Category Archives: General

Spicing up my Lessons: Talking about Holidays in a more Visual Way.

Spark Adobe is my new addiction. I’m hooked on it and I am not ashamed to admit it.

It’s soooo easy to use and the result is amazing. Only last week, I was running a workshop and I was behind schedule, but I just couldn’t leave without showing the bunch of dedicated teachers  attending a Saturday workshop, a glimpse of how  Spark Adobe could be used in the classroom. So, in five minutes, I briefly explained how to use it. After thanking the teachers for their attention, a Portuguese teacher came up to me and asked me to have a look at what he had created for his next class. Pity I can’t share it with you, but I can assure you that his students are going to be very pleased this Monday.

Embedded below you’ll see the speaking/listening  activity I have designed for my B2 students on the topic of Travelling, created with the Page feature.And make sure you don’t forget to try the Video option with lots of potential for language learners.

By the way, have I mentioned that it’s free?

Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to visit the three sections on the blog dedicated to speaking activities

Off the Beaten Track

The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2016

Happy New Year!

Annnnd I’m back! This break felt so good. I’m not going to lie, at the end of 2016 I was way burnt out and dead tired and I really needed a whole lot of days squeezed together where I did absolutely nothing.

The truth is that I have been working nonstop this Christmas, preparing some workshops I need to run, but working at home and at your own pace is not the same as teaching for six hours nonstop. Not quite the same. Surely you agree with me.

Clearly the first post of 2017 is for the most visited posts in 2016. I don’t want you to miss any of them.

Here they are: from useful links to help you improve your writing skills to entertaining quizzes. Hope you enjoy them!
The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2016

Created with SparkAdobe

Winner of the British Council Blog of the Month Award

I am very pleased to share with you that I am the winner of this month’s British Council’s Teaching English blog award. This is the third time that I have been honoured with this award and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure most of my readers know about this prestigious organisation, but for those of my students who have just started learning English know that the British Council, funded by British government, can be considered UK’s international cultural body. It works in more than 100 countries worldwide and reaches 20 million people face to face and more than 652 million people online.
The goal of this blog has always been to provide my students with useful material to help them improve their learning skills and strategies, but as the blog grew into something bigger I have also aimed to provide teachers with hand-on practical ideas, tips, tricks and resources to use in their classes. Being a technology enthusiast, I have also tried to help teachers integrate technology in their teaching and I am pleased that the number of visitors to the blog has increased dramatically in the last years. Over 1 million hits this month.

This award is dedicated to my students who are the source of my inspiration. Here’s the link to the post that was chosen as representative of my blog.

10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives

The Writing Process and 13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score

Writing is a process. For some students it might seem like a daunting task, but if you look at it as a succession of small steps to follow instead of looking at it as the big final product, writing can be fun and easy.

Useful Links:


Part 1. The Writing Process


Brainstorm for ideas

  • Write down all the ideas you can think of. You can try mind mapping your ideas. It is a good technique to generate ideas and expand on them. You can begin by writing a big bubble in the middle of the page with the topic and then use arrows to draw new bubbles with ideas and again arrows with more specific points or observations about this idea.
  • At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes.

Organise your ideas

  • Decide which ideas to keep.
  • Group similar ideas together.
  • Organise your ideas according to the writing task.

Focus on language 

  • Think of words and expressions you will need in your work.

Write a draft

  • Write quickly. Don’t worry about things such as accuracy or neatness.
  • Use a pencil so that it is easier to make corrections and erase things.
  • If you are writing your draft by hand, leave a wide margin for notes and space between the lines for additions and corrections.
  • If you can’t think of a word in English, write it in your own language. You can look it up in a dictionary later.
  • If you don’t know the spelling of a word, write it anyway you can. You can look it up in a dictionary later.

Improve your draft

  • Do it slowly and conscientiously.
  • Check spellings in the dictionary and look up any word you felt unsure of. Here’s a very useful post Six Amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger.
  • Use a checklist to improve your work. See the one my students use here.
  • Read your draft aloud. Circle the things that need to be improved, reworded or clarified.
  • Take a break from writing and reread your draft after 30 minutes. Does everything sound right?

Write a final draft

  • Copy your corrected work neatly on a clean sheet of paper.
  • Make sure your paragraphs are clearly indicated.

Adapted from Burlington Books


 Part 2. Writing an Essay


An essay consists of several paragraphs about a topic. Although there are many different kinds of essays, they all have the same basic structure.

Opening

It is the general presentation of the topic. Try to get the reader interested in your essay. How can you do that? For example, by beginning

  • With a surprising fact.

Humans usually imitate the speech of someone with a strong accent due to empathy and to create a bond and assimilate with them.

  • With a short anecdote.

If you could interview anybody in the world, who would you choose?” asked the teacher. “Nelson Mandela”, I replied.

  • With a question.

Did you know that there is an island in Japan that has more than 450 people living above the age of 100?

 The Body.

The body can have one or more paragraphs which develop the topic. The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument or example. The second paragraph the second strongest argument and the third the weakest.

A paragraph consists of several sentences about a certain topic. It has the following parts:

  • A topic sentence, i.e. an idea.
  • One or several supporting sentences to expand on the idea.
  • A concluding sentence.

The parts should flow logically and the ideas should be easy to understand.

  • Go from general to specific. Give a general idea and then expand it.
  • Avoid unnecessary repetition by using pronouns to refer back to nouns already mentioned.
  • Use connector to join sentences and show the connection between ideas.

 The Closing

It is the paragraph that summarizes the main idea or presents a conclusion, depending on the kind of essay you need to write. Some things to bear in mind:

  • It should not bring new ideas.
  • It shouldn’t be very long.
  • It can be similar to the opening, but presented in different words.

 


13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score


  1. Read the assignment thoroughly, several times if necessary and underline anything relevant. Sometimes there is a question or several. Make sure you cover all of them. Focus on the purpose of the composition, on the tone and the style required and also on the length requirements.
  1. Plan your writing. You need to dedicate several minutes to planning what you are going to say and how you are going to say. It makes a big difference.
  1. Write a first draft. Use pencil, if possible, to erase or correct errors.
  1. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and then write some supporting sentences about this topic sentence. 1 idea= 1 paragraph.
  1. Use a variety of vocabulary and grammar structures. Avoid repeating the same words over and over again. Use synonyms or paraphrase. A thesaurus or a lexicon is useful as a source of alternative words. Use a range of grammar, sentence structure should be varied and clear.
  1. Use connectors to join ideas. They also play an important part in stringing together sentences and paragraphs.
  1. Time management. Organize the time you are given to write the essay. If you have one hour to complete the task, dedicate 10 minutes to planning and organizing your ideas and allow about 10 minutes at the end to proofread your essay before giving it to the teacher. You will still have 40 minutes left to write and develop your ideas.
  1. Keep to the topic. Don’t write about things that have nothing to do with the assignment.
  1. Sound natural. Just because you know lots of connectors, it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.
  1. Punctuation. Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. Your text can be confusing if you don’t use them adequately.
  1. Style. Think about the purpose of the assignment and the audience it addresses and use the correct style and tone. If it’s informal, you can use colloquial language, simple and shorter sentences, contractions, abbreviations and emotional language. On the contrary if it’s a formal assignment, you will need to use more complex sentences, avoid contractions and abbreviations and you should definitely avoid emotional language or colloquial expressions.
  1. Proofread your essay. Have a coffee or go for a walk. Come back, take your essay and reread it aloud. Does it sound “right”? Then, it’s ready!
  1. Read a lot and try to write about anything for 30 minutes every day. You’ll soon get better.

Thanks for reading!

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Lesson Plan: US Elections Explained

On November 8,  Americans will cast their ballots and decide who is going to be their new president. I don’t know about your country but, in Spain, the “war” between H. Clinton and D. Trump is every day in the news and the “poisonous” debates are thoroughly discussed ad nauseam on TV current affairs programmes.

Being this an issue of so much interest, I thought my students would welcome a brief explanation of what the presidential election in the US entails.

Level: suitable for upper intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) level English students.

Time: About 60 minutes

Materials: lesson plan pdf here

In this lesson students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary, improve their communicative skills by discussing some interesting quotes and also, their writing skills by choosing one of the quotes to write an opinion essay.

The lesson starts off with some questions about politics which will be discussed in pairs or small groups, followed by some vocabulary exercises extracted from the video in preparation for the listening task that follows. The video for the listening activity is from “The Telegraph” and lasts 2.16.  It will be followed by group discussion of two controversial quotes.

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H is for Holidays

And summer has finally come and once again it’s this time of the year when me and my blog go on holiday.

I started blogging like eight years ago and you might think that after spending all these years writing an average of two posts weekly, I might be dry for ideas. I am not. I promise  I’ll be back some time in September with new ideas.

This blog is always growing and changing, and hopefully it’s becoming better and a more useful place for you to visit. I hope that when you click away from my blog you feel inspired encouraged and even challenged. This year the blog has reached an amazing number of visits, 300,000 visits/month and I can only thank you for your support  and your kind encouraging messages.

These are the most popular posts this year and also some of my favourite ones.

My favourite posts have been

The most popular posts have been

Quizzes

Writing

Reading:

Listening

Using Technology in the Classroom

Grammar and Vocabulary

Featured Blog of the Month

I am thrilled to share with you that the popular website Dreamreader.net has featured Blog de Cristina as “Blog of the Month”

Find out more in their newsletter,  http://eepurl.com/b1CRlH

What’s dreamreader.net?

It’s a site that freely provides graduated reading material for English language learners and teachers. It has more than 500 reading lessons. Every lesson comes with free audio, a free printable worksheet and a free multiple choice quiz.

The site offers 5 categories, but the most interesting ones to help enhance your reading comprehension ability are “Fun English” and “Academic English”. This last category is full of lessons and quiz questions for beginner, low intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced students.

The site is run by Neil Millington, a university EFL lecturer in Japan.

I blogged about dreamreader.net here

6 Excellent Free Sites to Practise Reading Comprehension