Thursday, August 12, 2021
Teenagers can be pretty tricky customers when they want to be, and these are often amongst the most challenging groups for teachers. One of the biggest issues is that teenagers’ moods can be so unpredictable that a bad day can spell disaster for your seemingly well-planned lesson, as the learners don’t react to it as anticipated. It’s for this reason that you need to have some different activities up your sleeve to ensure that you can mix up the class as and when necessary and keep those teens on their toes!
Here are our very favourite activities which we use regularly with our teenage classes.
What it can be used for: This works best for vocabulary revision.
How to play: The clue’s in the title; get one student to sit with their back to the board and get the others to sit facing it. The teacher then writes something on the board that the ss sitting facing it can see. They must describe or mime the word which they see, but they mustn’t mention the word itself. For younger learners, this activity also works well for practice of numbers- the person with their back to the board has to guess a number and the others just have to say ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ and the student keeps guessing until they say the correct number.
What it can be used for: This can be used for any language practice.
How to play: The teacher writes a table on the board of any size they want. Obviously the bigger the table, the longer the activity will take. The columns are organised in order of category, this could be categories related to grammar or vocabulary. The rows are labelled in terms of number of points, the first row has the fewest number of points associated with it and the last row has the most. The questions that the ss have to answer in the lower-point rows must be easier than those in the higher-point rows. The students guess a category and a prize, e.g. present perfect, 200. The teacher then asks a question or shows them something they need to complete. If they get it right, they win that square in the table and the teacher writes the team/student’s name in the square. At the end, all of the points are added up and the student/team with the most points wins!
What it can be used for: This works well for grammar revision in which the ss have to place the different elements in the correct order.
How to play: The teacher gives ss a set of jumbled sentences, these can be on a worksheet, the board or in little cut-up cards. Individually or in pairs/groups, ss have to put the sentence in the correct order. Make it harder by adding one word which doesn’t need to be used. Mix up the type of sentence, too, so have some affirmative forms, negatives and interrogative forms.
What it can be used for: This activity is used for vocabulary practice.
How to play: The countdown tool on ESL games is perfect for use in class to practise vocabulary. It works well with most levels, but particularly well with higher levels as they have more vocabulary to draw on when creating the words from the chosen letters. You can get ss to think of the most words in the set time or think of the longest word. You could also go further and get them to only think of a certain part of speech, like verbs. If you’re feeling extra cool, you can also play the original countdown clock when there are 30 seconds left to increase the pressure.
What it can be used for: This activity practises listening for detail.
How to play: The website lyrics training has been a saviour for many teachers of teens for many years now, and it’s easy to see why. The teacher, or the students themselves, can pick a song which they then have to listen to and choose or write the missing lyrics. You can set it to varying degrees of difficulty (beginner, intermediate, advanced or expert) to make it suitable for all levels of learner. If you don’t fancy using this online tool, then a simple worksheet with parts of the song removed or jumbled works just as well- it might just take you more time to produce.
What it can be used for: This activity is perfect for pronunciation practice of lexical items, sentences, lexical chunks, set phrases and idioms.
How to play: Broken telephone is a great activity to work on ss’ pronunciation. Sit ss in a line or a circle and show the first student a sentence or dictate it to them away from the others. That student has to whisper the sentence to the next person who has to whisper what they hear to the next and so on until it reaches the end of the line. The last person either has to say out loud what they have been told or write it on paper/the board for the teacher to check. If this is played in teams, then the team whose final word/sentence etc. is closest to the original could win points. After the activity, it’s a good idea to see at what point the language item was mispronounced or misunderstood and possible reasons for this.
What it can be used for: This is used for practice and revision of grammatical structures.
How to play: This is a great way to revise grammar structures and works well as a replacement for end-of-unit grammar practice tasks you find in many coursebooks. Often, these can be turned into grammar auctions and whilst the ss are completing exactly the same task, the auction format makes it much more engaging. Split ss into teams and give them a budget that they can spend on their auction bids. Place a structure on the board and ask the teams to place their bids depending on how certain they are they can complete the structure correctly. The team with the highest bid gets to try and answer the question. If they get it right, they double the money they bid. If they get it wrong, they lose the money they bid.
What it can be used for: This activity can be used for vocabulary and is also useful when combined with word formation activities.
How to play: This works exactly like the regular battleships game that we all know and love, but with an added element of fun- spelling! Give students a blank grid and get ss to write words which fill a variety of squares on the grid. You can either give ss a set of words to use for this or get them to think of their own, based on a certain category or part of speech. Once they have their completed grids, the students work in pairs, and they have to guess select a square on the grid to see if they hit a letter. If they do, they get another turn. If not, then the other student gets a go at hitting a letter. If the student hits every letter in a word, then they have to tell the other student the word and if it’s correct, then they ‘sink’ that word. Either make your own grid or download a free printable one such as this one to use in class.
What it can be used for: This is freer speaking practice which can also be combines with any TL; vocabulary or grammar.
How to play: Based on the popular gameshow of the same name, this game gets ss to work on extended stretches of speaking practice as well as question forms. Students must create a story based on something of their own invention or a topic given to them by the teacher. The story can be a true story or an entirely made-up one. The student has to spend some time writing notes about the story and then recounting it to their partner/group or the whole class. The others then have a chance to ask a number of questions before they have to decide whether or not it’s a lie. If they get it right, they can get points. Encourage ss to make the stories as funny/interesting/outrageous as they like!
What it can be used for: This works well to practise producing extended speaking turns, based around a particular topic or lexical item.
How to play: This is a great activity to do with ss who need practice producing extended stretches of speech in English without hesitation, perhaps for an exam. The teacher can either put a variety of words/categories in a pot/hat or write a grid on the board. The student either picks the category from the pot/hat or chooses a square on the grid. Whatever they get, they have to talk about that word/category for a minute without stopping, hesitating or repeating themselves. Award points for successful completion of the minute and deduct points for any unnecessary stopping, hesitation or repetition.