Do you speak corporate?

If you like teaching Business English, here’s a wonderful article that can keep your higher-level learners busy and happy. Olga Khazan from The Atlantic writes about corporate buzzwords from a surprisingly balanced perspective (surprisingly because of the headline: ‘Corporate Buzzwords Are How Workers Pretend to Be Adults’). In fact, even though phrases like ‘disruption‘, ‘touch base‘ and ‘growth hacking‘ can be seen as annoying, fake or pretentious, knowing how and when to use them can save you time in the workplace, help you transition from home to work (like a business suit you put on in the morning), and generally make you feel part of the in-group.

As for English language learners, the usefulness of corporate speak is even greater – you need to learn it before you can ditch it, right?


Folk etymology for language learners

It’s all good and well to have fun in the classroom, but wouldn’t it be great if most of the fun came from the process of language learning, or even better, from the language itself? Me, I have to confess that I’m hopelessly in love with English, so I’m always on the lookout for tools that can encourage more students to join me 🙂 For instance, little excursions into etymology are quite helpful, but this article by Christopher Walker takes it to another level: you will find out how to use folk etymology in the classroom, and even download a nice set of materials to go with it. You can have your learners build their own theories about the origin of SOS or ‘hangnail’, play Call my bluff and do other kinds of fun (really fun) stuff – it’s on my to-do list of teaching now.

A coronadictionary to enjoy in our isocosm


Have you seen these amazing posts by Tony Thorne? The author has collected dozens of new coinages and repurposed lexis that people started using during the Covid-19 crisis. The first post in the series (#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral) mostly deals with scientific terms like ‘flatten the curve’ or ‘shelter in place’ that suddenly became very popular in our conversations. The second (#CORONASPEAK – the language of Covid-19 goes viral – 2) veers in the direction of slang and colloquialisms, and what a treasure trove it is: from coronanoia to covid waltz, quarantrolls and zoom mullet and even new emojis – it’s all there. A great collection to read on your own or share with friends, but I believe it can also have teaching uses. My lower secondaries are particularly keen on discussing the virus, so bits and pieces from these posts could be a great CLIL warmup. Advanced adults will probably appreciate the humour in some of the slangier expressions. If you have more ideas, let me know 🙂

The word of the year: 2019


I can’t believe it’s my third post about the word of the year 🙂 Incidentally, it’s Kate’s Crate’s second anniversary: I started this blog a few days before the New Year in 2017. It’s been really rewarding in many ways – but this post is not about blogging, it’s about what lexicographers have chosen as the most significant word for the whole world this year. So, without further ado:

Oxford: climate emergency

Cambridge: upcycling

Merriam-Webster: they (the link is to the behind-the-scenes video explaining how they chose the word – so cool)

Collins: climate strike existential

P.S. You can compare this to the words of the year in 2018 and in 2017.

P.P.S. What’s your word of the year? And what would you like your 2020 word to be?




Sweet memes are made of these


Here’s a great post about the value of memes for learning by Glenn Wiebe. Don’t be surprised that it’s mostly about history and social studies – a lot of his ideas can easily be implemented in an EFL classroom. Also, he does talk about literacy integration, vocabulary learning and even the Frayer model. Some of example activities are to use memes as discussion starters or project tasks, and he recommends several tools for creating memes online. Definitely something I’m going to try out in the new year, and what about you?


Unparliamentary language


If your (hopefully, adult) learners ask you for ‘real English’, you might find this post from Language Log quite useful: it describes how the expression ‘with all due respect‘ has developed to mean the exact opposite, and gives a few rather strong examples. It could certainly make for a very interesting discussion of phrases that look innocent but can be seen as really offensive or impolite.

Teachers have a duty to point things like this out to students, don’t you agree? Or do you usually gloss over ‘unparliamentary language’ in your lessons?

Tongue twisters and history

Merry Christmas everyone! But since I don’t celebrate this tradition myself, here’s another work-related post for you. If your learners are interested in pronunciation and etymology, this article will make them (or you :)) extra happy: it tells a short but entertaining story behind each of the most famous tongue twisters in English. Could make for a nice holiday read!

The ABC book of progress


Making an ABC book together – what a great idea for a final project of the term or year! You can find a lot of examples and suggestions in this article at Education World. What I particularly like about ABC books is a great sense of completion they can give. After all, there are only so many letters in the alphabet. As for topics, I suppose vocabulary is the obvious choice for ELT contexts: for example, weather or free time activities could work well? And of course all of this can be digitised (or done digitally) and proudly demonstrated to parents 🙂

Vocabulary menu handout

vocabulary menu

Do you like vocabulary cards as much as I do? I routinely use Quizlet online and in printouts, good old paper cards, vocabulary organisers – but sometimes I want to do something new (preferably low-prep, paperless, engaging, student-centered and of course effective – well, never settle for anything less :)). Here’s what worked in one of my lessons yesterday: a simple menu of activities that students can do in small groups. It can be as fast or as slow as you like, and it leaves you free to monitor and make notes of which words need more practice. It worked so well that I couldn’t resist and had to put it into a handout/poster that you can download and use here.

It’s set up the usual way, when students pick a card one by one from one stack or their  own sets. And now the most important thing: it’s not the student who has the card who does the activity. If you take the word, you ‘own’ it, and you are the one to choose an option from the menu and ‘test’ another student. It adds just the right element of control and tension! (Alternatively, you can use 12-digit dice for this, but student agency is also nice, isn’t it?)

Do let me know if any of you have found it useful. Now I’m suffering from writer’s remorse because I’ve spent so much time making the poster!

Mini vocabulary workouts

mini workouts

I really like this  two-post series by Daniel Martin at Keep It Simple Activities: how to exploit those vocabulary videos by Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley.  This post has examples of generic speaking questions and extension activities; and this one suggests how the videos can be used for micro-writing activities: use keywords to predict the contents, watch the video and compare the ideas. Very practical and efficient, with immediate feedback built into the activity and no preparation required. One more thing – it’s great to focus just on the language sometimes, without bringing in all kinds of non-linguistic and sometimes really unnecessary information.

I suppose something similar can be done with those little BBC Radio podcasts about contemporary vocabulary (The English we speak). They are a bit longer and require focused listening, but why not?