I use this activity with higher-Elementary level students, primarily to practise vocabulary and collocations related to house and home, but also as an early confidence builder for speaking skills.

a house
Chris Trickett

It pays to use your judgement, be sure that you think your class is up to the task, it would be a shame for students to leave the classroom thinking that they can’t. Of course, they don’t need to say the word can for this activity, but it’ll certainly help them to think it.

The task is better done in fours. The first time I did it I asked them to do it in pairs but it made agreeing easier and consequently the conversation was too short for students to exploit the opportunity. I find that with this and many other speaking activities that require a decision or agreement, the easier the goal, the less productive the conversation.

The target language here is vocabulary rather than any longer expressions, although it is impossible without some wider general English ability, and students will certainly need to be familiar with present simple question forms.

Language that students have used in the past has included:

  • Where do you want to live?
  • What do you like about this house?
  • What’s the problem with this house?
  • Why do you like this house?
  • I can’t live without a TV
  • I don’t like carpets
  • I hate washing up, I want a dishwasher

Clearly this list is only for ideas, you are free to make your own choices about language input.

I would previously have taught house and home lexis and given students time to digest the new words. I would also have set a vocabulary homework on this topic.

  • I check homework by means of a word game known as name five. This is a hugely flexible game which requires students to write quick lists of five words in a certain category. Download example 18k pdf.
    An alternative to this would be to play an alphabet game for house and home, or simply approach it by brainstorming and sharing vocabulary as a group.
    In any case, I write the words on the board.
  • My next step is to encourage the students to think beyond the word and its definition. Working again in pairs, I ask them to find the things on the board which are:
    • Important to a safe home
    • Important to a beautiful home
    • Important to reducing housework
    • Things you want near your house
    • Things you don’t want near your home
      and so on
  • Then we come together as a group and freely discuss our answers. I find that this stage needn’t take too long, it gives students the opportunity to begin using the language more openly, and enables me to check that we’re on track.
  • After this, and any necessary remedial work on language error, I write The Perfect Home on the board and ask the class to write four questions to ask somebody about what would be the perfect home to them. I monitor and make suggestions and corrections very informally. Usual offerings include, Where is your house? How many rooms do you have? Who do you live with? Do you have satellite TV? etc. The reason for asking students to write now is in fact to give a focus to the subsequent speaking activities. It is important that everybody has four different questions, and I make sure that students use their imagination while writing.
  • Students can put down their pens now and stretch their legs. After they have seen me demonstrate with one of their stronger classmates, they circulate asking their questions about classmates’ dream homes.
  • Once again I bring the class back together and begin the final lead-in to the speaking activity by asking about what the previous activity discovered. I ask, Who would like to live near a cinema? Who wants two bathrooms? Who would like a big balcony? Who doesn’t pay any rent?
  • When this has done its course, usually a minute is all it takes, I hand out the worksheets and ask, would you like to live in one of these houses? Students read about the houses in pairs. I avoid getting into discussion at this stage as this would exhaust the conversation before it has started. I simply circulate and help with any questions that may arise from the reading.
  • I put students into fours now and explain that they are four students who would like to rent a house in the area. They have to choose one of the four given and agree.
  • Occasionally groups may require some prompting but my experience of this activity has been very positive, with appropriate introductory activities and a class that knows the target language, this stage manages itself. I wouldn’t plan for it lasting more than five or six minutes, maximum ten, but students of this level can find this length of conversation very rewarding. For this reason, I keep correction to a minimum now.
  • I conclude by asking students where they have chosen. I find this a good way to review their discussion without repeating it, and also a chance to finally review any persistent mistakes in the English.
  • Then I spoil it all by telling them that next lesson they have their first writing test in which they have to describe their own house. Of course, this bit is optional.

Have fun.

Name Five

A simple and fun word game adaptable to any level and many situations. The standard rules are as follows:

  • Group students into threes or fours
  • Tell them to nominate a writer
  • Explain that only the writer can write
  • Tell them that you are going to give them a category. They have to write (not say) five examples. So, if you say animals, they could write, cat, dog, fox, tiger, horse
  • The first team to finish should say finished after stopping writing
  • This team then reads their list to the teacher
  • If it is correct, they get one point 
  • Move on to the next category

In the event that the first team makes a mistake, I don’t allow teams finishing second to read their lists.

Suggestions for house and home name five

  • Five things you have in the kitchen
  • Five things you have in the bathroom
  • Five rooms
  • Five things you do in the living room
  • Five things you can see from the balcony
  • etc.
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