May 26, 2024

Revisiting Super Size Me

Super Size Me movie poster [Fair use]
Freshly updated video-activity based on a classic fast food exposé

The news of Morgan Spurlock's death at the age of 53 prompted me to revisit this video activity we created some 15 years ago with a former British Council colleague, Charlotte Brander. I thought it was also appropriate to update the activity for the 20th anniversary of one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Additionally, the film has finally been uploaded to YouTube - legally - by the production company. Now, 20 years since its release, has it held up well? 

Jan 7, 2024

News Quiz 2023: follow up

Activities for reviewing and recycling the language from News Quiz 2023

Image credits: Isaac Mayne/DCMS, Steve Swayne [Public Domain];
 Les Zg [CC BY-SA 4.0], Geoffrey Chandler [CC BY 2.0]

Welcome back, fellow EFL/ESL educators! I hope that the recent installment of the News Quiz did not only engage your students but also offered some valuable learning opportunities. Now, let's delve into a variety of language-focused follow-up activities. 

As in the past few years, these activities come in various formats. You'll find interactive drag'n'drop exercises on LearningApps, a matching activity on WordWall (Advanced level), interactive quiz on Quizizz (Intermediate level) and good old fashioned worksheets in editable Google Docs.

Dec 30, 2023

News Quiz 2023

Traditional end-of-year news quiz for the first lesson of the new year
Image by Fulton County Sheriff's Office,
State of Georgia via Wikipedia [Fair Use]

It's time for... News Quiz 2023! Following the annual tradition since the start of this blog, here comes the news quiz some of you have been waiting for.

As in the past three editions, the quiz uses a multiple choice format. This way you can get through the questions quickly and devote more time to discussing the stories and learning some language. As usual, the text is packed with very common lexical chunks (verified with the help of COCA) and other vocabulary items for your students to learn, practise and use. Some of these, such as made headlines, cause controversy and went viral (all from the Intermediate version), make recurring appearances in my news quizzes.

Jun 4, 2023

Interesting recent research according to Penny Ur - Pt. 2

 Penny Ur shares research she finds interesting at IATEFL 2023

Penny Ur posting for photos with fans
after her IATEFL talk (19.4.23)

This is the second instalment of my two-part post about Penny Ur’s session at IATEFL matter-of-factly entitled Interesting recent research, in which, in a span of 30 minutes, I learned more than during the rest of the conference. 

Click HERE for the first part.

The reason why it’s taken me so long to publish this (IATEFL took place in April) is that it’s not merely a summary of the talk. Upon my return I did some digging into the sources Penny Ur cited; the result is a summary combined with some personal reflections. By her own admission, she whizzed through so many studies in the talk that I only focus on those that are interesting to me.

May 17, 2023

Interesting recent research according to Penny Ur (IATEFL 2023) - Pt. 1

Insights from Penny Ur’s IATEFL 2023 talk in lieu of a proper conference report

Few people in the industry can make research sound sexy the way Penny Ur and Scott Thornbury can. But it’s probably only the now retired Penny Ur who can get away with a conference session entitled Interesting recent research and the blurb that goes: 

“One of the advantages of being retired but still involved in ELT is that one has more time to browse through recent books and journals in search of interesting research studies. In this session, I’ll share some of the ones I’ve found on a variety of topics…”

Jan 7, 2023

News Quiz 2022: follow up

Activities for reviewing and recycling the language from News Quiz 2022

Image credits: Matt Hrkac [CC BY 2.0];
Heo Manjin | [CC BY-SA 2.0];
Number 10 [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0];
Steve Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0]
 I hope the latest edition of the News Quiz provided some learning opportunities for your students and you're ready to do some further language-focused work.

Like in the past two (pandemic) years, the follow-up activities come in different formats. Below you will find drag'n'drop activities on LearningApps, one matching activity on WordWall (Intermediate level only) and 'traditional' worksheets in editable Google Docs. As a lead-in, you can show this BBC News video and ask students which stories mentioned in the video appeared in the News Quiz.

Dec 30, 2022

News Quiz 2022

Traditional end-of-year news quiz for the first lesson of the new year

Here's the 2022 edition of the annual news quiz some of you have already been asking me about. And yes, I did it myself - took me just a few days - without any assistance from AI! As you may know, ChatGPT has no concept of 2022 because its training ended in 2021, and it was basically useless (when I tried, it generated quiz questions based on fictional events, including a new pandemic and a divorce of a celebrity couple who broke up years ago).

Just like in the past two years - since the start of the pandemic - the quiz comes in several different formats, suitable for different teaching scenarios (face-to-face or online). And as usual, it's packed with lots of juicy lexical chunks and other vocabulary items for your students to explore.

May 29, 2022

IATEFL 2022 report and reflection

Some highlights from the annual IATEFL conference, which took place in Belfast on 17-20 May

The first post-pandemic 'in-person' IATEFL conference saw a slight dip in attendance figures – about 1600 delegates compared to the pre-pandemic figures of nearly 2500 attendees – but it didn't detract from the electric atmosphere, which was largely due to the ability to interact face-to-face again. Indeed, I didn't see members of my PLN for three long years! Between networking and catching up with friends and colleagues I managed to see some sessions. Here are some highlights.

Mar 4, 2022

What I saw in the war

 A lesson based on Janine di Giovanni's TED talk

Image source: [Fair use]
I came across this talk, which is shorter than usual TED talks, while looking for some materials on the topic of war and conflict - in view of the current events. The reactions from the students I've showed it to this week have been: "touching", "impressive" and "outstanding".

Jan 6, 2022

News Quiz 2021 - Follow Up

Activities for reviewing and recycling the language from News Quiz 2021

Image credits: NASA [PD]; 
TapTheForwardAssist [CC BY-SA 4.0];
Glenn Francis [CC BY-SA 4.0]

I hope you enjoyed the latest edition of the News Quiz and didn't find too difficult. Like last year, the follow-up activities come in different formats, most of which can be edited and adapted for your needs. These include drag'n'drop activities on LearningApps, one matching activity on WordWall (Intermediate level only) and 'traditional' worksheets in PDF/editable Google Docs.

Dec 30, 2021

News Quiz 2021

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash
This blog is alive! And so is the blogger. Yes, as you can see, I've survived the apocalypse and am proud to present the 2021 edition of the traditional News Quiz.

Unlike the previous year, the news stories related to coronavirus (oops, COVID-19) are kept to a minimum. But just like last year, the quiz is available in three formats: Google Slides, Quizizz and a
PDF / editable Google Docs.

Jan 10, 2021

News Quiz 2020 - Follow Up

Activities for reviewing and recycling the language from News Quiz 2020

Image credits: Frankie Fouganthin [CC BY-SA 4.0], 
TenAsia [CC BY 3.0], U.S. Secretary of Defense 
[CC BY 2.0] - via Wikimedia Commons
The traditional news quiz has changed its format this year so the follow up, which usually consists of paper-and-pen activities, had to follow suit. I've created a series of interactive online activities on WordWall and LearningApps, which you can adapt if necessary and share with your students. There are also 'traditional' worksheets in Word and PDF, which those of you teaching remotely can display via ScreenShare on Zoom or Teams or simply send to students by email.

Jan 3, 2021

News Quiz 2020

Photo by Victor He on Unsplash
Here's the delayed 2020 edition of my traditional news quiz with apologies to my friends and followers. I hope it still arrives in time for your first lesson of the new year.

This year's quiz is heavily influenced by the pandemic, which shouldn't come as a surprise! Still it has a considerable dose of non-Covid related new stories from the world of sports, science and entertainment.

Aug 13, 2020

Something Just Like This

A listening activity based on a Coldplay's song, which can be optionally followed by jigsaw reading.

This is a song activity based on a surprise collaboration between Coldplay and the Chainsmokers from a couple of years ago. I've used it successfully with students of different ages: teenagers and young adults, who complimented me on my musical taste (!)

Note that the teacher's notes are not provided because the student worksheet is pretty self-explanatory. To check the answers for the While Listening activities, see this lyrics video:

May 25, 2020

Zoom activity: Photos of the week

Photos of the Week section in The Atlantic
Although the lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased in many countries, remote teaching is still in effect - and looks set to continue for the unforeseeable future. Here is an activity I’ve been using a lot at the beginning of my Zoom lessons lately. I suppose you can call it a warmer.

Mar 22, 2020

3 ideas for synchronous online lessons on Zoom

Now that many schools around the Coronavirus-stricken globe have been closed, teachers have had to come to grips with the idea that many have heard about or maybe even experimented with, but never really implemented in earnest - teaching online. I've lost count of how many webinars and online tutorials on various online tools and platforms I have attended in the past week. Most of them were organised by various institutions I work for with each one choosing to use a different synchronous learning platform. The fact that most of these webinars were delivered by tech people exemplifies pretty much how you should not go about implementing edtech: instead of inviting (and paying!) a teacher experienced in remote teaching to do the job, let's ask the college's Moodle guy!

On the other hand, teachers have taken to Twitter sharing activities, ideas and advice that is more pedagogy- rather than technology-driven. In a matter of a few days, the somewhat morbid hashtag #coronavirusteaching has gone viral (pun intended!).

So consider me jumping on the bandwagon. In this post, I'd like to share some activities that have worked well for me in this past week under a partial lockdown.

Jan 5, 2020

News Quiz 2019 - Follow Up

Image credits: Frankie Fouganthin; Milliped; SounderBruce;
under Creative Commons license [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Activities for reviewing lexis from News Quiz 2019

Some of my followers have already been asking me for follow-up activities, particularly Quizlet sets, for the traditional end-of-year news quiz, which I posted last week. Incidentally, it was the 10th News Quiz I'd posted here, on my blog (you can see all of them HERE), since I first launched the blog at the end of 2010...  by posting News Quiz 2010. So, how's that for a #10yearchallenge? I'm actually surprised I've kept at it for so long!

Dec 29, 2019

News Quiz 2019

Traditional end-of-year news quiz for the first lesson of the new year
Photo by Katherine Cheng
[CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr 

Just as I finished working on this, a thought crossed my mind: perhaps it should have been an end-of-decade news quiz this time? Ah well... Anyhow, in keeping with the tradition, here's an end-of-year quiz based on the hottest news stories of the past year.

It's a usual mix of politics, sports and entertainment - but no mention of Brexit whatsoever!

And as usual, it's packed with lots of lexical chunks and other vocabulary items for your students to explore.

Dec 14, 2019

10 paper-and-pencil activities using Quizlet

I first mentioned Quizlet in a blog post in 2013. Over the past six years it has become a staple in many EFL/ESL classrooms. These days whenever I ask participants of my workshops to indicate by a show of hands whether they are familiar with Quizlet, almost every hand in the room goes up. That is with a rare exception of my recent session at TESOL Italy, where, to my utter surprise, none of the 10  or so participants had heard of this wonderful online tool. But even those who do actively use Quizlet are not always aware of the 'offline' opportunities it affords. In this post I'd like to share 10 'offline'  (i.e. paper-based) activities you can do in the classroom using your Quizlet sets.

Mar 12, 2019

Still blogging - but elsewhere

CUP booth at IATEFL Poland in Wroclaw (September 2018)
Can you spot my book?
This is just a quick update. I know it seems like I haven't been blogging much since my book came out, except for the traditional News Quiz. But, in fact, I've written a few pieces that have appeared elsewhere in the past few months, mostly on the Cambridge University Press (CUP) World of Better Learning blog. Here are the links to my latest posts:

Jan 7, 2019

News Quiz 2018 - Follow Up

Activities for reviewing lexis from News Quiz 2018

Image credits: John Bauld [CC BY 2.0];
Alisdare Hickson [CC BY-SA 2.0];
NASA [PD image]
I hope you and - your students - liked the end-of-year news quiz, which I posted last week. As always, it is followed up by lots of activities aimed at reviewing and consolidating the language from the quiz, which I share below.

If you haven't seen the news quiz, it's not to late - click HERE

You can preview the activities below or download them in Word format and edit/adapt them as you wish. The key (answers) and teachers' notes are provided at the end of each level.

UPDATE: a Quizlet set for advanced level: 

Dec 29, 2018

News Quiz 2018

gilets jaune drapeau bbr sur les champs elysees nov 2018
Photo by KRIS AUS67 on Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Although I haven't been a very active blogger this year - but check my posts on the CUP blog -  the traditional end-of-year news quiz is here as always! Focusing on key news stories from 2018 I tried to keep a balance between politics, showbiz and sports. And as usual, it's packed with lots of lexical chunks and other vocabulary items for your students to explore.

Aug 30, 2018

Present Simple or Hard Present ?

'The sun rises in the east' -
a commonly used example of the Present Simple
Photo by @CliveSir via ELTpics on Flickr
In a recent discussion in one of the Facebook groups (this is what seems to prompt my occasional posts these days), the Present Simple was referred to as 'one of the hardest tenses for students to get'. This made me wonder whether the Present Simple, contrary to what its name suggests, is indeed not so simple, or it is just another one of those teacher-induced neuroses. Let's see why there's so much ado about the most common, unmarked English tense.

Apr 6, 2018

8 dictionary activities

Photo by Hana Ticha
via eltpics on Flickr
A friend of mine has mastered English - which is attested by a CPE certificate - by looking up a word and carefully studying examples in a dictionary every day before going to bed. It was before the days of online dictionaries, so he was using a copy of the excellent Longman Dictionary for Advanced Learners. In the 1990s learners' dictionaries, such as Longman or Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (OALD), started breaking away from the native speaker dictionary format (such as by introducing two innovations. First, they started providing definitions using a controlled vocabulary - in the case of Longman it was the Longman Defining Vocabulary (LDV), a carefully graded list of the 2000 most frequent words in English, similar to West's General Service List (GSL). Second, they shifted the emphasis from purely defining meanings to highlighting usage through carefully chosen examples.

As dictionary publishers moved increasingly towards online platforms in the 2000s - and some discontinued the printed version, for example Macmillan - learners' dictionaries made further strides towards improving learner experience. Today's online learners' dictionaries (see the list in my Essential lexical tools) not only offer natural examples and highlight co-text, their entries come complete with collocation boxes, grammar information and common error warnings. All this makes a good learner’s dictionary an essential, indeed indispensable, learning tool. Yet, despite their obvious benefits, I find, much to my regret, that online dictionaries are underused by learners and teachers alike. Here are some activities to get your students using learner's dictionaries and hopefully starting to appreciate their value.