Free Resource!!

Today I discovered a lovely, free, downloadable vocabulary book which I wanted to share with you all.


You can download it by signing up to the mailing list at

It will keep all new words in an easy to access location and catalogue them in different sections. There’s a specific focus on prefixes and suffixes which is useful as the visual separation of the 2 sections may make them both easier to digest for students.

The rest of the website is worth looking at too, though it doesn’t only focus on ESL it is full of interesting , transferable hints and tips which could be of benefit to the ESL student. There are a few things focusing on words with Greek and Latin roots which may benefit and a section of the website dedicated to ‘Freebies’ which opens up

Let me know if you find anything else ESL beneficial on here!



The beauty of the humble newspaper

We’ve all been there. Stuck for ideas, not sure what to use in our next lesson. Looking for something easy to prepare and valuable for the students. So what do you do?

Grab a handful of free newspapers and make off with them to the depths of your ESL classroom.

Newspapers are absolutely great resources which require minimal class preparation. You can use them to identify language, search for new words, discuss reading features…

You can get students to underline conditional clauses, adverbs, analyse the language used.

You can use them to identify adverts and then get students to create their own, you can get the students to discuss content of an article for a speaking exercise either in groups or pairs. You can structure a class debate on a given topic.

There are so many things you can do with a humble newspaper and if taking free ones isn’t your style, get online and find something through a website such as

Do you use newspapers in your lessons? If so, how do you use them and if you happen to feel inspired to use a newspaper in your lesson after reading this post, let me know how you get on!

Pedantic Students…

This is a post for the teachers. Unfortunately we all have had the experience of ‘the awkward student’. I have experienced it in the past but in my current volunteering role it has turned out to be something else.

When you have a class of 20 students and there is one with an attitude problem, your lesson can continue largely undisrupted as you have the choice to either

(a) – ignore the problem if it’s just a student having an off day

(b) – speak to the student and address the problem

(c) – remove the student and take it higher up the chain

If its a class motivation problem, you can run a session as I have done in the past on ‘why study English?’. This often re-energises students who have lost their focus.

When its a 1:1 2 hour session and your student things they know everything already there is nowhere to run.

As coming across heavy-handed has not worked for me in the past, I started by meeting this notable attitude problem by treating my student like an adult. I involved him in the dialogue, asked what he wanted help with. I tried to accommodate him as far as I could without veering off the planned lesson. It didn’t work.

Some of the highlights of my nightmare with this student include him interrupting me, speaking to another student, waving his homework in my face and asking us to ‘do grammar’.

When I proceeded to tell this student I was in the middle of speaking to someone and that I’d speak to him when I was finished, he walked out.

Another highlight; when he decided to take a break and ‘freshen up’ 30 minutes before the end of the lesson. Ok in itself but he then came back and announced he was too tired to continue. I conceded.

Did I mention the work of sarcasm he produced when he was asked to write pretend directions to an imaginary house. He didn’t want to do it, ‘couldn’t’ fathom the concept of the house not being real and so wrote on his worksheet (paraphrased)

‘I can not comment on this house as I don’t know anything about this house’.

Then, in my last session, I was asked again to ‘do grammar’, asked ‘why I was here’ and despite the student not being able to answer any questions on the work, protest that it was all pointless/too easy etc. etc.

Some of the techniques I have used to deal with this situation include;

  • accommodating him (simply because I am a volunteer and in a difficult situation)
  • refusing to accommodate him (he did not like this)
  • speaking to his actual teacher about the problem (this didn’t seem to resolve much)
  • putting him straight about his attitude myself

Sometimes I wonder why students embark on ESOL courses seeking the guidance of tuition only to try to control it themselves. Language learning is not all about singing songs and playing games, there comes a point where you have to put some effort in and try. When a student is twice the age of the teacher they can often become condescending. Luckily, he is moving to a daytime class and I can continue with the other student I am teaching who is enthusiastic and respectful.

Have you ever had to deal with a situation like this? How would you have handled it?

Present Simple fun and games

It’s been a little while since I posted so I thought I’d share some of my ESL resources on the present simple.  The present simple has continued to remain a high priority for my students which has provided me with the challenge of how to keep my students engaged with the subject.

I managed to find this amazing game, present simple dominos.



So you take the above template and cut it to size. The students then have to put the pieces together to make sentences in the present simple. It’s really quite tricky because sometimes there could be more than one possible answer but the next domino in the sequence with the wrong answers, the sequence stops making sense. For instance; ‘I have’ could go with ‘a big office’ but then you would need a domino that made sense before the correct answer of ‘two sisters’ which isn’t there.

To my delight, my students managed to do it all with a little bit of negotiation and I was so pleased I took a photograph of the final product.


Another resource I wanted to share was this question sheet for present simple discussion. I found that I had to really push my students to speak at length but this lack of complexity proved to be a good way for me to assess the grammatical accuracy of produced language. 


Present Simple Conversation Cards


There are also some good online resources out there for consolidating this language such as the BBC world service. If any of you are looking for help introducing this topic or re-affirming it I would recommend

If you find any of these tips useful please do comment and let me know how they have worked for you.

Is the present really simple?



Today I revised the present simple with some entry 3 students. This tense is really the benchmark of English language as once mastered, a student has a solid foundation to build on.

It really isn’t as ‘simple’ as it should be though. Common mistakes include mistaking ‘do’ and ‘does’, adding ‘s’ to third person plural verbs  e.g. ‘ they walks’ and adding ‘es’ and ‘ies’ respectively.   It is therefore essential for students to have a solid foundation in personal pronouns in order to recognise the third person.  It is also essential to know the difference between singular and plural pronouns and verbs which is easier said than done in some situations. For instance, the sentence

`Tom and Jim play football every day after school’.

This is slightly more difficult than a basic example as a student would have to recognise that ‘Tom and Jim’ constitute two people and therefore adopt the plural pronoun ‘they’. They would then need to remember that there is no +s on the end of the verb ‘play’ because the subject is third person plural.

Having  a table such as the following should help.


present simple


By incorporating this information with some speaking activities I was able to make this a fun and informative session for my students today. Do feel free to leave a comment if you have any extra advice on how to deliver this ‘imperative’ (geddit?) topic!