'World of Better Learning'
Cambridge University Press
'World of Better Learning'
Following on from my previous blog post in which I provided links to the Cambridge University Press 'World of Better Learning' site, here is another article just published in which I discuss eight ways for using Harry Potter for grammar practice. Just click on the image below.
Cambridge University Press
'World of Better Learning'
Click on the links below.
By Robert Dobie, M.Ed./TESOL
Throughout the 'All Things Grammar' site, as well as the 'All Things Topics' site, you can find close to one hundred Pair Work Discussion activities.
On each one-page file, there are ten 'Student A' questions - and ten 'Student B' questions. Each activity file is based on a particular grammar point or topic. These files are among the most popular on the sites because they are simple and easy to use, and they immediately get your students talking.
But did you know that there's a lot more you can do with them? The suggestions below focus on 'before', 'during' and 'after' activities that will help you get the most out of the Pair Work Discussion activities.
Before giving the handout (already cut up into ‘A’ and ‘B’ sections), consider incorporating a listening/spelling component into the activity by dictating the first two or three sentences of each of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ question sheets. In addition to providing a bit of blended learning practice, you’ll be better able to focus your learners’ attention onto the grammar aspect of the questions. After checking and correcting* the sentences, you could, for example, zero in on (and briefly discuss) the use of the grammar target. This may help your learners to realize that more is going on here than simple discussion practice – they should be, ideally, making an effort to use the grammar, and to use it correctly.
*There is no need to check each learner’s work. After dictating a few sentences, simply have a few students write their sentences on the board for all their classmates to see. Encourage assistance (if needed) from your students who are seated.
During the interview activity, you might consider putting a twist on things by telling your students to lie about one of their answers. At the end of the activity, each member of the pair can then make a guess as to which of their partner's answers was a lie. Not only is this fun, but it will encourage each pair to listen for meaning much more attentively.
Just be sure that guess are held off until the end of the activity.
Also, be sure to tell your students to try to tell convincing lies – otherwise, some students may ‘spill the beans’ (expose the lie) by saying something that is obviously not true (for example, “Last weekend, I travelled to the South Pole,” while possible, would nevertheless almost certainly be a lie.)
Okay, so your learners have just finished the pair work discussion activity. They have found out some pretty interesting details of their classmate. Now what? Well, at the conclusion of any good book or movie, what you most probably want to do is talk about it with some of your family or friends. Likewise, your learners will likely welcome the chance to sit (or stand) with a new partner and briefly discuss what they found out about their previous partner. This is truly communication for a purpose.
You can assist and give structure to this activity-wrap up by writing the short dialog on the board before the interviews end:
A: Who did you talk to?
B: I talked to ….
A: What interesting things did he / she tell you?
For the complete downloadable list of all 90+ Pair Work Discussion activity files, just click here:
By Robert Dobie, M.Ed./TESOL
'Find Someone Who' activities are among the best known activities used by ESL teachers. They are quick to set up, easy to use, communicative, and instantly target the language forms you want your learners to focus on. Oh, and ... they're fun!
In fact, they're so much fun that you might be tempted to use 'Find Someone Who ...' activities more than once with your group of learners. Well, why not? All you need to do is put a fun 'twist' on this popular activity to get more out of them.
So, here are 5 'twists' you can use - 5 fun ways to use "Find Someone Who ...'
First, the Traditional Set-up (Version 1):
Distribute one activity handout to each learner. Have your students stand and find different classmates to interview. When a classmate answers ‘Yes’, the interviewer should write the classmate’s name and ask for and record additional information. For example:
A: Did you watch a movie on TV last night?
B: Yes, I did. (writes classmate’s name in the box) What kind of movie did you watch?
A: I watched comedy. (writes this information in the box)
When a classmate answers with ‘No’, the interviewer should the leave box empty. Another classmate may later answer ‘Yes’ for this question.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to model this activity with a student. Consider using the board to write a similar conversation as above.
Traditional Set-up (Version 2):
I find this second version more interesting and easier to manage in class.
In this version, students are allowed to ask one classmate one question (excluding follow-up questions) – and the answer, no matter ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, is written in the box. After a mutual interview exchange, students can move on to find another classmate to speak with.
‘Version 2’ guarantees that every box can be filled, and that students will not stick with just one classmate in an attempt to find a ‘Yes’ answer.
Wrap-up either version by having your learners sit down in pairs or groups of three and share the information they collected. Finally, elicit any especially interesting information your learners may have discovered.
1. Yes, Yes, Yes!
Instruct all of your students to answer 'Yes' to every question that is asked of them So, "Did you watch a movie on TV last night" will always elicit a "Yes" response, no matter what. The advantage of this 'twist' is that many of your students did NOT watch a movie on TV last night - so they will have to use their imaginations to answer their classmates' follow-up questions. "Yes, I did. I watched a comedy. And ... Umm ... I watched it with my family." Not only is this fun, but you will get your students talking much more - the interviewers will ask lots more follow-up questions because they will enjoy listening to the made-up stories their classmates come up with!
2. No, No, No!
Exactly as above, but this time everyone must answer "No". This can be done if 'Version 2' of the activity (above) is used. 'No' answers are acceptable because the important thing here are the follow-up questions and the responses to the follow-up questions.
A: Why didn't you watch TV last night?
B: I went shopping with my friends. And .... Umm ... I bought a new jacket.
3. Mostly Honest
Here, the 'Find Someone Who ...' activity is turned into a Pair Work Interview activity with two learners seated together. The students take turns interviewing each other, but before the activity begins, instruct them to lie about ONE of their answers. Following the activity, your learners should find new partners and report and discuss their findings. As they do so, they should try to guess which answer is a lie.
A: I talked to Robert. He said he watched a movie on TV last night. But I don't think that's true. Robert's TV is broken!
B: I agree. That must not be true!
To wrap up, students can find their original partners and confirm which answers were true, and which was a lie.
4. Ask the Teacher!
Don't forget that your learners want to hear from you! They want to listen to you because (1) you are a human with pretty impressive English skills, not a recorded, faceless voice on a CD; and (2) they want to find out more about you and build a closer relationship.
With this in mind, project the 'Find Someone Who ...' Questions on the board and have them interview you. Remember that you can respond in any of the three ways mentioned above (just be sure to tell them ahead of time that all of your answers will be 'Yes', 'No,' or 'Mostly True').
5. Yes, for Homework!
Give your students a day (or two or three) to find people outside of your class who can truthfully answer "Yes" to as many of their questions as they can. Of course, if they live in a non-native English speaking environment, don't insist on the interviews being done in English. The important thing here is to bring the activity sheet back to class and have your learners sit in small groups to report their findings.
A: My cousin watched TV last night.
B: What TV program did she watch?
A: She watched a comedy. She watches lots of TV, too much, I think!
What else can be done with 'Find Someone Who ...' activities? What other ways have you used them? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!
by Robert Dobie, M.Ed./TESOL
Question strips are a simple and easy way to get ESL learners up and communicating with their classmates. Here are four ways to get more mileage out of them. Three ideas below are already to be found on the 'Activity Notes' page of each uploaded '16 Question Strips' PDF file. One additional idea is new.
Used as 'Standing Activities'
1. 'Classic' Question Strip Activity
2. 'Memorization' Activity
Used as 'Seated Activities'
3. 'Pick-n-Talk' Activity
4. 'Vote-For-It' Activity
You can find dozens of the '16 Question Strips' activities throughout this website (as well as on my other site www.allthingstopics.com)
by Robert Dobie
So ... your students have 'learned' the grammar in that day's grammar lesson. So ... what can they do with the grammar now? Use it, of course! This can be difficult, however, if your learners don't live in an English-speaking environment. Not to worry. Grammar board games are a fun and easy way to get your learners talking - and using the grammar!
1. Use timers
It's definitely worth the investment of your time and energy (and money) to visit some toy stores to locate and purchase several inexpensive sand timers. For a class of twenty-one students, you'll want to bring seven timers.
That way, you can set up groups of three learners per board game - with one sand timer per group. Using wall clocks or watches are okay, but sand timers have the advantage of being easily visible by all members of the group. Also, they are ... well, they're just fun!
2. Time limits
Be sure to set appropriate time limits for your students.
For weaker students, ask them to take speaking turns of only one minute. For stronger students, set two-minute time limits (or maybe even three minutes?). For a twist, you might also give your learners the freedom to set their own time limits.
3. Make it interactive
As each speaker finishes her turn, have the other members of the group ask a certain number of follow-up questions (perhaps two or three questions). For example, if the speaker has talked about shopping yesterday, another member of the group might ask, "What did you buy?" and "How much did it cost?" This kind of exchange, in which the group members are engaged by actively listening, is more natural than a simple monologue.
You might decide to structure the activity in such a way that listeners jot down questions in a notebook and ask them at the end of the speaking turn. This method mirrors EFL/ESL speaking tests (such as the IELTS speaking test, where the examiner gives a set speaking time and follows up with related questions).
Alternatively, you might choose a more natural approach and allow your learners to interrupt the speaker at any time with questions. The approach you settle on depends on the goal of your lesson.
4. Provide feedback
Of course, your learners will benefit much more from this activity if constructive feedback is given. Before beginning the activity, establish for your students what the goal of the activity is (in addition to grammar practice). Is it better pronunciation? Is it the use of connecting words? Is it the use better body language and eye contact? Let your students know beforehand.
A good wrap-up, then, is to go over with the student how she could improve her speaking. Consider using a rubric that either you (or the listeners within the group) can use.
Download the Grammar Board Games by clicking on the links below.
Oh, the things you can do with a handful of questions! Sprinkled throughout this site, you'll find simple worksheet files called QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU with eight questions that focus on the learner's own experiences, questions like: "What did you do yesterday?" and "What time did you go to bed last night?"
There's nothing wrong with going 'old school' and assigning these worksheets as homework to wrap up lessons, and ensuring that your learners understand (more or less) the grammar covered. But if you're looking for something a bit different, look no further. Here are five best (alternative) ways to use 'Questions About You'
1. Guessing Game
Ask your learners to leave the 'name space' blank. Your learners then answer the questions in class, or at home - if assigned as homework. Make sure they use complete sentences using the specified grammar. When finished, collect the papers and use them as the basis for guessing game - basically, who wrote the papers. Here are just two possibilities:
After collecting the papers, tape them to the walls around your classroom and have your students walk around and read the answers - and let them try to guess who wrote what.
After collecting the papers, randomly redistribute them to your students. Your students then stand up and ask their classmates the questions on the paper in an attempt to find the author. This is more difficult (and perhaps interesting) than the above method because (1) many of their classmates will give similar answers to those written on the paper; and (2) the author of the paper may not accurately recall what she originally wrote as her answer!
2. Pair Work Discussion Practice
Before your learners write their answers, tell them to write lies for two of the questions. They then pair up with a classmate and and ask and answer the questions - however, in order to find out which sentences are not true, your learners will have to ask plenty of follow up questions. Make sure that the guesses (as to which answers are false) are given to their classmate only after all the answers have been discussed - good modelling is essential before the activity begins.
3. Famous Person Interview
Before your learners write their answers, tell them to imagine that they are a famous person (you might prepare slips of paper with famous people's names on them, or you might let them choose famous people on their own). This will undoubtedly add tons of interest as your learners finally read aloud their answers to the other members of the class (as a wrap up).
4. Real Person Interview
This activity is similar to the one above except that your learners can interview a real person. That person might be (1) a friend or family member, if taken home as homework; (2) a classmate; (3) a student from another classroom. Wrap up as in the above activity.
5. Extend the Answers
Ask your students to write longer sentences by continuing each sentence with conjunctions such as 'because' or 'so' or 'but'. For example, answers to "What did you do yesterday?" may look like this:
"I went shopping because I wanted to buy a present for my sister."
"I went shopping, so I don't have any money today."
"I went shopping, but I forgot to bring enough money."
This exercise is especially useful for writing students (have your students use the back of the papers, or use another sheet of writing paper).
You can download all 10 'QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU' worksheets now available (as of the time of this blog post) by visiting the Grammar Target pages, or simply by clicking on the links below.
... with more QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU worksheets on the way. :)
Next time, the '100 Best Practices' blog looks at the best ways to use the "Grammar Board Games".
Don't believe those naysayers who claim that Word Searches are a waste of time, that they are little more than "time-fillers" when you find yourself under-prepared for class.
Instead, Word Searches, especially Grammar Word Searches, offer students a fun, non-threatening, rewarding activity that reinforces prior learning. Here are four ways to get the most out of them.
1. Getting Started
Before your students begin searching for the words, consider working together with your learners and guiding them towards the words they need to find. For example, the ‘Past Tense’ Word Search presents a list of 18 present simple words and asks the students to find their past tense forms. Consider first writing the 18 words on the board and asking a few volunteers to come up and write the corresponding past tense forms. Invite help and correction from seated classmates. Of course, your learners should already have had some practice with the grammar beforehand.
2. Finding the Words
Make sure your learners are aware that the hidden words can run in any direction (horizontally, vertically or diagonally). It's also a great help if you can use a count-down timer to help focus your learners’ attention and make the activity more challenging and exciting. About 10 or 12 minutes is usually enough. Here’s a link to my favorite on-line countdown timer that I project on the board to motivate my students:
3. Something Different
Put a spin on the activity by turning it into a team competition. Have your students form three or four teams (depending on the number of students in your class) - the teams then compete to find all the hidden words first. This works best when the word searches are taped to the walls (one per team) of the classroom (consider printing out the Word Search on an A3-sized paper), students standing and gathered around the Word Search. Things may get a bit crazy (and fun!) when 'spies' are sent out to sneak peeks at other teams' answers.
4. Checking Answers
Avoid the temptation of check answers only when everyone has finished. It just can’t be a good feeling to be one of 19 learners waiting (and doing nothing) while your lone classmate tries to find that very last hidden word. Instead, stick strictly to the time limit (and make sure your students know how much time is remaining). Ten or twelve minutes should be enough for several students to find all the words, with the majority of learners finding not all (but almost all) the words.
Projecting the answer key with an OHP or a smart board is the most efficient way for learners to check their answers. Otherwise, make photocopies of the answer key (about one answer key per 3 students) to bring to class to give to your students to share and check answers.
You can download all 18 Grammar Word Searches now available
on this site (as of the time of this blog post) by visiting the Grammar Target pages, or simply by clicking on the file links below:
Adjectives and Adverbs
Get (Phrasal Verbs)
Go (Phrasal Verbs)
Prefixes (im- and in-)
Present Simple Verb Endings (s/es/ies)
Take (Phrasal Verbs)
Next time, the '100 Best Practices' blog looks at different ways to use the "Questions About You" worksheets.
It was a very special day when I realized, a few years ago, that - although my learners hate 'REAL' grammar quizzes - they absolutely love 'PRACTICE' grammar quizzes. Who would have guessed?!
It was this realization that inspired me to create as many practice grammar quizzes as I could (61 quizzes at the time of this blog post). This in turn led to the creation of the 'All Things Grammar' site. "Thank you", practice grammar quizzes!
Below are six 'Best Practices' you can use with practice grammar quizzes.
1. Use the Quizzes as Learner Feedback
Many learners can be unsure of their progress, and lack confidence,
especially if the ‘real’ exams and quizzes are few and far apart. When I
‘teach grammar’ I like to use the quizzes as often as I can, almost on a
daily basis. It’s a great ‘wrap-up’ to a grammar lesson when my students
get high grades.
However, if many of my students get low grades on the practice quizzes, or if they tend to make mistakes on the same quiz item, it’s a signal to me that I need to spend a little more time on, say, first conditionals, before moving to second conditionals.
2. Use the Quizzes as Placement Tests
Many (and hopefully most) language programs will already have level
placement tests for students, so you will know what kind of books and
materials to bring to class.
With private one-to-one teaching, this aid may not be available. You can
use the quizzes to provide a better understanding of your learner’s level –
and which books and materials may be appropriate.
3. Correct Quizzes on the Whiteboard
Write one vertical column of numbers from 1 to 8 on the board, and another column from 9 to 16. Then, for one column, ask one student to write their answers (A, B, or C) next to each number; another student writes the other
Then, before checking the answers, ask your class to look for any possible mistakes – then discuss the results.
4. Correct Quizzes with the On-line Quiz Versions
Many (not quite all, yet) of the quizzes have matching online versions (with
the exact same questions and answers). So, when most of the students
have completed the quiz, you can open the corresponding page and project the
quiz on the smart board.
Then, elicit their answers (a show of hands for the best answer if there is disagreement), and select one of the three choices available. Click on the
'Let's Go' button, and the quiz will provide a percentage result and other information. Links to the on-line versions are available right below the
printable versions (see also the link at the bottom of this page).
5. Give Grammar Quizzes for Homework
You’ve taught one or more grammar items in your lesson – what to give
your learners for homework? Why not give them a grammar quiz? The
quizzes will challenge and motivate your learners. Collect and correct.
6. Use the Quizzes as a Source of Ideas
You may want to (or need to) create your own quizzes based on your own school’s curriculum, so ‘All Things Grammar’ Quizzes can be a great source
of ideas to inspire you.
Thank you for visiting my second blog post!
Check back in another 2 weeks to find out more about
'All Things Grammar' Word Searches. :)
No matter what their language background,
most students are familiar with crosswords.
They can signal a fun break from the usual routine
of your class – and at the same time act as a
valuable learning tool.
Below are seven practical tips ‘n’ tricks for using
them with your learners.
1. Make the crossword easier by allowing your learners
to use reference materials. For example, if they are
completing an irregular past tense crossword, consider
allowing them to use a grammar chart with a list of past
2. Make the crossword easier by helping your learners with
all the ‘Across’ words. Then, let them complete all the
‘Down’ words on their own.
3. Make the crossword easier by acting out the clues.
For example, with Present Continuous Crossword clue
#4 Across (‘I’m … a ball at the park.), you can tap into your
inner actor and mime the word ‘kicking’.
4. Make the crossword easier by writing all the answers
(or perhaps just the ‘Across’ words) on the board – but be sure
to write them in random order.
5. Make the crossword into a competitive game by
enlarging and printing out two copies of it to paste on
opposite sides of the classroom. ‘Team A’ is responsible
for completing all the ‘Across’ words, while ‘Team B’ tries
to complete all the ‘Down’ words. And, yes, team members
may run over to the other team’s crossword to ‘steal’ looks
at their progress (this will offer letter clues for their own
team)! The first team to finish is the winner.
6. Checking answers Project the answers if you have a
projector, and let your learners check their own work.
Otherwise, print out a few crossword answer keys and let your learners check their answers in small groups. Quickly writing them down on the board under an ‘Across’ column and a ‘Down’ column is another possibility - I've tried that - but it's a lot of extra work for you. Checking answers verbally will use up too much valuable class time.
7. Finally, don’t forget to set a reasonable time limit for a
crossword activity (about 15-20 minutes for a typical
grammar crossword on this site). It’s not advisable to wait
for every single one of your learners to finish, especially when
a few of them may never get the correct answer to that
last difficult ‘Down’ or 'Across' word.
Thank you for visiting my first blog post!
Check back each month for more '100 Best Practices with All Things Grammar'.
Next time: '6 Best Ways to Use Grammar Quizzes'
Originally from Canada, Robert first began teaching English in 1988 in Taiwan. Later, he traveled to the UK (in 1998) to study ELT materials design at the University of Leeds as part of his M.Ed./TESOL.