Quotes – the return

Good afternoon from a sweltering London (words that don’t often appear together).  As some of you may have seen there is a lesson written months ago on Inversion that feature in quotes.  link below for those who haven’t seen it.


So it will come as no shock that we are going to return to some quotes.  I love them as they are little nuggets of text, great for prediction activities, great for grammar, and often chock full of interesting lexis.  Frankly, what is not to love.

This time rather than focusing on quotes for a particular grammar point, we are going to look at a collection of quotes and take what we can from them.  All sitting comfortably, then I will begin.

Obviously, you can use whichever quotes you want and use the same activities i have just picked out 4 that i felt i could make a lesson from and ones which might engage my students.

The ideas below are a sort of pick and mix of different activities, select the ones that you think would work with your students, the worksheet has some of these activities for the quotes i selected.  But really they should all transfer across.

Level: Int +


1. Word Jumble – broken sentences need fixing (see worksheet)

2. Independent research – prediction and a reason for reading. Give the students the quotes and ask them to predict what type of film they came from, get them to chat in groups and explain why they think that and then ask them to try to find out which film they did come from using smart phones or computers. (I am sure that your students will have no problems doing this, but if they are remind them of quote marks.)  When they have found which film they come from ask them to find a summary and does the summary match their prediction?

Obviously, at this point it would be good to get the students to think about what they mean.

3. Grammar hunt – This is pretty easy as it is aimed at Ints, the conditional though may need some scaffolding, such as try to find a phrase that could be replaced by ‘if’.

4. rewriting – The most obvious thing to do with all quotes is to turn them to reported speech.  When I do this I prefer to give them a choice of reporting verbs so that they are reporting the meaning a little and not just relying on said/told.  I always find that students are ok with the backshift, it is the pronouns they tend to forget, so maybe remind them of that.  To raise the level of challenge I have put in extra tests like linkers.

5. Follow up – Encourage the students to watch one of the films.  Or you could watch one, or clips of one in class together – obviously giving the opportunity for work on vocab and pronunciation

Materials: Quotes – the sequel



Filling out a form – Job applications

So, every Monday we get another bunch of lovely students coming through our doors and the first thing we do is ask them to fill in a form with their personal details. Having done this in another language, it’s not always the easiest thing to do at low levels.

This lesson is quick and easy but can really help any low level students you have who might be interested in getting a part-time job in English or just with filling in forms in general.

Level: Elementary / pre-intermediate


  1. Job advertisement

Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour




I  like to start off slowly with this lesson by asking students to think of all of the different jobs they could physically do with their current level of English and then discussing the kinds of duties each role would involve. You could also talk about their jobs or the jobs they’d like to have, anything to get them thinking/talking about jobs.



I tell the students they’re going to read a job ad but first they should think with their partners about what kind of info they’d expect to see in this ad.



Get the students to skim through the job ad and tick off the information they had correctly predicted would be there. Then discuss as a class.

Direct the students to the comprehension questions and then let them work through the vocabulary exercise. It’s quite nice even at this level to encourage them to notice and analyse language instead of reading for their dictionaries every five seconds.



First of all I like to have a chat about the job itself and give the students a chance to discuss it. Any discussion questions you like would be appropriate but I usually go with these ones:

  • Have you ever worked in a restaurant? How was it?
  • Do you think you’d be a good waiter?
  • What was your first job?
  • Have you ever done a job you hated?

After the discussion I tell the students they’re going to apply for this job and I hand out the application form for them to fill out by themselves but I give them a minute first of all to look at the headings with their partners and decide what information would go in each section and then we discuss it as a group so that they’re all prepared.



When all the students are done, I like to put them up around the room and have them move around in pairs and decide who was most suitable for the job. While they’re doing this, I take any mistakes or issues and board them for correction when they’re all done.


Other possible activities

If you like you could go into a bit more detail with the job ad itself:

  • You could analyse the question forms at the beginning?
  • You could have a look at the conditional sentence: if you answered yes to these questions, then don’t stop reading. which is very interesting as it doesn’t fall neatly into the strict first or second conditionals they made already come across. It’s always good to show them this variety and move away from rigid conditional forms that don’t allow them to express themselves fully.
  • You could look at the phone number (020 2555 7653) and look at how it would naturally be pronounced. There’s a rhythm that numbers follow and also explaining that “0” is pronounced “oh” instead of “zero”. You could also look at double 5 and triple 5.
  • Once you’ve analysed the type of language you might find in a job ad, you could give each group a job and have them write the advertisement.

Writing skills: Punctuation

So if you’ve read many of our other blog posts, you’ve probably come across one or the other of us banging on about how writing skills don’t necessarily translate from a student’s L1. In my experience this is never more true than with punctuation, which strangely enough is something that we tend to ignore for the most part in the classroom. It’s something small and easily teachable that can have a huge effect on the target reader. Incorrect punctuation is immediately noticeable for a reader and can be quite off-putting (hahahaha, I hope I remember to read over this post very carefully before I put it up, it’s probably riddled with bad punctuation).

Just the other day I taught a lesson containing some phrasal verbs. As an optional revision exercise, I asked the students to write a short story containing 5 of the phrasal verbs. I did say it was optional but being the motivated little wonders they are, they all did it and had emailed me by the end of the day. Thankfully, they’d done really well and they’d nailed the usage of the phrasal verbs (more or less) but what stuck out in every story was the punctuation. It wasn’t that there was a lack of it, it was everywhere, as if they’d arbitrarily just flung commas and fullstops at their page after they’d written it.

It was my fault really as I’d never taught them anything about punctuation. So for the next class I went in with the following  lesson and their next piece of writing was much better.

Level: Elementary and up

Time: 1 hour

MaterialsPunctuation (City or Country)



Get their juices flowing:

Just to get them thinking about it, give them a minute to discuss the city versus the countryside. Then hand out the sheet (you might want to fold it so that they can only see the text at the top) and ask them if they agree with the opinion in the box. This should lull them into a false sense of security before you spring the writing skills part on them.


The Text:

Now that they’ve read and discussed the little text, get them to take a slightly closer look at it. Have them discuss the questions underneath. What you’re going for here is that it’s just one long sentence with no clear point and too many commas. This can be quite common in student writing.

I’d discuss this a little as a class then at this point I think it’s important to clear up the name and use of common features of punctuation. Direct the students to the box at the bottom of the page and have them match up the names. They can often have trouble with this. I’d then take a few minutes to discuss their uses and allow students to take notes. Some interesting things that may come up are:

  • In a lot of languages ellipsis (…) can be used to mean etc. However, in English it’s used to signal a long pause or interruption.
  • Colons are often used in stories to signal direct speech. This is less common in English.
  • Semi-colons are sadly dying out in English, especially everyday writing but they can be a lot more common in language like Spanish or Italian. This can lead to overly lengthy sentences, which doesn’t come across well in English writing.
  • Students will often want to put full stops before “and”, “but” and “because”. While this is obviously not impossible in English, it can lead to short and unnatural sentences in student writing.



In pairs get your students to decide how they could improve the short text b punctuating it. Tell them that if they like they can remove or alter contractions to make it read better but that they shouldn’t change any other language. When they’re finished, discuss as a class.

I’d imagine you’re hoping for something like this:

The best thing about cities is the night life because you can go out and you can go to the pubs any time you like. Also, if you want to, you can get a night bus home at 4:00 in the morning if you have stayed out late. However, sometimes the night buses are very slow so you don’t get home until about 5:00 in the morning and that’s almost the next day.

But you may decide that another variation works better.



Get the students to write their own opinion in the space at the bottom focusing carefully on punctuation. when they’re finished, let them compare with a partner and encourage peer correction. You could even put them up around the room and allow students to move around in pairs commenting on the punctuation and then feedback as a class.

The idea is to really get them thinking about how it can have a negative affect on the reader or make a text flow more easily.

Using Articles for Articles

So here is another activity that can be used more as revision, or even to test knowledge of a grammar point, to see if it needs teaching.

It is something I tried out a couple of weeks ago and my class responded really well to it.  Since then, there has been a noticeable improvement in their work with articles. They don’t always get them right, but they are much better at self correction.  In my view, that is a big step in the right direction, plus it encourages learner autonomy, which is always a good thing.

I set this as homework, but you could ask students to do it in pairs too and I have added a couple of follow on activities that you could do to make it a whole lesson rather than just a practise activity.


1. Give the students a set of rules for when to use articles (this one is adapted from one in the back of Gold Advanced).

The definite article (1)

1.1 when there is only one of something

1.2 to talk about previously mentioned things

1.3 to talk about a generic class of things

1.4 with national groups

1.5 with adjectives used as nouns

The indefinite article (2)

2.1 with singular countable nouns referring to something general / non-specific

2.2 to replace one with numbers e.g. a hundred

Zero article (3)

3.1 uncountable, plural and abstract nouns in general

3.2 countries, continents, cities

3.3 mountains and lakes


2. Ask students to find a short article from a newspaper, or online, paper is better though for this.

3. Tell them that they have to underline all of the examples of articles in the text and then match them to one of the numbers above.

4. Ask them to show a classmate and they can compare, while you monitor to assist as needed.

5. Group feedback and check in case of any difficulties.

Extension activities

a) To encourage critical thinking skills you could ask students to summarise the text within a set word limit, e.g. 50 words.  The could plan it by selecting the key points and focus on writing those.

They could also tell a partner about the article or peer teach any interesting vocab they have found.

b) Ask students to look back through their own work and to try to correct mistakes.


So there it is, try it out and let us know what you think.





A nice and easy recipe for a simple lesson.

I’ve always liked this lesson. It’s simple and there are no frills or anything. It just works every time and students seem to enjoy it. I decided to do it after I asked a Thai student to explain how to cook a Pad Thai. Basically, he started a game of charades interspersed with odd instructions and food I’d never heard of…he was an upper intermediate student.

This lesson can be done with any level from Elementary upwards but I would expect it to be revision for your average upper int or advanced student. My favourite thing about it is that there’s very little teacher talking time other than giving instructions, most of it is students working away and chatting…whoop whoop!!!


  1. Yummy chicken in my belly – Recipe (You can use any recipe really and just change the pics)
  2. cooking vocab pictures – Photos (if you don’t like them, feel free to choose your own)




Ask your students to think of a traditional dish from their country and to explain how they make it to their partners. Let them have a few minutes of this while you sit back and enjoy as the charades unfolds, then stop them and say OK OK OK, let’s come back to this later on guys.



  • Display the cooking pictures on the board and in pairs ask the students to think of the verb.
  • After a few minutes, hand out the recipe. Get them to check their verbs and add/correct any they didn’t know.
  • Don’t let them use their dictionaries. They should be able to work most of it out based on context and their knowledge of the genre (are recipes a genre? hmmm…today they are).
  • Meanwhile, write up all of the phonemics on the board for the verbs and any other pieces of vocab they are having difficulty with.
  • When they’re ready you can check they’ve got the verbs and pictures correct and then get them to match the phonemics on the board to the words in the recipe. A nice bit of drilling never goes astray either.



Bring them back to their first activity and ask them now with their new-found verbs to explain how their dish is made to their partner. Choose one from each group to share with the class and do any error correction you so desire.


Follow Up

What I find is that even though by the end of the lesson the students have been staring at the recipe for ages, they very often ignore the imperative nature of recipes. This is not something that needs much teaching but it’s good to draw their attention to it. Just ask them what grammar is used in the recipe and in what other situations can we use it.

After that I like to get the students to write up their recipes and make a class recipe book for the noticeboard in the class. It’s nice to have something at the end that they have produced and can look back on.

These recipes can be used to encourage peer-correction, collaboration, independent research skills or planning and editing skills.

If you’d like any more detail on any of this just leave a comment and I’d be happy to reply.

Vox Pop

I was teaching this week and was wondering what I could do as a warmer for a coming class on clothes and fashion.  As I walked from my classroom to the teacher’s room, it hit me.  Mini interviews with other teachers on what my clothes said about me.  So I pulled out my phone and started interviewing colleagues.

30 minutes later, I played them in class and they were a great mine of vocab and also grammar, used naturally, with lots of lovely aspects of pron there too.  Sometimes, it is easy to forget how easy it is to make our own listening exercises.  All you need is a phone with a record function, preferably some speakers to play it through,  and someone to speak.  Happy days.


1. Choose a question: mine was just “what do my clothes say about me?” Then record as many answers as you want / need, for the record, I chose 4 people and the total time for the recording came to just over 1 minute.

2. Play the recording: I played the recording three times and asked them to one of these each time:

  • listen for the opinions of each speaker and then summarise them.
  • Write down any interesting vocab that they heard, with a focus on adjectives.
  • Write down any grammar they heard

the language that came up was great – teachers tend to have quite large ranges.

These were all in the 1st speakers answer, which was 15 seconds long.

“Maybe you choose things which suit you, which is good”

“if it’s work attire, then, it’s probably not what you would wear normally outside of work”

“you might have a slightly geeky looks sometimes”

There is so much you could do with any of those, but conditionals, modals and relative clauses came up regularly in the answers. Good to provide a model for students and proof that what we teach them does get used by people every day, not just in course materials.

Fillers could also be worth looking at, I chose not to as I was only looking for a 20minute activity

However, my favourite answer was “it makes you look like a pretentious knob”.  you can’t say fairer than that!

3. (optional) Focus on any elements of connected speech that come up, or stressed / unstressed words

4. Students can either: ask each other the same question, or if you are feeling brave, send them out to interview other people about their clothes, it’s up to you and go with whatever will work best with your class.  But, do record it and ask students to listen back for the same things as above.

That’s all folks, let us know if there were any great questions you used.

Video lesson – catch it if you can – connected speech

Last year I attended a really good CPD session given by a colleague on using video clips in the classroom, I’ve never been a fan of using whole films in class, as I have always seen it as a cop out, but the focus on using short clips or parts of films really struck a chord with me and so I started thinking about how I could use them not just to stimulate interest in a topic or for comprehension questions but how it could be used for pronunciation practice.  So, this lesson focuses on connected speech and listening skills using video. It uses a clip from Catch me if you can, which you may have been able to guess from the title.

  • Time: 30-60mins
  • Level: High Int +
  • Aim: To raise awareness of how spoken English sounds
  • Sub aim: To highlight stressed and unstressed words

This mini lesson can work in a couple of contexts:

  • as a follow on to indirect questions practice
  • as an extension from FCE Result p58-59 (reading on cons and tricks)


  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiXTwfipyqk
  2. Worksheet


1. Listening: Students watch and listen to get a general idea of what is happening.  Some of the students have probably seen the film and they can help those who haven’t, explaining the context and the situation.

2, Vocab building (optional): Encourage students to think about how they would describe the two characters and their behaviour. Board interesting vocab and push students to use more interesting words to describe them, e.g. calm, stressed, hesitant, looks annoyed.

3. Listening (Test): Tell students they are going to watch a very small clip of the film and you want them to copy down the words (dictation/dictagloss if they are familiar with the terms).

Play the recording from 43 seconds where Leo says: “Do you mind taking that gun out of my face please, really, it makes me nervous.” When you have played it once, ask them to compare together, then you can play it again to help them if you want, or use the worksheet with the option to cut the words up to reconstruct the sentence if you want to scaffold the task a little.

(Teach) Students may have had problems hearing the “do you mind” so focus on this and explain the way it is pronounced and drill /ʤə mɪnd/ or /ʤuː mɪnd/ whichever you yourself normally use, personally I am the former and think that is what is on the recording.

(Test) Play students a different clip of the film at 1.35 – 1.58 and ask them to listen for the two polite questions that are used in the clip you show.  Ask them to check with partners and then listen again if necessary.  Hopefully this time they were able to pick up the question forms, so this time highlight what happens to ‘mind if I’ – /maɪnɪfaɪ/ and drill this.

4. Practice: 1.Give the students the block of text and ask them to record themselves saying it.  Then ask them to highlight which words are stressed, ask them to predict and then play it to check and you can either use the board to show them or use the answers provided here. Ask them to think about what happens to words like ‘and’, ‘a’ – if they know the schwa they should be able to see this, if not, here is a good moment to introduce it.

Also ask them to focus on what happens to groups of words like ‘look at’, ‘would have been’ and ‘got to’.  Show them the clip again and ask them to identify the sounds and how they join together and which sounds are used. See below.

look at – /lʊkət/, would have been – /wʊdəbɪn/, got to – /gɒtə/ 2. Now ask them to say the text in pairs using the correct stress and also trying to join the words together where they are in the recording.

3. Ask the students to think about the adjectives they used earlier and think about how this might influence the way they speak. Ask the students to try to do the text again, taking both the stress and the emotions into account.

4. Ask them to stand up and do it, so that they can really get into it.

5. Ask them to do it without the script, tell them to adlib if they forget parts 6. Ask them to sit down and to record it again.

5. Reflection: Ask the students to listen to both recordings and in pairs discuss how they differ.  Ask them which was better and why.  Also explain that knowing the pronunciation is really useful for their listening, as if they don’t know what to hear, how will they hear it?

Many of the ideas for this lesson stem from sessions given by Gillian Lazar and Martin Parrott, so thanks to them!

Mini Lesson – Inversion in quotes

Last year while looking at a well known coursebook I was struck by the number of quotes that started each unit.  I was also struck by the fact that these contained a lot of good language that wasn’t being used.  There were lots of nice discussion questions, but nothing on the vocab or grammar the quotes contained.  So, I started to try to focus on these and encourage my students to notice what grammar was being used in them and to talk about why?

That’s what this mini lesson does – you could use it as a warmer, a flexi-stage, or just take the approach and apply it to quotes as you find them.

  • Time: 20-30 mins
  • Level: Upp Int and above
  • Aim: To look at a model of Inversion
  • Sub aim: To encourage students to notice and be aware of grammar and reasons for using it


  1. Procedure
  2. Worksheet 1


Exploiting a text message.

In one of my previous jobs, teaching teenagers in Spain, I was forced to accept something: 15 year old girls don’t want to read newspapers, stories or other long texts. They receive their input through their phones and I-pads and if I didn’t accept and adapt, I was never going to get very far with them.

So I started bringing in text messages and encouraging them to WhatsApp each other in class and to write comments on Twitter in English. I definitely wasn’t going to be able to beat them and although I didn’t really feel like joining them would be appropriate, I was able to get a lot of new language and error correction up on the board…which was nice.

Here’s one of the texts I brought in for them and a couple of suggestions for exploiting it.

“Alright mate, I’m gonna be nearby later on. I might pop in and say hi if you’re around.”

  1. Focus on the register. Get students to rewrite it as a more formal email.
  2. Examine the informal language. Pull it out and look at the different ways you can use it. “Pop” is the obvious choice here. Not one you tend to see in your average coursebook, but a lovely piece of language all the same.
  3. Give students a post-it note and get them to reply to the message. Take in the notes and examine the messages, focusing on register and interesting language that comes up.
  4. Perfect for a bit of connected speech analysis. At the very least you have “gonna”.