Arguing…Who doesn’t?

This turned out to be a great topic for an upper-intermediate adult class 🙂 : Men vs women stereotypical behaviour when arguing.

Flickr Photo by Niko Kahkonen under CC BY NC-SA- 2.0

Flickr Photo by Niko Kahkonen under CC BY NC-SA- 2.0

Outline of the lesson:

Lead in

  • Describe a scenario to the Ss where a couple (man and a woman) are having an argument, for example at a restaurant, at a bus stop, in the supermarket, etc.
  • Ask Ss to discuss in pairs: Stereotypically, how are they behaving differently?
  • Open class feedback


  • Provide your students with a vocabulary list on behavioural tendencies which they must categorise in a Venn diagram, whether it is more likely of a man, a woman or both.  Examples : withdraw, beat around the bush, be straightforward, cry, raise the tone of voice, be sarcastic, roll your eyes, etc.
  • Work on the vocabulary with the Ss – meaning and pronunciation – and have them work in small groups to contrast their opinions. This is more interesting if you can mix men and women within the same group.
  • Open class feedback


  • Ss will watch the following video : Weird things all couples fight about.
  • Before they do so, ask them to predict what they arguments will be about. Let them know they are everyday minor arguments a couple would have.
  • Play the video. Ss check for their predictions.
  • If want and have time, play it twice, the second time with the captions so that they can focus on language for further work on colloquial speech.

Role play

  • Ideally, pair up male and female students and ask them to switch roles for the task. (The man should play the woman and viceversa)
  • Give them time to prepare a 30 second role play of an argument similar to the ones in the video. Ask them to try and include as much stereotypical behaviour as possible.
  • Each pair will perform in front of the whole class. After each performance, the audience must:

(a) Describe what the argument was about

(b) Point out any stereotypical behaviour

(c) Rate the performance from 1-10 based on: creativity and humour, language use and dramatisation skills.

Blind dates

I found a lovely video that I used with a Pre-Intermediate class on blind dates and I couldn’t help sharing it. 🙂

Outline of the lesson:

  • Use the video as a lead in. Stop it at various points and ask students what they think will happen next.
  • Elicit the context (a blind date) and provide them with some discussion questions related to what happened in the video.
  • What does he/she look like? vs. What is he/she like? Teach descriptive adjectives for physical appearance and character/personality.
  • Provide students with some dating profiles. In pairs they can focus on the language style and the vocabulary and discuss which personal qualities would be more valuable or important to them.
  • Using those same dating profiles or asking students to write their own profile on a post it note ( it could be about a person they know) ask them to mingle, ask questions and try to find the perfect match.
  • Finally, give them some general questions about blind dates (personal experiences, what could go wrong?, advice on good spots for a blind date in their city, who should pay? etc)

<p><a href=”″>Blind Date</a> from <a href=”″>Hallie Wilson</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Drill me to tears

An idea for finding out more about your students’ history as language learners.

When you get a new group of students, the first class (actually the first few) is really aimed at getting to know them and analysing their needs as language learners.

Of course, a needs analysis is quite a serious matter as you will be basing on it your choices on material, class dynamics, topics, methodology and even the arrangement of the furniture in the classroom. Nevertheless, I like to think that the first day is also by far the best opportunity to set the tone for the learning experience you will be sharing together and allowing your students to take charge and have a saying on how its going to develop. They’ll appreciate your interest in getting to know them as individual learners within a group, their past and their expectations.

Students are usually quite nervous and stressed on the first day and that’s why some good humour is the best ice breaker you would ever find. Trust me, they are not expecting this one 😉


1) Ss watch part of a video. (Stop it at 22 seconds).

Discuss what is going on:  Who is the woman? Who is the man? Where are they? 

2) Watch some more and stop at 1.21.

Discuss: What is the teacher doing? Is it working? 

3) Watch the rest of it. ( give some time for the laughter to invade the room 🙂  )

Discuss: What happened in the end? How did each of them feel?

4) Ss work in pairs and answer the following questions:

Have you ever been in  a similar situation as a learner? How did / would you feel? 

How important is motivation when learning a language?

What do you find most challenging about learning English? 

Discuss the answers as an open class.


After this, I would provide each Ss with a questionnaire to find out some more about them. Have them interview each other in pairs so they can practice their speaking skills 🙂

The type of questionnaire would depend on the age and level of the students but I would suggest to add some questions that can provide you with information on their preferences regarding topics, materials, sources, tasks, etc.

The more you know about their history as language learners the higher the chances of succeeding in helping them to keep on progressing. 🙂


Use your senses…write a poem!



This is an idea for a writing task many students tend to fear….WRITING A POEM 🙂

I can’t even speak English properly… I could never write a poem

I’ve heard this at least a few times. In my experience, writing is one of the language skills students feel quite insecure about and find it even tedious. Specially when students are studying for official exams, they relate writing to drafts and drafts on reports, letters of complaint, reviews, etc.

So as a follow up to my last post “How great do you need to be?” advocating the creativity in all of us, this time I want to share a poem I wrote for a literature class back in college which turned into a lesson plan idea on writing a poem using the senses.

I used it in class with 6th graders who were around an A2 level, which means it can fit almost any level. The more advanced the learners, the more sophisticated the outcome in terms of vocabulary but the joy and feeling of accomplishment for having written a poem knows no age or language level. 🙂

Tell them at the beginning of the lesson they will be writing a poem, you’ll love the surprised look on their faces 😉

On a personal level, I just feel it so cool to have all these great tools on the web. I’ve enjoyed using Pinwords, Wordle and Flickr for the images included in the plan.



1. Show the photo of a clock.

Ask Ss to discuss what comes to mind.

I’ve chosen this one from Flickr by Brett Tatman because it fits like a glove the idea of time slowly passing by as the numbers have been inversely positioned.Image

Image from Flickr used under CC Attribution Non Comercial- Share Alike License  CC BY NC-SA 2.0


2. Show the Wordle. 

Now Ss have to think of a place where all these words could come together without forgetting the element of the time.


3. Fill in the gaps 

Give a copy of the poem without the title and gaps for the words to be filled in using the Wordle. Work in small groups. Let them know that the bigger the word on the image the higher the frequency of appearance on the poem.

4. Check and discuss

Go over the answers and ask Ss what they think the title could be. Provide the title and then discuss the poem’s form and theme. Draw their attention to the variety of senses used to describe a very common place.

5. Following the model, Ss write their own poem. 

Work in different groups now to create their very own poem. Provide them with an A3 cardboard for the final draft. Display them around the classroom and give students time to walk around the class to read the other groups’ poems.

6. Final discussion

Plenary session on their final productions and some feedback on the task itself.

(See a difference in their face expression now? 😉 )



Creative absurdity for 1st Conditionals

I love quotes. I literally spend hours searching for quotes and photos with quotes that strike me somehow.

This is how I came across this image… and I immediately thought it could be the starting point, base and inspiration for a fun 1st Conditionals lesson plan.



After working with young learners and having been a language learner myself, I have come to realise that grammar is always more memorable and easier to digest when presented inductively, allowing students to notice the grammar rules through participation and reflection. It might not always work, depending on the language point or the level of the students, but it’s worth trying it out whenever possible. It is definitely a much more learner-centered approach than going straight into “Good morning. Today we are going to look at 1st Conditionals”… I dreaded those when I was a student myself.

Now, let’s get to the actual nitty-gritty…


  • Write on the board :    NO PEN = DEATH

  • Discuss in pairs:  Ask Ss to try to imagine how could a “no pen” situation lead to “death” as a result.  Let them know you want them to …BE CREATIVE, EVEN BE ABSURD.
  • Get some open class feedback on this first round. You’ll probably be laughing by this point 🙂 Some students might already use If clauses or at least try to do so. Pause to focus on it, making it noticeable to the class, you could even write “IF” on the board and subtly show through your gestures and body language, that it’s and interesting point that you’ll get back to later.
  • Now provide them with two more points along this chain of consequences and let them have another go with this extra information: ……NO WORK …… NO MARRIAGE 
  • Feedback once again.
  • Now show them the full chain of consequences. Give them a couple of minutes to go through it. Check for vocabulary questions.  (You could make a poster sized version on cardboard)

2. TASK 1 – FOCUS ON MEANING AND FORM (only orally for now)

  • Ask students which side of the list (left or right) is the cause or condition and which is the result.
  • Read out the first three or four lines but using the 1st conditional form. Do it slowly first, stressing the IF and WILL in the sentences. Do it a second time in a more natural manner and ask Ss to repeat it. Choral drill the first to focus on intonation but then switch to individual drilling in a random order.

              If you lose your pen, you will not have a pen …

If you don’t have a pen, you will not take notes …

If you don’t take notes, you  will not study…

  • Guide them to keep going until the end of chain, either 1 full sentence per student or choosing different students for the first and second half of each sentence. This will really require their full attention.




  • Ask Ss: Did  you ever think loosing a pen might result in such disaster? 
  • Ask them if it sounds familiar at all. Elicit Murphy’s Law and discuss it briefly.
  • Show them the following images (you can use any images that would elicit any of Murphy’s laws) :

murphy's law pics


  • Give students the opportunity to try producing a Murphy’s Law to fit the images. First let them work in small groups, just orally for now. Remind them to use  IF ….. WILL /WON’T
  • Get feedback for ideas. During this feedback, if the structure has been used wrong, point it out, give others the opportunity to correct it, emphasise what part needs to be corrected or improved (it might even be the intonation) and once they’ve got it right, write it down on the board.

FIRST CONDITIONAL – Real possibility

If + present simple , subj+ will/won’t + base verb  = If I am late, my mom will be angry

Subj + will/won’t + base verb + If + present simple = My mom will be angry if I am late

At this point it is a good idea to emphasise that it is a future situation that will most likely take place given those    circumstances. Using Murphy’s Law and absurd chains of events is just a way to help the form stick and make a memorable association.

You might want to provide students with some controlled written practice using some gap-filling exercises or a matching halves type of exercise. I would personally do so in a follow-up class. That would give us the chance not only to review and practice the form conscientiously but to reminisce the funny moments of this first class.


This is the part I like the most.

  • Give each group of students a blank sheet of paper. Ask them to create a chain of events similar to the one used at the beginning of the lesson, but just half as long, about 5 linked cause – effects. THEY SHOULD USE THE FIRST CONDITIONAL TO WRITE DOWN THEIR CHAIN. (Monitor while they are doing it to check on form).
  • Use blue-tack to stick them up around the class. Ask Ss to stand up and read through the other groups and vote for their favourite.
  • To end the lesson, ask them which is their favourite absurd chain of events and why.


I have enjoyed doing this myself. Hope you find it useful.

Please, feel free to comment, correct or make any suggestions.