Thursday, September 27, 2012

Activity 84- The Life Soundtrack

Short of creative ideas to make your students talk? How about trying this simple warmer? All you need is a CD with songs and a picture! 

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: Speaking
Material needed: pre-selected song snippets and a picture of someone (ex: taken from a magazine)


Explain the situation: the person in the picture loves listening to music and for every moment in life he/she has a special soundtrack that relates closely to what he/she is going through.Pair up students and play the selected tracks. Then, they should come up with a very short anecdote explaining what happened in that person's life that made him/her listen to that specific song. Play each song for about 1 minute. 

*Tip: You may wish to play only one song and have pairs work on a more elaborate anecdote or play several songs and have them come up with short explanations/descriptions. 

Picture credits:
Source: Vinicius Lemos

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Activity 83- Describe the Scene

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: Speaking
Grammar point: Simple Past
Material needed: pre-selected (Youtube) video snippets 

Pair up students and explain that one of them is going to watch a video containing a short scene with a lot of action. The student who is watching the video should narrate (with as many details as possible)  the scene using the Simple Past. Then, students swap roles and do it again but with a different video. As a wrap up, invite volunteers to narrate the video for the whole class again and take advantage of the activity to discuss a little bit about:
-fluency skills
-vocabulary range
-rate of speech

Picture credits:
Source: Vinicius Lemos, inspired by Nicky Hockly (Digital Literacies- 13th Braz Tesol National Convention , Rio 2012)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Activity 82- Odd One Out

Here is a nice idea to put critical thinking into practice!

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: speaking
Material Needed: list of things to be compared


Tell students that they are going to see on the board a list of words and,in groups of 3, they should choose the odd one out. Remind them that there is no single correct answer, anything is possible as long as it makes sense. Give them enough time to discuss and elicit their ideas. 

Some suggestions:
safari - club- airplane
watch- car- pencil
apple- hospital - yellow
book - glasses - cat
English - salad - work
brother- chocolate - laptop
homework - love- water
music - money - internet
gun- tree- hot
giraffe - sandals - oasis

Picture Credits:
Source: Vinicius Lemos, inspired by a session given by Lindsay Clandfield at the 13th Braz-Tesol National Convention in Rio de Janeiro, July 2012.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Activity 81- With or Without It

Here is a simple idea to be used as a warmer!

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: speaking
Material Needed: 5 different objects (realia or pictures)

Display 5 objects on the table (or 5 pictures) and ask students : " Which object would you live without? Which object wouldn't you live without?" . Then, ask students to pair up and explain their choices. Remind them that only one object should be chosen for each question. To wrap up the activity, have some volunteers share their picks with the whole group. If time allows, the activity can be expanded by having students discuss why they think a certain object was the most picked or why a certain object was not picked by anybody. 

Suggestions of what could be used: a tablet, a credit card, a car, nail polish, a cellphone, a notebook, newspaper, meat, chocolate, tv, a diary, a dog, an iPod, a microwave oven, socks, a remote control, sunglasses, books, , candies, CDs, etc

Source: Vinicius Lemos
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Activity 80- Unusual Uses

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: writing
Material needed: ordinary objects or pictures of ordinary objects

Divide students into pairs or groups of 3. Show them an ordinary object or a picture of it (ex: chair, pen, ball, ring,etc). Give them 2 minutes to list down as many unusual uses for it as possible. The champion is the group with the largest list.

Source: Marisa Constantinides
Picture credits:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Activity 79- 3 Differences and 3 Similarities

Here is a simple idea for an engaging and meaningful ice-breaker 

Level: any
Skill: speaking and writing
Material needed: none


Pair up students and tell them to have a conversation and ask each other questions so as to identify 3 ways in which they are different and 3 ways in which they are different (tastes, likes, dislikes, habits, routine, experiences, etc). While they are talking, they should take notes. Later, students should report their findings to the whole class. 

Tip: Tell students that in this activity they should not talk about differences or similarities regarding physical appearance, otherwise they might end up not talking to each other and just listing down obvious traits.

Source: Vinicius Lemos
Picture Credits:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Activity 78- Reverse Charade


I learned about this game by attending a workmate's workshop. It gives a little twist to a commonly used activity in the classroom: miming secret words.

Skill: Speaking
Material needed: set of slips with words to be guessed

Explain that this game is like any other traditional miming game and that the objective is to have the word in the slip guessed correctly. Divide class into 2 or more groups. Set a time limit of one minute and tell the students that, differently from the traditional miming game, the whole team should work together to mime the word to a single person (that is the twist added to it!). If the word is guessed correctly, then the group gets a point. 

Here are some suggestions of words to be used in the game:

drive thru
Oprah Winfrey
water park
fashion show

Source: Davi Rosa (Casa Thomas Jefferson, Brasilia, Brazil), with adaptations
picture credits : (Creative Commons)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Activity 77- One Minute Talk

                                                       picture credits: Martin Poole (Getty Images)

Here is a great warmer for your class!
Skill: Speaking
Material needed:A box or a bag and slips with topics

Students pick a slip from the bag/box and have one minute to talk freely to the group about that topic. When time is up, encourage classmates to ask one or two follow-up questions.
Here are some suggestions for topics:
last weekend
embarrassing moment
my dream job
dream vacation
my job
birthday party
my country
best friend
free time 

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Activity 76- The Washing Line

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Level: Basic
Aim: vocabulary recognition
Material needed: accessories, different pieces of clothing, a set of clothespins and a washing line
Divide students into 2 teams. Display all the items on the teacher`s table.  Explain that in this game they have to be fast because the winner is the group that can perform the tasks in less time. The teacher should shout a word and the student should pick up that item and use a clothespin to hang it in the washing line. Write down on the board the time each student takes  to perform the task. Add the times to determine the winning group.

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Activity 75- What a Story!

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Skill: Listening and Speaking
Material needed: set of cards with words.

In this activity, students are going to create a story together. The teacher should start it by picking up a card from the pile. The word in each card should dictate the path of the story and its protagonist. (ex: if someone picks a card with the word "romantic", then the protagonist should do something romantic or something romantic should somehow take place as the story is being told). Students keep telling the story until everyone has had a chance to pick a card and contribute to the narrative. The last student to pick a card should finish the story.

Suggestions of words:

Source: Vinicius Lemos, adapted from "Two Dozen Activities to Engage Indifferent Learners- by Ane Cibele Palma and Rossana Cirio Uba.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Activity 74- Compare and Contrast

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This is a very dynamic activity that is going to test your students` fluency skills and creativity!

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: Speaking
Material needed: set of cards with items to be compared

Divide class into 2 teams. The player should draw a card from the pile and read out loud the 2 items in it. He or she must tell one way the 2 items are similar and one way they are different. Set a time limit of 30 seconds or more (depending on the group).The other students must agree with the explanations in order for the team to get the point. Provide students with some examples before they actually play the game (Ex: apple- banana : The apple and the banana are the same because they are both fruit and they are different because a banana is long and an apple is round. )
Suggestions for the cards:
cousin- aunt
jacket- vest
yellow- black
carrots- grapes
wine - milk
soccer- video games
cell phone - watch
Superman- mother
paper- apple
water - lettuce
tie - socks
egg - rice
chocolate - ice
ketchup - salt

Source: Vinicius Lemos, adapted from "Everyone is a Winner" (TESOL 2009), by Jennifer Brown and Cathy Yorio

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Activity 73- Find Someone WHO... Has the Answer!

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Level: Basic and Intermediate
Skill: Listening and Speaking
Grammar point: WH- Questions
Material needed: Prepare slips of papers with WH- Questions and Answers. The idea is to have more slips than the number of students in class, for whoever matches more questions and answers, wins the game.


-          Prepare a set of WH- questions with their corresponding answers;
-          Hand out two slips for each student (a question and a different answer);
-          Tell students they should walk around the class, trying to find the corresponding question and answer to their slips;
-          When pairs find a match, they come to the teacher, show him/her their match to see if they are correct, and then get more slips with more questions and answers;
-          The game goes on until there are no more slips left.
-          Then ask the students to count how many slips they have and whoever has more slips, wins!

Source: Adapted from “Grammar Practice Activities”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Activity 72- Asking Questions

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Level: Any
Skill: Listening and Speaking
Grammar point: Yes/No questions
Material needed: Pictures; Flash cards

Display several pictures/ flashcards on the board (or floor). Select one of them and have students ask Yes/No questions in order to find out the picture you are thinking of.

Tip: Even though it can be adapted to any level, beginning levels usually profit more from it, for students can be encouraged to form small groups and take turns thinking of a picture and responding to their classmates’ questions. 

Source: Vânia Rodrigues

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Activity 71- Speculating About People

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Skill: Listening and Speaking
Grammar point: Speculating about people
Material needed: Large pictures of people you know (or Power Point Slides with Pictures of people you know)

                                           picture credits:
Before starting the activity, talk to students about people’s physical appearance and how much they can figure out from one’s character just by looking at him/her. Give examples using famous people’s age and how young, for instance, they might look, but not necessarily be.
Then show pictures of people you know well and ask students to speculate about those people’s likes and dislikes, interests, age, background, and so on. Finally, tell students how much they have actually guessed just by looking at the pictures.   

Variation: You can ask students to bring pictures of people they know well, and then have them work in pairs or small groups to speculate about the photographs they have brought.

Source: Vânia Rodrigues

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Activity 70- Memorizing Messages

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Level: any
Skill: Mainly writing
Grammar point: any
Material needed: a pen and a piece of paper

-          write a sentence and show it to a student at the front;
-          give this student from 5 to 10 seconds (depending on the level), then hide the sentence;
-          this student writes the sentence you’ve shown on a piece of paper;
-          the next student has from 5 to 10 seconds to look at the sentence;
-          the next students follow the same procedure;
-          as the sentence goes around the whole class until the last student has had a chance to look at his classmate’s sentence;
-          Finally, ask the last student to read the sentence and compare it to the one you have written.

Students will have a lot of fun hearing both sentences and how much the content has changed. This can be done in smaller classes as well as large classes, for students can keep on memorizing and rewriting the original sentence while you move on with your lesson.

For Advanced levels, you can show the first student a short story for about 30 seconds, then ask him/her to rewrite it, using his/her own words. When the story reaches the last student, check how different the story has ended.

Source: Vânia Rodrigues

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Activity 69- Practicing Prepositions

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Level: Any
Skill: Listening and Speaking
Grammar point: Prepositions of place
Material needed: Pictures of places or scenarios; Flash cards; objects displayed around the classroom (for beginning levels)


Using one of the materials suggested, ask students to explain the relationship between the places, objects or people, using the prepositions you want student to review/ reinforce.

Variation: You can also use this activity to have students write sentences, using prepositions.

Source: Vânia Rodrigues

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Activity 68- News Session

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Here is a strategy that can be used in the beginning of every week!

Level: Intermediate or Advanced
Material Needed: none


This is a task that should be assigned the previous class. Ask students to bring to class a story about their weekend or a piece of news they read or watched on tv. Students should then share with classmates their story in a very informal way just as if they were chatting with their friends. 

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Activity 67- I was... when...

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Are you teaching the relationship between simple past and past continuous? This game will definitely please your students!

Level: Basic and Intermediate
Skill: speaking
Grammar point: simple past and past continuous
Material needed: slips with sentences


Divide class into 2 teams. Spread slips with sentences on the table. A volunteer from the team goes to the front, picks up a slip and mimes the sentence to his group. Each group has one minute to guess the sentence correctly. 
Tip: Explain that all sentences follow the same pattern: "I was______ when _________"

Some suggestions:

I was sleeping when the telephone rang.
I was taking a shower when a butterfly flew over my head.
I was running when a dog bit my leg.
I was cooking when the cat jumped onto the stove.
I was dancing when I broke my arm.
I was writing an email when my girlfriend/boyfriend kissed me.
I was walking on the street when I slipped on a banana skin.
I was eating pizza when I started to cry.
I was playing soccer when the ball hit my face.
I was eating soup when a fly landed on my spoon.

Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, April 15, 2012

M that learning!

 Here is a great piece of news for teachers who are into technology: "M that learning!" is Vinicius`s new blog that features great activities using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones in the classroom! Do you want to learn how to take advantage of all the techy gadgets that students bring to class nowadays? Join in and learn about a new activity every week!

Activity 66- The Right Answer

                                               picture credits:

Here is an idea for a fun yet challenging activity!

Level: All
Skill: speaking
Material needed: pile of cards with words 


Divide students into 2 teams. Explain that a volunteer from the team should come to the front and pick up a card from the pile. Let`s suppose the word written in the card is "never". Then, in 30 seconds, the student should ask as many questions as necessary so that members of his group answer "never". (ex: How often do you eat vegetables? When will you live in the North Pole? ). Reinforce the idea that the team only gets the point if their answer is exactly like the word in the card.
Some suggestions:



 Source: Vinicius Lemos

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Activity 65- Paraphrase Dictation

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Level: Intermediate and Advanced
Skill: Listening and writing
Grammar point: Idioms
Material needed: list of sentences to be dictated


In this dictation, students don`t actually write what you say. Explain that the sentences contain slangs and idiomatic expressions and  the challenge is to paraphrase as much as they can using their own words. In the end, students pair up and compare their sentences before the exercise is corrected. Here are some suggestions for the dictation:

I guess I have a crush on that guy.
I`m feeling blue today.
It`s raining cats and dogs.
Hey, what`s up dude?
Julia is fed up with John.
That noise gets on my nerves.
I can`t help laying my eyes on her.
Those boots are in vogue.
Knock it off! I need to take a nap.
She is dressed to kill.
I don`t have the guts to try that sport.
Does this picture ring you a bell?

For more idiomatic expressions go to :

Tip: This strategy can be adapted to different realities by taking and using learned vocabulary from the students' coursebook.

Source: Vinicius Lemos