Thanking Activities

Alex Case
Entertaining ways to practise expressing gratitude.

1. Who am I thanking?
Students are given a list of people that they might want to thank, e.g. Santa Claus, their parents, the postman and Walt Disney. They choose one of the people and thank them with phrases like “Thanks for working so hard” and “Thank you for coming all this way” (for Santa) until their partner guesses who they are thanking.

2. Real thanks
Students think of things that they can really thank each other for, e.g. “Thank you for usually answering the teacher’s grammar questions” and “Thanks for being so patient with me when I couldn’t think of a word.” This is good to do at the end of a course.

3. Thank you, really
In groups of three or four, two students take turns thanking each other, choosing any subjects they like e.g. “Thanks for lending me your dictionary last week” and “I’m so grateful to you for introducing me to my wife”. When they have finished, the people who have been listening to them try to guess which of the thanks (if any) are for things the other person really did. This works best if the people thanking each other know each other fairly well.

4. No no no, thank YOU
Students compete to thank the other person more than they are being thanked. This could be:

  • Thanking each other for different things (real or imaginary) until one of them runs out of ideas
  • Thanking each other with more and more passionate, longer or polite phrases
  • Thanking each other for bigger and bigger (probably imaginary) things, such as giving them a job and saving their child’s life, until they can’t get any bigger

5. Thanking roleplays
One possibility is just to ask students to imagine they are in situations in which they will probably need to thank people, e.g. leaving their host family, in a newsagent’s or after hospitality from a business contact abroad. Making these realistic is obviously useful, but you can also make them more fun by adding some more unlikely ones like “Thank your boss for saving your life during the team bonding mountain climbing session and try to find a way of repaying him/ her”. You could also tell them how many times they have to use thanking phrases before they are allowed to finish the roleplay, e.g. six times between them for the newsagent situation.

6. You call that thanking?
Give students many different examples of mess ups in the language of thanking, e.g. “Thank you for coming”/ “You’re welcome” (It should be “Thanks for inviting me”), flat intonation, and “I am very gratitude”. They must identify and correct the mistake each time

7. Answering thanks
Students match thanking sentences and responses, e.g. “I’ve photocopied last week’s notes for you.” with “Thanks, that’s a great help.” and “I’m afraid I can’t”/ “Thanks anyway”. To make it more interesting you can give it to them as a pairwork dictation or cut up into little pieces of paper.

8. Thank you for the music
There are plenty of songs which are about thanking people, e.g. the Abba song with the title of this section. You can do all the usual song activities such as gapfills, or you could give them two different thanking songs on mixed up slips of paper to sort out, put in order, and then listen and check.

9. Thank you for the dialogue
There are also plenty of scenes in movies and television programmes where people thank each other, e.g. thanking a mafia godfather for a favour, a woman thanking the queen for sparing her husband from the executioner, or an old woman thanking a policeman who has just saved her cat. You could give the students part of the dialogue and ask them to guess the situation, relationships and what they are thanking them before they watch and check.

Written by Alex Case for
Alex Case, founder TeflTasticAlex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers. He has been a teacher, teacher trainer, director of studies, and editor in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy, UK, Korea and now Japan. He has published a book with Macmillan and hundreds of articles, reviews, lesson plans and worksheets with Onestopenglish, Modern English Teacher and many others. In addition to contributing articles and teaching ideas to Tefl.NET, Alex for many years edited Tefl.NET Book Reviews.