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10 Ways to Make Controlled Practice Interactive

10 Fun Ways to Make Controlled Practice Activities Interactive

On the 12th December 2015 Cactus Language held a teacher development workshop on contextualizing grammar, inductive learning and making activities student-centred. The workshop was run by guest speaker Makkie Malyari, who, with over 20 years’ experience in language teaching, is a multilingual CELTA and DELTA qualified teacher, and CELTA and DELTA teacher trainer, having worked for International House, Trinity Board of Examinations, Cambridge Examinations and Teaching House. Makkie addressed the importance and role of context in the language teaching classroom, whilst providing useful, tangible examples for creating guided discovery activities and conducting genuine free practice tasks.

Here we have 10 great practical examples of how to make controlled practice activities more engaging and student-centred.

1. Find someone who / Guessing to know you

Prepare a list of sentences which contain the target language, with the prefix, Find Someone Who:
has given up smoking recently
has met a famous celebrity

Alternatively, give students sentences containing your target language – they have to guess which students in the class have done these things:
[Fabio] has had their mobile for a year
[Sarah] has recently spent a lot of money on clothes
They complete the gaps with the names of their peers. Then students mingle in the centre of the classroom and ask one another the questions / check their predictions. They need to remember any interesting answers & report back to the rest of the class during feedback.

2. Click click sentences

This works well with dependent prepositions, particles in phrasal verbs or prepositional phrases. Hand out a card to each student with a sentence containing your target language, e.g

“I’m hopeless at Maths”
“I’m not interested in sports”

Students mingle and “click out” the underlined word, e.g“I’m hopeless click click Maths”
Their partner listens and guesses the missing word. They then exchange cards and find a new partner & repeat the process.

3. The “skirt”

Enlarge a gap fill or a sentence head and slice between each number on the exercise, leaving it attached at the end. You need to colour code the “skirts” . SS work in pairs or teams and give each team a colour. One ss from each team runs to take a strip, ss complete the sentence in groups and then another runs and takes the next strip and repeat the process. Before getting feedback rotate each teams’ strips and encourage then to correct/ check for errors.

4. Grammar gap-fills- “wacky backy”

This is a kinaesthetic adaptation of a gap fill. Get students to stand up and pin a piece of paper with one of the correct answers on their back (10 answers=10 students). Alternatively, use post –its for this which you can stick on their foreheads- ensure they DON’T see their word. Hand out a worksheet with the gap fill task to every ss. They then mingle and tell one another what number they think the other students are, e.g
If I ………(1) the lottery, I……….(2). a Ferrari.

If I ………(3) rich, I………(4) money to charity.


WOULD BUY: “I think you’re number 2”

They MUSTN’T say what the word is!! Each ss has to guess their word and write it on the board.

5. Treasure Hunt

Put ss in pairs and set this up as a race. Ss have a gapfill with answers plus distractors stuck on the walls or in the corridor. They have to quickly find the answers and complete the gapfill.

6. Board races

This works well with all grammatical items (conditionals/wishes/ reported speech, etc). The teacher could either call out a statement or reveal one statement at a time on a projector. Ss in 2 teams race to rewrite it in the target language. When they have finished, they shout stop and the other groups judge whether it’s correct- if so, they get a point. If it’s wrong, the next fastest group can claim the point.

7. Relay races

Enlarge a gap fill and project it on the board. Ss are in 2 teams and they line up in front of the board- give each team a different coloured board marker. The first ss from each team race to the board, record one of the answers and give the boardmarker to the student who is next in line from their team. Check their answers during feedback and praise the winners.

8. Conditional strips

Give ss a strip of paper with the beginning of a conditional sentence. Ss complete it and pass it on to the person on their right. The next student begins a new conditional sentence using the result clause, e.g

‘If I won the lottery, I’d give all my money to charity.’
‘If I gave all my money to charity, fewer people would be poor.’
‘If fewer people were poor, …..’

9. Sentences in a hat

Hand out strips of paper and tell ss to write down true sentences about themselves on each strip using the target language, e.g
I wish I had never sold my house
I wish I had studied harder at university

Collect their strips, fold them up and put them in a hat/box – mix them up. Each student then picks 2-3 strips – checks they are not theirs – and they all mingle and try to find who wrote the sentences. When they have found this student they must ask more questions so as to find out as much information as possible. Get feedback on their findings.

10. Noughts & crosses/ blockbusters

Either use a noughts & crosses grid or a blockbusters board projected on the whiteboard. In groups ss have to rewrite sentences in the target language- one at a time. They read out their answers & choose a square on the grid/board. If their answer is correct they win that square – if not, they lose it.

Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:

Evening language courses: 19 different languages in 15 UK locations
Language holidays: worldwide immersion courses in the country of the language
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Online courses: for teacher training, English and French

Cactus offers language courses to all levels. To book any of our courses please call us on 01273 830 960 or email us. Our multilingual team will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, you can visit our language course questions page.

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