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”.
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.
We are talking about Cloze Tests today. Not the printed fit-all-size cloze texts that you can get and photocopy from any textbook or exam preparation book, but the online tailor-made no-prep cloze tests you can get at the wonderfully simple site created by L. George. See it here
Why is it Cristina’s way, you might be wondering? Well, because it combines two of my favourite ingredients in an activity:
A touch of technology
A game-like activity
The online tool I have used to create the cloze has two features you can choose from: text only (that you can easily copy/paste into a document) and interactive (that you can save as an HTML page). The tool is free and you don’t even need to register.
In this exercise, I have used the simpler text-only version.
Cloze Test Exercise with a Twist
Choose a text that contains a variety of terms you want your students to revise or work with.
On the right yellow box with the options, choose “every… words” ( I have chosen to gap my text every 9 words)
Using the OHP, display the gapped text on the board or alternatively, print it and give it to your students. Two students can share a copy.
Ask students to work in pairs. Give or show the Close Test and ask them to predict the lexical category or part of speech that could fit each gap: is it a noun, an adjective, a preposition or maybe an article? Allow a couple of minutes for this task. You might want to show an example.
For example, I wrote a letter___ my mother (students will most likely agree, they ‘ll need a preposition to fill in this gap)
Ask Student A to face the board. Ask Student B to face away from the board and concentrate on the text.
Tell students you’ll write the words on the board in random order, but each of the words will be identified with a number. If you have 8 gaps in the cloze text, you will write the words on the board preceded by the number. Tell Student B to do the same in case he cannot guess a word in the allotted time. For ex: 1. house 2. wrote 3. for.
Write one of the missing words on the board, and ask student A to define the word, or give a synonym or antonym for student B to guess and write down. For example, if the word on the board is “wrote”, Student A might say “it’s a verb in the past and you use a pen or a pencil to do it”.
Tell students you’ll write a new word every 30 seconds. If Student B guesses the word quickly, he might try to use the rest of the time (up until the 30 seconds) to try to place the word in the right gap but tell them you’ll not wait.
Continue in the same way until you have written all the missing words. The words should be written in random order.
NOTE: If one of the words hasn’t been guessed, at the end of this part Student A will need to try to define the words again. (Remember that the words are still written on the board). This time, Student A can help Student B by giving him the first letter.
Once they have all the words, Students A and B will work together to complete the gapped test.
Place a bell on your table and ask the first pair to finish to come up to your table. Silently check that the exercise is correct and if it is, ask them to ring the bell. From that moment, the rest of the class will have one minute to finish the exercise.
Choose another text and repeat procedure. This time Student B will face the board and Student A will concentrate on the text.
Note: If you are a student, this is a great tool for self-study. Choose a text from around the web, gap the text every 10 words and then select the interactive feature, which will check your exercise. Enjoy learning English!
I’m currently in the middle of —what I like to call—beginning-of-the-course chaos. I am busy doing nothing, wasting time on probably unnecessary things and when the day ends, I find I have done nothing from the to-do list I carefully planned in the morning. Total chaos.
Today, I have a guest post from a colleague from EOI Oviedo, Ángeles Jimenez, who from time to time, saves my a** by agreeing to send me some of her creative activities. This is one of them. I hope you like it as much as I did.
This lesson plan is based on a two-minute short film launched by the B.B.C on Christmas 2017. It’s suitable for intermediate and higher levels.
The lesson starts with a lead-in speaking activity to help students differentiate -ed from -ing adjectives. It’s then followed by a brainstorming activity where students get a lot of talking time.
-ed / -ing adjectives can be a challenging task to teach as students mix them up easily. Sometimes such confusion can lead to amusing mistakes such as “I’m boring” or “I’m tiring” when they truly mean “I’m bored” and “I’m tired”.
To clear up the confusion, I start with a warm-up activity. I write, on the whiteboard, 3 or 4 -ing adjectives and tell students they will need to come up with a wide range of things, activities and/or people that can fit in each category. “Boring”, “Exciting”, “Frightening” and “Disgusting” are some of the -ing adjectives that work well.
For example, if I write the adjective ” Boring” students might say: studying for exams, politics, queuing at the supermarket…etc.
This is an engaging warm-up as students can personalise the grammar point you’re trying to teach.
I begin with myself writing the word “moths” in the “frightening” column. They may not be familiar with the noun but students love it when the teacher includes anecdotes and personal examples. They get involved in the activity in no time!
Once the whiteboard is full of the students’ own ideas, I then follow with a “How do you feel” question to elicit the -ed adjective.
Example: “How do I feel about moths? I feel frightened”
and I write the word “frightened” on the board with capital letters underlying the -ed part to emphasize that’s how I feel. To make sure they’ve understood the difference, I go through the adjectives on the board asking the same question: “How do you feel about studying for exams?” To round up, a simple graphic is very helpful:
Something ING ⇒ makes you feel ED
I project the frame above from the silent advert because it’s open to interpretation, it offers a lot of speaking practice and I find it’s a great way to revise the use of narrative tenses, especially for intermediate levels. I ask my students to come up with a short story that can explain what is happening/happened, what the girl is/was doing, how she is feeling and what they think is going to happen at the end.
At a more advanced level, they can even make deductions. Elicit some examples such as “It’s late. She must be worried because her parents haven’t arrived home yet”
Also, make sure they use as many adjectives related to feelings as they can.
Play the video.
Speaking: Ask students to compare it with the stories they created. Ask some follow-up questions: Did they like it? Did they find it touching? Can they relate?
Vocabulary and speaking. Pdf here. Give the students the handout that accompanies the video activity. It includes an exercise to learn new vocabulary, another exercise to revise -ed / -ing adjectives and last, but not least, a more ludic and relaxing one to test how good their memory is. You can see the first two exercises below:
Vocabulary exercise. Summarising the story. Choose the most appropriate word from the drop-down menu
Oral exercise. Using adjectives -ed adjectives to talk about feelings. Ask the following questions and encourage students to use -ed adjectives
Watch the T.V add and talk about how the girl felt…
when she came out of school. Ex: excited
when she gave her dad the talent show leaflet.
when her dad answered the call.
when she rehearsed at home, in the street…
How did her dad feel when he saw her jumping on the escalators?
Why did she slam the door?
How did she feel when she …
drew the curtains?
couldn’t remember the dance?
when her dad came out of the audience to help?
the dance finished?
Silent movies have a great potential for language teaching. They’re a fantastic tool to get students to produce language at any level since it’s the task the teacher sets the one that provides the level. They usually find it easier to memorise vocabulary and grammar when it’s associated with a captivating image or story and when it comes to holding their attention, a short clip does the trick.
Autumn is probably my favourite season. Autumn is the season of birthdays in my family. Also, it’s not too hot or too cold. This year, this is especially important for me as I have been assigned a small class facing south and I know, come May, I’ll be sweating up a storm. So, for the time being, let’s enjoy beautiful autumn.
This year I am teaching 2-hour lessons so, more than ever, I feel the necessity to design activities that might change the pace of the lessons and keep my students from dozing off in my classes. The activity below is aimed at that. Still, I need to be completely honest here. I have not started teaching proper lessons so this activity has not been tested yet. I’ll let you know how it goes and if I hear any snores or see people yawning, then I would know it has been a complete failure.
to revise and consolidate adjectives related to feelings
to use these adjectives in a speaking activity.
Tool: Genial.ly. For this activity, we will use the grid below with gifs representing different feelings. This is an interactive image created with an awesome tool called Genial.ly, which I am proud to say is a Spanish start-up used all around the world. Genial.ly lets you create engaging interactive visual content and for this activity, I have used the “Hide” effect so if you mouse over the gif, you’ll be able to see the adjective. Also, the questions for discussion will be displayed when you click on the numbers.
(click on the arrows to enlarge the image)
For each of the squares in the grid, do part 1 and then part 2.
FIRST PART: WORKING ON VOCABULARY
Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will be playing “against” Student B.
Ask student As to choose a number from the Feelings Grid below. You can ask all the As to agree on a number, but in some classes, it might prove a difficult task to reach quick consensus, so you might want to just choose a random student A to decide on a number.
Once they have chosen a number, both student A and B will write the adjective they think is hidden behind the gif representing the feeling. Allow 30 seconds for this step. Let student A and B compare their answers and then mouse over the gif to display the hidden adjective.
If they have guessed the adjective, they score 2 points. If the adjective they have written is a synonym, they score 1 point. Ask students to keep score of the points they get.
On the board, you might want to write the target adjective and the synonyms they come up with. Drill pronunciation of the adjective and all its synonyms.
For example, if they choose Gif 9 and the adjective is “worried” you might want to accept “anxious, troubled or concerned” as synonyms. You can use a synonym dictionary, like this one https://www.thesaurus.com/. There is no shame in this. 😉
SECOND PART: WORKING ON SPEAKING
Click on the number, in this case, number 9 and a question will be displayed. Ask students in pairs to discuss the question. Set about 4 minutes per question. Walk around. Monitor and help. Avoid overcorrecting.
Now, B’s choose a new number from the Feelings Grid.
Note: if you haven’t taught any of the adjectives, you can still use the activity. Change the rules of the game and instead of scoring two points if they guessed the adjective, you might want to give them the points if they come up with a synonym even though it’s not exactly the one hidden behind the gif.
To be on the safe side, and to avoid wasting time checking the dictionary, you might want to write a list of synonyms before you play the game.
Most of the times, it is easy to tell when a noun is countable (ie. can be counted) and when it is uncountable. Think about the words “dog” and “sugar”. Easy, isn’t it?
We can say one dog, two dogs or a dog, ie, you can count “dogs”
But can you count “sugar”? Of course, you can’t. You can’t say one sugar, two sugarsor sugars, not even a sugar.
If only it were that easy! 🙂 Take for example vegetables and fruit. Vegetables are countable, but fruit is normally uncountable, though in some cases, to complicate things, it can be made plural when referring to different kinds of fruit.
The vast majority of commonly consumed fruits qualify as non-starchy. Would you like some fruit for dessert?
There you have it, this is English!
If you want to know more about countable and uncountable nouns, here, it is clearly explained.
On this post, I want to share with you two activities I did with my Upper-intermediate students in case you want to use them in your classes.
Game: Sit down. Stand Up
The first one is a very simple activity, perfect to use after a tedious lesson when you see attention is beginning to fade. Actually, it is not a game as there is no competition and nobody is eliminated but, to be honest, I don’t know how to call it. An energizer, perhaps? What is clear is that it will keep your students engaged and motivated.
I have used this activity with upper-intermediate students so the concept of countable or uncountable (mass) is not new to them.
Before the class: prepare a list of names that are clearly either countable or uncountable.
How to play:
Tell students you are going to call out nouns that can be classified as either countable or uncountable.
Tell them they will need to sit down if the noun is uncountable and stand up if it countable.
As you can see there are far more uncountable than countable nouns because my students already have a clear idea of what countable and uncountable means. If you are introducing this concept for the first time, I would suggest you use more or less the same number of countable and uncountable nouns.
So, how can we make an uncountable noun countable? That’s easy! Very often, we can use “a piece of…” before the uncountable nouns.
We can say:
A piece of fruit/cake/cheese/baggage/furniture/news/rubbish/research… etc
But English wouldn’t be considered one of the richest languages if you could just use “ a piece of” with every uncountable noun, would it? So here’s a quiz where you will learn some other partitive structures used with uncountable nouns.
How I suggest you work with the quiz:
You can certainly do the quiz once if you have a prodigious memory and are able to remember every combination, but if you are like the rest of the mortals, taking the quiz once is not enough.
I would suggest taking the quiz two or three times, then writing down all the combinations you can remember and then taking the quiz again to check and consolidate.
Do you know how to download a video from youtube or convert a PDF or a website into an editable Word document? Do you know where to find free images and videos to use in your projects or how to record audio and create a QR code to share with your students and colleagues? Did you know that long URLs can be easily shortened so that they can be shared more easily?
If you don’t, then this post might be for you!
I’m not a digital native. Far from it. Everything I know I had to learn by trial and error. However, right now, you can probably say I’m the typical technophile always on the lookout for new tools to create activities to spark up my classes.
The tools I want to share with you today are nothing fancy. You cannot create activities where your students will ooh and ahh, but trust me, they are going to save you a lot of time and a lot of searching. They have been tested and tried and I have been using them for a long, long time.
AUDIO AND VIDEO
Problem: I need to join/cut two audio files and I need to record myself on video/audio
This is a great tool to work with audio and video. It’s free, easy to use and you don’t even need to register.
What can you do on this page?
Cut video or audio ( you need to upload it from your computer)
Join two audio tracks
Convert video and audio from one format into another
Easily record video and audio ( and then download it)
Downside: you need to have the video/audio on your computer. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to download a video. Keep on reading.
Problem: I need to record my voice/upload audio and then share it
Vocaroo has been around for a long time. They are even working on a new and improved version. It lets you record your voice in a very easy way or upload a file from your computer. Then, you are offered different possibilities:
Share it on social media sites.
Share or email the link
Embed it on a blog or website
Get a QR code
Downside: Vocaroo does not provide permanent storage. There is not a definite age at which messages are deleted, however, it is likely messages will expire after a few months. If a message is important you should download and save it to your own computer as soon as possible to avoid losing it.
Problem: My internet connection is weak and I need to download a video from a website other than youtube.
This amazing tool lets you download videos from any platform, even from youtube. To download a video, just get the link, copy/paste it into the box and download it. You can choose to download the video or just the audio.
Problem: My school has blocked facebook but I need my students to see a video there.
Solution: get the link for the video and then download it using videocyborg.com/
Watch the video to see how it is done.
Problem: I need to cut a video from youtube
Solution: You needtubechop.com/
Cut it, get the URL and then download it using videocyborg (link above)
Problem: I need to convert a PDF into an easy editable WORD documentSolution:tools.pdf24.org/en/
This is a great tool to work with PDF. It’s free, easy to use and you don’t even need to register.
What can you do on this page? Pretty much everything.
Convert a PDF into a Word document and Word into PDF.
Split a PDF or merge them.
Sign or add page numbers to the PDF.
Remove or extract PDF pages.
Problem: I need to convert a website into a PDF file or an editable WORD document
You only need to copy and paste the URL into the box, choose the format and download it and save it on your computer. You don’t even need to register.
Problem: I have a scanned PDF or an image with some text and I want to extract the text
Onlineocr is free, simple and no registration is required. Copy/àste the URL ad then download the text as a Word document among other possibilities.
SHARING A LONG URL
Problem: I need to share with a long URL with my students
Sometimes we have to give our students a long URL which seems almost impossible to type without making a mistake. Instead of writing this long URL, use bit.ly to shorten it. To do it, paste the long link in the search box and that’s it.
PRINTING A WEBSITE
Problem: I want to print some content from a website, but I don’t want to print all the images and adverts.
Just enter the URL, edit the page getting rid of anything you don’t want to print, and then print it.
CREATING A QR
Problem: I need to create a simple QR Code with the answer to an exercise and download the QR Code to share it with my students
Easy to use and doesn’t require registration. Just paste your text and then save it to download it.
FREE TEMPLATES FOR POWERPOINT OR GOOGLE SLIDES
Problem: I need to find beautiful free thematic templates to make a presentation on Google Slides or PowerPoint
FREE IMAGES AND VIDEO
Problem: my students are doing a project and they need to find free images and/or videos
Solution: for free images: pixabay.com/ ;for free videospixabay.com/videos/
I hope these websites are helpful and save you a lot of time.
If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.
Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀 ). It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.
If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me: I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.
I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.
In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better. You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.
Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.
Now, you are ready to start.
Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.
Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.
Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.
The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.
Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them. Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.
Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink 😆
Naturally, I am a huge supporter of any activity that involves students getting out of their seats and interacting with other students. Also, if you have been reading me for a while, you will surely know that I am always worried about making vocabulary stick.
So, this super simple activity combines these two things+ zero preparation. How does that sound? Yes, I know. Besides, it’s compatible with any topic you are working with. Believe me, this activity is a hit.
There is a 99% chance that you will end up participating in the activity, but please, do not get all proper and spoil the fun by telling students to keep their voices down. Let them enjoy.
Aim: to make vocabulary stick by revising, reinforcing and using it. Topic: Any. I was working with the theme of environment, but any topic would do
How to go about it
1. Revision with slips of paper. Start by revising the vocabulary you have introduced in previous lessons. I usually write the vocabulary I need to revise on slips of paper, place myself in the middle of the classroom (desks are arranged in a U shape) and very quickly give a short definition, synonym or antonym. The student who guesses correctly gets the slip of card. The winner, as you might have guessed, is the student who has more cards at the end of this activity. I do this activity very often. I think I like it because I can see that my students love it and it is a good exercise not only to revise meanings but also to work on pronunciation.
2. Writing 5 newly- acquired words. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “make the most of” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “make the most “.
3. On the board, write a question for the students to discuss in pairs.
4. Tell the students to stand up with the scrap of paper containing their words and choose a partner to talk to. They can sit down if they want to or they can remain standing.
5. Ask them to swap the pieces of papers and read the 5 words on it making sure they know what they mean. If they don’t, they should ask their partner to explain or clarify meanings
6. Point to the question on the board and ask them to discuss it trying to introduce as many words as possible from their list of words. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
7. Important step: Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
8. Write a new question for discussion on the board. Ask students to sit down with their new partner, swap the scraps of paper and repeat procedure.
My students said they loved the game! Let me know what your students think if you decide to give it a go.