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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.

Cooler Activities for Winding Down

POSTED ON September 5th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Whether you want something soothing to calm students down at the end of class, or are looking for something to get noisy students under control, a cooler activity is just what you need.

Fun games and noisy tasks are all well and good, but sometimes what you need is an activity to help students wind down and relax. Take a look at our top recommended cooler activities for use in your ESL classroom.

(Of course, sometimes you may also need warm up activities, too.)

Simon Says

Typically, with only one person speaking at a time, this game is a great way to bring some calm and quiet to the end of your class. One person is the leader (or, ‘Simon’) who gives a command for students to copy. If the leader says ‘Simon says brush your teeth’ students need to pretend to brush their teeth. However, if the leader says ‘brush your teeth’ without the Simon Says at the beginning, students shouldn’t perform the action. Students are ‘out’ when they do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Demonstrate it yourself and then get the students to be the leader.

Sleeping Bears

Nobody wants to wake up a sleeping bear! This game is great with young learners and ensures a few minutes of peace and quiet. Students pretend that they are bears going into hibernation – they lie down on the floor, close their eyes, and stay as still as they can. The teacher then walks around and tries to see who is awake – the flicker of an eyelid, the twitch of a nose… or perhaps even more obvious movements for those that just can’t keep still! The winner is the student who stays ‘asleep’ the longest.

Picture Games

There are countless resources online for quiet coolers which you can use in your classroom. Games like ‘spot the difference’ or ‘odd one out’ are easy to find and bring to class. Either print out pictures for students to study in pairs, or project it onto a screen at the front for students to do together. Give the students a few minutes (in silence) to find what they’re looking for and feedback as a class.

Getting too cool? 9 More EFL Warm-up Activities to Start Your Class Off Right

Rumour Game / Broken Telephone

A popular playground game, students stand in a line and whisper a word or message from one end to the other. The idea is to pass on the message from student to student and see if it is the same at the end as it was at the beginning. However, as the message gets passed along the line it tends to alter, particularly if students are speaking quickly and with less than perfect pronunciation. Be prepared for some funny final sentences!

Drawing Dictation

Whatever vocabulary you’ve been studying in class, you can review it with a quiet drawing dictation. Students listen and draw as directed, giving them a chance to remember what you’ve learnt in class as well as to cool down after a vibrant lesson. A fun variation is drawing games where you draw part of the picture and then pass it onto another student – for example, drawing the head of an animal and then passing it on for another student to draw the body, the legs and the feet. This can produce some really funny pictures and is great for eliciting language.

Want more like this? 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.

10 Tips Teachers Can Give Their Students to Help Them Study at Home

POSTED ON August 29th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Children often fail to adopt healthy studying habits and take responsibility for their schooling, which is usually most noticeable when they move to secondary school. There is so much a parent can do, so it is important that the youngsters get proper guidance from their teachers too.

A young child is like a sponge, always ready for new knowledge and experience.

It is both surprising and sad that during schooling, the majority of these little sponges full of questions and interest in everything start to hate studying. To them, school, learning, homework, and especially reading represents a burden and torment.

Children do not become indifferent and lazy by themselves. They learn it. A common problem is that grades have become their only goal. Often, it is not the goal of the child but the parent. Ultimately, the child has no sense that it is learning and achieving something for himself, but that it is something he is doing for his parents.

To break this habit of learning for grades, teachers should guide and advise the pupils.

Here are ten useful tips teachers can give their students to help them study at home.

Listen in Class then Read at Home

One of the most obvious, yet most useful tips a teacher could give their students is to pay attention in class. At home, the pupil should read the new lesson from the book on the same day as it was taught, without the burden of learning it, and studying it later will not be as challenging and it will take much less time.

Study in the Same Place at the Same Time

Teachers should advise their students to do the assigned homework always in the same place, preferably at the work desk, in a quiet and well-lit room. It would be good if it were at the same time too. During work, there should be no other activities, the television and the computer must be turned off.

Furthermore, it would not be bad for them to make a schedule of activities to specify the time for learning and time for other leisurely activities.

By doing this, the child will develop a feeling of continuity, and studying will soon become a part of their daily routine, which will ultimately lead to developing healthy studying habits.

Study at Intervals

If the material consists of a significant amount of information the students need to memorize, suggest they do not try to learn everything at once, but schedule their learning for several days. Learn part by part. If the lesson is long and challenging, it’s good to split it into a built-up whole and learn segment by segment. Breaks are crucial for effective learning because they give your brain time to integrate and match the acquired knowledge and connect it to the previously learned.

Skim the Text before Reading

One of the best tips you could ever give your students is when they decide to study, they do not go straight to reading and repeating. First of all, it’s good to take a look at the lesson as a whole, read the titles, subheadings, and what the textbook writer has already highlighted (in bold letters), view the images, and look at the essential elements in the lesson.

Then, the students should ask themselves what they need to learn, whether they can use the existing knowledge (something they have read, written, listened to or watched on television) and what this knowledge is about.

Don’t Learn by Heart

Learning by heart makes studying any learning material like trying to memorize every number in the phone book by heart – annoying, confusing, and meaningless.

Encourage your students to ask why something is the way it is, how it came about and to find meaning in it. Teachers can help students find the usefulness of what they are learning, what it has to do with things they already know and how they can relate it to their everyday experience.

Of course, this implies that they find those connections themselves and that the teacher is only someone who can help them in the process. Learning should not be limited to school or homework; learning is a continuous part of our lives.

Working with young learners? Tips for Teaching Elementary EFL Students

Highlight and Underline

By underlining key words or sentences, the students emphasize relevant information. Suggest they highlight the text in their own way – it can be in different colors for example, and write down any comments or questions they may want to discuss with you in the next class.

Don’t Study Materials that are Similar in One Sitting

While you’re rested, you first need to learn the material that is harder. Do not study similar or related subjects one after the other so as not to mix information and facts. The more similar two topics are, the easier it will be for the students to mix them up, so it’s advisable they don’t study both in one sitting.

Use Visual Aids

If you have, for example, taught new vocabulary items to your students, it would be a good idea for them to write those words down on a larger piece of paper or cardboard, along with the meaning of the word or an illustration. That will help them memorize the new word since many children have a photographic memory.

You can form groups in class, assign different tasks to each and provide them with the cardboard. They will have to make it at home, and you can hang it in the classroom. Children love to write and draw, especially when they are young, and this is a fun activity that will not give them the impression that they are studying when, in fact, they will be.

Use the Internet

Since children are starting to use the Internet at an early age, you can suggest they do Internet research if there is something they do not understand or to further examine a topic that interests them. The Internet is particularly useful for learning new words, with tons of great dictionaries that can be found online, like the Merriam Webster, Thesaurus, and the Macmillan Dictionary. Furthermore, there are other great websites, such as Wikipedia, where information on lots of topics can be found. Even simply Googling things can often do the trick.

Ask Parents for Help

Parents should aid their children when they are learning, but not serve them complete information.

By explaining to your students that asking parents for help is fine as long as the parent is not the one who does all their work, you will accentuate the benefit of doing things on their own. After all, it’s the kids who will need to know these things that the parents probably already know.

Here are a few websites parents can use to help: Websites to Help Your Children Practice English at Home

The pupils who develop healthy studying habits will have a significant advantage later in high school or at the university. They will learn to use their time efficiently and will not be studying by heart at the last moment. They will master the material more quickly, have a better relationship with teachers and professors, and know how to organize their time. Those students will always have better results, regardless of the level of intelligence or interest.

Once acquired, work habits remain forever. Children who develop them in time will find it easier to go through life even when they are out of school. They will be more organized, respectful of their own and others’ time, more concentrated and will perform their duties more efficiently.

As a teacher, there is only so much you can do to help your students become better learners. The important thing is never to lose your temper if things are going as planned and do your best to implement this in your classroom.

Want more like this? Be sure to check out our Teaching Tips blog. Or if you’re looking to get more out of your own language learning, see our Language Learning Tips.

About the Author

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








How’s Your Board Work?

POSTED ON August 22nd  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

There are teaching methodologies, activities, classroom management techniques, and learning styles to consider during each and every class. More often than not, thinking about board work often falls to the side.

You may be thinking, what exactly is board work? Board work is how you utilize the whiteboard – or chalkboard – during your lesson. It actually plays a vital part in the success of a given session. It should be included in your lesson plans, or at the very least, thought about directly beforehand.

Ever had a lesson and by the end, everything was scattered all over the board so that if you looked at it, it didn’t make any sense? That’s the opposite of what should happen. By the end of class, although the board may be filled, it should be organized and legible. Here we will look at some ways to effectively use board space-

Have a vocabulary corner.

New words that aren’t in the textbook, or aren’t focused on, are bound to pop up. In a designated boxed corner or slim column on the side of the board put these new words. It’s up to you if you want to also put pronunciation notes, part of speech, or a familiar synonym after giving the definition to the class. The advantage of this is to encourage students to also make note of new words, and for the class to realize they are learning more words than what’s just in the planned lesson. Plus, if you end a few minutes early, you can review as a time-filler.

Section the board in your mind.

As you plan your lesson, think of the board presentation. An even better way of accomplishing a good presentation is to draw it out. Not exactly of course, but a rough sketch. During the different stages of your lesson, you have two options. You can either section off the various parts (grammar presentation, answers to an exercise, etc.) to have everything displayed at the end, or you can erase and start clean each time. It depends on what you will need with what you are doing.

Make small notes to yourself.

The far corner of the board, the one closest to your desk, is a good place to make notes to yourself. They should be small and they only need to be legible to you. Is there something that needs to be addressed after the speaking activity is finished? Do you need a reminder of what comes next? These types of notes are very useful to write down given that there are many things happening in class at any time period, making it likely you will forget what you wanted to do or say.

Keep it simple.

With all that said, it’s important to keep it simple for the students. Board work is a very important aspect of a smoothly run class, but it can easily get overanalyzed. Don’t spend a ton of time during class making sure your board is beautiful; do the work beforehand by visualizing what you want it to look like. As with anything, the key to improvement is practice!

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.


Teaching Tips: Activities for Pair-work

POSTED ON August 15th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Group activities are lots of fun, but for maximizing student talking time, you can’t go wrong with some pair-work in the classroom. Smaller groups (and pairs) give more students time to talk and keeps students engaged so that you can monitor more closely. Try out some of these activities for pair-work in your classroom.

Back Tracing

A good game for children, (but not for awkward teenagers or adults!) back tracing is a game for students to practice the spelling of a new lexical set. Write up the vocabulary on the board and put students into pairs. One student ‘writes’ a word one letter at a time, using their finger, onto the back of their partner. Their partner should try to guess each letter as their tracer spells it, and write them down to spell out the word.

And more games:  6 Favourite ESL Games and Activities to Use in Your Classroom

Noughts and Crosses Q & A (Tic Tac Toe Q & A)

A popular two player game, this can easily be turned into a TEFL activity by getting students to ask a target question each time they make a move. Either you can write up target questions on the board and, when each student wants to make a move, they pick out a question to ask their partner, or you can make your own Noughts and Crosses board and write the questions directly onto the squares. Another idea is to make a coloured board with each coloured box corresponding to a different question on the board – this way you can make sure the students ask a different question each turn and use the board for different topics later.

And here are a few more simple games: Keep It Simple: No-Prep Games and Activities


This activity works well for higher level students who can read and write well. Either supply the students with a list of questions – or get them to choose their own – and then the students interview each other and write down the answers. Questions can be on any topic – choose something that fits into your lesson plan and gives students a chance to practice the language they’ve already studied. Important Note: In this type of activity, sneaky students sometimes try to simply ‘switch papers’ and answer the questions on paper without opening their mouths. Monitor carefully to check that all pair groups are asking the questions verbally, or have the students sit back-to-back so it’s easy for you to see who’s doing the writing! For a follow-up, you can ask the students to present their interview findings to the class to check that they’ve been listening carefully!

Do you want more articles like this? Visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a veteran English teacher and freelance writer whose teaching adventure has taken her to Japan, China and more.

The Two Sides of Classroom Management for Very Young Learners

POSTED ON August 8th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips


Being the teacher means having to play two roles simultaneously: the warm caregiver and the stern taskmaster. Knowing how to balance the two will mean the difference between a happy attentive class and chaos.

During a kindergarten class – or any class full of young learners – things can get out of control very quickly. They don’t always have to though. With the right consistency and strategies, you can always be in control. This will require wearing at least two different hats, however.

The key to classroom management success for young ones is being flexible and stern at the same time. Let me explain.

Feeling a little shaky on classroom management? Maybe you can start here: Classroom Management in a Nutshell

Being Flexible

Young kids need a lot of variety. Their attention span isn’t nearly as long as an adult’s, or even an older child. They need activity changes. Frequently. For that to happen, you’ll need to be flexible. Your lesson plan may not actually go according to plan. After some experience, you’ll be able to tell when young children are getting restless before they stop listening and start running around.

Even with your rules, which we will talk about soon, you will still need to be flexible. Ground rules are important, but others may need to be bent occasionally. For example, if you are watching a video and have asked the children to sit in their seats but some are getting up, switch tactics by asking everyone to stand to watch. Or if the ones standing aren’t bothering anyone and it’s a short video, don’t say anything at all and ask them to sit down afterwards. In short, don’t be a stickler when it’s not needed.

Being Stern

On the other hand, all children need rules. It creates order in their lives. As the teacher, you need to come up with your own system of simple rules that will be enforced at all times. For example:

  • Feet stay on the floor
  • No hitting
  • Raise your hand

As for a system for enforcing these rules and managing general behaviour, there are several ways of creating one.

  • Have a name chart for which students receive stars (and they can be erased)
  • Have a no nonsense attitude that students will respect and always be aware of
  • Have a tally chart (similar to a name chart)
  • Create teams for team points

The most important thing here is consistency. You can only let things slide after the students really get to know you and you have already established rules. Remember that establishing them isn’t good enough. Kids need practice and reminders constantly to keep expectations solid and fresh. Working together with a local teacher if you don’t speak the language is also good. Share your ideas for classroom management together to make sure you are both on the same page. Above all, don’t forget to have lots of fun!

Want more teaching tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

 6 Favourite ESL Games and Activities to Use in Your Classroom

POSTED ON August 1st  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

In a learning English as a foreign or second language environment, games and other activities form a key part of your lessons. Any ESL teacher knows the value of using a few favourite ESL games and activities in the classroom. It is important to remember that students, whether they are young learners or adults, learn faster when they are ‘playing’ or having fun and when learning does not feel like a chore. (Get more information on the value of games in the classroom here.)

Furthermore, ESL games and activities can be used:

  • at the start of your lesson as a warm up and to get students thinking in English,
  • when you are teaching grammar or vocabulary and the games/activity serves as ‘fun’ practice,
  • during the lesson when students need a break or when you are teaching something particularly tough, or
  • at/near the end of class when there is some time left over ‘before the bell rings’.

In this article, we will look at some games you can use in your ESL class. Where necessary, I will indicate the level for which this activity or game is most appropriate as well as for which area/section it can be used, e.g. vocabulary, grammar, conversation practice, etc.

Game 1: Board Race

  • Group game
  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Vocabulary, grammar

How to Play

Split the class into groups of 3-4 students. Each team gets a different coloured marker. However many teams there are, split the board up in that many columns. For vocabulary revision for a specific topic, groups must write as many words related to the topic in the form of a relay race. Teams get points for each correctly spelt word.

Game 2: Call My Bluff

  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Ice breaker, speaking skills

How to Play

In modelling how to play the game, the teacher writes three statements about themselves on the board, one of which should be true and two should be false. The students need to ask you some questions about each statement to guess which one is true. They win if they guess the correct one.

To make this more student-centered, have students play in a group. One person writes two lies and one truth on a piece of paper, and the other members question the student to guess which statement is true. At the end of the activity, allow the students to share what they learned about their fellow classmates.

Game 3: Word Jumble

  • Group activity
  • Appropriate for all ages and levels
  • Spelling, word order, writing skills, grammar

How to Play

Some planning is needed before the class. The teacher needs to write (or type) a couple of sentences, and each sentence needs to be in a different colour. It works best with between three and five sentences per group. Cut up the sentences so that there are a handful of words and put these into cups, keeping the words per sentence separate. Divide the class into teams of 2-4 members. The groups need to put their sentences in the correct order, and the winning team is the one who correctly puts their sentences in order first.

What about adults? Adults Want to Have Fun, Too! – Games for Beginners

Game 4: Last Man Standing

  • Appropriate for all levels and ages
  • Vocabulary (could be adapted for grammar, too)

How to Play

To play, have a ball ready and get the entire class to stand in a circle. The teacher names a category or theme, such as things found in the house, food, colours, countries, etc. The teacher tosses the ball to a student. That student needs to say a word that is related to the theme and throw the ball to another student. As every student catches the ball, they need to say another word related to the category. No words can be repeated. If a student says a word that had already been said or cannot come up with a new word, they are out and need to sit and listen.

Game 5: Choose Your Victim

  • Appropriate for all levels and ages
  • Grammar

How to Play

This is a good activity to make a question and answer grammar practice session more active. Have all the students stand in a circle. They all need to practice a grammar point by asking and answering questions; for example, they have to ask questions with a past verb form, so they practice the past simple tense. The first student can ask “Did you eat ice cream on the weekend?” and need to throw the ball to another student who needs to answer the question correctly in order to stay in the game. This student then earned the right to ask a question, throw the ball to another student who must answer correctly to ask a question. And so the game continues. If you have a large class, students can play in groups of 4 or 6, and you can walk around and monitor.

Game 6:  Roll the Dice

  • Appropriate for elementary to advanced levels
  • Perfect for review, grammar, vocabulary

How to Play

Divide the class into groups and each one gets a dice to play with. Write numbers one to 6 on the board, and each number needs to correspond to an activity. This can be to ask your group members how to spell a word, say a sentence in the past tense or ask a question in the present perfect simple tense, read a page from the book they have been reading the term, practice a phonic or two, sing the song the class learned, etc. Incorporate points and the team with the most points wins.


This article discussed six easy and favourite ESL games and activities that any teacher can use in their classroom. There are, of course, many, many, many more games and activities out there, and most teachers would tell you that they know at least a hundred games and varieties to incorporate at the start, middle or end of their lesson.

What are some of your favourite ESL games and activities to use in the classroom? Which ones do your students like best?

Want more great articles like this? Check out our Teaching Tips.

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. For her educational background, she has an MA in Politics, with a dissertation written on post-conflict peacebuilding, a BA Journalism degree, a TEFL and CELTA certificate, and also a few certificates in various other short courses.

Teaching Tips For a Naughty Student

POSTED ON July 25th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

There are naughty students in the world, and you’re likely to meet more than one. Whether it’s for attention, out of boredom, or just not knowing any better, some kids act out and get disruptive. So get prepared! Make every challenging student into a teachable moment for everyone involved.

We all have one of those students. A chatterbox who won’t zip it, an idle pupil who won’t join in, a naughty child who turns any worksheet into a paper aeroplane… Every teacher will have experience of a student who acts up in one way or another. If you have a child who is challenging, it can be easy to lose your cool, and your temper. If you’re at your wit’s end, try out some of these different techniques for getting a pesky pupil on board. Not every method will work for every situation – see which method you think is most appropriate for your problem student.

Of course, there are those students that may have a learning disability, such as being on the autistic spectrum. These students may need special help to get the most out of their English lessons.

Ignore Them

Quite often, when a child is acting up in class, they just want attention. If you give them attention (by telling them to hush up every five seconds or making a point of telling them off) then you are basically giving in to what they want. By ignoring a troublesome child, you are showing them that the way they behave isn’t going to stop you from being a top-notch teacher. It also sends out a good message to the rest of the class – by ignoring the troublemaker, you’re showing the other students that good behaviour is rewarded with attention from the teacher. Eventually, most naughty students will get fed up of being ignored and settle down by themselves.

Want more on keeping your students well behaved? Classroom Management in a Nutshell

Team Up On Them

Even in a class with several naughty students, there is usually a ringleader. Chances are, you’ll have other students in the class who find their behaviour just as bothersome as you do. A good way to silence a ringleader is to put the students into teams, awarding points for good behaviour and taking away points for naughty behaviour. Offer a prize to the team with the most points, or perhaps a forfeit (such as extra homework or staying behind after class) for the team that doesn’t come up to scratch. When the other students in the team realise that the naughty child is going to be their undoing, they’ll soon be persuading the ringleader to buck up their ideas!

And we have lots more on classroom management here.

Reason With Them

It may not seem like it when they are being little monsters, but kids and teenagers are humans too. If you have a student who won’t pitch in, why not try reasoning with them? Ask them why they’re acting up – Are they bored? Are the lessons too easy or difficult for them? If you teach at a private language school (where tuition fees are likely to be high) you could reason with them that by not behaving in class they are wasting their parents’ money. Mentioning this (and also the possibility of speaking to the parents if the poor behaviour continues) may be enough to encourage good behaviour, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan and China where ‘losing face’ would be the ultimate punishment. Remember to take the student to one side and not admonish them in front of their peers – you’re likely to get a more honest response if you talk to them in private.

Looking for more ways to get the most out of your students? We’ve got you covered on our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a veteran ESL teacher and freelancer writer.

Keep It Simple: No-Prep Games and Activities

POSTED ON July 18th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

It’s always a good idea to have a few extra class activities prepared, but it’s not always realistic. There are times when students finish planned activities too quickly and other times when you may unexpectedly take over for another teacher. But have no fear! We’ve got you covered with these three ‘no prep’ activities for your teaching emergencies.

Whether you’re running low on lesson planning time or are covering a class with no handover notes, there are bound to be times in your teaching career when you’re in need of a ‘no prep’ activity, or at least something where the only thing you need is a whiteboard and marker. It’s great to have a few of these games in your repertoire, not just for when you run out of planning time, but also to use as fillers when students finish your planned material too quickly. Take a look at our easy-to-run activities that won’t have you spending hours at the photocopier or cutting up bits of paper for a complicated game.

The Listing Game (Shopping Game)

Not even a whiteboard is required for this one unless you want to write up the target sentence to guide lower level students. The idea is simple – create a list, with each student adding one item to the list, to be recalled from memory. The usual target sentence is I went to the shops and I bought… Perhaps the first student will say a banana. So the next student will say a banana and a rabbit. The next student will say a banana, a rabbit and a mobile phone. The list continues until a student can no longer recall the list correctly. You can make it simpler by having each student name a word beginning with a letter of the alphabet in sequence, to make it easier to remember. Example: an apple, a brooch, a cat, a pan… The target sentence can be changed depending the on level of students and topics recently studied. Examples: The last time I went on holiday, into my suitcase I packed… For my next birthday, I’d like… I have a job in the local shop, and today I sold…

Clap / Stamp Game

This game can be applied to any language point, and all it requires is for your students to either clap their hands or stamp their feet. For example, you could practice CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and ask students to clap/stamp depending on which medial vowel they hear. You could teach countable/uncountable nouns, verbs in different tenses… pretty much any topic can be worked into this game. Just explain to the students to listen and then either clap or stamp depending on what they hear. You can do it as a review, or make it into a game so that the last one to react is ‘out’. Higher-lever students could even be the game master and say the words.

Simon Says

A great game with younger kids, all you need is your imagination. Explain the rules of the game (TPR works well) just jump right in and start playing. If the students like it, let one of them be the teacher and lead the game. It’s also a great one to review imperatives. Most teachers are familiar with the game, but it’s easy enough to learn if not. The teacher will say something (usually an imperative) like “Simon Says touch your toes” or “Simon says clap your hands”, to which the students react by completing the action. If the teacher says the phrases without the ‘Simon Says’ at the beginning, for example, just “touch your toes”, then the students should do the action. A student is out if they do the action when they aren’t supposed to.

For more teaching tips, visit our teaching tips blog. Or for tips and tricks to share with students, check out our language learning tips.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a long-time ESL/EFL teacher and freelance writer.


6 Online ESL Resources Every ESL Teacher Should Use

POSTED ON July 11th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Even the best teacher in the world can get a little overwhelmed at times. Lucky for us, we live in the Internet Age and there are resources available should we need a worksheet, a lesson plan, or an activity to bolster our lessons. Here are six great sites to add to your bookmarks.

When teaching English abroad, you often have one of two extremes. There’s that class you dread because they never listen unless you have the perfect activity to hold their attention or there’s that special class that outperforms anything you give them and fly through your lesson plan.

No matter which class you have, you need resources to keep both types engaged and learning. Here are some of our favourite websites to find lesson plans and activities that will help capture your student’s attention and challenge your top performers.

1. Never Run Out of Lesson Plan Ideas With ESL Library is an excellent online resource for teachers. The site creates beautifully designed lesson plans and flashcards across a variety of topics. It also uses current events to help your students discuss global topics such as politics and environmental issues.

Browse topics by level or topics such as grammar and writing, debates, reading, business English, and everyday English.

While membership to the site does cost $22 for three months, you get access to over 800 lesson plans and 2000 ready-to-print flashcards.

2. Get Musical With TEFL Tunes

Do you love incorporating music into your ESL lessons? TEFL Tunes is a great resource for teachers that want to engage their students with popular English music while using it as an opportunity to practice valuable skills such as reading, listening, and grammar.

TEFL Tunes has a huge bank of song-based lessons and an easy-to-use browser where you can select level, theme grammatical point or artist.

Create a listening activity around well-known pop hits such as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive; Lep Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You;  and Beyonce’s If I Were A Boy. Use the songs to teach a variety of grammar points like present simple, future tense and the 2nd conditional.

All those hours of listening to pop music will finally pay off when your students start improving their grammar abilities and primary language skills.

3. Find The Perfect Worksheet With Busy Teacher

Busy Teacher is a comprehensive ESL resource perfect for teachers looking to customise their worksheets and wanting to avoid paying membership fees.

You can access their entire library of 17,200+ worksheets for free and take advantage of their tools to create your own word search, word scramble, or double puzzles.

Browse worksheets by season, spice up your lesson plans with their warmers and fillers, or use one of the 600 creative writing prompts to inspire your more advanced students.

Other great resources include classroom management,  revision worksheets, flashcards and much more.

4. Improve Your Students Listening Skills With Listen Lab

ESL students need to practice listening to a variety of English speakers. It is why audio listening activities need to be a constant in your ESL repertoire.

Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab is a great resource to get your students used to listening to everyday conversations. Choose from a variety of audio lessons ranging from easy, medium or difficult. Topic examples include “Barbecue Party”, “Camping Under the Stars” and “A Great Car Deal.”

Each lesson comes with a short audio clip, a comprehension quiz, pre and post listening exercises, grammar and optional online investigations.

5. In a hurry? Grab a lesson plan with

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to plan ahead, our plans can still fall through. In ESL, this is nothing new. Sometimes you find your class schedule changed or you are asked to teach a grade of students you had not prepared for. has an extensive list of lesson plans, ready-made worksheets, and reading exercises that you can print when you are in a hurry.

The site also lists jobs, has an active TEFL Forum, and provides practical advice for school resources, teacher relations, teaching methods and terminology.

6. Get Creative With Comic Creator

If your students love getting creative, Comic Creator is an excellent way to engage them while practising their English skills.

Pick a theme that you want the comic to be about and use the generator to choose how many panels you want your students to fill in. You can then use the interactive sections to add people, props and speech bubbles to create the scene you want.

In class, your students can design each panel, create a character and write their story in the speech bubbles.It is a simple tool that encourages creative writing and is so much fun your students won’t realise they are practising their English in the process.

It is no secret that all students learn in different ways; hopefully, these six resources will help you build lesson plans that will engage all levels and learning styles.

Add these websites to your ESL toolkit today and take your lesson planning to the next level.

Want more teaching tips? Visit Shane English School’s Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Lauren Melnick is a South African travel blogger and ESL teacher currently living in Ubon, Thailand. When she isn’t making lesson plans and watching nursery rhymes on YouTube, you can find her eating up a storm, taking selfies with dinosaurs, and planning her next adventure.

Follow her travels on Wanderlust Movement, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.