Writing Cards – Christmas Cards for ESOL, ESL and EFL



Can’t be bothered to read the post – Click here for the lesson on Writing Cards


Sending cards is an enourmous business in the UK and the USA with the average person spending way too much time and money on them. There’s also a lot of social pressure to send and receive them especially at Christmas time. Who hasn’t been presented with a card for someone who is leaving the office, sick or getting married, and thought ‘I don’t know what to write!’?

It’s also pretty difficult for ESOL/EFL and second language English learners to write them to. I used this lesson with a group of pre-intermediate learners.

Here are the lesson stages

1. Ask the students to tell you when they last recieved a card of any description. Write a list of the cards they tell you about on the board. It might look something like this. Anniversary, wedding, congratulations, birthday, valentines, get well soon, sorry, condolences…

2. Pass out the sheet and have the students correct the mistakes then match the card messages to the people they are for.

3. Now ask students to write their own messages in response to the prompts. You could ask them to work in pairs or alone and could check the answers by getting to write on the board.

4. There are some really good electronic greetings cards on the net. You might like to show these to your students if you have an interactive whiteboad or projector.


Simle Box

Big list of antonyms for academic English : IELTS, TOEFL and TOIEC



Here’s a great list of academic antonyms to help you with your IELTS speaking and writing.

Lists are great, but how can you use them? Do you learn them? Do you just read them? What do you do? Read the advice below.

  1. Read through this list and circle 10-15 antonym pairs that you don’t know and learn them. Test yourself on them.
  2. Read through the list. Choose ten hard pairs you don’t know, print them off and stick them on your wall / toilet wall / fridge door – anywhere you will look, often
  3. Play a game with them like the awesome word frog game http://www.arcademics.com/games/frog/frog.html
  4. Play pelmanism. Choose ten you think are useful. Write them on small pieces of paper. Put them face down on a table. Now turn each one over and try to match the pairs.



Halloween worksheets for your English class










If you live in the UK or the USA, the end of October means more little kids dressed as skeletons knocking on your door and screaming ‘trick or treat’ before you dish out the sweets.

Here’s an old favourite that I’ve used on Hallowe’en for many years. If you don’t want to make the first worksheet too easy, then cut off the bottom section so they don’t have the names of the halloween creatures to help them. It’s worth remembering that these monsters play a very big part in UK and US culture, so this might be a really good lesson for higher level students, especially when they have to discuss what the various monsters do.

Chatting about superstitions in the second worksheets is also very interesting and whilst some are the same the world over, others are very strange.

Here’s the lesson https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/halloween.doc

There’s another lesson on Vampires here:


and a lesson on Zombies here:


and if you like superheroes, there’s a lesson on them here:


Hapland- IELTS and Video Games – Reading Instructions

Hapland is a very frustrating flash game. http://foon.uk/farcade/hapland/

Read the instructions below to complete it.

If you like video games, walkthroughs are great way to practise reading. Following complex instructions to complete a task will give you some INTERESTING reading practice.


Basically the idea of the game is to get the little man to safety byclicking on different parts of the picture in the right order.


a)    Open all the windows and turn the red arrow around.

b)    Open the hatch on the right, click the yellow arrow to get a man out.

c)     Click on the man to fire one round in the low position to drop the bridge down.

d)    Click the cannon to move it up. Fire the second round up at the bell and click the spear thing so it goes the other way JUST after the round hits the bell

e)    Fire the next two rounds at the bridge, but click the bridge to as they hit it to knock them in the air and explode without causing damage.

f)      Click the light bulb a few times next to the man at the bottom to get him to smash it.

g)    Fire the last round in the low position, and the bottom man will pick it up and open the door with it.

h)    Now click the man by the machine so he gets in it, and click the yellow arrow to get another guy out, get him to fire the other man up at the bell.

i)      The man by the bell will move the tower over if you click him. Then click the spear thing. Now keep clicking the bell till it falls. No more land mine.

j)        Click the door in the bottom left so the man comes out and JUST as he goes in the door on the right, click the man at the bottom. A dog tries to chase him, but the falling concrete stops it.

k)      You did it!

For more of the same check out Richard L King’s great book below




Learn English with Muhammad Ali – a quotes worksheet for your English class


A brilliant athlete, entertainer and role-model, Muhammad Ali used his language skill to attack, humiliate and make fun of his opponents even before they stepped into the ring.

Here’s a warmer/ filler/ cooler lesson on his quotes and life. This should take about half and hour and would be good for intermediate EFL / ESOL or ESL students and above.


1. Click the picture below to download the worksheet. Feel free to change it anyway you like.

mohammed thumb.png

2. Have students look at the picture and quote about Ali. Ask them to explain what it means? Students should come up with something like – ‘it means he’s fast’. If that’s what Ali wanted to say, then why didn’t he just say ‘I’m really fast’? The quote is funny and contains lots of images, it shows you that Ali is intelligent and witty. Elicit from student the idea that the way you say something is often as, if not more, important than what is said.

3. Now get students to tell each other what they know about Ali’s life (if anything) before you play the short bio on him. I’ve pasted this below but the URL is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIxbhA4su0g

4. Now get students to read through the quotes in pair or small groups. Get them to match them to the more simple explanations.  Here are the answers – 1.c 2.f 3.a 4.d 5.h 6.b 7.e 8.g

5. Follow up. Have students look for more quotes from famous sportsmen or famous people that they like. Get students to share their quotes with their partners of the whole class. You could even print them off and stick them on the wall.





My top five IELTS books – for students

If you want to do well in the IELTS exams, invest in some good books. They may be expensive but, good quality books can always be resold on eBay or at your college or university. Better still – get one of these out of the library!

1. IELTS Trainer

This book leads you through six practice IELTS exams step by step. 51zupvmQqnL__SX398_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  • Brilliant step by step guide
  • Answers clearly explained
  • Quite difficult BUT the IELTS exam is DIFFICULT
  • Expensive but worth it!



2. The IELTS series (1-10)

Probably the most famous IELTS books in the world!41wSjyCKr3L__SX381_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

  • These books are full of exams and answers
  • They don’t explain HOW or WHY about the answers
  • A good way to start studying for IELTS exams
  • Some nice samples of student writing at the back of each book.



3. Cambridge Official IELTS exams

The OFFICIAL guide to IELTS51K-WQao3ZL__SX394_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Step by step instructions on each part of the exam
  • Lots of material and activities to do
  • Great listening sections


4. Official IELTS practice materials

Great practice exams here from Cambridgeuntitled.png

  • IELTS exams that are on A4 paper!
  • Authentic practise papers
  • Not much help with technique here
  • A great place to start your IELTS studies


5. Teach yourself IELTS reading – Richard L King

41T94ydlU3L__SX382_BO1,204,203,200_The first book in the series  explains how students can build up reading techniques. It has two sample IELTS reading exams at the back.

  • Simple and valuable techniques to develop reading.
  • Great value for money!
  • Good synonym and antonym sections at the back



Know any more good books for IELTS. We’d love to hear from you!

Top Five IELTS books – for teachers

Teaching IELTS? An old pro? A newbie? Here are my top five books for teaching IELTS.

1. Instant IELTS – Guy Brook Hart

418C94343QL__SX354_BO1,204,203,200_Ready to use tasks and activities for IELTS students at intermediate and above. This book is an old favourite and my own copy is now battered from constant use.

  • Great worksheets for different levels
  • Activities for listening, reading, speaking and listening
  • 2 complete exams
  • Brilliant teacher’s notes – perfect for beginner IELTS tutors!



2. IELTS Resource Pack – Jon Marks


Really wonderful activities and worksheets that prevent students from getting bored.

  • Interesting and engaging communicative activities
  • Great listening section that uses information from the students themselves
  • Great book to dip in and out of and support a bigger course



3. Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS

51gxtMazhTL__SX382_BO1,204,203,200_Broken into sections that deal with various topics, Cambridge Vocab for IELTS is an extremely useful book. You can use the worksheets in class but they’re a bit traditional, so they’re better for homework.

  • Lots of focused vocab learning
  • Great academic vocabulary section at the back.



4. Cambridge Objective IELTS

51bvbOAQVqL__SX389_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis is an intermediate course book that you could work through with your students. Some of the readings are a bit dull (but then IELTS readings generally are) and some of the activities aren’t very engaging BUT, there are some really good exam sections that explain how different parts of the exam work.

  • Really good exam technique sections
  • Lots of activities to keep students busy


5. Teach yourself IELTS: Reading – Richard L King

41T94ydlU3L__SX382_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe first book in the series is aimed at intermediate students and above and explains how students can build up reading techniques. It has two sample IELTS reading exams at the back.

  • Simple and valuable techniques to develop reading
  • Great for homework or self study
  • Simple and easy to use





What other IELTS resources do you use? Leave a comment!!