Friday, 28 April 2017

Talking About Days and Dates

So you want to practice talking days and dates with your ESL students? Look no further. Below, I've attached a calendar I made for the month of February. Why? You'll see... This fun activity is suitable for students of all ages and can be used in combination with any number of other related activities. It will challenge even intermediate students, and yet is suitable for lower levels.




Notice that this February has 29 days. That means it comes from a leap year.

Give this calendar to your students and then tell them it's currently the 15th of February. Then the need to do the following:


  1. Color the following yellow: St. Valentines's Day, the leap year day.
  2. Color the following green: the day before yesterday, the weekend before last, the day after tomorrow, the Monday after next
  3. Color the following red: tomorrow, next Saturday, a week today, a week tomorrow
  4. Color the following purple: in four days' time, a fortnight ago, the whole of last week (mon-fri)
Their calendar should now look like this:

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Intermediate ESL Hotel Vocabulary

This PPT is perfect for teaching your intermediate level students hotel vocabulary. The words and phrases here are not too basic, but just challenging enough to stretch most intermediate students. It would also be useful for those of you teaching people already in the hotel industry. The pictures clearly illustrate the vocabulary's meaning, and there are some helpful examples that follow.



ESL Intermediate Hotel Vocabulary from David Wills

A fun follow up activity is to watch a TV show set in a hotel and have students dub it or summarize it. Fawlty Towers is a good example, as is the episode of Mr. Bean which is set in a hotel. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Intermediate ESL Vocabulary - Personality Adjectives

There are so many great ways to teach your students how to use personality adjectives. In this lesson, I get my students talking as much as possible. I try to elicit lots of vocabulary, but also teach them some great new words along with appropriate examples.

I begin by showing them just the picture below and asking them to describe the woman. When they do that, I note down any personality adjectives they use. Then I show them the text beneath, and have them extract the personality adjective (patient). Usually they can come up with 10 adjectives to describe her - for example, kind, caring, nice, hard-working, and so on.

I like to point out that together they have collected 10 adjectives instead of just saying something dull and boring like, "She's a kind lady." Then I get them to describe a roommate. Once they realize they can use so many adjectives, you can usually get some colourful descriptions.

Once again, as they're describing I will monitor and write up any good vocabulary they use.

Next I teach them some more advanced words from my PPT. I tell them first that their efforts were good but that it's time to up-grade their vocabulary:



ESL Vocabulary - Personality Adjectives from David Wills

After this you can show them a clip of a popular TV show like Big Bang Theory and have them describe the characters, followed by some games like describing and guessing a celebrity or classmate. The possibilities are endless! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sports Vocabulary for ESL Learners

I love teaching sports vocabulary to my ESL learners. It's always fun, and there's so much for them to learn. Moreover, it's actually quite easy to get the concepts across. Show them a picture or video of windsurfing and even if they've never heard of it before, they know immediately what it is.

Below, I have embedded a PPT that will teach your pre-intermediate or intermediate level learners some useful sports vocabulary. For intermediates, you'll want to avoid boring them during the easier slides by eliciting some vocabulary and writing it up on the board. When I come to something they know, like baseball, I ask what the man uses to hit the ball...

...they struggle with that.

This PPT can be great for teaching the more advanced level students words like "cricket bat" and "tennis racket" and "hockey stick". (Why so many different words?!)



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Teaching Essay Structure for IELTS Writing Task 2

You are probably reading this because you want to teach your students how to structure their IELTS Writing Task 2 essays. It can be a difficult skill to teach, particularly if they have little experience with academic writing. I do a lot of teaching on this at my other website, TED IELTS. Go check it out for some useful free IELTS resources.

Today I just uploaded a PPT to Slideshare that outlines the slightly different essay structures needed to answer the 5 different questions types for IELTS Writing Task 2. Go take a look and you might be able to use it for teaching your students how to structure their essays.

But how can you get them to practice this, aside from the obvious - just writing essays?

Well, there are some useful ways. You can have them write up plans and then put some of them on the board for the class to analyze. However, one that I really like is to give them a band 9 essay - the perfect example - and then cut it up! The students work in groups to reassemble the cut-up essay.

I've done this numerous times with different students, sometimes in a big class and sometimes in a small class, and it always goes really well. They can usually identify certain parts of the essay, but will seldom be able to get the whole thing put together. As such, it can take more time than you'd imagine - but the work they put in is really valuable.

You can use just about any band 9 essay, but here's one I used recently:


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Can Money Buy Happiness? - an ESL Lesson

Talking about money is always a great way to get ESL students talking, particularly in China. Money is probably more important here than anywhere in the world, and everyone has a strong opinion about it. It's not taboo to talk about salaries or rents or anything to do with money, so it's a great ESL topic.

For this lesson, I start off with the song, "Can't Buy Me Love," by the Beatles. It's a fun song that gets the lesson going in a really positive way. I ask the following questions:

Which of the following best describes the singer?

a) He loves money

b) He needs more money

c) He doesn’t care about money

d) His girlfriend has spent all his money

Choose the Correct Lyric

I'll buy you a wedding/diamond/dollar ring my friend,
If it makes you feel right/awkward/alright,
I'll get you everything/anything/something my friend,
If it makes you be/feel/see alright,
Cause I don't have/care/carry too much for money,
Money can't give/bring/buy me love.

I'll give/leave/save you all I've got to give,
If you say you love me to/too/tow,
I say/day/may not have a lot to give,
But was/what/that I got I'll give to you,
I don't care too match/much/munch for money.
Money can't buy me/my/mine love.


After that, I push the students into a discuss. I'll give them about ten minutes to talk over these questions: 

Discuss the Song

1.   What sort of personality do you think the singer has?

2. Do you think money is important for him?

3. What are some things that “money just can't buy”?

4. Do you agree that money can't buy love? Why?

5. How important is money to you?

6. Do you save money or do you spend it easily?

7. Can money buy happiness?

a. If yes, then how?

b. If no, then why not?

8. Do you think you would be happier if you had lots of money? Why?

Watch the Video


Next, I'll show them an interesting TED Talk video about money and do the questions in the link.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

ESL Dating Activity

Talking about dating can be a lot of fun in an ESL classroom. Of course, that all depends on where you live... It might not work as well in, say, Saudi Arabia as it does in China. But in some countries at least it can provide a great platform on which to build a lesson.

With my pre-intermediate students, I recently taught a fun lesson that included the following two activities. Firstly, I had my students work in pairs to rank the qualities they seek in a partner:

What things are most important to you in a date or marriage partner? Rank the top four ideas in order of importance to you. Remember to say why you chose a particular factor.
  • ___ his or her job 
  • ___ age 
  • ___ hobbies 
  • ___ physical appearance or looks 
  • ___ money 
  • ___ religion 
  • ___ honesty 
  • ___ sense of humor 
  • ___ family background 
  • ___ the person's past life
Next, I had my students work in groups. To do this, I count them off randomly and send them to different corners of the room. This always works great as the students are on their feet and working with different people to whom they normally pair up. I told them to copy down the following:


Dating Profile

  • Sex: M/F
  • Height:
  • Weight: 
  • Appearance:
  • Age: 
  • Personality:
  • Occupation:
  • Smoker/Non-Smoker:
  • Favorite Music:
  • Hobbies:
  • Favorite Movie:
  • Education:

Together, they must complete the information for an imaginary friend (or a real one, if they are a fun group). After five minutes, I take their notes and give them to a different group. The new group must choose a perfect partner for this person. 

Finally, the groups can tell each other why they chose this "perfect partner." 

An alternative is to send one person from each group to a new group instead of handing over the notes. This is more communicative, but might work best with a higher level.

Using "used to" and "would" to talk about the past

This short PPT outlines the different uses for "used to" and "would" to talk about the past. It aims to explain very briefly how and why these phrases are used, giving some examples and practice. It is intended to be taught by a teacher who knows at least the basics of this grammar point.

It might be necessary to teach your students more about action and state verbs prior to introducing this point. I only give examples to show the difference in this PPT.