The best of 2016 – TEFL articles

No actual blogging in 2016, so instead two posts on my favourite stuff I’ve published this year. My own highlight was actually finally finishing a book, but I also have fond memories of these articles:

25 stupid things about Cambridge First Certificate

20 things wrong with most self-study materials

Activities that match the questions in students’ heads

50 ways to answer the phone (in English and other languages)

Cultural differences in telephoning

80 British gestures

British body language (on topics other than gestures such as bodily contact and proximity)

Rude gestures in the UK (divided off to make the ones above family friendly U certificate articles)

How to end phone calls smoothly and politely

The most useful can/ can’t for ability activities

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

More new stuff in 2016


Updated 27 December 2016

On top of loads of new stuff on Xmas, telephoning, Cambridge Proficiency, etc that I’ve already mentioned, have put up these new articles and photocopiable materials in the rest of this year:


How to teach shopping language

Differences between British and American emails


Gradable and extreme adjectives discuss and agree – NEW

Concession and addition coin game – NEW

Strong and weak opinions coin game – NEW

Prepositions of position dice games

Vocabulary for describing British life list dictation

26 Making Arrangements Roleplays

Giving opinions on music (with music vocabulary)

Brainstorming music vocabulary

Describing your job extended speaking

Fast food vocabulary roleplays

ed and ing adjectives discuss and agree

Environment generalisations and recommendations (with useful language for writing reports)

Health and exercise generalisations (with useful language for writing reports)

Prepositions Stacking Game

Word Formation Brainstorming games

Gradable and Extreme Adjectives- Anecdotes Game

“Like” and “Be Like” Games

Learning and Using English Monologues- Active Listening Practice

Describing Jobs with -ed and -ing Adjectives

Describing hobbies with -ed and -ing adjectives

Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) Speaking the Same or Different?

Reported Speech Memory Challenge

Months and Dates Vocabulary

Colour Word Jigsaws

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie First Conditional stories

Family Extended Speaking & Active Listening Practice

Describing Appearances with ‘be’ and ‘have’

Defining Relative Clauses Personalised Speaking Practice

Opinions on architecture (with architecture vocabulary)

Opinions on art (with art vocabulary)

Improving your English Verb Patterns

Describing Common Objects using the Passive Voice

Country and Nationality Statements- Bluffing Games

Like & Would Like- Food Roleplay Dialogue

Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) Comparing Different Writing Tasks

Different Ways of Learning English Relative Clause Practice

Newspapers and News- Opinions and Vocabulary

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

New Xmas worksheets

Updated 12 January 2017

More seasonal cheer for specific language points:

Xmas and New Year negotiations – NEW

Describing Japanese and British Xmas and New Year – NEW

Seasonal trends meetings practice (language of trends tied in with festivals and celebrations, starting with Xmas) – NEW

Xmas shopping roleplays (with typical phrases for shoppers and shop staff and lots of Xmas vocab)

Xmas food restaurant roleplays (with typical phrases for diners and servers)

Festivals and celebrations rules (discussing how a company should deal with seasonal events, starting with Xmas, for modal verbs)

Telephoning on festivals and celebrations (starting with ones about Xmas)

Business meetings on festivals and celebrations (starting with discussion of office rules around Xmas)

For older Xmas worksheets on future tenses, conditionals, passive, numbers, trends, past tenses, present tenses, etc, etc, see here:

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


Posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training, Modals, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Telephoning | 1 Comment

Seasonal pages just updated

Just in case 43 articles and worksheets on the topic of Xmas and New Year wasn’t enough for you, have added one more plus a link to my festivals and celebrations page in case you want to mention the time of year without overdoing it:

Xmas and New Year games, worksheets and songs

And have a few more up my sleeve which should go on there soon.

Posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training | 2 Comments

TEFL reversi/ TEFL Othello (TEFLtastic classics part 26)

Updated 5 April 2017

This is a revival of a long-running series of posts on TEFL activities that are so good and so adaptable that you have to stop yourself from using them too much. For the 25 other instalments, see here.

Like so many of the ideas on this site, this one was borrowed from Mario Rinvolucri and then adapted so many times over the years that I’ve probably managed to convince some young whippersnappers that I made it up myself. It’s a particularly good game for practising sentence transformations from FCE, CAE and CPE, but is also great for any language that students might want to learn two versions of, e.g. phrasal verbs and equivalent non-phrasal verb expressions.

The original game was simply TEFL Othello, with the same board and two-sided pieces in black and white. The TEFL addition is having words, phrases, sentences etc on either side of the card that can be converted to the other side of the card (in both directions), e.g. direct speech like “I said ‘I have too many bananas’” on one side and “I said that I had too many bananas” on the other. Students place their cards on the board like normal Othello pieces, but to be allowed to turn over pieces which are the other colour they need to say (exactly) what is written on the other side.

This is a great game for memorising because the students are motivated to repeat the same transformations again and again, but it takes forever to explain the rules, especially if they don’t know the original game of Othello. Then some groups can be so slow they don’t finish a game by the end of the class. I therefore have simplified it in two different ways.

A variation which is simpler to explain but even more challenging on their memories is for each pair/ group to put the cards on the table in a column, which is meant to represent a ladder. To win the game, a student has to go all the way from the bottom of the ladder to the top, saying what is on the other side of each card without making any mistakes. If they are correct about what is on the other side of a card, the card stays turned over so that the next person has to do the transformation the other way round. If the student whose turn it is makes a mistake on one card, e.g. the fourth one from the bottom, that card stays the same way round, they slip all the way down to the bottom of the ladder, and play passes to the next person. Everyone has to try to go all the way from the bottom of the ladder to the top in one go without mistakes, including when they try again (and again..)

Students tend to get tired well before the end of this game, in which case I allow them two minutes to memorise both sides of the cards and/ or ask them to work together to get all the way up with no mistakes (still slipping to the bottom and trying again if they make any kind of error).

If the ladder game is likely to be too challenging, students can play an easier one where they spread the cards at random across the table and are allowed to choose which one they want to guess the opposite side of each time. Similar to the ladder game, each student continues until they make a mistake, but in this game they have a choice next time if they want to do the same cards again or try different ones. There are two ways of scoring this game. One is for the longest string of correct guesses during the whole game, e.g. one person who managed six cards before making a mistake, winning the game. For bigger scores and so maybe more motivation, you can just give one point for each correct guess of what is on the other side of the cards during the whole game (likely to lead to at least 20 points each).

Any of the three variations on the game can be played with any of these language points (in approximate order of how often I would the use the game with that point):

–       A mix of typical language points for exam sentence transformations (e.g. unreal past, reported speech, etc for FCE)

–       Passive and active

–       Reported speech and direct speech

–       Formal and informal (e.g. formal and informal emailing phrases)

–       Words and phrases meaning the same thing (e.g. different equally important alternative presentations phrases like “Yes, please go ahead” and “Yes, what’s your question, please?”, to stop them repeating the same phrases all the time)

–       Phrasal verbs and non-phrasal verb equivalents (e.g. “look after” and “take care of”)

–       Slang and more standard equivalents (e.g. “knackered” and “tired”)

–       Other idioms and non-idiomatic equivalents (e.g. “out of the blue” and “unexpectedly”)

–       Country and nationality words

–       British and American English

–       Opposites (e.g. “hot” and “cold”, or “cheaper” and “more expensive”)

–       Gradable and extreme adjectives (e.g. “hot” and “boiling”)

–       Different parts of speech, e.g. “type” and “typist”

–       Countable and uncountable equivalents (e.g. “advice” and “recommendations”)

–       Direct and indirect questions (e.g. “What’s your mobile number?” and “Can you tell me what your mobile number is?”)

–       Infinitive and Past Simple forms

–       Positive and negative sentences (e.g. “I have some time” and “I don’t have any time”)

–       Question form and statement form (e.g. “Does he like cheese?” and “He likes cheese”)

–       Unreal past and more basic tenses to describe the real situation (e.g. “I wish I hadn’t bumped into him that morning” and “I bumped into him that morning”)

–       Male and female forms (“waiter” and “waitress”, “lion” and “lioness”, etc)

The formal and informal phrases and phrases with the same meaning versions can be useful for:

–       Emailing language

–       Telephoning language

–       Meetings language

–       Meeting people (and meeting people again) language

–       Academic language

More explanation in an article of mine on the topic:

15 variations on TEFL reversi

And here are some I made earlier:

Phrasal verb opposites reversi memory game – NEW

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

Word formation reversi memory game

Gradable and extreme adjectives reversi memory game

Affixes with opposite meanings reversi

Cambridge Proficiency sentence transformations reversi game

Country and nationality words reversi

FCE key word transformations reversi

Phrasal verbs reversi game

 Classroom language reversi

Key word transformation reversi – Version from one exam, so includes more obscure points

Key word transformations for modals of speculation/ deduction (on Sandy Millin’s blog)

Reported Speech key word sentence transformations

First Certificate emailing phrases sentence transformations game

Idioms reversi game

Email and letter phrases key word sentence transformations

Meetings language reversi

Academic English synoyms reversi

More coming soonish.


Posted in TEFL games | Tagged | Leave a comment

Complete guide to telephoning in different cultures

Three new articles on the topic published this month:

British and American phone calls – NEW

50 ways to answer the phone (in English and other languages) – NEW

Cultural differences in telephoning – NEW

These links and many more on my teaching telephoning page, and also lots more cultural differences ideas and materials here.

Posted in Telephoning | Leave a comment

New Cambridge CPE games/ worksheets section

It will be years before it reaches the size of my huge FCE and IELTS worksheets sections, but have made a start on a Cambridge Proficiency in English section with 12 worksheets on the topic, many specific to Objective Proficiency but all useable with any super-Advanced class.  Many more coming soon.

Posted in Teaching English as a Foreign Language | 1 Comment

Complete guide to British body language and gestures

Updated 13 February 2017

… or at least I hope it’s a full guide, given how I’ve just finished writing about over 100 gestures etc in three articles and over 10,000 words on the topic:

80 British gestures

British body language (on topics other than gestures such as bodily contact and proximity)

Rude gestures in the UK (divided off to make the ones above family friendly U certificate articles)

I also have a nice worksheet on the topic where students guess the meaning of British gestures, which is also on my body language and gestures worksheets page.

Posted in Cultural differences/ cultural training | Leave a comment

Finding a Cambridge Delta local tutor (in Tokyo and worldwide)

I’m just starting work as a local tutor for a distance Delta candidate again, trying to remember what the jargon means etc six years after the last time. Although it’s not exactly lucrative by Japanese standards, I’ve been open to doing it again all that time for the intellectual stimulation and shine it puts on my CV. The problem was a suitable candidate and me finding each other, because neither Cambridge nor the Delta course providers (International House and British Council’s Distance Delta, Bell, NILE, etc) give any help at all with this.  Eventually, someone phoned my school in a desperate random attempt to find a tutor and a teacher who was in the office at the time happened to know that I’d done it before.

To save you having to go through the same quest for the holy grail of TEFL, I hereby offer my services in three ways:

  • Being your Delta tutor if you are reasonably close to Tokyo
  • Matching up Delta tutors and candidates through the comments section of this post
  • Giving the brief guide below

Getting in contact with a local Delta tutor

If you are looking for a local Delta tutor, if you are a Delta tutor, or if you think you could become one, please leave your status, proposed dates and location as a comment below. Please don’t put your email address in the comment – I’ll match people up and email them to check that they are interested and available and then put you in touch with each other. If possible, try to make your comment something that might come up on Google if someone searches for a tutor or candidates in your area, e.g. with a headline like “Bell Regional Delta Tutor and NILE Local Tutor in Tokyo and Kanagawa, Japan”. As I am not on any social media, it’s then well worth posting a link to this on Twitter, Facebook etc so enough people see your message.

If you are in the Kanto area and would like to use my own services, please contact me in the same way through comments below.

Guide to finding a local Delta tutor

The easiest way of finding someone to observe your Delta lessons etc is to get someone suitably qualified at your workplace to volunteer. If you choose to do Module 2 through the British Council/ International House, it really will be volunteering, because they don’t pay tutors. Therefore, at most places your tutor will need to negotiate with your school about getting some overtime payment to do it and/ or a (temporary) reduction in their other duties to give them time to do it. Hopefully a decent school would want their teachers doing the Dip and would want their senior staff doing structured teacher training, so this is a possibility. However, if no one in your school meets the criteria to become a Delta tutor and/ or can’t schedule it, there is very little possibility of using an outside person this way.

Other providers such as Bell and NILE pay the tutors directly. This means the tutor can come from outside your school and they won’t need to negotiate anything with their school, but almost certainly means they’ll need to do the Delta duties on top of their usual job. It is supposed to be about 30 hours spread over between 10 weeks and eight months, but it is usually considerably more the first time you do it, especially when you take the training to become a tutor into account.

In both cases, the candidate and tutor need to find each other and apply together (prospective tutors can’t apply first and then find candidates afterwards).

The third possibility is to pay a little extra to Distance Delta for them to observe all your lessons etc electronically, without needing to find someone local at all (for better or worse).

Being a Delta local tutor links

(Much) more Delta stuff (link now fixed)

Posted in Cambridge Delta | 7 Comments

New teaching English ideas and materials summer 2016

A comparatively small supply by my standards due to spending some time polishing up and trying to sell a few more copies of my book, but I guess 200 phrases, four articles and 27 worksheets isn’t bad for a summer’s work. I’m particularly fond of the article on the idiocies of FCE myself…

New lists of useful language

The 100 most useful phrases for business meetings

The 100 most useful emailing phrases

New TEFL articles

25 stupid things about Cambridge First Certificate

How to complain and deal with complaints on the phone

How to leave and take telephone messages

How to end phone calls smoothly and politely

New TEFL photocopiable classroom materials

Newspapers and News Opinions and Vocabulary

Making FCE Speaking Part Three Tasks

Language Learning Likes and Preferences

Comparing & Contrasting phrases sentence transformations

Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) Speaking Part Three on language learning

How Many Are There? Speaking Games

Movies Vocabulary and Self-Study Discussion

Do You Like Animals Personalised Random Pelmanism Card Game

Be and Have for Describing Appearances games

IELTS Academic Writing Part Two Longer Phrases

Describing Places Adjective Word Order

Basic Personal Questions Coin Bluffing Game

Subject Questions Guess The Person Game

Subject Questions Free Speaking

Nationality Words Bluffing Game

Reported Questions Games

Food and Drink Comparatives Discussion and Presentation

Basic Questions about Animals

Learning and Using English Extended Speaking with Subject Questions

Key Word Sentence Transformations The Same or Different Pairwork

Brainstorming travel vocabulary

Language learning problems with so, such, too and enough

Comparing and contrasting reviews vocabulary

Recommending arts and media

Comparing Places Comparative Adjectives Practice

Word Stress Maze Game

Modals of Deduction Guess the Sport

See posts below for more.

Posted in Photocopiable worksheets | 2 Comments