Richard Constable

Learner-oriented fun activities

My relatively laid back teaching approach to teacher/student semi-interactive learning

Teaching as many as 53 students in a sweltering classroom and teaching a maximum of 12 in a room with AC  is akin to the difference between going to Ibiza for a fortnight and going on a church outing. 

That is why I am going to tell you about my relatively laid back teaching approach to teacher/student semi-interactive learning in language centres. 

When I begin a two-hour lesson, I write every student's nickname down the left-hand side of the board, one below the other. Not only those that have already arrived but also those that are expected. From this moment on I award points to students for giving answers, good efforts and if a student is lagging behind the rest of the class because there is an 'R' in the month. By the same token, I deduct points for inappropriate or poor behaviour, especially if a 'points hog' is oinking ahead. 

Call me callous if you must, it is of absolute importance for the students to stay as level as possible throughout the lesson - in order for them to remain focused. Ultimately, allowing the worthiest student to win by a reasonable margin and be praised with a round of applause from his or her peers.


Whilst facing the class, I elicit the new vocabulary with a cryptic clue written on the board e.g 'opposite of tomorrow' = the answer would be 'yesterday.' Then I draw a large circle above the stressed syllable and small circles above the next two syllables. Into the bargain, I might mime, for example, pat my stomach = the answer being 'fat.' I may draw, ask for a synonym, an antonym, or use a flashcard to elicit adverbs, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, nouns etc, 'they all come out in the wash.'


Immediately, I will drill the word chorally and individually. Still facing the class motioning my right-hand to show the word stress and syllables. The class having repeated the word I point to a student so that he or she will model the word. When all the new vocabulary has all been elicited and is on the board. I will drill it chorally one more time. Next, I instruct each student to pronounce each new word back to back individually. Then they are given two minutes to write them all down with the clues.


Having already prepared some 5 cm x 10 cm strips of paper; you can see why I was once the proud owner of a Blue Peter badge - I hand out one strip to a student whilst instructing, 'Baifern write yesterday!' and so on 'Satang write fat!' Keep them busy or the guy in the red suit with the horns will make work for them. 

Eight new words are reckoned to be the maximum for young learners at the height of their retentiveness for comprehension and pronunciation, also eight being an even number it lends itself to pair works.

Learning orientated fun activity 1

Now that I have the new vocabulary written down on eight pieces of paper, the fun can begin. I hold them up to my face at eye level, one strip on top of the other in the palm of my left hand, with only one being able to be read; the one on top is what the students are after. Next, I indicate for the first student to call a word from the board. Then I start a slow count from one to five, intensifying the count with my right hand. If a student fails to give an answer by five I will go to the next student. If that student gives the wrong answer I repeat it like a Congo parrot so the other students are aware that it is wrong. If the following student gives the right answer, I also repeat the word whilst giving them the paper strip. Continuing with the same ploy around the students until all the strips have gone. (Each strip usually equates to one point although it can sometimes be more.)

Having written points up for on the board for those present. In as much to say, if you are the kind of sad individual who has ever fancied yourself as a standup comedian - your time has come. Remember those names on the board, for instance, student Fah still hasn't arrived. Teacher asks "Fah, how many points?" Students in a chorus of bewilderment "Fah not here teacher!" The teacher "Fah, get out from under the table!" Students laugh "Fah, you have zero!" students laughing. The teacher again "Fah, come on, think!" the students are still laughing cause the poor souls, 'they are a captive audience.'

Yet another opportunity for you to have a go with Doddy's tickling stick. As you present the strips to the slowest learner in the class and announce the fact that he/she is the teacher, for instance, "Teacher Poom!" The other students will find amusement in the irony of your version of 'Poom!' being the teacher and wonder if the joviality of the lesson will ever end. As in if they are to be subjected to this for the rest of their natural. Whilst either the tallest student or the kid with the longest arms marks points for the wins on the board.

Consequently, approximately 20 minutes into the lesson and I can afford to mellow a little. Unfortunately, I cannot totally mellow just yet as I will have to keep one ear listening for lapsed pronunciation, clear counts of five and persist in correcting accordingly.

10 minutes later it's all over and every student present has been the teacher; having pronounced, read and heard each new word numerous times.

Activity 2

There is some relatively bad news, I have to stand up again and erase the board and give the instruction to close books as strong classes should now be able to remember rather than read. Also, I need to deal four paper strips each to two students for the next game of which the winner of this pair will be asked to shuffle and deal. Coincidentally, both will be holding the strips towards them so that nobody else can see them. They can look to see what each strip says but they cannot change the order. At this point, if I am fortunate enough to have an even eight students - the students can have a competition with four rounds for instance, from the first round to final. In the event that I cannot warrant a competition I have them play each other randomly until they are bored.

Doubtless, it is 'stone, paper, scissors! And the students will be in pair-works for another twenty minutes or more so I am free from duties and responsibilities as in I will only intervene in a life-threatening situation.

Spelling test

At this stage, I asked the students to take out their notebooks once again for a quick spelling test on the new words and have them check each other's spellings using the strips.

Time for me to rouse again, cause I have to shuffle and deal the strips once more. This time I give only one strip to each student, whilst indicating to each not to let anyone see it!

Activity 3

I then write a question and two short answers on the board.

Have you got ______? Yes, I have.

                                       No, I haven't.

For new classes, I will drill these first, and if having done so I'll tell a student to ask the question to the student sitting next to them. Each answer and questions from right to left and continue around appropriately. When a student guesses another's correctly, they get to ask the next student until they guess incorrecty.

Each student, in turn, gets to be the teacher by shuffling and dealing in succession for every following game. When all but one have lost the strip they were dealt the game is over the strips are counted and points are awarded appropriately.

Break time, one and quarter hours have passed swiftly still everyone is ready for the fifteen-minute break. After we come back we might put the words into elicited sentences and have the students doing pair-works in line games and stone, paper, scissors. In that event, I will slowly but surely erase the sentences until they are gone and encourage the students to recall all. By the same token, we might do an extreme fun learning orientated activity such as one of those I am going to put up as a blog on next month.


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