ELT course books that will never get published

Here’s my list of  EFL courseboks that will never get published.

1. GunPoint – A new pre-intermediate course book dealing with all aspects of international criminal English. 10 hard hitting chapters cover vital criminal skills such as extortion, weapon vocabulary, hacking, robbery and how to deal with police interrogation. The free DVD contains twenty of cinema’s finest criminal moments from movies like The Godfather and Pulp Fiction.

2. Hat Trick – International football player English, includes comprehensive swearing index. Specialist chapters deal with telling lies to your partner, having a diva strop like a man and advanced press conference skills.

3. Spirit Level – Builder’s English including a pull-out section on dirty jokes and chapters on how to avoid paying tax.

4. Pick Up – how to attract and pick up member of the opposite sex in English. Includes a section on body language and social etiquette. Also including a large selection of chat-up lines.

5. Boiling Point- all aspects of cookery, equipment and brutal swearing included in this intermediate course for English learners with an interest in the kitchen

6. Darling! I love it! – An intermediate course book for English learners who need to know everything about the fashion industry with sections on substance abuse, catfights, bitchy gossip and frocks.

7. International Geek English – for those learners who need to be able to discuss physics, comics and the combat system for the 4th edition of dungeons and dragons. This course book includes how to use the Socratic method of discussion, witty put-downs and search engine techniques containing Boolean logic.

8. Cheers! – Drinking English. From the earthy, base language of the backstreet public house to the refined, gentile prose of the English country pub, this three-part course book covers what to say in almost every type of drinking establishment in the world, with chapters on anecdotes, pretending to be interested and how to deal with hangovers.

Any more ideas?

The Royal Wedding ppt – a quick ten minute chat for your intermediate English class.

Can be bothered to read the short post?  - download the Royal Wedding PPT here.   (can you find the puctuation error?)

English Language Space Station.com

It’s the most important wedding since the last important wedding but, like it or loathe it Prince William’s marriage to Kate is big news and it might be a good subject to get your students chatting.

Here’s my own royal wedding powerpoint that I’ve been using with my students. Click here to download the powerpoint.

Royal wedding lessons on the net

Breaking News English has a good Royal Wedding lesson here http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/1102/110218-royal_wedding.html

The TES has a few Royal Wedding lessons but you have to be a member http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Royal-Wedding-Procession-Route-6073740/

Some great material for the Royal Wedding here at Michelle Henry http://www.michellehenry.fr/williamkate.htm

Really good lesson plans and a PowerPoint show from Guardian Teaching Resources, discussing, among many things constitutional changes. You must be a member to view these. http://teachers.guardian.co.uk/resources.aspx?q=The%20Royal%20Wedding

Teaching English/ESOL/ESL with SmartPhones – ten things I’d like to do.

In the UK you can get a smartphone for £100 and they are only going to get cheaper as more people want them. A device with a camera and video camera, access to the internet, with thousands of apps and the ability to share and recieve information will have a profound effect on education if we work with it. Here are some lessons I’d do if all my students had Android  powered Smartphones with access to the internet and cameras:

1. Mess about with googlemaps. I’d spend ten to fifteen minutes making a virtual tour of the town where we live and then ask students to log on and follow it in teams of two on their phones answering the questions I set them as they went. I actually did do this, but my students didn’t have the technology to access it. I’d go even further than this and get students to make their own tours on googlemaps with commentary, get other students to follow them and decide if they were good or bad.

2. Get students to take photos of things in pairs or teams, I blogged about this a long time ago here (click here to read it), I asked students to follow instructions to take snaps of various easy things like ‘a chair’ or ‘a book’ and then made it much harder by asking them to capture ‘sadness’ or ‘happiness’ to stretch their imagination. It worked really well and if we could do this with smartphones on the internet then we could instantly share the pictures on facebook or googledocs. I’d also get students to make films – something which I’m experimenting with at the moment. This is huge area for development.

3. I’d do loads more things with text messages – except that I wouldn’t use text messages because they cost money, I’d use the email feature of Facebook. I’ve already blogged about using text messages on here and use them to give students ‘thinking homework’ click here to read that one, and sending students out on a treasure hunt using messages they recieve digitally to tell them what to do - click here to read that one. With smartphones linked to the internet, this would be quick and more importantly, free

4. I’d get students out of the classroom with a text to read from either Amazon’s Kindle store via their ap or through googledocs, or even their email. When they’ve read it they can come back. And… I’d get students to read comics on their phones as homework.

5. I’d have students download the ‘my tracks‘ app which would track their every move via satelitte. I’d ask them to record their movements for one full day and then upload the ‘track’ to googlemaps so they could share it with the rest of the students. In class I’d get them to explain what they did and where they went using the map as a presentation tool.

6. I’d make students play games together, I mean multiplayer games where they play at the same time. Stratergy games, platform games, farmville type games – anything as long as they play together and it makes them interact with each other in the target language either to tell  each other how to do it, or how to cheat.

7. I’d ask students to interview someone in English, record it, edit it with something like audacity and then present it to the rest of the group.

8. I’d get students to use the radio and  listen to the news/a radio play/ in English at a certain time, write down some information from it and then share what they learned with the class in the next lesson.

9. I’d get students to listen  to music, any type of music as long as it’s in English. They could share it with each other, talk about it, learn lyrics from songs and find out about the singers or the group. I’ve also blogged about using youtube in lessons and those ideas would work perfectly well on smartphones.

10. Finally…I’d call them. Sometimes during the lesson, sometimes for homework. I’d phone for a chat or to ask them their opinion or to tell me something they found out. I’d also ask them to phone each  other – as long as they spoke in English.

My prediction is this: a decent,cheap smartphone that is compatible with the internet and has all the features needed to work with a PC will be able to dominate the educational landscape of the future. Students buy and maintain the device but the books  and the materials that might be needed be them audio, video or text, are transmitted to this device by the educational institution. We would need paper of course but there wouldn’t be the need for nearly as much. The technology is here now.

Is there anyone out there who agrees…?

Is there anyone out there who wants to lend me a bunch of smartphones to teach my students with?  Please get in touch of you’ve got a project on this!

Low Level Grammar PowerPoints – The Present Perfect


Ah the old favourite! He has lost his key.


Here’s a really quick powerpoint that gets students to make sentences in the present perfect. It could be used as a written task, but I think it’s best as a spoken activity where students just shout out the answers. It’s not a lesson in itself but more of a supplement to a lesson on the present perfect.


For more of the same, get yourself down to

Thinking homework

What is thinking homework?

Thinking homework is a task you set your students that only requires them to think – nothing else. No writing, no reading, just thinking. Sitting in the bath, driving the car, walking in the rain or laying in bed. All students have to do is think.

There is some work in preparing learners for this, firstly, explaining that this is something useful to do and secondly, how they should go about thinking.

How do students do it?

Students are only allowed to think in English. They can talk to themselves if they like or say words in their head, but it won’t be any good unless the think in the target language. Secondly, they have to remember to do it, I use text messages with my students to remind them.  Thirdly, there has to be some evidence that students have actually done the task and some sort of assessment of how they well they did it, this is done by getting students to report back to you or the class about their ideas and what they’ve been thinking.

Where does it come from?

The idea for setting students homework where all they have to do is ‘think about it’ probably isn’t anything new, I started setting this kind of task after thinking about Brian Tomlinson’s ideas on students developing their internal voiceby talking to themselves, among his many books (click here for a list) you can find reference on how to develop this in second language learners. Brian also explains this theory very clearly in the The Journal of Imagination in Language Learning and Teaching which you can read online. I also had two students in my class who were taxi drivers, so, I used to send them their ‘think homework’ via text message to their mobile phone so they would not only remember to do it, but would be able to get on with thinking about whatever it was while they were driving. Here are some ‘thinking homework’ that I’ve set in the past:

Story thinking homework

1. Which famous person’s life would you like to live? What kind of things would you do?

2. If you could live your life again, what would you do differently? ***we were talking about regrets ***

Some problem thinking homework

1. Your home is on fire. You can only save three things from the flames. What things would you save and why?

2. If could invite anyone to a dinner party, alive or dead, famous or not famous, who would you invite?

3.  What invention do you think the world needs? A teleport machine, a free power generator, a language learning chip that fits in your brain? or something else? Please tell the class your idea next week.

More complete lessons using PowerPoint – Health and Doctors

I love PowerPoint. It’s easy to make and use and yet still powerful. If you can’ t be bothered to read the blog post (which to be honest, is pathetically short) then click below for the lesson.


Here’s yet another lesson from my endless back catalogue of complete PowerPoint sessions. This time focusing on health and visiting the doctor. You don’t need any photocopies, only a projector that can play the show. http://www.englishlanguagespacestation.com/Health%20and%20illness.ppt

See, told you it was short.

If you liked this lesson then you can download loads more from the English Language Space Station.com or you could leave some feedback. http://www.englishlanguagespacestation.com/complete_PowerPoint_Lessons.htm

Hallowe’en worksheets for your ESOL/ ESL class














This blog post isn’t very long but, if you still can’t be bothered to read it, then get the hallowe’en ESL worksheets here https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/halloween.doc

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

For much much more of the same, visit my main storage space www.englishlanguagespacestation.com

Instant Lessons – The (Pub) Quiz lesson

Here’s another class that needs no preparation or materials to run, just a bit of showmanship and some paper.

1. Explain the idea of the quiz in your country (in my case, the pub quiz in the UK). You might like to borrow my annecdote about my dad, which is half true. ‘Every Tuesday night my dad, who’s seventy two, goes down to the local pub/cafe to do the quiz with his friends. There are three of them, all over seventy and they’ll all very serious about winning. My dad goes into the pub/cafe and pays his one pound/dollar to get a quiz sheet and then joins his pals to listen the questions. The quizmaster stands up and taps his microphone, ‘right then,’ he says, ‘Question 1: which is the longest river in the world?’ ‘Question 2: How many people live in the African country Sudan?’ At this point my dad politely explains that he has to go to the toilet [now walk across the class room and very slowly take your mobile phone/hand in the shape of a phone out of your pocket] ‘Hiya [your name] I’m in the quiz and we’ve got a question, would you mind getting on the computer and finding out a few answers for me?’ He does that to m every Tuesday night.

2. Now pass out some slips of paper and tell students they are going to have a pub quiz and that they are going to write two questions each. The number of questions very much depends on how many students you have and how good they are. In a class of ten who are pre-intermediate, I’d ask them  to write three each. Ask students to write the numbers 1-30 on their paper. Tell student 1 he/she is writing questions 1-3, the next students 4-6, the next 7-9 and so on. This would give you 30 questions to ask and answer.

3. While students are writing their questions you must help them or the game will not work. Explain that students must not ask a question that is too difficult like ‘briefly explain relativity’ or ‘What colour are my grandfather’s eyes?’. Similarly they shouldn’t ask questions which are too subjective like ‘ Which is the best football team in the world?’. Students should also know the answer to the question.

4. Now get students to ask their questions to the class. Students answer by writing the answers on their paper. Hopefully there will be some banter around the questions – asking for repetiton. You might need to paraphrase but let the question teller do most of the work.

5. When all the questions are done – elicit the answers and find out the winner. Stuident get free points for the questions that they wrote.

The really nice part about this lesson is the genuine communication that it produces, especially when there is cheating and uncertainty among the answers and questions. There may be petty squabbles about the longest river in the world, and you might need google to help you, but this is all part an parcel of this lesson. I usually put a tea bag into a sealed envelope and write the word ‘winner’ on it in big letters, this is the prize for the winner and I continually refer to it throughout the lesson to built up student expectation.

More Complete Lessons Using PowerPoint – Money and Banks

If you can’t be bothered to read the post then download the lesson here. https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/money-and-banks.ppt

Here’s another Complete Lesson Using PowerPoint following on from what the two I’ve done already, Complete PowerPoint Lesson – Relationships, Complete PowerPoint Lesson – Technology

This time I’ve gone for Money and Banks. The lesson is aimed at Pre-intermediate to intermediate students and is pretty straightforward to run with the answers already embedded in the files.

You will need a projector or an interactive whiteboard to show the presentation but your students don’t need any text books and you don’t need any photocopied handouts – watch and follow the instructions for a great lesson. Download the lesson here https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/money-and-banks.ppt

You can find more lessons like this and indeed more worksheets and ideas for teaching ESOL/ESL/IELTS and English at my trusty old website http://www.englishlanguagespacestation.com/complete_PowerPoint_Lessons.htm

English Language Spelling Mistakes – We are not alone – Spelling help for ESOL / IELTS and EFL

Quick spelling lesson for ESOL / IELTS /EFL

If you haven’t got time or can’t be bothered to read the post the spelling lesson is here:

The twenty five most common spelling mistakes in English. https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/the-25-most-common-spelling-mistakes-in-english.doc

The most pleasing things about making spelling mistakes when typing into Google is not that it offers you a handy correction,  but the fact that there are hundreds  of people who have also made the same mistakes, and have also gone the extra mile by putting these mistakes live on the web.

Websites that help with your spelling

There are some great webistes that can help your students with their spelling. The BBC have a really good Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check game as well as lots of others on their skillswise site. www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise

There are also some good flash spelling games at www.manything.org

Spelling Miatakes by Native English Speakers

There are lots of funny places to look at real life spelling mistakes in English, one great example from the north of England is by Prof. Vivian Cook who took photos of genuine spelling errors made by British people.


You can also find hundreds of honest spelling errors by visiting www.google.com and seraching for ‘spelling mistakes’ under images

Other Mistakes !

If you’re looking for something a little bit more hardcore then there are a whole range of websites that make fun of Chinese spelling mistakes. These are in vogue at the moment but some are a bit rude so I wouldn’t advocate showing these to your class.


Here’s a good one from www.engrish.com

Help for your students

Here’s a spelling video I made with the PSP camera, play it for your students while you go for a cup of tea.


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