Thursday, December 24, 2015

Speaking Club Week 3

I try out new ideas every week for the speaking club. This week we started with a very short movie "Struck (Love at First Sight)" I found on  In the movie, Joel (Bodhi Elfman) is impaled through the chest by a three-foot arrow. It doesn’t harm him, but it won’t come out, so he has to learn to deal with both his newfound protrusion, and his own painful loneliness. He tries to go to work, to date women, but no one seems ready to accept his strange flaw. Little does he know, his life is about to change forever...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Speaking Club Week 2

In the second week of the speaking club, the students did some role playing. I found these very short scenarios online and turned them into gap-filling tasks just so the students would work on them a little rather than just read them. The scenarios vary in terms of length and difficulty, so you might want to keep that in mind when distributing the tasks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Speaking Club Week 1

I have started a speaking club for my lower-level students who wanted to do extra speaking practice. This is the first one of the tasks that I prepared/compiled and will share here on a weekly basis.

The first time we met, I wanted the students to get to know each other because they came from different classes. Also, this first activity was an easy start for most of the students who had little experience in speaking English.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Concentric Circles (Ice breaker and/or speaking activity)

Concentric Circles is a powerful bonding exercise because it gives individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences with others in one-on-one conversations. Because learners are given an ordered situation in which they have these conversations, they are able to build relationships with others without the pressure or awkwardness that is often part of social interactions.


Have the group arrange their chairs so that they are facing each other in two circles, one inside the other as in the diagram below: (You can have the group count off by 2s [1, 2, 1, 2…]

The arrows represent students.

Making uncountable nouns countable

When we teach countable and uncountable nouns, we often give examples of foods and drinks – an apple vs. a carton of milk. As much as they are necessary particularly for learners at lower levels, we should also teach other vocabulary items that might be confusing for the learners considering the fact that some words that are uncountable in English have countable equivalents in other languages. The following might be a good example of this:

Plickers – Capturing multiple choice responses from students

Another neat idea to make your life easier!

Plickers is an online platform that enables you to capture multiple choice responses from students using your smart phone. The only things you will need are a smartphone (only the teacher needs one) and the Plicker cards that your students will use to show you their answers.

Practice listening on Voscreen

Voscreen is a website where you can practice listening and grammar through movies / TV series / music videos. Here is how the website works:

Should have + past participle

I used the video above to teach should have + past participle. It is a segment from the movie Joy Luck Club. An American man meets the family of his Chinese-American girlfriend and does certain things that are considered rather impolite by the very traditional Chinese family. In the video, the girlfriend, Waverly, remembers and narrates this scene in which she uses the should-have-done structure a few times.

Practice reading with Newsela is a website designed to help English learners practice reading. Some good points worth mentioning about the website:
  1. You can sign up as a student, teacher or parent.
  2. There’s a wide range of choices categorized by topic.
  3. Students can choose the level that best suits their own proficiency level (there are as many as 5 different levels for each article).

Listening practice with lyrics is a website designed for people who like to practice their listening skills through songs. The smart interface makes it a very enjoyable experience. First, you find the song you want to listen to using the search box, and choose one of the four levels offered. The number and difficulty of the missing words change depending on the level.

When you’re listening to the song, you can use the backspace key on your keyboard to rewind and listen to the same part again. Please remember that it won’t let you type anything other than the correct word. So, if nothing appears when you try to type something, it means you’re not typing the correct answer. You can do this as a whole class activity in those five minutes you have at the end of a lesson. :)

This is what the interface looks like:

Password (Vocabulary game)

Jimmy Fallon has granted us yet another great game that we can use in EFL/ESL classrooms to practice vocabulary! Here is a short description! (Or just watch the video below!)

Requires: At least 4 people, split into even-numbered teams.

Teaching “some” and “any”

Language teachers often present the “rule”:

Some in positive sentences
Any in negatives and questions

despite the fact that they know that all of the following are possible English

I like some pop music.
I like any pop music.
I don’t like some pop music.
I don’t like any pop music.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Forms of “other” (another, the other, others etc.)

Different forms of “other” is a grammar point that we hardly ever focus on in class. This worksheet (taken from Fundamentals of English Grammar by Azar) focuses on singular and plural forms of other like another, the other, other, the others etc. The visuals included in the exercises are especially helpful to help students differentiate between another and the other.  Download the worksheet here. (The top of the first page is empty, so you need to scroll down a little to see the actual exercises.)

The difference between say, tell, talk, speak and discuss

Most of my students tend to use the verbs say and tell interchangeably probably because there’s no such difference in their native language(s), so I found this worksheet from In Company Pre-intermediate Teacher’s Book (Macmillan Publishers) which focuses on the difference between say, tell, talk, speak and discuss. Some common collocations are provided but it might be a good idea to explain to your students the transitive/intransitive difference between tell andsay before you use this worksheet. In the last part of the worksheet some collocations of give are also included. You can download the worksheet here!

Teaching cohesive devices with a classic tale

I used the classic tale Little Red Riding Hood to raise awareness about cohesive devices. Most people would argue that such topics should be taught at more advanced levels. However, I find it useful to teach them as early as possible (at elementary level for example). It might at least help learners better understand reading texts.

In my lesson, I first used the following version of the story that I adapted from I replaced all the reference words (e.g. pronouns) and synonyms with the original nouns they refer to. I asked the students to read the text and tell me if there’s anything wrong with it. Most of them immediately realized that there’s too much repetition. Then, I went on to elicit reference words and synonyms by asking some questions. Later, I asked them to try to improve this story by adding reference words any synonyms where they thought appropriate. I also reminded them that there were no right or wrong answers for this and that they just needed to try and make it sound better.

Using mobile phones in class with Socrative

Socrative is one of the few online tools that actually let you integrate technology into your class effectively. It’s basically a student response system that you, as the teacher, can use to assess your students’ understanding of a certain topic and get instant feedback from them. First of all, you need to get a free account on (you can use your Google account to do this). After signing up, you’ll be asked to name your class and you’ll see this screen:

Pictionary to revise vocabulary

You’ve probably played this game in your native language but playing it in English is just as fun, if not more so! I don’t think I need to explain how it works because Jimmy Fallon has given us such a good demonstration. Jimmy Fallon, I have learned so much from you!

Tic Tac Toe (Vocab Game)

This game is a great way to revise vocabulary. Basically, depending on the number of the words you want to revise, you draw a table like this on the board. You just write the initial letter of the word, and the part of speech in brackets. 

Speaking Practice for Past Progressive

A colleague of mine suggested this activity to practice the past continuous tense and it worked quite well. It’s basically a role play but the students took their roles very seriously.

Materials: None but students and a teacher.
Prep time: None
Time: 50 min. per game

Write the word “Alibi” on the board and explain what it means. Invent a crime, when it was committed and where. I picked a bank robbery at a real bank, close to the university where I teach.

Then I said that four university students were suspects of the bank robbery. Next, divide the class into groups, my class has 20 students, so I divided the class into 5 groups of four. Say something like “The four suspects are members of this class.” Ask one group to volunteer to be the suspects. Tell them their alibi, they couldn’t have committed the robbery because they were eating dinner in a restaurant far away from the crime scene. The students who aren’t suspects, the investigators, must try to find holes in their alibi. They do this by interviewing each of the suspects separately and then comparing the stories to see if they match. So, send the suspects out of the room to try to get their stories straight. While the suspects are talking about the details of their stories, the investigators in each group come up with a list of questions about the suspects’ alibi. They can ask things like, “What was the waitress wearing, how long did you stay, how did you get there?”After the students are finished preparing, invite the suspects back in, one suspect goes to each of the groups to be interviewed. Once each group has interviewed each suspect, compare with the class. If the suspects’ stories match, they are off the hook, if not, they are officially accused.

My students enjoyed this, you could make the crime less serious, kidnapping a neighbor’s dog or something.

A worksheet for comparatives

As a tech-savvy individual, I do compare things when I’m shopping online. So, when I was preparing a lesson to teach comparatives, I thought to myself “What better way to teach comparatives than with a real-life task almost all of us do anyway?”. I chose to use smartphones because a) kids and teenagers can’t do without theb) they have many features to compare. I kept the list very short because I was using this worksheet with 6th graders who had somewhat limited vocabulary but as always, this is just an idea and you can adapt it any way you like.

You can download the worksheet here. (Note that I made this worksheet in 2014, so you might want to replace the phones with newer ones!)

Word Sneak (A speaking activity)

While watching this hilarious video from the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I immediately thought of using it as a speaking activity. It is great to revise vocabulary and to work on fluency. Since there has to be a lot of improvisation, I would prefer doing this activity with more proficient learners.

The idea is very simple. You pair up the students and give each one of them a (different) set of vocabulary items. What they need to do is work these vocabulary items into a conversation as casually and seamlessly as possible. (I’ve never tried it myself but it seems like such a fun game that can be done in those 5 minutes that you sometimes have at the end of a class.) Watch the perfect performance by Jimmy Fallon and Ricky Gervais above.

A game to practice comparatives

You’ve probably heard of the game “Jeopardy”. It is commonly used in EFL/ESL classrooms for different reasons. I adapted it to practice comparative adjectives with 6th graders. I have given the download link below but if you are new to this game, here is how you play it:

Using movie segments to practice grammar

I have found this great blog which gives you many ideas about using movies to practice grammar points. The creator of the blog is Claudio Azevedo, a Brazilian teacher and teacher trainer, who believes that we can make grammar more interactive with movies. The best part is he doesn’t only tell you what movies can be used for a certain grammar point, but he also provides tasks for it. You can always adapt them of course, but this blog is a good step to get you started!

A song with a moving story

I found this video on Youtube accidentally and I liked it so much that I immediately decided to prepare a lesson plan for it.

A creative writing task

This activity was designed to be given as homework to practice the simple past tense . You can also do it in class as a writing task but it might take quite a lot of time depending on your student profile. You can adapt it to use with almost any group of learners.

Choose one of the characters below and invent his/her biography. You have to use at least 8 of the following phrases. Remember to put the verbs into the correct form.

5 Questions around the star

This is free writing task that can be used to practice the simple past tense.

Give each student a paper with a big star on it. Each student will write a sentence about their personal life, preferably from their own experiences. (e.g. I will never forget the day when I almost drowned in the Mediterranean sea.) Then the teacher will put them into groups of 5. In their groups, the students will give their papers to the person next to them (in a clockwise fashion). The person who gets the paper will write a question about the sentence in the middle of the star. (e.g. Was there anyone else with you that day?) And the students will continue to change the papers clockwise until everybody has their own paper back by which time they will have 5 questions about their own sentence. When everyone has got their own paper back, they will tell the story of their experience answering the questions written by their group mates.

 Here is an example: (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

How to turn your scanned images into MS Word or text formats

Online OCR is a software that allows you to convert scanned PDF and photographed images into editable Word, Text, Excel output formats.

Online allows you to convert 15 images per hour in the “Guest mode” (without registration). So, you have to sign up if you want to convert more images.