New English for lawyers games/ worksheets page

Have combined four specific new worksheets on the topic with some of my old crime and punishment classics to make a new legal English page:

Legal English games/ worksheets

Posted in Business English and ESP | Leave a comment

TOEFL to improve high school English?

The British government has finally learnt its lesson about dealing with ETS after many cock ups including the recent big fraud which means that TOEFL can no longer be used for immigration purposes, but that’s not stopping schools in Japan:

Osaka bets big on TOEFL to boost English levels

Click on the links below for many stories and opinions suggesting dealing with this company and its tests in probably not a good idea.


Posted in ETS, Teaching English in Japan, TOEFL, TOEIC | Leave a comment

Using blocks/ stacking games blocks to practise language

I forgot to say this in the article I just published on the topic, but this is one of my favourite games in one-to-one young learner classes, because I’m often genuinely worse than the students at stacking blocks, plastic cups and plates etc. Playing that kind of game nicely evens things up and allows for some actual competition. It’s also useful for all ages from 3 to 13 or so.

15 ESL stacking games

Two related further variations that I came up with on Saturday:

- Get students to say longer and longer times as they stack the blocks (one second, one minute and one second, three and a half minutes, half an hour, etc)

- Get students to say longer and longer lengths as they stack the blocks (one metre, one metre three centimetres, one metre three centimetres one picometre, three metres, one and half kilometres, etc)

Posted in Teaching young learners, TEFL games | Leave a comment

New times and dates EFL activities page

Article, games, photocopiables, songs and suggestions for stories:

Days, months, dates and times index page

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Leave a comment

Made up statistics in the language classroom

86 percent of statistics mentioned by teachers in the classroom are completely made up…

… but that figure is completely okay. In fact, I’m increasingly moving from saying “Single countable nouns almost always take a determiner” to “Something like 97% of single countable nouns take a determiner”, even encouraging my students to copy those completely made up stats from the board. I can’t think of any similar examples at the moment, but I use this technique approximately once every 1.467 days.

Anyone else got any imaginary but useful stats worth throwing at my students?

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 2 Comments

Does writing about TEFL make you a better teacher?

The answer is obvious, but maybe not the one that you are expecting.

Back when I worked in a certain international chain of schools and so was forced to waste time justifying my professional development, it seemed that all the improvements in my ability to prepare and teach good lessons that I could mention were due to the brainstorming, reading and reflection that I did so I could write.

However, now that I’m not writing about TEFL nearly as much, I seem to be undergoing another leap ahead in the quality of my lessons and most of what I was not doing so well before was due to writing about teaching almost as much as doing it.

Looking back, sometimes it was simply spending time on coming up with ideas and writing that I should have spent on actual lesson planning. More often, though, the brainstorming and writing helped me come up with good ideas that had nothing to do with my actual classes, as if I’d researched and written a Part One essay for a Cambridge Diploma lesson and then went straight into teach the lesson without doing the adapting to your own students that is supposed to be the next stage in the process. Then there was the coming up with and trying out “radical” new ideas when what I should have been doing was polishing up my best ideas for this new set of students…

So the obvious answer to the question is…

“It depends”.

If any present or prospective TEFL bloggers are reading, the good news is that reflective blogging is probably the one kind of writing that is almost certain to have overwhelmingly positive effects on your teaching. The bad news is that other kinds of blogging like the “news” and “humour” that often end up here are just pure time wasting that I should feel just as guilty about as spending the time watching cute cats on YouTube…

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | Leave a comment

ECC may have bought data stolen from owner of Berlitz

According to the newspaper Japan Times, the data on 75,000 high school students that large Japanese language school chain ECC bought might have been among that stolen by someone working at Benesse, owner of the Berlitz and ELS chains, plus the Kaplan schools in Japan.

ECC Linked to Benesse Data Theft

Let the TEFL spy wars begin!

Posted in Berlitz, Eikaiwa | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why my worksheets don’t have numbers

Along with my complete disregard for appearance and even hatred of pointless illustrations, probably the biggest difference between my photocopiable materials and paper-based published ones is how mine almost always use bullet points rather than numbers and letters. Unlike the third big difference which I will mention in my next post, this one is entirely deliberate.

Ever since my TEFL course, it’s always struck me that even a few moments with the students or teacher saying “7 C” and “9B” is completely wasted, and that a page of a notebook that says those kinds of things is a sure sign of something that has been ticked off and dismissed in students’ minds and will never be remembered.

Even if it takes a bit longer, it’s much better for students to say the words that they are matching up, the sentence that they are filling the gap in, etc etc, both when working in pairs and when checking answers as a class. Ditto with the teacher checking answers with exchanges like “Right, and the next one. ‘Am I allowed to dot dot dot’. ‘Is it okay to dot dot dot’. Etc. Which one on the next page does that match up with? That’s right. ‘Do I have your permission to dot dot dot.’ Etc.”

That will inevitably lead to more misunderstandings and the need for things to be repeated, but that means more genuine classroom communication and is therefore a good thing. On top of that, students will say and hear the language more and so hopefully remember is better, and depending on your policy on drilling this might be their only chance to hear the teacher saying the things on the worksheet and have their own pronunciation corrected.

Or so says the man who wrote the worksheets anyway, but perhaps I’m not the best person to judge…

Posted in Photocopiable worksheets | 1 Comment

IELTS Academic review lesson plan with classroom materials


One copy of most of the worksheets below per student

Cut up copies of some of the worksheets below, sometimes one per class but usually one set per group.

One dice by group.

At least one of each type of IELTS Academic Writing Part One task (line graph, table, pie chart, bar chart, map and flow chart) per group

One full reading paper per student, preferably with answer key

One full listening paper per student, preferably with answer key and transcript

Lesson plan with link to materials

  1. IELTS dice game and question brainstorming, ending with exam-style practice with exam script on the last page – 25 minutes
  2. Move onto Speaking Part Two exam-style practice with one of the tasks from the worksheets below – 10 minutes
  3. Analyse and write IELTS Speaking Part Two tasks - just the analysing bit, or could write a task about nature to tie in with the stage below  – 15 minutes
  4. OptionalBrainstorming useful phrases for Speaking Part Two - probably better to do as a class on the board to save time – 10 minutes if done like that
  5. IELTS Speaking Part Two on nature – 10 minutes
  6. IELTS Speaking Part Three typical questions and answers (also starting with questions about nature) – 10 to 30 minutes, depending on what stages you do
  7. Finish that stage by running through possible answers to the difficult questions such as “How important…?”, ending with the one about changes, then brainstorm language for different trends by drawing basic lines on the board – 20 minutes
  8. Optional: IELTS nature vocabulary trends – just describing and agreeing/ disagreeing, no time for guessing game – 10 minutes
  9. Plan then describe an Academic Writing Part One line graph task from an exam practice book like this one – 10 minutes
  10. Optional – A selection of language from Trends and comparing/ contrasting and/ or The language of trends the same or different, stressing the comparing and contrasting parts – 25 minutes
  11. Similarities and differences between IELTS Academic Writing Part One tasks – 20 minutes
  12. Different IELTS Academic Writing Part Two tasks, introductions and lesson plans - just the first worksheet – 15 minutes
  13. IELTS Academic Writing Part Two tips and useful phrases – 15- 20 minutes
  14. IELTS Listening tactics discussion and tips/ Brainstorming language for IELTS Listening/ IELTS Listening tips and useful phrases – 20 to 30 minutes
  15. IELTS Reading tactics discussion and tips – 15 minutes
  16. Optional: IELTS Reading Lesson 1 (exam tips and practice of typical question types, with an IELTS Reading about IELTS Reading) – 25 minutes

All adds up to between three hours ten minutes and four and a half hours, probably (hopefully!) quicker in a one-to one class like the one I will be teaching it with tomorrow…

Loads more IELTS material, including a whole page on first lessons, here.

Posted in IELTS | 3 Comments

My computer corrected me in class!

In one of the schools I work for the computers in the classroom make a strange bing-bong noise when the screensaver starts, one which sounds a lot like the sound that a wrong answer gets in a quiz show. It’s usually just annoying, but this week my computer learned perfect comic timing, going “Bing bong” just after I’d given a somewhat controversial answer when checking statements about IELTS Listening. My completely natural reactioj was to turn to the interactive whiteboard and tell the computer “No, honestly, I swear it’s true!”

As I said to my students after we’d all had our little giggle – Welcome to the future of teaching, it’s only a matter of time till it really happens…

Posted in Interactive whiteboard, Technology | Tagged | 2 Comments