Welcome to English Banana.com’s big activity book. This is the fourth compilation of worksheets and activities from the popular English Banana.com website. The aim this time is to engage learners from about Level 1 (Intermediate) upwards in active English lessons. This extensive new collection provides a varied and interesting set of resources for practising a range of English language skills, from grammar to reading, and vocabulary building to developing research skills.
It’s divided into subject areas and there is a comprehensive answer section, which also gives notes for how to use the material. We have included two special sections in this book. The first is a collection of classroom games that have been tried and tested and really work. Some may be familiar while others are totally original. In publishing descriptions of these games and activities we are not in any way laying claim to having invented them. Our only aim is to disseminate ideas that work well at a range of levels and always seem to get a great response from learners.
The second special section is for reference and lists rhyming words, using the vowels and diphthongs from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). These pages provide support for learners as they come to identify spelling patterns and match together words with the sounds of English. However you use the book, we hope that you’ll enjoy learning English and come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of this fabulous language – which can be so entirely frustrating at times and so difficult to learn!
If you enjoy this book why not get online and log onto our website for more original and fun activities for learning English. Best of all, everything on the website is absolutely free! So for access to free printable worksheets, as well as fun online games and quizzes, get your mouse moving in our direction today – click on www.englishbanana.com.
Finally, I must say a big thank you to all my learners who have been testing and trialling the material that appears in this book. It’s been great working with all of you. Thanks for showing me what you liked and didn’t like. Hope you really enjoy this book.
All the team at English Banana.com
Students can lead this very simple game where they think of something that they can see in the classroom (or wherever you are) and the others have to guess what it is. Students give a clue by saying the first letter, for example, if they are thinking about the clock on the wall, they would say, ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C.’ A quick game that gets the students thinking about the vocab relating to their immediate environment.
Get the group together and ask for a volunteer to leave the room. Once they’ve gone, think of a ‘secret’ about that person, for example, it’s their birthday, or they’re having an affair with the college principal. That kind of thing. When they come back in, they have to guess the secret truth about themselves by asking questions. The rest of the group give clues. A great icebreaker, this one always raises a laugh.
A party game that works well with English students as a way of practising listening to and understanding commands. The teacher says a number of simple commands, such as, ‘Put your hands on your head’, ‘Stand on one leg’ or ‘Start humming’, and the students have to do what you say – but only if you have prefaced the command with ‘Simon says...’. If you don’t say ‘Simon says...’ and the student follows the command, they are out, and the game resumes until there is a winner.
The whole class sits in a circle. Tell them that it’s your birthday next week and that you’re planning a birthday party. They are all invited... but on one condition. They must bring you a present, and it must be something that you really want. Each student in turn tells you what they will bring to give you on your birthday. You will either tell them that they can come, or that they are not invited. This depends on what they offer to bring you. The item they’re going to bring must begin with the same letter as your first name. If it does, they can come; if it doesn’t, they can’t. For example, if your name is Lucy and they offer to bring ‘a lemon’ as a present, they will be welcome. If they offer to bring ‘a bottle of wine’ they will be given short shrift! This game is hilarious, as some students will twig onto your ‘unspoken rule’ fairly early on, while some won’t get it at all, however obvious you make it!
Get the whole class together. Ask one of them to leave the room, then get the remaining students to change five things about the classroom. For example, you could put a chair on a table, or get two students to swap jumpers, or anything – so long as it’s not too subtle. Then bring the student back in and get them to guess what changes you have made.
Get the students standing in a line. Stand at one end and whisper a short phrase or sentence in the ear of the student next to you. For example, you could say, ‘My dad once met Bernard Cribbins in a bus queue in Dover.’ Each student repeats the phrase to their neighbour until you get to the end of the line, when the last student tells the class the sentence they heard, and you can reveal what the original sentence was. A good game for practising listening and speaking skills.
Probably better for an intermediate or advanced class, this one. Prepare twenty questions, based on what is happening in the news (be it local, national or world news). You could include spelling questions too, and questions about different members of the class, for example, ‘Which country does Louisa come from?’ Split the class into two teams and you’re ready to play. Give five points for a correct answer, and bonus points at your discretion for any extra information that the students give in their answers. If the first team doesn’t know the answer, hand it over to the other team for a bonus point.
The title refers to Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield. The game is really just a version of My Grandmother Went To Market. Students sit in a circle, away from desks and paper, and so on. Tell the students that you teach because you love it and don’t need the money as you are actually rather well off. In fact, you have a butler who goes up to Meadowhall every Friday to go shopping for you, and he buys you lots of different things. This week, however, you can’t decide what to buy, so you are asking the students to help you. You are going to make a list. Start with saying, ‘My butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy me... (think of any item that you can buy in a shop).’ The next person has to say, ‘Your butler is going to Meadowhall on Friday and will buy you...’ whatever you said, plus an item of their own. The list goes around the circle until the last person has to remember the whole list of items. Students usually give prompts if their fellow students are struggling. A good vocabulary game, as well as being fun and a test of the memory. Plus they get a laugh thinking about your (imaginary – unless you really have one...?) butler.
Have a ‘lucky dip’ style bag, or box, which you can use from time to time for this quick activity that draws the class together in mutual curiosity. Put something different in the bag (or box) each time, for example, a paper clip, or an orange. Students take it in turns to feel inside the bag (or box) – without looking – and then describe what the object feels like and what they think it is. This activity can easily be handed over to the students for them to facilitate among themselves, even using items that they have brought in from home.
An old favourite from TV, this is great for practising question and answer forms. Get students up to the front of the class one at a time and ask them questions, about themselves, the weather, the school or college – anything. The student must reply verbally but cannot say the words ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. If they do, they are out. Ask someone to act as the timer (and as the ‘gong’ or ‘buzzer’ when each player slips up and is out), and write the times for how long each student managed to go without saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the board. If the students get the hang of this game they could play it in pairs, with one asking the questions and the other answering, before swapping over roles.
Get the students into pairs, then give one half of the pair a picture from a magazine, for example, a man wearing a hat and coat and playing the piano. They have to describe what they can see, in detail, without showing the picture to their partner, who draws a sketch based on the description. At the end of the description they compare their pictures, before swapping roles. At the end of the session the whole class can see how close all the drawings were to their originals. A good activity for practising communication and listening skills, and giving descriptions.
Ask each student to bring in one or more photographs of something that is important to them, that you can keep to put into a class photo album. Give them time to prepare a two-minute talk about their photograph, which could be, for example, of a place, or a family member or an event that has touched their life. Then sit in a circle with all the students and your ‘living photo album’ will come to life, as each student in turn explains why their photo is important or memorable to them. You could make a display with the pictures, or literally fill an album with them that everyone can enjoy looking at. Explain that you will give the photos back at the end of the course (or even at the end of the week). This is a good activity to help a relatively new group get to know each other.
Students at all levels enjoy puzzling over this game. It’s also a good way to get them looking in their dictionaries. Your students suggest nine letters at random, either vowel or consonant, which you write on the board. (Or you could have cards with them on if you’re really organised!) In small groups the students have five minutes to come up with as many (real) words as they can from the original nine letters. The team with the most words spelt correctly gets a point, and the next round begins.
Another good letters-based game. It’s good because students can get up and lead this one just as well as the teacher. It’s also good because it’s quick and can pull students together for a quick bit of group work just before going home. Think of a word or phrase and draw a number of dashes on the board that corresponds to the number of letters. The other students suggest one letter at a time. If they are correct you have to fill in the letter on the board in its correct place. If they are incorrect you draw part of the hangman shape. Students can take a guess if they know the word. The person who guesses correctly steps up to the board to think of a word for the next session.
A good one for testing telling the time, and as a general reading comprehension using realia. Select a page from the Radio Times, or any English language TV guide and photocopy it so that each student can have a copy. Split the group into two teams and ask them questions based on the programme information given in the TV guide. For example, you could ask, “What time is ‘The A-Team’ on?”, and “What time does ‘The A-Team’ finish?”, before moving on to more complex reading comprehension questions such as, “What is the name of the actor who plays ‘Mr.T’ in ‘The A-Team’?” Get the students to nominate a ‘runner’ from their team who runs and writes the answers on the board. You can even get them drawing clock faces as an answer, or writing the answer using the twenty four hour clock. Note: questions need not be ‘A-Team’-based!
As a project, get the students working in pairs or small groups to design a new board game. They have to form a games ‘company’, and then plan the concept and design of their game. After that they have to actually make a working prototype, which they test out, and which is then tested along with all the other ideas in a games tournament. Each company has to explain the reasons behind the design choices that they made in constructing their game. The students then all vote for their favourite games in categories such as: ‘Most playable game’, ‘Game most likely to make a $million’, ‘Best design and construction’, and so on. You could use the board game template on page 73 as a starting point.
Get your students to leave the building and go out in small groups or pairs with the task of writing down ‘Ten things you can see at...’ various places near to your school or college. For example, they could write down ten things you can see at... the leisure centre, the shopping centre, the sports stadium, the post office, the doctor’s, the bus station, the railway station, the market, the funfair, and so on. Ask them to make sure that their spellings are correct before coming back to you with their list(s). Of course you could always make it ‘Fifty things you can see at...’ if your group are particularly gifted – or if you just want to get rid of them for the whole morning...! When they come back, discuss together what each group has found.
This is a similar exercise to ‘Ten Things’, in that the students leave the classroom in pairs or small groups and go around town for a couple of hours. They have to write down the proper names of as many shops as they can, along with a brief description of what you can buy at that shop. For example, ‘Marks and Spencer – clothes and food’, ‘Debenhams – clothes, gifts, and perfume’, until they have a list of around twenty shops. When the students get back they could write sentences about the shops, for example, ‘At Marks and Spencer you can buy clothes and food.’ It motivates students to go into and look around shops that they may walk past every day but have never visited. You could always set the list of shops for your students to visit, ensuring a variety of types. Of course, it gives an opportunity to practise shopping vocab wherever you happen to be teaching.
This is a good game for practising spelling classroom words and getting students to talk about their immediate environment. Split the class into two groups and give each group a pack of sticky labels. Their task is to write labels and stick them on twenty different things in the classroom. Spellings must be correct, and at the end of the game students must give you a tour of their labelled items, explaining what each object is.
Get the class into two teams. Take one student from each class out of the room, give them both a whiteboard pen (or chalk stick, or marker, etc.) and give them the name of a book, TV show (for example ‘The A-Team’), film, or famous person. They have to run back into the room and draw clues on the board, while the other students try to guess the name that they have been given. They are not allowed to write any words. Students love this game, and it gets rather loud as the students get more involved. Make sure your students are aware of the cultural references that you want to give them. The game can be played just as well using vocab sets such as, furniture, food, animals, and so on.
For this game you will need to put a sticker on the back of each student, with a noun written on it, for example, apple, chair, Wednesday, bathroom, or bottle of tomato ketchup. The students have to mingle with one another and ask questions to find out ‘What am I...?’ Students can only reply with either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Once they have found out what they are, they report to you and tell you what they are and what questions they had to ask in order to work it out. They could then go and write down the different questions. This also works when you use celebrity names instead of nouns – as long as all the students are aware of exactly who all the celebrities are. You could also use specific vocab sets such as countries (‘Am I north of the equator, or south?’), or clothes (‘Am I worn on the head?’) The sky’s the limit! Good for question forms and to get students talking.
Write a load of nouns on the board, both common nouns and proper nouns, but don’t use capital letters. Vary the list of words to suit the level of your group, so for an elementary class you could write something like: ‘table, usa, book, house, garden, england, philip, the times, shirt, ice cream...’ and so on. The students split into two groups and compete to be the first to write the list of words again, but this time putting capital letters on the proper nouns (in this example, ‘USA, England, Philip, The Times’).
Similar to ‘A Capital Game’, this involves writing plenty of different nouns on the board and getting the class – in two teams – to discuss and write down whether there should be ‘a’ or ‘an’ before each word. This is a quick and easy game – intended for elementary students really – that allows the students to identify and practise the grammar rule for indefinite articles. Make sure you throw a few proper nouns into the mix too, just to confuse them!
The whole group sits in a circle and decides on a few story keywords, for example, a place, a man’s name, a woman’s name, an object, and so on. Tell the students they are going to tell a story as a group. Each student can only contribute one word at a time, before the story moves on to the next person. If the story reaches a natural break the student whose turn it is next can say ‘full stop’ instead of carrying on. The story must include all the keywords that were agreed at the beginning. This is a great game for identifying sentence structure and bringing out grammar points, as well as letting the imagination run riot. A variation is to let each student contribute one sentence instead of just one word.
Split the class into small groups and give each one a large quantity of balloons and a roll of sticky tape. Their task is to create a fantastic balloon sculpture, which outshines those made by the other teams. After forty-five minutes or so the groups come together and look at all the sculptures. Each team has to describe what their sculpture represents – and is invited to elaborate on the principles of art that they have been influenced by... or not, as the case may be! Prepare yourselves for some ‘explosive’ balloon fun in this hilarious team-building and communicative activity! Note: this activity works just as well with modelling clay, or lots of old newspapers, instead of balloons.
The class needs to be in groups of around eight people. Lay out a finish line at one end of the classroom with no desks or chairs in the way. The students stand in a line, as if about to start a race. On your signal they either run or walk towards the finishing line. However, all the students must cross the line at exactly the same time. A fun and energetic warmer which encourages students to talk to each other – particularly when they keep getting it wrong. Give your teams several attempts at this and they should get it in the end.
Split the class into two teams. Set a starting line and a finishing line. This is basically a slowwalking race, where both teams are competing to be the last to cross the finishing line. The only proviso is that everyone in the race must keep moving forward – just very slowly. It’s also good fun played with individuals in heats, building up to quarter-finals, semi-finals and a grand final. A fun team-building activity that will bring out the team spirit in your group.