February 5

A-Z jinx

This is a fabulous activity which Steve shared at TEFL del Sur’s Swap Shop on Saturday.


Tell everyone to look down at their papers (or the table, or anything so they’re not looking at classmates) and explain that you’re going to say the alphabet as a class (or count from 1 to 20) but that if two people say a letter/number at the same time, you have to start again.

It’s a wonderful settling activity.

November 20

An alien encounter

A few years ago at TESOL-SPAIN, I saw a great talk by Catherine Morley about using dictation in the class.  She demonstrated a number of activities and one which has always stayed with me is “A 2 Day in 5“.

I created my own version for a group today as we were doing a reading activity related to aliens.  Here goes…

1. colour

2. animal

3. personality adjective

4. body part

5. friend’s name

6. city

7. question

8. place

9. different colour

10. number

11. adjective

12. another friend

13. action with -ing

One day (12) was walking in (6) when s/he saw something very strange.  It looked like a (3) person, but it had (1) skin and (10) (4).  (12) went closer and asked “(7)”  “I don’t know,” replied the alien. “But I’m hungry and I want to eat a (11) (9) (2).  (12) thought this was very odd, so s/he called (5) and together they took the alien to the (8) and started (13).

October 9

Thoughts on BIG classes

This year we’re working even more closely with a local state school, which is absolutely marvellous – a great way to forge friendships, learn from peers and get an insight into different ways of approaching education.  For me, it’s the first time I’ve been faced with such a large group of students and I won’t lie, it’s not something I feel particularly comfortable with!  We are very fortunate to have their mainstream teacher in the room with us and it’s a bonuc for a number of reasons – obviously discipline issues are dealt with by the teacher with more authority, but also it makes the work of monitoring large numbers much simpler.

Some initial thoughts on teaching large groups…

1. People get lost much more easily – both I think through sheer volume of voices in the class but also, and this may be a weakness on my part, because when you see someone is noticeably weaker, you feel even worse putting them on the spot to be listened to by 29 other people.

2. It’s incredibly difficult to remember people’s names.  Fortunately I’ve been teaching in the school for a number of years, so I’m quite familiar with a lot of the faces in the sea before me…and perhaps that’s why I feel worse when I don’t remember someone’s name.

3. It’s not impossible to hear from everyone during the lesson – the nature of WGFB changes as you no longer want to hear from each individual after each activity, but there are enough moments of WGFB during the lesson that you can nominate everybody (even those souls mentioned in point 1, once we’re all a bit more comfortable!).

4. Everything takes longer.  I don’t know whether this is because we’re working at an average lower level than we normally would in academy classes, or whether it takes longer because of the time it takes to monitor each group…hmmm, one to think about.

5. It’s difficult to keep/get everyone’s attention.  There are always distractions – someone’s pencil falling on the floor, a whispered comment…and it takes much longer to snap the class back to the focus.

6. It’s really noisy! Oh, the joy of a communicative class where students are merrily conversing in English – it’s happening (with snitches of Spanish when they think you’re not listening), but it’s very loud 🙂  And it makes me think about which activities I’ll need to adapt to make them more “big-class-friendly” – running dictations for example are a possibility, but with one person dictating to the group, rather than students working in pairs.  Shouting dictations are a definite no-no!

7. It’s really good fun! 🙂

September 24


I’m killing two birds with one stone with this post!  Firstly as it allows me to throw out another piece of paper with thoughts from last year written on and also it’s good for one of my new year resolutions!

At some point last year, probably during my quest to make use of more routines, I started a list of some activities I could do in class to revise language.  So here’s my list…

  • Question word O+X
  • Where’s the ghost? (good for prepositions)
  • Character Builds (great for any age and level)
  • Star Word
  • Bingo
  • Banangrams
  • Freeze! (What were you doing when…?)
  • Hangman
  • Alphabet Race
  • Guess the Question
  • The Boss Says…
  • Disappearing Sentence
  • Sit down if…
  • Different types of Dictation
  • Vocab boxes
February 12

Vocabulary Battleships

What do we do with emergent language?

At the end of every lesson, my teenagers write new vocab on slips of paper and put them into an envelope…but then I wanted to find ways of encouraging them to use and review the vocabulary.  So, yesterday I played “Vocabulary Battleships” with my students.  It’s easy to prepare, provides lots of communicative practice and is an engaging way to review vocabulary.

In preparation, you’ll need to provide two boards – A and B – with the vocabulary you want to focus on.  You can use some of the same vocabulary on both boards or make them completely different.  Then divide the class into As and Bs and instruct everyone to draw 6 ships on their board, keeping it a secret from their partner.

To play, A describes a word on B’s board, hoping there’s a battleship in that square; and vice versa.   I’m going to try it with my adult C1 group in the future as well as they enjoy review activities and we have an abundance of new language coming out of each lesson.Battleships