Six Olympic-style language games

The Irregular Verb Ski Jump and 5 other language games!

With the winter Olympics being 1) over half finished and 2) held in my homeland of Canada I thought it would be a good excuse to do an Olympic related six. Although I stopped my last class just before Christmas the following six activities are all fun sports-like games I’ve done with my students in the past, although perhaps not precisely on the winter Olympic theme. Anyway, see what you think. Many are suitable for adults and children!

1 Lexical Luge or Bobsled – For this activity you need a series of lexical categories (e.g. animals, food, clothing, crime) suitable for your students’ level. On the board draw an image of a steep hill and a luge track on it (it doesn’t have to be exact, a windy route down a big mountain side will do). Draw five different X’s at various points on the track. It should look a bit like this, but as a slide.

Start: _________X______X__________X___X_______________X – Finish

Now the game works like this. A student comes up. You give them the lexical category. He/she has to say 5 words (one for each X) in as quick as time as possible. Do this with a stopwatch. If they make a mistake, add 5 seconds to their final time. If they make three mistakes they have “flown off” the side of the track and are disqualified. Students could do this in teams of four, making it a bobsled race. The student/team with the fastest time gets the gold medal. Add more Xs to make it a more challenging track.

2 Irregular verbs Ski Jump – For this activity you need the ubiquitous list of irregular verbs. Draw an image of a ski jump on the board. A student comes up in front of the course. Give them three irregular verbs (e.g. make, go, eat). They have to say the past tense forms. If they make a mistake they sit down again. If they get them right they have made a successful jump. They then have 30 seconds to say as many pairs of infinitive and past forms of irregular verbs as they can, e.g fly-flew, teach-taught, buy-bought etc. Count how many correct they get in the 30 seconds (another student can time this). They score one point per correct pair. Their total points is the total distance jumped. At the end the student who has jumped the furthest gets gold medal.

3 The Olympic Rings Alphabet Game – Students play this in teams. They have to work together and make an alphabet of sports words. E.g. A Athletics, B basketball etc. Set a reasonable time limit (ten to fifteen minutes). At the end, check answers. For every five correct words in their alphabet each group gets an “Olympic ring”. Can any group get five rings?

4 Figure skating Recital – individual programme – This one takes a little more setting up, and you need students who are willing to “go for it”. Each student has to choose a short text, either from the coursebook or another source (a poem, an extract from a speech they find on the net, a paragraph from a novel). They need to memorise the text at home. The next class nominate a series of students as judges. Students get up and recite their memorised text aloud. The judges award points on choice of text, difficulty and pronunciation and award a final score out of ten points.

5 Figure skating Recital – pairs programme – Very similar to above, but this time students work in pairs and choose a dialogue to memorise. Other students act as judges and award points in the same way.

6 Spelling Halfpipe – The halfpipe, I learned this Olympics, is the acrobatic jumping you do on a snowboard. For this activity in class you need a long list of words that are difficult to spell (e.g. Wednesday, separate, writing…) It’s better if you have this list in different categories: hard, very hard and fiendishly hard. You can probably find lists of difficult to spell words on the net if you search around, or if you have Penny Ur’s Five Minute Activities there is a list in there. Run this like a typical spelling bee (spelling competition). Students choose the category and you give them a word to spell out loud. The more difficult the word, the more points it’s worth (you decide on points). Each student spells five words total. Calculate the points and decide how you want to award medals.

So there you have it. Now I know that some will say these are competitive, and maybe some of this activities will not work with a class of 175 (or insert your own “large number” here) students. But the ideas are surely flexible enough that with a bit of creativity you could make some of them work in some of your classes. What do you think? Do you have another favourite sports-related vocabulary or grammar game? Post a comment.

Published in: on February 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (11)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Six original topical teaching ideas for October

All right, I fully expect that EVERY teacher has a Halloween lesson prepared so I’m not even going to bother “going there” as they say. No, this is the place for slightly different topical teaching ideas. I call this my “open source” materials writing. Here’s a germ of an idea, you grow it into a full activity or lesson.

1. Teach about dinosaurs! For all you young learner teachers (and hey, why not the adults too?) this month is International Dinosaur Month. Actually, I’m not sure if it is anymore, because the website about it doesn’t seem to have been updated for a few years now. But who cares? It’s a good excuse to do a dinosaur-based lesson. Get children to describe dinosaurs, design their own, compare them or make a story with them. More dinosaur lesson ideas here.

2 Discuss ageism! October 1 was the United Nations International Day of Older Persons. This is a good opportunity to have a class discussion on issues of age or ageism (depending on your class level).  I’ve always found there is lots of mileage in talking about what’s the best age to get married, have children, retire etc. You can find information and potential sources for texts about ageing here.

3 Explore silly science! This month the Ig Nobel prizes are awarded. A parody of the Nobel Prize, the Ig Nobel is awarded to achievements that make people laugh, and then make them think.  One of my favourites was from 2007, an experiment that discovered that hamsters recover more quickly from jetlag when given Viagra. Great stuff for a reading lesson and discussion on science in general perhaps. To see more check out the wikipedia entry.

4 Think big. October 12 marks the ten year anniversary of the  Day of the Six Billion, when the earth’s population reached six billion people. There is an old website here that could provide interesting material on the positive and negative aspects of population growth. Potential also for a short activity on vocabulary of big numbers (eg we say six billion, not six billions).

5. Go Wild. This month the film version of Where the Wild Things are comes out. I don’t expect it will be much good, even if it is directed by Spike Jonze, but the picture book is an American children’s classic.  I think you can find a video version of the picture book on YouTube. Again, this would be a great read-aloud for kids classes if you can get a hold of it.

6. Go Global. This month, a sample of my upcoming book will be released on the net. It’s going to be like a “try before you buy” and will contain several lessons, audio material, teacher’s notes and an essay by a well known methodologist. I’m very happy that Macmillan has agreed to do this, for free, as there is often a shroud of secrecy around upcoming coursebooks. So keep your eyes open for it! I’ll be posting more about this in the next week or two.

Published in: on October 4, 2009 at 9:25 am  Comments (22)  
Tags: , , , ,

Six original topical teaching ideas for June

A couple of "birthday"-type activities included this month!

Another one of the great monthly teaching ideas list. I consider these my “open source” or “creative commons” materials writing. Go ahead and run with any of them!

1. Discuss Historical photos! June 4th is the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, which sent this photo around the world. Find (better, ask your students to find and bring in) some other iconic, historical photos and put these around the room. Students work in pairs and walk around the room, discussing the photos they see and what they know about these events.

2. Go royal! There are two royal anniversaries in June: June 2 is the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and June 8 is her official birthday. You could make a quiz using information found here… but if that just sticks in your throat as too royalist then how about the following? The Queen sends special birthday messages to English people 100 years and older (see more here). Get students to write a Happy Birthday message to someone else in the class as if they were 100 or 105. 

3. Rewrite the Happy Birthday song! June 27th is the 150th anniversary of the composer of the Happy Birthday song – Mildred Hill. I read somewhere that her estate still gets royalties every time the song is played on the radio or tv or such. Can you imagine?!? Anyway, why not get students to write their own lyrics to the song? E.g. (to the tune of Happy Birthday) It’s the end of the year, it’s the end of the year, it’s the end of the year-ear… let’s all go have a beer!

4. Get hot and bothered in a role play! If you’re teaching in the northern hemisphere then on June 21 summer starts. I once wrote a whole set of mini role plays called “Heat Wave”, in each role play people are getting angry with each other on a hot, sweltering day. You can still find it buried at Onestopenglish  here. And I’ve just checked, it’s still free! Don’t delay, get it now before they close the loophole! There’s a free worksheet, role cards and teacher’s notes! Download download download…

5. Teach UP. Alright, I figure that the new 3D Pixar movie UP is going to have the same title pretty much everywhere, and what self-respecting English teacher can pass up on teaching a few phrasal verbs? Perhaps a quick brainstorm activity on as many phrasal verbs with UP that the students can think of, then use this to get at what “up” means (e.g. often a sense of completion, moving upwards, preventing or restricting, beginning to happen…) If you have access to a copy of this book then check page 486-489 for the full treatment.

6. Sing a song! I recently finished my beginner course with a group of twenty adults and they asked to do something I haven’t done in years: sing a song. Well, we did and I had forgotten what a great experience it can be to do that with a class. It was really a lot of fun, even though we massacred the song in question. Later on this month I’m going to post six songs that are great to singalong to with students, so stayed tuned for that one!

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , ,

Six original topical teaching ideas for May

Photo from Paramount Star Trek site

"The ship doesn't can take off?" Spock demonstrates a bold new approach to error correction. This month the new Star Trek film comes out.

And here they are, another half dozen little ideas that could spark off a class. It’s a bit too late for a May 1st activity (and anyhow, many teachers won’t be working that day) However, there should be something in here for everyone! 

1. Release your inner geek! The new Star Trek film opens May 7 so expect news stories about this and Trekkies around the world. I aim on doing a Science Fiction movie quiz with my students. Another possibility would be to find some stills from the film and get students to write a bit of hammy dialogue to go with it. If you really want to geek out you could look at the effect the Star Trek franchise has had on the English language. Beam me up Scotty! 

2. Listen to classical music! May 7 has a remarkable number of connections with classical music. It is the birth anniversaries of Tchaikovsky (1840) and Brahms (1833) and it also marks the premiere of  Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony (1824). Use classical music from one of these composers in your class. This could be as a simple background music while they do an activity or as a prompt for a writing activity. There are two ways you could do this. One is to put the music on and ask students to write whatever comes into their head while listening (freestyle). Another way would be to tell them that this music has been chosen for a new advertisement, or a new television show. Students listen and have to say what the product is/what the show is about.

3. Talk vaccines and diseases. Ok, so swine flu is the big news at the moment. You could prepare a reading with some basic facts about it, I found this site with information but I’m sure there are many others.  Or you could talk about how humans have overcome diseases in the past. May 14, for instance, is the anniversary of the discovery of the smallpox vaccine (1796). This is good material for a reading or live listening (a live listening being one in which you do the talking; giving them a live lecture in this case)

4.  Play tennis! May is Tennis month in America. Why not play a tennis-type language game? Grammar tennis (from Rinvolucri’s book Grammar Games) involves two players. One “serves” by saying the past participle of the verbforgotten. The other returns by saying the past tense forgot. The first person returns by saying the infinitive forget. Loads of fun, and could be adapted to do with vocabulary items too (e.g. one person begins with a word in a lexical set and the rally continues until someone can’t think of a word)

5. Celebrate mothers! This month contains mother’s day in many countries. Mark this event by teaching all the expressions with “mother” in English (e.g. mother-in-law, surrogate mother, mother’s boy, mother tongue, mother lode, full-time mother, Mother Earth, mother hen…). An easy activity would have students match the words to definitions (I found this list of words here). You could also mention that mother was listed as the top favourite words by language learners in a British Council survey (news story about this here). Or ask students to find compound nouns with mother and father and compare the lists both in English and their own language (e.g. Mother Earth, Father Time). Or simply ask students to write a paragraph about their mother…

6. Apologise! Teach your students various ways of apologising. You could also set up a series of mini roleplays in which one of the students has to apologise to the other. As part of the same class, explain that May 26 is Sorry Day in Australia. Sorry Day? What’s Sorry Day? your students might ask. Tell them to find out more for homework from this site and/or by watching this video.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

Six original topical teaching ideas for April

Use one of these ideas to make your class blossom!

It’s that time of month again… time for another set of original topical teaching ideas. If you want to be the envy of the staffroom, the idol of your students and just generally the coolest teacher in the school then nick one of these ideas and run with it! (as you can see, this is my April Fool’s special so humour abounds)

1. Do some reading aloud! There are a few book-ish dates this month, including International Children’s Book Day (April 2) and Shakespeare’s birthday April 23 which is also Book Day in some countries (e.g. Spain). Organise a reading aloud session of pieces of writing your students like/choose. Students can read aloud individually around the room (the traditional way, gets a bit boring) or read different bits in groups, pairs alternating with an individual reading one bit alone. 

2. Join the Easter Egg Roll! Find out about an interesting American tradition of the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Show photos of  previous events, or a video and ask students to guess what is going on. This could lead to a discussion/class on Easter traditions in different countries.

3.  Have a laugh! April 1st is April Fool’s Day in many English-speaking countries. Look for some funny news items around that day here and use these for a class. Or collect a series of Knock Knock Jokes, or Doctor Doctor jokes. Split them into halves and give each student half of a joke. They have to find their other half by saying what they have written on the paper.

4. Organise a Mutiny! April 28 is the anniversary of Mutiny on the Bounty, the most famous of all naval mutines in 1789.  You could tell the class the history of this event as a live listening, or  base a class around a scene from the film, or have the students plan a mutiny of their own, hypothetically!  If they took over the class, what would they do differently? (note, this last option perhaps not suitable for all classes!)

5. Ask, What’s up Doc? Bugs Bunny celebrates his debut this month, the first Bugs Bunny cartoon coming out on April 30 1938. Use this event to teach animal vocabulary (to lower levels) or as a springboard to discuss cartoons or cartoon characters that your students loved when they were children. You could also put together one of those great information gap biographies of Bugs (you know, where one student has half the bio information and the other has the other half and they ask questions…)

6. Get healthy! By this I don’t mean cutting down on the cigarettes or alcohol or sedative lifestyle (all good ideas though), but rather trot out your health classes! This April 7 is World Health Day and the focus is on making hospitals safe. Perfect opportunity to do/review health vocabulary, role play a visit to the doctor’s, discuss health care etc.

Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 6:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,