lunedì 10 dicembre 2018

POINT YOUR FINGER: a game my adult learners really enjoy

A few weeks ago I gave one of my workshops for teachers about how to use games in order to teach English as a foreign language. Only one of the participants didn’t show interest at all, and yes I took it at heart. I approached the neglectful lady while everyone in her group was focused on the task and she was phubbing instead. ‘I don’t want to sound rude but’, I began. She looked up, glanced at me then looked down back to her smartphone. I hesitated but then I continued, ‘Don’t you like this game? In the next session there will be more exciting activities, don’t wor…’, ‘I don’t care at all, my boss paid for this course but I teach adults, professionals, business people, I have nothing to do with snotty kids’, she cut me off. Well, at that very moment the angel me and devil me started arguing. ‘Move on to the next group and try to be helpful’, ‘No way, she insulted all your theories you should show off your knowledge about how powerful games are for adults when it comes to learning’. As you know (or you don’t), I chose to follow my angel me’s advice and I carried on with my monitoring activity’. 
That evening, on my way back home, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘ Why do so many people still think that games are only for kids? And more importantly, what’s wrong with adults playing games?’ 
I’m sure that adult students’d better let their hair down after a long day at work rather than being in the spotlight if they got an irregular past simple wrong. Especially professionals and business people who are always under pressure benefit more when they learn in a playful environment.  
There is no doubt that children’s learning process is way too different from the one of adults but a playful activity has never harmed anyone. There are games for children and games for adults, there are games for children which can be adapted for adults. There are games adults like and games they do not like but that doesn’t depend on the fact that playful activities are only for kids but because the structure or goal of the game isn’t interesting/exciting enough. 
This is the reason why I’d like to share with you one of the games my adult students enjoyed most. 

GAME: Point your finger

LEVEL: Intermediate - upwards

LINGUISTIC SKILLS: Speaking/Listening

GRAMMAR FOCUS: Have you ever + Past participle? 
                                   Present perfect VS Past simple

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 4-6 p/group

WHAT YOU NEED: 1. A set of ‘Have you ever…?’ cards

2. A truth metre and sticker finger for each student. (Tips: 1. Fold an A4 paper in 3 parts so that the truth metre cannot be seen by the other students. 2. Use a sticky note to make the finger.)
RULES: 1. Ask one of the students to pick a ‘Have you ever…?’ card and read out the question. 
2. Everybody (including the student who has read out the question) needs to stick the finger onto one of the four options:
(Students need to be careful not to show their answer.)

3. When everybody has answered (I suggest that you set a time limit), ask students to point their own finger at the person they think has answered 3 (always). 
4. Start to check the answers by asking the student pointed by the one who read the question and then continue clockwise.
5. The students who have pointed to the ones who have answered 3 win 3 points, those who have pointed to the students who have answered 2 win 2 points and so on.

When I played this game for the first time I was amazed because when a student said, ‘0’, she couldn’t stop talking, she had to explain about her answer because the students who had pointed at her wanted to know why she answered ‘never’. Honestly, all the students talked a lot because they were eager to share their personal experience, I had to stop them talking! 

It was such a pleasure to see them speaking English and having fun. 
Thus, ‘fingerly'-speaking, thumbs up for games, all the time… all ages!

sabato 6 ottobre 2018

Jenga in the EFL classroom

Hi everyone!

Here I am with another board game you can play in your EFL classroom!


In my opinion this game is great because it can be adapted to different levels and needs.
I used the following activities with my learners.

Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Teenagers/Adults
Type of activity --> Ice breaker
Skills practised --> Speaking and Listening

Before the lesson: 1. Put ice-breaking questions on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. Each learner pulls a block.
2. They need to answer the question AND ask it to someone else.

Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Any
Type of activity --> Storytelling
Skills practised --> Vocabulary, Speaking, and Writing

Before the lesson: 1. Put words on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. A learner pulls a block and starts a story using the word on that block.
2. The next student uses the word they pull to continue the story.
3. If the tower falls they need to quickly end the story.

In case you have a large class: While each learner comes to the front and continues the story, have the whole class write their own version using the blocks pulled.

Level --> Beginner to Advanced
Age --> Any
Type of activity --> Revision

Before the lesson: 1. Put numbers on the Jenga blocks.
2. You can either use labels or permanent markers.

During the lesson: 1. Divide the class in two teams.
2. Have two learners from each team come to the front of the class.
3. Ask one of the two students to pull a block.
4. Read out the corresponding question.
5. The first student to answer the question correctly can choose if they want to pull a block, or have the other team pull a block.
6. Once the next block is pulled, read out the question corresponding to that block.
7. The first team to make the tower fall loses.

Level --> Intermediate +
Age --> Teenagers/Adults
Type of activity --> Recognising minimal pairs
Skills practised --> Listening (Receptive pronunciation)

Before the lesson: 1. Put two different colours on the Jenga blocks.
2. Choose some minimal pairs to focus on, e.g. /iː/ /ɪ/

During the lesson:
1. Tell the class that each colour corresponds to a sound.
2. Read out a word.
3. A learner needs to pull the right block.
4. If the learner pulls out the wrong block, let them play again.

I'm sure you will have more ideas and I'd be pleased if you could share them.

venerdì 31 agosto 2018

Spice Up Your English Class - Workshops

Hi everyone!
'Tis the season to come back to school! If you want me to Spice Up Your English Class one of these days, please let me know!

Bye for now,


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!