Tag Archives: grammar

The Liar: a Present Perfect Continuous Game.

This week is not supposed to be a game week. I can feel the “exam cloud” starting to creep up on me. Yes, exams are just two weeks away and I should probably be dedicating the whole lesson to revising. And I‘ll do it. I promise. And it will all be very academic and probably boring.  So what you are about to read is very likely the last fun activity I’m going to do with my students before exams but students deserve a break from time to time and I’m sure they will enjoy this little game to revise the Present perfect Continuous. Besides,it is a ton of fun.

I have to say that I have not invented the game. I was kindly offered to me by a teacher from EOI Plasencia (hello Maite Martínez) after an enjoyable training session. I asked her to write a guest post explaining the game, but she kindly refused and said she could not do that as she was not the author adding that the game had been in her possession for a long, long time and couldn’t remember where she had got it from.

I have googled up the game trying different combinations, but I could find no trace of it. So I have decided to publish it.

Please, if you are reading this and you’re the author, write to me to give you proper credit.

Now, with the game.

Aim: to practise the present perfect continuous in the pattern:

  • How long have you been playing golf?
  • I have been playing golf for 6 years


Before the game: You’ll need to prepare cards with the numbers 1 to 10. You will need a deck of cards for every four or five students. Numbers (1-10) will be repeated three times in each deck of cards. So, you will have three 1s, three 2s, three 3s… etc, ie, a 30-card deck.

You can download mine here.

The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

  • Ask students to play in groups of 4,5 or 6.
  • Tell students they are all “nouveaux riches”.
  • Someone in the group shuffles the cards and deals them out. All of them.
How to play:

  • Player A, the person on the right of the dealer, begins. He turns to Player B, the person on his right, and asks him a question. For example:

                   How long have you been eating at Maxim’s?

  • Player B puts one of his cards face down on the table without showing it to anyone and answers, for example:

                    I have been eating at Maxim’s for 5 years.

Important: You must always put down a card equal to, or more than, the previous card. Player B will need to put down a card with a number higher than 5. If you cannot do this, you must lie and hope not to be challenged to show your card. 
  • Now, Player B repeats exactly the same question Player A asked him to Player C, the person on his right. Player C answers and puts one of his cards face down on top of Player B’s card. For example:

                  I have been eating at Maxim’s for 7 years.

  • Now Player C repeats exactly the same question to Player D. In this way, play moves round the circle in turn.
  • If any player suspects that another player is lying, they can say:

 Stop! I don’t believe you- let me see that card.

  • If it’s a lie, that player must pick all the cards on the table. However, if he was telling the truth, the player who challenged him must pick all the cards.
  • After a player has picked all the cards, it‘s he who starts the game again asking a new question.
  • The first player to get rid of all his cards is the winner.

List of snobbish things to do

  • Ski in St Moritz
  • Eat caviar
  • Play golf
  • Fly business class
  • Wear Armani clothes
  • Vote conservative
  • Shop at Harrods
  • Drive a Porsche
  • Go on cruises

Blog de Cristina is on Facebook and on Twitter. 

First Conditional Sentences: Advanced Grammar and Moral Dilemmas for Discussion

Oh, this tool. I cannot tell you the number of times I have used it to teach English.

Not going to lie to you, although it’s one of my favourite sites to create visual activities, play buzz is way less exciting than using other tools such as Flipgrid. Still, a lot of fun.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like teaching grammar. I’m not one of those enthusiastic teachers that eat up grammar books in search of the perfect written exercise to give students. I devour vocabulary and speaking activities, but to be honest, grammar exercises bore me. That must be the reason why I always try to find a fun activity so that not only my students but also me, can have a nice time when dealing with grammar. So, it felt really nice to create this visual activity where I could see my students using the First Conditional in context.

Firstly, after explaining the grammar we reinforced its form by watching this video I have created with Lumen5. This tool is the latest craze. If you are attending my workshop on “Using Images” on Tuesday 20 or Thursday 22 (Feb) this is one of the tools we are going to work with. Let me tell you that it is one of the easiest tools I have come across and nowadays, on social media, you can see a lot of presentations created with it.

Secondly, I asked my students to form small groups and discuss what you’ll see below. The questions are thought-provoking, morally challenging and with a touch of fun. It might also be a good idea to ask yourself what you would do in any of these situations.

Display the first photo+caption and ask students to finish the sentence using the first conditional. Encourage discussion within the group and then a whole class discussion.

  • If I find a wallet in the street, I might take it to the police.
  • If I find a wallet in the street, I will probably call the police to let them know I have found it, but will probably keep it until the owner called me.

Show the second picture+ caption and repeat procedure.

A Word on Grammar: Relative Adverbs: Where, When and Why. use and Omission

I have to say that I have an incredibly complicated relationship with grammar. I don’t like it and that’s my problem. I wouldn’t go as far as Michel de Montaigne and say “The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”, that’s probably going too far but, for me,  “Grammar is a piano I play by ear” as Joan Didion said,.

Obviously, this is something that, as a teacher, I cannot share with my students.

So, in order to make teaching grammar more palatable, I am forever trying to present it in a more appealing way. Not only to my students, but also to me.

Embedded below is a more visual explanation of the use and omission of the relative adverbs: where, when and why.

I have used one of my fav free tools, PlayBuzz, which is not specifically designed to be used as a teaching tool but it really has a lot of potential for language teaching.


Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom

When I teach something new, I’m always worried about one simple thing. Will my students internalise any time soon the new “whatever it is”? How can I help them? How long does it take for them to feel confident using the new structure/expression/word? How many times do they have to be exposed to the new term? How many different examples/contexts do you have to give them? How long does it take before a word becomes familiar and therefore usable?

This is an article I wrote for Voices, the British Council magazine, where I suggest  Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom, which can help.

Do you Think Translation Exercises are Boring? Just the Opposite!

Believe me, they don’t have to be boring. In fact, just the opposite.

I know some teachers consider translation activities a thing of the past and that, arguably, they should be banned from our classes. I don’t completely agree.
If I am honest with you, I can’t say that I like giving students a whole paragraph to translate, but a one-sentence translation exercise can help consolidate and reinforce grammar and vocabulary.
And it doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. How?

Easy. Let’s combine a seemingly boring traditional exercise with an online fun tool and let’s turn it into a competition.


• Decide on few sentences you want students to translate. I’d suggest 6-8 sentences. If you like exploring tools, my favourite for this kind of activities is Playbuzz flip cards.
• Slips of paper

How to go about it:

1. Pair learners and give them as many slips of paper as sentences you want them to translate.
2. Write the first sentence on the board and ask students to translate into English. If you use the online tool I mentioned above, just show the first card. (See mine below)
3. Depending on the length or difficulty of the sentence to be translated, set a time limit.
4. Once the pair have their sentence, ask them to write it on the slip of paper big enough for you to see from a distance.
5. When the time is up, ask the pair to hold it up and quickly go through all the translated sentences awarding 1 point to the pair who has the correct translation.
6. The winner is the pair who get the most points.

Note: Be strict with spelling mistakes or any other tiny mistakes. Students love it when you are strict and don’t give away the points easily.

Follow-up: Revise again all the sentences, but this time orally.

Lacking inspiration? 6 awesome resource websites to find stuff for your classes

I like to consider myself a creative person and I’m always designing and devising activities to step away from the course book with the aim of sparking students ‘interest. Unfortunately, I’m not always in that mood. No problem :)Luckily, there are plenty of websites offering free resources that can really save the day.

These are my favourite go-to sites when I am feeling kind of lazy or uninspired, but still want to shine in class.

TED 4 ESL. Great for listening comprehension

This website offers activities based mostly on TED Talks videos. It provides free downloadable students’ and teachers’ worksheets and you can choose the video by topic or level (B1, B2 and C1)

Print and discuss.  Stimulating conversation questions

This site doesn’t probably offer an astonishing variety of discussion topics, but I find the questions in each set quite stimulating. Scroll down the page to find their selection of topics for your conversation classes.

EFL Magazine- Resources. Anything you need is probably here.

EFL magazine has collected a host of great resources from different sites around the world.

The site has an excellent collection of resources for teachers. There are sections for grammar, pronunciation, functions, business, tests, speaking topics, vocabulary and lesson plans.

Teaching English- British Council. Excellent for lesson plans and methodology

This is an excellent site. The section for lesson plans specifically offers well-designed lesson plans to suit adults and teens. It also provides downloadable worksheets for both teachers and students.

Highly recommendable is also their Facebook page where tips, ideas, practical advice and lesson plans are offered.

 Road to Grammar. Awesome for quizzes.

Road to Grammar is the place to go if you want to find a simple interactive grammar or vocabulary quiz. Don’t miss the Games Section with my favourite online game Fluent. It’s addictive!

You might also want to have a look at Road to Grammar Junior

Busy Teachers. Also called “teacher’s paradise”.

Awesome compilation of resources for every level. On this site, you’ll find worksheets for grammar, vocabulary, speaking, reading, writing and pronunciation among other things.

My favourite section is the Listening Section, where you can filter the activities by level (from complete beginner to advancedd)

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Click to follow!

What are favourite sites? Can you add to the list?

Life Begins at 70: a Future Perfect and Future Continuous Lesson

To me, old age is always ten years older than I am”  John Burroughs

In this engaging lesson students will consolidate the use of future perfect and future perfect continuous through some engaging activities.


Show them a picture of how you see yourself when you are 70 and explain why you see yourself like that. (below you’ll see the picture I showed my students). After some laughs and a bit of explaining, ask students:

How do you see yourselves when you are 70? Do you look forward to getting old?

Ask them to talk in pairs for two or three minutes and get feedback.

THE POEM- WARMING by Jenny Joseph

This is a nice opportunity to introduce poetry in class.

Explain that the poem they are about to listen/read, written by Jenny Joseph,  goes hand in hand with the picture of yourself shown above. After listening to the poem, ask students whether they think the author is looking forward to getting old and why.

It seems the poetess is rebellious, but she is only comfortable to ‘break the rules’ when she has the excuse of old age and senility. Ask students what they think about her attitude.


  • On the walls of the class display pictures of elderly people reflecting different attitudes towards life when they are old.
  • Ask students to stand up, have a look at all of them and decide which one will best represent their attitude to life. They now return to their desks.
  • Ask them to write two sentences using the future perfect and two sentences using the future continuous, based on the picture they have chosen.
  • Get students in threes now and ask them to explain their choice to their partners and use the 4 sentences they have written.
  • For example and based on my picture
  • I will have tried parachuting when I am 70
  • I will have probably written a recipe book.
  • I will probably be living in Bhutan
  • I will be living life to the fullest

I have used these pictures  to display on the walls, and this presentation when giving feedback see  here.


Students now work in small groups and answer the following questions about the future. Remind them that they need to elaborate on their answers giving reasons and using different expressions to give opinion. All the questions contain either a future perfect or a future continous form; encourage students to use these tenses in their answers.

You might find this handout useful

Looking Forward to the Future

2 Fresh & Fun Activities to Practise Both, Neither and Either

If you think that teaching both, neither and either is a bit boring, I have good news for you. In fact, I dare say great news!  It can also be fun!

It’s no secret on here that I love having fun in my classes but what people may not know is that although flexible when necessary, my classes are carefully planned and  games are not played just  to keep my students entertained; on the contrary, they are carefully designed and used to improve certain abilities and with a clear goal in mind. If at the same time we can have a nice time, that’s the icing on the cake.


This is a team game and it aims at practising the structures

  • Both/Neither of them
  • Both… and / neither…nor


  • 2 white cards with YES written on one side and NO on the other
  • Teacher’s here


  1. Divide the class into two or three teams.
  2. Ask the teams to select two people to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will sit facing their team.
  3. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  4. Explain you’re going to give each of the two members of the team a white card withYES written on one side and NO on the other. Tell them you’re going to ask them 10 yes/no questions.
  5. Their team will score a point every time these two students show the same answer to the questions asked, and the team provides a correct sentence containing the target structure.
  6. Repeat procedure for Teams B and C and give a big applause to the winners.

Example 1.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES
  • TeamBoth of them have scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Both Mary and Peter have  scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1 point)

Example 2.

  • Teacher asks: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: NO    Student B: NO
  • Team: Neither of themhave/has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam / Neither Mary nor Peter has scored 10 out of 10 in an exam (1point)

Example 3

  • Teacher: Have you ever scored 10 out of 10 in an exam? 
  • Student A: YES     Student B: YES (0 points)


This communicative activity has two parts.

In part 1, students will have a conversation where the aim is to agree with their partner using the structures:

  • So do I- to agree with a positive statement
  •  Neither do I or  I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

In part 2, students will report back to the class using:

  • Both/Neither of us…
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…


PDF teacher’s here

  1. Ask students to work in pairs and give them Handout A and B.
  2. Ask them to complete the answers.
  3. Explain the context. You have just changed schools and you don’t know anybody in the class. You want to make new friends quickly and the best way, if not the most honest one, would be to agree with whatever the student sharing your desks says. So, five minutes before the next class starts you decide to strike a conversation with the student sitting next to you.
  • Start by introducing yourself and then ask your classmate some questions.
  • Your classmate will introduce himself and also ask some questions. Make sure you agree with everything he/she says using the structures.

So do I- to agree with a positive statement

Neither do I or I don’t either- to agree with a negative statement

  1. Ask students to report back to the class using:
  • Both/Neither of us..
  • We both…
  • Both … and … / Neither … nor…

Ex. Both of us have one brother/We both have one brother/ Both Peter and me have one brother

Neither of us can speak Norwegian/ Neither Peter nor me can speak Norwegian

Example Handout Student A

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