I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel up to creating material from scratch for my classes. The reasons vary from feeling too tired to even open my laptop to an absolute lack of inspiration.
Thank goodness, there are always people out there making our lives as teachers so much easier and generously giving away their work for free. Just for the taking.
In this post, I want to share with you three of my favourite sites for working with video clips and I also want, and need, to thank the people behind these three awesome sites that not only handpick the best video clips and sort them out according to level and topic, but also offer free worksheets that make my life as a teacher so much simpler.
These three are keepers. Don’t forget to bookmark them.
Owned by a couple of teachers from Poland, this amazing website offers video-based lessons for level B1, B2 and C1 for free. Right now, they are looking for financial help and offer extra material if you support them by becoming a “patron”.
For my next lesson on Housing with B2 students, I am going to use this video lesson, which comes complete with the downloadable student’s version, teacher’s version and even an extra warm-up exercise.
It’s not the first time I have written about TedEd, owned by the popular platform TED.
TedEd is a collection of original animated videos lessons. You can choose by subject and view the video in class or assign it as homework. Every video is accompanied by a lesson with multiple choice questions that check your general comprehension. If your answers are wrong, you can always check with the video hint. There is also a Think section with questions that further explore the topic.
For teachers, one of the most powerful features is the Customize your Lesson area, where you can customize the lesson by editing the title, giving your own instructions, selecting or deselecting multiple choice questions…etc.
This is a lesson I have customized for my students. I have used the video clip Questions No One Knows the Answer To to give my students some practice using Reported Speech Questions. You can see my lessonhere
Last, but not least, is the fabulous site Jamie Keddie owns and runs with an amazing collection of video activities. On this website, you can choose by level, topic, time and many other options which help the teacher or the student find the perfect lesson in two shakes.
A downloadable worksheet is offered with every lesson. Again, for free.
Question for you. Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Or let me rephrase it, have you announced to friends and family that you are finally going to hit the gym, eat fewer carbs and give up smoking? Have you? Sorry to be the party pooper here. Statistics say that only 8% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them. I am definitely part of the 92%. What about you?
However, I have made a New Year’s resolution. It’s the same I made last year. I am going to try to reuse single-use disposable plastic bags when I do my daily shopping. Last year, I even went as far as putting a bunch of these bags in the boot of my car. There they are. Exactly in the same place. This year I am going to try again. I am really going to try. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really want to do my part. It’s just that I forget. So, I am considering moving the bags to the front seat. It might work. What do you think?
That’s what I’m eco-guilty of. What about you? What is your darkest eco-sin?
The lesson today is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them learn vocabulary and improve listening, speaking and writing.
Introducing the Topic: Playing Hangman. Vocabulary and Speaking
Aim: Introduce some common vocabulary and to work on pronunciation.
On the board, write the word “Environment” and drill pronunciation.
Divide the class into two or three groups, depending on the number of students in your class.
Team A starts saying one letter. Whether they guess right or wrong, the turn goes now to Team B who will say another letter.
To try to guess the hidden word, a member of the team will need to stand up and say. “We know!”. If they guess right, they score 1 point. If they don’t, the other team can say up to two letters before anybody tries to guess again.
Note: they can only attempt to guess the word once half the letters have been guessed. For this, before each game, you will have to count the number of gaps. For example, if the word contains 8 letters, they can only guess when 4 letters have been filled.
There are four words and expressions to be learnt or revised with this exercise. After they have guessed the words, ask them a question where the target word is used in context. You might need to introduce some new vocabulary at this stage.
Environment: What do you do to help the environment?
Global warming: How do you feel when you hear about global warming?
Recycle: Do you recycle? What kind of things do you recycle?
Renewable energies: Do you know what renewable energies are? Do you use any of them? Why? Why not?
Drill pronunciation as you teach the words and then flip the cards to see how they are used in context. Do this exercise twice.
Reinforcement: there are 24 terms here. Ask students in pairs to write in two minutes as many as they can remember.
Listening. School Strike for Climate Change
In this inspiring thought-provoking talk, 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the world leaders demanding they act against climate change.
Ask students to take down notes from Greta’s talk and then in pairs talk about the most important ideas in her speech.
Encourage the use of vocabulary.
Three Speaking Activities
Gallery Walk. Thought-provoking Posters with a Humorous Twist. Giving a Monologue.
Context: A friend of yours from New Zealand, who until two weeks ago lived for 20 years in a monastery in Bhutan, has decided to pay you a visit. He doesn’t speak the language and besides, knows nothing of the real world we live in.
Student A. He shows you this infographic but needs help to understand it. Choose two or three ideas and explain what they mean.
Student B. He sees this cartoon in a newspaper and doesn’t understand it. Explain it to him.
Shall I say Happy Christmas? When is the right time to start saying happy Christmas? Anyway, I love that we are right in the hustle and bustle of the season. Everybody seems to be in a good mood and this is the perfect time to try a game I have been looking forward to doing with my students.
I know I post about games quite a bit, but I really believe students learn better when they are having fun. Mark the word “learn” because playing without learning is a waste of time in my class. So, my students already know that after the game, there is going to be revising and reinforcing.
If you have been kind enough to be reading this blog for a time, you probably know I love Ellen DeGeneres’s games and I am always looking for a way to adjust them to my own context of teaching.
This is Ellen’s interpretation of the game Tic Tac Toe (more info here). She calls it Hunk Tac Toe and you’ll just have to watch the video below to understand why she called it Hunk Tac Toe 🙂
After watching her more appealing version, you’ll read my own version. More humble and less visually appealing, but hey, we are trying to learn English here, aren’t we?
I have designed two variations of the game. One is funnier than the other. The funnier one requires more preparation but trust me when I say it pays off.
Preparation for both versions:
1. You will need to prepare a set of questions to revise the target vocabulary.
Ask simple questions of the type:
What do you call the person who…?
What’s the opposite of…?
Fill in the gap in this sentence….
How do you pronounce…?
How do you spell…?
2. In both versions, you’ll need to choose two students (student O and student X ) to play the game. Place a table at the front of the class and ask the two contestants to stand behind it facing the class. Students take turns marking the spaces in the 3×3 grid. The player who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.
Preparation: print nine Xs and nine Os. You can download them here
Ask 9 students to sit forming three rows of three students each forming a 3×3 human grid. (see the pic above)
Give each of these students an X and an O
Toss a coin to decide who starts playing. Let’s say Student X starts playing.
Student X chooses a student in the grid. Let’s say, Ana.
Ask Ana a question from the ones you have previously prepared. If she answers correctly, she will hold the X, if she doesn’t answer correctly, then no letter will be displayed.
Now it’s Student O’s turn to choose another student. Again, if he answers correctly he will display the O letter if not, no letter will be displayed
The winner will be the student who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row.
Less funny version, but also fun.
Choose the two students who are going to play the game.
On the board draw a 3×3 grid and fill it with students’ names (see picture above)
Toss a coin to decide who starts the game.
Student X or O chooses a student from the grid.
Follow the same procedure as above.
Tip: I have played the game twice. The first time I used the less funny version and then I went for the funnier one. The combination worked just awesome!
My friends say about me that I am very easily convinced. I am easy, that’s what they say. I guess they know it’s easy to seduce me into doing things that I like, but I reckon they know that it’s not so easy to talk me into doing something I don’t really want to do. So, I let them think it’s a piece of cake to win me over. They are happy and so am I. It’s also very true that once I make up my mind, it’s hard to talk me out of doing it and that I am not easily put off by setbacks. For better or for worse, that’s the kind of girl I am. Easy to persuade but hard to dissuade.
1. Working with vocabulary.
In the introduction to the post above, I have highlighted some verbs. Can you tell me which ones are used for persuasion and which ones for dissuasion?
Now, do this exercise to consolidate learning
2. Warming-up. Speaking
Choose the statements you agree with:
I am good at persuading people
You talk to me enough, you can convince me to do anything
I will never lie or exaggerate to persuade someone
My parents or my friends just keep on talking and eventually I agree with them
3. Working with Functional Language
The list you’ll find below is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all the language you can use in this context, it’s just a selection of some of the functional language I want my students to use in this speaking activity.
Before you start the role play, make sure students are confident with the language they’ll have to use.
Expressions used to make suggestions:
Might I suggest…?
Why don’t you/we….?
I suggest that you… / I suggest+…ing
Expressions used to offer alternatives
Instead of … ing
Wouldn’t you prefer to….?
Expressions used for reassuring
You don’t have to worry about…
I can assure you that…
I guarantee you won’t (regret it)
Expressions used for dissuading
I wouldn’t bother about that.
I (would strongly) advise (you) against …ing
4. Speaking task
Holiday in Scotland. Explain that they are planning a week’s holiday in Scotland with a friend but they don’t seem to agree on the kind of holiday to book. They will need to discuss the options and try to come to an agreement.
Students work in pairs to develop the role-play based on the information given to them on their corresponding handout. If there are three students in the group, the third one could be the travel agent.
Tell students they will need to talk for about 5 minutes and try to reach an agreement at the end of the conversation.
Bed and Breakfast and drive: you are planning a week’s holiday in Scotland with a friend. You think the best idea is to hire a car and drive, staying at bed and breakfasts/guests houses.
Package holiday in Scotland: you are planning a week’s holiday in Scotland with a friend. You think the best idea is to go on a package holiday, staying at hotels and going on organized excursions to the most famous places.
Credit: This speaking task has been inspired by a task published by Conselleria D’Educació- Generalitat Valenciana.
I am going to be honest here and tell you that although I love Asturias and have always lived here, I miss the light. Whenever it gets cold and blustering outside, whenever I look through my window at 6 pm and see darkness outside, the number one thing that I always crave is travelling to a place where it’s summer and the days are long and sunny and bright. I dream. I daydream.
So, almost winter in Spain. Time to talk about holidays.
Have a look at these two sentences. Are they correct or incorrect?
Have a safe travel!
The trip by train took two hours.
Let’s find out!
Travel, Trip and Journey: How to use them
As a verb: “travel” is normally used as a verb. It is used to refer to the general activity of moving from place to place
I travel to work by car
As a noun: “travel” as a noun is normally uncountable
The pass allows unlimited travel on all public transport in the city.
As it’s uncountable, things such as “ I had a nice travel” are wrong
Note: although uncountable, sometimes “travel” can be used in the plural
This exhibition reflects scenes and inspiration from his travels at home and abroad.
The novel is based on her travels in Asia
More common collocations associated with the noun “travel” are
The travel industry
A travel bag
“Journey” is also usually used as a noun. It means the time when you travel from one place to another. The emphasis is on the travelling itself, it does not refer to the time you stay there.
It was a long and difficult journey through the mountains I read during the train journey to work. Did you have a good journey?
“Trip” is used as a noun and it’s countable. A “trip” is when you go on a short journey, or a journey you do not usually make, and come back again. We use this when the emphasis is on where you are going or why you are going there. The time you stay there is important.
It was my first trip to the States
I am going on a business trip
Was it a good trip?
Let’s go back to our two sentences at the beginning of this post. Are they correct or incorrect?
Have a safe travel!
The trip by train took two hours.
They are incorrect.
“travel” is uncountable, you cannot use the indefinite article “a” with it. The correct sentence would be. “Have a safe journey”
It’s incorrect because the focus is only on the travelling itself, we are not interested in where you are going or what you are going to do there, only on the duration. The correct sentence would be: ” The journey by train took two hours”.
I know, I know, I can see some of you raising an eyebrow and thinking… “well, I must be weird then, if I don’t like shopping”. Of course, you are not, it’s just that I love it so much that now that I don’t have as much spare time as I used to have, I miss it like crazy.
But I know, not everyone is a shopper, not everyone is a consumer. However, we all need to buy, whether it’s clothes, food or any other stuff. So, this lesson might come in handy whenever you decide to set your foot in a shop.
Hold on! Shop? Did I just say, “set your foot in a shop”? Like in a physical shop? It seems to me that right now, the online shopping experience has become so incredibly diverse and sophisticated that no matter what you need, it is simply a click away from you. You don’t even need to physically go to a shop. You can get yourself the latest craze from anywhere in the world without actually moving from your sofa. Kind of awesome! Yeahhh, awesome but boring!!!
Anyway, in this lesson aimed at B2 students, we will be focusing on the topic of shopping and we ’ll be comparing online shopping to traditional shopping.
ONE: Lead-in Activities
A. Types of shops
Although students have a B2 level, I find they always welcome an opportunity to review vocabulary and maybe learn the names for some less common shops.
Play the video once without stopping and at the end of it, ask students in pairs to write down as many different kinds of shops as they can remember from the video. Write the words on the board for correct spelling and drill pronunciation.
Divide the class into As and Bs. Ask As to face the board and Bs to face away from it. Play the video, display the first picture and ask As to quickly describe the kind of shop they see on the board. As describes half the pictures and then they change roles with Bs doing the description and As guessing the shop.
Note: The slides contain music. Turn down the volume if you do not want it.
You’ll find the list with all the shops featured in this video at the end of the post.
Click on each of the pictures below to enlarge them and ask students in pairs to comment on them briefly. Ask for feedback.
Note: the slides contain music. I didn’t want it, but I did not have an option. It’s Mozart. Turn down the volume now if you prefer not to be distracted by the music.
TWO. Brainstorm and introduce new vocabulary
Give students two minutes to write down as many words as they know related to shopping. When the two minutes are over, ask them to stop. After a quick round to see who has written the highest number of words ask students to tell you their words, writing on the board only the ones that are a bit more challenging.
For example, words such as “deal” or “goods” will be written on the board while “shop” or “money” will not.
More useful vocabulary:
A good deal: if something is a good deal, you pay a low price. You can say that a store has some great deals, for example
A bargain: the same as above
20% off : the price is now 20% less than the original price
Overpriced: if sth is overpriced, it costs much more than you think it should
To order: when you order something that you are going to pay for, you ask for it to be brought to you, sent to you, or obtained for you. “to order things online”
To place an order
If you have a discount on the retail price, you pay less price than the price normally charged
Goods: things made to be sold
To be scheduled for delivery (tomorrow)
A secure payment page
To enter your card details
Get a refund
You can pay “Cash on Delivery”
To exchange a product
To track your package
Ready to test your knowledge? Fill in the blanks with some of the words above.
THREE. Listening. Video Activity: Singles’ Day
Lead-in: Ask students if they know anything about Singles’ Day. Info,here
Play the video once without giving students any tasks.
Give students the gapped text and ask them to complete it with the words they hear. Play the video.
Play it again, if necessary
See the activity here. You can check the answers by activating the subtitles in the video.
FOUR. Speaking: Online Shopping versus Traditional Shopping
Divide the class into two groups: those preferring online shopping and those preferring traditional shopping. Ideally, you would pair up students in this way, but more often than not, you’ll have to persuade some students to take a different view for the sake of the exercise.
Give each student their corresponding handout and ask them to read the information on it. Their aim, when pairing up with a student holding an opposing view, will be to try to convince their partner to change their mind.
NOTE: These activities will be in Spanish. Students will need to act as mediators in an oral interlinguistic mediation activity.
This is the first time I am going to do an interlinguistic oral mediation activity with my students. My students are going to take the role of mediators and use a source text in Spanish and relay the selected information to an English speaker, who does not understand Spanish.
What is a mediator and what does he do?
The mediator acts as a facilitator in a social event during which two or more parties interacting are experiencing a communication breakdown or when there is a communication gap between them.
Watch the video and find out a bit more about mediation.
These are the first two tasks I have prepared for my students. More would be coming!
Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives. It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.
You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.
This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo). Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!
Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.
This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.
In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
At this point, student A will need to start again.
Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂 This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.
Ohhh! The power of a game! I don’t know anybody who does not welcome a bit of fun while learning/teaching. Playing a game transforms everyone’s mood. It is magical to see what having a little break from routine tasks, can do for students who have been working hard.
I teach two-hour lessons and trust me when I tell you that even people who do not typically like games go out of their way to beat the other teams.
If, to the thrill of playing competitively among teams, you add movement, give them the opportunity to stretch by asking them to stand up and also offer them the chance to change partners frequently, smiles and good vibes are guaranteed.
For this game, I have used the free website baamboozle.com/, which is super easy to use and allows me or my students to create and play games.
If you do not want to register, you can still click on Featured games and choose from the large bank of games saved on the website.
Revising: give students the link to the game and ask them at home to revise using the Study Mode.
Writing: ask students to choose one of the questions and write about it for about 15 minutes paying attention to their grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. During the class, the next day, choose a box, tell students to quickly provide the collocation and ask a student who has written about it to summarise his ideas for the rest of the class.
I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to. Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.
Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.
So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.
In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:
Two texts about unusual customs
A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
How I use Google slides for collaborative projects
In this lesson, students will have to:
Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)
Lead-In : Speaking
Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.
There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.
Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country
Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.
Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.
Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.
Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then, in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.
Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.
The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.
I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described, while listening to the students’ performances.
Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.
Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it. Problem solved.
A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?
This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.
Do the quiz with the whole class. Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him. Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.