March 24

An Ode to Munchbucket

This is a writing activity which Nina Lauder presented at the recent FECEI conference in Madrid.  Instructions on writing your own ode are below.





Fluffy, grey, on the sofa


Sitting – snuggly, quietly, strokably

On the sofa

Fluffy, grey, cute, mine





To write an ode…

1. What/Who the ode is for

2. Two adjectives to describe it

3. Where is it?

4. Repeat 1

5. What’s it doing?

6. Three adverbs of how it’s doing the activity

7. Repeat 3

8. Repeat 2

9. Two new adjectives

10. Repeat 1

March 15

A 2 Day in 5

This is a great activity I picked up from Catherine Morley‘s workshop on Dictation at the TESOL-SPAIN conference.  It’s similar to the Wacky Web Tales site, but uses a simpler story which students will find easy to understand.  You can find a downloadable version of the activity in the Games section on my Activities for your Classsroom page.

First, ask your students to write the following items in there notebook with the number next to it.

1. Favourite colour

2. Adjective to describe the weather

3. Favourite male (actor / singer / celebrity)

4. Boy’s name

5. Month

6. Type of transport

7. Animal

8. Food

9. Place (city / country)

10. Item of clothing

11. Place in a town (shop / building)

12. Activity (in the -ing form)

13. Object

14. Drink

15. Adjective to describe emotion

Then, tell them you are going to dictate a story to them and that when you say a number, they should complete the gap with the corresponding word.

It was a (2) day in (5).  I was in (9) and I was drinking some (14).  Suddenly, the phone rang.  It was (3) and his friends.  They were (15) because I was late.  So I put on my (1) (10) and picked up my (13).  I made sure that (4) the (7) had some (8) and left.  I quickly went by (6) to (11).  When I arrived I was surprised to see my friends were (12) there.

Students can then compare their stories.  For homework, they can decide what happens next.

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March 9


I’m going to try a dictogloss this afternoon with my PET class.  I don’t think I’ve done a dictogloss before, so I’m quite excited, though a little apprehensive as well.  I’m excited because it’s a new way to introduce the texts which are in Part 1 of the Reading Paper – rather than just handing them the texts, I’ll dictogloss the first one.  I’m apprehensive because I can envisage some interruptions and requests for me to repeat words and sentences and the Brit in me hates ignoring such things, even if I have explained before the activity starts that I won’t repeat anything.  Well, let’s see how it goes and if the students enjoy it 🙂

For those of you that don’t know how a dictogloss works, here’s what it involves:

  • Read a short text at normal speed and ask students to write down as much as they can, which will normally be the key words.
  • Students work in pairs to try and reconstruct the text
  • Read the text again so students can try and fill in any parts they’ve missed
  • Show them the complete text
November 23

Why always so positive?

Negative writing

OK, I admit it.  I’m the first one who could be blamed for an excess of positivity (which I don’t see as a bad thing, by the way!).

Whilst in a talk at last week’s ACEIA conference, someone suggested getting students to do negative writing – writing about the worst present they’ve ever had, the ugliest piece of clothing they’ve ever worn or the most terrible holiday they’ve been on.  It’s a great idea as it introduces a new range of vocabulary, whilst still practising the written aspect of PET and FCE exams and it gives students an opportunity to be creative in a different way.

August 3

Not a semi-colon in sight!

PunctuationI’ve just been reading some interesting posts on the Sentenceworks blog about the use of commas, colons and semi-colons and it got me to thinking about whether students are still seriously taught punctuation.  In the modern world of text messaging and Twitter, people are constantly trying to cut their sentences to the minimum – you can read people’s opinions on the question of whether texting affects writing skills here – and spelling, syntax and punctuation are seeing the effects.

It could be argued that “serious” punctuation (by which I mean colons, semi-colons, hyphens and the like) is only really important in academic circles, which means that our students probably won’t be writing in English.  And I suppose to a certain extent teaching the proper use of punctuation marks is the same as teaching a low-frequency vocabulary set: are students likely to remember the rules if they don’t frequently use what they’ve been taught?  I have no clue how to punctuate direct speech in Spanish, but then I never have to, so is it something I need to learn?