Ideas and resources for Halloween teaching with young learners

Halloween offers an enormous opportunity for teachers and learners to use their creativity for ideas with a Halloween theme. Reading projects, fun Halloween alphabets, coloring pages and story writing activities all provide teachers with inspiring ways to teach while celebrating the holiday. Here are some Choose activities that are designed for your classroom’s age level and curriculum goals.

Halloween Reading Worksheets

Halloween reading worksheets are often freely available from teacher sharing websites. Look in particular for reading worksheets that offer editing skills, spelling crossword puzzles, word search puzzles and riddle solving tasks. Halloween editing worksheets often require learners to read a Halloween-themed story and then test comprehension on the story. Although this may be similar to what you do with reading normally, the special theme will provide extra motivation.

Suggested resources

  • ABC Teach has a huge range of freely downloadable young learner worksheets, quizzes, colouring pages, word searches, etc.
A repentant devil
‘A repentant devil’ by @aClilToClimb on ELTPics

Halloween coloring pages

With young learners Halloween-themed coloring pages can be a valuable way to reinforce letter recognition and word recognition. We can assign Halloween coloring pages as extra enjoyable activities after reading tasks or handwriting practice are complete. We can then use the pages to decorate your classroom or the hallway for the holiday. Halloween coloring pages are downloadable and free on many teacher websites.

Suggested resources

Halloween Story Pages

You can use printable Halloween story pages and get learners to finish a silly Halloween story. Printable Halloween story pages come with fill-in-the-blank Halloween vocabulary or Halloween stories that aren’t finished. Learners can finish the stories for homework or as a class during the lessons. Learners can write the finished product on the board or on post-it notes that can then be posted somewhere in the classroom for each other to read and enjoy.

Suggested resources

  • Scholastic offers a ‘Halloween Pack’ of ideas and resources and stories.

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3 fantastic descriptive Halloween writing activities

Halloween is coming up again and I always find this is a really great time to work on descriptive writing. Using the theme of Halloween allows us to engage those learners who might normally lose enthusiasm when it comes to writing lessons.

Halloween naturally lends itself to descriptive writing: the sounds, sights and feelings of Halloween are emotive ways to engage learners. In today’s post we look at descriptive texts, story openers and writing games.

Hallowwen is a great time to practice descriptive writing 'Halloween decorations' by @sandymillin from #ELTPics

Halloween is a great time to practice descriptive writing
Halloween decorations‘ by @sandymillin from #ELTPics

1. Use descriptive texts

For this activity, find a Halloween-themed story appropriate for the level of your class. It’s important to use a story that incorporates plenty of descriptive language. Firstly, learners read the story. Then, they tell the story back to other members of the class, using as much descriptive language as they can. In fact, this is a great activity all year round, as regular exposure to such descriptive writing is a great way to enhance vocabulary.

A second way of using a descriptive text is to read a Halloween-themed story out loud to your class, getting them to focus as much as possible on the characters you describe. Then, ask your learners questions about details of the story. Here are a couple of examples:

“What did the main character look like?”
“Describe the haunted house that the people entered.”

Considerations

This activity is great for getting your learners to focus on descriptive details and become aware of language they don’t know.

2. Use story openers

Basically, what I mean by a story opener is one sentence, sometimes in the form of a question – or a series of questions where necessary – which forms a natural framework for a story. Story openers are effective in assisting learners in developing full and colorful descriptions, which is a fundamental part of creative writing.
Halloween is a fertile and emotive subject as far as story openers are concerned. Here are some examples of story openers you can use:

“It was a dark and misty evening, so I decided to go to…”
“When you walked into the deserted car park, what strange sound did you hear?”
“A strange and worrying sound was coming from the basement. Despite the fact I was home alone, I decided to….”

Considerations

Try and get your learners to use as much descriptive language as possible when writing their responses. Learners can consult buycustomessay.org to obtain examples of descriptive texts on which to base their writing, as it supplies texts based on the individual demands of the customer.

3. Use writing games

A descriptive writing game is another fantastic method of feeding off the excitement of Halloween. For instance, ask learners to think of a typical Halloween outfit and get them to use descriptive words to describe it. After each learner has finished preparing their list, they can swap it with another person in class. Basically, the idea is then for each learner to guess the identity of the costume from the list of words they have been given.

Alternatively, put several images of typical Halloween scenes around the classroom walls (four or five should be enough). Get each learner to go round class and select the image they like the most, and then write a paragraph describing the scene. After they have all finished writing, each learner can read out their paragraph to the class. The other learners have the task of deciding which image the paragraph describes.

Considerations

Again, learners can get sample written texts from buycustomessay.org as examples on which to base their writing. This site helps learners with their writing assignments by providing model texts to use as a model on which to organize their own writing.

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3 surefire ways to motivate your language learners to do homework

Getting learners to do homework has long been a challenge for teachers. Homework has a negative connotation for learners and with good reason; they view it as an unwanted extension of the classroom that intrudes into their leisure time. I’ve argued on the blog before that assigning too much homework or giving meaningless tasks is detrimental. Nevertheless, as teachers we can employ the following three strategies to make homework more interesting and relevant, so that our learners will be encouraged to complete it.

1. Show that homework is a good thing

If you’re assigning homework it should always be a positive thing; never create negative consequences for incomplete homework. Rather, find a way of rewarding those who fulfill all the requirements of the assignment. The form of reward will naturally vary according to your teaching context, but it could be something like giving extra credit on an upcoming test, or by giving participation credit for their overall performance.

Key concept

Because we really should be using homework to reinforce learning and not teach new concepts, those who choose not to do the work will not be adversely affected. Moreover, those who complete the task should be aware of the benefit it has given them.

Make homework relevant, flexible and chosen by learners. ('Books - Old Bradford Pioneer Village Museum' by @mrsdkrebs on #ELTPics

Make homework relevant, flexible and chosen by learners.
(‘Books – Old Bradford Pioneer Village Museum’ by @mrsdkrebs on #ELTPics

2. Choice is key

Quite simply, give your learners options. For example, if you were working on the parts of speech or a particular verb tense and want to assign homework, allow the learners some options. For example, get them to find the parts of speech in magazine ads and displaying them on a poster. Looking through course books to find the parts of speech in a section of the unit they are currently studying is another alternative.

Key concept

If our learners know they can have input into their selection of homework assignments, they will be more likely to take interest in it and actually do the work.

3. Emphasize quality over quantity

To motivate learners to complete homework, place emphasis on the quality of work produced, not the quantity. For instance, if you’re teaching subject – verb – object recognition, avoid such boring, traditional methods like assigning your class to copy sentences from their coursebook and identify the subjects, verbs and objects in each. Alternatively, ask them to write five sentences while they are watching their favorite television program and get them to use characters and plots from the show in their examples.

Key concept

If we make the activity more personal, it will have more meaning and therefore learners have more chance of internalizing the language. In such cases, meaningless repetition will be less effective.

Rounding up: 3 quick tips

  • Do not give homework after every class. More than anything else, you’ll find yourself falling into a routine and will quickly find yourself assigning work for the sake of it.
  • Write five assignments on the board (assuming you have five classes) for the upcoming week and let learners choose two from the list. Choice equates to ownership of the task, placing increased responsibility on the learners to do it.
  • More learners will participate if you maintain flexibility. They must always understand that it is beneficial and that it is up to them if they want to benefit or not.

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5 classic ice breakers you can use with all learners

Making learners comfortable on the first day of class, after a holiday, or even when coming together for the first time in a few days, can be beneficial in establishing, fostering and rekindling a positive learning environment. By taking time to do a few icebreakers, we can help learners become more comfortable with one another, and consequently more willing to participate in class.

Icebreakers should never be seen as a waste of time: integrating icebreakers is a fantastic way to get ideas flowing… and never forget that! Here, then, are five old favorites that work in any situation and never fail to get your classes energized.

1. Detailed descriptions

To set this activity up, divide learners into small groups or pairs, and get them to choose a place they’ve visited. Then, ask the groups to brainstorm adjectives that describe that place. Monitor the activity and feed in new words as and when necessary; this is a quick and simple way to develop vocabulary. If your learners have trouble coming up with the words they need, let them consult dictionaries. When all groups are ready, allow each to read their adjectives to the class and see if the other groups can guess the place being described.

2. Guessing the word

I love this simple activity, which works just like the game Taboo. Start this off by writing a word on a piece of paper, along with several words that are commonly used to describe it. As with the previous ice breaker, split your class into teams. Get one team to try and describe the word without using any of the words listed on the card, while the other team guesses what it is. You can make this particularly relevant to their course of study by insisting they choose vocabulary studied in recent lessons. This is a really excellent way promote creative thinking, a skill that’s useful in any English classroom.

Ice breakers are a really important part of a lesson.

Ice breakers are a really important part of a lesson.

3. Super progressions

For this one you simply need to start with a simple if phrase for your learners to complete. For example: “If I’m free on Saturday evening…” Ask them to finish the sentence with an action. “If I’m free on Saturday evening, I’m going to play volleyball.” Next, ask them what happens after they’ve play volleyball, or if they won or lost, and how this affects what they do choose to do next. Continue this for several steps as a story develops. This is particularly good in getting learners to contemplate cause and effect, anticipate or plan the events in a story.

4. The Five Ws

Another simple classic that has great potential for revising vital language: get your learners to take turns standing up in front of the class and discussing something they did over the summer / weekend / last few days. After they’ve finished, ask the other learners to write down the who, what, when, where and why of the story. Choose several learners and get them to answer each of the questions. If they have different answers, discuss how they came to those conclusions. As a way of adding extra challenge for adult learners, select a few recent news stories from resources like newspapers and magazines.

5. Vocabulary mix-up

Another simple to set up and yet incredibly useful start to your class: scramble the letters in a list of words that you plan to use in a vocabulary lesson. Include the definitions for the words on a separate sheet, and make sure to place them in a different order. In groups, allow your learners to unscramble the words and then match them to the definitions. Get each group to report their answers and see which has guessed the most. If you want a more energetic variation, you could write one scrambled word at a time on the board and have the learners guess what it means.

Have you used these?

Let me know if you use these activities, I’d love to know how it went! Also, tell me if you have any interesting variations! I’m adding ideas left in the comments section to the post, as you can see…

Here’s a suggestion from Ayat Tawel:

I use an ice breaker to review vocabulary at the beginning of a lesson, giving each student 4 or 5 cards then I ask them to write one of the recent words they have learnt in the course in these cards (one in each), it can be a phrase or a chunk of language for higher level students. Then they test each other in pairs ,asking for the definitions of the words. Then they find number of syllables or stress in these words, choose two words to put in a sentence, categorize the words (which works really well as each pair usually categorizes the words in different words.. some do according to parts of speech or topic …etc.). A last activity can be to ask each pair to make up a short story using the words they have .

 

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Everything EAP students need to know about passives

In today’s post i’m offering you a great worksheet that summarizes everything your learners need to know about the passive voice if they’re studying English for academic purposes.

It’s only a two-page handout, so don’t be expecting too much in terms of gap fill exercises and the like. It does, however, examine why we use the passive voice, the typical reasons we have for omitting the agent, and lists of the most common verbs used in the passive form and for which function.

There’s also a couple of gap fills, as well as a writing task for you to use to get your learners practicing their passives in context. The image below (right) shows you two of the exercises in the worksheet:

passive voice for EAPIf you like the look of that, please feel free to download the worksheet here and the answer key here.

I should mention that it is aimed at intermediate level learners and above (B1 and above).

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7 great teachers share the books that inspired them

The IATEFl Teacher Development SIG is currently hosting a series of blog posts in which some of my favourite English teachers are sharing lists of the ten books that have most heavily influenced their teaching careers. To show you how much I’m enjoying the posts, I’ve selected one title from each post and compiled them as a mini list here on Teach them English.

Please take the time to check out the incredible books they’ve chosen (after all, I’ve chosen them here because they’re also some of my favourites). While you’re at it, also click here to see the other books they selected.

The Language Teacher’s Voice by Alan Maley

As chosen by Malu Sciamarelli

Just recently, I found out how important the voice is for language teachers, and it made aware of the valuable asset that we put to daily use. The expressed aims of the book are: “raise awareness of the importance of the voice in professional and personal contexts; impart practical skills; provide self-help and class activities; offer information on use of the voice.”

EAP Essentials: A Teacher’s Guide to Principles and Practice by Alexander, Argent & Spencer

As chosen by Tyson Seburn

Tyson has this to say about his selection: Although most of my development now comes through articles and blogs, here is a list of 10 books that have shaped my teacher training through a mixture of thought-provoking research and classroom activities.

About Language: Tasks for Teachers of English by Scott Thornbury

Anthony Gaughan, yesterday.

As chosen by Anthony Gaughan

Scott Thornbury is perhaps most associated in the collective consciousness of our profession with Dogme ELT, but for me Scott Thornbury is the person from whom I learnt that I could actually make sense of language as an academic subject, not just intuitively. I had started, and abandoned, a course on linguistics at university as part of my degree, giving up after not being able to make sense of the first topic, the noun phrase. I though I was a language dunce, which makes it remarkable in retrospect that I still dared, a couple of years later, to train to become a language teacher at all. Through my first years, I made sense of language along the way, but in much the same way I made sense of mathematics: idiosyncratically, unsystematically and quite possibly fundamentally wrongly. Then I got my hands on About Language and – literally step by step – it all fell into place. To say that Scott Thornbury has a talent for making the complex accessible and for giving the reader a sense of her or his own intelligence is to woefully under-compliment the man. Thank you, Scott.

Drama by Charlyn Wessels

As chosen by Anna Musielak

I have always loved to use drama in the ELT classroom and that book showed me how to incorporate drama not only to improve spoken communication skills but also to teach literature and prepare various performances with my students.

Implementing the Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis

As chosen by Dimitris Primali

As a non-native EFL teacher I have always looked for ways to help my students avoid translating word for word from L1 and help them build their confidence in speaking and writing skills. The books is full of practical ideas that have helped dozens of my students to become lexically richer.

Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom by Jane Sherman

As chosen by Antonia Clare

Actually, it wasn’t the book itself so much as a talk I went to early on in my teaching career, where Jane shared her ideas of how she’d been using video with her Italian university students. I was already using a lot of video with my own classes, but Jane really inspired me with new ideas, and gave some theoretical credence to the work I was doing.

Grammar Practice Activities by Penny Ur

As chosen by James Taylor

I love resource books, and this one just might be the best. I can’t count how many times I’ve grabbed this so my students can get some extra practice, and it’s never failed to provide me with exactly what I need.

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5 ways we can apply Socratic Questioning to teaching language skills

Welcome back to my third and, probably, last post examining the benefits of adopting the Socratic Method in our classes. Over my last two posts we’ve seen that, even though the Socratic Method is typically used in the teaching of law and philosophy, it can also prove to be a valuable tool in teaching English. Our learners can benefit from continual questions that force them to deepen their vocabularies, sentence structures and develops their confidence in using English.

When we as teachers use the Socratic Method, our learners are placed in a position where they have to find new methods of expressing themselves, rather than simply relying on the same words and constructions over and over again. Basically, the Socratic Method is an excellent way to promote the practice of asking and answering questions among our learners, as they get to grips with the fact that there are different ways of responding to different types of questions. Here are the various ways we can employ The Socratic Method in different aspects of our classes…

1. The Socratic Method and writing

The Socratic Method works really well with writing, especially when we are dealing with higher order concerns. HOCs relate to establishing a thesis, developing it, maintaining focus, establishing an appropriate tone and organizing the writing well. This is a useful framework to bear in mnd, because if the learner neglects even one higher order concern, their whole work can be adversely affected. We can teach learners to understand HOCs by first explaining them in class and then assigning independent reading that exemplifies them. Following up with a classroom analysis that includes Socratic Questioning is critical in this process.

Another aspect of teaching writing that has long relied on the Socratic Method is the writing tutorial. In one-to-one writing tutorials, teachers read a learner’s writing and then discuss that writing with the learner in an attempt to better understand the learner’s goal. We then make suggestions to help the learner improve the text. Often, we’ll find that those suggestions actually take the form of Socratic Method questions, which encourage the writer to reevaluate and think critically about their subject matter.

2. The Socratic Method and reading

Instead of simply getting learners to answer comprehension questions about a text in a coursebook, we can perhaps consider facilitating discussions using the Socratic Method. Teachers may start a discussion on a text, for instance, by having one or more learners reiterate the facts and highlight some of the literary techniques used by the writer.

As teachers we can then pose questions about how our learners reacted to the text, why the author used certain rhetorical patterns, or even the characters’ motivations. When learners start to agree, we can employ the Socratic Method to ask a challenging question that encourages them to re-consider their points of view.

'Sunglasses cases' by Chrysa Papalazarou‎ from #ELTPics

‘Sunglasses cases’ by Chrysa Papalazarou‎ from #ELTPics

3. The Socratic Method and speaking

In English classrooms when our focus is speaking, we can use the Socratic Method to encourage learners to learn how to speak about their topics in a more extensive way. Basically, we listen to a learner’s speaking, then ask them questions related to the opinion they advocated. This not only helps learners to think critically about the positions they support but also helps them prepare to engage in debate.

Another great idea for speaking is to use Socratic Seminars, which are a style of facilitating a discussion in which learners use questioning, listening and reasoning skills to uncover meaning in a given subject. To facilitate a Socratic Seminar, divide your class into two groups. One group forms a circle and the other sits in the center of the circle. While the inside group discusses the topic, the outside group members participate by taking notes and asking questions. The groups then switch roles. Before facilitating the Socratic Seminar, it’s important to explain the structure and the purpose of this exercise. You can do this by preparing a set of discussion questions to initiate the talk. Another idea is to start off with five minutes of free writing to give learners the chance to show what they know. Preparing in these ways will make learners more comfortable with the format and will help learners generate ideas.

4. The Socratic Method and grammar

Socratic Questioning can also be great in grammar lessons; the truth is, you’re probably already doing it! Here’s an example which focuses on the teaching of direct objects. Explain to learners that to determine the elements of a sentence, they can follow a series of questions. Ask learners to pick any sentence from any part of their coursebook. Allow one learner at a time to read out the sentence they have picked. Then, ask them questions such as “Who did it?” to find the subject and then “What or whom did they do it to?” to help them determine the direct object.

5. The Socratic Method and learner autonomy

Instead of teaching in which we are the main focus of the class, we can do a few simple things to make things more learner-centred. One tried and tested Socratic Technique is one that many of us do anyway: assign individual learners or small groups of learners topics to present to the class. We can require this presentation to include a graphic to be used as a classroom poster and several clear examples.

Alternatively, learners could orally present the results of research conducted onlne about a given topic. The key here is to make sure that learners know they will be questioned about their topic and should therefore be able to expand on their presentation.

Any more ideas?

This has just been a brief introduction to applying Socratic Questioning in teaching skills. So, do you have any ideas to add? Leave a comment and I’ll be delighted to add it to this post!

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4 steps to applying the Socratic Method in the language classroom

In my last post we looked at the way that Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates used the a technique of questioning learners to facilitate learning and examined 6 ways that we can do the same in our English classrooms today.

Through the Socratic Method, we as teachers constantly aim to elicit responses from our learners to lead them to logical conclusions: this is a technique we can actively exploit in language teaching. Learners are actively engaged and motivated to learn with this method. Here are four steps that we must consider to ‘Socratize’ our classes…

1. Active learning is not merely nice, it is a necessity

Because Socratic questioning requires the participation of both learners and teacher, it is considered to be an early, if not the earliest, example of active learning. Learners have to play their part, engaging fully in the process, exchanging ideas.

In order to participate appropriately, learners must therefore listen to each other and know that their ideas are being heard. Learners need not agree with each other, but must be respectful of one another.

Looking back: think about questions that probe for effects and consequences from my previous post

2. Reactions are important

along these lines

‘Along those lines’ by Chrysa Papalazarou from #ELTPics

With the Socratic Method, teachers ask learners to explore their beliefs and feelings. Indeed, the Method works on the premise that these beliefs and evaluations are more important than mere facts and concepts. As you can imagine, this fits in with the notion of language acquisition as an emotional rather than a factual and logical experience.

Personal reactions show us how learners are applying the language we teach to their own lives. For example, if a class is working on a coursebook unit about the environment, we would want to elicit responses about what the learners think they can do to contribute to preserving the world’s species. The subject becomes more personal and less theoretical when we employ Socratic questioning.

Looking back: think aboutquestions about viewpoints and perspectives from my previous post

3. It’s all about the waiting time

Perhaps the most critical part of Socratic questioning is the waiting time. As teachers, we are often used to having learners raise their hands or give answers to fact-oriented questions. However, because the Socratic Method requires teachers to use higher-order thinking questions, learners need time to process the question and generate an appropriate response.

Teachers therefore need to get used to using waiting time in the classroom if they want to implement this method effectively. If necessary, rephrase your question after 10 or so seconds if you feel your learners need clarification. Do not give the answer, though. Rather, lead your learners to their response by giving hints or examples.

Looking back: think about questions that challenge assumptions from my previous post

4. Follow-up questions are a must

If a question has a simple answer, ask your learners to clarify why this is the answer rather than simply accepting the answer. For example, when teaching a unit on pronouns, ask a learner why he would use their rather than they’re in a sentence.

Follow-up questions ensure that learners are not simply guessing at the answer or regurgitating learned facts. By requiring further explanation, the teacher is asking the learner to use all his knowledge to back up his answer with rules and concepts.

Looking back: think about questions about the question you asked from my previous post

Moving on and up

Next time I’ll be examining how we can use the Socratic technique to stimulate classroom discussions. Please join me again soon!

Posted in Teaching ideas, Theory | Tagged | 8 Comments

6 Great ways to use Socratic questions in language classes

It’s a silly question to ask if you’re all familiar with Socrates, the Greek philosopher credited with being one of the founders of Western philosophy. Nevertheless, we might not necessarily be aware of how useful Socrates’ pedagogy can be to us in our language teaching.

The Socratic technique includes using a series of questions that ‘guide’ learners towards the answers to questions. Socrates and his learners would conduct discussions in the public square in Athens; you can do exactly the same in your langauge class! Here’s how…

1. Ask questions for clarification

These types of questions are used to dig deeper and prove the concepts behind a particular argument. You should think about such questions when looking for more information or verification of a topic, or when you wish to extend the discussion in an interesting way. Examples of clarification questions would include:

  • “Why do you say that?”
  • “What makes you sure of …?” and…
  • “How does this relate to our discussion?”

When to ask:

Look at the typical comprehension questions you get with a coursebook reading text. Use a question like this to give such tasks more meaning. Use these questions to involve others: “Hakan, why did Ali say that?

2. Ask questions that probe for effects and consequences

These questions are used to describe and discuss assumptions of what is said. Questions of this type include:

  • “What generalizations can you make?”
  • “Then what would happen?” and…
  • “How could … be used to …?”

When to ask:

Look for units in your coursebook that focus on causes and effects; units looking at natural disasters and the environment are prime candidates.

We're all in this together

‘We’re all in this together’ by Chrysa Papalazarou from #ELTPics

3. Ask questions about the question you asked

These questions are “mini-questions” that break the question into a single concept. Examples include:

  • “What was the point of asking that question?,”
  • “How does … apply to everyday life?” and…
  • “Why do you think I asked this question?”

When to ask:

Before starting a new unit, ask such questions with books closed to generate interest and to find out how much learners know about the prospective topic.

4. Ask questions that challenge assumptions

You can use such questions to consider the unquestioned beliefs on which arguments are often made. Use these questions to get clarification or ask for an explanation. Questions of this type would include:

  • “What would happen if … ?”
  • “How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?” and…
  • “How did you choose those assumptions?”

When to ask:

As with number three, ask such questions before starting a new unit with books closed to generate interest and to find out how much learners know about the prospective topic. Alternatively, ask at the start of the unit as supplementary questions to those in the book which often form ‘Exercise 1’.

5. Ask questions that analyse reasons and evidence

These questions are used to ensure your rationale proves your argument, instead of using beliefs commonly thought of as true. Use these to request additional information. Examples of these questions would include:

  • “On what authority are you basing your argument?”
  • “What would be an example?” and…
  • “What is … similar to?”

When to ask:

As with number one, look at those standard comprehension questions you get with a coursebook reading text. Use questions like this to give such tasks more meaning. Also use these questions to involve others: “Hakan, On what authority is Ali basing his argument?

6. Ask questions about viewpoints and perspectives

Arguments are normally based on one viewpoint, so when validating your argument, attack the other’s perspective. Use these questions to search for alternatives on a particular viewpoint. Examples of these questions would include:

  • “What is another way to look at it?”
  • “Who benefits from this?” and…
  • “What is a counterargument for …?”

When to ask:

Such questions are particularly good in multilingual classes, or those in which the learners derive from a variety of cultures.

Examining the bigger picture

If you found today’s post useful, you might enjoy my series of posts on using Bloom’s Taxonomy, which has obvious similarities to the Socratic technique. I suggest you start with this post, which is actually the culmination of the series on writing better lesson plans.

Posted in Classic posts, Teaching ideas | Tagged , | 7 Comments

3 great games for verb tense review

I’m sure we can all relate to this on a certain level; when grappling with the English langauge, particularly at lower levels, many learners struggle to use appropriate verb tenses. With so many functions, forms, rules and exceptions, selecting the proper verb tense can be challenging.

Fortunately, as teachers we can use games to help our learners internalize verb tense ‘appropriacy’ and identify when they need to use each tense. The three games I outline in today’s post make learning entertaining, increasing learners’ motivation to focus on the task at hand and enable them to commit ‘verb grammar’ to memory.

Game 1: Tense Relay

Learners create a tense chart while running an exciting relay race.

Pre-class preparation

OK, there’s a little bit of prep work to this one! Before class, you need to create tense cards. Write verb sets on cards, listing the past, present and future tenses of each verb on separate sheets. Create these sets of three with 10 different verbs (10 should suffice).

Create another identical set on cards of a different color, allowing each of two teams to have an identical set of verb cards. Divide the board in half. On each side write past, present and future across the top of the board.

Playing the game

When learners come to class, divide them into two teams. Tell them they are going to run a tense relay race. Line learners up in single file in front of the board. Provide the first person in each line with a roll of masking tape. Stand at the middle of the board, holding both sets of cards.

Tell learners that when you shout go, one person from each team must run up to you and get a set of three cards. Then, using the masking tape, they need to place the three cards in the appropriate verb tense category. Once they have placed their verbs, they run to their line, pass off the masking tape and move to the back of the line. Then the next learner in the group comes up and gets the next set of three cards.

After explaining the rules, get your learners to complete the relay race. Once a team has finished their card placements, check them. If they have errors, get the team to correct the errors while the other team continue to work on their placements. The team that is first to correctly place all of its verbs wins.

Game 2: Verb Tense Elimination

Learners practice identifying the correct tense in this competitive elimination game.

Pre-class preparation

This one’s a bit simpler to prep for. Before class, create three sheets of paper that say past, present and future. Create enough copies for each learner to have a complete set of three.

Wii contest

‘Wii contest’ by @purple_steph from #ELTPics

Playing the game

As learners arrive at class, pass the pages out, giving one set of three to each learner. Ask learners to stand next to their desks with their three sheets of paper. Then tell the learners that you will read the sentences aloud and they need to hold up the card that identifies the tense in which that sentence is written. If a learner holds up an incorrect tense card, he is eliminated and has to sit down. The last learner standing wins the battle of the tenses.

Game 3: Tense Change-up

Teams of learners race to change the tense of a written passage in this rapid-fire game.

Pre-class preparation

Before class, look through whatever novels you have lying around. Photocopy several paragraphs that feature various tenses. Try to select some paragraphs that are in past, some in present and some in future tense. On top of the sheet containing the paragraph, write the tense in which the paragraph is written.

Playing the game

Start by dividing the class into groups of three or four learners each. Then give each group a copy of one of the selected paragraphs. Place the paragraph copies face down, telling learners not to peek before the game starts. Provide each group with a large sheet of white paper on which they can write their responses. Tell learners that when you say “go,” they need to switch the paragraph from the current tense to the tense you’re about to provide them. Tell learners to rewrite the entire paragraph, changing any words necessary to conform to the tense.

Tell learners to flip their paragraphs over, then yell out tenses that are different from the ones in the paragraphs already written. The groups will race to alter their paragraphs. Once they are done, ask them to raise their hands. Tell all of the other groups to stop as you check the work of the finished group. Read the paragraph aloud, and ask the other learners to vote with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, indicating whether the tense changes are all correct. If the paragraph contains errors, allow the other groups to try until one group has successfully made the changes first.

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