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10 Activities Using A4 Paper for ESL Students

These 10 activities using A4 paper give us the chance to use one of the most under valued pieces of equipment in the classroom, A4 paper. Students and teachers can use it to write, draw, colour, cut or fold into shapes. Blank sheets of paper are useful for so many things it’s really hard to account them all.

The first thing I do upon entering any classroom is check whether my A4 sheets are well stocked and ready for whatever exercise I’ll decide to use them for. Below is a list of 10 of my favourite such activities, all of which only require a handful of blank sheets of A4 paper and minimum to none preparation.

1. Crossword Puzzle​

Level: A1 and above

This exercise is perfect for reviewing vocabulary or as a simple warm-up.

3 min preparation: create a simple crossword puzzle with all the words uncovered.

I have to admit I usually prepare my crossword puzzles on the back of a napkin while walking up the steps to the classroom.

 

Setup:

 

  1. Make a crude crossword puzzle on a piece of paper.

Something like this:

ALARM

OPEN

MAPLE

KILLER

EEL

  1. Writing on the black board convert all the letters into boxes 𐀀

  2. Ask your students questions i.e:

  • Loud noise which wakes you up every morning.

  • The opposite of ‘closed’.

  • Leaf from this tree is in the Canadian flag.

  • Someone who murders people.

  • Water ‘snake’ which can electrocute its victims.

  1. When the warm-up game is over distribute A4 papers to all your students.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Instruct them to design their own crossword puzzles and write questions at the bottom. Make sure to tell them that they are making them to exchange with friends.

Note: it’s best to show them how to create the password by displaying the process of first writing the password vertically and then adding other words only to convert all letters into boxes at the end. I’ve done this exercise with ages ranging from 8 to 25 and there were always individuals struggling to make the initial crossword.

 

2. Let’s Exchange! ​

Level: A1 and above

 

The procedure:

 

Give 1 piece of A4 paper to each student.

  1. Tell them to draw a picture on the page. It doesn’t matter what’s in the drawing, what’s important is that it fills as much of the page as possible. This should take max 3 minutes.

  2. Students cut their drawings into 4 identical pieces (so in half vertically and horizontally).

  3. Collect all the quarters (4 from each student) and shuffle them well.

  4. Next give out 4 quarters to each student. If the shuffle went well everyone should have random pieces of other people’s drawings.

  5. The learners now walk around the classroom asking their friends to exchange papers with them.

Note: Each exchange is only 1 paper from each person. This means that each student needs to talk to EVERYONE else before you do an exchange with this person again.

The student to collect their complete drawing first is the winner.

3. Mind-Map​

Level: A1 and above

Simple yet incredibly powerful exercise. It’s perfect for reviewing a variety of knowledge, for instance after finishing a Unit in a workbook or to summarize a large section of grammar such as past tenses or all the new vocabulary.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Give each student an A4 page.

  2. Instruct them to write the topic in large UPPERCASE the middle of the page, i.e. PAST TENSES, UNIT 5, somehow it works best if they draw a circle or a cloud or any kind of artistic emphasis around it.

  3. Next students create arrows or lines towards slightly smaller and more specific sub-topics, i.e. PRESENT PERFECT, PAST SIMPLE, etc.

  4. From each of the sub-topics they should create more arrows leading to even smaller and more specific sub-sub-topics, i.e. PRESENT PERFECT STRUCTURE, WHEN DO WE USE IT, etc.

  5. They go even smaller and more specific until they reach the baseline information.

 

The true power of Mind Maps comes from the creative use of your students’ imagination.

They ought to use as many colours as possible.

As many different fonts as possible.

And as many pictures as possible.

Mind-Maps work by engaging the whole brain in a creative activity. This way the information covered in them may be retained much easier, as the neural networks are strengthened with colour and visual variety.

 



4. Group Mind-Map​

Level: A1 and above

This exercise is somewhat similar to the A4 story, only this one should be more serious. Also, students must be familiar with Mind-Maps before this activity.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Provide each learner with a black A4 page.

  2. Instruct them to write the topic in the middle. If the class is learning Present Perfect then write that, if the class is learning vocabulary then perhaps only 1 word as the topic for the mind map.

  3. After they finished writing the topic in the middle of the page tell them to create only one branch.

  4. Then they pass this Mind Map onto the colleague next to them.

  5. Each student adds 1 branch to the newly received mind map then passes it on.

 

Note: It’s super important that the movement of the pages between the students will be all at the same time, otherwise some working slower will have more than 1 and the ones working faster will sit doing nothing.

Students should always pass the current page to the same colleague.

They should use as much colours and creativity as possible.

5. Draw What I Say​

Level: A2 and above

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Give an A4 page to each student.

  2. Put them into pairs. Tell one partner to find a random photo on their phone or laptop.

Note: in case most of your students don’t have devices display a picture on the board and tell one partner to simply turn around.

In case you too don’t have a device use flashcards or print pictures beforehand. Some examples are at the bottom of this section.

  1. One partner describes the picture in as much detail as possible while the other is drawing exactly what hear.

Note: Make sure that your students understand to give as many details as possible, this includes size, exact location and relation to other objects, shapes, shading, colours, etc.

Variation: Group competition

A fun way to spice it up is to put them into groups of 4-5 and have one person describe while the rest are drawing. TAt the end the one with the most accurate drawing wins a point.

 

Resources:

Pictures examples:

Lighthouse: http://bit.ly/2WDE5UP

Campsite: http://bit.ly/2Z6OlSO

Whale in a Bulb: http://bit.ly/2F2M5Vt

Island: http://bit.ly/2KqiN6k

House: http://bit.ly/2WM2QOs



6. A4 Story​

Level: A2 and above

This is a super easy game which provides endless fun for the learners (especially teenagers).

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Give every person 1 blank A4 sheet.

     

  1. Tell them to start a story by writing one sentence. It can start: Once upon a time… but it doesn’t have to. Only 1 sentence!

     

  1. Next tell them to pass this page to the next person on their right (or left, it doesn’t matter)

     

Note: Make sure that everyone now has in front of them someone else’s story.

 

  1. Instruct them to read it and add 1 more sentence.

     

  1. When everyone’s finished writing, tell them to pass this paper to the same person as last time.

     

  1. This continues until all the students have written in all the stories and the papers come back to their original owners.


7. In the end read all the stories out loud which is always super fun.

7. What’s On My Chest?​

Level: A2 and above

This one’s incredibly fun.

 

Setup:

  1. Prepare half the amount of A4 papers as there are students in your class. Gg

  2. Then cut them in half.

  3. Give one half to every student and tell them to write 5 (or 10 if you’d like them to play longer) completely random words on it. Make sure the words are rather large.

Note: Make sure they don’t show this page to anyone else.

  1. Then put it face down so that the words are hidden and give this paper to someone else.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. When everyone has somebody else’s paper with words in front of them instruct them to place it on their chests WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE WORDS.

If all done correctly, everyone will have a page of 5 words on their chest that everyone else can read.

  1. Now their task is to walk around the classroom trying to guess the words on their chest.

     

Note: To make it more smooth make sure that everyone is carrying a marker or at least a pen so that they can cross out the words they’ve guessed. Note: they should not do their own crossing as they’ll see the other words.



8. Brainstorming Session

Level: B1 and above

Here’s an activity students always find engaging and fun.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Divide them into groups and give each group a piece of A4 paper.

  2. Write a topic on the board. Best if it’s related to the subject at hand, however if you’ve decided to do this as a standalone game any topic will do.

Examples:

  • Future technology

  • Ways in which world will end

  • Reasons for learning English

  • Plans for holidays

Key aspect of the topic is that it MUST have a multitude of possible answers.

  1. Put 2 minutes on the timer and start the first session.Each brainstorming session. During this time, all students in the group contribute. Whatever idea someone has they should immediately write it down, no discussion allowed.

  2. When the time is up ask groups for suggestions and tell them to write 1-2 on the board.

  3. Afterwards you can discuss the ideas on the board with the whole class, vote for the best one or use it for your next exercise.

 

It’s important that each brainstorming session you run has a distinct theme:

First session: only serious ideas

Second session: only silly ideas

Third session: only ideas involving Tom Cruise, OR only ideas involving monkeys, OR only ideas relating to French people, etc. The trick is to make it specific.

9. Start - Finish Story

Level: B1 and above

This one is perfect for reviewing vocabulary.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Give every student one A4 sheet.

  2. Instruct them to fill it completely with vocabulary. Minimum 25 words. It’s important that the words are scattered around the page in random places and not as a list. There should be no order in writing these words.

  3. When they are finished tell them to write STAR in the left upper corner and FINISH in the right bottom corner, so that the two words are diagonally opposite.

  4. Next tell them to make a sequence (or chain) of words, starting at the START, and connecting the words together until they reach FINISH.

Ideally each word chain would have at least 10 unrelated words in a string.

  1. Finally, instruct the students to write a creative story that uses these words, one after another, just as they are in the sequence.

So for example the chain could be:

APPLE—HOUSE—DUTY—TEACHER—MANGO—-FASCINATION—-FRANCE—ANTIBIOTICS

The story then will use ‘apple’ then in the next sentence ‘house’, then ‘duty’ and so on. It needs to make logical sense but encourage students to make their stories funny if they want to.

In the end students will share their stories by first reading the sequence of words and then the story.

10. Association SpiderWeb​

Level: C1 and above

Here’s an exercise that will take at least 20 min for your students to complete.

 

The procedure:

 

  1. Give each learner an A4 page.

  2. Instruct them to write 1 word in the very center of the page. It could be the same word for everyone or one of their own choosings.

For example:

 

SUCCESS

 

  1. Next, around that word they should write words that associate with the central one:

 

PEOPLE MONEY

WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY

HAPPINESS FAME

 

  1. Again they do the same for the new words:

 

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

OLYMPICS PEOPLE MONEY SALARY

COMPETITION WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY BUILDING

FIRST PRIZE HAPPINESS FAME BILLIONAIRE

SATISFACTION CELEBRITY

 

  1. And so on…

 

Variation 1: easy

Every word you add must be either a synonym or a loose association to one next to it.

I.e. HAPPINESS –> SATISFACTION

 

Variation 2: medium

Every word you add must be a synonym or an association to 2 words next to it.

I.e. MONEY COMPANY —-> SALARY

 

Variation 3: hard

Every word you add needs to be associated with all the words surrounding it.

I.e.

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

PEOPLE MONEY

 

Students do it as long as they can fill the whole page.

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