Pinboards and Timelines - talking our way through their lives

The other day I promised Jason to take part in his meeting of the boards' challenge for English language teachers all over the world to share their white/black boards but in fact, while browsing through my photograph albums, found this one  of pinboards instead and as it's a real favourite for getting students talking and talking, thought I'd post it for you.  It's called ... the wonderous Pinboards & Timelines game.  And by the way, this is one of those games that really works whether you're dogme with virtually no materials or if you're a let's step out of that-coursebook-for-a-bit-shall-we teacher...on the hunt for a speaking activity to supplement the coursebook's review of the pasts or futures.

Step 1
Grab some coloured paper and write a set of dates or time periods on it (you can decide how many and which you want based on the mean age of your group).

Put these up on the pinboard* in order.

Step 2
Ask your students to write down bullet points or one-word answers to the things they've done or anticipate doing in their lives, using matching coloured card.

Step 3
Get them to pin their own cards up on the board.

Step 4
Once it's  full, encourage them to circulate around the room finding pairs or working in small groups to tell each other about their lives.  You circulate listening, correcting, providing feedback and encouraging them to focus on form and structures.

Step 5
thank you Andrew Wright for teaching me 
to draw stick figures :) in error correction
Once they are re-seated, then ask four or five random students: what was the most interesting thing you heard about one of your colleagues?  

Feedback consciously and emotionally (i.e. wow, that is interesting) and ask further questions or challenge them to say why it was shocking/interesting/just like them.

Write a list of the most common errors and elicit / provide correction.

That's it! Easy as pie...


p.s. **An alternative when working with very large groups is instead of using a pinboard you can use blu-tak to temporarily stick the coloured cards to the walls - encourage the students to start at different points of the timeline...and circulate.

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I love hearing from you! Please add your thoughts if you enjoyed this piece or you feel like there's something you would like to question, add or say about it - don't worry about perfection or agreeing with me: it's always a pleasure to hear from you and know your own opinions.

9 Responses to “Pinboards and Timelines - talking our way through their lives”

  • Jason Renshaw says:
    November 03, 2010

    This is great, Karenne, and certainly DOES qualify as an item of business in the meeting of the board(s)!

    I love the simplicity of this, but also the potential depth and width. The visual aspect is also important as well, I feel, because I think the sorting and the finished product help to make things more salient or "noticeable".

    Great contribution - must try it out when I get a chance!


    - Jason

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    Luciana Podschun says:
    November 03, 2010

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Luciana Podschun says:
    November 03, 2010


    Definitely I need to try out this activity. I think it works perfectly for tenses review as you mentioned. A great way to teach without a grammar book. I think students can really learn grammar in this way.

    Luciana Podschun

  • David Warr says:
    November 04, 2010

    Hi Karenne
    I like this activity and the pictures you've posted, especially of the two students standing back scrutinising their work from a distance. I just like this variation, not always reading things that are a couple of inches away. I remember when I first learned that students, like me when I'm teaching, like moving around too and welcome the opportunity.

  • Vicki Hollett says:
    November 04, 2010

    I like the simplicity of this too. Very nice indeed.

    Something you've reminded me of here. Something I've come across in German classrooms (but can't recall seeing much elsewhere) is the availability of a pin board and lots of interestingly shaped coloured papers. Is it a German thing?

    November 04, 2010

    Oh, I dunno - I just sort of took it for granted that we didn't have it in Ecuador because we were working mostly with the poor and things like colored card were major purchasing decisions.

    I'm not sure - do they have this in the US? I love all the shapes and stuff and wow on reflection, there is a lot of choice in terms of sizes, shapes and colours and you can buy these kits everywhere!


  • Vicki says:
    November 07, 2010

    Nope, haven't come across this in the US. Often wonder if it's more about function than looks here. :-)

  • Anne says:
    November 07, 2010

    A big sheet of paper/posterboard and colored paper and a glue stick works just fine, too. Like it better, actually.

    November 07, 2010

    Super idea, Anne - thanks!


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