Tag: ESL

Teaching Vocabulary at School
Teaching Vocabulary at School

Vocabulary is much more important than grammar. If you know the meaning of the words you can understand a text even without knowing the grammar. If you listen to a recording and you know the vocabulary, you will understand the meaning of the message.

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If you watch a video and understand the words, you can enjoy the film. However, if you know just the grammar you will not understand much. Therefore, we should devote a lot of classroom time to teaching vocabulary.

Unfortunately, most of us don´t spend much time teaching vocabulary. Many teachers of English assign vocabulary as homework and students have to learn the words at home. It is not an entirely bad method. My research shows that 50% of students actually learn the vocabulary on their own. The bad news is that the other half of students don´t do it. They do not learn the vocabulary and after a while they are completely lost. That´s why I think that we should teach vocabulary at school.


All the best experts on teaching vocabulary, like Paul Nation or Keith Folse, agree that the best way to teach foreign vocabulary is by using translation. It is the best way for our brain to remember the vocabulary. And in this post, I would like to share with you two methods I have been using to teach vocabulary in my classes. Both of the methods are very effective.

Teaching vocabulary – Remembering Tables

In my article in the magazine English Teaching professional (issue 105), I share with the readers the Remembering Tables method of teaching vocabulary. To do this in your class you need to prepare tables similar to the following:

In the tables on the left, the words are given in both English (in bold letter) and in MT (in this case in Czech). On the right, the tables contain only the Czech words.

At the beginning, read the words in the first table and ask the students to repeat them. Then give the students 20 seconds to study and memorise the words. After this time, they should cover the table and write the words into the table on the right. When they have finished, they uncover the table and check their answers. You go on like this with the rest of the tables, giving the students 30, 40 and 45 seconds respectively.

It is a great classroom activity, but the preparation is a nightmare. To simplify it, I asked a friend to make a word macro which would do all the work for me. And here is the result:

Remembering tables Macro

Download the file. Then create a text file which contains 16 lines – use Notepad for this. On each line there is the word in English the plus sign and the word in the students’ mother tongue (e.g. work+pracovat). Save the file. Then open the downloaded macro. It asks you to Select Text File Containing Words. Click SELECT and choose the txt file you have created. And bingo, your tables are finished and you just print them.

Teaching vocabulary – vocabulary books

I teach a group consisting of challenged children. Some of them live in bad conditions, some of them have really low IQ and some have behavioral problems. They are fine, but their test results are appalling. But this week I experienced a great teaching success. These students remembered over 80% of the words I taught them. While previously they scored about 50% on average, this time they were nearly twice as successful.

How did we achieve this? I prepared the following vocabulary books for them.

I printed this as a brochure and then I made small books out of it. I handed them out and I asked the students to complete the tables in their free time during my lessons. In the tables with the free lines, students should copy the English words twice and the Czech translation once.

In the other tables, students have to translate the words. If the word is in English, they translate it into their MT and if the word is in their MT they translate it into English (this is 3 times as frequent as the former translation).

The preparation took some time, but the results were fantastic. Try it out and you will see for yourself.

Learn the Parts of Speech
Learn the Parts of Speech

For ESL students and pupils in Great Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries, it is crucial to learn the parts of speech in English. In fact, this knowledge is very useful for EFL learners too, as it helps them get more information from dictionaries and grammar books. And as this topic is not difficult, it is worth spending a few minutes on it.
[showmyads] In this post there is a wonderful song by Fluency MC, an infographic and several games which will help you master the parts of speech. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead!!!

Parts of Speech – song

The following song was created by Fluency MC. Listen and sing along. It is easy

Click here to get Fluency MC’s new (and FREE!) YouTube Songbook and to check out his new online speaking and listening program. the Weekly English Workout.

Parts of Speech – infographic

The following infographic contains all the information from the song. The parts of speech are organised into a mind map which allows your students to revise the facts. Ask the students to cover either the definitions or the parts of speech and then recall the covered information (They could do this in pairs too).

Parts of Speech infographic

If you want to download the full picture, click the button:

Parts of Speech – infographic

Parts of speech – games

Let’s start with a quiz which will help your students practise the parts of speech either at school or at home. The quiz consists of two parts. In the first part, students should match the words and the names of the parts of speech. In the second part, students have to write the name of the parts of the speech behind the words. The students will be rewarded with a game after each part of the quiz they pass. The quiz is in HTML5, so it will play on all desktops and mobile devices.

Parts of speech – quiz
[showmyadsa] The second game is called Fling the Teacher. To win the game, you have to answer all the questions by choosing the correct answer. If you answer all the questions correctly you will fling your teacher. (But I am sure, that he/she will not mind as long as you know all the parts of speech 🙂 ). The game is in Flash and it will only play on desktop computers.
Parts of speech – Fling the teacher
To practise the parts of speech you can play the following game. Its name is En Garde. Your task is to choose the correct answer and then stop the target as close to the centre as possible. Hopefully, you will be faster and more accurate then your opponent. The game is in Flash and will play only on desktops:
Parts of speech – En Garde game
The last game is called Penalty Shootout. In this game you should choose the correct part of speechand then try to score a goal. Good luck.
As the game is in Flash, it will only play on desktop computers.
Parts of speech – Penalty game

Learn the parts of Speech

Prepositions of place – speaking activities
Prepositions of place – speaking activities

Recently, in the post called Questions with Like, I asked you to choose the activity you would like me to write about. Most of you voted for a Speaking activity, so I prepared a set of speaking activities to practice the prepositions of place.

I have already created a post on prepositions, so this time there will be no infographics just two speaking activities. If you are looking for more speaking activities, you can find a two great speaking activities here.

Speaking activities – Battle

The first activity is called Battle and it was devised and recommended by K. Folse in his book The Art of Teaching Speaking.

First, print out the worksheet with 18 pictures. Each picture is different and they are labelled with letters A to R.

Ask students to work in groups of three. They should label themselves A, B, and C. Student A starts.
Student A will choose a room in the worksheet. Then students B and C will take turns asking yes – no questions to identify A´s room. For example, B asks: “Is the table in front of the sofa?” If student A answers “Yes, it is,” student B asks another question. He continues in this way till student B answers “No.” Then it is student´s C turn. Students go on like this till someone identifies the picture student A is thinking of.

After student B or C has guessed A´s room, student B chooses a room and students A and C try to guess it in the same way as they did with student A.

Students keep track of how many rooms they guessed correctly, and the winner is the one who guessed most.

Here is the worksheet students will use (it is enough to print out just one worksheet for each group.)

Speaking activities battle room worksheet

Speaking activities – Language needed

To be able to do the task above successfully, your students need to know the following vocabulary and grammar:

Vocabulary: plant, picture, lamp, table, cushion, plant, sofa, floor, wall, chair, ball and the prepositions of place (you find the materials to teach Prepositions of place here).
Grammar: to form question with is/are and the phrases There is / there are.

If your students do not know the language mentioned above, the speaking activity will not work!!!

Speaking activities – Drawing a Picture

First you need to print out the following worksheet once for each pair of students. They should cut it in the middle and each student should keep one sheet. (Now each student has two pictures with the room.)

Then, each student draws between 5 and 10 objects into one of his pictures. He or she has to draw objects they know the English words for. I personally ask my students to draw pieces of furniture we learn in the textbook unit.

Students sit with their backs to each other and one describes their picture for their partner, and the partners draws the objects into the picture he or she has not drawn into yet. When one student finishes they swap their roles and the other student describes their picture.

At the end the students compare their pictures.

Here is the worksheet:
Speaking activites drawing a picture web

To be able to print out the worksheets in the best possible quality, use the following pdf file:

Speaking activities pdf worksheet prepositions of place

Speaking activities – Language needed

To be able to do the task above successfully, your students need to know the following phrases:

Can you repeat that?
Tell me again.
Where does the …. go?

Speaking activities – Conclusion

I hope you will find both of the speaking activities useful and interesting, and that they will make it into your classroom. Both of the activities should ensure that your students will produce a lot of language and they will practice their knowledge of prepositions of place.

Speaking activities – prepositions of place

Learn to use the conjunctions DESPITE, IN SPITE OF and ALTHOUGH
Learn to use the conjunctions DESPITE, IN SPITE OF and ALTHOUGH

In this post I would like to teach you how to use the words DESPITE, IN SPITE OF, ALTHOUGH, EVEN THOUGH, BECAUSE OF and BECAUSE correctly. I will explain the meaning of the words and the grammar. To help you with this there are two games, a mind map, a video explanation and a graphical explanation. I hope you will learn to use these conjunctions.


Conjunctions – meaning

The meaning of the conjunctions DESPITE and IN SPITE OF is the same. ALTHOUGH and EVEN THOUGH are the same as well. And so are the meanings of the words BECAUSE and BECAUSE OF. As you will see later the main difference between these words is their grammar.
The meaning of these conjunctions is clearly explained in the following graphics:
The meaning of the conjuctions

If you want to print out the graphic, you can download the pdf file below:

The meaning

Conjunctions – the usage

As I write above, the main difference between the phrases is their usage. To cut the explanation short, the words DESPITE, IN SPITE OF and BECAUSE OF are followed by a noun phrase or a gerund (verb + ing). The conjunctions BECAUSE, EVEN THOUGH and ALTHOUGH are followed by a clause.
You can see the explanation again in the following mind map:

Despite, in spite of, because mind map

To make it absolutely clear, here is an interactive video explaining the usage of the words BECAUSE and BECAUSE OF.

This video uses the free recording offered by BBC learning English at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/radio/specials/165_gramchallenge10/
To experience the video full screen click on the following button (as it is HTML5 video it will work on your mobile too):
BECAUSE – video explanation


Conjunctions – quizzes and games

The first game is slightly easier but it can be played only on your desktop. It is called Hoopshoot and your task is to choose the correct conjunction. If you succeed you will be given a chance to score a basket.

The second quiz is fully in HTML5 so it will play on any mobile device you own. Your task is to connect both of the sentences into one and use the conjunction in the brackets. If you pass the test you will play the game called Math Pop and practise your Maths too.

Conjunctions – quiz and Math pop game
Indirect questions: explanation of English grammar
Indirect questions: explanation of English grammar

When students hear the phrase indirect questions, they get scared. But actually this is one of the easiest grammar points in English. The only thing you have to watch out for is that if a sentence starts with a certain phrase (Do you know or Could you tell me etc.) you have to use the word order for an affirmative sentence. To put it simply, after the aforementioned phrases do not make questions.


To help you master this grammar there is a mind map, a video and several games in this post.

Indirect questions – video

The following video is based upon BBC learning English recording. To make it easier for learners of English to follow I have added the text and illustrations.

We recommend that you watch the video and stop the recording every time there is a task and answer the task before MASA does. It is a great fun and a superb way to learn English.

If you want to watch it full screen, click here:
Indirect questions video

Indirect questions – mind map

The following mind map tries to show the rules for indirect questions in a graphical form. As you can see each indirect question has to start with a phrase signalling that it is an indirect question. Then you use a question word or IF/WHETHER (if there is no WH.. word) and the word order of a normal statement.



Indirect questions – games

Now it is time to practise what you have learnt in the following games. The first one is a quiz with two games. If you answer the quiz correctly you can play the games called Angry Farmer and Math Pop. Both the quiz and the games are in HTML5 so you can play them on your mobile phones.

Indirect questions Quiz

The second game is in Flash and it will play only on your desktop. It is the notorious On target game. If you choose the correct option you will be given a chance to shoot the bad ducks. Moreover, you can get a bonus if you shoot one of the bottles on the sides. Enjoy.

Indirect questions On Target

Vocabulary videos

On Youtube we have created a new channel which contains all the vocabulary videos we have created. Here are some of them. So do not miss them:
You can learn the words connected with the environment at http://youtu.be/PbBR1sNc6C4
There is a vocabulary video introducing the Town features at http://youtu.be/5Plh_LBjwks
At http://youtu.be/c0T5j-5MEg8 you can learn some vocabulary to speak about Plants in English.
For young learners we have some names of Animals at http://youtu.be/wb6Ctlvz0Ys
If you want to learn more vocabulary on Sports you can go to http://youtu.be/14_5rLiIAm0 and learn the names of Winter Olympics sports
At http://youtu.be/9IWZb61DG1M you can learn Clothes Vocabulary
Furniture vocabulary is presented at http://youtu.be/7VOpE1n74h0
One of the most difficult parts for learners of English to learn are personal qualities.
To help you with this, you can try the video at http://youtu.be/3KisHI5O6WY