Sunday, April 24, 2011

Activity 18- The Story of My Name

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That`s a very interactive and interesting activity, specially for the first day of class. It`s a great opportunity for  students to learn a bit about themselves.

Level: from Lower Intermediate to Advanced
Skill: speaking
Material needed: none


  • On the board, write a number of questions related to students’ names (see box below for suggestions). Students write their name stories based on the questions written on the board. Tell students they are going to share their stories with their colleagues.
  • Tell students they have about 4 minutes to mingle with as many classmates as they can, sharing their name stories. Circulate while they talk to hear as many name stories as possible.
  • Have students stand and mingle.
  • Back to their seats, students talk to a person sitting next to them about the name stories they heard from their friends.

Questions that can elicit name stories:
Does your name have a meaning?
Why did your parents call you by your name?
Do you know what your name would have been given if you had been born the opposite sex?
Do you have a nickname?

Do you like your name? 
Would you prefer another name?

Have you ever wanted to change your name?
 Do you get angry when people mispronounce or misspell your name?

Source: adapted from Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Motivational Strategies in the Language  
             CUP, Cambridge.
             Adapted from Hess, N. (2001). Teaching Large Multilevel Classes. CUP,  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Activity 17- The Basketball Game

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Level: basic
Grammar Point: prepositions of place
Skill: Speaking
Materials needed: a basket, a paper ball, school objects


  1. Students place some of their personal objects (pen, folder, book, bag, etc) on the teacher’s table. Tell them to arrange the objects in different ways (a pen under a book, a folder in a bag, etc).
  2. Divide students into 2 groups.
  3. Place the wastebasket on one side of the classroom and a desk in front of it, at a distance that is considered a challenge for the students. 

4.      The student, representing his/her group, throws the paper ball into the wastebasket. If the ball goes in, s(he) has the chance to score 2 points. If the ball doesn’t go in, then s(he) has the chance to score 1 point. In order to get the points, the student must say a correct sentence using a preposition of place s(he) has learned. Those sentences should be about the personal objects previously placed on the teacher’s table. In the end, the group with more points wins the game.

·         Remind students that the sentences cannot be repeated and that nobody should say sentences like “ X is on the table”, otherwise they will tend to say similar sentences using the preposition ON all the time. All sentences should be about one object in relation to the other.


1.  Students read a text on their books. Meanwhile, write numbers on the board.

2.  The game is played the same way but, this time, students have to choose a number that is on the board. Each number corresponds to a comprehension question about the text. After throwing the ball, the student picks a number and then answers the corresponding question. If the answer is correct, the team scores 1 or 2 points.

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Activity 16- The Balloons Sentences

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In this activity students will have an opportunity to exercise their creativity and fluency skills. 

Level: Basic and Intermediate 
Grammar Point: Simple Past and Past Continuous
Skill: speaking
Materials Needed: balloons and a pen

  • Give each student a balloon and ask him/her to blow it and use a marker to write an action verb on it. You can assign individuals a specific verb, let them choose from a list or let them free to choose any action verb they think of.
  • While they’re getting the balloons ready, write on the board: WHEN WHILE. Set the scene (orally): Last weekend you visited a family member who lived in a very small town. In the afternoon you decided to go to the town’s square, sat on a bench and just observed what was going on.  Explain that they have to pair up with a student and make up a sentence using the simple past and/or the past continuous and one of the connectors (WHEN or WHILE).

  •  Ask students to stand in a circle. Let some music playing and ask the to play freely with the balloons.

  •  Stop the music and ask them to pick any balloon. Tell them to pair up and come up with the sentence.
Tip: When you ask the students to pair up, you can take advantage of different strategies, so they can have an opportunity to interact with different people all the time. So, right after they get one balloon, ask them to line up according to: their height, the first letter of their names, their age, the month they were born in, etc.
  Variation: Instead of working with verbs, use vocabulary previously taught. Students make sentences using specific words. Here, students are free to choose any verb tense.

Source: Vinicius Lemos 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Activity 15- Vocabulary Wall

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This is not an activity, but rather a strategy that can be used with any level.

  • Choose one part of the classroom wall to put a large piece of paper (or a cardboard)
  • At the beginning of each new lesson or unit, ask a student if they saw any new words which they didn’t understand or if there were words in their texts that they found particularly difficult.
  • Each class one student can be responsible for adding new words to the chart on the wall.
  • Before the class starts, spend some time reviewing the vocabulary wall – students should know how to pronounce a word, how to spell it, and how to use it in a sentence.
  • The vocabulary wall can be removed and replaced with a new one whenever the teacher finds it’s time to do so.

Tip: this strategy can also be used for reviewing irregular verb forms of any grammar point you are teaching.

Source: Adapted from Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom.   
             CUP, Cambridge.
             Adapted from Hess, N. (2001). Teaching Large Multilevel Classes. CUP, Cambridge.