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Super Simple Summer Activities: Pt 2

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Super Simple Summer Activities: Pt 2

A simple and adaptable communicative activity.


A few years ago I saw my good friend and fellow teacher, Ben Herbert, share this idea at at the Annual Young Ones Conference for teachers of Young Learners at International House Brno.

Basically it’s an info gap. But a really super simple tweak to make it more effective and motivate learners to want to do it.

The basic template (you can find a copy to download here) is a table that learners fill in themselves. It can be used for almost ANY language point.

info gap picture

For example, a few months ago I used the template to practice “Do you have a………in your bedroom?“. Yesterday, with a class of 9-11 year olds we used it to ask about what they like doing in their free time “Do you………in your free time?”

It’s great for summer camp/school as there is virtually no prep (in fact you don’t even need to print out the template, you could get the learners to draw a table on scrap paper) and so versatile. Brilliant for busy summer schedules. AND communicative 😀 win win!

Step one

I had some lines drawn up on the board similar to the worksheet and elicited things that people do in their free time. These were written in the left had column.

As below, I wrote them exactly as the learners called them out. e.g. if they called out ‘TV’, I simply wrote TV. But if they called out ‘read comics’, then I wrote read comics.

info gap eg1

Step two

I then handed out the worksheet (see above to download a template) and asked students to write as many free time activities as they could think of. I encouraged them to choose their own and highlighted they don’t need to be the same as mine or the person next to them. If anyone needed help with a word or spelling, I wrote it on the board in case anyone else in the class also wanted to use that activity.

Once a few students had a full sheet, I asked them all to stop and reassured the others it didn’t matter if they didn’t have a complete sheet, as long as they had some.

Step three

I then directed the learners back to the board (I had my learners sitting on chairs in a horseshoe shape near the board with nothing but the paper and a pen, but this isn’t necessary).

I wrote my name in the first column and asked them to guess if I liked doing those activities. If they said yes I put a tick in the in the first column under my name and if they said no, a cross. I made it obvious I wasn’t going to tell them the answer yet. It was just a guess.

I then wrote one of the students names in the next column and told the class my guesses for the student – pointing out that he shouldn’t tell me the answer yet.

infogap eg2

Step four

I asked the learners to write names of other students int he class in each of the boxes in the top row. I monitored to make sure they were writing in the right place.

Once a handful of people had finished I asked them to stop and again reassured them it didn’t matter if they hadn’t finished, as long as they had at least a few names.

Step five

I gave the learners a time limit to fill in their guesses with ticks and crosses and monitored to check they were in the right columns.

Step six

I redirected the class back to the board and asked the class to check their guesses about me and see if they were right. I elicited full sentences e.g. Do you read comics in your free time? and made sure to drill and board any sentences or vocabulary they had difficulty with. I also modelled and boarded Yes, I do. No, I don’t.

As I did this, I demonstrated how to put my answer in the right hand side column under my name. Once this was done I told them how many guesses they had right.

I then did the same for the student example and highlighted the things we had in common.

info gap eg 3

Step seven

I did one last drill of some questions using a couple of the learners chosen activities as examples, and then CCQs to check they knew what they had to do before setting them off to walk around the room and check to see if their guesses were correct. It was class of boys and they gave each other high fives each time they got a guess correct. They were fully engaged and using only English, even to high five. best of all, as they really enjoyed the activity and completed it successfully, it really boosted their confidence. They were really proud to have used only English for such a long time as well as complete mini exchanges with each other. I also encouraged them as I was monitoring to ask further questions if they wanted to e.g. “I play football too, who do you play for?” and boarded some of the phrases.

Step eight

We sat in a circle and talked about how many guesses we got correct, which answers were surprising, and which people had similar interests to us.

There are loads of possible follow ups. Writing a reports, drawing some graphs of pie charts, making a poster, giving a talk about what they learnt etc. I hope your learners like it too.



Until next time….



Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1

Posted on
Super Simple Summer Activities Series: Pt 1


3 activities to whet your appetite – more to come!

It’s that time of year again when many of us TEFLers are off at a summer camp or summer school. Our goals tend to be more communicative, the atmosphere more relaxed, our learners more energised. We may also have additional activities like sports afternoons and drama clubs etc.

Are you teaching YL this summer?

Do you have…

  • Large classes?
  • Mixed Ability?
  • High spirited kids on “holiday” with energy to burn?
  • No time or energy for anything that isn’t super simple and super easy to prepare?

I’ve got you covered with these no-fuss, low(to no)-prep, faithful old favourites.

Port – Starboard 


Picture source:


What: Listen and do game

Who: Great for 7-11, but any age really

Resources needed: None, just space

As a kid this was one of my favourite games at summer camps. The basic premise is that a teacher/leader calls out prompts. The students do the appropriate action. E.g. leader calls out “port!” and the students run to the left of the room. Leader calls out “Starboard” and the students run to the right of the room etc. Last one to do the action is out. Last person standing is the winner. Simple. Adaptable. Fun. Super!

Upon googling this fabulous game I stumbled across this amazing resource , a list of different actions and extra ideas for the basic game.

I love the original game, but I love how the basic premise is so adaptable. Last week my 8 year old learners were doing animals and habitats but had so much energy to burn they could have run a marathon. We played our own version of port-starboard with connected animal and habitat vocabulary. It was a real hit!



What: Vocabulary drilling with a difference

Who: 3-8 love it, but no reason you can’t go older.

Resources needed: Flashcards*

*Don’t have flashcards? No problem. Students could draw the pictures. Students could write the words on a slip of paper. No paper no pens? Also no problem. Students could choose an action and act out the word they are allocated (or choose).

The first time I did this with my pre-schoolers (as they were zombie obsessed) I had no idea it would become such a hit.

  • All students stand in a circle facing other (but could equally be scattered around a room or garden). Each student has a flashcard.
  • One student in the middle is the Zombie.
  • The student in the middle holds their arms up like a zombie and walks toward any other student. But, they must chant the word for the card that student has over and over in a zombie like voice. e.g. “appppplleee….apppllleee…apppllleee”
  • The child holding the apple card needs to say the name of another item being held up by another student.
  • If the student says another word before the zombie reaches and touches them, the zombie must change directions and head for the new word, again, chanting the new word. If the zombie touches the student before they say one of the words another student is holding, they become the zombie.

Super easy. Super adaptable. Super fun.


Fruit Salad


What: Vocabulary or grammar game

Who: All ages depending on how it’s adapted

Resources needed: Chairs

I think everyone knows this game, right? But maybe by a different name? It’s an oldie but a goody. and SO so easy to set up, play, adapt.

Students sit on chairs in a circle. There should be one fewer chairs than students and the student without a chair stands in the centre of the circle.

In the simplest version of the game the teacher would allocate different fruits to the children. e.g. walk around saying pear, banana, apple, orange, pear, banana, apple, orange until everyone is given a fruit. The child in the middle then calls out a fruit. e.g. “banana” and all the bananas must stand up and change seats. Meanwhile the child in the middle runs to an empty chair. The child left without a seat is the next to call out a fruit. for added fun, if the centre child calls out “fruit salad!“, EVERYONE must stand up and run.

I like to use this at the beginning of summer programmes to work out what learners can and can’t do. I get them to say anything at all about themselves and students, for whom the information is also true, get up and change. e.g. “I have a brother” “I like chocolate”. 

It’s so easy to adapt. Anything from “Stand up if you’re wearing blue”, “I’ve never been to Paris”, to “This time next week I’ll be on holiday”. Vocabulary and structures practices are only limited by the teacher’s imagination.



If you do have time for a bit more prep, here is a summer school/camp idea from last year. Especially good for dog lovers!

The 12 Days of Managing VYL Classes

The 12 Days of Managing VYL Classes

The 12 Days of Christmas Managing VYL:

12 Ways I try to ensure my lessons are the sparkliest thing in my VYL classrooms.

One of the toughest things about teaching little people is that, well, they behave like little people!

Not long ago I promised the ‘Teaching Very Young Learners’ Facebook group a Christmas gift. So here it is (albeit a little late). I’m sharing 12 things that have helped me over the years to improve my classroom management.

No matter how competent and confident you are with your teaching in general, Very Young Learners are not Adults or Young Learners. And teaching VYL is not the same as teaching other groups. Far from it. And it’s much easier to cope with a 5 yr old (and indeed 2, 3, 4, 6 year old) behaving like a 5 year old when you’re able to anticipate it. Learning a bit about early childhood development will help with both understanding their behaviour and also planning your lessons accordingly. Thus helping to avoid many of the classroom management issues us experienced VYL teachers know all too well. I therefore highly recommend to all those teaching VYL, particularly those new to the age group, taking a teacher development course like the International House IH VYL (Disclosure: I mention this particular course because I work for IHWO), or at least reading books, journals articles, blogs etc on the topic. Lesson planning is so very important for classroom management. All the tips in the world won’t help if the activities and language aren’t age appropriate.

But for now what you really want is for me to get on with said tips, right? Getting there.

You should know (so that you don’t reach the end disappointed) that this post isn’t a replacement for the above or even a list of classroom implications e.g. ‘They have short attention spans so keep activities short’ (Although I do have other blog posts for that – see links at the bottom of this post). It’s not even a list of activities that work well with this age group, sorry. I don’t have anything flashy, new of fancy to share.  Rather it’s a list of simple things that I have personally found to be effective for me, in my own classrooms.

Something else important to note, I called this the 12 days of managing VYL classes because I don’t think super efficient VYL classroom management something you should expect yourself to achieve overnight. Maybe not even in 12 lessons. It’s more realistic to try one thing at a time and slowly build your classroom management techniques with trial and error, tweaking as you go so that your techniques suit both you and your learners. Effective classroom management is a work in progress for all of us. With every new student, class, comes a new challenge, a new way of doing things.


WARNING: If you thought the introduction was lengthy. Get ready. Super long blog post ahead! Can you make it to number 12?


What: I take 5 minutes before the lesson starts to prep both myself and the room
I do my best (although sometimes with other lessons being taught immediately beforehand it’s not perfect) to arrive in plenty of time to set up the classroom and get organised. I don’t just mean moving tables around or taking flashcards out of my bag. I mean taking a moment to look around the classroom and visualise where I will stand for each part of the lesson and where the learners will be. What they will be doing. How they will be reacting. This includes managing my space, thinking about where I will do different things e.g. will I sit with my back to the board for the flashcard games? The back left corner with my back to the window for the story? And also placing the materials I will need for each task within easy reach. I might put my flashcards in a pile on the floor close to where I plan to sit, my story book on a back table or the window sill, some sticky tac on the board ready for a board race etc.
Why: It only takes a moment to lose them to a dried leaf on the bottom of their shoe. To say prevention is better than a cure is an understatement when teaching VYL and the proverb underpins almost every one of the below ideas.

Read the rest of this entry

Číst či nečíst?

I’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane this October with a month full of reading and graded readers.

My latest collumn in the IH Journal is 5 ways to use Graded Readers in the Primary Classroom and I’m travelling around the Czech Republic with the Oxford Primary Days professional development project talking about using Graded Readers.

This post serves as a reference point for attendees in my sessions. Below are hyperlinks to sites and documents I mention:

Stephen Krashen: The power of Reading

The OUP/ELT website

Big Read Junior – Useful videos to watch

Oxford Primary Days Teacher Development Session Handout

Using Mad Libs with Graded Readers

Steps for Teachers: Preparation
Step 1.
You could choose anything from the reader, or write your own summary. For the below I have used the blurb from the back of OUPs Read and Imagine 4 ‘Swimming with Dolphins’.
Step 2.
Type out the text and choose some words that might be fun to replace.

Dan the Scientist works with dolphins. Ludo the dolphin is under the water and can’t breath, so Rosie dives in to help him. But what happens? The sea can be dangerous – there might be sharks!

Step 3.
Work out what part of speech these words are and create a list of instructions for your students.

1 Your name
2 An exciting job/ occupation
3 Your favourite animal
4 The name of someone in this room
5 A noun/ thing
6 A verb
7 The name of your favourite person e.g. your grandmother/ bestie/ celebrity etc
8 A verb
9 A place
10 An adjective
11 Something scary

Step 4
Copy and paste the text to a document which will become a worksheet for the learners. Remove the words from the text. Number the spaces. You might like to use your creativity and make it look like the back of the book (it could also be made to look like a newspaper/ magazine article about the book, email to a friend about the book, page of the book etc)

(1___________) the (2__________) works with (3_________s). (4__________) the (3__________) is under the (5__________) and can’t (6_________), so (7_________) (8__________s) in to help him. But what happens? (9____________) can be (10____________) – there might be (11___________)!

Step 5
Create an example so that you can show your students that it’s ok for it to not make sense and be funny.

1 Kylie the 2 firefighter works with 3 monkey s. 4 Jitka the 3 monkey is under the 5 table and can’t 6 sing, so 7 Grace 8 dance s in to help him. But what happens? The 9 supermarket can be 10 fabulous – there might be 11 Spiders!

Steps for teachers: Executing the activity in class
The more this activity is broken down into steps, the better.
Step 1
As the students to write the required numbers on a piece of scrap paper (or you could give them pre-written questions. Just don’t let them see the text yet or even tell them there will be a text to follow. Keep it a surprise.)
Step 2
Learners fill in their words
Step 3
Give the learners the text. Ask them to fill in their words.
Step 4
Hopefully the texts are funny, so allow the learners to share them, if not with the whole class, at least with a partner.
Step 5
Elicit where is it is from e.g. a magazine article, blurb, email, newspaper etc.
Step 6
Point out that it is ok if things don’t make sense and are funny. Ask the learners, with their partner or a group to try and guess what the ‘real’ words should be
Step 7
If using the blurb, give the cover of the book to help after they have spent some time already trying to guess the words.
Step 8
Other reading activities……

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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