Optical illusions- a PPT for your English/ EFL / ESOL classroom

This picture is not animated - it just looks like its moving!

This picture is not animated – it just looks like it’s moving!

I’ve just found more another optical illusion powerpoint on my hard drive.

I don’t know where it came from or who made it, or how I got it.

It’s an old favourite and perfect for a warmer, filler or just for when you have nothing else.

To get the most out of it

  1. Put students in pairs
  2. Have them discuss each one for a couple of minutes
  3. Ask for feedback.

You don’t have to do this for each one, but it will allow students to speak and produce more English.

Click the link below to download it.

If it was useful, please pass it on.

OpticalIllusions : https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/opticalillusions.pptx

Using Spotify with your English class – Great Tunes…

Spotify is a free music service (unless you go premium) that lets you listen to thousands and thousands of albums and song by thousands and thousands of artists over the widest possible range of genres. I’ve spent a long time on it – listening to songs I used to love and have long since lost, in fact I have spent whole evenings with friends saying ‘listen to this one’ and ‘do you remember this one?’. If you like music and haven’t tried it, then you owe it to yourself to have a browse .

But…how can you use it with your students? Playing music in class is nothing new and you’ll even find songs amongs the pages of Headway. What is new is the how much access we have to it now – we can choose from almost every mainstream song ever recorded. No doubt you will have your own favourite songs and will want to use these but, here are a list of my suggestions as to how to use Spotify with your English language learners. You’ll need to sign up for a Spotify account,  download their player and a computer or laptop to play the music to your students…

Any topic you are currently studying…

Just about any topic or theme you class is covered by a song somewhere. Type the title of your topic and you’ll probably find a tune about it.  Play the song for the students and get them to write down as many words linked to your topic as they can.

Money and Banks – Pink Floyd – Money

Shopping – The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket

Food and eating – Food Glorious food  – The Cast of Oliver

Grammar Practice

There are loads of good songs that you can use to practise and examine grammar points, here’s my short list.

Present Simple/continuous – She is leaving Home – The Beatles It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls Singing in the Rain

Past Simple – Summer Loving – Grease Soundtrack Candle in the Wind – Elton John Dido – Best Day

Present Perfect – I’ve had the time of my life – B.Medley and J. Warne

Future Tense-  I Will Always Love you – Whitney Houston/ My Heart Will go on – Celine Dion

Conditionals –  If I was a Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani / If I had a Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies

Superlatives –  Simply the Best – Tina Turner

Story Songs

Traditional folk music is just one of the genres that uses songs to tell stories. Play students the story song and ask them questions about what happened. Here’s a list of my favourite story songs.

A boy named Sue – Jonny Cash (Brilliant story and song that everyone will love…)

One Piece at a Time – Jonny Cash (a man steals a whole car by taking one piece of it at a time from the factory where he works)

She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles (you might have to use a cover version as The Beatles are not on Spotify)

Barenaked Ladies – Bank Job (lovely story about a heist gone wrong)

Waltzing Matilda – The Pogues

Chill out music

Music and easy listening is really good to settle students down and chill them out while they get on with some work quietly. I’ve met teachers who swear that ambient music is the corner stone of their teaching method – I need to use it more. Here are some  tunes I’d play to students to make them feel calm…

Heartbeats – Jose Gonzales

Cannonball – Damien Rice

Play a song as a prize

I sometimes do this with youtube.com videos as well. After a game or a test, allow the winning student or team to pick a song that they can play to the rest of the class. People always enjoy making others listen to something they like.


Got a few minutes to kill, play one of these tunes and ask students to say what they think.

White Trash Wedding – Dixie Chicks (super fast banjo and funny)

Or just play something current.

Further reading

Check out Larry Lynch’s ideas  http://www.eslbase.com/articles/songs

Also Kevin Schoepp’s paper on using song is here http://iteslj.org/Articles/Schoepp-Songs.html


Using Google Maps for ESOL / ESL / IELTS

If you’re ever in need of directions or need to know where the nearest pizza shop is, then you don’t need to look further than Google Maps. It’s a map of the entire world which can be viewed either as a traditional road map, a satellite snapshot or a hybrid of the two. There is also the new streetview which lets you zoom right into the street for a close up view of what it looks like at ground level.  Not only that but it’s a great resource for ESOL / ESL/ IELTS students at whatever level.


I used this with a group of Pre- Intermediate learners (B1 / Entry 3) in a room where students had access to a computer each. There was also an Interactive Whiteboard that I used to display examples and Google Maps.

1. Ask students these questions and spark up genuine conversation with them about where they live and the area they live in. There might be some really bad (or good) areas around where you live which you could discuss as a group : ‘Where do you live?’ ‘Where’s that near? ‘Is it a good area?’ ‘ ‘Do you like living there?

2.   Show google maps and the functionality on the whiteboard. Explain how students can use the search box to find streets, the zoom features, the buttons at the top to switch between satelitte and map. Ask someone to offer their street and then find it using the search box. Zoom in on where they live if they are happy with this.

3. Pass out the work sheet and have students search through google maps to find the answers – some of the answers they might need to look on the map for. My worksheet is only a suggestion, you might like to change it with places of interest in your country and area.

Street Name Town Postcode Extra Question:
Tiger Lane.     What’s the name of the big park near here?
Gawber Road.     What’s opposite this road?
Jack Straw’s Lane     Which streets come off this?
Downing Street London   Who lives in this street?
Daisy Street Glasgow    

Click here for the full worksheet


4. Encourage students to help each other and discuss anything of interest they have found. Don’t leave them alone to do – this might allow them chance to catch up on their email – worse, it might make them think you don’t care what they’re doing. Circulate round the room look at what they are doing, offering advise or help.

5. When students have finished, make sure they turn off their computer screens so they listen to you and each other, before running through the answers together.

For more on this and other lessons visit http://s132633050.websitehome.co.uk/Computer%20lessons.htm

Educational games- are they any good? Case #1 – 1066

1066 Flash Game developed by Preloaded and Channel 4

1066 by Preloaded and Channel 4










Click here to play the game

The term ‘educational game’ is a bit of an oxymoron – like a fat thin man riding a big small motorbike.  Games that promote learning can sometimes be more boring that actually just learning. Hopefully though, things are changing.

Here’s a great example of what simple flash games can do on the most basic browser. 1066 is made by Preloaded and developed with the help of Channel 4 in line with the show The Battle for Middle Earth that aired in May 2009.  2 million people watched the show and there are rumoured to be 3 and a half million people who have played the game.

What strikes you first is just how well made this is with wonderful voice acting and smooth animation. You play by re-enacting the brutal battles of 1066 as either The English, The Normans or the Vikings. There’s a kind of movie to introduce you to the actual history of the what happened but it quickly cuts to the game. You take charge of one army and move blocks of troops around in turn based action, firing arrows and moving into position before getting stuck into the actual fighting.  It’s terribly bloody with a great feel to it, there are also touches of humour – taunting the enemy sees you screaming ‘pig filth’ or ‘fox beard’ at the enemy.

So, is it educational? That’s a difficult question. It’s a really nice game to play, that’s for sure, a bit like a simpler version of Total War. The bloodsplats on the screen, the noise of sword against sword and the stratergy needed adds up to an entertaining experience. But did I learn about 1066 and history? I took Bruce London’s 15 question 1066 history quiz to find out.

Well, I learned that 3 English kings died that year and that the Viking leader was Harald Haadrada and got these questions correct but that was pretty much as far as I got. Wouldn’t I have learned these things had I just read a book or sat in a history class?

The Battle of Hastings and 1066 is a pretty easy educational topic for a game to cover – it’s got fighting in it, and vikings and people shouting at each other, but how would a game for say, explaining healthy eating or quadratic equations work? Would it be as easy to make these into games?

1066 is a great game, but more than that it’s a great start to the way games should be able to capture people’s imagination and engage them with the subject. It would probably be pretty easy to make an engaging healthy eating game, you could follow the fortunes of a football player or an athlete and decide what they eat, or a doctor examining the damage done to different parts of the body from eating the wrong stuff. Quadratics – I’m still thinking.

As the prospect of ‘cloud or streaming  gaming’ draws closer, more and more powerful games are going to be avaliable to more and more people, games will play a bigger part in our lives and education. How we use them in the classroom will need to be thought about more clearly, but this is a great start.


Fire at will

Fire at will