lunedì 1 febbraio 2016

Teaching for exam? Touch your students' hearts

Lately this video has gone viral on social networks. I was so moved when I watched it for the first time that I decided to introduce it in my exam-oriented classes. Today I'd like to share with you the lesson plan I used for my Cambridge FCE (B2 level) which focuses mainly on developing speaking skills.

STUDENTS: Teenagers (b2)
TIME: 1h30
AIM: Learning vocabulary about free time activities
Developing speaking skills for the exam.

1) WARM-UP ACTIVITY: Write on the board The Present and ask your students:
What’s the best present you have ever received?
(Spice-it-up version: Show a present box and tell your students you just got a present. Let them predict what's in the box)
Tell your students you are going to watch a video whose title is The Present

Start watching the video. Stop it at 00:50, ask them:
What do you think is in the box?

Start the video again up to 1:10, ask them:
Why doesn’t he like the dog?

Continue up to 1:25, ask them:
What does the dog want to do?
How does the boy react?

Continue up to 2:00, ask them:
Does the dog find it easy to play with the ball?
Does it give up or keep on trying to catch it?

Continue up to 2:40, ask them:
Choose three adjectives to describe the dog in the video.

Continue up to 3:00, ask them:
What does the boy decide to do?

Watch the video again and answer the following questions:

What language function do these statements express?
“Hey sweety, sorry I got home so late.”

“Why don’t you stop playing and open the present I got for you?”

“Mom, we’ll be outside.”


- Pair/group up students and give them the set of paper strips below. (Cut them out before giving them)
- Give them two labelled plastic bags 1) indoor activities 2) outdoor activities and ask them to put the strips into the right bag. The activities which can be done in either places will be left outside the bags.

- Have feedback and explain new vocabulary.


Show these two pictures and ask students to do the task above.

or SPICE IT UP: Put students in pairs and make them sitting back to back. Give each one of them a picture and this grid. Students take turn to speak about their picture and tick off the words/phrases from the grid used by their partner. In this way they will practise the skills mentioned above.


- Get a tennis ball or a small ball.
- Make the students sit in a circle.
- Tell them you are going to ask them some questions.
- Pass the ball to the first student and ask one of the questions below. The student, then, will choose another student to pass the ball to. The second student will say if they agree or disagree with the previous student and why.
- Let 4-5 students express their opinion for each question.

People say “ A trouble shared is a trouble halved”. Do you agree?
Have you ever helped a friend in trouble? What did you do?
Are dogs really man’s best friends?
In what ways are dogs helpful to humans?
Do you think some owners care too much for their dogs and not enough for other people?

6) Homework is fun!
There are some people who become unfriendly because they have a physical disability or a problem. Prepare an encouragement quote using (WEB)
InstaQuote (iOS) - Kwote (Android)

martedì 5 gennaio 2016

Teaching for exams? Have fun! Give a pep talk to yourself and your mates!

A new year has just started and most of my students have their resolutions made: take an English language exam.
Studying for an exam is always considered boring and tiring, but let's spice up this hard-working task with a pep talk!

What is a pep talk?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a pep talk is "a short speech that is given to encourage someone to work harder, to feel more confident and enthusiastic, etc."

Everyone needs a pep talk not only students who are taking an exam so this lesson plan can be useful for any type of class!

Time: 1h30minutes
Linguistic skills: LISTENING & SPEAKING

1) I started my class by writing the phrase PEP TALK on the board and asked my learners if they knew what it meant.
They brainstormed some ideas I reported on the whiteboard without saying whether they were right or wrong.
2) After a few minutes I told them I was going to show them a video about a pep talk so they could check their predictions.

This is the link to the video: A Pep Talk from Kid President to You
3) After watching the video I collected some feedback and I gave my students some information about Kid President.

4) Listening activity: I cut out the following sentences and paired up students. They watched the video again and put in order the sections as they heard them. (To check if they were right we watched the video with subtitles).

5) It's time to take action! Students have to prepare their own pep talks. I gave my learners the following instructions and tips:

My students' talks lasted about 60-90 seconds. They filmed each other and it took them about 30 minutes to write their speech.

6) Finally, students listened to each other's pep talk.

I found this class both heart-warming and encouraging. I hope you get the chance to try something similar with your learners and if you do, please let me know!

sabato 19 dicembre 2015

Merry Christmas!

I've been very busy with teaching my lovely students lately and I am looking forward to this Christmas break. Before my well-earned rest, though, I'd like to share with you a few games I prepared for Christmas. Have fun with your students, too!

Game 1
This is a Christmas-sentence guessing game. Basically, one player acts out a sentence about Christmas by miming similar-sounding words and the other players guess the sentence. 

Here you are the cards you can cut out.

Game 2
On each piece of paper there is a word or phrase. Students need to create sentences which make sense.
Christmas sentence scramble 1
Christmas sentence scramble 2

Game 3
Get some candy ready for the winner!
1) Put your marker on the start position.
2) In turns, roll the dice and move your marker.
3) Answer the questions.
4) If you land on a "present" place you must spell a word.
5) The first student to the last place is the CHRISTMAS STAR STUDENT!

*To enlarge the board you can use this website 

Have fun with your students!

sabato 3 ottobre 2015


Emotion helps us screen, organize and prioritize the information that bombards us. 
It influences what information we find salient, relevant, convincing or memorable” 
Bandes&Salerno (2014)

We usually think that the process of learning comes through our brain but which part of it?
Until not long ago the emotional brain was ignored and the emotion itself was considered as a lower level than as a vital, contributing element in the development of critical thinking. 
However, the emotional brain does exist and “suggests that the constant interaction of the experience of emotion, with its simultaneous impact on the body and other parts of the brain, leads to the individual’s interpretation of feelings. The emotional brain is a partner with the cognitive brain in the learning experience”.  (Understanding Emotions in the Classroom  By Claudia Marshall Shelton, Robin Stern)

From these words it is clear that the more we let our learners use their emotions in the classroom, the more they will learn.


From the heart to the mind: teach through feelings and emotions

Accomplishing this goal:
  1. Find a short movie picture (such as trailers, commercials) (,
  2. Focus on the topic of the video (love, beauty, friendship, bullying, sharing, etc.) and create a set of questions to ask your students in order to make them think critically and/or ignite a conversation.
  3. Other possible tasks are:
- Change the ending of the video.
- Subtitle or dub the video.
- Let your students make their own video about the topic.
- Post the video on the social network you use with your class and let your students comment it.
-From a linguistic point of view you can even teacher grammar structures and new vocabulary.
See an example below.

mercoledì 19 agosto 2015

#30Goals Cycle 6 Goal #9: Share Your EdTech Success Story

When I came across Sylvia's goal for educators I was more than excited because I owe my success in teaching mainly to technology. That's why I decided to share with you 6 tech activities which made the process of teaching&learning more fun and effective.

digital treasure hunt

#1 Digital treasure hunt
What your learners need: A camera 
Target language: Prepositions of place
Procedure: Write on the board sentences which include prepositions of place. Students in pairs or in groups need to take photographs of what they read on the board. The team who get the highest number of correct pictures win.

#2 News Report
What your learners need: A camera, a microphone 
Target language: Different verb tenses, any topic
Procedure:  Tips on how to make a video news report

#3 Show'n Tell "Backtoschool"Icebreaker
What your learners need: A digital camera/mobile phone/smartphone
Target language: Past tenses 
show'n tell
Procedure: Learners show pictures they took during their summer  on their devices to their peers and have a discussion of where/when they took the picture, who they were with, etc.

#4 Facebook  picture quizzes
What your learners need: A Facebook profile (website/smartphone app)
Target language: English language exam grammar/vocabulary
Procedure: Use a presentation software to create multiple-choice questions such as the ones they may see in the exam in the form of a picture or cartoon. Share them on Facebook. Your students can reply to them and, after a while (in the evening or the following day), you can post the correct answer.

#5 Educanon video-listening activity
What your learners need: 
Target language: Improving listening skills
Procedure: Sign up the website, upload a video and type the questions, save the bulb and share it with your students. See an example below.
The Poppy Story

#6 QR Code review test
What your learners need: QR code scanner app
Target language: Grammar/Vocabulary review 
Procedure: Use a QR code generator app to create questions and give an answer sheet to your students. Stick up the QR codes around the classroom/school. Learners need to scan the codes and answer the questions on their paper.
I look forward to reading more posts about this goal!

sabato 23 maggio 2015

Teaching for exams? Have fun - A card game to revise

Luckily (or unluckily) it is that time of the year again! Exams!

This year to help my students to revise for their exams I made up a game with a deck of poker cards.

Age: Pre-teens, Teens, Adults
Level: from A2 to B2
What you need: a deck of poker cards/a whiteboard (smart board)

First of all, pre-teach some vocabulary about cards. Show your students the deck of cards and teach them the words suits, hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades, jack, queen, king.

Number of players:
In small classes (up to 8) players will play individually and you can write the questions on the board depending on their weaknesses and strengths.
I played this game with a class of 20 learners and I paired them up. In this case I used a smart board and the questions appeared on it (the cards where arranged in the same sequence as the questions)

Rules of the game:
Each suit corresponds to a language skill or sub-skill.
Revising for the Cambridge KET for Schools
Learners take turns to turn up a card. 
They will answer a question about a language skill or sub-skill according to the suit they get.
If they answer correctly they will get as many points as the number of suits on the card.
If their answer is wrong, other learners have the chance to get half points on the card if they answer correctly.

If learners pick up KING, they will lose 1 point.
If learners pick up QUEEN, they will double the points of the next question.
If learners pick up JACK, they will miss a turn.

Sample questions for the B1 level

My learners had a whale of a time because they had the chance to revise the topics of the exam without getting bored.
If you try this activity out, please let me know!

sabato 28 marzo 2015

The power of mobile apps - No3 FaceGoo Lite (a lesson plan)

I got the idea for this lesson from a TV game show I used to watch a couple of years ago. It was successful with my students because it made a thorny grammatical issue seem funnier and easier.

Learners: Teenagers - Adults
Level: Intermediate
Time: 90 minutes

1) Show the learners the following picture
Speculate about who he might is by using modal verbs of speculation e.g. it might be, it can't be, it must be, etc.

2) I reckon you and your students cannot guess who he is, that's why you need to listen to this man talking about himself.
[I used a text to speech online software to create the tape, click on the link to download it]

By now you know who he is, don't you? Yes, it's Brad Pitt.

3) Hand in the handout above and ask the learners to answer the following questions

4) Tell the learners to underline the verbs in the speech bubbles meanwhile draw on the board a two-column chart.
Ask them in which tenses they are. The answer is: PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE & PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS.

4) Ask students to report the sentences in the right column and then together try to understand why you use whether present perfect simple or past simple.
In my case, I used a smart board and this was the result:

5) It's time to check if your learners have understood the difference.
According to the number of the students you can decide if they will work individually, in pairs or in groups of 3 or 4. In my case they worked in groups of 3.
Each group has a biography of a famous living person but there are 10 missing verbs. They need to fill in the gaps with the right verbs conjugated in the right tenses. Finally, they need to guess who the celeb is.

6) Monitor the learners while they are working and give them tips (e.g. "Do you know when the action happened?") or help them with the vocabulary.

7) Now it's learners' turn! (In class or as homework)
a) Download 1picture of a famous living person.
b) Write a short biography (80-100 words) about him/her using present perfect simple and past simple  (You can use to get some information.)

c) Edit the picture with the mobile app FaceGoo Lite (Free Android/iOS)

d) Record your voice while while you give hints about the mysterious famous person. Remember to use the 3rd person singular. 
e) Students listen to each other's biographies and try to guess who the mysterious celebs are.

I hope you and your students will enjoy this lesson. If you try it out please let me know in the comments ;-)