Lesson Ideas

General ideas for teaching pronunciation

(This is a follow-up to my post on phonology-based activities. I’m sharing it now because some of our teachers are about to begin training for the Trinity DipTESOL. Phonology/pronunciation features quite a bit on that course, so I want to offer our teachers an ideas bank to help them explore this area in class)

Here are a load of random pronunciation activities to try out in class. These activities have pretty worked well for me with students aged 9-16. This is a work in progress! I’ll add more to this list when I get more time or try new things.

Note: there are not many activities here that focus on connected speech. That’s because most of my CS activities come from Marks and Bowen (2013) and I don’t want to do them a disservice by plagiarising their whole book! Buy it – it’s great!

If you find something useful then please share your own ideas in the comments! Sharing is caring 🙂

Use GIFs / images / actions

Use whatever you can to associate sounds with a particular object or action. If it’s /æ/ mime a cat, /ɪ/ then mime kicking a football. Keep it active. GIFs are pretty memorable too.

Mime games

The best thing about assigning actions to phonemes is miming games! Say, for example, you’ve taught certain sounds like /d/ (act like a dog), /b/ (throw a ball), /æ/ (act like a cat). You can play a ‘backs to the board game’ where each word includes only sounds that have been taught (bad, dad, etc). The students describing the words can’t say anything, they can only mime the action for the corresponding sounds. Great fun!

Fly swat games

You’ve introduced a set of phonemes. Display them on the board. Organise the class into teams, give each with a fly swat. They line up at the board. Say a word which includes one of the sounds (best to prepare a list of words beforehand). The first team to swat the correct sound wins a point.


Add more challenge. With the above sounds you can say either ‘vowel’ or ‘consonant’ before you say the word.


Teacher says: ‘vowel, butter’. Students must swat /ʌ/

Teacher says: ‘consonant, butter’. Students must swat either /b/ or /t/, or both in order if you’re feeling particularly cruel. Some of my students go mad for this! (more…)


Lesson idea: crazy recipes

I feel like I say this a lot, but thanks to ELT-cation (Svetlana) for yet another great lesson idea. Your post on Wordless Videos for ELT was awesome.

I used the Western Spaghetti video from PES as inspiration for a crazy recipe task…

The basis of the task was for students to…

1) choose a dish they know well, write down the ingredients

2) think of a theme (sports, school, music, etc)

3) relate each ingredient to the theme – so for a school theme bread might be an exercise book, pepper might be chopped up pencil lead, etc

4) Write the recipe and illustrate

5) post-it note vote on the best/strangest recipe

Svetlana’s post came along at the perfect time for our module on cooking. It was a great end of term task for the students. They produced some really creative work that on the whole was pretty accurate and included plenty of target language for cooking processes. Thanks for planning my weekend lessons Svetlana! I guess that was a gift from one British Council to another!


Lesson idea: Introducing inventions (2)

My Primary students (aged 11) are studying technology and inventions at the moment. I used this activity to introduce the topic – it worked well. This idea could be used for generating interest, sharing personal responses, developing schematic knowledge, revising comparatives, developing spoken fluency, and much more… It’s amazing what a few images can too – it’s fairly low-prep.

  1. Students work in pairs or groups. Give each group some images of inventions (like above). Do a ‘name the invention’ mini whiteboard challenge, or some variation. Use word scrambles for support (e.g. theelonep = telephone). Check and drill the invention names
  2. Instruct students to put the images in order – which was invented first?

Give them process language to help, e.g.

A: I think _______________ was invented before ____________

B: I agree / maybe / hmmm, I’m not sure. I think….

Etc. (more…)


Lesson idea: present perfect time markers

activity from Gateway (Macmillan)

Here are a few fun activities for practising time markers used with the present perfect. There’s a review of these markers in a B1 level teen coursebook we’re using (Gateway, Macmillan). I found the meaning/rule activity in the book useful, but the practice tasks following it were a bit boring so I made up a few more.

Time markers practised: already, for, just, never, since, yet

BEEP game

  1. Students write one sentence for each time marker. They should personalise this.


I’ve never been to Laos

I haven’t done my homework yet


  1. Students self-correct / peer-correct sentences with a partner. You could draw attention to possible errors (e.g. are the time markers in the right place?) or typical errors you know your learners make (e.g. *I’ve never been yet), just for a bit of direction
  2. Students change partners. They keep their sentences a secret. They read each sentence to their partner, but replace the time expression with the sound ‘BEEP’. Their partner guesses the missing word by repeating the complete sentence, like this….



More creative displays and success criteria

We’ve been doing a module on travel. Last week, students wrote about their most memorable trip. Here’s the latest (sunny) display. I need to mount this on some nice coloured card and frame it a bit better, but I was really impressed by the students’ work!

Actually, it’s not the displays that I was most impressed with. I’ve been working on some of the techniques for highlighting success criteria that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’ve also taken on board some of Kirsten Anne’s ideas from last month’s post on writing codes.

One of the displays includes a key which explains various content / language points students had to use in their writing:

Students used the symbols to highlight where they used each language point in their writing:

(note: I still need to correct a few things!)

I know, this isn’t exactly rocket science. I’ve seen Kirsten Anne marking books for her primary classes and these techniques are pretty standard. Still, it’s a great way for learners to show they understand the target language and can use it effectively. It makes my marking a lot easier too!

Click here for another example of a creative display.


Assessment Capable Learners in the primary classroom

In this guest post Kirsten Anne shares some great advice on encouraging self-assessment in the primary classroom. 

I am a primary school teacher and currently work in a year 3 classroom.  My students are between 7 and 8 years of age and attend an international school in Bangkok, Thailand.

I’ve been hearing the term ‘assessment capable learners’ used more and more frequently over recent years.  As teachers, we strive for ways in which we can assist students to have a sense of where they are now and where they are going.  Giving students the empowerment to do this and self-assess is an extremely effective teaching tool.  In our recent conversations between parents, teacher and learner, we asked students the question “why do you like reflecting on your learning?”  Unprompted, and about 85% of the time came the reply “because then I know what my next step is and how I can get better.”  Powerful stuff!

So, how do you go about helping your learners become assessment capable?

Primarily, they need to know what you are looking for in order for them to be successful.  There should be no second-guessing about this – learners need to know WHAT they are aiming to achieve, and HOW to achieve it. This takes on different forms depending on the subject. However, I’ll focus on Literacy here.

The ingredients learners need to include in their writing in order to be successful (the WHAT) depends on the writing focus, and will be defined by the teacher. Guiding the learners to include these ingredients – helping them realise how they can meet our ‘success criteria’, is something we’ve been working on at our school.

Marking codes

Colleagues of mine have discussed moving away from lengthy comments in books.  Who is it for?  Does it really have an impact on improving the learning experience for the student?  Not if the learner can’t read the comment—obviously not good for young learners or learners with only a basic command of English.  It’s also no use if the learner doesn’t bother to read the comments because they’ve switched off by the second line of the teacher’s feedback. (more…)


Quizlet Teacher account – worth it?

I’ve been using Quizlet in class for a while. This term I’m getting to grips with it a bit more as part of a project for my MA.

Huh, Quizlet?

Quizlet is a site which allows you to create your own online flashcards and games all for free. It’s really easy to pick up for both teachers and learners. Here’s what learners can do with it:

Flashcards – Learners can revise words from a lesson using digital flashcards made by the teacher. Flashcards can be words + meanings or words + images. You could also make question and answer cards. Students could also make their own flashcards if they want.

Learn – Read the meaning/look at the image and type the correct word

Spell – Type the target word you hear

Test – An auto-generated mix of written, multiple choice, and true and false questions based on the vocabulary set

Match/Gravity – a couple of games using the vocab set. Match works well on an interactive whiteboard

Live – play a live game with multiple participants