class afterwards. Essentially, what you do is write up all the words around the whiteboard, drill the language, explain the definition of the key language. You then tell students to close their books – if they were making any notes of the target language and their definitions – and tell them that they have one minute to remember as many words as possible. You then draw a circle around all words or phrases, point to it and students say the word. You slowly erase the words, keeping the circles that you drew around the word and then point to it. Students have to recall the word from memory and you then start to remove more and more words, so in the end all you have is a blank whiteboard with circles around missing words or phrases. It is up to the students to remember as many key words or phrases that they can remember and it is an engaging activity for all learners no matter their age.
This is a wonderful activity that I like to do either as a vocabulary review or an introduction, particularly for young learners. It is easy to create a wordsearch, all you have to do is search for the term ‘Wordsearch Maker’ in Google and you will be directed to various different websites dedicated to the creation of word search puzzles. However, I would recommend the Teachers Direct website as a tool to create puzzles for language learners. It is wonderfully simple to create and all you have to do is to type out the target language in the website. This activity lends itself well to non-romanic language learners such as those that are Arabic or Asian speakers as they must get used to the spelling of the English language.
There you have it, all 10 ideas for introducing target language in the classroom. What are your favourite ways to introduce language in the classroom? Do you have any additional ideas? Why not share your 10 ideas? Thanks for reading and I hope you get some of these ideas into the classroom in the future.
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 knowyour 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:
Sports & Hobbies
Likes & Dislikes
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?
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
If 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.
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
Board 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!
The other day, I was preparing a lesson with an intermediate group of young learners and getting my flashcards printed and laminated. However, when chatting to some other teachers in the staffroom, with myself behind the laminating machine, there was a brief comment that flashcards are more suited for beginner or elementary learners and more appropriate for young learners.
Flashcards are really good but more suited for young learners or really low levels of students.
Unfortunately, I really have to disagree with this sentiment as I have used flashcards with many different levels as well as ages of learners. With this post, I really would like to push the boundaries of what is considered suitable for learners and offer teachers practical ideas on how they are able to incorporate flashcards into lessons with more than just young learners or beginner/elementary classes. With this post, you will find 10 practical ideas for including flashcards in the classroom.
1. Circle Drilling
The most common use of flashcards in the classroom is for drilling and checking pronunciation with the class. You can either nominate individual students or get whole class drilling organised with the use of flashcards. However, when doing the Young Learner extension course at the British Council in Bucharest, I was introduced in how you could add a bit of a competitive element to drilling and pronunciation. Get students to sit in a circle – get learners to place their desks to the sides of the classroom – and then they all sit down. Introduce the vocabulary to the learners and drill pronunciation. The next step to circle drilling is to hand one flashcard to a student to your left or right and then get them to pass the flashcard to the next student. You can speed up the drilling by handing more and more cards to the students next to you and then watch the chaos ensue. The students will find it incredibly enjoyable and highly competitive.
2. Pelmanism Flashcards
Another popular activity with flashcards, particularly if you have a picture and corresponding text, is to play a game where you match the picture with the correct text. It is recommended that you demonstrate this activity to the learners so that they are able to pick up the rules of the activity. Basically, you get place all picture and corresponding text flashcards face down and shuffle them up. One student picks up two cards and if they pick up a picture as well as a corresponding word, then the learner will get one point. It is best to get students to keep their pair of flashcards so that they are able to count up how many points they have achieved. Young learners and adults alike enjoy this game in the classroom and is a wonderful memorisation activity. If you have a large class of students, it is best to ensure you have at least four sets of picture/word flashcards for this activity, and share one set of flashcards among a small group of two to four students. Therefore, if you have nine students, group them into three groups of three students and give each group a set of flashcards for the pelmanism game.
3. Bingo Flashcards
If you don’t have two sets of corresponding flashcards (either a set of pictures or a set of words), you can still use the one set of cards for a similar pelmanism game. I developed this bingo flashcard game with a small group of elementary learners and we were looking at hobbies and interests. I created my own set of flashcards, laminated these and then used them in the classroom to review the language from the previous lesson. We reviewed the language by drilling and checking pronunciation (similar to the first flashcard idea) and then I shuffled them all and then placed them face down nicely on the table. Then I called out one vocabulary, and one by one a student turned one card up. If the card was the one vocabulary that I called out, that student would gain a point. If it was not the vocabulary which I called out, then the student would turn the card back down and then the next student would turn up a flashcard. The turn goes round student by student. The student with the most flashcards at the end of the game wins. You could get students to play this with one set of flashcards or you could group students into small groups each with their own set of cards, you call out the corresponding word or picture and then each group try to guess the correct card. It is very similar to bingo but with flashcards.
4. Flashcard Whispers
The other day, I wanted to review vocabulary with a group of Chinese students and rather than naming the game “Chinese Whispers”, I decided to call it “Flashcard Whispers”. I would use the flashcards to prompt the word/picture and students whispered the word/picture to the front of the group and the first group to write up the word or draw the picture would gain a point for their team. It is a lively activity for students and gets them up and out of their seats during the lesson. It is best used at the end of the lesson as a review and they leave the classroom with a smile on their faces. Try it out and be creative with the points – the teams will be very competitive.
5. Student Created Flashcards
Why spend your own time making flashcards when students can be quite creative and make suitable flashcards for the classroom? One way I do this is with idiomatic language. For example, money related idioms are very visual and students could be quite creative by drawing suitable pictures for idioms. You could use these pictures to supplement or review idioms at the end of the lesson/week. If students make their own flashcards, which are then laminated, they could be used again and again. Students also have a sense to own the language that they are learning and it becomes more memorable. You could then use the student created flashcards for various games suggested above.
6. Flashcard Sentences/Questions
A really quick and easy way to get students up and about is to create sentences on each piece of card (laminating is an option) and cutting up pieces of paper. Write up a word on each piece of cut up paper, and then students have to rearrange themselves in order, so that they are able to create a sentence or question. I was introduced to this activity in the wonderful “Five-Minute Activities” which I would recommend any teacher to purchase as there are also a wonderful range of ideas for lessons. I have used this activity successfully with both adults and young learners alike. When you check, you could get students to say the sentence/question one word at a time to check understanding or whether they are correct. Students then start to recognise patterns in English and, as like the previous activity, it is more memorable for learners.
7. Pronunciation Checking Drills
A few weeks ago, I decided to create my own pronunciation flashcards for a lesson to review vowel sounds. I printed these out and then laminated the pronunciation cards. I visited Cambridge English Online Flashcard Maker and then created, printed and laminated the flashcards for use in class. In fact, this free Flashcard Maker is very useful and I would recommend this website for all your flashcard making. There are numerous pictures which you can embed in the cards, or you could draw your very own images for your flashcards. You can create flashcards at any size (A4, A5, etc) and then print out when they are ready. In fact I made these flashcards by inputting the text into the flashcard template. So give the website a try. Anyhow, once I created the phonemic vowel flashcards, I used them to elicit the corresponding sound from students as well as drill sounds – the students loved this activity. After this activity, I got students to make their very own words using the corresponding vowel sound. So a vowel sound with /e/, students could suggest: reset, bet, test, etc. It was a great activity and got them to think outside the constraints of spelling particular topics of words. We looked at the words the students created using the vowel sounds to help and it really made the students aware of their own pronunciation and how it also impacts on particular words.
8. Flashcard Hitting
When I was observing a fellow young learner teacher a few weeks back, he decided to use flashcards for his group of very young learners. I was really impressed at how much he was able to incorporate them in his lesson. One game which I particularly enjoyed was where he got two teams of students lined up and rows, with the learners facing the board. He gave each pair of students at the front of the row a folded piece of paper – much like a ruler – and then called out a word. The students then had to hit the corresponding picture. The first student to hit the correct picture, their team was awarded a point and at the end of the activity, the team with the most points won. The students rotated after each turn so all students had a chance to play the game. He obviously spent a little time sticking up the flashcards upon the whiteboard in preparation for the game but the students loved it and I could see it being adapted for teenage or adult classes.
9. The Missing Flashcard
Another memorisation game which I used in class is whereby I bring in a set of objects and students close their eyes and I remove one. One by one, the students have to remember the objects removed from the table. However, these are with physical objects and young learners really enjoy this activity. Nevertheless, you can use this with flashcards. If you stick up a set of 10-12 flashcards up on the whiteboard and draw a small border round each, you can do a similar activity. You drill all vocabulary from the flashcards with the learners and then you ask students to put their heads down on the desk. Quickly remove one flashcard and then get students to put their heads up again. Ask students which card is missing. You point to each flashcard and elicit the vocabulary and then point to the missing flashcard and hopefully students remember the missing flashcard. As more and more flashcards are removed, when you point to the blank borders on the whiteboard, the students should be able to remember the missing flashcard. When you have a blank whiteboard and you point to the non-existent flashcards, the students will then feel a sense of achievement if they are able to remember the missing flashcards. Try this activity out and is a really good 10-15 minute filler at the end of the lesson.
10. Flashcard Chunks
If you have two themes of flashcards and you would like to combine them, then this final idea might help. For example, if you have a set of pictures of sports organised for flashcard use as well as set phrases to practice the Present Perfect Continuous, then you could elicit/drill lexical chunks with all ages. Put the pictures on one side of the table and the corresponding set of time reference markers (using “since” or “for”) face down and pick up randomly a picture as well as a corresponding time marker and elicit from a student a suitable sentence. So for example, if you pick up a picture of someone ice-skating and a chunk “2006” students could create a sentence such as: “I have been ice-skating since 2006”. Check suitability with the other learners in the classroom and then drill the chunk of language with all other students. It is a useful activity to focus on a particular grammar structure and does require a little more preparation than the other flashcard lesson ideas. However, it does require a little more from the students and they will be able to find their way around the language with the required flashcard prompts. This is possibly my favourite idea and have left this for last.
These are a range of ideas you could incorporate in class and you can see that flashcards are suitable for a range of levels as well as ages. So please stop with the idea that flashcards are best suited for elementary and/or younger classes. I hope that I have inspired readers to use flashcards more creatively in their lessons and that learners enjoy the use of the flashcards. Just a few quick tips for managing flashcards:
Make flashcards large enough so students at the back of the class can see what they are.
Laminate the flashcards so that they can be reused in future lessons. It will save you time in the long run.
If you don’t have a laminator, you can Sellotape the pictures/words onto card or use a plastic envelope to protect them.
Make your own library of flashcards and keep them in either a folder or within envelopes so that they are easily accessible.
Create a magazine drop-off box in the staffroom so that teachers have ready access to a range of magazines for pictures, text, etc for flashcard making.
Finally, I leave this post with a few questions for you to consider:
How do you use flashcards in lessons?
Do you use flashcards at all with your learners?
What is your favourite activity?
Do you have an activity to share with our readers that is not mentioned here?
It was wonderful reading Sean and Sarah’s blog post on “Halloween is Coming“. They posted some wonderful pictures of their young learners getting into the spirit of Halloween – definitely worth visiting their blog to see how they are settling into Korea and their regular posts of their classroom activities. The activities that I really enjoyed seeing is getting the learners to create their own Halloween Pumpkins as well as their own personalised scary masks.
I believe arts and craft is a very under-respected activity in the classroom, possibly because the students are not necessarily taught any language points. This in itself is a very prescriptive view of language teaching, whereby teachers are expected to deliver language points. However, it is a nice refreshing change to focus on the soft skills in the classroom – getting learners to improve their cutting, sticking or colouring skills. Whenever I have incorporated any form of arts, craft or project work in the classroom, learners revert to their L1. This is another contention among language teachers, as students should be speaking English at least 100% of the time. However, when you listen to what the learners are saying, they are negotiating the task set, exploring ideas or developing opinion. It is not necessarily off-task and they are coordinating the activity to work better as a team. However, there are better ways to develop project work in the classroom to ensure some vocabulary or language is acquired during the lesson.
One activity that I enjoy including during the task is to play background music related to the theme. For example, the theme of Halloween is quite prominent at the moment so I like to include a Halloween song which I will be drilling or have drilled with students during the day. The LearnEnglish for Kids website has some wonderful songs such as the Scary Skeleton Song (refer to the link). When I was teaching a group of Colombian young learners last week, we drilled the song altogether and taught them vocabulary of the body. I drew a skeleton on the whiteboard and got learners to name parts of the body. The next lesson, I played the Skeleton Song as background music and put it on repeat. The students were quietly singing to the song – they looked very relaxed – as they focused on writing a Halloween Party Invitation.
Another activity which could be developed after the arts and craft is a presentation. For example, Sean and Sarah got their learners to create their own pumpkins. You could extend the activity by getting learners to write a diary entry of their pumpkin, name their pumpkin, present their pumpkin person to class or create an acrostic poem. An acrostic poem is where you get the letters of a word and then write extra words so “Pumpkin” could turn into:
P: piles of candy
U: under the bed
M: make for a delicious snack
I: it’s been Halloween because
N: no one is without candy
Further information about acrostic poems are available from readwritethink.org. Nevertheless, for any success with arts and craft, it is very important to prepare for the activities. Get stocked up on glue, make sure you have enough scissors, get the coloured card or paper and get the coloured pencils or crayons ready. As with anything, preparation is key and it is important that the young learners feel that they have the resources available to successfully complete their project. It will motivate them and ensure that they are enthusiastic.
So, how do you supplement arts, craft and project work with a language focus? How often do you do any form of art, craft or project work with young learners? Does your school keep a stock of handy pencils, scissors, etc in the young learner classroom or do you have to buy this? What are you doing for Halloween?
The use of video in the classroom has seemed to evolve since Cooper, Lavery and Rinvolucri’s publication on the subject in 1991 by Oxford University Press. Around that time, the internet was still underdeveloped, YouTube didn’t exist and the best one could use in the classroom was a VHS. DVDs were not commercially available until around 1994, with the consumer market starting to use DVDs nearer the later 1990s. It seems such a long time ago. These days, there are more and more digital videos being recorded using various equipment including digital video recorders, smartphones and even tablets. These videos can be accessed using the IWB, student or teacher smartphones or tablets. Furthermore, teachers, as well as students, are now able to record or take pictures and develop a video to document a particular subject – be it their learning, their experiences of living abroad or their holiday snaps. Therefore, teachers now have more creative opportunities to incorporate videos inside the language classroom and have therefore compiled my list of top ten classroom activities revolving around the use of videos. One important point to consider is for teachers to receive consent from learners as well as more senior members of staff.
10. My Music Video Jukebox
If you are teaching a group of adolescent learners, they are probably called ‘digital natives‘ (people who were born during or after the general introduction of technology and the internet), while more … umm, how shall I put it? Those teachers who have more life experience are possibly considered ‘digital immigrants‘ (people who were born before the introduction of technology and the internet). Digital immigrants are considered to have a greater knowledge and understanding of technology, while their opposite numbers are considered to have a lesser knowledge and understanding of technology. Of course this very crude and rudimentary stereotyping is probably nothing more than this – there are digital immigrants who have a greater understanding of technology than digital natives. Nevertheless, if you are teaching adolescent learners, it is possible that they watch music videos on YouTube. An activity that I like to get my adolescent learners to undertake is to choose between three to five music videos that are important to them. Both students have to agree and it doesn’t have to be English music videos.
Tell students that they are going to work with another student(s) or the whole class and they have to choose between three to five music videos which are important for them.
If you have access to school tablets such as iPads or equivalents, tell students to head over to YouTube and search for music videos which are important in their life. Provide a demonstration which is personal to your life. For example, I always grew up with Tina Turner being played when I was young and if our family were driving to somewhere, it was always “The Best”.
Give students a time limit of between ten to fifteen minutes to collate three to five music videos and search for them on YouTube. They need to give a reason why that song is important for them and let the other students have a watch of the music video.
By the end of the activity, students then have to put music videos in order of preference. Students then have to share their preferences together and explain why they like or dislike particular music videos.
Obviously monitor learners and provide the necessary language for describing preferences.
9. Clipped Students
Your typical adolescent, young adult or adult will more likely have a smartphone or tablet which they enjoy using, particularly during the lesson to refer to a dictionary or get a more immediate translation on a particular word or phrase. However, one activity you could do would allow learners a chance to use their smartphones or tablets.
Ask learners to record 2 second clips with their phones or tablets related to their day – it could be a recording of the street, a weekend trip or an object.
During the academic term or few weeks you may have them, they will start to collate a lot of 2 second clips. Make sure you have access to a laptop or computer so that you can start to save their video files for editing later.
Hopefully with all the submission of video files during the day, you will be able to create a video composition. Use basic video editing software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker and add some generic background music.
You could use the video as a presentation for the school with new students or show it as part of an end of year/term party. The students will find this incredibly motivating and fascinating to watch.
You could always share this video via YouTube.
8. Movie Advertisements
I love watching movie advertisements! It really does get me motivated for the cinema and it is likely to enthuse your learners into watching a particular movie. We all know the “play the several movie advertisements and get learners to decide which movie to watch or discuss” activity, but I always enjoy getting learners to be a bit more creative than this.
Tell learners that they are going to watch a movie trailer. Choose a well-known movie trailer that they all will know, such as “The Hobbit” or “Man of Steel“.
Tell learners that they will be watching the movie trailer twice with the audio on and that they must listen to or watch the movie trailer and write down some important information (plot, characters, actors, etc). They should make a note of this information as quickly as possible, due to having only two opportunities to do this.
Play the movie trailers and give the learners space to compare information with each other. Group learners up in pairs or small groups and tell them that they will be giving a voice-over for the movie trailer. They need to do this after preparing a script.
Monitor learners and provide help if required. The learners will be collaborating and this will help learners notice and correct errors than writing alone.
When learners are ready, get learners to give their voice-over live in the form of a presentation to the rest of the class and hopefully this activity will give learners the opportunity to practice speaking spontaneously over a short period of time.
Get learners to mark each other and provide feedback and a chance for correction at the end of the lesson.
7. The Special Student Interview
The sharing of experiences is the epitome of learning about each other and what better way to experience this in the form of a TV interview. For this activity, you need a device suitable for recording such as a smartphone, tablet or handheld video recorder and then you need to get learners to prepare the classroom suitable for a classroom interview.
Tell learners that they are going to meet a special somebody – it could be a fellow teacher, a guest or a family member – and that they are going to interview this person. In order to do this, they need to prepare questions for this person.
Give them a bit of time to prepare the questions using the “Wh-“/”H-” question forms (What, When, Where, Who, Why and How) on a piece of paper or create a template form using Word or Pages.
Monitor the learners to ensure that they are developing questions well and assist if requested. If required, offer students the chance to correct their own questions from various error correction techniques.
When students have created their questions, nominate learners ask the questions. You could always get nominated learners to record the interview and control the camera, etc.
Once the interview is complete, you then can share the interview on YouTube for additional activities – sharing with other classes or as a review.
6. What’s That Sound?
One popular activity, probably done in countless English classrooms, is to play a video without the visual element and the only input is the sound. It is a wonderful activity to incorporate during a context creating activity, particularly with young learners and are likely to engage and motivate learners with the topic.
Try to pick a video which contains a lot of sound effects. However, the use of voice could encourage learners to think about location, characters or situation.
Ask learners to try and listen to video and write up or handout some questions for them to answer (How many people? Is it indoors or outdoors? What sounds do you hear?).
Play the video a couple of times and then get learners share their answers in small groups or pairs.
After a short period, elicit some possible answers from nominated learners and board up some vocabulary or scaffold and correct learner input.
Finally, play the video to the class so that they can see what they have heard and monitor response.
This activity is really useful as a lead-in to a topic and can result in some really useful conversation in the classroom. I have included some videos below which I enjoy incorporating as a context builder.
5. What Are They Saying?
Choose a short scene with two people speaking. A video with a little emotion is preferable. This activity can really get learners to try to read other aspects of communication, such as body language, pronunciation or other non-verbal cues.
Tell learners that they are going to watch a short video clip and that they will receive a script from that scene. Handout the script to each pair or small group of learners.
Play the short video to the class a number of times. Once learners have worked on this activity and the video clip has been repeated various times, get pairs to group up with other pair of students like a pyramid activity.
Get small groups of learners to collaborate and help each other complete the script.
Finally, play the video with the sound on and get learners to compare their version of the script to the original video. It will encourage learners to listen for particular detail.
An extension to this activity could include learners acting out the scene with another partner whilst another member of the class films the scene, which could then be shared via YouTube or with another class as a demonstration tool for a similar activity.
I have included a video clip below which I have used with this activity in the past. It was a highly motivating activity for learners and does develop listening and speaking skills for learners.
4. Translating Subtitles
When I was in Korea and headed to the cinema to watch a Hollywood blockbuster, there was inevitably subtitles. If the audience was lucky enough, there was a voiceover – this being more expected with animation movies. Nevertheless, one activity that I enjoy doing is getting learners to translate subtitles into English with an English movie.
Choose an English movie and a short scene to play for students. Select the same language subtitles as your learners’ L1. For example, if your learners’ L1 is Spanish, choose the Spanish subtitles.
Play the short scene once without the audio and just the subtitles and image for learners.
Next tell learners that they are going to be translating the subtitles into English and you could either handout the subtitles on a worksheet (pre-made) or get learners to watch the movie clip and try to translate in small groups or pairs.
Once learners have translated the subtitles to the best of their ability, offer students the chance to compare their translations.
As a class, the learners have to create a final translation – so build it up like a pyramid writing activity. Check their writing and offer self-correction if necessary.
The final part of this activity is to get learners to compare their translated English subtitles to the original English subtitles for the movie clip and notice the differences in language. You could compare language or lexical phrases and it will engage the learners.
Please note that this activity is best for a monolingual group of language learners and it introduces students to the act of translating literally or by meaning.
3. Adding Subtitles
Another spin-off with the previous lesson idea is to get learners to add subtitles to various film clips. There is a really useful and interesting web-based activity for learners to undertake with the various websites below:
Bombay TV – a subtitling activity for students to complete and create their own interaction.
Bombay TV2 – an additional subtitling website for students to visit.
The websites above can really get learners to create some imaginative subtitles and then share via a student blog or on Facebook. It is quite easy and the young learners will pick it up very quickly. However, if you would like to look at a topic – giving advice or directions – you could make this activity more focused.
2. Roving Reporters
Do you teach adolescent learners? Are you finding it quite difficult to get them talking in English? One way around this is to get learners to either tell a story or the news for the day at your school. It will engage, motivate and relax learners into speaking English with their peers.
Tell students that they will be reporting the school news for the day and show some news report clips from YouTube to get them interested.
Put learners into small groups and get them to think of school reports which they could include for the news recording. Write up some examples: “Tony got married last weekend”, “It is Phillip’s birthday tomorrow!”, etc. It could also be about the learner’s lives.
Make sure that the learners write up a script for the news report and then when they are ready, they have to choose a reporter, director and cameraman/woman. Get them to do the news report until they are happy and then return back to class.
Once all groups of learners have completed their news report, you could get them hand you the recording for you to edit on a computer. Make sure it is ready to upload and share via YouTube or with a special viewing one day. You could always create a listening exercise from the students’ report.
Another variation of this is to interview famous people and the students could wear masks or just pretend to be famous people. Students write up their own questions and then the interviewee has to answer the questions on an ad hoc or improvisational basis.
1. Filming Your Lessons
You are teaching full-time and you have very little time for peer observation or reflecting on your own lessons. Do you want to become more aware of how and what you are teaching in the classroom? You could always setup a camera at the corner of the room and then film your lesson for reviewing at a later date.
Check that the students and senior staff are happy for them to be filmed prior to recording – official consent is recommended.
Charge up the video camera before walking in and make sure that everything is connected. You maybe able to connect the camera up to a power socket during the day.
Prepare your lessons, film the class and then watch.
You could always edit the recording and then upload to YouTube. I have included an example below for a lesson that I recorded a number of years ago.