Common mistakes in English
Common mistakes in English

This post is about common mistakes in English. There are two pieces of interesting research into learning and teaching English. One of them says that students learn more if someone else is corrected by the teacher than if they are corrected. The other found out that students learn and remember more vocabulary if the words are not connected in any way (they do not create so called lexical set).

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Combining these two findings it seems logical that students could learn and remember a lot if they were presented with a haphazard collection of someone else’s corrected mistakes. So, during an exam I collected several mistakes which I will present in a mind map and correct them and explain. I hope that students will learn a lot from these.

The post contains a mind map and two games to give the students a chance to learn from the mistakes other students made.

Common mistakes – mind map

Here are six mistakes my students made during an exam. The mistakes are in the bubbles closest to the center. In the second bubble there is the correct version of the given sentence and there is an explanation at the end of each branch.

common-mistakes-in-english

If you think you will never make these mistakes, you can try the following games:

Common mistakes – games

The first game is an HTML5 quiz. Try to choose only the correct sentences and if you pass the test you can play the game called Tower Defence. Both of these can be played on your mobile phone or iPad.

If you want to display the quiz in a new window click on the button below:

Common mistakes – Quiz

The second game will play only on your desktop as it is in Flash. It is called Hoopshoot and your task is to choose a correct sentence and then score a basket. Good luck.

Verb to BE in affirmative and negative sentences
Verb to BE in affirmative and negative sentences

Next school year I am going to teach low level students, so I started to prepare materials for them. The first one deals with the verb to be in affirmative and negative sentences.

The verb to be is the most important verb in English. You need it all the time. That is why solid knowledge of this grammar is vital. Spend your time learning this grammar it will pay off.
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[showmyads] In this post you will find a mind map and two games for elementary students. I tried to limit the vocabulary, so even a complete beginners would be able to do the exercises.

VERB TO BE – mind map

This mind map explains the usage of the verb to be. Moreover, it can serve as a worksheet. Print it out and after explaining everything, ask the students to fill in the gaps.

Verb to be mind map and worksheet

Study and fill in the gaps.

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VERB TO BE – games

The first game is in HTML5 so it should be playable on any mobile device. Your task is to complete the quiz correctly with verb to be. If you get more than 80% of your answers correct, you will get to a game called Tower defence and you can play as long as you like. However, if you do not pass the test, there will be no game.


If you are viewing the post on your mobile device, click on the button below to open the quiz in a new window, which is more comfortable.

Verb to be – Quiz

The second game is in Flash and thus it will not play on your mobile device. The game is called on Target and your task is to choose the correct form of the verb TO BE and then shoot all the bad ducks. Do not forget that you can get a bonus if you shoot any of the bottles.

Prepositions with the verbs THROW and SHOUT
Prepositions with the verbs THROW and SHOUT

In the previous post we could see that verbs usually go with one or more prepositions. In this post we are going to deal with two verbs which can be followed by two different prepositions with different meaning. These verbs are THROW and SHOUT.
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Both of these verbs can be followed by the prepositions AT or TO but the meaning differs. The differences of meaning are clearly shown in the mind map and at the end of this post there are 2 games to practise these two verbs with their prepositions.

Prepositions – mind map

Study the following mind map:

Throw and shout with prepositions

The meaning is different depending on the prepositions.

Prepositions – games

Now that you know and understand the difference between the phrases THROW AT and THROW TO and SHOUT AT and SHOUT TO, you can practise the grammar in the following games:

The first game is a HTML5 quiz followed by a Tower Defence game if you pass the test. Good luck

Verbs and prepositions – practise the grammar


The second game is called Teacher Invaders. Your task is to complete the sentences with the prepositions AT and TO and save the planet against the invaders. This game is in Flash and it will not play on mobile devices. Sorry 🙁

Be going to for elementary students of English
Be going to for elementary students of English

Are you going to teach or learn the form “BE GOING TO” for expressing future? This post might come handy. There is a mind map explaining all the forms: Affirmative sentences, negative sentences and questions.

This post is especially designed for elementary students who need to learn the form. There are two games to practise the form too.

Be going to – mind map

Study the forms of Be Going To in this mind map:
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Be going to – games

Both of the games should be in HTML5 and thus you should be able to play them on your mobile phone or on a tablet too.

The first game is called Reaction. Your task is to complete the sentences with be going to and then click on the ugly frog as quickly as you can. The quicker you click the more points you are going to get.


The second game is a quiz. If you answer all the questions correctly you will be able to play the game called Indiara. Good luck.

Verbs and prepositions II
Verbs and prepositions II

Yesterday I learnt Spanish and when I tried to reconstruct a text I found out that I do not remember the small words like articles and prepositions. They were so small that I did not pay enough attention to them to remember them.

Interestingly my students have similar problems with prepositions in English. Therefore I have decided to add more posts on prepositions here to help them.
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[showmyads] There have already been several posts on prepositions: Adjectives and prepositions, Nouns and prepositions and verbs and prepositions.

In this post you can find a mind map and two games. Unfortunately the games aren’t mobile friendly.

Verbs and prepositions – mind map

Have a look at the mind map and try to remember the prepositions that are connected with the verbs.
Verbs and prepositions mind map

Verbs and prepositions – games

Do you think you know the prepositions? Test your knowledge in the game called On Target. Choose the best preposition and then try to shoot the bad ducks. You can get a bonus if you shoot one of the bottles.

Prepositions game

The second game is called Teacher invaders. To stop the invasion you have to shoot all the monsters and complete each sentence with the best preposition available.

Prepositions Invaders
Modal verbs of deduction
Modal verbs of deduction

The greatest thing that can happen to a teacher is the aha! moment when suddenly the students get it. And this happened to me on Thursday. I was teaching the modal verbs of deduction for a hundredth time and suddenly the students could understand it and use it correctly. Wonderful feeling!!!

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In this post I would like to share all the materials I used in the lesson. There is a mind map and two games. Moreover, for the teachers of English there is a hand out for an activity called pair cards.

Modals of deduction – mind map

Look at the ways how you can express different degrees of certainty using various modal verbs.
Modal verbs of deduction
The meaning of the modals is often influenced by the context. These mathematical expressions of the meaning should be understood in context. By these modal verbs the speaker expresses how certain he is about the given thing .

Modals of deduction – games

In the following quizzes you can find about 30 different sentences to practise the usage of Modal verbs for deductions. Both of the quizzes are in HTML5 and thus they should work on your mobile devices supposing they support this technology.
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[showmyads] In the first quiz you should complete the second sentence is such a way that its meaning will be the same as the first sentence. Sometimes more than one answer is correct however you have to use the modal verbs of deduction all the time. If you pass the test you can try our new game called Tower defence.

In the second quiz you should do the same as in the first one. However, this time if you pass the test, you will be given a chance to play the game Angry finches. Good luck 🙂


Modals of deduction – for teachers

One of my favourite grammar activities is called Pair cards.
Cut the worksheet into four different cards. Ask the students to work in pairs and give each student one of the cards. Make sure that each student in the pair has a different card.
On each card some sentences are blue and some are white. The blue ones are the correct answers and the white ones are the students’ task.
Students work in pairs and they read their white sentences and complete the one with the gap in such a way that it has the same meaning as the first one. Their partner listens to them and checks their answer in the blue sentences.
Students take turns and go through the whole cards. Students do not write anything! They just read their answers so they can swap the cards and do the same if they get to the end.

Nouns plus prepositions
Nouns plus prepositions

Students often use the wrong prepositions. So I have created this post in hope that this short explanation and practise will help them get at least some of the prepositions correct.
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[showmyads] Many teachers claim that students use prepositions incorrectly because of interference from their mother tongue. It is true in many cases but I think it is not the main reason. I believe that students confuse prepositions mainly because these small words often do not hinder communication. Even if students use the prepositions wrongly most of the time, people can still understand them.

In this post students will get a chance to learn some basic nouns + prepositions. To achieve this goal there is a mind map depicting basic nouns + prepositions. Then, there are three games where you can practise what you have learnt in the mind map.

Nouns and prepositions – mind map

Study the following mind map:
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Nouns and prepositions mind map

The basic nouns and prepositions.

You have probably noticed that several words are used with more than one preposition. In some cases there is a difference in meaning and in others there are none. Let’s have a look at these words:
Advantage of / in / to – the meaning is the same.
A relationship / a connection / a contact with – with one noun.
A relationship / a connection / a contact between – between two things or people
An attitude to / towards – both have the same meaning.

Nouns and prepositions – game

The first game is called Tower defence and it is in HTML5 so you can play it on any device (provided your browser supports this technology). First you have to solve the quiz and then you have to protect your castle against the invaders. Place your defenders and then click on the coins to earn more money and strengthen your defence. There are many levels. Enjoy, but first pass the quiz 🙂


En Garde game

The second game is called En Garde. This game is not supported on most mobile devices as it is in Flash. Your task is to choose the correct answer and then hit your opponent.

The third game is called Teacher invaders and your task is to protect your planet against the invaders. And from time to time you have to complete the sentence with a correct preposition.

First news for learners of English
First news for learners of English

My students are online all the time. Through the internet they are flooded with information, but whenever I ask them about any current affairs they know nothing. They have no idea who or what I am talking about.
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[showmyads] In my opinion, this “dementia” is caused by two factors. First, all the news on the internet has to be new and it must not get repeated. Thus the students see all the facts just once and therefore they do not remember them. Second, students choose only the news they are interested in and ignore the rest. The basic information never reaches them.

That is why I have decided to give my students a chance to meet all the news in my lessons. I have created a mind map and several games for the video First News TV. In this video all the most important news from the previous week gets summed up. Moreover, the news is read slowly and clearly and students can learn a lot.

First News – video

First News TV from Sky News (30 May 14) from First News on Vimeo.

First News – Mind map

Watch the video and complete the following mind map.
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First news mind map

Complete the mind map with the information from the video

First News – games

Once you have filled in the mind map, it is time to check your understanding in the following games. The first game is called on Target and your task is to choose the correct answer and then shoot as many BAD ducks as possible. Do not forget that you can get an interesting bonus if you shoot one of the bottles.

The other game concentrates on the vocabulary. Your task is to complete the quiz and if you pass you will get a chance to play the game Indiara. As both of the games are in HTML5 you should be able to play it on your mobile phone too. Enjoy.

Reported speech grammar explanation
Reported speech grammar explanation

Many students struggle with reported speech. They feel that there are many rules they have to follow and they often get confused.

In this post I try to simplify the rules about the reported speech (or indirect speech) as much as possible. There is mind map describing the basic rules, a video and two games to practise the grammar.

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To put it simply, reported speech is used when you start a sentence with an expression like She said or He told me etc. Then you have to move the verbs backwards. Thus you change the present simple tense into past simple. You change the past continuous to past perfect continuous and so on (see the mind map for more details).

Reported speech – video

Watch the video and try to understand the explanation of the rules.

Reported speech – mind map

In this mind map I try to explain the basic rules.

First of all, reported speech happens after the reporting verbs (said, told, claimed etc.) in past tense. Then you have to move the original verb from the direct speech. The changes are depicted below.

The most common changes are depicted in the lower part of the mind map. If there are the verbs ARE, IS, WILL, CAN, HAVE or DO in the direct speech, just change them as shown and you do not have to do anything else.
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Reported speech infographic - the most common backshifting

The most common changes in reported speech.

Reported speech – games

The first game is called Hoop shoot. You will see a reported sentence and your task is to choose the correct sentence in direct speech. If you succeed you will be given the chance to score a basket.
Download the following pdf file and open it with Acrobat Reader, otherwise the game will not work.

The second game is a quiz. You will see the direct speech and your task is to complete the reported speech sentence correctly. If you pass the quiz you can play the game Indiara. All of these are in HTML5 so they should play on your mobiles without the slightest problem.

Similes – learn the phrases
Similes – learn the phrases

In my last post I try to teach 11 common similes in English. However, as some students still feel that they need more practise, I have decided to produce this post too. This post contains a visually appealing demonstration of all the 11 similes, a short film to learn the phrases and a dictation exercise.

Similes – picture

You can see all the similes in one picture. Go through them and try to remember the phrases.
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similes mind map 2

Do you know these similes?

Similes – video

In the following video you can see and hear all the similes. In the first part you are asked to repeat the phrases. In the second you have to produce the phrases on your own.

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Similes – dictation

In this task you will hear the similes used in simple sentences. Listen and write the sentences. If you succeed you can play the game Angry finches. Good luck

Similes – practice

If you know all the similes print out the following mind map and complete it with the similes. You should keep the printout and use it for future reference.

Similes mind map 3

Complete this mind map with the similes you remember

 

Similes for learners of English
Similes for learners of English

A year ago George Woolard published a book called Messaging. There he suggests that learners of a foreign language should learn the whole phrases and sentences. By learning the whole chunks the students will later be able to produce the language quicker and more precisely.
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[showmyads] I think that I can agree with this proposition. However, there is a problem. It is much more difficult to commit to memory long sentences than short words. That is why this method will probably never spread much.

Fortunately there is one area in English that follows the Messaging principle and at the same time does not overwhelm our memory. These are similes. As they consist of well known words and they have got their rhythm they are easy to remember.

In this post I am going to introduce eleven common similes which will be presented in a mind map. Then you can learn the phrases in a presentation and once you know all the similes you can test your knowledge in two quizzes. If you pass the quizzes you can play the games Car race and Angry Finches.

Similes – mind map

First study the similes in the following mind map once you know the phrases, cover the text and produce the similes looking at the pictures only.
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Similes mind map

Similes are easy to remember.

Similes – presentation

Go through the following presentation and try to remember the phrases. If you have remembered the phrases using the mind map, you can skip this exercise.

Similes – games

In the first game you should match the beginning and the end of the phrase. If you match more than 60% of the phrases correctly, you can play the game Car race. Good Luck.

In the second quiz you have to complete the sentences with the missing words. Each gap contains exactly one word. If you pass the test (you need 80% this time) you can play the Game Angry FINCHES. This game si fully supported by mobile phones.

Verbs and prepositions for elementary students
Verbs and prepositions for elementary students

Many verbs in English are often followed by the same preposition. Therefore it is best to learn them togehter from the beginning. However, even if you do this it is neccessary to sum it up from time to time.

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The following summary was created for my elementary students of English and it contains the verbs they know which are often followed by the prepositions FOR, ABOUT, AT and TO.

In this post you can find a mind map and two games to practise the usage of the given preposition.

Prepositional pharses – mind map

The following mind map graphically shows the verbs which are used with the prepositions FOR, ABOUT, TO and AT.

verbs and prepositions for elementary students

Learn the verbs together with the prepositions

Verbs and prepositions – games

Once you memorise all the verbs and prepositions that follow them you can try the following games. In the first game you should complete the sentences with the correct preposition. If you succeed you can play the game Highway Race. In this game you try to avoid all the cars on the highway. The best result has been 50,000 points. Can you do better?

The second game is a classic. It is called Teacher Invaders and your task is to shoot all the invaders before they destroy the whole planet. However, from time to time the game is interrupted and you have to complete a sentence with the correct preposition. Good luck.

More posts on prepositions

If you liked this post and you feel that you need to practise the prepositions more you might like the following posts on our site.

Adjectives and prepositions

Prepositions for places

Prepositions of time.

Do you think that we should create some more posts? Please leave a comment and we might do it.

Should, ought to and had better – other ways to give advice
Should, ought to and had better – other ways to give advice

Recently I have published a post on giving advice. And our post on modal verbs won the British Council blog award. This post will deal with three ways to express the modal verb SHOULD. The different means are HAD BETTER and OUGHT TO. Both of these have the same meaning as SHOULD.

This grammar point often appears in FCE tests. So if you are planning to take an international certificate in English this post is really important for you.

OUGHT TO – mind map

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Should ought to and had better mind map

Here are three ways of expressing the same meaning.

Once you learn the three forms correctly you should have no problem with using them. However, remember that SHOULD is much more frequent than either OUGHT TO or HAD BETTER.

SHOULD – games

The first game is called Hoop Shoot. Your task is to choose the correct form and then score a basket. You can choose the difficulty too. Enjoy.

The second game is a simple quiz. Your task is to complete the second sentence in such a way that it means the same as the first one. However, you have to use the word in the bracket in your answer. There are 16 sentences and if you pass the quiz you will be given a chance to play the game Indiara. Good luck 🙂

First conditional – grammar explanation for learners of English
First conditional – grammar explanation for learners of English

First conditional is very similar to time clauses. However, I would say that first conditional is easier than time clauses.

First conditional is used if we speak about two possibilities in the future. After the conjunction IF we use present simple tense and in the other clause we use WILL. You can see the explanation in the mind map below and then you can try a quiz to practise this simple grammar.

First conditional – mind map

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First conditional mind map

First conditional – game


In this game you have to solve the quiz first and then you can play the game Visual memory.
In this game you see some coloured squares and your task is to remember them and later click on them. While the game is quite easy at the beginning, it soons becomes really difficult and my best score is 420 points. Can you do better?

Verb patterns again – final solution
Verb patterns again – final solution

Have you ever tried to memorise the following list of verbs to know when you should use TO and when the ending ING?
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Verb patterns full list

Are you able to memorise this?

Honestly, I have never been able to commit the list to memory. And even when I thought that I know the verbs I was not really sure which form follows them. And my students had the same problem.

So I have written a post on verb patterns. But it did not work. The division of the verbs was too complicated.

And when I started to be desperate I read a short comment under a post on verb patterns. There the author described his simple rule which worked in nearly 100% cases.

The rule goes like this: “If the first verb happens before the second verb, use TO. If the second verb happens at the same time or before the first verb use the ending -ING with the second verb. For example: I want to go out. (First I want and then I will go out) She stopped smoking. (First she smoked and then she stopped.) He agreed to do it. (First he agreed and then he did it)”

Simple, isn’t it? However, you have to be careful as the rule does not work for the verbs suggest, pretend and fail.

Below you can see the idea in a mind map and lower you can test it in several games.

Verb patterns – mind map

The mind map contains a graphical explanation of the rule.

 

verb patterns simple mind map

Simple way to know whether TO or ING should be used.

Verb patterns – games

Well, once you think you understand the rules, it is time to put them into a test. The first game is called penalty and your task is to choose the correct verb and then try to score a goal. GOOD LUCK.

In the second game, you should complete the quiz and if you succeed you can play the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Phrasal verbs – in a story
Phrasal verbs – in a story

Phrasal verbs make many students feel hopeless. Even advanced students struggle with them and to be honest, I am not very comfortable with them either. Moreover, they seem very hard to memorise.

That is why I have prepared the following post. There is a story where all the verbs are used. Thus you can see them in context.
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[showmyads] Then you should read and listen to the story again and complete the mind map with the phrasal verbs from the story.

In the end you can practise the verbs in a quiz.

Phrasal verbs – story

Watch and listen to the story and then answer the comprehension questions in the game.

Now answer the comprehension questions in the following game called On target. If you answer the questions correctly you should shoot as many bad ducks as possible. Don’t forget that you can get a bonus if you shoot any of the bottles on the walls.

Phrasal verbs – game

Phrasal verbs – mind map

Print out the following mind map and try to complete it with the phrasal verbs from the story.

Phrasal verbs mind map

Complete the mind map with the phrasal verbs from the story.

Games

Now it is time to practise the phrasal verbs in a quiz. If you complete the quiz successfully you will have an opportunity to play the game Hot race.


More practice

We have already published two posts on phrasal verbs here. The first one is called Phrasal verbs – Fred and Betty and you can see it be clicking here. There is an animated story and several exercises to memorise 12 phrasal verbs.

The other post deals with phrasal verbs from a slightly different point of view. It is called Phrasal verbs separable or non-separable and it explains which phrasal verbs stick together and which can be separated.

For and Since – grammar explanation
For and Since – grammar explanation

For and since are often given as the key words which signal that present perfect tense should be used. It is not 100% true but it makes life easier for elementary and lower intermediate students.

However, sometimes it is difficult for learners to know which word they should use. The rule is simple. FOR is used when we give the length of the time (for three days) and since is used when we give the beginning of the time (since Monday). You can see the graphical explanation of this rule below.
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[showmyads] In this post you can find an interactive video, where the grammar is explained and tested by the experts from BBC learning English.com, a mind map explaining the difference between FOR and SINCE graphically and a quiz with a game to practise the correct usage of the words For and SINCE.

FOR and SINCE – interactive video

Play the following video and answer the questions. If you succeed, you can play the game Highway race.
For and SINCE – interactive video

FOR and SINCE – mind map

In the mind map there is the graphical explanation of the usage of the words FOR and SINCE.

SINCE and For grammar explanation mind map

FOR – we give the length of the time. SINCE – we give the beginning of the time.

FOR and SINCE – games

There are two games for you.

FOR and SINCE – quiz

There are 22 items in this quiz. If you answer more than 60% of all the questions correct (that is not so difficult) you can play the game called Rock, Paper and Scissors. In this game you win if you give a Rock and your opponent scissors, you give a paper and your opponent gives rock and finally, you win if you give scissors and your opponent gives a paper.

For and Since – Quiz

SINCE and FOR – fling the teacher game

This game is slightly more difficult as you mustn’t make a mistake to win. You have to answer all the questions correctly to build the machine and fire your teacher 🙂 You can use up to three helps which are displayed on the screen.

For and Since – Fling the teacher
Future – will or going to
Future – will or going to

There are many ways to speak about future in English. We have already dealt with two ways here. In the first blog we tried to distinguish between Will and MAY and Might on the basis of certainty that an event will happen.
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[showmyads] In this post I would like to demonstrate the difference between WILL and BE GOING TO. BE GOING TO is used when we speak about our plans while WILL is used for decisions made at the moment of speaking.

To give you a better chance to understand the difference between the two tenses there is an interactive video (based on BBC Grammar challenge), a mind map and two games.

Future tenses – interactive video

I have used the BBC Grammar challenge twice before (Definite Articles and in ED and ING Adjectives) and in both cases I turned the original radio recording into a video. This time I went one step further. The video is interactive and you have to react to the tasks.
Watch the video and answer the questions. If you answer correctly the video will continue. If you answer wrongly you will hear the part again. Give it a try.

WILL and BE GOING TO – interactive video

Future tenses – mind map

The following mind map shows the form of the two tenses and their usage. This mind map might not be suitable for everyone but the visual learners will profit a lot.
Will and be going to mind map

Future tenses – games

The first game is the easier one. Your task is to choose the correct form (WILL or GOING TO) and if your answer is correct you can shoot all the bad ducks. If you shoot one of the bottles you will get a bonus. Good luck.
WILL and BE GOING TO – On Target
In the second game you have to write the correct future form (WILL or GOING TO). If you get more than 60% of all the forms correct, you can play the game Hot Race. Enjoy.
WILL and BE GOING TO – Hot Race

Future tenses in English – share

If you do not have an internet connection at school, you can download the video and online quiz here. Unpack the files and find the index.html and play the quiz.

Future – all games and activities

If or when – choose the right word
If or when – choose the right word

I remember struggling with this grammar when I was at secondary school. As it is possible to translate the words IF and WITH with the same word in my mother tongue I couldn’t see the difference in English.

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To help my students avoid this problem I have created the following mind map and several games. I hope they will help you too.

WHEN or IF – mind map

The basic difference between the words IF and WHEN is, that the word IF is used if you choose between two options. On the other hand the word WHEN is used when you speak about a time period after some decision or action. Have a look at the mind map below.
When if mind map

WHEN or IF – games

The first game is called Speedway race. Your task is to complete the sentences with WHEN or IF. If you succeed the computer will let you play the game. Your task is to avoid as many cars as possible. One of my students managed to score 50,000 points and then I had to stop him. The game is very addictive.
IF or WHEN – Speedway Race
The second game is called Hoopshoot.
Your task is to choose the correct option and then hit the basket with the ball. Good luck.
IF or WHEN – Hoop shoot game
Modal verbs – have to and don’t have to
Modal verbs – have to and don’t have to

Recently I have been dealing with the modal verbs. First I created a mind map depicting all the modals in present and past tenses. That post was suitable for intemediate students. Then I wrote a post about the modal verbs Must and Should which was for elementary students.

In this post I would like to add the verb HAVE TO and explain its usage in English. This explanation is aimed at elementary students. At the end of the post there are two games to practise the modal verbs.

Have to – mind map

The triangles show the way HAVE TO forms sentences and the images on the right show the meaning of the verbs.
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[showmyads] HAVE TO DON’T HAVE TO MIND MAP

Have to – games

The first game contains a quiz and if you answer the questions correctly you will play a game called Hot Race. I have managed to win 8,853 points, but when we played the quiz at school one student scored 50,000 points and I had to stop him because we would not have done anything else in the lesson. Can you be better than him? 🙂
HAVE TO – Quiz
The second game is called Reaction. Your task is to complete the sentences with the correct form of the verb HAVE. If you complete the sentences correctly, you will have to click on the ugly frog as quickly as possible. The quicker you click on the frog the better. My personal record is 18,250 points.
HAVE TO – Reaction