To do list for self-isolating TEFLers

If my blog stats are anything to go by, I’m not the only TEFLer to have lost teaching hours due to coronavirus scares, and it’s sure to get worse before it gets better, including more self-isolating teachers. In some ways TEFLers might be better suited to self-isolating than non-TEFLers, having got used to being far away from friends and family and communicating with them electronically, and perhaps already having stockpiled favourite foods from home or learned to do without.

However, TEFLers might suffer more in other ways when forced to self-isolate. Financially it’s going to be a complete disaster for many of us, given how precarious TEFL was even when times were good. Teachers generally are also probably especially at risk from mental and/ or physical collapse, given the removal of many hours of face to face human contact and an all-consuming job, suddenly changing to the complete opposite of having no one or the same few faces to communicate with, and many hours and much mental space suddenly free – the perfect conditions for all kinds of bugs to hit.

Luckily, another good thing about TEFL is how many suitable related things you can do given a bit of free time. This is a list of some of those productive ways to spend your empty time, things that should both help your future teaching and keep you stimulated through any idle hours, most of which I’ve started doing or have on my to-do list myself.

  • Catch up on all the other useful things that teaching rarely leaves you time for (contacting friends and family, doing exercise, watching the kinds of movies that need time and mental space to appreciate, etc)
  • Do online TEFL training (with a reputable provider like NILE)
  • Go through whole books of TEFL materials and save the best pages
  • Organise your TEFL materials (on your hard disk or in physical folders, by grammar point, function, topic, skill, exam, etc), getting rid of stuff, polishing things up (e.g. writing your own versions of worksheets that were okay but not quite suitable) and/ or sharing stuff as you do so
  • Find useful online materials and teaching tips and organise and/ or share them (putting them in your browser favourites, on Pinterest, in a YouTube playlist, etc)
  • Share your materials (on a blog, via a teaching materials sharing site, etc)
  • Trim down your TEFL-related stuff (edit down the social media that you follow, cut down on the Facebook groups that you belong to, make a pile of TEFL books that you’ll never use, stop paying for Onestopenglish, etc)
  • Trim down non-TEFL stuff to leave you with more time and focus for teaching when it restarts (unsubscribe from social media, delete apps, etc)
  • Read TEFL articles
  • Write TEFL articles
  • Review TEFL books and other materials (if only on Amazon)
  • Do online teaching
  • Polish up your CV
  • Polish up your LinkedIn page
  • Make worksheets based on your favourite songs, movies, TV programmes etc (something that should be enjoyable even if you can’t use those materials in the near future)
  • Fill in applications for future face to face training (such as the Cambridge Delta)
  • Fill in job applications for the next academic year
  • Find more TEFLers to follow on social media/ Join TEFL groups (blogs, Twitter, etc)
  • Get ahead with your paperwork (get started on your reports, write syllabi for upcoming classes, etc)
  • Prepare some teacher training materials
  • Write out a career plan

Any more ideas/ things you are already doing?

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Good time to teach teleconferencing/ video conferencing?

Amongst an understandable dive in my blog stats, perhaps the only one page which has increased in popularity compared to this time last year is one which has just made me realise that I should be teaching it to my students right now:

Teleconferences and video conferences games/ worksheets 

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New TEFL articles in 2020 Q1

If you, like me, have a bit more time for coronavirus reasons, it’s a good opportunity to read more and longer TEFL articles. A list of just that below. I’ve deliberately included some points which are tricky and impossible to avoid so are hopefully worth reading even if you aren’t tackling them soon. More suggestions for useful things to do with any extra free time coming up in the next blog post.

How to teach the imperative

How to teach subject questions

Unreal Past games

How to teach Social English

How to teach indirect questions

Many more articles by topic here and by where they were published here, and the best of last year here.

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Discussing your week(end) to practise particular language (TEFLtastic Classics 42)

This is a combination of two recent posts, being a particular kind of small talk to practise different kinds of language, and also a classic but difficult to find page

Discussing your week and weekend to practise grammar

Discussing your week and weekend to practise tenses

Weekends Past Perfect and Past Continuous

Next weekend and future tenses

Weekends questions tense review

Weekends past, present or future

Your weekend and life Predictions and probabilities

Questions about weekends auxiliary verbs practice

Discussing your week and weekend to practise other grammar points

Countable and uncountable Compare your weeks

Comparatives and superlatives weekends

Next weekend articles practice

Your week prepositions


Discussing your week and weekend to practise functional language

Comparing and contrasting your weeks

Weekend vocabulary and language of complaints

Weekends vocabulary advantages and disadvantages

Your week negotiations

Your weekend and life Predictions and probabilities


Discussing your week and weekend to practise vocabulary

Word formation compare your weeks

Adjectives to describe last week

Objects that you used last weekend

Your week and life trends practice


All this and more on students’ favourite topic on the talking about your week and weekend page here, and 41 more classic games and activities here.

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Small talk for specific language points (TEFLtastic Classics Part 41)

There is perhaps no smoother introduction to and no more realistic way of practising language than a set of especially chosen small talk questions. These could be questions including the grammar etc that you want to practise, e.g. small talk questions just in present tenses, in which case you could see how much of that language students can remember after they have used them to chat with their partner(s). Or they could be questions which you chose as likely to prompt use of the vocabulary etc that you have introduced or will introduce, e.g. “Have you seen any good… recently?” etc to link to arts and media vocabulary, or lots of different “How…?” questions to practise conversational reactions like “That’s a shame” and “I envy you”.

Photocopiable examples of all of this below. Some worksheets are given in more than one section if they serve more than one of those purposes.


Small talk for grammar practice

Small talk for tenses

Small talk for present tenses

Small talk with how often – NEW

Present Continuous small talk

Small talk with present tenses to start meetings (with useful phrases for ending the small talk and getting down to business)

Business English small talk questions with be and do (and updated version in this e-book)


Small talk for past tenses

Past Simple small talk questions

Present Perfect Simple and Continuous small talk

Business English small talk questions with Present Perfect and Past Simple (and updated version in this e-book)


Small talk for reviewing tenses

Small talk tense review – in this e-book

How questions tense review


Small talk for question formation

Wh questions for making small talk

Business English small talk questions with be and do

Direct, indirect and taboo small talk questions


Small talk for other grammar points

Small talk with how often – NEW


Small talk for vocabulary practice

Small talk on the news

How questions about work and leisure – NEW

Small talk questions about work and leisure – NEW


Small talk for functional language

Being sympathetic and unsympathetic

Conversational reactions page

Small talk with present tenses to start meetings (with useful phrases for ending the small talk and getting down to business)


More small talk PDFs and an article on the topic, plus other related links here:

Small talk page

Many other adaptable games here:

TEFLtastic Classics Parts One to 40

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Functions card games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 40)

As usual with this series of posts on the most adaptable activities in TEFL, this game is simplicity itself but surprisingly effective. If you like anything here and want more, please support TEFLtastic.

Updated 17 February 2020


Groups of two or three students deal out cards with each have the name of a function related to the thing they are studying. For example, if the topic is turn taking, then the cards could say “interrupt (politely)”, “end your turn”, “ask the other person to speak”, “active listening (not interrupting)”, etc. During a speaking activity such as a roleplay, students can discard the cards if they do that thing at the right point, with the right language, and with something different to what has been said before. Their partner can make them take the card back if their timing is wrong (e.g. interrupting when the other person has already stopped speaking), say something that doesn’t have the function on the card, or repeat something that has already been said (e.g. using “Can I interrupt?” for the second time, although small changes like “May I interrupt?” are fine). If they both/ all still have cards left at the end of the conversation, they continue with the remaining ones with another conversation. The person who discards all their cards first or has discarded most cards when the teacher stops the game wins.



A variation with less cutting up is to just give them a photocopied un-cut-up worksheet and ask them to use different coloured pens to tick the functions off as they do them, something that works with all the photocopiable versions below. It’s always more fun with actual cards though. And it’s just occurred to me that for even more fun and intensive practice you could get them to give the cards to their partner as they do the things on the cards instead of just discarding them, something that should also make them less shy about challenging their partner’s bad use of the cards.


When and how to use it

This game works best after students brainstorm language for each function, something I usually do Use Recall Analyse style after a different activity. If you have enough time, the best progression of all is to give them key words to help with the brainstorming, do Key Words Games with those words, and then do basically the same thing with just the names of the categories that they brainstormed (i.e. with the functions card game).

This game can be used with anything that can be split into between two and eight functions, with five or six usually the best number. Possibilities include:

Turn taking and/ or active listening

Telephoning (as described in this article)

Checking/ Clarifying (“ask for repetition”, “check spelling”, “check back”, “rephrase”, etc)

Emailing (if they roleplay email exchanges by saying what they would write)

Speaking exams (with cards saying “idiom”, “reason”, “thinking aloud/ filling silence”, etc)

Giving and supporting opinions (“strong opinion”, “personal experience”, “data”, “generalising”, etc)

Restaurant language (“recommend”, “explain”, “polite negative response”, etc)

Shopping language (as described in this article)

Presentation Q&A sessions (coming in a future e-book)

Meetings and negotiations (ditto)

Reviews of all the functions you’ve studied so far


Photocopiable versions

IELTS Speaking Part Three functions card game – NEW

Turn taking functions card game

FCE Speaking Part One functions card game

FCE Speaking Part Three functions card game

Checking/ clarifying functions card game

Sharing personal experiences functions card game

Intermediate functional language revision functions card game

Meeting people/ Starting and ending conversations functions card game – in this e-book

Recommendations and invitations functions card game – in this e-book

Small talk functions card game – in this e-book

Socialising functions card games – in this e-book

First contact functions card game – COMING SOON

Ending conversations functions card game – COMING SOONISH


Other photocopiable worksheets including this game

Speaker or listener simplest responses game (with turn taking and active listening functions)

Guests and hosts in restaurants review (including functions card game)

Supporting your arguments card games – COMING SOONISH

Functional language in Aptis Speaking Part One games


If that ain’t enough for you, it’s worth checking out my newly polished up collection of TEFLtastic Classic blog posts and photocopiables, all of which are here.

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Difficult to find TEFLtastic pages

When linking to the new indirect questions page in my last post, I suddenly realised how difficult it would be to find if I hadn’t mentioned it, what with being a sub-page of question formation, which for some reason I put in the grammar section. And here are many other TEFLtastic pages that I put in less than obvious places, along with where they are:

Likes and dislikes (for some reason in the functional language section)

Adjectives (in grammar, even though some are just using basic adjectives like “small” and so are more like vocab)

Adverbs (ditto)

Short answers (a sub-page of auxiliary verbs, for understandable but less than obvious reasons)

Purpose, cause and effect (in functional language, and not a sub-page of supporting your arguments, as you might expect)

Sharing personal experiences (ditto)

Meeting and greeting (in the functional language section, not social English where it probably should have been put)

Complaints and dealing with complaints (in the business functional language section)

Enquiries and dealing with enquiries (ditto)

Body language and gestures (in the cultural training section)

Festivals and celebrations (ditto)

Supernatural and superstitions (ditto)

Taboo topics (ditto)

Formal and informal page (it’s own page, not in functions as you might expect)

Directions page (in functions)

Storytelling page (in speaking, though there is a writing stories page in the writing section)

Days of the week (in time expressions)

History (in topics, a weird page which I created for stuff which isn’t quite vocabulary, but might scrap)

Social issues page (ditto)

Classroom language (in vocabulary, even though it’s half functional language)

Proverbs (in vocabulary, but not in idioms where maybe it should be)

Phonics (in young learners)

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New indirect questions PDFs and teaching tips

Recently added a new page with a new article and photocopiables on embedded questions like “Could I ask if…?”, “Do you happen to know…?” and “I was wondering…, including some stuff on the differences in meaning and use between different indirect questions stems, something I hadn’t noticed myself until I was halfway through writing the article:

Indirect questions games/ worksheets page


Posted in Photocopiable worksheets, Question formation | 2 Comments

The most TEFLtastic photocopiables of 2019

To go with my list of the best articles in 2019, here is a careful selection of last year’s prime crop of PDFs, in approximate order of how likely I am to use them again soon. If you really like this (or get so far down that you get past the good stuff), a similar list for 2018 is here.

Giving directions free and controlled speaking

Business communication prepositions and determiners pairwork speaking game

Business communication pairwork correction game

Social issues discuss and agree determiners practice

Direct, indirect and taboo Xmas questions

Countable and uncountable nouns in IELTS speaking and writing

Phrasal verbs storytelling game

Personality words bluffing game

Positive and negative business vocabulary storytelling game

Word formation list dictation game

Xmas vocabulary speculating games

Opinions on current affairs and media

Describing music things in common game

Good and bad body language roleplay game

Recommendations with movie vocabulary

Xmas going to games

Make your own conditionals discussion questions

Job applications line by line brainstorming

Present continuous small talk

Present Continuous plasticine shapes

Reporting verbs sentence completion games

Adverbs in CAE and CPE Use of English Part One

Adverbs in CPE Use of English Part Three game

First letter phonics miming game

Meeting people and indirect clarifying questions

Describing your company and job longer speaking games

Clothes and appearance recommendations

Reported speech discussion questions

Positive and negative language for reviews

Singular, plural and uncountable in IELTS Listening

Jobs drawing game

Phrasal verbs dice game

Likes and dislikes and countable/ uncountable practice

Present and past ability sentence completion games

Like and don’t like things in common sentence completion

Feelings drawing games

CPE Reported Speech key word sentence transformations

Gradable and extreme adjectives speaking card games

Please plus verb for offers and commands in emails

Present Continuous and like with -ing Xmas questions

Generalising about Xmas and the New Year

Abilities of animals can/ can’t games

Prefixes with opposite meanings jigsaw games

Quoting sources good and bad connotations

Small talk on the news

Travel English imperatives and requests practice

Likes and dislikes guessing game

The future in IELTS writing

Needs analysis and brainstorming

Needs analysis and Aptis Speaking Part One practice

Expanding Aptis Speaking Part One answers activities

Future forms in IELTS Speaking and Writing

Gradable and extreme adjectives practice discussion questions

Should have for past regrets and advice speaking

Possessives, body and adjectives pick and draw

Present Simple questions with be speaking

House and home likes and recommendations

Countable and uncountable pick & draw

Past, present and future in IELTS Writing Part One

Adverbs of frequency and times dice bluff

Travel plans bluffing game

Aptis Speaking Part One functional language games

Comparing places comparatives random pelmanism card game

Weather adverbs of frequency practice

Feelings and nouns pick and draw game

CPE Speaking Part Three on the future

CPE Speaking Part One on the future

Requests and future forms review

Describing people and things bluff

Like and be like Xmas questions

It is They are and adjectives Xmas pick and draw

Xmas vocabulary categories

Recommendations and embedded questions

News and media countable and uncountable

Experiences in your job extended speaking

Negotiating insurance roleplays

Insurance trends speaking

Communication trends and practice

Aptis Speaking Part Three longer phrases

Positive and negative education vocabulary

An Escape from Poverty TED talk numbers practice worksheet

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The most TEFLtastic articles of 2019

Happy New Year!

Last year was a super-motivating year for one, due to a rebound in blog stats and a huge jump in sales of my e-books, so many thanks to my generous (and hopefully happy) readers/ customers! That meant I was driven to polish up every TEFLtastic index page and add loads of new useful links, and I hope it is also obvious in my articles and worksheets. You can judge for yourselves, as here are all last year’s articles, in approximate order of how original, interesting and/ or useful I felt I managed to make them:

52 TPR grammar games

32 bad IELTS tips

Using body language and gestures to teach grammar

How to teach small talk

The 100 best small talk questions

The top six grammar points for IELTS

Teaching pronunciation through body language and gestures

How to teach international body language and gestures

How to teach advice, recommendations and suggestions

How to teach making and responding to invitations

How to teach restaurant language

How to teach positive and negative connotations

How to teach British and American English

How to teach small talk questions with how

The 100 most useful social English phrases

The 100 most useful socialising phrases

How to use body language and gestures in EFL classes

A guide to rude, offensive, insulting and taboo gestures for EFL learners

How to teach British and American vocabulary

CPE Use of English Part Three tips

CPE Use of English Part One tips

Aptis Speaking Part One preparation tips

Aptis Speaking Part Two preparation tips

How to teach British and American times, dates and numbers

If you’ve got all the way down here, you might also be wanting to look at the similar list of the best articles of 2018 and/ or 2019’s blog posts on classic TEFL activities. A similar list of the best worksheets of the year coming soon(ish).

May we all have a TEFLtastic 2020 too!

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