Homestay Games

When you’re hosting homestay students, it can be difficult to engage the whole household in conversation, especially if your students are lower levels, particularly in the first few days. I tend to find there’s some dead time after dinner, rainy days and long journeys when everyone is gathered together and conversation can be difficult.

Here are some games we’ve used. The title of each game links to instructions. The language areas specified give an indication of lexical and grammatical areas practiced in the games, but these aren’t classes – the aim should be communication and fun, rather than accuracy. Read more


Songs for Learning English Grammar

I’m keen on the idea of songs helping students internalise, through repetition, the rhythm, sentence stress and grammatical structures or English. I don’t have much opportunity to use songs in most of my classes (mostly business, academic and exam classes at the moment) but am interested in the idea of encouraging students to use songs independently to practice shadowing, as one way of reviewing grammar structures. One advantage of using songs this way, with the lyrics available, is that the words of the songs don’t need to be quite as clear as they would if they were to be used to present structures and vocabulary. Read more

Teaching Effective Thinking – Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats was originally designed as an effective (both critical and creative) thinking exercise for management programs but has since been applied in a variety of business and educational contexts.

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Poems for Business Classes

One common question asked throughout Adrian Underhill’s course was how could we adapt the activities for our more serious courses, the ones whose students tend to have very particular and definite aims in mind, such as Business English courses?

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De-mystifying the Phonemic Chart

When I started teaching the chart seemed practically incomprehensible to me. Even as I grew to understand it (and Adrian Underhill’s layout is the only one that seems to make sense) it felt like a great cognitive load to place on students (‘Think English spelling is hard? Now learn all these symbols!’). The DELTA, if anything, made it seem less accessible (unvoiced bilabial plosive, anyone?).

Adrian Underhill, though, strips all that away through use of gesture and mime, by focusing on the chart as a ‘geographical map’ of the mouth which helps locate the physical movements we make in production, using simple prepositions of place to describe movement. Read more

Improving Fluency – The 4/3/2 technique, self-assessment and soliquizing

I’m working on another pre-sessional course this summer for a British university. I love pre-sessionals, for me it’s the only time of year I work with other teachers. The students are great too, usually very focused and excited at the prospect of studying abroad.

This year we need to focus on fluency in speaking. We seem to hope fluency will improve with time, exposure and growing confidence. It appears to me the activities I usually do are inadequate, they tend to be designed to improve fluency over the longer term by building vocabulary (paraphrasing, using vague language, or functional phrases to buy time, to generalize etc.) or they focus on improving accuracy, or both. I want activities that activate language the students already know. Read more

The Life Game

NOTE: This ‘game’ has grown organically over the years as various teachers have made observations & contributions (I don’t claim sole authorship).

The Life Game is my favourite ‘getting to know you’ type activity because it:

  • requires few resources
  • is easy to set up
  • is based on students’ real experiences
  • is actually interesting
  • is genuinely ‘bonding’ & establishes a nice class atmosphere
  • gives me a good idea of the students’ speaking level/ability to communicate
  • gives me a good idea of the students’ interests
  • with adjustments can be made to work with any level post beginner.
  • works well with one-to-one classes as well as larger groups.
  • can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 1/2 hours with pre & post activities.

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