A web site for the developing language teacher

by Alistair Dickinson
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2.A few activities

I'm not suggesting that we don't prepare lessons. The more experience teachers get the more they find to exploit & bring into their lessons. The activities below do just that & hopefully they give the lesser experienced teacher a few more leads. They don't necessarily cut down on preparation time - it's just not necessary to constantly photocopy materials to take in when you can easily exploit what is around you.

Using the stds
'Learner-Based Teaching' by Campbell et al (OUP) is an excellent activity book that draws on the knowledge & experience that students bring to the classroom.

Self-study hours - stds work individually or in pairs on problem areas in class with grammar books, dictionaries, coursebook etc or in the self-access centre.

Speaking & Listening:
Discuss their jobs, families, experiences, holidays, weekend, plans etc.

Talk about themselves - 3 lies & others must try & guess the lies.

Bring in a personal possession to talk about.

Discuss current affairs.

Write their own progress tests for each other - snail race. Prepare mini-talks for each other.

Write dialogues & then act them out from situation/cues given by you.


Chain stories - you start the story, std A continues, you provide a linker (and, but, however) & then std B continues and so on around the class.

Story telling - everyone knows a fairy story, maybe a horror story, an embarrassing experience, a joke - listening for pleasure.

Spontaneous roleplays - tch tells class the situation, one that involves a number of people i.e. the whole class, e.g. a parents association meeting & problems at the school - when you stop talking they get on with the meeting.

Prediction work before using a text e.g. use pics & headlines, use what they know about the subject, use the first lines/paragraph & predict what comes next.

Warmers & coolers e.g Persuasion - stds persuade each other that their fav. colour, animal, season etc is better than their partners.

Trust exercises, voice , mime and roleplay activities -build up a stock of them for use whenever you feel necessary.

Get them to bring in an article in English they think others might be interested in.

Get a class novel going - weekly discussion of thoughts on the novel and sorting the problems out.

Prediction work for all kids of text.


Dictate own texts to each other.

Rotating written story - all start a story then pass it to std on their right and then continue the story they receive and so on.

Summarise text.

Std/std correction of written work.

Write questionnaire to ask each other/another class/teachers in the school.

Write comprehension questions for text for each other.

Brainstorm lexical areas.

Give word rose & stds make up a story.

Stds draw lexical mind maps.

Dictionary work (try & get a class set for your room).

Stds bring 3 new words to class (as homework) & explain them to the others.

Test each other on last week's vocab.

Error analysis - work on their problem areas.

Record a discussion or roleplay and work on part of it with the class. Research an area & then present it to the class.

Parts of the body & clothes.

Clothes - Look at each other for a minute & then back to back describe in detail what each has been wearing or change something about appearance and other guesses what it is eg. She's taken of f her belt.

Things in their bags/pockets/handbags - get a collection of things from the stds & they then become the things on a dead person found in the Retiro in mysterious circumstances. The stds then make suppositions 'He could've been .... because there's a ' etc.

Stds bring in a personal possession that means a lot to them & discuss it.

Using yourself
Disclose about yourself - you can't ask them to if you aren't really willing to do the same yourself. Tell them about your family, city, holiday, experiences etc just as you would do with a friend. As visual aid.

Mini-talks on homeland - the town/city you're from - the educational, judicial systems of your country.

Question time - the expert answers - could be about anything looked at during the last fortnight's classes.

Using the classroom
Realia in the room - I-Spy, teach vocab.

Hide object & stds ask 20 questions to discover where it is

Change something in the room & stds have to discover what's been changed.

The view from the window for descriptions, imagine conversations of those in the street, construct life history for passers-by.

Discuss history of object in the room.

Invent conversation between two objects in the room.

Discuss how design room differently. Room becomes flat for estate agent & prospective buyer roleplay or any other place in a roleplay.

Tell story including 5 objects in the room.

Use posters on the walls.

Try and get a world map or a map of your home country on the wall - describing holiday routes, where used to live, where like to live, for current affairs discussions, for target language culture mini-talks, to discuss where to write holiday postcards from etc.A very useful aid.

Use the phonemic chart
Dictate words/sentences by tapping them out, stds tap out words, instant correction, minimal pair work - choose one & stds brainstorm list of words with those sounds & then they put them into a story, work on voiced & unvoiced sounds & then /t/ /d/ /id/ distinction etc. More sounds activities.

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