Category Archives: Lesson plans

Learning languages more effectively.

I prepared a ppt presentation for this lesson, which you can download here.


  • Intermediate and above, but could be adopted to lower levels too.


  • Between 1.5 and 2 hours


  • students will learn and discuss tips about learning languages more effectively

Lesson Plan

Activity #1: Lead-in

What are your language learning habits like? Look at the statements below. Do they apply to you? Why (not)?

  • I watch films and TV in English.
  • I’m worried that people don’t understand me when I speak English, so I prefer to stay quiet.
  • I read a lot in English. Mostly news on the Internet, but sometimes books too.
  • I never study English in my free time.
  • I record new words, look them up in a dictionary and keep a record of them in my notebook.
  • I use on-line software and apps for learning English.
  • I talk a lot in English in my free time.
  • I’m afraid to make mistakes when I speak or write.
  • I listen for new expressions and imitate fluent speakers.

Which of the above are good and which are bad learning habits? Why? Are you a good language learner?

Activity #2: Speaking

What qualities  do good language learners have in common? Discuss with your partner.

Now look at the 4 letters below. They are the first letters of four qualities that all good language learners have. Can you guess what they are?






Activity #3: Speaking

Below are the 4 qualities of MORE effective language learners. Discuss with your partner what you think they might mean.

Motivated      opportunities


Reflective       experiment


Activity #4 Reading for gist: Read this article and check whether your ideas about the MORE qualities were correct. Then discuss with your partner: Are you a MORE learner? Which ideas could you use to become a better learner?

(Teacher’s note: please note that the students should only read the part where the MORE qualities are described. Alternatively, you could cut up the article and give one quality to each student which they later describe to each other in groups of 4. Or bluetack each quality around the room and do it as a buzz group discussion)

Activity #5: Listening

You’re going to watch a psychologist Chris Lonsdale talk about his experience learning a language. follow the instructions below.

  1. Watch the first part (2 -2:50)of the video. What did Chris decide to do? Where did he go? Did he succeed?
  2. Talk to your partner. How can adults learn a language quickly and effectively? Continue watching the video (2:50 – 3:40) to check.
  3. Discuss with your partner: What is your reaction to Chris’ conclusion? Is it possible to learn a language in 6 months?
  4. Continue watching (3:40 – 5:45). What WRONG beliefs from the past does Chris mention? Why does he mention them?
  5. Discuss with your partner: What are the 7 actions for rapid (fast) language acquisition (learning) will Chris talk about? Now watch the last part of the video (12:14 – 18:06) and check your predictions.
  6. With a partner choose 3 actions which you can apply to your language learning from next week.

Activity #6 Learning new vocabulary

Discuss with your partner:

  • How many new words/phrases have you learned this week?
  • Where do you normally come across new words/phrases?
  • What do you do when you find a new word/phrase?
  • Where and how do you write them down?
  • Is it better to write down single words or whole phrases? Why?
  • Do you think you’re vocabulary learning habits are effective? Why (not)? How could you improve them?

Look at the list of DOs and DONT’s for learning vocabulary. Write down any ideas which you could apply to your own learning. Have you ever made any of the mistakes from the DONT’s list?

Bez tytułu

(Teacher’s note: at this stage I usually introduce Memrise to the class. You can read more about it in this and this post. I also emphasise to them the importance of writing down chunks rather than individual words.)

Activity #7 – Practice

Read the text below. It was taken from this article. Identify minimum 3 new chunks (2-4 word phrases) and write them down in your notebook using the tips from the previous slide:

Mistakes are great! Without them, you will stay in your comfort language zone forever. We adults tend to be incredibly worried about being 100% right all the time. Forget about it. Especially at the beginning. Play with the language. Experiment. And slip up. That’s fine. Nobody’s going to laugh, get annoyed or poke fun at you. Believe me. Native speakers will be delighted that you’re trying to learn their language (especially if the language is as obscure as Polish, for instance). Focus on getting the meaning across first. But, get somebody to correct you once you feel comfortable with it. And DO pay attention to the correct version. Otherwise you might be forever repeating the basic mistakes.

(Teacher’s note: when monitoring, ensure they are actually writing down chunks, rather than individual words. Point out that the words that come before and after the unknown word are important and should also be written down. More advanced students could expand the chunks by adding other words that collocate using Ozdic.)

Look at the sample answers. Did you write down similar chunks?

  • Stay in your comfort zone – not to take risks ex. My dad hates taking risks. He always stays in his comfort zone.
  • Slip up – make a mistake, informal, ex. I often slip up ON spelling.
  • Be delighted that – very happy, ex. I’m delighted (that) you’re all here.
  • Focus on – concentrate on, ex. I found it difficult to focus on work yesterday.
  • Get the meaning across – be understood, communicate ex. I make mistakes when I speak French, but I find it easy to get the meaning across.

Activity #8 Homework/Follow up

  1. Log in to Memrise at Find a new course and learn 5 new words. For Academic English, I recommend this course and for IELTS this one. Download the app and practise on your phone. Set a daily goal, e.g. 6 thousand points.
  2. Read one of the articles and watch one of the videos listed below. Write down at least 3 interesting things you’d like to tell your class about next time. Write down 3 new phrases in your notebook.



More free lesson plans can be found here. You can read other posts about learning languages here.

IELTS Prep: A Test-Teach-Test Approach (Cambridge DELTA Module 3- Extended Assignment)

Dear all,

imageThis one is especially for IELTS teachers and those of you doing module 3 of the Cambridge DELTA. I am sharing the extended assignment that I did on  a test-teach-test approach to teaching IELTS.  It contains lesson plans, approaches to curriculum development based on student weaknesses as well as full lesson plans based on these weaknesses. I hope this will be useful to anyone teaching IELTS or doing the extended assignment. I conducted the research and wrote this in Vietnam with a small group of students preparing to take the IELTS test. I want to say a special thank you to them for allowing me to publish this. I love you guys!

You can find the extended assignment by clicking on the link here.

Me and my other half Jess, taken recently in the New Forest
Me and my other half Jess taking a break from the crazy world of IELTS. Taken recently in the New Forest.

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Money lent, an enemy made: The Merchant of Venice


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With a partner discuss the following:

  • Have you ever lent money to anyone? Did they return it?
  • How do you understand the saying : “Money lent, an enemy made”?
  • Do you agree with it? Why?


You are going to read a short extract about one of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Merchant of Venice. Ignoring the gaps please answer the questions.

  1. When was the play written and what is it remembered for?
  2. Who is Bassanio and why does he need money?
  3. Who is Antonio and why cannot he lend money to Bassanio himself?
  4. Do Shylock and Antonio know each other from before? If so what is their relationship like?
  5. On what condition does Shylock agree to lend money to Antonio?
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The Merchant of Venice is a comedy believed to have been written by Shakespeare in 1598. It is set in Venice, Italy, and is probably best remembered for its central character, a Jewish moneylender, Shylock. His “pound of flesh” speech from Act 1 scene III is one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces and the most prominent part of the play.

Antonio, a Venetian merchant, complains to his friends of a melancholy that he cannot explain. His friend Bassanio is 1. ___________ in need of money to court Portia, a wealthy   2. _________ who lives in the city of Belmont. Bassanio asks Antonio for a loan in order to travel in style to Portia’s estate. Antonio agrees, but is 3. _________ to make the loan himself because his own money is all invested in a number of trade ships that are still at sea. Antonio suggests that Bassanio secure the loan from one of the city’s moneylenders and name Antonio as the loan’s 4. _________.

In Venice, Antonio and Bassanio approach Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for a loan. Shylock 5. ___________ a long-standing grudge against Antonio, who has made a habit of berating Shylock and other Jews for their usury, the practice of loaning money at 6. ________ rates of interest, and who 7. __________ their business by offering interest-free loans. Although Antonio refuses to apologise for his behaviour, Shylock acts 8. ___________ and offers to lend Bassanio three thousand ducats with no interest. Shylock adds, however, that should the loan go unpaid, Shylock will be 9. ________ to a pound of Antonio’s own flesh. 10. _________ Bassanio’s warnings, Antonio agrees.

Now complete the gaps 1–10 with the words below in their appropriate form.

  1. desperate 2. inherit 3. able 4. guarantee 5. nurse 6. orbit 7. mine 8. agree 9. title 10. spite
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Task 1

You are going to watch the first part of The Merchant of Venice film from 1974. Who are the characters you see and why did they meet? Play the video below from 6:25 to the end.

Task 2

Watch the video again. Mark the below sentences T for true and F for False.

  1. Bassanio wants to borrow three thousands ducats for four months.
  2. It will be Bassanio’s friend, Antonio, who will be bound to pay the money back to Shylock.
  3. Shylock does not think Antonio is a good man.
  4. Shylock is worried that a misfortune might happen to Antonio’s ships, as a result of which he wouldn’t be able to get his money back.
  5. Shylock refuses to have dinner with Antonio and Bassanio as he does not eat meat at all.

Task 3 (part 3, 0:00 – 4:05)

Watch the next part playing the video below from the beginning to 4:05.

  • How would you describe the mood of the scene and the relationship between the three characters? How does it change during the scene?

Watch the video again and choose the correct option a), b), c) or d)

  1. Shylock appears not to have heard Bassanio as: a) Bassanio speaks very quietly b) Shylock is thinking whether he will have enough money to lend c) Shylock wants to show his superiority and control d) he is calculating the interest rate
  2. Antonio: a) is not willing to borrow money from Shylock with interest b) normally borrows money with interest c) will borrow money from Shylock with interest, even though it is not his custom d) thinks the interest rate is too high
  3. Shylock uses the story of Jacob: a) in order to defend his practice of charging interest b) to show that being a shepherd is a lucrative business c) to give a moral lesson d) to show that he is well–read and educated
  4. In the video we can see that: a) Shylock and Antonio are good friends b) Antonio has never insulted Shylock c) Antonio promises never to insult Shylock again d) Shylock mocks Antonio who insulted him and now needs his help
  5. Antonio: a) says that it is better to lend money to your enemies b)thinks that it is better to lend money to your friends c) is certain that it is not wise to lend money at all d) apologizes for having insulted Shylock

Task 4 (part 3, 4:05 – 6:16)

Your teacher will now give you the text of the last part of Act 1, Scene III in which Shylock and Antonio finally come to an agreement. The text, however, is jumbled. In groups/pairs try to put it in order. Then watch the video below from 4: 05 to 6:16 and check if your answers were correct.

Click here for the jumbled script.


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Sometimes Shakespeare’s language can be a little bit difficult to understand. Here are some phrases from Task 3 of the Listening. In pairs/groups try to translate them into modern English. Then compare your answers with other groups. Are your translations similar?

a) [I would] Forget the shames that you have stain’d me with, Supply your present wants and take no doit Of usance for my moneys

b) let the forfeit Be nominated for an equal pound Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken In what part of your body pleaseth me.

c)You shall not seal to such a bond for me: I’ll rather dwell in my necessity

d) A pound of man’s flesh taken from a man Is not so estimable, profitable neither, As flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats.

e) And I will go and purse the ducats straight, See to my house, left in the fearful guard
Of an unthrifty knave, and presently I will be with you.

Discussion/Writing (Homework)

  1. “Shylock is a malevolent character only interested in profit and money.” To what extent do you (dis)agree with this statement? How could you defend/condemn his behaviour?
  2. Examine Shylock’s rhetoric. Pay special attention to the quality of his language—his use of metaphor and repetition, for instance. How do his speeches reflect his character as a whole?
  3. To what extent is Shylock defined by his Jewishness? To what extent is he defined by his profession?

For more free lesson plans click here.

Past simple, Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous – lesson plan and comments

Aim: students will be better able to use Past Simple, Present perfect Simple and Continuous

Level: Intermediate +

Assumptions: students are familiar with Past Simple and Present Perfect Simple although might not be able to use the two accurately

Speaking#1: Talk to your partner and decide which of the sentences about your teacher below are true (T) and which are false (F). Give reasons why:

IDEA: change the sentences accordingly to fit your professional experience.

  1. I graduated with a BA in English in 2009.
  2. I’ve been an English teacher since January 2008.
  3. I’ve already taught it in 3 countries.
  4. I moved to Holland 2 years ago.
  5. I have never worked outside of Europe.
  6. I’ve been living abroad for over five years.

Speaking #2: Check with your teacher and ask at least two more questions for each example to get more information.

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Photo from:

IDEA #2: Before moving to the following activity (Focus on grammar), try first getting your students to change the above sentences to make them true for themselves. They can change the content (e.g. dates, names, places), but not the grammar. I’ve done it a couple of times and it works quite well: gives them additional speaking practice, they have to play with the language and process it. In contrast, in the traditional PPP approach, practice is usually the very last thing you do in class after spending a very long time on rules and controlled written practice, which I’m doubtful helps improve the immediate accuracy. It also steal the pleasure from playing with the language and getting it wrong, without worrying about being correct.

Focus on grammar:

a) Which sentences from exercise 1 use:

  • past simple (PS)
  • present perfect simple (PPS)
  • present perfect continuous (PPC)

b) When do we use each of the tenses? Write PS, PPS or PPC next to the bullet points below and select one of the sentences from exercise 1 that fits the description.

  • for actions which started in the past and continue until now
  • for states which started in the past and continue until now
  • to talk about completed actions at a specific point in the past
  • to talk about completed past actions and experiences in life without a specific time reference

c) how do we make positive and negative sentences in each case? Write the form below using the words: subject, didn’t, haven’t, past participle, been, past simple form of the verb, have, verb +ing, infinitive

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  • PS:
  • PPS:
  • PPC:

d) what about questions?

  • PS: (q. word) +
  • PPS: (q. word) +
  • PPC (q. word) +

e) Which expressions do we use with PS, PPS or PPC? Complete the table below. You can use one expression more than once. Check with the sentences from exercise 1: yet, (5 years) ago, in (1980), last (week), already, never, since, for, the first time, once/twice

Past Simple (PS)
Present Perfect Simple (PPS)
Present Perfect Cont. (PPC)
  1. Written practice: look again at sentences in 1 and write similar ones about your life. Make some of them true and some false.
  2. Speaking #3: Talk to your partner. Ask them questions about their sentences to find out if they’re true or false. Find out more about each event by asking additional questions. Swap roles. IDEA: Tell the students they shouldn’t give away the truth easily. The ‘interrogator’ has to find out which sentences are a lie by asking as many detailed questions as possible. You might want to demo this with the whole class.
  3. Speaking #4: Imagine you’re taking part in a job interview. Think about your experience and abilities, as well as the questions the interviewer might ask you. Role-play the interview twice swapping roles.

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IDEA: don’t allow too much preparation time. The students have already practised talking about their lives during the class. Allow only to write down bullet points or ideas. After all, it’s supposed to be a speaking activity.

Let me know if you decide to do the class. I’d be curious to hear whether it went well. Comment below if you have any suggestions and don’t forget to follow the blog on the right hand side to receive the latest posts by email.

Does the world need nuclear energy? A listening lesson.

353/365 nuclear power vs ...

Nuclear Debate: Does the world need nuclear energy?


Intermediate and above


90 mins

Lesson Aims:

  • to practise listening for gist and for specific information
  • to practise language for debates
  • to give a presentation on the topic
  1. Lead in: Before you listen, discuss these questions:
    • What different energy sources do you know?
    • Which of them are the least/most harmful for the environment?
    • What are the “green” sources of energy?
    • Are you for or against nuclear energy? Why?
  2. Pre-listening: activating topic schema:

Intel Solar Installation Vietnam

What the world needs now is nuclear energy.” Do you agree with this statement? Prepare a list of arguments for and against this thesis. Put your ideas in the correct place below.

           For                                                                    Against

The talk:

  1. Listening: Speaker 1 (1:20 – 7:20)
  • Is he in favour or against the thesis?
  • Which arguments does he mention? Tick the ones we listed in the table and add the ones you hear.
    4. Post-listening discussion: Speaker 1
    • Does the speaker convince you?
    • Which arguments did you find surprising?
    • Which are strong and which weak in your opinion?
  1. Second listening: Speaker 1 (optional)
  • Did you find any parts of the speech difficult to understand? Would you like to listen to any of them again?
  1. Listening: Speaker 2 (7:25 – 14:04)

330/365 nuclear power - atomkraft - black and white

  • Can you think which counterarguments this speaker might use?
  • Would you like to add any to the table? Listen and check which arguments the speaker uses.
     7. Post-listening discussion: Speaker 2
    • Have you found this speaker convincing? Why (not)?
    • Were any arguments new to you?
     8. Second listening: Speaker 2 (optional)
  • Did you find any parts of the speech difficult to understand? Would you like to listen to any of them again?
     9. Discussion:
  • Has your initial opinion changed? If so, in what way?
  • Is nuclear energy a solution to your country’s energy needs? Why?
  • With the hindsight of the disaster in Japan, do the arguments is favour of nuclear energy still hold water?
10. Speaking follow up:
  • Group presentations and debate: put sts into groups of three or four and ask them to prepare a 5 minute talk. They should imagine they are MPs and that they have to give a speech in the parliament convincing other MPs and the government of their point of view.

Westminster and Big Ben in Gold