Idiom in C

Cut the Crap

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What it means:

No…It does not mean to literally cut poo! But it is an informal idiom and can be quite impolite.

When you tell someone to cut the crap it actually means that you are asking them to stop lying (as a joke or seriously) or to go straight to the point.

When to use it:

Definitely NOT during an exam or to your boss.

Use this expression when someone is trying to avoid giving you the information you want, when someone is very obviously lying to you or when you want to avoid the unnecessary details of a story.

You should be quite upset, irritated or even angered when using this expression. But remember, this is extremely informal and can be rude. Don’t use this idiom with everybody. But a friend, for example, should be OK with you saying that, if done in a friendly/joky way.

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Find the Thief

In the academy where I work, TEFL International Seville, we do  lot of conversation classes. One day, I ended up having a last minute conversation class and had no time to prepare materials for it. So here is what I came up with.

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What you need:

A minimum of 6 students. That’s it!

How to play:

Put your students in pairs. Give them a situation. Here is mine:

“A crime was committed yesterday, here at TEFL. Tomorrow’s exam was stolen…and we know it’s one of you! This outrageous crime was committed between 8 and 11 PM. We also know that you were together (I show the students in each pair that they were together). You now have 5 minutes to discuss your alibi. After, we will proceed to interrogations.”

After 5 minutes (give your students more time if you judge it necessary), I ask for a team to volunteer first. Ask one of the 2 to sit on a chair in front of the students and the other to stand outside of the classroom for 2 minutes. The person on the “hot seat” will have to answer any question the rest of the students might have about the alibi. I suggest you make it a rule that every student has to ask a question to the person on the “hot seat”. Then tell the student out side to swap paces with his partner. Question him too. That’s when the alibi usually stop matching.

Once the pair this pair is done, repeat everything with the next pair. When everybody has been on the hot seat, start a vote. I have students explain their choice that way it is even more communicative.

Adults really like this activity because it is very communicative, there is a lot of debating but it is fun. It’s also very flexible and can be played at basic and advanced levels (playing with the time, the number and type of questions asked…).

Hope you enjoy it…and your students too!

Form Tenses Easily

English can be difficult to learn, phrasal verbs for example, but forming tenses is actually not that challenging. You have to think of it as maths.

I created a Tense Board that explains through colours and short explanations how to conjugate in English.

For Students:

Download this board: Tenses board.

Read it, analyse it and understand it. You should practice writing examples and compare them to the ones in the board. The structures should be the same, the only difference should be the subject and the verb. If something else looks different, then that probably means you did it wrong.

Once you start feeling more confident about you conjugation skills, download this board: Tenses board no example.

It’s the same board but there are no examples. Write your own example in each box. Try not to look at the rules. If your examples are all correct then you can now form all the tenses and aspects of the English language.

For Teachers:

I don’t suggest you hand out the board to your students straight away because they will just look and read it instead of listening to your explanations.

If I were you, I would actually recreate this board on the black/whiteboard. Have your students listen, follow and participate in its completion. Let them come to the board, write out examples, and even try to give you the next rule. The more involved in the process they are, the more they will remember it.

Then give them the board without examples and have them write their own example (in class or homework, that’s up to you).

 

I hope that it´s useful!

 

Taboo for Vocab

I loooooooove taboo. It’s a great game that works well with all levels. This is actually the first one I created about 2 years ago and I still use it today.

 

What you need:

  1. cardboard/paper (once again I like colours…to make it pretty!)
  2. 2 good pens/markers
  3. Optional-pictures of what you want your students to guess.

How to make it:

Cut your pictures individually. Then take your cardboard and cut it slightly bigger than each picture. It needs to be about 3 centimeters longer though (that’s where the writing goes).

Glue (or staple…way quicker actually) your picture on the cardboard but make sure the longer side sticks out at the bottom.

In big, write the word that the picture represents (ex: cat, dog, house…). Under that word write (in  different colour) 3 to 6 words (the more words you write the more advanced your activity will be) that come to mind when thinking of that first one. I like to call them the forbidden words.

That’s it. The game is ready.

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How to play:

If you fold the bottom part of each card and hide the forbidden words, you can actually use those cards to teach your students those words.

If they already know the words and you just want to reinforce what you taught here is what you do.

Separate your students in pairs or groups of 3. Give a taboo card to one of the students. This person has to describe the main word without using any of the forbidden words. Whoever guesses what it is gets a point. If the student describing is struggling too much, allow him/her to use one of the forbidden words, then 2, 3…depending on how difficult it is for them. And then another student describes a new card.

More advanced version:

I probably wouldn’t put pictures for my more advanced students as I would choose vocabulary that is more difficult to represent such as preposition, conjunctions or abstract ideas.

You can also create a little detachable paper for each card with more and more difficult forbidden words. That way you can use the same set of taboo cards all the time. What’s nice about creating the detachable words, is that you could teach your students about more advanced vocabulary on easy topics. For example, one of my taboo cards represents a dog. Well on my detachable forbidden words, I have written words such as claws, fur, snout, paws… Then I told my students to actually match those papers to the appropriate taboo card and then we go over the vocabulary together.

Another way of making a basic set of cards more advanced would be to have your students guess ALL the words on the cards. That can be quite challenging actually but it really gets your students thinking.

Hope you enjoy it…and your students too!

 

Fun Basic Sentence Structure

 

I was preparing a class on types of clauses and I really wanted to include a warmer. I struggled for a while but finally remembered that activity I always used to play in class (very bad, isn’t it?). It had to do with groups of words or chunks of sentences. Just what you need to teach about sentences.

It’s that activity where every body had to write the name of a person, fold the paper and pass it on to the next person and then write a verb, then a place…Well here is how I use it to teach basic sentence structure.

Sentence construction basic

 

What you need:

  1. A sheet of paper per student
  2. Minimum 4-5 students (a lot more fun that way)
  3. Different whiteboard marker colours (not mandatory…I just like making it pretty)

How to make it:

This is more like preparing your board rather than making materials.

Write the following sentence on the board with an example to illustrate:

  1. SOMEONE+SOMEONE+SAW+SOMETHING+SOMEWHERE+SOMETIME
  2. My green cat + Mickey Mouse + saw + 5 ninja turtles +  in Primark + last Friday

Then give a sheet of paper to each student and you are ready to start.

How to play it:

Each student writes a name at the very top of the sheet. Fold the paper to cover the name and pass it to your left. On the new paper you received write another name. Fold and pass. Everybody writes SAW (for basic students, that way you don’t have to explain the whole verb+object story)…Fold and pass…Repeat  until the end like in the example.

Each student gets to unfold one of the papers and read it to the class. I promise you some of the sentences will make you all laugh.

If you were looking for a nice little warmer, you can stop the activity here. But if you want to teach your students about basic sentence structure here is my tip.

Use a different marker to circle each of the sentence elements of your sentence on the board (here we have Subject, Verb, Object, Adverbial clause of place and Adverbial clause of time). Now simply tell your students that this is the order you follow when forming a sentence in English. Of course there are other structures, but if you are teaching beginner/basic students, knowing this structure is already a good start.

Have your students practice making some sentences and make them memorise their example. That way if they ever forget which clause goes first for example, they just have to think of that sentence and they will know the answer.

Hope you enjoy it…and your students too!

Funtastic Phrasals!

Phrasal verbs are a pain in the butt! Nobody likes teaching nor learning them.

I was training a group of students on how to teach exam preparation and randomly picked the dreaded grammatical point…phrasal verbs. I had to show them an example of how to teach phrasal verbs in a fun way using hand made materials.

This is what I cam up with…

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What you need:

  1. Cardboard (Lasts way longer than paper)
  2. A marker
  3. Scissors

How to make it:

I cut 10 cardboard pieces of 4×10 cm because I wanted to teach my students 10 phrasal verbs. You need 1 more piece of cardboard than you have phrasal verb. Draw a line in the middle, like a domino.

You need to put the phrasal verb in a sentence. Ex: They switched off the light.

Now “cut” the sentences in in middle of the phrasal verb. Ex They switched-off the light.

On the right section of the piece, write the first half of the sentence . Write the rest of the sentence on the right side of the second paper. Just repeat the process with the other sentences and that’s it.

I drew a little drawing on the 2 empty sides at the very beginning and very end, but this is completely optional.

How to play:

The goal is simple…recreate the sentences.

If you have created 1 set of “dominoes” for 2 students, then pair them up and have them to it on their table.

If you have only created on set for the class, the logistic is sightly more challenging but quite a lot more fun. Have everybody come up to the board and give each student one of the “dominoes”. Tell them to talk to each other and find the correct 2 persons to complete the sentences on the right and on the left of their “dominoes”.

You could even through in the mix some papers with the meaning of the phrasal verb to match.

Activity extension:

Once your students feel more comfortable using the phrasal verbs that you taught them try this extension.

Write on the board the phrasal verbs you put on the dominoes. Ex: take off.

As the teacher you start. Think of a sentence containing that phrasal verb, but only say until the first part of the verb. Ex. The teacher took-

The student on the left has to finish the sentence using one of the phrasal verbs from the board (take of in the example). Ex: The teacher took-off his jacket.

And another student starts a new sentence and so on.

I hope you enjoy it…and your students too!

Cambridge PET Speaking Activity

In the Cambridge PET exam, students have to describe and compare pictures in speaking part 3. In Spain, a lot of children start preparing that exam at a very young age and it can be quite boring for them to describe picture they don’t really care about.

I have created a find the 7 differences document to get them started on comparing pictures. I chose the focus this one on things you should find in a classroom, vocabulary that I now expect my students to learn.

What you need:

  1. Pictures with seven differences
  2. Students!

How to make it:

You can find tones of those documents online online or simple just paint to create whatever you like.

I made 2 to show you some examples. Here is the one I made with teaching children in mind.

PET speaking part 3 School

And that’s a picture I created to teach adults about scientific vocabulary.

FCE Speaking Part 2 Science

How to play:

This activity can be done in pairs or individually. Give your students a set of materials and have them look for the differences. I suggest you plastify the documents that way your students can circle them with whiteboard marker and you don’t have to reprint the documents every time.

If your students are in pairs have them compare the differences to each other. Ex: On the left the gold fish is orange but/though/however it is yellow on the right.

If your students work alone, have them write the sentences down, circulate and correct what they have on their notebooks. Later on, if they do not remember how to do it, just tell them to look back in their notebook and find those sentences.

Variation:

The second set of 7 differences pictures I created is focused on scientific vocabulary. You can use this type of activity  to reinforce vocabulary taught in class.

Hope you enjoy it…and your students too!

Idiom in B

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Back and Forth

What it means:

Think about that big old wooden clock you grand parents had when you were younger. Now remember how the pendulum inside the little glass window would go left, right, left, right…again and again! Well you could say that it went back and forth.

When to use it:

If you are talking about clocks, sports, transports, repetition…

Idiom in A

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“Agree to disagree”

What it means:

Imagine that your friend thinks Sylvester Stallone is the best action movie actor but you think Arnold Schwarzenegger is, by far, better. There is no way that either of you is going to change his mind. So you just decide to leave it as it is, and stop trying to change the other person’s mind.

When to use it:

This is an idiom that I teach my Cambridge Exam preparation classes, and more specifically PET and FCE. In Speaking part 3 of the PET and speaking part 2 of the FCE exams, the students have to discuss provided options and somehow come to an agreement.

But it’s OK if your opinion doesn’t “win” over the other candidate’s. What maters is that you show that you can express your opinion and interact with the other candidate about it.

An Example:

A) I think the flowers are the best present for my mother because (…). What do you think?

B) I absolutely disagree with you! I believe the purse is far more (…).

A) Ok, let’s agree to disagree.

It’s always good to add a little idiom during a speaking exam and it sounds so much nicer than without!

 

Pronunciation Bingo

Here is a fun activity that requires fairly easy materials to create.

It was inspired by a friend of mine called Sara.

What you need:

  1. A bingo card per student
  2. A list of words/phonemes you want to focus on
  3. Little chips

How to make it:

I think it looks really cool and it is easy to make. You need 1 sheet of paper per bingo card. I like coloured paper but you can always do it with white paper and write in colour.

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Fold the top twice. You can write whatever you want there. I chose to keep it simple and write BINGO

Now outline the big square and divide it in equal boxes.

I made a big list of words that I wanted to teach my students. You need more words than there are boxes on each bingo card. Then I randomly chose words and wrote one in each box.

Cut up you list of words/phonemes into individual papers and put them in a little box. The game is ready!

How to play:

Pair your students up. Pull a paper out of the little box and speak the word. The students listen to the pronunciation of the words and then speak it. In their pairs, the students must now search for this word on their bingo card and place a chip on it if they have it.

Repeat the process until a pair of students has completed their card.

 

Once the students and more familiar with pronunciation of the word, the students could take turn reading the papers instead or work alone instead of pairs.

Variation of the game:

Try the same activity focusing on vocabulary this time. You need a short and very clear definition of all the words you want to teach though. Cut up the definitions and put them in the little box.

Now when the teacher reads a definition, the students have to look for the word and put a chip on it. Make sure you keep track of the definitions you have read (facilitates the correction).

Activity Extension:

You could do this extension in class or assign it as homework.

Tell your students to write a funny little story using ALL the words on their BINGO card. Have them present it to the class and vote for the best/funniest/most interesting story.

Hope you enjoy it…and your students too!