Archive : Category

11 Tips for Using Technology Effectively in Your ESL Classroom

POSTED ON November 14th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Depending on where you teach, technology might be readily available for you to use in your ESL classroom. However, using it effectively, and not just for the sake of using it, is another thing altogether. Some teachers might also be too intimidated to use technology in their classroom and instead sticking to the traditional style of teaching.

Technology, which is a powerful tool, should be used in an ESL class to enhance the lesson and further help students engage with the language.

Read on for 11 tips on how to effectively use technology in your ESL classroom.

1. Film & Video

You can easily use videos (whether they are short films or feature-length) as an engaging way for students to practice vocabulary and comprehension skills. Videos are great to use in your ESL class because it acquaints students with the natural use of English. You can easily make activities to accompany videos that you show in your class; think of fill-in-the-word, complete the sentence, various vocabulary worksheets, and even other writing activities.

2. Podcasts

Listening to podcasts can help ESL students improve comprehension skills and even help them learn new vocabulary words or grammar in context. Furthermore, podcasts can create opportunities for students to practice their speaking skills. Similar to videos, you can create activities and worksheets that complement the podcast(s).

3. Blogs

Setting up blogs is a great way for ESL students to practice their writing skills. There are also several online platforms on which blogs can be created for free. Students generally like writing blogs because it is seen as a more ‘authentic writing experience’ than just writing an essay or story in class. They can also choose a topic or series of themes they like or are passionate about. Additionally, with the potential wider audience reach, students may put more effort into writing their blog.

4. Wiki

Similar in some ways to a blog, you can let your students create a wiki page. The ESL students can easily sign in, add text, edit, and save contributions on this interactive space. A whole class can work together on a topic or each group can create its own wiki.

5. Apps

There are a great variety of apps that teachers can utilise on tables, iPads, and smartphones to make practising English fun for your students. This site lists 16 apps that ESL students can use to practice their English skills. They range from pronunciation and accent practice to building sentences and practising vocabulary and grammar.

6. Online Games

There are various online games available that students can play not only to have fun, but also to practice spelling, grammar, and other ESL skills. There are also digital versions of traditional games such as Hangman, Scrabble, etc. which can be useful and beneficial to the learning process. If you have a smart board in your class, the whole class can play together!

7. Virtual Field Trips

As field trips are not always possible, either due to budgets or maybe the location of the school, virtual field trips are the next best thing as they provide a more genuine way for students to take in new information (see experiential learning).

8. Online Testing Tools

Rather than making tests and/or quizzes the old fashioned way, you can use (free) online testing tools, like this one. Online tests are especially great if all the students in your class have access to an iPad (or tablets) or a computer. Alternatively, you can put a test on the smart board if you want your students to work together as a class or in small groups. This can work really well for a Test Teach Test lesson or even as a review before a big test.

9. Game Show Review

Microsoft PowerPoint (or Mac’s Keynote) is the perfect resource to create review games that are based on game shows, such as “The Weakest Link”, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, etc. If you aren’t yet tech savvy enough to create your own templates, you can easily Google “powerpoint game show template” or visit this link for free downloadable templates.

10. Presentations

If your students have access to computers in the classroom, then they can easily research a topic on the Web and make a presentation. Set some clear rules and time limits. For example, there are quite a few voice-recording apps available – tell the students the introduction must be voice recorded and can only be 2 minutes long. Students can then even present their presentations to the whole class, giving them plenty of speaking practice.

11. Online Grading

As we all become more technology dependent, a tool like an online grading system seems perfect; you never have to worry that you forgot your grade book at home. is one such system, and while it is not free, it does have great features in addition to keeping all grades online. This system tracks changes, helps you create a seating chart, and you can even email parents (or students) directly to keep them up to date with their children’s progress.


There is no need to be afraid to use technology in your ESL classroom or to worry about how to use it effectively. These 11 tips are a great start for any teacher and should make you think of even more ways technology can be utilized as a value-add in the class.

What are some effective ways you use technology with your ESL students?

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.




Teaching Tips: Activities to Get Them Moving

POSTED ON November 7th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Have students that can’t sit still? Well, don’t make them! Here are a few activities to add into your lessons to get students up out of their chairs, moving around, and having fun while they learn.

Whether you want an engaging warmer or are looking for a new game to shake things up a bit, these classroom activities are sure to get your students up and active. Easily adaptable to suit your students (including age, ability, number of students and language point) these activities are also low-prep and easy to run. If your lesson plans are looking a bit stale, try out one of these top tips to get your students moving.

Snowball Fight

Prep: Slips of Paper

This is a great game that works really well with teenagers as well as young learners. Split the class into two teams and have them stand either side of the room with a line marked down the middle. Students write their language point (details below) on a slip of paper and scrunch it into a ball. Within a set time (thirty seconds usually works well) students need to throw their snowballs across into the other team’s side of the room. If any papers come towards them, they need to pick them up and throw them back. The team with the least papers on their side at the end of the game is the winner. The losing team members should choose one slip of paper each and ask the question to someone on the winning team.

The Language Point: With higher level learners, their language point could be to write out a question using a recently studied grammar point, such as ‘What are you going to do next weekend?‘ or ‘When are you going to get a haircut?’  Lower level learners could write simpler questions such as ‘What fruit do you like?‘ or ‘What juice do you like?‘ Students with a lower reading/writing ability could write one word for their language point, which they then read out to the class, such as ‘Red‘ or ‘Yellow‘. For very low learners, just a letter of the alphabet could be written for them to read out, or to read and think of a word, such as ‘B – banana‘ or ‘G – gorilla‘.

This game is great fun as it has a competitive element and gives a good opportunity for students to practice speaking skills as well as reading.

Need more active games for your students? Active Games for Young Learners

Yes/No Corners

Prep: Yes/No flashcards

Prepare two cards, saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’. For younger learners, two different colours, perhaps with a happy/sad face, are also good. Place the cards at either end of the classroom and stand in the middle with the students. Ask a question with a yes/no answer, such as ‘Do you like apples?’ or ‘Is it sunny today?‘ Students run and stand next to either one of the cards. Students then touch the card and say their answer, such as ‘No, I don’t like apples.‘ or ‘Yes, it’s sunny today‘. This game can be played with a whole class, with fewer students, or even with a VIP student. Adapt it for higher level students by using higher level language points, or by getting them to ask the questions.

Want more for wrangling an active class? Check out 5 Fun ESL Games For Engaging Kinesthetic Learners

And for more tips and strategies, visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.


How to Deal with Children’s Learning Difficulties

POSTED ON October 31st  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

At the beginning of their schooling, children suddenly become students – evaluated by their school achievements. School becomes the most important place in their lives and learning the most important activity. But what happens when a child cannot master the curriculum?

When a student cannot master the curriculum and does not score grades that match their abilities, we are talking about failure. Studies show that every 6th or 7th person has some learning disability, which makes it impossible to impose one form of learning for all students because, of course, we are not all the same. When a child has learning difficulties, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn, but they have to do it differently, and teachers and parents must adapt to the child’s potential and progress.

The Most Common Learning Difficulties


In the group of the most common learning disabilities, problems with reading are referred to as dyslexia. These difficulties include the inability to recognize words and understand what is being read. Problems are manifested in skimming, omitting, and replacing words when reading.

Dyslexia appears throughout the world in all cultures and languages. It is noticeable in about 10 percent of the population, which includes gifted, creative and successful children. (Even celebrities have it.) Dyslexia isn’t a result of reduced intelligence, and problems of behaviour and motivation can arise due to learning in an inadequate way.


Difficulties in mathematical operations, called dyscalculia, also belong to the category of the most common learning difficulties. This includes having problems in the process of adopting mathematics, which can occur in all or only certain mathematical areas. The child is advancing in math, but far slower than their peers and inadequate to their mental age.


Another common learning difficulty, difficulty in written expression, is called dysgraphia. This disorder includes the inability of the child to overcome the skill of writing which is reflected in the numerous, ongoing and typical errors. The difficulties are not related to the ignorance of spelling and are permanent, regardless of a sufficient degree of intellectual development or proper education.

Difficulties in Auditory and Visual Processing

These are related to sensory difficulties, or situations where the child cannot understand speech, even though their sight and hearing are perfect.

Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Namely, studies show that nearly two-thirds of children with dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are children with ADD.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism describes a range of behaviours and issues that a student may face, often involving difficulty socialising with other students and being unable to regulate mood and focus. However, there is an enormous spectrum of behaviours and challenges that we address in more detail here.

Providing Help

When a child has learning difficulties, it means they learn differently. Children with learning disabilities can learn, but sometimes they need to learn some things in different ways. Everyone learns in their own way.

When we realize that the child can be examined orally, the issue of the handwriting has less significance. Some kids can not read the textbook due to bad vision, but if we make the letters larger, there is no problem anymore. And nowadays, it’s nothing strange to have a child in class writing on a laptop because they can’t hold a pencil.

Lack of understanding of the child’s problems, inappropriate punishment, insisting on what cannot be done, and at the same time not pointing out what is good, along with a poor self-image and reduced self-esteem can lead to aggression and frustration.

If a child has learning difficulties, the school needs to emphasize assessing knowledge in the way it works best without punishing the pupil for what they can’t do. Sometimes, with such an individualized approach to school and additional learning aids, the program needs to be adapted to allow the child to progress according to his or her abilities, retain self-esteem, build a healthy self-image and grow into a happy person.

In cases of insufficient motivation, students should be offered more interesting, entertaining ways of learning and more rewards and praise.

Counseling Parents

But just like children, parents and teachers themselves should aid children in overcoming difficulties in learning.

Sometimes the parents have unrealistic expectations regarding success in school. The best way to deal with that is counselling parents and confronting them with the child’s fear of failure and their excessive ambitions.

Parents should be encouraged to talk to their child about what they are doing in school because in this way the child shows more interest in school. It is also desirable to socialize and play with the children, which gives a shift away from the school and the child can learn a lot through a game in a pleasant atmosphere.

Today in schools we have professionals that can help the children, parents, and teachers. Education is necessary for parents, but also for teachers and school specialists to deal with the situation because only educated teachers can lead to an atmosphere that is good for all children, parents, and the school itself. By neglecting the problem and labelling the child “bad” and “lazy” inflicts irreparable harm on the child, family, and society.

Need more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog. Or share our Language Learning Tips with your students.

About the Author

Milica Madić is a freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.




Short Films for ESL Students

POSTED ON October 24th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

There are numerous ways in which you can use video clips and short films in your ESL lessons. Whether as a warmer to pique your students’ interest or as a main activity for the class, using media can enrich your lessons and capture your students’ attention.

While you may be sold on using video clips in your classroom, finding free, online, appropriate media isn’t always so easy. Take a look at these top recommended websites for finding videos to use in your ESL classes.

PLEASE NOTE: Not all the content on these sites or channels will be appropriate for all viewers, so know exactly which video you want to use and have the correct one queued up before class.


This website is a number one choice for ESL teachers’, whether you are teaching children, teens or adults. On the FILMS short website, you can easily find what you’re looking for because the films are sorted into different genres, as well as country of origin. One of the handiest features is that you can easily tell which films have dialogue and which don’t (particularly useful because, for use in an ESL classroom, dialogue-free videos offer so many options for potential activities). Just look for the ‘*’ in the title and you’ll know that video is dialogue-free. They also have listings of award-winning films and frequently update the website.

Check it out here: FILMS short

Short of the Week

Another must-see website for finding the perfect film clip is Short of the Week. If you want access to the latest short films, sign up to get updates delivered to your inbox every week. If you’re looking for something specific, click on ‘Channels’ to browse by genre, country or topic. If your students are tech-savvy and tend to have already seen whatever you rustle up from Youtube, this website is a great place to find new material as they showcase videos by up-and-coming film-makers.

Visit here: Short of the Week

Future Shorts

While Future Shorts have their own website, the best place to view their work is on the Youtube page. They release seasonal catalogues of brand new films and the variety is immense. Browse by genre or check out the ‘Best of Future Shorts’ if you don’t know where to start. Be wary of graphic content – always check the films before you show it in class! Future Shorts films are a real conversation starter and many of them are just a few minutes long – perfect for a warmer to start your class.

Watch some here: Future Shorts

The CGBros

Another Youtube Channel not to be missed is the CGBros – the number 1 stop if you’re looking for CGI animated shorts. As well as the latest CGI clips, you can also find tutorials and other videos of interest relating to CGI – great potential if you’re doing a film-making class.

Click the link to visit the channel: The CGBros

Move Clips

Looking for short clips from your favourite Hollywood movies? Look no further than Movie Clips, a Youtube Channel which helpfully splits up great scenes from top films into bite-sized chunks. Whether you’re showing your students clips of a new release or introducing them to something you watched decades ago, Movie Clips can provide the links.

Here is where you’ll find them: Movie Clips

Want more learning tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

6 MORE No Prep ESL Games & Activities

POSTED ON October 17th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Any ESL teacher knows the merit of having games and activities in an ESL classroom. Not only can these games and activities be used as a time filler or extra practice, but they can also be used for warm-up activities, breaking the ice, or adding a little fun to the class.

In this article, we will focus on those types of games and activities in which no prep is required; thus, making them easy to implement at the top of the hat.

Read on to learn more!

1. Word Chain

Suitable for: kindergarten to adolescents
Use: icebreaker/warmer/time-filler/vocab practice

Students stand in a circle or just stand up where they are (depending on the layout of your classroom). You can also play this game with a ball or without one.

You can start the game for the first time by giving a student any letter in the alphabet, e.g. “i”. Pass the ball to a student, then they have to say a word that starts with that letter, e.g. “ice”. The next student then gives a word that starts with the last letter of “ice”, e.g. “egg”. And so the game continues.

You can also play different variations with the game, e.g. a student needs to give words that are longer than three letters, it should be related to a theme, all words should be verbs, etc.

2. Word Association

Suitable for: elementary students to adults
Use: icebreaker/warmer/time-filler/vocab exercise

The game is similar to ‘word chain’, but the purpose is to have a theme, and the students need to say what is the first word they associate with that theme.

All you need is a soft ball or die. Students stand in a circle, and the ball is passed from student to student, with each student saying the first word they can think of associated with the theme.

If you have a big class, divide the class up into two or three smaller groups and play.

3. Line Up

Suitable for: elementary students to adults
Use: icebreaker/conversation practice

This no prep ESL game is especially great if it is your first time teaching a class or if the whole class is new and students should get to know each other.

You can come up with three questions, such as “What’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, and “What is your favourite book?” If needed, you can write these on the board. Students stand in two lines, facing each other. Once you say, “Go”, the students on one side of the line start asking the person opposite them the questions. Once the first pair of students is done asking each other, they say, “Switch”, and one line of students move one space down. And so the activity continues.

Rather than just an icebreaker or getting-to-know-you type of activity, use this for conversation practice with students asking and answering questions or practising dialogue related to the topic, for example, ordering food in a restaurant, where one line of students are the ‘waiter’ and the other the ‘customers’.

Not working for you? Check out these activities too.

4. A-Z Reflection

Suitable for: elementary students to adults
Use: word practice

Students write down all the letters of the alphabet on a piece of paper. You can choose a topic or theme, and all words need to match the letters. Depending on their level, they can also write down more than just one word. For example, a theme could be what they did over the long weekend (they don’t have to write what really happened, but can use their imaginations, too). Each word or phrase they write next to the letter of the alphabet needs to start with that letter, e.g. S – saw a dragon boat competition.

This activity could be shortened if there are time limits and can also serve as a good way to see what words your students know prior to teaching a topic or theme.

5. Words in a Word

Suitable for: elementary students to adults
Use: icebreaker/warmer/time-filler

Depending on your ability to think on your feet, this ESL activity might require a wee bit of prep (or just looking online or in a dictionary for a long-ish word).

This no prep Word in a Word activity presents students with one word to find all the words that they can within this word or using only the letters in the word in a certain time limit. An example of this one word is “landscapes”.

As the teacher, you can impose several rules depending on the level of your students, such that all words, for example, should be four letters or more. Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups.

6. Charades & Pictionary

Suitable for: kindergarten to adults
Use: review vocab

Since these games are somewhat similar, they are grouped together.

Depending on your class size, divide the students into two groups (or four). Each player gets a word, and they can easily be chosen from the vocab list in the reading book or from a previous unit.

In Charades, the player needs to act out the word without saying anything. While this is happening, the students in the group guess the answer. For each correct answer, the group gets one point.

In Pictionary, instead of acting out the word, the student needs to draw a picture of it. No numbers, letter, or symbols can be used. Again, the team needs to guess the answer, and a point is awarded for each correct guess.

Students can easily play Charades or Pictionary play until all the words on the list have been reviewed.

Final Thoughts

As stated above, ESL games and activities that require no preparation are always handy, whether to act as an ice breaker or warmer activity, fill up time in a class, or to practice vocabulary or conversation for example. These are only a sample of no prep games that you can utilise in your classroom, and as you develop as a teacher, you will later on have hundreds f these types of ESL games to make use of as the opportunity or need presents itself.

Want more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.

Teaching Tips from a Foreign Teacher of English

POSTED ON October 10th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Teaching a language that was once foreign to you is an interesting experience. The fact that you once had to learn the language yourself makes it easier to empathise with your students. It also means you have a good idea of what might cause students difficulties, so I came up with some teaching tips from this perspective.

English outside of the Classroom

Every person who signs up for an English course wants to improve their English. An obvious but nonetheless very important teaching tip is this: encourage your students to not limit their education to the classroom. Urge them to practice and engage with English as much as possible outside of the classroom too. Use your lessons to give your students the tools to continue with their learning outside of the classroom. Making your lessons relevant to real life will keep your students keen on English.

What helped me immensely was making some English friends. At first, we communicated mainly by wild hand gestures, but eventually, my English improved enough for us to have proper conversations. Being in an English-speaking country offers endless opportunities to practice the language, but thanks to technological advancement students in countries outside of the Anglosphere can also surround themselves with English.

If your students need suggestions for out-of-classroom English activities you could suggest reading books, newspapers, or online articles in English. Wikipedia even has a special Simple English version aimed at the learners of English. To practice their listening skills, advise students to watch films or TV programmes in English, to subscribe to English videos on the internet, to listen to free podcasts or BBC World radio broadcasts. Encourage your students to practice speaking English with other students outside of the classroom or to find a language exchange partner skilled in English. The more acquainted and experienced your students get with English the more confident they will feel about using the language.

Accents and Pronunciation

Another teaching tip is to embrace the variety of accents and make your students understand that good pronunciation is about being easily understood by others and not about completely getting rid of their accents. When I first signed up for the CELTA course I was quite concerned that I shouldn’t be teaching people how to pronounce words in English, because even after living in the United Kingdom since I was 10, the Eastern European intonation lingered in my speech. During the CELTA course, I came across the idea of World English, also known as international English, where English is seen as a global communication tool. Your students are going to come across and will have to interact with people from different parts of the world and the way these people speak English will not sound the same. It’s important for students to get familiarised with a wide variety of spoken English early on, in preparation for the world out there, so if you don’t sound like a BBC presenter, don’t despair.

There are many different resources and books out there to help you teach pronunciation. For some games, you can use in the classroom to teach pronunciation, check out this book.

Phrasal Verbs

You will inevitably find that your students will have difficulties with phrasal verbs. When broken down into individual words the meaning of a phrasal verb is often far from clear. Learning individual words won’t help. So what teaching tip can I offer?

If your students hear and come across specific phrasal verbs enough times they will eventually remember them, which brings me back to the teaching tip of encouraging your students to read and listen to as much English as possible. There are other ways to help your students learn them of course. My dad had this big silver phrasal verb dictionary that I found helpful, but times moved on and now there are many apps for smartphones that do the same job. There are also interactive games available online, for free, which your students can use to improve their knowledge of phrasal verbs.

Teaching tips for spelling

When I first moved to England I found English spelling horrendous. Same letter clusters can be pronounced in several different ways, some letters are silent in some words but not in others and every spelling rule seems to be followed by many, many exceptions. As a teaching tip, I would suggest staying away from spelling lists, which can be dull for students and can sometimes feel a little infantile. Instead, you could structure a lesson around looking for spelling patterns and grouping words with similar spellings together. Such word families are easier to remember than individual words, as one letter order applies to many words. Something else that helped with my spelling and which I found quite fun was finding short words inside longer ones, like a ‘bra’ in ‘library’. You could structure an entire writing lesson around hidden words within words. Finding an ear in hearing is a piece of pie. (Or cake, depending on where you’re from.)

Explaining new words and concepts

Throughout your teaching career, you are going to have to explain many words and concepts in simple terms. A teaching tip here is to be ready to have to come up with alternative explanations on the spot. Repeating yourself slower and louder might help, but if you tried that once and your student is still looking back at you completely puzzled, change your approach. Trust me, not being able to understand their teacher is just as frustrating for your students, as not being able to explain something is to you. You are in it together, so take a breath, regroup, and use a different approach. Think of different words to explain what you mean or be creative and use a prop or act it out. An inventive explanation can be very memorable and could help your students to recall the words you taught them for a long time to come.

My personal experiences and teaching tips, of course, are not conclusive and you will likely find each of your students to have different concerns. Speaking to your students individually about their language goals and worries will help you to know them better and become a more effective teacher for them You never know, perhaps one day, they too will become English teachers and will remember the valuable things they learnt during your lessons.

What do you think about this? Let us know on our Facebook page.

About the Author

Aleks Kaye loves cooking, skiing and learning. She completed a part-time CELTA course while working full-time at a university in the UK. She is currently travelling across Canada with her husband David and blogging about it at


Four Great Ways to Increase Student Talking Time in Your ESL Class

POSTED ON October 5th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Any good ESL teacher knows that an element of a successful class is a high student talking time, compared to a low teacher talking time. If you are new to teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, you might wonder why that is. Here are four reasons why student talking time should be maximised in class:

  1. It is one of the things more and more students are expecting from class.
  2. With the high volume of resources available, they can ‘easily’ practice reading skills, for example, by reading an article online or practice their listening skills by listening to podcasts and TED Talks. Speaking skills, however, are something they desperately need to practice, and practice, and practice.
  3. Students don’t really want to listen to you – the teacher – talk all the time.
  4. Students learn more as they practice and engage with the language.

That being said, you are no probably wondering what you can do to increase students talking time in class. Never fear! Here are four great and helpful tips you can implement readily.

You could also try story-telling activities.

Tip #1: Elicit

Elicit means to ask your students. Don’t think that they don’t understand, ask them. By eliciting (rather than explaining), students are engaging rather than passively listening (and learning). You can easily make use of pictures and/or flashcards, video clips, unfinished sentences, fill in the sentence, and definitions to elicit answers and ideas from your students.

Tip #2: Pair and Group Work

Separating students into pairs or groups for activities means that they practice with their fellow students, which increases student talking time a lot. Additionally, it provides them with the chance to learn from each other, too.

Here are some ideas: Teaching Tips: Activities for Pair-work

Tip #3: Read and/or Explain Instructions

Rather than you reading the instructions every time, get the students as a class, in groups, or individually to read the instructions that are on the worksheet. If some students don’t understand, ask if there is someone who can explain it to the whole class – in English!

Tip #4: Do Summaries

Summaries are a great addition to most, if not all, activities. For example, if students completed a discussion in a group, as part of the class feedback, have one student from each group summarise everyone’s opinion. It is great to test comprehension and practice fluency, plus it is an excellent way to further increase student talking time.


There are many more techniques that can help you maximize student talking time in the ESL class; however, it is important that achieving the right balance is key. For beginner students, the ratio should generally be 50-50 for teacher talking time vs student talking time. This ratio should change to favour more student talking time as the students progress and are able to speak more English (30-70 teacher talking time vs student talking time).

Want more like this? Visit our Teaching Tips Blog.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.

Brain Teasers Students Can Solve in Class

POSTED ON September 26th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Test your logic by answering these questions, and have fun with your students! Don’t worry, we’ve provided you with all the answers below, but no peeking, try to come up with a logical solution by yourselves and activate that grey matter.

The brain teasers are divided into three categories to choose from – Easy, Medium, and Challenging. Use these as part of a game, as challenges on the board to consider during slow parts of your lesson, or just something to get students – and colleagues – thinking outside the box.


  1. When can a person move at the speed of a car?
  2. Which fish is the most valuable?
  3. What is the difference between a dog and a flea?
  4. Which sickness can never be found on land?
  5. Where can you find cities without buildings, forests without trees and seas without water?
  6. How can you cut down a branch where a bird is sitting, without disturbing the bird?
  7. How many eggs can you eat on an empty stomach?
  8. Some months have 30 and some 31 days. How many have 28 days?
  9. Jane’s mother has three daughters. One is named Helen and another Martha. What’s the name of the third sister?
  10. A pilot is watching a large herd of red and orange elephants from the airplane. Which herd of elephants is better seen from the plane?


  1. When they are in the car.
  2. A goldfish.
  3. A dog is a mammal, and a flea is an insect. (Or just brainstorm.)
  4. Seasickness.
  5. In an atlas.
  6. Wait until the bird flies off.
  7. Just one. Then your stomach is not empty anymore.
  8. All of them.
  9. Jane.
  10. Neither of them. There are no such things as red and orange elephants.

Want more for you classroom? 5 Ways to Make Learning Fun and Interesting


  1. There are two sons and two fathers going on a fishing trip, but there are only three of them. How is that?
  2. What appears two times in an instant, but only once in one moment?
  3. If it rains heavily at noon, can the sun shine brightly 12 hours later?
  4. If you have one match on you and you walk into a dark room in which there are: kerosene, a gas lamp, and a stove, which one will you’ll light up first?
  5. If there are 21 pieces of candy in a box and you take 5, how many pieces of candy will you have?
  6. There are 10 white and 10 black socks in the bag. How many socks do you need to pull out of the bag to have one pair of socks?
  7. The horse has a 5-meters-long rope tied around its neck. The hay stands at a distance of 10 meters, and the horse can still reach it. How?
  8. You are running a marathon, and at one point you pass the runner that was in third place. In what place are you now?
  9. There are 5 apples in the basket. If we have five children, is it possible that each of them gets one apple, and that one apple remains in the basket?
  10. A girl who has just passed her driving test is on a one-way street, going in the opposite direction, and yet she did not break any rules. How is that possible?


  1. The grandfather, the father, and the son.
  2. The letter T.
  3. No, because it will be night then.
  4. The match.
  5. You will have 5 pieces of candy.
  6. It doesn’t say they have to match.
  7. It doesn’t say that the other end of the rope is tied to anything.
  8. In third place.
  9. You give an apple to 4 of the children, and you give the fifth child the basket with the apple.
  10. She is walking.

Have active students? 5 Fun ESL Games For Engaging Kinesthetic Learners


  1. Anna and Hannah are twin sisters. One is always lying, and one always tells the truth. The teacher was not sure which one was which, and she asked one of them, “Does Anna lie?” And she replied “yes.” The teacher immediately knew with which girl she was talking. Do you?
  2. It takes 10 minutes to fry a steak – five minutes on each side. Two steaks can fit in the pan. What’s the least amount of time needed to get 3 steaks fried in the pan?
  3. You have 2 buckets – one of 3 litres and the other of 5 litres. Use them to measure exactly 4 litres of water.
  4. In one room there are three bulbs and in the other room three switches. How will we know which switch turns on which light bulb, if from the switch room we can’t see into the room with the bulbs, and we can only once move from one room to the other?
  5. At the end of a quiz show, the winner was given the opportunity to choose a box: two were empty and one full of money. There was a label on each box. The contestant was told that only one was true, and the other two were untrue.
    Inscription on the first box: Money is not here.
    Inscription on the second box: Money is not here.
    Inscription on the third box: The money is in the second box.
    Which box should the competitor choose to win extra money?


  1. With Hannah. If Anna lies and Hannah tells the truth, then Anna would answer ‘no’ and Hannah ‘yes’. So in any case, the teacher knew it was Hannah.
  2. 15 minutes. After five minutes, take one steak from the pan and put the third one in. After ten minutes, the first steak is over, and the other two should be fried on just one side.
  3. Fill the three-litre bucket and pour the water into the five-litre bucket which will then have room for two litres. Then refill the three-litre bucket and pour the water into the five-litre bucket again. In your 3 litre bucket, a litre of water will remain. Empty the five-litre bucket and pour the remaining water from the first bucket. Then fill the three-litre bucket again and pour it into the big bucket. Now you have exactly four litres of water. (A diagram would help to explain this one.)
  4. Turn on the first switch and leave it a little while. Then turn it off and turn on another switch. Go to the room with the bulbs.
    The bulb that lights up – the switch we turned on.
    2. A still warm bulb – the switch we turned on and turned off.
    3. The bulb that isn’t lit – the third switch.
  5. The second box. Explanation: If the inscription on the first is true, then it is true in the second or the third. If the inscription on the third is true, then it is true in the first as well. If the inscription is true in the second box, then there are two false inscriptions left, so this is the solution.

For more teaching games, classroom activities, and teaching tips: Teaching Tips

About the Author

Milica Madić is a freelance article/blog writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.




What are Mind Maps and How to Draw Them

POSTED ON September 19th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Drawing mind maps is a powerful graphic technique that increases the potential of our mind. Drawing these maps can be applied in every aspect of our lives to improve learning or clearly define the goals that are ahead of us.

With advances in science and medicine, we have come to the realization that everything is subject to change and nothing is absolute. The knowledge we possess is increasing, and it helps us be better and better every day. Learning is imperative in every segment of our activities, a process that allows us to move in an upward trajectory and advance further.

This need was recognized by psychologist Tony Buzan, who has since been involved in the development of intellectual and creative abilities and turned it into a conceptual project that resulted in the idea of mapping the mind. Although, it is assumed that Leonardo Da Vinci also used this way of learning and recording ideas.

What are Mind Maps

This way of learning allows us to use and remember extensive material, remembering only the essence, without much attention to detail. Mind maps are a graphic representation of clear and creative.

This visual representation moves from the centre outwards in an increasing number of branches. It starts from a primary term or theme, it gets more and more specific to describe that central idea until until the map reveals a set of keywords related to the topic. Keywords have a role in creating an association to a particular content and excluding irrelevant details.

Why are Mind Maps Useful

First of all, they contain elements interesting to both the left and right hemisphere of the brain. The left hemisphere, or logical hemisphere, deals with analysis, numbers, linearity, words, logic, and lists. The right, or creative hemisphere, is in charge of synthesis, spatial understanding, colour, rhythm, imagination and day dreaming.

When the work of the left and right hemispheres of the brain connects, our brain can work so much better! Mind maps include elements that hold the attention of both left and right hemisphere of the brain, and with the help of bright colours, images, associations, we quickly remember the information.

Also, the mind maps clearly define the key concepts, separating essential from the non-essential, allowing us not to wander and not waste time on irrelevant details.

How to Draw a Mind Map

First, the centre of the mind map is drawn, which should be a key concept, a key idea, or even better, a drawing of the main concept. It is important to say that one image is worth a thousand words and that our brain will forget words but remember some pictures or drawings. If the central drawing is specific, funny, or contains an association to a key term, our brain will adopt the image in a fraction of a second.

The mind map, in essence, contains associations of thoughts that originate or have a connection to the central point. From the central image, other topics are branched, which can be further divided into less relevant terms.

Mind maps are usually drawn with markers, although you could use crayons. It is important that the central drawing contains a minimum of three colours, in order to create the illusion of three dimensionality that seems convincing to our minds. The more colours, the better.

The same goes for drawings. Our brain likes pictures, and everything is much more enjoyable, simpler and easier to remember if it creates a picturesque association to a given term. So, the more drawings, the better. Only positive associations are recommended.

After all, we can look at and analyze the following map, created by Buzan himself, about the laws of drawing mind maps. This map does not specifically contain drawings other than central but is useful until we learn how to draw branches.

Mind Mapping for learning EnglishEach branch is drawn one with the same colour, and black is not recommended. Words, drawings, and labels referring to that branch are written or drawn above that branch. They can be any colour, and variations in colour, font size, lines, and images are recommended.

After finishing the central drawing (in this case, the mind maps), the first branch is drawn, and here it is red. Generally, it does not matter on which side you begin, but it is always easier if we develop a routine. Namely, it is recommended to draw branches in a clockwise direction.

One of the branches, in this case red, above which we write what it contains (here it is paper) is a little thicker than its branches, which are always thinner towards the top but thicker towards the knot. It is explained what kind of paper we need to draw the mind maps: white with no writing on it and set horizontally. The third red structure has an even smaller branch that suggests that you should start mapping by drawing the central image.

At the thickest part of the blue branch, which indicates a new topic, it says ‘Use.’ The author suggests that we use images, colours, and words when drawing maps. As far as words are concerned, the letters should be bold, and you shouldn’t write sentences but keywords.

Our brain will deal with the improvisation of details. After all, try it. Summarize some text or book in this way, and put only the keywords on the map. You will understand that you will be able to tell the whole story based on these words.

The third, purple branch explains how to draw the branches. They go from thicker to thinner, they are connected and contain words and drawings or images above them. Letters should be written horizontally.

As for the style, explained in the green branch, the author says it should be fun, beautiful and interesting. It would be ideal if we developed our own distinctive style. And this is achieved by constant exercise.

By developing personal symbols, we can quickly present an idea in a couple of ways. But that requires skill. It is superfluous to say that mind maps can only be used by those who are persistent, who will by continuously exercising succeed in summarizing hard material through a couple of main branches with key words and images. Or draw up a work plan for the next week, month, or year.

It’s Efficient and Multi-purpose

See how long it took to write a description of that mind map? Mind maps represent a way to put a lot of information on a single sheet of paper and it a good way to organize notes. It is even possible to summarize an entire book in such a way, making it easier for yourself to later recall all the major things without great reference to details. That’s the point. Our brain likes to remember only the key ideas and key words. Mind maps have enabled millions of people around the world to use their minds more effectively.

We become what we think. If in our head we have a clear picture of what we want, we can place it on paper, then place that paper in a visible place. Clear goals are crystallized and remind us of what we have achieved and what not. They remind us to concentrate on priorities.

Another small, last look at the map. The last, dark green branch describes the structure of the mind maps. It recommends order, clarity and, once again: ASSOCIATIONS! Try it yourself!

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.

Tips to Manage Your ESL Class

POSTED ON September 12th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Classroom management is one of the elements of an ESL class that teachers, especially new ones, struggle with the most. If you think about it, managers in a company usually don’t find that managing their staff is an easy task; thus, good people management skills are key. And people (or children) management in a classroom is and can be even more challenging.

That being said, let’s look at four tips that you can use to help you manage your ESL class.

We also have this: Classroom Management in a Nutshell

Tip #1: A Student-Centered Learning Environment

Creating a student-centred learning environment means that the ESL teacher puts the needs of the students first, and thus when practising the language, focus is placed on the students as opposed to the teacher. Students need to be doing most of the engaging and talking in any lesson, while the teacher merely facilitates the manner in which students communicate. The teacher should also advise on correct language usage and help create a safe environment in which student can practice what they are learning.

Tip #2: Classroom Rules

When a teacher first starts teaching a class, making the ESL classroom rules clear to all the students is a must. If the students are old enough, you can even give them ownership of the rules by asking and getting their input. The rules for the classroom should be visible, meaning you need to have them up on the board (if space allows) or dedicate a portion of a wall for the classroom rules poster. Another thing to keep in mind is to enforce the rules consistently.

Tip #3: Non-Verbal Signals

These can be super handy to help you manage the volume of the ESL class, classroom manners, and/or issue warning signs. A teacher can easily tailor these non-verbal signs to each class, and students can also help with ideas on how to put these in place. A well-used non-verbal signal that teachers use in ESL classes today is to raise one hand to mean that he or she is asking the students to quiet down.

Tip #4: Donation Jar

This classroom management skill works similar to how a ‘swear jar’ would work at home. Every time a student speaks in their native language (when not allowed), they have to add to the donation jar. For kids, the ESL teacher wouldn’t use money, but can instead hand out coupons with their name written on. At the end of the lesson, week, or theme, the teacher would count the tokens to see who spoke in their native language the most. The teacher can assign extra homework or think of another creative way as punishment or reward for the rest of the class.

Let us know in the comment section what are some ways you use to manage your ESL class.

Click here for another look at classroom management techniques. Or visit our Teaching Tips blog for more general information on teaching young learners English.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.