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Sharing EFL Teaching Ideas

David Richardson

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Now this is a bit weird replying to my own post, but I'm trying to keep the posts separate.

Here's an idea I developed a few years ago for using with technical English students:

New Products

For a class of 30, you'd need four short (half-page) descriptions of new products. New Scientist, trade magazines, company web sites are all good sources.

If necessary, you identify difficult words and print them in an adjoining column, next to where they occur in the text.

Phase 1

Divide your class up into groups of three or four (or occasionally five, if you've got 30). Arrange the groups into clusters of four, and give each group in the cluster a different description. I usually print the descriptions on different-coloured paper, with enough for one between two students.

I.e. if you've got 30 students, you'll have 2 clusters with four groups in each cluster.

The task for the students in this Phase is to read the text, make sure they understand it, and then produce a visual aid to be used by their Presenter with the following information on it:

1. The name of the product (which they might need to make up)

2. A sketch of the product

3. A one-line slogan, summing up what is good about the product

(I give them the 'Guinness is good for you' slogan as an example.)

At the end of Phase 1, the group chooses a Presenter, who'll go around and present the product to each of the other groups, using the visual aid the group has just produced to help her.

Phase 2

Each group now has a Presenter who goes to the other groups and presents the product to them. The set-up is that of a Trade Fair where people are exchanging information, rather than a sales pitch. The people who stay behind are told that their job is to gather information about the products which they will have to relate to their Presenter when she gets back to their group. Therefore, they have to ask plenty of questions about it.

Traffic management is important! I give the Presenters three minutes at each group, and time it with a stopwatch. Nobody moves on until the signal is given … which often encourages the hasty to take it easy and take a few questions. Sometimes the Presenters get to take the original information with them, sometimes they don't!

In your class with two clusters, you'd have two rounds of presentations going on at the same time.

Phase 3

Each Presenter has now done the job three times and it's time to go home. Now the rest of the home group know about 4 products, but the Presenter only knows about one of them, so it's time for them to share their information with the presenter.

Finally, I take up any questions that might have arisen.


As you can see, this activity involves reading, writing, speaking and listening. It also involves a lot of changing of information from one form to another. It also involves authentic materials, originally written for native speakers.

Nobody has to speak in front of more than three or four other people, and there's plenty of other activity going on in the classroom to lessen the amount of anxiety an individual might face. However, each Presenter gets to do the presentation several times, so they get a chance to improve on their performance. I always find that the amount of time needed for the final presentation is about 2/3 of the amount needed for the first one.

The teacher is also way out of the spotlight, and is able to help students with specific problems on an individual basis. Everyone's also got lots to do at every stage in the lesson. The activity will take from 20-45 minutes, depending on the level of the group.

So far as I know, this is an activity I developed myself, so you're free to take it wherever you like. However, we're all working in the same cultural environment, so it wouldn't surprise me if someone says "we've been using that for years - it's out of textbook X!"

It isn't directly a computerised activity - I'm using ICT to disseminate it instead.

Edited by David Richardson
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I have mentioned the ICT4LT website several times in this Forum. Although the site has been designed primarily as a resource for MFL teachers, it contains numerous ideas that apply to EFL/ESOL as well. In fact, several of the ICT4LT authors are EFL/ESOL specialists: http://www.ict4lt.org

See especially Module 2.4 on Classroom concordancing, which contains lots of suggestions for EFL/ESOL teachers.

Here are a few references taken from the ICT4LT site:

See the website maintained by Vance Stevens, Consultant and CALL Coordinator for the Amideast UAE / MLI Project: Language learning techniques implemented through word-processing: grammar-based exercise templates for becoming proficient with word-processing. Available at:


The Teacher's Pet website, created by Chris Lacey. This site offers a free text tool, a Microsoft Word template which contains sets of macros that can make simple but very useful changes to texts in order to create word-processing exercises, e.g. removing spaces, removing vowels, word-jumbling, sentence jumbling,breaking sentences in half, etc: http://www.teachers-pet.org

Gitsaki C. & Taylor R. (1999a) "Internet-based activities for the ESL classroom", ReCALL 11, 1: 47-57.

Gitsaki C. & Taylor R. (1999b) Internet English: WWW-based communication activities, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gitsaki C. & Taylor R. (2000) Internet English: WWW-based communication activities. Teacher's book, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Windeatt S., Hardisty D. & Eastment D. (2000) The Internet, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Don't be misled by the very general sounding title. This is aimed at learners of English as Foreign Language). Website: http://www1.oup.co.uk/elt/rbt.internet

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I teach EFL at the Franco-Brazilian secondary school in São Paulo. I have created a website called The English Department with resources and links for EFL teachers and students. You may have a look at the sitemap at:


I hope you will find what you need!

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I teach EFL at the Franco-Brazilian secondary school in São Paulo. I have created a website called The English Department with resources and links for EFL teachers and students. You may have a look at the sitemap at:


I hope you will find what you need!

What a great resource Bee.

I know I'm a little :D but I'd love to know how you made that diagram - loads of applications for my subjects

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I agree! What a nice website …

It looks like it was created in Inspiration http://www.inspiration.com.

Even if it wasn't, this is a nice programme (available both for Mac and PC).

It's a mind-map programme, where you can brainstorm ideas and then turn them into graphics, text-based plans, .gifs, .pict documents etc, etc.

The intro page on our Business Writing course was made in Inspiration and then exported as a .gif graphic to Dreamweaver. After that I made the Inspiration graphics into hot spots …

Definitely one of my essential tools …

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If you're still a bit shy about sharing ideas yourself (an outrageous suggestion, I know), here's another one, which I learned at some conference or other.

Vocabulary Circles

A bit like Hangman with a twist.

You draw a big circle on the board, and write the numbers 1-6, evenly spaced around the circumference.

You tell the class that you're going to write examples of, or words associated with the hidden word in the middle.

You then draw a little line for each letter of the word in the middle, just like Hangman.

Let's say that in the middle you've got: _ _ _ _ _

Then you write 'banana' against no 1, and wait for a guess.

If you don't get one, you write 'orange' against no 2, and hope that someone can spell 'fruit' (the word in the middle).

You write in 'fruit' … and then ask the class what word no 3 is, and no 4 and nos 7, 8, 9, etc, until they run out of fruit! (This is where you elicit which fruit they know - and which they'd like to know. Ever heard of 'cloudberry'? It's the English word for 'hjortron', which is very common in the north of Sweden, and which a Swedish class would like to say.)


I have a variant for the clever clogs, which goes 'sun', 'star', 'planet', 'time' … and then carries on to 'telegraph', 'newsweek', until someone gets 'newspaper' (Clark Kent worked on the Daily Planet, remember!).


If you want to see a couple of Flash animated vocabulary circles, go to:


Then click on Teaching English to Younger Children on the left > Video Conferences > Video Conference 1 … and then on the Vocabulary Circles links on the left.

In other words, not just a vocabulary exercise - could also be connected with cultural and societal aspects.

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OK, so here's another one we just thought up at the coffee break. The suggestion came from my colleague, John Airey, but we haven't actually done it in practice yet.

Our department wants to create a graduation ceremony … so we started talking about ceremonies and traditions. We already have an activity where you tell the class about yourself, but include at least one lie (then they have to work out which bit is untrue), and this suggestion grew out of that one.

You collect some real traditions from the UK, and then make up about three times as many fake ones.

You then describe - or better still demonstrate - or even better still get the students to demonstrate - a set of three of them (one real and two fakes). Then the class has to decide which one is real (i.e. this is just like Call My Bluff crossed with The Generation Game!).

We started getting silly with suggestions like Thimble-Racing and Rolling the Cheese … but I bet they're really real!

As a variation, especially if you've got a multinational class, you could get the class to create new rounds of the activity using traditions from their own cultures.

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