‘Livening Up the Process’ challenge

What can you see in the picture? 

IMG_20171221_092625 (1)

  1. Four fly swatters (red, green, yellow, blue)
  2. A large bowl full of sweets
  3. A pile of A-4 sheets of paper (various colors)
  4. A bit of adhesive putty
  5. Some paper clips
  6. A shoebox with word cards
  7. A set of ‘home-made’ Taboo word cards

Why did I take this photo? 

I took the photo just before I left my office for Christmas holidays simply because I had tweeted the following promise to Zhenya Polosatova:


And I like to keep my promises. 🙂 I recommend that you read more about the background on Zhenya’s blog (here). To sum it up, Zhenya once had an idea: ask her colleagues, other teacher educators, what objects they bring to their sessions working with teachers to make them more exciting (and excited!) and to model real classroom interaction.

I don’t work with teachers but I have my own toolkit too!

Here goes…

1. Four fly swatters (red, green, yellow, blue)

I love them because they are all-purpose. Apart from using them for all sorts of fly swatter vocabulary games, I use them as extended hands, so to speak (mainly because of the shape). For example, when I put students into 4 groups, each group can use one fly swatter – the person who wants to speak on behalf of the group simply grabs the fly swatter and ‘raises his or her hand’. Only this person is allowed to answer. Based on my experience, the process is more transparent and there’s less confusion overall.

I sometimes use fly swatters to put students into pairs or groups (2, 3 or 4). I simply hide the desired amount of fly swatters (2, 3 or 4) behind my back and I ask each student to pick one (I ask: right or left hand?). The students who picked the same fly swatters form one group.

I also use a fly swatter (usually the red one) as a warning sign: STOP! DON’T DO THIS! DON’T SPEAK CZECH!. etc. I can sometimes use one as a pointer. Alternatively, I touch the student gently with a fly swatter (for example when somebody wins a point, I touch them on the shoulder as if I was knighting them).

2. A large bowl with two kinds of sweets

Well, sometimes I like to give a material type of reward – to younger students as the well as the 17-year-old ones. There are special occasions such as Christmas, Children’s Day, Easter, St. Nicolas Day, etc. These sweets are from companies that sponsor our language competitions so when there are some left, I use them in my classes.

3. A pile of A-4 sheets of paper (various colors)

I need these in almost every lesson. I hand them out as they are or I cut them to pieces with scissors. Activities that come to mind here are mind maps, running dictation, letters to each other (to my older/younger self), define and guess vocabulary games, etc.

4. A bit of adhesive putty

I use this to display maps, quotes, or pictures for gallery walks or assessments. Unfortunately, the wad gets smaller an smaller because each time I remove the putty from a surface, a tiny bit always clings to the paper for good.

5. Some paper clips

I use these as points in competitive activities and games or as speaking chips. If they serve as points, students can join them and the team with the longer chain wins the game. To promote collaboration, at the end of an activity, you can ask all teams to put their chains together and see if it’s longer than last time – if so, it means that the class as a whole have improved in some way.

6. A shoebox full of word cards

Whenever a group creates a set of word cards,  I store them in this box. Sometimes I can recycle them with other groups. There are various sets in the box – some are written on white paper while others are written on small slips of colored paper. This helps me distinguish the sets from one another. I sometimes put them in labeled envelopes if I really want to remember which group has created them.

7. A set of home-made Taboo word cards

I use these to play the actual game or as a template/example for a new set. There are lots of ready-made taboo sets on the internet but I like my students to create their own word cards because I believe they learn a lot by designing them.

That’s about it.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays! 🙂




About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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6 Responses to ‘Livening Up the Process’ challenge

  1. Pingback: Livening Up the Process | Wednesday Seminars

  2. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana

    Thank you for supporting the challenge, and for sharing this post: I feel there is much more than just describing the objects we bring to class in this exchange. By reading your post I learn a lot about the routines you create, and some beliefs you have about learning. For example, I also love the DIY tasks, for students, e.g. creating the cards themselves, as you mentioned in 6 and 7. The fly swatters as pointers and as a way to signal that the group is ready (and as a turn-taking tool) is a hit! I am going to use them too! The creative use of paper clips is amazing, too: have never thought about joining them into the chain to ‘measure’ success in competitions.
    I am learning a lot from these posts, and feeling inspired. I guess this was one of (or the main) reason to start this challenge.

    Happy winter holidays, and happy blogging 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Thank you, Zhenya. I really liked this blogging challenge because it made me think about my own classroom routines. One thing I realized immediately was that I actually don’t have a big toolkit. I think it’s because I teach older kids. When I worked in the private sector teaching YLs, I definitely had more stuff to carry around. These days my toolkit is not so tangible – it’s more about half-baked ideas I carry around and shape on the spot. I hope I’m making sense to you. 🙂

      By the way, I recently used your idea of a ‘parking lot’ (if I remember correctly) in a session aimed at teachers. I didn’t run the session but I shared the idea with the instructor at one point. We were asking too many questions he didn’t have time to asnwer and he seemed a bit frustrated about it so I mentioned this concept to him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zhenya says:

        Hi Hana
        Yes, I agree that it is more about teaching kids than adults so a certain degree. Still, I believe there is a small child in every adult, and sometimes those little objects inspire and excite that child making a learner engaged. In your situation though (working with teenagers) being referred to or treated as a child might not be appropriate (this was my experience)
        Thank you for using the ‘parking lot’ idea in a session (sounds like you helped the facilitator a lot!) It is not my original idea, I learned it from a co-trainer on a course for teachers, but it did ‘save’ my sessions more than once!
        Good to be in touch with you. Your latest post made me think a lot by the way (I am almost ready to promise a comment, but you know how bad I am at keeping them)
        Take care,



  4. Pingback: Guest Post: My Training Bag | Wednesday Seminars

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