Saturday, 10 November 2012

Instant Fortune Teller

A fun easy warm-up for making predictions using WILL

LEVEL: High beginner and up
GRAMMAR STRUCTURES: predictions: will, won't
VOCABULARY: emotions, places, occupations

  •   A dice per group
  • An "Instant Fortune Teller" strip per group

Instant Fortune Teller


  1. Ask students if they believe in FORTUNE TELLERS.
    Is it possible to predict the future?
  2. Hand out an "Instant Fortune Teller" strip to each group. 
  3. Brainstorm some ideas for each different category as a whole group. Be sure to include both good and bad options to make it more fun.
  4. Groups exchange fortune telling strips, and with a dice write down the prediction for each person.
  5. Groups report on their predictions. You might have them identify the BEST and WORST predictions. 

My own fortune, told by my group today:

"In fifteen years time, I will be a frustrated English teacher, living in prision with my husband and famous for NOTHING."

The outlook is not good, but the students thought it was terribly funny.

I hope you enjoy likewise!

Friday, 26 October 2012


LEVEL: Upper Intermediate – Advanced
LANGUAGE TYPE: adults, business English
LANGUAGE FUNCTIONS: discussing consequences of past actions, describing failure
POSSIBLE STRUCTURES: third conditional

TIME: 3 hours


 IMPORTANT NOTE: BE SURE to have students notice the sexism of some of the quotes, and explain that fortunately this is no longer acceptable in modern English. Have students suggest non-sexist versions!

This can be used creatively and dynamically in a number of ways which I will discuss in a future post.For now, I give 2 suggestions.

Small class:

  • Cut the worksheet into columns, and give each student a column A, B, or C
  • Give them time to decide which of their quotes they prefer
  • Have them mingle and discuss different quotes with each other
  •  Finish with a brief discussion as a whole group.

Large class:

  • Make two copies of the quote sheet. If you have for example 16 students, choose just 8 quotes, so there will be 2 students with the same quote.
  • Have students randomly select a quote.
  • Give students time to mingle and discuss each other’s quotes. They may help each other to decide what they mean, which they prefer and so forth.
  • After 5 minutes or so, call time.
  • Ask students to find the person with the same quote. This will be their partner for the coming part of the class.
  • Give them 5 minutes to write a list of as many (paraphrased) quotes as they can recall
  • Call time and have the pairs count how many quotes they recalled. Have the winning group read out their quotes to be written on the board.
  • Pairs discuss what their own quote means and which of all they like best and why.
  • Have a reporting session.


Write on the board “DAY FOR FAILURE”.
Ask Ss what they think this might be, and why it might be celebrated.

Tell them they are about to watch a video made in Finland by the group DAYFORFAILURE.COM

Before watching, write the following language on the board;
“huge disgrace” “utter crap” “throw in the towel” “a flop”
Discuss in pairs and then as a whole group what the different phrases mean.
Tell Ss to watch the video and be ready to explain

  1. When THE DAY FOR FAILURE is celebrated?
  2. How it is celebrated?
  3. Why it is celebrated?
  4. How is the following phrase completed: “Remember, if you’ve never failed.....”

 DISCUSS answers to the above and the questions
·         Do you agree it’s a good idea to celebrate failure?
·         Why do you think there is this movement in the very successful country of Finland, specifically sponsored by entreprenneurial business groups?

      Watch the following short video, (selecting CC in English) and have students discuss WHAT the failures are and WHAT the LESSONS learned are.

PART THREE: Reflection and Discussion

  • You might start by sharing one of your own experiences when you failed at something, but learned important lessons which helped you to grow.  
  • Give students some time to think about a similar occasion they don’t mind sharing with the group. Have them write a few notes about when, where, why and how they failed, what they learned and how they benefited from the experience.
  • Have them share their experiences in pairs or small groups.

PART FOUR: Reading: Mistakes in Business

OK, so to some extent we have come to a position where we have ‘celebrated’ some of our mistakes.

But what about when mistakes are made at work? Should work mistakes be celebrated?

An excellent free downloadable reading is available on the very useful website Business English Pod, here:

PRE-READING: Reading subskill: skimming for information:
Tell students you will give them a reading about a very expensive work mistake. 

They will have only 45 seconds to identify

  1. What mistake was made?
  2. How expensive was it?
  3. What were the consequences for the makers of the mistake?
·         Call time.

  • ·         Students read the article silently for comprehension and to check their previous answers. 
  •       Ask them to notice the words and phrases in bold print, and to try to come up with alternate phrases for them.
After this, particularly in a small group, it can be a good opportunity to have students practice reading aloud, with drilling for pronunciation of difficult sounds and words. (Remember to never have students read aloud without first reading silently for comprehension; even in a first language reading aloud calls for so much concentration on the mechanics of the process little is left over for comprehension.)
  • ·         Discuss vocabulary and students ideas without giving answers.
  •        Hand out strips from the vocabulary explanations, having previously folded under the original and the examples, leaving only the synonymous phrases. Have students match them with the vocabulary in bold type.

FURTHER ACTIVITIES you might develop:

  • Use this vocabulary  - plus other new vocabulary - in an INSTANT TABLETOP BOARD GAME
  • Discuss what might have been the consequences for the person who made the typing mistake.
  • Discuss what students would do if they were 
    • a) the person who made the mistake
    • b) the boss of the person who made the typing mistake 
    • c) the company owner.
          • Develop a roleplay based on this situation
          • Have students write letters of apology to the affected people from the points of view. It might be helpful to look at examples of template apology letters such as those here or here.

Depending on your students and the types of skills they enjoy or need to work on, there are many places you might take the class next.

If you have any further ideas, please share!

I hope you enjoy the lesson!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

more free training from the comfort of your own home!

Macmillan once again are offering their excellent Online Conference, featuring many TESL greats.

you can register and see the details of the speakers here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Working with Frustrated - and Frustrating! - Students

Public Domain Image by Petr Kratochvil at
I have worked with literally hundreds of students, but I have never found any as frustrating, as challenging to my teaching skills as my own daughter

I write this in recovery mode from the recent -often harrowing - but ultimately satisfactory experience of coaching her for a maths exam.

To make matters more difficult for both of us we are attempting to bridge not only gaps of time,  subject matter , but also culture and language - with myself last having seen these sorts of problem 30 years ago, in English, in Australia, while she is learning it in Spanish in Costa Rica. Of course maths is maths and the operations are the same, but differences in the very basics  such as the setting out long division trebles the confusion factor and communication barrier on both sides.

There were times when she was in tears. There were times when I was very nearly likewise.

But her test is tomorrow, and we had no time to give up. So we persisted, through all the difficulties, and by the end, our family were pleasantly surprised to hear us wildly cheering each other, hugging, kissing and whooping with joy as she worked out sum after sum correctly.

Some of the strategies that DON'T work:

  • scolding or negative comments
  • repetition of the same problems using the same approach
  • getting angry
  • losing patience
  • giving up

Strategies that DO work:

  • Time out; in moments of really not communicating, we needed many short rests, to let out the negative emotions. Use rest time to talk with someone else, about something else, something nice and positive. 
  • Checking the internet for fresh ideas and supporting practice.
  • Coming back to the same problem again with a fresh perspective or from a new angle
  • Multiple examples
  • Recognition of frustration; taking time to talk about what was hard and why.
  • Noting that giving in to frustration leads to a vicious circle. the only way to win is through advanced application of PATIENCE and DETERMINATION 
  • Deep breathing. It sounds cliched, but it really worked! Counting to ten, letting it pass, and moving on. If it can't be breathed through, it's time for a five minute break.
  • Raise self-esteem by focussing positively on accomplishments and abilities. Remember the cultivation of confidence is essential for success
  • Starting AGAIN from certain ground. Going back to where we felt sure, and moving on from there, in small steps towards more complex subject matter.
  • Praise - LOUD praise for ALL acheivements, however small. WILD CHEERING and excitement as mastery levels rise. 
We are both exhausted but, finally, happy and feel confident she will get a good grade. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Which English is this, anyway?

As an Australian teaching English in a region where the reigning standard is American English, I often have to make choices about pronunciation and word use and WHICH English is to be taught.

As such I found fascinating this  article on the rise of 'Britishisms' in American English.

It is news to me that in both directions, publishers take agressive measures attempt to insulate their language base from influence from'other' Englishes - To be honest I always thought it was Americans trying to insulate themselves from external influence, translating originally British English texts into American English for local consumption. I had no idea that apparently even more 'translation' occurs in the other direction, britifying American English.

However, it seems, much as publication houses - and local peoples - might try to hold on to the 'traditional' way the language is spoken, to the chagrin of many and the complete indifference of others -  language is too plastic fantastic, too faddish, too much the wild young thing in search for novel new ways of casting the world, to stop the infiltration of 'foreign' Englishes.

What is fascinating here is the intersection of this plastic nature of language and the investment made in 'the way it is/has always been' to IDENTITY.

I wouldn't say I try to Australianify English spoken around these parts - (except in the bosom of my own family, where it is only right that we speak with Australian accents and use the appropriate ocker) -but I DO try to at least raise awareness of the different Englishes out there to be enjoyed.

I recommend my students take up a kind of Internationally-Aware American Standard English, since at least the latter part is expected and best understood in these parts.

I often use Dictionary sites to model various alternate ways of pronouncing words, particularly the American where my mimicked version might not be adequate.

Today, for instance, we looked up CHEETAH, which for me, and for an English person would be a homophone with the way we might pronounce CHEATER, but which, of course, is quite different for an American.

CHEETAH - American
CHEETAH - English


So; Which English is it, anyway? All English is particular unto itself, from one speaker to the next, and it is the ultimate folly to insist any one is in any way 'better' or more 'correct' than another.

The important thing is to have it serve the needs of communication. That the language uttered is comprehensible to the intended audience, that the probable local input can be properly understood.


Any thoughts or stories to add? Which English you teach? Which English you speak? Your students DO speak or should TRY to speak?

Monday, 21 May 2012

10 Tips for Motivating EFL Students to Practice outside class

  1. Send a practice email after each class. Include games and listening activities; there are plenty of fun interactive links. Demonstrate some in class so students get the idea.
  2. Ask them to reflect on what practice is most effective for them, and what type of practice is most necessary. 
  3. As a class, google "how I learned English". Have students choose a technique or idea to try and report on it in the next  class.  
  4. Have students brainstorm for practice ideas. 
  5. Give students the chance to swap their best practice strategies with each other.
  6. Give them homework to report on a program or a reading for the next class. Let them choose something they are interested in for added motivation.
  7. Set up a chat group or a group page on Facebook.
  8. Encourage students to keep a practice calendar.
  9. Have students set their own target practice time
  10. Have them reflect  and report on the practice they did at the start of each class.

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Thursday, 3 May 2012

Giving better instructions

Communication break-down is never so immediately evident as when there is a glaring gap between what you expect and what you 'get' after issuing some instructions. 

Be it as simple as moving places to sit with a new partner, or as complex as the production of a travel brouchure: there are ways of doing it RIGHT, and ways of doing it WRONG.

When you get it WRONG, at best, it will make for some time-wasting and confusion.

And at worst, it can lead to unmet objectives, confusion, even DISASTER.


And I admit it. It took me a very long time and not a little outside observation and expertise to really take in the fact that

my instruction giving was not good. Messy. Confused and confusing. Inefficient. 

Even then, it took me a time to accept that in fact, it is actually possible to improve it.

I tended to think that giving and responding to instructions are at the very messy 'coalface' of communication, and so are inevitably doomed to be plagued to some degree by the need for repetition, misunderstandings, clarification, rectifications and renegotiation.

There is a little - just a little - truth in this. Even when dealing in a first langauge giving successful instructions is rarely 100% confusion-free.


It is still eminently possible to GIVE BETTER INSTRUCTIONS

And here are some recommended steps to get there:

Be aware that as a teacher your instructions are an essential part of students' performance.

Instruction giving is when you are not teaching, but leading.

When you're about to give instructions, go to a quiet place inside yourself. Focus. Concentrate. Think about what you want to be done. And how. This needs to be made very explicit.

Next have the STUDENTS focus. Don't begin until they are all quiet, listening and aware they NEED what you're about to tell them in order to complete what follows. 

Make it as clear and succinct as possible.
Write key points on the board if necessary, including page numbers, exercise numbers, the minimum requirements for the task, or what have you.
One of the best ways of doing this is to provide a model of what you are expecting.

SPECIFY HOW students are to work

If instructions are very complicated and involved, go for BITE-SIZED instructions. One step at a time.
  • grouping
  • time limits. I always opt for a time limit that makes the students groan but get straight down to work rather than one that makes them think they have plenty of time to waste.

Don't have them start until you are certain that your instructions are clear and understood.

Check that the students know exactly what you want.

Asking "Do you understand?" is not enough.

Ask specific check questions relevant to the instructions such as
"WHAT are you going to do?"
"HOW MANY exercises are you going to complete?"
"How long do you have?", and so on.

Another effective strategy is to have students paraphrase what they're going to do next.

Be ready to STOP the whole group
Once the activitiy is underway, monitor  carefully to be sure students are producing what you had in mind. If you find an  group veering wildly from what you intended, stop the whole group, get them to focus again and restate the instructions as necessary.  Don't fall into the trap of adjusting instructions group by group; precious learning time is lost!


Most of all, be aware of how important instruction giving is to the success of your class. Adjust your style as neccessary but don't be satisfied until instructions are truly effective in having students getting down to work in the way you wanted, and producing the types of results you intended.

Good luck!

And please, share any of you best ideas here!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Fun warm-up or wind down: instant table-top board game

My fleet of  'game markers' always ready for action!


*a dice a coin, or spinner.

*a marker per student or group of students. (You can always have them make one out of a small piece of cardboard. Have them write a group name and representative symbol on it if you like.)

*slips of paper

1. Hand out three slips of paper to each student or small group of students.

2. Ask them to write on each something relevant  to what you are studying.
This may be for example
  • interesting and difficult vocabulary items
  • interesting questions related to the theme you are working on. 
  • different phonetic symbols or sounds you have been studying
  • positive or negative statement they feel strongly about. 
  • sentences about a particular theme. 
(Alternately for this step you can use flashcards you may have been working with)

3. If the group is small enough, you can play on a table top.

Alternately you might have several games going simultaneously in small groups.

A fun variation for big groups with lots of space available and lots of kinesthetic energy needing to be spent, the squares themselves can be whole sheets of paper and you can play a giant floor board game, with the students themselves being the markers.

Whatever of these choices you make, shuffle the slips of paper, and lay them out randomly in a chain with a beginning and an end.

If you like, you might add some random squares with "miss your turn", "free question" "go forward 2" etc. 

4. Take turns to roll the dice and play in normal board game fashion. Students may have to answer questions, or ask a question with the word from the square they land in, pronounce it correctly, identify whether the sentence they land on is correct or incorrect, and if incorrect, correct it... and so on, according to the nature of the material studied.

I hope you and your students enjoy this great instant, very flexible and very student-centered warm-up, wind-down or revision.

If you have any ideas to add, please go right ahead!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Course Book Free! With a little help from .... a Course Book!

Ok, so maybe it's cheating.

But I have to confess I have of late been trialing following the 'sequencing' developed in a established coursebook to develop my beginner level classes. As I commented in the previous post, the problem here for 'negotiating' content with low-level students is that what they need is basically EVERYTHING, and they need it in a scaffolded, sequenced kind of way.

Of course I can  - and no doubt should  - sit down and develop a coherent sequence myself. Indeed until recently that is what I have done. But I found too much of my time and resources taken up in developing and revising this simple sequencing.

It was draining and dragging at me in my otherwise overwhelmingly joyous process of planning great classes. 

So I chose a course I liked, of a communicative rather than grammaresque orientation.

And since then, rather than having to trawl through the process of designing a sequence myself, I am saving myself thay particular work by following the general sequence of tasks and language content developed in THAT course - then I close the book and develop that content in my own way.

Yes probably it's cheating. But's working! It's working!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Why go course book free?

There are many reasons why it can be very rewarding both for the English as a Foreign Language educator and her students to go course book free.

Some quick ideas, far from exhaustive, on the advantages and disadvantages;


  • it's cheaper! In many developing countries this is a real and urgent consideration. Course books are costly, and can make the difference between being able to afford classes and not.
  • classes become more personalised to students'  - and teacher's! - needs and interests, freed from pre-established structuring, and so able to deal with emergent language, and follow where need and interest seem to dictate.
  • in my experience, even comparing my own classes WITH a coursebook, as opposed to my classes WITHOUT coursebooks, the latter tend to be more interesting, dynamic and creative. I always try for interesting, creative classes, but somehow when you have book suggesting what to do, and how to go about it, all supported within structured practice exercises, somehow I feel obliged to include those exercises whether they be truly necessary or edifying OR NOT, and somehow, the class always seems a little slower for it.
  • on a related note, many courses seem to be structured around grammar points, so it can be difficult to maintain a communicative focus.
  • materials are AUTHENTIC rather than designed for language learners. This simulates what the learner is going to find in the real English speaking world, and much better prepares them to take a part in it.


  • It can be hard work! teachers must be more resourceful and creative, especially in coming up with appropriate input: course books are easy, on a lazy day you can just follow through the pages without so much as giving them a good thinkover. We all know we shouldn't. But we all do it albeit very occasionally. On a lazy day.
  • The educator may need to supply more support material, and this can require more photocopies than a class where everyone has books.
  • Authentic materials should be selected to be accesible to students' level of English so as not to demotivate them. Students may need more focussed preparation and  learning strategies taught to them to deal with the more complex challenges which authentic materials can pose. 
  • Sequencing, typically extremely professionally staged in your average course book,  may be haphazard in the course-book free classroom, and perhaps therefore less efficient or complete. I still find that after following a particular theme or language point through to its logical conclusion, I need to really sit down  - both by myself, and also with my students, and think about where we've been and where to go next. This is more the case with very low level students and very high level students. The very low level, because what they need next is EVERYTHING. The very high level, because after you've been working together for some time - let's say a year or more - sometimes it is not so apparent what they need at all, and to keep coming up with new ideas can become a strain.
  • Unlike when learning from a 'course' where you might have an amount of time established as necessary to cover each section - chapter, page, book - there is no real answer to that question so often asked by students; "How long before I 'finish'?" Students who are accustomed to traditional and evaluation-oriented classes sometimes object to the (to my mind, glorious, real-life) nebulousness of unstructured study.  
  • If you have an unsuccessful class, badly structured, badly supported, badly explained, with unsuccessful follow-through, or otherwise boring, looking at unnecessary or even incorrect language - there is no one else to blame but ONESELF. No excuses, no we HAVE TO DO this because it is in the book. I freely confess I have had some spectacular FAILURES with some of my more experimental ideas, and though my students seem to have forgiven me, I have learned the hard way why no one else has tried anything  quite like THAT before, and is not likely to ever do so again.The ideas in course books mostly have been trialed and selected on the basis of being relatively fail proof. For my students' sake, sometimes I wish MY ideas had enjoyed that luxury BEFORE being inflicted on them!

Just as some teachers are not happy teaching course-book free, so students may not be either.

For myself and my students, I feel the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, though sometimes on a bad day I might regret taking on more work than I need to. In the long run; I believe it is worth it, both for myself and for my students.

I know there are many of both advantages and disadvantages I have failed to mention.

Do you have any thoughts to add? What are your own feelings and experiences of the course book free classroom?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Using Podcasts

Insects of Costa Rica | EOL: Learning and Education Group

Another great listening resource site. You can download the audioscript for further language study.


Going coursebook free means searching for alternative sources of input, and thanks to the internet, there is no end of fascinating authentic material just a few clicks away.

At the moment I am using science podcasts of the sort above to work with university Biology students who are anxious to  improve their English with the goal of studying abroad. 

Typically I choose a podcast full of wonderful, useful vocabulary; the very kind of thing the students seem to be passionate about.  Alternatively, I ask students to choose something themselves, having in class worked through the process of how to find podcasts of interest by typing some keywords and "PODCAST" into Google.

I might play the audio once and ask students to take note of interesting or key words and ideas.

Then I ask them, in pairs, to discuss what it was about, and elaborate a brief summary. Also share any interesting words or phrases they noted down.

Then as a whole group all these ideas are shared and discussed.

After this I hand out the transcript. Some important phrases may be highlighted by me for subsequent discussion.

Other key words may be blanked out for students to complete gapfill by listening. These are likely to be grammar structures we might have been working on, or vocabulary we might have seen before. The trick might be to catch the ending - what form of verb or adjective is being used (matured? mature? maturing? etc) If we have a time, I might ask them, to predict, in pairs, what the missing words might be.

Then with students reading along and completing the script, (if there was a gap fill activity) and circling important vocabulary, we will listen a second time.

And possibly then a third time, this time stopping to complete gaps, discuss the language in context, drill pronunication of individual words and connected speech, and comment on meaning.

New important words and phrases are noted down for follow up in a next class.

The advantages of this type of activity include
  • The subject matter itself is vitally important and interesting to the students, so the motivation is all there
  • The integrated practice of many different skills - listening, speaking, reading, and some writing.
  • Pronunciation can easily be focused on and drilled. This is important to me where I try to give my students a variety of accent input, and especially - since my own accent is Australian -  to model some kinds of 'standard American English' accents, which is expected of them in this region. 
  • Vocabulary is seen in context, and practiced also thus
  • Students are taught how to access podcasts on their own and encouraged to do so for outside class practice. The fact most sites provide transcripts gives them the opportunity to back up their self-study. Podcasts being downloadable maximizes their out-of-class practice opportunities, they can listen to them while commuting, exercising and so on.

And the extra added bonus; I get to learn a lot of new things too!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Eating Out Roleplay!

Level: False Beginner.
Previous knowledge: 
GRAMMAR: basic simple present, questions
VOCABULARY: food, meals, numbers and prices

polite requests and offers
WOULD you LIKE...?
I would like...We 'd like.... etc.


Warm up:
BOOM! using dollars and multiples of $3 as the boom number.

As students toss a ball from one to the other, they count
$1 - $2- BOOM! - $4 - $5 - BOOM! - $7 - $8 - BOOM!..... etc.

I chose DOLLARS so students can practice pronouncing the 's' sound at the end which they tend to leave off. 

If students make a miscount or drop the ball they take slip of paper and must answer one of the following review questions:
  • What is your favourite restaurant?
  • Do you like to cook?
  • How often do you eat fruit?
  • What do you usually eat for breaksfast?
  • What do you usually eat for lunch?
  • What do you usually eat for dinner?
  • What is your favourite food?
  • What is your favourite meal of the day? Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Why?
  • How often do you eat in a restaurant?
  • What food DON'T you eat?

After this we work with the following powerpoint.

Eating Out
PAGE 1- notice the pictures! ask students which restaurant they like the most!
PAGE 2- Students stand and speak to several different people about each question.
PAGE 3- In small groups compete to come up with the longest lists of delicious restaurant food and drinks
PAGE 4 and 5- As a whole class discuss and drill useful language for a waiter and for clients in a restaurant

PAGE 6- In small groups students develop a menu with prices. They then practice being and serving customers.

and FINALLY students become clients in each others' restaurants for some unscripted language exchange.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it provides very valuable self-reflective feedback if you can tape their roleplays and have students watch themselves.

An alternative is to have other groups of students provide feedback in different areas, such as grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary,  funniness.... Of course, you may need to suplement this with your own observations and feedback.

I have found my students really enjoy this very functional language task. I hope it is useful to you too!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

the classroom as film set: encouraging student self-reflection

Filming students roleplaying restaurant scenes tonight demonstrated to me forcefully the power of the medium in getting students to give self-feedback and reflect on their own performance.

Students had named their own restaurant, designed menus, come up with dialogues, and then went on to adlib new restaurant scenes, playing the customers in each other's restaurants.

Once this was finished, we sat down to watch all the short movies I'd taped on my ordinary little digital camera. The sound could have done with some improving; unfortunately there was quite a lot of background noise to contend with. In the future I'll have to stand a lot closer to be sure to pick up the softer spoken students.

But even with the at times difficult to hear soundtrack,  the replaying of the films turned out to be the highlight and the pivotal moment of a fun, dynamic class.

I didn't even have to open my mouth; on watching each skit, students instantly started correcting their own errors, noticing where they could have and perhaps should have spoken more politely, correcting pronunciation and requesting clarifications for where they had doubts.

Interestingly, each student seemed to be critical only of him- or herself; indeed, I would say, seemed to have only eyes and ears for him and her-self; I suppose they have all had ample opportunity to observe their classmates in action, but the opportunity to observe *themselves* is relatively scarce and fascinating, deeply useful, albeit also a little horrifying.

We all enjoyed a very valueable and enthusiastic student-led feedback and error correction session, perhaps one of the best I've ever 'hosted'.

I'm going to have to invest in a better camera!

Monday, 23 January 2012


Here is an example of a very simple warm-up, which also revises vocabulary items worked with in a previous class.

In this case, the vocabulary was from a TOEIC preparation class. 

Toeic Wordlist Startup Questions
Students individually or in pairs complete the sentences. You need to explain they may need to adjust the tense any verbs are in to fit the context.

They then stand and circulate and ask and answer questions of each other.

Finally you can have them report on the most interesting answer. 

(5 per sheet to save paper!)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

My Top Three Listening Practice Sites for English Learners

#3 Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab excellent listening exercises of many different types, at different levels of difficulty. Pre-listening and Post-listening exercises are included. pronunciation and vocabulary lessons also provided.

#2 Voice of America Learning English a bonanza of listening resources!

#1 English Listening Lesson Library Online : Learn English Naturally!
It offers a HUGE range of interesting listening exercises. You can turn on and off text as you listen, you can do multimedia slide quizes, play games, listen to songs and news reports, one on one discussions of an variety of interesting topics, video lessons, and in my favourite - the MIXER section -you can hear the same topic discussed by 6 different people from different nationalities with different accents, and then follow up with vocabulary and comprehension exercises.

I rate this number 1 not only for the huge variety of resources available and constantly being extended,   but also because the site is interesting enough even a native English speaker engaged and entertained.