New stories and poems for specific language points pages

The really observant might have noticed in my list of the best of 2017 that I’ve started writing stories and poems for language points like passive, requests, comparative and opposites. That’s mainly because I wanted to add links to such things on these pages but couldn’t find any good ones and so had to make up my own. This means that, unlike 99% of the other material on this site, I haven’t been able to try them out in my own classes, so feedback very gratefully accepted. And if you or any of your students fancies illustrating them, would be very happy to add a version with your pictures here.

Stories for specific language points – NEW PAGE

Poems for specific language points – NEW PAGE

10 so far, with more coming soon.

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Sentence completion games (TEFLtastic classics part two) redux

Just after previously writing about sentence completion guessing games, I realised that the sentence stems were perfect for a bluffing game in which students completed the sentences with a mix of true and made up info – especially useful if students might not be able to think of too many true ways of completing the sentences.

Then just a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that exactly the same gapped sentences could be used for the less exciting but more classroom dynamicsy activity of finding things in common. Two recent worksheets using all three ideas:

Present and past ability sentence completion games (bluffing, things in common and guessing game) – NEW

Past and present modals of obligation and permission sentence completion games (bluffing, guessing and things in common) – NEW

It’s not in the instructions, but nearly all of the photocopiables below could also be used all these ways, perhaps with a little bit of adaptation:

For grammar


Simple Past sentence completion guessing game

Present Simple/ Adverbs of frequency Sentence completion guessing game

Present Perfect Sentence completion guessing game and extended version

Continuous aspect sentence completion game


Zero conditional sentence completion guessing game

First conditional sentence completion guessing game

Second conditional sentence completion guessing game

Business second conditional sentence completion guessing game

Third conditional sentence completion guessing game

Conditionals review sentence completion guessing game

Colours and conditionals sentence completion guessing game

Other grammar points

ed and ing adjectives sentence completion guessing game

Adjective plus preposition sentence completion guessing game and Cutting Edge version

Adverbs of manner sentence completion guessing game

Verb patterns and prepositions sentence completion guessing game

Verb patterns personalised guessing game (Pre-Int version – with version 2 there the sentence completing version)

Other language points

Country and nationality words sentence completion games (bluffing game and two guessing games)

Free time sentence completion guessing game

Click on the “TEFLtastic classics” tag below for many more eminently adaptable games. If you find any of these useful and you’d like even more games and examples of these, please support TEFLtastic.

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The most TEFLtastic photocopiables of 2017

Of course, it’s not for me to say which of my materials are best, but as no one else is likely to waste an hour or two of their time going through 109 of my worksheets, here they are ranked by how approximately likely I am to use them again in my own classes. All of these plus many more on the same topics are also listed by subject on my classroom materials pages.

Conceding and Counter-Arguing Card Games

Things to do when you interrupt jigsaw and speaking card games

Business English Vocabulary Ask & Tell

If You Ask Nicely – a story teaching polite requests

Academic Discussions Cultural Differences and Useful Phrases

Phonics yes no questions card games

Starting and ending business communications jigsaw texts

Expressions with “get” problems and solutions

Formal and Informal Functional Language Dominoes

Love and Relationships Vocabulary ask and tell speaking coin game

Shopping Language Mimes

Comparative Adjectives Miming Games

Academic Writing Tips with Useful Phrases

HR vocabulary ask and tell coin game and the longer version

Human Resources Vocabulary Problems and Recommendations

Comparing Places Comparatives random pelmanism card game

Short answers noughts and crosses games

Opposites Roleplays

Financial Vocabulary Numbers Pairwork Guessing game

Comparative Adjectives Discuss and Agree

Opposites Miming Games

Do you want black teeth? Questions about Colours Mix and Match

Prefixes with Opposite Meanings Discussion & Presentation

Collocations with “make” & “do” giving advice practice

Reported Speech Bluffing Game

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives Stories

Moving on & Changing Topic in Meetings Jigsaw

British and American English Engineering Vocabulary games (drawing game, miming game, reversi, jigsaw and dominoes)

Countable and Uncountable Language Learning Discussion

Describing Food with the Passive Voice

The best way to learn languages superlative Adjectives Practice

Countable and Uncountable Nouns Roleplays

Describing Technology with the Passive Voice

Phrasal Verbs Opposites Reversi Memory Game

Prepositions of Position Miming Games

Feelings and do you want reverse pelmanism

Invitations Coin Games

Like and Would Like Bluffing Game

Colours, Numbers and Classroom Objects Pick & Draw

Australian Slang ask and tell speaking game

When Everything Was the Wrong Way Round- Opposites Story

Character Opposites Roleplays

Opinions with Gradable and Extreme Adjectives

Negative Prefixes Word Formation Jigsaw

CPE Use of English Part One open cloze practice of Speaking Part One

Colours and Numbers- Word Searching Game

Classroom Prepositions Flashcard games

I don’t get bored: -ing and -ed adjectives story

Xmas and New Year negotiations

Have and Don’t Have Drawing Coin Game

Adjectives Ending in -ed and -ing Poems

Appearance Words Opposites games (drawing games, miming games, reversi, coin game, roleplays)

Like & Don’t Like Things in Common Games

Like & don’t like coin games

Short answers coin games

Do you want? options game

Can & Can’t Coin Games

Do You Want Questions Coin Game

Classroom objects Simon Says TPR dice game

Colours, numbers and phonics pick and draw game

It is/ They are and colours pick and draw game

Colours and Numbers Flashcard Games

Gradable and Extreme Adjectives Jigsaw Games

Adjectives for Describing Objects Opposites Games

Shopping Dialogue Jigsaw Text

Affixes with Opposite Meanings reversi memory game

Shopping Responses jigsaw

Language Learning Likes, Preferences and Desires

Colour Word Search Games

Countries and Nationalities make me say Yes personalised questions games

Feelings opposites ask and tell speaking game

Whose is this? & Whose are these? possessives drawing games

Health and Fitness Vocabulary Ask and Tell Speaking Game

Xmas vocabulary yes no answers game

Arts and crafts vocabulary yes no questions games

Can can’t miming coin game

Short answers coin and card games

Colours and Objects Dice Games

Personality Opposites Miming Games

Comparing Places Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Character Words with Negative Prefixes jigsaw and speaking

Character Words Opposites Card Games

Business English Financial Trends Mini-Presentations

Adjective Opposites- Drawing Game

Gradable and Ungradable Adjectives Pelmanism

ed and ing adjectives drawing games

Word Formation Reversi Memory Game

Adjectives with -ing & -ed Sentence Completion Guessing Game

Gradable and Extreme Adjectives Reversi Games

Xmas and New Year countable and uncountable negotiations

Being Sympathetic and Unsympathetic

Is it dark? Is it light? opposites book worksheet

Comparative Adjectives Reversi Memory Games

Roleplay meetings on Xmas and New Year topcs

To find these (and literally thousands of others) when you actually need them, you can use the drop down menus under the cherry blossom, click on the main index pages and then any sub-categories, or check the A to Z of index pages.

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New TEFLtastic pages in 2017

More general ones I haven’t mentioned before top, and more specialist ones and/ or ones I’ve mentioned before bottom. New articles and worksheets coming for many of them in 2018.

Articles (a, an and the) games, worksheets and songs page

Formal and informal language games/ worksheets page

Short answers games/ worksheets page

UK and US English games, worksheets and articles page

Restaurants language page

Shopping language games/ worksheets page

Academic discussions games/ worksheets page

Future perfect classroom activities page

Social English games/ worksheets page

Auxiliary verbs classroom activities page

1st lessons games, worksheets and teaching tips page

Language of desires games/ worksheets page

English through history games/ worksheets page

English for meetings games/ worksheets page

Making and responding to offers games/ worksheets page

Making and responding to requests games/ worksheets page

Finance games/ worksheets page

HR games/ worksheets page

PC language games/ worksheets page

IELTS map tasks games/ worksheets page

IELTS line graph tasks games/ worksheets page

Cambridge Proficiency writing games/ worksheets page

Cambridge Proficiency Speaking games, worksheets and videos page

Abbreviations games/ worksheets page

Acronyms games/ worksheets page

Comparative games/ worksheets page

Superlative games/ worksheets page

English for Specific Purposes games/ worksheets

Extended speaking


Listening games/ worksheets

Speaking games/ worksheets

Topic-based games/ worksheets

Teaching aspect articles page

Teaching English for specific purposes articles page

Teaching grammar to young learners articles page

Teaching vocabulary to young learners articles page




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TEFLtastic in 2017

A Happy New Year to you all. May all our classes in 2018 be even better than those last year!

I was too busy last year to show off how busy I’d been, so here’s a summary of the whole year.

In 2017, there were:

Nearly 3,000,000 page views (a new record!)

37 new index pages, for new categories of classroom activities

109 new photocopiables and TEFLtastic photocopiables

19 new articles

2 new articles in English Teaching Professional magazine

3 new lists of useful language

One review in ELT Journal

And many new links to relevant songs, stories, online games etc elsewhere.

Individual lists to follow, and plenty more coming up in 2018 (with the exception ELT Journal reviews, unless they can forgive the last one taking me 18 months and seven reminder emails)

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 2 Comments

Three new Xmas worksheets

Some rather last minute or slightly early (depending on how you think about it) Xmas presents from me to you:

Xmas and New Year meetings – NEW

Xmas vocabulary passive voice guessing game – NEW

Xmas vocabulary yes/no questions games (20 questions, make me say yes and you must say yes) – NEW

About 50 more worksheets plus many other teaching ideas here:

Xmas and New Year games, worksheets, flashcards, videos and songs

If you are wondering what to get me in return, may I suggest buying a copy of my e-book – cheaper than a Secret Santa gift and much better quality too!

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New Yes/ No questions classroom activities article and page

Not sure how in ten years and over 200 articles it never occurred to me before, but have finally written a how to article and made a page for it to live on, with 26 photocopiable worksheets on the topic, plus a couple of stories and songs:

How to teach yes/no questions – NEW

Yes/ No questions games, worksheets, stories and songs – NEW

I suddenly realised just after finishing both of those that Xmas vocabulary is perfect for 20 questions and maybe some of the other activities such as Make Me Say Yes, but haven’t had time to make any example worksheets yet. In the meantime, you’ll just have to put up with the 54 Xmas-themed grammar games etc here:

Xmas and New Year games, worksheets, flashcards, videos and songs – NOT NEW!

If you’ve found any of my articles, worksheets, lists or links useful in 2017, please consider supporting TEFLtastic by buying a copy of my e-book.  You can think of it as a present to both me and your student(s), and enough support will mean even more TEFLtastic ideas and materials in 2018.

Posted in Grammar games, Question formation | 1 Comment

Lots of new country and nationality word activities

New article on the topic:

How to teach country and nationality words – NEW

and many of those ideas also available as photocopiable worksheets on my page on the topic, including a few new ones and with more coming soon:

Country and nationality games/ worksheets


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EFL jigsaw games (TEFLtastic Classics Part 31)

Updated 20 March 2018

Another article of mine just published in English Teaching Professional magazine, available here for free and with added links to example worksheets. At least two more EtP articles coming, so please subscribe to TEFLtastic if you don’t want to miss them. The other 30 TEFLtastic classics are here. And if you’d like to help me spend more time helping you with articles and worksheets like these, please see here.

Fitting in Jigsaw Games

Apart from young learners actually doing a jigsaw puzzle, the word “jigsaw” in ELT almost always collocates with “text”. A “jigsaw text” is a text such as a letter or telephone conversation that is cut up into sections for the students to put back together in the right order. There is nothing wrong with good classic jigsaw text activities, so this article begins with many variations on and uses for them. However, there are also a few other useful and fun activities that we could call “jigsaw activities”, some of which have more in common with a traditional jigsaw puzzle.


Jigsaw text activities

Splitting single texts

Asking our students to put cut-up sections of articles, essays, reviews and emails back together is a fun alternative to asking them comprehension questions when it comes to checking their understanding of a text. It is also a nice way to connect with any language analysis afterwards. However, it takes some effort to make sure that the task is suitably challenging but not too difficult. To do this, the teacher has to:

  • make sure that there are the right number of sections for the time available (usually around 7 to 15 pieces);
  • make sure that the text wouldn’t also be correct if the students put it in a different order;
  • make sure that the clues needed to put the sections into order will be understood by the students;
  • have some hints ready to give the students if they find the task difficult or impossible.

With written texts, tasks like this tie in well with classroom discussion of reference expressions (“that”, “it”, “the former”, etc), rephrasing to avoid repeating words, the structure of paragraphs and the structure of texts. Which of those things you most want to introduce will probably be the biggest factor in deciding where you split the text. The most common possibilities are splitting between paragraphs, splitting between (some of the) sentences and splitting halfway through (some of the) sentences.


Splitting multiple texts

It is also possible to do a jigsaw text activity with a collection of linked shorter texts, such as an email exchange or SMS “conversation”, perhaps with each part of the exchange on a separate card. For example, if you use an online debate with 12 contributions, you could give the students 12 cards, with one contribution on each. This is my favourite way of introducing formal and informal emails, using one email exchange such as an email negotiation which gets more and more informal as the exchange goes on. The students try to work out which emails are answers to which other emails in order to put the exchange in order. Then, to help the slower groups and get the faster groups to check what they have done, I tell them that the emails should get more and more informal as the exchange goes on. After checking their answers, they underline the formal and informal email expressions in the texts, and then try to find or think of equivalents with the opposite level of formality.


Splitting spoken texts

Apart from emails, I most often split up spoken texts such as telephone calls and shopping exchanges. If you want to practise particular phrases such as “How may I help you?” you can split the exchanges halfway through (“How may” + “I help you?”). However, I usually simply split the texts between the contributions of the different people involved (e.g. between “How may I help you?” and “I’m looking for a present for my nephew”), so that the students have to work out which are replying to which. There tends to be at least one place in such conversations where more than one response is possible, so I sometimes put two people’s parts together on one card to avoid confusion. However, as long as there is ultimately only one way of putting the whole conversation together, it is sometimes good to leave some ambiguity. This makes the students read the conversation more carefully, as they try to put it together one way and then have to come back to it again when there are cards left which don’t fit.


Mixing two different texts

It is sometimes useful to give the students more than one text mixed up together for them to separate out and then put into order. For example, they could be asked to separate parts of model answers for an article, an essay and a review for the Cambridge Proficiency exam, before putting each one in order. This could lead into a useful discussion of the differences between the three different text types (in the exam and in real life).

It is also possible to combine written texts and spoken ones. For example, in the photocopiable business communication activity below the students separate out mixed-up phrases for starting and ending emails, phone calls and face-to-face conversations, and then put them in order. As the focus is on starting and ending (and the middle is too variable to be useful in a class on typical phrases), the body of the text has been left out and replaced with the single word BODY. This can be done with quite a few jigsaw text tasks, with the advantage that it helps the students focus on the important language. It also saves time, both during preparation and in class.


Other jigsaw activities

Matching language jigsaw activities

Splitting words and phrases

One of the best things about jigsaw texts is how much context they provide for the language that you are presenting or practising. However, that can also sometimes be a disadvantage because a whole text:

  • is time-consuming to write and to use in class;
  • can sometimes be distracting;
  • limits the amount of vocabulary, number of phrases, etc that you can include in one class.

To give more intensive practice and/or cover more language, the jigsaw activities described in this section get the students to match up cards with split words and phrases like “have + breakfast” or “A bird in the hand + is worth two in the bush” without any further context. However, there is little point in doing this if the students need to know all the answers before they start in order to be able to complete the task. In that case, either they are learning nothing new, or you are setting them up for failure. You will therefore need to make sure that there are other clues to make up for the lack of the context that the students would get in tasks involving longer texts. For example, when I get my students to put together opinion phrases like “I can see what you mean, but my own point of view is different”, I make sure that the phrases are split in such a way that any other matches are impossible in terms of grammar, collocations between different individual words and having to match by level of strength of agreement and disagreement. This means that even students who are seeing the phrases for the first time will still be able to do the task. It also means that I have plenty of hints up my sleeve to give them if they get stuck: for instance, telling them to check that they haven’t mixed up strong and weak language in the phrases that they have created (“I strongly believe it could possibly be a good idea” X, etc).

Another possible way to give the students extra context is to put more than one option on each card, at least one of which is likely to help them achieve the task. For example, if your class has a mix of knowledge of British and American English, you can make sure that you always include both when both are possible, eg by putting “fire” on the left card and both “truck” and “engine” on the right card when doing transport vocabulary.

Another way of making sure that there are enough hints to make the task possible without the students knowing everything is to keep more than one cell of the table together when cutting it into cards. For example, if the task is to match up adjectives and prepositions like “good”, “worried” and “sensitive” with the prepositions “at”, “about/by” and “to”, you can cut the table up so that “good” and “worried” are together on a double card and all three prepositions are together on a triple card. It’s a good idea to make cards in a range of different sizes in this way, as this makes the task more like a real jigsaw puzzle: and it helps the students put the whole set of cards back into the nice rectangle shape that it was on the worksheet before it was cut up. For students who would still find the task difficult, you can make even bigger cards containing four, or even five, cells of the table. If you make the cards from a table with more than two columns, you can also cut across columns to make cards of other shapes and sizes. For instance, if you have phrasal verbs in a table with four columns for verb, preposition or adverb, meaning and example sentence (with the phrasal verb blanked out), some of the cards can keep the participle and meaning together.

If the students still get stuck when you do the activity in class, you can give them a couple of key matches, tell them how the cards are arranged (e.g. that the ones on the left are in alphabetical order, or that the completed rows get more and more polite as you go down the finished table), or read the whole thing out aloud with the students trying to memorise what you say before they try matching the cards again.

I first thought up this variation when I was looking for a way of cutting out photocopiable matching activities more quickly. When I came to class I found that I had also accidentally made the activity quicker, more manageable and more fun for my students. In addition, it provided a kind of context that the students could use to complete the task and could learn from, even when they only knew about half of the language. Since then, I’ve been using this partial cutting-out idea more and more, both with ready-made worksheets that were originally meant to be cut up cell by cell and with materials that I have made specifically to exploit this idea.

You can use this sort of jigsaw activity with almost anything that you can get students to match up, including:

  • word formation (prefixes and suffixes, etc);
  • synonyms and/or antonyms (e.g. of character words or feelings vocabulary);
  • gradable and extreme adjectives;
  • countable and uncountable nouns (with similar meanings, or countable examples of uncountable categories);
  • similar words with positive and negative connotations;
  • technical and general English words for the same thing (e.g. medical terms and their colloquial equivalents like feeling sick and nausea);
  • collocations (e.g. with common verbs like get and take, ones with as … as, idioms or proverbs);
  • different varieties of English (e.g. matching British and American engineering terms);
  • formal and informal phrases with the same meaning/function;
  • abbreviations such as acronyms (with the last part of the long version in the right-hand column)
  • words which are pronounced a similar way (e.g. past participles which have the same main, stressed vowel sound or rhyming words)


Substitution table jigsaws

This is another example of a small change to an activity leading to a huge change in my teaching, but this time with much more scissor use.

A few years ago, I was writing the suggested answers to a verb patterns task where the students had to put verbs into a table with columns for verbs before “verb + ing” (e.g. “enjoy + verb + ing”), “to + verb” (e.g. “aim + to + verb”), etc. I suddenly realised that I had accidentally prepared a perfect jigsaw task, and that putting a cut-up version of it into the correct order would definitely be more enjoyable than scribbling in a blank table. Since then, I’ve used this idea with all kinds of things, and more often with functional language such as negotiating phrases before and after “but” (e.g. “I can understand your position, but + I’m afraid I can’t accept”, “I don’t have the flexibility to go that far + but I might be willing to consider …”, etc). After doing the jigsaw task, the students can do the traditional filling in of boxes in a table (which, it must be said, is a better aid to memory than the more fun jigsaw task) and/or use the cards for other tasks, such as trying to use phrases including the words on their cards during a speaking task.

Photocopiable jigsaw game classroom activities

Ordinal numbers jigsaw games– NEW

Shopping responses jigsaw

Shopping dialogues jigsaw texts

Negative prefixes jigsaws (with CPE and academic vocabulary versions and presentation stage)

Starting and ending business communications jigsaw texts (email, telephone and face to face, a polished up version of my worksheet in English Teaching Professional magazine)

Email opening and closing jigsaw puzzle game

Meeting people jigsaw dialogues and useful phrases

Dealing with enquiries jigsaw dialogues

Negotiations jigsaw dialogues and useful phrases

Gradable and extreme adjectives jigsaw games

Negative prefixes with character words jigsaw

Describing objects opposites games (jigsaw, reversi, drawing and miming)

British and American engineering vocabulary games (including miming, drawing, jigsaw, reversi, and dominoes, plus collocations practice)

Colour word jigsaws

And more to come.

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Over 200 articles on

and believe it or not there are still loads of things I haven’t written about and in fact I feel like I’m just getting started. Gives some indication of the number of things an English teacher has to think about over the length of a career. Here are the new and newish ones since my last update post:

How to teach comparative and superlative – NEW

How to teach Latin abbreviations

How to teach abbreviations

How to teach acronyms

The most effective error correction games

How to teach colour vocabulary in ESL classes

Classroom activities for colour vocabulary

How to teach colour word recognition

How to use colouring-in in EFL classes

The best picture books for EFL young learners (and what to do with them)

The bluffer’s guide to level checking

How to teach opposites

Classroom activities for teaching opposites (with many game ideas)

How to teach gradable and extreme adjectives

and the whole lot are here:

All my articles on

TEFL articles by topic (also including my articles in other places)

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