Number one for English language teachers

Minimal resources: Simple activities

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

These simple activities use minimal resources and can be used in any part of a lesson. They are easy to adapt (according to the class level and language point being taught) and can be used with other activities to form a full lesson, or as a 'filler' if you have some extra time left over.  

Jumbled Q & A

  • The teacher dictates or writes up some jumbled sentences, e.g. film/last/was/'Lord of the Rings'/saw/I/the 
  • Students then have to order the words into sentences (The last film I saw was 'Lord of the Rings').
  • Students then transform the sentences into questions (What was the last film you saw?).
  • In pairs or groups of three, students ask each other the questions and report the answers to the class.

Mixed-up dialogue

  • The teacher dictates some related sentences, e.g. 1. Did you like it? 2. What was the last film you saw? etc.
  • Students then order the sentences into a dialogue.
  • Students practise reading the dialogue aloud in pairs.
  • Students then have a similar dialogue with another student but make it true for themselves.

What's the question?

  • The teacher reads out some questions, e.g. Where were you born? When did you start school?
  • Students individually write the answers that are true for themselves (they do NOT write the questions).
  • The students then work in pairs to reconstruct the questions from memory and then ask each other (and the teacher).
  • Students report their answers to the class and/or write a short text about the person they have been talking to.

Disappearing story

  • Read the class a very short poem or joke (there are some examples in Uncovering Grammar, Task Sheet 5 http://www.macmillanenglish.com/products/uncovering-grammar-new-edition/)
  • Working in pairs or small groups the students try to reconstruct the story from memory – you may need to read it more than once.
  • Choose a student to write the text on to the board, with the help of the rest of the class. Read the text one more time, then make any necessary changes to the text on the board.
  • Ask the class to suggest a word, or a sequence of up to three words, that could be removed from the text; the student at the board rubs these words out. Continue doing this until there is only one word left on the board. (This 'Disappearing story' idea comes from Mario Rinvolucri).

Topic words

  • The teacher writes up the first letter of between six and ten theme-related words that have come up in previous lessons e.g. a____ c_____ ,etc.
  • The teacher then reads out definitions of these mystery words, e.g: The space at the top of a house where you keep old things (attic) The part of a room that is above your head (ceiling)
  • Students complete as many of the words as they can, check in pairs, and then the teacher checks with the whole class.
  • Students use as many of the completed words as possible to write a short text, e.g. a description of a house.
  • Students write four or five comprehension questions for their texts, then exchange them with another student, who reads the text and writes the answers to the questions. Completed answers are then checked.

Interview the teacher

  • The teacher asks individual students some informal questions around a theme, such as: What have you been doing recently? Did you watch X programme on TV last night? etc.
  • Or, if it is the first time with a new class, these can be personal information questions, such as: Where do you work? What did you study? etc.
  • Next, the students are told that they will ask the teacher the same questions, but first they have to prepare the questions, working in pairs. The questions are put on the board, and corrected if necessary.
  • The students ask the teacher the questions, taking notes.
  • Working together, students write a short text about the teacher, based on the teacher’s answers. The teacher monitors and corrects the texts where necessary.
  • Students then ask each other the same questions, in pairs, and write short texts about each other.

What's the story? 

  • The teacher draws four or five pictures on the board – they don’t have to be artistic, in fact the rougher the better! The students have to work out what the pictures represent by asking questions, for example: Is the first picture a cat? etc.
  • The teacher tells the class that the pictures form a story (or joke). By asking only yes/no questions about the pictures, the class has to work out what the story was.
  • Working together, students then write the story.
  • If students have similar stories of their own, they can be invited to share them with the class.
  • Note: Ghost stories, urban legends, or 'quirky' stories from the internet are good for this. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Thanks Betty, let us know how you get on!

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  • very useful. thanks for sharing

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