Ever found yourself planning a class and groaning that there’s only one page of material to cover? Frustrated at making resources that take ages and get thrown away? Here are some ideas to get more out of your books, stories and handouts.
Does your book have a list of new vocabulary in it? Have students number it. Students then work in 3s. Student A says a word, the other 2 race to say the number. The fastest to finish then says the next word. Extend this by having the students say the number with the others racing to say the word. This can be extended further still by then having the two guessing students close their books making it more of a memorisation activity. A small sequence like this one can have students saying the new words dozens of times and will take at least 10 minutes.
Stories and Readings
With visual stories and cartoons we’ve all done a simple “What can you see?”. This serves a purpose for engaging students with the topic or story but it tends to limit student participation. An advanced version of this works even better and lasts for much longer. Put students in pairs with a book each in front of them. Student A says “I can see ____” and makes a fist, student B says “I can see ____” and places their fist on top. Student A then repeats and so on until the students the students have exhausted their vocabulary while stacking fists hot-potato-style
For articles without pictures, have the students each write a word from the article on a slip of paper. Collect the words in, shuffle and redistribute. You start to read the article. When the student hear the word on their slip, they stand up and join in by reading along. Collect the slips in and repeat.
My golden rules with handouts are:
-if it takes 5 minutes to make something, it should be used for 10 minutes in the class
-it’s only worth making if it creates speaking opportunities and
-ideally it should be reusable even if just for a warm-up in the next class (hint: use a laminator).
-Worksheets are for homework only!
The handouts I get most ‘value’ from in the classroom tend to be mini-FCs: small pictures of the vocabulary words that are around the size of a playing card. I find myself using these a lot for vocabulary practice activities and then again in grammar practice activities or mingles.
For vocabulary. Students start with a set each. They take turns blindly placing them down and saying the word. This becomes a game of snap. With pairs hoping to match two sets.
For grammar. Each pair starts with a set of cards in a row, face up numbered 1-however many there are. Students count down 3-2-1 and then throw out fingers (either 1-2-3-4-5). If student A throws 3 fingers and student B throws 2 then together they add up to 5 and they make a sentence using the grammar from the 5th mini FC. This can now be turned over and they try to do the same for the remaining ones.
For a mingle. Each student starts with 3 + cards. They mingle, find a partner and do paper, scissor stone. The winner asks a question using their opponents card as a prompt. The loser answers and then sacrifices a card. Each then goes to find a new partner. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner.
All of these activities are tried and tested. (More fun classroom activities see here. )They all involve everyone in the classroom equally and create lots of opportunities for student language practice. In short: they’re excellent choices for the classroom.