Sunday, November 30, 2014


Bingo is obviously a useful game for practising recognition of numbers, especially the difference between numbers like thirteen / thirty, but it can also be used to review any area of vocabulary.

In preparation, type up a selection of words from recent lessons. It's always good to insert a table in your document to do this, so the words are neatly arranged in grids, and this is particularly useful for making bingo cards. Once you have all the words, make a different bingo card for each student. If, for example, you have twenty words, you might make twelve cards so that each student has a slightly different selection of words. Apart from the bingo cards, you will also need to print a complete set of all the words on separate slips of paper.

Give out the bingo cards, and explain to the students that if they have the word that you define, they can cross it off. The first person to cross off all the words on his/her card is the winner. As you pick each word from a bag, give the definition, and monitor carefully to ensure that the students cross off the correct word on their cards.

Once they have the hang of the game, you can get students to take it in turns to give the definitions instead of doing it yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Story from the Hat

This is a simple activity to review vocabulary while practising speaking, and can be used with small groups of students of any level from Elementary to Advanced. In preparation, select words from a few recent lessons, write them on slips of paper and put them in the hat.

At the start of the activity, one student picks a word from the hat, and uses the word in a sentence to create the beginning of a story. The other students then take it in turns to pick words and add to the story. They need to listen to each other carefully in order to follow the development of the story, and they need to remember what the words mean so they can make meaningful sentences. This is a highly effective review activity as students are using the words creatively in new contexts, thereby consolidating their grasp of the words and moving beyond passive recognition to add the words to their active vocabulary.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Memory - as the name implies - is a good game for helping to consolidate new vocabulary, as the learners are focused on trying to remember the words. It's particularly suited to reviewing concrete nouns, so it tends to be more useful at Beginner and Elementary level.

In preparation, you need to make two sets of cards - one set has the words you want to review, and the other set typically has pictures of the things that these words name. Alternatively, the second set of cards could have definitions, synonyms, antonyms or example sentences using the word.

Depending on the level of your learners, you may want to use between six and twelve words each time. If you add more than that, the game starts to become much more difficult.

It's also very helpful to keep the two sets of cards separate, and this is easier if you make each set
with cards of different size or colour. Remember also to lay the cards face down on the table in neat rows, keeping the two sets separate. 

As with any new activity, a demonstration can be much more effective than verbal instructions. Start by picking a card at random and turning it over. Then pick a card from the other set and turn it over. If the cards match you keep them. Otherwise, you put them back in the same place face down, and try to remember them.

In subsequent turns, the element of randomness decreases as players remember the cards in each position. The aim is to find as many matching pairs as possible, and the person with the most pairs at the end wins.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Pictionary is another game similar to Taboo and Charades, but whereas Charades lends itself to vocabulary relating to actions that can be mimed, Pictionary is more suited to simple objects that the students can draw.

As with the other games, you prepare slips of paper with the words you want to review, and students take it in turns to pick a word. They draw the object on the whiteboard, and as soon as they start drawing, the other students start guessing what the object is. The first person to guess correctly wins a point and takes the next turn to draw.

It's always a good idea to demonstrate a new activity, as this is usually a lot simpler than giving verbal explanations. Once the learners are familiar with an activity like Pictionary, it can be an efficient way to  review recently-learned vocabulary.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Charades is similar to taboo, but is more suitable for Beginners as they don't need to come up with definitions for the words. Instead, they simply mime the words, so this is particularly suited to practising vocabulary relating to actions. Students take it in turns to select one of the words that you have prepared, and act out the word for the others to guess. 

As with taboo, this can be done as a team game, with a point being awarded for each correct guess. You may find it useful to run over all the words quickly before starting the game, which in itself constitutes a useful review, and anticipation of the game should ensure that the learners are attentive. It can also be useful to ensure as students start their turns that they actually know what their word means.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Taboo is a simple game for reviewing vocabulary which can work with students at almost any level, and with any size of class. For preparation, simply select the words that you want to review from one or more recent lessons, write them on slips of paper and put them in a small box or bag.

Divide the class into two teams. One student takes a word from the bag, and has to enable his / her team-mates to understand what the word is. (S)he can use definitions, examples,or any other techniques - the only thing that's not allowed is to say the actual word. If the team finds the word, they get a point.

You can set a time limit for each turn to keep up the pace of the activity, so this is a useful way to reinforce recently-learned vocabulary without taking up too much time in the lesson.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Crosswords take a little more time to create than some of the other activities, but you can save time by using an online facility like Puzzlemaker to generate them automatically. You can also find ready-made crosswords for common lexical sets, like these food crosswords.

As crosswords usually require definitions, students need to be of a high enough level to be able to understand these. Clear and accurate definitions can be time-consuming to write, but you will probably have already prepared definitions for use when you first taught these words. You could also use a learner's dictionary to find definitions, or use example sentences taken from the lesson in your coursebook.

For learners at lower levels, if the words you want to review are concrete nouns, definitions can be replaced with pictures.

Solving crosswords is generally regarded as a solitary activity, but can also be done in pairs or teams, and if you project a crossword on the whiteboard, the whole class can work on it together.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


A wordsearch is a fun activity to reinforce new vocabulary, and is particularly useful for Beginners as it doesn't require them to remember the meanings of the words, but simply to be able to recognise them. The ease with which learners can complete this type of puzzle gives a boost to their motivation, and focusing on finding the letters in the grid is a useful way to reinforce spelling, particularly for learners who are having to get used to a new alphabet.

Wordsearches are quick and easy to create, using either a word processing programme or a website like Puzzlemaker. Don't use too many words to begin with, or make the grid too large. It may also be simpler to start with all the words arranged horizontally. 

Although wordsearches are usually printed out for learners to work on individually, it can also be fun to do them as a group. You can project the wordsearch that you make yourself, and you can also find websites with ready-made interactive wordsearches like this one from

The Mother of all Learning

A recent article on this blog mentioned that a vocabulary of around 3500 words is enough to get by at B2 level. Given that most learners take at least five years to reach this level, that means they need to acquire about 700 words a year, approximately twenty words a week during the academic year. This seems like a fairly modest accomplishment, but still one that many learners fail to achieve.

One reason for this difficulty is that students waste time learning words that aren't useful. But the main cause of failure is that the words are forgotten. Unlike grammar, vocabulary is particularly easy to forget - whereas grammar builds up into a system of interrelated knowledge, vocabulary tends to be memorised as individual items. And it is estimated that if learners only have a single exposure to new vocabulary, 80% of it will be forgotten within a few days.

This indicates an obvious solution - we need to recycle the vocabulary in subsequent lessons. Taking a few minutes at the start of each lesson to review the words learned in the previous week can make a tremendous difference to retention rates. Over the next few weeks, we'll be posting on this blog lots of suggestions for quick activities that you can use to recycle new vocabulary.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Teaching vacancy in Halkida

Due to continuing growth, one of our long-established clients in Halkida will be opening a new school in November 2014 and currently has a vacancy for a teacher of young adults.

The school is located near the centre of Halkida, which is the capital of Evia, the second-largest Greek island, forty minutes north of Athens.

The new branch will be dedicated to the teaching of young adults, including:

  • preparation for advanced and proficiency level exams
  • preparation for IELTS and study in the UK
  • General English for adults
  • Business English
The successful candidate will teach 25 - 28 hours per week. The initial contract will run until June, with the option to renew and continue teaching throughout the summer.

The salary is 8 euro net per hour, plus health insurance, pension contributions and bonuses. Single accommodation is provided in a large newly-built apartment in the town centre, ten minutes walk from the school.

For further information or to apply, please email your CV to or phone (+30) 27410 53511.