Every summer, several dozen students from my high school go to Adelaide, Australia, for a three-week study abroad session. In preparation, several teachers and I teach three Homestay English lessons to them. (There are several other prep sessions run by the study abroad program administrators, too.) Here’s our short workbook: ODT & PDF.
Basic question and answer practice is a staple of foreign language study. Here is a set of questions designed for two-sentence or three-sentence answers.
I use these worksheets in pairs. One student asks twelve questions, the other student answers, then they switch roles and repeat. This takes around five minutes. When students are comfortable with the questions on the first page, move to the second page. The question styles don’t change, but key words do. This helps students remember the appropriate grammar.
This style of worksheet is great for pair speaking practice. With seventh graders we begin with one-sentence answers, in eighth grade we practice long answers, and by ninth grade students are encouraged to make comments and ask follow-up questions. After practicing for a week or two, you can easily do a speaking test.
When focusing on particular English sounds, a tongue twister can be a nice way to practice. If your class sees tongue twisters as a fun speaking challenge, add them to a lesson from time to time.
Tongue twisters are by definition hard to say, so the most important practice is slow practice. After repeating and practicing slowly for a few minutes, try to say the thing quickly a few times just for fun.
Here are some tongue twisters that I like.
- Red leather yellow leather (repeat).
- Unique New York (repeat).
- Six thick thistle sticks.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
- She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
- I thought of thinking of thanking you.
- I think I thought of thinking of thanking you.
- How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck would?
- A big black bug bit a big black bear, made the big black bear bleed blood.
- Betty Botter bought some butter. But, she said, “This butter’s bitter. If I had some better butter, that would make my batter better.”
Any other tongue twisters that you like? Leave them in the comments.
Pairs of words that differ by only one sound are called minimal pairs. When students are learning a foreign language, some sounds don’t exist in their native languages, and these sounds can be difficult to say and hear. It’s a good idea to study some of the tricky words side-by-side. This helps students realize that the words don’t sound the same, and with some practice, they’ll learn proper pronunciation.
Here are eight sets of pairs. Each set has five pairs, for a total of ten words. The files are designed to be displayed with a big-screen TV or projector. When repeating after the teacher, the teacher should typically say both words, to expose the contrasting sounds.
For a quick quiz, the teacher says a word, and students raise their right or left hand to indicate which word they (think they) heard. Or, students can say right or left out loud. Then the teacher indicates the answer. After a few minutes of teacher-led practice, make pairs and ask students to quiz each other, in the same style as before. When students are quizzing each other, there’s a chance that the speaker will mispronounce a word, leading to general confusion, so close the topic by repeating after the teacher. Dictation quizzes are easy to do: the teacher says either a word or short sentence containing a target word, and students write it down.
Here are six sets of noun cards. Each set has twenty-five cards. The cards are made to be printed on A4 paper, though you could resize them if you like. Each card has a picture on the front and the word on the back. If the picture shows a plural of something, the word on the back is in plural form.
Although the pictures were chosen to be clear and obvious, it is often possible to come up several words that might match it. If there are multiple matching words—if the picture is a pair of sneakers, for example, both shoes and sneakers are legit—then teach both words.
There are some wonderful pictures of frogs doing various things created by Alexas Fotos on Pixabay that make good practice for present continuous sentences. I put some of these together to create two Bingo boards, each with twelve pictures.
- Frog Actions Board A: ODT & PDF.
- Frog Actions Board B: ODT & PDF.
- Frog Actions List: ODT & PDF.
For a listening activity, make pairs, give each pair a board, and give each student Bingo chips such that each pair has two different colors. The teacher says a sentence describing one picture, and students race to put their Bingo chip on that square. Both students can put the chip on the space, but the person who got there first should have theirs on the bottom.
For a speaking activity, everyone in the class stands up. The teacher says a letter, and students say a sentence describing that picture in order to sit down. For many cards there are multiple acceptable answers, so accept them.
Basic English arithmetic is good practice for junior and senior high school students. If we aim for math that students learned in elementary school, then the challenging thing is saying the expressions in English. In particular, large numbers are difficult to say in foreign languages, because it takes a great deal of practice that students rarely get.
Here are three sets of arithmetic flashcards. The operators used are
÷. The flashcards are A4-size.