Category Archives: General

The World Café: a Powerful Strategy to Enhance Speaking Skills

Ever since experimenting this engaging strategy for boosting speaking skills and collaborative thinking at the XII Congreso Oficial de Escuelas de Idiomas held in Santiago de Compostela, I was determined to incorporate this learning/teaching approach into my classes.  Even knowing that the probabilities of offering a coffee in a school environment to create the right atmosphere were scarce, I was determined to explore this strategy with my students. I am so glad I did it. It was a hit!

But what is the World Café?

The World Café is a way of facilitating group conversation. It is a powerful speaking strategy that encourages everyone to work together, share their ideas and perspectives, ask questions, and collectively come up with new insights and this, in a relaxed environment that helps students get to know each other and build community.  The conversations evolve through several rounds, in which you begin a conversation by asking a question. After talking about it for about 20 minutes or so, people rotate to new rounds of conversation, talking to different people.

In summary, the reason I decided to implement this strategy was…

  • students spend like about 45 minutes talking non-stop.
  • for each round, students are asked to move to a different table and engage in conversation with different students.
  • Students can talk in a relaxed way, share ideas and opinions and build community.
How do I set up a World Café in my class, and how can I make it fit into my lessons?

The World Café is very easy to set up.  To make it work, you just need:

  • Decide on a topic to be discussed. In my case, it was Travelling.
  • Prepare a set of questions, topic-related, for each Round.  I recommend three rounds with 2-3 questions in each round.
  • Although this approach is suitable for all levels and all topics, it is particularly effective with intermediate learners and above. It is recommended to have a minimum of 9/12 students in the classroom, although it works even better with larger groups.
  • Creating the right environment. You need to create an environment that encourages discussion. It is usually modelled after a café, so putting 4 classroom tables together to form a bigger table with 4 or 5 chairs per table would do the trick. Ideally, you would cover the tables in paper tablecloths. If you are going to do three rounds of questions, you will need to set up three tables, which will accommodate 12-15 students (4/5 per table). If you have more students, you will need to set up more tables, but this does not mean you will need a fourth round of questions.
  • Generate the questions. You need to create the questions, specifically crafted for the specific topic you will be discussing. In my case, travelling. You can see my questions here for the three rounds I have prepared.  Each of these 3 cards will be  placed inside 3 corresponding envelopes, each one labelled Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3. Put the envelopes for the 3 Rounds on the tables.

  • Name a host at each table. The process begins with the first of 15- minute rounds of conversation for the 4/5 students seated around the table.  As it is Round 1, they will open the envelope that reads Round 1. At each table, you can name a student who will act as the host, directing the conversation and taking notes of the most important agreements. If you use a paper tablecloth, they can write directly on it.

  • Second Round. At the end of the 15 minutes, people move to a different table, encouraging students to sit with different classmates. You might want the host to remain at the table and direct the second round too, or choose a new host for this Round 2. Now, they open the envelope marked Round 2 and the whole process is repeated.
  • Sharing key ideas from their conversations. Finally, at the end of the three rounds, individuals are asked to share insights from their conversations with the rest of the class. Alternatively, you can ask groups to share their ideas with the class after each Round.

My personal opinion. I think my students loved the activity. I think it helps build a sense of community and offers a relaxing environment to hone their speaking skills.

Negative point: we didn’t have coffee, but we had tea.

Spice Up Your Writing Lessons with the Noun Roulette

Let’s talk about writing today! If you’re searching for a writing activity that is engaging, effective, promotes collaborative work, and takes only about 20 minutes to complete, then look no further! I have a simple yet effective activity that can help you achieve all these goals.

As an educator, I am always looking for new ways to help my students improve their writing skills. That’s why I’m excited to share an activity that I’ve created which has proven to be both effective and engaging for students. In this case, it’s been used in a C1 level class, but it can easily be used with any level.  In this blog post, I’ll be explaining the details of this activity and providing examples of how it has helped my students write more advanced texts. If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to help your students improve their writing, then keep reading!

This activity consists of two parts, with the first part being designed specifically for C1 students, or possibly strong B2 students. If you teach lower levels, you’ll need to create your own slides for Part 1 of the activity, but you can still use Part 2 and 3 in this post.

Part 1: The theory

I have created this brief presentation to target some specific points to help them write more advanced sentences. We have focused on 5 key points, including reduced relative sentences, order of the adjectives and using a noun as a compound adjective.

In the last slide, you will find the Noun Roulette Randomizer. Yay!

Improving writing de cristina.cabal

Part 2:  The Noun Roulette Randomizer 

Time to recycle spare photocopies!  Cut them into strips of paper large enough to write a long sentence on.

  • Ask students to pair up and give each pair 3 or 4 strips of paper.
  • Display the noun roulette and explain that it will randomly select a noun. For example: collection.
  • Click here to see the roulette in action. To create your own, click here and type your own words. Easy-peasy!!

  • In their pairs, they will have about 2 minutes to come up with their best sentence by incorporating some of the points worked with in the first part of this activity. They must include the noun “collection”.
  • In the meantime, I’ve written the word ‘collection’ on a post-it note and posted it on a visible part of our classroom wall.
  • Once they have finished writing their “advanced” sentence, we will put them up on the wall, surrounding the noun. You can use Sellotape or Blue-tack for this.
  • Select a new noun with the roulette and do it all over again. I have done this 3 or 4 times.
What is your role as a teacher?  Yes, you need to be working, too. Once they have placed their sentences on the walls, correct their mistakes.
Part 3:  Voting
Once the sentences have been written and mistakes have been corrected, instruct students to stand up in pairs and read all the sentences surrounding the nouns. They will now need to vote for the sentence they think is the best in terms of showing a more advanced level, regardless of the mistakes they might have made. To mark the sentence they like best, they will just have to put a tick on the strip of paper containing the sentence, as you can see in the picture.
This has two aims:
1. To help students identify their own and their peers’ mistakes, which is a valuable learning experience.
2. By voting on the best sentence, students come to understand their own ability to distinguish between writing that meets the C1 level and writing that falls short.

Mind-Blowing: the Most Realistic AI Text-to-Speech Software, Ever!

This free AI text-to-speech tool is a real game-changer!

Until a few weeks ago, whenever my students asked me about using text-to-speech (TTS) apps to help them improve their pronunciation, I told them, in no uncertain terms, that it was not a good idea.

That was until a few weeks ago. That was before Artificial Intelligence revolutionized our world.  Have you read my previous article about the jaw-dropping Chat GPT? Have you already tried it?

As I said above, that was until a few weeks ago. But  Ohhh ! I have changed my mind! I am not kidding!!! This free AI text-to-speech tool is a real game-changer! And it is really going to help students struggling with pronunciation.  So if you, like me, have always been put off by text-to-speech apps because of their robotic-sounding voices, you’re going to be blown away by this software. It’s hands-down the best I’ve ever used. Full disclosure: I’m not sponsored by this text-to-speech software (although I wish I were – it’s that good!).

Just listen here

 How to get started!
  1.  People at Eleven Labs are so confident about their product, that you can try it before even signing in. Wanna try it? Go to ElevenLabs. To generate speech, copy/paste or type a small text (up to 333 characters), choose a pre-made voice, hit generate and listen. Impressive, isn’t it? You can even download it!
  2. But…. more is coming!!!! It is free, well, Freemium. If you decide to sign up for free, you have a quota of 10,000 characters/month, although you need to know that the maximum number of characters you can generate in a single request on the platform using the free plan is 2,500.
  3. More? Yes! You can also adjust the Settings for Stability and Similarity to make the voice more expressive, varied or clear. I would suggest that you play with the Settings to find the voice you are looking for.

Important:It is still in beta and  each generation, with any adjustment, will lead to quota being deducted from your account.

I have also applied for a free Education account, and I am waiting to hear back from them.

Double the fun: Travelling and Tourism Speaking Board with Two Decks of Cards

One might think that after 31 years teaching, I wouldn’t need to spend time preparing for classes. After accumulating so much content over the years, it would seem logical to just retrieve what I need from my files. However, for some reason, that’s not how it works for me. As a result, I find myself once again in the process of creating content, this time on the subject of travelling.

This post revolves around the topic of Travelling and Tourism and considering what I have written above, I have come up with this brilliant 🙄 idea.   Use a board from Canva and replace specific questions with numbers, making it applicable to any topic. Alongside this, we can create cards that include the relevant questions and reference their corresponding numbers. What do you think?

Hold on, Cristina! Did you read the title of the post? It says “Two decks of cards”. So, we have one deck for questions, but what about the other one? I haven’t forgotten! The other deck contains useful phrases to help students express themselves more effectively. 😆

What do we need?
  • Print the board multiple times. Print as many copies as groups of students. What works best for me is groups of 3 students. Get the PDF here

board game Template de cristina.cabal

  • Cards with the conversation questions. One deck per group. PDF here

travelling conversation cards de cristina.cabal

    • Reusable cards with useful phrases. One deck per group. PDF here.
    Ready to play?

    Create groups of 3–4 students and give each group a board game, the two decks of cards, counters and a die. Students decide who starts the game. Student A throws the die and places his/her counter on the corresponding square, which contains a number. On the deck of cards with the conversation questions, he/she finds the card that matches the number of his/her square, reads it aloud and then takes a card from the Useful Language deck. These cards are placed face down on the table.  The student will need to talk for at least two minutes, trying to use the expression on the card. Then, it is student B’s turn.


  • Original board designed by @mrkucukyilmaz
  • Useful phrases from intercambiodeidiomas

Book Tasting or How to Engage your Students when Choosing a Book

February favourite activity! I know! The month has barely started, but I already know this is going to be my favourite activity.

The truth is I’ve been meaning to write about this activity for a long time, and it has been sitting on my shelves for so long that I cannot give credit to one single person ’cause I don’t really know who first came up with this brilliant idea. Not me. This time, I am just the vessel.

So, this activity revolves around books and the question I am asking you is: Do your students need to write a book review? Do you, or do they, choose the books they have to read? In my case, I have always hated being forced to read books I didn’t like so ever since I turned into a seasoned oldish teacher and could make my own choices, I decided to give students the choice I had never had as a student.  Something as simple as choosing the books you’d like to read. From the school library. Sure.

  • Book the library room. That’s the best place for an activity revolving about books.
  • I carefully selected books and divided them into three categories: Fiction, Short Stories, and Classics. I chose a varied and attractive collection from each category.
  • I bought a pack of red and white chekered plastic tablecloths. I bought them here. (Note: it is not sponsored 🙂
  • I also brought some silver paper trays I had at home to place the books. Remember, this activity is called Book Tasting, so you want all the props.
  • In Canva, I designed:

– a place mat (I photocopied it in red to match the tablecloth). Download Here 


-a menu  (brochure) with all the instructions and space to write their options from each table. Download Here


How to go about it
  • Arrange the tables as seen in the picture above. Place the tray with the books in the middle ( to be honest, you don’t need a tray but it adds a little touch)
  • There are X tables with books from different genres. In my case, as explained above, I had 3 tables with fiction, short stories and classics.
  • Ask students to form groups and choose a table to start.
  • Ask them to choose one of the books on your table. ( there should a number of them)
  • Tell them they have 10 minutes to read the blurb, or synopsis, normally found at the back of a book’s cover. They should also read a page and assess the readability of the vocabulary used.
  • Ask them to present the book they have chosen to their group and explain why they think it would be a good or a bad choice.
  • After listening to all the presentations in their group, they have to  choose the book(s) they’d like to read from this table and write their option(s) in the space provided.
  • Ask them to move to another table and repeat procedure.
  • Tell them to list their top three book choices in order of preference after having visited all the tables.
  • It is now time to take the book they have selected. Ask them to start with their first choice, and if it is unavailable, move on to their second option.


Follow up: if you are feeling up to it and know how to work with Flip, set up a Topic asking students to record their reviews of the books they have chosen. Download the QR Code generated by Flip and attach it to the back of the book.  Now it’s time to move on to another round of reading. Encourage students to choose another book and listen to recommendations from their classmates.