What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘manpower’?

A. Working men

B. The Marlboro Man

C. Working women. Really?

On the International Women’s day, the British Council ran a fantastic webinar NON-GENDERED LANGUAGE: HOW TO TEACH IT, SHOULD WE TEACH IT? with Jemma Prior (you can watch the recording here) to discuss why dealing with gender-biased language is important in the English language classroom and give some practical tips on how to teach non-gendered language.


There is basically no language input in coursebooks “to help learners deal explicitly with using non-sexist language”, which might present many issues when using the language in real life situations.


My today’s post offers some ideas based on Google search games (see my post JUST GOOGLE IT), which might help get your learners thinking about the issue of gender-biased language and redraw the balance.

Image Search

This game helps identify the issue of unconscious gender biases in the language.

Pair up or split students into teams. Hand out cards with (gender-neutral) words (different words for different teams) and ask students to use the Google Image Search and choose 3 images (3 levels of difficulty) to show to other students. The task is to guess the search word.

Example: a nurse

Image 1 (10 points)


Image 2 (5 points)


Image 3 (1 point)


(Images – screenshots of Google search by image)

Cards (click Cards to download them): 4.jpg

* If you want to extend this activity, check the ‘Scenarios’ activity suggested by Jemma Prior during the webinar or watch/try the following social experiment with your students)



You can find it here. This game is highly addictive. Pair up students and ask them to think of gender-biased words and their neutral versions. You may suggest the following words:

Chairman Chairperson
Fireman Firefighter
Stewardess Flight attendant
Waitress Waiter/Server
Businessman Business executive
Newsman Reporter

See more examples of gender-biased words and their gender-neutral substitutes by categories here.

Ask your students to enter the keywords in Googlefight, and see comparative results in the bar graph. The student whose word returns the highest Google search results is the winner.

Guess the Google Search

This is the activity with Google autocomplete suggestions for words or phrases. Ask your students to give 3 guesses for the word starting, for example, with ‘man and’ or ‘women and’. Type them in the search field and read out a series of suggestions. Award one point per word guessed.

This game might help raise awareness of ‘man firstness’: men and women; male and female; sons and daughters; brothers and sisters; uncle and aunt; boys and girls; he or she, etc.



 * See more activities suggested by Jemma Prior during the webinar.

It seems highly unlikely that every gendered word will get entirely removed from the language, but we could make small changes to raise awareness and teach gender-neutral words to make our communication more inclusive.

Thank you for stopping by and happy teaching!




– Are there any games to teach the Present Simple tense? My kids forget it so quickly.

You can turn any drill into a game by using game mechanics (see a few tips on how to do it in my post 1 WORKSHEET – 10 GAMES).  Similarly, you can turn any game from the external world into a teaching tool.

My today’s post shows how to adapt Finger Twister to provide repeated practice of the Present Simple. Finger Twister is like a Twister but for a hand, which makes the game suitable for large classes.

We’ll design two version of the game – a low-resource version (half of A4 size paper) and a version that will require more resources rather than just a sheet of paper.

Option A

Materials needed: half of A4 size paper

Hand out a sheet of paper to make a play board.

Make a square by folding one corner diagonally as shown below.


Fold the excess paper and fold the square 4 times. Unfold the sheet. In the squares on the left side, put in personal pronouns. As a visual scaffold, ask students to put in a dollar symbol in the squares with the pronouns he/she/it (usually, it is the third form singular that is problematic to remember for students). The dollar symbol may serve as a visual mnemonic that might help learners remember “he+verb$, “she+verb$ and “it+verb$ structures better. The 16 squares are the actual playing field. You may use a simple version with numbers in the squares


or a more colourful one, with 4 colours.


For each number/colour, write a verb (or 4 verbs) on the whiteboard.

E.g. I’ve chosen the following verbs to practise simple present and talk about sports


On each ‘spin’, count to three – one player calls out the pronoun and the other player calls out the number/colour. Alternate who calls what. After the player has put the finger on the number/colour, they should make up a sentence with the verb in the Present Simple tense. Have your students alternate positive and negative statements, yes/no questions and wh-questions.

Make it more challenging and have your students make up a sentence about themselves/somebody they know, i.e. replace the respective personal pronoun with a noun/name. Players may not lift their fingers between turns. The player who keeps their fingers down the longest wins.

Make it more challenging and have your students make up a sentence about themselves/somebody they know, i.e. replace the respective personal pronoun with a noun/name. Players may not lift their fingers between turns. The player who keeps their fingers down the longest wins.

Option B

This option requires more resources. Finger Twister, just like Twister, is usually played with a color spinner. You spin the spinner and let the player use any finger on the correct color. Inexpensive solutions might include: a) making your own spinner (see here), or b)  using a die (or a set of dice), c) using the Spinning Wheel in PowerPoint designed by Tekhnologic.

This Spinning Wheel has 7 colours. We can introduce 3 additional rules for the 3 colours that are not used on the Twister board:

Orangerepeat the last two sentences. Skip your turn if you don’t remember them.

Pink one finger off the spot.

PurpleYour Choice – make up your own move.

Before your students play the game, add particular verbs to each segment of the wheel and print out the ‘boards’.

Twister Board

Now point your fingers and do the twist.

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Finger Twister can be used to revise other grammar units or vocabulary. Check this fascinating version of vocabulary Finger Twister from Did You Moji Today.

If you have Wi-Fi in the classroom, you could also make use of this online Wheel Decide (thanks to Lesson Plans Digger for sharing this resource).


Remembering and using new words in speech is often a challenge for language learners. Quite often, this causes them to shy away from speaking.


I’ve described 10 strategies that may help language learners make words “sticky” in my new article on the British Council’s Voices blog 10 WAYS TO LEARN NEW WORDS. Please check it out!





People see love in the simplest things like the scent of rain, the taste of burek, or the sound of ‘new’ words in their student’s answer…Well, the latter is probably more about teachers. Anyway, love is in the air. And so is Valentine’s Day. Approaching. Fast.

If love is the last thing on your agenda because a) you believe in everything anti-Valentine or you find it a tricky topic to raise with your teen students; b) it’s not planned in the curriculum – no time for love; c) you have limited resources – no money for worksheets; or any other de, f, g and h reasons, this post may help you plan a Valentine’s Day activity with zero preparation and resources to get your students to think and speak about love in a poetic form based on any text in their coursebook. With a creative twist.

Step 1. 

Ask your students to think what found poetry means and where they can find poetry.

Found poetry?

Found poetry is a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage).


Show a few examples of found poetry (e.g. see this pin board on Pinterest). Miguel from On the Same Page has a fantastic collection of ‘found’ stories in his post Rewriting Established Texts: The Day They Got Creative, where he describes how you can use this technique in an EFL classroom.

Step 2.

Ask your students to choose any text from their coursebook (or offer a particular text). This can be any text about anything – we can find love in any genre.

As I’ve planned to discuss brands with my students, my Valentine’s Day activity will be built around the text about Starbucks.


(Source: New Headway, Upper-Intermediate, Third Edition)

Now, the task is to find a poem.

There are two types of poems that are very easy to write and do not require any special poetic talent:

1 – Acrostic

In Acrostic poems, the first letters of each line are aligned vertically to form a word.

Ask your students to read the text and circle the words that may be used for the acrostic the subject of which is LOVE.


Get your students to pick the words they’d like to use in their poem and add a couple of words to each line. For example, they may pick Latte for ‘l’, offered for ‘0’, vision for ‘v’ and every for ‘e’.


Another easy poem to write is a poem based on the five senses – looks like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like and feels like.

Ask your students to read the text and circle the words/phrases that may be used in their poem. Pair them up and ask to share their ideas and write a simple poem.

Love looks like a coffee house
Love sounds like New York
Love smells like roasted coffee beans
Love tastes like Raspberry Mocha Chip Frappuccino
Love feels like a comfortable place 

They can elaborate their poem further, rearrange the lines and add more words to make the poem flow more smoothly:how-to-draw-frappuccino-step-3

This activity will not take much time but will give an excellent opportunity for your students to read the text again and again, and revise or learn new words. Lovingly.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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If you have more resources (time and money) for love, try this Scavenger Hunt activity VALENTINE’S DAY: SCAVENGER HUNT

Image: rossyyume, Flickr.com, Creative Commons



Roses are red, violets are blue, colour can be used with adult learners too.

Numerous studies have shown that colour breaks the monotony, adds variety, has a significant impact on our emotion and mood, helps us focus more and remember better. Colour is a powerful tool in the teacher’s toolkit and may have a profound effect on learning.

My today’s post describes 5 ways to use colour in the classroom. This is definitely not the ultimate list but I hope it will help generate more ideas and add more colour to learning.


Checking understanding

Instead of asking learners whether the task/material is clear so that you could move on, you can use the traffic light technique. Equip your learners with red, amber and green pencils/markers (which they may use for other purposes as well, e.g. take notes or highlight different parts in the text), and get them to raise the pencils to show how much they think they understand: red – “I don’t understand, please explain again”, amber – “I understand but would like to go over this again” and green – “Everything’s clear, I’m ready to move on.” This will give you quick visual feedback and help decide whether you need to go through the task/material with your learners again.

There are different variations of this technique. For example, see the post Traffic lights: A free resource for correcting errors and checking understanding, where Jason Anderson describes how he uses traffic light prisms for correcting errors and checking understanding.

This technique can be used as a great self-assessment tool. Watch this Teachingchannel video that shows how it can be used to get students to evaluate their work and receive peer support, rather than only relying on teacher’s assessment.


Colour highlighting gives learners immediate visual feedback showing where they have met certain criteria for successful task completion.

After your students have drafted their essays, ask them to highlight the parts showing they’ve met the criteria set. For example, to get a high score for coherence and cohesion, students should use a range of appropriate linking phrases/words. Before they hand in their essays, have your students highlight all the linking phrases/words they used and reflect on how they used them – Are there too few linking words? Too many? Do they serve their purpose? The same can be done for vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, etc.

Colour-coded error correction

There’s much discussion about using a different colour than the traditional red pen for error correction. Some educators call for throwing the red pen away and talk about the red pen effect, while others don’t really see the point in doing so (see more in this article). I doubt changing your pen colour alone might significantly affect feedback if it’s poorly planned and doesn’t support learning. Anyway, while rethinking the colour of your pen, you may go further and consider introducing several colours.

Instead of symbols indicating the type of error, try to use colour codes:

E.g. Colour code


Colour-coded correction may help provide quick feedback and show the pattern of errors to your learners highlighting the areas they need to work on.

Close reading

Highlighting in colour can be used as a visualisation strategy to facilitate reading comprehension. When going through comprehension questions, ask your students to highlight specific elements, such as key words, main arguments, unfamiliar vocabulary, etc. Highlighted parts or key words that contain the answers to comprehension questions serve as visual scaffolding, making words/phrases stand out in the text and thus more memorable.


Image: Robson#, Flickr.com, Creative Commons

Drawing and Colouring

Drawing and colouring are mainly employed with young learners, when they are asked to draw and colour or offered colour sheets with instructions for colouring, which reflects a traditional colouring-is-for-kids-only attitude. Meanwhile, it can be used with teenage and adult learners too. Equip them with coloured pencils and markers and get them to brainstorm ideas and think visually, or turn reading a text into a colouring exercise (e.g. see my recent post LEARNING IN COLOUR).


* * *

Please leave a comment if you have some more ideas to share with us! 

Happy teaching!


A splash of colour may be all they need.

Colouring has become the latest most popular trend for unplugging and taking a break from life for a few minutes to create something artsy.

In ELT, colouring is mainly employed with young learners, when they are asked to draw and colour or offered colour sheets with instructions for colouring, which reflects a traditional colouring-is-for-kids-only attitude.

Colouring can become a powerful tool in our toolkit and help increase students’ memory performance and facilitate learning. My today’s blog describes an activity combining working with text and colouring. The colouring sheet is based on the popular British nursery rhyme This is the House that Jack Built (see here)


I ‘built’ the house using Microsoft Paint. You can also convert your texts into images by using ASCII generators. For example, I used Text-Image converter to wordify the images of the rooster and sun:

cock  sun

You can either print out the colouring sheet to use in the classroom (your students will need markers or coloured pencils or gel pens) or use the jpeg file and have students colour with their iPads. Click the following link to download the colouring-sheet.

Below are the instructions for colouring. They have been designed to revise parts of speech and introduce relative clauses. However, the possibilities are unlimited here. You may change the instructions and include particular questions to the text (What was the farmer doing? Where was the malt? etc.), or focus on other aspects, such as vocabulary or pronunciation.


You can choose to read out the instructions, or display them onto a large screen, or split students into small groups of 3 and hand out the instructions for the roof, walls and fence separately to each student and have them read them out in their groups.

This activity may be used as an excellent memory game. Get your students to repeat the lines in the section each time after they have completed the instructions.

Ask your students to pick any colour for the door and the rooster and add any details to their piece of art. This may be the perfect finishing touch.

If your students have followed the instructions correctly, they will get this image of the house.


Happy colouring!

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My blog 1 WORKSHEET – 10 GAMES has been shortlisted for the #TeachingEnglishBlogAward. Your like on the Teaching English-British Council page will be much appreciated!