Apr 10, 2011

Icebreaker: Find your pair!

This activity is particularly useful for the first day of classes, when the students still don't know each other. However, I've found different ways to make variations in order to use them at anytime.

Level: All
Materials: (Depending on the level) pieces of paper containing matching information / paper cuts 
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any - Personal Information/Making questions and answering them. 
Prep time: 10-30 minutes (according to  the level of the class and the topic/method chosen.

I love this activity, since you can adapt it in 1000 different ways depending on the age and level of students in your class. The idea of this all is to get students mixed and allow them to talk to each other and probably get to make new friends within the class. This game, unlike most of what I post here, takes a bit of preparation time at home but on the bright side, you get to be creative!!  :)
So, at home pick a topic depending of the age of the group you're working with. It can be anything. You need to divide the information in two and write it in separate pieces of paper. The amount and level of information provided varies according to the proficiency level of the class. 

Elementary Level:
For young kids who can't read I suggest bringing matching pictures like an apple and the apple tree, a flower and the flowerpot, all depending on the vocabulary you wanna use. 
Also, for young kids who can read, you can write the word on one piece of paper and bring the matching paper cut.
Colors: Write the name of a color in one piece of paper and paint a circle of that color in another.
Objects: Write the name of an object in one paper and stick a picture of the object in the another.
Celebrities: Write the name of a celebrity in one piece of paper and his/her personal information (age, nationality, job, etc.) on another.
Sports: Choose the name of a sport and write in on one piece of paper and then the necessary equipment or the rules of that sport in another.
Emotions: Write the name of an emotion in one piece of paper and its description on another.
Phrasal Verbs: Write a phrasal verb and it's definition on different pieces of paper.

You'll need two baskets or bags to separate the pieces of paper into A and B. Then, you'll divide the class in half. If there's an odd number of students, just have one of them take two pieces of paper. Half of the students will get a piece of paper from basket A and half of the students will get it from basket B. (You could also do it all at once, but for some reason I think that way makes it more disorganized). After everybody has one piece of paper, you are going to explain that after the sign, they will mix and each student will try to find their pair in the other team. Once they did, they are going to introduce themselves and exchange basic information (You can provide basic questions on the board, as a guide). Little kids and groups with a very elementary level can skip this step. As a wrap up for the class, and depending on the number of students you can have each pair come to the front and have each student introduce his/her classmate, or select two or three pairs at random and ask them to do the same.
As I mentioned before, there're thousands of ways to modify this activity to suit your needs. So find your way, and try it too!

Enjoy! XOXO

Game: Guess what I'm thinking!

This is a good way to review vocabulary at the end of a unit, or even when reviewing for final exams at the end of the year. The more vocabulary categories you include, the more fun and interesting the game becomes.

Level: All
Materials: Board
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any/Making correct answers to find out specific information.
Prep time: None.

Write on the board 3 or 4 categories of vocabulary that you've been working on with the class. For example: school objects, clothes, food; or if your working with parts of the house you can write: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, etc. If necessary, make students name some objects before the game starts, this will be a good way to motivate them for the activity.  Pick a student at random and ask him to choose on object belonging to any of the categories you wrote on the board. Make sure you tell him NOT to say it out loud. Then tell the class that their job is to find out what object this one student has in mind, and they can do so by asking yes/no questions. I suggest that you establish some kind of questions hierarchy to make sure the activity doesn't end in a heartbeat and there's some kind of order. I prompt them to ask in this order: size, form, weight, color, uses, and then category. I also try to avoid questions like: Is it a food? or Is it a school object?. Instead, I insist that they produce questions like: Can you eat it? Is it sweet? Do you use it at school? It just allows students to think outside the box and shows them they can obtain the same information in different ways. Try to leave specific information for the end, otherwise the amount of questions the students are likely to produce will be limited. The student who can guess the object, gets to pick the word next, and the game is repeated.


  • Depending on the level of the class the questions can be more specific or advanced. It's possible to use this activity with any group, you just need to be creative.
  • To add some emotion to the activity, try separating the class into two groups and let them compete.
  • If you think necessary, make students write their word of choice in a piece of paper, to avoid confusions, lies, etc. (especially for team competition).
Hope it works for you!

Apr 7, 2011

Game: Let me be your eyes

This is one of my favorite games because I've tried it with different groups and it's always interesting to see how the outcome depends not only on the good performance of students but also on how each mind works. Sometimes I use the same picture with 4 different groups and I never get the same result. A great way to practice speaking and having fun at the same time!

Level: Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate, Advanced.
Materials: Pictures of people doing different things (the highest the level of the group, the more detailed the pictures can be), a board or a piece of paper and a pencil (I recommend the board, since it's more fun).
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any/Detailed description of pictures using correct structures and vocabulary. 
Prep time: 20 min.

This activity works best with small groups of students, since it's easier to keep them focused on the game. From the crowd, you are going to choose and "artist" and tell him he'll be the one in charge to draw a picture according to the description that will be provided by the rest of the class. The artist will come to the board, his back to the rest of the class. You will show a picture to the class and ask students to describe it, one at a time. Prompt them to go from the general to the particular details, and to be as specific as possible:

This is a picture about a park. It's sunny. There are 5 trees on the right and a bush on the left. Next to the bush there is a girl jumping rope. She is wearing glasses and a dress. Her hair is long. She looks happy. Etc.

It's important to specify that students are not allowed to correct the artist when he's making a mistake. Also, the artist can't ask questions to check if he's doing good. Instead, tell him to ask for repetitions or more specific information. At the end of the game, the whole class gets to compare the pictures and the artist can finally see the picture he was supposed to reproduce. It will be fun to see how each student interprets the picture descriptions.

Enjoy! XO

Game: Freeze!

This is a particularly useful activity to practice the Present or Past Continuous and most students tend to find it really fun, since they get to do some acting.

Level: Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate.
Materials: Little pieces of paper with verbs in an envelope(Choose verbs that students can act)
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any/Correct production of sentences in the Present/Past Continuous tense.
Prep time: 5-10 min.

The best way to play this game is to divide the class in two teams and then ask one of the teams to send a representative, an actor, to the front of the class. This student will pick one of the pieces of paper and read it to find out what verb he's going to have to act out. After that, you ask the opposite team to close their eyes, while the student performs the action. Each team gets to watch their own actors perform, since that's what makes it interesting and fun for them. After the student has acted for 10-15 seconds (and his team has laughed a bit) you claim: Freeze!! and the student needs to freeze in whatever position he was. Now, the opposite group is gets to open their eyes and to guess what action the student was performing. It's interesting to keep a separate envelope for verbs that can be performed as a group and call 3 or 4 students at once to the front of the class, just for a bit of a change. 

He's eating spaghetti.                                      He was eating spaghetti.
They are singing in a choir.                           They were singing in a choir.

Suggested verbs: 
Ride a motorcycle, clean a window, dance ballet, skateboard, surf, write a letter, cut down a tree, hunt deer, chop an onion, jump rope, etc.
For the group actions: Row a boat, sing in a choir, play ping-pong, ride a double bike, play a rock song (band style), jump rope (+3 people), etc.

Note: Instead of using pieces of paper, you can whisper the verbs to the actors, so that you don't need to prepare the pieces of paper. Also, make sure you choose verbs that are fun to perform and try to be specific, i.e. instead of using 'eating', try: 'eating a hamburger', to add some spice to the game.

Have fun! XO

Apr 6, 2011

Game: Don't say yes, don't say no!

This is a particularly useful activity for those times when we have 10 or 15 minutes left in class and we've finished the lesson plan. Also it's a great way to review grammar, when we've been working with different tenses.

Level: Any.
Materials: None / A ball can be used for a fun variation.
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any/Correct identification of tense and correspondence of question and answer.
Prep time: None

Depending on the age of students, it sometimes takes a little time for them to get used to the dynamics of the game. This is basically a question/answer activity. Before the activity starts, make sure you tell your students that the only rule for this game is that they are not allowed to answer yes or no. Then ask random yes/no questions to the class, one student at the time. (You can point to the student to whom the question is directed or to make it more fun, throw a ball at him). Students need to answer the question using an affirmative or negative sentence that is coherent and provides the necessary information that was requested. You may need to provide some examples beforehand to make sure students understand the assignment thoroughly. Maybe you can write some questions on the board and make them ask you. Make sure you use fun questions to motivate students.

Do you eat ice cream for breakfast? Unfortunately, this is not heaven yet.
Are you wearing a wig? I have always had funny hair.
Have you ever been to the moon? Europe is as far as I've ever been.
Can you swim? I can swim like a fish.

Note: The more creative students are, the better the game works, since some of them can come up with really interesting answers.

I really hope you try this in class. Enjoy! XO