My blog on ESL

All about ESL

Telling stories: Rory’s Story Cubes

Today I want to tell you about Rory’s Story Cubes. I discovered them a couple of years ago. At that time, I got the Original set, and recently I have bought the other two: Voyages and Actions. And, luckily, I have found out that they work really well with my teenage and adult students.



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There was/there were game

Today I want to share with you a game I use when I teach “there was” and “there were”.

I group the students in pairs. One of them, student A, looks at the objects student B has on their table and try to remember what there is, where it is… After some seconds (you decide how much time you want to give), the student A has to cover their eyes and student B has to change the things on their table. Then student A has to describe what there was/were on the table before.

Depending on the level of your students, the sentences they have to produce may be more complex:

  • There was a book
  • There was a book next to the pencil case
  • There was a book and now there are three books

Finally, they change roles and student B has to remember what student A has. You will see that, each time they do it, they will try to change more things on their tables to make it more difficult for their partner.

Is there anything you use to practise these structures?


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Funny English pronunciation

As ESL teachers, we have to teach our students how to pronounce words correctly and when they don’t get it, it can make all of us despair. We all know it is difficult to learn pronunciation, even more when it is quite different from our own language, so videos like the ones below may help them to feel they are not the only ones who have these types of problems.

The first video is a clip from the film The Pink Panther where Steve Martin is trying to pronunce the word hamburger.

The second video is from the TV series Friends, my favourite series ever. In this case, Phoebe is trying to teach Joey French but with non-successful results but with a funny ending.



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Pub Quiz

A pub quiz is a quiz held at pubs (obviously, isn’t it?) where customers, divided in groups, have to answer questions about general knowledge or specific topics. At the end, the group with the most correct answers is the winner, and may win a price.

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ESL and songs

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We have always wondered how it is possible that our students remember song lyrics better than our lessons. And the answer is that our students love listening to songs. That is why in the ESL classroom the use of songs has always been one of our students’ favourite activities. However, there are more reasons for using songs. First, they use authentic language with real vocabulary that the students can learn. Songs are also a great way to  teach culture, something which goes hand in hand with the language.

There are many activities we can do to work with songs in the ESL classroom. A lot has been written about it. For example, here you have an article with some suggestions to work songs in the classroom. But today, I want to bring you some webs I use in my classes that help learners to study English through songs. The good thing is that the activities are done online so the students can also work at home at their own pace.

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The first one is Lyrics Training. Watching music videos, the students have to complete the lyrics of the songs. The songs are grouped according to their  difficulty. My students love this site. The first time I tried it with my students, they made some kind of competition to see who completed the lyrics first. It was a total success.

In the ESOL Courses Website, there are different activities to be done as they listen to the song.

In the EFL Club songs room, we have the typical fill-in-the-gaps exercises.

These are twht sites I use with my students. Would you add any other website to this list?


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The History of English in Ten Minutes

I want to share with you this video. I find it quite interesting with some interesting facts about English that our students may like. I recommend you to use it with advanced level students because of the speed.



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Revision activity: Correct the sentences

One of the activities I find really useful to check if the students have understood a grammar point is to make them correct sentences which contain mistakes. I had always prepared the sentences and given them to the students to be corrected. But a couple of years ago I started asking them to write the sentences. Some people may think that making the students write and think of incorrect sentences may be counterproductive. From my experience, I can tell you that my students pay more attention to grammar correctness and are more aware of knowing what is the correct version of the sentence because they want to make the mistakes difficult to find.

Google Images

I do this activity especially when I want to revise for an exam. The students gather in groups of two or three. Then I tell them to write a number of sentences with mistakes. I let them to make several mistakes but no more than four or five in each sentence. Once they have finished the sentences, they have to swap them with one of the other groups and correct these new sentences. To make it more interesting, I can tell them that the group that finds all the mistakes wins and I give them a small present.

Appart from revising grammar, I use it to revise vocabulary, spelling… anything or everything at the same time.

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Is there any activity you like using to revise? Why don’t you tell us?

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Video activities: Pigeon: Impossible

Using video in the ESL classroom is an activity which may be really motivating.

Today I want to show you the activities I do with the short film Pigeon: Impossible.

Practice predictions:

We start the activity making predictions about the story looking at the title and/or the film poster: What type of film is it? Who do you think are the main characters?… Then, we start watching the film. I stop the video at certain moments and the students have to predict what will happen next in the story. If they need some help, we can ask them some questions. For example: What will the pigeon do? What will happen to the agent?

Change the ending:

The students have to change the ending of the story. They can do it orally or writing it.

Tell me a story:

The students can retell the story to their partners or using it as an example, tell a new story.

What would happen if…:

This activity can be used to revise the Second or Third Conditionals. Using the conditionals, the students can comment on the story. What would have happened if…?  What would you do if…?

Can you think of any other activity?

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Practising fluency

One of the things I find more difficult to practise with my students is fluency. With this activity we can make our students practise it and get more confidence. I do this activity with my older students (14-16-year-olds) because of the previous knowledge they have and I have appreciated some improvement.

During the last 5-8 minutes of the lesson I tell them they can speak about anything they want- what they did the previous day, their next lesson, their plans for the afternoon…-  as long as they do it in English. At the begining it is a bit difficult, strange, for them, but as lessons go by, we can see the improvement. I am not very strict about grammar (but if I hear a mistake I correct it) because that is not the aim of the activity. As regards vocabulary, if they need a word they don’t know, they ask me, so I am not worried about it.

As I have already said, they became more confident because they are speaking about things they like, with their friends, without a teacher behind correcting all the time, and they realise they can say more things than what they thought.

Google images


Have you got any other activity to practice fluency?

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Sentences game

I have tried this activity with primary students (8-9-year-olds) in speaking lessons but I think it could also work with teenagers or adults. It was aimed as a speaking activity, but it can become a written activity with lower level students.

First, you have to divide the students in groups, I would say 2-5 people in each group. Then, you have to choose 5-8 categories of words, for example food, places, jobs… You can choose from the ones the students know, or the ones you want to revise. The groups of words do not only need to be vocabulary groups, but also “adjectives” or “nouns” or “verbs”… The stronger the students, the more complicated the categories.

The students, within their group, have to write a word that belongs to each group, so if there are 6 categories, they would have 6 words. Once the groups have choosen their words, they start saying (or writing, depending on the weakness of the students) sentences, one each student, in which they have to use all the words chosen. If they are weak students, they can think of a sentence all together.

Another possibility is to complete a story. Each student, or group, has to say a sentence in which they use only one of the category words. Then, the next student, or group, has to continue the “story” using another of the words. You can vary any aspect of the activity, as always, it all depends on your students’ needs.

If you organize the activity as a competition, the winner would be the group with less mistakes in their sentence.

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