Back again

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

I haven’t written a post for 3 years now as I was too busy with admin work (Deputy Director, DOS and YL person in one).
Now I’m back to normal, which means I’m still the ADoS for YL at IH Brno but can breathe again. Funnily I’m also ging back to my initial blog idea. Again I’m teaching a group of children aged 7-8 without a coursebook. It’s my challenge for the year – so I’d like to share my ideas and thoughts with whoever is interested.


What to do with a shoe box

October 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

This year I have a 6-year-old one-to-one student, who lived for some time in England. Now back in the Czech Republic her parents want her to keep her English. She’s into stories and arts and  crafts, so I decided to combine the two things.

In the first lessons we read ‘Winnie at the seaside’ together, and talked about what kind of holidays Anna likes and what she thinks Wilbur (Winnie’s cat) might like doing in his holiday. At home she drew a picture of Wilbur on holiday and in the next lesson she told me about it.

Then our little arts and crafts project started. The idea was to make a theatre which she could use to play out stories of Winnie the Witch. She brought a shoe box and I asked her what she might find in a theatre. She came up with some ideas including curtain and stage. Then I explained that we could make this with the shoe box and how to do it.

Anna's shoe box

So here the instructions for all arts and crafts fans out there:

Material: a shoe box (adult size), some coloured paper, crayons, felt pens, pencils, scissors, white carton, skewers, glue and sticky tape, Stanley knife

Instructions: Make a cut in one of the long sides of the shoe box and along the bottom, so that you have two flaps (which are your curtains). Decide what you want to have in the scene, colour the box from the inside or glue coloured paper onto the back and sides of the box. Cut out shapes for a house or trees and glue them to the bottom. And there you go, the little stage is ready. Just use your imagination, all my little shoe box theatres differ from each other.

But what is a theatre without actors, in this case paper figures. Draw the shapes of the characters you need for your play on cardboard, colour them in, cut them out and with some sticky tape fix them at one end of a skewer. Be careful, as you play from  the top the skewer should stick out from the top, otherwise all your figures are upside down. Something Anna and I tried out, but then changed it quickly again.

As we only have 60 min a week, we needed two weeks to complete the theatre. We started off with the theatre itself and Anna decided on the scene and the characters. We finished the box itself, but didn’t have time for the characters. So her homework was to come up with a story including all characters.

So in the next lesson she brought her story, written down by her older brother Adam And this is how the story goes:

We finished the characters, which took quite long as we had to play with them of course as soon as each of them was finished. At the end of the lesson we packed everything into the box, closed the lid and a very proud Anna took it home to reveal her ‘secret’ to her family.

Any ideas what her homework for this week is? Playing out the story with her family!

The third lesson

October 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Giant Spanish Donkey

This is another post about teaching my pre-teens class. I’m not writing about every single lesson but will pick just some highlights and also things I’ve tried for the first time. In this lesson I included ‘Find 10’ from David Riley’s ‘Triptico’ for the first time in my lesson.

The topic was comparatives and superlatives, and I wanted to have a challenging and also engaging practice activity for my students. As I know my kids quite well by now, I knew that they like facts about animals so I decided to challenge them with 1o true and 5 false facts about animals. I started off with asking them which animals are their favourites to get a lead in. They were quite talkative and some of them added why they liked their animal most.

After that I needed to pre-teach and elicit some of the animals I used in the challenge. In this part they were actually allowed to give the Czech word, as I needed to make sure they all knew the animals. It was interesting to see how many they knew. Then I put them into two teams (there were only 6 kids – 3 boys and 3 girls), let them each get a piece of paper and a pen. I demonstrated the activity on the board, drawing the squares on the board and showing an example sentence. I didn’t want to show them the game itself at that moment, so the board was the best solution.

And this is what the challenge looked like:

Find 10 animal facts

Then they started a running dictation, running up to the computer choosing one sentence, dictating and writing down the sentence in the correct form etc. When they had all finished, we checked if the sentences were correct and each team got a point for each correct answer.

I gave them another 3 min after that to decide in their teams which of the 15 facts were false. They really loved this part, and when we came to the end of the challenge where they were allowed to check their answers, we had a heated discussion going on.

Overall the activity worked very well, they were enthusiastic, they enjoyed the competitive element and they learned even some new and interesting facts about animals while practicing comparatives and superlatives. I’ll definitely will use this and some of the other resources from ‘Triptico’ again.

By the way, can you guess what the 5 lies are?

The English Raven Halloween lesson materials design challenge!

October 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve taken up Jason Renshaw’s Halloween challenge (  I’m aiming at a group of pre-teens (10-12 year olds), and have included a lot of speaking activities as this is something my students really need. Hope you’ll like bits and pieces of my ideas.

And this is what I came up with: halloween-1-worksheet

The first lesson

September 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last week the new school year started for me. This year I only have very few classes as I got stuck with a lot of admin work for the school. Still, it’s exciting to see old faces again and lots of new faces. Some of our kids have been coming for lessons for up to 5 years, so you have of course a kind of bond with them. Some asked why I wasn’t their teacher this year, but seem to accept easily to have a new teacher. One of my pre-teens classes I kept; they were beginners last year and it was fantastic to see how much they actually remembered.

We started off with talking about the summer. One of the kids I met at a circus performance he took part in and one of the girls actually chats with me sometimes on facebook, so it was nice to share with the whole class and I hope this will encourage all of them to take part in some ideas I want to try out this year with them.

As there are a few new kids in the class I had the ‘getting-to-know-you memory’ (see one of the previous post in this blog) activity prepared for them. I used the activity but gave it a nice twist. After they had put all their papers on the floor I told them to crumble them into balls. Then I asked them what they like doing in winter (and that in the last days of summer…). After they shouted out some ideas one of them came up with snowball fight. And that’s what we did; two groups opposite of each other (here it was boys and girls) throwing paper snowballs at each other. I gave them about three minutes for that. They loved it! Then we collected all the papers again, unfolded them and they started matching. I saw the snowball activity last year for the first time when I observed one of my colleagues (thanks Zdenek!) and it’s one of my favourites, as it is active, get’s them out of their chairs, it’s fun and fulfills the purpose of mixing papers for matching activities. I will definitely use it more often with them.

We then worked on classroom rules. They had to come up with rules they thought are important. This is the list they gave me:

Don’t speak Czech.

Don’t eat in class.

Turn your phones off.

Don’t be late.

Do homework.

I then marked the sentences with smiley faces and sad faces and asked them to tell me why I like some rules and don’t like the others. I actually had to give them a hint to look what’s similar in the sentences. It took some time but then one of the girls got the idea that I don’t like negative rules. So I put them into pairs and let them rewrite the rules so that they had the same meaning but were positive. After that they decided on the best sentences and made posters for the classroom. I have to thank Kat Kinsalla for this idea, as she was showing it in a seminar I attended some years ago. Since then I’ve used it in every group where I had to create classroom rules and it has always worked. It’s also nicer to look at a set of rules that are stated positively then having all these DON’Ts shouting at you, there are already enough don’ts in our lives.

Looking forward to my next class with them and will keep a record here of my ideas and the activities I’ll try out with them.

Vocab Revision

September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

It has taken me quite a lot of time, but finally I’ve found a moment to add a few new activities. These are 3 activities I came across when training for drama teaching, but work fantastic with my English students (children and adults alike) when revising vocabulary. So here it goes:

‘What are you doing?’

All students stand in a circle, two students go in the middle, one miming an activity (e.g. washing his/her hair), the other asks ‘What are you doing?’  The answer should then be a new activity e.g. mowing the lawn. The student who asked the question has then to do this activity. If someone can’t think quickly enough of another activity, a new student goes into the circle and takes over. Or they can take it in turns without the competitive element.

‘God, are you stupid’

Students imagine that they haven’t seen things like a spoon, a camera, a teabag or anything similar, in their life, so they have to find out what these things are for. In pairs one student either gets a card with an image or word. He/she then has to tell his/her partner about it starting: ‘Look at my new camera.’ The other student replies: e.g. Camera? What’s a camera? What are you doing with it?  Which means they need to get an explanation form their partner: ‘I take pictures.’ Then the next question: Pictures, what are pictures? Pictures are …. etc. You either stop the activity after some time or challenge them to see who can keep the conversation going the longest.

‘Angels and Devils’

Divide the students into two groups. One group has to write down as many vegetables as possible, the other fruits. The vegetable group are the devils and they can only talk in vegetables while the fruit group are the angels who can only speak fruit. Get the students to stand in lines in their groups facing the other group, so that each devil and angel has got a partner from the other group in front of him/her. They then have to try to persuade their opposite to become an angel or a devil. They should talk them into it with only using fruit and vegetables to communicate with each other. If a devil uses any fruit he automatically becomes an angel and vice versa. It’s a quite noisy, but fun game and can be used with different lexical groups.

Be quick

June 29, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a great activity you can use any time in your class. It gets your students speaking and is a great stirrer when you feel that the energy level gets low. Put your students into two groups. They take it in turns and compete against each other. Make a list of 20 to 30 topics. One group chooses a number and you read out the topic. Then they have to come up with as many ideas connected to their topic as possible in one minute. After that the other group gets its chance with a new topic. The tricky part is that each student in each group has to say something. If one of them can’t come up with an idea wait for 5 seconds till the next one in the group can say his/her idea, and they can’t repeat what someone else has already said. For each idea they get a point.

Example: Group 1 says no 12; you read out: ‘What can you do to make you look better?’ The first student in group 1 starts with an idea e.g.’ put on make up’, then the second students says ‘wear a nice dress’, the third student says ‘pull a bag over your head’ etc.

Here some topics:

1. What you can do when you want to meet new friends.

2. Where you should go on holiday not to meet your teacher.

3. What didn’t exist 200 years ago.

4. What you can do not to write the next exam/test.

5. What gets on your nervs when watching TV.

6. What you can say when you haven’t done your homework.

7. What you wouldn’t eat again in your life.

8. Things you could collect.

9. The worst thing about boys/girls.

10. What you can find in a bag.

11. What you’re looking forward to in winter.

12. What can you do to make you look better.

13. What you shouldn’t do during meal times.

14. The best ways how to annoy your teacher.

15. How you can make people laugh.

After you have played it with your students for the first time they can actually come up with more ideas for questions/topics for the next time you want to play the game.