What I Did at the Weekend is a common activity used in TEFL classrooms.
At the beginning of the lesson as a kind of warm up the teacher will typically ask a few students what they did last weekend, or yesterday, or during the holidays, etc.
This can be a useful activity, but it is often little more than excuse for one or two students to speak and the rest of the class to take it easy and do nothing.
This article offers a few ideas on how to make this simple activity productive and useful.
At the outset you need to have a focus for the discussion. Write up on the board and underline:
What I Did at the Weekend
(Or the title of whatever you’d like the class to tell you about.)
Next you need to give the class a template of what to say. Of course this will depend on their level but to help shyer students and to offer a starting point, you can briefly talk about yourself. Do this with bullet points.
- Sat night dressed.
- Met parents. Wrong clothes.
- Restaurant waiter problem.
And then you say:
- On Saturday night I had been invited to a meal out with my girlfriend’s family. I didn’t really know what to wear but I guessed it was going to be casual so I wore some jeans and a sweatshirt.
- I went out and met my girlfriend and her family in the main square. I got a real shock though – they were all wearing their best clothes! Her father was in a smart suit and her mother wore this Versace dress. I felt really underdressed and I could see they were totally shocked when they saw me. The trouble was I didn’t have time to go home and change because they’d booked a restaurant.
- The big trouble came at the restaurant. While we were waiting to be seated the head waiter came up and said I couldn’t eat there without a tie. So in the end we ended up eating at a pizza parlour round the corner and as you can imagine, her parents were NOT impressed with me!
Of course if it’s appropriate at this time you can talk about the different verb tenses you’ve used and revise useful forms such as the simple past, past progressive and past perfect. As mentioned above, however, keep your story of the right level for the class.
Now ask a few random questions to your class.
Running the Activity
Having seen an example, give your class 5 or 10 minutes to write down a few bullet points about an incident from their weekend. During this time go around the class and encourage them to add a few useful items of vocabulary to each point and jot useful notes about what they’re going to say.
If you have a small class and there is time, you might be able to have one student at at time tell their story. But for most classes this isn’t practical. As mentioned before, in many classes this means one student speaking, half a dozen students listening and a dozen students not paying much attention.
To relieve this problem divide the class into pairs. Explain that they’re going to listen to each others’ stories and then you’ll be asking questions about them so they’ll have to listen carefully!
While the students are working together telling their stories, go around the class monitoring their progress and helping where necessary.
After this, bring the class back together and ask random students to outline the story they’ve heard from their partner.
The obvious homework task is writing their own story out. But you can also ask the students instead to write out their partner’s story; the following lesson you can check what they’ve learned and remembered in class:
Pablo, Jose wrote that you spent last weekend surfing. I thought you spent the weekend with your grandmother!
Speaking Skills in TEFL – a general look at speaking
Listening Skills in TEFL – a general look at listening