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February 2022 - , Year 24 - Issue 1

ISSN , 1755-9715

101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students – Book Preview

Hall Houston currently teaches at National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences in Taiwan. He has a Master’s degree in Foreign Language Education from The University of Texas at Austin. He has written several books for ESL/EFL teachers, including The Creative Classroom, Provoking Thought, Brainstorming and Creative Output. Email:



101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students is a new book published by iTDi Publishing. It will be available in paperback and ebook editions in 2022.

It’s a book for teachers of EFL classes at universities, containing a variety of language learning activities that can be used throughout the semester. However, teachers of other subjects (not to mention high school and language school teachers) could also use most of the activities in their classrooms.

The activities in this book relate to three major themes: 1) the context of the university environment (students learn by talking about their lives as university students), 2) group dynamics – the stages of a group (the stages all students go through during a semester), and 3) active learning (learning through actively using the course material, instead of listening to a professor deliver a lecture).

The book is structured around the three main time periods of the semester: the beginning, the mid-period and the end. Activities in the first chapter are ideal for the first few weeks of class. The aims of these activities include learning names, learning about the teacher, learning about other students, and understanding the syllabus. Activities in the second chapter are suitable for the middle of the semester. The aims in this chapter include adding variety to lessons, reviewing material from previous weeks, talking about university life and giving feedback to the teacher. Activities in the third chapter are for the last week of the semester. Aims here include reviewing the entire course, talking about future plans, and ending the semester with a positive feeling.

This book also contains teacher development tips, short exercises designed to help teachers reflect on their own teaching and professional development in a university setting. In addition, the book has a list of recommended readings and web resources for university teachers.

The following are three activities from the book:


Write a new song for…

Many song activities ask students to listen to a song and fill in the blanks on a worksheet. In this activity, students write a song for a well-known singer, using vocabulary from the coursebook, and words from the singer’s most popular songs.

Time: 20–30 minutes

Skills: Reading, writing, vocabulary

Preparation: Choose a pop singer who sings songs in English and is currently very popular with students in the country where you teach. Find lyrics to three of the most popular songs by this singer and create a word cloud using all the lyrics (go to Save the word cloud to display in class, and find an image of the singer. Also, select 10 to 12 words and phrases that you want students to remember from previous lessons.

Procedure: Show the students a picture of the pop singer. Ask the students a few questions about the singer. Next, display the word cloud, and explain that the word cloud contains lyrics from three of the singer’s biggest hits. The bigger the word is, the more often it appears in the singer’s lyrics.

Work together with the class to produce a list of words and phrases from the last few weeks’ lessons. Encourage students to raise their hands and contribute words. You can also write words and phrases from your list.

Students work in groups of four. They write lyrics for a new song, using vocabulary from the word cloud and the word list on the board. Explain that they do not need to write a melody. Give groups enough time to write a good chorus, some verses, and a bridge.

After that, groups hand you their lyrics, and you will redistribute them to the other groups, so that each group has another group’s lyrics. Now, groups must come up with a melody that goes well with the lyrics. Give them several minutes to prepare. Finally, groups perform the new hit song for the class.

Options: If you are worried that your students will refuse to sing for the class, you can skip the last part of the activity, and ask the students to read their lyrics in front of the class, instead of singing.


Talking about our topics

I highly recommend giving your students an opportunity to select some topics they want to talk about, for a change of pace. Many students want to talk about topics that never appear in coursebooks, but often don’t get the chance.

Time: 15-30 minutes

Skills: Writing, speaking, listening, discussion

Preparation: Bring a few sheets of paper to class.

Procedure: Put students into groups of five or six. Hand a sheet of paper to each group and ask them to think about topics they would like to talk about. Topics can be general, such as food or travel, or they can be far more specific, such as the student dorms or K-pop. Ask a student to write three topics they would enjoy chatting about, and to then pass the sheet to the next student, who will add three more topics. Tell the groups to inform you when the paper has been passed around the whole group.

The next step is for each group to choose five topics they want to discuss. Once they have decided, tell them they have ten minutes to discuss their topics. They can talk about one topic or several topics. When time is up, ask each group to tell the class a few things they found out about each other.


Four posters on the walls

I don’t approve of students writing graffiti on the walls of the classroom. However, I’m greatly in favor of activities where students wander around the classroom, writing on big sheets of paper taped to the walls.

Time: 20–30 minutes

Skills: Writing, reading, speaking, listening, forming questions, asking questions

Preparation: Find four large sheets of poster paper. (At the university where I teach, many departments and offices have large announcement posters they get rid of after the event has passed, that I can take and use.) Also, bring lots of post-it notes, adhesive tape and markers.

Procedure: Tape four large sheets of paper on the walls. Each poster represents a different kind of question. On the first poster, draw a stick person at the top, and write “SELF”. Students will write questions related to themselves, such as “How can I manage stress?” or “How can I get to sleep easier?” On the second poster, draw two stick people and write “RELATIONSHIPS”. This poster is for writing questions about relationships with others, such as “How can I get my roommate to clean up the dorm room?” or “How can I communicate better with my professors?” On the third poster, draw a dollar sign and write “MONEY.” This poster is for questions about money related issues, such as “How can I save money on food and drink?” or “How can I get a part-time job?” Finally, on the fourth poster draw a question mark, and write “OTHER ISSUES”. This poster is for all other questions (studying, health, entertainment, etc.) Write these question starters on the board:

Can I get some advice about….?

What are three ways I can…?

How can I…?

What’s the best way to…?

Do you have any suggestions about…?

Students walk around and write questions on the posters. Every student must write at least two questions, and they should be questions that they honestly want answers to. Once everyone has returned to their seats, hand each student five post-it notes. Ask everyone to stand up again and read the questions on the posters. If they have a good answer for any of the questions, they write it down and put it next to the related question. Be available to distribute additional post-it notes if needed. Once everyone is back in their seats, walk around to each poster, and read out a few questions and answers. Call on students to respond to some of the answers.


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