Number one for English language teachers

Minimal resources: Coursebooks

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

Exhausted every last idea from your coursebook and in search of new material? Think again! Miles Craven helps us wring every last teaching idea from your faithful coursebook.

Starter level

Speech bubbles: speaking

  • For lower-level students, choose a picture in their coursebook (or magazines - choose famous stars) that has several people in and have them think about what each person is saying.
  • This could be as simple as What’s your name? or How are you? but encourage students to be as creative as they can.
  • Give them time to think of their ideas, then tell them to write what they think each person is saying in a speech bubble on the picture.
  • Finally, put students into groups to practise the conversations they have made.

Pictionary: speaking

This is a good game to review vocabulary that students have covered in class, such as household objects, animals, jobs, food, sports, etc.

  • First, make a list of twelve or fifteen words that you want to review.
  • Then draw a line down the middle of the board to split it into two sections.
  • Divide the class into two teams and explain that one person from each team must come to the board and draw a word that you give them.
  • Explain that the students in their team must correctly guess the word.
  • When their teammates have correctly guessed the word, they should sit down and another person from their team should come to the board and draw the next word.
  • Explain that they have to guess as many words as they can in the time available.
  • The team with the most number of correct guesses at the end is the winner.
  • Tell each team to elect one person to go first. Give them each a different word from your list to draw and begin the game!

Elementary level

Describe the picture: speaking

  • Choose an interesting photograph or illustration from your course book and put students into pairs to describe what they can see. You might want students to concentrate on using a target structure you have recently covered. For example, an elementary class might review the present continuous by saying what each person in a picture is doing. She is sitting on a chair/He is speaking on the phone, etc.
  • You could turn this into a game by putting students into groups of three or four and having one student ask a question (e.g. What is she doing?/Who is speaking on the phone? etc.) while the other students compete to be the first to answer. Students gets one point for each correct answer. The winner is the person at the end of the game with the most points.
  • Alternatively, choose a picture that allows them to recycle the vocabulary they have covered in the class, such as clothes, adjectives appearance and character, etc. He looks shy, I think she’s very intelligent.

Describe the picture: writing

  • Tell students to find an interesting photograph or illustration in their coursebook and to write a few sentences to describe what they can see.
  • Monitor and provide help as necessary. When they finish, put students into small groups and tell them show their picture while they read aloud their sentences.
  • You may wish to make this more challenging by telling students to include three factual errors. For example by writing The man is wearing a blue shirt when the shirt is actually white. As they read their sentences their partners must listen carefully to identify the three errors.
  • Note: You might want to include useful language for describing a picture, such as In the foreground/background, on the left/right, in the middle, I think it may/might be…because…, etc.

Intermediate level

Story building: speaking

  • Choose an interesting picture from the coursebook that includes some people and put students into groups to talk about it.
  • Tell them to choose one person in the picture and to think in detail about them; they should decide on the person’s name, age, job, what they are saying or thinking, where they are going, why, who they are going to see, etc.
  • Encourage students to build up as big a story as possible using the picture as a prompt.
  • Explain they have to remember all the details as they cannot make notes.
  • When students are ready, mix the groups and tell each student to say who they chose and then talk about the story they made up about them.

Vocabulary definitions: vocabulary

  • Put students into pairs with one person in each pair facing away from the board so they cannot see what you are writing.
  • Write on the board about ten words that you want to review from work previously done in class.
  • Tell the students facing the board to choose a word and describe it to their partner.
  • Give them a time limit and tell them to record how many words their partner can guess.
  • When they finish, have students swap chairs and repeat the activity with a different list of words.

Grammar mime: grammar

You can review grammar structures such as the past simple and past continuous through simple mime, by making a story.

  • Write Last night on the board and then mime to the class what you did (watched television, ate dinner, etc).
  • Have the class call out what you did as you mime each action. When you finish, repeat the mime with students all calling out what you did. Then put students into groups to do the same.
  • Encourage them to think up their own original stories and mime them to their classmates.

Vocabulary mime: vocabulary

You can use mime to review certain vocabulary sets, such as sport, jobs, character adjectives, etc.

  • Begin by putting students into groups to make a list of as many words as they can connected to each vocabulary set you want to review.
  • Have the group with the most words write their list on the board. Check spelling and add any additional words, then model the pronunciation and have the class repeat after you.
  • Then choose one word from the board and mime it to the class. For example, pretend to play tennis, be a doctor, be miserable, etc.
  • Encourage students to call out the word you are miming. Mime a few more as examples and then put students into groups to do the same.

Upper-intermediate level

Link the pictures: speaking

  • Tell students to turn to a page in their coursebooks that has several pictures and to try to think of a situation to connect all the pictures.
  • Tell them to build up a story with as much detail as they can. Then tell each group that they must prepare a role play of their story to the class.
  • Give them time to decide their roles and what each of them says, then tell them to perform their role play.

Good for any level

How many … can you find?

A good way to revise grammar is to choose a text from the coursebook and tell students to count the number of times they can see a certain structure. For example, ask How many examples of the past simple can you find? or How many irregular verbs are there? You can also focus on word forms this way, by asking How many adjectives/adverbs are there? etc.


Spelling check

  • Choose ten new words that students have recently covered from a unit in the coursebook.
  • Write them at random on the board.
  • Give students one minute to memorize them, then erase the words from the board and tell students to write down every word they remember.
  • Have volunteers come to the board and write the words. Then tell students to turn to the unit where you took the words from and to find each word and check the spelling themselves.
  • Finally, practise pronunciation and review the meaning of each word.
  • As a variation, rather than choose the words for this activity yourself you could tell the students to look through a unit and make a list of words themselves that they think are difficult to spell. When they finish, have them dictate their list to a partner.

Word jumble

  • Choose ten words that you want to review and write them on the board but with the letters jumbled up. For example, jantosirlu (journalist), roeevrttx (extrovert), etc.
  • Tell students to unscramble the words as quickly as they can. Then have them look through a unit they have completed and choose five words to jumble for their partner.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It can be used with all coursebooks. Thank you. Natalia

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