Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cootie Catcher - Speaking Activity

Step 16
Do you struggle getting your students to talk? This is a great activity that can be used for most vocabulary and grammar you want to practice. The example here was done with colors, and fruits. At the end you'll see one done with weather and emotions (so probably A1 or A2 on the CEFR scale). You can make this more complex for higher level students as well!

You can also use this to have students review listening (you verbally give directions and they have to listen and follow them). Depending on the age level and whether they have made these before, this takes between 5 to 20 minutes.

Follow steps 1-15 from the last post (or check out the video on this post).

Step 17 Draw the points
From there follow these directions (you can click on the pictures to make them bigger). NOTE: These are the simplified directions; with higher level students, feel free to omit what you feel can go unsaid:

16. Unfold the paper; it should look like the photo on the upper left (the colors have been added to make the creases stand out).

17. Have your students locate the 8 small triangles in the middle.
Each triangle will get one drawing.  Either a sad face, a happy face, a bomb, or star. There should be 3 sad faces, 3 happy faces, one bomb and one star in total. 
Step 21 draw a category

18. Fold the four bigger triangles to the center (making a square).

19. Flip the paper over.

20. Have your students find the four squares.

21. In each square have them draw one ________ (whatever you want them to practice: countries, toys, prepositions, school supplies, etc.). In this case fruits.

Step 24 Draw a different category
22. Flip the paper over again.

23. Have them find the 8 triangles.

24. Draw (or write) 8 different things. In this case colors.

Now your students are ready to play!

Rules of the game
Question 1
General Rules
  1. ONLY ENGLISH may be spoken! Students found speaking a language other than English will lose all of their points.
  2. Students should speak in grammatically correct COMPLETE sentences to play. If their partner catches a mistake they may say, "Can you repeat that?" or, "Come again?" or anything else they have learned so that their partner can restate the sentence.
How to Play
  1. Find a partner
  2. Ask the partner a question (For lower levels, "Do you like fruit?" For higher levels, "If you could ban one of these four fruits from the world which would it be?")
    Question 2
  3. Listen to your partners answer, (For lower levels, "Yes, I like apples." For higher levels, "Oranges should be banned because they take forever to peel!")
  4. Move the cootie catcher the number of syllables/ letters their answer has (app-les: two syllables, or a-p-p-l-e-s: 6 letters)
  5. Ask them another question, (Again lower level, "What's best?" Higher level, "What color do you think is overused today?")
  6. Listen to their answer (Lower level, "Yellow is best" Higher level, "Yellow is used far too much because companies think it makes us hungry. Think about it, Burger King, McDonald's, they all use yellow")
  7. Open the
    Final Answer
    triangle flap to find a happy face, sad face, bomb or star.
  8. Switch partners and repeat.
  9. Find a new partner and repeat
  • A smiley face is worth 1 point
  • A sad face is worth -1 point
  • A bomb means you lose all your points
  • A star means you get 5 points
The purpose of the game is to get 10 points!


  • I used to put the 6 faces, star and bomb on a piece of paper. Students cut them out and then put them on the cootie catcher. This made sure they got the number of each correct.
  • Make a different scoring system (maybe the star is worth two and a sun is wroth 5)
  • Make the goal to talk to everyone in the class, not get points (in this case it is usually better with higher level students as you can practice telling fortunes or giving proverbs instead of getting points).
  • When I did something like this with my really little ones (3 years old) I pre-folded all of them.
  • Give them a pre-printed cootie catcher to start. When they have the folds "pre-written" on a piece of paper they tend to fold faster. For example the template to the right could be used to review emotions and the weather.
  • Often to start the class we brainstorm as much of the relevant vocabulary as we can think of drawing pictures on the board. This gives them a visual to look at later when they are designing their cootie catcher.
  • Bring magazines in and have them put pictures of celebrities on it. This can work with questions like, "If you had to become a celebrity which one would you become?" or just, "Who do you like?"
  • It can help to draw a sample on the board, but you risk students copying it directly so I like to draw it with some blanks (like above) to encourage creativity.
  • If you make them generic enough this is a great filler game. Just plug in whatever new grammar topic you learned and have them use it at the end of class. For example: If you just learned relative phrases ask, "What do you think is Paris Hilton's favorite weather?" "Paris Hilton, who loves to tan, likes it sunny."
Would you ever use cootie catchers in class? How do you use cootie catchers in class?

Cootie Catcher / Fortune Teller Video How to

For those of you who may have had problems following the blog, here's a video essentially the same as the post here.

Now that you've made a cootie catcher how will you use it in class? I'd love to hear your ideas, but if you can't think of any check out: this post for a fun game using cootie catchers as speaking practice!

Cootie Catchers and Fortune Tellers- Listening Activity (A step by step guide on how-to make a cootie catcher)

1. Any piece of paper
2. Even recycled paper
Making a cootie catcher or a fortune teller can be a fun activity for an EFL class to practice many grammar points and vocabulary.

This is also a great activity because it can use recycled paper (and who doesn't have tons of old worksheets, lesson plans and memos that are begging to be recycled?)!

You may remember making these when you were younger. Since students may already know how to do this to make this a really effective listening activity don't tell them what you are going to do, just walk them through the steps.

2. Fold a triangle
3. Cut off the extra paper

 1. You'll need a piece of paper. It can be any size, but your standard 8.5 by 11 seems to be fine. If it is too big or too small it becomes a bit cumbersome to make and play with. If you are giving them a square piece of paper then you can go straight to step 4 skipping steps 2 and 3.

2. To make a perfect (or almost perfect) square instruct your students to "Take the bottom right corner and fold it to the upper left. Make sure that the sides are ever. This means the corner won't match the other corner. That's OK" A perfect square makes things easier, but "nearly perfect" squares will be fine.

4. Unfold the paper
5. Fold another triangle.
3. "Take your scissors and cut off the extra paper that is not covered by your triangle"

4."Unfold the paper" This should now be a perfect square with a crease going from the bottom left to the upper right. I marked the crease with pink so you can see it more easily.

5.  "Now take the bottom left corner and fold it to meet the upper right corner." If your students did steps 2-4 correctly the corners should match perfectly, if not that's OK. Some students who are perfectionists may want to re-cut and fold their paper now. If you have time allow it, otherwise insist it will be fine and move to step 6.
6. Unfold the paper.
7. Fold a corner to the center

6. "Unfold the paper." Now your creases should have made a big X on the paper. The second crease has been highlighted in orange to make it clearer.

7. "Now we can see where the lines meet in the middle. Take the bottom right corner and fold it to the middle." With younger students I go around and put a big dot in the middle so they can find it without a problem.

8.  "Now take the bottom left corner and fold it to the middle." By now your students get it and steps 9 and 10 are a snap.
8. Fold a 2nd corner
9. Fold a 3rd corner

9. "Take another corner and fold it to the center." If you want to be specific walk them through the corners "upper right, upper left, etc." again, but at this point it usually isn't needed.

10. "Take the last corner and fold it to the center." In a perfect world if you have done everything right then all of the triangles should meet in the center without overlapping or seeing the lower layer. That's the ideal to be aiming for. However, if that doesn't happen it will be fine.

11. "Now we have a square so flip it over and do the same thing."

10. All the corners!
11. Flip it over.
12. "Take the bottom right corner and fold it to the center."

13- 15.  "Fold all of the corners to the middle." This is a little harder that the last few steps since the paper is thicker now and a bit more difficult to fold. Be sure to get them to fold it well. Creases make it easier later.

16. "Fold the paper in half vertically so that all of the triangles are on the inside and you can see squares"

12. Fold to the center.
13. Fold to the center
17. "Unfold and fold it in half again this time horizontally"

18. This part takes a little finesse. At this point the best you can do is try to explain and then help the students that are struggling. "Put your fingers inside the squares" Some people do this differently. I've always had each finger get its own compartment except for the pinky which shares with the ring finger. It's easier to do this with their dominant hand.

19. "Now, spread your fingers out and get the paper to open a bit" This part can be tricky, but once students see others doing it they can usually find a method that works for them. If not, assign helpers.
14. Fold to the center.
15. Fold to the center.

20. "Enjoy making the paper move" Especially with younger students making the paper open and close is a tough motor skill. Have them practice and enjoy their handmade toy.

So there you go how to make a cootie catcher in 20 easy-ish steps! I have done this project with students as young as 5 years old. They struggled a bit with nice creases and I had to re-do some of them, but overall they did pretty well. My high school students realized what we were doing right away and whipped through this in about 10 minutes.

16. Fold in half
17. Fold in half again
I advise that you fold along with the students so they have an example.

I also suggest that you go around as they are folding to be sure everyone is on task. It is easy to rescue one mishap, but if you miss it when it happened it can be hard to figure out where they went wrong.

As you can see this activity can be adjusted to use more ordinal numbers, transition words, etc. I kept it simple by mainly using directions (left, right center) and shape words they should know.

18. Put your fingers inside
19. Pop the squares!
 What to do now? If you want to go straight into another activity, check out the Cootie Catcher Speaking activity for several variations appropriate for ever English level.

If you only had enough time for this activity today tell your students to put their names on it and save it for later.

This is one of the items I can be found making at banks when there are rowdy children. After, we use them as puppets. You could do this too in your class and decorate the "face" to tell a story.

Optional: My creature!
20. Practice moving
If you are studying body parts tell them to add, "12 eyes, 3 ears and 2 noses" to their creature and see what they end up creating. To the right you can see my 6 eyed, two tongued, purple haired creature (with a green nose of course).

Below you can see a few more professional options. If you'd like a creature prettier than my creature on the right, check out the Fortune Wookiee! If your students are still into story time read them Arthur and the Cootie catcher. This is a great story about not believing everything they hear (and then they can make their own), or (just to prove I am not crazy) there's a book designed to teach vocabulary using cootie catchers!

The possibilities are endless and I'd love to know how you use them in class!

Monday, May 27, 2013

102 ESL Games and Activities - Book Review

Now just $2.99 on Amazon
102 ESL Games and Activities for New and Prospective Teachers I have skimmed through the whole book and about read half of it. I didn't find any new and groundbreaking activities, but I did find a lot of solid activities with a good basis in having students actively participate.

The writer is Miles Jaworski who has taught for 25 years in China, Vietnam, Ecuador and the United States of America.

Basically this book does exactly what it says it does. It gives 102 activities for new and prospective teachers.

What kinds of activities? There's a lot of speaking, some writing, some ice breakers, a lot of fillers and mainly drills (where students are tricked into having fun while learning...awesome!)

This is a sample of how the book looks in my kindle (in my case the kindle app on my tablet) and why it is awesome:
  1. Each activity has a Language/ Skill Practiced e.g Past Simple /Past Continuous. Most games can be adjusted to practice whatever you want. However, when you are a new teacher doing a lesson on the past perfect (or another specific topic) for the first time, it can be nice to quickly find a game tailored to that skill.
  2. In addition to a title each activity has an approximate time! When I first started teaching the HARDEST part for me what to figure out how long an activity should take. Now the author mentions that this isn't set in stone and it is key to remember that. Some classes will take longer and others won't need as much time, but at least Miles gives a general ideas.
  3. Most activities require very little. So when you are assigned to a class without a computer, an IWB or a radio, it is nice to have these easy activities ot use.
  4. If you don't have the Internet in your classroom you can download this to your tablet / Kindle and use it in class to find a last minute filler game.
Here's why it isn't the best
  1. Most of these activities are fairly simple and you would probably have come up with them on your own / seen  them online / found them in a textbook.
  • If you are a new teacher, or a teacher who doesn't have time/ability to sort through the Internet to find appropriate activities this is great.
  • If you had been teaching for a while but stopped and are just now getting back into it, this is a great refresher of some classics.
  • If you are a new teacher who wants an overall view of different types of activities to do in EFL then this is a great e-book for you!
If you do download it let me know what you think! Do you like it more than I did, or less?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pumpernickel! Another word guessing game!

 Have your students learned adverbs of frequency? (usually, always, sometimes)
Can they ask questions?
Do they know different locations?
Do they know lots of different verbs?

Then they are ready for this game!

I've always called it pumpernickel because I think that's a fun word to say! If you have a better word to say (maybe something that your students struggle with and need help pronouncing) then you should use that instead.

The rules of the game are easy, you have to answer questions about your verb without actually saying it. And the rest of the class has to ask questions about your verb. Instead of saying your verb we use the word, "pumpernickel."

So one way we can play it would be:

1. The teacher puts different words that they have practiced in a hat and pulls one out.
2. Student 1: Do you pumpernickel every day?
   Teacher:  Yes, I pumpernickel every night.
3. Student 2: Do you like to pumpernickel?
  Teacher: I LOVE to pumpkernickel.
4. Student 3: Do you pumpernickel in your bathroom?
    Teacher: No, I don't pumpernickel in my bathroom; it would be dangerous.
5. Student 4: Is it sleep?
    Teacher: Yes it is sleep!

Now student 4 can pick a word and the rest of the students will continue asking questions about pumpernickel.

  • Some teachers have students guess in a particular order. Other teachers choose from volunteers. Whatever works best for your class.
  • Now, some teachers play where students come up with their own verbs. That's awesome! An easy way to make this a no-prep game. However, I teach high school students. I can think of quite a few verbs I would NOT want them to use. 
  • If you have lower level students you can make more verbs by adding locations. For example, "go" can be, "go to church," "go to the dentist," or "go to the zoo." Eat can be, "eat dessert," "eat fast food" or "east vegetables" etc.
  • Pick a verb tense. You can use this to review a specific verb tense by making all questions in that tense
    • Future: Will you pumpernickel tomorrow?
    • Past Perfect: Have you pumpernickeled in a kitchen?
    • Past Progressive: Have you been pumpernickeling since you were little?
    • etc.
  • You can use nouns and adjectives instead of verbs, but verbs make this game extra fun!
I LOVE word games!  If you are looking for other word games try: ink-pinks or guess the rhyme.

If you end up using this in class let me know how it goes and if you changed it. If you don't use it in class I'd love to know about what other word games do you like?

A Subordinating Conjunctions Song

A while ago I found a song about subordinating conjunctions created by another teacher from her blog That Ridiculous Girl I loved it and have used in in class ever since!

I altered it a bit and added another verse, but students really tend to commit it to memory. Here's the basic gist:

Now, using this to help students memorize subordinating conjunctions is great! But as always remember Bloom! Try to get them to use higher level thinking!

Can they:
  1. Rewrite the song in your own words.
  2. Transition words can be divided into different categories (addition, contrast, comparison, etc.). Sort the subordinators listed above into their different categories.
  3. Find a song which uses them, and punctuate the lyrics correctly.
  4. Write a comic strip/short story which uses three of these (and punctuates correctly)
  5. Add another verse with missing subordinating conjunctions
  6. Make an acronym or initialism which will help you remember subordinating conjunctions.Make their own song (be in a rap, pop hit, etc.)
  7. What if a conjunction were a person. What kind of person would "if" be? What about "whenever"? Draw a personification of the word and explain it to the class.
How else do you help your students use subordinating conjunctions?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 ways to use tongue twisters in your class!

I LOVE tongue twisters!

Sometimes I am pretty good at them. I feel like I have an agile frog's tongue attacking sounds as they come.

Other times I get so tangled I feel more like I have the dog's tongue, a useless appendage that just hangs from my mouth. 

OK, so we all know what a tongue twister is, but how can we best use them in class. Have the students say them? Well yeah... but what else? Here are 10 different ways to use tongue twisters in class.

  1. Dictoglosses  (Higher Level)
    • I’ve mentioned using them in dictoglosses and that can work well. A dictogloss is essentially an activity where students hear a text (in this case the tongue twister) and without notes try to write what they remember. Then they hear it again and get to work with a partner to share both renditions with the end goal of having replicated the original text well
    • The advantage of using tongue twisters in a dictogloss? Unlike other EFL activities this has students hearing the sounds repeated (first by the teacher then the other student). They also have to talk with their partner (practice speaking) and write the sounds (often with homonyms this can be tricky).
  2. Running Dictations (I've done this with all levels)
    • Divide your class into small groups (of two-three students is perfect)
    • Post tongue twisters on the wall around the classroom (as many tongue twisters as there are groups).
    • Explain that one person at a time can run to a tongue twister and then run back to the table. The person at the table then writes down the tongue twister as the runner told them.
  3. Fill in the blanks (Depending on the blanks you choose, all levels)
    • Give them a longer tongue twister with some blanks. Ex. If I buy some better ______ it will make the batter _______. See if they can fill in the blanks based on what the rest of the tongue twister says.
  4. Who’s there? (All levels are possible depending on the tongue twister you use)
    • If you are looking for another oldie but goodie in the EFL world try Telephone. This increases the difficulty of the game as each time the message is passed one person will have to say it correctly (usually challenging) and the other person will have to hear it correctly. This will help students remember that speeding up their speaking won’t always help them.
    • Try to use shorter tongue twisters for this game! ("Red lorry, yellow lorry" twice is fine.)
  5. The Rotation Situation (All levels)
    • The best tongue twisters to do this with are the ones that play minimal pairs off each other. For example: “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” uses s and sh.
    • The premise is you pick a simple pattern: putting your hands on your shoulders and putting your hands on your head. “She” hands on your head “sells sea“ hands on your shoulders ”shells by the“ hands on your shoulders “sea” hands on your head, “shore”.
    • This can be done slowly at first, but once students get the hang of it try it faster and faster each time.
    • This is commonly done with, “My Bonnie lies over the ocean” with students standing and sitting every time they hear the B sound. It helps them recognize and distinguish sounds.
  6. One by one (All levels are possible depending on the tongue twister you choose)
    • Another fun way to do this is to have the tongue twister on the board and have the students say the tongue twister individually. That is, that one student says “On” the student behind him says “a” the student behind him says, “lazy” etc. The other students should pay attention as they still need to move their hands appropriately and be prepared for their turn. This can make the game more fun. See how many times you can get around the classroom. Use a stopwatch and see how fast the class can do it. Divide the class into two groups and see who does it the fastest etc.
  7. Illustrate it
    • Have students illustrate a shorter tongue twister. 
    • Then have them present it to the class.
    • In the end bind them together for your own tongue twister book.
  8. “Oh no! Where’d it go?” (For lower levels, but your higher level class may like it)
    • Younger students love chants so I would write entire tongue twisters on the board and then erase one word and say, “Oh no, where’d it go!” Silly but they loved it!
    • Then we’d try to recite the tongue twister even though the one word had been removed.
    • After we said it a couple times I'd erase another word, "Oh no! Where's it go?" and we'd try to do it again without that word on the board.
    • In the end there would be no words on the board, and we would successfully do it on our own
  9. Hangman
    • Use a classic game of hangman (or a not so classic game) and at the end have the students say the tongue twister. If they do so successfully they get an extra point for their team.
  10. Make their own
    • Now that they have seen tongue twisters see if they can come up with their own and present it to the class. 
    • Vote on the best tongue twisters, the funniest, the saddest etc.
Normally $2.99 snag it for free!
Normally $.99 get it for free.
If you are trying to find a place with tongue twisters the Internet is FILLED with them. Right now Twisty Tongue Twisters, Looney Limericks and Pixelated Poems and Tongue Twisters for Kids are free to download from Amazon. If you don't get them while they are free you can still find them for under $3.00! If I could only pick one I would suggest you spend the extra $2.00 and get Tongue Twisters for Kids.

What about you? I am sure there are more ways to use them and if you know of any please share them in the comments below. Or do you have a site you love using to find that perfect tongue twister? Share it in the comments!
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