Posts Tagged ‘memory’

I have been terrible at posting regularly! I will endeavour to improve this!

I have just started on a new adventure in my EFL path, I have come to Naples in Italy for a few months. I will be teaching mainly children, which is completely new to me, so any help, advice or tips would be greatly appreciated.

I was watching a lesson today with some very young children (6? 7?) and watched an interesting activity which was great for kids, but I imagine could work for any age level at elementary and possible pre-int.

The teacher had taught adjectives to describe people (old/young, beautiful/ugly, weak/strong, boy/girl etc….). She then handed out some magazines (ie. OK!, Hello – those kind of celebrity and real life ones) and it was a race to “find a boy” “find someone beautiful” in pairs.

It was such a lovely way to reinforce the vocab and totally change the dynamic of the lesson.

It could also be adapted to clothes vocabulary (jeans, dress, tight/loose, spotty, patterned), more appearances (blonde, tall etc.).

With thanks to Judith Kay who let me observe her lesson and steal ideas


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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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This is a twist on the running dictation activity you commonly find in the classroom.

For those who don’t use running dictations, here is the cliff notes version:

Have a text stuck to a wall on one side of the classroom (or cut strips up and stick them around the classroom). One student runs to the text, remembers as much as possible, then runs to their partner who is a scribe and dictates the text to them.

This twist was suggested to me today:

In key places, such as obvious verbs or prepositions, take out the word in the text and leave either a —– or the word BANANA. eg. My name BANANA India. I BANANA in England.

Once the student have completed the dication, they then have to go through the text and decide what word goes in place of BANANA.


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First things first: I do not know who Jenny is.

But apparently, this is her game.

I tried it for the first time today and couldn’t believe the great results. The students were bouncing around, being very compeitive and really seemed to enjoy it.

I took a story from the news. It wasn’t a major story (although that would work well). You don’t have to use a news story, although I think it helps when the students realise that it’s authentic English.

I took the first 53 words of the story and made a hand-out with 53 empty boxes. Each box must be numbered.

Divide the class into teams of 3-4. Then tell them to listen very carefully. They must not write anything down.

Read the story twice (even at a good level, you should read it twice), clearly, but with normal intonation.

Once they have listened to it twice, each team has to tell you one word from the text (it doesn’t have to be in the correct order). If they are correct, say the word, and the number of the box (good idea to have a master copy of the boxes with a word in each and cross out each word as they say it).

Points: Points don’t mean prizes. If a student gives you a wrong word, or repeats a word, their team gets a point. The team with the most points, loses.

Hint: If they getstuck, give them 5 minutes to work as a team to figure out more words. Remind them to think about pronouns, prepositions, articles.

I made my class give me the correct tense of the verb… if it was wrong, they got a point. The words “a” and “the” were repeated, butthey had to tell me each time they thought there was one. If they told me too many times…points!

I hope my instructions were clear. Let me know how it goes!

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I did a great game today with my students.


I came into the classroom looking a bit concerned and very serious. I told the students that I had just been told something very serious. There had been a robbery in the school last night and several computers were stolen. This raised a few concerned “really?” remarks.

I told them that the police had two suspects, and the worst thing of all was that it was two students in my class! I then names two students in my class (it’s good to pick stronger students who are confident and able to speak infront of their classmates, or the exercise could fall flat on its face). At this point they realise that I’m joking but are happy to play along.

I then take the two suspects to one side of the class room and give them their role cards. It outlines that they didn’t steal the computers, but they are going to have to lie about what they were doing as they were at their friend’s bar until 1am, despite the fact that it should have closed at 11pm. If the police find out about this, their friend will lose his business! The bar is next to the school, and a witness saw them walking back home from that direction, so it looks pretty suspicious.

The suspects’ alibi is that they went to the gym, then to the bar, the to a restaurant, before going home at 1am. Drawing a map is useful, which has the school and bar on one side of the house, and the gym and restaurant on the other.

The police have a role card which states the suspects’ alibis and also the statement from the witness. Point out that it is strange that the suspects were seen walking from the school (bar) evn though they claim to have been at the restaurant.

The police now have to come up with about 25 questions to find out the truth! Remember to ask about detail (what did they eat? see? talk about? how did they pay? what were they wearing? did they meet anyone? etc) They should hold back information, such as the witness statement, until the right moment to try and catch the suspects out.

Meanwhile, the suspects have to work together to get their story straight! If there are more than three differences in their stories, they will both be going to prison! They must not tell the police about their friend’s bar!

Split the police in two groups, and give them one suspect to question, then once they have finished the interview (15-20 mins?), swap the suspects over, but don’t let them talk.

Then get the students to discuss the anomolies, and decide if they are going to send them to jail. Then get the suspects to reveal the truth.

This exercise is really well received, and brings the students out of their shells. It made every laugh and get involved and they said that they really enjoyed it!

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