domenica 31 maggio 2020

My Teaching Reflections - Differentiation

Over the last few months I have been busy teaching online. I have learnt lots of new things about teaching and learning and I have decided to create a new series of blogposts about my teaching reflections in which I will give practical tips and hacks and suggest some reading about the topic I am dealing with each time. I will follow the KISS 💋 rule - I will Keep my posts Short and Simple in order not to get you bored.

👩‍🏫 👨‍🏫Differentiation is not discrimination.

▶️When students are assigned different tasks, they are not concerned about the task itself but the
reason behind that allocation - we, teachers, should communicate to ‘less confident learners that our aim is to find ways to include them in the lesson’.

▶️ Inclusiveness and togetherness play an essential role in classroom dynamics - it is advisable not to use differentiated activities at the beginning/end of the lesson.

▶️ Dominant learners tend to shout 🗣 their answers, talk over one another and interrupt other students. On the other hand, less confident students will assume a passive role. Especially during online lessons they just mute their microphones 🤐. The ‘random tool’ (a feature you can find in or you can make on your own by simply using lollipop sticks) gives all the students an equal opportunity to answer questions.

The book 📖 I recommend today is:
Mixed-Ability Teaching by Dudley and Osváth.

You can find it here.

That’s all folks!

Bye for now,

P.s. If you (student/teacher) want to take up Skype lessons with me, fill out this form!

domenica 29 marzo 2020

EFL Talks Italy 29.3.20 - 6 Engaging Instagram Activities for Teens

Some weeks ago we started our lockdown due to COVID-19 in Italy. Teachers had been obliged to move to online teaching; students and teachers alike had to get used to completely new way of teaching/learning. I read several posts on Facebook about how difficult it was so I got in touch with Rob Howard who is the creator of (Take a look at this great website).
He came up with the fantastic idea of holding an EFL Talks event all dedicated to Italian English-language teachers.

I presented 6 Instagram activities to engage teenagers. Here you are the slides!

Some of the teachers' caption were:
- Shall I change the 'autocertificazione' again?
- What's happening? What's all this noise?
- Can I go out?
- Who's knocking?

mercoledì 4 marzo 2020

Lost in London - A digital EFL Escape Classroom

Everyone is aware the coronavirus is having a dramatic impact on the world and governments are ordering or contemplating school closures in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. In this worrying scenario we cannot stop teaching our students, though. This is the reason why I created a digital EFL Escape Classroom. I know it is nothing like a real one, but it will take you and your learners on a virtual tour of London.

P.s. If you (student/teacher) want to take up Skype lessons with me, fill out this form!
P.s. 2 If you want me to run a digital EFL Escape Classroom online with your class, use the contact form.

venerdì 28 febbraio 2020

When was the last time you went red-faced? A lesson plan about embarrassing moments

Hi everyone,

I know coronavirus is what you expected I was going to talk about today, but no, I won't. There is a lot of going on already and I'm not a medicine expert.

I'd like to share with you a lesson plan I created some time ago for my DipTesol teaching practice. I used it with B2 adult learners but it can work with teenagers, too.
I was inspired by this article and this viral video .

The objective of the lesson was to enable Ls to talk about an embarrassing moment in their/someone’s lives.

Here you will find the lesson stages, 
and these are the materials I used .

Let me know if this lesson plan has worked with your students too!

Ps. If you (student/teacher) want to take up Skype lessons with me, fill out this form!

martedì 18 febbraio 2020

'Station Squabble': a picture-telling activity

Hi folks,

here I am again with a new teaching idea I came up with thanks to a photograph which went viral last week. I'm talking about the shot 'Station Squabble' which has made Sam Rowley win the Wildlife Photographer of the Year LUMIX People's Choice award. Apparently Sam spent late nights at a central London tube stop, down on his belly trying to get the perfect low-angle view. His two subjects had been foraging separately until they chanced across the same morsel of food. For a split second, they argued over who should have it before then going their separate ways.
If you haven't seen the picture yet, I am sure your curiosity has been aroused. I'm not going to show you the photo now, though, I'd like to share my lesson plan first!

Level: A2
Age: Pre-teens/Teens
Target language: Cohesive devices - Substitution/Ellipsis + Sentence stress

1. Warm-up activity - Call My Bluff
Board the phrase 'Station Squabble', most Ls at this level will struggle to understand the meaning of 'squabble' so you can play the game Call My Bluff.
Provide Ls with three/four definitions of the word squabble, but only one of them must be correct ('an argument over something that is not important' -
Ls in pairs/small groups guess which the correct definition is through a poll activity. (If you're a tech-savvy teacher, you might use this website.)

2. Self-assessment
Without telling Ls which definition is the correct one, ask them to read a short dialogue which is an example of a 'squabble' that really happened between two friends. This task will get Ls to understand whether their answers were right or wrong and avoid direct teacher's corrective feedback.
3. Working on the text
Ask Ls to work in pairs.
a. Ls decide which word is missing in the first line. 
b. Ls describe the two characters (whose name is the same).

4.a Focus on TL
Ask Ls work in small groups.
a. Ls try to explain the difference between 'my' and 'mine'.
b. Ls say which word 'did' replaces.

Substitution involves some linguistic item substituting for another item occurring in the prior linguistic context.

Ellipsis is like Substitution except that it involves deleting information recoverable from some prior context rather than replacing the information with a word like do or so. (Meyer, 2002)

4.b Focus on Phonology - Sentence stress
We know that grammar words are usually unstressed. However, in this short dialogue they are. Drill the sentences focusing on the stress by using bullets on the words which are 'strong'. 

5. Showing the photograph
It's time to show the photograph! 
Tell Ls you have a picture of the squabble you've been talking about. Show it to your students and they check out their predictions.
Sam Rowley/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The word missing is 'food'; the phrase 'food morsel' is correct, too. 

lunedì 10 febbraio 2020

Valentine's Day - 'Print Your Guy'

Yes, I know I'm a soppy romantic young lady, but I couldn't help sharing with you this video you can use in class over this week or even better on Valentine's Day. My students really enjoyed watching this short film and found it much easier to learn and memorise the target language I had decided to introduce with it.

Video : Print your guy
Level: B1-upwards 
Age: Teens/Adults
Target language: Adjectives to describe personality + character

1. Warm-up: Vision off 
I told my students I was going to play a short film but they couldn't watch it. They had to listen and guess what was happening. 
Typical answers were: Someone is watching TV. It's a TV advert. It's about love. Etc.

Another option would be starting off with telling students the beginning of the story.
Pamela lives on her own in an apartment in Paris. One evening while watching a movie she sees a commercial for a company who claim they can print her perfect guy, by logging on at Very excited, she runs to her computer to order one, but when it arrives, she realizes that the product wasn't exactly what she was expecting! 
Ask students, 'Why didn't the product live up to her expectations?' (You might need to elicit the meaning of 'live up to')

After getting some feedback from the students I showed them these screenshots.
Screenshot from 'Print your guy'
Screenshot from 'Print your guy'
2. Target language: Adjectives to describe personality
Starting from the principle we never know how much our learners know, I asked all the class to tell me what their perfect guy/girl would be like by only using three words.
Of course, just a few people were confident enough to answer, (but I had already expected that).
I boarded the adjectives that came up, I elicited their meanings and drilled their pronunciation. 
Then I gave each group a set of adjectives and they had to find their definitions on the post-it notes I had stuck on the walls before the lesson started.
Some adjectives and their definitions
3. Speaking activity:
3.a  Predictive task
Back to the short film! I asked my students to look at the picture of Pamela (the main character of the video) and predict which type of guy she was looking for. In pairs learners used the TL learnt and then shared their ideas with the other students. I showed them the short film till 02:16, then we had some whole-class feedback. 
3.b Drawing dictation
The second 'perfect guy' is the manly type. Students worked in pairs, one could watch the video (till 03:28) while the other one had to draw what their partner was dictating them. We had some feedback and voted for the best drawing, too.
3.c Free conversation
Students felt that the third attempt was the right one and instinctively expressed their opinions about who the perfect guy could be. I was really glad that they were autonomous and for a few minutes I let them speak without interrupting them. However, as a teacher, I need to take into account time management, so I asked them to watch the short film till 04:25.

4. Writing activity: Review
After four attempts Pamela has not found her 'perfect guy' yet. I asked students to put themselves in Pamela's shoes and write a short review about the website and its products.

5. Cooling-down activity: Reflection
I let students watch the short movie till the end and I asked them about the meaning of 'perfect match'. I was really satisfied with the fact that students felt so comfortable that they spoke about their private lives and relationships.  

I hope you will spend a great Valentine's Day with your students and loved ones!

--> I'm going to give an online course via Skype. If you want to participate in the free trial class, fill out this form.

domenica 26 gennaio 2020

Creativity in the EFL classroom: a task-based activity

Hi everyone!

Another week has just gone by and here I am again to share a teaching activity I carried out with a group of my students with you.

I'd like to start this post with a quote by one of my favourite writers. 

Creativity is one of the four 21st skills (along with critical thinking, collaboration, and communication) that students need to have in order to succeed. Moreover, according to Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Development creativity is considered one of the higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). In particular it is defined as the ability to put parts together to create something new and unique by giving major emphasis on the formulation of new patterns or structures. (If you'd like to read more about Bloom's Taxonomy, I suggest that you visit this webpage).

Some time ago I read Creativity in the English language classroom edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey from the British Council series. You can find fantastic ideas here to use in your classrooms.
What I decided to do was to collect some of the definitions of 'creativity' which are true for me. I printed out a poster and put it on the wall of the room where I usually plan my lessons. I came up with the idea I'm sharing with you in the paragraph below while I was staring at it one day when my mind had gone blank. 

Level: B1 - upwards
Time: 2 hours
Linguistic Skills: Speaking, Listening, Writing
Soft Skills: Creative thinking, Problem Solving

Warm-up activity
I showed my Ls this picture, I told them it was the sign of a shop and they brainstormed ideas about which type of business it could be and then I asked them, 'What is special about this cafe?'

In order to check their answers, Ls watched this video up to 00:35. Some of my Ls were really surprised about this business model and one of them even said that it was not worth it since anyone can eat everything up.

Listening activity - Running 'question' dictation
In order to improve my Ls' listening skills without making some of them stressed about it I decided to carry out a peer-learning activity. Instead of giving them the comprehension questions I wrote them on post-it notes and put them on the classroom walls. Ls were divided in groups of four, but only one member could stand up and read the questions on the walls (of course everyone had a go) and then report them to the other members of their groups.
Ls watched the video till the end twice and then answered the questions.

These are the questions they had to answer.

1) What's the English word for Ziferblat?
2) Is the owner disappointed about people eating a lot?
3) Why do customers enjoy going to this cafe?
4) What's the shortest time someone spent at Ziferblat?
5) What's the longest time someone spent at Ziferblat?
6) What's the feedback the owner gives about his own experience?

Creative activity
Ls had to create their own business idea about a special cafe.
What's the name of the place?
What's special about it?
What are special features about its interior design?
What's its sign like?

By working in groups, I had the opportunity to monitor them better. Lots of new language came up and everyone was engaged in the task.
Plus, what I loved about the classroom setting was that I could challenge them with possible problems they could have in their businesses and ask them to think about how they might solve them.
For example, one of the cafes, 'The Dice Cafe' gave the chance to their customers to pay half price for their coffees if they rolled a dice and got 6. I asked them, 'What if the customer were a gambler, s/he wanted to roll the dice again and an argument arouse?' They discussed about it and then decided to hire a bouncer.
Also, two groups chose the same name, 'Once upon a cafe', for their businesses. I asked them to explained their cafes to the other groups who had to decide which group was going to keep the name.

Here you are some creative cafes my Ls were working on.

When they finished, they presented their ideas to the class.

Through a blinding voting operation :), they decided which idea we were going to upload in a crowdfunding website such as

That's all for now, folks!