Tag: teaching English

Teaching with Lego Bricks
Teaching with Lego Bricks

During my summer holiday I spent some time creating these lovely boxes. Do you want to know what is inside?

Creating Audio Materials for EFL Teachers
Creating Audio Materials for EFL Teachers

Nowadays everyone can create audio-visual materials in professional quality. But the question is what materials we should create. The audio files, as we know them, contain a short text which students listen to and then they answer some comprehension questions. But is this the best audio which we can give to our students?

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Unfortunately, there is very little ELT methodology that would suggest some other listening materials which would be helpful for our students. In this post, I would love to share several new kinds of listening exercises and I will show you how to make them. If you have any more ideas and suggestions for listening exercises please share them with me at rotreklzdenek@gmail.com. Thank you.

Creating Audio

WavePad is the tool I have been using for creating audios most often. I know there are many free tools but I like this paid one for the following reason: unlike all the others, this one allows you to add your voice anywhere into an existing sound file. It sounds like something that every audio tool does, but unlike all the other tools this one doesn´t delete the existing part of the file. It simply adds your voice there and expands the original file. You can see how it works in the video below:

What is this good for?

Thanks to this feature I can create the following exercises:

  • rocketlanguages listening – As the name suggests, this exercise was inspired by rocketlanguages.com. Their lessons always contain a recording in the target language and then the phrases are explained and taught using the mother tongue. Students are asked to listen, repeat and translate various words and sentences and thus they learn the language of the original recording. You can see an example lesson in the video below (Even though the lesson is a video, it is based on the recording created in WavePad and it could work without the video too.)

    • Read and repeat – by inserting silences into the original recording, you can have a great exercise where students read a text and listen to it. At the end of each sentence, there is a silence in which the students repeat what they have heard and read. In this way, they can improve their pronunciation. It could be used the other way round, too. Students read the text and then they listen and check whether they pronounced the words correctly. You can see both of the exercises in the following video.
    • Zdenda listening – students hear a sentence in English, its mother tongue translation and then there is a pause in which they repeat the sentence in English. I have been using this exercise for several years, but I am not sure how useful it really is. You can hear an example below.


This software is great for creating various forms of dictations. The simplest form of dictation is the one where students listen and write what they hear. Then they or the teacher check their texts against the original. You can see and hear such a simple dictation below.

Another kind of dictation is a simple gap fill. Students listen and write the missing words.

The third form of dictation I have been using is the receptive dictation. Students listen and they have two options and they say which sentence they heard.

Sound dictation is the last form of dictation I can think of. To create a quality sound dictation, you need a piece of software to help you mix two or more tracks together. For mixing I use the Audiodirector by Cyberlink. Normally, it is really expensive, but you can get a free copy with some specialized computer magazines or if you buy Powerdirector.
You can get free sounds at Freesound.org. Once again, the quality varies but some are awesome. To be able to share your creations, just make sure that you use CC0  sounds. You can hear my sound dictation below. There is a worksheet too.

Where do I get native speakers to record something for me?

This used to be a real problem in the past. Fortunately, now it is a breeze to hire a native speaker to record anything for you. I frequently use the paid services at http://www.fiverr.com. My favourite speakers there are theleam, caz3 and zazzbizz.

www.Fivesquid.com is another site where you can find native speakers who will record anything for you. It is slightly more expensive and the delivery takes longer, but I loved the performance of EmilySBrooks123 there. It was perfect for ELT purposes.

If you do not want to spend any money on voiceovers, you can try Rhinospike. You place a text there and a native speaker will record it for you. To be able to download the recording you need to record some texts in your mother tongue in return or buy some credits. Unfortunately, the quality of the recordings varies a lot but it is for free.


To be honest, I am not really sure how useful songs are for learning English. I have met several students who sang their favourite songs, translated and learnt the lyrics but their English was not good. Unlike students who played computer games or watched films in English, these students didn’t progress.
Even though I doubt the usefulness of songs, I have created a few for my students. You can see them below:

If you think that I am really talented, think again. I just wrote the lyrics and I used the fiverr.com services again. I can recommend Douglas Haines who recorded several songs for me (The second song is by him).

Using Pictures to Teach English
Using Pictures to Teach English

“He must be joking!” I thought. I was shocked but I kept quiet. My friend Jane didn´t.

“Why the hell should I throw all my work away?” she asked. We went silent and expected that Jane will be punished.

4 TEFL Speaking Activities
4 TEFL Speaking Activities

We live and teach in the communicative era. However, the textbooks offer very few speaking activities where students could practise the language they have learnt. That is why I decided to share several speaking activities with you.

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In this post there are two speaking activities to practise describing a house using the phrases THERE IS/ARE, a simple communicative strategy that helps the learners speak more and a nice set of activities to practise the present simple tense.


Describing a house

To practise the phrases THERE IS/ARE I use the following two activities: Draw and describe and Find the difference.

For the Draw and Describe activity print the following worksheet. Each student needs a piece of paper with two houses (one sheet per student).
Draw and Describe worksheet

Students work on their own and draw between 10 and 15 things into their houses. Just remind them that they need to draw things they can name or describe.

Then students work in pairs. They mustn´t show their picture to their partner. They describe their house and the things they have drawn. Their partner listens and tries to draw the things into their empty house.

When they finish the students swap roles. In the end they compare their pictures.

The other activity is called Find the Difference. Print the following worksheet.

Find the Difference worksheet

Students work in pairs. Each gets one half of the worksheet. One has the part A and the other part B. Students mustn´t show their picture to their partner. They describe the pictures and they try to find as many differences as they can.

In the end they show their picture to their partner and they see whether they managed to find all the differences.


About three months ago I published my first book called 444 Grammar Conversations.There are nearly 500 questions to give students an opportunity to practise grammar in speaking.

However, it often happens that students ask and answer the questions, and they finish the conversation in a few seconds. To prevent this, I found the following communicative strategy: SA + EI.

It might sound scary, but it is really simple. If someone asks you a question, you give a short answer (SA) and some extra information (EI). And the student who asked the original question uses the extra information to ask another question.

For example:
A: Where do you live?
B: I live in Brno. It is a beautiful city.
A: What are the most beautiful places there?
B: I like Spilberk. It is a castle in the centre of the town.

Using this simple strategy, each conversation gets three times longer than before.
Here is a set of questions you could use for this activity:

a) Were you on the internet yesterday?
b) Did you watch TV yesterday?
c) What are you going to do this weekend?
d) Do you like school?
e) Did you learn English yesterday?
f) Who did you speak to yesterday?

Present simple tense – speaking

Print the following worksheet once and cut it. Place the 14 pieces around the classroom.

Daily Routine speaking

Print the following text and give it one copy to each student. Tell them to walk around the classroom and find who each paragraph is about. They write the number at the end of the paragraph.

Present simple text

The correct answers are 8,3,11,1,2.

Finish this part after about seven minutes. Tell the students to turn the paper. Give each student an uncut copy of the worksheet Daily Routine Speaking. Students now work on their own and they write a short paragraph about one of the series of pictures. Ask students to use at least two negative sentences, even though they are not necessary.

Students work in pairs. They read their description and their partner guesses who they are talking about. Students swap pairs at least three times.

In the last phase,students choose a series of pictures and just say what the person does every day and their partner must guess who they are talking about. In this part they speak without any preparation.

Embarrassing Dates – lesson plan
Embarrassing Dates – lesson plan

My first English language teaching activity got published in August 2008. It happened on the site http://www.teachitelt.com. The site regularly sent me the royalties and I created several more activities for them. Unfortunately, recently they sent me an email that the site is going to finish on 30th March 2016. The good thing is that they returned the rights to me and I am allowed to used the materials I created in any way I like and publish them wherever I like. So, here I share the first lesson plan I created. It is called Embarrassing Dates.

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Embarrassing dates – warmer

Students should not look at their handouts until they have heard the story. The topic is very appealing for teenagers, but avoid eliciting their own experience at the beginning of the lesson as they will have the chance to talk about it at the end.

Tell them the following story. It is true story which happened to me, so you can introduce it as a story which happened to one of your friends and colleagues to catch students’ interest.

‘When I was about 17, I used to attend dancing lessons after school. One evening, after a lesson, my schoolmate and I were going home. It was late and it was dark. We came to a bus stop and we were waiting for a bus when I noticed a beautiful blond girl also waiting.
We started talking to her and we soon found out that she went to the same school and that she loved literature, like me. My friend wasn’t interested, but I liked her very much and we talked the whole way back.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was thinking about her and remembering everything we said. I couldn’t wait to see her again.
So, the next morning I started looking for her, but I couldn’t find her for some time.
In the end I found her in a classroom. I was a bit shocked, because she didn’t look quite as perfect as the night before, but I thought that looks weren’t that important. So we agreed to go shopping that afternoon.
But the afternoon turned out badly. I soon found out that she was really bossy and she ordered me around the shop like a small boy. I felt embarrassed and I was happy to say goodbye. We never met again.

Now ask the students to look at the pictures and put them into the correct order:
Embarrassing dates pic 1
Answer key: c, e, b, a, d, f

Now ask the students to retell the story. You could have them work in pairs and take turns to recount a picture each, or tell it cumulatively, repeating what their partner said before moving on to the next picture. Monitor and correct. At the end, ask one or two students to tell the whole class the story or have students tell it round the class. You could then give whole class feedback.

Embarrassing Dates – vocabulary

This exercise contains most of the words that might cause problems for your students in the reading comprehension.
Embarrassing dates pic 2part1
Answer key
1.i, 2.b, 3.e, 4.f, 5.a, 6.d, 7.h, 8.c, 9.g

Sudoku has been very popular recently, but I bet that your students have never done one with words. It gives them practice writing and memorising the new vocabulary. Afterwards, you could have students cover the words in the matching task with a blank sheet of paper and write the words back in next to the definitions.

Embarrassing dates pic 2sudoku

Embarrassing Dates – reading

The questions in this reading comprehension exercise should not be very challenging for your students.

Embarrassing dates pic 3
Answer key
1. Todd’s; 2. Steven; 3. Michael; 4. Anthony and Tony

Embarrassing Dates – grammar

Unlike other grammar exercises this one does not concentrate on one or two rules but on a language as a whole, so it will be difficult for your students, but they can learn a lot by analysing their mistakes. There may, of course, be correct answers that are not identical to the original sentences.
Embarrassing dates pic 4
Crossword answer key
1 fell down; 2. twin; 3. embarrassing; 4. showed up; 5. chat up; 7. clap; 8. wallet; 9. cute
Solution: first date

Embarrassing Dates – Follow up

If you have time, you could ask your students to draw one of the stories from task C then exchange it with their partner and re-tell their partner’s story.
You could get older students to speak about their own embarrassing dates.

You can download the full worksheet here:
Embarrassing Dates worksheet

Teaching English using Poetry
Teaching English using Poetry

Have you ever used poetry to teach English in your class? If you have you can probably confirm that it was not a great success. The majority of your students were probably bored and didn’t share your passion for the poem. And thus they found your lesson boring and useless.

Therefore, it may seem that using poetry for teaching is a waste of time. So, how about if I offer you a poem your students will love and remember for a long time? Do you think it is impossible? Well, try the following lesson plan and see if you don’t change your mind.
[adinserter name=”Block 2″]

Using poetry – Teaser

Introduce the topic. Tell your students that you are going to play a video for them. Play the following video till the time 0:50. Then ask your students whether they want to see the whole thing. I am sure their answer will be YES.

Using poetry – vocabulary

Explain that they need to know a lot of vocabulary in order to understand and enjoy. To introduce and teach the vocabulary I use the following method which I call Remembering Tables. Print out the following worksheet. Each student needs to have his/her own worksheet.

Eugene poetry vocabulary

I usually print both pages on one sheet of paper, but you can print it on two different sheets of paper, too.

Make sure that the students are looking at the same page as you and read the words in the first table aloud. Ask your students to repeat the words after you. Then ask them to read the definitions. If you teach a monolingual class, ask them to translate the words. If you teach an international class, check your students’ understanding of the words by using concept questions.

Once your students understand all the words, tell them they have 20 seconds to remember them. When the 20 seconds are up they have to cover the table on the left and complete the table on the right by filling in the words. Once they finish they can check and complete their answers using the table on the left.

Do the same with the second, third and fourth tables, but increase the time given to remember the words to 30, 45 and 60 seconds.

Do both of the pages with your class and then you can move to the following task:

Using poetry – Speaking

I love using the following activity to practise the new vocabulary. Print out or display the following questions and ask your students to complete them using the new words:
[adinserter name=”Block 1″]

  1. What time did you __________ the school today?
  2. How do you feel in ________________ places? Do you like it when there are many people around you?
  3. What would you like to ______________?
  4. When was the last time you gave somebody an ____________? What were you sorry about?
  5. What do you think about _____________? How often do you read a poem?
  6. Have you ever performed on a _______________? How many people watched you?
  7. Can you describe your ________________? What are you like?
  8. What is your _____________? How often do you do it?

The correct answers are: 1 enter 2 crowded 3 give a go 4 apology 5 poetry 6 stage 7 personality 8 passion.
Next, I ask my students to choose 3 questions they would like to ask me. They ask me the questions and I answer as well as I can.

Then the students work in pairs and ask and answer the questions.

Using poetry – Video comprehension

Now it is time to play the whole video. Turn on the closed captioning if you feel that your students’ level of comprehension is not high enough for them to understand all of it.

Ask your students to read the comprehension questions first, and check that they understand the questions:

1. How old is he?
2. What is his job?
3. What is his passion?
4. Why does Piers buzz him?
5. Who thinks that Eugene is a loser?
6. What do girls do when Eugene enters a room?
7. What do the judges say at the end?
8. Is Eugene happy at the end?

Using poetry – Finish

To finish the lesson, it is ideal to practise the new vocabulary and do a speaking activity.

Start with the speaking activity. It is a simple role play. Ask the students to work in pairs. One of them is going to play the role of Eugene and the other is a reporter. It is one week after the show was broadcast, and the interviewer wants to know what has changed in Eugene’s life. Thus the interviewer asks questions and Eugene answers as best as he can.

To practise the vocabulary, you can use the following crossword and a fill-in-the-blank exercise. The students can do the exercises at school or at home. Please print 2 pages on one page for best results.

Eugene poetry crossword

Eugene poetry crossword key

Using poetry – Conclusion

This lesson plan is based on a video of Eugene performing his poem in the talent show called Britain’s Got Talent. In this lesson, students will learn 25+ new words and phrases, and they will get a chance to use the phrases at school. To make the lesson even more concentrated on poetry you can ask your students to write their own poem in English.
Here is a brief summary of the lesson plan:

1. Video teaser
2. Vocabulary – memory tables
3. Speaking – complete the questions and ask your partner
4. Video + comprehension questions
5. Speaking – role play
6. Vocabulary revision

I hope that this lesson serves as a great demonstration of how to use poetry to teach English and that your students will remember a lot of real-life vocabulary.

Teaching English Using Poetry