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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

Five Activities to Practise Grammar in Class

Angelica Popescu, Romania

Angelica Popescu has been teaching English for thirty-two years in a lower secondary school in Pitesti, Romania. Presently she is a mentor and a part time mentor-trainer at Pitesti University, Romania. E-mail:


The best things in my life
Computer instructions
Air passenger’s rights
Ringing the alarm for earth
Spying on nasty neighbours

The best things in my life

Grammar structure: the infinitive
Type of work: whole class
Time: 10 minutes
Level: intermediate
Materials: none

1. Each student will tell the class what he/she thinks is the best thing in his/her/somebody else’s life:


Student 1: The best thing in my/ your/his/her life is to fall in love;
Student 2: The best thing in my life is to have a foam bathtub after work;

Other examples:

  • to have received the long-waited for letter;
  • to find money in the last winter warm coat;
  • to laugh at yourself;
  • to have dinner in two;
  • to spend time with your friends;
  • to wake up and see that you still have got two more hours to sleep;
  • to meet friends and see that nothing has changed between you;
  • to discover an ever-lasting love;
  • to hug your lover;
  • to dance;
  • to see someone’s face when one gets a present that he/she has wanted for a long time;
  • to admire the sunrise;
  • to wake up in a great mood;
  • etc

Teachers will give students enough time to think and, if they need, to write. Then they will say their opinion in front of the class.

Computer instructions

Grammar structure: the imperative
Type of work: pair work
Time: 5 minutes
Level: Beginners
Materials: a computer/ a toy computer/ etc

Two students learning to use the computer give each other instructions on how to use the computer. e.g.:
Student 1: Turn on the computer.
Student 2: What shall I do?
St.1: Press this button. Find Google.
St. 2: What is Google?
St.1: Write the name of the information you are looking for.
St. 2: Where shall I write it?
St. 1: Here in this small window, etc

Air passenger’s rights

Grammar structure: The Passive Voice
Type of work: Pair work
Time : 5 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Materials: none

Procedure: Two students are role playing: one is the airport employee at the information desk and the other is the passenger. The employee is answering the passenger’s questions informing him about his/her rights.

Student 1 (passenger): May I cancel the flight?
Student 2 (employee): Yes, you are allowed to cancel the flight.
Passenger: If there is a delay, may I ask for compensation?
Employee: You may be entitled to compensation between 125 euros and 600 euros depending on the flight distance and delay.
P: If there is a flight cancel, how will I know?
E: You must be informed in advance. Airlines found to be unsafe are banned or restricted within the European Union.
P: What will happen if I want to get there on another route?
E: You will be rerouted, sir.
P: And if the flight is in the middle of the night?
E: If you are denied boarding or your flight is cancelled , you are entitled to receive assistance (catering, communication and an overnight stay).
P: What if the person is disabled?
E: Disabled persons with reduced mobility are protected from discrimination.

Teachers will give students enough time to think and, if they need, to write. They will be given leaflets that are found in any airport in order to use the kind of language necessary for the dialogue.

Ringing the alarm for earth

Grammar structure: the modal verb “should”
Type of work: group work
Time: 10-15 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Materials: a blackboard/ a whiteboard ; chalk/ marker

Divide the class into groups of three or four.
Brainstorm a list of names of scientists who could contribute to save the planet from the global warming, e.g.: ecologist, zoologist, botanist, meteorologist, economist, geologist, anthropologist, etc.. Give the students a list of these scientists to fill in the blanks with the missing letters:

E_ _ _ _ _ _ _ t
Z _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t
B _ _ _ _ _ _ t
M _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t
G _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t
A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t
E _ _ _ _ _ _ _ t

Then ask the students to match the names of the scientists with the definitions:

1. botanist a. a scientist who studies the rocks, soil etc. of the Earth
2. meteorologist b. a scientist who studies people, their societies, cultures etc
3. geologist c. someone whose job is to make scientific studies of plants
4. zoologist d. a scientist who studies ecology
5. anthropologist e. a person who studies the way in which money is produced and used, and the system of business and trade
6. ecologist f. a scientist who studies animals and their behaviour
7. economist g. a scientist who studies the weather conditions

In groups, decide what these scientists should do to improve the Earth’s living conditions/reduce the effects of the pollution and global warming. Each group will choose the name of a scientist and decide what that scientist should do, e.g.:

  • The botanist should observe the plants all over the world and study the effects of the global warming over them
  • The geologist should study the way in which The Earth (rock, soil, etc.) is affected by the global warming.
  • The zoologist should find out how and why animals are affected by the global warming.
  • The anthropologist can draw conclusions and tell the world how people have been affected by the global warming.
  • The ecologist may ring the bell for those who continue to pollute the Earth, destroy the “green lungs” of the Earth.
  • The economist should find solutions to use money in order to save the Earth from the global warming menace.
  • The meteorologist should make scientific studies of the weather conditions which affect people’s lives during the global warming.

Then two students will perform a dialogue in front of the class, for example:

St 1: What is a meteorologist?
St 2: He/she is a person who studies the weather and gives the weather forecast.
St 1: What should he/she do?
St 2: He/she should make scientific studies of the weather conditions which affect people’s lives during the global warming. etc

Spying on nasty neighbours

Grammar practice: Present Perfect Tense/ Present Continuous Tense
Type of work: pair work/group work
Time: 10 minutes
Level: intermediate
Materials: paper to write on

Ask students to imagine they have been bothered by some nasty neighbours and now, they are spying on them. They are collecting information (by using binoculars) about these people and writing down what these neighbours have done lately/they are doing at present, e.g.:

  • They are carrying something in a pram./ They have carried something in a pram.
  • They are taking the baby’ s furniture out./ They have carried the baby’s furniture out.
  • They are changing the entrance door./They have changed the entrance door.
  • They are repairing the roof of the house./ They have repaired the roof of the house.

Each group of students will write down at least three sentences based on their “observations” while “spying”. Another group of students (two or three) will play the part of the nasty neighbours and try to explain why they have done those “things”. e.g.:

  • We are trying/ have tried to calm the baby down by walking him in his pram.
  • We are trying/ have tried to find the mouse hiding in the baby’ s cot.
  • We are changing/ have changed the entrance door because we have lost the keys to the house.
  • We are repairing/ have repaired the roof of the house because sometimes it rains inside, etc.

Then two student will perform a dialogue in front of the classroom, for example:

N 1: Why are you making so much noise?
N2: We are changing the entrance door.
N1: Why are you on the house?
N2:We are repairing the roof. etc

In this way, there will be a permanent dialogue between some neighbours who, on one side, are trying to accuse, and on the other side, their next door neighbours, who are trying to give a reasonable/ plausible explanation for each action.


The objective of this paper has been to propose useful classroom activities which help ESL and EFL students improve their speaking competence. To achieve native-like proficiency it is not enough for students to learn more grammar structures but to use them in different communicative situations.


English Teaching Forum, vol. 45, number 3, 2007

Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language Teaching, New Edition, Longman, 1991

TESL Reporter, vol.41(I), April 2008


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