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Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 1-7 September 2014.

Why Should You Use It in Your ESL Classroom?

So gamification involves a whole lot more than choosing a game to play and playing it; you have to actually design one and that will take a whole lot of effort and work on your part.Why bother? We have to face the facts. An overwhelming number of kids and adults play video, mobile or even Facebook games. They are addicted! What’s so appealing about games these days is not just the game itself, but also the social interaction and the competition. Players post their high scores and get to beat their friends. Leaderboards show who’s first. Badges display all of your accomplishments. More importantly, a game does not simply start and finish. There’s a progression as players move from one level to the next, the ultimate goal being to reach the highest tier. It’s motivating. It’s engaging. There’s no denying that. And just because it’s a “game”, it does not mean it can’t be an educational experience.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 25-31 August 2014.

ESL Teachers Ask: How Can I Gamify My ESL Classroom

“I’ve read about this recent trend called gamification, which seems to involve a lot more than simply “playing games” in the classroom. Can you explain what gamification is and how I can gamify my ESL classroom?” *

Bingo… Tic-Tac-Toe… Hangman… We’ve been playing games in the ESL classroom for ages. But as stated in the question above, “gamification” is more than simply “playing games”. So, what is gamification? Why should you use it in your ESL classroom? How can you use it? Let’s address each of these questions.

What is Gamification?

Gamification involves the design of a personalized game, a game you’re creating to engage your students by appealing to their natural interest in gaming.

Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts. Typical game elements include the use of leaderboards, avatars, points, levels, rewards and badges, just to name a few. If you were to gamify your ESL classroom, you’d first have to define a goal you hope your students will accomplish, then use game techniques to design a game that will help your class achieve this goal, while including the use of the previously mentioned game elements. Simply put, if you’re playing games in your classroom, you’re not really gamifying. Gamification involves the design of a personalized game, a game you’re creating to engage your students by appealing to their natural interest in gaming.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 18-24 August 2014.

5. Put Their Knowledge to Good Use

In this final step, have your students use the grammar structure they have just discovered. You might have them do an oral response by having students participate in a role play or give small groups discussion questions that will elicit the target structure. You can also have students do a written response that uses the target structure. For my past tense lesson, I might have students tell a partner about a vacation that they took. Or I might have them write a letter describing their vacation to a friend.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 11-17 August 2014.

4. Do an Error Check

Now that your students have listened to the target structure and discovered the rule for themselves, give them another passage that uses the target structure. This time, though, have students check for errors in the targets structure. In my past tense lesson, I might choose to give my students independent sentences or another passage which uses the past tense. In either case, the sentences would have errors throughout which my students would need to correct.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 4-10 August 2014.

3. Students Discover the Rule

Once your students have done the first two steps, give them several examples which use the target structure correctly. Have your class work to “discover” the rule for themselves, and offer then direction and guidance if it’s needed. When teaching my past tense lesson, I might give my students several sentences written in the past tense which use – ed verbs.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 28 July - 3 August 2014.

2. Listen with an Information Gap

Give your students a transcript of the passage you read, this time with the target grammatical structure replaced by blanks. Students listen and try to determine what they are hearing while making a best guess at filling in the blanks with what they hear. For my past tense lesson, I would give my students a transcript of my vacation story to read along with me. On that transcript, however, I would replace every past tense verb with a blank. As I read the passage to my students again, they would fill in the missing verbs.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 21-27 July 2014.

1. Listen for Comprehension

Read your students a passage which contains the target structure. This first read through is to familiarize them with the passage information as well as the grammatical structure. For example, if I were teaching a lesson on the past tense, I might tell my students about a vacation I took last summer.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 14-20 July 2014.

Try Teaching Grammar Using The Discovery Technique

The discovery technique, though perhaps not very common among ESL classrooms, is really quite simple to use. Here are the 5 basic steps for teaching a lesson with this method.

It may seem strange to those of us who were trained to stand up front and present information to our students, but the discovery technique can be a memorable and effective technique for teaching grammar in the ESL classroom. If you have never tried this technique with your students, you may want to. You just might find that the best way to teach is to let students discover the information for themselves.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 7-13 July 2014.

What Are the Benefits of the Discovery Technique?

For those who choose to use it, the discovery technique has three primary benefits. First of all, since students are solving a grammar mystery, they tend to pay more attention and stay more engaged. They are not simply receiving information from someone else. They are discovering it for themselves, and they cannot discover it if they do not first look. Secondly, students who learn with the discovery technique tend to remember the rules of grammar better because they have played a part in discovering them. The final benefit might be the greatest of all. Because they have learned grammar by figuring out the rules from context, students familiar with this technique have an easier time figuring out unfamiliar grammar structures they encounter in the future. This makes them better able to cope when they are faced with some grammar point they did not already learn in class.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 30 June - 6 July 2014.

Implicit vs. Explicit

With the discovery technique, there is a greater emphasis on implicit knowledge, and that knowledge is attained through implicit instruction. But what does any of that mean? Explicit knowledge is what we often see with ESL students. They are able to explain a particular grammar rule and can complete exercises correctly when those exercises are in isolation (or listed in a grammar book). But when it comes to using language fluently, students with explicit knowledge do not necessarily use that same grammar point correctly in their speech or writing. Students with implicit knowledge, however, do use that particular grammar structure correctly in fluent speech. What they may not be able to do is explain why they are doing what they are doing, that is, explain a grammatical rule. Explicit knowledge often results from explicit instruction, which presents a structure to students and then proceeds to use that structure in specifically designed exercises. Implicit instruction, on the other hand, gives students language in context and then challenges them to figure out the grammar on their own. The teacher’s job is to create the conditions that will elicit the grammar rule from their students. This type of instruction often leads to implicit knowledge.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 23-29 June 2014.

Is It the Same Thing as Task Based Learning?

The teacher’s role is to guide students to their own discovery, not to give students the information on the grammar rule.

The discovery technique may seem a lot like task based learning, and sometimes they may look similar since neither presents a grammar lesson upfront and or includes “traditional” grammar exercises, but in fact there are several differences between the two. Task based learning puts a communication exercise before students and does not stress the grammar necessary for this task. The discovery technique, on the other hand, does focus on a particular grammar point, and the goal of the lesson is to learn that point. The point of the lesson is to elicit a grammar rule from the students and not complete a communication task. So although there is no direct lecture on a grammar point, the discovery technique still stresses a target structure to be learned.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 16-22 June 2014.

The Discovery Technique For Teaching Grammar: Just Get Out Of The Way And See How Much Your Students Can Learn

Have you heard of the discovery technique for teaching grammar?

Have you tried it? If your answer to either of these questions is no, read on to learn everything you need to know about this simple but effective instruction method.

What Is the Discovery Technique?

If you have heard the name of the technique, you can probably get a good understanding of what this not so common teaching method is like. The discovery technique is a method of teaching in which students are not directly presented with a target grammatical structure or rule. Instead, students are given content in which the target structure is used. Students then discover the grammatical rule or figure out the pattern for themselves. The teacher’s role is to guide students to their own discovery, not to give students the information on the grammar rule.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 9-15 June 2014.

Keep It Real

Just because students are absolute beginners, it doesn’t mean they can’t handle real life situations. You should still teach in context, and provide as many examples of real life situations and real props as you can. Even though real maps, brochures or catalogues are filled with vocabulary they won’t understand, it is important to help your absolute beginners deal with, precisely, these types of things. Show them how to pinpoint the information they may need like a phone numberaddress or website. Make sure they understand that it doesn’t matter that they can’t read the entire brochure, the important thing is that they learn to obtain what they need from it.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 2-8 June 2014.

Build on What They’ve Learned Before

It is essential for absolute beginners to review what they’ve previously learned, and it’s a great idea to start each lesson with a brief review. But you can also re-use previously taught language points and introduce them into a new context. Say you are now teaching your students how to ask for directions. Student A is walking down the street with a friend, Student B, when they run into Student C. A introduces B to C (they review how to introduce someone), and then C asks A for directions.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 26 May - 1 June 2014.

Show, Don’tTell

Because they haven’t been exposed to the English language enough, try to minimize their reading of dialogues and conversations, and act out the situations, instead. Consider this: when you teach students to reply to a “How are you?” do you have them read this short exchange first or just act it out directly? Of course, it’s a lot better to simply show them how to reply. This goes for most of the expressions and functions they will have to learn.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 19-25 May 2014.

Use Their Senses

Absolute beginners may not have enough knowledge to understand explanations, synonyms, definitions, i.e. anything you describe with words. Instead, use their senses to maximize learning. The easiest to use with beginners are visual aids like flashcards, but don’t’ forget to include plenty of gestures, as well as real life objects. The use of realia will allow you to utilize several senses at the same time, and it’s often more engaging than two-dimensional pictures. Don’t forget to use things they can smell and taste, too!



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 12-18 May 2014.

Celebrate Small Achievements

Absolute beginners will tell you they don’t speak English – till the very end of the course. What they’re thinking is that they don’t speak English fluently, or like you, for example. But make sure they’re aware of what they can do. If on the first day of class they’ve learned to greet each in English, end your lesson by celebrating this, “Congratulations! You can now introduce yourself and greet each other in English”.Take the focus away from what they can’t do and focus on what they can do instead.This proves to be tremendously encouraging!


Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 5-11 May 2014.

Don’t Assume Anything

Don’t make assumptions about what your students know. Assume they know nothing. For example, to practice the verb to be, you ask them what nationalities they are, only to find out they don’t know how to say nationalities in English. Countries and nationalities should be taught first, and then practiced with the verb “to be”. And this goes for a multitude of vocabulary and expressions. Don’t assume a student will be able to answer you if you ask, “How are you?” Absolute beginners won’t know how to reply, unless you’ve specifically taught them.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 28 April - 4 May 2014.

Prioritize Learning Goals

Absolute beginners have had so little exposure to the English language, they have absolutely nothing to build on. Naturally, you’ll start with the basics, but consider what they’ll need to know first. Does it make sense to start with a list of foods in English? Or colors or numbers?Probably not. What they need to know first is how to introduce themselves and greet others. The natural progression from there is the use of the verb “to be” (I am from…He is from…, etc…). Then you’ll progress on to possessives (my country, your name, his family) and so on…Give priority to the language they will need first and foremost.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 21-27 April 2014.

Chill, Relax, be Calm. Don’t Stress!

Even though sometimes you may feel like you’re not helping, or that the work you are doing is in vain, give it a few weeks. Things will begin to pan out nicely after a few weeks as you begin to find your feet and build a strong rapport with your students. They will also begin to understand your teaching methodology and begin to pick up on all visual clues, hand signals, body language, and everything else that you employ in helping them learn the target language. If you put in the time with them, they will always look back on you as being their first English teacher who really made the effort to help and assist them.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 14-20 April 2014.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When teaching absolute beginners, it is important to repeat all commands in order to give them a chance to listen to the individual words. By repeating your commands, the students are more likely to understand what you are saying, as they may be able to understand specific words, and then contextually put the action and word together. For more advanced students at about a level 0-1, one ideal way of improving the student’s vocab is to repeat the instruction using different words. If the student is unfamiliar with the vocabulary, they can generally use their brain to connect the dots while learning through the context.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 7-13 April 2014

Teach All Four Skills

For early learners of English, it is a good idea to give them a broad range of activities. This ensures that they can make an improvement in all areas. Learning a variety of skills will also help with other areas of English too. By practicing reading, the students will get a very good understanding of grammar and vocabulary, as they can see the words correctly used and in context. Listening is also a good way to learn new words while helping their speaking. By listening to a recording, students should try to copy the manner in which a native speaker says the words. This will help significantly later down the track in accent reduction.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  31 March - 6 April 2014

Speak...... Slowly.....

This is one of the more obvious tips to make the list, but teachers should be reminded to speak slow. With vast number of coffee addicts who rely on their fix to get through six-straight hours of teaching, sometimes we can tend to get a little ahead of ourselves. Always keep this somewhere close to the forefront of your mind, or write it at the top of your lesson plan in big writing. This is a great way for remembering to keep the pace down throughout your class.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  24-30 March 2014

Know a Few Basic Words and Phrases in the Student’s Language

While many language schools discourage any usage of the teacher using the L1 of the student, we find that using a few words and phrases here and there prove to be extremely helpful. This helps with getting your point across in the class, and teaching some of the simpler vocabulary. While many ESLers have been converted to the theory that students will learn by being constantly exposed to the language, they should think back to their own time at school when they were learning a different language. Surely if native English speaker with a level 0 in Japanese walked into a class where the teacher spoke only Japanese, then the level 0 English-speaker would probably have gained very little. Same rule applies for students learning English.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  17-23 March 2014

Use Realia, Flashcards and Other Visuals

Use what, I hear you ask? Realia is ESL jargon for anything that is ‘real’. Realia is great method when it comes to teaching vocabulary, as students can are able to simply put the vocabulary with a real life object. This can be done with practically anything, from the whiteboard marker in your hand, or even flowers from the garden. Another common form of realia is photos. Photos make a great to show the students an object or person that is real. One activity that works well with absolute beginners is learning about families. Both you and the students can take your family photos into the class and share them while describing the relative in the photo. Flashcards and other visuals, such as PowerPoint presentations are an ideal way to learning new vocabulary.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  10-16 March 2014

Findan Assistant

When you’re teaching a group of absolute beginners, it is more than likely that you will have one of the students in the class who would be a little bit above the others. You should use this student to your advantage and make them your class assistant. This class assistant can help communicate the task, vocabulary and other useful things that the other students may not yet have an understanding. By finding an assistant in the class, this makes things easier and creates a great atmosphere in the class where the students can help each other in the learning process.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  3-9 March 2014

Smiling Helps

Ah yes, number one on the list, a smile is something that can be understood on a universal level. When building a rapport with your absolute beginner, smiling will build trust and show him or her that you are there in a supportive capacity. Body language is also a useful tool when teaching English, as it is often said that about 70% of our communication is done through body language. Body language is great when trying to get answers from student, showing if the student is incorrect, or even if you want toelicit an answer from a student.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  24 February - 2 March 2014

Provide an Outline After Each Lesson

Give your students an outline of everything that you expected them to get from your lesson during the last five minutes of the lesson. Go over the outline with the students and ask them if there are any questions that they may have. Leave a line for them to write in a question that they may have or ask the teacher assistant to help where needed. Collect the questions and tell the students that you will address the questions the next day or when you return to that lesson.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  17-23 February 2014

"All Tied Up!"

This activity requires a large ball of string.

Have the students sit in a circle and emphasize that they must remain in their seats (for safety reasons). The game starts by a child or the teacher saying the name of someone else in the circle and holding on to the end of the string, while throwing the ball to the person they named. The receiver calls out the name of another child, and keeps hold of his or her end of the string while throwing the ball of string on to the named child. As this continues a tangled web begins to be formed by the crossing of strings.

When the web is completed the group has to undo the web by calling names and throwing the ball of string which is rewound by the receiver before sending it on.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  9-16 February 2014

Make a List to Reinforce Learning

Use the last five minutes of a lesson to get your students to tell you what they learned as a result of the lesson. A large chart in front of the room is a great way to poll students' responses so that all can benefit. Students can copy what you write on the chart during free time or while you are recording the responses. You can leave the chart up for the remainder of the day, or tear off the sheet and tape it somewhere in the classroom for students to access during the day. It also serves as a great reminder. You can then save it and refer to it during review. This is also can be done with a PowerPoint presentation if you have technology available.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  3-9 February 2014


Journal writing is a great way to close a lesson. It keeps the students focused and provides an opportunity for them to express their thoughts in a constructive way. You should always give them a focus question or something you want them to reflect on and write about in their journal related to what you expected them to learn. In this case, you should also check their journals to see if they are on track with what you wanted them to learn.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  27 January - 02 February 2014

‘How Was Your Weekend?’

Boring when it’s asked every Monday, but give students the identity of a famous person on a slip of paper (or let them think of their own).

In pairs students ask questions and try to guess the other’s identity based on what they did over the weekend.

Alternatively, brainstorm what they think the King of Spain did, or Madonna, Harrison Ford, Mickey Mouse, Brad Pitt etc.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing  20-26 January 2014

Half dictation

Teacher dictates half a sentence, students complete by themselves and read out at the end.

As soon as she walked into the room…..

I’m having a lot of trouble deciding….

One Saturday morning in late summer….

If you want to lose all of your friends….

All through history, people have…..

Nobody knows who really….

If you climb to the top of a high mountain…..

I believe that everybody should….

They all started laughing because….

Students check spelling with each other, then with teacher.

You could also stick the sentence halves on students backs, get them to mingle and copy them down.

That should wake them up!



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 13-19 January 2014

Guess the picture

Hidden picture ( you can use one from any textbook – the only thing is that it must be relevant to the topic to be discussed).

Teacher shows students a small part of the picture – students in groups discuss what it might be – you can put some of their ideas on the board if you wish.

If you don’t hear any nice ideas, you can try gradually revealing some other parts of the picture.

Gives an overview of any reading text with a picture.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 6-12 January 2014

Get the students to bring chairs and make one big circle by moving all the tables to the side of the class. Point to your chair and say “This is the Hot Seat”. Sit down and say “ My name is …………… and I have black hair”. Ask them to stand up if this is true to them. Ask the students who have stood up to exchange their places quickly with others who have stood up but remind them that they are not allowed to sit down on the same chair. You have to leave your Hot Seat so another student can come and say “My name is ………… " and mentions another fact.

If the students don’t fully understand what you are doing, you can use sentences that are common to everyone:

My name is ……………… and I have two eyes.

My name is ……………… and I have a car.

My name is ………………… and I had breakfast this morning.

My name is ………………… and I come from Asia. My name is ………………… and I learn English in this class.

I hope you have fun doing this activity on the first day in class.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 30 December - 05 January 2014

Long distance calls

Sometimes really separating the seats can be useful. Write out some telephone tasks e.g. "Book a hotel in San Francisco." Sit far apart from each other and out of eye-contact.  Have a "phone" conversation.

This useful tip is finishing our, I hope, effective cooperation this year. The New Year is very soon and new tips will wait for you in our site!

See you next year!



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 23-29 December 2013

You've got mail!

Here's an activity for when you're both tired of hearing the other's voice!

  1. Divide a pile of scrap paper between you. Set a time limit, say 20 minutes, during which you will only communicate by writing messages to each other - with a strict no talking rule! 
  2. Write a short message yourself to the learner to start it off and then just see where it goes.
  3. Reply to each other's mail, ask new questions, raise new topics, give feedback on language and content etc.
  4. Some mail may be very short, some very long. This activity provides a change of pace and mood and a welcome breathing space.

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 16-22 December 2013

Tape it

Keep a cassette recorder or dictaphone on the table. Occasionally make short recordings of the learner doing role plays, making monologues, having a conversation with you etc. Replay these pieces and use them as the basis for future work - studying language, taking dictation, noticing pronunciation, comparing learner and teacher's language etc. 

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 9-15 December 2013

Be revealing!

Sometimes a learner can feel that they are constantly being asked to tell things about themselves, reveal their secrets etc. Make sure the learner gets frequent chances to turn the tables and ask you questions. Be honest and let them find out some of your "secrets" too.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 2-8 December 2013

Real role play

  1. Find out a specific activity the learner wants to be able to do better in English (maybe something at work - for example, answering an enquiry on the phone.)
  2. Talk through in detail how you could recreate that situation together in the classroom e.g. what role you could play, where you should sit, what questions you should ask, typical problems that come up etc.
  3. Then role play this real situation! Afterwards both take a few minutes to quietly make some notes about how the task went, language problems, how it could be better etc - then compare notes, focus on any language that would help - and maybe - do it all again.

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 25 November - 1 December 2013

Long one-to-one lessons can sometimes be exhausting for both teacher and learner. Here are some ideas for keeping them fresh.


  1. Before the lesson collect a pile of scrap paper and cut them up into small cards about 8 cm by 5 cm.
  2. Keep them by you and whenever a new phrase comes up or the learner makes an interesting error write a note on one of the scraps.
  3. 6 or 7 minutes before the end of class, hand the pile of scraps over and encourage the learner to go through them, remembering meanings, corrections, pronunciation, how they are used etc.
  4. Afterwards they can put the pack in their pocket - a handy self-test for quiet moments on buses etc.

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 18-24 November 2013

Reformulating oral production

A useful and very powerful variation on the real-play is for the teacher to take the student's role after he/she has seen the student play the role herself. In doing this the teacher can communicate naturally and appropriately for the task. Whether audio or video is recorded or not, at the end students can analyses the differences between the student's and teacher's versions. Encourage students to go beyond specific language chunks to general manner and approach. After this analysis phase ask the student to try the task again herself. It is likely to be much improved.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 11-17 November 2013


Real-play is essentially role-play in which at least one person is playing either themselves or another person in the room.

  • Once you have done some purpose-mining (see above), use the information to set up a real-play of the situation. For example, imagine that you have found out about an office receptionist's difficulties with visitors who ask questions about the company.
  • Ask her to take part in a real-play of this situation - but with her playing the customer and another student playing herself, the receptionist.
  • This can be followed by a feedback discussion. The original student considers how the receptionist dealt with the situation compared with her own way and what she has learnt from seeing someone else do it.
  • Now repeat the real-play - with the student playing herself.

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 4-11 November 2013

English for Specific Purposes (ESP) involves more than just working with texts and examples relevant to a particular professional area. Here are some ways of addressing those elusive SPs


  • Ask a learner "Tell me one specific task that you need to use English for".
  • When they answer that, ask further questions that uncover more and more wide-ranging details e.g. "What does the hotel counter look like?"; "What's the first thing that happens?"; "What kind of questions does your customer ask?"; "How do you feel when that happens?" etc.
  • Each time you get an answer, ask more, like a miner digging deeper into the situation, moving slowly from the general situation to specific task difficulties and language problems.
  • Aim to build up a focused detailed picture of a single occasion where your student needs English. Simply talking it through in this way can be helpful for a learner as they clarify for themselves where some real problems are. Beyond this it can form the basis of Real-play and Reformulation activities.

(to be continued)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 28 October - 3 November 2013


Prepare a set of small cards - one for each learner. On three quarters write 'true'; on the others write 'false'.

  1. Distribute them; students must not let others see their card. Learners then stand up and mingle, meeting people and talking.
  2. When asked questions, anyone with a "true" card must give true answers; anyone with a 'false' card must lie (except about their name), inventing false life stories.
  3. Afterwards, form small groups of 4 - 6 people. Each group should try to work out who was 'true' and who 'false', writing a list identifying all suspected 'false' people.
  4. Finish up with a whole-class stage when the lists are read out and the truth is revealed.
  5. Groups get 3 points for each 'false' person correctly spotted - but minus 3 for anyone incorrectly identified.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 21-27 October 2013


  1. On the board draw a seating plan of the room and get the class to copy it.
  2. Each learner round the room then says their name and everyone else writes it down at the correct place on their plan.
  3. Ask the class to study the names for 2 minutes, then put their plans away.
  4. Ask your first volunteer to leave the room - and while they're out, two other learners change places.
  5. When the volunteer comes back he /she must notice and name both students that have moved. Repeatthegame a fewtimeswithdifferentvolunteers.
  6. After a few turns, make the game more difficult by changing two pairs at a time.  
  7. Put up a mixed-up spelling of your own first name on the board - e.g. I might put up "Mij". Now, ask them to write an anagram of their own name.
  8. Collect these in and write them all up on the board. Every student now tries to write down all the original names.
  9. When finished they can check by walking round the room, meeting people and finding out if they have each person's name correctly.

(to be continued…)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 14-20 October 2013

If it's the first time the class has met, learners will need a chance to learn each other's names. Here are a few unusual games to try

People bingo

  1. Each learner draws a large 3 by 3 grid (i.e. 9 squares).
  2. Slowly read through all the names on the register (spelling difficult names). Learners must randomly select 9 of these names (of people they don't already know) to write into spaces on their grid.
  3. When everyone has a full grid the learners walk around the room, find their nine people, chat a little and make some notes about each person.
  4. Afterwards, play 'bingo' by calling out names randomly - students tick a name if they have it on their own grid.
  5. For each name ask the class to indicate who the person is and tell you some things about the person. When someone completes their grid with nine ticks - they win. (Butyoucouldalwaysplayitagain!)

(to be continued…)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 7-13 October 2013

Extension strategies (to help activities take up a little more time)

  • To extend a discussion activity, towards the end, ask each pair or group to prepare a brief report back to the rest of the class on the most important or interesting things that have been said. After preparation time (1-4 minutes), students will listen to (and perhaps comment on) each other's reports (another 5+ minutes).
  • Towards the end of a grammar exercise, ask students to write one (or more) new grammar questions in the style of the ones they have been answering (3-5 mins). They can then swap these with other students and try to answer their questions (3+ mins).
  • When you are reaching the end of a listening activity, pick one suitable sentence (10+ words, spoken quickly, if possible) and ask students to listen and write down every word they hear completely correctly. Play that small section of the recording a few times – then let students compare and agree with each other. Checktogetherattheend.
  • If you have studied a reading text to death, but still have some minutes left, ask students to put away the text and then tell them you will read it aloud – but with ten differences. They should listen carefully and spot what has changed. With weaker classes, just change key facts (e.g. names, actions etc). Stronger classes can notice exact words and expressions changed (e.g. idioms, phrasal verbs). Let students compare ideas and agree – then let them revisit the text to check.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 30 September - 6 October 2013

This Morning, I...

Students can practice the simple past by saying what time they got up, what they ate for breakfast, and how they got to school or work. On the board, write down what time you got up, what you ate for breakfast, and how you got to school. Make sentences with each and ask the students to repeat. Then do a chain activity by having the next student repeat your answers, then supply his or her own, and so on.

For example: This morning, I got up at 7:00. I ate cereal. I drove to school.

Next Student: The teacher got up at 7:00, s/he ate cereal, and s/he drove to school. I got up at 6:30, I ate scrambled eggs, and I took the bus to school.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 23-29 September 2013

Translation role-plays

  1. Prepare a pack of cards with everyday situations on them - especially ones in which a foreign tourist needs to do something in an English-speaking country - e.g. 'buying a ticket at the train station', 'asking what time the film starts', 'booking into a hotel' etc.
  2. In groups of three, one student is a foreign tourist (who doesn’t speak English and speaks only, for example, Portuguese). 
  3. The other people are (i) the person they are talking to (e.g. a ticket seller who only speaks English) and (ii) their friend who speaks both languages. 
  4. Each group picks one situation card from the pack. They read it together and decide exactly what the role-play will be.
  5. Then they then do it. The friend translates in both directions to help the tourist and the native speaker communicate.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 16-22 September 2013

Diplomatic affairs

  1.  Learners stand in groups of four: two 'ambassadors' and two 'interpreters'. One “ambassador' only speaks / understands English; the other only understands her mother tongue. 
  2. The 'interpreters' (one working for each ambassador) understand both languages. The ambassadors now meet at a 'party' and must have a conversation with each other about anything! 
  3. The ambassadors whisper their communication to their interpreter and the interpreter must then communicate aloud (in translation) what their ambassador said to the other ambassador. (If you have a group of three, then only have one interpreter who does all the mediation).

(to be continued…)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 9-15 September 2013

Many teachers feel their training has discouraged them from using translation in class. There is however a great deal of useful awareness-raising when learners compare English with their own tongue. Here are three great translation games - and they don’t even require you to speak the other language!


  1. Prepare about 15 cards, each with a short everyday phrase (e.g. “Could you spare a moment, please?”). 
  2. Ask 7 learners to stand in a line at the front of the class.
  3. Take the first card and give it to the student at one end of the line who looks at the card and then whispers - once only - the message to student two. No-oneelseshouldhearthesentence. 
  4. Student two now passes the message on in translation (e.g. in Spanish) to student three - who must whisper it on to the next student in English - and so on, the message going from language to language down the line. 
  5. When the message reaches the end of the line, the first and last student say their messages out loud - and they can be compared. 
  6. Often the confusions will be interesting and funny - and you can discuss if they are translation or listening errors. It may also be useful to hear what people said all along the line. 
  7. When finished play the game again with the next card and so on. Make new lines to give more students a chance to take part.

(to be continued…)



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 2-8 September 2013

Telephone [Grammar Introductions]

Everyone knows grammar charts are dull. But you can liven them up with the old game of telephone. To introduce a new grammatical structure, whisper a sample sentence in a student’s ear. Have the student repeat what s/he heard to the next student, and then s/he repeats what s/he heard to the next student, and so on. The last student writes what s/he heard on the board, and then you write the correct sentence below it. Have fun comparing the telephone version to the correct one, and then introduce the key grammatical structures.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 26 August - 1 September 2013


Spotting and correcting writing errors is always a challenge for students. Here’s an engaging game for practicing this important skill. Divide the class into three groups, and then writing a sentence on the board, but misspell words, leave out or put in incorrect punctuation, use incorrect tenses and capitalization. Have group A make fixes on the board for 30 seconds. Give them one point for each correct fix. Now let groups B and C raise their hand to point out any missed or incorrect fixes. They get two points for each correct answer. Repeat with the next group, and so on. 

Sample sentence: did the Quik brown fox jump over Lasy red dog.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 19-25 August 2013

Heal Me

Giving advice is always fun. Pretend to cough and ask students what you should do. Elicit answers such as, “Drink a glass of water,” or “Use a cough drop.” Write various ailments on pieces of paper and give them to students—and tell them not to show the paper to anyone else. The student will act out the problem and the rest of the students will guess what’s wrong, and then offer solutions.  

Possible ailments:

  • Fever                         
  • Cold
  • Headache                  
  • Sprained ankle
  • Runny nose               
  • Sore muscle               
  • Back pain                  
  • Allergies
  • Hiccups                      
  • Mildburn



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 12-18 August 2013


This a great warmer you can use to recycle any vocabulary or grammar structures. The game is called Bankrupt. Collect the vocabulary flashcards you aim to revise, and stick behind them cards showing an amount of money, like Us$500, Us$ 100 and so on. One or two of them should say BANKRUPT and another DONATION. Stick the flashcards on the board. Be careful students don't see money cards. Divide the class into two groups. Students take turns to choose one of the flashcards, say the item on them, or a sentence using that word, as you prefer. If they say it right they gain the amount of money at the back. If it says Bankrupt, you erase the money they had won, and if it says Donation, that team donates all their money to the other group.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 5-11 August 2013

Who am I?

A warmer for practicing “yes/no” questions and short responses. In groups, each student takes turns to imagine he or she is a famous person and the other students ask questions (Are you American? Do you play a sport? etc.) to find out who he/she is. You may want to give the students a maximum of, say, ten questions.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 29 July - 4 August 2013


A great activity for increasing vocabulary. Allocate a shape (circle, oval, sphere, square, cube, triangle, pyramid, diamond, etc.) to each student, pair or small group. Ask the students to think of and write down as many things as they can that are that shape. Compare the students’ ideas with the class. Instead of shapes, you could use different categories, such as things that are different colors, made of different materials (wood, metal, plastic…), etc.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 22-28 July 2013

I like coffee, but I don’t like tea

The students take turns to complete the following “I like…, but I don’t like”. However, the thing they “like” must begin with the first letter of their name and the thing they “don’t like” must not begin with the first letter of their name. for example, Anton might say “I like apples, but I don’t like oranges”. The teacher says whether or not the sentence is acceptable. Continue going round the class until all the students have worked out the “rule”. There are many alternatives, here are just a couple:

  • The thing they “like” must contain a double letter and the thing they “don’t like” must not contain a double letter.
  • The thing the students “like” must start with a letter nearer the beginning of the alphabet than the thing they “don’t like”



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 15-21 July 2013

Truth or lie

Great for fluency. Students work in small groups and talk for, say, 30 seconds or a minute about a topic such as what they did last night/at the weekend, their plans for next week, their hobbies, places they have visited, etc. However, they must include one lie. If one or more of the students correctly identify the lie, they get a point. If not, the speaker gets a point. The winner is the student with the most points when everyone has spoken.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 8-14 July 2013

Word association and disassociation

Students take turns to say a word that is in some way connected with the previous word. If challenged, they must justify their choice. If not they are out of the game. For “Word disassociation” each subsequent word must have no connection whatsoever with the previous word. Encourage the students to challenge each other by pointing out connections, however tenuous.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 1-7 July 2013

Listen out!

Version 1
Tell students they will listen to a recording about X (tell them the topic or situation).
They should write 5 words down that they think they will hear.
Play the recording. Every time they hear one of their words they should cross it out. If they cross out all their words they should shout out ‘Bingo’.

Version 2
Give students a list of 15 words that appear in the recording + 5 that don’t. Tell them to choose 5 words from the list. Play the recording. Every time they hear one of their words they should cross it out. If they cross out all their words they should shout out ‘Bingo’.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 24-30 June 2013

And the middle is …?

  • Ask the students to fold a piece of paper into a thin strip (approximately 2 to 3cms wide – or the width of a ruler).
  • Tell them to turn to page X where they will find a reading text. They should use their piece of paper to cover the middle part of the text in a vertical line.
  • Students will now be able to see the start and finish of each line, using the words they can see as clues they should try to guess what the covered words are.
  • Do this activity in pairs getting them to discuss their ideas.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 17-23 June 2013

Punctuate that!

  • Choose a short text (or part) from the coursebook.
  • Write it up on the board but leave out the punctuation and don’t put in capital letters. Students then copy out the text putting the punctuation and capital letters in.
  • Finally, ask them to check their version with the original in the coursebook.
  • This activity can also be used as a team race. Write the same text up on the board – one on the left and one on the right side.
  • Split the class into two teams and get them to race each other.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 10-16 June 2013

What are the differences?

  • Choose a short text (or part of a text) from the coursebook but decide on 8 changes that you will make to it (e.g. simply underline or highlight some words in the text).
  • Dictate ‘your’ version of the text to the students. Then, ask them to compare what you dictated to the original in the coursebook.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 3-9 June 2013

Which is better?

  1. Divide the class into small groups.
  2. Ask each member of each group to contribute one object they've got with them, and to put all the objects together where the whole group can see them easily.
  3. They should then make sentences of the form “A's better than B because .....”.
  4. Depending on their level and their ingenuity, the sentences might include the obvious, such as:

“A sandwich is better than a penknife because you can eat a sandwich but not a penknife”

or the not so obvious, such as:

“A sandwich is better than a penknife because you can cut yourself with a penknife but you can't with a sandwich”

“A bus ticket's better than a sandwich because you can't get food poisoning from a bus ticket”

NB 1.At higher levels this is likely to take the character of a fluency activity leading naturally to further discussion, whereas at lower levels it might be an early opportunity for learners to practise combining clauses and using ellipsis to form longer sentences; in this case it might be helpful if the groups produce their sentences in writing, with you helping them to make them accurate.

NB 2.This is an opportunity to practice the weak form 'better than' (orally), and the weak form of 'is' where appropriate (orally and in writing):
'a sandwich is better', but 'a bus ticket's better'



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 27 May - 2 June 2013

Tools for the job

Ask each member of the class to contribute one object they've got with them, and to put all the objects together where everyone can see them easily. Ask them, working in pairs or small groups, to devise a way of using as many of the objects as possible in fulfilling a certain task – and to consider what other resources they would need. For example, the collection of objects might be a pocket dictionary, a cigarette lighter, a calculator, a pencil sharpener, an ear-ring, a bar of chocolate, a photo, a bunch of keys, a CD, a hairbrush, a pair of scissors, a walkman, a piece of chewing gum, a postage stamp, a shop receipt and a watch, and the task might be robbing a bank, repairing a broken window-blind, constructing a model airplane, curing a headache, and so on. You might want to prime them to use certain language, such as:

We could use the ... to ...
We could use the ... for -ing
We could use the ... as a ...
The ... would come in handy as a ...

Variation 1:They could choose which task to work on.

Variation 2:Different groups could work on different tasks (but using the same objects).



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 20-27 May 2013

Dialogues between objects

  1. Ask the members of the class each to choose one object they've got with them in their pockets or bags, find a partner, and improvise a dialogue between the two objects – a dialogue between a sandwich and a key, between a nail-file and a ticket, etc. After a while they should finish the dialogue, find a new partner and improvise a new dialogue, and so on. NB. For this activity it's probably best if the learners look at their objects while they're talking, rather than at each other.
  2. The objects could then report to the whole class about who they met and what they talked about. For example, a watch might say: “I met a nail file that told me what a glamorous life it leads - you know, how it plays such an important role in making its owner look beautiful and so on. But it didn't sound so glamorous to me, just scratching away at the rough edges of someone's nails and spending the rest of your time in the depths of a handbag full of all sorts of rubbish. At least I get a chance to see a bit more of the world .........”



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 13-19 May 2013

Autobiography of an object

  1. Ask the members of the class each to choose one object they've got with them in their pockets or bags and to write a short autobiography of it, including reference to the future as well as the past. For example, an autobiography of a pen: “My earliest memories are rather confused. I remember being in a noisy, brightly-lit factory, passing through various machinery and finally being wrapped in plastic with lots of other pens like me. Then there was a long journey in some kind of bumpy, dark container, then a period in a shop, watching all sorts of people come and go before someone eventually bought me and put me in their pocket. That was the start of my most interesting adventures. One day ..... [The story continues.] ..... I don't know what the future holds. I hope some of the stuff that I've written will get published. I hope I get refilled and given a new lease of life. But I suppose I might just end up in a bin, like so many of us.” While they're writing, you could make yourself available to help them express what they want to write.
  2. Learners then put their objects and autobiographies together on desks – or pinned to the wall, if feasible (it depends what the objects are!) - and read each others' work. They could ask questions for the objects to answer through the voice of their owners – for example, questions to a pen:
  3. What's the most interesting thing you've written so far?
    How do you feel when your owner makes mistakes with you?
    If you could choose to write in a different colour, which colour would you choose, and why?

Variation 1:They could work collaboratively rather than individually.

Variation 2:Instead of writing, they could tell their autobiographies orally, after some mental preparation time.

Variation 3:Diary of an object – the events of one day, or one week.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 6-12 May 2013


  1. Introduce the topic of 'valuables'. Ask the class if they've got any valuable objects in their family, if they know anyone who collects antiques, how much they'd be prepared to pay for a vase, a mirror, a painting, the first edition of a book, and so on. Would they buy a vase purely as an investment, even if they didn't like it?
    Point out that even fairly recent objects such as toys or records from the 1960s or 1970s can be surprisingly valuable – maybe all objects are potentially valuables? Who knows, maybe they're carrying valuables around with them without realizing it?
  2. Ask them each to choose one object they've got with them and to spend a couple of minutes thinking individually about how they might persuade someone to buy it, making full use of exaggeration and invention. You might need to prompt them or help them express what they want to say. For example: “This pen is hand-crafted from the finest quality plastic. The classic design is the result of decades of research into the workings of the finger, wrist and arm muscles, and guarantees smooth, comfortable writing. Look how the ink flows effortlessly onto the page, helping you to express your thoughts fluently. Because of the high production costs, only a limited number of this model were produced, and they are now greatly in demand. This particular pen is believed by some experts to be the one that Shakespeare wrote his plays with.” They should also decide on a price that they want to sell their object for.
  3. Ask them to stand up and mill around, trying to sell their 'valuables' to each other. As they move from one potential buyer to another, they'll be essentially going through the same 'sales pitch', but not literally repeating – they'll also be refining, polishing, expanding what they say. You might want to wander around and feed in language that they seem to be groping towards, or you might prefer to just leave them to it. Even if they find a buyer, they might want to regard the sale as provisional, and see if they can get a better price from someone else!



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 29 April - 5 May 2013

Message in a bottle

  • On the board draw a simple picture of the sea with a bottle floating (top above the waves).
  • Ask the students what it is and elicit, or explain, the idea of a ‘message in a bottle’ (i.e. someone is shipwrecked and sends a message asking for help).
  • Then, on the board write up the following:

I a

  • Explain that this is all that remains of the message. The students should work in pairs, or small groups, and complete (write) the message.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 22 - 28 April 2013

Hide the line

  • Put your students into small groups and give each group a line. For example; And then she flew; All the student’s answers were correct!; The fifteen sisters said “…..;
  • Tell them to write a short story/dialogue including the line but hiding it.
  • Read the stories out and the other groups try and guess the ‘hidden’ line.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 15 - 21 April 2013

Circle writing

This idea is based on the children’s game ‘Heads, body, legs’.

  • Each student takes a piece of paper. Ask each student to write the first line of a dialogue.

Some suggestions: A: I’m sorry darling I didn’t mean to …; A: What did you say?; A: What was that? B: What?; A: What time do you call this?

  • They write the next line of the dialogue and then fold the paper so that only the line they wrote is showing.
  • The paper is then passed to the student sitting on next to them (all pieces of paper go the same direction. e.g. clockwise).
  • The students then read the line they can see, write the next line, fold and carry on the process. It’s important to try and keep the pace going and making sure that the paper(s) is passed at the same time.
  • Once there are enough lines (10 – 15) ask the students to unfold the pieces of paper and read the dialogues – choose a few to read out theirs aloud.
  • It can be good to have a theme or scene (e.g. Parent to Child, Teacher to Student, Wife to Husband etc).



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 8 - 14 April 2013

A question of punctuation

  • This activity also requires a board, but other than that it’s the usual pen and paper.
  • Write up a short text (this can be from a course book) on the board but leave out punctuation, capital letters etc.
  • Then ask your students to take turns coming up and correcting the text.
  • If you want you can add a competitive edge by dividing the class into two groups and writing up the same text twice.
  • The groups then race each other correcting the text.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 1 – 7 April 2013

Journal entries

  • Ask learners to keep an English journal or diary. This could be a cheap exercise book.
  • Have a regular class appointment with the journal.
  • Tell learners to take out their journals at this time and set them a quick writing task. Set a time limit of five to ten minutes for this.
  • Tell them not to worry about planning, just to write what comes into their heads. You can set them a topic for each journal session to begin with.
  • Here are some suggestions:

Your favorite day of the week; a good teacher; how to save money...

  • It may be a good idea to set a topic connected to something that you were doing in class that week, or something topical from the news.
  • Once they are accustomed to this kind of writing, let them write whatever comes into their heads.
  • The purpose of this kind of activity should be merely to provide learners with more writing practice in English. It isn’t necessary to collect this in and correct it.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 25 March – 31 March 2013


Put the learners in groups of four. Explain that they are a new political party and that there is going to be an election in the next four weeks. The learners have to write an election manifesto for their political party. Tell them that they can be as serious or as crazy as they like. Set the following guidelines:

  • They must choose a name for their political party.
  • A manifesto is usually a set of statements about what the country needs. It also gives reasons why the country needs those things. Their manifestos should reflect this.
  • Their manifestoes should end with an incentive to vote. This could be in the first conditional (“If you want a better country…” “If you want this place to be a great place to live…”
  • When groups have finished their manifestos, have them exchange with another group. The group should read the new manifesto and make any suggestions on how to improve the English of the manifesto (peer correction).

They then hand it back to the first group. You can then post the manifestos around the class. Ask the learners to vote for the best one.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 18 March – 24 March 2013


Do you know the program messenger? Messenger is a way of communicating from one computer to another in 'real time'. One person types a message on their computer and the other person can read it immediately on their computer.

Messenger is used instead of email to communicate quick messages to someone, or to have a conversation with another person through computers. It is like an internet 'chat' between two people. Have your learners simulate a messenger chat in the following way:

  • Divide the class into pairs and give each pair a blank piece of paper.
  • Explain that they have six minutes to have a conversation with each other, but that they cannot say anything.
  • They must do this in writing. One learner writes a message on the piece of paper and hands it to the other learner. The other learner writes a response and hands it back to the first learner.
  • This kind of situation may seem bizarre to the learners at first, as they might not know what to say. But once the paper has passed back and forth two or three times you might find it hard to stop them writing!
  • Variation: You can give your learners more guidance by supplying them with a role play situation each, e.g. You are a doctor. Explain to your patient that she (or he!) is pregnant.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 11 March – 17 March 2013

I went to market…

This is a well-known children’s memory game, but it can be adapted for grammar practice. In the traditional game, one person starts by saying I went to market and I bought a pineapple (for example). The next person has to repeat what the first person said, and then add one new item: I went to market and I bought a pineapple, and a dozen eggs… and so on, round the class. Players who can’t remember an item are “out” and the game continues until there is one winner. As it stands, the game is good practice of vocabulary, plus two past tense verbs. But you can increase the grammar practice by slightly modifying the formula. For example (to practice past simple):

I went to London and I saw the Queen.

I went to London and I saw the Queen, and I read The Times.

I went to London and I saw the Queen, and I read The Times, and I climbed Big Ben. etc.

(You can make it a rule that players are not allowed to use a verb that has already been used). Other structures you can practice like this are:

Going to (e.g. making New Year resolutions: This year I’m going to learn drive, and I’m going to grow my hair … etc.);

Present perfect My poor uncle has never flown in a plane, and he’s never drunk champagne … etc.

Second conditional If I was a millionaire, I’d … and I’d … etc. In fact, any structure can be adapted to this game: use your ingenuity!



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 25 February – 03 March 2013

Sentence completions

  1. This is similar to the last activity, in that learners work together to complete sentences using a specific structure. Write on the board, for example:

- Successful students …
- Unsuccessful students …

  1. Ask learners, working in pairs or small groups, to write as many completions to these sentences as they can in a time limit. The idea is that they will have to use – at least some of the time – the present simple. If, though, you wanted to practice used to you could use sentence starters such as:

- In the old days, people …
- Our grandparents …

When the time is up, or when the groups have generated sufficient sentences, ask them to read them out, and invite the class to discuss them, e.g. by saying whether they agree or not. Use the sentences to focus on aspects of the grammar structures you want to target.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 18 February – 03 February 2013

One of us/some of us

  1. Write the following sentence starters on the board

- One of us can …
- Two of us can …
- Three of us can …
- All of us can …
- None of us can …

  1. Put the learners into groups of four, and ask them to generate as many true sentences about their group as possible in, say, ten minutes, using these sentences starters.
  2. Go round the class, checking that the learners are on task, and helping with vocabulary problems.
  3. After the time limit is up, ask a spokesperson from each class to tell you some of their sentences, and use these as a basis of an open class question-and-answer stage. For example, Spokesperson: One of us can play the guitar. Teacher: Oh really, let me guess who that could be? Mario, is it you…? etc.
  4. Again, these sentences can be used as a the basis for a grammar review. Of course, you can change the target structure. For example (for the present perfect):

- One of us has …
- Two of us have …
- Three of us have …
- All of us have …
- None of us has …

In this case, you will need to tell them that it is the present perfect you want here – not, for example, have got.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 11 February – 17 February 2013

True/false sentences

  1. Dictate about five or more sentences to the class: at least some of the sentences will contain the grammar structure you are targeting (e.g. present perfect). For example:

- Every summer I go somewhere different.
- Last year I went to Peru.
- I have never been to Brazil.
- I haven’t been to Colombia, either.
- I’d like to go to Guatemala. etc.  

  1. Tell the class that some of these sentences are true, some false. Ask them to work in pairs to try and guess which are which.
  2. Let them tell you their guesses, and ask them their reasons. If they haven’t guessed correctly, tell them the answers.
  3. Then ask them to do the same thing – working individually – and using the sentences you have dictated as a model. In other words, they write some true and false sentences about themselves, and then take turns to guess which sentences are true or false in pairs or small groups.
  4. As in Activity 1, you can then elicit on to the board some of their example sentences in, say, the present perfect, and use these as a basis for a grammar focus.



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 04 February – 10 February 2013

Sentence star

  1. Ask learners to each draw five-pointed star on a piece of paper. Tell them to write on the tip of the first point “can”, on the second point “like”, on the third point “have”, on the fourth point “used to” and on the fifth point “going to”. (You can vary the words according to the level of the class, the syllabus, etc. You can also write the names of grammar structures, such as present simple, present perfect, second conditional, if you prefer).
  2. Then ask them, individually, to write a true sentence about themselves using each of the five words on their star. You should give at least one example, such as I can speak a little Portuguese.
  3. In pairs or small groups they take turns to read each other their sentences. The others in the group have to ask at least five questions about each of the sentences (e.g. Where did you learn Portuguese? How well can you speak it? Can you write it? etc).
  4. In a final, open class, stage, people can report on interesting things they have learned about their classmates. If you want to focus on any particular structure, such as can, ask the class to give you some of their sentences with can and write these on the board, so that the word can is aligned in one column. This way you can highlight the grammar of «can» using the learners’ own sentences



Teaching listening in English – Week commencing 28 January – 2 February 2013

Try supplementing your listening classes with this fun activity called ‘Guest Stars’.

  • Prepare notes for a short monologue in character (e.g. as the Queen or George Clooney).
  • In class, announce that a guest star is coming today – but don’t say who it is.
  • Tell your students that they should listen and NOT shout out who they think you are but, instead, write down their guess.
  • Chat naturally for a minute or two in character – about your life, a typical day, how you feel etc.
  • At the end of the monologue, let them compare guesses in small groups, giving their reasons and then check with you.
  • When they know who you are, they could briefly ask you a few more questions in character.
  • Repeat the activity with different ‘guests’ as a regular slot in your lessons or ask students to prepare their own monologues.



Story Dice – Week commencing 21-26 January 2013

Some of the most useful teaching props are the simplest. Most ELT teachers will have used dice at some time, perhaps when groups are playing a board game. Here is an idea for a more unusual use of dice in class.

  • Write the numbers 1-6 down the side of the board. Tell the first line of a story e.g. “It was a bright Tuesday morning and Alex was going to work.” Pause, and ask the class to suggest various options e.g. you could ask “How did he travel?”
  • Collect six answers (e.g. “bus”, “car”, “skateboard”, “tank” etc.) and note one next to the numbers on the board.
  • Invite a learner to throw the dice, and, depending on the number that comes up, continue with the story, inventing as you go and making use of the selected idea e.g. “He skateboarded down the hill...”
  • Stop again and elicit new options for a new question.
  • When the class has grasped the idea you could ask learners to take over your storytelling role – and later to play the game together in small groups.



Phoneme Rummy – Week commencing 14-19 January 2013.

When learners can recognize and understand phonemic symbols they become more autonomous, able to use dictionaries to find out for themselves how words are pronounced. Many teachers, however, avoid using them in class. Here is an idea that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes.

  • Write a large number of phonemes on separate cards.
  • Shuffle them and give 3 consonants and 2 vowel cards to each team.
  • Each team must see if they can form a complete word using some or all of the 5 phonemes.
  • If their word is good, award one point for each phoneme used.
  • Now deal an extra card to each team 0 can they make an even longer word?
  • Collect, reshuffle and deal again.

Unsure which phoneme is which – provides an interactive chart from Adrian Underhill.



Bags of ideas – Week commencing 7-12 January 2013

Teachers and learners carry books and equipment to their lessons in a variety of smart or scruffy bags. Here is a way you could make use of these unassuming objects in class.

  • Tell a story about walking to work today and finding a bag full of mysterious things on the way.
  • Reveal 5 or 6 evocative objects one by one (e.g. travel tickets, a dried rose, a scribbled name, a marked map etc.)
  • Encourage discussion and speculation.
  • Then ask groups to work out the true story: Why were these things abandoned at the roadside?

When ready, students could first tell each other their stories, then perhaps write them up.



Every week we’ll have a practical tip, activity or game you can take straight into your classroom. These come from Jim Scrivener, author of the Straightforward Teacher’s Books.

 At the movies – Week commencing 31 December 2012 – 5 January 2013.

Most students enjoy watching a good movie – whether at the cinema or on TV. Here is an idea for making use of their interest and knowledge to create an unusual activity:

  • In groups, students agree on a film they have all seen;
  • They must make a list of three key words that catch the essence of the film – but not including the film name, or names of any of the characters, actors, or places;
  • When ready, each team reads their words to the others who try to guess the film.



Hang ups! – Week commencing 24-29 December 2012.

Some props don’t immediately suggest themselves as useful teaching aids. For example what could one possibly do with a bag of clothes pegs and a piece of string?

  • Take your string and pin it up like a washing line.
  • It could be slung across the top part of the board, from one wall to another, or across an empty wall.
  • Now you have a new display place for flashcards, word cards, magazine pictures, student work etc. using the pegs to fix items.



In Town – Week commencing 17-23 December 2012.

Teachers often make use of maps or real information about the town/district students are studying in when teaching prepositions, giving directions or town vocabulary. Here is an idea that might help add a spark to those lessons.

  • Ask students to think of 5 things they see in town on their journey from town to school (e.g. letter box) that they don’t know the English word for.
  • In pairs students describe their items to each other (without saying the translation!).
  • Their partner must understand the description well enough that they understand what the object is and can do a quick sketch of it.
  • At the end everyone comes to the board and draws a picture of their partner’s objects.
  • The whole class can agree on or be told the correct names.
  • Then ask everyone to draw a town picture that includes the items – with name labels.



Glorious Gaps Week commencing 10-15 December 2012.

There are a lot of gap-fill exercises in course-books nowadays. What we can do with them except for saying “Do exercise two” and then checking it when they finish? Well you could do this…

  • When checking gap-fills that require students to choose between a number of possible words, at first only give partial answers;
  • For example, tell them only how many of each choice there are e.g. ‘There are three answers with “going to”.
  • This will make students re-check their answers to see if theirs fits this information – and it may cause them to rethink some choices.



Phone call role play – Week commencing 3-8 December 2012

Printed train or bus timetables are often available as free leaflets or can be downloaded and printed from the internet. This simple resource can be used in a number of ways.

  • Put the class into pairs. One is the customer and one is the information assistant
  • Only the assistant has a copy of the timetable.

Set the students some problem role plays e.g. enquiring about when trains go to Glasgow, booking a ticket for tomorrow, enquiring about cancellations because of a strike etc.



Speedy DictationWeek commencing 26th November – 1st December 2012

You can find short dialogues in many course-books. How can you exploit these scripts and get them to come alive?

  • Tell the learners that you will read a short dialogue to them – only once.
  • They must listen without writing – but as soon as the dialogue is finished they should write down whatever they can remember.
  • When individuals have finished writing they get together in small groups and see if they can work out the original conversation.
  • They can compare what they wrote with the original (text or on tape).



Anagrams – Week commencing 19-24 November 2012

When learners can recognize and understand phonemic symbols they become more autonomous and able to use dictionaries to find out for themselves how words are pronounced. Many teachers however avoid using them in class. Here is an idea that could help teachers as well as learners become more comfortable when working with phonemes.

  • Use the dictionary to get phonemic spellings of about 15 words familiar to the class.
  • Make anagrams from these – i.e. mix up the order of the phonemes in each word.
  • In class give teams 5 minutes to work out as many as they can.

Below there`s an example of Anagrams:

tale- mile-
team- lain-
east- deal-
shelf- act-
not- state-
name- saw-
more- knee-
tar- post-
ten- felt-
take- dog-
tea- but-



Revision Cards – Week commencing 12th – 17th November 2012

Learners are often familiar with popular board games such as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuits or Scrabble (probably in their own language). Inventing new games or adapting familiar games) can often produce materials that motivate students to talk and practicelanguage.

  • Instead of writing topics on the board in a board game, leave it blank.
  • Copy out a range of revision questions (grammar, vocabulary etc.) and cut them up into separate cards.
  • When the learner lands on a square they take a card
  • If they can answer the question they stay on the square, if not, they move back to their original position



Tip of the Week by Jim Scrivener

Story Dice – Week commencing 5th– 10th November 2012

Some of the most useful teaching props are the simplest. Most ELT teachers will have used dice at some time, perhaps when groups are playing a board game. Here is an idea for a more unusual use of dice in class.

  • Write the numbers 1-6 down the side of the board. Tell the first line of a story e.g. “It was a bright Tuesday morning and Alex was going to work.” Pause, and ask the class to suggest various options e.g. you could ask “How did he travel?”
  • Collect six answers (e.g. “bus”, “car”, “skateboard”, “tank” etc.) and note one next to the numbers on the board.
  • Invite a learner to throw the dice, and, depending on the number that comes up, continue with the story, inventing as you go and making use of the selected idea e.g. “He skateboarded down the hill...”
  • Stop again and elicit new options for a new question.
  • When the class has grasped the idea you could ask learners to take over your storytelling role – and later to play the game together in small groups.

See you next week!

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