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Cambridge English Teaching Activities | Back to School


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Coming back to school after a long summer holiday can be challenging both for teachers and students. This month Craig brings us fun back to school ideas to kick start the teaching year.

These include activities to get to know your new students, activities for your students to get to know each other and others to settle your students back into the English classroom.

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Cambridge English Teaching Activities | Back to School

  1. 1. Back to School! Passport to year …… All levels This makes a great display and is a fun way to get your students to introduce themselves by doing some writing. To create the passport, fold an A4 sheet of paper in half to create a small A5 booklet. On the front, your students can draw the flag of their country and draw or stick a picture of them on it. This can be prepared on the computer or left for the students to create their passport however they like. Prepare questions for them to answer or ask them to write about themselves depending on the level of the group. For younger learners the students can draw pictures of things they like and write their name. For older students and higher levels, ask them to write freely about themselves to give as much information for the teacher as possible i.e. about their family, favourite subjects, what they do in their free time etc. If you have a number of classes at different levels a display of these passports shows progression through the levels. Each time they enter the class for the first week the students have to go through passport control where the teacher asks them questions related to what they have written in their passports! Will they all pass the control? Back to School Newspaper project – B2+ writing This is a fun activity that can be extended into a project that your students could work on both at school and at home. Your students have just returned from the summer holidays and will have lots of stories to tell. Ask them to tell their classroom friends about their favourite adventure from the summer holidays. Tell them that they are journalists and that they are writing for the classroom newspaper. The topic of this month´s issue is Holiday Fun. Each student should prepare their own newspaper in which they can include the highlights from their holidays. Make sure that each newspaper entry they decide to include has a proper journalistic format: it can be an article, a photographic report, a review of a film they saw or of the hotel they stayed at, an interview with a new friend or another interesting person they met during their time away from school etc. Remind them that each entry should have a proper heading written in journalistic style e.g. “Family spots dolphin while on ferry trip”, or “Exclusive interview with a true New Yorker”. This is a good opportunity to introduce new vocabulary and teach them how to report facts in an objective style. Make sure your students are as creative as possible and they include photos to illustrate each entry or even their own drawings.
  2. 2. Personal Shields – Young learners A1 speaking Introduce the Cambridge English shields for the young learners’ exams to your students or show examples of shields from an internet search. By using the template below ask your students to draw pictures, write words or even sentences in each section which describes them but without writing their name. The different sections could contain pictures of family, favourite things, favourite subjects etc. Once complete, the teacher can show the students the different shields. This could also be a guessing game of who is who from the pictures. You could encourage your students to use fixed phrases. For example: I think this shield belongs to…………………………… For higher ability you could ask your students to give a reason for their answer. I think this shield belongs to…………………………… because he is always playing tennis. Etc. You can download a template for the shields using the link below: activities/greco-roman-myths/coat-of-arms.pdf Animal Portraits – B1+ writing into speaking This activity is a twist on how the candidates introduce themselves. Instead of introducing themselves by giving personal information, talking about their likes etc. they have to introduce themselves as if they were an animal. Hello! My name is ...... If I were an animal I would be a bee, because I'm always buzzing around! However, I would like to be more of a tortoise because I need to slow down! The children can draw a picture of themselves as their animal and write the completed sentences underneath. A guessing game could also be played once everyone has finished if the students don’t write their name in their descriptions. Questions all about me! – B1 speaking The teacher writes words about themselves on the board. Explain to the students that on the board are answers to questions all about you! The students have to think of questions which would give the answers that are written on the board. This is a great way to introduce yourself to your new students in a fun way and also revise and practice question words and forming questions. This can also be done in teams where each team gets a chance to ask the question. If they ask the correct question they get a point, if not it is passed to the other team. Once a question is answered, the word on the board is rubber out. If your class don’t know each other they could play this in pairs.
  3. 3. Marvellous Me – All levels This is a great activity for students who don’t know each other to learn a little about their classmates. Prepare a set of questions which will reveal interesting facts about them on different coloured cards and place in a bag. Students in turn pull a question out of the bag and answer it according to the colour. You could use the following questions: Tell me something that you do in your spare time. Tell me somewhere you would like to visit in the near future etc. The game is even more fun if it is played with different coloured sweets which match the colours of the questions. See some examples at: game/ Introductory Letter – B1 B2 Writing This is a good way to get to know your students and also get them into the habit of writing letters which will be beneficial for Part 8 (reading and writing) of Preliminary for schools and Part 2 (Writing) First for schools. Set the criteria of what you would like the letter to contain i.e. introduce themselves, tell you about their favourite subjects/hobbies, what are their targets for the year and why etc. Target tree – All levels Prepare a tree for display in your class but with no leaves. Cut out leaves from green paper and have these ready to hand to your students. During the first week of class ask your students to write down what their targets and objectives are for the year. This way you can get a feel for their abilities, preferences and what they think they need to improve. You can discuss these objectives with your students and then have them stick the leaves onto the tree. During the year they can add other leaves as they want to and once you think a student has met their object the leaf can fall to the bottom of the tree and the student can set another objective. This could be revised each term. Instead of a tree, you could use cards in the shape of footballs which need to hit the back of the net if they have been met! Apply for my class! B2 C1 Writing Have your students apply for your class! They must apply to be in the class like they would for a job so they include, photo, personal information, skills/qualities, why they should be chosen to be in the class, what they will bring to the class etc. They will need to use complex sentences and a varied use of tenses. Set the criteria and have them all apply. As an extra, students in pairs could have mini interviews based on their application forms. This makes a great display!
  4. 4. Birthday ordering - B2 This can be quite a challenge but great fun. Tell the students they have to stand side by side and order themselves in order of their birthdays without being able to say numbers or the months of the year. The students will have to use paraphrasing in order to explain when there birthday is during the year. What words can they use instead of April? E.g. Is your birthday in Easter? My birthday is after the last day of summer etc. This can be done as a class or in teams. If carried out in teams the winning team is the first to have all children lining up in the correct order. In my pencil case I have ………… A1 speaking As your students will probably come to class with new materials, pencil cases etc. this is a fun activity to remind them of classroom material vocabulary. Brainstorm as a class the materials you would find in your pencil case. Play a quick game of bingo by calling out the vocabulary – when a student has this material in their pencil case they shout out BINGO! Add other vocabulary which has nothing to do with materials in their pencil case and try and catch them out! Introduce the game by saying the following sentence: In my pencil case I have a ………………………… What do you have in your pencil case? Elicit an answer from a student and ask another student. Introduce that if you are asked a question you must say what the last student has in their pencil and add a new one. The challenge is to get around the whole class with everyone remembering what each student has in their pencil case! And one for next year! Don’t forget to send me your postcard! - A2 B1 writing During the last session with your class (normally when you tell them who their teacher will be for the next school year), give all your students a blank postcard with a stamp on it. During the session they fill in the school name and address. Over the holiday they have to draw a picture on the front of themselves or something they did during the holiday. They then have to write to their new teacher telling them about themselves or their holiday. They send it back to school and when the students arrive in September the teacher gets an idea of their new students and can share the postcards with the rest of the class.