January 12


Some shameless fun yesterday with my adult group!

1) Brainstorm the topics which can come up during the speaking exam, e.g. family, education, holidays, food, music, etc. Get a list of about 15.

2) Give each student a piece of paper and have them divide the paper into 6 squares. Tell them to write a different topic in each square and a personal information question for each topic.

3) Have them scrunch their paper into a ball and divide the class into two groups – half them stand on opposite sides of the classroom. Have a 20-second snowball fight.

4) After the fight, tell students to grab a snowball, sit down and interview their partner using the six questions.

5) After they chat, tell them to write a second question for each of the topics on the paper. Again, have a 20-second snowball fight, then have students interview their partner with the new snowball they pick up at the end.

My students really enjoyed it – as they are on the naval base, they are under a lot of pressure with exams, routines and duties and so they enjoyed a bit of silliness. Plus, it practises question formation as well as getting them to think about the typical topics of the exam. It’s really easy to adapt this activity to different levels as well, as the questions can vary from using very simple tenses and structures, to using conditionals and encouraging a wider range of structures in their responses.

September 16

Prep-free speaking activities

I had a great time Thursday morning, sharing some ideas for prep-free speaking activities with the fab team of teachers at ELI in Sevilla. Below the presentation you can find links to the activities I presented and if anything is missing, I’ll write about it soon!

Prep-free speaking activities from verybouncyperson

Definitely, maybe

A cloudy day

Picture dictations

Guess the question

Character builds

Spot the difference


Keep talking

I’ll be doing a session on Guided Visualisations at the ACEIA conference in November, so if you enjoyed the one we did in the session, come along for more ideas!








May 28

A birthday present

This is another of the guided visualisations which I did at the InnovateELT conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s especially suitable for learners who are preparing for the Cambridge PET and works well in a group of six or more.

Here’s a rough script for the guided visualisation:

Imagine you’re going shopping. Are you in a shopping centre or the town centre?

What can you see around you? Is it busy or quiet?

What can you hear? Are there people talking? Can you hear music playing or the sounds of cars going by?

Imagine you’re going to buy a birthday present for a friend. Look around and choose which shop you’re going to go into.

Now you’re inside the shop. How does the space feel? Is it big or small? Is it crowded or empty?

Is there any music playing?

Does the shop have a particular smell?

Wander around and look at the different things you could buy your friend. Pick things up. Feel the texture. Feel the weight. Check the price.

Decide on the present you’re going to buy and when you’re ready, open your eyes and tell your partner about the present.

One thing I like about this task is that the guided visualisation takes the learners on a journey, but what we’re really interested in is the end product, so they don’t need to share the process of getting to the present, just the object they finally decided on.

As learners are sharing with their partner, use the time to monitor and collect errors or new language you’d like to share with the class. As the topic is very open, learners might have decied to buy clothes, furniture or decorative household items, plants, jewellery…so a wide variety of language can come up whilst they’re sharing.

Feedback as a group on the different items learners chose for their present. Then write a six or so of them on the board, along with the price of each. This then leads onto a PET-style discussion activity.

Say to the group:

You want to buy a birthday present for a friend. Talk together about the different things you could buy and then decide which would be best.

Learners work in pairs to do the task, whilst you monitor and collect errors.

Do some feedback on the task, asking pairs which present they chose and why.



May 18

Visualise This!

Thanks to everyone who came along to my session on Saturday at InnovateELT. Below are the slides and links to the activities we did. If there are any doubts, just leave a comment, send me an email or message me on Twitter. Happy visualising!

Visualise this! from verybouncyperson

The Rock


An explanation of SPRE in more detail

Spot the difference

Guided visualisation leading on to an agreement-reaching discussion (similar to FCE and PET speaking exams)


December 14

Fortnightly Focus #8 – Proactive Pron

Great timing as today in our bi-weekly PDM we reviewed the previous session which had been all about getting to grips with phonology and reflected on what we had been doing in our classes since then.  I’m happy to say I have been slightly more proactive with pron (pron there rather than phonology because I like the alliteration of ‘proactive pron’) – for example, the 9-year-olds the other day looked at -ed endings and we did an awareness-raising activity to see if they could hear the difference between sentences said in the present and the past, e.g I watch TV vs I watched TV. (FYI: They were generally good at noticing the difference, but aren’t yet fully comfortable producing the regular past, so there’s still a lot of Spanishified play-ed and watch-ed.)

This also came off the back of a chat I was having with some colleagues about my 5-year-olds who are really struggling to produce ‘s’ at the end of words despite heavy drilling and I also felt as though they weren’t aware of the sound when I said the sentence either, so we’re working on that and doing some back-chaining as I found that with the sentence, “He’s got long legs” the ‘s’ sounds got lost at one point or the other!  This also gives us a chance to work on producing a more clipped ‘t’ at the end of got – so we’re steadily moving away from /hi: gɒ lɒnx lex/ with the final /x/ sounding like a true Scotsman pronuncing the ‘ch’ in loch.

It’s interesting to do a variety of group and individual drilling in the class as it really does give you the opportunity to think about the individual learners.  Some of my VYLS can parrot back wonderful sentences with clear sounds and the correct intonation, whereas others struggle both with individual phonemes and those supra-segmental features such as word or sentence stress.  I wonder how it correlates to their speech development in their own language (as Russ Mayne commented the other day on Twitter):

I would still like to do more proactive pron with my teen and adult groups but as we had two wonderful national holidays last week, we didn’t have class so I wasn’t as phonologically active as I may have otherwise been.  However, in our end-of-term tutorial yesterday, one of the adult learners said she’d like to do more work on the phonemic alphabet to become more familiar with the different phonemes and work on tricky sounds at a more basic level – minimal pairs, ahoy!

Going to have a Fortnightly Focus break over the Christmas holidays, which will give me some time to reflect on the year so far and start thinking about how to make the next term better.  How happy are you with your start to the year?  Any teaching-related new year resolutions?