ABC and word games, on Halloween!

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Lately, we have been enjoying lots of fun Alphabet activities. Apples, leaves and pumpkins all lend themselves perfectly to letter learning activities, so we are embracing that and having tons of fun!
Here are my favorite ways to practice letter identification, uppercase and lowercase letter matching, letter sounds , word recognition and more!
Halloween Cup hunt 
  1. Write the letter of the Alphabet on the white sticker or directly onto the cups.
  2. Model how to play in whole group or small group setting.
  3. Have the children close their eyes.
  4. Place the eyeball/Halloween treat under one of the cups.
  5. Chant, “Eye Spy, I Spy.”
  6. Children open their eyes.
  7. Call on students one at a time to guess which cup is hiding the eyeball.
  8. Students read letter of the cup where they think the eyeball/treat  is.
  9. Students lift the cup to see if they are right
  10. Game continues until the eyeball/treat is found.
  11. Repeat game again.
  12. They can keep  the treat, only if they manage to say a word which starts with it as soon as they find it!

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All in all…These cups take up less room and work great for letters, words, and numbers too. The students  can:

  • Say the letter.
  • Say the sound.
  • Name something that begins with the letter.
  • Put the cups in ABC order first.
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The Pumpkin letter memory game

Alphabet Memory Game on…pumpkin templates!

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  1. Put the pumpkin  picture cards aside. Mix up all of the uppercase and lowercase cards.
  2. Place them face down on the table or floor in a grid-like pattern.
  3. Have a student choose two pumpkin cards anywhere on the grid.
  4. Are the letters a match? Big A with little a? If so, that student  gets to remove those cards from play and keep them for his/her team . He also gets to go again!
  5. If they don’t match, turn them back over, and the next person/team  goes. Even if the cards don’t match, encourage your students  to remember where those cards are in case they need to find them again!
  6. Keep playing until all of the cards have been matched. The team with the most matches wins the game.

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Game 2: Letter Sounds Memory Game with Halloween vocabulary!

This game is played the same way except you use one set of alphabet cards and the Halloween picture cards. Try to make a match by finding the picture’s beginning letter!

Set a timer for a few minutes and see how many matches he can get.

 

 

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 The Alphabet Monster
 I spread the letters/pictures  on a desk and tell my students  that the monster was VERY hungry and only eats letters/pictures … BUT that he can only eat them if you say the letter’s/picture’s name first.  They quickly pick out the letters that they already know and feed them to the monster saying each letter name as she put them in.  To make the game fun and playful, I make sounds for the monster … like, “Ohhhh, I’m so hungry!” and gobbling noises after they put a letter in the box.  This receives lots of giggles and silly smiles!
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Although we are using the box for alphabet identification, he can EASILY be changed into a number or color monster!

Variation:

A nice Halloween ABC variation that my students love, has to do with a….Monster!!

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I was inspired to create this last year reading an interesting  blog post and I thought I’d share it if anyone would like to use it. I just print a copy for each team . Then I laminate it and tape it onto a fly swatter with the middle part cut out. It can work as a letter monster, a word monster, or even a number monster. I also found a cute little rhyme to go with it.

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Halloween words- Ladders to the MOON!

This is a simple game.  First, I use tape to create the ladder or just draw it on the board .  Then, I write down high Halloween words or put up flash cards with letters and sounds .  The goal is to move all the way up the ladder.  If you get the word/letter/sound  right, you advance to the next rung.  If you get it wrong, you fall all the way back to the bottom.  Of course, it can work for kids on all levels and subjects.  It can be used for vocabulary, reading, ….math facts – the possibilities are endless.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN IN CLASS!!

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Pronunciation: Teaching with Adrian Underhill’s phonemic chart

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The reason I decided to apply for a Comenius  grant to be able to go to Pilgrims to attend a professional development course, back in 2011, was the same reason most  teachers go to Pilgrims for: new ideas, to be refreshed and to experience the unique Pilgrims difference, which focuses on our continuous personal and professional development.

But, the best part about the Pilgrims experience for me, was the training courses I attended and especially the free Seminars, Workshops and Activities to choose from at 16:00 or 20:00 on 3 or 4 days per week.

I had my best time , in those afternoon classes…and I shared unforgettable fun moments with my international colleagues, in them!

My most favourite afternoon trainers were Adrian Underhill who taught me pronunciation through his beautiful music and  Peter Dyer , who utilized his drama experience with his teaching methodology.

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Adrian, helped me fix the wrong way I used to pronounce ‘“G” sounds…..Adrian also, taught me how to incorporate his Pron Chart layout into my teaching, first just to help myself, and gradually reveal it to my learners as they became ready for it.

It was the best introduction to the phonemic chart I could ever have had.

He gave me a huge boost of confidence as I realized it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and using the chart as Adrian does was incredibly engaging.

One thing that stood out for me was that he advised us not to wait to use the chart in class until we were ready, but to dive in and go on a journey with the learners.

His  chart is now an integral part of my lessons.

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Several times so far, I have  taught pronunciation skills to my students using  Adrian Underhill`s chart ~which I was given at Pilgrims, some time ago and have  followed his suggestions about how to teach pronunciation in a fun and playful way! My students just love it!! They always ask for more  !One of them , once said… ” I had no idea miss that, learning the phonemes can be such great fun!!”

Adrian, read my relevant facebook post, and my fb friends’ comments and questions about my work on phonemes, three weeks ago and replied with this message:

“Good to hear you out there. In response to your comments I’ve just posted a list of Pronunciation Teacher Training Videos and Resources on my pronunciation blog at adrianunderhill.com I hope you’ll find what you need there, but let me know if not. If you search online you’ll also find other videos not mentioned below. The resources include articles, online pron charts, classroom wall pron charts, the app, and the book.Good wishes to all in your pron work!”

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 So, here you are……..Feel free to join the fun!

Thanks, Adrian! Keep inspiring us!

Pronunciation Teacher Training Videos and Resources – available for use with Adrian Underhill’s Sound Foundations approach

Videos

1.. Series of 39 3-Minute teacher training videos This deals with each of the sounds in turn, a guide to the pron chart and how to use it, how to exploit the physicality of pronunciation, lots of teaching tips. Available to view free of charge here

2.. My talk on Proprioception in learning new sounds, words and connected speech is available on Youtube here   Filmed at the British Council, London, in February 2015

3.. One Hour Sound Foundations teacher training video, plus various shorter extracts, is available to view here. Filmed at Oxford University

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Other resources

On this new Macmillan One Stop English page you can find the following:

– Videos, various shorter and longer Sound Foundations Videos

– Articles Recent articles on pronunciation teaching

– The Charts British and American English Interactive phonemic charts, with sounds and optional sample words. Classroom charts are also obtainable free from Macmillan ELT. Ask your local representative.

– The App Sounds: The Pronunciation App

– The Book Sound Foundations: Learning and Teaching Pronunciation

Go here for all the above resources

And of course check out this blog – you’re here now!  www.adrianunderhill.com To date there are 80 posts containing usable insights into pronunciation, how it works, how to turn pronunciation problems into good teaching, the physicality of pronunciation, and lots of practical lesson ideas.

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The Phonetic English Joke Book

Jeremy Taylor has put together The Phonetic English Joke Book which offers 100 jokes in phonetic script followed by a ‘translation’ in normal spelling on the following page. Jeremy says it is not intended as a high level academic study but as a user and learner-friendly ebook . It will appeal to people with an interest in learning phonetic script so that they can understand word pronunciations and use dictionaries to enhance their knowledge and memory.

Some of the advantages of  The Phonetic English Joke Book that I can see are

  1. Each piece is joke length, ie short.
  2. The reader is motivated to get to the end, ie to the punch line
  3. Users acquire a facility with phonetic script through use and personal application rather than through ‘being taught’
  4. The normal text is on the next page so if you get stuck or you’ve had enough you just jump to that
Knowing the phoneme symbols for the sounds of English

Although this is not essential for learners, it is a great advantage. Why? Because it offers a way of identifying and fixing sounds, enabling learners to make lots of day to day discoveries like these: “Oh, the sound in that word is the same as in that word” and “Ah, that’s the funny sound I haven’t got, and it’s the same one in those other three words…” and “Using these symbols I find that I ‘know’ more of them that I thought” and “Ok, now I can see which are the sounds I am unsure of” and “Now I can see what’s going on, and I find it is not so mysterious! I am in control (nearly) and I feel more confident!” and “When I learn a new word I can check the dictionary and find how to say it, and this helps me remember it too…”

All the profits from sale of this ebook go to support the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres. 

For more info on The Phonetic English Joke Book and for purchase  go here The book is obtainable from Amazon and Smashwords and can be downloaded as a PDF, a mobi (for Kindle) or EPUB (for general ebook readers)

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Happy phonemic chuckles….!

 

Teaching Grammar, the fun way!

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I have moved away from the traditional methods of teaching English grammar through writing, rewriting and worksheets to using a more active approach through games.

Why I teach grammar with games?

Arif Saricoban and Esen Metin, authors of “Songs, Verse and Games for Teaching Grammar” explain how and why games work for teaching grammar in an ESL classroom. They say, “Games and problem-solving activities, which are task-based and have a purpose beyond the production of correct speech, are the examples of the most preferable communicative activities.” They go on to explain that grammar games help children not only gain knowledge but be able to apply and use that learning.

Additionally, games have the advantage of allowing the students to “practice and internalize vocabulary, grammar and structures extensively.” They can do this because students are often more motivated to play games than they are to do desk work. Plus, during the game, the students are focused on the activity and end up absorbing the language subconsciously. One can also add that fun learning games usually contain repetition, which allows the language to stick.

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Also,  we can use games to add excitement through competition or games which create bonding among students and teacher.

The theory of intrinsic motivation also gives some insight as to why teaching grammar through games actually works. Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal factors that encourage us to do something. Most young learners will not internally decide that they want to learn grammar. They don’t yet understand the concepts of why it’s important to know proper grammar, so these external factors won’t affect them much either. Instead, intrinsic motivation can lead encourage them to play games. If these games are good then they will be learning while they are playing.

Using some movement is crucial because movement helps activate the students’ mental capacities and stimulate neural networks, thus promoting learning and retention. If you have a large class with no space you still have options. Children can stand up, sit down, move various body parts and pass things around to each other. Movement does not only mean children tearing around the playground.

Here are just few , of my favourite grammar games…(to be continued……)

PRESENT PERFECT

Find someone who

A set of cards each of which has a task on it beginning :” Find someone who” plus the present perfect. For example, ” Find someone who has been to Disneyland”.There should be about 10 different tasks each one duplicated 3-4 times.I usually start by asking the students questions eg ” Have you ever ridden an elephant”? until I find someone who has or until it is apparent that nobody has. I write on the board ” Maria, has ridden an elephant” or ” None in the class has ever ridden an elephant”.

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“Find someone who…”

Then, I tell them to take a card each, and try to find someone in the class who has done the action indicated on it, by going round asking each other questions . They should then note down the result in a full sentence, like the one I wrote on the board and take a new card. How many answers can  they find and write down? This is a competition, so they are not to give away the answers to each other as they find them out! I check the answers at the end, by asking publicly for an answer to each task.

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Participants, get one point for each acceptable answer. Anyone who writes for any item that nobody has ever done it, when in fact there is somebody in the class who has, loses a point.

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Accounting for moods

Materials: A set of pictures showing people in different moods: individual copies .

I go  through the pictures with the students defining with them the apparent feelings of the person depicted ( worried…surprised….exhausted )-you may have several possibilities for each picture. Then , I take one picture, and ask them what they think has happened to make the person feel this way.

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“She is worried because her younger son has not come home, yet and it’s very late”

I write up a few suggestions on the board. Then, I let hem do the same for the other pictures , working individually or in pairs.

Then, we hear and discuss results.

The same, may be done in writing for homework.

Oh!

I give the students a series of exclamations (Oh!, Ah!, Great! , Oh, dear!, Cheers!, Damn!, Yes!, Yes?, Rubbish!, Thank goodness!  etc) and ask them what they think has happened to make the speaker say them. For example, ” Oh!” might mean that ” She has had a surprise” or ” She has remembered something”.

They may brainstorm their ideas orally, or write them down. They can even mime their ideas  for the class to guess!

PAST TENSE -for narrative

A story

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I tell the students a story- improvising from skeleton notes or reading out from a text ( Two of my most  favourite FUN  stories , come from my mentor Olha Madulus! I first heard  them,  in one of  her inspiring “Tesol Greece Convention” presentations, a few years ago….

The story should have plenty of action and be easily comprehensible to the students. As you can see in the photo below, I use pictures and hand-made flashcards, to help the students recall the events…

I get them to keep notes if they wish and focus on past forms, by asking occasionally for a translation of an irregular form, or by stopping and getting them to supply the verb-but not so often as to interfere with overall “pace” or comprehensibility. After I have finished, I ask them to recall some of the sentences in the past that were mentioned in the story- using one-word ” cues” to jog their memories.

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“A story “

MODALS

Guessing my abilities

The students are asked to demonstrate something they are very good at, some special ability or a special talent they have!

The class, guesses by asking questions. ” Can you …”?

I help them with vocabulary when necessary.The first student who guesses right, comes to the board and shows the class what he/she can do really well, in turn !

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What’s interesting here is, the fact that I challenge  the guessers, to try and do the same action they have witnessed, in front of the whole class!  This way, they see for themselves how difficult it may be! This activity is a great self-esteem booster, too!

Here are some more photos, of my highly talented students!

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Mystery box

This is an awesome guessing activity!The“Mystery Box” – a type of prediction game that you can create with simple items that you have in class.

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Find a box, such as a shoe box, or any other kind of container which kids can’t see through, such as a cookie tin. Introduce the empty box or tin and discuss how the mystery box game will be played. Outside of the children’s view, place an item inside the box or tin. Ask the children to predict what is inside. If you want, you can let the children hold the box, to see how heavy it is or if it makes any noise bouncing around the box or tin.

Give the children one clue as to what is inside the box. For instance, if you have a teddy bear inside, you can say, “It’s soft.” After the first clue is given, ask the children to guess what might be inside. Repeat the process by giving a second clue, such as, “It’s brown” and then ask the children to guess again.

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They have to guess, by using different modals such as “it must be..”, ” it can’t be..”, “it may be..” etc

All the students who guess right, are given special stickers! If only one student guesses right , she/he is given the item in the mystery box, to take home , as a present.

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After showing the kids how to play the game, I ask the children to bring their own  mystery boxes  from home,  the next day, with an item inside the box for their classmates  to guess what it is.

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PRESENT PROGRESSIVE

Guessing mimes

Materials: Simple sentences for guessing, using the Present Progressive. eg ” You are watching a comedy on TV”

Alternatively, similar situations depicted in drawings.

In this activity, I work with groups of students. It’s more fun!

Students are given a cue-card and mime the content for the rest of the class to guess. “Are you holding something”?

The students are encouraged to keep guessing during the mime.

This activity, is a common one , but can be hilarious!

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Guessing mimes

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Guessing mimes

The fairytale  group mime

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First , I  read them Aesop’s ” The Hare and the Tortoise”.  They are  encouraged to take notes, while listening . Then, I ask some volunteer students to come to the board and , in collaboration, start miming scenes of the story for they classmates to guess what’s happening using the Present Progressive. eg ” The Hare is sleeping under the tree”

You can do the same with any story you like.

An alternative activity is to start  reading  the class any story in Present Progressive and later have groups of students stand up,  and mime what I am  reading!

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This is an example of such a story ..

“……….Now the children are at school. Amy is sewing. She is practicing. She is sitting on a bench. She is sitting near Timmy. Timmy is at school too. Timmy is studying. He is sitting behind his desk. He wishes he could play with the other children. John and Susan are also at school. They are playing outside. They are picking flowers for their teacher. John is carrying his hat. Susan is wearing a bonnet. At this moment, Sarah is walking by the door. She is helping the teacher. She is carrying textbooks to the shelf….”

And this is another one..

“…Today, Abby is visiting her grandparents. She loves her grandparents. At this moment, she is sitting on her grandfather’s knee. She is listening to a story. She is smiling. She loves her grandfather’s stories. Jacob is Abby’s grandfather. He loves his granddaughter. Right now, he is telling her a story. He is holding her on his knee. He is holding her hands. They are sitting in the living room. Sarah is Abby’s grandmother. At this moment, Sarah is standing in the kitchen. She is baking cookies for Jacob and Abby. She is also listening to Jacob’s story. ….”

It works better with funny stories, though…

Acting the story out!

Acting the story out!

NONCOUNT NOUNS

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When you are teaching noncount nouns, you will find that many of them fall into the category of food . Rice, milk, coffee, jelly and peanut butter are just a few of the noncount nouns one might find at a picnic. Playing this game will challenge our students’ memories while also reviewing count and noncount nouns. I arrange my  class in a circle. Then start the game by saying, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing a ________” filling in the blank with a food item, either count or noncount. The student to my left continues, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing a…” He then chooses his food item and repeats my food item. The third person in the circle chooses a food item and repeats the other two. Play continues around the circle until it has reached me once again, and I face the big challenge of remembering what everyone is bringing on the picnic! As play moves around the circle, I make  sure  sure to correct my students if they make an error with count and noncount nouns. For example, if someone says I am bringing a juice, I  should remind him or her to say a bottle of juice.

A fun homework I give them is, to go home, open all their kitchen cupboards and the fridge and write a list of all the food items they find there! I am  sure, mothers are not very happy with this kind of homework! haha…

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PRESENT SIMPLE

Guess my Summer routines

I ask them to  briefly discuss  activities they do, as part of their Summer routines .I supply new vocabulary as needed.

eg ” I play beach soccer with my friends, every day”.

I give them 5 minutes to write down as many of their own routines they can think of.

In groups, they read out their lists to one another and delete anything they have written down which someone else has as well. So that at the end, each student has only his/her special Summer routines , that no one else has. Later, a representative from each group, describes these special routines in the third person. eg ” Paul, eats 5 ice-creams  every day”

Some of these routines, may rise to interesting questions and answers-also in the Present Simple.

A fun variation  I  tried this year ,was  to have them bring items in class from home, which we used to guess about their Summer habits and special routines . eg, ” Do you listen to music, during your summer holidays”?

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Can you guess what his favourite Summer routine is??

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What about her favourite Summer pastime?…

ARTICLES

Stations

Students listen to a word or sentence and react one way if “an” is needed and a different way if “a” is needed. Possibilities include running and slapping opposite walls of the room, jumping either side of a line, slapping two pieces of paper on their table, and pretending to shoot pieces of paper on different walls. The same game can also be played with “a” and “the”, but it is quite difficult to choose sentences that are only possible with one of the two.

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A variation
Another way of using Stations, and one that it is easier to bring “the” into, is to have students do the two reactions depending on whether what you said was right or wrong (grammatically, factually or logically).

 

EXTRA: I have recently read this amazing blog, by the teacher and blogger Claudio Azevedo, which is about movie segments to Assess Grammar Goals .

It contains a series of movie segments and activities to assess or practice grammar points through fun, challenging exercises. Here you will find the movie segments, the lesson plans, printable worksheets with answer key for each activity, and the tips to develop your own grammar activities with the DVDs you have at home. New activities are posted regularly. Teaching grammar with movie segments is inspiring and highly motivating.

Please, visit and I’m sure you’ll find loads of inspiring ideas !

Now, you can stop the eye-rolling and complaining from your students when you even THINK about teaching them a grammar lesson, and have some productive fun!

More ,start of the school year, fun!

 

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Building a classroom community is very important and is an indicator of success. Icebreakers and other activities are important to implement during the first days of a new school year. It is important for all students to feel welcome and a part of their small community which actually a part of an even bigger one. Feeling comfortable will help create resilient learners that have confidence in sharing their ideas without fear of being judged.

Sharing some of my favourite activities, here, today…….

The ball game

Have all the kids stand up .  As a group think of 5 questions that they want to find out about each other such as:

What is your name?

When is your birthday?

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?

Name something you are good at?

After you decide on the questions you can start the game.  Give one player the ball.  Have them throw the ball across the circle to another player.  Whoever catches it has to answer one of  the 5 questions- the one the person who has thrown the ball is asking him/her.  When they answer the questions they throw it to another player who then does the same .  To make sure everyone gets a turn make it a rule that you have to throw the ball to someone that didn’t already have a turn.

Variation: I ask them to say a reason they think they are special , each time they catch the ball or share a fact about them nobody in class knows …..

Words about me

I saw this one on Pinterest and thought it would be a great way to revise some vocabulary and boost their self-esteem, at the same time .  The students had to find at least 20 words that describe themselves. They had a great time working on this activity. This was also an encouragement to the students because they realized that they have some great qualities to share with the world.

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With older students, we do ” I am special because..” They have to write as many reasons they can think of , why  they are special!I use the body template below… A great self-esteem booster, too.

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Scavenger Hunt

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Children are given a list of questions about their class and classroom to answer. First most accurate sheet wins. Some examples are: How many children are in this class, how many girls/boys are there, how many dictionaries are in the room,  where are the games kept….This activity helps the children get to know each other and their new classroom.

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Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

Students playing and having fun, while learning new languages!

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A ball of yarn

One of my favorite getting-to-know you activity is building a friendship web using a ball of yarn. We all sit in a circle and I start with a ball of yarn ( I say my name and something that makes me special and then throw the yarn to a friend. When my friend catches the yarn, he/she states his/her name and shares a reason he/she is special  and then throws it to another friend. It is a great way for everyone to get to know each other. I tell all the children we are building a friendship class web where we are always here to help each other. They really enjoy this activity and always ask to do it again!

 

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Self portraits

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Have students draw and color self-portraits on the first day of school. These self-portraits make great displays for back-to-school night and perfect keepsakes to pull out at the end of the year.This activity would be further enhanced by having students write an “I Am” poem. Each line of the list poem starts with the phrase, “I am”. You could also add other phrases such as ” I have..”, “I can…”, ” I like…” etc. Students brainstorm descriptive phrases about themselves to write their poems. Younger students could brainstorm a list of descriptors as a group and copy their ideas onto sentence strips to write a class poem

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Shhh Spray

I made up some “Quiet Spray!”  You spray the ROOM to signal children to get quiet.  Or you can just leave the bottle empty.  Mine love the mist in the air.  It is so funny!  {I do not condone spraying a child!  As much as you might want to!  Ha! ;)}

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Brain Sprinkles

1. To playfully encourage anxious kiddos during test time or challenging academic times throughout the year 2. To playfully encourage students to THINK or USE THEIR BRAINS when conflicts, problem-solving situations, anger-inducing situations, or social situations arise

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I took an empty spice container, created a cute label, then filled the container with beads and glitter. I shake the container over their heads, and…boom! They are revitalized. Sometimes I use them on myself. I love to give everyone brain sprinkles right before a test. Some even ask if I can shake a little extra sprinkles for them!

Name chant

This cute chant , is the way for my juniors to get to know each other’s names  , the very first day in our  English class! Sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”.

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I am done Jar

I created an “I’m Done” jar for my fast finishers and it was seriously amazing! I always had students who finished their “must do’s” quickly. They just got it! When they came up to me and exclaimed, “Teacher! I’m done!” I generally would just tell them to go read a book/magazine . I wanted to figure out *more* ways to challenge and engage my students who finished quickly. So I complied a list of activities  that would be fun and meaningful for my students and stuck them in a jar. It worked wonders!

 

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Bulletin boards

I always create my class bulletin boards, before the school year starts!They help me improve effectiveness and enjoyment of lessons . They make my classroom visually appealing and stimulating to my  students

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 Fill in the funny blanks

Sometimes, I give them a sheet of paper with funny info about me and ask them to work in teams and correct the info which is not right, by guessing! They love this activity! They always guess wrong about my age!!….

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Our mail box

There is a mail box in class, where anybody who wishes to write me a letter can do so, any time they feel like it! The first letter I send them myself,  is at the beginning of each school year, welcoming them to our class  and I always ask them to write back sharing their hopes, fears, expectations, goals, feelings…..

Here are some of their letters , this year!

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Three truths and a lie

I play a game called 3 Truths and 1 Lie and have students tell their three most favourite things  and one  untrue fact. It is up to the class to guess which fact is untrue.

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All about me paper figures 

I provide each student with a small paper cutout in the shape of a human, or have students cut out their own paper figures. I ask each student to write his or her name on the cutout and all about him/her they would like us to know…

These cutouts make a beautiful classroom walls display!

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Posters  entitled ‘About Me’

They have  spaces for a photo of the child, likes and dislikes (foods, movies, books etc), about their family, what they like to do in their spare time,  what makes them special….

It’s a way for me to get to know the children and if the children are new to each other, its great for them to learn more about each other and find a new friend with similar or same interests.It is also a good self esteem booster!

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Cute selfies, on our classroom walls

Using  templates ( there are so many of them on Pinterest, eg https://www.pinterest.com/pin/248401735675011808/ ) , students draw their selfie (self portrait) onto a smart phone template handout. They then select from the variety of text message (writing prompts) and answer questions for back to school, Halloween, New Year’s or end of the year. This year, I have  decided to ask them to choose from alternative back-to-school  text message  topics:

 

  • What I DIDN’T DO this summer
  • A unique person I met this summer
  • My most memorable moment of the summer
  • One thing I learned this summer
  • The person I spent the most time with this summer
  • The best meal I ate this summer
  • Something educational I did this summer
  • Something I bought this summer
  • Something I made this summer

 

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Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Cute selfies, on our classroom walls!!

Our birthday calendar

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When it’s a student’s birthday, I give him/her a special birthday card and they have to wear their birthday hat , during the lesson! In the beginning of each school year, I ask them to use this calendar to mark their birthdays on.

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A class poster

A poster with their class photos, on their first day in class, is always a precious keepsake.

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Me in a Bag

I ask them to bring a bag to school on the first day with things –no more than 3 (objects, pictures, etc.) that tell about them, their family, and things they like. I start by sharing my bag and telling about myself and my family. After seeing what’s in my box and sharing my stories about each objects, students can’t wait to show their objects and talk about themselves. I learn a great deal about each child and their lives. This is also a great speaking activity! Classmates are given an opportunity to ask a question or share a compliment.

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Time capsule

I make a Time Capsule every year with my students, as one of my first activities. It includes their goals for the new school year. One they have each completed one, they fold it up and seal it and it goes in a box that I have labeled Time Capsule. In May,they open the one from September and to much of their surprise many goals are NOT accomplished , over the course of eight months.  This activity is always a winner with my students. I have been doing it for years!

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The first days of school, can be stressful for everyone, but these activities  will help you and your students get to know each other in a fun, interactive way to help build the classroom environment all year long!

What are your favorite first days activities?

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School Sports Day activities-Teaching kids about the Olympic values.

Creative writing

We love creative writing in my class!

Every year, we spend one day in Greek schools, to teach students the Olympic values and principles !There is a different topic every year…This time, we dealt with with the meanings of the Olympic values.

To start with , I  decided to have a discussion about all the Olympic values in class , before I used certain activities to help kids put theory into practice!

Those meanings we talked about were:

-Friendship

. sympathy

. empathy

. honesty

.mutual understanding

. compassion

. trust

. positive reciprocity

Proud medal holders!

Proud medal holders!

We also mentioned the Meanings of the Paralympic values

-Determination

Believing in yourself to continue to do the best you can even if things are difficult.Making or arriving at a decision with purpose.

-Equality

Everyone can be equal and receive the same treatment. This is the quality of being the same in quantity or measure, value or status. Ensuring fairness, equal treatment, opportunities, regardless of religion or race. This should be without:

. discrimination

. prejudice

. bias

. inequality

.unfairness.

This is the link to the printables I used for some of the activities we did, later  : http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/themes/olympics/

First, we did some brainstorming about the Olympic ideals.

Brainstorming about the Olympic ideals

Brainstorming about the Olympic ideals

Later, we made medals with our favourite Olympic values words written  on them  , and had to wear them ,all day at school….!

Our medals!

Our medals!

With my older students, I decided to deal with storytelling and classroom theatre.

I used the ” Hare and the Tortoise”  Aesop  story, to investigate all serious issues: Justice, inequality, power, discrimination, censorship.

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We finally acted the story out in class and had much fun doing so!!

Time for a story!

Time for a story!

Sharing here, some more ideas about how to deal with the story with older students…..This is the list of tasks , I asked my 6th graders to choose from.

-Can you read / retell the original story of the Tortoise and the Hare?

-Retell the story from Hare’s point of view. Ask a friend to retell the story from Tortoise’s point of view. How are your

stories similar / different?

-Rewrite parts of the story in the form of a playscript (with stage directions).

-Think of captions for some of the illustrations in the book.

-Can you write your own retelling of the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’… or write an alternative version?

Writing stories , using our imagination ...

Writing stories , using our imagination …

I also thought, it would be nice to have my students do some creative writing , using their imagination and all the ideas and vocabulary,  we had talked about in class…Therefore, I handed them this worksheet as homework . Here are some awesome samples of their work !

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Some extra inspiring ideas  for this special day, I have found  on line:

-Read various books on the Olympics

-Have students write a poem about the Olympics

-Have students write a speech about winning the gold medal.

-If I were Olympic Athlete…

-Brainstorm ideas of what it takes to be an Olympic Athlete. Students list and illustrate the ideas.

-Put the sports names in ABC order.

-Write a news report.

-Take a picture of each students head. Have the student cut out their head and then draw the body of what sport they would like to compete in. Make sure they include an Olympic background behind their drawing. Below the drawing you could have student write about their time at the Olympics.

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

This is also, our goal as educators , isn’t it ?

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End-of-the-school-year fun activities!

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Some people might think that, an “End-of-the-Year event” may seem unimportant, however it is  VERY IMPORTANT cause,…it’s the end of the school year! The positive memories have an effect on the children’s attitude and last forever!…

This is a time to look back and reflect –as well as a time to think ahead. Additionally, we should be sure to recognize our  graduating students ,in some way!

The ideas below,come from many different sources ! One I can recall   is  http://www.kidactivities.net/

I have tried too many such activities in my teaching career, so far! The ones I am sharing here, are the ones I used  last school year, with huge success! And as I often say, ” It has worked in my class; it might work in your class, too”!

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END OF THE YEAR FUN IDEA for the little ones...

Two nice ideas for younger children

  1.  Hand each student a sheet of paper
  2.  Then have the children draw pictures and write words  of the things they would like to say “goodbye to” in your classroom.
  3.  It’s good “therapy” because we know how hard it can be to say goodbye to our familiar room and friends. When complete… bind it into a program book titled ‘GOODBYE ROOM’.

Grade —– (Or__________ ) HAS BEEN A BALL!

This is a fun and different way to have an autograph party as a remembrance of the time spent in class.

Beach balls are fairly inexpensive–order some from a novelty company-have children blow them up and then get autographs from each other on the balls!

For older students….

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BALLOON TOSS: GOALS FOR THE FUTURE

At your end-of-year lesson, give each child a slip of paper and invite him or her to write one goal for the future.

Have students slip the notes inside balloons and then inflate them. Later, have kids toss balloons (like graduation caps), keeping one to pop and share its (anonymously) written message aloud –with the rest of the group.

(Actually, work the last part out in a way that the majority of the group likes—read one message, several messages, or all or no messages)

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THANKS FOR THE COMPLIMENT (A nice way to end the school year!)

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Need: Paper, markers, tape

  1.  Everyone gets a piece of paper taped to their back. (Make sure their name is at the top of the paper.)
  2.  Each person is given a marker.
  3.  Each person in the group must walk around the room and write a compliment or positive remark about that person on their back….. NO PEEKING!
  4.  When everyone has written something positive on each others back, they return to their seat and read what was written.
  5.  With a smaller group, everyone exchanges papers without looking at their own. Each participant can take a turn at reading aloud from person’s list they have. . (Adjust for a larger group)

This is a great self-esteem booster! If some children still don’t know each other very well…they can write such things as: You have a great smile; You’re hair always looks nice; Great blue eyes; etc.

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AUTOGRAPH BOOK

At the end of the year have each child make an autograph book. They pass around their books and get everyone’s signatures and friendly notes for a summer keepsake.

Variation:You can ask them to decorate  their own summer postcards and ask all their classmates to write a personal comment and sign on them.

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One very favourite activity, I always do:

 TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS DURING THE YEAR and put together a slide show.

  1.   I  show this as PART OF A YEAR-END SCHOOL EVENT—but it would also be a wonderful “WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION to the new children we will have the next school year.
  2.  You could use it to show children and families some of the things you do-how they’re done–and what to expect! If you haven’t started, get your slides, videos, and activity scrapbooks going now!

Here’s the link to our last year’s slide show I have already posted about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr9-iFULcMo[/embed]

 

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WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER

At the end of the school year, have students write themselves a letter. Tell them that no one but they will read this letter so they can say anything they want in it. However, part of that letter might include who their friends are, their current height and weight, favorite movies and music, and special things both good and bad that occurred during the year, summer plans…

Variation: Every year, i have  them write me letters, as well!

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On another sheet of paper or the back of that sheet ask students to write ten goals they would like to accomplish by this time next year (or sooner). Students seal this letter in an envelope, self-address it, and give it to you. In a year (or sooner) mail (or return in person) the letters  to the students.

I loved this idea the very moment my NLP mentor Bonnie Tsai, asked us to do something similar in the end of our summer course at Pilgrim’s, Canterbury,  Kent, three years ago!

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A LETTER TO PARENTS AT THE END OF THE YEAR…

I always send letters to the parents in the end of each school year, both in Greek and in English.

This is the letter in English I sent them last school year.

“Dear Parents,

I give you back your child ~ the same child you confidently entrusted to my care last fall. I give him/her back pounds heavier, inches taller, months wiser, more responsible, and more mature then he was then.

Although he would have attained his growth in spite of me, it has been my pleasure and privilege to watch his personality unfold day by day and marvel at this splendid miracle of development.

Ten years from now if we met on the street, we’ll feel the bond of understanding once more, this bond we feel today.

We have lived, laughed, played, studied, learned, and enriched our lives together this year. I wish it could go on indefinitely, but give him/back I must. Take care of him, (or her) for he (she) is precious. I’ll always be interested in your child and his destiny, wherever he goes, whatever he does, whoever he becomes.”

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MURAL OF MEMORIES

On a nice day–take this activity outside!

Use paints, markers or colored chalk and invite children to create a mural illustrating the many wonderful things your group did, saw, and learned this year. It will be a great “advertisement” for next year’s program or class. (Don’t forget to hang it up when the new school year starts!) I personally, decided to do something alternative with it last school year: I used it to wrap up our class post box!!

As an extension, you can have your group write about the favorite memories they drew.

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END OF THE YEAR BULLETIN BOARD AUTOGRAPHS

BONUS! The board is up and ready to go during the first week of school!

  • Remove what is currently on your Board such as art projects, etc. LEAVE UP Bulletin Board Backgrounds and Borders.
  • During the week BEFORE the last week of school, ask a talented student artist (or do this yourself!) to block letter the words: “HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!” on your bulletin board background paper.
  • Have several children color in the letters…
  • As the days get closer to the end, have youth autograph and write messages on the bulletin board paper.
  • With younger students, ask them to write words and draw pictures of what they have enjoyed the most during the school year!
  • Leave their NAMES AND MESSAGES up for everyone to appreciate.
  • When you return for the new school year you’ll be starting off with one area already decorated with POSSITIVE MESSAGES!
  • No bulletin board area? Get a long piece of butcher roll-paper and do the same…(Actually, this is what I did..)
  • The kids will like reading what they and others left a couple months back!

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This activity is similar to this one…

I REMEMBER WHEN…

Put up the caption in big letters on your bulletin board or butcher paper taped to the wall— and then have children “decorate” it by writing things that they enjoyed doing in your program the past year!

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A SUMMER LAPBOOK

I just love lapbooks! You can read about my first lapbooks in this previous post:

https://aphrogranger.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/our-first-lapbook/

Lapbooks are made of file folders that are folded into a shutter flap so it opens up. Inside you have mini booklets that have a question or theme and the answers are inside. There are a variety of ways a booklet can be folded to demonstrate a topic.

They are really fun and my visual learners love lapbooks since we were introduced to them last year.

There are loads of topics that you can cover in your summer lapbook. I find that because I want to cover a broad topic, it’s nice to take bits and pieces from different lapbooks or it may be easier to create your own.

If you have never completed a lapbook, I suggest doing a free one yourself , to see how you like it.

Make a list of what you would like to cover and teach. Ask your children what they would like to learn. This will get them more involved and excited about their project as well.

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Last but not least: THE-END-OF-THE-SCHOOL-YEAR (graduating students) SHOW

I love staging mini-musicals at the end of each school year!

School Musicals

Enthusiastic audience!!

Enthusiastic audience!!

School musicals and music TV show parodies, offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions. It has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more. School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

Taking part in a school musical or Tv parody  production, has many benefits for children – increased self-esteem, the development of their dramatic and musical talents, and the opportunity to learn about working together as part of a team.

I find ideas in our library English Readers or in different  books or sites such as

http://www.childrenstheatreplays.com/schoolplays.htm

Here are some examples of what we have staged during the last few years!

Starting with this year’s TV talent show parody “The Voice”!

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Our coaches and show presenters

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My students seem to remember these end-of-the-year shows, for..ever!

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Dancing, singing, improvisation ….all their talents in action!!

"The Wizard of Oz":School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

“The Wizard of Oz”:School musicals offer a good chance to children to bring out their talent, build self confidence, and overcome all of their inhibitions

" Alice in Wonderland":School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

” Alice in Wonderland”:School musicals, drama, and plays teach children to work in a team, develop organizational abilities, communication and more.

" The Wizard of Oz": A School musical, has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more.

” The Wizard of Oz”: A School musical, has many benefits for children like development of right self-esteem, instilling interest for music and drama and more.

Our sixth graders musical every year, is a huge success! Both the kids and their parents are looking so much forward to it!

Our sixth graders musical every year, is a huge success! Both the kids and their parents are looking so much forward to it!

 

"Your face sounds familiar- A concert": Music, is an essential part in musical performances! It helps my students reveal their inner talents!

“Your face sounds familiar- A concert”: Music, is an essential part in musical performances! It helps my students reveal their inner talents!

 

" Your face sounds familiar-A concert": The FUN element of ELT music shows, is is obvious in this photo!!

” Your face sounds familiar-A concert”: The FUN element of ELT music shows, is is obvious in this photo!!

 

" A Eurovision song contest parody": Here's an Improvisation end-of-the-school year concert which we all just LOVED! In the photo, Agathonas Iakovides and Coza Mostra in...Eurovision 2013!!

” A Eurovision song contest parody”: Here’s an Improvisation end-of-the-school year concert which we all just LOVED! In the photo, Agathonas Iakovides and Coza Mostra in…Eurovision 2013!!

ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!

LET’S RECHARGE OUR BATTERIES AND GET READY FOR ANOTHER AMAZING SCHOOL YEAR!!

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Playing with a dice…..

 

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Our huge class dice, on the teacher’s desk!

Some time ago, I read a post on Olha Madylus’ amazing blog www.olhamadylusblog.com about how to use a dice in the class, which I found very inspiring! I decided to give it a try, at once! I made  my class huge dice and used all the activities below -suggested by Olha in her post- along with some activities of my own….!

I have to admit, it was huge success!! My students loved the dice games and asked for it, every single day! I am grateful to Olha, once more for all her support and inspiration ! She has been my mentor and she knows it !

I am sharing Olha’s notes first and I am also adding a few of my own tips! They really worked in my class! Hope, they will work in your class, too!

As Olha says “Sometimes we don’t need or don’t have access to much in the way of sophisticated aids, materials, back-up in our classrooms. But what we do have is the most sophisticated tool ever created – the imagination to help us!”

 First things first….

Equip students either with dice or get them to make spinners (you can also make dice) and away we go…

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Board games

 

Can be student-made and that’s all the better as students will get involved in making and shaping their own materials and get to practice even more language.

 

Below is a board game I made to practice sports and free time activities vocabulary. Children throw their dice in turns and when they land on a picture, they have to say what it is. It can be used for more complex language, too, e.g. when a child lands on a sport picture she can say ‘I like / I don’t like tennis ’, practicing the use of grammar  ; ‘My most favourite sport is tennis’, practicing descriptions etc.

 

Children can create their own board games by drawing pictures of vocabulary items they have learnt in English and challenging each other. If you laminate the board games and keep them in a box, they are great for fast finishers or as a filler in lessons.

 

Older students can create board games with questions in spaces to be answered when landed on e.g. What’s your greatest ambition? What sport would you like to be able to play but can’t?

My variation: I use this game mainly to teach vocabulary . First, my kids are  asked to make  their own board games working in teams to practice specific vocabulary related to ie- Christmas, Easter, the environment, geography etc -according to  the unit we were working on, each time.

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Secret Questions

 

If producing a board game seems too fiddly or time-consuming, students can work in pairs (or individually) and write 6 questions (based on a previously taught unit in the course book e.g. if they are practicing the vocabulary of jobs a question could be – What do you call a person who takes care of our teeth? / dentist). They mingle around the class and when they meet another pair/student, they have to roll or spin and get asked the question which they have landed on.

My variation: I use the same procedure in the beginning of the school year, as an ice-breaker….My students are asked to write personal questions they would like to ask their classmates ie- ” Which  is your favourite cartoon character and why?” , “If you were an animal, what would you be and why?” or other type of  questions about ie- their summer holiday memories .

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Phonology

 

A fun game which revises lots of vocabulary and is great for older children and adults is practicing how many syllables words have. In groups one student at a time rolls the dice or spins the spinner. When it lands on a number that student has to say a word which has that number of syllables in it e.g. 4 = photographer. If they are correct they win a point. At the end of the game, points are counted up and a winner declared. This game is great for recalling vocabulary and hearing it inside our head.

My variation: Instead of words, my students are asked to say a sentence which has that number of words in it

eg 6= My favourite toy is my bike.

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Mini-sketches

 

Students work in pairs and take it in turns to throw the dice / spin the spinner and have to produce an utterance with as many words as they have thrown. They have to conduct a whole conversation! You can assign topics beforehand. If you can record them it’s fun or have pairs doing their dialogues in front of the rest of the class, if they feel comfortable. This is great fun and encourages students to be very creative and meaningful, while producing often very short utterances.

My variation: I did that activity both in English and in Greek a few months ago -during our “Teachers4Europe” project. Teams had to use the dice and  creative writing  techniques, to produce their own short plays about the myth of Europe.Instead of conducting a conversation  , they had to  produce their own script, for the school sketch.

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Whose turn is it?

 

Choosing who gets to answer questions or dealing with lots of hands up in the air can lead to accusations of unfairness. I group students in the class so that there are five or eleven groups, each group assigned a number. (I get a number, too) With the bigger class I use 2 dice or spinners. When it’s time for someone to answer a question I roll the dice / spin the spinner(s) and that group – or I – answer the question. Trust me – it’s fun and students never complain if they have to answer more or fewer questions than others as it’s just the luck of the draw.

My variation: I also use this game to decide about which team comes to the board first or next, in order to present their project to the rest of the class! I also use it to decide about who my helpers for certain tasks will  be. Or even to deal with seat arrangement !! Cool!

He is acting a word out...

He is acting a word out…

Points lottery

 

Normally whenever we play a game with students they win a point for a correct answer, but let’s bring an element of chance. For example they could be playing Hangman. Before they guess a letter they roll the dice or spin the spinner, whatever number they land on will be the amount of points they get if they are right. This adds that element of chance and daftness to the game. It is also great practice to add up points at the end together in English.

My variation:I haven’t  actually changed anything ,here! I use this lottery activity, a lot when we play  games in teams. Kids get so excited about throwing the dice to find out the amount of points their team gets !

I also use it with my 3rd graders when I teach them the numbers 1-6 . They have to throw the dice and say or write the number they have landed on. Later, when they know more numbers , I might ask them to throw the dice twice and write the number they get making basic  mathematical calculations .

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Grammar Game

 

Another great game for teens / adults. Bring in an interesting picture with a lot happening in it or show a video clip from a film with lots of action but with the sound turned down. Assign each number a tense e.g. 1=simple present, 2=present continuous, 3=simple past etc. As students take turns rolling the dice they have to create a sentence about what they are seeing in that particular tense. Again students can work alone or in pairs. It’s challenging and yet very meaningful as the rest of the class must accept or reject the offerings.

My variation: I have created  a similar  activity   to revise  vocabulary ! Students, work in teams.I give individual students a word .

I assign each number a task  with the given word .

e.g. 1=Spell it, 2=write it down ,3=use it in a sentence, 4=draw it, 5=act it out, 6=translate it .

They get a point for their team , each time they succeed.

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Making questions

 

Allocate each number to a question word – 1=who, 2=why, 3=where, 4=when, 5=what, 6=how. Decide on a topic – this is usually one studied recently. Students work in pairs or small groups. One at a time students roll or spin and as they land they have to make a question for their partner(s) on that topic using that question word. For example if they land on 4 and they topic is sport a question could be – When do you usually watch sport on TV? Making questions in English is tricky and it’s great to practice as well as to review language from earlier lessons.

My variation: It’s fun when I combine this activity with the “Bananas” wh- questions game! One student comes to the board , rolls the dice and has to answer  all his  classmates’ questions- which should start with the question word he has landed on-  without smiling or laughing!! If they smile, they are out and the person who has made them smile, takes their place ! For example if they land on 5, their classmates have to ask them  questions starting with “What” ie-What does your nose look like?, What’s your brother’s  name etc .Hilarious!!

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Life Skills-a British Council project: Activity 4: Who would you like to live with?

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This amazing 4th British Council ” Life Skills ” activity is about stereotypes, discrimination, racism, prejudice…

Definitions

Prejudice:

Attitudes or opinions about a person or group simply because the person belongs to a specific religion, race, nationality, or other group. Prejudices involve strong feelings that are difficult to change. Prejudice is pre-judging. A person who thinks, “I don’t want (name of group) living in my neighborhood,” is expressing a prejudice.

Discrimination:

When people act on the basis of their prejudices or stereotypes, they are discriminating. Discrimination may mean putting other people down, not allowing them to participate in activities, restricting their access to work or to live in certain neighborhoods, or denying them something they are entitled to by right and law.

Stereotype:

Oversimplified generalization about a group of people. When people say that all members of a specific nationality, religion, race or gender are “cheap,” “lazy,” “criminal” or “dumb,” they are expressing stereotypes. All groups have both cheap and generous individuals. All groups have individuals who commit crimes. To label an entire group based on the actions of some is to engage in stereotyping. Even when a stereotype is positive, such as when people in one racial group are thought to be superior athletes, the consequences of stereotyping are negative.

Scapegoating:

Blaming an individual or group when the fault actually lies elsewhere. Prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory acts can lead to scapegoating.

During this activity, I made sure that children understood  that prejudice and discrimination are unfair. I explained that, no person should be excluded or teased on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, accent, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or appearance.

To start with:

Print the list of tenants (one for each student)
• We tell the story of the Miller family:
“Mr and Mrs Miller live fairly happily in a big house
with their 20-year-old son David. Then, upon their retirement,
Mr and Mrs Miller decide to move to the country.
David lives alone in the family home now and enjoys
a satisfying bachelor’s life until one day he loses his job.
David is no longer able to live alone in the big house.
He uses his last money to split the house into 6 flats and puts
a “For Rent” ad in the newspaper”

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Now, imagine you are David and have to choose 5 tenants from a list of people who have answered your ad, in order to be able to keep the house.
• We ask each student to pick 5 tenants from the list
• We ask groups of 5 or 6 students to pick 5 tenants
that the whole group agrees on
• We discuss the following issues:
• Did the group agree on a list of 5 tenants?
Yes/No? Why (not)?

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• How did the group work collectively in order to agree on the list of 5 tenants? What did they find hard about it and what easy?
• We discuss the reasons for which
they chose these particular people
• We discuss any potential bias that each one of us may have.
We explain that it is almost impossible not to be biased; what is most important is to understand that it is only bias and that talking about differences and getting to know other people better can change people’s views
List of tenants (for older students)
Who would you share the same house with?

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1. An unmarried mother with a 3-year-old child, whose father
is from Tunisia. He occasionally visits his son and sometimes brings around some friends.
2. A family of refugee workers from Pakistan with 5 children
aged 1 to 12. Their father works in a steel mill and their mother will take up the position of concierge at the house.
3. A family with a 17-year-old daughter in the final grade of Secondary School. The father is a bank accountant
and the mother a teacher.

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4. A single 70-year-old woman, living on a minimum pension.
5. A group of 7 refugees from Iraq who all work
in the kitchen of a large restaurant.
6. A group of 5 young people who live an alternative lifestyle,
by recycling and only consuming what they need to survive.
7. Three Palestinian students who are political activists,
and often demonstrate for their rights.

Orangito, our guest flat puppet from Spain, took part in all the group discussions!

Orangito, our guest flat puppet from Spain, took part in all the group discussions!

8. A Roma family with 5 members. The father only works occasionally and is otherwise unemployed. The family belongs
to a broader family which is very close and likes to have parties.
9. An American couple with no children. The wife works for the International Atomic Energy Authority
and the husband looks after the house and their 3 poodles.
10. Two artists, around 40, who lead an unconventional life
and have many artists as friends.

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11. A girl who studies the piano and singing at a conservatory,
and has to frequently practice in the evenings.
12. An African American with his Austrian partner.
He is trying to get a permit to work as an engineer.
13. A religious Muslim family which strictly follows the Quran.
The mother will only leave the house wearing a headscarf.
14. A young man in a wheelchair who lives
with his 76-year-old mother.
15. A blind girl living with her dog.
List of tenants (for younger students)
Who would you share the same house with?
1. An unmarried mother with a 3-year-old child.
2. A family of refugee workers from Pakistan
with 5 children aged 1 to 12. Their father
works in a steel mill
and their mother will take up the position of
concierge at the house.
3. A family with a 17-year-old daughter in the final grade of Secondary School. The father is a bank accountant
and the mother a teacher.
4. A single 70-year-old woman, living on a minimum pension.
5. A group of 7 refugees from Iraq who all work
in the kitchen of a large restaurant.
6. Three Palestinian students who are political activists,
and often demonstrate for their rights.
7. A Roma family with 5 members. The father only works occasionally and is otherwise unemployed. The family belongs
to a broader family which is very close and likes to have parties.
8. An American couple with no children. The wife works for the International Atomic Energy Authority and the husband looks after the house and 3 dogs.
9. Two artists, around 40, who have many artists as friends.
10. A girl who studies the piano and singing at a conservatory, and has to frequently practice in the evenings.
11. An African American with his Austrian partner.
He is trying to get a permit to work as an engineer.
12. A religious Muslim family which strictly follows the Quran.
The mother will only leave the house wearing a headscarf.
13. A young man in a wheelchair
who lives with his 76-year-old mother.
14. A blind girl living with her dog.

Our variation was: I asked them to play a game ,when we finished our project : they had to stand up when I read them a sentence with which they agreed or keep sitted when I read them a sentence with which they disagreed! eg. ” All Greeks are lazy”, ” All Roma are thieves” , ” All muslims are terrorists”…It was really interesting to see what there was in their minds  …Stereotypes were there…We have to work hard to get rid of them!

We finally  all agreed that, we should  come closer to  understand other people better !

According to recent studies, encouraging children’s critical thinking ability may be the best antidote to prejudice.

Of course,  all children notice differences. This is developmentally appropriate and, by itself, not a problem; but when negative values are attached to those differences, problems occur.

The students were asked to play a game: they had to stand up when they agreed with what was said or sit down if they disagreed!

The students were asked to play a game: they had to stand up when they agreed with what was said or sit down when they disagreed!

Carnival fun in class: when improvisation rules!

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William Shakespeare claimed that

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143
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In theory, drama puts the teacher in the role of supporter in the learning process and the students can take more responsibility for their own learning.  Ideally, the teacher will take a less dominant role in the language class and let the students explore the language activities.  In the student centered classroom, every student is a potential teacher for the group.
Drama for second language learners can provide an opportunity to develop the imagination of the students. The students can go beyond the here and now and even ‘walk in the shoes’ of another. It provides an opportunity for independent thinking.
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When the students are having fun, they let their second language guard down and become less inhibited.  The student will tend to relax and stop blocking out the new language.
In the ESL/EFL classroom, role-playing is a powerful tool.  It teaches cooperation, empathy for others, decision making skills and encourages an exchange of knowledge between the students.
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The benefits of drama to develop the imagination should not be undervalued.  In our rote school routines of memorization and compulsory subject matter, we sometimes do not spend enough time on encouraging our students to use their imagination.  It is the spark that makes the ordinary into something incredible.  Imagination is the magic force that is beyond facts, figures and techniques which can inspire new ideas.  It is with imagination that the ordinary is transformed into something significant.
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We shouldn’t underestimate this powerful teaching tool to reach our students.

Having all the above in mind, I decided to have my students use their carnival accessories and costumes, as their inspiration to create their own skits, working  in groups! It was actually the day, the school Carnival party would take place during the last two teaching hours, therefore all the kids were in the spirit of  Carnival fun and came to class wearing Carnival masks and costumes ! It was difficult to have a..proper english lesson under the circumstances, therefore, I decided to ask them to use their costumes and masks as realia and write and act out their own skits, working in groups! The outcome, was amazing! It was hilarious! I love it when my students become creative!

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Although, my students used their own scenarios , I also asked them to play one  favourite drama game  :

“Scene from real life” 

Procedure:

1.  Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students each.

2.  One member of the group must tell the others a true story about an event in his/her life.  Encourage him/her to describe it in as much detail as possible.  This person becomes the “director”.

3.  The director then chooses members of the group to play the various characters involved in the scene (including him/herself).

4.  The actors then improvise the scene in front of the director.

5.  After each run-through, the director should give notes. Then the group improvises the scene again.  The goal of the director is to make the scene as believable as possible.

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6.  Once the directors of each group are satisfied with their scenes, have the groups share in front of each other.

With my very young learners, we tried several Carnival fun games such as ” The Carnival King says…”

"The Carnival King says..."

“The Carnival King says…”

or many Carnival-themed vocabulary games such as the one shown in the photo below, called” The Carnival masks dictation”  , played in teams!

"Carival Masks Dictation"

“Carival Masks Dictation”

I also, had my afternoon students make these special LEG puppets

Leg puppets

Leg puppets

and use them to play ” Musical chairs” or ” Freeze”! I finally asked my older students to use the leg puppets in order to act their own puppet shows!

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Improvisation , was the key issue in that, too!

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Working in teams to create the story!

 

That was an alternative english lesson, which we all enjoyed , as you can see in the photos!

Highly recommended to all teachers!

Creative ways of revising vocabulary

 

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class....TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country....it was lots of fun!

4th graders project: the weather foracast for tomorrow on our class….TV! We used a huge frame ,made from a card box, as a TV ! They had to use a map of Greece and report about the weather conditions in different parts of the country….it was lots of fun!

Some old-time-classic  vocabulary games, I love.

They say that, to stimulate long-term memory ideally, words would be reviewed 5-10 minutes after class, 24 hours later, one week later, one month later, and finally six months later.

Unless these new language items are noticed and understood on multiple occasions, they will likely fade from memory and be forgotten.

Over the past decade, I’ve put together a variety of sure-fire and engaging vocabulary recycling activities drawn from a number of sources: resource books, teachers, trainers, and some of which are of my own invention. You could also give them a try….

Taboo-hot seat

Divide the class into teams A and B. One member from each team plays at a time. The teacher scribbles a word on the board and gives the team one minute to get their teammate to say the item. If the hot-seated player manages to say the word, the teacher quickly writes another item on the board and so on until the minute is up. The team scores a point for every item they manage to say within one minute.

Taboo!

Taboo!

Memory challenge

Put the students into pairs or small groups. Give them a time limit (e.g. 3 minutes) and ask them to write down as many words, phrases, and/or expressions as they can from the last lesson on topic X. The pair or group that can remember the most items wins.

Variation a: To add a spelling accuracy component, teams can also earn an extra point for each correctly spelt item.

Variation b: I love it when I use music to help them brainstorm vocabulary in this game! An example is when we  revise the Season’s vocabulary and I eg have them listen to Vivaldi ” Four Seasons” while writing….

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Brainstorming!...

Brainstorming!…

 

Pictionary

Divide the class into Teams A and B. Team A sits in a group on one side of the classroom, Team B sits on the other side. One member from each team goes to the board. The teacher flashes them a word, phrase, or expression written on a piece of paper. The students have one minute to get their respective team to say the item only by drawing pictorial clues on the board. Written words, verbal clues, or gestures are forbidden. The first team to say the word scores a point.

Variation: With younger students, I draw the word in three steps: First, I draw 2-3 lines. If they get the word right, they get 3 points for their team. secondly, I draw half of the word pictorial clues. If they now get it right, they get 2 points . Finally, I draw all the pictorial clues and in case they manage to get the word right, I award them 1 point or no points at all, if they aren’t able to figure it out!

Pictionary

Pictionary

Bingo

I love playing Bingo revision games with kids! There are many variations..this one, is one of my favourite ones.

The teacher writes up 20 words, phrases and/or expressions on the board. Each student chooses any 9 of the items from the board and writes them down. The teacher then selects one of the items at random (bits of paper from a hat, for example) and offers a brief definition or synonym of the item but does not say the word itself. If a student thinks they have the word the teacher described, they tick it. When a student ticks all of their words, they shout BINGO!! The first student to shout BINGO wins the round. Additional rounds can be played with different sets of words.

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Playing Bingo with lists of words!

Scrabbled letters

Write up eight words with their letters shuffled (e.g. eicscen for science) on the board. When the teacher says ‘go’, the students, individually or in pairs, endeavor to untangle the words as quickly as they can. The first student or pair, to do so wins. The teacher can then quickly run through each of the scrambled letter groups on the board, eliciting information about each word or concept. Tip: Don’t make them too difficult.

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Categories ( Aka The alphabet game)

Divide the class into 3 or 4 teams and assign a secretary for each group. On one side of the board, write down six categories related to the current topic or syllabus of your course (e.g. countries, sports, jobs, movies, furniture, verbs, things that are round). To start the game, the teacher randomly selects a letter of the alphabet and scribbles it onto the board. Each team must then work together to quickly find a word for each of the six categories that starts with the chosen letter. The first team to complete all six categories shouts “stop!” The class then stops writing, and a member of the team goes to the board to fill in the categories. The teacher then checks each word with the class and also elicits what other teams had for each category. If the quickest team has filled in each category correctly, they earn one point for their team. The teacher then chooses a different letter and another round is played. The first team to score X number of points wins.

The Alphabet game.

The Alphabet game.Working in teams.

Vocabulary fun activities 

The Dolls’ House.

To help them revise the house rooms and furniture as well as the prepositions of place, I have them decide how to decorate a dolls’ house . They are asked to place the pieces of furniture anywhere in the house they wish, and tell the class about each change they make to the previous furniture arrangements. eg ” The sofa is in the kitchen now, next to the fridge”

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This is a handmade dolls’ house, that I made with my daughter at home , some years ago reusing some old supermarket boxes…

Feelings

Instead of asking them to write a boring dictation on  the adjectives that describe feelings, I ask them to find photos that show different feelings and moods and bring them to class.They  use them to play several guessing games with their classmates, in teams!

 

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Seasons poetry

When I want them to revise all the Seasons Vocabulary, I have them write their own poems using it, and recite them  in class where we hold a poetry competition and finally vote for our favourite poems! I often have them work in pairs: one of them is the poet while the other one is the artist who reads the poetry and creates his/her work of art, being inspired by it! The artist, has to talk to the class about his picture, using as much of the target vocabulary as possible.

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My special talents

When I want them to revise the sports and free time activities, instead of giving them a test, I have them stand up and show the class what they are good at, or what their special talent is. They are free to even teach the class about their special abilities . Such a good activity to enhance self-esteem , too!

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I am good at tae-kwon-do!

 

 

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Practicing both vocabulary and CAN/CAN’T for ability.

The Apple tree

This is basically a scoring game, and can be used in various different ways.I mainly play it to test new words and  spelling !

1. Put the kids in groups (6 is usually good as there are usually 6 rows of desks), but keep them seated at their desks.

2. Draw pictures of trees on the board, one tree for each group. Each tree has 9 “rungs” (add more or less depending on the amount of time you wish to play), and some apples  at the top. (see the picture above) This takes about 1 minute if you’re quick!

4. During the game you play some music (something fast and dancey). When the music plays the kids pass a ball around (no throwing!!).

5. You stop the music.

6. You then ask the person holding the ball a question (“What’s this? How are you? What’s your name? etc.) My variation is spelling new words!

7. If the student gets it right then their team’s animal climbs one rung up the tree!

8. Repeat from step 4 until one team reaches the top – and the apples!

This is good for a review session, or even for practicing new vocab. 9 rungs lasts about 20 minutes. After the first few tries I then ask questions that are worth 2 “rungs”, or even ask the kids if they want an easy question for 1 point or a tricky one for 2 points!!

 

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The apple tree board game-revising nationalities

The weather forecast

Instead of asking the kids to write boring weather reports, I ask them to predict about next week’s weather and report to the class on….our class TV! They talk about their predictions using their  weather map and we can  even adjust the…volume holding imaginary remote controls !It’s loads of fun!

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My favourite sports board game

To revise the sports vocabulary, I usually have them play a vocabulary board game, in pairs! They have to say the name of the sport in the picture they land on , to be able to move on to the next level. I ask older students to use the sport word in a sentence instead.

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This is the book page with the new words.

Dancers and poets

When I want my students to revise new words, especially adjectives, I usually ask them to work in pairs. One of them is the poet, the other one is the dancer. The poet, writes a poem using as much  of the target vocabulary as possible. The dancer is dancing while the poet is reciting his poem …according to the verse content, trying to express his/her feelings listening to it!It can become, hilarious! Students, love both to watch and participate in  these …performances in which, improvisation rules !!

 

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My friend is….

I love working with adjectives! To revise them, one of the things I do is to ask my students to write their names on a sheet of paper, then put all  those sheets  up on the classroom walls and finally ask the students to  walk around the classroom and write adjectives next to each name which they think characterize their friends! I always ask them to focus on the positive characteristics of their classmates! It’s a nice way to boost self-esteem too….We later, collect the sheets of paper and comment on them. Fun!

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School objects hidden

Instead of giving my 3rd graders boring dictation on school objects, I prefer playing fun vocabulary games with them. One old-time-classic game  is the following : I hide different school objects under a piece of cloth and have them touch the object without looking to guess what they are ! They work in teams and for each correct guess they make , they get one point for their team!

 

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Look, taste, smell….

To practice grammar, I also play games..

One example is the way I ask them to practice and revise the Sense Verbs . I ask a student to…take off his/her shoe and ask another student to….. smell it and tell us how it…smells! ! It’s hilarious…! Then I ask a student to keep  his/her mouth wide open and ask the student sitting next to him/her to say how it looks!! I might also ask them to smell his/her breath and comment on it!! Sounds disgusting , ha? But, the children love it! I might also ask a male student to kiss a girl’s hand a tell us the taste or smell of it…! Touch her hair and produce sentences like: ” It feels soft”!The list of the fun things I ask them to do is endless! They just don’t want us to stop! The more I ask them to do, the more they practice using the Sense Verbs !

 

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Learning grammar, the fun way!

 

Another example is, the activity we do to practice the  Order of Adjectives ,when the students become …models !!

They take turns and walk like fashion models on the catwalk!

The other students use opinion, colour, material etc adjectives, to describe what the model is wearing and make comments on his/her clothes!

Example: She’s wearing a cute, pink, woolen sweater! It suits her!

He is wearing  smart, dark blue,denim jeans! They match his t-shirt!

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A top model, in our English class!

The cute Monsters Posters

To have my students practice the words that describe  People and Physical Characteristics I ask them to use them to describe an imaginary creature on a poster!

They have to think about the following before they create their monster:

  • What colour is he?
  • What colour arms and legs does he have?
  • What does he look like? (Tell us about his eyes, his ears and his mouth.)
  • What can he do?

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Then, they write up a profile for their monster including his/her appearance, personality, traits, skills/powers, monster friends, enemies, hobbies and where it lives – or if they are a bad guy monster you can replace the hobbies bit with ‘Strategy’ and put ‘Weakness’ at the bottom and write down what their weaknesses are.

Finally, I ask them to draw their monster!

The only limit is their imagination….

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Drama activities to have them speak 

I rarely have my students read the text or dialogues from our book aloud…I prefer to have them act the story out in groups- from a very early age.

Sketses promote active learning, enriching and reinforcing their more traditional school experiences. In addition most children are excited by the prospect of performing in front of others as a chance to be the center of attention.  So, when it comes to teaching English as a second language, no matter the age of the student, drama and children are a winning combination.

Children love being part of something.  Preparing an ESL skit together is a bonding experience for the group.  All children are involved, from the shyest to the most outspoken and all contribute to the final outcome. Children want to belong and being part of a play allows that to happen.

You don’t have time NOT to use ESL plays.  Drama is not an addition to my 26 units, but a method of teaching them more effectively.  It does not matter if you can’t act – the children will be doing the acting and they are the experts!

The conversational use of language in an ESL play script promotes fluency. While learning a play, children listen to and repeat their lines over a period of time. By repeating the words and phrases they become familiar with them and are able to say them with increasing fluency.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The mime itself can act as a catalyst to generate and elicit language before, during and after the activity.

The teacher’s own enthusiasm also goes a long way towards motivating a child. Anyone who has taught a classroom of children knows how quickly they pick up and reflect your moods. If you think your English lesson is boring, so will they!

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The plays DO GET THEM TO SPEAK. And this is a very rewarding experience for us, teachers, to hear them SPEAK, not just use the target vocabulary.

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Teaching and revising vocabulary has become easier for me  through all these fun activities ,as for the children every single new word they are learning is now more meaningful as it is connected with their real life experiences in class .