Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Alien Abduction - Linkers game

This post is going to be a little different from previous ones. I thought I'd write up something work-related since that's all I seem to have done this year.

I came up with the idea for this game when trying to find extra practice materials on linkers for my teenagers. It's based around unit 9 of English in Mind 3, which is all about conspiracy theories and the supernatural, with a grammar focus on linkers of contrast - although, despite, however etc. But as I started putting it together I spotted an opportunity to pull in some previously studied conjunctions for review, and so I added if and unless, for conditionals and when, while and as soon as for time.

Language Focus and Level

The game is a board game for intermediate level and above and takes between 30-45 mins, depending on how much lead-in you do. The game involves the following linkers, which are all covered in previous units of English in Mind 3:

even though
in spite of
as soon as

The game also includes vocabulary connected to conspiracies and the supernatural (ghost, UFO, alien,evidence etc.) which comes from the book, but I've tried to keep it fairly simple and included lots of everyday language too. the download includes a blank game board so you can adapt it for your own syllabus.

Google docs - click here to download

Possible lead-in

How much time you spend on language review before playing is up to you, but it's important for students to understand the aim of the activity - to practice using the linkers with the correct syntax and verb forms. Here's what I did with my EM3s

1. Write the conjunctions used in the game on the board in a jumbled order and have students work in pairs to put them into 3 groups, then check and put the list on the board.

CONTRAST - although/even though, in spite of/despite, however
CONDITION - if, unless
TIME - when, while, as soon as

At this stage I like to show  although/even though and despite/in spite of as pairs - they have the same meaning and behave the same way within sentences.

2. Elicit an example sentence for although/even though from students and write it on the board.

3. Then ask students to work in pairs to create examples for the other linkers. (for weaker students you can have them find examples from their textbooks).

4. Elicit examples from different groups until you have an example for each linker on the board.

5. Remind students/check understanding of the structures - what parts of speech or verb forms can follow each linker, whether they can come at the beginning or the end of the sentence etc. (you could give a controlled practice activity at this point if you think it's necessary).

I usually leave this all on the board during the game so that students have a reference to check themselves and each other. With stronger students you could gradually erase it as the game progresses and they start to get the hang of it.

Playing the game

Divide the class into groups of 4 and give one board, dice and set of cards to each group. Each player will also need a counter of some sort ( pen caps, coins, paper clips and erasers will do). There is also a copy of the rules that you can print and distribute to each group if you want.

Shuffle the cards and deal 7 to each player. Place the rest of the cards face-down on the space marked CARDS.Place all counters on the alien space marked START.

The first player must roll the dice and move forward the number of spaces shown. and make a sentence using the clause on the space and one of their cards. They can complete the sentence any way they like,The other players listen and decide if the sentence is correct. If it is, player one can discard their card. If not, the group should try to correct it together (with your help if necessary) and player one keeps their card and their turn is over. 

Discarded cards should be placed at the bottom of the deck in the centre.

If a player can't use any of the cards in their hand, they must draw a new one and their turn is over. 

Play continues around the board and the winner is the first player to get rid of all of their cards.

If a player lands on a square that says Make your own sentence, they must stay on that square, but they can make a sentence using any square(s) from the board or their own ideas plus one of their cards.

Wildcards can represent any of the linkers, but the player must clearly state which linker they have chosen.


You can use the alien square in a number of different ways. I haven't specified this in the rules handout so you can choose what will work best for you and your students. If a player lands on an Alien, any of the following could apply.

  1. Miss a turn.
  2. Pick up a card from the deck.
  3. Exchange one of your cards for the first card in the deck.
  4. Nominate another player to pick up a card from the deck.
  5. Change places with another player.
  6. Make your own sentence.
  7. Exchange cards with another player
  8. Discard any card from your hand.
  9. Move forwards/backwards x number of spaces.
Or you can try 

The abduction rule

If you have a large class with several groups, the player can choose a person in another group to change with. Each player takes their cards but continues the game in the new group with the other's counter and position on the board.
This has the potential to be a bit noisy and disruptive and the game will obviously take a little longer to complete. On the other hand it can keep students active and working with different groups means they'll be exposed to more interpretations of the sentences.

Follow up Ideas

Once the game is finished, encourage groups to share the best/funniest sentences from their game with the rest of the class.

During the game make a note of good examples and examples of common mistakes. At the end of the game write them on the board for error correction and feedback.

Have students choose, say, 5 clauses from the board and write their sentences in their note books for further practice.

Students choose one sentence they liked from the game to become the first sentence of a story, which they could write in class or for homework.


If you wanted to make it a little simpler, you could omit some of the linkers, and focus only on one function - for example, linkers of contrast. Just remove the other cards from the deck (you might want to make some extra copies of the ones you want to keep too).

I hope you find this useful. If you decide to use this, let me know how it worked out in the comments below. And if you have any suggestions or other ideas on how to use this materials I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Gerunds and Infinitives with songs

A few days ago I was looking for something to help my pre-intermediate teens with verbs followed by either a gerund or to-infinitive. The course book we use presented the structure through a pretty uninspiring text, so I wanted something a little bit more engaging.

I found this great worksheet by Sticky Grammar that takes extracts from lots of different songs. Students complete the lyrics with a gerund or infinitive form and then listen to the compilation track to check.There's also some videos on YouTube with more examples: here and here.

However, my students are encountering these patterns for the first time and so I want something a bit more simple. I created my own version of this activity using only gerunds and infinitives with to. There are no bare infinitives or two-object verbs and, for the most part, the initial verbs are in present simple.

To make it a bit more challenging I put the songs on the worksheet in a different order from the video. So you could have students simply put them in order on the first listen if you want to make it a little easier or tune their ears in first.

The way I see it you can use this in two ways.
  1. As an introductory/consciousness-raising activity - Students listen to the songs and complete the lyrics at the same time. Then the difference in verb forms can be highlighted and worked on.
  2. As a review activity - Students try to complete the lyrics before listening. Then play the video for students to check. This has worked well for me at the top of the lesson after the structure was introduced.
Here's the worksheet

And here's the video

I hope you find it useful. :)