Jun 20, 2011

A twist to the Conventional 'Tic-tac-toe'

If you've taught ESL long enough, I'm sure you have used the 'Tic-tac-toe' game to review vocabulary, irregular verbs in the past tense, phrasal verbs and many other topics. This is probably the most cliche game when it comes to the ESL classroom. However, I'd like to make a suggestion for you to be able to use this game for anything. And I really DO mean ANYTHING!!!

Lately, I've used this game to review units from the book. You know how every unit in coursebooks is filled with different topics and contents that students need to learn? Well, I found a good way to check how much they knew about these by playing tic-tac-toe. What I'd do is to set up a tic-tac-toe grill containing key words from the unit in each space. For example, one of our books presented the topic: Jobs and Hobbies and we reviewed using the following chart:
Even when the words seem a little unrelated, we had studied all of these and students had enough information in their books to provide a description of the job/activity and the necessary skills and/or equipment needed to succeed in each of them. So, I would play with a small class divided in two groups. Each group would pick a topic, taking turns and in order to get their cross or nought in the spaces they selected, they are required to provide general information about the topic. I'd set a minimum of sentences according to the number of students in each group. They are all required to participate with at least one sentence related to the topic and using vocabulary and structures from the coursebook. Giving the students the opportunity to speak freely, allow them to be creative and you might get surprised to hear the sentences they are able to produce.
A different option that I LOVED to review grammar, was this amazing grill I found at etimag.com.ar, one of my favorite websites  :) It's an E-magazine that provides creative ideas and printables to use in class. Check it out! You're gonna love it too! 
As I said before, you can use this game for pretty much anything. And even if it's a very simple one, it helps create a different atmosphere and students forget that they are actually reviewing and learn while having fun. :)

Enjoy! XO

Jun 18, 2011

Tell me what they did

This is a very simple activity I've come up with in one of my many attempts to make my classes with teenagers more dynamic and interesting. In this case, I was working with Past Simple and I was looking for a creative way to review irregular verbs so I thought this would be a good way. I would recommend this to be used with small groups, unless the whole class is able to respectfully listen to their classmates for a considerable time. Otherwise, things may get complicated.

Level: Elementary/Intermediate
Materials: Little pieces of paper
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Everyday life/Irregular Verbs in the Past Tense
Prep time: 2-3 min to cut the pieces of paper.

First off, the teacher will give each student 5-6 pieces of paper and ask them to think about what they did last weekend. Students will pick 5-6 activities they did the previous weekend and write the verbs (in the infinitive form) in the pieces of paper. After that, they will pair up and exchange papers. The task will be to talk about their classmates weekend, so the teacher will give them a few minutes to put those in order and prepare their speech. After that, students will use the verbs they have been provided to talk about their partner's weekend. The interesting part is that they will only have a few verbs and it's up to their imagination to make it a good story.  
The information in the papers shouldn't be too accurate. In fact, it's better if they only receive random information, since they will have to 'fill in the blanks'. For example:

  • work
  • play
  • get up
  • drink
  • sing
Students will have to decide what their classmates worked on, what they drank, what and where they sang, and it can end up being a great story! The more creative students are, the funnier and more interesting their stories will turn out. At the very end and as a closure, students can decide on who told the best one.


  • In case you want to use it to review the Present Simple tense, students can be asked to write verbs they perform on a regular basis and their classmates will try to tell how a day in their partner's life is. 

Good Luck, XO

Jun 15, 2011

Using the imagination

When working with intermediate to advanced levels, it's always useful to have in mind a list of imaginary situations that would work great as prompts for speaking. I find these really useful, since the same ol' activities tend to bore me easily.

Some ideas I'd like to share:
  • Imagine you are interviewing your favorite singer/actor. What 5 questions would you ask him/her? You may wanna consider his past work, his future plans, the effect of his career on his personal life, etc.
  • Imagine you are having a party next weekend. Explain how it would be. Remember to mention: place where it'd be, guests, entertainment, music, food and drink.
  • What would you change in school to make it more fun?
  • Imagine your parents gave you permission to redecorate your room. What would you change?
  • Imagine your best friend is having a huge party in his honor and you are asked to tell the story of how you both met. What would you say?
  • Imagine you won a trip for you and 2 more friends to any part of the world you choose. Where would you go and what would you do?
  • What could've made your weekend a perfect one?
  • If you were to become a singer, what style of music would you make? Who would you look up to? How would your life be different?
Any other ideas?

Memory Game

Memory games; I've come to realize; are particularly exciting for younger kids. Also, teens can respond pretty well to them if we motivate them properly. So I would suggest this idea for all ages and levels.
Sometimes, we work too hard to create a completely language centered activity from scratch, and we forget to use the tools we already have to make our class interesting. For my class, I decided to use this very nice set of memory cards I had and add my "language touch" to the game. Let me tell you how.

Level: All
Materials: A set of match cards
Target Vocabulary/Grammar: Any.
Prep time: None.

Select some cards from the set (like 10 pairs), so that the game wouldn't last forever - it's always better to add a couple of pairs than not being able to finish the game. Set the cards on the table or floor, wherever you are more comfortable playing and have students gather around them. 
Students will take turns to pick a pair of cards to find a match. Every time they do, even when there is not a match, they are requested to perform a task. For example,  I tried this with 7-9 year olds and the topic of review was spelling. I had numbers match cards, which in my case was perfect since they had worked with numbers the month before. So, if they didn't find a match, they were still requested to pick one of the numbers and spell it out. The rest of the class also had a task. They were the "Spelling Judges", so in that way I managed to keep them focused on the activity. 
When a student does get a match, then he'll be asked to perform a task that involves a greater effort in order to keep the cards. In my case, I would make them spell the number in the card and the one after and before. There are plenty of options as long as you use your imagination.
In this way, you can turn a simple matching/memory game, into a successful language activity.

Some options I suggest:

  • For colors: Use color matching cards and have students say the colors and provide 3 or 4 objects that are that color if they find a match.
  • For tenses: Using verbs matching cards you can ask students to provide their meaning. In case of a match, have students make a sentence in a certain tense using the verb in the cards.
  • For reviewing the past tense of irregular verbs: Prepare matching cards with the infinitive form of the verb and have students provide the past when they pick the card. In case of a match you can ask them to also make a sentence with the verb.
  • For phrasal verbs: Use matching cards containing phrasal verbs and have students explain the meaning of each and provide correct sentences in case of a match.
  • For vocabulary: Use matching pictures or words and have students say words related to the topic (word or picture). Eg: To review food: Breakfast, Dinner, Dessert, Lunch, Fruit, Vegetables, Candy, Drinks, Snacks, etc.
You can create your own memory cards and print them for free here.
I hope you try this and if you come up with a creative idea, please share!

Enjoy, XO