English #Outdoors Vol.2

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

 Some of my favourite classic word games with a bit of a twist for extra fun:

-‘Word Chain’
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 3+

A nice game to practise vocabulary.
Decide on the order of players. The first player continues after the last.
The first player says a word, for example ”dog”.
The next player has to say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word- in this case ”g”. If the second player says ”grass”, the third player will have to say a word that begins with ”s” and so on.
Any word can be used and in any form; nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc.
If a word is repeated, the player who said it misses one round. Players are allowed three mistakes, after which they leave the game.
-As the game could take up a lot of time, it’s a good idea to decide when it should end, by setting a score board and awarding points for each word used correctly. I usually set the winning score at 20 points for young learners and 50 points for intermediate ones.
*Fun trivia: Words beginning with ”y” have proved quite challenging!

-”Sentence Surprise”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 4+

A fun game to review structure and vocabulary.
Divide players in four groups, the ”Who?”, the ”What”, the ”Where” and the ”How”. Give each group a paper and a pencil and ask them to write relevant words one under the other. When they finish, a representative from each group has to come forward and stand in the correct position in order to form a sentence. Prepare for a lot of laughter, as sentences are usually something like ”An iguana hops quietly under the bed”! Do the same for all the words the players have come up with.
If you have more time on your hands, try playing more rounds and mixing up the groups so all players have been in all groups at least once.

-”Opposites”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 2+

A quick game to build and review vocabulary.
One player says a word that has an opposite, for example ”day”.
The other players have to reply with its opposite, in this case ”night”. The first player to find the correct answer continues with a new word.
If, at any moment during the game, a player says a word that hasn’t got an opposite, e.g. ”pencil”, the first of the other players to realise it begins a new round.

**The ”Opposites” game is from a wonderful book I discovered about nine years ago, ”El gran libro de los juegos” (1998, Parramon Ediciones S.A.) which is full of amazing games and activities – not sure if there is an English version, though.

English #Outdoors Vol.1

It’s July! “Kalo Mina” as we say down here and a great start to a magnificent summer period!

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

Learning happens anytime, anywhere and, weather permitting, outside the classroom is the best place to start! I’ve been working in English learning summer camps for the past seven years and thought I’d share some of the funnest activities I’ve done with my students.
You might think they’re meant for large groups of young learners, but no. We’ve had the most fun trying them out with my colleagues; just the four of us, the young-at-heart teachers!

In this first post I’ve included three quick activities which serve as great ice-breakers and help teachers and students know each other better, remember names and choose leaders and team members.

“But, why are you?”
Age: 7+
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

A fun game to get to know everyone in your class or team, while reviewing vocabulary on emotions. Everyone chooses an emotion. The coordinator helps anyone who struggles and ensures there are no repeats. Create a board (an A3 paper and a marker would do) with all the names and the emotion they’ve chosen under each. After the board is ready, give everyone five minutes to look at it and note names and emotions. Everyone then sits in a circle on the ground and when the coordinator gives the signal (best to set and explain what the signal will be before you start, especially if you have a group of young learners only) each player has to turn to the person on their  right and ask them the following: “But [name], why are you [emotion]?”. If they get the name and emotion right, both players leave the circle until everyone has had their turn. If they get one or both wrong, the other player has to ask them the same question. The game continues until all players have been asked the question.

*Make this more challenging by having players mimic the emotion they’ve chosen while they wait to be asked the question.

-“All aboard!”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

Learn and remember everyone’s name with this energetic game!
Draw the outline of a boat on the ground, jump in and inform everyone you’re the captain. Players shout their name twice and then stand around the “boat” waiting for orders. The captain starts with any player, saying “Sailor [name], on deck!”. That player has to jump in the “boat” and the captain asks “Sailor [name], are we all here?”. While the answer is no, the captain has to repeat the initial order for all names. When all “sailors” are gathered, the captain shouts “All aboard!” and further activities can begin.

-“Blind date”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 2 minutes
Players: 7 or more

An easy activity to instantly create two random teams.
Draw two lines on the ground or use two ribbons, e.g. red and blue. The coordinator stands with their eyes shut while all players go around and touch them on their back. Every time someone touches them, the coordinator shouts red or blue and each player goes to  stand on either side, until everyone is in a team. Done!

Feel free to use them and send me feedback!

Next post coming up, with word games and observation skills activities.

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

Classroom Experiences: Open Speaking

My B1 students weren’t in the mood today again; everything was boring, useless, the weather was weird, not warm nor cold and “who needs reported speech anyway?”. I admit feeling a bit worried at first, but I wouldn’t let it get me down. In such cases, I prefer to close the books and engage in conversation – no, it’s never a waste of time. In fact, some of my most interesting and productive lessons have been the “open speaking” ones.
So we put our books and notebooks and pens away, we turned off all those gadgets that can sometimes drive us mad and we sat on the carpet. That was on its own an uplifting experience, not to mention more comfortable. And we started talking.

It’s incredible how young students use language, native or other. You can see it there and then, how their brain functions, why they choose one word over the other to express themselves, what they find interesting, amusing or dull  – things that sometimes as a teacher you don’t have the time to notice during a lesson and you have of course forgotten that you probably thought the same way once upon a time. Yes, they still make mistakes and yes, you still correct them. It’s not some sort of magic recipe – “Don’t use coursebooks and media – just talk”, not at all! But  it’s good to stop and listen to what your students have to say from time to time. Keeping in mind that a teacher is not just someone who shows students how to read, write and speak, but a person who should inspire them, show them the way to learn what they want, someone who is sometimes their friend and sometimes their parent, shouldn’t we all take more into account what our students want to do?

I’ve had quite a few “open speaking” lessons so far and to be honest we’ve enjoyed them immensely as a class. It’s not that we do something extremely different; we always speak English, we review our vocabulary and grammar, we learn new functions, we do everything we’re supposed to do. But it’s different on how the students approach it. Some of them come prepared; the’ve already thought through which subjects they want to talk about, they’ve done their background search and come to class in exceptional mood. Others prefer to not prepare at all but are equally eager to participate in open conversation and exchange views with their classmates.The results are always amazing.

We try to have two open speaking sessions every month, arranging them for Fridays  so we can review what we’ve worked on during the week – I’ve realised that making open speaking a regular part of my courses really helps students improve their skills and doesn’t affect our time schedule and the material we have to cover; it just takes good planning. Above all, it’s another fun way to learn and that’s what I’m looking for!