English spelling might seem very illogical but it

can be learnt




thought, though.

Only about 12% of words in English are spelt the way they sound. With 26 letters, there are around 44 sounds (this is not precise as different accents produce different sounds) and several hundred ways to write those sounds. As a result, many learners (especially learners whose first language is phonetic, i.e. what you see is what you say) struggle with their spelling of English words.

There have been many attempts to “fix” the language and make words easier to spell (See the initiative of the English Spelling Society in the UK, proposing spellings like “wensday”, “crum”, “cof”, “distres” and “milenium”). But before they “kik the ‘c’ out of the sirkle and the ‘ph’ out of the telefones”, we’ll have to think of ways to make our learners’ life a little bit easier.

Spelling has much to do with how we remember things. One of the ways to help learners recall some tricky words is to use mnemonic strategies.

Mnemonics (/nəˈmɒniks/) are short devices (sayings, poems, etc) used to remember complex ideas.

Here are a few activities that you may try with your students to introduce them to mnemonics and improve their spelling.


Dictate the following words to your students (B1-B2):

1) Wednesday

2) Rhythm

3) Separate

4) Currants (berries)

5) Quiet

6) Because

7) Necessary

8) Accommodation

9) Said (as in “he said something”)

10) Hear (as in “I don’t hear you”)

11) Caught

12) Ghost

Ask them to share their lists with their partners and try and spot any mistakes.


Ask your students to guess the day:


(Answer: Wednesday)

Get your students to check the spelling of the words you dictated in Step 1 using the following mnemonics:


This will work more effectively if your students create their own mnemonics.


Have you students think of tricky words for spelling (they surely have their ‘most favourite words ever’) (or introduce a few words that are often misspelled by your students) and create their own mnemonics for these words.

E.g. Here are a few mnemonics from my students:

“career” – car and beer

“habit” – a habit is not a rabbit

“island” – is land

“lose” – uh-oh, I’ve lost an ‘o’

I would love to hear your students’ mnemonics!

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Check out Luke’s English Podcast to learn more about mnemonics, memory training and learning English here.

(Image: John Lillis, Flickr.com, creative commons)

Battleships: A PowerPoint adaptation

On Wednesday, I presented the project I’m currently leading at the British Council Teaching for Success Online Conference. [Take a look at the British Council Teaching English conference page where you can find fantastic talks by speakers from around the world and panel discussions taking place between Wednesday 5 October and Sunday 9 October 2016].

– What is the best way to develop professionally?
– Get connected and collaborate with other teachers. If we help each other, and share our ideas and things we do in our classrooms, we can all make great gains.

This post by Tekhnologic is an excellent example of the value added of sharing knowledge and ideas with other teachers. Some time ago, I shared Battleship for irregular verbs and here’s how Tekhnologic improved it and made it even better by adding a tech version to it.


The other day I was reading this post by Svetlana Kandybovich. The post was a list of the 10 most popular games from ELT-CATION, and one of the games on that list was Battleships.

I was looking at the game and thinking that not only had it been awhile since I last made a PowerPoint game, but Battleships would be relatively easy to make in PowerPoint.

So, I turned on my computer and started designing.

This is what I produced:


A single slide with letters on the vertical axis, numbers on the horizontal axis and the interior of slide is able to contain 35 words. The words don’t have to be unique vocabulary items; the board can contain duplicates.

Beneath the words are hidden ships that your students have to locate.

Take a look at this tutorial video to see how to use the template. The board used in the…

View original post 895 more words



“Life is more fun if you play games.”

Roald Dahl

Today is the first day of another 365-day journey of ELT-CATION around the sun, so I thought it would be a good idea to list the top 10 most liked games posted on ELT-CATION by now. They are low-cost, learning rich and work really well in the classroom.

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spacebattleshipThe players take turns to make a shot at the opponent, by calling out the coordinates of a square. The opponent responds with the verb in the square. The player should give its second or third form (or both) to learn whether it’s a “hit” if it hits a ship or a “miss” if it misses. If every square of a ship gets shot, that ship is sunk.

Materials needed: grids (or 1 sheet of paper per student)

Read more here.

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spaceImage 3The aim of the game is to climb the ladder. The first player picks up a card from the pile and reads it to the other player. If the player gives the right answer, he/she moves one rung up and puts his/her name initial on the rung. Then this player picks up a card and reads the task for the first player. If the player fails to give the right answer, he/she stays on the same rung and puts his/her name initial on the same rung again. The winner is the one who manages to climb the ladder faster. The game can be used to introduce a game element for any assignment, incl. tests.

Materials needed: a sheet of paper per 2 players

Read more here.

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spaceScanGet students to make a 4×4 grid, fill it in with answers to your/their questions (Get the students to rotate their grids, and answer the second question, and so on, until all the grids have been filled in with answers). Students mingle as a whole class and ask each other questions (decide on the number of questions they may ask – e.g. ‘one question per person only’) and cross out the square in the grid if the answer is the same. To win, they must cross off a horizontal/ vertical/ diagonal line of four and shout bingo.

Materials needed: 1 A4 sheet of paper per student.

Read more here.

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spacegrid4It’s a very simple game, where the player is placed in a maze and has to find a treasure chest and find a way out. This game is designed for playing in pairs. The a-Maze-ing Game is based on a ‘board maze’ principle. This game can be used as a learning tool for grammar or vocabulary and help revise prepositions of place and direction.

Materials needed: 1 A4 sheet of paper per student.

Read more here.

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space2016-02-24 20.34.54Pair up students and ask them to draw a grid (6×4 grid; with 4 spaces ‘your c
hoice’) to play the game. In order to place a mark X or O, the players should make a sentence about themselves or somebody they know in the corresponding tense form. They may choose any square they wish to place their marks (X or O) in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row. The players are not allowed to put their marks in the same square so they have no option but to use different tense forms. The player who succeeds in placing three/four of their marks in a row wins the game.
Materials needed: grids (Grid 1/Grid 2), or 1 A4 sheet of paper per student

spaceRead more here.

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spaceThe Football Game - Hand drawnTekhnologic and ELT-Cation have worked together to show you how to ‘get the ball rolling’ and use this game in the classroom. The game is very versatile and you can use questions based on vocabulary, grammar, idioms, culture or a mixture of different questions. In fact, use any questions you can think of.

Materials needed: an A4 sheet of paper, a coin, or a ppt game template (click here to download it)

Read more here.

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3110894392_257fd9328a_oThis is a collection of Google-based games that you can play with your students to the end of better learning (and increased engagement): Guess the Google Search, Google or Gavin, Googlefight, Image Search and Guess the Doodle. These games require little preparation and are very easy to arrange.

Materials/resources needed: mobile phones, Wi-Fi

Read more here.

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WORD GAMESspacescan 20002

One more collection of pen and paper games that require next to no time to prepare and might be used to get students to look through their word lists again and again, and help them retain new vocabulary: Squares, Stairs, Categories, Stop!, Battleship, Build a Word, Word Twist, Hands.

Materials needed: a sheet of paper per student/group of students

Read more here.

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These are games that involve t16419582702_3589e44d1c_khe English alphabet and can be played to fill  in the time before the bell rings, or when you’d like to focus on a particular skill, grammar or vocabulary, or when you just want to ‘wake ‘em up’ a bit. They are all highly engaging and very easy to arrange. They include: Human Typewriter (spelling; vocabulary; pronunciation / transcription),  the Curious Cat (vocabulary; speaking; writing), Desert Island (vocabulary; speaking) and Alphabet Aerobics (grammar; speaking).

Materials needed: some games might require a sheet of paper per student/group of students

Read more here.

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I’ve made this Think Positive Game to cultivate an optimistic outlook, devel2016-06-28 09.39.33op a habit of positive self-talk and learn phrases to encourage someone
to put more effort or to not stop trying to do something. The aim of the game is to score maximum points as a team. Challenge them to score more than 30 points. Students simply go around in a circle drawing one card on their turn. Depending on the card they pull, they perform the task given and score a point for the team. Each card represents a different task.

Materials needed: cards, or 2-3 A4 sheets of paper per group

Read more here.

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It’s been two years since I embarked on my blogging adventure. Happy birthday to ELT-CATION and happy teaching to all of us!


Our planet holds a wide variety of unexplained phenomena, including the Sphinx, Bermuda Triangle, a Mayan crystal skull, the Great Pyramid, and now the Red Truck. Why on Earth the Jackson Hole Town Square livestream place became one of the most ‘watchable’ spots will probably remain a mystery forever. As of this moment, it’s hovering at around 2,115 viewers from different parts of the planet scrutinizing each and every person and vehicle passing by and waiting for the infamous red truck to appear.



A screenshot from the Jackson Hole Town Square livestream (with the RED TRUCK!) (Screenshot: Youtube)

Livestreams are probably not so widely explored for ELT purposes as a resource, yet they have a really good potential as they

  • Bring the real world into the classroom

The very fact that we may view what’s happening at a particular place in the target culture in real time takes us to a completely new level of working with realia in the classroom. These are no longer still images of situations familiar to the target culture, these are the situations themselves.

  • Serve as a springboard for a variety of activities

One of my favourite activities is to get students to look out of the window and make as many true sentences as they can about what is happening (ideal for teaching Continuous forms). This might have many options: a) all students watch and note down/discuss what they see; b) one student watches and tells the others what he/she sees; etc. With livestreams, this exercise might be more engaging (they can see more things happening) and have a cultural-added value.

Here are a few livestreams that your students might find interesting:

Abbey Road Crossing

Abbey Road is one of the most iconic roads in the UK. It is a popular hot spot for Beatles fans. The street camera is focused primarily on the Zebra Crossing area and depicts a clear view of this frequented street.

Piccadilly Circus

The camera is focused on one of the busiest squares in the very heart of London with a consistent flow of both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

The Times Square

This unique aerial look at the Times Square captures what this great city is all about.

The Vancouver Aquarium 

There are several cams featuring penguins, belugas, jellies and sea otters. You pick.

Las Vegas 

These cams are placed in the middle of the action in Las Vegas – view the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, Vegas casinos, and the wedding chapel.

Please leave me a comment if you have any tips on the use of livestreams in the classroom.

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October 5 – 9, 2016 – the British Council Teaching for Success Online Conference for teachers and teacher educators. See the schedule here.


Here are my top 10 back-to-school activities that might be a nice alternative to a usual what-did-you-do-this-summer Q&A session.





 Сlick here to download the activities in .pdf format.

What’s you favourite activity? Please share in the comments below.

Happy new academic year!

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Looking for more alternative back-to-school activities? Check out these ideas and resources:

Activities for first lessons by Clare Lavery at teachingenglish.org.uk

Alternatives to “What I did on my Summer Vacation” by Tara Benwell

Back to School Ideas! by Maria Theologidou

Breaking the ice: a collection of getting to know you activities and

More ice breakers for the ELT classroom by Rachael Roberts


“In crafting there are no mistakes, just unique creations.”

This is yet another post in my DIY or how-to-turn-a-carrot-into-a-clarinet series (See CREATIVE LOW-COST TEACHING/LEARNING AIDS to learn how to make low-cost flip cards, small books, vocabulary organizers, puppets and game fields out of a sheet of paper).

Today we will try to make a flexagon.

What is a flexagon?

A New Design (2)

Flexagons are mathematical puzzles that are folded paper figures. There are many types of flexagons with a different number of faces. As you flex the flexagon, you should find all the possible combinations/faces. Your learners might enjoy the story of the creation of the first flexagon (read more about flexagons here).

Today we’ll try to make a square flexagon with 6 faces  (or sides of the paper) in total. This flexagon may become another efficient low-cost DIY learning tool in your students’ pocket. It is

super easy to make (no glue, no tape, no complicated patterns or folds)

low-cost (you’ll just need an A4 sheet of paper per student), and

learning rich (i.e. apart from “creative fun”, it provides for extensive recycling of language).

Materials required: an A4 sheet of paper, a pair of scissors, crayons (you can keep it black and white – this will significantly reduce its visual appeal but will help save time and keep your learners’ hands clean – learning might be a dirty business at times)

How to make:

1. Hand out a sheet of paper (either an A4 format or a square sheet of paper, either will do) to each student and ask them to fold it in half 4 times to make 16 squares (a 4 by 4 grid). Get them to crease all the fold lines back and forth before folding the model. This will significantly improve its flexibility.

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2. Fold the grid in half and cut out the two middle squares.


3. Now you have 12 squares on one side, and 12 on the other. You may colour the squares, or put letters, words, numbers, or leave them blank to add words later. If you want particular words, phrases, images to be featured on one particular side together, follow the pattern below.

Once folded, you’ll have sides A, B, C, D, E and F.


Now fold the grid, fold the top first, and then fold the other sides going clockwise. In the end, one top square (the yellow square in the picture below) will need to be changed. Pull the down square up and place it on top.


Now your flexagon is ready. Keep folding and opening it till you find all the faces.

How can we use it for ELT?

1. Vocabulary review

Have your students put down phrases/words.

Squares A –  4 names of animals

Squares B – 4 names of birds

Squares C – 4 names of ______

These can be irregular verbs, phrasal verbs, idioms, etc. Ask your students to flex the flexagon and make sentences that are true about them using the words in the squares.

(Check this post  VOCABULARY REVIEW- FORTUNE TELLERS by Pete from ELT-Planning for more ideas)

2. Vocabulary organizer

Have your students pick 6 words and put the information about each word (e.g. translation, transcription, use in a sentence, synonyms, etc.) in the squares of the flexagon – one word per face. Their task is to flex the flexagon to fill in all the squares.

(Looking for more ideas? Check this post ALL IN ONE: VOCABULARY ORGANIZER/FLASH CARD MAKER)

3. Storymaking tool

Get your students to think about the stories/texts they’ve recently read (you can focus on one text or several texts) and write the key words, e.g. 4 verbs, 4 nouns, 4 images, 4 adjectives, 4 phrasal verbs and 4 adverbs, in the grid (before the fold it into the flexagon) in random order or following the pattern to make sure they’re featured on one side (see the image in section 3 above). When the flexagon is ready, the task is to flex the flexagon and tell a story using the words in the squares. They should keep telling their story until they’ve opened all the sides. (For lower level students, you may want to simplify the task a bit and get them to make up short stories – one or two sides only).

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4. Pocket study tool

If you use the four square organizer (see GOING GRAPHIC: 4 SQUARES FOR BETTER SPEAKING), have your students put notes in the flexagon (a topic per side). They may use it in class, or keep it in their pockets to go through their notes whenever they have an odd bit of time. Just flex it.

Happy crafty teaching:)



‘If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.’

A ‘maze’ principle has been widely used in ELT material design, in particular for reading assignments, where students are given different options and a variety of different outcomes. There isn’t one correct answer, so different teams find themselves taking different paths while practising the language in a genuinely communicative activity. If you have never tried them with your students, check these reading mazes on the British Council website – Spending Maze or Holiday Maze. They’re sure to be a hit with your students.

The a-Maze-ing Game is based on a ‘board maze’ principle (it looks like a maze, and it works like a maze). This game can be used as a learning tool for grammar or vocabulary and help revise prepositions of place and direction.

It’s a very simple game, where the player is placed in a maze and has to find a treasure chest and find a way out. This game is designed for playing in pairs.

Materials needed: 1 A4 sheet of paper per student.

Before the game:

Each player will need two 4×4 grids – one with ‘walls’, and one blank grid. You can either prepare them in advance or have your learners make their own mazes (low cost and more learning value).

Step 1.

Hand out two halves of an A4 sheet to each student. They have to fold each sheet in half 4 times to get a 4 by 4 grid and label them along the sides with letters (A-D) and numbers (1-4). Ask them to mark an entrance and exit to the maze on the outer walls of the maze (e.g.A1 and C4).


Step 2.

Now have them put 9 walls in the maze (a wall – a square border) and hide their treasure chest (T).


Step 3.

Have students mark 4 squares with “Hint” (H).


Step 4.

Get students to choose and fill in the grid with 10 words (These could be any language items – 10 irregular verbs, 10 phrasal verbs, 10 letters, 10 phonemes, etc.). 


How to play:

The players take turns to move in the maze by calling out the coordinates of a square. A player is allowed to move one square up, down, left or right. Players cannot go through walls. Before the game, players may agree on the entrance to the maze, e.g. A1. The aim of the game is to find the treasure chest and exit the maze.

When the player lands on the square with the word, they explain what the word means (or make up a sentence with it, which is true about them or their friends). If the player fails to define the word/make up a sentence with it, they skip their turn. If they move to the same square again, they have to make a new sentence. When the player lands on the “Hint”square, the opponent should give away the location of the nearest wall.

During the play, players should record their moves on the blank grid drawing the walls and noting down the words.

Whoever manages to find the treasure chest and exit the maze first wins the game.

One square in the maze remains blank (usually the square with the exit) – let your students decide on the final challenge.

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Happy holidays!

Image: Brett Davis, flickr.com, Creative Commons