Posts Tagged ‘Intermediate’

Would you know what to do if the photocopier broke? And I mean REALLY broke… You’ve unjammed it, kicked it, sworn at it, turn it on and off but it just. won’t. work. What’s your next step? Panic? Scream? Cry?

Fear thee not. Here are some ideas that could help ease those panic-stricken moments when you have to deliver a material free lesson, or when you need a warmer/cooler/filler. No photocopies, not high-tech gadgetry, just a teacher, some students, and a few scraps of paper.


Dictate 8 or so infinitives (regular and irregular) and get the students to write down the past participle of the verbs.

Elicit the answers, and put them in the middle of the board. Then elicit a complement for the verb and write that to the right of the participle.

For example: You say “ride”, and the students write down “ridden” (which you put in the middle of the board). Then get the students to suggest things you can ride (bike, camel, horse, unicycle). Choose the most interesting one and write it next to the verb.

When you’ve finished with all the participles, on the left hand side, write “Have you ever”.

So you should have something that looks like this:

Have you ever             ridden               a camel?

                                          met                      a celebrity?

                                          flown                  in a helicopter?

                                         eaten                    sushi?

                                          swum                  with dolphins?

There you have a “Find someone who” activity which required no photocopying or preparation. It can be adapted for any level and grammar point. Future Perfect (Find someone who will have bought a house/ got married/ had children/ travelled to Australia by 2020).


This next activity works better with higher levels and focusses on speaking and fluency. It can last up to an hour if you collect some errors and do some feedback.

Give each student 3 bits of scrap paper. One each paper, they should write one sentence that describes an important event in their life (that they are happy to talk to the class about). When they have 3 events, they should write the year it happened in the top right corner, and the approximate month in the left, so it should look a bit like this:

Put the students into group of 3 or 4. They put all their papers together, then line them up in a ladder on the table in chronological order. It might be an idea to cellotape the ladder to the table at this point.

Give each group one dice and one counter. They roll the dice and move the counter up the ladder for the correct number. The owner of the paper then has to talk about this event for 2 minutes (less for lower levels) and the other students must be ready to ask one questions each when the time is up.

Fold the paper over when it’s done so it isn’t repeated then continue until they have all been spoken about.

Part 2 to follow! Enjoy and let me know how it goes!

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Oops! I haven’t posted in aaaages! Will hopefully make up for that in the next few weeks.

Someone in the staff room today showed everyone a video for a new Flemmish TV channel – you may have heard of it, it’s a bit of a sensation… It’s called “A Dramatic Surprise on A Quiet Square”. Have a watch… it’s brilliant!

So how could you use this video in the classroom? It could be a more interesting, visual way to practise using narrative tenses (or present continous for lower levels).

Any other ideas? Please let me know!


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A teacher told me about this activity and I thought it would work really well in showing students that it’s not what you say, but how you say it, that the key lies in your intonation! I think she found these ideas on another website.

Give the students simple words and phrases. Start with “Hello“.

Ask the students to think:

How would you say “Hello”

  • to a friend
  • to a friend you haven’t seen in 4 years
  • to a neighbour you don’t like
  • to a baby
  • to someone you discovered doing something they shouldn’t be doing
  • when you answer the phone

Then get them to practice it in pairs. Then get class feedback to demonstrate how the intonation and pronunciation changes.

Some more examples:


  • to a family member as you’re about to get on a plane
  • to someone who has been annoying you
  • to someone you’ve just had a fight with
  • to a salesman on the phone
  • to your boyfriend/girlfriend on the phone
  • to a child starting his first day at school

How are you

  • to someone you haven’t seen in 10 years
  • to someone who’s family member had died
  • to someone who didn’t sleep in their own bed last night

“I never go to pubs”

  • you are a person who disapproves of drinking alcohol and you are speaking to someone who often goes to pubs
  • when it is followed by “…but I sometimes go to discos”

What have you done?

  • to someone who has tried to fix your TV but has made the situation worse
  • when you hear a loud noise coming from a different room in the house
  • when someone has done something very bad which will have serious consequences

Do you have any more suggestions for phrases or situations?

Like this post? Why not have a look at this other post: https://missfearnley.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/adjectives-of-manner

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Just to compensate for being so rubbish at posting…. 2 in one day!

I was reminded of this idea when I posted about the magazine activity. It’s a nice little warmer/filler or even use towards the end as a competition to finish on a high.

Buy enough copies of the same magazine/newspaper so each pair of students has a copy in your class. Then create a short quiz about stories in the paper, and the students have to use scan read the article to find the answers.

For example:

If there is a story unemployment, a questions could be “how many people are unemployed?”

If there is a picture of Brad Pitt, you could ask “what is the name of Brad Pitt’s new film?”

Obviously the answer has to be in the story, it’s not a general knowledge quiz!

The students then have to flick through the paper and find where the story is (you could include page numbers if you were feeling generous) using headlines and pictures to guide them, then they have to look for specific information.

I tried a similar exercise with an IELTS class, as they were having trouble with the reading section of their exam as they would laboriously read every single word to find an answer and then ran out of time!

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Some of my students left on Friday and they asked if, seeing as it was their last day, they could watch an episode of The Simpsons. So that left me with having to find a real lesson within the programme, as we couldn’t just watch episode after episode for 90 minutes, could we?

Fortunately, The Simpsons has been in the news recently, due to an argument between the cast and the network over pay. This is pretty topical as it’s happening everywhere, so you would be able to tie it in with an ecomonics theme.

I then found a website that suggested an episode and lesson around The Simpsons based on the theme of stereotypes – I don’t want to blatantly steal ideas, so here is the link: http://iteslj.org/Lessons/Meilleur-Simpsons.html

This blog suggests using the episode “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” as a basis for talking about stereotypes. It mainly focuses on Japan, but you could also talk about American stereotypes. There are some good worksheets on the site too, so take a look at it.

Other themes you could use with The Simpsons; the elderly (Abe Simpson), friendship, families, childhood, marriage, relationships, responsibility… there are loads more I’m sure. You could also use it when studying narrative tenses, and get the students to write the plot of the story.

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With thanks to Peter Watkins from Portsmouth University who lead this RALSA session and allowed me to post his ideas on here.

Following a recent professional development session lead by Portsmouth University’s Peter Watkins, I came across some great ideas to help with reading lessons. The key idea I took away from it was dont’ test reading, TEACH reading. This idea stuck with me and I used it in my next reading and the students were given a more native approach to reading a text.

Here are some ideas that we discussed in the sesson:

How to deal with vocaulary

Is pre-teaching vocabulary the only solution? Is it always the right solution? Depending on the level, some teachers prefer learners to teach themselves the vocab via context and identifying word type and general meaning. Others provide a glossary as this speeds up the reading and learning process. Studies have shown that the slower you read, the less you understand and bottom up learning isn’t very effective.

In come cultures, if you don’t know the meaning of every single word, they believe that you don’t understand the text. In European English teaching situations, this isn’t the case, but we are still faced with students with heads in dictionaries trying to learn the meaning of every word.

One idea we talked about was allowing the students to ask you the meaning of the words they don’t know. However the whole class can only ask you 8 words (or choose and appropriate number). This encourages negotiation, forces them to choose only the key words and allows peer teaching as they tell each other the words so they don’t waste a question.

At the end of the lesson,s get the students to write down 6 words they want to remember. In two days time, get them to tell their partner the words. See if they can still remember. Then get them to tell each other about how they remember them – the stronger students can teach the weaker students a lot.

Make it personal:    

Are a group of Greek teenagers really interested in thatched cottages in Devon? Probably not.

One solution to this would be to get the students to find their own article online that they find interesting. They could then either present their article to the class, or hand them in to you and *ta-da* you have 13 reading lessons with the materials already provided for you – all you have to do is create the lesson around them.

Get the students to read the text and mark their reactions to it. A tick means they agree, a cross means they disagree, a question mark is something they don’t understand and an exclamation mark is something they found surprising. Anything funny can be a smiley face or a “lol”. The students then compare their reactions and develop and expand their opinions and understanding.


We did talk about a lot of other activities, most of them commonly used (jigsaw readings, restoring damaged texts etc…) but I found these the most interesting as they gave the students a real, authentic way of reacting to the texts. Who here reads a text then searches for specific dates, numbers, people, opinions etc once they have finished. I found that the above activities really taught them to read and react, not test them.

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I find this is a good way to revise grammar and get the students to teat each other.

Photocopy a basic snakes and ladders board game (Cutting edge teachers book at starter/elementary and pre-int) has a copy in the back of it, or use a real board if you like.

one of the square should have a question mark on them (or all of them if you like!). When a person lands on a question mark, they must take a card which has a question on it.

you can either use a real board, or find one in the Cutting Edge resources packs

It’s a good idea to get the students to make the question cards which revise all of that week’s/month’s/course’s vocabulary and grammar. Jumbled sentences, gap fills, collocation and conjugations also make good questions. The students grade the questions as they are focusing on the topics covered in their class and it also provide a fun way to revise on a Friday rather than a normal gap-fill exercise!

I’ve done this with a variety of levels and ages and it has always worked well – the students feel challenged as they spend the first part of the lesson writing questions but spend the second half in a more fun frame of mind “playing a game” and learning.

Let me know how it goes!

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