Top Tips by Jim Scrivener

We have an archive of practical tips, activities or games, which you can take straight into your classroom. These come from Jim Scrivener, author of the Straightforward Teacher’s Books and Learning Teaching Third Edition.

Different Bags – Week commencing 11th June

Teachers and learners carry books and equipment to their lessons in a variety of smart or scruffy bags. Here is a way you could make use of these unassuming objects in class.

  • Bring in three different bags (e.g. plastic carrier bag, rucksack, lady’s handbag).
  • Explain that the bags each have appropriate contents: maybe show some lipstick from the handbag as an example
  • Teams must list as many possible items as they can for each bag
  • At the end reveal the true contents and give points for each correctly guessed item

 

Revision Cards – Week commencing 28th May 2012

Learners are often familiar with propular board games such as Monoploy, Trivial Pursuits or Scrabble (probably in their own language). Inventing new games or adapting familiar games) can often produce materials that motivate students to talk and practise langauge.

  • Instead of writing topics on the board in a board game, leave it blank.
  • Copy out a range of revision questions (grammar, vocabulary etc) and cut them up into separate cards.
  • When the learner lands on a square they take a card
  • If they can answer the question they stay on the square, if not, they move back to their original position

 

Home-do – Week commencing 21st May 2012

Tired of setting the usual homework tasks? Sick of ‘Write the answers to this exercise’ or ‘Write a story about…’? Here is an unusual idea for a a ‘home-do’ task. It could inspire you into thinking of other ideas to get students doing things with their English.

  • Quite simply – tell your students to watch 1 minute of an English video clip and replay it till they understand every word.

 

Anagrams – Week commencing 14th May 2012

When learners can recognise and understand phonemic symbols they become more autonomous and able to use dictionaries to find out for themselves how words are pronounced. Many teachers however avoid using them in class. Here is an idea that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes.

  • Use the dictionary to get phonemic spellings of about 15 words familiar to the class.
  • Make anagrams from these – i.e. mix up the order of the phonemes in each word.
  • In class give teams 5 minutes to work out as many as they can.

 

Speedy Dictation – Week commencing 23rd April 2012

You can find short dialogues in many coursebooks, How can you exploit these scripts and get them to come alive?

  • Tell the learners that you will read a short dialogue to them – only once.
  • They must listen without writing – but as soon as the dialogue is finished they should write down whatever they can remember.
  • When individuals have finished writing they get together in small groups and see if they can work out the original conversation
  • They can can compare what they wrote with the original (text or on tape)

Phone call role play – Week commencing 2nd April 2012

Printed train or bus timetables are often available as free leaflets or can be downloaded and printed from the internet. This simple resource can be used in a number of ways.

  • Put the class into into pairs. One is the customer and one is the information assistant
  • Only the assistant has a copy of the timetable
  • Set the students some problem role plays e.g. enquiring about when trains go to Glasgow, booking a ticket for tomorrow, enquiring about cancellations because of a strike etc.

Glorious Gaps – Week commencing 26th March 2012

There are a lot of gap-fill exercises in coursebooks nowadays. What can do with them except for saying “Do exercise two” and then checking it when they finish? Well you could do this…

  • When checking gap-fills that require students to choose between a number of possible words, at first only give partial answers
  • For example, tell them only how may of each choice there are e.g. ‘There are three answers with “going to”.
  • This will make students re-check their answers to see if theirs fits this information – and it may cause them to rethink some choices.

In Town – Week commencing 5th March 2012

Teachers often make use of maps or real information about the town/district students are studying in when teaching prepositions, giving directions or town vocabulary. Here is an idea that might help add a spark to those lessons.

  • Ask students to think of 5 things they see in town on their journey from town to school (eg letter box) that they don’t know the English word for.
  • In pairs students describe their items to each other (without saying the translation!).
  • Their partner must understand the description well enough that they understand what the object is and can do a quick sketch of it.
  • At the end everyone comes to the board and draws a picture of their partner’s objects.
  • The whole class can agree on or be told the correct names.
  • Then ask everyone to draw a town picture that includes the items – with name labels.

Hang ups!  – Week commencing 27th February 2012

Some props don’t immediately suggest themselves as useful teaching aids. For example what could one possibly do with a bag of clothes pegs and a piece of string?

  • Take your string and pin it up like a washing line
  • It could be slung across the top part of the board, from one wall to another, or across an empty wall
  • Now you have a new display place for flashcards, word cards, magazine pictures, student work etc using the pegs to fix items

At the movies – Week commencing 20th February 2012

Most students enjoy watching a good movie – whether at the cinema or on TV. Here is an idea for making use of their interest and knowledge to create an unusual activity:

  • In groups, students agree on a film they have all seen
  • They must make a list of three key words that catch the essence of the film – but not including the film name, or names of any of the characters, actors, or places
  • When ready, each team reads their words to the others who try to guess the film

 

Bags of ideas – Week commencing 30th January 2012

Teachers and learners carry books and equipment to their lessons in a variety of smart or scruffy bags. Here is a way you could make use of these unassuming objects in class.

  • Tell a story about walking to work today and finding a bag full of mysterious things on the way.
  • Reveal 5 or 6 evocative objects one by one (e.g. travel tickets, a dried rose, a scribbled name, a marked map etc)
  • Encourage discussion and speculation.
  • Then ask groups to work out the true story: Why were these things abandoned at the roadside?
  • When ready, students could first tell each other thier stories, then perhaps write them up

 

Phoneme Rummy – Week commencing 23rd January 2012

When learners can recognise and understand phonemic symbols they become more autonomous, able to use dictionaries to find out for themselves how words are pronounced. Many teachers, however, avoid using them in class. Here is an idea that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes.

  • Write a large number of phonemes on separate cards.
  • Shuffle them and give 3 consonants and 2 vowel cards to each team.
  • Each team must see if they can form a complete word using some or all of the 5 phonemes
  • If their word is good, award one point for each phoneme used
  • Now deal an extra card to each team 0 can they make an even longer word?
  • Collect, reshuffle and deal again

Unsure which phoneme is which – onestopenglish.com provides an interactive chart from Adrian Underhill and don’t forget the greatest new mobile learning tool – Sounds: The Pronunciation App

Story Dice – Week commencing 16th January 2012

Some of the most useful teaching props are the simplest. Most ELT teachers will have used dice at some time, perhaps when groups are playing a board game. Here is an idea for a more unusual use of dice in class.

  • Write the numbers 1-6 down the side of the board. Tell the first line of a story e.g. “It was a bright Tuesday morning and Alex was going to work.” Pause, and ask the class to suggest various options e.g. you could ask “How did he travel?”
  • Collect six answers (e.g. “bus”, “car”, “skateboard”, “tank” etc) and note one next to the numbers on the board.
  • Invite a learner to throw the dice, and, depending on the number that comes up, continue with the story, inventing as you go and making use of teh selected idea e.g. “He skateboarded down the hill..”
  • Stop again and elicit new options for a new question.
  • When the class has grasped the idea you could ask learners ro take over your storytelling role – and later to play the game together in small groups.

 

Teaching listening in English:
Try supplementing your listening classes with this fun activity called ‘Guest Stars’.

  • Prepare notes for a short monologue in character (e.g. as the Queen or George Clooney).
  • In class, announce that a guest star is coming today – but don’t say who it is.
  • Tell your students that they should listen and NOT shout out who they think you are but, instead, write down their guess.
  • Chat naturally for a minute or two in character – about your life, a typical day, how you feel etc.
  • At the end of the monologue, let them compare guesses in small groups, giving their reasons and then check with you.
  • When they know who you are, they could briefly ask you a few more questions in character.
  • Repeat the activity with different ‘guests’ as a regular slot in your lessons or ask students to prepare their own monologues.

 

 
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