One activity, multiple tasks (PARK Conference 2021)

On Saturday 6th November 2021, I went to my first face-to-face conference since before the pandemic started. It was a strange experience, but a wonderful one too – I wrote about it here, including information about the sessions I attended. (Link will be added within a few days of the conference!)

The fantastic view of Brno from my hotel window – looking over the Cabbage Market, with the towers representing (left-right) Petrov (Cathedral), Spilberk Castle, Domincan church and the Old Town Hall

I ran a session which I’d last run in pre-pandemic times, based on the task ‘One activity, multiple tasks’ from ELT Playbook 1.

The aim of the session is to take a single activity from published material and come up with as many different ways of varying the set-up or exploiting it as possible. It helps teachers to exercise their creativity and (hopefully) to reduce their planning time. It should also introduce them to a few extra activities to add to their toolkit.

The material we used was page 146 of English File 3rd edition Teacher’s Book Intermediate Plus. It is designed to revise future forms, like this:

  1. A   Mum! I’ve dropped my ice cream!
    B   It’s OK, don’t worry – I’ll get / I’m getting you a new one!
  2. A   I’m freezing!
    B   Shall I turn on / Will I turn on the heating?

…and so on. There are 12 mini dialogues like this, each with two options to choose from – students can also tick if both are possible. At the bottom of the page is an ‘activation’ activity, where students write two mini-dialogues, one with will and one with going to

This is my slightly updated list of ways to exploit this page, with suggestions for how to tweak some activities to make them online-friendly:

  • Remove the options.
  • Mini whiteboards.
  • I say A to the group, they predict B. Then in pairs.
  • Gallery walk (one copy of each question stuck up around the room)/Online = send one question to each student/have them in white on a doc, they highlight only their question
  • Evil memorisation (one of my favourite activities, learnt from Olga Stolbova) – the third activity in this blogpost
  • Say all the sentences as quickly as possible (AQAP on my lesson plans!)
  • Banana sentences (replace the key words with ‘banana’ for partner to guess)
  • Extend the conversations (what was said before/after)
  • Decide who/where/when/why it was said (by)
  • Take the ‘wrong’ answer and create a context where it would be right
  • Back translation/Translation mingle (students translate one conversation into L1, noting the English original elsewhere. They show other students the L1 to be translated.)
  • One group does 1-6/odd sentences. The other does 7-12/even sentences. Give them the answers for the other half. They check with each other.
  • Say them with different intonation/voices to create different meanings/situations.
  • Remember as many conversations as you can with your partner. Lots of variations for this: freestyle (no prompts), with A/B as a prompt, with (own/sketched/teacher-generated) pictures as prompts…
  • Hot seat/Backs to the board with a picture prompt for student looking at the board to say sentence A, person with back to the board says sentence B in response (Online = Pic prompts only)
  • Board race. Again, lots of variations: list as many sentences/conversations as possible on the whiteboard/in the chat; teacher/a student says A, teams write B; combine with ideas above like banana sentences…
  • Teacher says first half of the sentence, pausing at a convenient point. Students say second half. Then in pairs. e.g. “Shall I…” “…turn on the heating?”
  • Students have A sentences. They write their own Bs on separate pieces of scrap paper, then mix them up. Online = mix in a doc. Another pair tries to match the As and Bs together.
  • Change A to the opposite/a slightly different phrase. What’s an appropriate B? e.g. “I’m boiling!”

These were the ideas from the audience, collected via Mentimeter:

By the way, to celebrate being able to go to a face-to-face conference, there’s 10% off the Smashwords (affiliate link) ebook price for ELT Playbook 1 on November 6th and 7th 2021 – the code you need is VX68T.

Thanks to all of the people I’ve stolen those ideas from over the years 🙂

Let me know if you try out the brainstorming activity, the session, or any of the other tasks from ELT Playbook 1. I’d love to know how they work for you!

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