Using a 'To Do' list for language practice

Another great classroom idea!
Using a 'To Do' list for language practice

I find a 'To Do' list very helpful and it's also a great way to practice the language of obligation at a range of levels (modals or functional language). This video will show you how!  


I don’t know about you, but I find a To Do list very helpful and so here’s a way to use that idea in class. I’m Jo Gakonga from and this is a great, personalised, authentic activity to practice the language of obligation.

The first thing to do is to introduce the idea of a To Do list. Clearly, this isn’t very complicated- it’s just a list of reminders of what you have to do today or this week- usually for short term goals. You could start with a discussion about these- do you write to do lists? If so how? On paper? Your phone? A board at home or at work? Somewhere else? Do you use them for work? Personal things? OK- so now you show them an example of a To Do list. This could be your own or a make up one. Here’s an example of mine. Make sure that some of the things are higher priority or more immediate than others. Now ask them to write a list of their own. Five things. They could use dictionaries to help and you can monitor and help with vocabulary. These should just be in note form- not full sentences.

Now, the language point of the lesson is to introduce or revise language of obligation that’s appropriate to the level of the group. This could be simple modals such as should, must, have to and might for lower levels or more complex functional language at higher levels I'd love to, I really need to , I've been thinking about, it’s about time I (did).

So, start with a listening task. Use this language to talk about your To Do list and ask them to listen for which of your tasks are most important. You could say something like- ‘I know I need to clean the bathroom, but I keep putting it off’ for example. Now you have a context, so make sure that they are clear about the meaning, form and pronunciation of the language and get them to use this to write sentences about the things on their own To Do list. You can then put them in pairs (in break out rooms if you are online) to tell each other about their lists and what they have to do. If you wanted to make a game out of this, you could ask them to include one thing that’s not true and their partner has to guess which one is the lie. I’d say that you should swap partners at least once so that they get more practice with the same language – you could do it more than this too. Remember that repetition really helps to develop fluency and accuracy and they’ll be interested in different people’s lsts, so it won’t be boring.

At the end, you could finish off the lesson with a discussion about the merits of having a to do list. Is it helpful? Does it make you more productive? Can it just be overwhelming? What’s the best way to write or use a to do list? Perhaps a really good thing to fiish off with it Could you use one for language learning? How?

So there you go- a great way of practicing personalised language of obligation. I hope that your learners like it – remember if YOU like this, there’s lots more on

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