New Ideas for Group Work Activities

I love to get a class working together to solve a problem or to work on something collectively. I think it makes a group come together, and also they forget that they are learning English and just worry about achieving the goal of finishing the task. Yes, the activities do take a little preparation but once you have the materials, you can use them again and again.

1. Illnesses and Diseases
   Make a list of many illnesses and diseases  which have two parts, i.e. heart attack, head lice, ingrowing toenail, stomach ulcers. I would suggest about thirty. Print them out so that they are quite large and then laminate 2 copies. Cut one set in half and leave one set uncut. The first part of the exercise is when your students have to match up the pairs. As always, I ask them not to show their card to anyone else – it is a speaking exercise, not a moving-bits-of-paper-around-on-the-table exercise.
Once they have found their partner, they can put the two pieces on the front desk and take some more pieces. Keep going until they are no pieces left and all the phrases are matched up.
Part II of the activity. Take out your laminated strips with the full phrases. Ask for two volunteers who can lie on the desk or the (clean) floor. The other students then have to place the strips in the correct position on, or next to, the volunteer’s body. Usually without prompting they will take photos of the volunteers – hopefully remembering those phrases for a long time to come. You can use my list of illnesses and diseases if you want to.

2. Hotel Reviews

Go to one of the hotel review websites such as: or and copy the reviews from one of the local hotels. Try to find one which has a good range of comments and also a wide range of points given. Make one copy of the reviews for yourself, then make another copy for the students, but remove the points/stars given by the reviewer. Cut these reviews into strips, enough for one for each student.

1. Explain to your students that David Beckham is coming to town and he wants to stay in a local hotel. He contacted you and asked for advice about where to stay. You have a good idea but would like some help from your students.

2. Explain to them that you have a number of reviews of a local hotel but you don’t have time to read them all. Could they arrange the reviews into categories (which can correspond to the star rating by the reviewers: Excellent, very good, fair, poor and terrible, for example)?

3. They can read out their piece to the other students but should not show it to others.

4. The students discuss how positive or negative the review is and arrange themselves in the appropriate groups. If you want to help them a little towards the end, you could tell them how many people should be in each category. In the feedback session, chose a couple of people from each category and you can hopefully inform them that they are in the correct category, though being just one category out is still pretty good.

What I love about this exercise is that even very low level students can do it. As long as they can pick out words like ‘bad’, ‘terrible’ ‘never again’, then they can probably find the right cateory. They will be exposed to a lot of new language yet the task is still very achievable.

3. What to do with old inner tubes

The Cyclists’ Touring Club has a very creative bunch of members and they came up with 39 different things to do with an old bicycle inner tube.

1. Print out the list of 39 ideas and cut them up into strips. They are available at:

2. Bring an old inner tube from a bicycle into class and ask your students to brainstorm what you could do with it now that it can no longer be used as an inner tube.

3. Explain to your students that they will each get an idea of how to use an old inner tube. They should then arrange themselves into four groups: Brilliant ideas, Good ideas, Bad ideas, and Crazy ideas.

4. They can read out their piece to the other students but should not show it to others.

5. Hand out one piece to each student. You probably don’t have 39 students so you can leave out some of the ideas.

There are no ‘correct’ answers, but hopefully your students will have fun with the exercise and get some great advice on what to do with old inner tubes.

This idea can be used in a wide range of subjects. Reviews of Justin Bieber’s latest CD, calorie content of various foodstuffs, advice for the local football team manager etc. The internet is full of valuable resources. Hope you can find something that both you and your students will enjoy.


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