TESOL Spain 2016

14 Mar

Another great TESOL Spain annual convention, in Vitoria this time. Here are the slides from my talk on ‘REALLY Teaching Spoken English’, and the handout for the ‘monitor’ task. I’m hoping to write up the activities properly, once I get over the cold I seem to have some back with!



‘Teaching Advanced Writing’ at TESOL Spain 2015

9 Mar

Just got back from another highly enjoyable TESOL Spain conference, and looking forward to putting all those new ideas into practice and passing them on to my colleagues. Here are the slides and full handout (with teacher’s notes) from my presentation on ‘Teaching Advanced Writing’. Thanks very much to those who attended!

handout TESOL Spain 2015


Project Wild Thing lesson

30 Mar

This lesson for C1+ is based on a trailer and an interview related to Project Wild Thing, a documentary by David Bond in which he tries to ‘market’ nature and the outdoors to young people as an alternative to video games and TV. There’s a focus on collocations, a CAE Use of English Part 2-style exercises and a role play, all of which you can find in the Teacher’s Notes and Worksheet in the Word document below. This provoked lots of discussion among my students. Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Teacher’s Notes and Worksheet Project Wild Thing

TED talks lesson – top technology tips!

24 Mar

I learnt a lot myself from this TED talk! It went well with my Proficiency group too, and I think you could give it a try with strong Upper-Intermediates and above. See Teacher’s Notes in a Word document below the slides.

TED talk on Technology_teachers notes

TESOL Spain 2014 – Creative teaching (for uncreative teachers like me!)

9 Mar

Just had a great weekend at TESOL Spain! I went to some fantastic talks and am looking forward to putting some new ideas into practice. I’ll let you know how it goes with a post here in the next couple of weeks. Here’s the handout and slides from my talk, thanks to all who came. Do get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

Creative teachers handout_final

A return to an old favourite….

9 May


It’s fantastic how half-forgotten activities come to mind just at the right moment. Some of my Advanced students had asked to do a review of how we say and write dates. These students have a genuinely Advanced level and we can sometimes forget that they might still have uncertainties about a seemingly simple area of language, perhaps because the kind of mistakes they might make don’t have much of a communicative impact. The issue is further confused by the differences between British and American English.



So we reviewed British and American ways of saying and writing the date. On the train on the way to this class, I was trying to think of a way to provide meaningful, communicative practice. Then I remembered an activity I first saw on my CELTA course in 2001 and have used since, although not all that frequently. The version I saw involved writing 3 years on the board which were in some way significant in your life. Students ask questions to find out as much information as possible about those years and why they were important. Of course, they have to ask the question correctly before receiving an answer. They then do the same activity in pairs.



So I did the obvious thing. I gave the students three dates instead of three years, for example, 17th May 2001 (which was the last day of my CELTA course, a date I remember because it is also my birthday). As well as asking the question correctly, students also had to say the date correctly to get an answer. And then, of course, they repeated the same thing themselves in pairs. I told students that they had to write full dates, but that they could write an approximate date if they weren’t sure of the exact one. This activity also lends itself well to dealing with emergent language followed by task repetition with a different partner, in order to allow students to use the new language.



I repeated the exact same activity in a later Intermediate class and with both groups a great deal of useful language emerged, so in the end practising dates was just a small part of it. I wonder whether making students give exact dates rather than just years forces them to focus on specific events, which their partner might have more questions about and they might have more to say about than just years.



In any case, I think I’ve found a warmer for the ‘summer’ speaking courses I’ll be working on from next week.


Using images and visualisation to practise ‘wish’

22 Apr

Here’s a lesson I did recently based on ideas from http://takeaphotoand.wordpress.com/ and Fiona Mauchline’s talk at TESOL Spain (@fionamau). My Upper-Intermediate group had just studied different structures with wish in the coursebook and I wanted to provide further personalised practice and also to try out some great ideas from the sources above! A secondary aim was to review character adjectives, which we’d seen earlier in the course.


1. Show students the photo mosaic


All photos from ELT pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/

@Raquel_EFL, @VictoriaB52, @ij64, Jeffrey Doonan

Elicit some character adjectives to describe the first picture, then give students in pairs / groups 2-3 minutes to come up with some character adjectives for each of the other pictures. Conduct feedback with the whole class.

 2. Dictate the following sentence or similar, speaking at normal speed.

 I wish I’d been nicer to my family.

Repeat a couple of times, then allow students to compare in pairs. Get a volunteer to come and write the sentence on the board, and elicit corrections from other students until you have the correct sentence on the board.

Ask the student which of the people in the pictures might say this, and why. Concept check as necessary, e.g. Is that about the past or present? Was he nice to his family? How does he feel about this now?

Check that students remember that we use the past perfect after wish when talking about the past, and drill, isolating and highlighting some of the features of connected speech, e.g. /əwɪʃəd/.

3. Students in pairs then choose one picture and write three sentences using wish for this person’s regrets about the past.  They then change partners and compare their sentences, explaining why they think this person has these regrets.

4. Tell students to imagine that they are 80 years old. Read out the following questions while students make short notes of their answers, in L1 if they do not know the word in English.

Where do you live?

What is your home like?

What can you see as you look out the window?

Are you married?

Do you have children and grandchildren? What are their names?

Do you work or study?

What do you do in your free time?

What do you think of young people today?


5. Students then compare their answers with a partner, using present tense, as they are imagining that they are 80. They can ask the teacher for any vocabulary they didn’t know.

6. Students change partners and repeat the task.

7. Give the students these three example sentences or something similar:

 I wish I didn’t live alone.

I wish young people today wouldn’t make so much noise.

I wish I had spent more time with my children when they were young.

Check students’ understanding of when we use these different structures after wish. Then get them to write one sentence using each structure for their 80 year-old self. Monitor closely helping students to self-correct and providing any vocabulary they need.

8. Students compare their sentences in pairs and further explain them.

9. Put students into groups of four. Once again they should share their sentences and explain them, but this time without looking at what they have written if possible. They can talk and give some feedback to class about whether any of them had similar sentences.

My young adult students (16-25 year olds) really got into this lesson and were quite imaginative in their descriptions of their 80 year-old selves, as well as the wishes they came up with.