Posted in Games and activities

Seeing the bigger picture: A simple speaking lesson for busy teachers

Using pictures in ELT

I think you’ll agree that this is a rather boring picture:

A middle-aged man sitting in a garden reading a newspaper.

In this post, I’d like to show you a simple way of making a simple but effective lesson with no other materials other than this single image.

Show the picture to the students. Expand it, print out copies for them to share. Stick it on the board and let the students come up and see it. Post multiple copies of it around the room and ask them to look at it in pairs. Do whatever you like as long as they all see the image.

Then, start asking a few questions. Why not use a ball and throw it to the student you want to answer. Here are some example questions.

  1. Who is he?
  2. What’s he doing?
  3. How long has he been reading the paper?
  4. Is he drinking tea or coffee

When the students have got the hang of the task, put them into smaller groups (3-4),  let them throw the ball to each other and make their own questions. I suggest that you don’t do too much explicit correction here but note down errors and deal with them later. Let the students repeat or reformulate if their peers don’t understand them at first.

If the students run out of questions, write a few prompts on the board: reading, should, finish, feeling, last night, tomorrow, worried.

The more creative students will lead the way and the small groups should make all students feel comfortable. Soon, they’ll be creating plotlines and narratives from these questions and answers.

When this activity has run its course, do some feedback, correcting errors, discussing the best questions and answers and ask the students what they have just practised (lots of different structures)

As a follow-up activity, hand each group an image and ask them to write 5 or 10 questions about it. Ask the groups to swap the images with each other and let them discuss the questions. For homework, tell them to find an image (something more eye-catching obviously) and write questions about it. This can be your warmer for the next lesson in which students exchange images and question each other.

Variation: If you want to spice up the activity, tell your students that it is a picture of :

  • a middle-aged man with a terrible secret sitting in the garden reading a newspaper
  • a middle-aged man sitting in a prison garden reading a newspaper
  • a middle-aged man sitting in a garden reading a newspaper while waiting for a very important person
  • a middle-aged man who has been in a coma for 10 years sitting in a garden reading a newspaper

Any image with a person or people in it can be used to create a story. We share information, form bonds and learn so much through stories.

Hope some of you try this activity with your students. If you do, let me know how it goes.

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Posted in Games and activities

Rolling Dice: Speaking Games for TEFL teachers

All you need for these fun speaking games are some dice. I recommend you buy a few sets and carry them around with you all the time.

Dice are a great resource for TEFL teachers because they are portable and suitable for adults and kids

Speaking games for TEFL students

What I love about dice is that the options are endless, only limited by your imagination and creative ability. Let’s look at a few ways to use them.

  1. Tense reviews : Choose which tenses you want to practise (Advanced learners can practise all 12, Elementary learners could practise 2 or 3). Assign a number to each tense, for example, 6 is Present Perfect simple. Students roll the dice and have to create a sentence using the tense that corresponds with the number. Experiment with different variations such as positive, negative, questions, active, passive, correct & incorrect, subject & object pronouns etc.
  2. Question formation: Choose a question word for each number on the first dice: 1 = Who, 2 = Why, 3 = Where, 4 = When, 5 = What, 6 = How. Choose a topic for each number on the second dice: 1 = Food, 2 = Sport, 3 = Hobbies, 4 =Jobs, 5 = Clothes, 6 = Travel. If a student rolls a 3 and a 1, they have to create a question such as: Where did you eat dinner last night? You could use a third dice roll to determine who answers the question. If you have been teaching modals, use should, must, can etc. Great for Business students who can practise interview scenarios and students preparing for speaking exams.
  3. Conditionals: The first dice represents the ‘If’ clause and the second shows the result. Let students choose verbs for each number on both dice. Choose a topic like Crime to practise verbs:1 = burgle, 2 = steal, 3 = murder, 4 = mug, 5 = deceive, 6 = lie. The second dice (the results), could be possible punishments such as 1 = 10 years in prison, 2 = community service, 3 = stand in the corner etc. Students can play judge and jury, a roll of 1 and 6 could produce sentences such as: If you burgled my house, I would force you to stand in the corner of the room for 10 minutes. OK, it sounds ridiculous but the students will have a lot of fun and activate lots of vocabulary. Create superstitions, threats, promises, regrets etc.
  4. Story building: Create stories using the dice. Get students to create 12 characters, 12 locations, 12 verbs. Each roll of the dice continues the story. Before long, they’ll be generating dozens of ideas and plot lines.
  5. Practising phonemes. Choose some phonemes you want your students to practise and assign them a number from 1 to 12 (vowels), 1 – 24 (consonants). They get points for finding words which have these sounds.
  6. Functional language: The first dice shows the context such as relationships, work, travel, health. The second dice can be used to practise functions (regret, giving opinions, apologising) and their exponents (I wish I hadn’t, In my opinion, I’m awfully sorry). Before you know it, students will be creating fantastic mini-dialogues, peer-teaching, discussing meaning etc.
  7. General vocabulary game: Match a letter to a number. For instance, p is 4. A student rolls the first dice. The second dice dictates how many words they have to say with this letter. This requires no preparation and great for recycling / activating vocabulary. Also, the categories game works with dice and students can play it in groups.
  8. Phrasal verbs: The first dice indicates the verb (put, give, take, stand, look, get), the second dice is used for the preposition / particle (up, away, in, out, under, over). Students win points for creating real phrasal verbs and using them in sentences (2 and 1 might result in a sentence such as: He gave up smoking after he visited the doctor.

Tip: Make the games competitive by having different scoring systems. Two I like are:

The Dice Bomb: If students complete task or use language correctly, they roll the dice to determine how many points they’ll receive. Get the other team to choose a bomb number, e.g. 3. If the first team roll 4, they’ll get 4 points; if they roll the bomb number (3), they lose all their points.

Dice Gambling: Teams or students can choose to get 3 points for correct answers. However, they can gamble and roll the dice again and this new number will give them their points.

Finally, use dice to nominate students to answer questions or do certain tasks. This random element keeps them engaged and on their toes.

Let me know if you have any other dice games to use with your English students.