Number one for English language teachers

Imaginative materials: Receipts

Type: Teaching notes

Do you keep your receipts? Jim Scrivener presents some innovative ideas for using these in the classroom, including role-plays, crime-solving and guessing games!


Receipts and tickets

In everyday life we often collect a lot of receipts (from shops, cafes etc.) and tickets (from buses, trams etc.) many of which are computerised and contain information about what was bought, when it was paid for and so on. Here are some ideas for using these simple items in class. 

Receipt roleplays

When setting up a shop roleplay, instead of using character cards, hand each pair of students a shop receipt and ask them to work out a conversation involving it. (e.g. about buying something, querying a price, complaining, asking for a refund etc.). This small piece of realia can help to focus the roleplay, making it more realistic and less generalised

Receipt psychology

Collect together about ten varied receipts and tickets, arrange them on a page and make photocopies. Tell students that the police found a bag with these receipts at a crime scene and have asked your class to give some advice about the criminal's character, interests and lifestyle. Give the handouts to small groups.  Ask them to study the items and make speculations about the person who bought the items (e.g. "He / She bought cigarettes so is probably a smoker" or  "He / She only bought small quantities of food so maybe lives alone" etc.).

Alibi challenge

(Follow-on activity to "Receipt Psychology") Tell your class that the police have now arrested the person who owns that bag. However - he says he isn't guilty! Prepare a text that contains his statement. In most cases the statement text should reflect information in the receipts - but add in two or three items that contradict the receipts (e.g. the suspect says he went into town at 3.30 but the bus ticket says 2.40). Students should read the text to see if they can find these discrepancies in his story.

A (receipted) day in my life

Collect together all the receipts and tickets you receive in one day (e.g. for train tickets, coffee at a café, a DVD etc.) and make overhead transparencies of them. Explain to students that they will see all these receipts in the order you got them. First of all they should just make notes about items, times, prices etc. Use an OHP to project the receipts one by one while students write. At the end, ask students to compare notes in small groups and then write a short text describing what they think happened in your day yesterday (e.g. As soon as Mary got into town she went to have a quick breakfast at Dimarco's café. It was a lovely warm croissant with a Latte.)

Modal receipts

Ask five students to bring in one receipt or ticket from the past week. Photocopy these and show them to the class (but don't say whose each one is). Invite speculation e.g. "That must be Paula's because she loves chocolate", "The train ticket could be Sergei's or Satomi's because they both live out of town", "The MP3 player must be Kirsty's new one."

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