One of the early lessons with any group of beginners is the alphabet one. You know, the one where you teach them the song and they recite it back to you beautifully…
…but forever afterwards they have to go through the whole alphabet to work out what letter they need next, and there’s a bit of a mush in the middle because L-M-N-O-P is too fast and they can’t hear it.
I can’t remember the last time I taught that one.
Instead, I approach it as an exercise in de-confusing, not with the aim of teaching the alphabet, but of teaching the letters, so that students can spell and understand spellings. Today with my beginner teens it worked better than ever before, in part because they were teens and in part because we were on Zoom 🙂
Caveat: there are only 4 students, and I speak enough Polish to be able to justify what I’m doing with them sometimes.
I started by showing them the alphabet in the book. Cue rolling eyes and one kid saying ‘No’ loudly and repeatedly. Another kid started to immediately recite the song, so I got them to try that first. Two knew the song perfectly, one had the L-M-N-O-P problem, and the fourth one is generally pretty shy and said she didn’t know it at all.
I told them that was great because now I knew what was a problem. One of them said “No problem!”, so I asked them to write ‘A’ in the chatbox. Cue a series of E’s and I’s. “Not E, A.” I I I E E. “Not I, A.” Eventually we got there. I could then explain that for the rest of the lesson we’d be working on groups of letters and helping them to remember what the difference is. I already had the first group (A-E-I-Y) written in black on a mini whiteboard.
I pointed to each letter and elicited it, writing some prompts in green next to the letter to help them remember. For these four letters the prompts I normally use are:
A a (b c)
E eeeeeeeee [but drawn linked together, coupled with me ‘pulling’ the sound out of my mouth]
I like dogs [or in a classroom I’ll stand very straight and indicate my whole body, as in ‘I’, which compares to…]
Y Why? [or stand with my arms in a Y shape to compare to I]
We then worked out how these letters might be written in Polish ‘spelling’, and I wrote it in red on the board, something like this:
They copied the black letters, green reminders, and red sounding out into their notebooks. I asked any student who had finished and was waiting to spell their first name, and helped them with the problem letters.
We then played a game in the chatbox where I said one of the four letters and they wrote it, then they took turns being the teaching and calling out a letter.
With revision of 1-100 and a homework check, that took the first half of the lesson. I wasn’t sure how interested they’d be when we came back after break and repeated the process with other sets of letters:
…but they absolutely loved it. This is mostly because they started racing each other to be the first person to get it right in the chat box, with no prompting from me. Then they started racing to show me what they’d written in their notebooks, to the extent that by the time we got to the final board (shown below), they wanted to copy the black letters immediately. Then when I was writing the red they were saying ‘Pani pisze’ (Miss is writing!) and were poised and ready to go as soon as I held up the board.
The whole lesson was very entertaining, and they really loved challenging each other on the particularly confusing combinations which they knew their classmates would get wrong because they were rushing. This forced them to think a little more.
I’m pretty confident that in Thursday’s lesson they’ll remember most of the letters because they know we’ll play the letter race game again, and they know I’m going to ask them to spell their names so they’ll practice that too.
The best kind of lesson: minimal planning, just enough variety to keep them engaged, lots of practice, driven by students, fun, and memorable for a long time!
A week ago I wrote about how frustrated I got every time I went outside my flat. After a relaxing weekend, a chance to talk over my feelings with friends and family (thank you!), and a chance comment on Tuesday about case numbers in our region being pretty low (10 cases in the last 7 days as I write this), I started to feel a lot better.
I’ve been for three walks in the last week, and while I still got frustrated with people, I was able to calm myself down much faster. This was easier when I closed my eyes and waited until they had gone past, in the manner of a small child: if I can’t see them, they’re not there 😉
After those small steps, there were two huge ones.
Our flamenco teacher is allowed to have classes with up to 5 people, so that’s how many of us were in the room on Thursday night. I live by myself and have been getting shopping delivered, so being in a room with actual human beings for an hour was an adjustment. It felt normal quickly, but I wanted to notice it and remember that feeling. The lift home which my friend gave me was also strange: the first time I’ve been in a vehicle of any kind for about 10 weeks.
The other step is something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time: I finally got around to buying myself a bike. That means I now have the freedom to go further afield if I want to without having to rely on public transport. I just need to motivate myself to carry it down and up three flights of stairs every time I want to use it!
So as you can see, I’m in a much better place this week. Thank you to everyone who sent me a message after last week’s post!
My Zoom lessons
Our teen elementary lessons this week were extra practice of ‘have to’ and a break from all grammar!
Do we have to do this all again?
The concepts of ‘have to’ and ‘don’t have to’ really challenged our students last week, so Jude and I decided it was worth dedicating another lesson to it.
We also wanted to do a bit more work on adverbs, so for the warmer students worked in teams in breakout rooms to add sentences to Google Docs to describe pictures. For example, She acted badly. He shouted loudly. This activity showed that about 80% of the students have got the idea of adverbs, and none of them remembered ‘suddenly’ from last week.
The homework check showed that both groups continued struggled with the form of ‘have to’ or avoided it completely.
With group 1 the rest of the lesson went:
Dictation (see below).
Rewrite the text in groups in breakout rooms, replacing ‘I’ with ‘she’ and making other necessary changes so the grammar agreed.
I highlighted the question and negative forms again and they copied them into their notebooks.
Go back to your homework, try to correct it, then we’ll confirm if the answers are right or not.
5 minutes left: in the chat answer the question: What jobs does your mum/dad have to do in the house?
With group 2, they’d got enough of the homework right to check it then, and I’d prompted them while they were comparing answers in breakout rooms to deal with the remaining problems. Their lesson went:
Question and negative forms again.
Write sentences about a mystery job for other students to guess (they only had 10 minutes for this, so the guessing happened next lesson).
For the dictation, they all wrote this text in their notebooks.
To help them manage the process, I said I’d read each sentence three times and held my fingers up to show which repetition it was. They could then ask me to repeat it again if they wanted me to.
In hindsight, we should have done some kind of pre-listening gist task, raised interest a little more first, had some elements they could change…but hindsight is 20/20.
In general, the lessons seemed fine when we were planning them, but when we taught them they felt uninspired and only partially engaging. The students seemed to enjoy the challenge of the transformation and they concentrated during the dictation, but I’m not sure how much they’ll remember this in future. On the other hand, they needed this focus on the grammar to fully understand (yes, I know that’s not ideal).
Look, it’s a penguin!
After lots of consecutive grammar lessons, it was time to take a break. We had a tiny bit of grammar at the start, with group one playing a wheel from wordwall. They read the prompt, then wrote the sentence in the chat box. They really enjoyed it and asked for more.
Group 2 read their sentences from the end of the last lesson in groups in breakout rooms. The other students guessed which job it was.
We used a story page for the basis of the lesson. We started with a couple of screenshots from the story, with students writing ‘I see…’, then ‘I think…’ sentences in the chatbox – a routine they’re familiar with. I encouraged them to use adjectives and adverbs, make predictions using ‘going to’ and say what the people ‘have to’ do. A couple of students got very into this.
I played the video for them to check their predictions.
In breakout rooms, they completed a gapfill comprehension task in groups where they had to finish the sentences by reading the story.
With group 1, I did a memory challenge. They saw frames from the story with words blanked out which they had to remember. Then I played the video, paused it, and they told me what’s next. They then went into breakout rooms to practise acting out the story in groups of 3, came back and performed it. However, they weren’t listening to each other as they were all telling the same story.
With group 2, I skipped the memory challenge. Instead I walked them through the story and got them to change details. For example, instead of a lost penguin, they chose another animal. Instead of going to the park, they went to the zoo/beach/mountains. In breakout rooms they chose their favourite idea for each bit of the story, then rehearsed it. When they acted it out, the others were a bit more engaged because every story was different.
On Sunday 24th May I took part in an event organised by IH Moscow (thanks for inviting me Anka Zapart!). I really like the format, which is manageable :
10 minutes of house rules
three 20-minute presentations
three 20-minute presentations
10-minute general Q&A session
Each presentation featured activities teachers had tried out in class, and there were a few bonus activities in between. There’ll be a recording which I’ll also share. Lots of the teachers use Miro.com in their lessons, which I hadn’t seen before. It looks like a very versatile tool. You can have three virtual whiteboards with the free account. Vita Khitruk has compiled an example board with different ideas for games – I love the idea of ‘climbing’ a mountain with little challenges.
Some of the other things I learnt about/was reminded of were:
Playing noughts and crosses with an image behind the grid. To win the square, students have to describe that section of the picture. (Anka Zapart)
Duckiedeck.com/play has lots of games for young learner classes, for example this costumes game which you can use to get kids to describe what she’s wearing and practise words like put on/take off, or room decorating. You need Flash. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
Sesame Street has a restaurant game that kids enjoy too. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
WheelDecide can be used for lots of different ideas – here’s an example for present simple questions. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
WaterAid has some topical games which you can adapt to the classroom, including Germ Zapper, which you can use to practise objects in a room and prepositions. (Tatiana Fanshtein)
SentenceDict allows you to get good example sentences for any word, including being able to search for simple sentences only. (Vita Khitruk)
A reminder that Tekhnologic templates are very versatile and easy to adapt. (Irina Chan-Fedorova)
Kids can be very motivated by habit trackers, such as ticking a box for each of four challenges every time they do them: do homework, use Quizlet, watch a video in English (Masha Andrievich)
Use a ‘discourse clock‘ to help very young students say a lot more when doing mini presentations. (Anka Zapart)
Each week I’ve summarised what our teachers and I have learnt during the transition to online teaching. Every post includes some tips about using Zoom, activities we’ve tried out (many adapted from the face-to-face classroom), and reflections on how my teaching and management have been affected by working from home. Here are all of the posts so far:
I first experimented with this activity when trying to make a very dull induction week session about contracts and school requirements a tiny bit more interesting. I’ve recently tried it as a way of practising quantifiers with my students. In both cases it went down really well, taking about 30-60 minutes from start to finish.
A bit of origami
You can prepare the paper before the session, or you can give students the instructions below to prepare their own.
Take a piece of A4 paper (scrap paper is fine).
Hold it landscape.
Fold it in half, joining together the two short edges.
Fold one half to the middle, and repeat.
The final result should look something like this:
Creating the questions
Ask students to fold the paper so that they can see the A5 half only (column 1 in the diagram above).
Give them a topic/task and a time limit to write as many questions as they can.
For teachers in induction week, each group had a section of the contract appendix and a couple of other short admin documents.
For students practising quantifiers, they could write questions on any topic they wanted to based on information they found on their phones, with two caveats: it had to be a gapfill, with the gap being a quantifier we’d just studied, and the question had to be something they thought other students could answer.
After each question, they should draw a line across all five columns/the whole A4 page.
They should also make a note of their answers on another piece of paper.
Completing the quiz
Students from group A pass their quiz to group B, and so on. B answer the questions in the right-hand column, furthest away from the questions (5 in the diagram above) – this is very important! Make sure that you check by asking a question when giving instructions and by monitoring closely (there’s always one group who write in the wrong place!)
When B have answered all of the questions, they fold their answers underneath and pass the paper to group C, with only columns 1-4 visible. C write their answers in column 4, then fold it under again. Group D write in column 3, and E in column 2.
Group A then get the quiz back and check the answers to find the winner for their quiz. The teacher then tells the class who won each quiz, and an overall winner is decided based on which team won the most quizzes. Be prepared for arguments! It’s better to base it on overall winners for each quiz than on the total number of questions answered correctly across all the quizzes, as different groups will probably have written different length quizzes.
If you only have a small class, like I did, group B can write in column 5 and group C write in column 3, leaving space for their answers to be marked in columns 4 and 2.
Here are two completed examples from my mostly teenage students. I was particularly impressed by the not-quite-Monty-Python references. Some of the questions were quite controversial as multiple answers were possible, and they didn’t always understand the vocabulary used by other groups. This prompted debate afterwards, but they argued in English and learnt some extra words, so it was OK in the end! You can decide how much you want to vet the questions, but I think it’s more fun if the students are in charge.
I put together this selection of memorisation activities for a CELTA course at LangLTC in Warsaw and thought it would be a good idea to share the activities here too. The activities can be used:
after error correction
to help students fix bits of new language in their heads before they need to produce it at a later stage in the lesson
to exploit decontextualised sentences, for example from a gapfill
to improve students’ confidence with bits of language
as learner training – once they’ve learnt them, a lot of the activities are things they can try themselves or with fellow students, without needing a teacher to set them up
They are taken from various wonderful people I’ve worked with in the past, plus a couple of my own ideas. If you think there are any that should be credited differently, please let me know. It would also be great if you could add your own ideas for activities in the comments. Enjoy!
Draw your sentence
Aims: To exploit students’ creativity. To personalise language.
Use this after students do a controlled practice exercise or study a new set of vocabulary.
Students fold a piece of A4 paper into 8 boxes and put small numbers in the corner, like so:
On the left half of the paper only (which should have 4 boxes), they illustrate four of the sentences/words in any way they choose, one per box. They shouldn’t write the sentence/word.
Everyone puts the original sentences/words away.
Give them the paper from another group. On the right-hand side of the paper, they should write the corresponding sentence/word.
The original group corrects their answers and gives them feedback.
A more high-tech version of ‘draw your sentence’, via Luke Raymond. Use this video to help you make your book:
Page 1 (the front cover) shows the target word/sentence. Each student should have a different item.
The book is passed to student B who draws a picture on page 2 to represent the target language.
Student C looks at the picture and writes the word/sentence they think it is on page 3, without looking back to page 1. They fold the book so page 3 now becomes the front cover.
The process is repeated until the book is finished.
Much hilarity ensues as the students see the way the language has been illustrated and how it has changed throughout the book.
Students love the ‘Chinese whispers/telephone’ nature of this game 🙂
What do you mean you didn’t read the sentences?
Via Olga Stolbova
(I now call this ‘evil memorisation’!)
Aims: To encourage students to notice context. To make them aware of gaps in their language.
Use this after students do a gapfill exercise.
Check the answers by writing them on the board (just the answers, not the complete sentence).
Students put away the original exercise.
They look at the answers on the board and have to recreate the original sentences. Expect protests! 🙂 Encourage them to write whatever they can remember, even if it’s just isolated words or phrases.
If they’re really struggling/When you start feeling sympathetic, give them one minute to look at the exercise without writing anything, then close their books again and continue to work on reproducing the sentences.
Students compare their recreated sentences to the originals. What were the differences?
Optional extra evilness: put away the sentences you’ve just rewritten. Now say them all to your partner./Write them all again. You can also do this at the end of the lesson when they’ve done other things in between.
If students are depressed that they can’t remember everything, tell them you don’t expect this. I normally say that I want them to remember about 80% of the sentences immediately (with some effort), and about 50% by the end of the lesson, once we’ve done a few other things and they’ve had time to forget. It can be useful to show them the forgetting curve too.
Vocabulary revision game
Via Anette Igel
Aim: To revise vocabulary covered in previous lessons.
Give each group a stack of small pieces of scrap paper (about 1/8 of A4 in size).
They should write the English word/phrase on one side, and put either the translation, definition or example sentence on the other side. The game can also be played with word/vocabulary cards if this is something you use with your students.
To create counters, rip one piece of small scrap into coin sized pieces. They write a letter or draw a symbol on each to indicate which is theirs. Alternatively, they can use any small item they can find (e.g. a paperclip, pen lid, etc).
The final thing they need to prepare the game is either a coin, or a scrap paper ‘coin’, which can be made by folding another small piece up into a tight square, then writing ‘heads’ on one side and ‘tails’ on the other.
The words should be arranged in a circle to create a game track. All of the counters should be placed on the same word to start.
One player flips the coin. Heads = 2, tails = 1. To help them remember which is which, H has two legs, T has one leg. They move 1 or 2 spaces around the circle. When they land, they can do one of two things:
If the word/phrase is face up, say the translation, definition or example sentence.
If the translation/definition/example sentence is face up, say the word/phrase.
In either case, if they are correct, they turn the card over and stay there. If they are wrong, they turn the card over and go back to where they started the turn.
The winner is the person who has moved furthest around the circle at the end of a specified time.
Back translation/Reverse translation
Aims: To help students notice differences between L1 and L2. To help them notice gaps in their language.
Select one sentence per pair or ask students to choose one. Sentences could be from controlled practice exercises, tapescripts, reading, sentences produced by students…
Each pair translates their sentences from English into L1. For multilingual groups, they work alone.
Either: give the sentence to another pair immediately (if they share a language) OR take sentences away and return them to the same person/pair in the following lesson.
Students translate the L1 sentence back into English.
They then compare their English version to the original, and notice any differences. The teacher’s job is to point out whether the students’ English version is still acceptable, and to help them understand any mistakes or differences in meaning. Though it obviously helps, you don’t need to speak L1 to do this activity.
This could also be set up as a mingle activity. Student A says their L1 sentence, student B says it in English, then student B says their L1 sentence and A says it in English. If they get it wrong, the ‘L1’ student should say ‘No, try again.’ until they get it right. My students seem to get a lot out of this, especially with language that differs structurally from Polish, like verb + gerund/infinitive.
Drill, drill, drill
Aims: To improve student confidence before speaking. To help students internalise the language.
There are hundreds of ways to drill new language.
Point at words/flashcards, moving rapidly between them and returning to problem words often.
Whisper, shout, go slow, speed up, say it like an old lady/Arnold Schwarzenegger, be happy/excited/sad.
Boys and girls, call and response (e.g. half say question, half answer).
What’s missing? Students close eyes/turn around. You remove one or more flashcards/words.
Disappearing text (good for dialogues): start with the whole dialogue on the board. Gradually remove parts of it, either a line at a time or leaving behind key words, with students repeating it multiple times.
Key word drills (good for functional language): draw a table with numbered cells. Put one word from each sentence in each cell e.g. for the phrases How about going to the cinema?What about seeing a film? Let’s watch a film. you could have:
1. How 2. What 3. Let
They say the phrase from memory. They can test each other by saying the number and their partner saying the sentence. Removing the words (but not the numbers!) increases the level of challenge. Follow up: can you remember all the phrases without looking?
Mingle: students have one picture/word each. They mingle, show their paper to their partner who has to say the correct word/phrase. To add challenge, they swap after each turn.
Circle drill: pass a flashcard around the circle. Each person says it in turn. You can also turn it into a dialogue e.g. Receiving student: What’s the weather like today? Passing student: It’s sunny. To add challenge, time the class to see how long it takes to pass around the whole circle, then repeat faster.
Some important things to remember are:
Make sure students know the meaning of the language before the drill.
Choral > group > individual. Don’t put students on the spot too early.
Model language naturally: you need to sound like a stuck record. It’s easy to overstress when correcting.
Keep the pace up. Add variety wherever possible. For example, can they drill it in pairs and listen to each other?
Many of these can be done as pairwork after a teacher demonstration. Some are useful for fast finishers too.
Say all of the new vocabulary/sentences from the exercise as fast as you can to your partner. You can do this before drilling as a test, so that you only drill language students struggle with.
Can you remember the word/sentence before X on the list? If students really struggle, give them 1 minute to look and remember before doing the exercise.
How many of the words from the page can you write alone in two minutes? Compare with a partner. This can be at the end of a lesson after lots of work with the language, or at the start of the next class.
Mistake sentences: read the sentence with a mistake and students correct it. Mistakes could be false friends, articles, tenses (especially ones where connected speech confuses)…
Pause sentences: read a sentence but pause in the middle of the collocation. Do students know what comes next? Good for improving the ability to predict upcoming language when listening.
Quizlet is an easy-to-use website which allows you to create lots of activities for the price of one – add some vocabulary and you immediately have about 6 games, plus the ability to print flashcards for lots more. For a full guide to how to use Quizlet and create your own content on there, plus links to level-specific groups, see http://independentenglish.wordpress.com/quizlet – it’s a bit out-of-date as the site has changed it’s layout, but most of what’s on there still holds. If you have at least 6 devices (phones, tablets etc) in your classroom, you can also play Quizlet Live – my students absolutely love it!
This is a very simple game which is perfect for revision, and requires almost no pre-class preparation. All you need is some small pieces of scrap paper, some kind of blutack to stick it to the table, dice for each group, and a counter for each student. The blutack is optional, but it does stop the paper from blowing away! You could use post-it notes instead, but sometimes they curl up making it easy to see the answers! It works best for revising grammar or vocabulary in closed questions.
Give a pile of pieces of paper to each pair/group of students. Ask them to go through the units of the book which you want them to revise. They should write questions for other students in the class, writing one question on each piece of paper, and write the answer on the back. They can create the questions themselves, or copy them directly from the book, along with any relevant instructions, like ‘Write the correct form of the verb.’ My students normally spend about 15-20 minutes doing this. Here are some examples from my intermediate group:
Once you have a pile of questions, shuffle them all up (easier if you have scrap paper than post-it notes at this point!), then divide them evenly between all of the groups in the class. Each group should lay out a track of questions to create a board game, so it looks something like this:
The groups then play the board game. When they roll, they should answer the question they land on. If they’re correct, they can stay there. If not, they have to go back to the question they were on at the start of the turn. The winner is the person who gets to the end first, or who is in the lead when they run out of time.
I got this idea from somebody at IH Brno, but unfortunately I can’t remember who. I use it almost every time I’m revising for a mid-year or end-of-year test, and it always prompts a lot of discussion. The group shown in these pictures even asked if we could keep playing it when I said the time was up!
I like it because as well as reminding the students of the grammar and vocabulary areas likely to appear in the test, it always prompts a lot of discussion and shows them which areas they still need to revise.
I’ve got a pre-intermediate teenage class at the moment, and I’m finding it a bit difficult to engage them in class, so when this activity worked well with them the other day, I was over the moon!
It started because I was annoyed with them speaking too much Russian, so I asked them to spend five minutes writing about their last holiday to give me time to calm down/think/work out how to get them to speak more English. They couldn’t show the story to anyone else. After a bit of protesting, they did as I asked, with two students seeming to compete over who could write the shortest story. While they were writing, I did too:
My last holiday was in Germany. I went with my friend Catherine. We visited Munich for three days, then went to the Alps. In the evenings we went to different restaurants, and one night we went to the cinema. In Munich we went sightseeing. In the Alps we visited two beautiful castles, called Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. We went everyone by train. It was very cold, but the snow was beautiful. I went to my friends’ wedding too.
They had to add any information which they had not already included. This is what I added to my story:
We stayed at two hostels. We didn’t have any problems and we had a really good time.
For the next stage I drew a table on the board. It had all of the students’ names, plus mine.
I asked the students to think of three words they thought might be in my story and write them down. For example, ‘friend’, ‘walk’, ‘beach’. I read my story aloud, and they had to cross out any word from their list they heard. They got one point each for the words they had predicted correctly. I also got points for every word the students had correctly predicted. For example: A got 2, S got 1, R got 0, M got 1 and D got 3, so I got 7.
We repeated this around the class. Students with longer stories tended to get more points because there was more chance the predicted words would be in their stories.
Once they realised what was going on, the students were competitive, engaged, and eager to read their stories. Russian disappeared completely for the 40 minutes this activity took. For homework, I gave them the chance to improve their stories before I looked at them. Three of them did this (out of five), including one of the students who had been involved in the ‘can I write the shortest’ competition – he ended up writing over 100 words, and it was excellent.
This is definitely an exercise I will use again in future, and I hope it’s useful to you as well (if you can understand it!).
To finish off, here’s a gratuitous picture of one of the beautiful castles:
On Friday I created a new revision game for my students. I hope you like it too!
Collect a series of mistakes your students make throughout the week/course, for example with tenses or collocations. Or choose a set of lexis you’ve recently taught. You need about 15 things.
Write a key word prompt at the side of the board for each of the mistakes. For example, if your students always say ‘I want to make a Masters’, your prompt could be ‘do a Masters’.
Turn it into a table, like so:
Divide your class into teams of 4-5 students. I had two teams, so there were two empty columns, but if you have more, add more columns! You need one column for each team.
Each team needs a mini whiteboard, a pen and a board rubber. If you don’t have mini whiteboards, you could put a piece of paper in a plastic wallet and give the students tissues to rub out the sentences after they have scored for them.
Now that you are all set up, this is how the game goes:
Each team chooses a prompt from the table (they can use the prompts in any order).
They write a sentence using the prompt correctly. I was very strict and told my students that all punctuation had to be correct too.
They show the teacher the sentence. If they are the first team to use that prompt and the sentence is perfect, they get 2 points. If they are the second team to use it, they get 1 point. If there is a mistake, they don’t get any points. Instead, put a little cross in the corner of the box. They have to rub out that sentence, work on a different one, and then they can come back and try that prompt again later. (With 4 teams, give 4 points for the first team, 3 for the second and so on)
When one team has used all of the prompts, the game stops and the points are added up. The team with the most points wins.
They can use more than one prompt in the same sentence if they want to. Remind the students that it’s a race, and that they have to be quick to make sure that the other team(s) doesn’t beat them to all the high point scores!
This was my board at the end of a pre-intermediate class.
Examples of sentences I accepted were:
When were you born?
I have lived in Newcastle for a year.
I like playing noughts and crosses.
Sentences I didn’t accept include:
Can I go home (no question mark)
He is a student. (not the same as on the board – I wanted to make sure they remember you can use ‘he’s’)
My career is teaching. (no ‘in’)
The next teacher saw the game, and asked me to explain it to her, so we played it with her upper intermediate class too.
It took about half an hour to play. By making the students write a completely new sentence each time they make a mistake, instead of editing what they just wrote, they have to really focus on accuracy. The students were engaged, and really wanted to be accurate, because they knew they wouldn’t get any points if they weren’t!
I hope that all makes sense. Let me know if you have any adaptations.
Most people think that PowerPoint is just for presentations that put you to sleep. In fact, it’s a very versatile tool and fairly easy to get a lot out of, despite seeming a little scary at first glance. Here I’ll show you how to create two simple PowerPoint games.
I made this example a while ago, and if I did it again I’d probably use #eltpics! Although it doesn’t look like much here, if you download it you can see that each time you click a box disappears, gradually revealing a picture and a word underneath. As this happens, students call out or write down what they think the picture/word are.
[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]
This is great for revising vocabulary especially with young learners, who get very into it – definitely a stirrer rather than a settler! It could also be used for introducing or revising modals of speculation – as you reveal a picture, students have to guess what’s in the picture, or what the people are doing.
This is how to make it. I’m using PowerPoint for Mac, so my screen may look a little different from yours, but the names of the menus are normally fairly similar – click on a few things and see what happens! If it really doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll add screenshots from a Windows computer.
Creating the basic template
Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
Decide how many boxes you want covering your picture – I would recommend four or six, unless the picture is quite complicated, in which case nine could work. Generally students guess quite quickly, so lower numbers are better to avoid boredom.
Insert a rectangle. Shapes > rectangles then click and drag the box where you want it to appear.
Copy the box using CTRL + C (CMD + C on a Mac).
Paste it three, five or eight more times, using CTRL + V (CMD + V on a Mac)
Click and drag the boxes so that they fill the slide.
As you can see, my boxes don’t quite fill the slide. This normally happens, so resize the boxes to fit or to leave space for some visible text at the bottom of the slide.
If you want to, you can change the boxes so that they are different colours. This makes it easier for you and your students to see at a glance how many boxes there are and what part of the picture they cover. To do this, double-click on the box you want to change. A box should appear. Edit the ‘fill’ and the ‘line’ to the colours you want.
Next you need to animate the boxes so that they will disappear. Click on the box you want to disappear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘exit animation’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all four boxes. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.
Repeat this process for all of the boxes on your slide.
Once one slide is ready, copy and paste it a few times so that you have as many slides as you need.
To make the slides a little less predictable, go to some of the slides and change the order of the animation so that the boxes disappear in a different order. On my version of PowerPoint, you do this by selecting the name of the shape (‘rectangle 5’ in the example below) and using the arrow keys to move it up or down the order.
If you want to reuse this type of game for different purposes, save what you have now as a template so you can reuse it without having to start again from scratch.
Adding your content
Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
Returning to your PowerPoint, insert the first image on the first slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] It should appear on top of the boxes. Resize/move it if necessary.
Right-click on the image, then arrange > send to back. It should now have magically disappeared behind the boxes.
If you want to see it again, right-click on any of the coloured boxes, choose ‘send to back’ and you should see a corner of the photo. You can then right-click on the photo and choose ‘bring to front’ to see it again.
Add any words you need, as well as the source of the photo in text boxes. Insert >Text box, then click and drag where you want it to appear.
Right-click on the text boxes and choose arrange > send to back again.
Repeat this process for all of your other slides, so that you now have photos and text on all of them.
Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show You might want to change the order of the box animation on some slides if it is too easy to guess what the hidden image shows. For example, if removing the orange box first shows the farmer’s body, it will probably be a lot easier to guess than removing the blue box first.
In this game, pictures or words flash up on the screen for a few seconds each. Afterwards students write as many of them as they can remember. It is great for revising old vocabulary, especially if it is a few lessons old.
Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the same photos as above from the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
Alternatively, for every stage saying ‘images’ below, you can do the same with text boxes so that words flash on the screen.
Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
Insert the images on the slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] Resize/move them so that they are all arranged on one slide. Alternatively, you could place each image on a different slide.
Next you need to animate the pictures so that they will appear and disappear. Click on the picture you want to appear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘entrance effect’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all of the pictures. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.
With the same picture still selected, choose an ‘exit effect’.
Repeat for all of the pictures.
Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show
You can now play the game by manually clicking through the images so that they stay on the screen for as long as you like. However, if you want the game to be a bit more automatic, you can now add timings.
Click Slide Show > rehearse timings.
Your game should appear as a full-screen slide show. Click through the pictures so that they stay on the screen for as long as you want them to. For this game, 2 or 3 seconds is probably enough.
Once you have shown every picture and clicked out of the slide show, you should be given the option to save the timing to use in the future.