Class Story Reverse Reading

I’m going to try a variation of a Reverse Reading Comprehension I posted about a while back. Here’s the plan:

  1. Show a picture like one of these on the board
  2. Have the students generate 5 questions about the picture as a class.
  3. Preferably the questions will form a story-not sure how to do that exactly.
  4. Now each student  will answer the questions.
  5. Then in groups of 3, they will discuss their answers and choose the best ones.
  6. Then they string them together to form a story
  7. Vote on the best one.

So the only variation, I guess, is the use of a picture and having students generate the questions.

Any other ideas or suggestions to make this lesson work well?


Dictation Techniques

For a variety of reasons, I’m researching techniques for doing dictations with students. I thought this list might be useful to others as well and I would also love hearing about more techniques in the comments section.

Dictogloss: Many different techniques:

English Raven’s method:

  • [Students] Listen but don’t write.
  •  Write down what you can remember in the first column.
  •  5-10 minutes to improve your notes with a classmate.
  • (Repeat above three times)
  • Now use your notes to rewrite the text. It doesn’t need to be exact, but as close as possible to the original text you heard (and read a while back).

BBBBAC’s method:

  • Preteach words
  • Read once, students listen
  • Read twice, students take notes.
  • Put students in groups of three with roles (leader, editor, writer)
  • Read a third time. Now students in groups try to reconstruct the paragraph.

Other methods emphasize the importance of getting the gist or meaning over the actual words and grammar.

Running Dictation:



  • Break students up into groups of 3-4, or pairs for small classes
  • Put one sentence on a piece of paper for each team
  • One leader from each team goes to the board and tries to remember their sentence
  • The leader returns to their group and dictates the sentence while team members write it down
  • First team to finish correctly gets a point
  • Change words/sentences and switch leaders


  • Use pictures for children who can’t spell and have them draw the picture instead of writing the words
  • Use multiple sentences for more advanced students
  • Place sentences around the room and have each group member do one each.
  • Groups have to put the sentences into the right order before turning in the paper
  1. Cloze Dictation: Some words are missing
  2. Alteration Dictation: Teacher reads sentences and students change the verb tense/vocab words/pronouns
  3. Jigsaw Readings: Students all read different parts of a story and then dictate or summarize to each other their part.
  4. Back-to-back student-led cloze dictations. This rocked!
  • Students have a passage with some words missing. Student A has the words that Student B is missing and vice versa, like a normal cloze exercise.
  • Put the students back-to-back so they can’t read each other’s papers or use body language.
  • Preteach key phrases like, “What did you say?” and “How do you spell that?” and “Huh? WTF?.
  • Then have them read to each other, filling in their missing words as they go.
  • When done, they can turn and face each other and check the answers.

Please do add more, especially fun ways of doing it, in the comments. I’m particularly looking for ways to dictate paragraphs and longer texts.

Goal 8 of 30: Share an Activity

A lot of what I do on this blog is sharing activities, so this goal isn’t particularly new. But I think it’s a good one. Some teachers feel that they don’t have the ability to make an activity of lesson plan worthy of being shared. Or that an activity they like only works in their classroom because it’s small/big/just right and has only Arabs/a good mix/mostly East Asians focused on writing/reading/speaking/secondary mathematics. Most of the time, though, good activities work in a variety of settings or are adaptable. More and more I am trying to focus on collecting and memorizing simple adaptable activities.

So here’s my latest favorite, adapted from a presentation by Jamie Keddie at last year’s ConnTESOL. The heart of the activity involves highlighters!

As a way to draw students’ attention to different parts of speech, put them in groups, arm them with different colored highlighters and step-by-step go through the essay and highlight different bits of it.

For example, you might say, “Highlight the thesis statement.” Once they have done that, ask them to swap highlighters so they have a new color. Now tell them to highlight all the topic sentences. Then swap highlighters and highlight all the transition words.

This could be used to analyze almost any reading for almost anything and in the end, students have a color-coded graphic organizer of a real-live text.

You could even use it for peer-editing, I suppose. Highlight all spelling errors pink. Now highlight all verb tense errors green.

Here’s a worksheet I did teaching students the opposing argument/rebuttal essay form. This form is extremely hard for them to master so I am always storing away methods of teaching it. I am definitely adding this worksheet to my repertoire:
Highlighting activity for Argument Essay

Minimalist Indirect Speech Practice

I’m answering the ELT Bites Challenge (and I really hope that that pun is fully intended) to describe a lesson plan that takes nothing more than you and your students. Full Disclosure: I always use the whiteboard to write down directions/keywords/vocab/grammar structures and also to draw pictures. I think it’s important to get those visual learners too. And I always let my students write stuff down before they speak if they want to. Unless it’s a fluency exercise. But this activity doesn’t actually require any writing or papers or pens or boards.

This is something I did to practice reported speech the other day with my kids. Ask a student way in back what his hobbies are. Then pretend to be deaf and ask another student to report the answer to you. Now ask another student what he did yesterday, and again get the students to tell you, pretending not to be able to hear. Try different questions with different verb tenses. Follow it up by getting them to interview each other in pairs. Then they work with another partner and report what they learned: “I asked him what his favorite movie was but he said he doesn’t like to go to the movies.” Done well this produces lots of authentic reported speech. It can be a lead up to talking about when we use reported speech and when we just say, “He likes football.”

For a 22 page book of worksheets, handouts and activities to present and practice indirect or reported speech, check out What Did you Say, on Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes basically everything I know about teaching indirect speechh. You can click that link to purchase and download it.

Teaching Recipes

Teaching Recipes is a cool site I came across thanks to the TEFL Net newsletter. It’s a collection of lesson plans and activities, but what it seems to have a lot of, that other sites don’t have, is small tips and tricks or explanations of common techniques like how to do a dictogloss or neat little guessing games.

For ELT Bloggers and writers, they take submissions, so it’s a good place to put up an idea and get some exposure as well as some feedback hopefully.

Bad Grammar

I stumbled upon a great video parody of Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” once, called “Bad Grammar” by Jamesatwar. I wrote up a lesson plan and did it a couple of times as a filler lesson after unit exams. It went really well. I then accidentally deleted all my lesson plans and even appear to have deleted a post I made about it on this blog–or I think I made a post on it. So here’s a reconstruction of that lesson plan that touches on bad grammar and slang used in pop music. Students will learn common terms like, “ain’t”, “got no”, and “we be”. They then discuss why pop songs often have bad grammar and spelling and also whether these terms are really all that bad.

It can actually be useful to teach students some commonly encountered bad grammar because they will have to understand it when the hear it. So while it can often sound funny when a foreigner says “ain’t” or “like”, they need the recognition skills.


Warm Up

Ask students if they have heard the song, “The Way I Are” by Timbaland. You might have a short clip ready to help them remember. Then (or alternatively) write this line on the board: “Can you handle me the way I are?”
Ask students what’s wrong with it. Hopefully they will quickly note that ‘I are’ should be ‘I am’.

You can also ask them if they can think of any other songs with bad grammar in them, but this question will also come up later on the discussion questions sheet.

Introducing the Video

This song has a few difficult words in it so you’ll probably want to pre-teach them before they listen. or you might want to wait until they have the lyrics sheet.

Put the following words up on the board:


Tell the students that two words refer to kinds of letters. See if they can pick them out (consonants and vowels). Explain the difference and write a few examples next to the words.
Tell them that one word means the study of language. See if they can match that definition to “linguistics”
Tell them that two words mean something very like “grammar” (morphology and syntax).
Tell them that two words mean to speak clearly or well (enunciate and articulate)
Tell them that one word means someone who is very good at something (prodigy)
and see if they can guess the last word “eloquence” means to speak well.

Alternatively, you could wait until they have the lyrics sheet and see if they can guess the meaning from context and your hints.

The Video

Tell the students that you are going to show them a video to a song parody of “The Way I Are” which makes fun of bad grammar in pop songs. Tell them to try to listen for any examples of bad grammar in the song.

Note: You may or may not want to show it with the captions. Also note that the video does feature a woman in lingerie and some sexual innuendo. Nothing worse than what they see on MTV, but this isn’t a great video to show to younger learners.

Show the students the Bad Grammar Video.
After they have watched, ask them what examples of bad grammar they heard. Take any contributions but make sure to correct students if they cite good grammar as bad grammar.

Now show the video again, this time with the lyric sheet. Have them listen along and note down any bad grammar that they hear/read. Ask them what they think the song is about and hopefully elicit that the song’s message is that pop music uses a lot of bad grammar.

Go over any vocabulary questions students might have–a few words you can use the video to illustrate. Grills for example is said over a still of grills on teeth. Even enunciate is very clearly enunciated.

Discussion Questions

Now hand out or go over orally the Discussion Questions (Teacher’s Sheet here). These questions help students understand “bad grammar” and think of other examples. Then the discussion can move on to whether these examples are really bad grammar or just normal conversational English.

If you have a longer class, you could get into the subject of parodies and copyright laws. Does Jamesatwar have a right to make this parody? Does it hurt Timbaland by implying that he doesn’t speak English well? Could Timbaland sue Jamesatwar? What are the laws in your country (in the US, parody is protected by free speech, but people do have the right for slanderous parody–i.e. parodies that can be proven to damage the original author)?


For homework or in a later class you can have students bring in the lyrics of a song with “bad grammar” that they have “corrected”.

Students can also go through a list of examples of dialect spelling and pick the example that they think should be adopted into standard English.