March 4

Picture Dictations

I had a great time the other day with my 11-year-olds as we were practising the present simple through picture dictations.  One thing I particularly enjoy about running picture dictations with Spanish speakers is that it removes their desire to dictate “phonetically” – in a normal running dictation, learners are obviously keen to get the spelling correct and so end up dictating things like, “The to-ast is very de-li-ci-ous” or “I li-ke waa-ching TV”.

IMG_2650A quick stage guide:

  1. Introduce and model the activity with a learner.
  2. Pair learners up and give instructions.
  3. Learners work on running dictation in pairs.
  4. When they have all the pictures, instruct them to work together to write a sentence (remind them to use the present continuous).
  5. Swap papers with another pair to correct. Elicit sentences from learners, write correct sentences on the board.

I told the groups there were a maximum of five points per sentence and that they should take off a mark for each mistake (hence the numbers on some of the pictures).


February 16

Ask the Experts

This is a fabulous game which I picked up at a conference years ago, but rarely play as I always worried that it would only be good for higher-level learners.  However, if you limit the questions, it could be a really useful game to play with younger learners and lower-level adults as well as it really enourages them to focus on sentence structure.  Here’s how I set the game up with my B2.2 group the other day:

I gave each learner a piece of paper and asked them to write a topic on it – I said the topic could be very general or very specific.  After collecting in the papers and shuffling them, I gave each person a topic and asked them to imagine one question they would ask if they met an expert in that topic.

Next, I explained how the activity works – we are the panel of experts and are going to answer these questions; however, each person can only say one word at a time.  We did a quick concept-check with the question, “What’s your favourite colour?” to check they had understood how to play.

The first question was on the topic of films and we had to recommend a good soundtrack composer and the second one was about the dangers of mobile phones.  It was a fun activity as we moved away from the original topic – on the subject of mobile phones we somehow ended up talking about people who cook chicken in microwaves with no protection.  I admitted to the class that I wasn’t sure how the game is originally played – whether you just keep speaking until you get to the end of a logical sentence or if there is a time- or word-limit.  Thinking about it now, it could be good to work in two teams and for the other team to judge the experts on the content of their answer; they could also transcribe the sentence to check it was grammatically sound as I error-corrected on-the-spot during our game.

February 15

Games for adult learners – Word Ladders

Word Ladders are fun for any age and they’re easy to play with minimal preparation from the teacher.  On the board, draw two ‘ladders’ with an equal number of rungs on each.  Divide the class into two teams and set them playing.   If you have a large group and enough space on the board, you could draw more ladders.  I always say that learners can help their teammates and keep an eye on the game so you can rub words off if they’re spelt incorrectly or if the other team has already written it first.  Here are some ideas of variations on the game, which you can combine to make the game more challenging:

Going up

In one of the simplest versions of the game, learners start with a word with three letters at the bottom, then on the next rung write a word with four, then five, and so on until they reach the top of their ladder.

Going up with a topic

To add a bit of challenge, you could give the learners a specific topic for the ladder; for example, if the topic was adjectives, they might write fat – thin – happy – strong – serious – exciting – fantastic.  Or for animals, it could be cat – frog – snake – rabbit – leopard – elephant – crocodile.

Last letter, first

In this version, as learners move up the ladder, the word must start with the last letter of the word on the rung below – this gets trickier when combined with Going up.  So you may end up with cat – take – eaten – notice – easiest – terrible – everybody (lots of es in that round!).  And even more so if you add in a topic! 




December 9

Making Questions

Question formation is especially tricky for Spanish speakers given that they don’t use an auxiliary verb in their own language and subsequently don’t change the word order between statements and questions, a simple rising intonation suffices.

I do a simple activity called Guess the Question with my YLs to practise question forms and although I adapt the question each day to incorporate new language and structures we see in class, I’m still finding the activity a little limiting as learners are quick to ask the simpler questions, such as What’s your favourite…? and What time do you…? but struggle to think of more complex structures or more abstract questions.

In order to encourage them to focus on question structure, I’m going to do a similar activity to Guess the Question but as a pair activity rather than whole group and with another slight twist.  This time, one learner will have a card with a question on one side and starter-answer on the back, e.g. What time did you go to bed last night? / Last night, I went to bed at… They’ll hold up the starter-answer to their partner and read out the completed sentence, then help their partner to identify and form the question.  The reason for also including the start-answer is that they’re still in the first stages of exposure to the past tense and I want the focus of the activity to be on question formation rather than whether they can correctly conjugate the verb to answer the question.  However, after a few practices in this way, hopefully I’ll be able to take away the starter-answers.

November 11

Telling the Time

ClockWow, an incredibly uninspiring title for what is a fab little resource that I’ve just discovered to introduce and review the time.  You can drag the minute and hour hands to the time you want – quick tip, if you’re adjusting both the hour and minutes, move the hour hand first.    You can remove the digital clock by clicking off on the right-hand side or set the clock to show real time.  If the second hand is getting in your way, you can remove it by clicking on the drop-down Mode menu, then Style, selecting the box second hand and then clicking on the cross at the bottom of the colour palette.Great as an introduction to telling the time or for a quick review activity at the start of the lesson.