Tag Archives: Lexical Approach

ELT Methods and Approaches – the emperor’s new clothes

LOGO FINALAll The TEFL Show podcasts can be found in this playlist on Soundcloud and in the iTunes Store here. You can subscribe to the show there, download the podcasts to listen to later and share them on social media.

In this podcast we discuss different approaches to teaching English, such as the Audiolingual Method, Dogme, Lexical Approach, PPP and TBL. We also question whether there is any solid research behind these methods, and argue that perhaps their rise and decline have much more to do with changing fashions and much less with scientific evidence than we’d like to admit.

We’d love to hear what your take on the different ELT methods is, so leave us a comment below the post, and take part in the poll below. We’re looking forward to your comments.

The podcast music theme is under Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 International License and was downloaded from this website.

‘I don’t have talent’ and other language learning myths

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All The TEFL Show podcasts can be found in this playlist on Soundcloud and in the iTunes Store here. You can subscribe to the show there, download the podcasts to listen to later and share them on social media.

In this episode of The TEFL Show we use our own language learning experience to debunk some of the most common myths and misconceptions about learning languages, such as that you need talent or a very long time to get to a high level. We also give several tips that will hopefully boost your language learning progress.

What has your language learning experience been like? Do you have any other tips? Have you found the ones we’ve given useful? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in learning languages, you might find this section of the blog useful. All the previous podcasts can be found here on the blog.

The podcast music theme is under Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 International License and was downloaded from this website.

Classroom practices: too much or not enough?

logo new #2Listen to and download these podcasts from the iTunes Store here, our Soundcloud channel here or from this section of the blog.

Even experienced teachers can become prisoners of their own teaching habits and beliefs, overusing certain approaches, while completely overlooking others. As a result, in this podcast we talk about things that in our opinion we as teachers should do less often in an EFL classroom, and some things that we think we don’t do enough of and should do much more often. Among other things we look at:

  • grammar based vs lexical syllabus
  • teaching individual words vs teaching chunks
  • responding to students needs vs following the syllabus
  • teacher talking time

We’d love to hear what you think about these issues. What are the things you don’t do enough as a teacher? Are there any things you do too much of? Leave us a comment below the post.

The podcast music theme is under Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0 International License and was downloaded from this website.

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?

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(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 www.memrise.com 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.

TESOL Convention 2015: ‘A commonly overlooked aspect of teaching verb tenses’ by Cynthia Zocca De Roma and Jelena Runić


In this report from the TESOL 2015 Convention that took place two weeks ago, I’ll summarise the presentation given by Cynthia Zocca De Roma and Jelena Runić. For more reports from the TESOL 2015 convention, click on this link.

The aims of Cynthia’s and Jelena’s presentation were to show the participants that:

  1. we’re more familiar with the lexical aspect then you think
  2. lexical aspect is only mentioned in grammar books in passing, but should be talked about more explicitly in class

The speaker also pointed out what this workshop wasn’t. First, it wasn’t about Lexical Approach, which is different from lexical aspect (read my post on Lexical Approach here). It also wasn’t aimed to be a rant on textbooks.

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Finally, in the talk the presenter focused mainly on [present perfect simple (PPS) and present perfect continuous (PPC).

First, we were shown 9 example sentences which used either PPS and PPC. * means that the sentence is grammatically incorrect.

  1. I’ve eaten a sandwich
  2. I’ve been eating a sandwich
  3. I’ve worked here for 10 years
  4. I’ve been working here for 10 years
  5. *I’ve met John since 2002
  6. I’ve been friends with John since 2002
  7. I met John in 2002
  8. I was friends with John in 2002
  9. I’ve met a lot of people since I arrived in Toronto.

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In view of the above definition, we have two options to explain the difference between sentences 1 and 2, and 3 and 4, as well as 9. Option 1 is to do this on a case by case basis. However, many exceptions weaken the predictive power. Option 2 – expand the rules, which more often than not can cause more confusion.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way out, because the differences between the examples above, as well as the mistake in example 5, don’t come from a misunderstanding of tense, i.e. the grammatical aspect; but from misunderstanding the implicit meaning of each of the verbs, i.e. the lexical aspect.

First, though, what is tense and what is aspect?

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The grammatical aspect helps us locate events in time relative to a moment of reference. On the other hand, the lexical aspect:

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I agree with the presenter that while the classification of predicates might be clear for teachers and linguists, it is definitely too detailed and complicated for English language learners. As a result, a simpler division was proposed by the speaker:

  1. Stative – e.g. love, like, hate
  2. Habitual – performed habitually, e.g. live, study, teach
  3. EPISODIC – performed at specific moments, e.g. graduate, eat, start, move

Bearing the above classification in mind, we can now come back to our 9 examples to see how it can help us explain them in perhaps a simpler way than standard grammar explanations.

Using episodic verbs with PPC or PPS yields different interpretations, e.g. examples 1 and 2:

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On the other hand, using the habitual aspect with PPC and PPS doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence (examples 3 and 4).

As we saw above, explanations in grammar books of PPS and PPC can be a bit conflicting. For example, when learners encounter PPS, they’re told it’s used for actions that started in the past and continue until present. Then, when they learn PPC, they’re told exactly the same thing, which can be confusing to say the least.

On the other hand, we could try to make the lexical aspect slightly more explicit to show the learners why examples 1 and 2 are very different, whereas 3 and 4 essentially the same. Similarly, the lexical aspect helps us understand why sentence 5 is wrong, but 7 correct, i.e. because ‘to meet’ is an episodic verb, incompatible with the PPS or PPC.

Interestingly, the aspects can be different in different languages, something which wasn’t pointed out in the workshop and which I didn’t get a chance to mention in the Q&As. For example, in Spanish, French and Portuguese the verb ‘to know’ (conocer, connaitre and conhecer, respectively) can be both episodic and state verbs. This leads to students producing sentences such as:

  • *I knew John two years ago (to mean – I MET John two years ago).

Knowing this and pointing it out to students, can potentially help them improve their command of grammar. Yet another reason to learn another language, colleagues! 🙂

So taking all this into account, how can we help students notice the lexical aspect?

  1. explicitly mention lexical aspect with grammatical aspect
  2. practise classifying verbs stative vs habitual vs episodic
  3. point out the role of the verb tense and the context in constructing meaning – simplifies the description of each tense

Finally, the presenter concluded that the awareness of the links between grammatical and lexical aspect can be beneficial for students.

What do you think? Would you also use lexical aspect to explain the differences between the 9 example sentences? Or would you do this differently?

Would love to hear your comments.