These activities generally require more preparation than warm-ups and games, but they will also take more class time and can be used to practice whatever material you're teaching. As always, be creative and adapt them to your needs.
Pre-Written Dialogs (any literate level, pairs)
Many textbooks include sample dialogs, or you may write your own. They can be useful to break the ice with shy learners, but they are not truly communicative because no original language is produced. Use them to practice self-confidence or to illustrate a grammatical pattern.
Make them more communicative by selectively choosing words or phrases which
can be blanked out and requiring students to substitute their own ideas in the
blanks. Beginners may need a list of options to choose from. Having learners
memorize the dialogs can help them gain the confidence to try role plays.
(intermediate-advanced, pairs) Role plays are far more communicative than pre-written dialogs, but they
are often challenging for beginners or shy students because they must come up with their own language to fit a particular situation.
They may be too difficult for beginners or shy learners. In its most difficult form, groups of 2-3 learners are given a scenario and asked to act it out on the spot. To make a role-play less intimidating, learners may be allowed 5-10 minutes to think it through first. You may allow them to write down their scripts, which is often necessary at lower levels. Writing also gives learners a chance to ask questions about the language before they use it in front of their peers.
Information Gap (any level, pairs)
Each learner has limited information which the other needs. They must ask each other questions to get the information. To be more communicative, the answers should have some degree of ambiguity that needs to be cleared up with more questions. For example, both learners receive a drawing of a group of people. Each has the names of half of the people labeled on the picture, and the rest of the names in a list. They describe their pictures and ask questions to match names with the unknown people. "Is Sally holding a coffee cup?" may need to be followed by "Is she tall or short?" if there are two women holding coffee cups. Information gaps can be done with street maps, telling time, daily schedule, job interview, spelling, etc. Look for those that encourage
interactive questioning rather than mere reporting of easy information. Make
sure the students don't show each other their worksheets to give away the
Sequencing (any level, pair or group) In sequencing activities, students must put jumbled pieces of information
into a logical order. Unlike jigsaw activities, all students in the group are
allowed to see all the pieces of information. They work together to understand
each piece and decide where it fits among the rest. Examples include months of
the year, strip stories where a story is cut into separate sentences or
paragraphs (use pictures for non-literate students), or instructions (recipe,
craft, etc.) cut up by lines. It's fine to have more information pieces than
Q & A Matching (literate beginner-intermediate, large group) You need to have an even number of participants, so you may need to join
in yourself. Get enough 3x5 cards so that you have one per person. On half of
the cards write questions, and on the other half write appropriate responses.
Use language your learners know and avoid new vocabulary. Examples could be,
"What month is it? / It's July." or "Where did you go yesterday? / I went to
City Park." Mix up the cards and hand one to each student. Let everyone stand
up and mingle. The students with questions should read their questions aloud
and those with answers should read their responses. Make sure they don't show
each other their cards. When students think they have a matching pair, they
can sit down. The activity will go faster if the question cards are a
different color than the answer cards. Watch out for questions that could use
more than one of your answers, or answers that could be given for more than
one of your questions. This will result in an odd pair left over if students
don't match your original question and answer correctly. For multilevel
groups, make some questions/answers harder and give these to the higher level
students. At the end, have all pairs read their questions and answers to check
Fill-In-The-Blank (any literate level, individual or group)
Prepare a worksheet containing a text or song lyrics with key words blanked
out. For beginners you can blank out alphabet letters and not whole words,
choosing distinct sounds rather than silent letters. Then read the text or play the song and let the learners fill in the
blanks. You may need to repeat it 2-3 times. Then go through the text (have
learners take turns reading their answers) to check it. Ask learners to spell
the difficult words. You can focus this activity by choosing a certain type of
word to blank out (such as articles or "be" verbs) or just choose random
words. Be aware, though, that if you choose a lot of long words close to each
other the learners may have trouble keeping up with listening as they write.
This is also called a cloze exercise.
Problem-Solving (intermediate-advanced, group)
This works best with small groups. Present a problem (a scenario, possibly) and give groups some time to discuss the best approaches or solutions and come to agreement on a course of action. The problem should require a decision with pros and cons and necessitate creative collaborative effort. It can be something like deciding upon seven items to take along for a week in the wilderness, or choosing between living in a 5-bedroom house in the city or a 1-bedroom cottage by a mountain stream. Press learners to explain why they chose their answers.
Reading: Oral vs. Silent (any literate level, individual)
The skills used in oral reading are different from those used when reading silently. Use oral reading sparingly to work on verbal presentation (pronunciation, intonation) and be sure to allow time for silent reading. It's best to set a time limit so the learners know just how much time they have, and you can flex it if your estimate is off. When they read silently, learners will be able to absorb meaning and look at English usage much more fully than when they read aloud. They will also be able to tackle longer passages.
Freewriting (any literate level, individual)
Give learners 5 minutes to just write their thoughts. You may guide them by providing a question or topic
(beginners will probably need guidance), or give them complete freedom. Make sure they just write without worrying about errors. The idea is to get thoughts onto paper with whatever English is available. This can be a warm-up for a more formal writing assignment or just a jump start for thinking in English.
Short Composition (any literate level, individual)
Unlike freewriting, learners need to edit their work. You should provide a topic or visual stimulus (full page magazine pictures work well)
and circulate among the students as they write. By allowing time to write during the lesson (as opposed to homework) you give them a chance to ask
you questions and refine their work. You can also have learners pair up to read each other's work and make suggestions.
At the end, ask learners to volunteer to read their compositions to the group,
but be careful about requiring everyone to share. You can customize your topic to practice specific English forms. For example, ask past/future questions to work on verb forms, or practice prepositions by showing a picture of a room and asking learners to describe the locations of all the objects they can identify. You may also ask
advanced learners to summarize and respond to a brief reading passage.
Flash Cards (any level, individual or group)
Flash cards can be used for simple vocabulary drills, numbers, or memory games. Avoid using cards that translate a native language word into English. Rather, choose or make cards that use pictures or symbols to prompt English answers. Of course this isn't an issue if you're using numbers. Try including mathematical equations, too, or time-telling clocks.
Dictation (any literate level, individual or group)
Say a sentence at natural speed and ask learners to write down what you said. You'll probably need to repeat several times. Don't slow down your speed unless it's absolutely necessary. Then ask a learner to read the sentence to check it. Finally, write it for all to see
(or ask an advanced student to write it) and then say it again a few times at natural speed. For a twist, ask a learner to dictate a sentence for the rest of the group. Learners will be thrilled if their teacher
(you) can correctly understand what they said.
More activity ideas are available on the following sites.