Tag Archives: onlinetools

Top Website to Help you with Writing

I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.

Has it ever happened to you?

I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.

For example, let’s take this simple sentence

Global warming is produced by…

Does it sound Ok to you?

For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right.  But is it a natural collocation in English?

Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?

When I am in doubt, I  have a bunch of useful websites I use, but my favourite for this kind of problem is Netspeak. Please check my post Six amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger to read about this “bunch”  I was referring to.

So, when I am not sure if “xxxx ” is correct, this is what I do.

What else can you do on Netspeak?Among other things:

  1. If you have forgotten a specific word, type ?   Ex:  ? for granted
  2. If you need to find many words, type   Ex …granted
  3. If you are not sure about two words or want to compare them [] Ex It sounds [good well.

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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.

Making Vocabulary Stick: a Fun Game to Make New Terms Stick

It is said that you need to use a new word at least ten times to be able to remember it. I don’t know what to say about it.

I should probably not be saying this, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t let it pass.  For some students, using the word once or twice is enough and for some others, you can work on it and repeat it until the cows come home and still, no luck. If you are a teacher, I know you understand what I mean. Fortunately, this is not true for most of my students  🙂 🙂


This is a simple activity you can do to encourage the use of newly-acquired vocabulary and to help students remember it.

I’m afraid if you don’t have a computer and OHP in your classroom, this activity would probably be useless to you. So, I won’t blame you if you stop reading right now.

  • Topic: Travelling and holidays. (You can easily use any other topic).
  • Level: Upper -intermediate (I would say this activity will work well with B1 students and upwards)
  • Time: about 30 minutes


  1. Activating previous vocabulary. I introduced the topic by asking students to discuss in pairs some uncomplicated questions, such as:

      What kind of holidays do you prefer?  Do you prefer package holidays or making your own?

       2.Introducing new vocabulary.  Nothing fancy here. I introduced and worked on new vocabulary using a variety of activities, but most from their textbook.

Boring part over.


  1. Brainstorming. I asked students to close their books and, in pairs, brainstorm words and expressions related to the topic. I completely forbade “easy” words such as plane, ticket or suitcase. Reserve some “Awesomes and well-dones” for the advanced vocabulary they are likely to provide.
  2. Using a word cloud. In my computer, I opened the free word cloud generator https://wordart.com/ . I like this tool for two reasons:
  • it allows you to maintain words together very easily.
  • It very nicely highlights the words you want to work with.

I asked a student to help me with the typing of the words. So while I was writing on the board the words students volunteered, he was typing these same words in the wordart app.

  1. Magic. When all the words were written and after drilling pronunciation and meaning, I cleaned the board, turned on the overhead projector and magically displayed the word cloud containing all words they had provided.

(click on the image)

Steps 1, 2 and 3 took about 5 minutes.

  1. Teams. I divided the class into two teams and asked a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud was displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table (or two) in front of the students and on the table(s) place two reception bells. I got mine from the Chinese Bazaar shops. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!


Team A starts. I point to a word (very nicely highlighted in this app) and team A has to describe the word to their captain using synonyms or paraphrasing. The only problem is that both Captains can press the bell if they know the word. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible.

Award one point for each correct guess.

Some more rules:

  • If the two captains press the bell and answer at the same time, the point is awarded to the captain whose team is playing.
  • If the two captains answer at the same time, but one of them has not pressed the bell, the point is awarded to the other team.
  • If a captain gives the wrong answer, he cannot answer again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing. In this case, the other team can try to explain the word to their captain.

Have fun while teaching and your students will learn better!!!


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.


A Simple Activity to Get Started after the Christmas Break

Back to normal after the Christmas break and looking for ideas to get students  back into the mood, my faithful companion The Wheel of Fortune is again unfailingly helping me to provide, with almost no effort, an engaging activity to get started: grammar and vocabulary will probably follow, but let’s start off on the right foot.

So, I have in mind a warm-up activity that gets students out of their seats (have they even had time to sit down?) while animatedly sharing their experiences during their Christmas break.

How to go about it:

  1. I filled the wheel with some questions from the Internet TESL Journal
  2. After the mandatory welcome-back salutation, I asked my students to stand up (initial sceptical look assured, so please, don’t be discouraged and insist with your sweetest voice)and occupy the space in the middle of the class or any other free space available in your classroom. Ask them to choose a partner.
  3. Spin the wheel and ask them to talk about the randomly chosen question with their partner. Allow them 2 or 3 minutes to discuss the question. Use a  classroom timer to add more fun and excitement.
  4. Ask them to change partners and spin the wheel again.

Note: this is a warm-up activity, so I’ll keep it going for just about 15 minutes.

Now, that they are right where I want them, let’s begin this new term.

Photo: Greg Lonbinsk


Are you a visual teacher? An amazing free resource based on pictures

As of yesterday, I’m almost (not yet though!) done with correcting essays for the year.  I cannot even tell you how happy this makes me. I’ve spent the whole long weekend trying to squeeze in time to correct students’ compositions.

I cooked, I corrected; I washed my hair, I corrected; I watched TV, I corrected.

Now, I am almost finished. And I’m celebrating by writing this post to share with you a website that I love.

What is there in a picture? I don’t know. What I know is how differently my students react and perform when the task has been introduced with a picture.

Imagine this, you need to do a reading text about Alcatraz, the infamous prison.

Option 1. Ok, now, open your books at page 7. We are going to do a reading about Alcatraz.

Option2.  Display a picture of Alcapone’s cell in Alcatraz. Don’ t tell them anything about the picture just yet. Ask the sort of questions that might arise interest to finally disclose that it is the picture of a cell where Alcapone lived in Alcatraz.

I won’t insult your intelligence by asking which option you think will arise interest in the reading test, but the truth is that it takes nothing to introduce the reading with a picture of the prison and it makes a world of difference.


I am a very visual teacher and  love working with images to enhance learning. In my humble opinion, images should play an important role in the language classes as they help students retain information and make learning more memorable and effective.

The site I’m sharing with you, Pobble365, is certainly worth a visit if you keen on using pictures in your classes. Pobble365 offers you engaging lessons based on images.

The site offers one interesting picture a day and different activities related to the picture. These activities include:

  1. A story starter: the perfect prompt if you want to do some creative writing with your students.
  2. A sentence challenge: it challenges you to write or say a complex sentence based on the picture. Perfect to improve your grammar skills while rising to the challenge.
  3. Question time: you are offered some questions to help you describe the picture. Excellent to boost your speaking skills.
  4. Sick sentences: in this part, you are offered the opportunity to improve some sentences, which are grammatically correct, but are too simple.

Some extra features:

  • It’s free and you don’ have to register unless you want to.
  • You can download the pdf for the lesson
  • You can also see other pictures with their corresponding resources by clicking on Pick a Day at the top right-hand corner.
  • You can search images with Pobble to find relevant images or videos to the topic you want to discuss. For example, say you want to find images or videos about the weather; you just type the word in the search box and see what Pobble has to offer.
  • Here you can read about  9 ways to use Pobble 365 with your students.

I hope you enjoy using Pobble.

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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.

Fun and Simple: Adjective Order

If you have following me for a while, then you know how much I love stepping aside from the course book and surprising students with activities that might add a spark to my classes.

Things like flip cards or wheels of fortune are constant guests in my classes. But for this activity, I have decided to invite an old friend I haven’t used for some time. Don’t ask me why. I still love him very much. Word clouds have a lot of potential when teaching languages and they are very easy to use. For this activity, I have used wordart.com.

Aim: to practise the order of adjectives before a noun (attributive position) in a writing competition.

Time: 5 minutes

Level: B2 students

Time: 10 minutes

Preparation: Go to wordart.com or any other word cloud generators and just type the words you want to see in the cloud. In my case, I typed five or six nouns and five adjectives relating to opinion, size, age, temperature, shape, colour, material and origin.

How to go about it:

1.  Revise. You might want to revise the order of adjectives before the noun before doing the activity.

Although not all grammarians agree on the order of the adjectives and the rules for adjective order are quite complicated, it is necessary to give them some kind of order they can stick to. I always use this sentence to help them remember.


Important points:

  1. Don’t overuse adjectives. While having two adjectives before a noun sounds natural, more than three would have the opposite effect.
  2. Purpose adjectives go just before the noun: riding boots (boots for riding), sleeping bags (bags for sleeping).
  3. Numbers go before adjectives: three huge houses.

2. Competition

  • Ask students to form pairs and either display the word cloud on the board or photocopy it.
  • Underline the nouns in the word cloud
  • Tell students they have two minutes to come up with the longest description for the any of the nouns in the word cloud.
  • The winners are the students who have managed to write the most adjectives before the noun.


  • The adjectives before the noun must be placed in the correct order. Have the class check it while the students read their sentence.
  • It has to have sense, ie “a narrow boy” would be incorrect.

Have fun!

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