Random words


This is a creative speaking activity inspired by a great book by Edward de Bono called “Creativity Workout”. I bought it a couple of years ago and couldn’t help thinking how useful some of the techniques he mentions could be in the classroom.


  1. To recycle vocabulary in a new and memorable context.


One die per pair or group


  1. Draw a 6 x6 grid on the board.
  2. Ask the students to review recently studied vocabulary (words from a specific unit, words belonging to a specific category, etc.) and provide a word for each square – make sure each student suggests at least one word to personalise and give ownership. Make sure the students know the meaning of all the words.
  3. When the grid is complete, put students in pairs. To obtain words for the speaking activity students throw the dice twice: the first throw indicates which column they are going to use and the second indicates which row they are going to use. Depending on the task, they must roll for the number of words and use them repetitively to complete the activity.
  4. The following are just examples of activities that can be done with random words. They could be done in one session or you could choose a few to do as a warmer or plenary :
  • Obtain four random words. Combine the words to create a new business, explain how the business would work and how it would make profit.
  • Obtain four random words. Create a pilot episode of a television series using the random words in any order you wish.
  • Obtain four random words. Use the words to design a new sport and explain the benefits of the new sport to your partner.
  • Obtain five random words. Define a problem your hometown faces and show how the ideas expressed by those words could help solve the problem.
  • Obtain four random words. Create new school subjects using the random words and explain how they would benefit the students.
  • Obtain five random words. You are the president of the country. Create five new rules the citizens must follow using the random words.
  • Obtain three random words. Design a futuristic piece of technology that will revolutionize our world using the random words. Explain how the new piece would work.
  • Obtain five random words.  Using the random words explain to your teacher / boss why you were late for class / school.
  • Obtain three random words. For each of the words produce 5 more words which are somehow related to that word. The tighter the relationship between the two words the better.
  • Obtain five random words. Using the words create an alibi for a relative who has been accused of a crime.

Summary of past or recent events


This is a speaking activity which allows students to describe the most important things that happened to them in 2016, over the holidays, the last school year etc.


  1. To describe past events using past tenses or recent events using present perfect tenses.
  2. To practise asking wh-questions in authentic communication.


  1. Ask students to write down ten important or memorable things that happened to them in the chosen time period. Make sure they know the events will be discussed in class and are not too personal. You can decrease or increase that number depending on how talkative your class is (I found teenagers usually struggle with ten).
  2. Put students in pairs (student A and student B) or groups of three.
  3. Student A briefly describes the first event on the list. Once student A has finished student B asks additional questions starting with who, whose, what, when, where, why, which, how, how long and how many.
  4. Encourage students to show pictures of the events, if they have any on their phones, to make the activity more relevant.
  5. Students continue until they have each described all the events from their lists.

Alternative ideas:

  1. You could also ask students to come up with a recent summary of events in politics, art, science, etc.
  2. You could use it as a getting- to- know- you activity with students writing a list of “Ten things to know about me “.



Ask a Q board game


This is a free printable board game to practise adjectives followed by prepositions and improve fluency under time pressure.


The objective of the game is to reach the end by moving across the board whilst asking and answering questions.


Printable ASK a Q board game, a die, one checker per player and a countdown timer.

How to play:

  1. Ask a Q is played by 2 to 4 players.
  2. Players take it in turns to throw the die and move the number thrown.
  3. When a player lands on a square they ask the student on their right the question from that square. The student has to speak for at least 45 seconds without excessive repetition, and must answer the question using the adjective and the preposition in bold. If the player repeats or pauses for too long, the timer is restarted and they must start their answer again. After completing the task, they then roll the die and ask the question to the student on their right.
  4. The winner is the first player to land on the last square.


Note: The adjectives and prepositions are in bold to encourage noticing.



Compare & contrast board game

Introduction: This is a free communicative printable board game (Bubblegum) to review compare and contrast expressions.

Objective: The objective of the game is to be the first player to reach the end by moving across the pink board from square 1 to the final square.

Materials: printable board game, dice and some checkers.


1. Bubblegum is played by 2 to 4 players. You could print one board game per pair or use one board game only.

2. The board consists of 36 squares alternating between 12 outside squares and 24 pink squares.

3. To decide who starts, each player should roll the die once to see who gets the highest number. Whoever rolls the highest number gets to take the first turn. Play continues in a circle going left.

4. First player rolls the die. The number indicates the number of spaces on the pink board. If the player lands on a square with an even number they have to compare two things using one of the expressions from the outside squares. To determine which expression the player has to use, the player rolls the die again. The number corresponds to the number on the outside board. For example, if the player rolls a 4 and then a 4 again, they move to square 4 on the pink board and square 4 on the left and compare two courses they’ve taken using the expressions indicated: The two language courses I’ve taken recently have quite a lot in common, The two language courses I’ve taken recently are very similar. If they land on one of the squares with an odd number they have to contrast two things using one of the expression(s) indicated on the right hand side.

5. If the player makes a mistake they go back one space.

6. Other players can move up one space if they correct the other player’s mistake.

7. You win by rolling the exact number needed to land on the last square.



Introduction : this is a fun activity which allows students to recycle and learn new vocabulary related to clothes and appearance


1. To increase speaking fluency and accuracy
2. To practise descriptions of appearance and / or clothes
3. To develop writing skills


1. Put students into groups and ask them to brainstorm adjectives describing appearance.

2. Feedback: add new adjectives to students’ lists e.g. chubby, curvy, muscular , plump, presentable , scruffy, etc.

3. Introduce the idea of reliable memory.Ask students if they think memory is reliable, if they remember what they were wearing last week, what someone new they had recently been introduced to looked like. Tell them to shut their eyes and ask them questions about other people in the class: what colour is Sara’s coat, what is the pattern on Jacob’s jumper, etc.

4. Divide the class into two groups – police officers (A) and witnesses (B).

5. Give the witnesses a picture of a person in a detailed background location. For example, a picture of a woman in a bank. It could be a picture cut out from a magazine or a picture of a family member or even the teacher. They have 1 minute to look at the picture and memorise it.

6. Put police officers and witnesses into pairs and tell the witnesses they have witnessed a crime and they saw the suspect. They must try and describe the suspect as accurately as possible to the police officer in front of them. The police officers’ job is to write down the details given by the witnesses.

7. Allow three to four minutes for the interview and then ask the witnesses to move to another police officer and repeat the statement. Once the police officers are finished they compare their notes on the suspect’s appearance with the original photo. If there are few differences the suspect will be brought to justice.

8. The students swap roles and repeat with a different image.


• Students design ‘Wanted’ posters and write a detailed description of the suspect based on the notes they made during the interview.They bring their descriptions to class and ask the “witness” to read the statement and confirm that the information is true and correct ( it allows students to recycle the vocabulary yet again whilst role playing )

• Students could also compare the two suspects and write sentences e.g. Suspect 1 is not as chubby as suspect 2

• Encourage students to watch a fascinating Ted talk about the fiction of memory http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_loftus_the_fiction_of_memory

P.S. A quick thank you note to my friend Alex. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to offer feedback and share your ideas.

Soap Opera


  1. To increase speaking fluency
  2. To practise past tenses and descriptions of people
  3. To structure and sequence a story using appropriate expressions
  4. To develop writing skills


• Before the lesson, cut several A4 sheets into 8 squares of paper. The number of squares you need in total is 6 x the number of students in your class. So, if you have 11 students, you need 66 pieces of paper.

• Introduce the topic of TV. In groups, ask them to discuss their favourite TV programmes. Write any new vocabulary you hear on the board.

Ask students :What is a soap opera? What examples can they give? A soap opera is made up of episodes normally shown daily or several times a week, and continues to run throughout the year. Elicit ‘cliffhanger’ and ‘flashback’ / ‘flash-forward;

• Divide the class into six groups and give each group one of the topics below – suggest the examples but do not control their creativity.

1) event, such as funeral, wedding, coronation, etc.
2) place, such as New York, library, on a boat, etc.
3) job, such as architect, builder, astronaut, etc.
4) name & age, such as Vera 43, Tom 17, etc.
5) verb, such as laugh, write, misunderstand, etc.
6) object, such as knife, pencil, cup, etc.

• Give each group the same number of pieces of paper as you have students. So if you have 11 students, give each group 11 pieces of paper. They must write one example of their topic on each square of paper.

• One person from each group must hand out one of their squares to each student, so each student ends up with six pieces of paper, one for every topic.

• Put them into groups of three or four and explain that they are going to create a soap opera: they must work together to invent one episode each which must contain each of their six topics, and these episodes must fit together to produce a soap opera.

• Each student must write their own episode – this prevents one student taking over the group.

• They present their soap operas at the end of the lesson and the winner is decided by a vote of hands.

• Homework: inventing the following episode ,which students can later compare with each other.


• Ss could also prepare comic strips and illustrate the most important event in their story or you could prepare the strips and ask the ss to write down the dialogue
• You can include additional topics, such as linkers, or encourage use of a recent grammar point
• Bring pictures of people to class as it helps to visualise the characters
• Ss could vote for the soap opera, present the other teams with only the first episode and the rest could predict what happens next (language of prediction)
• The teacher could act as a TV producer and ss have to convince you their soap opera is the best to invest in
• Ss could also briefly present their pilot episode to the rest and others could suggest five things they would like to see more of if the show were to be successful
• Later other groups could write a review of the pilot episodes
P.S.Big thanks to my lovely friend Alex for her constant encouragement and feedback.