Trick Drilling

What is good teaching?  It’s impossible to define, but sometimes you just see something and think, ‘Now, that’s good teaching.’  Well that happened to me last night at our in-house workshop given by Rebecca Lord on Trick Drilling.

david fred and brent
How do we know David visited the Queen but Fred used heroin? Can you work it out before you read the hints at the bottom of this post?

The idea is simple really.  How do you get students to repeat structures again and again… and again… and again without boring them to tears?  Through ‘Trick Drilling.’  Trick Drilling incorporates games and competitions that force students to repeat the desired structures multiple times, but yet without them growing bored like they might in normal drilling.  The activities give them a communicative purpose but at the same time give them adequate drilling to improve pronunciation and get the structures to stick in their memory.  They work especially well for elementary students but are not limited to low levels.

For each activity, students work in teams (pairs, small groups) and have to guess missing bits of information (using the desired structures, of course).  They score points for correct guesses.  The guessing forces them to use the structures again and again, but the competition motivates them to do so.

I also loved how visual and tactile these activities were.

Here are a few of the activities she presented:

Hot Seat

Students complete a questionnaire about themselves.  For example :

Yesterday… I got up at ____________ (? time)  I had breakfast at _________ (? time)  I ….. (etc. etc.)

Then one student sits in the front of the room.  Each team has to ask them a yes/no question guessing the answer to the first item (Such as: Did you get up at 7?)  until one team gets it right and wins their team a point.  Then they move on to the next item.

This could also be done with the teacher in the ‘hot seat’ by putting a phrase about her/himself on the board like the one Rebecca showed us to drill future continuous.  She put  Tomorrow, at ______,  you… and then a bunch of times.  Students had to guess what she’d be doing at specific times.  Then they create their own guessing game for a partner.


Students are given a dialogue that they have to complete with a missing phrase, adapting it as needed.  One person sits and the other stands behind them.  They have to say the dialogue as fast as possible and the first group to finish yells, ‘Switch!’  All those standing up have to switch places and they do it again with their new partner.


Guess Who

Students have to guess which card the teacher has by asking yes/no questions like ‘Has she got blue eyes?.’

guess who

Celebrity’s Bog (and other image guessing games)

To practise possessives, students guess things like ‘Is it Tom Cruise’s bog?‘  The celebrity’s name is written on the back of the card.  This can also be used with images of daily routines with clocks on the back with the time they do each thing.  The teacher asks questions like, ‘What time does she get up?’ with students guessing, ‘She gets up at 7.’  After the guessing game is finished, students have to repeat the questions.  Rebecca said that despite them hearing it so many times, they never get the question form right.

celebrity bog


David, Fred and Brent

This one was my favourite.  Maybe in part because I was able to figure out the pattern.  🙂  Maybe because of the three handsome men (see the image at the beginning of this post).  Students have to decide which activities match which person.  Hint:  it drills pronunciation.  Second hint: this activity can also be done with /s/ /z/ and /iz/.   Brilliant!


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