Paper Chains – an ELT activity


Not just for Christmas decorations – although why not, if you use festive colours!

Cut up a pile of rectangular pieces of coloured paper – say 15cm x 5cm and write a word on each one, you can use them to revise the grammar or vocabulary of your choice:

  • write an irregular verb on each one – the students/teams who produce a correct phrase using the verb in the past glue the ends together or add it to their chain.
  • Write a variety of words from different lexical groups, students have to make a chain for each group.
  • Write a variety of words, students have to form a link between two words ( they’re both found in the sea/are square…) to, well, form a link between the paper slips.

Then decorate your classroom!

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How to sew a button and other useful lessons to teach in ELT class

The great thing about teaching English is that it’s just an excuse for learning lots of other stuff. This week I’m sure my students went away having actually learnt something useful, here’s what we did:

  1. Ask the students how to sew on a button, brainstorm any vocabulary and then show them this video
  2. Brainstorm a list of other tasks students don’t necessarily know how to perform, changing a bike tyre, etc.
  3. Students “research” how to do the task they choose, i.e. watch a youtube video on how to…!
  4. They then “teach” their new skill to the rest of the class.

You could always get them to research at home and then actually perform the task in class while they explain, maybe easier to do with a button than a bike!!

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Portmanteau words

I love these! You know words like brunch, smog, and our favourite at the moment – Brexit!

Rather than teach a lesson on brexit I thought it would be more fun to do one on portmanteau words, there are loads, some of which – electrocution or ginormous for example, that I didn’t realise were until I prepared this activity.

What we did:

Very simple really, I gave the students some examples, there’s plenty here, or get them to search online. They chose their favourites and presented them to the class, we particularly liked floordrobe – a word that spoke volumes to many!

Next, students came up with their own and we voted for those we preferred, mine was the verb to glock, meaning to glance at the clock, especially students doing it towards the end of the lesson, as in “I knew the bell was about to go when I saw a couple of students glocking”.

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Mood boosters for fast Finishers

It’s been a while since I posted so I thought I’d offer you a little gift for being so patient with me.

I love using Fast Finishers activities (the book is a bit of a giveaway!!) and here are some FF tasks that will boost the mood of your students!!

Mood Boosters for Fast finishers is a collection of autonomous activities you can download, cut out and leave in a box at the front of the class, students who finish an activity can come and collect one of these cards and keep themselves busy AND boost their wellbeing while the rest of the class continue with the original task.


Write a nice note to someone.



Write the name of 3 people you love & describe why.



Describe a day you were proud.



What is the hardest things you’ve ever done?



If you could give $1 million to a person or charity who would it be & why?



If you were a teacher, what would you teach?


Start a gratitude list & add to it whenever you have time.



Write about 3 things you can do well.


If you could give anyone a present now, what would you give to whom?



What treat can you give yourself after class?


Write a joke in English.



What was the last thing to make you laugh?



What is your goal and what one thing can you do today to get closer to it?



If you could do one thing today to help someone, what would it be?


Describe the clothes you wear when you want to be happy?



Write a list of things you would do to cheer up a sad friend.


Write a list of “feel-good” films you would recommend to your classmates.



Write a “happy tunes” playlist of songs that make you happy.


Write about the last thing you did to help someone else.



Who is your hero and why? Now write a list of all the things you have in common with this person.


Hope you find them useful 🙂

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CPD for busy teachers

With conference season in full swing, I just know I’m going to walk out of the next talk thinking about how I really must make more time to keep up to date on my professional, and therefore personal development. Often I then do nothing until the next event, however this time I’ve actually got together some ideas for squeezing some food for thought into a busy timetable.

Nothing makes me so happy about commuting to work as the time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Having got through the entire Game of Thrones, Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Fry, I’ve now turned to educational podcasts on my morning journey.

The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast is brilliant, the 10 minute teacher podcast is compiled by Vicki Davis aka @coolcatteacher, I also love the creative classroom as well, and of course TED talks need no introduction, and these ones are particularly related to education.


The British Council provide a wide range of short, useful courses.

Finally at you can read short articles on a variety of ELT related subjects .

Please leave a comment letting me know if this has been useful to you, and more importantly please share your own CPD tips!


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Exit Cards

The end of the lesson is as important as the start, although you wouldn’t think that from my planning – or execution! While I plan great starts, warm ups, lead-ins etc the end of the lesson is usually accompanied by me yelling last minute instructions to my students as they bolt to their next class, still clutching the last worksheet I flung at them!

This is why I love exit cards, particularly all-purpose exit cards like these, just stick them on cards and let students pick from a hat 10 minutes before the end of a lesson, or use them for homework.

draw a mind map of today’s lesson

set the HW

how would you use what you learnt today in real life?

Tweet what you learnt

Write three key words in the class watts app

Write 3 questions about today’s lesson to ask the rest of the class

Write a question for the teacher

Write down how you would teach this lesson differently

Make a word search of today’s lesson

2 minute brainstorm/writing jog on today’s lesson

Blurb – sell this lesson

2 true 2 false phrases about this lesson

Give yourself mnemonic device to remember today’s lesson

2 stars & a wish for the lesson

Draw a picture representing something you learnt

If I was teacher I’d ask the class…

An anagram of something from today’s lesson

Describe the lesson in exactly 20 words

3 different ways to remember what you learnt today

Write a question that was answered in class today

Predict what we’ll do next lesson

Talk for 1 minute exactly about today’s lesson

Write a slogan for the lesson

a mark out of 10 for this lesson,show your teacher with your fingers

Write a three word definition of something studies today

Choose a song/film that represents today’s lesson

Write a multi-choice question about the lesson



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A listening (drawing) & writing activity

I have this brilliant student called Aurelien, actually I have lots of brilliant students but this boy often comes up with ideas that I use in class or share with other students. The other day Aurelien and his partner came up with the following idea in a revision class, it’s simple, fun, and effective.

Read a story or article to the class, students draw pictures that represent what you are reading. Then in pairs they compare pictures and rewrite the story. As with a dictogloss the objective is to manipulate vocabulary and form correct grammatical phrases, not necessarily recite the whole text word for word.

That’s it – told you it was simple!

What I particularly love about all this (apart from the ideas to use in class!) is the whole idea of really exchanging with students, and learning from them. My journal encourages me to think about what I have learnt at the end of the day, it’s always a bit disappointing if I can’t think anything.

What have you learnt from yours students recently?

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Things to do with a paper clip


You’ve probably seen activities like this before, as many things as you can think of to do with a cabbage, a brick etc.

Apparently (or so I tell my students!) NASA use this creativity test in their selection process, I tell my students they expect at least 30 ideas.

At first this terrifies them, “we’ll never find that many”, but it also motivates them and encourages team work.

I’ve never had a class that couldn’t find thirty, and they leave the lesson with the confidence that comes from knowing they are as good as NASA technicians!

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What day do most burglaries take place and other ideas to get students thinking

A few days ago I posted details of my whiteboard layout and mentioned “ponders”, these questions or phrases are written up in a corner of the whiteboard and give students something to ponder upon during lulls in the lesson or when they’ve finished an activity.
Sometimes they’re weird facts, or information on what special day it is (19th November is International Toilet day, no laughing matter when you realise that 62% of the world’s population does not have access to safe sanitation).
Sometimes I use books such as “Do you think you’re clever“, “Thunks“, or “QI – General Ignorance”
Here is a slelection for you:
Why should we buy shoes after lunch?
Cows cannot walk downstairs
Koalas sleep 22 hours a day
Hitler, Genghis Khan & Napoleon were afraid of cats
The average woman uses 24kg of lipstick during her life
Our eyes remain the same size all our lives, our ears and nose never stop going
You are 1cm taller in the morning
No piece of paper can be folded more than 8 times
The Velna and Nelba rivers in Poland cross at right angles and their waters do not mix
Most muppets are left handed
The top of the Eiffel tower leans away from the sun
The Romans used urine to clean their teeth
The human nose can remember up to 50,000 smells
Baked beans are not baked (they are stewed)
The most sold item at Walmarts is bananas
The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn
The word ‘oxymoron’ is an oxymoron
Most burglaries take place on Tuesdays
Film stars with an oscar live longer than those without
OK is the most popular word in the world
The black box is orange
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Whiteboard layout

This is what my board layout (and the back of my students’ heads!!) looks like, it’s a comforting routine – for the students and myself to fill it out at the start of every lesson, day and date goes in top right hand corner, a ponder* in the top left, what we did last lesson on the left side and today’s objectives at the top.
Under this “title” go the various phases, and homework goes on the right, with new vocab added below as we go along.
Writing it up at the start gives everyone a few moments to get into English learning mode, it gives me a few minutes to remember which group I’m with – especially on a day when I’m teaching back to back all morning and/or afternoon.
It also avoids overwhelm, everyone knows where the various information they need can be found, and thanks to the activity plan we know where we are in the lesson, and when it will finally be over!
Some students like to take a photo at the end of class, either because they have visual preferences (we do lots of mind maps in the central part!) or because they find writing notes or copying too much of a challenge.
* A ponder you ask? That’s the subject for another day!
What about you, do you have a particular layout you stick to?
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