Stand up sequences


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Stand up sequences

This is a good game to practise any standard sequence such as numbers 1 – 30, days of the week, months of the year, the alphabet etc. Students sit in a circle. Establish which sequence you are going to do and without coordinating with the others, one student should just start by standing up and beginning the sequence. For example, if it’s the alphabet, one student (any student) will stand up and say “A” and sit down again. Then another student (anyone) will stand up and say “B” and so it goes on. If two students stand up at the same time the sequence must begin again from the very beginning. This is good for students to practise using eye contact and turn taking.


Put students in pairs and give them a scene to act out. They are going to have a conversation using an invented language. Explain to your students that gobbledygook is a made up language that is total nonsense. The pair should act out the scene using the correct intonation as if they were really talking to one another. The rest of the class can watch and guess what the situation is. After, you could write out the real dialogue in English for one of the scenes.

The Yes and No game
Nominate one student to be in the hot seat, slightly apart from the rest of the circle. The rest of the group must think of questions to ask the student in the hot seat. They can ask anything they like, the only rule is that the student in the hot seat must answer the questions without using the words “yes” or “no”. Also ban “yeah”, head nods and shakes! For example, a student asks, “Are you wearing jeans today?” The student in the hot seat could reply, “I am” or “you can see that they’re jeans!”


This is a longer activity that needs some preparation. It’s great for practising question forms in a fun way and gives structured speaking practice to lower levels. You will need a sticky label for each student or a pack of Post-It notes.

Tell students that they have got the job of reporter for a magazine about famous people. They are going to interview some famous people and they need to prepare some general questions they can ask any famous person – actors, singers, sports stars, politicians etc. Give some examples, like, ‘Do you enjoy your job?’ or ‘Are you happy being so famous?’ and get students to write four questions and put them into a table with the questions going down the left hand side and space for five columns to the right. Then ask students which famous person they would like to be and give each one a sticky label or a Post-It note for them to write the name of the famous person on and stick on themselves.

Put students into two concentric circles with the inner circle facing out and outer circle facing in. Tell students that they are going to interview the person directly in front of them for two minutes and note down all the information they find out. They are also going to be interviewed. The facing pairs take turns in the different roles of interviewer and famous person. At two minute intervals shout ‘stop’ and ask the outer circle to step one person to the right. Shout ‘start’ to give students two more minutes with a new famous person. When each student has interviewed and been interviewed five or six times stop the activity and seat students. The information they have gathered about the famous people can then be shared with the group orally or used for a piece of writing for a gossip magazine. If you have an odd number rotate one person out of the circle each time you move the other circle around. This person can help you to monitor and can walk around the circle listening to the others in action and making a note of any mistakes they hear. This activity gets very noisy with a large group but it can be a great way to keep students speaking English for quite a long period of time and you will probably see how their confidence grows as they get the hang of asking and answering the questions.

This activity was presented to me by a teacher I met a couple of years ago on a training course, so thanks go to Carme for this one.  It can be especially useful if you have to substitute a class at the last minute as it takes no preparation at all. Each student needs a blank piece of paper and a pen. Tell them they are going into a pre-historic internet chat room so they all need to decide on a nickname. Tell students that you are going to be the net and you will need to stand in the middle of the circle to exchange the papers. Explain that the net has gone a little bit crazy and they can’t send messages to specific people. If you have a big group ask a student or two to help you be the net in the middle.

Give students an example of how to start. Eg. Pingu: How are you feeling today? As students complete their questions they should hold the paper in the air and then you swap the papers over as if their messages are being sent. They then reply to the one they’ve just received and so it goes on until each student has a page full of ‘chat’. Then give the papers back to the student who wrote the initial question and they can see how the chat developed. This could lead on to talking about the internet, or chat rooms or you could use the text to do some error correction. As students have been writing quickly there will probably be lots of silly mistakes they can correct themselves.


This game is good to revise and practise structures in the first conditional. The teacher begins with a sentence, for example “If I go out tonight, I’ll go to the cinema.” The next person in the circle must use the end of the previous sentence to begin their own sentence. Eg “If I go to the cinema, I’ll watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The next person could say, “If I watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I’ll eat lots of chocolate.” Then, “If I eat lots of chocolate, I’ll put on weight” etc. etc.

To play a class version of the popular word game, Taboo, prepare your taboo cards by writing the target word at the top and three words that your students aren’t allowed to use in their definition below. The idea is that students have to define the target word without using any of the three words given on the card. Use words you want to recycle from previous classes. When students have got the idea, they can make a set of taboo cards as well so you build up a stock.

An example could be:


  • wheels

  • transport

  • ride

This is great for those logical-mathematical thinkers. Think of a word (start with a four letter word until you get the hang of it, then you can do it with longer words) and mark four lines, like you would in a game of hang-man.

___  ___  ___  ___

  • Ask the students to guess four letter words and write them up on the board under the four lines.

  • The key for telling students how close they are to the target word is:

  • One tick = right letter in the right place

  • Two ticks = right letter but in the wrong place.

  • As students make each guess, you must give them the results in key form.

  • To give an example, you are thinking of the word HOME and a student guesses the word HELP.

  • They would get two ticks for the H as it is the right letter in the right place and one tick for the E is in the word but in the wrong place. They keep on guessing until they find the pattern and guess the whole word. You can set a limit of 20 guesses.


This is a game I have been using with my students aged 10 and 11. It is to practise personal descriptions, and works on aural skills. The competetive element makes the children a lot more eager to join in and really listen.

  • You need to prepare a selection of descriptions. Sentences can include whatever they have been learning: 'My name is..', 'I'm 10 years old', 'I've got one brother and two sisters', etc.

  • Make two sets of all the descriptions you choose to use in the game and cut out the phrases separately. Don't forget to take a record of the sentences you have cut up!

  • The aim of the game is for students to win points for their team by choosing the right sentence according to what the teacher reads out, then be the first to place it on a table at the front of the class. So, seperate the children into two teams, and get them to form two lines at the back of the classroom. Put a set of the phrases on a table in front of each team - about halfway down the class - then read out the sentences and the children race to bring the correct phrase to the front. Whoever is first wins a point.

  • If you like children could take it in turns to be the teacher and read out the descriptions.

Gap Fill Gamble

This is a game to make any gap-fill task or cloze texts (reading tasks with gaps) more exciting. You need an envelope full of small bits of paper. Chop up a few pages of scrap paper for this. Students compete against one another in pairs. Give each pair a bunch of small bits of paper to keep on their table. Explain that they are going to compete against their partner to win as many bits of paper as possible. Each one is worth one point. You are going to read some sentences with gaps in. When there’s a gap you’ll say ‘beep’. They must write the beeped out word on a bit of paper without their partner seeing. Set a 5 second time limit and then say, “Okay, turn over”. Both of the students turn over their papers at the same time. If both are correct, leave them on the table to accumulate. If both are wrong, leave them on the table to accumulate. When one student is right and the other wrong, the student who is right wins all the accumulated cards that have gathered, and the piles start again on the next question. This is great for practising prepositions, such as the time prepositions in/on/at which students often make mistakes with.

For example:

  • My birthday is ____ “beep” November 22nd.

  • I have English class _____ “beep” Wednesdays and Fridays.

  • School starts _____ “beep” 8.30 am.

  • I’m going to Cornwall ____ “beep” the holidays.

When you have done ten or so sentences, stop the game and get students to count how many bits of paper they won. Rather than having just one or two winners in the class after a game, the great thing about this one is that half the class win as each pair has a winner.

In the Teacher’s Shoes
This is great for the first class with a new group or when you come back to class after a holiday or even after a weekend.

  • Put students into 2 teams. Ask the teams to write five questions they’d like to ask you.

  • Then ask for a volunteer from each team to sit at the front of the class. They are going to imagine they are you, and spend a few minutes ‘in the teacher’s shoes’!

  • The teams ask their questions and the students at the front who are in your shoes must try to answer the questions as they think you would answer them.

  • You decide whose response is closest to your own answer to the question and award points accordingly.

Lost your voice
This is like a role-play activity with no dialogue! It needs a little bit of preparation time for you to write out the ‘problem cards’. You can imagine any scenario where functional language would be used, such as at the train station, in a restaurant or at the shops. Set the scene by telling the students where they are.
  • For this example they are staying in a hotel. One member of the team has lost their voice and has to communicate various problems to the hotel receptionist so he/ she can get it fixed.

  • Ask one member of each team to be the mime artist and give them a ‘problem card’ with a problem on. You can vary the language level of the problem depending on your students. It could be as simple as ‘The TV doesn’t work’ or ‘the window is broken’ or a bit more complex like, ‘the shower in my room doesn’t have any hot water.’  This is what they must communicate to the hotel receptionists through mime.

  • Their team members play the role of hotel receptionists and must guess what the student is trying to say.

  • To make it more challenging and to revise functional language the students should guess what is written on the card word for word to win a point, e.g. “Could you help me please? The key to my room doesn’t open the door.”  

One word stories
This activity is extremely simple. Each student adds a word to create a group story. Despite the simplicity it can be really challenging and I would only use it with higher levels.

  • Students should be in a circle (if this isn’t possible make it clear they know who they are going to follow on from) The teacher can begin by saying the first word and each student adds the next word, without repeating what has come beforehand.

  • Good starting words are “Suddenly” or “Yesterday” to force the story into the past tense. It is great for highlighting word collocations and practising word order. It also highlights problems students may have with tenses or prepositions for you to focus on in future classes.
  • The stories can develop in any number of ways. Some groups may need the teacher to provide punctuation and decide that the sentence should end and a new one should begin. The great thing about this activity is that all students have to concentrate and listen carefully to their colleagues to be able to continue the story coherently.


  • Teacher – “Yesterday”

  • Student 1 – “I”

  • Student 2 – “saw”

  • Student 3 – “a”

  • Student 4 – “strange”

  • Student 5 – “man”

  • Student 6 – “who”

  • Student 7 – “was”

  • Student 8 – “wearing”

  • Student 9 – “a”

  • Student 10 – “yellow”

  • Student 11 – “hat”

  • Teacher – “Full stop, new sentence”

  • Student 12 – “He”

  • Student 13 – “was”

  • Etc. etc.

Writing consequences
This is a fun activity to create a group story. Each student needs a blank sheet of paper and a pen. If possible, sit in a circle shape to play. Each student adds one stage to the story then folds the paper to cover the information and passes the paper to the student on the right.  At each stage, before folding and passing to the student on the right, give these instructions.

  • Write the name of a man. It can be a famous man or a man everyone in the class knows. (Depending on the group, allow them to put the names of class mates)

  • Write the name of a woman. It can be a famous woman or a woman everyone in the class knows. (Depending on the group, allow them to put the names of class mates)

  • Write the name of a place where the two people meet.
  • When they meet, he says something to her. What does he say? Students write what he says to her.

  • She replies to the man. What does she say?

  • What’s the consequence of this encounter? What happens?

  • What’s the opinion of the whole story. What does the world say as a comment?

The end result is a mixed up story that can often be amusing. Read yours as an example of how you want the students to tell the story. Then invite students one by one to unfold their stories and read them to the group. Depending on the level you can encourage use of connectors, reported speech etc.

Telephone Wires
This is the classic children’s party game sometimes known as ‘Chinese whispers’.

  • A sentence is whispered around the circle of students. The last student to receive the message either says it aloud or writes it on the board. This can be a fun way to introduce a topic and activate schema at the beginning of a class. For example, for a class on food, whisper the question, “What did you have for lunch today?” Equally, at the end of a class it can be a nice way to revise structures or vocabulary from the lesson.

  • A variation of this is to get the students into two lines (team A and B) in front of the board, so the first student in both lines is really near the board and the teams are lined up behind him/her. You whisper a sentence or a question to the two students at the end of the line and they pass it down the line until it reaches the students nearest the board who then have to write the sentence on the board.
  • Another variation is to play the game into and out of the students’ own language. You whisper the starting sentence in English. The next student translates into their own language and passes it on, the next one translates it back into English and so on until it gets to the end. If you choose your sentences carefully this can be a fun way to look at your learners’ common mistakes which come from mother tongue interference. This version can work well in teams too.  

Change places…
This is a great activity to get students moving about and practice some vocabulary or sentence structures.


  • Start with students in a closed circle, with the teacher standing in the middle to begin the game. There should always be one less chair than participants.

  • Depending on what you want to revise the teacher says, “Change places if ……(Example) you’re wearing trainers.” All students who are wearing trainers must stand up, and move to another chair and the teacher should sit on one of the recently vacated seats.

  • The person left without a seat stays in the middle and gives the next command, “Change places if you ……(Example) have brown eyes” and so it goes on.

  • Adapt for higher levels with commands such as, “Change places if … you went to the cinema last weekend”, or “Change places if you … would like to have less homework.”

Young learners can get very excited with this game so make it clear from the beginning that pushing other students out of chairs and similar behaviour is not going to be tolerated! Be careful to incorporate this activity in the class at an appropriate time. It is a definitely a ‘warmer’ as opposed to a ‘cooler’ and may be better at the end of a class.

This is a good game for high-energy groups when you need to get them all sitting down and on task. They really have to concentrate to stay in the game. If you don’t have space to get everyone sitting in a circle or you can’t move the tables you can do it standing up.  

  • Sit in a circle with your students and do the hand actions of lap (both hands to lap), clap, left click, right click. When they get the hang of it, add these words in time to the rhythm “Concentration, concentration, concentration now beginning, are you ready? If so, let’s go!”

  • On the first finger click, you say your name, and on the second click you say the name of someone in the circle. You have passed the turn to the person you nominated on your second finger click. Then they say their own name on the first click and the name of another student on the second, and so it goes on.

  • When they have got the idea, use different lexical sets. For example, everyone says their favourite sport first then use these to play the game instead of saying names.

  • You can also use flashcards or real objects such as fruit and vegetables or classroom objects. Place a flashcard or an object by each student’s feet and they use these as they do the finger clicks and pass the turn.

  • For a competitive group, eliminate those students who make mistakes.  

Chain drawings
This is a fun activity which can be used with all groups, just select a follow-up activity that is appropriate for the age and level of the class but the basic procedure is the same for everyone.


  • Give each student a piece of paper and some coloured pencils.

  • Tell them that you are going to play some music and you want them to draw whatever comes into their heads.

  • As music is playing, all students should be drawing.

  • After 20 or 30 seconds, stop the music.

  • Students stop drawing and pass their picture to the person to the left of them in the circle.

  • Play the music again and they continue with the drawing the person next to them had started.
  • Stop the music again, pass pictures on and this continues until the end of the song.

  • When you have finished each student will have a picture that several students contributed to.

  • Then it's up to you what to do with the pictures. Here are some ideas:

    • Label everything on the picture.

    • Describe the picture to the group or a partner.

    • Imagine that the picture represents the dream you had last night. Explain your dream to the group. (You could ask another student to analyse the dream.)

    • The picture is actually a postcard. Write the postcard to a friend telling them all about the place where you’re on holiday.

    • If there are people in the picture, use them to create a dialogue.

    • Imagine the picture was a photo taken at 5pm yesterday. Describe what was happening.  

    • Put the pictures up around the room and create your own art gallery.

Note: Different types of music tend to produce very different pictures. Reggae or Latin American music tends to get tropical island or beach scenes, dance music tends to get cityscapes and classical or chill out tends to get more abstract pictures. Experiment and see what your students produce and adapt follow-up activities accordingly.

This is a brilliant game for intermediate level students. The original idea came from a German TV show.


  • Divided  the class into groups of 5 people. Any people left over can be used to time, open and close door, and write the scores on board.
  • Out of the group of 5, 4 are sent out of the classroom. The remaining player is player 1.

  • Player 1 is given a word, for example: trousers. Player 2 is called into the room and player 1 must describe "trousers" to player 2. For example:

    • "You wear these on your legs."

  • When player 2 has guessed the word, he / she must describe it to player 3, but using a different description, e.g.: "Yours are black." And so on until the whole team know the word.

    • Possible other descriptions: "These are an item of clothing, like shorts but longer, men wear these instead of a skirt"

  • Each group is given 1 1/2 minutes for the whole group to have found out the answer

  • The maximum number of points per group in 4.

The pupils / students will love this game and will play for hours and hours!!

Games for question practice
An essential skill in communicating and keeping up a conversation is the ability to ask questions. Students sometimes get lots of chances to answer questions but here is how you can get them to make some questions themselves! These activities can be used with a whole range of levels.

1. FAQ's challenge
Tell students that they are preparing information on a topic for a booklet or a website e.g. tourist information for their town, information about their school system, information about customs or music in their country.
  • Students in groups or pairs brainstorm a list of six to eight frequently asked questions on the subject.

  • The whole class pool their questions and discuss them.

  • Students prepare the answers in the next lesson.

2. Quiz question challenge
A quiz game based on recent vocabulary and topics covered can form the basis of this game with a twist. It has been played successfully with beginners!

  • Read aloud the answers from your quiz cards

  • In teams students must guess what the question is! Allow conferring between team members.

  • Award two points for getting the question exactly right and one point for providing a question which makes sense and gets the answer, e.g. if the answer is '21', the questions could be 'How many students are there in this class? (two points) and 'How old is the assistant?' (one point)

3. Guess the object
Divide class into groups. Each group makes a list of three or four objects. Focus on words recently studied, words for objects in the room or words for objects related to a topic e.g. home, studying, music etc.

  • One group must guess the objects of another group by asking questions e.g. 'Is it made of metal? Can you find one in this room? Is it bigger than this table?'

  • Set a limit to the number of questions possible for each object (e.g. six to eight questions). Give a point to the team if the object is not guessed/guessed within the number of questions allowed.

  • Guide students by providing the lists of objects yourself or focussing on specific question types to suit your classes.

4. Question time challenges

This approach can be used as a regular lesson slot or filler to change pace. Give one question with the words jumbled up on slips of paper. The first pair or group to unscramble it correctly are the winners.

A longer version: Take four or five question types recently covered by students. Jumble the words of the questions and write on one worksheet or on slips of paper in an envelope. Challenge small groups or pairs to re order. Run through the questions scoring two points for each correctly ordered question. Then challenge students again to think of logical answers to the questions or to use a couple of the questions in a mini dialogue.

Two word games
The following games can be played throughout the school year but are also very useful as a round up at the end of term. You can play them a few times. First play with the whole class and then try in groups (good for mixed ability groups).

1. Guess the word (can be used for abstract nouns)
Choose five words relating to recent conversational themes. Write sets of clues to help students guess the words. Play with whole class or teams. Use one word per lesson over five lessons or use all words in one session as a longer game.

Example clues:

  • I am a noun but I am very important.

  • I begin with the letter ‘f’.

  • People in prison have lost it and want it back.

  • People demand it when it is taken away by dictators.

  • It is related to speech.
    (Puzzle word = Freedom)

2. Get rid of it

This game can be adapted for matching definitions to words or matching opposites.

You need two sets of cards. White cards for the words and another colour (yellow?) for the questions. Put all questions in a bag or hat at the start of the game.

  • Give each student at least three word cards, placed in front of them on their desks.

  • Choose one card from the hat and read the question. Students study their word cards. Whoever has the corresponding word can get rid of it. The winner gets rid of all his cards first.

    Example questions on cards:

    • What type of animal has kittens?

    • What’s the opposite of the verb ‘to borrow’?

    • What do you call a person who cuts hair?

    • Where can you buy medicine?

Christmas games
Here are some games which we associate with parties and Christmas celebrations in UK schools. These games can be adapted for language learners of all ages and levels.

Pass the parcel (Whole class/mixed ability groups)
Prepare 5-6 boxes or envelopes decorated or wrapped with Christmas paper. In each parcel put a group activity with a Xmas theme for students to try e.g. a word search, a dialogue to practice, a questionnaire to ask each other, a poem to read aloud. Spread the boxes around the class and students can work through each parcel, passing them around. Good for two lessons or a double period as well.

Santa’s sack (whole class)
Prepare everyday objects of varying sizes and shapes. Wrap them up in Xmas paper and put in a sack (a pillow case will do !). Students take turns to fish out an object then win points if they can guess the object. “It could be a mobile phone….It might be a calculator …etc.” Lower levels can say “I think it’s a..” or ask “Is it a/an..?”

Mystery pictures (whole class or small groups)

Another guessing game is to cover Christmas pictures with a black card and leave a slim keyhole or peep hole in the centre of the card. Can they guess the object that is half hidden? You can get your pictures from magazines, free leaflets and catalogues from supermarkets or printed up from the net.

  • Make a keyhole template with one blank sheet of paper. Cover each picture and photocopy. You will then have a series of pictures half hidden by black. Students can also play this in small groups if you have enough pictures photocopied. For groups write the solution in pencil on the back of each hidden picture.

  • For lower levels (and kids): concentrate on 8 key items which they know well (this can be Christmas presents hidden i.e. a Harry Potter book, a game boy, a favourite video).

  • For higher levels pick objects associated with Christmas but still stick to vocabulary they know e.g. a bottle of Champagne, a Christmas cake, a parcel or gift, a ski slope, a reindeer, an angel Or cover Christmas presents.

Pin the nose on the reindeer (whole class or small groups)
Prepare a picture of a reindeer with a small piece of velcro glued to the place where the nose should be. Prepare a nose backed with velcro. Blindfold a student from each team and their team have to shout directions to help them get the nose on the reindeer e.g. “Up a bit, down a bit, left, right etc.” All ages play this but beware of self conscious adolescents as it may cramp their style!

Xmas find someone who… (whole class, small groups)
Prepare 8 festive sounding challenges suited to the language level of your class and get them talking to find someone who …went skiing / will be going skiing, wrote a letter to Santa when they were small, has got a Xmas tree at home, has done some Xmas shopping, can tell you how to cook a traditional meal/dish.

  • Example:

    Lower levels find someone who is.. going to the mountains for Christmas / Going to stay with cousins for Christmas / Staying at home for Christmas.

    Higher levels (use language they have studied this term) Find someone who … has never been away from home / has eaten pizza on Christmas day / Would go to a hot country for Christmas (if they could/had the opportunity) / Has already bought some Christmas presents / a Christmas CD / Can suggest an original dish/activity for Xmas day / can tell you a special Xmas memory from childhood (this is a very open conversation starter for a fairly fluent class).

Xmas colouring (whole class or pairs)
Make multiple copies of the same colouring picture (print up one from the sites suggested in the Essential UK Xmas Special). Tell the whole class how to colour it (best with lower levels and kids) or in pairs give each students a half coloured picture (different parts coloured for each) and they ask questions to finish the picture e.g. “What colour is the present? fairy on the tree? Santa’s sleigh?”

  • Higher levels can have different pictures but do not give them guidance on which objects are coloured in or not. Students therefore have to ask and find out what needs colouring in. In some cases the pictures have a few objects coloured in but the choice is more random than half and half.

  • Make sure students know all the words for the objects. Put a glossary down the side of their pictures and/or use one copy to review the words before they start the activity.

Story telling grid
This is a low preparation but high output activity which I have used successfully with teens and adults. The aim of the activity is to get students to orally create a short story in small groups or pairs.

  • First of all draw a grid on the board and then put one word in each box. You can make your story grid any size you want but the bigger the grid is the more complicated the activity will become.

  • You can recycle vocabulary that students are currently working on in class in the story grid, but to ensure that students can create a good story you should include a mixture of words, such as people and place names, verbs, nouns, adjectives etc., and it is usually good to throw in words that might give the story a bit more spice, such as crime, love, hate murder, theft, robbery, broken hearted, treasure, accident, etc.

  • Explain to the students that the aim of the activity is to create a story using all the words in the story grid. Students can use any vocabulary or grammar they want to but they have to include all the words in the story grid.

  • The first time you do this activity you can use the example story grid and model the story telling part of the activity for the students and then give the students another example story grid from the worksheet to use, or you can easily create your own story grid.

  • Another variation is to get students to create story grids for each other to use. Next get the students to create their own stories in pairs or small groups and once the students have created their stories, they can retell their story to you, the rest of the class or to other groups.

Follow up activities and variations

  • At the end of the activity the class could vote on the best stories in different categories, for example the most creative story, the most interesting story, the funniest story, the best told story etc. This activity can also be easily developed into a creative writing activity, either individually as homework or as pair or group writing practice.
  • Another interesting spin-off is to get students to rewrite their stories as a radio drama. If you have recording facilities the students can perform and record their radio drama on a cassette to listen to in class. If you do not have recording facilities you can get students to write their story as a short play and try to find them an audience who they can perform to such as another English teacher or another English class.

Feedback on language use

  • I find it is best to give students individual or group feedback on their language use in a storytelling activity after the students have finished telling the story for the first time.

  • I usually make notes of anything I would like to go over with students while they are telling the story.

  • I find interrupting students to correct their language use while they are telling the story dampens their creative mood and restricts their language use.

  • If the students are going to record their story or perform it live, I get them to perform it to me again so I can help them with their language before they record it or perform it to an audience outside of the class.

Dating game
This is a great activity for getting students talking. I have used it successfully with many different levels and age groups and have found that it is very effective at motivating teenagers to talk. It is particularly useful for practising describing appearance, character and interests.

You will need a selection of flashcards of people, a mixture of ages and types.


  • Put a picture of a person on the board and ask the students to tell you his/her name, age and job. Write whatever they tell you on the board. (Note: at first they may be a bit confused and think that they should know the person, they will soon get the idea).
    • Then ask them to describe him/her physically (again write what they tell you on the board). Repeat this procedure for his/her character and hobbies. You should end up with a paragraph profile of the person.

    • Read the description of the person and elicit from the students that he/she is not happy because they are single and would like to meet a man/woman.

    • Then follow the same procedure above to elicit a description of the person that they would like to meet. At the end of all this you should have two descriptions.

    • Tell the students that you see these kinds of descriptions in lonely hearts pages in magazines and newspapers.(You could even bring some in to show them)

  • Give the students a picture each and tell them not to show it to anyone. You may have to stress this, as it is a temptation to show the pictures to friends in the class. The students then have to write a description of the person in the picture and the person they would like to meet. Point out that they can use the model on the board as a guide. Monitor and feed in language as they need it.

  • Tell the students to leave their pictures face down on the table and to mingle. The aim is for them to try and find a partner for the person in their picture. At lower levels they can take the description with them as they mingle. They need to talk to everybody and not just settle for the first person who comes along asking questions to ensure they find the right person. It is also a good idea to play some romantic music in the background as they are mingling (Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder).

  • After you have given them enough time to find partners, stop the activity (if they are being very choosy give them a time limit and tell them they must compromise and find a partner). Conduct a feedback session and ask the students to tell the class about their invented character and the partner that they have found. The class can then see the pictures for the first time and decide if they think it will be a successful relationship.

Follow up ideas

Students can write the story of the relationship or can write letters to the new partners.

You can change the context and replace the pictures of the people with pictures of houses/flats and ask the students to be either estate agents or buyers looking for a place to live. Again they can write descriptions of places they want to sell (of varying standards) and places they would like to buy, mingle and try to find their dream homes.

You can adapt the basic idea to suit many different topics.

A Dark and stormy night
by Nik Peachey

The main focus of the activity is on developing writing skills, but it's also good for developing listening speaking and reading skills and also for practising past tenses, descriptive vocabulary and generally having fun.

The activity should work at most levels above elementary, as long as your students have some knowledge of past tenses, but it works best when they also know past continuous / progressive too. All you need to get things started is a sheet of plain paper for each pair of students.

The listening part comes first:

  • Ask the students to draw the face of a person in the top right-hand corner of the page.

  • Once they've done this ask them to give the person a name.

  • Then on the top left of the page ask them to write five adjectives to describe the person's appearance.

  • Next ask them to write five more adjectives to describe the person's character.

  • After they've done this ask the students to write three things that the person likes doing.

  • Then ask them to write who the person lives with.

  • In this way they build up a character profile for the person they are going to write about.

The writing part:
  • Now dictate the following sentence to your students: 'It was a dark and stormy night and'. Stop at this point and ask them to write in the name of the person they have drawn and followed by the word 'was'.

  • Then ask the students to complete the sentence from their imagination and add one more sentence.

  • Once all the students have added a sentence to their stories, get them to stop and pass the paper to the pair on their right (this means that every pair of students now has a new character).

  • The students then read through the information and the beginning of the story and then add one more sentence to it.

  • Once they've done this you ask them once more to pass the paper to the next pair on their right. Continue to do this with each pair of students adding a sentence to each story, gradually building up each story as the papers are passed around the class.

  • Continue with this until you decide that the students are starting to lose interest or have written enough and then tell them to finish the story.

Follow up:

  • Once all the stories are complete there are a number of follow up options you can try.

  • Put the stories up around the class and get the students to read them all and decide which is best.

  • Give each pair of students a story and get them to try to find and correct errors.

  • Get the students to write the stories up on a computer and the ask them to add more description and detail to the stories.

  • This activity is fun and creative and has always worked well for me both with adults and younger students.

The Coffeepot game
This game is good for practising and reviewing action verbs and adverbs.


  • One student has to think of a verb, but not tell the others.
  • The other students then try to guess the verb by asking questions. The missing verb can be substituted with coffeepot.

    Example questions:

    • Why do you coffee pot?

    • Where do you coffee pot?

    • Do you coffee pot by yourself?

  • Do you need any special equipment for coffee potting?

  • Make sure the students ask questions and don't just guess the verb.

  • You could put the students in teams to try to guess the verb and award points to the teams for getting the correct verb.

  • It might be wise for you to demonstrate the game first with the students asking you questions.

Hot seat
By Callum Robertson

This is a good activity for getting your students going in the morning. It is also excellent for revising vocabulary.


  • First, split your class into different teams (two is best, but if you have a large class, any number could be used).

  • Sit the students facing the board.

  • Then take an empty chair - one for each team - and put it at the front of the class, facing the team members. These chairs are the 'hot seats'

  • Then get one member from each team to come up and sit in that chair, so they are facing their team-mates and have their back to the board.

  • As the teacher, have a list of vocabulary items that you want to use in this game.

  • Take the first word from that list and write it clearly on the board.

  • The aim of the game is for the students in the teams to describe that word, using synonyms, antonyms, definitions etc. to their team mate who is in the hot seat - that person can't see the word!
  • The student in the hot seat listens to their team mates and tries to guess the word.

  • The first hot seat student to say the word wins a point for their team.

  • Then change the students over, with a new member of each team taking their place in their team's hot seat.

  • Then write the next word…

This is a very lively activity and can be adapted to different class sizes. If you have many teams, perhaps some teams wait to play. Or if the team sizes are large, you can restrict how many team members do the describing. Have fun!

Grammar auction
This is a teacher led auction. It can be played with mixed language points which are causing difficulty or on a specific area, as in the example.

You may need to check that the students understand the concept of an auction.


  • Put the students into pairs or small groups and give each pair a sheet of sentences and their money limit. If you can find monopoly or other fake money to use it adds to the fun.

  • Ask the students to plan which sentences they are going to bid for.

  • Conduct the auction in a brisk and fun way.

  • After all the sentences are sold, run through and get a class vote on which sentences are correct. Confirm the answers.

  • Ask them to add up their money. Who has lost money on incorrect sentences?

  • Ask pairs to decide why the sentences are not correct.

Example auction sheet

Decide which of these sentences is correct. You have 1000 Euro to spend. Try to buy the best sentences with your money. Only buy correct ones if you can!

  1. I am living in Paris since 1998.

  2. Has Pascal ever been to London?

  3. Betty hasn’t went to England yet.

  4. Nobody in the class has been to America.

  5. How long are you studying English?

  6. I haven’t seen my cousin since a long time.

  7. We have seen each other last summer .

  8. When were you born?

  9. I’ve been born in 1987.

  10. I’ve never seen a film in English but I’ve read a book.

  11. Sally’s lived in London for 10 years now.

Horse race dictation
This is an activity in which students try to predict the order of words in a jumbled sentence before listening for the answer. It is enjoyable because students are asked to predict the first word, in the same way people try to guess which horse will come first in a race, giving a strong motivation for the short but very intensive listening activity, in the form of a horse race commentary, which gives the solution.

Choose a sentence and write words in random order on the left of the board, as in the example below. You also need to prepare a commentary, which should be challenging enough to make it interesting but not too difficult. In the example below there is only one major change in order, when, and other minor changes during the race.




Example commentary
They’re off! I has made a strong start, with finally close behind, and home and got following. When is at the back, eleven and o’clock are just ahead. Was and it are in the middle of the field and it has just passed was. Both are ahead of eleven and o’clock and when is coming from behind fast, passing eleven and o’clock, and look at when go, flying up the field! He has passed finally and is now passing I, and into the lead. They’re coming to the finish line, what an incredible finish! It’s when first, I second, finally third, got beats home to finish fourth, with o’clock coming in last.

Example answer: When I finally got home it was eleven o’clock.


  • Make sure students are familiar with words showing order in races eg first, second, last, at the back, following, ahead, in(to) the lead, behind, up the field.

  • Tell the students to imagine that the words are horses who are going to race to the other side of the board. The winner will be the first word in the sentence, the second to finish will be the second word and so on. Ask them to choose the word that they think will be the winner and write it down.

  • Ask students to compare their predictions in groups.

  • Tell the students they are going to hear a horse race commentary and that they have to listen carefully to find the winner and the order of words. They can make notes during the commentary and should write the sentence at the end.
  • Read the commentary.  Stress the words in italics to differentiate them from the other words. Note that commentaries are spoken fast in real life, so read it fairly fast the first time.

  • Check the answers. You may need to read it more than once for the class to agree. Ask who predicted the winner correctly.


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