Dec 28, 2011

News quiz 2011 and end-of-year round-up


My blog celebrates its first birthday today. It’s been a busy year so I haven’t blogged as often as I should have – probably below the recommended once a week average. But I hope you've enjoyed my posts or rather used in class some of my ideas and activities. It seems Would you like it gift-wrapped? was my most viewed post in 2011, followed by the Cycles of Recycling.

Leo Selivan fires up his presentation!
Among the highlights of the year was speaking at two international conferences: IATEFL in Brighton in April and TESOL France in November not to mention a handful of local ones including the prestigious EnglishForum at the MOFET Institute.

Another defining moment was finally joining Twitter. Better late than never – and apparently I am in good company because Simon Cowell, Christina Aguilera and the Pope have all joined this year too! (according to this review). Thanks to Twitter I got to know lots of other enthusiastic teachers who, unlike me, blog on a more regular basis and are passionate about teaching and, not less importantly, learning. Some of the blogs I’ve picked can be found here or scroll down to the bottom of the page to see my blogroll (“Blogs worth checking out”).


Teaching vocabulary out of context: is it worth the time?

Those of you who have been to my workshops or read my articles on TeachingEnglish are perhaps surprised why someone who advocates teaching vocabulary in chunks would even pose a question like this. However, several research papers I read a few years ago while doing my Master's in TESOL made me rethink the issue of contextualisation and try out new things. Besides, as you will see in a moment, learning  words in chunks and learning vocabulary in context are not the same things.

Dec 17, 2011

Would you like it gift-wrapped?

Video dictogloss

A dictogloss is an integrated skills activity in which a teacher dictates a text at normal speed and students note down as much information as they can. Students then work in groups and try to reconstruct the original text.

In the video version of a dictogloss, students follow a particular character in a scene and note down all their lines. Then they work with another student in order to reconstruct the dialogue. For this activity I use a scene from Love Actually (2003). 


Dec 3, 2011

When the cat's away...

There is a widespread belief among teachers that collocations are only reserved for higher levels. Likewise, there is a popular misconception that authentic video can only be used with higher levels. This short and fun activity proves otherwise. It is based on a film clip, it focuses on collocations and it’s aimed at Elementary level students.



You will need a DVD of the animated film “Flushed Away”. The scene starts at 1:17 (“when the cat’s away the mice will play”) and ends at 3:14 (“Goodnight”). Or use the Youtube clip below:

Click here to download COLLOCATION CARDS

or do this ONLINE QUIZ 

Make a few copies of the page and cut it up so that you have at least one set for a group of 3-4 students.

Dec 2, 2011

Edublogs Awards 2011

It is the time of year when the ELT blogosphere celebrates its heroes – dedicated teachers who, with unrelenting enthusiasm and passion share with us their ideas, insights and inspiration. These are my nominations for these year’s Edublog Awards.

Nov 1, 2011

Spoken Grammar

Sometime in March the day after the Oscar ceremony, one of my Facebook friends posted:
Mazal Tov to the King's Speech!

to which I replied:

Oct 30, 2011

Talking about comedy

Students watch a few short clips and match them with different comedy genres. This video activity can be used to supplement a speaking activity in Innovations Advanced

May 8, 2011

Cycles of Recycling: Cycle 2

Extending students' word knowledge with Collocation forks

If the previous cycle used collocations that students have come across in texts, this one involves more explicit teaching and elaboration. To help learners fully understand and use a new word, it is useful to provide them with its common collocates. This is particularly important with partially learnt vocabulary items.

Apr 2, 2011

Cycles of Recycling: Cycle 1

Simple but effective activities for recycling lexis

Photo by Ian Britton via
[CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]
While researchers do not agree whether encountering words in context or engaging in decontextualized practice is more conducive to learning new vocabulary, most assert that multiple encounters with the word are necessary. Also, there is no agreement in the literature on how many encounters with a lexical item are necessary in order for the learner to retain it, with numbers varying between 6 and 16. Despite this, most would agree that frequent recycling is essential to the effective vocabulary learning.

Feb 27, 2011

Elvis Costello "She"

Alliteration is used in a variety of genres: poetry and nursery rhymes (“tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor”), advertising slogans and pop culture (Mickey Mouse) as well as everyday life (Bed & Breakfast, credit crunch). Also, research shows that learners find alliterated expressions easier to remember. This song is packed with alliteration (see Version 1) and some good rhymes too! (see Version 2).

Feb 18, 2011

Paths to Proficiency

Summary of my talk at the MOFET Institute on 15 February 2011

Post-intermediate EFL learners already have a command of grammar structures, reasonable vocabulary, with particularly good receptive skills, and can generally communicate well in a variety of situations. What they need now is to extend the range of vocabulary to be able to convey subtler meanings and use language appropriately, and make the all-too-difficult transition from receptive to productive use. There are several paths they can take to improve their English language proficiency and move beyond the notorious "intermediate plateau". In my workshop I highlighted the following areas which often pose difficulty for post-intermediate learners: