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Simple activities with a text for lower levels

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This is a collection of ideas one can do with a text to improve students’ reading skills. And perhaps not only the reading skills. I was trying to do the activities when I thought we had exploited the text in every possible way “dictated” by the coursebook and the students ( weak A2 level) still had problems with it.

  • Actually there were three shorter sections to read, so I grouped the students so that each group was focusing on one particular text. The reading was written in the Simple Present tense first person singular, so the students first had to read it out in third person singular, taking turns to read out the individual sentences.
  • The question words were listed on the board, together with a general revision of word order in questions in the Simple Present tense. Students were now forming questions with those question wors, write them down and finally had to ask and answer those questions.
  • Key words of the three sections were put on cards. The students took a card from the pile placed face down on the desk and they had to define, explain the words to each other: the rest of the group guessed the words.
  • On a different lesson the questions were on slips placed face down on the desk, students took turns to look at a question on slips and answer them. Then placed the questions face up on the desk and simply by looking at the questions tried to retell the story the questions were based upon. Finally the questions were taken away and students had to remember the text they have worked with.
  • One member from the group reads out the text deliberately making factual mistakes. For example if the text says: “I live in Turkey”, the student could say “I live in Norway” – the other students in the group have to listen carefully, and if they spot a mistake, say “Stop!” and correct the mistake. The reader then carries on with the text.
  • As the tasks are very often based on cards, when the groups are ready with one particular series of tasks with a pack of cards or slips, they rotate, i.e. they stand up and move over to a desk, where they find hte cards of the other text(s).
  • Sentences from the texts were taken and cut up into words. The students were in pairs and they had to reorder the cards to make meaningful sentences. When they were ready, I quickly checked the sentences. If they were correct, they could mix/shuffle the word cards, and leave it on the desk, while they were walking to the next desk where another sentence was waiting for them to reorder (previously reordered then mixed up by their peers). With this technique, students move around the classroom, concentrate on the correct order of words, meaning of words, collaborate, and revise the story of simple reading texts.
  • Students took a word – anything they liked. They wrote a sentence demonstrating the meaning of the word, but leaving the word itself out – thus producing a gapped sentence. They fixed the papers with their sentences on the walls of the classroom. The sentences were numbered. The students walked around the classroom and tried to guess the missing words of each of the sentences, by taking note of hte number of the sentence and the word they thought fitted the sentence.
  • Pictures were placed around the classroom walls. Students had to associate the words with one or more of the pictures and explain their choices.

Future Perfect Song

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This activity is based on a song. Faith Hill: You Will Be Mine. It is packed with the Future Perfect tense!

Following the presentation and some practce of the Future Perfect tense, it is a nice, light-hearted activity, bringing some change into the lesson.

The students are in groups and are given the first 12 lines of the song on slips. Their task is to guess the right order of the lines. When they are ready, the groups can compare their solutions and finally listen to the first 3 verses of the song to check their answers.

The next 4 verses are presented as a gap-fill exercise, so the students listen to that part of the song and fill in the gaps. Vocabulary is discussed at the same time referring to the grammar of future time clasues in line 4 of the 4th and 8th verses.

At the end students can listen to the rest of the song which is the repetition of the previous verses with a verb in the Future Perfect in almost every line.

Click here for the complete lyyrics, the slips to be put in the correct order and the gap-fill exercise.

Verb patterns – a board game

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board game 07

Verb patterns at upper-intermediate level – well, that is even more challenging than teaching it at lower levels. I posted some days ago a pre-intermediate task or rather a cooperative drill that proved to be useful and interesting for my students. Now I would like to describe a board game that made the students in my class experience such a flow that they were surprised and sorry when the lesson ended.

There had already been a lesson presenting the different verb pattern structures (verb + –ing form, verb + infinitive, verb + object + infinitive, verb + object + base form, verb + object + past participle) and some practice tasks. We also did some drilling following the example of the activity that I described in my previous post on verb patterns.

Preparation

To prepare the board game I used the cards from the drilling task. It means that the verbs that are followed by the different structures were printed on different coloured paper cards and cut out. The students were in 4 groups, each group received one set of cards, dice and counters. The board was the students’ desk. They had to shuffle the coloured cards and place them face down in a way that they form the squares of a board game from ’start’ to ’finish’.
The game
The students then rolled the dice, moved the counters according to the number and turned up the card they landed on. The task was to give a grammatically correct sentence with the verb on the card turned up. If somebody landed on a card that had already been turned up, that card had to be placed at the end, i.e. before the ’finish’ – thus it became the last ’square’ of the board. The card then was replaced by one new verb card that each group received in a separate pack.
Conclusion
Although playing the game like that was a kind of „never ending story, the students enjoyed it a lot! And in fact it was only a „make a sentence with the different verbs” type of task, still, as a board game it was motivating and fun!

Difficulty with verb patterns

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I have come up with the most imaginative activities and have given my students the funniest on-line tasks, the most creative exercises – still ‘verb patterns’ is the grammar point that is best practised with drills.

Old fashioned? Perhaps. Nevertheless in my view it is worth drilling sometimes to see some improvement – or am I just impatient?

Anyway, when I was speculating about some verbs and found that it was really easy for my students to use ‘to + infinitive’ after ‘want’ or ‘try’, I realised that the only reason is that they tend to use those verbs really often. So that would be the real argument for drilling – even if it is found old-fashioned by some methodology gurus.

So the simple task was the following:

– the students are in groups of 3 or 4

– each student receives one card (cut out from the page) with a verb but also indicating if it is followed by to + infinitive or the -ing (Gerund) structure

– in the middle of the desk I put a sheet with lots of different verbs – the verbs that I intended to be the “second” verb, i.e. the one that has to be put into the gerund or infinitive form

– one student from the group asks a question with the verb on their card plus one of the “second verbs” from the sheet in the approproate form. Every group member has to give an answer in a full sentence, making sure that they repeat the whole structure.

e.g. the verb on the card is ‘AGREE’ to

Student 1’s question: Do you agree to come to the cinema with me tonight?

Student 2’s answer: I agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

Student 3’s answer: I don’t agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

The students take turns to ask and answer with the verbs on their cards.

What is happening here? The students listen to the same structure lots of times thus creating the imprint of that verb pattern. After 3-4 questions with the same verb the students can take new cards (for instance change cards with another group)

Well, I am not saying that drilling is the most exciting activity in the world but with a little twist, like creating group work and a speaking activity it can help the students memorise difficult structures like verb patterns.

Why grammar? Ask the craftle pruncers!

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Sometimes you simply have to show your students why grammar is important.  A fun way of doing it is analysing the following text made up of nonsense words:

 

The craftle pruncers were snockering so croippily in the hontarbrun that Splod Crampid brocked them lurgly to snocker cliplier because he coulnd’t prunce with so much croip.

“Oh, we’re stal quobbly, Splod Crampid,” gebrocked the pruncers.

“We did not flample that our snocker was so croippy.”

 

Well, that’s how I started the school year with my more advanced students: I read it out to them.  They were shocked at first but then realized that even the above text can be analysed, understood and even the following 10 questions can be answered in an intelligent way:

 

1. Who or what in the text were snockering?

2. Where were the craftle pruncers?

3. What were they doing?

4. How were they doing it?

5. What did Splod Crampid brock them to do?

6. How did Splod Crampid brock them?

7. Why couldn’t Splod Crampid prunce?

8. What word in the text do you think is the opposite in meaning to ‘croipily’? Why?

9. What did the pruncers gebrock to Splod Crampid?

10. Did the craftle pruncers flample that their snocker was so croippy?

 

The students even admitted that their grammar knowledge made it possible for them to answer the questions – meaning was unimportant here, as grammar structures solved all the problems.

I’d like to thank a former colleague, Réka, for this brilliant text and the idea of using it this way.

Must, mustn’t, needn’t

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Image

I have done the following activity several times and students really enjoy it!

I. Before this lesson:

The lesson is connected to Unit 7B in Solutions Pre-Intermediate. It is basically a follow-up lesson to the above grammar point, so when students have already understood the basic concept and practised the use of those modals.

It was their homework to collect some customs in Hungary that might be strange to foreigners. Of course the target language was must, mustn’t and needn’t.

II. During the lesson:

As the warmer for the lesson the students discussed the Hungarian customs they had collected as homework.

Then they looked at the last post in their digital classroom. Using the links (this, this, this and this) in that post or any other website of their own choice they had to find some strange or unusual customs from different countries.

I really love using padlet.com where you can easily build a ‘wall’ which is like a notice poard and you can stick your virtual post-it notes onto it with a simple double click of your mouse. So when students’ task was to go to their walll and on the virtual post-it notes collect the most interesting customs. This is what they produced. When they were ready we were all sitting around the board where I projected everything they had written on the wall and they had to make sentences with must, mustn’t and needn’t. It was real fun especially when tehy were comparing the customs of other countries with that of Hungary.

III. After the lesson:

As a follow-up (and homework) they had to write down the sentences – thus everybody had to produce lots of sentences with the target structure.