Short Activities

Here are some short activities (oral, written or both), which can be used to start or finish off a lesson, or be a bridge between other activities.


Dictionary Practice

What are the words that fit both the clues?


Not left RIGHT not wrong
a fruit a colour
it belongs to me we dig for coal there
to make a knot sometimes worn round a man’s neck
a vegetable a person from Sweden
a month a girl’s name

Give (pairs of) pupils similar words and ask them to make up clues


train, dear, nail, ball, mean, bat, trunk, boot, lie, wood, fine, log, bright, down, draw, sign, can, watch, seal, bark, fair, fan, second, well, rose, sink, miss, fly, jam

How many word classes can these words belong to?

fast, light, down, round, fly

Words with the same spelling but different pronunciation and different meanings

tear, wind, bow, row, sow, entrance, number, desert, refuse, produce, lead, does, close

Homophones are words that are spelt differently, but sound the same.

E.g.: eye/I, see/sea, be/bee

What are the missing words in these pairs of homophones?

  • pair/
  • witch/
  • red/
  • no/
  • knew/
  • sun/
  • meet/

Can you think of more examples?

Words easily confused. Use a dictionary and find how they are used

then/than, where/were, which/witch, be/bee, right/write, great/grate, with/whit

How many nouns can you think of that are related to these verbs?

  • to receive
  • to apply
  • to produce
  • to act
  • to sign
  • to refer


Pupils sometimes make sweeping statements that should be made less bombastic

Modify these statements

Poverty is caused by corruption.

President Obama has disappointed African-American voters.

Children do not play outside any more.

Fast food is unhealthy and fattening.

Possible solutions:

  • Poverty is often caused by corruption.
  • In many countries poverty is caused by corruption.
  • Poverty may be caused by corruption.
  • President Obama has probably/no doubt disappointed African-American voters.
  • President Obama seems to have disappointed his African-American voters.
  • President Obama has disappointed many/some African-American voters.
  • Many children do not play outside any more.
  • Children do not play outside as often as before.
  • Children do not play outside so much any more.
  • Generally speaking/As a rule, fast food is unhealthy and fattening.
  • Fast food is usually/often unhealthy and fattening.
  • Most fast food is unhealthy and fattening.



Which words are homophones in these groups of four?

  1. sweet, sweat, suit, suite
  2. pear, pair, pare, peer
  3. died, dead, deed, dyed
  4. threw, throw, through, though
  5. sees, seize, seas, says
  6. find, found, fond, phoned
  7. write, right, rite, wright
  8. so, saw, sew, sow
  9. wear, were, where, we’re
  10. eat, ate, eight, height
  11. heard, herd, beard, bird
  12. now, know, knew, no


Homophones (KEY)

Which words are homophones in these groups of four?

  1. sweet, sweat, suit, suite
  2. pear, pair, pare, peer
  3. died, dead, deed, dyed
  4. threw, throw, through, though
  5. sees, seize, seas, says
  6. find, found, fond, phoned
  7. write, right, rite, wright
  8. so, saw, sew, sow
  9. wear, were, where, we’re
  10. eat, ate, eight, height
  11. heard, herd, beard, bird
  12. now, know, knew, no

Which words are homophones?

  1. we’ll – whale – wheel – well
  2. pair – pear – peer – pier
  3. sale – seal – sail – sell
  4. fear – fair – fare
  5. not – note – knot
  6. write – rite – right – wright


What Is It?

Which objects are described here?

Read the definitions aloud, and ask your pupils to write down the name of the thing described.

If you think the questions may be too difficult, you can put the answers on the board (not in the correct order).

  1. we read it every day to find out what has been happening
  2. it is good to have with you if it rains
  3. people wear them on their fingers, often made of gold or silver
  4. a hot drink made from the leaves of a bush
  5. we use it to lock and unlock things

Everyday Objects

  1. it tells the time
  2. it keeps food cool and fresh
  3. it makes it possible to walk or drive across a river
  4. we use it to take photos
  5. we wear them in winter to keep our hands warm


  1. a very English dish, often served in newspaper
  2. the meat from a sheep
  3. a French favourite, they are said to taste like chicken
  4. an Italian classic, but quite difficult to eat correctly
  5. America’s main contribution to international cooking?

Famous Buildings

  1. where the president of the USA lives
  2. where the kings and queens of England live
  3. a very large clock and tower in London
  4. a five-sided building in the USA (clue: Defense Department)
  5. the official residence of the British Prime Minister

Scientific Instruments

  1. a doctor uses it to listen to a patient’s heart or lungs
  2. it helps us to see tiny objects
  3. it helps us to see things that are far away
  4. it measures body heat
  5. it takes pictures of the inside of a body

They all begin with M

  1. it attracts iron
  2. what snow does when the weather becomes warm
  3. a small animal that cats hunt
  4. a large forest animal
  5. we often spend more than we have


Silent letters

How many words can you think of (or find) that:

  • start with kn
  • end in mb
  • end in gn
  • start with gn


Kangaroo words

These are words in which we can find other, shorter words.

E.g.: “factory”

How many can you find?

fact, factor, act, actor, to, or, tory

First individually or in pairs/groups, then together

Other kangaroo words:

  • window
  • category
  • carefully
  • withstand
  • prosecute
  • rampaged


Use Your Logic

What is the next word?

The words may be written on the board, or on a transparency. If your pupils have good self-control, you may prefer to read the problems aloud instead…

hot/cold, black/_______
wet/dry, warm/_______
buy/bought, teach/_______
foot/feet, knife/_______
give/take, lend/_______

eye/see, ear/_____
milk/drink, bread/______
foot/shoe, head/_______
sky/blue, grass/_______
day/sun, night/_______

spider/fly, cat/_________
sheep/flock, cattle/______
picture/artist, novel/________
cat/kitten, dog/_____
aunt/niece, uncle/____

steamer/pier, train/____
sheep/mutton, pig/____
horse/stable, pig/______
leg/ankle, arm/_____
horse/neigh, pig/______


What is the missing word?

  1. go/went, fall/ ____________
  2. teach/taught, think/___________
  3. pig/pork, sheep/ _______________
  4. pig/pigs, sheep/______________
  5. pig/piglet, sheep/____________
  6. teacher/school, doctor/_____________
  7. actor/actress, king/_______________
  8. Ireland/Irish, Wales/ _____________
  9. there/their, Wales/_______________
  10. Germanic/English, Romance/ ______________
  11. hot/cold, sweet/________________
  12. hot/heat, warm/______________
  13. USA/president, UK/_____________
  14. USA/Congress, UK/________________
  15. five/four, nine/_____________


Yes/no competition

Groups of three: 1) questioner, 2) answerer and 3) timekeeper/referee/scorekeeper.

Two-minute rounds. The questioner fires questions at the answerer and tries to get him to say YES or NO. You score a point for each time your opponent says YES or NO.

Swap roles and repeat, so that all three members of the group play each role.


Missing Link

Explain that you are going to write two words on the blackboard with a space between them. The idea is to find one word which will fit into the empty space, making two new words.

An example:

gun place

The missing word is fire, giving gunfire and fireplace.

time cloth (table)
hand room (ball)
sun pot (flower)
moon house (light)
fat line (head)
green keeper (house)
rain out (drop or check)
key leader (ring)
house house (boat)

Alternatively, to make it a little easier, you could give your pupils the missing words, but not in the correct order, of course!


Vocabulary Game

Divide your class into suitable groups, say three or four in each.

Explain that you will be writing some topics on the board, and that each group is to write five words belonging to each topic. Set a time limit of five or ten minutes according to the number of topics and the skills of your pupils.

For some types of pupils suitable topics might be:

  • five days of the week
  • five pieces of clothing
  • five things you can eat
  • five things with wheels
  • five colours

Or you could try:

  • five English counties
  • five American states
  • five English-speaking countries
  • five American Presidents
  • five synonyms for “very”
  • five women authors
  • five types of fruit
  • five adjectives ending in -ous (or -ent, -ible, etc.)
  • five strong verbs
  • five pairs of adjective + noun (difficult/difficulty)


Re-arrange the letters

This problem can be tackled by groups or individual students, or indeed by the whole class working together.

Explain that you are going to write a word on the blackboard. The point is to write new words, starting with all of the letters in the original word, and using only letters found in that word. One point is scored for every letter used.



  • diction (7 points)
  • indict (6)
  • can (3)
  • triad (5)
  • iron (4)
  • oar (3)
  • not 3)
  • arty (4)
  • ration (6)
  • yard (4)

Total: 45 points


Put these sentences in the correct order

  1. He finally decided to have a hamburger and chips.
  2. because there were no more chips.
  3. and chose a table by the window.
  4. The customer replied that he was.
  5. “I’ll have the roast beef, please.”
  6. A man went into a restaurant to eat dinner.
  7. “I’m sorry, sir. The roast beef is finished.”
  8. “Are you ready to order, sir?” the waitress asked.
  9. “No thank you,” he replied. “I don’t like lamb.”
  10. “Would you like to try the lamb instead?”
  11. Again the waitress had to apologise.
  12. “Why don’t you have a salad with your hamburger instead,” she suggested.


What is the difference in meaning?

She lives in Brighton.
She is living in Brighton.

Who has eaten my pizza?
Who has been eating my pizza?

My uncle was a bus driver all his working life.
My uncle has been a bus driver all his working life.

She gave me an incredible, complicated excuse for coming late.
She gave me an incredibly complicated excuse for coming late.

He argued with his teacher, which is stupid.
He argued with his teacher, who is stupid.


Preposition + -ing

In English we use the -ing form of a verb after a preposition.

Is there anything you are:

  1. good at doing?
  2. fond of doing?
  3. interested in doing?
  4. looking forward to doing?
  5. tired of doing?

Write a sentence for each of the questions.


This is an oral activity for pairs of pupils.

One pupil gets the sheet and gives the other pupil the prompt (eg: “Ask me where I live”). She can then check that her partner makes the correct question (WHERE DO YOU LIVE?).

  • Ask me where I live: WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
  • Ask me where my sister lives: WHERE DOES YOUR SISTER LIVE?
  • Ask me when I started at this school. WHEN DID YOU START AT THIS SCHOOL?
  • Ask me how many languages I speak: HOW MANY LANGUAGES DO YOU SPEAK?
  • Ask me if I can drive a car: CAN YOU DRIVE A CAR?
  • Ask me what I did yesterday: WHAT DID YOU DO YESTERDAY?
  • Ask me why the teacher went home early: WHY DID THE TEACHER GO HOME EARLY?
  • Ask me if it often rains in Bergen: DOES IT OFTEN RAIN IN BERGEN?


Ask the questions and write down the answers that you get.

Where do you live?

How often do you watch TV?

What kind of TV programmes do you watch?

What did you do last Saturday?

What do you like to eat?


Replace the verb GET

  1. I didn’t quite get what you said.
  2. Do you get what I mean?
  3. What time will we get there?
  4. She got him to do the washing up.
  5. I got the flu while I was on holiday.
  6. He gets depressed easily.
  7. She gets £15000 a year.
  8. I got all these books for fifty quid.
  9. Be careful when you get off the bus.
  10. The leader of the gang got five years in jail.


For each question pick an answer from the list below. Use each answer only once.

  1. Shall I tell you what happened?
  2. Do you promise you won’t tell anyone?
  3. Do you remember her name?
  4. Can I bring a friend along?
  5. Can you lend me a couple of hundred quid?
  6. Who were you out with last night?
  7. I’m afraid these are the only seats we have left.
  8. Can I use your phone for a local call?
  9. Where would you like me to put this cardboard box?
  10. Do you think you’ll get that job?


  1. The more the merrier, I always say.
  2. Mind your own business!
  3. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but your guess is as good as mine.
  4. Be my guest.
  5. It’s on the tip of my tongue.
  6. You must be joking! I’m broke.
  7. Beggars can’t be choosers.
  8. Just dump it anywhere for now.
  9. My lips are sealed.
  10. I’m all ears.
What the British say What the British mean What others understand
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect … I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
This is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest … Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally / by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is … This is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn't really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I'll bear it in mind I have forgotten it already They will probably do it
I'm sure it's my fault It’s your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It's not invitation, I'm being polite I will get invitation soon
I almost agree I don’t agree at all He’s not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completly He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided


Useful linking words and expressions


  • Most people would probably agree that …
  • On the other hand, there are some who believe that …
  • It seems fair to say that …
  • It goes without saying that …
  • It is obvious to me that …
  • In my opinion …
  • Apparently, there are those who claim that …


  • On the contrary, the fact is that …
  • However, the truth is …


  • In other words, …
  • To put it simply, …


  • For instance, …
  • An example of this is …
  • One example I could mention is …


  • Furthermore, …
  • In addition, …
  • Moreover, …


Does punctuation matter?

How can punctuation marks change the meaning of these sentences?

  1. The accused man said the judge was insane.
  2. King Charles the First talked with a close friend half an hour after his head was chopped off.
  3. The driver escaped from the car before it sank and swam to the shore.
  4. Let’s eat Mum!


Animal idioms

Complete the sentences by putting in the missing animal. The animals are: pig, lamb, sheep, wolf, horse, cat, bull, dog

Then match the sentences with another sentence from the list below.

  1. I’m in the _____________ house at the moment.
  2. I could eat a _____________.
  3. You bought a __________ in a poke there, I’m afraid.
  4. He’s a wolf in _____________ clothing.
  5. She’s just mutton dressed as __________________.
  6. My son’s a real ________ in a china shop.
  7. You let the _________ out of the bag there!
  8. If you keep crying ___________.
  9. He really went to the ____________ last year.
  1. It’s probably because his wife left him.
  2. “Clumsy” is his middle name!
  3. Nobody will believe you when it really matters.
  4. She’s a granny, but seems to think she’s still twenty-something.
  5. He’s not as nice as he seems.
  6. I thought we agreed to keep it secret.
  7. I’m absolutely starving.
  8. That was a waste of money.
  9. I forgot our wedding anniversary.


Write a sentence:

  • where all the words have the same number of letters (3, for example, or 4)
  • where the words are in alphabetical order (a, b, c, d, etc., or h, i, j, k--- or whatever)
  • where there are several pairs of homophones (pear/pair, to/too/two, read/red, etc.)
  • where the words have rising number of letters (2, 3, 4, 5 …)


Relative clauses

Link these pairs of sentences using RELATIVE CLAUSES. In some cases more than one relative pronoun (who/whom/which/that/Ø) may be possible.

  1. I have finally found the keys. I lost them last week.
  2. I have been talking to a chap called Tony. He is someone I used to go to school with.
  3. She is always moaning about her brother. It is rather irritating.
  4. She is always moaning about her brother. He is rather irritating.
  5. We have decided to buy the flat. We looked at it the other day.
  6. Sally seems to like the new guy. She met him at a party.


Are these sentences complete or incomplete?

  1. They sold their old car
  2. Because you’re worth it
  3. Some experts claim that the dinosaurs died out because the climate changed
  4. Despite the fact that Julie always tries to get to school on time
  5. When I met her at the airport last week
  6. The train is late
  7. North Sea oil has changed Norway dramatically
  8. Although Animal Farm later became a best seller
  9. If we have time for lunch


Turn these sets of short, simple sentences into one complex sentence

I dislike Susan. She criticizes other people. She doesn’t really know them.

I have quit my Thursday job. I need the money. I have to concentrate on school.


What is the difference between these?

I never buy a bus ticket because I once got caught and had to pay a fine.

I never buy a bus ticket although I once got caught and had to pay a fine.

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