Combining skills in the exam classroom Pt2

chemistry-ideas_23-2147504118.jpgIn my previous post I mentioned tips on how you can combine different skills when teaching exam classes in order to make exam preparation more appealing and meaningful to students. Both posts are follow-ups to my workshop called “Creativity in the exam classroom” the ppt of which you can find here.

The previous suggestions/tips/survival guide:) focused on Reading and Writing mostly, so this post is about the 2 remaining skills, Listening and Speaking along with some suggestions on Grammar and Vocabulary.


  • Listening + Writing -> Using Music No 3 – Song Writing: Use the instrumental or karaoke version of a song and invite your class to write new lyrics to it. Then, listen to the original song and hold a class discussion on how similar/different the lyrics of the two songs are.
  • Listening + Speaking -> Using Music 1: Desert Island Playlist: Students create a 5 (+) song playlist, choose their favorite lyrics from the songs and then prepare a short presentation on the reasons why they chose the particular songs/lyrics.


First 2 extra activities I didn’t have time to share during my workshop:

  1. Post-it- notes – Pick and Speak: Write down statements on post-it notes and ask students to walk around the classroom and choose the topic they feel more comfortable talking about. Make sure your notes are more than your students!
  2. Guessing the picture! I personally love using classtoolsnet and one of the tools I’ve found particularly useful when describing/comparing pictures is their “Lights Out!” one. All you have to do is upload an image and “turn off” the lights. Your kids will have to use a torch and light up parts of the picture while trying at the same time to guess what the picture shows (and possibly describe it as well).

And now the Combos!

  • Speaking + Writing -> Working with silence – Adding dialogue to silent films: Silent films are a great way to practise speaking. Choose silent film extracts and ask your classes to come up with the dialogue they feel fits the scenes. Once they’ve written their parts, they can record them and add their voices to the film
  • Listening + Speaking -> Create video responses/Vlogging/ Radio plays: Video responses could be used for any class activity, from describing students’ daily routine to expressing their opinion on a controversial issue. Instead of asking the rest of your class to respond orally to the views their classmates have expressed, invite them to create their own video responses, too.
  • Speaking + Writing/Reading -> Advise the expert: This is a great activity for Speaking exams where students need to advise the examiner on an issue. Each student is given the examiner’s problem and then a  role. What they have to do is write what their character would have to say on the problem and try to convince their classmates that their advice is the best.

And finally some extra suggestions for Grammar/Vocabulary!

  • Use different types of assessment: Use post-it notes, play board games, use a class spinner or a virtual dice. There are so many ways to check your students understanding of grammar!
  • Elicit instead of introducing: Following one of my students’ suggestions, we recently had a “Grammar through Film” session in class. The structures I wanted them to practise were still there, but the way they had to approach them and work on them was completely different.
  • Using speaking/videos to practice collocations: This game/drama activity has been inspired by a great story-improvisation post on It’s originally called “Nouns from a Hat” and involves a dialogue or class discussion where students have to think of a story. Every 30′ or so they will have to reach into a hat/bag and grab a noun which they will have to incorporate in their dialogue in a way that makes sense. Of course, the dialogue will have to keep going without them reaching a communication breakdown! And if you’re interested in something more active, there are always the videos of the great FluencyMc to learn from!

Two games on grammar/vocabulary!

  • Spot the liar: This game is great for vocabulary revision, especially with advanced learners. It needs 3 players – everyone else in the class should be the audience. Each student is given a card with a word on it and a  short phrase below their word – 2 of them have a”Use the word correctly”phrase and one of them (the liar) the “Use it incorrectly” phrase. Then, all 3 of them have to start describing their word and use it in a sentence/sentences. The audience has to guess who is the one lying and using his word incorrectly. Of course, the job of the liar is to make his sentence sound so convincing that the audience will have a hard time guessing who is lying.
  • Finally!: Play “Stop the Bus” with derivatives/thematic vocabulary or grammar structures!


Comments (5)

  1. Excellent ideas, Maria, thank you! I teach a bunch of exam preparation courses, mostly on a 1-2-1 basis, and making sure the classes are varied enough to keep my students motivated (and prevent them from overdosing on “sample papers”) is one of my main challenges. Shaking things up in the exam classroom and introducing some new types of activities both work wonders for the morale and very often help students understand how much they’ve already learned (regardless of their scores in particular exam papers).

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Gosia! I totally agree about boosting students’ morale through new activities. Apart from helping students get a better grasp of what they know, it also enables them to see language learning as a life long process that goes beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

      1. Exactly! Exams might be a great objective and a source of extra motivation, but, very often, they lull students into a false sense of security (I passed the exam = I know English and that’s the end of it). Yet another challenge to face from the teacher’s POV 🙂

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