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A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!


Here’s an activity I designed a little while back, that I’d like to share with you here, on the blog. It was inspired by Ken Lackman’s ELT workshop in Krakow.  You’re welcome to read, adapt and enjoy using it your way!

Who’s Afraid of the Modal Verbs?


to support a natural atmosphere of communication when talking about fears in English, using modal verbs 

This activity came in very handy at a conversation class I recently held with lower-level students (A2 – B1) who were shy in speaking and coming up with their own ideas. It also adapts very well with advanced learners (C1 – C2). Teachers can control the timing of this activity by choosing a number of pictures that corresponds to the number of student pairs they can create (for example: 6 pictures for a group of 10 people, 1 picture to be used as a model example, the rest to be used with each of the 5 student pairs), or by extending the discussion of one picture to all student pairs.


  1. Write the model conversation on the board:
Student A  

I think the person in the picture must/ ought to/ should/ may/ might/ could be afraid of:      – verb+ing         /                          – noun


Student B  

I wouldn’t worry about that./ I disagree./ I don’t think so. He/ She couldn’t be afraid of …………………, but he/she must/ ought to/ should/ may/ might/ could be afraid of …………………… .


  1. Put students in pairs.
  2. Explain that they will be shown a set of pictures and that they will have to make comments using the prompts on the board, in order to speak about what someone could be afraid of. Depending on the degree of certainty, the students could choose any of the modal verbs given: must and ought to (if they are certain about a particular fear), should (if they are fairly certain), and could/ may/ might/ could (if they are less certain). Show the first picture as a model and give an example. Show the next picture. The students work in pairs to comment on the picture using the prompted structures.
  3. Monitor the students and help with ideas or corrections if necessary. You may choose to alternate pictures between pairs, or to ask each pair to comment on a different picture – depending on group size and time limitations.
  4. Make notes of any useful phrases the students came up with during their dialogue exchange to incorporate into the useful vocabulary, as well as of the most creative answers to reward in the end of the activity. Discuss any further thoughts and questions sparked up during the activity.   


A set of pictures illustrating situations like: (1) someone driving a car, (2) someone sitting at a desk in front of a computer, (3) someone speaking on the phone, (4) someone buying a house, (5) someone working in the garden, or (6) someone playing a sport. 

Filed under: 1►TO DO, 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Afraid?, TOPICS▼

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