martedì 14 agosto 2018

Hit The Target - A brain teaser for your summer holidays!

‘Tis the season to close books and put them away. Teachers and students alike are ready to set off on their summer holidays but wait, what about English?
Here you are a game you and your students can play under a beach umbrella!

Name of the game: Hit The Target 🎯
Level: B2 upwards
Age: teenagers, young adults, adults
The game can be played individually or in pairs.

Starting from the word indicated by the arrow, reach the center of the target by eliminating all the words included in it, which can be found in any ring, not necessarily in order, according to the rules below.


1) The word can be an anagram of the previous one.

2) It can be a synonym or an antonym of the previous one.

3) It can be a homophone (a word that is pronounced like another word but has a different spelling or meaning, for example some, sum /sʌm/) of the previous one.

4) It can be obtained by adding, removing, or replacing a letter in the previous one.

5)It can be associated to the previous one because of an idiom, collocation or saying.

6) It can form, together with the previous one, the name of a celebrity, or a place.

7) It can be associated to a work of art (book, theater, poetry, etc.), its author, or its title including any genre.

In your answer, you should explain and/or justify each association.

I made the one below for you, have fun and enjoy your summer holidays!

E.g. The first word is WILLIAM, the second word is PRINCE (Prince William), word number 3 is KISS because it's the title of one of Prince's songs.
Last but not the least, here you are template to create your own HIT THE TARGET! 

P.s. If you want to know all the answers, leave a comment! ;)

mercoledì 11 aprile 2018

From Scratch Paper To Speaking: a low-prep activity

A couple of weeks ago my laptop broke down. I felt desperate. The last time I had felt like that was when I broke up with my boyfriend 😭! And now the fateful question everybody asked me, ‘Did you  back your data?’ And my dumb answer, ‘I don’t do that,’ feeling like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City. 

What shall I do? Just go back to basics: pen and paper!

Activity: improvised speaking
Level: B1+ and above
Students: young adults and adults
Materials: colourful pieces of paper, pens
N. Students: 6 or more
*Depending on the number of students you need a different number of pieces of papers. In the following instructions you will find the materials I used with a class of 6 students

1) Give each student 5 pieces of white paper and ask them to write a person name or noun on each piece.
E.g. Donald Trump, baker, violinist, Silvio Berlusconi (examples from my students)
2) Give each student 1 piece of yellow paper and ask them to write an outdoor place. E.g. beach.
3)  Give each student 1 piece of green paper and ask them to write a place where entrance is free. E.g. library.
4)  Give each student 1 piece of pink paper and ask them to write the worst place for them. E.g. Underground at rush hours.

Now you are ready to play!

5) Two students come to the front and pick two cards from the deck of white cards and one card from the colourful deck.

6) They need to talk to each other pretending to be the people on the white cards in the place on the colourful card for two minutes.

7) After two minutes, students from their seats can try to guess who they are and where they are while the two ‘actors’ continue speaking for one more minute.

8) Give one point to the students for each person and place they guess.

Improvisation is quite difficult for foreign language students so I strongly recommend that you use this game with a class whose level is upper-intermediate or above at the end of the course so that students already know each other well and they feel comfortable to come to the front.

My students and I had a lot of fun. Let me know about you!

PS: I took me a while to type this post from my iPad 😅

martedì 20 febbraio 2018

4 Ps to encourage teenagers to speak English in the classroom

What are the 4 Ps?
Presentation, planning, practice and participation.
Surely this acronym will remind you of the PPP paradigm which is a teaching approach describing the presentation of new language through  the 3 steps of Presentation (new language is presented to learners in order to make the form and meaning clear and memorable), Practice (the learners engage in concentrated controlled practice of the new language) and Production (the learners participate in simulated communication tasks). This form of language teaching has been fiercely criticized over the last few years. For instance, it is seen as a series of “products” that can be acquired as “accumulated entries”, but L2 acquisition is a “process” that is incompatible with teaching seen as the presentation and practice of a series of “products”. However, if the level of the students is low it is much better to introduce the target language in order to avoid the doom and gloom feeling in the classroom.

Why does it work well with teenager learners?
Teenagers, more than young children and adults, are afraid of being judged. According to the APA, American Psychological Association, ( a lot of teenage behaviour is about avoiding the anxiety of feeling left out. The four 'p's approach addresses that worry by the presence of the plan stage. Bear in mind, this stage does not correspond to the controlled practice of the PPP approach. By planning what they are going to say they have time to think and rehearse. This makes students feel more confident.
The activity I'm going to describe was successful because I divided it into four stages - present, plan, practice and participation.
Firstly, I acted as a student performing the task they were required to carry out, in this case a speaking activity. Secondly, students had some time think and take notes about what they were going to say. Thirdly, students started to speak in pairs in order to break the ice. Finally, we played a game so that everyone had the chance to revise the target language and have fun.

1) Presentation - model the target language
Although I am mindful of teacher talking time, learners need a model for inspiration. You are that model.
Just before Christmas holidays, I asked my class of teenager English learners:
'Guys, how do you usually spend Christmas Eve?'
Nobody answered. I smiled and I replied to the question myself. I said that I usually wake up late, I wrap presents for my family and friends, I watch Christmas movies on TV and I listen and sing Christmas carols, bake mince pies, etc.

While I was speaking I wrote some vocabulary on the board especially collocations such as wrap/unwrap presents, sing Christmas carols, bake cookies and asked the learners yes/no questions, for example, “Do you bake Christmas cookies?, Do you usually wrap presents?”.

2) Planning - give learners time to think about what they will say
Learners need time to plan before speaking, especially at a beginner/elementary level of proficiency.
I asked everyone to write notes about what they usually do on Christmas Eve. I checked their papers to see if their grammar and spelling were right and asked them to write their names on their papers. Then I stuck their papers on the classroom walls. I asked them to stand and walk around the classroom for five minutes to read about how their friends usually spend Christmas Eve.
Alternatively, teachers can ask learners to think about what they will say. Learners can also take notes. I suggest that they don’t write everything they want to say but only some words/phrases. This reduces the chances of learners reading - rather than saying - what they have written.

3) Practice - give learners a chance to say it and say it again
When the learners went back to their seats I paired them and I asked them to say to each other their Christmas Eve routines. After two minutes I asked them to change partner, and they repeated the activity until they talked to all the other students. When they showed more confidence and fluency while speaking, I thought they were ready to play a game.

4) Participation - RULES OF THE GAME
In turns one student seats on the “hot chair”
All the other students need to say a Christmas routine activity s/he does
If they are right they get one point.
Students cannot repeat routine that has already been mentioned.
If they repeat something which has already been said they lose one point.
Everyone had to speak about somebody’s else so no one was excluded from the speaking activity. They were all eager to speak and they had a lot of fun. In addition, they had to pay attention to what was being said. A game is, definitely, a good way to encourage teenage learners to participate. Games provide a task and a goal.

In a nutshell, tweaking a method which is not considered effective due to its lack of correspondence with the research findings and theories of second language acquisition gave me the chance to make my students learn and use effectively the target language. After all, as Machiavelli said, “ends justify the means”.

PS. You can use this game with daily routines, "what did you do yesterday?", likes & dislikes, etc.

martedì 23 gennaio 2018

Animal 🐠🐶🐴idioms out of the box 📦

GAME:Animal 🐴🐶🐷🐱🐠🐝idioms out of the box 📦

Target language: idioms which include animals
Level: B2-C1
What you need: a shoebox 
Pictures of animals
Words (which form the idiom) on paper strips

Rules of the game
1) Learners in teams (pairs/small groups) try to create idioms which include animals using the pictures and the words from the shoebox.

2) When they think they have one ready they shout out "miaow miaow". 

3) Teacher checks it out and if it is correct they win one point. If it is not they need to put the picture+words back into the box and try a new combination.

 4) When all the idioms have been created, the teacher will give the whole class feedback by writing the idioms on the board eliciting their meaning.

5) Learners change teams. One team calls out an idiom and the other teams have to come up with a sentence which includes that idiom. The fastest team wins a point and must call out the next idiom.

My students and I had a lot of fun and I hope this post might be useful with your students, too! 

domenica 26 novembre 2017

Teaching For Exams? Have fun! Word Formation... Bingo!

This blog post has been shortlisted for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award 💖🥇

Hi  again my fellow EFL teachers!
Are you in trouble with training your students for English language exams? Don't worry! Here I am with a new, fun game you can play with your students!

This time I'm focusing on:

Cambridge First Certificate
Reading and Use of English part 3
This task is called word formation and it focuses on candidates' knowledge of how prefixes, suffixes, internal changes and compounds are used in forming words.

So many affixes, which don't always follow a rule, drive my students nuts. Thus, I created this simple, but fun game!

What you need:
a 3x3 grid [students can make their own grids during the lesson]
What you have to do:

If you make copies beforehand, write a suffix (e.g. -ist) or prefix (e.g. ir-) on the top of each box and write a grammar category (e.g. person noun), whether the word is negative/plural at the bottom of each box. Otherwise, you can write the affixes and the other information about the word formation on the board and ask students to copy them on their papers.

Rules of the game:
1) Once all the students have their grids,

the teacher says a word
E.g. football
2) The teacher says a grammar category
E.g. noun person
3) The learner writes the noun person for football in the right box. --> Footballer 

4) When the learner has completed all the boxes, s/he shouts out BINGO!

The list of words for the grid above are:
- football (person noun)
- society (adjective)
- survey (person noun)
- polite (abstract noun)
- maintain (abstract noun)
- relevant (negative adjective)
- journal (person noun/plural)
- patience (negative adjective)
- happy (manner adverb)

5) To make it more challenging add a few more words to the list which don't fit in the grid. Students need to realise that they must not write anything when the teacher calls out that word + grammar category. Remember to tell them before you start playing!
- kindness (negative adjective --> UNKIND)
- politics (person noun --> POLITICIAN)


mercoledì 18 ottobre 2017

Egg-straordinary phrasal verbs

Hi everyone!

Here I am to introduce a new game I've been playing with my intermediate and upper-intermediate teen learners.

The focus is on phrasal verbs. What are phrasal verbs? Take a look at this blogpost! Phrasal Verbs at a glance

Activity: Egg-straordinary phrasal verbs

Aim: Practise phrasal verbs in context

Age group: Teenagers and adults

Materials: an egg carton, disk-shaped tokens, timer, paint, paper, pens (pencils)
*Students work in groups of 3-4 so you may need more egg cartons and copies of the disk-shaped tokens.

Before the class:

1) Paint four random sections of an egg carton any colour.
2) Print and cut out the tokens. There are two types of tokens, the blue ones are the particles (prepositions and adverbs) and the purple ones are the verbs.

During the class:
1) Put all the tokens in the top of the egg carton, close the lid, shake the carton, and flip it over. (You can ask a student to do this for you).
2) You can't shake the box after the flip is done!
3) Give students paper and pens (pencils)
4) Once the cover is lifted, players can remove the tokens that are in the painted sections and spread them out on the desk.
5) Set a timer (I had 5-minute sessions) and each player write as many sentences as possible using just the tokens on the desk. They decide how to match the verbs with the particles.

6) When the timer runs out, learners have to stop writing. Ask them to draw a line across the paper at the end of their sentences (so they can't add more while you get feedback).
7) Ask students to read out their sentences and board phrasal verbs which other students don't know or don't remember.
8) Give 1 point for each correct sentence and 2 points if learners use a two-particle phrasal verb (E.g. I was driving when I ran out of fuel.)

Why I like this game:
It helps students' autonomy and make them feel aware of what they know and what they don't know. Plus, taking into account the statement "If you don't use it, you lose it", you can have a five-minute session at the beginning or at the end of every class.

martedì 23 maggio 2017

Teaching for Exams? Have fun! - Key-word transformations with a twist

One of the most tricky and challenging parts of the Cambridge First Exam is Use of English part 4. Students always complain about how difficult it is and prefer to skip it rather than taking the bull by the horns.
If you don't know about this part of the exam, here you are the description from the Cambridge English website.

KEY WORD TRANSFORMATION: Each question consists of a sentence followed by a ‘key’ word and a second sentence with a gap in the middle. You have to use this key word to complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence.

I do think that students need to learn to face their weaknesses and practice makes perfect. On the other hand, in their shoes, I understand that training for an exam must be boring so I decided to match a fun game with this exercise.

What do you need? Worksheet(s) of Key word transformations 
A spinner board (optional)
A Finger Twister board

KEY OF THE COLOURS (for those who don't have a spinner board)

1) Students work in pairs
2) Students in turns rotate the spinner board. The arrow indicates a finger and colored circle. OR Students in turns call out a colour and number.

3) The teacher boards the corresponding transformation.

4) The student needs to answer the question.
4a If the student answers correctly, they don't put any fingers on the board.
4b If the student makes a mistake, they have to put their finger on the corresponding circle according to the spinner/ the number and color they have previously called out.
4c The teacher gives the chance to another student to answer correctly. If they can answer correctly, they take off one of their fingers from the finger twister board.

5) The winner is the student with fewer fingers on the board, that is, the one who has made fewer mistakes.

My students have never had such fun doing this exercise. :)