Open or closed questions?


Now this activity is very much about workplace skills or even life skills, and can be transferred to the ELT context to bring an extra dimension into your grammar practice. The idea is to demonstrate the difference between fact checking and information gathering. In short, the participants have to guess each other’s secret words by asking only closed, and then only open, questions – and hopefully they will see that open questions let them guess faster. (Check the original post for a complete description of the activity.) I’d say it’s more suitable for the Intermediate level and upwards: lower levels would not have enough language to answer questions at length, which defeats the purpose of the activity. And of course, doing it online is even easier: use the private chat function to give out the ‘secret’ words, put the learners into breakout rooms in pairs or threes, and have them return to the main room as soon as they are done (and possibly get another set of words).

P.S. Check out one of my earlier posts about questions, which refers to the QFT technique – another idea from an non-ELT context that we can borrow.


Business what ifs


This list of conditional conversation prompts is a really simple thing to share, but I spent quite a lot of time looking for it! Usually, questions with conditionals online are all of the same type: “If you were God (fruit, an animal) for one day, what would you do?” , or “What would you buy if you won a million dollars?” Nice, but awfully repetitive and more often than not are too wacky and can’t be related to the lesson topic. Now, this list of business-related questions is a perfect timesaver: each of these questions can become a conversation prompt, or they can be used in a quick discussion game, but the best thing about them is that they are based on workplace situations: what would you do if you woke up with a cold, what would you do if you had fewer meetings, if your employer took away some of your perks, if you were offered a job abroad…. Just what a busy teacher needs 🙂

Do learners ‘copy mistakes’ from each other?


Have your students sometimes refused to work with a weaker-level partner?

I’ve recently read this interesting post by Betty Azar responding to a teacher’s worry that students will acquire wrong models if you put mistakes on the board during a delayed error correction stage. She explains why fossilisation is not going to happen: error correction sessions develop the learners’ abilities to self-monitor, reinforce target language and generally help them become more aware of grammar cognitively.  Good arguments that can be shared with students, I think! (But I’m still going to mark those incorrect examples with an asterisk or a different colour, just in case :)).

The good old grammar auction


I’m not a big fan of spending time on games, but the other day I actually succumbed to Kahoot 🙂 So, there’s a time for everything, even for a grammar auction! Whatever your views on the value of ‘fun’ in the classroom, this great PowerPoint template by Tekhnologic is still worth checking out. The slides have gavel sounds and click-sensitive fields, look very nice and can be easily copied and adapted. There are also links to other posts about this activity.

P.S. I keep stumbling upon those cool older posts , and I hope the author of Tekhnologic comes back some day.

The fun of misnegation


“The author never fails to disappoint” – can you imagine that a phrase like that ended up on the cover of a book? And yet it happens, and there is an explanation for it in this post by Stan Carey about the issue with several negatives in one sentence and how our brain sometimes fails to process them correctly. It can be particularly useful when you’re teaching students with a negative-concord native language – though I suppose words similar to ‘overestimate’ and ‘understate’ can be tricky regardless of how many negatives your language allows you to have in one sentence!


Should or must

Warning: this is a rather touchy-feely post, and it’s not really about grammar rules! Nevertheless, I think it builds quite nicely on the idea of Do-Nothing Teaching, and the questions the writer asks are very close to my heart. It’s actually a book summary, and it seems that the whole book is a worthwhile read. Call me an idealist, but isn’t this a great quote? 

“When you follow Must every day, you impact not only what you create for your work, but also who you become in your life. This is how your work and your life become one and the same.”

That said, you can also use the article for extra noticing practice with higher-level students 🙂

P.S. My ‘Listening to now’ widget has stopped working, so here is a nice song I got stuck on as an illustration: 

Language, literally


Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary has acknowledged the figurative use of ‘literally’? The author (Fiona McPherson) goes on to explain why and how certain word uses tend to irritate speakers, and even quotes Chaucer and Shakespeare to illustrate the history of other contentious language phenomena like double negation,  ‘sick’, ‘wicked’ and ‘non-plussed‘. A riveting read (not literally)!


Teaching with telescopic texts


I have found this really cool educational tool in Ozge Karaoglu’s blog: when you click on a part of sentence, it unfolds into more words and you end up with a huge sentence that is almost like a text. You can write your own sentences, or use the little demo about tea.

I recommend checking Ozge’s post for more links and examples of its use in teaching – really good stuff!

Learners as illustrators


A very useful post from Jade Blue about using student-generated visuals. This type of fun is actually justified: students’ comprehension and retention improves because they are engaged cognitively and affectively and have an opportunity to build new patterns between what they know and what they don’t. The post describes grammar-conceptualising activities, sentence-structure activities and idea sculptures – not only with pencils and paper, but also with Cuisenaire rods. I particularly like the illustrations – makes you want to start generating your own visuals right now!

Home-made jazz chants


If you haven’t read this post by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto yet, you are in for a real treat. It features a video with none other than Carolyn Graham, who is showing conference participants how to make their own jazz chants. You don’t have to watch the video to get the idea, but those 10 minutes will be worth it, especially the live performance at the end. There are a few well-chosen links for extra reading at the end of the article, but I am already convinced: this is the perfect drill.