This is a guest post written by Šárka Cox and Peter Nobbs.

Here are a number of quick speaking activities that can be used to practice a range of grammatical structures using a single resource, a set of verb phrase cards. These activities are adaptable for any language structure and can help you have an interesting and creative lesson without much preparation time.

You can download the cards by clicking here. You need a set for every group of three students. Enjoy!

Step one: Matching

This stage introduces the verb and picture cards before you practise the grammar. Students spread the cards face up on the table. They work together to find the matching collocations. For an added challenge or with 1-2-1 classes you can set a time limit or turn the activity into a race.

Step two: Grammar Practice

For each of the activity the setup is the same;

  • Give each group of three students a set of cards (can also work in pairs)
  • They Shuffle the cards (or it’s too easy) and put them into two separate piles of verbs and pictures
  • The first student takes one card from each pile and makes a sentence following the rules language point you’re studying (there are some examples below)
  • The other students listen to the sentence and decide if it’s a logical, grammatically correct, sentence
  • If it is they keep both cards in front of them
  • The students continue to take turns until all of the cards have been used and each student has a set of picture and verb pairs in front of them

Example language structures:

1. Comparisons (better than, as…as, I’d rather do…than…)
Students make comparisons using the two cards and are encouraged to be creative (give them an example). The sentence must use a comparative structure and be logical. The higher the level of the students, the greater the range of comparative structures that can be used.

Demo comparisons.png

2. Complex Sentences
Students make a complex sentence using relative, time, and subject clauses or linking phrases. You can give added support by writing the phrases you’ve been studying on the board (e.g. but, which, when, that, unless, even though, whereas, furthermore…)

3. Conditionals (0,1st, 2nd, 3rd, mixed)
Students make a conditional sentence using the two cards.Higher level students can decide which conditional structure to use depending on the cards taken, the likelihood and time of the event happening.

Demo conditionals.png

4. Reporting verbs, Gerunds and Infinitives
For this activity you will need to write a number of gerunds/infinitives or reporting verbs on the board for the students to use:

board- reporting verbs.png
Students take one card from each pile, as before and choose a gerund/infinitive or reporting verb and make a sentence using the three words.

5. Story (Backwards – Pugliese, 2010)
Students tell a story, by saying a sentence using the two cards they have picked. The next student repeats the process and continues the story. The process is repeated with the other students continuing the story and placing the cards on the table in a line.

When the teacher claps their hands, the students, using the prompts retell the story in reverse. This activity allows for a great deal of student creativity and practices recall.

Step three: extending the activity
Once all of the cards have been used and each student has a set of picture and verb pairs you can extend each activity just like the backwards story (also useful for early finishers):
• Students use the picture and verb pairs as reminders and take turns saying a sentence that one of the other students in their group has said
• Once a sentence has been said its cards are turned over and can’t be used again
• Repeat until all of the pairs have been turned over

After this you can take the cards back and ask students to mingle, telling each other which sentences were the most logical, silliest or most memorable.

Don’t forget to download the cards for these activities by clicking here.

Thanks and references (from Mike)

Thanks very much to Šárka Cox and Peter Nobbs for their contribution. I watched Šárka present these ideas at the Brno conference last month and was very keen for her to share her ideas on the site.

Chaz Pugliese, who Šárka references for the backwards story, is someone who has inspired both myself and Šárka. His book Being Creative is full of excellent ideas. He has written an article for The Guardian on creativity which you can read by clicking here.

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Thanks for reading!