5 Minute Activities

5 Minute Activities

My Neighbour’s Cat: In turns, learners repeat the sentence, substituting the adjective as they go e.g. ‘My neighbour’s cat is an angry cat. My neighbour’s cat is a brave cat. My neighbour’s cat is a crazy cat.’ This can be played as a whole class or in small groups. It can also be extended into a memory activity where each new speaker has to list the adjectives that came before e.g. my neighbour’s cat is an angry, brave, crazy cat.

Word Association: Learners take it in turns to say a word based on what comes to mind from the previous word. For example: ‘beach’, ‘sand’, ‘glass’, ‘clear’, ‘window,’ ‘door’, ‘home,’ ‘family’ etc.

Word Disassociation: Learners have to say a word that has NO relationship with the previous word. For example: ‘cat’, ‘office’, ‘strawberry’, ‘angry’. If other learners can see a connection they can dispute the word and earn bonus points.,

Ace/Queen/King/Jack: Ace/queen/king/jack each represent a category (e.g. animals) A pack of cards is turned over one by one onto the table. If the card is numbered learners say the appropriate number. If it is an ace/queen/king/jack learners must shout a word from the appropriate category.

Variations: 1) Flashcards are placed around the room related to the categories. If an ace/king/queen/jack card is drawn learners run and touch a flashcard from that category around the room.

2) Each of the four cards relates to one vocabulary word and learners must touch one of the four vocabulary cards around the room.

3) Each card represents a different category.

Win Lose Banana: *Requires at least 3+ learners. You will need: 1 ‘win’ card’, 1 ‘lose’ card, 1 ‘banana’ card and additional ‘lose’ cards depending on the number of learners. Cards are dealt out and whoever has the ‘win’ card says ‘I win.’ Learners have to convince the ‘winner’ they hold the banana card. If the ‘winner’ chooses someone who holds a ‘lose’ card they receive a point. If the winner correctly chooses the learner holding the ‘banana’ card the winner receives one point.

What’s my Line: Learners pass an object around (plastic fruit, pencil, ball etc), stating what the object could be and gesturing as necessary. For example, ‘It’s a hat,’ ‘It’s a monocle,’ ‘It’s a UFO.’

Variations; The sentence could be adapted depending on the level. For example: ‘It could be a OOO’, ‘This looks like a OOO’, ‘If I were stuck on a desert island I would use this as a OOO’

Ghostwriter: The aim is to not be the person who ‘finishes’ the word. The teacher writes a letter on the whiteboard. In turn, learners add one more letter. For example, ‘G’; NG, NGE, NGES, ANGES, HANGES, CHANGES etc. At any point learners can be challenged by another as to the word they are trying to create. If they cannot specify a word they lose. The person who adds the final letter to the word loses.

Riddles: In pairs or individually learners try to solve a riddle. For example: A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and left on Friday. How is this possible?

Shiritori (last letter->first letter/Top & Tail): Learners must say a word beginning with last letter of the previous word. For example: egg gate elephant try yesterday etc. To make it more challenging learners must give words within a certain category. This can be played as a whole class as well as in small groups.

Animal 20 Questions: Teacher distributes a sticker/post it with an animal name to each learner (learners should not look at the sticker) Learners must ask questions to one another to determine the identity of their animal.

Two-Ball Ball Throw: Learners stand in a circle and throw two balls around the circle. Each ball is assigned a different category (e.g. ‘fruit’ and ‘countries’) Learners must say a piece of vocabulary from that category as they throw the ball. Learners cannot hold more than one ball at once.

Tongue Twister Dictation: In pairs, one learner says a tongue twister, the other learner writes it down. Alternatively, learners in pairs make up tongue twisters and dictate them to other pairs.

Whose team/vegetable/ object is better?: Learners are assigned something (from the same category) e.g., strawberry and banana. According to a time limit learners should argue as to why their object/team etc is the best.

Eliciting the right answer: The aim is to elicit a designated response from another learner. Teacher gives learners a set of responses. E.g. No, I haven’t / I’m not sure / I have no idea / No I can’t / I can, but not well. Learners nominate a response (out loud) and then ask a question to another learner. If the nominated response reflects the truth the learner responds with that. Learners can challenge each other if they suspect an untruthful response If correct, they win a point. For example: A; ‘No I can’t. Hiroto, can you speak Spanish?’ B; No, I can’t.

Weekend Sentence Shuffle: Distribute a few strips of paper to each learner. Learners write one sentence about their weekend on each piece of paper. The strips are gathered together and shuffled. Then in pairs/individually/as a group learners guess who wrote each sentence.

Line Dice Game: Numbered alphamats are lined up on the floor. Learners take it in turns to throw the dice. Each number on the dice corresponds with a question word/ particular tense. For example, 1/6 = past simple question; 2/5 = past continuous question; 3 /4 = How often…? question. Learners must ask a question and move to the corresponding numbered mat. Alternatively this can be played on the board or learners make a simple board in their notebooks.

10 Piece Story: Distribute ten pieces of paper to each learner. Each learner must write a noun on each piece of paper. Papers are then collected, shuffled and redistributed. Learners must use the ten words they are given to make a story. Alternatively learners write 4 nouns, 3 verbs and 3 adjectives and make a story with their new words.

What Are You Going To Bring To My Picnic?: First the teacher decides a rule (without telling learners). This rule could be related to phonemes/phonics, for example words containing /i:/ sound, or relating to the actual word e.g. relating to green objects. Learners have to work out the rule by making suggestions about what to bring. Based on the teacher’s response they try to figure out the rule. For example: (Teacher’s rule = words containing /i:/ sound) Learner A; I’m going to bring tea. Teacher; You can come. Learner B; I’m going to bring meat. Teacher; You can come. Learner C; I’m going to bring bread. Teacher; Sorry you can’t come.

Sophia McMillan Mar 2021 sophia.mcmillan@shane.co.jp


Kevin R Burns

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Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes

Mixed Ability Young Learner Classes

From time to time in any teaching situation you will come across mixed-ability classes. People learn at different rates and develop different skills, so in any class you will have some people who are better at speaking, some better at listening, others at acquiring and understanding form and structure etc. Consider yourself and your peers, do you feel particularly less confident when discussing grammar compared to devising games for learners, alternatively you may feel adept at organising lessons and activities but just cannot get to grips with teaching pronunciation? This does not imply that any teacher is better than another it means we acquire skills and information differently. This situation is the same for learners, which can be frustrating them and the teacher.

With young learners of English the effects of mixed ability classes may be more pronounced as they may have started learning at different ages, some may receive more parental support and exposure to English than others, some may have better state school English support and materials, and of course young learners are developing at very different rates. More importantly with young learners is the effect of motivation. A learner’s aptitude may be affected by how they perceive the lessons.

Very young learner mixed-ability classes are relatively easy to manage as these learners require much more repetition of language and skills, so there is no harm in going over language several times (albeit through different activities). It is important with very young learners to develop and maintain a rhythm of learning. Early learning is made efficient because teachers establish routines and vary the pace of activities very early on. If learners anticipate what the teacher wants their success will be greater. This is why we establish a syllabus with infant learners early on. On a micro-scale we can do the same thing in the language classroom. Start with a physical activity (a song) then move to a sedentary one (a card game) then to a skills-based activity (shape drawing or TPR) then back to a physical activity and so on. While the contents of the activities will vary from lesson to lesson the routine and rhythm are established early on, the learner’s attention and motivation is determined by how enjoyable and accessible those activities are.

Higher Elementary to JHS learners however are more difficult, as the differences in their abilities and attitudes are more pronounced. Essentially all these learners are able to acquire language at the same rate however the rate of acquisition is affected by development of the part of the brain that controls rational processes. While our brains reach 90% of its full size by the age of 6 it is not fully developed until the age of 20. The parts of our brain which affect memory and therefore learning are the last to be fully

developed. These are the hippocampus which helps retain factual information, language structures and so on, and the amygdala, which is in charge of emotional memories. While adults are able to make rational decisions and choices those of teens are affected by hormones and emotions, therefore we have to ensure that classroom activities are emotionally engaging and non-‘threatening’ (reduced pressure). Teens are also driven by the hippocampus to seek immediate gratification and results so learning activities should have clear, meaningful and accessible goals.

Mixed ability teen classes are usually the result of either intrinsic motivation, some are not emotionally connecting with the subject or hormonal development which will affect how teens react to structures and words. Interestingly as oestrogens are more prevalent in teenage girls, they are better at retaining language forms and structures. Another feature of mixed ability classes is the sleepy or distracted teenager. Typically, teenagers need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night to have an alert brain and retain information from the previous day, however they rarely get this much sleep.

So mixed ability teenage classes are not really mixed ability at all, rather they are classes where the learners are developing at different rates.

Ideas for Activities

* Wake up them up! As with younger learners, teens benefit from some physical activity at the start of the lesson to help them focus better and feel more at ease. Stretching, movement or a simple relay activity, will activate them. Using music at the stage will also help them release stress and make any movement activities more effective.

* Use ‘familiar’ songs (Beatles etc.) as gap fills and encourage learners to ‘sing’ the missing words.

* Kinaesthetic learning is very effective for teens but is often avoided. TPR or physical associations with language help with memorising language.

* Categorise words and phrases – put the language on to pieces of paper – physically manipulating words will help learners focus better.

* Comprehension tasks for reading and listening activities should be done as team quizzes rather than as book centred activities. Make reading ‘physical’ by issuing a comprehension task (e.g. true / false) to pairs. Place the ‘text’ around various parts of the classroom so learners have to move to answer the questions.

* Reduce stress – allow choice in classroom activities. When assigning homework make sure learners have a choice of topics of activities. When checking comprehension of something instead of asking learners to complete 8 questions ask them to choose the questions they want to answer.

* Instead of awarding points for team games try cheering together as a reward – this will acknowledge a team’s strengths without focussing on the other team’s weaknesses.

* Make sure learners know their strengths – praise learners by displaying their work around the classroom.

* Use an inductive approach to learning. Allow learners to discover patterns for themselves (for example, if teaching word categories give all the words to learners and see if they can recognise patterns so they can remember them more easily).

* Have matching activities where learners find a partner to complete a structure or phrase. This will develop the use of intuition and help memorisation.

Sophia McMillan Oct 2020


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How to Format an Essay for University

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An Alternative to Teaching Side Hustle – Airbnb

Airbnb: How to be a Successful Host
What have I learned from 6 years of hosting on Airbnb? Faqs Airbnb – Why did I decide to host? You can still earn money on Airbnb. In fact, I would say that it is a better time to start now, than when I did, about 6 years ago now. Airbnb is more established and it is much more famous. Airbnb is huge! As a vehicle for passive income, or for retirement or if you want to be hands on and have your own guest house business, I recommend it.

OK, but how much does it cost to start an Airbnb? Do I need to buy a place or can I rent one?

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Tired of Teaching English in Japan?

We all get tired of teaching sometimes. Burnout is a real phenomenon and it has been discussed before at this website. But what if it is time to move on to another endeavour?

Or what if you want to do a side hustle and make some more money, but do not wish to work many more hours. Join me and learn from my challenges of starting two successful guest houses near Hakone, Japan and having a good passive income while working very few hours per week (once it is all set up).

I have found that many people are willing to tell you that something is impossible. Usually that just means that it is a challenge and it isn`t for them. But it may be for you!

I am Hakone

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An Alternative to Teaching in Japan – Be a Travel Writer

by Kevin Burns

Take the class at Udemy

By the end of this introductory course on how to become a travel writer, you will know the basics. This will allow you to get started on the road to your dream job. You will learn to be a better writer, how to get work, avoid mistakes, what to write, how to edit, how to submit pitches, take good photos, which writers to learn from, and the truth about what being a travel writer really means. We will look at paid work and getting paid by travel perks. We will not look specifically at writing for a hobby, but you can apply your learning to your hobby if that is what travel writing is for you. My name is Kevin Burns, and I will be your teacher.

I have been a travel writer for many years now. Most of my articles are about Japan, where I have lived now for over 30 years. My articles have appeared in The Vancouver Sun, the Mainichi Weekly, Japan Today, News on Japan and my own travel and teaching websites: I am Hakone.com and How to teach English in Japan.

How to get Started?

What are the Steps to Becoming a Travel Writer?

– What are your goals?

– What are your markets?

– Start local and start small

– Build up your clips, contacts, and confidence

– Improve your writing and your knowledge

– Stay open to opportunities

– Do not forget your goals (1)

– Enter contests! That`s how Rory MacLean got started, and it lead to great things.

Rory MacLean explains:

“The best way to establish yourself when you`re starting out is to win a prize. I`m not being flippant. There are dozens of travel writing competitions run by newspapers and magazines. Researching and writing a travel article forces you to focus. Winning a competition opens the door to agents and publishers. I won the Independent newspapers`s first travel writing competition. That enabled me to apply with an idea for a book on Eastern Europe. Then Gorbachev was kind enough to knock down the Berlin Wall, making the subject matter of my book highly topical.” (2)

Steve Gillick, a travel writer from Toronto, feels that 20 different travel writers will reply in 20 different ways about how to be a travel writer. Gillick is self-taught and started by writing for a tour operator newsletter. He went on to create other newsletters for different associations. Then he wrote about travel scams for many years. After that he was invited to write for one trade newsletter, then others. So his travel writing career kept progressing as he kept at it. Now, he is a Senior Travel Writer for Canadian World Traveller Magazine and he has a monthly column in Travel Market Report. He speaks at travel industry events on various topics from customer service to special interest travel. Presently, he specializes in articles relating to Japan.

Read some of Steve Gillicks writing at Gillicks World: http://www.gillicksworld.ca/stevewrites1.html

Could you follow in Gillicks footsteps? Are there some local newsletters that you could write for and gain some experience? Could you create a newsletter for an association that does not have one? This is about building up clips, gaining experience and confidence and filling out your resume.

How to Become a Travel Writer

You Need to Read & Write!

If you want to become a better writer, READ! And WRITE! Read good writers! And write as much and as often as you can. You can write about a local park, museum, or other attraction in your area. Start a blog and write as often as you can. Some people start

Vlogs and you will see that writer Patrick Johnson feels these are the way to go if you want to make a living as a travel writer- to write and film your own travel Vlog.

Create your own Blog or Website

Blogs are great, and some people actually make a living just from their blog. As for SEO (Sight Engine Optimization), a website gets read more, so in spite of the cost, I recommend having a website as opposed to a blog. If you use WordPress, and I recommend WordPress, you can start out with a free blog and you can change it to a website with a domain name like .com or .org later. I have many blogs and a couple of websites on WordPress.

Solo Build it, is also good for making a website, but it is much more expensive. Yet it gives you a lot of tools for getting your articles read, as it helps you to master SEO by teaching you the tricks. However, you may just want to hire someone to help you with SEO at some point. Or you can learn it yourself without spending a lot of money. The advantage of SBI is that it is an all in one package. The community there is very good too, and people are always willing to help you at the forums. (Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation nor profit from any of the books or apps that I recommend or mention.)

When you write, be sure to have someone proofread your articles. Or if that is not always possible, at least go back and proofread them yourself a few days afterwards., to catch your mistakes. I am always amazed at the basic mistakes that I have made when I write. Have a dictionary and thesaurus on hand. You can find them on the internet if you don`t have physical copies. Every word must be correct. Your grammar too, must be correct. Note that Spellcheck does not check every word. Programs like Grammarly might be a plus for some of you, especially if you are not a native English speaker and wish to write some of your articles in English. But do not rely on it solely.

Certainly, a Journalism degree or diploma is a big help! So take courses! Creative writing courses would help too. Study as much as you can. Read about how to write, but also, simply read good writers, and start writing yourself, in a journal or start your own blog. Don`t quit your current job! You can study online or take night school classes.

What and Who to Read?

Rory MacLean, Bill Bryson, William Gray, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, David Sedaris, Melinda Joe, Dave Barry, Steve Gillick, Robert Hass, Patrick Johnson, Stanley Stewart, Simon Calder, Joan D. Bailey, Kira Salak, Jane Dunford, Jonathan Gold and Tim Cahill are all great writers. Read some of them and try to learn what you can from how they write. How do they manage to evoke the feeling and atmosphere of a place? Travel anthologies are worth reading too!

Who are your favorite travel writers? What do you like about them? What makes them unique and interesting writers? Can you apply that to your own writing?

Read Travel Literature:

One of my favourite writers is Paul Theroux. Theroux is a master of dialogue. His book about train travel, “The Great Railway Bazaar,” is fantastic. Theroux writes interesting travel literature. Peter Jenkins~s “A Walk across America,” is a great read. “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes throws in a little romance with a windo into Italy and it has since been made into a movie. Peter Mayle`s “A Year in Provence,” will make you want to take the next plane there and study French to boot! James A. Michener was amazing. Check out his book “Hawaii” from your local library, to get an idea of how much detail and how descriptive you can be.

Joan Bailey is a freelance writer whose work focuses on food, farming and farmers markets as well as travel. You can read more about her and read her writing at: https://www.JoanDBailey.com

She says:

“Read everything.—Read travel articles and essays, of course, but also read poetry, novels, news articles, and more. All of it will inform your writing and make you better. Poetry may seem a bit out there, but it`s had a profound impact on my ability to produce vivid writing in a few words. If you don`t like reading, you should not be a writer.” –Joan D. Bailey

Learn more How to Become a Travel Writer

Kevin`s English Schools

I am Hakone

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Part-time University Teacher*s Survey – Salaries at Universities in Japan

Why are salaries kept secret by universities in Japan? Shouldn*t that be one of the first things that universities reveal? Teachers after all, have bills to pay. If all universities paid the same, this point would be moot. However, pay varies greatly in Japan. So why is it verbotten to ask about pay during a job interview. The danger of not knowing the pay is a disappointed teacher, followed by a disappointed university when said teacher quits due to a low salary. Thankfully, we have James Devereaux on the case. Please read what Devereaux has to say about his survey below.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that university teaching jobs in Japan like those advertised on sites like J-Rec almost never give salary information on part-time jobs. This might be ok if there wasn’t such a huge variation in what some schools pay and what others manage to get away with not paying. I’ve quit jobs in the past simply because of the economics of what I was being paid and what I was expected to do as a part-time teacher didn’t add up. I think we can agree that we’d all be in a better position as teachers if we knew in advance what we would be compensated before we started the process of hoop-jumping that is applying for jobs which can involve writing essays and other time-consuming work. To try to fix this and even the playing field a bit I’ve started collecting anonymous reports of salary and other conditions from schools around Japan. So far I’ve only collected information from friends but I thought it would be much better if I could put out an anonymous google form survey and reach a lot of teachers that way. I’m planning to make this information public on a website when I have enough of it. I initially thought about collecting email addresses on the survey so I could let people know the results, but I since decided against that as naturally people would be concerned about privacy. As such I’ve decided to keep the survey anonymous and announce the results here at a later date.If you would be able to take five or ten minutes out of your day to help me and other teachers in Japan then I’d really appreciate it. Also one final thing! This survey is only for part-time University teachers. I’m planning to do more surveys for other teaching jobs in the future if this is a success. Cheers and thanks for reading ✌️ Read More and participate in the Survey at Facebook at the Link below:


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Young Learner Needs Handout

There are similarities and differences between Adults and Young Learners (YL) as language learners. It is important to remember learners are all individuals so the ideas below are general not specific to a learner type.


* Can deal with abstract concepts

* Can deal with meta-linguistics

* Can work independently

* Understands discourse e.g. will listen to what the other person says & use it to shape their response

* Generally internalize all language during individual tasks

* Have decided to study English for their own reasons


* Need drilling

* Need clear goals & purposes for all tasks

* Needs language presented in context

* Require a variety of learning strategies/styles to be present in a lesson

Young Learners

* Need concrete (not abstract) vocabulary

* Need a lot of emotional support

* Must have clear, obvious meanings to all phrases

* Enjoy playing with language, including non-grammatical utterances

* Often externalize language during individual tasks

* Are studying English because they are required to


* Adults: have personal reasons for choosing to study English. They are able to view language as an object in itself and can analyse and break it down in to structures and forms. They have a greater life experience and are more able to organize their own study

* Young Learners: Are usually studying because their parents want them to. They do not necessarily see the value of the language in itself and must be presented with clear, personalized goals. They cannot break language down metalinguistically and need meaning to be clear and self evident.

* Both: Everyone needs language to be relevant, personalized. Basic lesson elements (presentation, drilling, concept checking, correction, feedback) are universal to all learners.


Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

The distance between what a learner can do alone and what they can do with guidance from another (teacher or peer). This represents a different way of looking at a learner’s level. Rather than looking at what they can do now, it looks at what the learner could reasonably

achieve with help (scaffolding). This help usually comes from someone at a more advanced level. In children’s classes usually the teacher but it could also be strong peer. Scaffolding can be from other sources, textbooks etc.

So rather than looking at what your learners can do, consider what they could achieve if assisted. With this help the learner’s language level will hopefully move into the gap between their current language level and the language level they may achieve.

Private Speech

This is speech intended only for oneself; it is often used to clarify language or to overcome problems. As adults this is usually internalised, not said aloud, while YL tend to externalise it and talk to themselves.

This is a good thing as research indicates a link between the use of private speech and academic achievement. Private speech enables learners to get a clear mental image and is useful to overcome problems. Learners think about the language, produce it and so hear it again. All helping to boost understanding and uptake. As such they should be encouraged to use private speech, demonstrate doing the task yourself with externalised private speech for learners to use as a model. Naturally, this means you must accept a higher level of noise in your classes. Hopefully private speech would be in L2 but even in L1 it will provide the learners with help and support during the task. Remember many YL are unable to internalise their thoughts and must talk themselves through any task they undertake.

Motivation: Intrinsic & Extrinsic

Motivation is crucial in the classroom. While in many YL classes Extrinsic motivation is higher (driven by external factors e.g. parental pressure) Intrinsic motivation (driven by internal needs or wants) should also be present. We can and should be helping them develop intrinsic reasons for studying.

In order to do this we need to:

* create fun interesting lessons the learners enjoy

* create goals the learners want to achieve

* allow them to express themselves

* provide a social function where learners can interact with each other and you

* provide praise and emotional support that makes learners feel good about themselves.


Motivation can be broken down into two types:

* Integrative orientation usually occurs when the learner is placed in an L2 environment and wishes to communicate or be part of that group. As such, when the learners all share the same L1 it is difficult for this to occur authentically in the classroom. However young learners enjoy communicating and being part of a group. Communicative and collaborative activities work well and encourage integration and interaction. Example activities: singing songs together, expressing opinion (e.g. I like… I don’t like…), closed pair activities, ball drills, classroom interactions (jokes etc).

* Instrumental orientation is focussed on the completion of a task or achieving a goal. Learners are motivated to use the language in order to achieve this. Example activities:

pelmanism (pairs), memory games, gap fills, competitive games, craft activities (completing the project.

Teaching Approaches

When teaching TL lessons/activities should be:

1. Full of practice: Learners have the opportunity to use the language themselves in a number of activities of different types.

2. Supported: Learner is helped by the teacher or other learners to produce the language and/or complete the task

3. Meaningful: Language is real or has a purpose the learner can easily relate to or understand.

4. Purposeful: There is a reason to use the language, and learners need to perform an action in order to complete the task or transaction.

5. Enjoyable: Learners are interested in and get enjoyment from the language or activity.

6. Social: Learners have a chance to interact with others and try to recreate real scenarios.

For example: Shop role play Activity

Some learners are shoppers, some are shop keepers. Learners move round the class buying items.

1. Full of practice: Learners go round a number of different shops to do the role play. Roles can be reversed (Shoppers become shop keepers) and the activity run again.

2. Supported: Teacher draws picture of a high street on the board. Teacher monitors and joins in to ensure the transaction occurs.

3. Meaningful: Genuine real life situation, learners are familiar with it. Activity is intuitive.

4. Purposeful: Learners receive items. The language serves a practical purpose (to receive the correct item).

5. Enjoyable: Children enjoy let’s pretend. Children get to receive items.

6. Social: Children work round a number of different shops talking to different people.

Activities in YL classes are more likely to be successful if theses 6 factors are present.

Lesson structure

As with all learners the pace and structure of the lesson is crucial. There are problems if learners are sitting for too long especially doing tasks that require a lot of concentration (learners will become bored and lose motivation, tasks will become dull and learners may not produce the target language) or up and moving around for too long (learners may get over excited, become louder and louder, teacher may have trouble keeping control, learner will lose concentration)

It is better to pace the lessons so you are alternating between sitting down and moving activities or stir and settle activities.

* Settle activities allow learners to regain concentration and focus on the lesson; they are often slower paced, and can be more individual work.

* Stir activities can get learners attention if it has started to wander; learners are re-energised into the lesson. Activities are often more physical and require interaction between learners.

While there is not necessarily one correct way to stage the YL lesson generally speaking YL lessons follow the stages below:

* Warmer

* Review

* Phonics

* Presentation

* Practice 1

* Practice 2

* Reading activity

* Writing activity

* Bookwork

* Final activity

Planning for YL should generally follow a fast-slow-fast pace, although 2 settle or 2 stir activities can be back to back if they are both short. Reading and writing activities do not have to be settle activities e.g. run and circle words on the board.

What is your advice for teaching young learners?

Sophia McMillan Oct 2020


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Teaching Culture

Cultural topics are a great source of interest and communication for learners of English – after all, if the culture of a community does not interest you then learning the language of the community will not interest you either.

Also understanding more about a culture helps with your understanding of how people from that culture communicate which makes learning how to communicate much easier. Language and culture are inseparable.

So, what aspects do we teach? Whenever we speak about our culture to learners, we have to consider what is relevant and interesting and what is not. If the information we choose is too specific it risks being ‘refused’ by learners who possibly in turn feels unconnected with learning that particular point.

So, the cultural topics we choose have to be relatively general and accessible (unless specifically requested by learners) so we do not lose the interest of learners.

Another thing to be aware of is to encourage communication between the learners not the teacher. Asking a teacher to talk about their culture is like asking for their life story and learners are more than happy to sit back passively and “listen”. But is it doing them any good? Doubtful. We need to present our culture topic in a way that inspires learners to pass comment, make comparisons and deliver opinions.

For example: ‘Families’. As someone from England I would be discussing English families, but another teacher may talk about Scottish families or South African families etc. The materials should invite comparison, not just between various English-speaking cultures but from the learners’ culture too.

The first task would have learners, in pairs/groups, talk about their family and compare their ideas with another pair/group. Next, they think about their families in general and talk about those. So at least five minutes in and so far, all the teacher has uttered are a few instructions.

A short text is presented to learners to read. This should ideally use short sentences, general statements and where appropriate some clear statistics. This can be handled in different ways in the class, for example:

1. Teacher develops some comprehension questions and in pairs/small groups learners work together to answer the questions.

2. Cut out the paragraphs and have learners (in pairs/groups):

– put them back together in the correct order.

– prepare a short report what they found out, for their individual paragraph/text

– complete a true or false activity, as a mingle activity

– information-exchange – learners share missing information

These make the tasks more learner-centred/communicative and places focus on learners and gives them something to talk about. While also limiting the teacher’s contribution to instructions, clarification and prompting, rather than long, involved explanations.

In conclusion, it helps to deal with ‘new’ cultural information by comparing it with ‘familiar’ cultural information as it is this use of the familiar that enables learners to speak about the topic. A cultural lesson, as with all lessons, needs to be focused, with all the typical EFL skills (elicitation; pair work; prediction skills etc.) and essentially it must be learner-centred.

What are your favourite cultural topics? How do you approach this?

Sophia McMillan Sep 2020


Posted in Teaching | Leave a comment


Warmers are great because they are fun and communicative, they should take around five
minutes, be very simple to set up and a good way to review or practise language. Learners
typically need a little ‘warming up’ at the start of each lesson. By varying your activities,
making them brief and purposeful learners will be more energized and focused towards
dealing with the target language of the lesson.
By varying the warmers you can keep learners on their toes and interested.
Warmers should not involve presenting or learning ‘new’ language, they should only involve
language learners already know or have learnt recently. They should also be brief, the idea
is to energise learners rather than let the warmer dominate the lesson.
Below are a few warmers. Some you will probably know already and some hopefully will be
new. Let me know what your favourite warmers are.
Ball Throws
Stand learners in a circle, say “My name’s….” and ask, “What’s your name?” while throwing
the ball to a learner. Indicate that they are to do the same until everyone has spoken. Next
throw the ball to a learner while saying their name and continue around the group. Stating
likes and dislikes, how old are you? Have you ever? etc can extend this activity.
Post-It Game
Write the names of famous people / characters on enough post-it notes for everyone in the
class. Each person has a post-it note on their back and with a partner they have to ask and
answer questions to guess who they are. Alternatively this can be played using fruit /
classroom nouns / animals etc.
Meet ‘n’ Greet
Similar to the post-it game except the names of people are not kept secret but openly
displayed. Learners are at a ‘party’ and must mingle, meet and greet each other in
Back To The Board / Taboo
In two teams A and B: One person from A sits with their back to the board. Team B writes a
word on the whiteboard that team A have to explain to their teammate. They cannot say
the word or mime/gesticulate. Allow a time limit of 1 minute per go.
Odd One Out
Prepare some vocabulary lists (5 or 6 items) (E.g. kettle, microwave, saucepan, etc.). In
pairs/small groups learners find the word that does not fit and why.
In pairs and hand out a sheet of paper. Learners write the name of a man and met (e.g. Elvis
met…) at the top of the page and the fold the paper over and pass it along. The next person
writes the name of a woman and at (e.g. Madonna at & place) learners continue passing the
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‘story’ around until eight folds have been written on or the story comes back to the first
writer. Once complete the learner opens the page and reads “their” story. Learners decide
who has the best/funniest/saddest story.
Not Yes Or No
A learner stands at the front of the group and the other learners have to ask them questions
to try and force them to respond with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The learner should answer the
questions as quickly and honestly as possible. Once they say yes or no another learner takes
their place. This can be played in small groups too.
Draw A Word
In 2 teams, A & B: Team B whispers a word to a member of team A, who then draws a
representation of it at the board. Team A has to guess the word (E.g. a picture of clocks to
elicit the word ‘Time’) again, set a time limit. Points are awarded for correct guesses.
Board Bingo
Board 15 words learners know. Have them write 5 of the words on a piece of paper (or in
their notebooks). Next call out the words at random (as in bingo) and learners tick off the
words they have written down. The first one to tick off all their words is the winner.
Board Detectives
One learner sits with their back to the board. Write a sentence behind them (E.g. He must
be ill.) The group are witnesses and orally suggest concrete evidence of the situation (He is
sitting in the doctors / he has a temperature etc.) until the learner guesses the situation.
Desirable Objects
Tell learners you have an object to give away and the person or team that comes up with
the most imaginative reason for having it ‘win’ the object. Try to include desirable objects
(Ferrari) with undesirable objects (an empty tin can).
Draw The Teacher
Draw 2 ovals on the board and put the class in 2 teams. Say “They are eyes!” and the two
leading learners (one from each team) run up and draw eyes on the oval. Then return to the
start point and repeat – “they are eyes”. The pen is passed to the next learners in line and
the teacher calls out “It’s a nose” etc. The first learner to correctly draw the face parts and
identify them wins a point. This can be made more fun by making it clear to the learners the
oval is YOUR (the teacher’s) face, learners can enjoy – with your permission – making fun of
the teacher.
This will also work if you want to do body parts as well. Just draw the basic torso instead of
ovals. If learners are unsure as to which facial/body part it is just point to it. Another
variation could be for naming parts of animals. The resulting picture would be a monster.
i.e. peacock’s tail, snake’s head, elephant feet, bat’s wings, etc.
Spin Zone
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Each pair has a coin (or counter that will spin). One learner has to say as many sentences or
words in the target language as they can before the coin stops spinning. Their partner needs
to count and the one who says the most wins. Winners could compete in “spin offs”.
Prepositions Game
Prepare a text containing prepositions. Remove all the propositions and have them written
on pieces of paper, then put them in an envelope. In groups give each an envelope. Learners
should listen to the text and whenever you raise your hand they should bring you a suitable
preposition the fastest correct team wins points. Points can be deducted for a wrong
Pass It On
This is a chanting activity involving rhythm and vocabulary. Sit learners in a circle and review
the vocab (eg animals). Take one card and place it on the floor face down in front of the
learners. Build up a simple clapping rhythm chanting “Pass it on! Pass it on!” make sure this
is slow enough to allow learners time to pass the card, face down, along the floor. Stop the
clapping after 3 or 4 beats and the learner who has the card in front of them to pick it up.
Everyone asks “What is it?” and the student responds “It’s a X”. This can be played with
plastic food, toy animals etc.
Flashcard Sumo
Have 2 learners come to the front of the class. Choose two flashcards at random and keep
them secret. Attach a flashcard to the back of each player with a paper clip so neither
learner can see what it is. Learners face each other and do ‘sumo’ poses with their hands
behind their backs. They have to the count of 100 to try to see the other persons’ card
without using their hands. Once they call out the correct answer they are they winning
sumo wrestler. Keep other learners busy by having them count together loudly 1 to 100.
Sound Maze
Board the following word tree/maze (or on a large piece of paper). At the end of each
‘branch’ add sounds you want the learners to practice – in this case ‘th’ &‘s’. At the bottom
of the tree draw four objects to review (or add flashcards) – in this case cat, dog, monkey
and bird. Learners follow clues given by the teacher (E.g. ‘three shirts’ for th + s) to follow
the tree down to one of the four pictures (E.g. bird). The first learner to shout out the
correct object becomes the teacher.
Balloon Game
Learners stand in a circle facing inwards. Choose a topic to review (E.g. fruit). Learners pass
the balloon around the circle by batting it towards each other. Each time the balloon is hit
the learner must say the name of a fruit. The game can be more challenging by adding
numbers for every fifth hit of the balloon (E.g. 1, orange, plum, lemon, 5, cherry etc).
What are your favourite warmers?
Sophia McMillan Oct 2019

Posted in Class Warmups, Warm Ups | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment