Miles Craven provides some fun and valuable ideas for teaching intermediate and above students with minimal resources.

1. Yes/no (speaking)

This is a popular, fast-paced question and answer game.

  • Have a volunteer come to the front of the class and sit in a chair facing the rest of the students.
  • Explain that the class must ask as many questions as possible in a time limit of one minute.
  • The volunteer must answer each question truthfully but avoid saying the words Yes or No. If they say Yes or No in reply to a question, they lose and are replaced by another volunteer.
  • You may wish to demonstrate the activity first by asking for a volunteer and questioning them yourself. Try to ask questions that naturally expect a Yes or No answer. Question tags are good for this: You’re Spanish, aren’t you?
  • Also, repeating back their answer with rising intonation as if asking for clarification is a good trick:
A: What nationality are you?
B: Spanish
A: Spanish?
B: Yes … Ah!

This can be great fun, but remember to keep the pace as fast as possible. It’s a good revision activity for various tenses (present simple/past simple, etc), question tags and practising intonation.

2. Whisper, whisper (speaking/grammar)

This simple activity is a nice way to review reported speech.

  • Put students into groups of three and tell student A to whisper a sentence to student B. Student B must then tell student C what student A said, using reported speech.
  • Student C then whispers a new sentence to Student A, and so the game continues.

3. We’ve got so much in common (speaking)

This is a handy ‘getting-to-know-you’ activity you might wish to use with a new class.

  • Put students into pairs and tell them to ask and answer questions to find three things that they have in common with each other. You might wish to write a few ideas on the board, such as What’s your star sign? What’s your favourite food?, etc.
  • When each pair of students has found three things they have in common, tell them to stand up and tell the class what those three things are.
  • You can then mix the class again by telling students to find a new partner who they have something in common with.

4. Party time (speaking/vocabulary)

  • Brainstorm adjectives of character (shy, generous, etc) and write as many as students can think of on the board.
  • Then tell each student to choose one of the adjectives of character from the board. Explain to students that they are all at a party and that they must mingle and chat to each other in the role of their character adjective.
  • Explain that they must pretend to have that character, but that they must not say what the adjective is.
  • Have students write the name of each student in the class on a piece of paper. Tell them to start mingling and explain that they should try to speak to everyone and identify the character adjective they are representing.
  • When they think they know what adjective the person they are speaking to is trying to express, they should write it next to their name and move on to speak to someone else.
  • At the end of the game, tell students to sit down and then call out the name of each person in the class and ask students to say the adjective they thought that person was trying to represent.

5. If … (writing/speaking)

  • Give students two or three strips of paper each and tell them to write the beginning part of a second conditional sentence on each strip.
  • Write a few examples on the board to give them some ideas, such as: ‘If I was a bird …’, ‘If I went to Rome …’
  • Make sure students only write the beginning part of the sentence. When they have finished collect all the strips of paper and mix them.
  • Put students into small groups and divide the strips of paper between each group.
  • Place the strips of paper face down on the desk in front of the students.
  • Tell students to take turns choosing a strip of paper, turning it over and reading what it says.
  • Explain they must finish the sentence. Demonstrate this activity by using the examples on the board: ‘If I was a bird, I’d fly around the world’, ‘If I went to Rome, I’d visit the Vatican Museum.’
  • When students have finished, tell groups to swap their strips of paper and continue the activity.
  • You may wish to monitor and make notes of any errors students make. At the end, read out the incorrect sentences and have the class listen and correct any mistakes they hear.

6. Soap opera drama (speaking)

  • Choose a famous soap opera that all your students know.
  • Tell them to list six of the most famous characters and have them explain to you the personality and profile of each one.
  • Then divide the class into groups of six and tell each student to choose a different character.
  • Explain they must prepare a scene from the next episode of the soap opera!
  • Tell them that the scene should include all the characters and give them time to prepare their ideas.
  • When students are ready, have each group come to the front of the class and perform their role-play.
  • For each role-play award up to five points for each of the following categories: level of interest, level of acting, accuracy of language, pronunciation.
  • The winner is the group with the most points.

7. Mini presentations (speaking)

  • Tell students to individually make a list of three things they are interested in (e.g. a hobby or sport they have, etc).
  • Give them time to make their list, then put them into groups to exchange their ideas.
  • Tell students to choose one of the three topics on their list and prepare a one-minute presentation.
  • When they are ready, have each student come to the front of the class to give their presentation.
  • Give your feedback to each student before announcing the winner. Alternatively, the class could vote on the winner.

8. Chain story (listening/speaking/writing)

  • Tell students to sit in a large circle.
  • Explain they have to tell a story, each taking turns to add a sentence as the story goes around the class in a circle.
  • Begin the story yourself, with something like: ‘It was a dark, stormy night when suddenly Jennifer heard a noise at the door.’
  • The student on your left should then continue the story, adding the next sentence.
  • The student on their left should then add the next sentence, and so on until the story has gone around the whole class.
  • When the last student has concluded the story, say your first sentence again and have students each repeat their part of the story as it goes around the class once more to help them remember.
  • Finally, put students into pairs and tell them to write the story. Monitor and help with grammar and spelling.