My favourite activities for tweens part 2

This school year marks the first time I have had the opportunity to work with younger students on a 1-2-1 basis. My kids are 11 and 12, hence the tween label. In this series of posts, I would like to describe several activities that have worked particularly well during our classes (90 mins once a week). Here, you can read about my favourite card game.

You might have read how I prepared for my first 1-2-1 class with one of my students  and remember I approached this new teaching experience quite apprehensively. I am happy to say my “kids classes” have become one of my favourite parts of the week (now here’s the sentence I’ve never thought I would say!).

I realise it is largely due to the fact that I might be privileged: I face virtually no discipline issues, I need to focus on one student only, and I have absolute freedom in designing my curriculum and choosing resources. This means I am also free to experiment with ideas and activities I have never tried with my younger students before, mostly sticking to a staple diet consisting of a mix of the coursebook, read-made, run-of-the-mill board games, and fill-in the gaps song lyrics worksheets. There is one principle behind each activity described here: since it is used during a 1-2-1 class, the focus is mainly on the student’s life (real or imaginary!) likes, dislikes, wishes, favourites, and interests, so the topics might not align with what is found in coursebooks and the language used might not reflect any particular word lists or glossaries. Below, you can read about the second new addition to the weekly menu.

Grammar and Vocabulary: Student-made sentence completion card game

Why: I have been experimenting with a slightly different approach to introducing verb tenses, especially once the time came to deal with the past. Instead of pushing for my students to learn as many irregular verb forms, I decided to work more with fewer verbs (both regular and irregular) that have been gradually popping up during the classes (mostly via reading). Once we hit approximately 10 verbs, whose form had been mastered, I didn’t move on but stuck around and totally by accident devised one of the simplest and most fun card games I had ever played in class. Another by-product of my decision: my students were producing correct sentences describing the past on their own, they practised logical thinking, they inquired about the way lexis was used, they drew their own conclusions, and had some fun inventing sentences about the people of their choice.

What: I prepared a set of  40 paper squares in 4 different colours, 10 squares per colour. I asked my student to write 10 names of whoever they wanted on every yellow square. Then, we wrote our 10 past verbs on every orange square, and every possible time expression related to the past on blue squares. Put in order the squares would read: Marysia met last week.   I asked my student whether this sentence made sense and we would try to figure what the missing part was and where it would go. In this case, it was her boyfriend written on the green square and placed after the verb.

I asked my student to invent the word/phrase that would complete the orange verb and write in on the green square. Here is where a lot of ideas and questions came up. What can one watch? What can one make? What can one choose? Does the blue square always have to go at the end? Some chunks of language were produced and matched with the names on yellow squares to make the most realistic sentences regarding the people my student knew. At this point, some green squares were altered to make sentences funnier / more accurate. The final version looked something like this.

Now, comes the fun part. Playing the game. I collected all the cards, shuffled them, and dealt randomly so that the student and I had 20 each (colour distribution was irrelevant). We rolled the dice to decide who would put the card down first. The  first card had to be the name (yellow). The next person would have to put down a verb (not necessarily the same one as in model sentences created before). Now, the third move was the hardest one as (usually) only one green card matched the orange verb. Whoever was in possession of the appropriate green card, had to put it down (even if it was the same person who had put down the orange card). The next move would be to put down a blue time expression card. We continued creating or recreating sentences in the past and the first person to get rid of all their cards was the winner. We played several rounds to practice and change the order of the squares (blue going first).

Take a look at part one of my favourite activities for 1-2-1 classes with tweens here.


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