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Engaging Students With A Topic

Matching Mingle

Imagine you have a class of 20 students. Write 10 sentences using the target language or about the topic. Then cut them in half. Give one half to each student and they mingle to find their partner. When they think they've found the other half, they write the whole sentence on the board and sit down together. Once all sentence are on the board, you get the students to decide if they are all correct and what the topic of today's lesson is.

Make it even more communicative by using sentences which the students can discuss (e.g. "is this sentence true for you?"). Or vocabulary based - cut words on the topic in half and students find their partner.

Click here to see an example of sentences for a prepositions lesson.


This can be quite time consuming, but is a good way to brainstorm vocabulary. For example, for a lesson on crime, you would write on the board:

5 - types of crime

4 - types of punishment

3 - people in a courtroom

2 - recent crimes in your country

1 - famous criminal

Then give students about 10 minutes to brainstorm answers - 5 answers for the first question, 4 for the second and so on. Feedback can be surprisingly lengthy, so make sure you've got plenty of time.


This is a nice vocabulary and speaking activity which works well when trying to get students' interest in an unconnected sets of words, though it also works well with connected lists.

Click here for examples

Running Dictation

Show a (tiny) piece of paper with a short dialogue written on it. Ask if it's big enough for them to see (they'll say no). Act a bit confused, "hmmm, you need to read this, but it's too small. What can I do?? Hmmm. I know!!!" Put the paper on the board. Students work in pairs. Student A sits, with paper and pen. Student B goes to the board, reads the first line of the dialogue, runs back to their partner and tells them it. Student A writes this. B goes back to the board for the next bit and so on. Play loud music in the background to prevent them just shouting from the board, and keep an eye out for any clever so-and-so's who try to take a photograph with their mobile phone!


There are several variants on this game. I like to make the last category the subject of the day's lesson, so that it flows nicely.

Variant 1: Students work in small teams. Give them 5 categories (e.g. verbs, things in the kitchen, films, jobs, and animals). Then give them a letter and a time limit (e.g. 1 minute) to think of one word beginning with that letter from each category. For example if the letter was 'p', the answers could be 'pretend, plate, Psycho, postman, panda'. One point for each correct word, three points if no one else had that word. If you want help choosing the letter, there is a letter wheel here if you have a computer screen in your classroom.

Variant 2: As before, but instead of giving a starting letter, students must think of 5 words per category and only get a point if no other teams chose that word.

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