Friday, 30 December 2016

ESL Fashion Lesson Plan

This lesson was designed around the Let's Talk 1 chapter, 15B: "Fads and Fashions."

Firstly, I show my students this amusing skit from Key and Peele:

We discuss what is happening, pointing out any useful vocabulary. I try to correct "hat" to "cap" where necessary. Useful vocabulary here is: "jealous," "fashion," and so on.

I tell them that we will now look at fashion in relation to clothes, and that they need to practice the vocabulary for clothing. So I show them this video, which is a bit slow and silly. You might want to make your own PPT instead. I will do that in future.

You can then demonstrate on the board how to add details to clothing by adding adjectives. I point out what I'm wearing and elicit details. For example: "black coat," "smart trousers," "warm scarf," and so on.

I'll then have the students talk about changing fashion over the decades (maybe pre-teach "decade," which will appear again in the book). I show them this video, which always amuses my students. Chinese fashion is pretty conservative even today and it's unimaginable for my students to think of a girl showing so much skin in the 1950s!

This usually gets them interested and sparks their imaginations, so I'll have them work in pairs or small groups to talk about changing fashions in China over the past few decades.

After that, I'll go through the textbook p.68-69 and try to make a point whenever words or ideas are repeated from the videos.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

ESL Teaching Tip: Avoiding L1

I know this blog is normally a collection of teaching resources, but today I want to give you something just as valuable: a piece of advice that will help you produce better English learners.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really is important not to use L1 (the learner’s native language) in class. Many teachers attempt to do so, and they are proud of themselves if they succeed. However, it really is detrimental to the learning process, so please avoid doing it.

Almost ten years ago, when I was first teaching in South Korea, I learned to speak Korean and was eager to show that I knew how to do so. Almost every Korean I met just assumed I couldn’t speak the language, and I wanted to counteract that prejudice and put forth a good impression. Moreover, in class I was desperate to do a good job a teacher, and so I would occasionally use my Korean in spite of the fact that it was supposedly an “English immersion” environment.

I didn’t use much Korean, but you don’t need to in order to derail the language learning process. What I found was that as soon as the students knew I could speak their language – even a little bit – they would stop trying so hard to speak my language. At the time, I was teaching very young children and they were keen to tell me everything they did at the weekend, or all about their favourite TV show. But as soon as they thought I could speak a little Korean, they’d try using a Korean word for some difficult part of the communication process instead of searching for the English equivalent.

When I came to China, I found that the language here is far harder to learn, and it took me some time to get any level of Chinese proficiency. However, by this time I was a bit more savvy, and even when I learned Chinese I would avoid letting my students know that fact. Of course, it stings when you’re students think you can’t speak their language… it suggests that a) you’re too stupid to learn, or b) you don’t care enough to learn.

However, it really is important not to allow L1 interfere with communication. A few times in recent years my students have stumbled upon my Chinese social media profiles and seen that I can use Chinese, and immediately their efforts at communicating in English diminish as they start slipping words of Chinese into our conversations.

I try to put myself into my students’ shoes, and honestly, if I had Chinese lessons and knew my teacher spoke English, I would probably get frustrated with my lack of fluency and resort to using a few words of English here and there. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it would severely impact my language acquisition.

Sometimes people question the value of having native English teachers, but I believe that immersion learning is incredibly valuable. However, as soon as you allow the students to use L1 the benefits start to disappear.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ESL Airport Vocabulary

This PPT offers some great ESL airport vocabulary for intermediate English learners. It works very well for introducing important language in the following areas:

  • at the airport
  • on the airplane
  • people who work there
  • what you must remember (ie passport and boarding pass)

For a more advanced lesson, see here.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Gap-fill Exercise

Here's a fun ESL activity for Christmas - a gap-fill exercise based upon a song that your students are guaranteed to find funny: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

This worked really well for me because I'd just been teaching my students about house vocabulary (lesson coming soon) and so they were tested on "stairs" and "bedroom." I also prefaced this activity with a Christmas vocabulary PPT so they knew "santa" and so forth.

The worksheet is pretty self-explanatory. Just play the song (I like the Jackson 5 version because, in China, people are crazy about Michael Jackson) and get them to fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Song Lyrics Correction - An ESL Activity

There are just a few more days until Christmas and here's another great activity for you to try with your students.

When I was on my CELTA course, the instructor taught us how to use music in class by giving out song lyrics that were riddled with errors. We had to listen to the song in order to correct the lyrics. It was great fun!

I picked perhaps the most famous Christmas song - Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" - and fiddled about with the lyrics. The point is to make it manageable but challenging. Don't expect your students to know the word "glisten"!

Perhaps pre-teach blocking vocabulary for the song prior to beginning this activity.

ESL City Vocabulary

This Powerpoint presentation gives useful words and phrases for describing an urban environment. It is intended for intermediate level students, as the words are a bit more advanced than the usual "supermarket," "post office," etc., and some of the concepts are slightly abstract.

I have sourced images and definitions from Google which I think illustrate the meaning of the words quite well.

I began my lesson with a discussion on the differences between living in the city and living in the country, and finished by talking about the future of cities. This PPT came in really useful for the vocabulary section in the middle.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Vocabulary PPT

It's now only five days until Christmas!!! Are you excited?!

Well, if you're like me, the countdown to Christmas means extra work... However, teaching ESL classes at Christmas time can be a lot of fun. I find students want to know all about the holiday but really don't understand it too well. This is a great opportunity to teach them some of the most fun parts of Christmas and get them in the mood.

Here's an ESL Christmas Vocabulary PPT that I made:

ESL Christmas Vocabulary from David Wills

I'll be posting more Christmas materials over the week as we lead up to the day itself, so keep coming back to get some great lesson ideas. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Teaching Animal Vocabulary

Teaching animal vocabulary to ESL students is one of my favourite things in this world. Firstly, I just love animals - even more than I love teaching! I spend my holidays travelling the world, seeing all the amazing animals I can find, and taking photos of them.

When I get back to class, I use my photos to show my students all about this amazing world. Living in China, they are brought up in big apartment buildings where they can barely see any wildlife - maybe just a bird or a stray cat. They think animals belong in zoos.

It's a privilege to be able to teach them about the wonderful world of animals, and hopefully I can make a difference by bringing up a few hundred students to have some respect for nature that they wouldn't get taught in any other Chinese class.

To teach the animal vocabulary, I use this Powerpoint presentation:

ESL Animal Vocabulary from David Wills

With higher level students, I have them describe the animals - what they look like, what they eat, where they live, etc. With lower level students it's probably enough just to teach the names of the animals.

You'll notice a lack of farmyard animals and pets here... They usually pop up in storybooks and textbooks, so I didn't bother including them here.

I also like to include a discussion with my intermediate students, using some of the following discussion questions:
  • What is your favourite animal? Why?
  • What do you think is the most dangerous animal in the world?
  • What sort of animals make good pets?
  • How can humans help protect animals?
  • How do you feel about zoos? 
And for my IELTS students, I'll use the topic covered in this video I made:

More teaching ideas:

Have students think of their favourite animal and describe it to a partner. The partner should guess what it is. For this, you obviously need to pre-teach words like horn, hoof, stripes, spots, fur, and so on.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Writing Test for Sentence Types and Parallelism

This worksheet provide a good test for your students to find out whether they know the different kinds of sentence type, as well as parallelism. I believe that understanding these - and knowing what a fragment is - is essential for good writing. I teach this from intermediate level and up so as to break any bad habits that may form when doing other writing lessons.

When I do this test, I've already taught the concepts of sentence type and parallelism. The students should know it. This really is just a test, rather than a teaching tool. I helps me identify their problems, and it also helps them as well.

The first page has a sort of guided-discovery approach, followed by some identification and correction exercises. The answers are on the second page.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Upper-Intermediate Reading Task

I recently made this reading lesson for an upper-intermediate group of Chinese students. I think it's quite challenging, and could also serve well in an advanced class. The topic is one that I thought was very interesting for them - the idea of a school with no teachers. In China, this is entirely unthinkable! The teacher still is incredibly important here, and anyone who's tried teaching the Western teaching methodology in the East knows the difficulty of encouraging peer review and so forth.

The article comes from the BBC, although I have edited it so that it is more suitable, and also so that it doesn't take up so much space on the page. It is still very long, and will take students an hour or so to complete.

There is a response task at the end to get the students' opinions. You could also just have them write notes and then discuss it, if you prefer. Of course, there are numerous possibilities for follow-up activities, such as designing the perfect school, listing the pros and cons of peer-teaching, and discussing the necessity of teachers in modern society.

As always, feel free to download and adept this lesson for your class. I would appreciate a share on social media if you do.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

ESL Celebrity Balloon Debate

The "balloon debate" is an ESL classic. How does it work? You get your students to think of a hot air balloon up in the sky... There are people in the balloon, but not all of them can stay! So who gets kicked out?

Success and Fame

In this lesson, the students discuss success and fame. In the PPT below, I've outlined a pretty simple 45 minute class, beginning with a brainstorm session on success, followed by discussion of some quotes on success, and ending in a balloon debate.

As my students are Chinese, the next step looks at celebrities including Jack Ma, Fan Bingbing, and G-Dragon (who's Korean, of course, but super popular in China), but I strongly recommend editing to use celebrities your students will care about. It is a major boost for student participation. You can download and edit the PPT to change for regionally specific celebrities. I finished up the PPT with a homework task. Of course, if you want to do this in class you can do it.

This lesson is intended for lower-intermediate students, but can be tailored up or down with minimal changes.

Don't forget to follow me on Slideshare and share this post on Twitter if you find it useful! T

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Teaching Landscape Vocabulary

I needed to teach some landscape vocabulary to my students and the photocopied textbooks they were given by the school were too dull and drab. I wanted to show some vivid pictures, and some more interesting words. I made this Powerpoint presentation that mixes together lots of vocabulary for describing natural features, as well as human-made structures and settlements.

ESL Landscape Vocabulary from David Wills

After teaching this vocabulary, I have my students watch a short video. During the video, they should note down all the landscape features that they see. You could probably choose any relevant video, but since I'm from Scotland and my students are interested in my home country, I used this video:

From this particular video, my students noted the following vocabulary:

  • hills/mountains
  • lakes (I told them that technically, in Scotland, they're called "lochs")
  • lighthouse
  • sea/ocean
  • river/stream
  • cliff
  • beach
  • castle
  • island
  • bridge
  • valley

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Indigenous People ESL Vocabulary

Today my students' textbook asked them to talk about indigenous people. Anticipating that they might not know what "indigenous" means, or other related vocabulary, I made this short PPT, which introduces five useful words.
  • Indigenous
  • Minority
  • Aborigine 
  • Immigration
  • Assimilation
Of course, it requires a bit of explanation, but the definition and some related images are there. I try to point out the double-edged sword (without using that particular cliche :)) of assimilation - that some would say it's gaining a new culture, while others say it's losing your old one. 

You might also want to edit this to add "emigration" or other ideas for higher level students. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Practicing the Passive Voice

The passive voice is often used in writing, and sometimes also in speaking. But how can you give your students an opportunity to practice using it? 

Changing their own work

I like to start my writing or grammar lessons by having students write somewhat freely, and then later edit their writing using the lessons taught in the class. I feel this helps them to better internalize the meaning of the material. 

In teaching passive voice, I tell my students to write a set number of simple sentences (they already learned the four sentence types) about a picture. It can probably be any picture, but I use these ones:

Sometimes it is better to get a picture with more action, and featuring people's names, like this:

At the end of the lesson, with ten minutes or so remaining, I will tell to the students to return to their notebooks and look at the sentences they wrote. I will give them two minutes to identify whether each sentence is active or passive, and invariably they will be 90% active voice.

I then instruct the students to see whether they can convert the active sentences to passive voice - reminding them that not all sentences can be changed. I will have them peer check to finish the lesson. 

It helps to give them examples to work with. As such, I'd say for the first picture:

Superman is visiting the boy in hospital. (active)
The boy in hospital is being visited by superman. (passive)
For the second picture:

 The man is taking photos of the couple. (active)
The couple are being photographed by the man. (passive) 

Make “who” questions

 To practice using passive voice in speech and to create sentences more spontaneously, I encourage students to write questions that will require an answer in the passive voice. I give them the following, presented on an overhead projector: 


Use the verbs above to make "who" questions like the examples below. Ask them to your partner, and see if they can answer correctly.

For example:
A: Who was Pulp Fiction directed by?
B: Pulp Fiction was directed by Quentin Tarantino.

A: Who was the Mona Lisa painted by?

B: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What is Plagiarism? A Simple PPT for ESL Students

I've been working in China for a long, long time now and one problem that keeps rearing its ugly head is the issue of plagiarism. In every class I have between one and three students who will try to cheat on an assignment by copying from the internet. This year that number jumped up to fifteen students in one class! In response, I decided to make a short and simple PPT to give my class. I think it states in very basic terms why cheating is wrong.

In some countries cheating is a normal part of life. In China, for example, you can walk around the high street and so many  things are stolen from elsewhere that one begins to feel that copying is normal. Chinese companies have for years made profits by simply copying from companies in other countries. It's a way of life. In addition, Chinese teachers don't actively dissuade students who cheat. It's just considered the normal thing.

Therefore, it is important to teach your students about plagiarism and to deal with it firmly but fairly. I hope this PPT can help.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Balanced Diet - ESL Listening Exercise

Here's an ESL activity for teaching food vocabulary. I have my students discuss what they think a "balanced diet" is, and then get them to watch this video. It's quite simple and most of the vocabulary is written on the screen for students to see, along with pictures that illustrate the meaning.

Normally, I would have the students take notes and then watch a second time to check their notes, or add more details. Then I give them the following worksheet to test their understanding of the vocabulary:

You may want to point out that the word "fibre" is spelled the British way in both the video and the worksheet, whereas in the U.S. it is spelled "fiber." 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Snow Day: An ESL Lesson feat. The Simpsons

Today I woke up to a thick blanket of snow across my university campus. It's the first time I've seen snow here in years, so I decided to scrap my planned class and teach a lesson based around a classic Simpsons episode: "Bart Gets an F."

Lately, I've been teaching my students how to summarize, so the focus on this was simply having them understand and summarize the episode. It's not hugely difficult to understand the overall ideas, and every student should be able to take something from this hilarious story.

First, though, I had the students do some vocabulary from the episode. They seemed to find it quite useful. I also threw in a few "snow day"-related discussion questions at the end of the PPT because my students love discussions.

The vocabulary takes about ten minutes to teach; the discussion another ten. The episode is a little over twenty minutes, and with writing and sharing their summaries, that should round out a one hour lesson.

--- I found the episode quite easily on a popular torrent site. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

ESL Environmental Speaking Project

Here's a nice, easy class that requires very little preparation, and will be fun for you and your students.

First, teach the vocabulary from this PPT:

You might want to alter it according to your preferences. I elicit all vocabulary, and if students come up with any useful vocabulary relating to ecology/environmentalism, I'll stick it on the board.

Next, put your students into groups. I use six groups of six students because I have a rather large class. I find it personally quite useful to divide the students so that they're with people they don't normally work with.

In their groups, have them work on this worksheet. (It's from ESLflow, which I think is a great website.) Give them whatever time you feel is necessary, and make sure they collaborate to label the issues - don't let any one student dominate.

Next, hand each group two pieces of blank paper, and tell them to select one environmental problem from the above worksheet. If you can make one of them A3 that would be ideal. Tell them - through demonstration - that one piece of paper (the smaller, if you found some spare A3) should be used to jot down notes on their chosen problem. The other piece of paper (the bigger one) should be used for making a poster.

I give them about 15 minutes to make notes and create a poster. I don't often allow my students (who are in university) to draw, but when I do they love it - so many of them have hidden artistic talent!

After time is up, let them know that they will be presenting their ideas to the class. (You may want to mention this earlier, but I personally find that it disrupts their creative thoughts.) Give them some time to figure out how they will present their ideas, and then have each group stand up, display their poster, and present their ideas.

Of course, it helps to be enthusiastic, and maybe give a demonstration presentation yourself. Frame it as "saving the world!" The students will love it, and they'll learn lots of new vocabulary in the process.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

PowerPoint for Adjectives Describing Food

Yesterday I taught a class all about food, which my Chinese students loved. In China, everyone talks about food! It seems strange to us in the West, where we like talking politics and weather and sport, but in China everyone is talking about food all the time... it's just a quirk of culture.

Yet many of the students can't talk about food in English, and the ideas that they express in their native language don't translate well. They will happily say, "This is delicious... that's delicious... those are delicious..." So I wanted to make a PPT that would teach them some useful adjectives to describe flavour and texture.

Important note: In the slide teaching the word "spicy," I used a very rude word ;) I like to check whether my students are paying attention or not, and this always gets them. If you think that is inappropriate for your students, please remember to edit that page before you use the PPT.

Here it is: 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Teaching Debate Skills for ESL

Here's a PowerPoint presentation I made to help you teach debate skills to your ESL students. It looks at what a debate is, why it's important to learn debating skills, and then gives students the necessary language to engage in a debate. Finally, it poses some debating tasks. I use the second last page for splitting the class into two groups and then have them debate against each other, and the final page as a pair exercise, with all pairs working on different topics. But feel free to adapt it to your own class and teaching style!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

A Fun Travel Lesson About Thailand

This video is really great for teaching travel. In my classes I’ll use it as an exciting noticing activity to give students a range of language for talking about travel. It contains a bunch of words that might be useful at a lower levels, like “shopping” and “beaches,” but also some good structures which might work with slightly more advanced students, like “is located” and “you really must.”

After this video, I’ll have the students talk about what they saw, and I’ll introduce the structures I want them to use (for example, “You should…”) and then have them either give suggestions for people visiting Koh Phi Phi or apply it to someplace they know. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Running Dictation for Shopping Lesson

I love using running dictation in my classes. I don't do it often, because that would ruin its effect, but every now and then I'll throw a running dictation activity into my lesson plan. It gets the students excited - bringing out the fun-loving side of even the most sullen student - and forces them to think and speak in English.

Why Running Dictation is Awesome

Firstly, as I said above, it is fun. I've always found it to be fun, and it's always been an activity that has turned a rainy Monday afternoon into a frenzy of excitement, even for the most apathetic students. It is inclusive, too, bringing the outsiders into the fray. 

Most importantly, however, it gets students using English. On the surface it might seem trivial - they just memorize something that they'll soon forget. Yet it is so much more than that. Through gamification, the students are in competition against each other, and there is pressure to remember the spelling, the word order, the grammar... But more than just memorization, the students have to piece it logically together. Realistically, students won't be able to remember everything, and later they'll have to proof their version of the text.

How to Set up a Running Dictation

I like to choose a long passage or long sentences from a short passage. The more challenging it is to remember, the better. You want students unable to remember the words exactly because later they will need to figure out what they missed. If they can do it perfectly, they learn nothing. If they see a sentence that doesn't make sense, they'll work on getting it right. 

Have students in groups with one student as "the writer." Place a text (or multiple texts) somewhere outside the classroom. Give clear instructions (with ICQs) on how to perform the activity. No more than one student should leave the room at any time from each group. 

Set a time limit and when it is reached, allow the students a few more minutes to review their version of the text. Then have them practice reading it, and one student can read to the class from each group. 

When to Use Running Dictation

You can use it for almost any lesson. As long as it contains the target language or sets the context (or preferably both), it can be used. I've used it in grammar lessons for introducing the language point, and today I used it in a speaking lesson to give students some key language. Think of it as a noticing task. 

In today's lesson, I gave students a basic running dictation. I put the following passage outside the classroom door and set the instructions slowly and clearly. 

I put the students in groups and had them run the activity as mentioned above. Afterwards, they checked their written version against my correct version, and I asked them some questions to check comprehension. This led into an exercise where I had them make shopping lists, and then a role play set in the five stores mentioned at the bottom of the above document.

For the role play, I used this lesson.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Fun ESL Intonation Activity

Here's a great activity for teaching your students to speak more naturally. I've found, over my many years of teaching ESL, that students tend to speak like robots... They're focused on the nuts and bolts of the language, and lose that natural bounce and rhythm that comes with any language.

Sometimes, when you have students practice a dialogue, they'll get into the rhythm of it and play up the role, but it's rare, and only when they can make fun of each other. With this activity, I've found a way of unleashing their natural creativity and allowing them freedom to be silly.

Yet this also emphasizes a serious point - contextual intonation. I only do this activity after teaching some key elements of phonemics - like word stress or sentence stress. This tends to move the lesson into a fun area.

Setting Up

Give the students a short dialogue. It can be anything, but make it well below their level. This is important. You don't want to challenge them here, because the point isn't the dialogue, but how it's spoken. Give them something so easy that they immediately laugh at it and even the very lowest level student in the class has no trouble comprehending. 

My students are intermediate level, and I use this dialogue: 

A: Hi, how are you?
B: Fine, thank you. And you?
A: Just great. What have you been doing lately?
B: Oh, not much. But I've been keeping busy.
A:'s been good to see you.
B: Yes, it has...well, bye!
A: Goodbye.

Tell your students to practice the dialogue a few times. If they're like my students, they'll act silly because it's so easy. Then tell them to memorize it. Tell them that soon you will remove the dialogue from the screen/board and they'll have to perform it from memory.

Running the Activity

Once the students have confined this dialogue to memory, bring up a list of scenarios that involve two people. These could be any two people, but make them fun and interesting. Tell the students to pick a scenario and perform the dialogue in the role of these two people. Demonstrate with an obvious example and show how the above statements could be said while happy or sad, angry or excited, etc.

Here are some idea for roles:

  • Two old friends meeting by chance for the first time in many years.
  • A divorced couple. 
  • A dying man and a doctor.
  • A police officer and a criminal.
  • Two doomed lovers.
  • A landlord and a tenant who owes him money.
  • A monster and a child.
  • Two rival athletes. 
Come up with as many possibilities as you want. Try to make them fun and weird. Have the students pick one and practice it for a few minutes, and then choose another and practice that. You could have students read in front of the class or a group and other students need to guess which roles they were playing.  

Monday, 10 October 2016

ESL Activity: The Price is Right

Today I was teaching my students how to say numbers. They're in university and have quite a high level of English, so you might be wondering why I bother... but numbers are challenging for many learners of English - especially those from East Asia.

In East Asia, some languages group numbers by the tens of thousands - ie with four zeroes instead of three. When students think in their native language and translate, it can be difficult for them. As a result, you need to show the rules for stating long numbers.

I do this by starting at zero and building up to 1,000,000,000,000. It seems inconceivably massive, but if you explain the formulas for stating long numbers, demonstrating slowly and building up with lots of examples, it's actually incredibly easy.

There's also the tricky subject of pronunciation. Most Asian students struggle with "thousand" because of the /θ/ sound. Then there's the slight difference between 15 and 50, 16 and 60, etc.

To practice numbers, I use the idea from The Price is Right - a TV show where people guess prices of products. It's very easy to set up. Just take some pictures and prices from Amazon or any other online store and stick them into a PowerPoint presentation. Put the students in groups and have them guess the prices.

I find the natural competitiveness of people gets even quieter students fired up, and because they might both think the product costs around $250, they'll get tricky and one will say, "$251" to beat the other. It's a great way of having them practice their language. 

Friday, 30 September 2016

ESL Auction Game

I used this activity with two different groups of students yesterday and it worked perfectly. They absolutely loved it, and I can't recommend it highly enough to other teachers.

How it works

The beauty of the ESL Auction Game is that you can use it with any level of student for a wide range of language points. I used it with tenses that I'd been teaching in recent days to check their knowledge. 

I ran a review lesson with a number of exercises testing their understanding of the target language. Then I began to set up the auction by showing them a video from the TV show, Storage Wars. I used this because it's easy to find on YouTube. You could realistically use any auction video as long as it shows the main concepts of an auction. I also taught the vocabulary: auction, lot, bid.

You need to assign the students to groups, and give them a sheet of paper with some sentences written down. Some of these sentences should be correct and some should be incorrect. Tailor this to your group, but I highly recommend making it challenging. Once the game begins, even the most apathetic student tends to get involved and bidding wars are common! 

Give the students time to look over the sentences. Remember that you want them learning from this so give them enough time to discuss in groups which sentences are right and which are wrong. As they do this, you can set up the board work.

I have classes of around 50 students so I typically divide them into 10 teams of 5 students. Therefore, I write the numbers 1-10 across the top of the board. I give each student $10,000 credit to spend on the auction, which is indicated above their team number. Below the team number (you could also use team names, which students seem to find fun), you write the lot which was purchased and the amount it was purchased for. 

Make sure to demonstrate the procedure first. The students must be clear on how auctions work, and how this game will work. Ask some CCQs and ICQs if needed.

Like I mentioned before, this game can get competitive! I was surprised how my shy, quiet students exploded into life and began desperately outbidding each other. This can be helped even more if you get into the role of auctioneer a little! I joked around by speaking really fast, which seemed to amuse the students. Pretty soon some of the more confident ones were shouting out bids rather than silently bidding. 

Reasons for Using ESL Auction

The game is lots of fun and requires surprisingly little time to plan. You need to print out only as many pieces of paper as you have teams, and only to make sure that the sentences (the lots) they bid on are appropriate. 

I firmly believe that most learning is achieved when the student is interested in the lesson, and in this game the students will surely be captivated.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

CELTA Summary

I did a CELTA course earlier this summer in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and was recently thinking about the things I'd learned as I try to apply them to my current university course. Below are some of the key points from the CELTA course. Feel free to leave others in the comment section below.

Authentic language – don’t teach inauthentic dialogues or pronunciation
Boarding – prepare your board work and make it clear and logical
Chesting – demonstrate an activity by chesting the material prior to distributing it around the class
Communicative – language is about communication, so students need to be talking in order to learn
Controlled and freer practice – allow students a chance to use the language in activities that first involve limited choice, and then get freer
Echoing – don’t do it!
Eliciting – try to elicit meaning and grammar labels from students
Fluency and accuracy – these are different; it is most important to build fluency, so don’t worry when accuracy slips except in controlled practice
Graded language – don’t speak too fast, use too many idioms, or overly complex grammar; avoid too much Teacher Talk Time (TTT)
Instructions – make them clear and precise; practice in advance; if necessary, use Instruction Check Questions (ICQs)
Lead-in – activate schemata by offering an interesting, relevant lead-in activity
MPF – (meaning, form pronunciation) for all new vocabulary, demonstrate meaning clearly, then work on P and F with drilling and modelling; use Concept Check Questions (CCQs) to check M
Personalization – use photos and stories from your own life to build rapport with students
Pairwork – always give students time to discuss with a partner after an activity and before reporting back
Phonology – work on word stress, linkage, phonemes, etc
Planning – work on lesson plans and language analyses to ensure successful lessons
Sit back – teacher shouldn’t be talking too much or monitoring obtrusively

TTT – keep it to a minimum

Friday, 23 September 2016

Past Tense Review Lesson - Running Dictation and Guided Discovery

I just did this lesson today with two groups of sophomore university students and it went rather well, so I'm going to share it with my readers. If you use it and find it helpful, please share the link around.

Last week I taught a quite boring lesson to review the present tenses, and I wanted something more kinaesthetic and communicative. I also wanted to incorporate the guided-discovery approach rather than just talking and testing.

I began the lesson with a running dictation, which I'd never done at my present job because the school is rather fusty and conservative. However, it went incredibly well. I wrote this reading passage and had the four sentences stuck up on walls around the school (within 100 meters of the classroom).
 I actually hadn't underlined the verbs in the document when it was printed and cut up for the students. This was just for my reference, and to show them later.

I got the students in groups of five. One student would write and the other four would, one by one, run off and read the sentence, then try to remember it, and come back to tell "the writer."

Here's where the language point comes in... I would tell the students to put the story in order, and then when they'd done that, I'd ask what tense it is in... past, present, or future? They'd say, "past," and I'd ask them to underline all the verbs.

At this point, they would start to realize some of the errors they'd made in the sentences because they'd recall the verb rules. Instead of essentially a game of Chinese whispers, it became a grammatical jigsaw puzzle.

I had a few students read their stories aloud and then gave the correct version to the class to compare.


After this I had them do a guided discovery exercise to have them establish exactly when to use the various past tenses. It seemed really difficult and took them a long time, but they figured it out, particularly after I put them in pairs and told them to check with their partner. Then I had them do two more tasks to test their understanding. Here's the worksheet I made:

And here are the answers for you lazy teachers ;)

After this I had the students write stories from their childhood using a variety of past tenses, and other students were required to ask 3 questions about the story. 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Job Application Task

I made this for my final CELTA class. It's a fake newspaper jobs page. I wanted my students to write a job application cover letter (although you could adapt this for a speaking class and have them do an interview), and so I put some questions on the back. I wanted to check that they understood the content of the advert first, before writing.

Before doing this activity I gave my students a model, of course, and we explored some useful language points for writing a cover letter.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Love/Hate + verb-ing Worksheet

I recently taught a CELTA class about saying whether you like/love/hate etc doing something. The grammar is pretty simple.

subject + like/love/hate/don't mind/don't like + verb-ing

Here's the worksheet I put together. I think it's pretty self-explanatory. I initially taught my students the grammar on a whiteboard, with the "smileys" representing like/love etc on a cline. 

Feel free to download and print for your classes.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

ESL Airport Lesson

Here's a lesson I put together with vocabulary, questions, and role playing for various situations in an airport and on an airplane.

Part One – Airplane

Carry-on baggage
Overhead compartment
Tray table
Flight Attendant
Boarding pass
Emergency exit
Life jacket

Let’s discuss the following questions together. Please try to use some of the vocabulary from above.
1.       Have you ever travelled by airplane before?
2.       How do you feel about flying on airplanes?
3.       Do you feel that flying is safe? Why or why not?
4.       What should you do before the flight takes off?
5.       How can you pass the time on a flight?
6.       What are the duties of a flight attendant? What would make a good flight attendant?
7.       What kind of person would or wouldn’t you like to sit next to on a plane?
8.       What is good behavior on a flight? What is bad behavior?
9.       What items can you take with you in your carry-on baggage?
10.   Should part of the plane is the best for sitting – aisle or window? Front or back?
11.   How do you feel about airline food?
12.   What happens in the cockpit of an airplane?
13.   What advice do you have for someone who is nervous about flying?
14.   What should you do in the event of an emergency on an airplane?
15.   What is the future of air travel?

The following dialogue takes place before take-off. Please attempt to fill in the blanks, and then practice reading the dialogue aloud.
Passenger 1: Excuse me, would it be possible to ________________ seats with someone? My wife and I would like to sit together.
Flight Attendant: Certainly, sir. For now, please take your seat, and once the plane takes off, I'll help you with that.
Passenger 1: Thank you. Could you help me put this bag in the ________________ compartment?
Flight Attendant: Sure... there you go. 
Passenger 1: I'm sorry, I think you're ________________. 
Passenger 2: Oh, let me check my boarding ________________... Yes, I'm sorry, my mistake.
Passenger 1: No problem. I'm going to _________________ anyway. My wife and I would like to sit together.
Passenger 2: Oh, well, I can switch places with your wife. That way you two can sit together.
Passenger 1: Really? That would be great! Thanks a lot.

Now choose one of the following situations and practice a dialogue with a partner:
Situation 1: A passenger’s baby is crying loudly and disturbing other people on the plane. A flight              attendant must speak with the parents to resolve the situation.
Situation 2: You wish to order a special meal, as you allergic to the flight food. You must discuss the         options with the flight attendant.
Situation 3:  A passenger wishes to discuss security procedures with one of the flight attendants.
Situation 4: There is a seat available in First Class. The flight attendant offers it to a passenger as an          upgrade.

Part Two – Airport
The following words are important for you to know before travelling through an airport. You will need to understand them by the end of this lesson.
Boarding pass


Please look at the map above and discuss the layout of the airport.
1.       What things can you see in an airport?
2.       What questions do they ask you when you check-in at the airport?
3.       What questions do they ask you when going through immigration and customs at the airport?
4.       What are some customs restrictions?
5.       How much baggage do you take with you?
6.       What items should not be included in your hand baggage?
7.       What documents do you need for international travel?
8.       Where is the nearest airport and what is it like? How can you travel there?
9.       What are some frustrations people experience in an airport?
10.   How can airports be improved to make them more “passenger friendly”?
The following dialogue takes place at the immigration desk on arrival in Canada. Person A works for immigration control, and Person B is a passenger who has just arrived in Canada. Let’s practice reading it aloud.
A: Welcome to Canada. May I see your passport please?
B: Sure. Here it is.
A: Where are you coming from?
B: I'm coming from Beijing, China.
A: What is the purpose of your visit?
B: I'm here on business.
A: How long are you planning to stay?
B: I'll be staying for three weeks.
A: Where will you be staying?
B: I'll be staying at a hotel.
A: Have you ever been to Canada before?
B: No, this is my first time.
A: Do you have anything to declare?
B: No, nothing.
A: Enjoy your stay.
B: Thank you.

Now work in pairs. Practice one of the following situations:
Situation 1: Check-in procedure.

Situation 2: Customs declaration. 

Find the docx. worksheet here.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

New Lessons

I have posted a few new lessons over at my new website, TED-IELTS. The most recent is called, "Improve your IELTS writing with parallelism."

Don't know what parallelism means?! Well, then you really need to check out this new lesson!

There's also a lesson called "8 useful IELTS speaking tips" and a few TED videos with comprehension questions and other activities to boost your listening skills and vocabulary. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

New Website

Hello Students and Fellow Teachers,

I have started a new website for learning IELTS with TED talks. It is called, simply, TED-IELTS. You can probably tell that naming businesses isn't my greatest strength. :)

I will continue to update this blog with general English materials but I will focus more on my new website. Please add it to your bookmarks or share with friends if you wish. Right now you will see that it's really very simple and there are only three lessons uploaded. More is coming soon, I promise! I will add at least one new lesson per week, and hopefully more than that.

David Teacher

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

How to Succeed? Get More Sleep. - A TED ESL Lesson

This is another TED ESL lesson, utilizing the wonderful free resources available from TED to teach students English. This video features Arianna Huffington talking about feminism, sleep, and work. There's plenty for your students to discuss, and the vocabulary she uses is very basic - although she does talk quite fast.


Before starting the lesson, read the following comic and consider what it means:

To begin with, discuss the following with a partner:

What are some common problems in the work place?
What prevents people from achieving success?
What can people do to be more productive?
How does stress impact the economy?

Before watching the video, here are the most difficult words Arianna uses:

Deprived                                Exhaustion
Feminist                                 Brag
One-upmanship                     Hyper-connected
Crisis/crises                           Faint

Now watch the video and take notes: 

Comprehension Questions
What made her rediscover the value of sleep?
What is unfortunate for men?
Why are leaders making terrible decisions?
Why would Lehman Brothers benefit from having more women?
What are the benefits of sleep, according to Arianna Huffington?

Having watched the video, discuss the issues with a partner:

Final Discussion
Do you agree with Ariana Huffington? Why? Why not?
Does sleep-deprivation affect you or other students?
How many hours of sleep per night do people need?
Why is sleep so important to productivity? 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Talking About Food

My students love to talk about food. In fact, I think that's true of almost all Chinese people. I hate to stereotype, but whether I'm talking in English or Chinese, a staggering percentage of all conversations I have in this country involve food.

The key to teaching English as best you can is getting the students interested, and so the perfect lesson for teaching some speaking skills is one that matches the interests of all the students in the class.

I like to start this lesson off with these three worksheets - Food 1, Food 2, Cooking Methods - which teach some basic but useful vocabulary. To make it fun, put the class into groups and have them work together to categorize the vocabulary.

After this, I'll talk about recipes. Introduce the concept of a recipe and explain "preparation," "ingredients," and so forth. I like to use a bread recipe because I actually do cook a lot of bread and the recipes tend to be quite simple. You can find millions of them on Google.

After this, I show the students this video:

I'll then ask my students to summarize the video. They should be able to explain the basic process. As my students are all Chinese, they're pretty familiar with the process shown in the video. For students from other countries it *may* be better to use a food native to their culture in order to make it easier.

After this, I'll give the students a chance to explain a recipe they know how to cook. For my Chinese students that's usually "stir-fried egg and tomato," but some of them are more adventurous.

Good luck! If you used this lesson in your class, please comment below or share the post with other teachers. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

UK Culture Lesson

The students in my class are intending to go abroad to study. Specifically, their course gives them the opportunity to do a year in England. As such, I wanted to give them some information about the United Kingdom and its culture that may not otherwise be familiar.

Whether your students are intending to go to the UK or not, this may well make an interesting lesson.

To start with, ask them to discuss the following questions in small groups and then report back. Obviously, don't tell them too firmly that they're "wrong" when they say something unusual, but it's a good opportunity to gently correct any misperceptions that exist. For example, in China students tend to think that that all men from the UK are the perfect gentlemen... Yes, it's a part of our culture, but it's a generalization.

What is culture shock?
How can you cope with culture shock?
What do you know about British culture?
What do you think about British people?
What do you expect will be the biggest differences between Chinese and Western culture?
How can you cope with cultural differences?

Watch the video and make notes.
What do you find the most surprising?
How do these social rules differ from China (obviously change to your country)? 

Here, I give a PowerPoint presentation on British culture. I use this one. You might want to edit it. I tend to gloss over the ins and outs of the monarchy, which isn't hugely important. Halfway through, after the "personal and intimate questions" part, I like to show this video:

UK Slang
Finally, I teach some British slang. My students are fairly mature and can handle slightly offensive language, so feel free to change any of the below if it's unsuitable for your students. 

All right? - Hello, how are you?
Blinding - brilliant
Bloody - used to emphasize almost anything, also bleeding or blooming
Bollocks - describes something that is no good
Bugger all –used to be a more vulgar synonym for ‘nothing at all’.
Cheers – thanks
Cheerio – goodbye
Cock up - a mistake
Dodgy - untrustworthy
Fanny around - procrastinate
Grub – food
Gutted – sad
Kerfuffle – a small fight
Knackered - tired
Mate - friend
Not my cup of tea - not to my liking
Off your trolley - bonkers, crazy, mad
Smashing - terrific
Ta – thanks
Taking the piss – having a joke

In addition, it's fun to show this final video if you still have time. As an add-on to the "slang" section it shows the range of accents in the UK, which certainly contributes to our culture.

** As always, feel free to use use the materials above. The YouTube videos were not, of course, made by me. Neither was the PPT. Please do comment below if you have any suggestions or ideas, and if you can, help share this website via social media.