Learn a language in 6 months

Marek’s ideas are the “Real Thing”. He’s tried them. Why don’t you?


In January I started a series of blog posts on learning languages, speculating how we could learn faster and more effectively. I decided to use these tips in practice to see if I could learn a new language in 6 months, and I chose Portuguese. The 6 months are over now, so I wanted to give a final update on my progress and reflect on what I’ve learned in the process about learning languages.

But first, if you haven’t been following them, I would like to invite you to read the previous posts on the topic, which you can access by clicking on the links below:

  1. “Dispelling 5 language learning myths”
  2. “5 steps to language fluency”
  3. “Be fluent in a language in 6 months – mission impossible?”
  4. “First update – two months on”

So how much have I learnt?

I can’t say I’m completely fluent, but I can have a…

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Jennifer Golbeck: The curly fry conundrum – Why social media “likes” say more than you might think

My lesson plan choice of the week.


“It’s sometimes said of Facebook that the users aren’t the customer, they’re the product. And so how do you get a company to cede control of their main asset back to the users? It’s possible, but I don’t think it’s something that we’re going to see change quickly.” 

Upper-intermediateMore discourse markersData & Privacy
AdvancedVocabularyMonetizing the Internet

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Bad grammar – lesson plan

Recently, I’ve taken to turn my would-be wasted time spent on Facebook into engaging classroom material. (how smart.. 😀 ) This class is based on a lot of speaking, some creative writing and a smaller amount of grammar (rather as a reminder than a newly introduced language structure). The original content is a funny compilation by The Guardian.

Bad grammar

Age: teenagers, adults

Level: B1 and above, exam preparation, business English

Lesson type: Speaking, Writing – Creative writing, Reading

Grammar focus: use of apostrophes (Even though I’ll give you a detailed lesson plan, it is still quite flexible as the article contains different types of mistakes so you can always adjust it to your learners’ needs.)

Length: 60-90 mins

Materials needed:

  • a good quality print-out of the chosen mistakes (you’d better number them so it will be easer to refer back to them) The original article can be found here
  • blue-tack
  • sheets of paper, pen

Print and cut out the photos of your choice from the article and using blue-tack hang them on the wall around the room.


1. Warm-up:
In pairs they have 1-2 minutes to discuss the following questions:

  • Do they like advertisements,
  • do they have a favourite one,
  • have they ever seen mistakes in one and if yes, what was it?

Get their feedback.

2. Error correction:
Put your students into pairs. Tell your students that you’ve put on the wall different advertisements, posters, bill-boards from all over the UK.
3. First task:

  • go around and choose two adds that they like. (3-4 minutes)
  • Get their feedback, compare their chose and ask their reasons.

4. Second task:

  • Tell them that each of the photos contain an error and their task is to find them. With a sheet of paper and a pen they can go around again and not down the sentences, the mistakes, and try to correct them. (10-15 minutes depending on the number of photos you’ve chosen)
  • Once they are ready, two neighbouring pairs compare their answers and proposed corrections
  • Board the correct sentences

5. Grammar point:

Ask your students why these sentences were incorrect? What is the common mistake occurred? Board the rules together. (It’s your choice how deep you want to go into the topic. Consider the level of your students, the time you have, your syllabus etc.) 10 mins

6. When you have all the rules related to apostrophes (make sure you cover at least those that occur in the examples) tell them to match the corrected sentences with their uses. Board the answers. 10 mins

7. Creat your own ad:

For this I use either realia or some photos but the less “advertisable” objects you find, the better it is. I’ve given my students staplers, boardpens, a hat, my half glove etc. – or you could look up some crazy items on the Internet. It is full of them 🙂

Put your students into groups of 3-4 and give them ~10-15 minutes to come up with an ad for their product. Tell them it can be anything, it can be a poster, a TV spot, a radio spot, newspaper ad etc. If you can, provide them with felt pens, paper, glue scissors, blue-tack etc. Remind them that they will have to present it so they should be ready for that too.

Having finished their projects they present them to each other. The teams give points up to 5 (except for their own project of course) and we announce the winner. (10-15 minutes – depending on class size)

What is the vocabulary my students need?

Back at our CELTA course we would often receive feedback like “Grade your language!” “Don’t use more complicated language than the point you are teaching!”. They are all very reasonable requirements and I can’t be grateful enough to our tutors for them. However, I’ve often wondered, which vocabulary items are considered to be appropriate to what level? Of course we all have a rough idea, but (as I love lists, and databases) I was super excited when I came across the British Council’s Word Family Framework.


This application can help your work as a student as well as a teacher.

  • You can simply have it list all the headwords that are to be known at a certain level
  • You can search for a certain word and all the words in the same word family
  • It can be a useful tool to gather phrasal verbs
  • It can give you as a learner an idea of the amount of vocab items you are familiar with

+ I’m sure there are several other uses, and I’m eager to find them all 🙂 – if you have any additional ideas, please let me know!


Modals of Obligation, Necessity and Prohibition: Pictionary!

My teaching blog choice of the week.

Tim's Free English Lesson Plans

This is part of a series of 30 minute lesson plans I have been writing for conversation classes with small groups of teenagers. Each one covers a specific grammar point and features a game to encourage surly teens to use it.


Write “rules” on the board. Tell students to tell you all the rules that their school imposes on them and board them all.  Try to elicit the following structures:


Mustn’t/can’t/not allowed to

You mustn’t run in the classroom. You’re not allowed to use your mobile phones in class. You can’t smoke in school.


Must/have to

You have to study. You have to be at school at 9am. You must bring your gym kit for PE.

Lack of obligation:

Don’t have to (careful with this one, ensure they understand the difference between mustn’t and don’t have to)

You don’t have to come to school on Saturday. Children…

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Half way through

It’s already been almost two months that I started my British Council Young Learner training and I’ve learned so much in so many different ways. Topics have included songs and games in the classroom, different learning styles, why and how we teach young learners, how they learn differently from adults or even from teenagers. Now we are studying different syllabus types; how to use and how to develop one; if there is one better than the others; what should be taken into consideration when choosing.

I think, so far this topic is the most fascinating for me and even though I’ve learnt a lot from the course material and my peers, this is the unit that will be the most beneficial to me in the long run. I’ve discovered new approaches that I didn’t even know existed. Now I feel more confident as I start to understand and not only feel why I do certain things in class.

Get instant feedback on your writing!

Get instant feedback on your writing!

If you are a B1-B2 level English language learner and either you are preparing for an exam or you need better written English for your work or studies, here is a great new tool. It’s still in Beta stage (so there might be some minor problems to be fixed) but as it is a product of the University of Cambridge, I’m sure it already works just fine.

You find a short youtube video that helps you to get to know the programme, how it works and what you can do with it.


Give it a try and let me know how it went!

Write and Improve: An Online writing helper

I really like reading other teachers’ blogs because I come across things I would never otherwise find. And how useful they are!


Writing is probably the most difficult area for learners to improve on by themselves.  Writing demands an audience and if you have no-one to tell you how successful your efforts are – or not – then you are doomed to repeat your failures into eternity.

Cambridge English have, however, just released a beta version of an online, browser based writing helper.  Currently free to use and requiring only a facebook login (or email registration), the service allows learners to input their answers to one of the five questions provided (or submit a piece of writing of their own choice) and to get feedback on their efforts.

write and improve 01

In the screenshot above, the highlighted text at the bottom of the image is the submitted text.  The colour coding represents the program’s opinion of the learner level the different sections of the text represent.  The deeper the green, the closer to B2…

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Six Great Vocab Games

My vocabulary choice of the week


Here’s six online vocabulary games I’ve been using with my classes recently:

teflgeek word games

Test Your Vocab:  Not – strictly speaking – a game, this website seeks to measure the number of words you know and then tells you the size of your vocabulary.  If the learners are honest and don’t cheat, this could be a useful tool in helping them measure their progress, though presumably the more often they do it, the more familiar they’ll become with the test words.  And of course they could go off and research the test word corpus….  Play the game here: http://testyourvocab.com/ – and thanks to Dave C for the spot!

Free Rice:  matching words to definitions is the name of the game, but with Free Rice, every correct answer donates ten grains of rice to the World Food Program.  This one has been around for a while but is really good for broadening…

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