Back to Basics: Conditional Sentences with Two Decks of Cards

Imagine being asked this question: If you were abducted by aliens, would you tell anybody? or this one, If you could switch lives with someone for a week, living their experiences and routines, who would it be and why?   Imagine being prompted to use an alternative to IF in your answer like, for example, as long as or provided.

Fun, challenging and …. grammar-oriented

When preparing a lesson, I normally try to design activities that help students reinforce what we have been working with; more often than not, they have a communicative approach, as I firmly believe in giving students ample opportunity to put into practice what they’ve been studying.

And if there is one thing that clearly defines the way I teach is how I try to keep a balance between traditional teaching and the latest technology. These last weeks were all about AI; and today, we are going for traditional. The very traditional cards.

  1. Questions. One deck of cards featuring engaging and entertaining conversation questions, each formulated as a conditional sentence. These questions include prompts like:
  •  If you were abducted by aliens, would you tell anybody? Why?
  • If you could have a conversation with your younger self, what advice would you give?
  • If you were granted two wishes, what would be your choices?
  • …etc

provided by ChatGPT, if I may say so.

2. Alternatives to IF: one set of cards containing alternatives to IF: provided (that), on condition that, supposing, as long as… etc.

Before the class, prepare a set with both types of cards for each group of 4 students.

Get the PDF here

Condtional Prompts by cristina.cabal

How to go about it
  • Put students into groups of 3–5 students and give them a set of cards with questions and a set of cards with alternatives to If.
  • Instruct students to place the cards face down on the table
  • Ask each student to draw a Question Card and an If-Alternative Card, and allow them some thinking time.
  • Emphasize the importance of elaborating on their answers rather than providing brief responses. In their answers, they will have to try to use the words in the If-Alternative card and speak for about 2 minutes, at the end of which they should pose their question to the members of their group.
  • Rotate turns, repeating the procedure for each student.
  • With my students, we have done two rounds of questions

Creating Language Chatbots to Safely Share with Students

I am AI-addicted. I cannot help it.

Artificial Intelligence- you can choose to embrace it or ignore it, but I assure you it is not going anywhere. It is here to stay, so I choose to love it and use it, to squeeze it and to have fun with it.

I am so into it that if I see something AI-related that seems like it can remotely be useful for my classes, I want to try it straight away. So, I had been experimenting with chatbots for a while but being a simple English teacher, all the platforms I tried were either too difficult, not free or not student friendly. And these things  were essential not only for me, but also for the teachers I train.   So, when I read  about language chatbots in Lana  Kandybovich’s blog ,ELTcation,I told myself “Let’s dive right in”. And I did.

You cannot believe how easy it is. It took me less than 30 minutes to create two chatbots, though I have to say that I had my buddy ChatGPT to lend me a helping hand in crafting the instructions.

I have used a platform called Mizou, which is

  • Free for teachers
  • Safe and Student-friendly as they don’t have to register, and it doesn’t share students’ data. Students can interact with text and audio.
  • Shareable. The chatbot can be shared with everyone, or you can create private  sessions, just for your students, for example it can be set as homework. In this case, their interactions will be graded, If you wish so, and feedback offered. The interactions will never be shared with anyone but the owner of the chatbot.
  • Multipurpose. You can create a chatbot for almost anything you can think of and in ; you just need to write the right instructions and be specific about what you want your chatbot to do. You can even upload a document or your rubric so that the feedback is based on it.
  • Multilingual. It supports 50 languages
  • Customizable. You can personalize its appearance to match your classroom style. You can build your chatbot from scratch or have AI assist you.

  • It might not be perfect, but it certainly works for me.

So, to address one of the main problems my students have, I have created

1.Chatbot Magic: Boost Your Writing Skills,

In this tool, Cabal Scribe, the chat assistant, will help students enhance their writing. It analyses their text and provides feedback on grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and other identified issues. Its goal is to assist students in improving their writing. While it may not be as effective as a teacher, it can certainly be helpful when a teacher is not available. Feel free to click on the link to try it yourself and/or share it with your students.


2. Miss ChatAI: an English Language Practice Partner.

The aim of this chatbot is to interact with students by asking questions and providing answers on any topic they wish to discuss. The chatbot will also offer feedback on grammar and vocabulary mistakes or any other kinds of errors and suggest alternatives when necessary. Students can write sentences, questions, or paragraphs, and the chatbot will provide personalized feedback while continuing the conversation. In its initial interaction with a student, the chatbot will inquire about their English level to tailor its questions and responses appropriately. Once the conversation topic has been established, the chatbot will suggest vocabulary that is both related to the topic and appropriate for the student’s level. Feel free to click on the link to try it yourself and/or share it with your students.

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Creative Collaborative Writing with a Touch of Fun to Fix Fossilized Errors

It might not be your case, but most teachers, including myself, do not dedicate enough time to practise writing in class. And this needs to be fixed because students may simply get better if given the right guidance and enough practice. However, I think it’s crucial that we ask them to reflect on their errors and then, ask them to make the necessary corrections, rather than just correcting them ourselves.

This exercise you are about to read is fun, creative, and collaborative; it gets students out of their seats but most importantly, gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and fix fossilized errors.

On Fossilized Errors

Fossilized errors are persistent mistakes that students make despite repeated correction. You know what I am talking about, don’t you?  While teachers play an important role in identifying and correcting these errors, it is imperative for students to take ownership and  conscientiously analyse and rectify their errors; that’s, in my experience, the most effective way to eliminate them.  If you ask me and generally speaking, when students are given a composition with corrected errors, they just have a quick look at them, but they don’t truly reflect on their mistake and then, inevitably, they are bound to make the same mistake over and over again.

IMPORTANT:For this activity, I have used a classroom that has several small whiteboards on the walls. I am not going to deny that using these whiteboards is more appealing, but what if you don’t have these cute whiteboards? No problem, it will work just the same with A3 or A4 paper (the bigger, the better)

Step by Step


  1. Pair up students.
  2. Display the visual below and explain that the boxes contain different story starters. Ask pairs to choose a box. The sentence inside the box will be the beginning of their story. All pairs must choose a different box, meaning they will all have different beginnings.
  3.  I have asked each pair of students to stand next to a board  (alternatively, as explained, a A3 or A4 sheet of paper ) and write the beginning of their story.
  4. Give students about 5/6 minutes to continue the story in any way they fancy.


After approx 5 minutes, draw students’ attention and ask a volunteer for the whole class to

  • choose a box from the exercise below. Pairs will have to continue the story, incorporating the prompt in the box. Right after opening the box with the prompt,
  • click on the wheel  (fed with connectors of contrast and purpose and some verbs) and ask them to continue the story using the connector/verb randomly picked in the wheel.

Give students 5 or 6 minutes to continue the story.

How many times have I repeated Step 2? 

I have repeated this procedure three times (i.e. three prompts+ three connectors). Make sure you tell them when they need to finish their stories.

Step 3. Giving students Feedback on their Writing 

Give students something to do while you quickly underline the mistakes in their writings. Keywords here: underline their mistakes. I don’t correct them, I underline them. This is vital if you want students to get rid of errors.

Step 4. Students correct their mistakes

Ask students to stand up in their pairs and comment, reflect and try to fix the underlined mistakes.

Important: I ask them not to delete the original text so that I can have it as a reference.

Step 5.  Quickly give feedback on their corrections
Step 6. Students vote for the best story

Student stand up again, read their classmates’ stories, and individually vote for the best. They do it by drawing a heart next to the story they like best.

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Education: Enhancing Collaborative Listening in Class using QRCodes and Group Chat

Just like everyone else on this planet, I’m dealing with a pesky flu. The good news is that I’ve almost managed to defeat it. Now I just need to regain my voice.

These days, in class, all activities revolve around the topic of Education and the problems in our education system. The video shared in this post proves to be an excellent resource for engaging discussions on these issues.

This video is perfect as it hits several birds with one stone. In the video, we’ll find a brief introduction, followed by the presentation of six potential problems in our education system.

Wondering why I say it hits several birds with one stone? On the one hand, students enhance their listening skills and work collaboratively, and on the other hand, we get a starting point to discuss the challenges in our education system. Besides, it doesn’t obviously hurt to introduce beautiful QR codes in class, does it?

Note: before the class, ask students to bring their earbuds and ensure they have a QR Code reader installed in their mobile phones/devices

  1. Play the introduction (0:00-0:32) for the whole class.
  2. Explain that after the introduction, 6 problems related to our education system will follow.
  3. Form groups of up to 6 students and assign each student a problem.
  4. Direct the students’ attention to the walls of the class, where they will find a copy containing the QR readers for each student/problem.
  5. Students scan their assigned QR Code and listen, taking notes and jotting down as much information as possible.


After wrapping up the listening phase, everyone in the group takes a seat. Student 1 takes the lead by sharing what they’ve gathered about their assigned issue. Once their account is complete, they invite group members to contribute with comments regarding the discussed issue. Then, it is Student 2’s turn.

These are the instructions I wrote on the board

  • Clearly state the problem
  • Summarize the information you have heard in the video
  • Ask the group’s opinion. Is it a problem in our current education system?

Note: they talked so much that we didn’t have time to discuss all the issues. I guess this is a good thing!

Materials: here


New Year’s Resolutions Speaking Activity or the Perfect Excuse to Create Adorable Images with AI

First off, Happy New Year! Fresh starts and the time of the year when you start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions.
I always try and think of some New Year’s Resolutions to accomplish but, let’s face it, I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of times I have broken them, and then I think why bother? Do you know anyone who keeps their New Year’s resolutions? Or even remembers them after January 15? I sure don’t.

Anyway, let’s begin this new year with a post on New Year’s resolutions.  To be honest, I just wanted an excuse to create some beautiful images using AI. They are so beautiful and so much fun to create!

In this post, aimed at B1- C2 students, you will find

  • Fun warm-ups including a small challenge playing against ChatGPT.
  • Some structures you might need to revise/learn when discussing New Year’s Resolutions.
  • Speaking practice with beautiful images created by AI.
  • A fun listening exercise with a song.
  • A written assignment created with AI based on one of the images above.
Warm-up (10 minutes)

Icebreaker 1: The video clip.

Start by writing on the board New Year’s Resolutions and ask students if they are familiar with the concept.

Ask students if they have made any New Year’s Resolutions, either this year or in the past. Some might say they have never bothered with resolutions, and that’s when you play this clip by the adorable little Charlotte A Tucker claiming” I don’t have any New Year’s Resolution, you don’t need one when you are perfect”. Share some laughs, and then get back to the original question:Have they ever made any resolutions in the past? If so, did they actually stick to them? What challenges did they face?

Icebreaker 2: ChatGPT Challenge: Have a fun activity! Invite students to jot down their thoughts on the most common New Year’s Resolution. Then, check with ChatGPT for its take. Give a round of applause to students whose responses coincide with ChatGPT’s answer.

Vocabulary building. (5-10 minutes)

1. Go through the list below, commenting on the expressions you can use to express your resolutions. Say the resolution is “to stop smoking”.  Ask students to write down, in their notebooks, two or maybe 3 of these expressions.

Ten expressions to use in speaking and writing
1. I guess I’d better stop smoking
2. I suppose I really ought to stop smoking
3. I really should stop smoking, but then again
4. I am determined to stop smoking
5. Never again will you catch me smoking.
6. No matter what happens, I’m going to stop smoking
7. Come hell or high water, I’ll stop smoking

Speaking: 20 minutes. Popular Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions by cristina.cabal

  • Ask students to work in pairs or groups of three.
  • Tell them you are going to show them some popular New Year’s Resolution. In their groups, they should talk about all or some of the following questions and try to use some of the expressions above, as well.

1. Have you ever considered making a similar resolution for yourself?
2. How might incorporating this resolution into your life positively influence you?
3. Are there any specific steps you would take to implement this resolution?
4. Can you share a personal story related to this type of resolution?

  • Display the first slide with a popular New Year’s Resolution ask them to comment on it, elaborating on the answer.
  • Tell students each slide will be on display for 4 minutes and then a new one will be shown. There are 8 slides containing New Year’s Resolutions. Feel free to use as many or as few of them as you like.

NOTE: the images have been created using AI (have I already told you how much I love creating them? hahaha! I know. I have)

A bit of fun with listening? 

Tell students they are going to listen to a funny song about resolutions. They will listen to it once. This is what they have to do:

1. Predict 5 New Year’s Resolutions they might hear in the song and write them down on a separate piece of paper
2.  Exchange papers with the student beside you.

3. While the song plays, indicate on the exchanged paper which Resolutions correspond to the ones mentioned in the song.

To check the answers, enable the captions on YouTube

Writing Assignment using AI

Writing assignments are a fantastic opportunity for students to hone their creative writing abilities and writing skills, both of which are vital for learning. However, students are essentially cheating themselves if they just use AI to accomplish their homework. One way to prevent cheating is to assign writing prompts that are open-ended and require critical thinking and creativity, but clearly, the most effective way to stop cheating would be to create a culture of academic integrity in the classroom. Easy, as we all have beautiful students!

On the other hand, AI can help us a lot as teachers and reduce our workload.  In this case, I have used Bingchat, uploaded one of my slides and asked to create a writing prompt based on the picture. Have a look!

Here’s one of them

As the clock struck midnight, ringing in the New Year, Alex made a resolution to step out of his comfort zone and travel more. With a world map spread out on the table, he closed his eyes and pointed to a random location - that would be his first destination. The next morning, with bags packed and passport in hand, Alex found himself at the airport for the first time in years. A mix of anxiety and excitement surged through him as he boarded the plane. Little did he know, this journey would not only take him to uncharted territories on the map but also within himself.

Some tips for writing a good narrative are:

  • Use descriptive language to create vivid images in the reader’s mind.
  • Use dialogue to show the character’s personality and interactions with others.
  • Use a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Use transitions to connect the events and show the passage of time.
  • Use varied sentence structures and vocabulary to avoid repetition and monotony.
  • Use feedback and revision to improve your writing.

I hope you enjoy this writing prompt and have fun with your creative writing.

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