New grammar for IELTS page

New article, new worksheets, old worksheets and places for upcoming worksheets on the most vital grammar points for IELTS on my new page on the topic here:

IELTS grammar page

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New describing objects page

Put up a new worksheet on “How long is it?”, “What does it look like?” etc and then realised there was no page on the topic. So now there is one, with links to related stuff on colours, materials, etc:

Describing objects page – NEW

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Updated guide to Cambridge Proficiency books

I’ve recently been researching the next book for my Cambridge CPE class and found that all the info online is out of date, so thought I’d summarise my findings here.

The only CPE textbooks which are updated for the post-2013 exam and are available new are, in order of personal preference:

Objective Proficiency

textbook with key, textbook without key, workbook with key, workbook without key, and teacher’s book

Proficiency Masterclass

textbook and teacher’s book

There is no physical workbook, but the student’s book comes with online practice.

Proficiency Expert

textbook and workbook

The Proficiency Expert teacher’s book is no longer being sold, but your local Pearson rep will give you PDF copies of that, the answer keys and the transcripts for free if you ask.

And that’s it! Other old CPE textbooks such as Proficiency Gold are no longer being sold, and other exam series from the big publishers such as Compact don’t have CPE level books.

You’ll also need a practice exam book or two. The only three ones for the updated exam are:



Cambridge English: Proficiency Practice Tests with Key by Mark Harrison (OUP)

There are also two full tests available online for free, one as an online test and in the CPE teacher’s handbook, and the other as a downloadable PDF paper-based practice test.

The best other CPE book available is Advanced Language Practice, a grammar and vocabulary book designed for both CAE and CPE (although no longer marketed as such) and which I liked a lot when I used it for homework with my Proficiency classes many many years ago. As the language content of the test hasn’t changed much, it should still be useful.

On a related note, students can now get exactly the same level (C2) from getting an A in CAE as from passing CPE, so another possibility is just to put all your higher-level students in a CAE class, for which many more materials are available. However, you’d have to stop students going straight from passing FCE into a CAE class and put an Advanced-level general English class between the two, as otherwise you’d have a huge range of levels and needs in one class.

Another possibility is to use a very high-level Advanced textbook between CPE textbooks with supplements such as the exam practice books and/ or Advanced Language Practice above, something which I did many years ago and went okay. Headway Advanced is too high-level and too heavy in topics for most standard Advanced classes, so would probably be suitable for this.

I don’t particularly recommend Common Mistakes in Proficiency, which doesn’t actually cover the things that my students find tricky, but it’s worth looking at for teachers.

If you want to supplement or avoid the books above, it might also be worth looking at my own rapidly growing page of CPE materials:

CPE games and worksheets

Posted in Cambridge Proficiency | 7 Comments

Lots of new British and American English resources

Over the last few months I’ve put up articles on teaching UK and US grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, numbers, body language and gestures, dates and times, and functional language, plus carefully collated lists of the important vocabulary differences to teach and a new couple of worksheets. And I’ve just rounded all that off with a summary of the highlights. All available on my now very large page of UK and US English resources here:

British and American English games, worksheets and articles




Posted in British and American English | 1 Comment

More bad IELTS tips

I recently published a list of 32 bad IELTS tips. That seemed like a lot, but then I remembered even more bad advice from textbooks, websites and students which I think is worth a mention. Would love to hear other people’s ideas too.

Bad IELTS Speaking Part Two tips

Some IELTS books have completely pointless activities where they get students to draw mind maps as preparation for Speaking Part Two presentations. Interestingly, none of them even pretend that this can be done in one minute, which makes it completely useless in the exam. Worse, it is likely to make students say anything they like about the topic on the card, whereas in fact they have to answer just the four questions on that topic which are given on the card. They should therefore just write brief answers or key words to each of those questions on their scrap paper.

I very occasionally see students going the other way and trying to really save time by writing answers to the questions in their own language, but this is likely to affect their fluency and even possibly accuracy while speaking and so should avoided.

Please share any other bad ideas in this and other parts of the test below.

Many worksheets and articles with better tips here:

Teaching IELTS articles

IELTS games/ worksheets

Posted in IELTS | 2 Comments

The most TEFLtastic photocopiables of 2018

In approximate order of how often I have used them and am likely to use them myself. They are all also on the pages for each topic, and mentioned in any relevant TEFLtastic Classics posts on the most adaptable TEFL games and activities.

Talking about the future The same or different?

Speaker or listener simplest responses game (turn taking and active listening) – NEW

Giving directions miming games

Giving directions drawing games

Opinions on travel vocabulary (with travel collocations)

Crime and punishment extended speaking bluffing game

Going to mimes

Time expressions meetings roleplay

Time expressions the same or different

Turn taking and active listening game

Solutions to countable and uncountable problems discussion

Academic writing cultural differences and useful phrases

Pick and act imperatives card game – NEW

Prepositions and determiners in Academic Writing pairwork guessing game

Passive voice problems and solutions speaking

Comparatives make me say yes game

Passive voice discuss and agree

Plurals simplest responses game

CPE Use of English collocations dominoes

Phrasal verbs random pelmanism game

Feelings- Miming & Drawing Game

Past time things in common

Telling the time warmer cooler guessing game

Comparatives make me say yes questions game

Ordinal numbers competitions

Singular and plural mimes

Verb patterns discussion questions

Country and nationality words drawing games

Academic writing error correction pairwork

Opinions on science and technology

This that these those pick and draw drawing game

Present and past ability sentence completion games

Comparative adjectives drawing games

Academic discussions prepositions and determiners pairwork guessing game

Simple irregular and regular plurals presentation

Business meetings vocabulary and turn taking practice

Passive voice Yes No questions games

Academic discussions cultural differences and useful phrases

Designing and selling inventions with passive voice

Verb patterns sentence completion guessing games

How British is your Technical English?

Phonics yes no questions pelmanism game

Can you questions personalised pelmanism game

Asking questions to get more details drawing game

Past, present and future listening (especially useful for TOEIC Listening)

Guess the future time predictions practice

Weather things in common game

Irregular plurals reversi memory game

Regular and irregular plurals storytelling

British and American technical English collocations dominoes

Spot the odd one out ordinal numbers practice

Telephoning challenges dice game

Meetings dice game

A and an drawing games

Is and are drawing game

Are they… or…? TPR games

Was were past time guessing game

Possessive adjectives pick and draw drawing game

Country and nationality words sentence completion games

Medical English present progressive mimes

Want and feelings guessing game

How many are there drawing game

Cultural differences extended speaking

Past and present modals of permission and obligation sentence completion games

Ordinal numbers flashcard memory games

Looking at both sides dominoes

Basic adjectives and nouns drawing games

Does he she like pick and draw drawing game

Like and don’t like TPR coin game

Prepositions and pronouns drawing game

Positive and negative words to talk about architecture

Adjectives and prepositions pick and draw

Possessives coin drawing game

Guess the dates from hints game

Which is plus comparative drawing game

Nationality word endings maze games

Nationality words syllables and stress card games (pelmanism and snap)

Dates the Same or Different game

Comparing animals random pelmanism

Days of the week flashcard memory game

Telephoning roleplays dice game

Travel English telephone roleplays dice game

Are they… or…? drawing games

Days of the week projects

Strong and weak opinions collocations dominoes

Opinions on health

Nationality word endings card games

Singular and plural competitions speaking game

Plurals of words ending In -y activities

Days of the week pick and draw drawing game

First contact and further contact dice game

Johnny Quickly, Jeremy Normal and Jimmy Quickly telling the time story

Days of the week Make me say Yes

Do you like categories pelmanism game

Yes no questions dice game

Different kinds of business communication dice game

Making arrangements roleplay dice game

Basic question formation dice game

Superlative adjectives dice bluffing game

Personal phone calls roleplays dice games

There is are and likes games

Giving directions on how to get somewhere dice game

Making shapes from blocks games

Stacking races games

Supporting your opinions dice games

Months hangman

Lucy Was Not Impressed months of the year story

Can and can’t drawing coin game

I Brushed My Teeth in January past time expressions poem (Present Perfect and Past Simple)

1999 was a Strange Year months story

12 Jobs a Year months story

There is/ There are stacking games

Names of months dominoes

Passive voice rhyming past participles poems activities

Present Perfect rhyming past participles poem activities

Months flashcard memory games

Environmental collocations first conditional pelmanism

Clothes and accessories to sell

Crime and punishment trends

Months battleships

John Finally Came First ordinal numbers story

Marketing discussion questions

Days of the week battleships

Ordinal number word dominoes

Ordinal number word jigsaw games

Put the days of the week in order

Number words dominoes

Days of the week dominoes

Put the months in order games

Feelings and want pelmanism card game

Explaining Japanese performing arts




Different meanings in British and American English jigsaw – NEW


Past and future opposites reversi memory game


IELTS Speaking Part Two dice game


Countable and uncountable nouns Answer Me questions game


Feelings and Present Continuous memory game

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 1 Comment

The most TEFLtastic articles of 2018

As my last article of the year is already up, I thought I’d give a list of all the ones in 2018, in approximate order of how often I’ve been using those ideas in my own classes.

If you’ve found any of my teaching ideas or materials useful in 2018, it would really help if you could donate a couple of pounds by buying a copy of my e-book. This will allow me to continue updating, improving and expanding TEFLtastic next year, and if I can make a few more pounds it would also give me time to finish off some of my 12 half-finished e-books. Thanks for all your support in 2018, and all the best for 2019!

Dice games

How to teach British and American grammar

Having a ball – EFL ball games

Matching games part two – pelmanism

Stacks of fun: EFL blocks games

How to teach prepositions of time

How to teach giving and asking for directions

How to teach the language of feelings

How to teach telling the time in English

How to teach TOEIC Listening Part Two: Question Response

How to teach short answer

How to teach English plurals

How to teach irregular plurals

Matching games part one – TEFL dominoes

Teaching ordinal numbers to EFL learners

How to teach British and American spelling and punctuation – NEW

How to teach British and American functional language

British and American body language and gestures

How to teach months

How to teach days of the week in English

How to teach dates in English

How to teach past time expressions

How to teach future time expression

How to teach present time expressions

Blocks games for different language points

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New TEFL stuff autumn 2018

Most recent top of each section

New teaching materials pages

Imperative games, worksheets, stories and songs

Quantifiers page

New TEFL articles

How to teach British and American functional language

How to teach giving and asking for directions

British and American body language and gestures

How to teach TOEIC Listening Part Two: Question Response

List of useful language for EFL teachers and learners

The 100 most useful acronyms for EFL learners

The 100 most useful abbreviations for EFL learners

New TEFL pdfs

Dates- Different or the Same game

Singular and Plural Competitions Speaking Game

Designing and Selling Inventions with Passive Voice

Verb Patterns Sentence Completion Guessing Games

Past and Future Opposites Reversi Memory Game

Opinions on Travel Vocabulary (with Travel Collocations)

Past, Present and Future Listening (especially useful for TOEIC Listening)

How British is your Technical English?

Days of the week Make me say Yes

Comparing animals random pelmanism

Crime & Punishment- Extended Speaking Bluffing Game

Can you questions personalised pelmanism game

Do you like categories pelmanism game

Phonics yes no questions pelmanism game

Posted in Photocopiable worksheets | Leave a comment

New teaching quantifiers page

Am still working on an article on the topic, but have already made a new page for worksheets on “some”, “a few”, “too many”, etc, with mutual links to and from my related pages like countable/ uncountable, there is/ there are, numbers and determiners:

Quantifiers PDFs – NEW PAGE

Posted in countable and uncountable nouns, Determiners and articles | Leave a comment

Matching Games Part Two – Pelmanism

Updated 11 February 2019

I’ve written a lot about pelmanism/ pairs/ the memory game before. However in the second half of the latest of my ETP articles that started with dominoes, I managed to come up with even more uses and variations and my new favourite, personalised pelmanism. Links to photocopiable versions and other articles/ blog posts on the different kinds of pelmanism below. But first a brief explanation of the original card game that the EFL version was taken from:

Pelmanism/ pairs/ memory game with normal playing cards

In the original version of pelmanism, a pack of normal playing cards is spread face down across the table. Between two and four players take turns trying to find two cards with the same number (e.g. the seven of diamonds and the seven of hearts), putting the two cards back face down in the same places if they don’t match. Play passes to the next person either after each try or whenever the last person turns over two cards which don’t match, with the latter variation being more exciting but sometimes leading to one player dominating the game.

ELT pelmanism

There are other ways of doing it, but I generally make TEFL pelmanism cards which are in groups which are similar in some way, in the same way as the seven of diamonds is similar to the seven of clubs. For example, if you want to practise prepositions, then you can make a pack of cards with missing prepositions like “___ Monday” and “___ New Year’s Day”, and then ask the students to find pairs which have the same word missing, as in these worksheets:

In/ on/ at/ no preposition snap

Word plus preposition snap

Adjective plus preposition pelmanism

Past prepositions of time snap

Dependent prepositions snap

It’s generally best if there are the same number of each kind of card and an even number of each group, e.g. eight with “at” missing, eight with “on” missing and eight with “in” missing. However, having fewer of some kinds of cards and/or “orphan” cards left at the end of the game because there was an odd number in the pack is fine and can be a good way to make the game more challenging. You can play with as few as two categories (e.g. just different words meaning “go up” like “rocket” and words meaning “go down” like “crash”) or as many as ten categories (e.g. expressions with ten different missing dependent prepositions). However, you need to make sure that there are several possible matches for each card (as is true with the non-TEFL version). I find that it works best with between three and five groups of words, e.g. words which go with the negative prefixes “un-“, “in-“, “im-“ and “ir-“, with eight to 12 cards of each kind.

This kind of pelmanism works with the matches being:

The other possibility is to make cards that actually have to match each other in some way, e.g. prepositions cards and cards with prepositions missing. This can work, especially if you make the two different kinds of cards different colours and/ or sizes so they don’t take two prepositions, etc. However, matching cards that are the same in some way is easier to set up and probably more closely matches how we store such things in our brains.


Personalised pelmanism

It is also possible to play a personalised version of pelmanism. If you have a pack of cards with topics like “food” or vocabulary like “unicycle” on them, the students can ask each other yes/no questions about the two cards that they turn over and can keep the cards if they get the same answer to both questions. For example, if one student gets the “salt” and “paper” cards, asks “Is there any salt in your bedroom?” and “Is there any paper in your garden (now)?” and get “No” answers to both, they can keep both cards. Personalised pelmanism works for:

  • have (got)
  • like
  • want
  • there is/are
  • countable and uncountable nouns
  • present continuous (e.g. “Is your father wearing a tie?”, with two “I don’t know” answers also counting as a match)

Other ways of making pelmanism personalised is to ask the students to combine both cards in one true statement or to combine both cards in one question that their partner answers “Yes” to. For example, they could try to make true conditional sentences like “If we hadn’t invented cars, trains would be more popular” with the “cars” and “trains” cards, or they could try to get “Yes” answers to questions like “If you had wings, would you save people jumping off bridges?” if they took the “wings” and “bridge” cards.

Photocopiable examples of personalised pelmanism include:

Yes/ No questions with can personalised pelmanism

Phonics personalised yes/ no questions random pelmanism

Third conditional vocabulary revision random pelmanism game

Do you like animals personalised random pelmanism card game

Do you like categories personalised pelmanism


Random pelmanism

As shown in the names of some of the activities above, the personalised games above are variations on “random pelmanism”, in which the teacher hasn’t decided the correct matches when setting up the game, and therefore any matches that the students can think of and which make sense are allowed. If you have a set of random words that need revising, this also works without any personalisation by asking the students to make comparisons such as finding similarities between the two cards that they turn over. For example, if they turn over the words “ladder” and “fuse”, they could say “A ladder is more dangerous than a fuse” or “They are both made of metal” to practise comparing/contrasting, or “They are both safe” for simpler practice of adjectives. To expand the range of language used, it’s best to tell the students that they must make sentences that are at least slightly different each time.

Random pelmanism works with almost any vocabulary, but I have used it most often with animals, classroom objects, places, body parts and academic vocabulary. For additional language practice, you can also put some additional information about the vocabulary on the cards (e.g. both the British and American forms, or the plurals of countable nouns). You can then test the students on their memory of that aspect of the vocabulary after the game.

Another blog post, a video and lots of example worksheets of random pelmanism here:

Random pelmanism blog post

Random pelmanism video

Phrasal verbs random pelmanism

Inventions random pelmanism (the one in the video)

Phonics personalised yes/ no questions random pelmanism

Abilities of animals can/ can’t games (including random pelmanism) – NEW

Comparing animals random pelmanism

Environmental collocations first conditional pelmanism

Do you like animals personalised random pelmanism card game

Comparing places random pelmanism (comparatives with places names and adjectives, including nationalities)

Academic vocabulary random pelmanism

Third conditional vocabulary revision random pelmanism game

Classroom language random pelmanism


Reverse pelmanism

The problem with random pelmanism can occasionally be that almost all the cards match easily, therefore taking away the challenge. To avoid that problem, you can make the game into “reverse pelmanism”, where the challenge is to find cards that their partner can’t match in any way. Example here:

Feelings and want reverse pelmanism


3D pelmanism

Another popular variation for younger students is “3D pelmanism”, in which they choose things such as plastic fruit from just feeling in a bag and then get points if they can say “They are red”, “They are big (in real life)”, etc. Blog post on the topic here:

3D pelmanism


Other variations

With students who find reading difficult and sets which are very tricky to match, you can also play pelmanism with the cards face up.


Before and after pelmanism

Before or after playing pelmanism, I often get my students to put the matching cards in columns, sometimes as a race. Snap can also often be played with the same cards, and is a faster paced game that makes students think of the language more quickly.


Other articles and blog posts on using pelmanism in EFL classes:

Pelmanism and Snap in EFL classes blog post (with links to all the worksheets arranged by language point)

23 uses for pelmanism and snap

32 variations on pelmanism

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