Great EFL Vocab Graphics

If you are an Social Media active EFL tutor you will have noticed a proliferation of images containing vocabulary.  Many are fantastic, imaginative and fun.  Create your own – and it can be a great activity to get your students to do – work on one in class and then set them each a difference one to create for homework.  I’ve included some of my favourites below…

vocab-fruit-and-vegvocab-vegetables  vocab-clothes2 vocab-clothes vocab-classroom  vocab-body  vocab-animals vocab-weather vocab-cooking-vebrsvocab-verbs2 vocab-verbs  vocab-tools vocab-sad vocab-beautifulvocab-prepositions-of-place vocab-hairvocab-opposites  vocab-hello  Valentine's Day



Top 5 books for new EFL teachers

There can be no doubt that EFL tutors are generally a positive, enthusiastic bunch. We love sharing tips with each other, will happily swap lesson plans and ideas and are quick to help out if other teachers are struggling with something.

Alongside this ‘get stuck in’ attitude, there is also a real commitment from many teachers to continual improvement. Observing colleagues is a fantastic way to pick up different ideas and learn from more experienced colleagues.

And in addition to the people around you, there are some great books that can help refocus and refresh your teaching. We’re not going to include textbooks in this list. Instead, we’re focussing on authors who look at pedagogy and reference books.

So, our favourite EFL books for teachers and the ones we would recommend most highly to a new colleague:

  • Discussions that Work by Penny Ur. Full of ideas for oral practice that will help fluency rather than staged drills. With concise instructions, you can turn to this book and use an idea in your lesson immediately.
  • Teaching English Grammar: What to teach and How to Teach it by Jim Scrivener. This is one of those books that starts to feel like a lifejacket. When you’re struggling for ways to present a complex grammar point, this will be invaluable.
  • Taboos and Issues by Richard MacAndrew and Ron Martinez. Liven up lessons and get students fully engaged in discussion with controversial topics. Obviously, caution and discretion are necessary when deciding whether it would be appropriate to use this with your class.
  • 700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour and Maria Popova. Packed full of ideas that you can either use as is or adapt, the index means you can find an activity relevant to your lesson in seconds.
  • Practical English usage by Michael Swan. This seems a standard, perhaps obvious, choice. But if you’re one of the many new EFL teachers who lacks confidence in their grammatical knowledge, this will become your bible. Our copy is dog-eared and tea-stained and we love it!

Another way we can continue to improve is to stay engaged in the current discussion around EFL teaching. Social media offers an excellent opportunity to hear directly from leaders in the field such as Nik Peachey. Get online and get involved. There are fantastic blogs, Twitter chats and email newsletters, all of which will help inspire you and keep you up-to-date with the latest thinking.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our list – what’s your favourite? Are there other books that you would put on the list instead?

4 ways technology can save EFL teachers time

There are so many ways that EFL teachers can make use of technology to aid their teaching. You can use pop songs for listening practice, direct students to useful websites for independent learning or bring technology into the classroom for a lesson with a difference. There are also multiple sites that, while not so useful in the classroom, are perfect for cutting down your preparation time.

We decided we couldn’t possibly tackle them all in one go so we’re going to run a series of posts on this subject. This post, the first in the series, focusses on how you can use technology to save you time.


Create self-marking tests

These won’t replace your own knowledge of how well students are doing but are great for quickly checking areas that your class needs additional support on. Or, you could set a reading for homework, followed by some multiple choice questions to check that students have understood. If you find yourself spending a long time marking quizzes then this video will show you how to let Google forms do it for you!

Get organised

Whether it’s your weekly planning or always leaving homework setting to the last-minute, we all have an organisational weak spot. Programmes like Dropbox or Google Drive can help with this. Create a shared folder with your class (maybe ask them to submit their email addresses as part of your initial test) and upload each week’s homework assignment to the relevant folder. That way you can plan homeworks in advance but still easily edit if you need to make last-minute changes in response to a lesson.

Hand over to the experts

Sometimes it takes a lot of time and thought to get an interesting lead in for a dry topic like grammar. The British Council have a great series of grammar videos for teenagers – these make for a good introduction to grammar points through natural conversation. BBC Learning English also has some great videos that can be used for introductions or explanations. Either use these in class or get your students watching them at home in preparation.

Quickly check texts

Grab an interesting online article or extract, copy-paste it into Wordie and select your learners’ level. Wordie will tell you which words are at the appropriate level and which are likely to cause problems in class. You can then easily either edit the text, create a cheat sheet or set up a task. A lesson based on an authentic article in just a few minutes, perfect!

It can easy to get sidetracked by technology and I’m sure we’ve all been distracted by Facebook at some point when we should have been planning a lesson. But, there are times when it really can help you out!

Using authentic texts for EFL: the key considerations

There are real benefits to using authentic texts in English teaching. But what if it is too complex? What if students get stuck and can’t complete the task? These questions can sometimes put teachers off using authentic texts, but they shouldn’t!

We’ve compiled a list of the basic questions we ask ourselves when selecting authentic texts to use in our resources. They should help you feel confident that the text you have chosen will work in your lesson.

  • Does it contain useful grammar examples? Often, you will have picked the text for this reason: because it contains multiple examples of modal verbs, or a wide range of adverbs. Keep an eye out for anything irregular that is above the level of your lesson, don’t be put off but consider your class – will they be distracted by something that doesn’t follow the rule or will it start a useful discussion?
  • Is the content interesting and age-appropriate? Are you interested in the text? Do you want to read it? If students are not engaged then it doesn’t matter how many perfect examples there are of the past historic – they will switch off, particularly if they are reluctant readers at the best of times. Similarly, it is essential that the content fits the age of your class. Young learners might be interested in the news but an article about a violent attack is unlikely to go down well. On the other hand, adult learners will quickly get sick of reading about Justin Bieber.
  • Is the vocab familiar to students? If not, don’t panic! You don’t want a text where every other word requires students to get out their dictionaries. But some unfamiliar words can either be glossed at the start, used for vocabulary extension tasks or picked out as examples of how to guess the meaning from the context.
  • Can I exploit the text fully in my lesson? You’ve gone to all that trouble, finding an interesting authentic text, checking the grammar and vocabulary and creating accompanying reading exercises. Now, make the most of your hard work! Use the reading task as a springboard for another activity: discuss the ideas raised in the text; ask students to write a response; focus on the grammar used and get them pulling out various examples to analyse.

Was this helpful? Are there other questions you regularly ask yourself? We’d love to hear from you. We’d also love you to check out – our free online tool that checks the level of vocabulary for you!

Using Realia in EFL & ESOL Lessons

What is Realia?

In the context of EFL and ESOL lessons, realia means the use of real objects or material to develop skills in the target language.  Some EFL tutors will specifically mean real materials written in English, for examples leaflets or recordings original intended for native-speakers not for education.  Other EFL tutors use the term for objects which are used a a spring-board for discussion in English.

Much realia like advertising boards, magazines and greeting cards can provide great vocabulary in the form of puns, idioms, and slang.


Why use EFL Realia?

Realia: an old concept in a new situation
Realia: an old concept in a new situation

The overriding reason is for learner motivation and presenting lessons in an interesting way that seems real and useful for the learner.  More specifically:

  • learners may remember vocabulary better if they see (and touch and feel) the actual object, as opposed to a flashcard or a picture in book.  IN particular using physical objects can help kinesthetic type learners store and recall information.
  • when learners see actual material intended for native speakers and subsequently make progress understanding the material – they feel they have made bigger strides than if they have completed exercises from a book
  • realia increases the chance (if well selected) that it contains or is related to vocabulary and language that learners will subsequently directly use
  • using realia and associated language increases the chance that they will feel confident use the language in a real situation before the next class – which is one of the best ways to accerlate learning English.
  • a classroom situation involving realia is more likely to solicit learner discussion and comment than similar exercises from a book
  • in addition just a change from the normal teaching routine makes classes more interesting and motivating for learners.

Also using realia can simply add more fun into your lessons.


10 EFL Realia Activities

  1. Menus from local restaurants.  EFL Activity: ask learners to create their own simple menu (or create your own menu with the food you’d like to teach if it’s a beginner group) including starters, main courses, and desserts. Put the learners into small groups; one learner plays the role of waiter while the others order their meals.  Introducing more realia in the form of props such as cutlery, crockery and napkins can extend the scenario.  With an advanced group introduce a manager who can field a complaint.
  2. Tourist Information: maps, lists of leisure activities, leaflets about local tourist attractions and events. EFL Activity: use the information plan a trip and its itinerary.
  3. A kettle, mug, tea bag, sugar and milk. EFL Activity: ask one learner to instruct you to make the cup of tea – all learners can make a note of any new vocabulary used.  Repeat the activity with you asking them.  Discuss additional vocabulary that may be needed if they were working in a tea shop.
  4. Mobile phones. EFL Activity: set up scenarios (e.g. booking a dentist appointment) using the mobile phones.  Just the action of holding them to their ears increases their motivation as they get into the activity – try it and see.
  5. Bring in a local map, town map, walking map or bring up Google Maps if you are lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard.  EFL Activity: ask learners to direction from one location to another on the map.  If you have an interactive white board, print them out a map and then use the Google tool to walk along the road to mimic the issues that come up with following directions!
  6. Ask learners to each bring in a few photographs – ideally with either a key person e.g. family member but also in an interesting discussion.  EFL Activity: learners take turns to stand at the front and field questions from the class about their photo.  Alternatively they can discuss them in small groups, or as a preparatory exercise where they look up and note down any new vocabulary.
  7. christmas-cardChristmas Cards: bring in your own Christmas cards in your last session before Christmas – if they have any Christmas cards from English speaking friends they can bring them in too. EFL Activity: read any messages on the front of the card, printed messages on the inside, and handwritten messages on the inside.  Also discuss the imagery (and range of imagery) on the front.
  8. Job descriptions, CVs and application forms contain a lot of structured information – and any learners applying for jobs will be facing all of it.  EFL Activity: complete a job application form in class.  Create a CV.  Look up new vocabulary from job descriptions.  Try to tailor it to the type of jobs your learners have actually applied for to make it as real as possible.
  9. petsBring in a pet (or ask one of your learners to bring on in).  EFL Activity: start with simple questions like asking what the pet’s name is, what they eat and how long they’ve had it.  Then the class can ask questions about their pets.  Other learners can bring in a photograph of their pets so more have a chance to answer straightforward questions – or go wild and have a big pet day!  But keep the rabbits away from the dogs – there’s is a limit too how far you want to take realia!
  10. Show and tell.  Many primary schools have a show and tell session at least once a week where pupils can bring in any item , talk about it to the class and then field a handful of questions.  This model works just as brilliantly with adults.  EFL Activity: consider having a 5 minute slot at the beginning of each lesson (or halfway through if it’s a long session) where someone brings in something to show and tell each week.


Off the shelf Realia Activities

We hope you find these activities useful for your TEFL lessrealia coverons – we have put together a pack for 100 realia activities which will give you further inspiration, help motivate your learners, and save you many hours of planning time to boot.  If your college buys it with a multi-tutor licence you can also earn the gratitude of your fellow English tutors too!

100 more English proverbs

In previous posts I have given 100 common English proverbs and 100 common English expressions and now I shall continue the theme with 100 more English proverbs.  I mentioned that the previous 100 English proverbs were common enough that I had used them in a real context.  The following proverbs are less popular or less well-known, but the majority will be known by most native speakers.  So if you or your class are advanced students who are keen to get closer to the elusive ‘speak it like a native’ then they will make for interesting reading

  1. In for a penny, in for a pound
  2. All for one and one for all
  3. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing
  4. You made your bed so now lie on it
  5. Two heads are better than one
  6. A burnt child dreads the fire.
  7. Money cannot buy happiness
  8. He who sups with the devil has need of a long spoon
  9. A stumble may prevent a fall.
  10. Give the devil his due
  11. Let sleeping dogs lie
  12. Look on the bright side
  13. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
  14. What’s done can’t be undone
  15. Forewarned is forearmed
  16. An Englishman’s home is his castle
  17. Time and tide wait for no man.
  18. Barking dogs seldom bite
  19. Look after the pence, and the pounds will look after themselves
  20. Revenge is a dish best served cold
  21. Virtue is its own reward
  22. Waste not, want not
  23. The devil looks after his own.
  24. A friend in need is a friend indeed
  25. Give him an inch and he’ll want a yard
  26. A tree is known by its fruit.
  27. There is no such thing as a free lunch
  28. Spare the rod and spoil the child
  29. A watched pot never boils.
  30. There is no point in flogging a dead horse
  31. What goes up must come down
  32. Speech is silver, silence is golden
  33. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer
  34. A job worth doing is a job worth doing well
  35. The devil makes work for idle hands.
  36. There no honour among thieves
  37. Starve a cold, feed a fever
  38. Marry in haste, repent at leisure
  39. A constant guest is never welcome.
  40. A swallow does not make the summer.
  41. When in Rome do as the Romans do
  42. An army marches on its stomach
  43. Loose lips sink ships
  44. Like cures like
  45. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
  46. A worry shared is a worry halved
  47. Little strokes fell great oaks
  48. A rising tide lifts all boats.
  49. The first step is the hardest
  50. Procrastination is the thief of time
    Loose Lips Sink Ships
    Loose Lips Sink Ships
  51. A danger foreseen is half avoided.
  52. There’s more than one way to skin a cat
  53. The eyes are the window of the soul
  54. There’s no smoke without fire
  55. Hunger is the best spice
  56. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
  57. A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.
  58. The truth is in the wine
  59. A light purse makes a heavy heart
  60. The darkest hour is just before dawn.
  61. There is no fool like an old fool
  62. Still waters run deep
  63. There is a black sheep in every flock.
  64. Experience is the mother of wisdom
  65. Slow and steady wins the race
  66. The cure is worse than the disease
  67. No man can serve two masters
  68. The devil has the best tunes
  69. One swallow doesn’t make a summer
  70. An ill wind that blows nobody any good
  71. Diligence is the mother of good fortune.
  72. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen
  73. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  74. Money is the root of all evil
  75. Misery loves company
  76. May as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb
  77. He who serves two masters must lie to one
  78. March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
  79. Cleanliness is next to Godliness
  80. The pen is mightier than the sword
  81. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
  82. one man’s loss is another man’s gain
  83. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
  84. Rome was not built in a day
  85. Little boys should be seen and not heard
  86. Two’s company, three’s a crowd
  87. Boys will be boys
  88. They who dance must pay the fiddler
  89. Advice is least heeded when most needed.
  90. A fool at forty is a fool forever.
  91. A book holds a house of gold.
  92. Tall oaks grow from little acorns.
  93. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.
  94. A nimble sixpence is better than a slow shilling
  95. All cats are grey in the dark.
  96. A black plum is as sweet as a white.
  97. Smile, and the world smiles with you; cry, and you cry alone
  98. To err is human, to forgive divine.
  99. Set a thief to catch a thief
  100. A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy.