57 Xmas and New Year links for TEFL teachers

Just put up a new worksheet with games linking Xmas to going to for future plans and predictions, adding to a surprising number of seasonal grammar activities. Also Xmas vocab, songs, videos, roleplays, discussions, and practice of business skills like negotiating (a particular favourite that I’ll be using again this year), saying numbers, meetings and telephoning. All here:

Xmas and New year games, worksheets, flashcards, videos and songs for EFL classes

Posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training | 2 Comments

New positive and negative connotations PDFs and teaching tips

Not much more to say about this, it’s all in the title and in the article and worksheets, here:


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Meeting criteria games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 39)

Another instalment in my series on posts on the most useful and adaptable TEFL activities, for once for an activity that I (probably) invented. This is one of the board games I wrote about here, but is worth another mention as it is one of best ways of making students listen to each other and pay attention to their own production, and I’ve come up with a card game version that works really well too.

In the original Meeting Criteria Board Game, a student does a speaking task written on the square that they are on, e.g. “Start chatting to someone in the lift”. Their partners decide how many of the criteria in the middle of the board game they meet with their speaking, and therefore how many squares they can move on. For example, if the other students decide that they started smoothly and showed interest (but didn’t end smoothly, etc), they get two points and can move on two squares. Examples:

Meeting people criteria board game

Dealing with foreign guests meeting criteria board game

Different kinds of business communication meeting criteria board game

Negotiating language meeting criteria board game

Small talk meeting criteria board game in this e-book

Social English meeting criteria board game in this e-book

It also works well for (chairing/ taking part in) meetings, travel English, phone calls, emailing, etc, all due in future e-books.

I like this game so much that I often want to use it more than once with a class, so I’ve also come up with a card game version. Create a pack of cards with roleplays/ challenges on each one, possibly just by cutting up or reformatting a Meeting Criteria Board Game above. Also make a different worksheet with the criteria on (“Right level of formality”, etc). Deal out the same number of cards to each student, e.g. five cards each. The first student chooses one of the situations on their cards, e.g. “Email back a customer who complained”, and roleplays it with someone else in the group (just saying what they will write if it is email communication). Their partners give them a number of points by how many criteria they met, then they can take that many cards from the pack, to give them more options next time (and to represent points if they will benefit from more competition). Example:

Small talk meeting criteria card game in this e-book

and, as I said, you can easily cut up the board games above into cards.


38 more highly flexible activities with hundreds of PDF versions here.

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New TEFL stuff autumn 2019

Not a lot of new PDFs and tips, as I’ve been concentrating on polishing up the TEFLtastic index pages, but still hopefully at least one useful thing for almost everyone. Newest of each kind top of each section.

New TEFL articles

How to teach making and responding to invitations

How to teach small talk

How to teach small talk questions with how

CPE Use of English Part Three tips


New lists of useful language for EFL learners

The 100 most useful socialising phrases

The 100 most useful social English phrases

The 100 best small talk questions


New TEFL photocopiables

CPE Reported speech key word sentence transformations – NEW

Reported speech discussion questions – NEW

Quoting sources good and bad connotations

Phrasal verbs dice game

Feelings drawing games

Good and bad body language roleplay game

Aptis Speaking Part Three longer phrases

Positive and negative business vocabulary storytelling game

Opinions on current affairs and media

Describing music things in common game


These also all on the relevant index pages (on invitations, small talk, socialising, social English, Aptis, feelings vocabulary, CPE, reported speech, body language, phrasal verbs, and positive and negative connotations) and in the relevant TEFLtastic classics blog posts (on dice games, longer phrases, drawing games, and things in common).

Posted in Photocopiable worksheets, TEFL games | Leave a comment

The (mildly) autistic TEFL teacher

While adding two new articles and a list of useful phrases to my rapidly expanding small talk for EFL learners page, it suddenly struck me how ironic people who know me would find it that I’m teaching small talk, let alone trying to tell people how to teach it. I’ve always been happier memorising lines of dialogue from obscure TV shows and answering questions in pub quizzes than I’ve been with actual conversations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my physics degree course was full of people who were like or much worse than me. Perhaps more surprisingly, I’ve also found the same to be true of TEFL. I was initially surprised that us social-skills-free teachers seem to do okay in the TEFL classroom, but come to think of it the (mildly) autistic teacher has some distinct advantages:

  • Had to consciously learn the rules of social interactions and so perhaps better at teaching them than someone who just naturally picked them up
  • Loves the clear rules of classroom communication (despite, or perhaps because of, finding interactions outside the classroom more uncomfortable)
  • Can learn grammar rules and the phonemic alphabet as easily as learning Star Trek trivia
  • Can understand our top students, who often share the same characteristics

I’m not sure there are any huge implications to what I’m saying, seeing as such people are probably as happy with the clear rules of engagement in job interviews as they are in the classroom. Maybe this is just another reason not to confuse the ability to chat in the teacher’s room and down the pub with ability in the classroom. In fact, knowing hundreds of Monty Python routines off by heart could be a good sign for someone’s future TEFL career!

Posted in Social English, Speaking, Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 1 Comment

Disappearing text memory games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 38)

This is another activity that I’ve used regularly as long as I can remember and I’ve finally got around to writing about, inspired by its appearance in my new e-book. This is perhaps the best game of all for memorising things which are comparatively fixed like beginnings of phone calls and shopping conversations.

I first started play the Disappearing Text Game without worksheets, and that simple variation can still sometimes work. The teacher puts a short text such as a presentation introduction or a meeting someone for the first time dialogue up on the board. One student reads out the whole thing and then asks for one word to be deleted. The next student reads out the whole thing, including the missing word, then asks for a second word to be deleted. This continues around the class, with another word deleted each time, until nobody can remember the missing words or the whole text has gone. If you want to score, everyone else gets a point if someone guesses wrongly. The teacher should praise any guesses which can go in the gaps, but only accept exactly the words that were originally there.

The good points of the up on the board version of Disappearing Text Game include being able to improvise (somewhat) and the teacher being able to give lots of feedback, but in all but very small groups it can be so long before someone’s next turn that they don’t really concentrate and so are not able to fill enough of the gaps when their turn comes to make the activity worthwhile. I therefore prefer to play the game in small groups. This can be done by making worksheets with the dialogue in a table with one word per gap, and making cards the same size as the boxes in the table to cover the words with one by one. You obviously need to make sure that students can’t see through the covering cards, by using coloured paper, printing “XXXXX” on each card, etc. The students can then play exactly the same Disappearing Text game in groups, with the added advantages that they can look under the cards to check their guesses of the missing words if they need to, and that they can keep the worksheets afterwards for reference.

Here are some worksheet-based Disappearing Text Games that I prepared earlier:

First Certificate Speaking Part Two disappearing text memory game

Shopping dialogues jigsaw text

Meeting people disappearing text game (in this e-book)


Other things which work well with this game and will be in future e-books include:

Telephoning disappearing text memory game (with variations for taking messages, etc)

Ending presentations disappearing text memory game

Starting presentations disappearing text memory game

Starting meetings disappearing text memory game

Ending meetings disappearing text memory game

IELTS Writing introductions disappearing text memory game

IELTS Speaking Part Two disappearing text memory games


The third variation that I’ve used is with the same cards as jigsaw text activities, before or after putting the cards together as a jigsaw. For example, if students have just put a phone conversation with one line on each card into order, they can then turn their choice of cards over one by one, saying the whole conversation each time. However, in this variation it is impossible for students to remember every word perfectly, so you’ll also have to allow other guesses which fit the gaps.

For many other jigsaw activities, many of which are suitable for this activity as well or instead, see:

TEFLtastic classics: Jigsaw games for EFL learners

and for the other 37 most adaptable games in TEFL, see:

TEFLtastic classics parts 1 to 37




Posted in Photocopiable worksheets, TEFL games | Tagged | 1 Comment

New songs and music worksheets pages

Halfway through my big reorganisation of TEFLtastic, found that I had, for some strange reason, combined music and song worksheets on one page. Have therefore split it into two updated and expanded pages, one on music (describing and discussing music, including linking to topics like giving opinions, making recommendations, articles/ determiners and IELTS), and another with my actual song worksheets (for second conditional, collocations, prepositions, tense review, adjectives, word order, narrative tenses, etc).

Music page (new page)

Songs page (repurposed, renamed and expanded)

There are also links to songs for particular language points on many of my pages for specific topics such as Present Continuous and possessives. New list here:

Pages with suggestions for songs for specific language points for EFL learners

Action word songs

Adjectives songs

Animal vocabulary songs

Articles songs

Body vocabulary songs

Can/ Can’t songs

Clothes vocabulary songs

Colour vocabulary songs

Comparative adjectives songs

Comparative and superlative songs

Conditionals songs

Dates songs

Days of the week songs

Determiners songs

ed and ing adjectives songs

Family vocabulary songs

Feelings songs

First conditional songs

Food vocabulary songs

Imperative songs

Likes and dislikes songs

Modals songs

Months songs

Numbers songs

Opposites songs

Ordinal songs

Past continuous songs

Past Simple songs

Past tenses songs

Phonics songs

Plurals songs

Possessive adjectives songs

Possessive S songs

Possessives songs

Prepositions songs

Prepositions of movement songs

Prepositions of position songs

Prepositions of time songs

Present Continuous for future arrangements songs

Present Continuous songs

Present Perfect Continuous songs

Present Perfect songs

Present Simple and Continuous songs

Present Simple songs

Requests songs

Second conditional songs

Shapes songs

Short answers songs

Superlative songs

Telling the time songs

Tense review songs

There is/ There are songs

Third person S songs

Time expressions songs

Toys vocabulary songs

Transport vocabulary songs

Used to songs

Want/ Want to songs

Weather vocabulary songs

Will songs

Yes/ No questions songs

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TEFLtastic index page now easier to use

While using my worksheet pages A to Z list myself, noticed that for some reason I’d rather inconveniently added “See… above/ below” like a book index when I first made it. Now added proper hyperlinks to all those instead, so that for example it now goes

EAP games/ worksheets – See Academic English (EAP) games/ worksheets

This should mean you can now quickly scan down and click to find worksheets on almost anything. Have also changed the name to the hopefully more memorable and so more easily Googleable:

TEFLtastic games/ worksheets pages A to Z

You can also of course just Google the page you’re looking for with “games/ worksheets” and/ or “TEFLtastic”, or use the drop-down menus under the picture above.

Now that is done, I’ve now started polishing up all those (approx. 350!) worksheet pages. See here for how to help me help you.

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Good and bad responses (TEFLtastic Classics Part 37)

The first in a few additions to my occasional series on the most adaptable games/ activities in TEFL, revived due to finding that there are some real TEFL classics that are in my new e-book and I use all the time but had never got round to mentioning.

This activity was inspired by TOEIC (not an expression that you’ll hear very often!), specifically the part of the listening where students try to spot the one correct response to the thing that the first speaker said. The actual exam exercise has some typical TOEIC problems like being more a vocab test than actual listening practice. However, the idea is a great way of moving from learning useful functional language phrases to starting to put them into dialogues, as well as dealing with common mistakes such as “How do you do?” “I’m fine, thank you”.

Possible adaptations include:

  • having as many responses as are useful for each question (rather than always three)
  • doing the whole thing for just one language point (e.g. telephoning)
  • teaching more language by having two or more good responses, and getting students to spot the one bad responses
  • moving onto students testing each other in the same way, seeing if they respond with no help, and then building dialogues starting with one of the phrases

Here are some I prepared earlier:

Good and bad travel English responses

Good and bad negotiating responses

Good and bad telephoning responses

Good and bad responses in restaurants (in this e-book) – NEW

Good and bad small talk responses (in this e-book) – NEW

Also useful:

  • good and bad responses to requests
  • good and bad responses in presentation Q&A sessions
  • good and bad responses in meetings
  • good and bad responses in teleconferences and video conferences
  • arrangements good and bad responses
  • good and bad responses for security guards

All of which I have tried and will be in e-books on the topics sometime soonish. In the meantime, please check out the other TEFLtastic classic posts, well worth a look even if you have before, as I continually update them with links to new photocopiable versions.

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35 reasons to buy Teaching Social English

Reasons why you should shell out a couple of quid on my new e-book

  1. You want to start term with something which is fun and light but also useful outside the classroom
  2. Your students are going to meet you and each other (for the first time or again) in the next class and you want them to do so in a way which matches how they should do so outside the classroom
  3. You will start and/ or end future classes with small talk and want to teach your students how to fully take part
  4. Your students find it easier to write technical reports and give presentations on their speciality than to start and end conversations, chat in the elevator, give advice to foreign visitors, explain local foods, etc
  5. Conversations when students meet each you and each other (for the first time again) are slow, awkward, unlike real-life chats, etc
  6. Your students can’t respond well to your small talk questions
  7. Your students are not good at asking you and each other small talk questions
  8. Your students endlessly re-use “Nice to meet you”, “How are you?” and “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”
  9. Your students’ social skills in their own language don’t transfer well to English
  10. Your students lack social skills even in their own language
  11. Your students blunder into taboo topics
  12. Your students avoid or are shocked by perfectly okay topics
  13. Your students are not good at finishing small talk and conversations smoothly
  14. Your textbook/ syllabus doesn’t link the language well to real life conversations
  15. Your textbook mainly asks students for their opinions/ has heavy discussion questions
  16. You’re going to be teaching business skills and have found that Social English is the most popular topic
  17. You’re going to teach a whole course on Social English and need a whole stack of suitable materials
  18. You’re going to teach a whole course on Social English and need more interactive materials to add more real communication and practice to the materials you are using (from Delta, the Oxford Express series, etc)
  19. You want to add a class or two on Social English to a textbook course, business skills course, etc
  20. You want to tie the language you are studying (present tenses, jobs vocab, past tenses, prepositions, determiners, question formation, auxiliary verbs, tense reviews, TOEIC listening, etc) to more real-life questions
  21. You want an easy introduction for you and/ or your students to some games that can easily be adapted to other language points (board games, card games, coin games, dice games, jigsaw activities, lying games, memory games, TPR activities, etc)
  22. You’ve used some of the TEFLtastic classics and wish there were versions for meeting people, small talk, recommendations, invitations or socialising
  23. You’ve used some of my worksheets and wish there were polished up versions with the typos fixed, easier to cut up cards, etc
  24. You’re feeling grateful for all the free teaching ideas and materials I’ve supplied you with
  25. You’re feeling guilty for all of my teaching ideas and materials that you’ve used for free
  26. You are the third person to have an ideological objection to me providing stuff for no pay
  27. You’re feeling guilty for all the teaching ideas and materials you’ve borrowed off other teachers and want to add something to the teachers’ room that everyone can use
  28. You have realised you don’t need an expensive subscription to Onestopenglish etc and are looking for a lower cost option
  29. You want me to turn down a few cover classes and polish up TEFLtastic instead
  30. You want me to turn down a few cover classes and write some more books in the series (on IELTS, presentations, meetings, negotiations, emailing, telephoning, etc) instead
  31. You want me to concentrate on writing books and not revert to writing stupid lists like this one
  32. You went to one of my conference presentations and want me to concentrate on writing instead of inflicting that on more people
  33. You bought a copy of my last book when it came out and are ready to shell out again
  34. You know you’ll just waste the money and trust me to spend it better
  35. You were the person who borrowed my copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at Koparan Summer Camp in 1996 and are still feeling guilty about never giving it back
Posted in Photocopiable worksheets, Social English | 2 Comments