Great games for lessons

All too often when we talk about games in language lessons we mean some “fun” way of practising the present perfect for with a dice or a board for example, I’m not sure all my students are convinced by this!

There are however loads of “real” games that are fun, even for lower level classes.


Headbands is great fun, you have to ask questions such as “am I an animal?” etc.

My students also love Werewolf; a kind of role play game which doesn’t need much vocabulary either.

Then of course there’s Taboo, which also has a junior version.

All the Brainboxes are fabulous, and Choices in a jar are a great way of getting conversations going.

What about you? Please leave a few suggestions in the comments box.



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Does this story ring a bell? – Presenting Shakespeare to teens

Imagine your dad had just died? How would you feel? (Obviously be careful that you know the family situation of your students first.)

Now imagine your mum remarried, how would you feel?

She married your uncle (dad’s brother), any thoughts?

Now you find out your dad may have been murdered, maybe by your uncle, what would you do?

Now read Hamlet, I like to start with Playing with Plays’ short version.

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Mood Boosters for Fast Finishers

I’ve talked before about Fast Finishers as you can see in the category section to your right  and I’ve even produced an ebook full of them!

Here‘s a bunch of ideas for creating cheer and wellbeing at the same time. As with all the FF ideas, cut them up & throw them in a box, any students that finishes an activity early can choose one and get on with it autonomously. They can also be used as whole class ideas as warmers or fillers.


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#ELT Project Ideas for teens


Write a letter – last year we wrote a letter to the queen, who replied. This year we wrote to Harry, who apparently has been to busy to answer. So next year, rather than write one letter from the whole class the students are going to write one each, or in pairs, then we should get at least a few answers.

Series Club – The plan is to choose a series during our first meeting and then fix a regular date to get together and watch an episode and discuss it in English. Friday lunch usually works well, and the main rule of course is NO SPOILERS!

Book Club – This was hard to get off the ground last time as not many students could read whole novels in English and we wanted to read YA fiction, not easy readers. So the solution we have come up with is to read the book in whatever language you are comfortable in and then discuss it over lunch in English.

Whereas the series club meets once a week, the book club meets once a month – we need time to read them after all!

Weekly magazine– with news from current events and from the school. One student suggested an e-format to avoid wasting paper, so maybe we’ll set up a blog and have a weekly columnist.

Make a “how to” video- Youtube is full of videos showing you how to do anything from change a car battery to how to birth kittens ( don’t ask!) so we’ve decided to make our own, not sure on what yet, but not birthing kittens that’s for sure, maybe hobbies and skills, or learning for tests, getting the teacher in a good mood, etc.

Make a board game– This can be a simple snakes and ladders format or something more complicated, and include questions or challenges on any theme.

Charity Project– Easy to set up and run, and very motivating. The students research and present different associations they would like to support and the class votes for their favourite. Then we brainstorm different money-making ideas including cookie sale, writing & selling class newspapers, tombolas,  etc. At the end of the project if possible we invite a charity representative to come in and receive the money we raise.

Time Capsule – Get students to collect articles and write a description of them for future generations – “this is a coke can, coke is a drink that…” – you get the idea. Then bury it somewhere in the school with a sign (like those to tell you which plants are in the ground) or a map left somewhere safe – remember to include a date that it can be dug up.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, please share your ideas below!

BTW – This has been posted before but I’m clearing up my blog – procrasticlearing to avoid writing my study plans, and so I’ve just moved it here – please don’t think I’d fob you off by republishing the same stuff!)

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Things I’ll be doing in the first week back

It’s that time of year again and I don’t know about you but I’m really looking forward to going back to school. I always think it’s a good idea to start the year with some original activities because a) the students’ books never arrive until week 3 and I hate the thought of photocopying a load of stuff they’ll just throw out afterwards and b)I think it encourages students to see the English class as a place where they can do fun stuff, use their creativity and take risks and c) it will lull them into the false impression that my classes are fun!

It’s also time to take a look at some CPD to make sure my students aren’t the only ones progressing in my classroom.

So here’s some of the stuff I’ve got planned:

a) The paperclip test

Those of you old enough to be familiar with headway first edition might remember a similar thing with a cabbage. The idea is to ask students to come up with as many alternative uses as possible for a paperclip. I read somewhere (but can’t find where!) that the average person can find about 10-15 uses, however NASA use this as a test to employ engineers and are looking for about 200 uses!!

b)F.A.I.L. lesson

Check out this  FAIL lesson about famous failures:

Who do you think the following famous people are ?

This person didn’t speak until he was four-years old. He also failed his entrance exam to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic school located in Zurich at sixteen-years old. And, even his father, up until the time of his death, considered his son to be a major failure. After eventually graduating from college he worked as an insurance salesman, but quit after some time because he failed at that as well.

When she was 9-years old, her group, Girl’s Tyme, appeared onStar Searchand lost.

At the age of sixty-five-years old, he set out with his famous recipe and only a $105 social security check to his name, in an attempt to sell his franchise model. 1,009 restaurants rejected him before one accepted his offer.

He intended to earn his PhD in literature Lincoln College, Oxford, but failed and subsequently dropped out of school. After he wrote his first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, it was rejected 28 separate times.

He was rejected during an early Hollywood screen test when the producer stated, “Can’t act. Slighty bald. Dances a little.”

His first company went bankrupt. His second company also went south when, after a dispute with partners, he was forced to walk away with only the rights to his name.

After you’ve taken a guess check out the correct answer.

Write a resume of the successes of one of these people.

What have you learnt about « failure » ?

3) I’ll be printing out the brilliant Learning scientists posters to put up and then we’ll discuss leaning strategies – time spent discussing successful learning strategies is never wasted!

4) After a brilliant weekend training session on positive discipline I’ll definitely be using some of these resources.

5) I’ll be registering for and preparing the workshops I’ll be giving at a few conferences such as ETAS PD day,  TESOL France, and putting in a proposal for IATEFL Liverpool 2019. If you’ve never put in a talk or workshop proposal for IATEFL or your local/national ELT association then it’s a must – the best way to learn is to explain to someone else, and teaching is all about sharing knowledge so go for it!

6) Organising a girls’ night out! Don’t forget self-care is essential for teachers, you deserve and need a break and your lessons will be even better after a break doing something you love!

Whatever you get up to this new term, enjoy it and let me know what you’ve got planned!

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Another look at art class

The other day I came across this fab idea on Facebook and copied it in class. It’s a great way to introduce some classic (and not so classic) artwork in class.

Firstly I handed out some famous painting flashcards that students had to describe and give their opinion on.

Then I asked students to choose one or find a famous painting online and re-enact it. The results are fab!!


Just in case you don’t recognise the original the students are holding it!



And finally a group effort!


The language generated, not only in terms of describing and discussing art, but especially later when students had to direct each other into the right positions, was just amazing!

Remember, this is Wafia Sboui’s cool idea!


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10 things to do when you finish the coursebook

I don’t want to rub it in but we have less than two months of school left and that time is filled with school trips, bank holidays, exams etc.

This means we’re arriving at the time when we get to the end of the text book, now this post is not a debate on whether or not, or how to use a coursebook, I teach in a secondary school and am expected to use one so choose a good one and supplement it as I go along – so there!

Anyway, the “programme” is more or less done so now we can do some other stuff:

  1. Tapescript drama

Using the typescript as the dialogue, have students act out the scenes. Depending on the actual dialogue these mini-plays may take on very different aspects to the original book version.

2. Replace the characters

The characters and “celebrities” are often quite dated in books, -hardly any of my students have a clue who Victoria & David Beckham are! So ask students to rewrite a text or two with a celebrity of their choice – or themselves, including similar information to the original.

3. A good old cloze text

I don’t do this very often at all so when I do the students actually quite enjoy it. Give them a text they’ve already studied with various words blanked out. You can focus on verb tenses, prepositions of time (mine definitely find that one a challenge), or just give the first part and ask them to finish it in their own words.

4. Dictagloss

As above, use a text you have already seen in class. Here’s an explanation if you’re unsure what a dictagloss is, or just want to see if you do it differently.

5. Rewire Comprehension

I love this activity, (not least because it takes very little teacher time and can easily be done in replacement classes when someone thrusts a book into your hand and pushes you into a room of teens!) Just give the class the comprehension questions and ask them to write the written text or listening text themselves, using the questions to guide them. You can then get the groups to swap their finished versions and use them to do a basic comprehension exercise. You may find their version better than the original in the book, keep them for next year, or at the end of next year hand these new versions out to the class and ask them to find which original text they could replace, before having them do a similar thing, and so on to infinity and beyond!

6. Organise an Outing

Chances are there may be an end-of-term trip, so get the class involved. Explain the limits – time, financial, distance, etc. and ask the students to research activities or places to visit. they can then present them to the class who votes on where to go. If they will need extra accompanying adults ask them to find them, asking other teachers or parents. Giving students power and choice is a great way of getting them on board, and the resulting trip is fab for getting to know students in a different context. This is also a great way to get to know everyone at the start of term.

If you know the school won’t allow a trip at this time, and your students are old enough , then organise something on a Saturday afternoon, even bowling or cinema – you’ll be surprised at how many turn up.

7. Start planning next year

Ask students to brainstorm what they would actually like to get from their classes next year/term. This gives you chance to incorporate some of their ideas into your plans for the future. See above for the benefits of empowering students in their own learning.

8. Rewrite the book

This may seem a little ambitious but can be done at various levels, it also reveals how little students actually know their book, I’m always surprised (well, actually I’m not anymore) about how few students realise there’s a lexical list at the back of the book, and a grammar explanation and about a billion practice exercises, oh and there’s a few longer texts to read. If you don’t present these activities as “rewriting the book” half the class don’t even realise that they are related to the book they’ve just spent a year studying with!

  • Rewrite the chapter

Give students the headings and ask what they think it could talk about or what they would add. They can find texts or write their own to add under each topic. Can they find important people to include and research information on these people? Can they link these topics to current affairs?

  • Give the language points and have students come up with texts

When do we use suggestions? Or the past continuous? Ask the students when they do. You can give the language explanation from the side bar, and/or the vocabulary tool box (many of mine never see these side boxes when we read the book!) and ask them to come up with an original way of presenting this language to the rest of the class. Give each group a different section and your new book is almost written.

You can then form new groups which contain one member from each of the original groups to “teach” the members of this new group what they prepared with their original group.

  • Give the texts and have the students come up with the language points

Similar to the idea above but vice-versa, give each group a text/language presentation and ask them what they would teach from this. Students often find this quite challenging so it’s worth giving them a nudge, either when you go round or by writing titles on the board such as “prepositions”, “talking about the past”, “holiday vocab” which each group can choose from. Then get the groups to write their own grammar and vocabulary toolkits, which they can compare later to the version in the book.

  • Come up with something completely different

Ask the class what they think they should have learnt this year, what they would have done differently, ask them to give a rough outline of the book they wish they had. Groups or pairs can present these new versions to the class who chooses the best. A great chance to get the artists involved by designing the front cover.

9. What Have I learnt

This is such an important part of the learning process, it should be done at the end of every lesson, unit, etc. and if I’m so bossy about about telling you this it’s because I don’t do it enough at all. Ask students to have a think-pair-share about what they have learnt this year, what was easy/difficult/etc, how they learnt, what advice they would give next year’s class, which leads on to the final idea…

10. Write a letter to next year’s students

Ask the class to write a letter/survival manual for next year’s class, and then keep them to give the next year’s class, it’s a great way of introducing your class to new students, mine get to know important stuff such as “Mrs Harris likes chocolate”, “If you get her talking about star wars you won’t do any work all lesson”!

Bonus idea: There are a hundred ideas in 100 Activities for Fast Finishers that can be used when you’ve finished the coursebook 😉

Have a look at this article for some more ideas and if you’re already planning next year then take a look here.

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Learning with Lego

The exams had just finished and I’d promised we would play in class today, and we did – but we learnt too.


So, I gave each pair the same 5 pieces of lego, they don’t need to be the same set for everyone, just for each pair, and as you can see the colour doesn’t matter.

Then the “seeing partner made a construction with his pieces and described it to his blindfolded partner, who had to construct the same thing with his pieces:


When we’d done that a couple of times I then blindfolded both of them, I made the construction and gave it to one of the pair, who by feeling it had to describe it to his partner.

After we had done that for a while we discussed the techniques and strategies they had used and then I asked whether they thought it was a good activity in language class and whether they had learnt or practised any particular forms. After discussing what makes a good language game (fun, actually use some English, etc) each group had to come up with their own game, demonstrate it and write a poster for it with name, rules and language objectives as well as an image or two if useful.

Some came up with labyrinth type games with language challenges at various points;


Others made battleships:


Or the games including picking a card and building what was written on the card, or correctly giving the past tense of a verb before being allowed a try at a kind of lego-basketball shot.

The lesson lasted two hours, and say what you like about kinaesthetic learning, the students had a great time!

Oh, and I kept the posters so next time I can suggest a ton of other games too!




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Vocabulary Games

Two teams (or more), choose a cool name for your team, then give the students 3 minutes to note down as many things as possible that:

  1. are yellow
  2. have 6 letters
  3. can be found in my pocket
  4. smell nice
  5. Rhyme with “rhyme”
  6. are round
  7. Begin with the letter “s”
  8. the teacher will do this weekend
  9. are not as much fun as this class
  10. they could make lists about
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An Inclusive Whiteboard

Here are some of the things my students have found useful in relation to whiteboard use:

  • Use a blue pen rather than lots of different colours, green is often hard to see against the glare of overhead lights.



  • A board plan – using the same areas of the board for the same tasks every lesson mean students can quickly find new vocab, or the homework etc.


  • Starting the lesson in the same order every lesson gives a sense of security, everyone knows what’s coming up; what’s the day & the date? (top right), what’s the weather like? or Fun Fact of the day depending on year group (top left) – did YOU know the average man produced two swimming pools of saliva during his life? (did you want to?!!) What did we do last lesson (middle left) – a good opportunity for over learning/revision, and then what we’re going to do (top centre).


  • Writing a quick lesson plan on the board & tick it off as you go along so everyone knows what we’re up to, including symbols for reading, writing, oral, etc.


  • NOT using the board to make students copy great long texts


  • Letting students take photos of the board ( and adding these photos to our class WhatsApp group)


  • If /when you clean the board or an area of it do it properly, no half words left, and some students get bothered by the odd line, dot, smudge and focus on that at the expense of the lesson so do it well – or ask that student to be board monitor.


Do you have any more suggestions?


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