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Humanising Language Teaching
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Humanising Language Teaching

Editorial: The author became a finalist in EMEPYA 2011 – Competition of Educational Methods with the activity below.

1 Coupon 1 Word, 1000 Coupons 1000 Words

Merve Oflaz, Turkey

Merve Oflaz is a teacher of English in Istanbul, Turkey. She has a B.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Marmara University and an M. A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Yeditepe University. Currently she is an instructor at Bahcesehir University and a Cambridge ESOL examiner. She has written articles and given talks at local and international conferences. Her interests include learning styles, drama techniques, teaching young learners and teaching with movies.


How to prepare the coupons
How the activity helps the students
Weaknesses and suggestions


Aim of the Activity: To practice new words through a motivating award system.
Level / Age: It can be adapted to all levels and all ages.

Learners are very much motivated by being awarded while learning a language. This activity provides a way to learn and reinforce new words unconsciously with the help of visual items.

The learners are awarded with coupons (which have pictures and words on them) according to the criteria the teacher determines. The criteria can involve being punctual, participating, doing homework, respecting others, speaking in English and so on. The learners collect these coupons and the coupons allow them to pass to another round and to have another award.


  1. The teacher sets up his / her rules to create the criteria for the students to win coupons. Then a “menu of awards” (a chart or a list displaying the awards) is prepared. In this menu the teacher mentions the number of the coupons the learners should collect for each award.
    A Sample Menu
    Number of the coupons Awards Notes for the teachers
    3 coupons A plus / tick in the Teacher’s book A good way to motivate the students
    6 coupons Hot chocolate with the teacher at the break time An opportunity for the students to practice English outside the classroom
    10 coupons Create and teach a lesson for 10 minutes A meaningful and exciting way to use the language
    20 coupons Create your own playlist and to be the DJ of the day in the school A meaningful and exciting way to use the language
    30 coupons Watch a film in English during two lessons A fun way to acquire English
    60 coupons Wear casual clothes to school for a day A great way to motivate the students if they normally wear uniforms for the school
  2. The teacher explains to the students how to win coupons referring to the criteria he / she prepared.
  3. The teacher distributes coupons according to the criteria during each lesson (or in a specific lesson on a specific day). For example: Teacher to the student: “You did a great job this week. You participated, did your homework and used English during the group work activities. You deserve two coupons.”
  4. Students collect the coupons given by the teacher and when they have enough, they can choose an award from the menu.

How to prepare the coupons

The teacher decides on the list of new words according to the objectives of the unit / module and prepares the coupons on the computer. These coupons are like little flash cards. A table consisting of four lines and three columns on A4 paper is the best but the size of each cell can be altered. In each cell, a word is written and a related picture is pasted above it to help the students to learn the word. In addition to that, one line is left for the student’s name and another one is for the teacher’s name and / or signature.

Here is a sample coupon:

How the activity helps the students

  1. Students count their own coupons again and again to see if they can choose an award from the menu or not. While doing that, they read the words and look at the pictures unconsciously.
  2. Students sometimes compare their coupons with their friends’ coupons. This way, they get the chance to see other people’s coupons (with different words on them). They even test each other asking the meaning or usage of the words.
  3. The students discover a new method of learning with the help of this activity. They revise the words while having fun. This makes them learn easier.

Stages of the activity Refers to … Mentioned by
Students getting coupons for their positive attitudes / works Awarding and reinforcement [Demircan, 1990, p. 109]
Students counting their coupons and showing their coupons to each other Repetition & practice [Demircan, 1990, p. 109]
The coupons showing words with pictures Visual approach Yanpar [2006, p. 111-112]
[Demircan, 1990, p. 147]
Writing the name of the students on the coupons Making the students feel good about themselves Humanistic approach
Students learning while having fun / in a comfortable and safe atmosphere Icebreakers/ Warmers / Games [Moskowitz, 1972, p. 2]
Fostering a good relationship with the students through the award system Overcoming the problems related to the psychological and physical changes of teens [Demircan, 1990, p. 206]

Weaknesses and suggestions

  1. Finding a picture for each word is not very easy. It can be difficult to find clear and meaningful pictures for some words and phrases (especially in upper levels).

    Suggestion: A sample sentence with the new word can be written and a picture about the sentence can be used on the coupons. Callouts and very short dialogues can also be used to present the meaning of the word or phrase. For this, preparing bigger coupons may be better.
  2. The activity may not seem to be student centered. The teacher can lose time and energy especially in the process of preparation.

    Suggestion: The students may be involved in the process of preparation. Preparing the coupons will help the student to use and learn the target words.
  3. The administrators or other colleagues might think the awards on the menu are not appropriate for the classroom / institution.

    Suggestion: Ask for opinions before you decide on the rules and the awards. Try to share the stages of the activity with your colleagues and administrators.
  4. Students usually focus on their own coupons while counting and they do not have the chance to see all the coupons of others.

    Suggestion: Games below (including everybody in class) are recommended.


Game 1: Creative Speaking

  • 30 coupons are chosen. A chart of coupons is prepared.
  • A card set with numbers (referring to the lines of the chart) is prepared.
  • The chart is shown to the students using a projector so everybody can see it clearly.
  • Students are divided into groups.
  • A student from each group comes and picks up a number card. (The numbers refer to the lines in the chart.)
  • The group tries to make up a short story using the word in the related line. Each student in the group should make at least one sentence.
  • The stories usually become funny and exciting, so they really enjoy it.

Game 2: Creative Writing

  • The same materials of Game 1 are used.
  • Students follow the same steps but this time they create the written versions of the stories.
  • When they finish their stories, the teacher plays some music and the groups change their seats. While doing that, they leave their work on their desks. This way they read each other’s stories. When the music stops, they stop and go back to their own seats. The game can be continued until all stories are read. [Teachhub, 2011]

Game 3: Memory Game

  • This very old game is played using the coupons.
  • Students are given two sets of coupons. They work in pairs or groups.
  • The coupons are placed face down. Students pick up a card in turns and try to find the same coupons.
  • The student who has the biggest number of coupons is the winner.


Başkan, Ö., (1998), Lengüistik Metodu, İstanbul: Marmara Üniversitesi Vakfı.

Demircan, Ö., (1990), Yabancı – Dil Öğretim Yöntemleri, İstanbul: Özgür Ajans

Moskowitz, G., (1972), Caring and Sharing in the Foreign Language Classroom, Newbury House Publishers, Cambridge, Mass

Stephenson, Michelle, Revision Activities, Musical chairs. Business Studies Blog, 01/05/2010

Yanpar, T., (2006), Öğretim Teknolojileri ve Materyal Tasarımı, Ankara: Anı Yayıncılık


Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

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