Round-up of Classic Classroom Activities

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Do you have some go-to activities that you use for multiple teaching points?  I have a few.  I think it’s reassuring for students to see activities they recognize.  They feel confident when they know what to do, and they can focus on the point being taught instead of learning the rules of a new game (ahem, I mean “learning activity”).  It also doesn’t hurt that reusing ideas and materials reduces teacher prep time.  For these reasons, here are three of my favourite flexible activities. 

ACTIVITY ONE: Three sentences

(Ok, obviously this one needs a better name. Help me out!) 

How it works: Pass out index cards and have students write down three sentences, either about themselves or about each other.  When they are finished, collect the cards. Then, either shuffle the cards and pass them back out so that students can read them and find the authors, or keep them and read them aloud, giving everyone an opportunity to guess who the sentences are about. 

What makes this a useful activity:  It is almost infinitely flexible. It can be used to practice listening, speaking, reading and writing, and at almost any level.  Also, if you choose to read the sentences aloud yourself, you can see each student’s attempt and assess their learning. 

Teaching points this could be used for: 

  • Any verb tense 
  • Sentence patterns 
  • Almost any grammar point (eg. gerunds, modals, reported speech, there is/there are, pronouns, etc.) 
  • Listening comprehension 

ACTIVITY TWO: Two Truths and a Lie 

How it works: To play the game, students make three sentences about themselves; two are true and one is a lie.  The other students (and teacher!) try and decide which is the lie. Like the first activity, there are different ways this could be done.  Students could say their sentences aloud, they could pair up and read each other’s sentences, or the teacher could read the sentences.  This could also be a homework/email/LMS assignment, and the teacher could collect the sentences into a worksheet. 

What makes this a useful activity:  Students will really pay attention, trying to smoke out the lie. 

Teaching points this could be used for: 

  • Verb tenses 
  • Specific grammar points (eg. gerunds, to be/to have, modals, articles) 
  • Pronunciation (eg. intonation patterns for lists, rhythm) 

 ACTIVITY THREE: The Pyramid Game 

How it works:  Every student has a pyramid on a piece of paper (downloadable version here:  I laminate mine and pass them out with dry erase markers. Starting at the top, they make their way down the pyramid with a choice at each level.  They could decide whether sentences are correct or incorrect, or choose between two sounds or words.  When everyone reaches the bottom, you tell them which number they should have reached.  Repeat. 

What makes this a useful activity:  Competition engages students. It can also easily be done in pairs or small groups where students can take the lead. 

Teaching points this could be used for: 

  • Pronunciation (eg. individual sounds and minimal pairs, word stress for emphasis, rhythm, intonation) 
  • Specific grammar points (eg. subject verb agreement, modals, count or non-count nouns, passive vs. active voice) 

Those are my favourite. What are yours? Tell us in the comments below!  Let’s help each other expand our repertoires, and see how long of a list we can make! 

Hi, readers! My name is Misha Gingerich. I am delighted to be involved in this idea sharing space, and hope that I can provide a useful perspective. In Ontario, I have taught English for Academic Purposes to adults, focusing mainly on grammar and writing skills, and I would gladly be labelled a grammar nerd. I have also lived and worked overseas, in India and Laos. In Laos, I taught English to adults and children while also playing the role of language learner. In addition to teaching, I have spent many years working in community building. Recently, I started a new project with a fellow teacher called Extra English Practice (EEP – We create online learning materials for students and teachers, including videos, with the goal of helping students learn while having fun.


6 thoughts on “Round-up of Classic Classroom Activities”

  1. Really great ideas, Misha. I will definitely try out the pyramid!

    I’ve used the 2 lies and a truth also to great success for upper intermediate or higher.

    An alternative to 2 truths and a lie is to have students form groups of 4 or 5. They can engage in some small talk to get to know each other and then decide as a group what each person should say about themselves. After this, they decide which person in the group should change their statement to make it untrue. The groups take turns getting up in front of the class. Each person then shares the sentence about himself or herself and the rest of the class has to figure out which person told a lie. Lots of fun!

    1. Oh, that definitely sounds like fun! I like the idea of combining conversation and teamwork with a spot-the-lie type of activity. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Misha,
    I agree that when you recycle an activity enough times, the students no longer have to devote cognitive load to the workings of the activity itself, freeing up cognitive real estate, so to speak, for the linguistic content itself. I’m a big believer in doing this and think it helps with student morale, confidence, and perception of mastery and control. Not only that, but when students are really familiar with a particular way of exploring language, they start to take the reins and tell you when which activity is needed for them to become more comfortable with a new structure or set of terms. That is one thing John Sivell and I will be talking about on December 10th during our webinar on Tutela. 😉

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