lunedì 24 novembre 2014

My first workshop and webinar - Experiences I want to make again and again

In the last few weeks I was really busy with my lessons but I made time for my first workshop and webinar.

1) Workshop - Teaching Teenagers: 4 Skills + 1 at the TESOL Italy's 39th National Convention

In this workshop I talked about how we can engage teen learners and how to create fun lesson plans which integrate the four linguistic skills, and at the same time, allow the students to learn job skills. I shared with the audience my series of lessons called "If I were a... JOB". The example I used was If I were a... mayor
However, before handing out my own lesson plan I showed them this slide and I asked to create their own lesson plan. While they were working in small groups I supervised and I noticed that the most difficult part was to integrate the skills with the aims. So I told them, "Be creative, don't be afraid of trying something new and you'll see that you and your students will have a lot of fun"!

Over the last few lessons my teen students and I have also tried out to be TV reporters and real estate agents and I hope to share my lesson plans soon with you. 

2) Webinar - Games in the English classroom hosted by Jason R Lavine (Fluency MC) and WizIQ.

I'd never been fond of teaching online because I'd always thought it was not my cup of tea but yesterday I completely changed my mind. I'd always believed I couldn't have enough interaction with the audience in a webinar but I was terribly wrong! Yesterday I had the chance to meet teachers from any part of the world and I was able to share my ideas with them. Moreover, at the end of webinar some of them even contacted me on social networks and we continued our conversation about teaching issues. 

I loved having this webinar also because I could talk about something I usually do with my students in my language studio. Playing games is so important to me because they add variety to the lesson, they make students feel relaxed and less worried about mistakes and finally we have a lot of fun!

If you wish to see the slides and the webinar recording please enroll here ;-)

I'd like to thank once again Jason for giving me this fantastic chance and introducing me to the world of online teaching!

sabato 18 ottobre 2014

Teaching for Exams? Have fun! - Gift bags

UPDATE: This blog post has been awarded for the 'Blog Award for Innovative Teaching Ideas' by Teaching English British Council.

A couple of days ago my mother and I were doing some spring cleaning in the basement when she told me to throw away a bunch of gift bags. I was walking to the bins when I stopped at once. "Why don't take these gift bags into the classroom?", I wondered. I had already heard about vocabulary bag activities in oder to revise words from the website  Teaching English British Council so I decided I could try to introduce these Realia objects in my classes. 

This is the activity I did with my students.

Aimed at learners who are training for the FCE/FCE for schools

Background: Use of English part 3/ Reading and Use of English part 3 (from 2015)
This task is called word formation and it focuses on candidates' knowledge of how prefixes, suffixes, internal changes and compounds are used in forming words. 

Number of students: 4
Number of gift bags: 4
(You can pair or group up students depending on your class)

1) Give each student (pair/group of students) a bag. Each bag corresponds to a grammar category:
a. nouns, 
b. verbs, 
c. adjectives, 
d. adverbs. 

2) Put in the centre of the desk  mixed-up sets of words which have the same root. 

A set of the cards I used in my lesson.

3) According to the number of words, tell students they have ___ minutes to pick up the words which belong to the grammar category they have been assigned and put them into their own bags.

4) When time is up call the students to come to the board with their bag. One category at time. 

5) Students call out the words while you copy them to the board so as everyone can take notes.  
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG: If a student has put the word SURELY in the ADJECTIVE's bag, don't write it immediately in the right column but stick it on the board. 

6) At the end, when all the chart is filled up go back to the words which haven't been categorized yet and with the whole class classify them. The students will then take the words and put them into the right bag.

My students enjoyed a lot this activity above all when they had to choose which category the words belonged to. This activity also gave them the chance to do some peer-teaching. 

You can also use this activity if you want to teach vocabulary according to the grammar categories or with just two bags you can teach opposite words. 

Do you have more ideas to use gift bags in exam preparation classes? Please share them with me!

sabato 13 settembre 2014

#100happylearningenglishdays - a challenge to improve English through social media

If you like me teach adults you are certainly used to hearing something like, "I need to learn English, but I don't have enough time".

A few days ago I ran into this website whose slogan is 
and I immediately thought about my adult students who are always in a hurry when it comes to learning English. Why not challenge them to learn English for 100 days in a row? 

In order to take part to the #100happydays challenge people must take pictures of what makes them happy day by day and share it via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

As far as learning English is concerned there might be several types of challenges according to the level and the needs of the students.
I came up with the following ideas.

#1 Vocabulary - Students can take pictures of daily life items in order to learn their names.

#2 Grammar - Students can write the paradigms of irregular verbs. (E.g. TAKE-TOOK-TAKEN)

#3 Phrasal verbs - Students can write a new phrasal verb together with its meaning and an example. (They might add a picture if they want to.)
#4Idioms - Students can write a new idiom together with its meaning and an example. (They might add a funny picture.)
#5 Functional language - Students can write a question or a sentence that is useful for their communication with other people such as inviting someone to do something, suggesting something, apologising, etc. E.g. DO YOU FANCY GOING TO THE CINEMA TONIGHT? (Maybe someone will reply and you will spend a great night out :) )

Why do I think it can work with a huge number of students?
People aged between 18 and 44 use social media more and more. They love to catch up with family and friends, share their experiences and feelings. In this way, learning English can be something that will make them feel cool.

What are the drawbacks of this challenge?
In my opinion students might be fed up with it after a week. Also the 100happydays website states that 71% of people failed to complete the challenge.

I hope my students and your students will love this challenge and will be able to win it!
Prize them with this certificate

If you can think of any other ideas for this challenge, please share it with me!

P.S. Always remember to use #100happyenglishlearningdays

P.S.2 I have used this challenged with teenagers, too. It was super! :)

giovedì 21 agosto 2014

Back to teach - Ready for a new adventure

After a long time here I am back again. My dream about having a larger studio where my students and I could feel more comfortable has just come true.

In a couple of weeks I am going to take up my lessons again and I'm ready to share my ideas and experiences with you, my dear followers.

During the summer I went on picking up new strategies, approaches and methods.
I read some interesting (e)books such as The Practice of English Teaching from which I learnt more and more about how to teach the four linguistics skills and Learning to Go by Shelly Sanchez. If you like me love teaching by using mobile device you must read it, you will get fantastic ideas.

Plus, I attended most of the excellent webinars hosted by the  iTDi Summer School MOOC for English Teachers.
I was impressed by Shelly and Sylvia Guinan who inspired me a lot in their session about being an EduHero. I totally agree with them when they say we are model heroes our students must follow to get better and better results not only in learning English but also in all the other aspects of their lives.

In Shelly's words,

"It is important as EduHeroes that we inspire our students to also go on heroic journeys. We need our learners to feel like heroes, that it is their duty to care about the world. We need to inspire them to learn math, science, languages, writing, and literacy not to take tests, but because by obtaining these skills along their hero journeys they will be able to find cures, get closer to living in a peaceful world, lead meaningful lives, and solve world issues like hunger, poverty, and illiteracy. The only way that we will raise heroes is if we, their teachers, impart to them this mission and let them know we believe that each one of them has the ability and strength to be a hero if they just choose to endure the journey and learn the skills". 

We share our mission/adventure with our students because teaching and learning can't exist without each other. Our human touch is crucial because students are individuals and we have to treat them with care and respect. We need to support them in their learning adventure with patience without getting angry or upset with them if they cannot achieve their goals immediately. 
Learning means loving, getting involved, trying, making mistakes, falling down and getting back up again. 
For this reason I'd like to dedicate this song to my past, present and future students. Are you ready for a new adventure? I am ;-)

domenica 1 giugno 2014

Teaching for Exams? Have Fun (Part 3)

UPDATE: This blog post has been shortlisted for the 'Blog Award for Innovative Teaching Ideas' by Teaching English British Council.

Here we are with another post about having fun while training your students for their English language exams.

Last month I attended an excellent webinar by the amazing Sylvia Guinan about interactive storytelling for English language exams. She fully explained how storytelling comics could be used to present/revise phrasal verbs as well as for showing English transformation structures before students ever even realise that these are official parts of the exam. You can find her presentation here.

I found her ideas so interesting and stimulating that I started using to create personalized materials in order to train my students for the Cambridge KET, PET, FCE for Schools.

Below you will find some examples about how I used comics to prepare my students for their exams. 

1. KET for Schools
Reading&Writing part 4
Right/Wrong/Doesn't say OR 3-option multiple choice - In this part of the test students have to read for the detailed understanding and main ideas.

(I adapted the following exercise from the book KET for Schools Trainer

(If you are interested in the questions, please contact me.)

2 PET for Schools
Writing Part 1
Sentence transformation - In this part of the test students are given sentences and then asked to complete similar sentences using a different structural pattern so that the sentence still has the same meaning. Candidates should use no more than three words.

(In this example my students and I were revising the reported speech.)

3 FCE for Schools
Use of English Part 4
Key word transformations - In this part of the paper students are tested about lexical and grammatical structures. This exercise focuses on the students' ability to express a message in different ways.

(In this example my students and I were revising the use of comparatives and superlatives.)
If you have more ideas about how to use comics to teach for language exams, please share them with me!

martedì 27 maggio 2014

Fed up with end-of-year tests? A Digital Scavenger Hunt is the solution!

It's time to close books and go on holiday in most parts of the world, isn't it? Well, if you are teacher and in your school an end-of-year test is not compulsory, you can have some fun with your students!

Digital Scavenger Hunt

In my town it's warm these days so I thought there was nothing better than going out and having a digital scavenger hunt on the street with my pre-teen learners.

1) a smartphone/ a mobile phone with a camera per pair.
2) This handout

PROCEDURE & REACTIONS  (6 students):
Last week I told my students we were going to do a special scavenger hunt outdoors so they were excited about the idea of stepping out the classroom. However, when they read the rules and they realized they were supposed to ask questions to unknown people they felt ashamed. I didn't worry because I knew that a prize was going to be the right "medicine" for shyness. And so it was.
We went out all together and we walked along a pedestrian street (where my studio is situated) and on the pavement of a nearby street. Students worked in their pairs but not far from each other. I tried to keep myself behind and I helped them when they tried to talk to the people. (Well, I helped more the strangers than my own students :-) ) I had a whistle with me which I used when some of them were walking too far from the rest of the group.
About 1 hour later we went back to the classroom and the feedback was surprising! The three pairs got 16/18 on average ;-)

1) You can personalise it according to the programme you carried out with your class.
2) You can monitor your students without looking a "slave driver".
3) It helps students be more autonomous.

Remember to ask parents to sign an authorisation form if you want to take your students outside the classroom.
Some of my students ;-)

If you try this activity, please let me know!

mercoledì 9 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 3)

Harrogate Online 2014On March 23rd Adam Simpson started a chain reaction blog challenge. He chose three of this year's registered bloggers and introduced them in his blog. These bloggers in turn chose other registered bloggers and interviewed them... That was why Sylvia Guinan interviewed me (you can see my interview by following this link
After my interview I did not want to stop the chain reaction even though it was the last day of the conference so I decided to Facebook Adam and ask him if he was available to answer a few questions about his experience in Harrogate.  Well, he was so kind to reply and here you are some food for thought.

1 - Please introduce yourself

Hi. My name’s Adam and I’m an English teacher in Istanbul. I’ve lived here for nearly fifteen years and I work in the preparatory English program at Sabanci University. Also, I blog about my teaching experiences quite regularly, as well as being an avid believer in the importance of classroom research.

2 - Could you tell us why you were interested in blogging for IATEFL Harrogate?

I tried to do it last year and failed miserably. Anyone who has ever been to IATEFL will tell you what a fantastic social experience it is. Once you’ve attended, it’s not see easy to watch and report from afar. I’m trying to make amends this year.

What areas of the conference were you interested in?

This event is huge… seriously, it’s unbelievably big. Prioritizing is a must, although attending friends’ sessions is also important to me, but getting more and more difficult with each passing year!

3 - What are you going to bring back from the conference?

Physically, I will be bringing back lots of my favourite goodies. I’m originally from the Harrogate area, so this is a great opportunity to stock up on the food I miss from home. Mentally, I know I have experienced some fantastic knowledge sharing from people who I respect greatly in our profession. It will be great to reflect on what I’ve learned and nurture professional contacts around these experiences.

4 - Could you tell us three adjectives to describe your experience at IATEFL Harrogate?


5 - You were interviewed about your blog by Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock, is there anything else you would like to add?

It was a pleasure to have the chance to discuss blogging with Ann and Paul, as I’m a huge fan of what they do online with the BC TeachingEnglish site. Working indirectly with them has been hugely beneficial and they’re doing a great job of building an online community of language teachers. If you’ve listened to Sandy and I talk about blogging, I’d also recommend a couple of other interviews: there’s this interview with Paul and Ann in which they discuss their work, and there’s this one with Willy Cardoso, James Taylor and Katherine Bilsborough in which they talk about the role of blogging in ELT. I’m a strong believer in the importance of blogging and if it’s something that also interests you, these interviews are essential viewing.

It is my deep honour to post this interview. I admire Adam because of his continuous research about the classroom settings and dynamics. Adam's ideas are brilliant and you can easily adapt them to your  students' needs.

giovedì 3 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 2)

My first report is about the session Teaching with mobile devices: choices and challenges by Nicky Hockly.
The presenter:
Nicky is Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E and has worked in the field of face-to-face and distance education since 1987, as a teacher, teacher trainer and consultant. She is involved in materials development, for both EFL course books and online learning. She is currently joint Co-ordinator of the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group. Nicky has written many articles on education, technology and online learning, and she is a plenary speaker at conferences all over the world. She is a well-known author of methodology books on the application of technology to language teaching.

The session:
Teaching with mobile devices: choices and challenges

The content in 40 words
The workshop dealt about the choices and challenges involved in teaching with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) in the classroom. There were also examples which showed practically how to implement mobile-based activities with beginner, lower-intermediate, and intermediate students.

Nicky started her workshop by showing the meaning of Mobile Learning. She considered three aspects:
1. when devices are mobile (smartphones and tablets, not laptops)
2. when learners are mobile (students move around the classroom/school with their devices or they use their devices at home)
3. when learning experience is mobile (how mobile devices can be used in language learning tasks)
In order to better explain the third point Nicky showed examples of activies she did during her teaching experience in Cambridge last year. I was particularly interested in the following task activities.
The first activity was one she integrated to the course book with lower-intermediate students. The
topic was water and students were asked to go around the school and take pictures of things which were connected with water but not water itself. They shared the pictures on the group of Whatsapp. Then they justified their choices. The pictures raised a lot of discussion among students.

The second activity was aimed at beginner students and it involved the use of QR codes and it was a
sort of treasure hunt. Students were supposed to go around the school, take pictures and ask questions to the staff. This activity allowed the students to recycle the language learnt, practicing speaking (they asked questions), reading and reviewing grammar.

The third activity is based on geotagging and was done by mid-intermediate students  They used a free app called Woices (it can be used both on Android and Apple devices). They created an audio guide of a place they liked in Cambridge. This activity was carried out both in the classroom and at home over the weekend.

Nicky also took into account the practical aspects of bringing mobile devices into the classroom such as the age of students, using students' belongings or school's, the mobile integration to the course books or assessment.

Finally, she considered the learning aims, the logistic and legal (especially the role of parents when students are young learners) aspects of using mobile devices.

My consideration in 40 words:
I am especially interested in the combination of technology and daily life and this session gave me food for thought. I can’t wait to adapt the activities carried out by Nicky’s students in my classes to meet my students’ needs.

Studying for exams? Have fun (Part 2)

Two weeks ago I started a new series of blog posts about teaching and studying for English language exams. I posted which was about a technique I used in the classroom to help my students improve their results in FCE Reading part 2.
Today I'm posting two pictures which come in handy for FCE Writing part 2. In this part of the exam you are asked to write a piece of writing. The task types are articles, stories, reviews, letters, essays and reports. In the two pictures below you will find some useful tips about the structure of the text and suitable phrases&expressions for each piece of writing.

mercoledì 2 aprile 2014

Harrogate Online - The 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition (part 1)

Harrogate Online 2014Today 2nd April 2014 the Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition kicks off. I wish I were in Harrogate to meet excellent teachers, professors and teacher trainers!
But, no problem! If you, like me, are not in Harrogate you can watch all conference plenaries live on the Harrogate Online website. Plus, you can watch some interviews with great conference presenters and delegates such as those which were held yesterday.
One of the new features of this year's conference which impressed me is the Open Space event. In Adrian Underhill's words an Open Space Conference is "essentially a way of organizing a conference when you haven't got anything. There is no a programme,people just come with what is important to them". (This is the link to his interview).
Do you want to know more about this special type of conference? Read this article:

Bye for now,

giovedì 27 marzo 2014

My Favourite Monolingual Learner's Dictionaries

"What do you call this in English?", "What do you call that in English?", "What does this word mean"?
If you are a non-native English teacher who teaches in a non-English speaking country you will be familiar with the picture below.
Now you are smiling, aren't you? We are teachers, not dictionaries, yes, but how can your students find dictionaries, especially the monolingual ones,  helpful in the learning process, when they are not in the classroom?
In this post I'd like to share with you my 5 favourite online dictionaries and I'll tell you why I like them.

What's a monolingual learner's dictionary?
It's a dictionary designed to meet the reference needs of people learning a foreign language. It deals with grammar usage and common collocations. 

Why I like it: The definitions are written in simple English accompanied by clear examples. Moreover, before its definition you find the CEF level the word belongs to. 
Here you are an example. As you can see you can also check the pronunciation and the forms of irregular verbs.

Why I like it: I like it for its boxes. Yes, boxes about collocations and word choice. The layout is clear and straightforward. 
Here you are an example of the word remember.

Why I like it: Students can easily use it at home. The layout is simple and clear. 
As you know, a word has usually different meanings according to the context it is used in. In the Macmillan Dictionary the contexts are shown in a list so the students can decide which one they are interested in. For example, there are 9 different contexts the verb to come is used in.
Moreover, I love the star system. Below every word you will find 1, 2 or 3 stars. The stars show how common the words are. 1 star indicates words which are used a lot, 2 stars indicate words which are used more and finally, 3 stars indicate words which are used the most. Below an example for the three types.

We usually think monolingual dictionaries are for students whose level is intermediate or more. However, the websites of these online dictionaries are full of resources such as language games. This game from the Macmillan Dictionary aims at the practice of irregular verbs. 

What I like: Another Dictionary website full of games useful for your students at any level is the Merriam Webster.  These games aim at practicing synonyms, antonyms, spelling and even your general knowledge. 

I especially like its Learner's Dictionary version because students can find a lot of examples, idioms, usage tips and some differences between American and British English. For some words there is also a visual aid.
This is the entry of the word cat

What I like: Last but not the least the Oxford Learner's Dictionary. I suggest this website if you are training your students for the FCE because it si full of collocations and grammar usage notes.

To sum up, when your students are not in the classroom they can improve their language knowledge just give them the right tools. 

giovedì 20 marzo 2014

Teaching for exams? Have fun! (Part 1)

Last week I posted two graphics aimed at students of the English language who want to do well in the Speaking papers of Cambridge PET and First. My blog post was so successful I decided to have a series of posts about teaching (aimed at teachers) and studying (aimed at learners) for English language exams. I will share my teaching ideas which worked in the classroom and some useful tips for students to smash their exams.


In this part of the test candidates need to read through one long text divided into sections or up to six shorter texts. The texts usually describe people's experiences and tastes.They have to find information in the texts that matches 15 short questions.

There is information in more than one section of the text which appears to match the questions.

I got this idea after reading this article

Materials for 6 students:
6 stick-on labels with the name of a famous person on
6 short texts
12 post-it notes with information on

1. Play the game Who Am I? 
- Write the name of a famous person on each stick-on card.
- Stick it on your students' forehead. (Or let them stick it by themselves but they cannot see what is written on the card).
- Choose a person to start the game. This person asks the group "yes or no" questions to figure out who they are. (E.g. 
- Continue around until everyone either has had a turn.

2. Once the students know which famous person they are, give them a short text about their character. Students read the text.

3. Gallery Walk - Students now go around the classroom to find two pieces of information about their characters.
This step is crucial because being the information pretty similar some students will "struggle" for getting the post-it note.
This method turned out to be effective because students realized they had to find synonyms or similar phrases in order to match the information with the character.

Students had a chance to make it practical and reflect on the ways they could do the exercise straightforwardly.
After the lesson I gave my students an exercise from the past papers of the exam and the number of correct answers was much higher than in previous exercises. Plus, one of my students came up with a technique to do this part of test: First read one section of the text/short text and then read the possible information which matches with it.

Note: This activity can be also used for a reading comprehension exercise at any level. You just need to adapt it to your students.

giovedì 13 marzo 2014

Useful tips for the Cambridge PET and FIRST Speaking papers

It doesn't matter whether you are teenager or an adult, speaking exams scare you, don't they? I came up with these two graphics to help my students and you face this overwhelming fear.
Dos & Don'ts and useful tips about the functional language to use in the different parts of the paper will support you to get trough the speaking exam.

 You can download the pictures and print them out!

giovedì 6 marzo 2014

If I Were A...Mayor: A Lesson Plan

When I plan my lessons for my groups of teens I always take into account:
1) Teenagers are creative and highly motivated.
2) The use of technology combined with real life is crucial in the classroom.
3) Teaching a language aims at communicating properly.
4) All the four linguistic skills must be introduced.

Considering these four points above I've created a series of lessons I call
I'd like to share with you the lesson plan If I were a mayor.
Politics is not my cup of tea. This is not a lesson about politics. My aim is giving my students a chance to use the target language in a communicative way and in a real context. 

Level: B1-B2
Time: 110 minutes (Ideal lesson plan for a 2 hour lesson)

Warm-up (5 minutes): 
Tell your students they are going to guess a profession. Give them key words.
You can write them on the board so the whole class will guess and have fun together or set a challenge by giving the key words written on a paper and 1 minute to think about the possible profession. At the end of the minute the students will tell you which is their word.

If they couldn't guess it you can play the Hangman. 

Lead-into Listening (5 minutes):
Ask the students:
How can you become a mayor?
Possible answers:
You need to be a politician./You need to win the elections./People must vote for you./You must run a campaign.

Some students are reluctant to speak so try to elicit the answers.

Listening (20 minutes):
Tell them they are going to watch a video of the mayor of London  when he was running his campaign.
Let them watch the video twice and hand in the following questions. Let them check their answers in pairs and then get feedback.

This video is aimed at the citizens of London and not English language learners. Monitor students while they are watching the video and check they have most of the answers done. If not let them watch the video once again.

Reading (15 minutes):
Students will now read a text I slightly modified from WRITING YOUR OWN CAMPAIGN SPEECH and they will answer some questions about it.
Give them 10-15 minutes to read and answer the questions.
You will find the handout here.

Lead-into Writing (5 minutes):
It's time to run for mayor. Let students brainstorm ideas about their own town, what they like and what they would like to change. Board their opinions so they can use them during the writing activity.

Writing (30 minutes):
Now students write their own speech. Monitor and try to give them extra tips. You will find the handout in the link above.

By reading WRITING YOUR OWN CAMPAIGN SPEECH students will be able to write their own speech but focus on weaker ones. Let them use their dictionaries.

Speaking (10 + 20 minutes):
Students will rehearse their speech in pairs for 10 minutes.
Depending on how large your class is you can choose to work with the whole group or divide students in small groups. Students will give their speech in turn. Then everyone will vote for one to be the mayor (of course they cannot vote for themselves) and at the end of the lesson there will be a "new mayor" for your town.

For some students this activity will be a chance to show off, don't be strict with them. Other students who are shy will feel ashamed to speak in front of the class/audience, give them more time to talk.

These activity will allow your students to review the 1st type conditional and the comparatives.

Try this lesson plan and let me know your feedback. I hope you will enjoy this lesson as much as my students and I did. 

Bye for now,