Household chores for language development

Classroom Activity
Extract from 'bringing the real in'

In this video I describe a great practical classroom activity for teaching the causative have/ get in an authentic way. Its fun for both teachers and learners and works well online or face to face.


Personalisation is a great motivator in language teaching and one of the advantages of teaching online is that the environment that you’re teaching in, and the learners are learning in, is probably ‘home’ so you can use this to great advantage in making language come alive and feel authentic, and also to get to know something more about your learners more personally.

This activity is to practice the language of the passive and causative ‘get’ – and if that sounds a bit scary, don’t worry, it isn’t!

Start by asking your learners about the household jobs that they like or hate, or who does which jobs in their house. If your learners need vocabulary for this, you could introduce it with a matching task in pairs –

Tidy up/ wash up/ dry up/ do the laundry/ vacuum the floor/ clean the windows/ put things away

Now you need three pictures of household scenes like this – I just took pictures around my house. Ask them what the jobs are that are shown on the pictures – drying up, putting things away, cleaning windows. Ask them who they think will do these jobs. Depending on the level of your learners, you could elicit some or all of these marker sentences:

• These jobs need to be done/ These jobs need doing
• I need to do the drying up
• I need to have/get the windows cleaned
• I need to get my son to put his trainers away.

To check for meaning, you can ask them WHO is going to do the job in each case. With this passive voice example, it’s very neutral – we know that there’s a need but we don’t know who’s going to do the job -  ‘need to be done’ is probably a bit more formal than ‘need doing’. With the second example, an active sentence, it’s definitely me. With the third example, ‘I’m’ the subject, but I’m not going to do the job, I’m just going to arrange for someone to do it (probably a professional) and the last one is similar, but this identifies the person who will do the job – probably not a faceless professional and definitely not me.

You can also see that there are a lot of different useful structures here, (as I said before, how many of these you want to include will depend on the level of your learners) so elicit the structures and more examples from them:

• Need to be done/ need doing
• Get/ have something done
         Get/ have + object + past participle
• Get (someone) to do something – we usually don’t use ‘have’ here in BrEng, but AmEng does
         Get + direct???object + infinitive + indirect???? object

I think that this is a really useful bit of language and being at home provides an ideal environment for repeated meaningful practice of this. Give them a 5 minute screen break and tell them to go and take pictures around their house of jobs that need doing. Now come back and share them with a partner in BORs. You can get them to work together to write example sentences on a shared Google doc, so that you can help all the groups at the same time. A nice final activity might be a discussion about housework - would you employ a cleaner? Are there gender specific jobs around the house? Etc etc.

You might be feeling that you really don’t want to expose your own home in this way and if you prefer to have a Zoom screen behind you and maintain your privacy, this activity probably isn’t for you (although you could just use images from the net and pretend it was your house!).

If you don’t mind your learners knowing a bit more about you, though, and you think that they would be OK with it, this is a great way to develop useful language, trust in the group and a genuine interest in each other.

If you like this, there are lots of other ideas for communicative tasks in the free Communication Activities resource on ELT-Training.
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