Tag: activities

Past simple – speaking activities
Past simple – speaking activities

When I was teaching my classes online, we couldn’t practice speaking. We had to use Google Meet and the interaction was pretty limited. Once we returned to our classes I flooded my students with speaking activities. In this post, I would like to share the ones that I used to practise the past simple tense.

7 ESL Activities That Worked in the Past
7 ESL Activities That Worked in the Past
In this post, I would like to write about seven activities that were common in ESL classrooms in the past. However, these activities went out of fashion but there is no reason why they should not return. They worked in the past and if used wisely there is no reason why they should not work today. Even if you wholeheartedly believe in the modern methods you have been using, there is nothing wrong with spicing your lessons up with some of these. I created this list of activities after reading the wonderful book by Scott Thornbury called 30 Language Teaching Methods. I realized that I these old methods could enrich my current teaching, so I made a list of activities which I will try. ADVERT: [showmyads]
Reading Aloud
Reading Aloud was one of the things I did not use in my classes when I was younger. But at least three of the influential methods in the past claimed that reading aloud is an essential part of learning a foreign language. That is why I started using it and I must say that it works. Students’ pronunciation is better and they understand the texts better. 1. Listen and repeat. Students first listen to the native speaker reading each sentence and then they have to read the sentence themselves. They try to get as close to the original as possible. You can see an example of such a text in the video below (from 0:00 to 1:35). You can see how to create such a recording here. 2. Shadow reading. This activity demands no preparation. Just play the recording and ask the students to read along with it (Yes, they read aloud at the same time as the recording plays). It might seem like a total nonsense but in my experience, this helped my students incredibly. Moreover, there is no preparation and it takes very little classroom time.
Yes, translation! It is not a dirty word. Believe me 🙂 Translation has been used for centuries and no second language learner can be without it (even though some pretend they can). Moreover, the ability to translate is the one the learners will probably really need in their real life. They will certainly be asked “How do you say this in English?” or “What does this mean?” In fact, a few weeks ago, my family and I went to Poland on holiday and I had to translate the menu in a restaurant for them. Even though, I was pretty clear of what was on the menu, my family were less than happy with my translation effort. To practice translating, I suggest the following three activities: 1. Retranslate. Ask your students to translate a few sentences into their mother tongue (phrases are perfect for this). Check their translations and then ask them to translate the sentences back into English. They should try to get as close to the original as possible. 2. First letters Write several sentences in students mother tongue and provide the first letters of the words of the ideal English translation. For example: Ona se dívá na televizi každý den. SWTED /She watches television every day./ Students work on their own and they try to translate the sentences using the first letters. 3. Table translation I usually take a few sentences from a text we have read in the class and I turn them into a table like the one below. I try to keep phrases in one field to suggest that they cannot be translated word for word. Then I ask the students to translate the text into their mother tongue. The filled table then clearly shows which words the students have problems with and how many words they understand. (A note from extensive reading research: if more than three fields are incorrectly translated, then the students do not understand the text very well!!!)
Translation table

An example of a translation table.

1. My story A few years ago the textbooks Inside Out came with a new activity called Anecdote. Students were given a set of questions on a given topic and suggested answers. Students chose the answers that suited their situations or they created some themselves. Then they took their answers and created a story which they told their partners. (You can see an example of such an Anecdote here.) I took the activity a step further. I ask my students to memorize their anecdote and then I want to hear it. It works and it gives the students some language chunks which they might use later. 2. Memorize a film dialogue This one is simple and nice. Find a film your students like. Find a dialogue that contains a lot of useful phrases that native speakers would use (they don’t have to be grammatically correct), transcribe it and ask your students to memorize it.
Dictation, translation and memorization – it sounds like who is who in ESL criminals. But I still think that these guys do not deserve to be condemned. They got on the bad list because they were overused and misused in the past. If used reasonably, they could greatly help you in teaching English.
Three activities that worked very well this week
Three activities that worked very well this week

In this post, I would like to share three activities that stood out in my teaching this week. They worked very well and I think that my students learned a lot from them. I hope you will find them useful and entertaining, too.
The first activity is a speaking activity where students use relative clauses. I used this activity with my teen students who are at pre-intermediate level and they liked it and they produced a lot of English.
The second activity is a vocabulary revision activity. I used it with my third and fourth year and I was glad that I could revise all the vocabulary and grammar in a way that the students enjoyed.
The third activity helped my fifth-year students learn how to tell time in English.

Relative Clauses – Speaking

It is very difficult to make teenagers speak. No matter how interesting a topic might seem most of the students get out of their way to finish the conversation as soon as possible or they swap into their mother tongue.
If I try to solve the problem by giving them some time to prepare, they get easily distracted and the results are poor.
Knowing all of this I came up with a different kind of preparation this time. I created the following worksheet.

As you can see there are sentences and students should fill them in with the information which is true for them. The students provide just the information and the worksheet provides the language which should be practised.
It took about ten minutes for the students to complete the worksheet. When they finished I asked them to work in pairs. In their pairs they read their sentences to their partners.
Then they changed partners and read their texts again. When they finished I asked them to throw the worksheets away. I changed the pairs again but this time I had written the following on the board:

  • MUSIC +-
  • PEOPLE +-
  • ANIMALS +-

Now the students had to speak about these things but without the worksheets. And the did. And surprisingly they used language which was very similar to the one they had been used in the worksheet.
The whole activity took about 35 minutes and the students used and produced a lot of English and used the relative clauses. It made me really happy.

Vocabulary revision

I often feel that I do not revise enough. I teach something, my students know it, we revise but the students forget incredibly quickly. They need to revise more. But they don’t want to. They don’t like doing things again and again.

That is why I decided to concentrate on revising this year. I try to devise activities my students would enjoy doing repeatedly. The following activity is very simple and it worked with Years 3 and 4.

It is very simple. Seat students in pairs. Play the following video and one student asks: “What´s this?” and the other answers “It´s a …” and the thing they see in the video. Once the video starts to flash, a new picture will appear soon.

Each picture is shown for ten seconds, however, it is no problem to play the video faster. Just go to the settings in the lower right corner and set the speed to a higher number.

It is a good idea to revise first with the whole class. Just play the video and ask the question “What´s this?” yourself. The students answer and as each picture lasts 10 seconds you have ample time to correct the students and help them if necessary.

Telling time

It is not easy to teach students tell the time in English. I love using the following resources – TELLING TIME IN ENGLISH. They work perfectly and even the weakest students learn to tell the time (supposing they can use the infographic).

However, these activities work only as long as we use digital time. At the moment the students see a watch with hands, they are lost.

I spent a lot of time wondering whether there is a way to help my students with the hands. And then I realised that the language is not arbitrary. It reflects reality. Look at the pictures below.

The hands clearly show what words people should use. The big hand shows what words we should say at the beginning (you need to learn the phrases from the infographic at TELLING TIME). And the small hand tells us the hour. We use the number the small hand is closer to.
See the examples below.

Ten past ten (the small hand is close between 10 and 11 but closer to 10)

Ten past ten (the small hand is close between 10 and 11 but closer to 10)

Five to three (the small hand is close to three)

And to practise telling the time in English, I created the following video. Play the video and students tell the time. The correct answer appears after seven seconds.

The End

I hope you like the activities and that you use them in your classes. Moreover, I hope that they will work for you and your students as well as they worked for mine.

You can find some more useful activities at the British Council site.