Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tell us about it

24 November 2011

Today's lesson provided further focus on writing and its planning. I was searching Google Images for award winning photographs and decided to use some of them as prompts in our class. The students were shown a picture of a busy Indian street with lots of traffic and an elephant casually strolling through the scene. Using example questions we started to make notes about what we could see in order to plan a piece of writing to describe the images. The group worked together to elicit certain aspects of the image, notes were made on the board and any difficult vocabulary that arose was clarified. The group then worked together to transfer the notes into a written composition on the board with help from the teacher and peer input. The learners were then put into 3 groups to work on new images, the planning process was then set into motion with help provided in spelling, vocabulary and encouragement to be creative. The groups were very careful not to let others see their pictures. Once the groups had successfully planned and written their pieces all the images were shown on the board one by one with the learners reading aloud their work, describing the scenes to the rest of the class.

Tell Us About It - Worksheets

Friday, 18 November 2011

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

November 10 - 24

We are very fortunate to be working in collaboration with Stuart Jones from the 'Swansea Digital Stories' project, please see their website for information about what they do.

Working with one of the stories "A light at the end of the tunnel" our students were able to focus on idiomatic phrases, verb tenses, descriptive terms and how to plan a written piece of work. The story provided poignant focus on dificult times in life and how things can and often improve, a wonderful subject for our learners in particular.

Idioms, phrases, vocabulary and grammatical forms from the story were focused on with task-based activities (please see embedded worksheet).

In the first activity students brainstormed the meaning of selected phrases and vocabulary amongst themselves before feeding them back to the class. Discussion then followed on meaning and uses of the language points. The next task was to identify verbs in their past and continuous tenses, focusing on how we vary these in writing. With the worksheet we investigated how the writing could have been planned with elicited ideas from the class and help from the teacher, this was well understood leading on to the learners planning their own stories. For the rest of the lesson our learners were helped with their ideas by our kind volunteers Pippa and Jelena. The students were given the task of writing their stories as homework.

In the next lesson we were delighted to see that many of our learners had produced some very interesting, heart-felt and often amusing stories. The stories were read to the class and focus on pronunciation and the subject matter followed.

Next week Stuart will be recording the stories read out by our learners for the Swansea Digital Stories project and website. Stories already written are being marked and feedback, correction and help will be provided.

Many thanks to Stuart for helping us provide these activities which help in many ways such as; reading, writing, speaking and the feel-good factor of self-expression.

Please stay tuned for some of our learners' wonderful stories :-)

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Worksheets

Sour Grapes and Wet Blankets

27 October 2011

  • To say that someone's attitude is "sour grapes" means that they are making complaints or accusations because they are jealous.
  • A person who is a wet blanket is so boring or unenthusiastic that they prevent other people from enjoying themselves. "Come on! Don't be such a wet blanket!"

Teaching idioms and slang is quite a subjective topic. I believe that it is an integral part of teaching EFL. I agree with the school of thought that says that slang and idioms are an every day part of our language and it is important that foreign students are aware of the most common forms they are likely to encounter, the appropriate use of these language forms and what is considered to be taboo in polite society. 

An important matter to consider is that although students can find endless reference books on almost every other form of the English Language, slang and idioms are not considered part of the syllabus and paid no or very little attention.

If we do not teach idioms how is a student ever going to cope with phrases such as - To bury the hatchet, to be in the same boat and to kick the bucket, and to go straight over my head? If you do not know what they mean there is no formula to work out their translation, the words bear no resemblance to what we are saying.

The International TEFL Corporation

In this lesson our learners focused on idiomatic phrases and the use of slang expressions. Our learners often comment on how English can be difficult to understand because of such cryptic language and requested that we have some focus on this in lessons. I can not express how nice it is to have such eager learners and a free-hand in providing what our  students want and need - a truly client-led provision.

The learners focused and discussed between themselves the possible meanings of idioms/slang provided on a worksheet. Their ideas were fed back to the class and we discussed and noted the meanings of the phrases, students were keen to use examples in their own sentences, often with much laughter. Once we'd covered the list a slideshow was shown and students guessed which idiomatic phrases were connected to each image, this helped to further internalise the subject. This provided excellent conversational input and the activity went on for some time with learners often leading the discussion.

The students were then encouraged to write sentences using their own ideas, myself and Stuart circulated and helped the students with the task. The students then fed back their sentences to the class and as always peer correction from the group helped further understanding of usage and pronunciation.

Now, a few weeks on we are hearing our learners eagerly using some of the phrases with much satisfaction and effectiveness - 'all talk and no trousers' seems to be a favourite.

Idioms relating to Personality - Slideshow

English Idioms Relating to Personality Worksheet

A long awaited update

Well it's been well over a month since this blog was updated, my apologies to regular visitors. I have been asked by the WEA (Workers Education Association) on behalf of the National Union of Teachers to train primary school teachers to use 'Smartboard' interactive whiteboard software, and whilst this has been quite productive and enjoyable it has unfortunately eaten into time set aside for updating this blog.

I am very pleased to announce that we now have 3 new volunteer teachers who are committed to helping with what we do at the UiD group. David and Clive are now teaching starter/elementary learners and Jelena is providing well aimed and relevant lessons to the ladies in our group. We are very happy to be firing on all cylinders again, providing productive, inclusive and enjoyable learning activities for our ever eager visitors.

Many thanks for the ongoing support from the CELTA department at Swansea university who have constantly helped us to find such wonderful graduate English teachers willing to volunteer their time.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Getting used to it.....

27th September 2011

In today's lesson we focused on  'get used to', following on from our last lesson on 'used to be'.

In a warm-up activity we watched an amusing video where an Englishman is a guest in a Chinese restaurant, there is some misunderstanding regarding whether his plate should be left empty or not. This allowed the target language to be 'activated' through discussion, particularly concerning our learners' ability to 'get used to' British food - or not.

Using the board we focused on the grammatical form, presenting/eliciting examples with discussion.

In the next activity students were given a 'wordle', a printed sheet with selected words, students then attempted to predict from the text what was going to happen in the following video clip. 

After watching the clip the students were given the task of listing what Audrey is and isn't used to. This provided lots of ideas and good practice of the target language.

In a final productive task students used their owns ideas to make statements and questions with 'used to'. These were fed back to the class and we discussed our favourites.

What is Audrey Used to - Worksheet

Grammar Key Sheet

Write About Yourself With USED To

Prediction Sheet

* Please note that there appear to be mistakes on the worksheets when viewed on this page. These do not appear on the downloaded/printed versions, it's just a glitch in how they display :-)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


20th September 2011

In today's lesson we focused on adjectives that describe feelings and the different uses of the word 'feel'.

In a warm-up activity the students were asked to list as many feelings as they could in pairs. When answers were fed back to the board we were able to identify and highlight 'emotional' feelings.

The next task was to learn new vocabulary ahead of following activities in the lesson. The students were asked to match the new words with their definitions, after 5 minutes they did well to get most of the definitions correct and the correct answers were elicited and presented on the board. The students then put the words in categories of 'positive' and 'negative' and fed back their answers.

In order to activate the new vocabulary students were asked how they would feel in the following situations.

How do you normally feel?

  • When at home watching TV
  • Before an important exam
  • When you forget someone's name
  • If you have to speak in front of a lot of people
  • If you have to wait in a long queue in a shop
  • When you have nothing to do
  • If you go to a concert
  • If you miss a train or bus
  • If you see a big spider
  • If a large animal like a cow runs towards you
This activity worked well giving us the opportunity to use the words in context and to discuss how different words can be used for each idea.

We then focussed on different ways of using the word 'feel'.

A person:
He feels sad/fine. She felt ill.
A thing
These clothes feel wet. The room felt cold.
Have an opinion
You know how I feel about my new boss.
Feel + like + -ing
Do you feel like going for a walk?
Feel + like + noun
I feel like a cup of tea

The students then did a sentence matching activity in order to practice these uses.

How’s your mum today?
What do you feel like doing tonight?
What time did you go to bed last night?
How do you feel about our new boss?
Ooh, your hands feel cold!
Do you feel like a rest after your journey?
How was work?
I feel terrible about what I said to Tina.

Oh, before nine, I felt really tired.
Don’t worry I’m sure she wasn’t upset.
No it’s ok I slept a lot on the plane.
Oh, she’s feeling much better thanks.
Oh, terrible, sometimes I fell like walking out.
I think he’s ok. He’s got some good ideas.
I don’t know….. What’s on at the cinema?
I know – I left my gloves at home.

In a final activity students used their own ideas to make statements using the target language.

Feelings Vocabulary

Friday, 9 September 2011

What would you do if?

6th September 2011

Today’s lesson focused on the 2nd Conditional

The Second Conditional is used to talk about 'impossible' situations.
• If we were in London today, we would be able to go to the concert in Hyde Park.
• If I had millions of dollars, I'd give a lot to charity.
• If there were no hungry people in this world, it would be a much better place.
• If everyone had clean water to drink, there would be a lot less disease.

In a thematic lead-in to the target language, students were asked ‘what would you do if you were young again? After conferring in pairs answers were fed back to the class with the majority of answers being ‘I would study harder’ and ‘play more sports’. We then focused on how this form is used to discuss hypothetical, ‘unreal’ possibilities.

A task was then given to match new vocabulary (relevant to following activities) with their definitions, students worked in pairs and did well to identify correct meanings. In order to check answers the interactive whiteboard was used.

Students were then shown a video where random people in the street were asked a particular question. The initial task was to identify what question was asked and who was asking it? The question was ‘what would you do if you were invisible for 24 hours?’, interestingly the question isn’t actually ‘asked’ by anyone, we know the question because the people being asked repeat it, giving an opportunity to point out that we don’t usually repeat questions before answering and that it happens here because of the informal nature of the situation where people are actually enjoying being imaginative. The second task was to watch the video again and find further information, providing more practice and exposure to the target language. The students conferred and again did well to find the relevant points:

• What would most people do? Rob a bank
• What would the man do after he hopped on the plane? Travel the world
• Who would the woman spy on? People
• How would the woman earn some money? Mind reading

The answers given in the video were often amusing and also raised some interesting questions for the group. We discussed the validity of some of the answers, again providing further focus and practice of the 2nd conditional form. Some ideas discussed were ‘how could you make money mind-reading by being invisible?’ and ‘travelling around the world takes longer than 24 hours so effectively you’ll only see the inside of a plane’. The students enjoyed ‘investigating’ the answers and this helped tie in the idea of ‘spontaneous’ introduced with vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson.

Students were given a handout with the grammatical forms highlighted and we discussed the use these with examples elicited and presented on the board. This was followed by pronunciation practice focusing on connected sounds and the contracted form of ‘I would = I’d’ in natural speech.


In order to practice the form further students were given a gap fill worksheet where they had to choose the correct verb and put it in it’s appropriate form. This proved to be a little tricky for some of the learners but after conferring with each other the correct answers were fed back to the class.

In a final activity the students used their own ideas to form ‘what would you do if?’ questions. These were written on a worksheet and the group asked each other their questions, noting answers they felt were interesting or amusing. At the end of the lesson we shared ideas discussed with some very interesting questions like ‘what would you do if you were the leader of your country?’ This provided some interesting discussion and again helped the learners to practice the target language from the lesson.

Vocabulary Cards

Handout – Q-A activity

Handout - 2nd Conditional+Verb-Adjective Activity

2nd Conditional Grammar Key

Gist+Further Info Tasks

2nd Conditional lesson plan

2nd Conditional Lesson Prompt

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Look at Me!!

In today's lesson the learners practised and performed a 'Jazz Chant' with focus on text reconstruction and reading aloud.

You can use these jazz chants in a variety of fun ways. You can practice stress and rhythm with your class, to help your students sound more natural when they speak English. Also, because each jazz chant focuses on different vocabulary and grammar, you can also use them to review important words and structures!

The first task was to repeat the phrases and guess what the poem is about. The pronunciation was eagerly drilled but it wasn't until I slowly revealed a picture of a TV that they got the theme.
'Parts' of the poem were given out and were put in their correct sequence whilst listening, it was clear that everyone got the order correct.
A video of the poem was shown for students to understand the intonation and pace of the speech.
We then had a bit of a practice and began recording. I must add that I have full permission to record today's learners and publish them on this blog, anonymously. We went on to record each other performing the poem, this enabled us to identify problem areas and drill them further. Much improvement was made in the chant, however the presence of a digital recorder created some understandable shyness and anxiety making some of the tricky phrases like "You want what?" "What do you want?" even harder. Nevertheless this task was really enjoyed with eager participation and frequent laughter.

Once again many thanks to Jamie Keddie @ for this fun and effective lesson.

This video demonstrates how interactive
 whiteboard software was used to support and enhance the lesson

Student Recordings

Worksheet - Poem Full

Poem Parts




Thursday, 21 July 2011

Bingo Lingo!

21st July 2011

In today’s lesson we focused on good old fashioned rhyming bingo calls.  They contain so much humour and expression of real life concepts that are particular to the UK. How the phrases represent the numbers by rhyming or meaning provides excellent pronunciation practise and oodles of vocabulary. Traditionally the phrases are called before the numbers, giving those who have internalised the code the advantage.
As a warmer the learners were given the task of sharing what they know about ‘bingo’, surprisingly only two knew of the game and went on to describe it to the others. I set the scene of a local bingo hall and its patrons, how serious it can be, little old ladies furiously stamping an array of cards with their wide-tipped marker pens. I went on to explain that if you know the phrases you can shout ‘BINGO’ first!

The students were given a handout and then focused on a slide-show presenting the numbers 1 – 21 with pictures. We read a phrase at a time, predicting what would be in the upcoming picture. This provided lots of interesting and often funny ideas and with regular concept checking the group soon had them down. We then played a few games, each picking up in pace in the competitive atmosphere and they were soon using 3 cards at a time. This was greatly enjoyed and I’m toying with the idea of trying to slowly introduce all 90! Perhaps offer a certificate in Bingo Linguistics ;)

I’m bemused that this old tradition has fallen by the way due to ‘political correctness’, after having a good laugh at Frankie Boyle’s jokes and watching two fat ladies doing new and exciting things with lard on their cookery show. Nevertheless I am aware of my multicultural group and will change a few things in order to avoid any inappropriate discussion.

A video demonstrating how interactive whiteboard
 software was used to support and enhance the lesson

Bingo Lingo Slideshow

Bingo Cards

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A man eating chicken

19th July 2011

Today’s lesson focused on

  • -ing + noun 
  • noun + -ing -
  • ed & -ing adjectives
We began by matching new vocabulary with pictures, the students did well and were happy to learn some new words, and this was followed by some pronunciation focus. Particular vocabulary is selected for this task in order to enable the students to better participate in following activities.

Students were then asked to draw ‘a man eating chicken’. Everybody drew an image of a man tucking into a chicken leg.

Using the board we were able to focus on the grammatical structure and the use of hyphens. Images on the board illustrated the difference between ‘a man-eating chicken’ and ‘a man eating chicken’.

In a prediction activity students were given the task of matching phrases, this went down really well as the subject matter was quite unusual. It was quite difficult but amusing and a wonderful ‘levelling’ activity. One of our kind helpers a native English speaker found it equally as difficult as everyone else. Please see the video demonstration and embedded documents for a clearer picture.

We then viewed a number of videos illustrating some very interesting and unusual things plus great focus on the target language.

Following the video we revisited the phrase matching activity and corrected mistakes with the students feeding back correct use of the language areas covered.

In a final productive spoken activity students asked and answered questions using the target language.

The students seemed to enjoy the varied content of the videos.

A video demonstrating how interactive whiteboard
 software was used to support and enhance the lesson

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Prepositions of Movement

12th July 2011

Today’s lesson focused on prepositions of movement:

out of
around etc……

As a warmer, students were asked ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ This was relevant to the beginning of the video that followed and helped the students to prepare for what they were about to watch, most of the answers were surprisingly; ‘cornflakes, toast and butter’.  We then had a vocabulary and picture match activity that served to elicit/pre-teach upcoming words in the lesson. Next I elicited what their breakfasts might say to them if they could speak, ‘go back to bed’ and ‘wake up and go to work’ being some of the elicited ideas. Before viewing the video students were asked to identify what the man’s breakfast said to him – the answer was ‘go!’ The video used is amusing, interesting and very cleverly done, which helped students to enjoy, connect with and relax whilst completing the tasks involved. After the first viewing I elicited and presented how his journey went. The students did well to use some prepositions of movement and with some guidance began to use the target language effectively. During a second viewing, the students had to use their powers of observation to remember the progression and order of the man’s journey. After watching the clip once again they were given the task of ‘sequencing’ the events with a worksheet that had strips of sentences cut up, they then attempted to put the journey in order, practicing use of the target language. This was done well with most students getting it 75% correct. The strips of paper were then taken off the table so they could revise with a gap-fill worksheet. As the lesson was coming to an end the students were told to work together and use the target language in order to discuss the way to the exit of the community centre. In order to leave they had to use the following directions:

Stand up, go through the door and out of the classroom, go around the corner and through another door, go down the stairs, around the corner, through the door at the bottom and turn left, go through the main door.
 The students did well in this productive spoken task and were soon on their way.

Once again many thanks to Jamie Keddie and for this idea and consistently wonderful materials :)