Modal verbs make frequent appearances in ESL classrooms, and one of the most common uses for modals in English is giving advice.
Advice giving can be straightforward. Someone has a problem and here is how they can fix it, but sometimes straightforward is a bit predictable. If you are looking for some out of the ordinary ways to practice giving advice with your students (and using modal verbs), try one of the following activities.
Practice Advice Giving in a New Way
Sit your students in a circle for this advice giving version of hot potato. In this game, you will announce to your students a situation for which someone might need advice. (You may use these or similar situations: I had a car accident. My boyfriend broke up with me. I didn’t study for today’s test. I was mugged. I lost my wallet.) Each round, you will also designate an advice giving starter. (Choose one of the following: You should…You could…You might want to…My advice is…If I were you, I would…I might try…If I was in your place, I would…) The first person in the circle will use the designated advice phrase to offer a piece of advice. Then, the person sitting to his left will offer a different piece of advice for the same situation. Play continues around the circle until someone cannot think of a new or different piece of advice. That person is then out, and you move on to the next round. For this round, give a different situation and assign a different advice giving phrase. Again, the first person who cannot think of a unique piece of advice is out. The rounds continue in the same manner until only one person is left in the circle.
What’s My Problem?
In this pair work activity, students will try and guess a problem based on the advice they receive. One person thinks of a problem that his partner might have. It should be a realistic problem that an ESL student could face. (Avoid problems like a giant gorilla carries you to the top of the Empire State Building.) That person then gives one piece of advice for that problem to his partner. He can use any modal verb he feels is appropriate. The second student should then try and guess what problem she supposedly has. If she does not guess the problem correctly, the first student gives another piece of advice. The second guesses at the problem again. Students continue in that pattern until the second student guesses her supposed problem. Then, students switch roles and play again.
Comparing Council Game
Who in your class is the best at giving advice? Your students will find out in this advice giving game modeled after Apples to Apples. As a class, brainstorm as many possible problems a person might have that you can. Depending on your class, you may want to limit the time you spend on this part of the game or just let it go until the class runs out of ideas. During the brainstorming, whenever a student suggests a problem and it sounds good to you and the class, have that person write the problem on a blank index card. Once you have a list of at least 30 problems and cards for each one, it’s time to think about solutions to the problems. Have students work in groups of three to come up with advice they might give for the brainstormed problems. Each problem will need five different pieces of advice. Again, students should write these on blank index cards. You should divide the thirty problems among the groups in your class. When all the advice has been written down, you should have 150 index cards with possible advice. Now the game is ready to play. Shuffle all the problem cards together, and shuffle all the advice cards together in two separate piles. Play the game in groups of around ten students. Start by dealing five advice cards to each student. Then have one student choose a problem card from the top of the deck. That student reads the problem to the other players. Those players must then choose what they think the best advice card they hold in their hand for the problematic situation. They should put these cards face down on the table. The person who read the problem gathers the face down advice cards, gives them a quick shuffle, and lays them face up on the table reading each one as she lays it down. She then chooses the card that she thinks has the best advice. Whoever laid that card down gets a point, and all the other cards are removed from the table. The next person in the circle chooses a problem card and this round plays the same as the first. Play continues until one person has five points and wins the game along with the title of best advice giver in the class.
Problem and Advice Bingo
Bingo is one of my favorite games to play in the ESL classroom. It challenges students to listen carefully and make connections between language and pictures, numbers, or whatever is on the bingo card in front of them. In this version, students will match problems with advice to score a five in a row win. If you created the index cards for the Comparing Council Game, you can use them again in this activity. Start by giving each student a blank bingo board and asking him to write a piece of advice in each open square. If possible, the advice should be somewhat general; it might apply to more than one situation. (Useful advice might be you should talk to the person about it, you could try and earn some money, or you had better get in shape.) Students should write their advice in full sentences using modal verbs. Once they have finished, it’s time to play bingo. Using the problem cards your class already created, choose one problem at a time and read it to your class. Students should scan the advice on their bingo card to see if any of it would apply to the problematic situation. If so, she should mark that space on her card and write an advice giving sentence on a separate piece of paper. (If you have a car accident, you should call the police.) Continue drawing one problem card at a time and giving students a chance to write sentences using the advice on their bingo boards. When someone gets five in a row, she calls bingo. She must then read her sentences to the class. If they agree that she has given good advice, she wins. If the class thinks some of her advice is too farfetched, she removes that marker from her card and play resumes until someone has five in a row.
If you are looking for some unusual activities for practicing advice giving with your students, these games might be just what you are looking for. Try one (or more than one) and see who in your class has the best advice to share.
Do you have a unique activity to practice giving advice?
Share it in the comments below. We would love to hear it.