Archive for September, 2009

Week four words

September 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Hi Class,

Quizlet flashcards made  – nine of the ‘boarded’ words from last week all there for you to review. Click here to go to the words

See you bright ‘n’ early


Categories: lesson, words

This week’s link…well links really

September 25, 2009 3 comments

This week’s link is to an online video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

At first glance you might think, well this isn’t the usual ‘something to do with a class’ kind of link, well that’s true but you could use the page with students (it’s a site that allows you to create and add subtitles to a videos – which has potential for language class exercises, doesn’t it?).

Anyway back to the video, by now you have hopefully been and had a look, I found it very funny, if you didn’t my apologies for taking 4 minute 21 secs of your busy lives.  May be it’s like most things in that you need the context.  If, like me you are an avid (some say) obsessive twitterer then you probably got the context. There are often little, generally good-humoured spats between Scott and various EFL twitterers usually over the things such as the use of technology in classes, and the position of technology within the dogme approach.  Added to that on Lindsay Clandfield’s blog (the creator of the video) – Scott was recently voted the most influential person in EFL. See now you have more context it helps understand the ‘tribute’

However the point of this post is not context or tribute videos.  It’s more about how we educators can learn so much, so easily now through the ease of communicating via the Internet.  The video hits upon the ‘hot topics’ for educators at the moment, no not how popular Scott is (though that is discussed :-)), but how technology is being used in the classroom, should it be used in the classroom or is it just another piece of clutter that gets in the way of learning.  On top of that if you follow the dogme approach then how can technology be implemented with it.  It also segues rather nicely in a much-discussed topic this week, – Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) for short. The ‘context’ I referred to earlier was all established via the internet – and it highlights how easy it is for the interested teacher (and shouldn’t we all be interested?) to develop for free.  Following EFL bloggers opens up a world of ideas, resources and discussions. Since joining twitter, I have ‘met’ so many incredible educators and been able to join in the daily debates, ideas sharing and good-natured banter.

As a freelancer, my own ‘online’ PLN (though I never really thought of it this way until the discussions this week) has allowed me to have contact in a way I haven’t had since I stopped working at a school fulltime. But then now, even if I did still have that contact, I know I can also learn from my time online.

Not convinced, well take a look at a few of the things that have appeared on line this week. For a start there was a free workshop online run by Scott – finished now but joining it, you can still see what was happening. Want to know more about dogme? Then join their discussion group or go read a personal experience such as on Karenne’s blog (which you should read anyway for its wealth of varied postings). Find out about how PLNs can help you on Marisa Constantinides excellent blog. Want to know more about technology then start at that’Slife or get ideas from Nik Peachey.  The list really is endless and there are far too many excellent blogs to name in one ‘small’ posting. Apologies to those not named, you can find them easily from all the aforementioned posts. Finally (and yes you have heard it before but it’s true), join twitter and follow EFL people you’ll be amazed at how many useful things you’ll discover.  And after all, doing all or only some of it will cost you, is a bit of time, which in what is generally thought of as a poorly paid profession can’t be bad.

Happy blog reading and have a good weekend


Categories: blogs, links, Teaching, technology

Week three words

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Hi Class,

Ready for tomorrow’s lesson? There weren’t too many words on the board at the end of last week’s lesson so this week’s quiz set is only nine words. You can find and revise the words as usual on quizlet. Click on the link to take you to week three words.

See you in the morning,


Categories: lesson, lessons, Teaching, words

This week’s lesson -food glorious good

September 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Apologies for those expecting a lesson based on teen language whichI said I would post, we didn’t get round to it but I’ll post on how I think it could be used over the weekend

From time to time I like to do a lesson from their coursebook (rather nominally used, mainly cause it’s got a key so they can self-study and also because I find it a bit ‘long’ (see post of 16/9 if you are lost by that). Also, last week, Gordon Ramsey came up and by coincidence the topic of the coursebook unit is food, well it is one of those generic coursebook themes so no real surprise.

Gordon’s programme are just beginning on Czech TV (they’ve been through all the Jamie Oliver ones) and as such he is not well known yet, but of course he is all over the interweb thingy so here’s the lesson.

The coursebook bit is about food collocations (from things such as ‘favourite dish’  ‘to have square meal’ and so I am building around this theme but also want to include listening and reading (and remember my lesson is three hours long).  Here’s the lesson without the coursebook bits.

Context for lesson is established during our usual protracted chat at the beginning, one of them is bound to have eaten out since the last lesson (and then using this picture I introduce the idea of food and cooking). I first asked them to name typical British foods and when none said curry, showed them the picture, saying this is probably the most popular dish and then they had to guess what it was, well that it was a curry I doubt any of them (though I never checked) would know it was a jalfrezi 🙂

From there I want to both assess vocabulary knowledge and get ready for a listening so for that am using a mind map created at – here is screen shot of the mapmind I made:

Screen shot 2009-09-18 at 18.20.07

I still have  wifiless classroom so had to screenshot it for use but hope that having introduced it, students can go to and add words after the lesson) – and in class they did come up with about fifty more words, since I go with the flow, we got seriously side-tracked from the listening prep by exploring all the words they were offering up  so if you use this lesson you might not want to get too distracted by adding words at this stage or it’ll detract from words for the listening.

Having ensured the students feel ok with the original words from the mind map, time for the listening. First I showed them the recipe, which you can find here (Ramsey made a series of programmes aimed at getting Brits cooking so the recipe is actually quite easy to make (I know I’ve made it :-)) . I copied the recipe into a powerpoint slide (see below) and blanked out all the words that were in the mind map.  I asked them to put the words back into the text. Obviously words like ‘as’ can be added in many places so reassure students that it if they think a word fits then use it.

Screen shot 2009-09-18 at 18.33.45

Once they are ready and have discussed possible answers, play the video clip, you’ll probably need to play it at least twice as they watch the video first time rather than see how there answers compare.  Check any differences they might have found and whether they actually matter or not and if they fancy making the recipe.

There are many directions the lesson could now go in, we ended up talking about  different restaurants we have been to (Ramsey used to have a restaurant in Prague) . However if they had not gone down this path I would have now gone back to mindmap to ask them to add more words or think of more words they can add later – by sharing recipes with each other. Not only does this seem the most natural way of continuing the lesson, I had another chef ready so I finished (yes that’s ‘all’ we did in three hours but we’ll be back next week) by asking them what they would make from:

Bacon, eggs, milk and sugar (you can only make one dish and have to use all the ingredients). After eliciting some answers and justifications, I played them this clip to see if the chef would make the same (am not telling you here what he made click on the link :-)).

Students willing next week, we’ll look at a review of the chef’s restaurants (bit of jigsaw reading , leading into a revision of the finer points of comparison (that’s t he grammar point in the coursebook)

The following links are the ones given to my students for possible extensions activities or if they want to go back to the videos,


The Mind map site – you do have to create an account and be invited to collaborate.

The website of Woodlands Junior School in Kent – a very impressive website that the school has as part of one of their school projects. The link takes you to food bit but they have lots of British cultural facts on there.  I am very impressed by the work that went into it!

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Video of the sauce being made

The second video (bacon, eggs etc)

Some other sites:

There are many sites that deal with food for English learners, googling esl+food brings up a substantial list.  Here are some to get you started:

A list of food word (Students could add these to the mind map)

Some food quizzes – first one is name the picture, second one unscramble the words

Another quiz (slightly more interactive)

A food idiom quiz

Quizlet – the place where we have our weekly word quizzes also has hundreds of quizzes.

Some Reading:

A website of unusual restaurants – it links to the each of the restaurants websites.

A website where people share their recipes.

Reviews of the second chef’s restaurant.

A review of Ramsey’s former restaurant in Prague (which, adding my own review was fabulous (I love my food :-))

And that’ll do it for this week’s lesson, enjoy


Categories: lesson, lessons, Teaching

Week two words (for my class)

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Hey Class,

I should be there tomorrow now that I can just about walk again but in the meantime I have made  ‘flashcards’ for ten of the unknown words from last week. As with week one,  it’s on quizlet and clicking here will take you straight there.

See you in the morning,


Categories: lessons, Teaching, words

This posting is ‘sick’!

September 16, 2009 5 comments

If you have been following my blog then you know I have been using an episode Stephen Fry’s BBC program on English called ‘So wrong it’s right’.  As part of that we have been looking at ‘unusual’ pieces of English.

It started with this, which I heard while watching sport this summer, a marvellous utterance where most people would understand every word but not understand the sentence.

“He may be a number 9 but he is no bunny”

Shall leave you to decode it (the context of cricket helps :-).  My students were obviously clueless but we got there eventually.  Next came this taken from a BBC radio one music programme:

“ This is the sickest festival in the world”

The sickest festival, is that good or bad? If you are a student hearing that what do you think? A quick look in an online dictionary lists five definitions of sick all of them negative. (I used the OALD online). And what about when compared to this sentence from the news this morning:

“Doctors want some of the sickest swine flu patients to get special treatment.”

Do they have the same meaning? No, in one case ‘sick’ means ill and another it means great, fabulous, fantastic.  If you knew then a ‘big up’ to you, you ‘smacked it’.  If you didn’t you’ve been ‘owned’.  Lost? Then maybe you need to go and read the ‘Pimp my vocabulary handbook‘ which appeared in yesterday’s Guardian, along with this quiz, which kept a lot of us distracted from doing work.

Teens  (and for that matter adults) have their own language but do we need to teach it to our students? I ask as this was a conversation was having with some twitterers (is that the word?) yesterday after posting the quiz  (in which nobody really excelled themselves btw :-)).  My students (adults) would enjoy it (well most of them) but it’s hardly language they would use – I can’t really see then high fiving and going ‘cool beans’.  But then again what if they had listened to the same radio program as I did when the sick meant great they’d need to know. Teen students might enjoy it and indeed might use it, at the risk of stereotyping, they would also have more access to it say through music but at the end of the such language is ephemeral; what’s ‘in’ today is ‘out’ tomorrow, as this chart shows (chart from The fast company)

A Timeline of the Word Cool

Language is  heavily influenced by the here and now  – take the word ‘bovvered’ used all over the UK a few years ago as it appeared in a comedy show and subsequently used by Tony Blair (so much so that Oxford chose it as there word of the year for 2006) but how much is it used now?

This post is not trying to suggest what English we should or shouldn’t teach (because that’s too controversial and I would have the ELFers up in arms so am side stepping :-)) but highlight  a) what a wonderful language English is and b) show the difficulties of teaching English – afterall none of this language would appear in a coursebook.

I think my class would like looking at this language especially as many of them work and / or teach teens so am going to use the material my next post will look at how.

Have a good day


footnote: Since I made the posting this morning,  I’ve learnt that ‘ill’ can also mean ‘sick’ in the great, fab meaning, thanks for that and the link, Shiv

Categories: Teaching Tags: , , , ,

Words – my favourite sites

September 13, 2009 Leave a comment

On Friday, Lindsay Clandfield’s blog ‘six things’ was discussing ‘ugly words’. His post was based on something he found here and by the end of the day many EFLers had posted their ugly words from coffin through to TEFL. The original list came from a site called ‘wordie’ which describes itself as the flickr of words and for a lover of words such as myself it is a cornucopia of information and certainly worth recommending to both teachers and students.

Getting to the point, the post made me consider my favourite ‘word’ sites. So for my favourite links of the week post, here are a few of my favourite word-orientated sites. They represent the five ‘word sites’ I tend to use the most at the moment. This list is in no particular order and avoids EFL dictionaries (which though I use quite lot online, I didn’t want to list all them all here.)

1. – make pretty pictures of vocabulary but has good practical uses. Students can use it to store and review, I use it for revision and for predicative tasks in reading. People put wordles on their blogs and there are also a number of sites that have turned it into a guessing game. To show you what it can do this is a random wordle of my blog.

Screen shot 2009-09-13 at 18.09.49

2. Wordsift – is probably much more a teacher tool and is aimed at managing “the demands of vocabulary and academic language in their text materials”. When you enter a text it makes a tag cloud (a bit similar to wordle) but it is based on the frequent words so enter a whole text and it gives you the top 50 used words. It also allows to search, make minds maps, find definitions and so much more.

3. Wordnik – still in beta stage and you need to register but it is a dictionary with a difference for example it looks at how words are being used on twitter and it is also a dictionary you contribute to.

4. Another ‘dictionary’ is lingro, which describes itself as the coolest dictionary on the net. Very useful for students in that it by typing in the address of a page, lingo makes the whole page clickable. So if there is a word you don’t know. Click on it and you’ll get a definition. Very useful tool.

5. Finishing with another site I have already made reference to in my blog and that is quizlet. There are a lot flashcards sites out there but this one, in my opinion, takes some beating for the fact it is really easy to use for both teacher and students, it stores flashcards so you can go back to them time and time again. There are the cards for my students to revise new words from a lesson.

Well I said five sites and you got six, there are many more out there, as I said my criteria were the ones I use the most and / or have the most fun on…..oh go one then one more 🙂

6. google setsgoogle labs has so many nice little tools you can use with students but perhaps this is my favourite.  Basically, type in a word and google creates a set of similar words (e.g. a lexical set). You can use this for teaching (as each word links) or for guessing games and so on. See now that’s made me start to consider if I should include mindmapping sites as well – they do after all play with words….no leave it for next time.

Hope you enjoy the sites and if you have any better suggestions, feel free to comment.

Have a good week