Posts Tagged ‘pre-intermediate’

It’s summer and it seems that this blog has gone into a light mode. ūüôā Here’s another short game that we enjoyed playing with a pre-intermediate group a few days ago¬†in order to revise some grammar¬†(past and present simple, future for plans and hopes, second conditional).

Level: strong Pre-Intermediate (for End-of-Course revision) or Intermediate (B1).
 10 minutes for the warmer, 20-30 minutes for the game.
Materials:¬†One class set of quotes for the warmer, a board game for each pair (Worksheet page 1), a grammar task for each student (Worksheet page 2), playing cards (ideally, at least 12 cards ‚Äď 3 cards of each suite ‚Äď for each pair). If you teach Business English, check out this version of the worksheet.



Print out a set of quotes (if there are more than eight students, print two sets). Display the quotes around the classroom. Ask the students to get up, look around, pick a quote that they like and get back to their seat with their quote. (Circulate and be prepared to give a bit of help with some of the vocabulary.) Get the students to share their quotes in groups of three, reading them out and explaining why they like them Рalso invite them to share as a whole group. Finally, ask the students whose quote is about the past. The present? The future? A dream?

First, the students revise questions for past, present simple, future (will or going to for distant plans) and hypothetical questions (Worksheet page 2). After that, hand out, to each pair

  • the board (Worksheet page 1),
  • a counter (e.g. a coin) and
  • playing cards (ideally, at least 12 cards ‚Äď 3 cards of each suit ‚Äď to each pair).

The students place the counter at the bottom of the ladder. Each turn, a student whose turn it is to ask a question moves one step up the ladder, draws a card and asks their partner a question of the corresponding type. Encourage the students to ask follow-up questions and chat for a few minutes before moving on to the next question.


The idea behind this game comes from an activity in Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, and the inspiration comes from Anna Zernova, who mentioned the activity during one of our chats about teaching.

The grid for the board comes from a fantastic post on turning tests into games by Svetlana Kandybovich and Tekhnologic.

Finally, I’m very grateful to Adi Rajan¬†for the idea¬†to¬†use playing cards, and to my colleague Eleonora Popova for the beautiful England-styled pack of cards she gave me.

Happy teaching everyone – and enjoy your summer, if it’s summer where you are! ūüôā

Levels: B1 and higher (some activities are suitable for pre-intermediate students)
Type of course: General English/Business English; some activities suitable for IELTS students
Length: Depending on what activities you choose – altogether, there’s material for around two 90-minute classes.
Materials: all activities and pictures are ¬†available in a Microsoft Word document¬†(shared under attribution sharealike licence, so feel free¬†to adapt them); you’ll need a projector to project the infographic.

This is a language point that I decided to introduce at¬†all levels I’m teaching this semester: the elementary group studied it at the same time as they studied comparatives (adding a modifier seemed like a very teachable point, and now, two weeks later, they are actually using the modifiers very confidently! I also noticed that at least some of the times they say something like ‘more cheaper’ they actually mean¬†a lot cheaper, so seeing that¬†they’re trying to convey this meaning anyway, why not teach it immediately?) My Upper-Intermediate+ group, on the other hand, was still not using any modifiers with comparatives, as the warm-up activity below revealed.

Comparatives Edited (8)

I like presenting the four ways to compare (-er/more/less/exceptions) with ‘circles’ – the visual ‘mnemonics’ is that the circles do not intersect, so you¬†never use two ways at the same time, and thus¬†‘less cheaper’ or ‘more better’¬†is not allowed.

Stage one: Intro. In order to introduce this grammar point to B1 groups and higher, I asked my students whether they’d ever bough a gadget to replace an older one (e.g. a smart phone to replace a mobile phone) and asked them to chat about

  • in what ways¬†the new gadget was¬†different and
  • whether the old one was¬†still better in some respects.

I listened in and¬†boarded some comparative structures they’d used – some examples that came up were¬†‘longer battery life’, ‘more durable’, etc. I then told my students that they weren’t using a bit of language I’d hoped to hear, showed¬†them the first part of the infographic above and asked them what¬†information is present in the pictures but¬†missing from the sentences (How much more expensive?); I then elicited a few examples of how to modify the sentence to say how much more expensive the present was (my students came up with ‘much’ and ‘a (little) bit); I boarded the remaining¬†adverbs, i.e.¬†a lot, somewhat, way,¬†and asked them to rank the¬†adverbs (with my Upper-Intermediate group, we also focused on¬†infinitely, marginally¬†and¬†far). I¬†then pointed out the samples¬†of ¬†their language on the board in which they didn’t qualify the comparatives.

Stage Two. Focus on form. After that, in order to encourage the students to study the infographic closely, I handed out sentences with typical mistakes for them to correct (page 2 of the .docx worksheet) Рshow only the middle part of the infographic at this stage, hiding the examples.

Level: Elementary/pre-intermediateSome of these sentences contain mistakes. Find and correct them.

  1. I find shopping online lot more convenient.
  2. I like this laptop a lot less.
  3. My new laptop has more better design.
  4. This trip lasts two weeks more longer then that one.
  5. The box of chocolates costs 50 per cent less.
  6. This trip is more cheaper.
  7. My day just got a lot better!
  8. My new phone is a bit easier to use then my old phone.
Key:   1 a lot more convenient
2. OK
3. Has better design
4. two weeks longer than5. OK
6. is cheaper
7. OK
8. than
Level: Intermediate/Upper-IntermediateSome of these sentences contain mistakes. Find and correct them.

  1. I find shopping online a way more convenient.
  2. Men generally find easier to read maps.
  3. I like this laptop a lot less.
  4. This trip lasts two weeks more longer then that one.
  5. The box of chocolates costs 50 per cent less.
  6. My day just got a lot better!
 1. way more2. find it easier3. OK4. longer than5. OK6. OK

Having checked the answers, we used the correct sentences to model/drill sentence stress and intonation.

Stage 3. Refined production After that, the students went back to their conversations about gadgets (in new pairs), to find out how much longer the battery life was/how much more durable the new gadget was and so on.

We then briefly revised the rules how the comparative forms of adjectives are formed (alternatively, you could cut up a¬†worksheet with adjectives¬†– there are some in the .docx file –¬†for the students to sort them into four groups) and went on to play a couple of games.

Further stages Рgames (pick and choose). 

Game 1 (drill) –¬†adapted from Intermediate Communication Games by Jill Hadfield,¬†Pearson P T R (2000) – worked like a spell in all groups!
Course type: any
Levels: Pre-Intermediate – Upper-Intermediate
: a set of cut-up cards for each pair/group of 3 (download a .pdf file from here or use the corresponding pages from the word document linked to at the beginning of the post); ideally, a dice for each pair
Time: 15-25 minutes

Every player¬†takes 6 cards. The first player¬†places one card on the desk and ‘boasts’ (‘my robot is very smart‘). After that, each turn players place one of their cards on the board, comparing the new object to the previous one (e.g. ‘my cat is way friendlier than your robot‘) and then takes one more card from the stack.

Rules: (a) They have to use a modifier –¬†I drew 6 facets of¬†a dice on the board, each one with a corresponding modifier, and each time a player¬†boasted, they had to roll the dice to determine what modifier should be used
(b) Adjectives can’t be reused

Image courtesy: my colleague Eleonora Popova, who's a white board magician. =)

Image courtesy: my colleague Eleonora Popova, who’s a white board magician. =)

Variation 1: players draw the cards directly from the stack and have to find a way to compare the last two objects
Variation 2: each turn, each player in the pair puts¬†one of their cards on¬†the desk; after that each player comments in what way their object is better than the other player’s object

Game 2 A board game in which students share opinions on a range of topics

Target structure:
find [sth] [modifier] [comparative] (I find it a lot easier to… than to …)

Levels: Pre-Intermediate – Upper-Intermediate

Course type: General English or Business English (can be used with exam students, but does not replicate exam format)

Materials: a board with adjectives, for Variation 1 a cut-up set of discussion propts (see below)

Time: 30-40 minutes (more time with higher level students, as they launch into discussions, especially if discussion prompts are used)

Rules: The students work in pairs. Each turn, a player throws a coin (heads = one step forward, tails = two steps forward) and states a true opinion using a modified comparative form of the adjective on the field (possibly giving a reason Рagain, a dice could determine the number of reasons); their partner either agrees or disagrees (providing reasons) and/or asks follow-up questions Рagain, this could be decided by a roll of a dice. I made two board games for this game, one for pre-intermediate students, another for higher levels.

Board game Comparatives More difficultBoard game Comparatives Easier (2)Example: I find it a lot less stressful to get to work by car than to use public transport, because I really dislike the underground. There are just too many people on the train in the morning. What about you?

Alternatively, the students can ask questions instead of stating their opinions (see Variation 1).

Setting the game up: 

It’s better to¬†give the students patterns for questions and answers (I boarded¬†a jumbled question and a jumbled answer and asked the students to unjumble them). ¬†In a pre-intemediate group, it’s better just to teach the statements (I find it + modifier + comparative to … than to…), whereas higher levels will cope with questions too.

  • Board one¬†scrambled question (examples here are¬†for ‘would’):
    would what you to be find easier so working in a big team in a small team or?Allow students to unscramble individually and then check in pairs, elicit and board the correct question:
    So what would you find to be [easier], working in a big team or in a small team? 
  • Board the sentence frame under the unscrambled question:
    So what would you find to be
     [comparative structure], verb-ing or verb-ing?)
    (alternatively, make a few mistakes in the frame and ask the students to correct them)
  • Elicit and board a reply (first the structure, but then elicit the reason – I put ‘because’ on the board and circled it in red (Sample reply:¬†I’d find it a lot easier to work in a small company because you always know who is doing what. )
  • Again, board the frame under the reply:¬†I’d find it [a comparative structure] to [verb] [than to verb] because..)

Game 2 Variation 1. A board game in which students talk about topics given on discussion prompts

Materials: one of the above boards, cut-up discussion questions (either General English or Business English Рsee below).

The players shuffle the cut-up discussion prompts and take 6 promtps each.  Having landed on a field, a player asks their partner a question using an adjective on the field and one of their cards (e.g. What would you find to be easier, working in a big company or in a small company?)

Non-cut alternative: Each pair gets the sheet with discussion prompts. Having landed on a field, a player picks a question that fits the adjective (possibly, crossing it over).

Discussion prompts for General English:


Business English:


Game 3 Students talk about topics given on discussion prompts using a wider range of adjectives provided on cards; the game is played in pairs or in groups of three.

Course type: General English, Business English or IELTS

Level: Intermediate and higher


  • cut-up adjectives; an uncut worksheet with adjectives for each student

Time: up to 60 minutes as there are a lot of discussion questions


  • check that the students know all the adjectives: hand out an¬†uncut copy to each student and set a few simple tasks, e.g.
    >>> tick all adjectives you know; check with your partner – is there something you don’t know and they do? class feedback
    >>> in pairs, for each adjective brainstorm two people, things, places or activities¬†that fit¬†¬†this adjective (e.g. elicit examples for¬†useful, e.g.¬†reading news every day). Rules: 1) ask the pair to write their examples down 2) if they can’t come up with two examples in 10 seconds, they should move on (why not tell them you’re going to snap your fingers every 10 seconds?) 3) at the end of the activity, group the students into groups of four so that they ask the other pair for ideas for the examples they couldn’t come up with 4) finish with a group game in which one pair gives their examples and the group guesses the adjective
    >>>¬†focus on grammar: the students go through the table and count how many comparatives¬†in each row are formed with ‘er’ and not with ‘more’
  • The game. The students deal the adjectives (6-8 per player). Each turn, one student picks two questions, chooses one (discarding the other) and asks the other players which alternative they’d prefer (Would you rather [verb] or [verb]). All players in the group discuss¬†the question using as many of their adjectives as they can. These are adjectives that are often used with the structure ‘I find it [modifier] [comparative], so they¬†are fairly easy to use in this activity.

Adjectives for intermediate learners:


Adjectives for advanced learners (edit the Microsoft Word file to choose only those you’d like to focus on – alternatively, let the students choose!):



As a follow-up, the students could pick a few of these questions and discuss them in new pairs/groups Рthis time without being forced to use any specific adjectives/structures. They could also choose a few cards and write about them for homework.

As I said at the start of the post, if you’d like to adapt these games, here’s a Microsoft Office document¬†with all materials. Also, I’d be grateful if you¬†let me know if you’ve got any suggestions how to improve¬†this, ideas how to extend these activities or if you find typos.

Update. Thanks for stopping by! I was delighted to hear that this post has been shortlisted for TeachingEnglish blog award! =) If you like it, you can vote for it on Teaching English РBritish Council Facebook page.
Just a short addition to the previous post in which I described how my B1-C1 students work on fluency by mining texts for related expressions, organizing them into mind maps and retelling the texts several times to different classmates.

I use a very similar procedure¬†with my¬†group of pre-intermediate 7 graders¬†to help them remember functional expressions used in social encounters (and generally in ‘Conversation Strategies’/’Everyday English’ sections of coursebooks).

The general lesson plan is

  • [gist] Students listen to a dialogue from the coursebook and answer gist questions
  • [analysis] The teacher helps them to analyze what kind of expressions are present in the dialogue and sketches a mind map on the board; the students copy the mind map and use the transcript to find expressions in the dialogue to add to the mind map.
    Usually I try to set up the gist questions so as to guide the group towards¬†the structure of the mind map (e.g. ‘How many speakers are there? Who are they?’ or ‘How many questions do the speakers discuss’?)
  • [pronunciation] The teacher models & drills the natural pronunciation of the expressions; students practice pronunciation in pairs, challenging each other to pronounce expressions as fast and naturally as they can; a fun variation is to challenge the students to say each expression on their map twice in under 60-120 seconds – the goal here is to encourage the students to pronounce fixed chunks of language fluently.
  • [practice] The students act out the dialogue from the coursebook without looking at the text, using their mind map instead
  • [recreating the map¬†] They¬†turn their mind maps over and try to recreate them¬†from memory; after a few minutes, they listen to the dialogue again and add the missing expressions. The students will need lots of support and encouragement the first time they do it – I don’t expect them to remember more than 1/3 of the map when they first reproduce it, but this stage does prime them to notice language while they re-read/re-listen the dialogue and does encourage them to use the expressions during the production stage
  • [improvisation] The students act out similar dialogues (e.g. if the topic is ‘buying clothes’, they change the items/colours/sizes/prices either based on verbal or visual cues)
  • The students repeat the map recreation¬†+improvisation stages once or twice or, time permitting , three times, each time with a new partner.¬†This can be done in an ‘onion’ activity: the students are seated in two circles, those¬†from the inner circle pairing up with students from the outer circle; the inner circle rotates between the stages so that each time each student works with a new partner; the level of challenge can be increased by introducing increasingly tight time constraints
  • They do it again for homework and, finally, again in a later class.¬†

A few tips:

  • [source]¬†Use complete dialogues. It sounds tempting to¬†organize all functional expressions used in a particular situation into a mind map, but in my experience unless there’s a text to organize the map, it becomes impossible to remember and reproduce. The only thing I add is alternative answers (E.g. ways to say ‘yes’ if the person in the dialogue said ‘no’).
  • [personal experience]¬†Try the procedure out on your own before the lesson.
  • [preparation]¬†Mind-map the coursebook dialogue before the lesson. Choose¬†gist questions to direct the students towards the structure you’ve chosen.
  • [minimal preparation]¬†For the improvisation stage, have students produce the prompts: bring in slips of coloured paper, ask them to brainstorm alternative items that can be used in the dialogue and write them on the slips (e.g. types of clothing on blue slips, sizes on green ones, prices on yellow ones etc), redistribute the slips
    Alternatively, brainstorm situations for students to adapt the dialogue to Рboard them and ask the student initiating the dialogue to choose one
    (e.g. for ‘buying clothes’: brainstorm ‘how you might spend a day off’ – e.g. in the forest/at home/at the beech/in the opera etc; the students¬†initiating the dialogue choose a situation and buy clothes appropriate for the situation;
    for ‘buying food’ brainstorm a list of animals/meals; students buy food for the animal/ingredients for the meals; etc
    for ‘at the doctor’s’, brainstorm reasons why people get ill or, again, types of vacation
    for ‘having friends over’, brainstorm famous visitors, etc)
  • [personalizing]¬†For some topics, to personalize the improvisation stage, ask the students to think about their favourite item of clothing/dish/place so that they buy a replacement for that item/order that dish/book a ticket to that place.
  • [fueling imagination] Use picture prompts for the improvisation stage: project a picture of a person in a difficult situation and ask the students to buy/order/book something for that person. Compassion is very memorable!

  • [revision] Insist on revision.¬†Take a photo of a good mind map and upload it to the class blog.¬†Tell the students that you’re going to ask them to reproduce the mind map from memory at the beginning of a next class. In my experience, when these two ingredients are in place (there’s a course blog/file¬†where the learners know they can find the language dealt with in class and there’s a test, even a short and informal one, coming up), this does encourage at least around 60% both teenage students and adult Business English learners to revise.

I like this activity more than the more traditional sequence suggested in some coursebooks, in which learners¬†just¬†read the dialogue a few times substituting individual items and then act out their own dialogue using functional expressions given on the page, because when they mind map, it gets¬†much less mechanical (as they are forced to think about the structure of the dialogue and process the functional language deeply), it challenges them and strains their memory and helps them to memorize the expressions much better, as well as giving them the confidence that they do remember them – having tested themselves a number of times. I’ve noticed that when the students improvise, they use the expressions that they put on their maps quite confidently and fluently, but if they choose not to write something down deeming it ‘obvious’, they might have problems with that language.Here are a few examples of mind maps my group has produced and used.

Example 1. This was the very first mind map we tried. It was at the very start of the course and the students really struggled with this one.

We used the following dialogue from our coursebook:

From Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford

From Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford (CUP)

Based on Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford (CUP)

Based on Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford (CUP)

Example 2

A few months later – the students coped much better with this one although it’s pretty huge!


Example 3.

The latest one that we’ve been using this week:

Based on Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford (CUP)

Based on Touchstone Level 2 by Michael McCarthy, Jeanne McCarten and Helen Sandiford (CUP)


Update 07/05/2014 Since writing this post, I’ve been experimenting with this technique more, trying it with my Business English groups. Here’s a 45-minute lesson for an A2+ group  focusing on talking about advantages and disadvantages.

Talking about advantages and disadvantages
Discussing advantages and disadvantages: teacher’s notes.
Discussing advantages and disadvantages: the worksheet. 
I think I‚Äôll use the same approach with my IELTS students, giving the students ‘narrow’¬†practice in the same type of question, e.g. pros and cons, comparing the past and the present, talking about differences between A and B and so on.


This is one of the posts in the series of posts on spoken fluency. Click here for the links to the remaining posts