Saturday, 30 August 2014

Helping students create content with new vocabulary

This post is a follow-up on two previous ones about the vocabulary course. I'm convinced that having students create content that is interesting for them using active vocabulary helps boost their motivation and enhance vocabulary skills. Thus, in this post I'm going to make an overview of online tools that students can use to create content to further share it in their blogs or social networks. Student blogs have been part of this course for a couple of years now and proved to be an effective way of vocabulary practice. Naturally, the use of web tools doesn't diminish the role of lexical notebooks and other varified methods and approaches.

So, let's start creating.

Memes is a great and funny way to engage students in using new vocabulary. Here are some wonderful sites to generate memes:

For more ideas on how to use memes in the ESL classroom, check out this blogpost.

If memes do not look pretty enough to you, present your message on a more attractive background, a landscape or some abstract art. Yes, you're right, I'm talking about postcards (and much more) that you and your students can create using these tools:

Comics can be another superb way to make students practice new words creating any possible contexts and characters. Take a look at this list of sites where students as well as teachers can create comic strips:

For more tools, see this Larry Ferlazzo's blog post.

Inforgraphics can be used to develop a lot of useful skills together with vocabulary practice. I obviously recommend my favourite, Piktochart.

For better memorisation, further practice and regular revision of vocabulary, creating flashcards is a smart option. Check out this list of the best flashcard making tools.

Why not create a Facebook page for a Greek god or a chat between an alien and your favourite actor? That's absolutely possible with Fakebook and IFakeSiri

Students usually have loads of fun creating subtitles for the movies. Larry Ferlazzo provides a comprehensive collection of tools for this activity.

Apparently, we're getting closer to idea of writing. Using some interesting ideas for creative writing you'll never have your students bored. Make sure you try these:

You will find more ideas in this blogpost.

Fed up with writing? Get them to create videos. Check out these marvellous ideas on how students can create vocabulary videos:

More about this can be found here. Animation can be lots of fun too. 

Talking about fun, don't miss a Baby Message tool.

Finally, in order to test students' vocabulary, go for Jeopardy

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Unbearable Simplicity of the Present

Here are some updates on my Beginner English Course for adults. After making sure that "to be" structures are well processed by my students, i.e. they feel confident asking and answering basic questions and using a decent number of structures in their answers, we're moving forward.

The Present Simple Tense seems to be an obvious choice for helping eager learners proceed on the twisting path of English grammar. The links I'm providing in this post embrace material we've been struggling with  for several lessons. Naturally, as my students are more interested in communicative value of grammar, our lexical focus in conjunction with Present Simple is daily activites and related issues.

Forms of Present Simple in affirmative sentences

Negative sentences in Present Simple

Questions in Present Simple

More practice on possessive pronouns

Everyday activities

Sunday, 3 August 2014

To have or To be?

In the previous post I was talking about my experience of tutoring adults. As the course proceeds, I keep posting supporting online materials and resources I find useful. As far as a coursebook for our sessions I decided to opt for Headway Beginner (Oxford University Press). I used to work with this book a couple of years ago and I liked it a lot.

At the moment we're plunging into "have/has" structures, family vocabulary, basic adjectives and possessives.
So, here are some supporting web-based practice that could be used for follow-up practice or revision.

I've also created a Piktochart for basic questions and answers the verb with "to be":

Monday, 28 July 2014

In the beginning, there was "to be"

Recently, I've started tutoring two adults who are eager to master some English basics. They still operate some knowledge of the language as they had a school course years ago. Anyway, we started from the very beginning focusing on sentence structure and revising elementary vocabulary. 

I believe that every now and then English teachers face the situation like this. As long I may face it once again, I've decided to keep track of materials I'm using this time.

So, here are some links that contain materials for grammar and vocabulary practice.

Structures with the verb TO BE:

Introductions (fuctional language):

Possessive Pronouns:

Family (vocabulary building):

Jobs (vocabulary building):

Describing people (vocabulary building):

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Approaching a Vocabulary Course. Part 2.

Working on a vocabulary course I keep browsing the net for useful resources. Today I've been lucky to come across some truly precious links.

First of all, I was happy to bump into this wonderful course on Teaching Vocabulary by Paul Nation.

Secondly, I can't avoid mentioning such a marvellous resource for any vocabulary course as English Profile.

Next, this slideshare presentation on basics of teaching vocabulary is also worth attention. 

My list wouldn't be complete without these great posts:

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Approaching a Vocabulary Course

In September, I start teaching a new course that is called Vocabulary. As a rule, the aim of the course is to have students acquire new vocabulary on different topics, which sounds logical. However, when I was told I was taking over this course next year, I decided to change the approach a little bit. 

First off, I believe that any vocabulary-related course should contain elements that would help students to navigate through the complexities of the ocean of the English language. By saying this, I mean that the focus of the course should be the question "HOW" instead of "WHAT". Explaining my point further I'd like to state that teaching students the ways to work with vocabulary is much more important than having them memorise endless word lists. 

Having this in mind, I decided that the course I'm going to design (I love using this word in reference to seemingly boring work) will definitely contain approaches that will help students become interested in acquiring vocabulary and developing their own strategies in mastering it. It might sound pretentious or too ambitious, but let's be honest, we all love to dream big when it comes to learning outcomes. So, why not?

Before I get down to the boring part (which won't be as boring as I'm afraid it will) I decided to look through my topic tefl methods to pick out some online materials that could be useful for my course-to-be.

Tips and guidelines on how to design a course:

Essential articles and blog posts on teaching vocabulary
Apart from that, the whole pool of great activities to use when teaching vocabulary can be found HERE

Finally, I can't avoid mentioning some awesome web tools that students can and should use to explore vocabulary from different perspectives: - one of the best tools to explore the words in the context. It contains millions of sentences with the possibility to see the source article/blog post they are taken from.

Just the word - the tool that searches for all possible collocations for every word you type in.

Netspeak - the tool that shows possible word combinations depending on your purpose.

Wordsift - the tool that helps visualise the words from a text and show the connections between the selected word and related concepts.

Word Sense -  is a dictionary, thesaurus, and valuable tool for matching thoughts to words.

Graph Words -   is free English online thesaurus that helps you find the meanings of words and show connections among associated words

Synonym Finder - the tool that finds synonyms for the word you type in together with providing definitions and examples.

So, I guess this will be the part one of my attempt to approach the course design. If I decide to embark on the second part, I'll focus on how I'm going to encourage students to actually USE the vocabulary and make it part of their active communicative experience.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Comic Strip to Practice Vocabulary

My students and I are discussing sports and related issues at the moment. The unit is almost over and I'd like to give them some creative space to practise active vocabulary. For this reason, I created a comic strip with the help of Bitstrips called "A Day in the Gym". The bubbles are all empty, so the students will have to speculate on what the characters might say. One of the requirements is to use active vocabulary.

I look forward to having lots of fun!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Useful Links for English Learners

Throughout this month I've been posting links for my students in one of the social networks that would help them develop their language skills. Today, I've brought them all together with the help of the Piktochart to hand out to my colleagues. Hope you'll find them useful too!

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Prestige Movie Worksheets

Today I'm sharing worksheets I've developed for the movie "The Prestige", which I adore for many reasons. First of all, it's the meticulously designed plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Next, it's the outstanding actors' performance, feelings and emotions that you easily can relate to. And finally, David Bowie as Nichola Tesla. That is the separate point for me. 

The worksheets include following tasks:
  •  identifying characters
  •  character description
  • movie quotes discussion
  • movie timeline
  • discussion questions
  • vocabulary focus

Hope you will enjoy using them as much as I did!

Friday, 16 May 2014

A Fun Video Activity

I used this activity with my students when we began the unit about communication to illustrate how stories get distorted as they are passed on from one person to another. However, there can be much more to this activity depending on your class goals and a video you will choose. Apart from any instructional goals, this activity is lots of fun for students.


First three volunteers are needed. Then the three of them leave the classroom. While they are outside you play a piece of video (preferably a small story or a "scketch" with many details). You and your students discuss the story, paying attention to the details.
Then you call one of the ones outside (A). Your students volunteerly tell A the story. A can't ask anything!! Call another student outside (B). A tells B all ths story, and for sure he will invent details or
give other information. Then you call the other student outside (C). Then B tells C the story. It's really fun seeing how stories can be changed!!!

Then C tells the class the whole story. At the end all of you see the video again and discuss the wrong information!

I chose this video for my class and we were bursting with laughter!

the idea for the task is taken from

English for Kiddos

Recently, I've been asked about links that could be used when teaching English vocabulary to children. So here's the list: - I particulary like this one as it provides both interactive activities and printable worksheets. The range of grammar and vocabulary topics perfectly suit children's level. Besides, it's fun! - this site enables you to create vocabulary worksheets on a range of topics while providing and opportunity to vary the set of words for the worksheets. Together with a great choice of formats of tasks this makes this site one of my favourites. - this site provides resources, both interactives and printables, for different levels of learners. Extremely easy to use and versatile. - a very colourful and fun resource from British Council, lots of flash games, stories and crafts. - a collection of interactive spelling games. Other than that, there's a whole bunch of games for different subjects. - a great collection of games for learning vocabulary arranged by topic. - a treasure chest of interactive games, classroom activities, printable worksheets and much more.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Video on Travel

Here's a video on the topic "Travel and Tourism" I used with my students a couple of times. The video is made by a British filmmaker and adventurer Graham Hughes. For more of his videos and etra information you might want to check out his YouTube channel or his blog.

Before watching a video, I write down a list of words and expressions that I would like students to use later.

The Wordlist:

to travel on the cheap/ on a shoestring
to travel light
to take a load of stuff
to be mugged
to be ripped off
counter-intuitive (decision)
a godsend
it's a must
to save a bundle
this is a no-brainer
to blag a students card
to overland it
to sneak in
to have something up your sleeve
for buttons
to haggle

Elicit the meanings, otherwise have them use the vocabulary.

The Video "How to Travel on the Cheap":

The Follow-Up.

1. Ask students which points they found most useful/funny/unusual etc (encourage to use the words from the wordlist!)
2. Have the students write a paragraph summing up the most interesting points.
3. Discussion time. Looking back at students' travelling experiences and what tips they give to people who want to travel to the same destinations.

More to add to your class:

Find ideas for discussion questions here.
Find idioms related to travel here.
Find infographics on travel here

Videos on Education

Here are some great videos I used in the classroom with my students when we were discussing different aspects of education.

First off, students get to know what the videos are going to be about.

Video #1 - Peculiarities of education in Finland (BBC News)
Video #2 - College trap (ABC News report on students' debts)
Video #3 - Learning English with Obama's speeches (CNN Student News)

Pre-watching tasks:

1. In pairs, students write 2-3 questions  about what they expect to find out from each video.
2. Students are asked to note down 2-3 words and expressions from each video that they want to use.


Video 1.

Video 2.

Video 3.

Post-watching tasks (after each video).

1. Students share their questions and answer them. A teacher may ask other questions to make sure that students comprehended every aspect of information.

2. Compilation of a wordlist from the words and expressions that students noted down. As a follow-up task, students may be asked to write a paragraph to sum up the main points of the videos using words and expressions from the compiled wordlist.

2. Discussion time.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Slavoj Zizek

Slavoj Zizek, a slovenian philosopher, is a well-known and controversial personality and often referred to as "Elvis of cultural theory". He starred in films like "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" and "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology". Here's the video from which my acquaintance with this eccentric communist began:


Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A great post on Open Culture on Gabriel Garcia Marquez:

Role Play Cards (Relationships)

Today I'm adding another set of role play cards on the topic "Relationships". They are aimed at developing students' speaking skills and enhancing active vocabulary usage. I like to use such activities in two different ways:

1. Instant speaking. This makes the conversation sound more natural and straightforward. Although it might be too challenging for some students, if practiced regularly, this type of activity can be quite beneficial and help them overcome inconfidence and fear to speak.

2. Home assignment. By giving the students time to prepare the dialogs at home and present them in the class I expect a higher level of vocabulary usage and structural coherence. Also, students often want to show off their acting skills, which is an extra bonus for the "audience". 

                                 ROLE PLAY CARDS. TOPIC: RELATIONSHIPS

Card 1.
Student A
You have fallen out with you best friend because you don’t see eye to eye on some principal issues. You feel stressed and seek some advice. You decide to talk to your mother about what to do.
Card 1
Student B
Your daughter/son wants some advice after falling out with her/his best friend. Help him/her understand the reasons and causes of what happened and provide some tips based on your life experience.
Card 2
Student A
You’re going out with a person who used to date one of your friends. You know that your friend doesn’t like this and is spreading rumours behind your back. Tell him/her how you fell about this.
Card 2
Student B
One of your friends is going out with your ex. You feel depressed because of this and seek support from people around you. Your friend thinks you’re spreading gossips. Explain your position and tell him/her how you feel.
Card 3
Student A
You’re staying at your aunt’s during your summer holidays. Her daughter/son seems annoying to you and you don’t get on with her/him very well. Discuss with her/him what could be done to improve the situation.
Card 3
Student B
Your cousin is staying with your family during the summer holidays. You think he/she is too superficial in talking to everybody and so you don’t get on very well. Discuss with her/him what could be done to improve the situation.
Card 4
Student A
You’re the only child in the family. Your friend is the oldest among three children in his family. Discuss pros and cons of each situation.
Card 4
Student B
You’re the oldest child in your family with two more siblings. Your friend is the only child in the family. Discuss pros and cons of each situation.
Card 5
Student A
Your friend is addicted to her/his mobile phone. She/he keeps texting and calling even when you’re together. Tell her/him how you feel and try to convince her/him to use the mobile phone not so often.
Card 5
Student B
You’re a very sociable person and try to keep in touch with all your friends and touch base with them regularly. One of your friends feels annoyed because of you texting or calling when you’re together. Explain your attitude.

Big Fish (movie worksheets)

More film worksheets are coming!

Today I'm sharing my worksheets based on a great Tim Burton's film called "Big Fish". As all his movies it's full of symbolism, metaphor and special "darkish" atmosphere. However, themes like love and friendship are the cornerstones in this story having everything else revolve around them.

The sections in the worksheets are as follows:
1. Identifying the main characters.
2. Character development.
3. Places highlighted in the film and their significance.
4. Tales (identifying truths and exaggerations).
5. A father and a son (looking into a complicated realtionship).

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Foreign Languages and Media (Newsletter)

Here's an amazing newsletter from German educational institutions in Saarbrucken with the focus on using media (editor - J.Wagner). The range of topics presented is impressive (includes tips on teaching English, French, Spanish and professional development)! Take a look at the content in English section:

  • Cartoons: Geoffrey Hill's "The English Blog"
  • Sean Banville: Breaking News English
  • News from Anglotopia
  • Daily Writing Tips
  • Do You Make These Cultural Mistakes When You Speak English?
  • Links for English Teachers from Jürgen Wagner
  • Youtube Videos for the English Class (focus on British slang)
  • News from Easy Pace Learning
  • Pronunciation resources for independent English language learners
  • Interactive Digital Clock
  • Meals and Meal Times in English-Speaking Countries
  • News from ESOL-courses
  • 16 Strange And Surprising Facts About Medieval England
  • EFL classroom
  • Mixed bag of EFL-links
Ta very much, Herr Wagner! 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Role play cards

Looking through my past years' materials I often recover something I actually forgot I'd created. This is the case with the role play cards I'm adding to this post. I was working with the fisrt-year students using "Total English Upper-Intermediate" coursebook when I developed these cards to have students practice active vocabulary related to the topic of the unit. One of the issues we were discussing was comparison of urban and rural living. This topic is quite common in the curriculum and can be found in a number of English coursebooks.

Film worksheet (The Last Mimzy)

Watching films in English with further discussion is something you cannot imagine teaching English without. Throughout my teaching career having classes to discuss films with students has been one of the most enjoyable experiences. It feels especially rewarding for me when I invest enough time and give enough thought to the tasks I'm going to offer students. A couple of years ago I developed interest in using Photoshop and thus tried to apply my skills to create film-based worksheets that I later used in the classroom.

In this post, you can find a worksheet based on the sci-fi movie "The Last Mimzy". It's both an entertaining and thought provoking film as it deals with crucial and controversial issues like human potential, our connection with other living beings, and technological advancement, to name a few.

The Last Mimzy Worksheet