Worst. Holiday. Ever.

Well, what happened was …


  • cleft sentences
  • being emphatic
  • narrative tenses
  • anecdotes


  • Level (CEFR B2-C2)
  • Ages 15 yrs and older


If you’re looking for a fun activity that gets students to practice some past tenses and cleft sentences, then look no further.  Print out and get cracking.

You will need:

  • 40 mins.
  • 1 set of sentence stem handouts per student.
  • 1 set of cut out prompt cards.
    1. Ask students to discuss: Tell your partner about your most annoying holiday experience. What went wrong?
    2. After some brief feedback, tell them you are going to show them a short video about a hotel.   While they’re watching, they should imagine they had to spend their holiday in this hotel. What things would they complain about?  Show this video.

    3. Issue the scaffolding handout.  With a partner, they should share their ideas while trying to use the stems.
    4. Elicit ways of completing the stems and correct where necessary.
    5. Tell the class that they are going to make up some stories about the worst holiday ever.  Put them in pairs and tell them to use the checklist on the handout (Point 2).  Make sure that if they are taking notes, each of them will need a copy.
    6. Once the pairs have a rough idea of their story, they can have a quick chance to practice it using some of the sentence stems on page 2 of the handout.  Remind students that these structures are far more common in spoken than written English, so they are better off not writing a whole script it.
    7. Regroup them into threes (or a four if numbers dictate).  Try to ensure that the groups aren’t all the same as this will make the reporting stage (later) more involving.  For example, if you have 6 pairs (lets call them A, B, C, D, E, and F), make sure have an ABC trio, a DEF trio, an ACE trio and a BDF trio.  This will ensure that no group will be hearing and retelling the exact same combination of stories.
    8. Issue the listening task handout.  Students take it in turns to re-tell their made-up anecdotes using as many of the stems as they can.  To keep listeners on task, they must note down and information that matches the categories on their handout.
    9. Once all the stories have been reported.  Regroup the original pairs and they must report the information they noted down which related to the topics on their card.
    10. For feedback, get each pair to volunteer the most extreme example of being “illegal” etc. (or any of the other criteria.


  • Some learners may have issues with the linguistic creativity this task demands.  Using the prompt cards and the pair-work should mitigate this.
  • I have taken care to try and keep this fairly light-hearted, but it’s inevitable someone somewhere has experienced a truly tragic holiday.  To be safe, it might be better to do this task after knowing the class a bit better.


The students should have quite a lot of fun making up and retelling these stories.  Post your students’ masterpieces in the comments below!


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