TESOL | I’m a marker looking for some ink

Some activities are so versatile that they demand to be adjusted and tweaked again and again. This is one of those. I’m going to describe the simplest version first, before I add a few possible adaptations.

Regardless of the variation, the teacher needs to prepare one slip of paper for each student. For a simple vocab activity, the teacher writes two words on each slip:

a teacher > a marker

a marker > ink

ink > a bottle

a bottle > a shelf

The words can be related or unrelated. The first word indicates what the student is during the activity and the second indicates what they are looking for. The slips of paper can also include the phrases the student will need:

I’m a teacher. Are you a marker?

Otherwise those phrases can be written on the board and explained to the class as a whole. You can practice any number of phrases, but you’ll want to be consistent.

am a marker. Are you ink? Who is ink?

I have a marker. Do you have ink? Who has ink?

Once a student has found what they were looking for, they should ask what the next student is looking for and follow suit, keeping track of the chain in a list.

teacher, marker, ink, bottle, shelf

The first person to complete the list is the winner.

Instead of finding single vocab words, the task could be to complete a story.

to the store. > They didn’t

They didn’t > have what

have what > she was

The first person to find the complete the story (and correctly identify the beginning and the end!) is the winner.

A story could be replaced with instructions or any other sort of written text.

Large classes could be split up to save time or make the activity more manageable. Students could complete the task in pairs, taking turns to ask for and give information. Another option would be to split the class into two larger groups, each with a separate puzzle. For example, students in one group could gather the ingredients of a recipe, while the others compile the instructions.


Simplify preparation for this activity by compiling a list with enough words, or finding a text that can be broken into enough pieces, before you make the cards. Remember that the first word or phrase will also be the last.

Keep in mind:

This activity gives everyone something to do. It requires individual as well as group work. However, I was forced to remind my students several times that their task was not to copy their friends’ work, but rather to complete the task (the list, story, etc.) on their own, the only help from their friends being the next clue.

Give it a try, and let me know how it works for you!



Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I’ve had to move from one great host family to another great host family. In the end, it just means I have two!

Moving in the middle of my service has had its pros and cons. On the one hand, I’m much better equipped to communicate with my new host family than I was during training or at the beginning of my service. On the other hand, I haven’t stopped being a foreigner that needs to be babied and worried over. In fact, that process has started all over again: reminders every five minutes that I should eat and reminders that I should help myself. The only trouble is, with being reminded to eat and even being handed snacks around the clock, I barely have an opportunity to help myself. Recently, I (gently) reminded my new bapak that it’s guests he should be pressing to take food, not his “family”. He laughed and admitted I was right.

Another pro has been getting to know my new family and their neighbors. My ‘host aunt’ and ‘uncle’ live next door with their two sons. The other night, I pulled out my ukulele and sat on their porch with them. I sang a few songs in English as well as the one I’ve learned in Javanese, all the while being reminded to eat finish the plate of fried bananas next to me.


After six weeks, I’m feeling pretty settled. I’m used to the way things work around the house, and my family is used to my inherent strangeness. I’ve started teaching the neighborhood kids English after school. I’m where I need to be for the year that I have left!