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Speaking Unplugged: 30 Activities for One-to-One Classes
Speaking Unplugged: 30 Activities for One-to-One Classes

Speaking Unplugged:

30 Activities for One-to-One Classes

Byreducingtheamountofmaterialthatisimported

intotheclassroom,theteacherfreesthelearning

spaceforthekindofinteractive,talk­mediated

learningopportunitiesthataresocrucialforlanguage

development.

ScottThornbury:TeachingUnplugged

Introduction

Like many teachers - I suspect - I used to turn up to my one-to-one classes with a pile of worksheets under my arm. The worst thing that can happen in a one-to-one class is running out of materials, I thought.

And then one day, a private student told me he didn’t enjoy my classes because he felt I was just giving him a series of worksheets to complete. What he really wanted to do was develop his communicative competence - become a more fluent, versatile, adaptable and confident communicator in English. He looked at the worksheets - exercises written for practising the present perfect, adjective and preposition combinations - and said:

“These exercises - I can do them and home and check the answers myself.”

Since that fateful class, I changed my approach and ‘unplugged’ my one-to-one lessons.

What is unplugged teaching?

If you are not aware of the term ‘unplugged teaching’ or the ‘Dogme approach’, you might want to click here.

In essence, the approach is as follows:

● teaching that is conversation-driven

● teaching that is materials-light

● teaching that focuses on emergent language

If you feel unsure about adopting a materials-light approach in your lessons, why not try using some of the activities to supplement the materials you use with your learners. Ask for some feedback from your learner, you may find they prefer the new approach.

What follows is a list of 30 minimal resources activities for your one-to-one classes. You can ‘teach’ these lessons with other resources and materials (videos,photos, dictaphones, laptops with internet access, magazines etc.) but you don’t actually need anything except a few sheets of paper to make notes on.

Giving Feedback

When giving feedback,I like to use a simple template with 2 columns:

What you said

What you should say

I write down the incorrect language in the left-hand column and then find time during the lesson - after the utterance, after the exercise, at a convenient point - to see if the learner can correct their own mistakes. If they can’t, I suggest you work with them to recast and reformulate their utterances.

When possible, I try to make some notes on the language my learner used in the class and send them as an email attachment so I can quickly review them at the beginning of the next class.

The final point I’d like to make is that you (the teacher) can really help your learner by participating as an equal partner in many of these activities. For example, if you ask your learner to give a 2-minute presentation, you should be prepared to do the same (great listening practice for them too). When two people are together, they produce a dialogue not separate monologues which means you, the teacher, have to interact, provide feedback, and make sure the conversation flows as smoothly as possible.

By collaborating with your learners in these activities, you provide a language model and a model of how to interact when conversing in English. If you do this well, you may well find that your lessons become more enjoyable: conversations in which learning occurs.

30UnpluggedActivitiesforOne­to­OneClasses

1. Knowtheteacher

2. TheQuestionGenerator

3. Two­minutetalks

4. TEDTalks

5. Gimmetheshortversion!

6. It’sadeal

7. TheYes/NoGame

8. EveryPictureTellsaStory

9. Liar,Liar!Excuses,Excuses!

10.Ifonlythingshadbeendifferent…

11.Dearteacher,Ineedyourhelp

12.TheAudition

13.AStorybeforeBedtime

14.CanIhaveafewminutesofyourtime,please?

15.ThinkingoutsideoftheBox

16.PlayingDevil’sAdvocate

17.CelebrityInterviews

18.I’monthephone!

19.TheElevatorPitch

20.TheDinnerPartyChallenge

21.TheBalloonDebate

22.AndtheOscargoesto…

23.AutomaticExclamation

24.PhrasalVerbSwap

25.Wheredoyouseeyourselfin5years’time?

26.IfIRuledtheWorld

27.ResolvingDisputes

28. ToDoList

29.CompanyPolicy

1.KnowtheTeacher

LanguageFocus:Questionforms,shortanswers

Adultlearnerscanfeel‘infantilised’whentheyspeakaforeignlanguage.Theymayhavea

confidentandrespectedpublicidentityintheirfirstlanguagebutfeellikechildren

communicatingwithadultswhenspeakingtheirsecondlanguage,especiallywiththeir

teacher,whotheymayrespondtoasafigureofauthorityandanimparterofknowledge.

Thispowerrelationshipis,inmyopinion,ratherunhealthyandunhelpfulinone­to­one

classes.Asteachers,wearenomoreintelligent,cultured,open­mindedorwisethanour

learners.Weareequalsinallrespects,exceptourabilitytousetheEnglishlanguage.

Therefore,Ialwaysrecommenda‘gettingtoknowyourteacher’activityinthefirstlesson.

Aswellasgivingyouagoodideaofyourstudent’sstrengthsandweaknesses,wecan

alsousethisactivitytobreaktheice.

Startbyaskingyourlearnertowritedownalistofquestionstheywouldliketoaskyou. Givethemafewideas,themeslikework,family,hobbies,andletthemspendafew minutesthinkingandformingquestions. Letthemwritethequestionsfirstratherthanask themtothinkthemuponthespot.Inreal­lifesituations,wegenerallypreparequestions beforeaskingthem(jobinterviews)andyouwillgetabetterideaofwhattheyalreadyknow (e.g.theirabilitytousequestionwords)andanygapsorerrorsintheirknowledge (omissionofauxiliaryverbs,confusionbetweenwhatandwhich).

Irecommendyoulookattheirquestionsbeforeyoudotheinterviewandmakeany

adjustmentsorcorrectionstoensuretheinterviewflows.

2.TheQuestionGenerator

LanguageFocus:Questionforms,DirectandIndirectquestions,Shortanswers

Afterthefirstactivity,youwillknowwhatproblemsyourlearnerhaswhenforming

questions.Itisimportantthatyougivethemlotsofopportunitiestopractiseasking

questions.Hereareafewsuggestions:

A. Providealistofquestions(maybethosecreatedinthepreviousactivity)andask

thelearnertocreatenewquestionsbychangingoneormoreelementsineach

question.Forexample,what’syourfavouritefood?couldbechangedtowhat’syour

leastfavouritefood?

B. Sentencescrambleactivity.Changethewordorderinthequestionandaskthe

learnertoreassemblethemcorrectly.

C. Practisedirectandindirectquestions.Createorreusealistofquestionsandask

thelearnertoidentifyifthequestionisdirectorindirectandthenaskthemto

reformulateaccordingtowhethertheyareinterviewingtheirPresidentorafriend.

AnactivityIliketodowithmylearnersissomethingIcall‘TheQuestionGenerator’.Allyou

needareacoupleofdiceandalistofverbs(theycouldbecommonverbs,verbsthatyour

learnerhasrecentlystudied,orverbsthatareusefulforyourlearners).

Youcandothisactivityinseveralways,dependingonwhichtypeofquestionsyouwantto

practise.

a)Assignanumbertoeachquestionword.

1.What?

4.Who?

2.Why?

5.When?

Thelearnerrollsthedicetodeterminewhichquestionwordtheyuse.Then,youchoosea

verbfromthelist.Thelearnerthenhastoaskyouaquestionusingthequestionwordand

theverb.Simpleasthat!

Ofcourse,youcanmodifythissimpleactivitybychoosingauxiliaryverbs(be/do/have)or

modals(can/should/will)orevenindirectquestionphrasessuchas:

Wouldyoumindtellingme ?

Youcouldalsousethedicetodeterminetheverbs(eachnumbercouldrepresentaletter andthelearnerhastoformaquestionusingaverbbeginningwiththatletter)orusethe

dicetodecidewhichtensethequestionisformedin(1=Pastsimple,2=Presentsimple).

Thegreatthingaboutusingdiceisyoucanusethemtocreatehundreds(maybe

thousands)ofquestioncombinations.

3.Two­minuteTalks

LanguageFocus:Signpostinglanguage,discoursemarkers

Beingabletospeakforextendedperiodsoftime(anythingfrom2minutestoanhour)isa

skillthatisessentialinmodernlife.Studentsgivepresentations,professionalsinthe

academicandbusinessworldspeakatsalesfairsand/orconferences,andsales

personnelselltheirproductwhenmakingapitch.

Now,yourlearnermaybeanexperiencedpublicspeakerintheirfirstlanguage.However,

thatdoesn’tmeantheywillfinditeasytodosoinEnglish.Makesureyouprovideamodel

first.Prepareamini­presentationandgiveyourlearnersomelisteningpractice.Givethem

aglobaltaskfirst(simplequestionsortasktochecktheyhaveunderstoodthemainpoints)

andthenrepeatthepresentationwithmorecomplexcomprehensionquestions.It’sagood

ideatotranscribeyourpresentation(ordictateittoyourlearner)whichyoucangivetoyour

learnerasatemplateandaskthemtoidentifyusefulphrasesandorderthedifferentparts

ofthepresentation(introduction,summary,callofactionetc.).Whynotrecordyourself

doingitandgivetherecordingtoyourlearner?

YoucouldalsodothisactivitywithauthenticmaterialssuchasaTEDtalk.However,the

advantageofgivingamini­presentationtoyourlearneristhatyouaredealwithanyqueries

theyhaveaboutthelanguageorthestylisticfeatures.Also,asImentionedearlier,youare

showingyourlearnerthatyouareanequalparticipantinthelearningenvironmentandnot

anauthoritarianfigure.

Avariantofthisactivityistodeliverareallypoorpresentationandworkwithyourlearneron

analysingwhyitwaspoorandhowitcouldbeimproved.

Afteryouhavedemonstratedandanalysedhowtogiveamini­presentation,askyour

learnertoproduceoneonatopicoftheirchoosing.Makesureyougivethemsometimeto

notedownafewideas(again,somethingmostofusdobeforegivingapresentation).You

mayhavealearnerwhowantstodiveinandspeakwithoutanythinkingtime.Ifyourlearner

iswillingtodohomework,whynotaskthemtoprepareandrehearsetheirpresentationat

home?

Itcanbequitedauntingtogiveapresentationtoonepersonsobesensitivetoyour

learner’slevelofdiscomfort.Toreducetheirstresslevels,youcouldturnyourchairround

sotheycan’tseeyouorletthemdeliverthepresentationtoadictaphoneorvideocamera

whileyouleavetheroom.

Howeveryoudoit,rememberthatfeedbackisthekeytoimprovingperformance.Give

themsomeconstructivefeedbackandgeneraltipsonhowtheycanimproveand

remembertopraisewhattheydidwell.Evennativespeakershesitate,stutterandmake

minorgrammaticalorpronunciationerrorswhenspeakingforextendedperiods.Speaking

naturallyratherthanmechanicallyisoftenakeyfeatureinsuccessfulpresentationsand

over­correctionislikelytoresultinastiltedpresentationstyle.

Ifthelearneriswilling,suggesttheyrepeatthepresentationandseeiftheycanincorporate

yoursuggestions.Becausemini­presentationsaresoshort,learnersgenerallydon’tmind

practisingthemastheycanmakemistakesandstartagainwithoutwastingtoomuchtime

oreffort.Positivefeedbackisessentialandmakesurethelearnerleavesthelessonproud

ofwhattheyhaveachievedbutalsopreparedtoworkonimprovingtheirweaknesses.

4. TEDTalks LanguageFocus:Signpostinglanguage,Intonation,Sentencestress

Atsomepoint,youmightaskyourlearnertopreparealongerpresentation­theirownTED

talk.BusinessEnglishlearnersandpost­graduatestudentsinparticularwillprobablyneed

togivepresentationsforworkorstudypurposes.

Withmini­presentations,youwillprobablyfocusonanalysinglanguageatsentencelevel.

Withextendedpresentations,yourlearnerwillbenefitfromlearningaboutotherlinguistic

andparalinguisticfeaturessuchasusinganecdotesorbodylanguage.

Ifyouhaveaccesstotheinternet,IrecommendwatchingandanalysingTEDTalkswith

yourlearner.Aswellasprovidingatranscriptofeveryspeech,youcananalysesuccessful

presentationstrategiesandtechniques(pausingforeffect,howintonationconveys

emotion,sentencestress,discoursemarkers,useofrepetition,askingrhetorical

questions,bodylanguage).Ifyourlearnerenjoyswatchingthem,recommendthattheyfind

aspeakerandapresentationtheyparticularlyenjoyandcanuseasamodelfortheirown

presentationstyle.

Then,askthemtoprepareanextendedpresentationforthenextlesson.Youcouldbreakit

downintopartsandfocusoneachsectionatatime.Iftheyfeelmoreconfident,youcould

letthemdothewholepresentation.

Withextendedpresentations,itisagoodideatoprovidesomeassessmentcriteriasuch

asclarity,speedofdelivery,appropriateintonation,bodylanguage).Thekeytothislesson

isyourfeedbackandletthemtrygivingthepresentationagainiftheywish.

5.Gimmetheshortversion

LanguageFocus:Paraphrasingandsummarisinglanguage

Beingabletosummariseandparaphraseareusefulskillsinlife.Askyourlearnerstofind

anarticle(itdoesn’tneedtobeinEnglish)oranaudio/videopresentationsuchasaTED

Talkandprepareasummary.Theycouldalsouseapresentationtheyhavegivenor

attendedatworkoratuniversity,orareporttheyhavereadorwritten.Tellthemthatthey

shouldimaginetheirtypicalaudiencememberisintelligentbutnotanexpertinthefieldso

complexideaswhichhavetobesimplifiedorexplainedusinganecdotes,metaphorsand

everydayanalogies.

ThisisagoodexercisetopractisespokendiscoursemarkerssuchasAsIwassayingor

Anyway.Itworkswellifyouletthelearnerfindanarticlethatisrelevanttotheirneedsand

youcanaskthemtoclarifycertainpointsandaskprobingquestionstochallengethemto

demonstratetheirunderstandingofthetopic.Byinterrupting,youarealwaysdemonstrating

howweinteractwithspeakersprovidinginformationtoconfirmwearefollowingwhatthey

aresaying.

6.It’sadeal!

Negotiationsimulationsareperfectforindividualclassesarearesuitableforanytypeof

learner,notjustBusinessEnglishstudents.Inanegotiation,thereisaclearobjectiveanda

desiredresult;therefore,negotiationsareinherentlystimulating.

Thesecrettoasuccessfulnegotiationsimulationispreparationtime.Bygivingthelearners

timetopreparetheirstrategyandcomeupwithafewideas,youarecreatingamorelevel

playingfield.Ifyoujumpstraightintoanegotiationsimulation,yourbettercommandof

Englishwillgiveyouanunfairadvantage:learnersneedtoprocesstheirideasintheirfirst

languageandthentranslatethemintoEnglishwhereasyourideascanbeautomatically

processedverbally.

Now,therearelotsofnegotiationscenariosforBusinessEnglishstudentsbutnotsomany

forGeneralEnglishlearners.But,thinkabouthowoftenwenegotiateinourdailylivesand

you’llcomeupwithlotsofideassuchas:

● Parentsandchildren:homework,dinner,bedtime,pocketmoney,household

chores,stayingatafriend’shouse,birthdaypresents.

● Boyfriendsandgirlfriends:wheretogoouttonight,whichfilmtosee,spendingtime

withotherpeople,whichfamilytovisitforChristmas,relationshiprules

● Husbandsandwives:marriagecontracts,divisionofhouseholdchores,agreeingon

monthlybudgets,lookingafterchildren,dealingwithrelatives,separatingand

divorcing

● Teacherandstudent:amountofhomework,classroombehaviour,contentof

lessons,classroomrules

● Employerandemployee:workinghours,salary,jobdescription,work

responsibilities,holidayentitlementsandbenefits,askingforpromotion

● Politicalleaders:internationalagreements,importingandexporting,military

defense

● Landlordandtenant:agreeingonrentalfee,rentalconditions,issuesabout

furnishing

● Policeofficerandwitness:makingdeals,offeringprotection

Therearesomanynegotiationrole­playswecoulddoinclass.Yourlearnerwillhaveto

improviseanduseallofthelanguageattheirdisposaltoachieveafavourableoutcome.

Aquickwarning:Ihaveseenmanyteacherstakerole­playsandsimulationsmoreseriously

thantheirlearners.Remember,it’sthetakingpartthatcounts,notwinning!

7.Yes/Nogame

LanguageFocus:Avoidingshortanswers,Hedginglanguage

Youmayhaveplayedthisgamewhenyouwereyounger.It’sverysimpleandgreatfor

improvingfluencyandmakingsureourlearnersavoidgivingmonosyllabicresponses.Ask

aseriesofquestionsandtellyourlearnertheyarenotallowedtosay‘yes’or‘no’and

cannotrepeattheirresponses.I’vedonethiswithallsortsoflevelsanditalwaysworkswell.

Again,ifyouswaproleswithyourone­to­onelearner,theywillgetextraquestionformation

practiceandyoucanexposethemtoawiderrangeofcommunicationstrategies(howto

avoidansweringawkwardquestions,demonstratingknowledgebyprovidinglotsofdetails,

answeringaquestioninordertopromoteyouridea).

Asyoumayhaveguessed,thisisagreatactivityforaspiringpoliticiansorpeoplewho

workinmarketingandpublicrelations.Inlife,weoftenhavetogivetheimpressionthatwe

haveansweredaquestionwheninfactwehaveskilfullyavoideddoingso.

8.Everypicturetellsastory

LanguageFocus:Relativepronounsandclauses,Narrativetenses

Traineejournalistsaretrainedtoanswer5questions:

1.Who?

2.Where?

3.When?

4.Whathappened?

5.Whyisitimportant?

Usethose5simplequestionsaspromptstoinitiatespeaking.Humansareengineeredto

tellandrespondemotionallytostories.Whatcouldbesimplerthanlessonsbasedaround

apictureand5questions?

Bringinaseriesofpictureswithpeopleinthemandaskthestudentstoinventanswersto

thequestionsabove.Youwillfindthatevenstudentswhodon’tconsiderthemselves

creativewillbeabletocreatestories.

Anotherwaytodothisactivityistogetportraitphotosofpeople.Askyourlearnersto

choosetwoofthemanddecidewhotheyareandwhattheirrelationshipis.Then,tellthem

theytheyareinthenewsfordoingsomethingextraordinaryorevencriminal.Tohelpyour

studentsbegin,youcanaddanobjectandaplace.Forexample,therewasthismanand

thiswoman,therewasaredmotorbikeandsomethinghappenedoutsideahospital.

Beforelong,yourlearnerwillbethinkinguplotsofpossibleplots.

9.Liar,liar!Excuses,excuses!

LanguageFocus:Negatives,Narrativetenses

Liar,Liarisavariantonthe‘Yes/No’gamebutwithanaddedtwist.Thepersonwho

respondsisneverallowedtotellthetruth­theyhavetoanswerasiftheywerecompulsive

liars!Aswellasbeinganexcellentcreativethinkingactivity,learnersarestretchedand

challengedtouseallofthelanguageattheirdisposal.

Youcouldstartbyaskingsimplequestionsandthenchallengeyourlearnersbytryingto

catchthemout.Then.letthembytheinterrogatorandyouhavetoavoidtellingthetruth.

Asimilaractivityisoneinwhichthelearnerisaskedtocreatecredibleexcusesfortheir

actions.Youaskthelearnertoconsiderwhenwemakeexcusesinlife:atwork,athome,in

relationships,atschool,tothetaxmanetc.

Together,createaseriesofsituationsinwhichonepersonhastomakeanexcusetotell

theother.Forexample,aboyfriendforgettinghisgirlfriend’sbirthdayorastudentforgetting

todotheirhomework.Asweoftentellstoriesandprovidedetailstomakeourexcuses

seemmorebelievable,thisisanexcellentactivityforgettinglearnerstousepasttenses

naturally:

I’mtellingyouthetruthSir.IdidmyhomeworkbutthenIheardsomethinginthestreet outsideandIopenedthewindow.Andthewindwasblowingreallyhardandallthedogs werebarking,andsuddenly,agustofwindenteredtheroomandblewallthepapersoff mydeskandoutoftheopenwindow.Iranoutintothestreet,andIsaw adoganditwas runningaroundchasingthesheetsofpaper.WhenIapproachedthedog,itstarted eatingthepapers includingmyhomework.

10.Ifonlythingshadbeendifferent…

LanguageFocus:Unrealconditionals(2nd,3rd,mixed)

Likemanyofthesespeakingideas,learnerscanusetheirownlivesasthebasisfortheir

answers.However,somelearnerswillfeeluncomfortablewiththissoalwaysgivethemthe

optionofadoptingarole.

Inthisactivity,askthemtochooseafamouspersonwhotheyknowwell.Askyourlearnerto

notedownthingswhichhavehappenedinthisperson’slife.Forexample,DavidBeckham

becameaprofessionalfootballer.Thenaskthemtotellyouwhatwouldhavehappenedhas

thisactionnotoccurred.

IfDavidBeckhamhadn’tbecomeaprofessionalfootballer,hewouldn’thave

becomefamous.

Thisisagreatactivityforhigher­levellearnersbecausetheywillgetlotsofpractiseinusing

unrealconditionalsinthepast(alsoknownasthirdconditional)andmixedconditionals.

Withbusinessstudents,youcanevenlookatacasestudyanddiscusswhatmistakes

weremade,whatshouldhavebeendone,andwhythingswentwrongorright.

11.Dear….,Ineedyourhelp

LanguageFocus:Givingadvice,modals

Humansliveinsocialgroupsinwhichweshareandexchangeinformation,adviceand

opinions.‘Agonyaunt’activitiesinwhichonepersonasksan‘expert’foradvicearesimple

tosetup:

StudentAhasaproblemandasksStudentBforadviceonhowtoresolveit.

Thereasontheseactivitiesworksowellisthateverysinglepersonontheplanethasa

problem.I’mtoofat.I’mtoothin.I’msingle.I’mmarried.I’mrichbutlifewasmuchsimpler

whenIwaspoor.I’mpoor,Iwanttoberich.

Again,wecanmovebeyondsimplepersonalissues.Inthelast20years,wehaveseena

hugeincreaseinthenumberofconsultants:political,economic,legal,educational,

creative,linguistic,lifecoaches,businesscoaches,sportscoaches.

Ifyourlearnerhasaspecificareaofexpertise,imagineyouareaclientlookingforanswers

andadviceforqueriesyouhave.Thiswillmaketheactivityfarmorerelevanttotheir

real­lifeneeds.

12.TheAudition

LanguageFocus:Featuresofpronunciation(intonation,sentencestress,connected

speech),Adverbsofmanner

Whatdoactorsdobeforefilmingascriptorperformingaplay?That’sright.Theyrehearse

andpractisesayingtheirlinesinavarietyofdifferentwaystobesuretheyconveythe

appropriateemotion.

IfyourlearnerreallywanttoimprovetheirspokenEnglish(intonation,stresspatterns,

connectedspeech,rhythm),givethemscriptstoworkfrom.Pushthemtogobeyondthe

sentenceandidentifywhatliesbeneath.Createdialogueswithyourlearnersandactthem

out.Getoutofthechairandmovearound.Discussbodylanguageandgestures.

Askthemtoreadalineindifferentways.Stressdifferentwords,changetheintonation,say

thelineindifferentwaysdependingonwhatthecharacterisfeeling.Useadverbsandask

thelearnertosay‘Iloveyou’indifferentways:happily,angrily,softly,humorouslyetc.

Modelhowyouwouldsayitandaskyourstudenttorepeatusingthesamesentencestress

andintonation.Tellthemyouaretheiractingcoachpreparingthemforanimportant

audition.Rehearse!Rehearse!Rehearse!

Then,inyournextlesson,youcantellthemit’stheirauditionandyouarethedirector

lookingforanactortostarinyournextfilm.

13.AStorybeforeBedtime

LanguageFocus:Narrativetenses,Sentencestress,Intonationtoconveyemotion

Howmanyparentstakerealpleasureinstorytelling?Howmanyofthemdiscovertheyhave

anaturalgiftforstorytelling?Kidsareanappreciateandhonestaudience:iftheydon’tlike

thewayyoutellastory,they’llfakesleeptoavoidlisteningtoyou!

Thewonderfulthingabouttellingbedtimestoriesorfairytalesingeneralisthatyouhaveto

exaggeratefordramaticeffectandlearnhowtopauseeffectivelytogivekidstimeto

processwhattheyhaveheardand­moreimportantly­topredictwhat’sgoingtohappen.

Ifyouwantpeopletolistentoyou,youhavetolearnhowtovaryyourspeechandpause

betweeneachchunkofinformation.Manylearnerstrytospeakquickerwhenmaybethey

shouldbeaimingtopausebetter.

14.CanIhaveafewminutesofyourtime?

LanguageFocus:Questionsandfollow­upquestions

What’severybodyinterestedin?Sports?Fashion?Cars?Travel?Politics?

Thereisonlyonesubjectthateverybodyisinterestedin­themselves!

WemaydenyitbutI’msureit’strue.Eveniftheyarenotwillingtoanalysetheirpersonality

withyou,theywillprobablybewillingtocompleteaquestionnaireabouttheirdiet,theirjob,

theirhabits,theirbeliefs.

Questionnairesareeverywhere.Withhigh­levellearners,youcanuseauthentictexts.With

lower­levels,youcanjustsimplifythequestions.Manyquestionnairesoffermultiple­choice

answers.Youdon’tneedtousethemifyoudon’twantto.

Again,intheinterestsoffairness,ifyouuseaquestionnairewithyourlearner,youshouldbe

willingtoletthemquestionyouback.

15.Thinkingoutsideofthebox

LanguageFocus:Hypotheticallanguagesuchasconditionalsandmodals

Onmanybusinesstrainingcoursesorinjobinterviews,participantsaregivenalateral

thinkingpuzzletosolve.Thesecanalsobeusedinone­to­oneclassesbutyou,theteacher,

shouldcollaboratewiththelearner.Ifnot,thereisnocommunicativepurposetothetask.

Unlessyouareparticularlyadeptlateralthinker,yourlanguageskillswillnotgiveyouan

advantage.Infact,askingyourlearnertoexplaintheirideastoyouisapowerfullearning

challenge.Equallyso,whentheyuseEnglish,theywillberequiredtounderstandand

respondtootherpeople’sideas,viewsandopinions:trainingforreal­lifetasks.

Lateralthinkingpuzzlesareeasytofindandthelanguageusedinthemisusuallysimple.

Thedifficultyliesinsolvingthem.

16.PlayingDevil’sadvocate

LanguageFocus:Givingopinions,agreeinganddisagreeing,

‘Playingdevil’sadvocate’meanssupportingtheindefensible,arguingforsomethingwe

don’tactuallybelieve.Doingsostretchesusmentally,morallyandintellectually.Many

learnerswill,atsomepointintheirlives,berequiredtoconsideropposingviews,whether

inanexamtaskorwhendiscussingtopicswithapersonwhodoesn’tsharetheiropinion.

Findalistofcontroversialstatements,suchas‘Alldrugsshouldbelegalised’.Askthemto

decideiftheyagreeordisagreewiththesestatements.Lookattheiranswersandthentell

themtheyhavetodisagreewithyourviews.

Thisisgreatforpractisingfixedandsemi­fixedphrases,suchas‘Ontheonehand’or

informalbutfrequentlyusedutterancessuchas‘Youmustbejoking’.

17.Celebrityinterviews

LanguageFocus:DirectandIndirectQuestions,Reportedspeech

AsImentionedearlier,theexistenceofasecondlanguageidentityisoftenanobstacleto

fluidandfluentself­expression:learnerscanfeelinfantilised,inthepositionofchildrenand

unabletoarticulatetheircomplexideas.

Adoptingaroleisabitlikewearingamask:youhidetherealyou.Bylettingyourlearners

playtheroleofacelebrity,theyfeelatlibertytomakejokes,expresscontroversialviews,

playaroundwithaccentsetc.Whatevertheysaycanbe‘blamed’ontherole.Thismeans

theyareatlessriskof‘losingface’iftheymakelinguisticmistakes.

Letthemchoosethecelebrities.itdoesn’tmatterifyouknowthemornot.Explainingtheir

backstoryisanotherusefultask.

Adoptaroleyourselfandletthemplaytheinterviewer.Aftertheinterview,askthemtotell

youwhatyousaidusingreportingverbs­goodforreviewinghowweuseverbslikesay,tell

andmention.

18.Notnowhoney.I’monthephone

LanguageFocus:Formulaicphrasestouseonthephone,Numbersandletters.

Speakingonthephoneinyoursecondlanguagecanbefarmorechallengingthan

speakingfacetofaceforonemainreason:paralinguisticfactors,suchasfacial

expressionsandphysicalgestures,whichweusetoconveyemotion,checkunderstanding

andreinforceourmessage,areinvisibletothelistener.Interestingly,westillusethese

paralinguisticsignalswhenspeakingonthephone,whichsuggestweusethemforourown

benefitasmuchasforthelistener.

Telephonesimulationsareanexcellentwaytoprovideusefulandauthenticpracticefor

yourlearnerandallyouhavetodotosimulaterealphoneconversationsistoturnyour

chairsaroundsoyousitback­to­back.I’dalsorecommendusingyourownphoneasa

prop.

Phonecallsimulationsareeasytosetup.Allyouhavetodoisfindoutwhyyourlearner

mightneedtospeakonthephone.IftheyneedEnglishforbusiness,youcouldpretendto

beaclientseekinginformation.IftheyarethinkingofmovingtotheUK,youcouldsimulate

callingalandlordaboutrentingaflatorapplyingforajob.

Finally,rememberevenhigh­levellearnerscanfinditdifficulttowritedownphonenumbers

ornamesandaddressesinreal­time.Moststudentslearnnumbers,lettersanddatesearly

onintheirEnglishlanguagelearningexperience(atElementarylevel)butdon’trecyclethis

incrediblyusefullanguageonaregularbasis.

19.TheElevatorPitch

LanguageFocus:Modifyingadverbs,Gradableandungradableadjectives,Intensifiers

Imagineyouworkforalargecorporationandhaveawonderfulideaforaproduct.You speaktoyourlinemanagerandtheydismissyourideaandtellyoutogetbacktoworking onwhatyouarebeingpaidtodo.Afewdayslater,youenterthelift/elevatorandfind

yourselfalonewiththeCEO.Thisisyouropportunity:youmayhaveonly60secondsto

convincethemthatyourideaisworthinvestingtimeandmoneyin.

That’sthebasicideaofanelevatorpitch,whichisalsothebasisfortheTVshow‘The

Dragons’Den’.Aswellasaidingfluency(youcannothesitateandreformulateina60

secondpresentation),ithelpsthelearnerfocusonfeaturesofpronunciationandgives

themthechancetopractiseusingmodifiersandintensifierssuchasextremelyand

absolutely.

WhatIreallylikeabout‘ElevatorPitch’activitiesisthattheycanbeusedinallsortsof

contextswhenyouhavetouseyourpersuasiveskillsandarenotonlysuitableforBusiness

Englishstudents.

● Aboyhas60secondstoconvincethegirlofhisdreamsthatsheshouldgoona

datewithhim

● Ascreenwriterhas60secondswithaHollywoodproducertoconvincethemthat

theyshouldmakeascriptoftheirfilm

● Amanhas60secondstoconvinceawomanthatsheshouldnotgetonthatflight

andshouldstayandmarryhim

● Ashopassistanthas60secondstoconvinceacustomertobuytheproductfrom

theirshopandnotfromthelargersupermarketwhichsellsthesameproductata

cheaperprice

● Atravelagenthas60secondstoconvinceatouristthattheyshouldtaketheirtrip

● Astudenthas60secondstoconvinceauniversityprofessorthattheyshouldoffer

themaplaceontheircourse

● Apersonhas60secondstoconvinceapoliceofficerthattheactiontheywere

doingwasnotcriminalandthatthereisaperfectlylogicalexplanationfortheir behaviour

● Agirlfriendhas60secondstoconvincetheirboyfriendthattheyshouldgotoa

particularbar/restaurant/seeafilm

● Anapplicanthas60secondstoconvinceapotentialemployerthattheyshouldoffer

themajob

20.DinnerPartyChallenge

LanguageFocus:Conditionals(1st,2nd)

Askyourlearnertolist10famouspeople:theycouldbepoliticians,popstars,writers,

sportsmenandwomen,actors.Tellthemthatthesepeoplehavebeeninvitedtoadinner

partyandtheirchallengeistocreateaseatingarrangementwhichwillensurethatthe

conversationflows,nobodyisbored,andnobodystartsarguing.It’sasurprisinglydifficult

butenjoyabletask.Astheteacher,youshouldreformulatewherepossiblebutkeepthe

discussionflowing.It’simportantthatyouplayanactiveroleinensuringthatyoudecide

togetherbuttrynottodominate,respondtoyourlearner’sideainapositivewaybutaskfor

clarificationwhennecessaryand,aboveall,challengeyourlearnertojustifytheirchoices.

21.TheBalloondebate

LanguageFocus:Reachingconsensus,Agreeinganddisagreeing

Theballoondebateisacommonactivityinlanguageclassesandtrainingcourses.The

classicscenarioisthatthereareseveralitemsorpeopleinahotairballoon.However,the

balloonisstartingtofallbecauseitcannotsupporttheweightoftheitemsorpeopleinthe

basket.Therefore,thegrouphastodecidewhichitemsorpeopletothrowoverboard.

It’sbasicallyaselectiontaskbutinsteadofchoosingwhatyouwanttokeepyoufocuson

whatyouwanttogetridof.Again,theclassicballoonscenariomaynotbeparticularly

relevanttoyourlearnerbutitcanbeeasilyadaptedbygettingtotheirspecificneedsand

interests.

Forexample,maybeyoucouldcreateascenarioinwhichthetwoofyouaredirectorsofa

companywhichisexperiencingadifficultperiod.Decidewhichofyouremployeesyou

needtoletgo(becarefulhere:itcouldbealltoorealisticforyourlearner).

Or,youcouldpretendtobeacoupleplanningyourwedding.Youcreatealistof20people

toinvitebutaretheninformedthattherestaurantonlyhasspacefor15.Which5peopledo

youremovefromthelist?

Anotherscenariocouldbetwopeopleplanningatour.Youhaveidentified10placesyou

wanttovisitbutthenfindoutyouonlyhaveenoughtimeormoneytovisit6ofthem.

I’msureyougettheidea:balloondebatesdependonthepremisethatwehavetomake

choicesinlifeandcannothaveeverythingwewant.Wehavetomakedifficultdecisions.

22.AndtheOscargoesto….

LanguageFocus:Agreeinganddisagreeing,presentingviewsandopinions

Wespendhalfourlifemakingdecisions:wheretoeat,whattoeat,whattowatchonTV,

whichYouTubevideotowatch,wheretogoonholiday.Whenmakingdecisions,manyof

usdrawupashortlistandthenlookattheprosandconsofeachoption.Finally,wemake

ourdecisionsbasedonlogicalargumentandemotionalpreferences.

Prize­givingactivitiesaretheflipsideofballoondebates.Whereasballoondebatesare

aboutchoosingtheleastdeservingcandidates,prize­givingcommitteesdecideuponthe

mostdeservingcandidates.

Wemakepositivedecisionseverydayofourlives:whichcountrytovisitonholiday,which

filmtowatch,whattoeattonight,whotoinvitetodinner,whichpoliticalpartytovotefor,

whichcartobuyetc.Thelistisendless.Thinkaboutthekindsofdecisionsyourlearnerhas

tomakeintheirlifeandcreatesuitablescenariosbasedaroundtheirreal­lifeneeds.

Createacommitteeof2andchallengeyourlearnertojustifytheirchoices.

23.AutomaticExclamations

LanguageFocus:Exclamations

Muchofthelanguageweuseineverydayinteractionsisformulaic.Weusefixedor

semi­fixedphrasesautomatically.

Howareyou?

Finethanks.Andyou?

Learnersoftenoveranalyzethesephrases.Insteadofprocessingthemasasingle linguisticchunk,theytrytorememberthemasagrammaticalformula.Asthesephrases

generallyhavebetween2and7words,thereisnoneedforourlearnerstodothis.Far

betterforthemtoprocessthemaschunks.

Wegenerallyusetheseshortphrasesinresponsetowhatanotherpersonhassaidtous.

Wecanshowwearelistening,interested,disinterested,surprisedetc.Theseexclamations

include:

right

OK,

noproblem

cheers,

you’rewelcome

really!!!

Youmustbejoking.

Ican’tbelieveit.

Hmm

typical.

Itoldyouso.

That’ssofunny.

Goon.

Hedidwhat??

Noway

Findalistofthesephrasesandwritethemonpiecesofpaperorpost­its.Exploretheir

meaningwithyourlearner(ifyouknowtheirfirstlanguage,youmightevenconsider

translatingthem).Then,createaseriesofmini­dialoguesinwhichthefirstpersonsays

somethingthatresultsinthesecondpersonrespondingwithoneofthephrasesinthelist.

Forexample:Thanksforhelpingmewithmyluggage.You’rewelcome.

Finally,putthepiecesofpaperwiththephrasesfacedownonthedesk.Takeitinturnsto

pickoneupandsaysomethingsothattheotherpersonrespondswiththewordonthe

paper.

24.Phrasalverbrecast

LanguageFocus:Phrasalverbs

ThisisaparticularlyusefulactivityforESPorEAPlearners.Itisalsosuitableforlearners whoareabletospeakand/orwriteformalortechnicalEnglishbuthavehadlittle experienceusingamoreinformalregister Afewyearsago,Igaveprivatelessonstoa lawyerfromPakistan.HiscommandoflegalEnglishwasfarbetterthanmine,however,his conversationwasstilted,formal.long­windedandcuriouslyold­fashioned.

Inthisactivity,youwillneedtouseadocumentwritteninformalEnglish.Letters,emailsor marketingmaterialsarefine.Withthelearner,gothroughthedocumentandunderlinethe verbsused.Then,askyourstudentiftheyknowanyphrasalverbswithhaveasimilar

meaning.Forexample,Iwillcollectthesamplesat8amcouldberewrittenasIwillpickup

thesamplesat8am.Ifthelearnerstruggleswiththis,youcanteachthemthephrasalverbs

(Isayteachbutallyouhavetodoisshowthemthattheproperverbhasaphrasalverb

equivalent).

Now,tomakethisaspeakingactivity,tellthelearnerthattheyaregoingtophoneyouand

communicatetheinformationinthedocumentorally.Givethemafewminutestonotedown

thekeypointsbutaskthemtowritephrasalverbsratherthantheoriginalverbs.

Then,havetheconversationandencourageyourlearnertomaketheirlanguageas

‘natural’aspossible.

25.Wheredoyouseeyourselfin5years’time?

Mostadultlearnerswhochoosetotakeprivateclasseswillhaveaparticularobjective.

TheymaywanttopassanexamorimprovetheirEnglishforworkpurposes.Beingableto

presentyourselfconfidentiallyandfluentlyinajobinterviewisapracticalskillandmost

learnerswillbenefitfromthisactivity.Rememberthattheymayalsobeemployers

themselvessotheycanalsolearnhowtointerviewsomebodyinEnglish.

Ifyouareteachingaprofessionalperson,rememberthattheymayhavemuchmore

experiencethanyouinthecorporatesector.Therefore,youwon’tberequiredtoteach

themwhatquestionsareaskedinaninterviewastheywillprobablyknowthem.Whatyou

needtodoisshowthemhowthesequestionsareaskedinEnglish.It’smainlyabout

reformulation.

So,startbyaskingyourlearnertodrawupalistofinterviewquestions.Youmaywantto

writethemdownsotheycanconcentrateonformingthesequestions.Then,lookatthelist

ofquestionswithyourlearnerandreformulatethemsotheycanlearnhowyousaythemin

English.

Withthislist,youcanthentakeitinturnstointervieweachother.Askyourlearnertothinkof

ajobanddiscusswhatqualitiesandexperienceinterviewerswouldlookforinthe

applicants.Youcouldevenletyourlearnerinterviewyouforapositionintheircompany!Or

thinkofanunusualjob(doghairdresser,Presidentoftheircountry)andhavefunwiththe

interview.

Tomakethisactivityreallyusefulforyourlearner,youshouldwritenotesontheirlanguage

theyusetoansweryourquestions.Then,reformulatesotheyhavearecordofuseful

phrasesforinterviews.Inthesameway,whenyourlearnerinterviewsyou,askthemto

recordanyphrasestheyhearyouuse(orrecordyourselfandlistenback)anddiscuss

whattheymeanandhowtousethem.

26.IfIruledtheworld

LanguageFocus:Unrealconditionals(2nd,3rd,mixed)

Humanbeingslovetoimaginewhatwewoulddoinsomebodyelse’sshoes.Wealways

thinkwecoulddoabetterjobthanpeopleinpowerfulpositions.Thisfunactivitygivesour

learnersthechancetodojustthat:imaginewhattheywoulddoiftheywereinpower.It’s

alsoagreatwaytopractiseusingunrealconditionals(second,third,mixed).

Askthelearnertotellyouwhatthemainsocialproblemsareintheircountry.Eventhemost

loyalpatriotwillfindthingstocomplainabout.Usethatlist(highunemployment,education

system,lackofrespectforoldpeople,toomuchgraffiti,thewayyoungpeoplebehave,

drugs,highcrime,toomuchcelebritygossipetc.)asthebasisfortheactivity.

Then,tellyourlearnerthattheyhavebeenchosenasapresidentialcandidateandthey

havetodelivertheirmessagetotheelectorate.Inotherwords,theyhavetothinkabout

whattheywoulddoiftheywerepresident.Tomaketheactivitymoreinteractiveand

authentic,youcouldplaytheroleofaTVinterviewer.

IfIwerepresident,Iwouldraisetaxesforrichpeopleandputthismoneyintohospitals

andschools.

Youcanadaptthisactivitybychangingtheroleofpresidenttomayor,principal,CEO,

manageroflocalfootballteam.

27.ResolvingDisputes

LanguageFocus:Conditionalsusedinnegotiating,rejectingideas

Thissimulationisidealforpractisingphrasesweusetogiveopinions,agreeanddisagree

withopinions,offer,acceptandrejectpossiblesolutions.

Aschildren,wehaveproblemswithourparents,teachers,siblingsandfriends.Asadults,

thislistgrowsandwehavedisputesaboutawiderrangeofissues:work,marriage,

educationofourchildren,businessdeals,financialservices.Phew!!!Lifeisnothingbuta

seriesofbattles.

Createascenariowhichisrelevanttoyourlearner.Forexample,iftheyworkfora

company,thedisputecouldbebasedaroundpromotionorasalaryincrease.Iftheyare

universitystudents,thedisputecouldbeaboutastudentgrant.Iftheyhavechildren,the

disputecouldbeaboutabehaviouralissueattheirschool.

Whenyouhavedecideduponthescenario,chooseroles.Forexample,you,theteacher,

couldbethebossandyourlearnercouldbeadisgruntledemployer,angrybecausethey

haven’treceivedtheirannualbonus.

Then,individually,answerthesequestions:

1.Whatisthecauseofthedispute?

2.Whatismyobjectiveforhavingthisconversation?

3.WhatamIpreparedtooffertomakesureIgetwhatIwant?

4.WhatwillInotdotogetwhatIwant?

5.AmIpreparedtochangemyobjective?Ifso,howmuch?

Whenbothsidesareready(youmightwanttosetupthisscenarioattheendofoneclass

andaskthelearnertopreparetheirstrategyathome),youcanbeginthesimulation.Itcan

bedifficulttoparticipateinasimulationandmakenotesaboutthelearner’suseof

languageatthesametimebuttrytodosoorrecorditandplayitbackandanalysethe

languageusedwithyourlearner.

Whenyouhavereachedadecision,askafewquestionsabouthowthelearnerfelt

performingthesimulation.Praisethemforholdingtheirowninanegotiationwithafluent

Englishspeaker.Providefeedbackonyourlearner’sperformanceandmakesureyoudo

somecorrectionofincorrectlanguageandidentifyandidentifyanyusefullanguagethey

emergedinthetask.

Withhigh­levellearnerswhoenjoytheactivity,youcansuggest‘Speeddisputeresolution’

inwhichyouandthelearnerhaveaseriesofdisputeswitha5minutetimelimittoresolve

eachone.Haveafeedbackslotof1or2minutesaftereachmini­disputeandcorrecta

coupleoferrorsand/orintroduceusefulphraseseachtime.Then,moveontothenext

scenarioandyourlearnerwillbegivenanimmediateopportunitytousethecorrectedor

newphrase.

28.ToDoList

LanguageFocus:Causativeverbs

Writearemindernoteonyourhandbeforestartingtheclass.Justsomethingshortlike‘get

myhaircut’.Startdiscussingtechniquesforrememberingthingswehavetodoorget

done.

Seeifyourlearnerknowshowtousecausativeverbs(togetsomethingdone/tohave

somethingdone)whenonepersonhelpstomakesomethinghappenforanotherperson.

Ihavetogetmyhaircut(somebodywilldoitforme)notIhavetocutmyhair(Idoit

myself).

Askyourlearnertotellyouaboutanimportanteventthatwillhappensoonintheirlife.They

mayhavetoattendaconference,organiseaparty,attendawedding,goonholiday.Ifthey

don’thaveanythingplanned,getthemtoimaginesomethingthatrequiresorganisation.

Then,getthemtocreateaToDoList.Thiscanbedoneverbally,innoteformora

combinationofboth.Makesureyoucorrectthelearneriftheydon’tuseacausativeverb

whenitwouldbeappropriate.

Toconsolidate,tellyourlearnerthatyouwillhelpthemgetthingsdoneanddecidetogether

howyouwillsharethetasks.

WithBusinessEnglishlearners,youcouldexpandthisactivityandcreateaToDoListfora

specificprojectandworktogetherasprojectmanagers,delegatingtaskstomembersof

yourteamorcontractors.

29.CompanyPolicy

LanguageFocus:Modalsforpermission,obligation,prohibitionetc.

Acompanypolicyisadocumentthatestablishestherulesofconductwithinan

organisation.Mostcompaniesandinstitutionshavecompanypoliciessoadultlearnerswill

befamiliarwiththem.Whenwecreateacommonpolicy,weusemodalverbsofobligation

(must),permission(may),adviceandsuggestedactions(should)aswellasaseriesof

phrasessuchas‘allowedto’or‘forbiddento’andmorecomplexstructuressuchas‘inno

circumstances’or‘undernocondition’.

Inthisactivity,youworkwithyourlearnertocreateacompanypolicy.Ifyouareteaching

in­company,youmightaskyourlearnerto‘translate’theirpolicyintoEnglish.Youcould

createacompanywithyourlearneranddevelopapolicyforyourimaginarybusiness.With

otherlearners,youcouldcreateapolicyfortheclassroom‘Theteachermustnotchewgum

inclass’oryoucouldchoosearoletheyhaveinreal­life(maybetheyareaparent,achild,

aboyfriend)andaskthemtocreateapolicyoutliningtherulesandregulationsinthe

relationshipstheyhavewithotherpeople.Afunwayofdoingthisisbycreatingaprenuptial

agreement(acontractcouplescreatebeforetheygetmarried).Youcouldalsocreatea

codeofconductforcitizensoftheircountryorcity.

30.You’retheTeacher

LanguageForm:UnrealConditionals(2nd,3rd,mixed)

Thisisanactivityyoucoulddoattheendofyourcoursewithaprivatestudentandisa

greatwaytogetfeedbackonyourteachingaswellasgivingthelearnertheopportunityto

practiseconditionals.

Askyourlearnertotellyouwhattheywoulddoiftheyweretheteacherofthisclass.They

mayfeelabituncomfortabletalkingaboutthisinsuchadirectwaysoyoucouldrephraseit

byaskingthemtoimaginethattheyaretheteacherandthatyouareastudent,studying

theirlanguage.

Youcoulduseasetofquestionssuchas:

1. Howwouldyouplanthelessons?

2. Howwouldyoucorrectme?

3. Howoftenwouldyoucorrectme?

4. Wouldyouuseacoursebook?

5. Wouldyougivemehomework?

6. Wouldyouteachmegrammar?

7. Howwouldyougetmetospeakmore?

8. Whatresourceswouldyouuse?

9. Wherewouldyouhavetheclass?

10.WhatwouldyourecommendIdotoimprove?

WhenIhavedonethisactivitywithlearners,Ihavebeenamazedbytheirinsights.Wemust

neverforgetthatourbestresourceisourlearnersandwecanlearnsomuchfromthem

aboutlife,languageandlearning.

Thank you for reading this e-book. Your support means a lot to me and I’d love to hear from you if you use any of these activities. Many of these activities have also been used with groups with some small modifications.

I sincerely believe that it is possible to teach without a coursebook and with very few (if any) materials. Every learner brings their life experiences, views, opinions, hopes and dreams, sense of humour, and, last but not least, some knowledge of the English language to the lesson.

By using what they already have, we are able to make our lessons stimulating, creative, useful and relevant to our learners’ lives.

Finally, feel free to share this ebook with friends and colleagues and any promotion on Facebook or Twitter would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Dylan

Goto www.onlinetefltraining.com andjoinourgrowingcommunity ofEnglishteachers.

Gotowww.onlinetefltraining.comandjoinourgrowingcommunity

ofEnglishteachers.