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When children learn their native language, they do not see it as a subject nor a chore, it is communication. It is the means to interact with their peers and parents and their mechanism to let the world know: who they are, how they feel and what they want. It is an integral part of their identity. However when most British children learn a second language, their relationship with that new language is often similar to that which most children have to mathematics. It is a subject to study and often a chore to learn. The new language is frequently only experienced as a collection of phrases to memorise and rarely are children able to see the new language as what in the long run it should be which is the way of interacting with people from a different country.

Language should be natural

This is where language trips abroad come in to bridge the gap between viewing the new language as a subject and experiencing it as real communication. It is essential to make this connection at a young age in order that children link the hard work done learning the language in class to real practical usage with native speakers. This is exactly the connection that excellent English speaking countries make to English. At a young age Dutch children experience English not merely as a subject enforced upon them at school, but as a language: to watch television in, to listen to music in and they frequenly witness Dutch adults using it to communicate with non Dutch speaking people. In short Dutch children experience English as another language to use, rather than just a subject to be learned. If the British are to catch up with the rest of the world, this is exactly how we need to view second language acquisition and naturally language trips abroad have a huge role to play in providing this real contact to the second language at a young age.

Currently less British adults know a second language than in any other European country.

At a moment Britain argueable looks inwards, due to Brexit, it is more essential than ever that our primary and preparatory schools be at the forefront of getting our future movers and shakers looking outwards from a young age. A language trip abroad not only provides that vital link to using a new language as real communication but it also exposes young students to new experiences and alternative ways of doing and seeing things, providing that all important cultural awareness. Add to this the unique bond that can form between teachers and students as they experience together a trip abroad and primary schools have so many positive reasons to run, what will may ikely be, the first trip abroad for many students. Organizing a school trip abroad also looks great in school prospectuses, as it proves to parents the importance the school places on language learning and building greater cultural awareness.

Preparatory school children during an excursion.

Of course saying all of this, the challenges of taking primary school children abroad should never be underestimated. A school trip abroad can throw up many headaches: the challenge of moving children through an airport, worry about whether safety standards are the same as at home and concerns about whether the accommodation is suitable for children to name but a few. However all of these can be planned out to be prevented from causing issues. First and foremost it is vital to look for a quality local supplier who can do the bulk of the organization and take care of risk analysis and assessment. Not to mention providing vital on the spot local knowledge and support which is also why you should look for companies that provide local chaperones to accompany your students throughout the trip. Choosing a supplier who can provide residential accommodation on exclusivity basis is also a must for primary schools as this provides a safe and controlled environment for young students. Next it is vital to do an inspection visit of the residence and area and experience the activities and excursions first hand. Not only does this allow you to check safety standards but also meeting the local supplier in person builds up vital trust and allows for tweaking of your school’s bespoke programme. Via doing all these things a school trip abroad need not be a strain to organize and certainly the gains linguistically and culturally more than provide payback for any time put in.

Douglas Haines and Inge Hol are a British/Dutch couple who run Spark Spanish a school trip provider based in Spain which offers bespoke residential primary school tours for both independent and state schools.

Douglas and Inge own and run Spark Spanish with a family feel.

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School Trip to Spain: Andalusia and El Puerto de Santa Maria

We were delighted to have Emanuel School with us for their first school trip to Spain in El Puerto de Santa María.  All students stayed with our fantastic local Spanish Families and enjoyed their various excursions and activities, as well as their Spanish classes.

We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their teachers, Anabel, Sarah, Mike and Rita, and were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy the students were. The students were also motivated with using their Spanish, and it was lovely to see how well they all integrated with the Spanish families. We hope all the students had a great time and we hope to see Emanuel again next year!

Inge Hol – Director of Educational Programmes

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Pues ya se van nuestros estudiantes de Emanuel School , que estuvieron alojados con familias de nuestra ciudad, para experimentar la verdadera cultura española. Hemos hecho muchas excursiones y visitas interesantes. Fuimos a Cádiz, el tiempo no nos acompañó mucho, pero hicimos cosas divertidas como comer nuestros deliciosos churros o visitar la Torre Tavira. Más tarde el tiempo cambió a mejor y tuvimos buenísimos días de playa.

También, visitamos nuestro Castillo de San Marcos, donde los alumnos estudiaron un poco sobre la historia de El Puerto y de Cristóbal Colon. Disfrutamos también mucho del kayaking en San Fernando incluso los estudiantes tuvieron rato de compras y helados.

Y por ultimo como siempre, visitamos la gran Sevilla con su catedral y Alcázar. Los estudiantes aprendieron sobre la cultura andaluza y sobre nuestros antepasados musulmanes. En líneas generales fue un viaje muy interesante, los estudiantes tuvieron contacto directo con nuestra cultura y practicaron su español como nunca. ¡Os esperamos veros pronto por aquí!

Mario Baez – Chaperone y Profesor de Español

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Programa de Emanuel

School Trip Programme

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The students are really happy and so are we with the whole experience.

Anabel – School Trip Organizer

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Relaxing and good weather. I would recommend this trip to friends because the lessons are fun, the towns are interesting, the activities are enjoyable and the beaches are very nice.

Ivan – Student at Emanuel

Student and Teacher Overall Evaluation of Trip

School Review Trips to Spain

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School Trip to Spain: Andalusia and El Puerto de Santa Maria

We were delighted to have Tudor Hall School with us on their third school trip to Spain in El Puerto de Santa María.  All students stayed with our fantastic local Spanish Families and enjoyed their various excursions and activities, as well as their Spanish classes.

We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their teachers, Holly and Monica, and were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were. They were also motivated to practice their Spanish, and it was lovely to see them integrating with the Spanish families. We hope all the students had a great time and we hope to see Tudor Hall again next year for a 4th time!

Inge Hol – Director of Educational Programmes

 

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¡Ha sido una semana maravillosa!

Todo nos ha acompañado; el tiempo ha estado genial por lo que hemos disfrutado de las preciosas playas de Cádiz, La Caleta y La Puntilla en El Puerto de Santa María. Además de español, hemos aprendido mucha historia gracias a las visitas guiadas de ciudades muy antiguas, ¡más de 3000 años de historia nada más y nada menos! Todo ello recorriendo varias civilizaciones: romanas, árabes y cristiana. ¡La semana ha pasado volando!
Por otro lado, lamento decir que, las chicas de Tudor Hall ¡se han vuelto adictas a los churros con chocolate!
Ha sido un enorme placer conoceros, chicas. ¡Y espero que hayáis (subjuntivo?) aprendido mucho conmigo! ¡Hasta pronto!

José Ruiz-Herrera Hernández – Chaperone y Profesor de Español

Programa de Tudor Hall

School Trip Programme to Spain

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I would highly recommend Spark. They always endeavor to tailor our trip exactly to our requirements and collect feedback throughout the week so they can immediately remedy any issues. The trip provides and excellent balance between academic and cultural enrichment so that the student can get the most out of their experience.

Holly T – School Trip Organizer

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I would recommend this trip to friends because you feel so much more confident speaking Spanish and learning lots of new things about Spanish culture (in particular this area of Spain).

Sasha – Student at Tudor Hall

Student and Teacher Overall Evaluation of Trip

School Trip to Spain Stats

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School Trip to Spain: Andalusia and El Puerto de Santa Maria

We were delighted to have Headington Girls School with us on their third school trip to Spain n El Puerto de Santa María.  All students stayed in our Spark residence during their time with us, and they enjoyed their various excursions and activities, as well as their Spanish classes.

We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their three teachers, we were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were.. They were also extremely motivated to practice their Spanish, or so it seemed! We hope all the students got a chance to appreciate Spanish culture and history and that they had a fantastic time together. See you next year!

Inge Hol – Director of Educational Programmes

 

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Bueno!, las chicas de Headington School de Oxford nos visitaron en plena Semana Santa para tener unos maravillosos días de aprendizaje de nuestra lengua.

Como siempre, disfrutamos de nuestras excursiones por tierras andaluzas; Cádiz con su torre Tavira y su playa o Sevilla con su gran catedral y Alcázar y también nuestro Puerto de Santa María, donde visitamos el histórico castillo de San Marcos con Cristóbal Colon como invitado.

También tuvimos tiempo para nuestras clases de español, donde las chicas practicaron y aprendieron cosas nuevas o para adentrarlas en la Semana Santa, algo muy cultural y típico de nuestra comunidad. ¡Incluso tuvieron clases de flamenco! Sin olvidar el ansiado desayuno de churros con chocolate o los helados en la playa J

Fue un placer tener a este grupo con nosotros, esperamos que les vaya todo bien y que ¡vuelvan pronto!

Mario Baez – Chaperone y Profesor de Español

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Excellent communication in the run up to the trip. We have had a wonderful stay here, thank you so much for the organising you have put into this!!!

Primrose Wood – School Trip Organizer

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The Spark experience was superior to all my previous French and Spanish language school trips with KS3/4 students – much more personal and attentive.

Louisa Orr – Spanish Teacher

Student and Teacher Overall Evaluation of Trip

Headington Stats

We have a new banner ready for going to educational fairs. It is focused on school group programmes and designed by David Navarro  Hope you like the look of it.

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We pride ourselves in providing high quality bespoke tours to Spain for schools throughout the world. We have summarized some of the great points of our school tours in the slides below. We hope you enjoy! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything.

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School Trip to Spain: Andalusia and El Puerto de Santa Maria

Norwich School 12th February- 15th February 2016

School Trip to Spain and Andalucía

Norwich School group hug

We were delighted to have Norwich School with us on their first school trip to Spain with us in El Puerto de Santa María this last weekend. All students stayed in our Spark residence during their time with us, and they enjoyed their various excursions and activities, as well as their Spanish classes.

Despite their early start on their first day, they seemed to enjoy their visit to Seville, their tour of El Puerto, witnessing the carnival in Cádiz and a flamenco show with tapas on one of the evenings.

We at Spark had a fantastic time with the group and their two teachers, we were impressed by how well behaved and full of energy they were (they even got up dancing flamenco to “Bailando” by Enrique Iglesias in one of the bodegas. They were also extremely motivated to practice their Spanish, or so it seemed! We hope all the students got a chance to appreciate Spanish culture and history and that they had a fantastic time together.

Inge Hol – Director of Educational Programmes

Bueno! Pues tuvimos una gran experiencia con estos chicos y chicas de Norwich School durante su viaje escolar en españa. Hicimos muchas cosas juntos y sobre todo, ellos practicaron mucho su español que por cierto era muy bueno!
Visitamos ciudades como Sevilla con su catedral y alcázar o Cádiz en plena fiesta de Carnaval. Los estudiantes pudieron ver cómo se vive el Carnaval en la capital. También hubo tiempo para hacer un tour por nuestro Puerto de Santa María, con la visita al Castillo o al mercado.
Y por supuesto, pudimos vivir en directo un gran espectáculo flamenco donde los estudiantes y yo mismo pudimos mostrar nuestras habilidades como bailarines, ¡fue muy divertido!

School trip to Cádiz with Spark

Norwich school in Cádiz

Ah! y que no se olvide, el grupo pudo probar la gastronomía española con los deliciosos churros con chocolate, ya que comieron churros más de una vez! o cocinando una magnifica paella!
Las clases fueron muy interesantes para nuestros alumnos y para mí también, llenas de debates donde todos pudieron hablar y practicar su español para sus exámenes, a su vez y a modo de presentación hicimos una exposición de diferentes temas de la cultura española con representaciones artísticas como la escena del camarero y los clientes, muy divertida también!
Concluyendo, esperamos que tanto los alumnos como sus profesoras hayan pasado un buen rato con nosotros y que sobre todo hayan practicado y aprendido mucho su español. Un abrazo grande y suerte!

Mario Baez  – School Group chaperone and Spanish teacher

Photo Gallery

To download photos please do so from here.  All you need do is right click on an image and then insert the correct password.  The download password was given to teacher leading the school trip.

We loved it, the students loved it, thank you so much!! Inge made organising it all so easy and stress-free, Mario won the kids’ hearts, the activities and classes were great, and well organised, and the flamenco performance was the wonderful last touch. THANK YOU!

C. Gillham – Trip Leader Norwich School

Thank you so much for an amazing experience!

C. Bettoni – Norwich School student

SchoolGroupTourstoSpain Spanish Info Request ElPuertodeSantaMaria

A great revision game for the language classroom that a friend of mine once showed me on a summer camp is the Spider Game. It’s extremely easy to set up but will allow for lots of revision and fun of either grammar or vocabulary items and will add a Spark to your lessons!

Preparation

  1. You need some cards (I usually work with 12) with whatever language items you’d like the students to revise.

Set up in class

  1. Stick the cards on the board with some blue-tac and underneath each card (so that students won’t see) draw a picture. I usually use three or four different pictures:
  • a spider = 5 points
  • a present = 3 points
  • a lightning bolt = -1 point
  • 1 tornado or whirlwind = -3 points

How to play

  1. Divide the students into groups of 3-4 students.
  2. Create an area on the board to score points and ask the students to come up with a team name. (If you have a lot of students, you can divide the students into teams of 6-9 students and then divide them into smaller teams of 2-3 students. They then compete as three small teams against each other).
  3. Select a person from the first team and ask them to pick one of the cards on the board.
  4. Give them a set amount of time to complete the task (say 20 seconds), after that time you ask for their answer: they either write it on the board or on a paper that they then give to you or to team B.
  5. If the answer is incorrect, move onto the next team, there are no points for anybody. If the answer was correct, remove the card to reveal what is underneath the card to find out how many points they won or lost (depending on the picture, i.e. if it’s a spider they won 5 points, if it is a lightning bolt they lost a point).
  6. Keep track of the points on the side of the board. Winner is the team with most number of points at the end of the game.

Examples language points:

  • Spelling: flashcards (if you have any) or pictures to review vocabulary or spelling. Students have to name and spell the word correctly.
  • Grammar: using flashcards or a picture you give them a grammatical structure they have to use along with the word in a sentence. e.g. you have a picture of a whale and would like them to use the past simple: “George the big blue whale ate a buffalo on his way back from school.”
  • Grammar: instead of pictures, write a grammatical structure on the card and tell them to come up with a correct sentence including at least 8 words or ask them a question or gap fill related to this grammar point.
  • Idioms: using pictures, key words or a description, ask them to tell you the idiom you are looking for.

Conclusion

It’s a very easy game to play and requires very little preparation time, but the fact that the points are hidden (and could be minus points!) adds to the excitement of the students, which makes it a very motivational tool to review the language points.

Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.

Two ways to make any cultural visit fun and engaging for your students

Although most students love the idea of visiting a new city during a school trip, some might find the idea rather less exciting, whereas others might just dread the idea of having to listen to hour-long stories by the tour guides.

Here are two quick and simple ideas to make any visit more exciting for the students (and making your job of having to deal with unmotivated students easier!).

Quiz

A fun way of getting students more involved during a trip, is to do a quiz where students are given say 10 – 15 questions that they need to find the answer to throughout the visit. Some answers they might find by reading information, other questions might be answered by the tour guide of the sites visited, while other answers they might need to actively find by asking the chaperone or others. Make sure to check answers at the very end and award a prize to the winners. Some example questions could be:

  • What are the colours of the Andalucían flag?
  • Which of the Bond films was partially filmed in Cádiz?
  • What is the name of the famous Plaza in Sevilla that was built for the 1929 Expo? What is represented in the different tiled alcoves?

(All of the examples above are based on the quizzes run at Spark for our School Trips to Spain).

Photo scavenger hunt

Students nowadays nearly all bring digital cameras, mobile phones or other devices with built-in cameras, so this activity is very easy to organize and it lets the students use their devices in a fun yet educational way. The idea here is to divide students into groups of 3 or 4 and give them a list of 10 items they should take a photo of. These items can vary in complexity, they can be concepts instead of simple statues, and some can even be challenges in the form of acting something out or asking local people for information (in the local language). Some ideas:

  • At the Plaza de España, take a photo of the statue of the famous inhabitant of the city and in the same photo, act out what he was famous for.
  • Including all of your team members, take a selfie at the place where Christopher Columbus once lived.
  • Ask a local to write the answer to the following question on a piece of paper, then take a photo of that person, the answer and at least one of your team members: “What does one call the inhabitants of the city?”

(All of the examples above are based on the photo scavenger hunt run at Spark School Trips to Spain for the tour of El Puerto de Santa María).

At the end, the students can either present their photos to the rest of the team, or send them to the chaperone’s mobile phone who could award points based on completion and originality of the photos.

Any activity we participate in is much more enjoyable and fun when we’re engaged, and these two examples are great ways to motivate students and make them feel excited about specific parts of the trip.

Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaking until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.

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When doing listening activities in class, a main problem I find is that students can get really nervous about it and then perform worse than they would have if they hadn’t been so worried about it. Weaker students especially can be affected by this and see it as a test they are bound to fail, worrying instead of using their skills and ability to grasp the main message.

A great game to counter these problems that is enjoyable and rewarding is Listening Snap, which makes a standard listening much more fun AND prepares the students for the material by identifying key words or chunks of the listening content before answering detailed questions about the recording.

Preparation

1. Find the transcript of the listening material and highlight the main messages or words.

2. Depending on the level and the type of listening activity, select around 8 – 10 words or chunks of language you would like the students to identify.

3. Put the items on a piece of paper along with 1 or 2 “distractors” for each word. E.g. if you are doing a listening on jobs and you want the students to identify the word “journalist”, then put in “journalist”, “TV-presenter” and “author” for example. You should have a list of around 20 – 30 words of which about 30 – 40% are real words from the listening, the rest are distractors.

4. Prepare one copy of the list of words for each pair of students and cut all the items up individually. (Alternatively the students can cut up the words in class if you have a lot of students!).

Set up in class

1. Give the students the topic of the listening activity in class and elicit what the recording might be about.

2. Explain you will be playing “snap” and go through the rules of the game: when they hear a word in the recording that they have on their table, they should grab the paper before their opponent does. (Ripped papers don’t count!). They get 1 point for each correct word they have and a minus point for each word they took that was not in the recording. The aim of the game is to get as many points as possible. Once they touch a paper, they must take it (to avoid them constantly trying to get all the papers).

3. Divide the class into pairs and give each pair a copy of all the words which they spread out on their tables. Allow time for the students to read all the items.

Play the game!

1. Play the recording just once, making sure students are doing the activity appropriately. Expect some excitement, raised voices and other expressions of students being engaged!

2. After the recording ask for feedback as to which words were in the recording and elicit what they remember about each word and what was being said.

3. Award points and minus points, announce the winner per pair and also the overall winner of the activity (the student with more points than anybody else).

The students have now listened for the gist of the content, and have been able to hear from others what they remember from the story related to the main items of the listening. Continuing with the listening follow up to listen for detail (usually answering specific questions in the book about the recording) should now be a little bit easier and less stressful for all of your students.

As you can see, this isn’t just a fun game, it also gives the students more confidence for the second part of the listening and (as long as you choose the words well) should have helped their skills to focus on the most important parts of the listening, instead of trying to understand everything!

Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.

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As part of a new series on making language learning fun with games for the foreign language classroom, this article describes how a standard grammar revision activity can be made fun with a sentence auction.

A sentence auction is a great way to review one or various grammar points just before an exam or as an end-of-unit activity and usually a lot more fun than the typical course book review.

Preparation

1. Prepare sentences for students based on a grammar point that you would like to review or that the students found particularly difficult, say for example the conditionals. I personally aim for about 10 sentences of which around 4 are correct (e.g. If we have to listen to her singing much longer, I will throw something at her), and 6 incorrect (e.g. If I won the lottery, I will buy a spaceship and set up a house on the moon). Print the 10 sentences on a sheet of paper, you’ll need 1 copy for each team.

2. If you’re happy for your students to play using fake money, bring in monopoly money or poker tokens. If you don’t feel comfortable with this idea, just use points in class.

Set up in class

1. Elicit / explain what an auction is, act out if necessary pretending your are auctioning a famous Picasso painting for example.

2. Divide the students into pairs or small groups and appoint one student as the spokesperson of the group to avoid confusion when it comes to the bidding. The spokesperson role can be rotated after each sentence.

3. Give each group a budget of 2000 Euros / Pounds / Dollars or whichever currency you prefer. (Alternatively give them 2000 points to start with if you’d rather not have the students play for money).

4. Explain the basic rules of the auction:

  • The aim of the game is to buy as many correct sentences as possible by bidding on them and avoid buying any incorrect sentences.
  • Teams can only spend the €2000 they started with, they cannot spend any more than these €2000. Once they’ve spent all of their money, they can no longer bid on any other sentences.
  • Each bid starts at €100 and can be increased by €50.
  • The sentence will be sold (“going once, going twice, SOLD to team x!”) to the highest bidding team.
  • The winner of the game will be the team with the highest number of correct sentences minus the number of incorrect sentences.

Play the game!

1. Give out a sheet with the 10 sentences for the students and give them between 5 – 10 minutes to decide which sentences they want to bid on.

2. Start playing the game, simply starting with the first sentence and asking for students to bid. I usually have each sentence on a slip of paper in big letters, in order to physically give the sentence to the students at the end of each bidding round.

3. Keep it fast paced and interactive and build up excitement.

Scoring

1. When the game has finished once all the sentences have been sold, go through the sentences one by one asking whether they are correct or incorrect. Keep track of scores on the board (1 point for each correct sentence, -1 for incorrect sentences).

2. Announce the winners of the grammar auction based on the total number of points!

Alternative rules and options

  • Give out bonus points for teams that can correct the sentences with a mistake. They only have one chance to write down the correct sentence however!
  • With higher levels, teams can all come up with one or two sentences for the auction. Obviously they can’t bid on their own sentences!
  • Students could place bids silently, meaning they all have to put in their bid silently, and the highest bid automatically wins the sentence.
  • You could give extra points to teams that haven’t spent all of their money, for example 1 point for each €100 they have left.
  • Instead of an auction, you could get the teams to place bets on the sentences. In this way more than one team can “win” a sentence. They start for example with €2000 and they play for a certain amount of money, e.g. €200. If the sentence is correct, they win this money, if it is incorrect, the money is taken out of their account. In this case you might want to set a limit on how much they can bet on each sentence.
  • An auction can also be done with vocabulary items, idioms or phrasal verbs. Instead of sentences, have 10 vocabulary items up for bidding. Each item will have 3 or 4 explanations or descriptions. Students bid for the option they think is correct.

That’s all there is to it! It’s a fun an interactive way to review grammar, and enjoyable for both the students and the teacher, so give it a go when you can!

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