16 June 2015

Short and sweet

This is a short and sweet blog post to accompany a new short (and hopefully sweet!) reader for young learners. With around 250 words, it uses simple language such as personal pronouns, present simple (3rd person) and past simple (regular verbs). Headwords also include CVC words with /i/ to enable practice of short /i/ pronunciation. 

YL reader

Summary: Finn discovers an easy way to do his homework but is it really the best option? 

Download the reader (PDF) 

Check out my graded readers page for more stories.

8 June 2015

New! Graded Readers

Graded readers are tricky to write and use, but recently I've had a few ideas swimming around my head that I've finally started to put down on paper. After doing a lot of background reading, especially on Rob Ware's fantastic website, I've produced what I hope is the first of many graded readers plus students' worksheets and teacher's notes, which are completely free to download and use in the classroom. 

Champagne life, lemonade money is an elementary reader for teenage learners and dabbles in relevant themes for modern teens such as social media pressures, cyberbullying and money. Here's the summary: 
After she pretends to lead a rich and extravagant lifestyle but posting fake photos online, Sophie falls victim to cyberbullies and quickly loses control. She thinks that deleting her online persona will resolve the problem, but then she discovers that one of her virtual friends has transferred to her school. 

Click on the new 'Graded Readers' tab to find out more or click on the links below to download for free!

Download the graded reader (PDF)
Download the student's worksheet 
Download the teacher's notes

24 March 2015

The adventures of Marcos and Maria: ELT material for low income communities

Three years ago I was stuck at home for two weeks following minor surgery. Two weeks during which I couldn't leave the house, couldn't cook and couldn't really get off the sofa. After quickly gaining and overcoming an addiction to Project Runway, I was still left twiddling my thumbs. At the time I was helping out a local NGO, teaching English classes to a group of adults with low literacy levels in Portuguese and also to a group of mixed ability and mixed age children. I was struggling to adapt ready made materials to the students' realities and was constantly surprised with new learning barriers, many of which I believed stemmed from the education they received in the home and at school. The problems Brazilians face daily in terms of infrastructure and access to quality educuation are well documented and it wouldn't be unfair to say that reading and literature are not present in many low income households. As a self-confessed bookworm and ELT professional, I refuse to let that pass. I'm that aunt/cousin/godmother who gives every child a book for their birthday/Christmas present! For me, the power and potential of reading is indescribable. 

Therefore, during my period of confinement I started thinking about how I could make my social project more meaningful and more relevant to the children's lives and realities. And thus, The Adventures of Marcos and Maria was born! As aventuras de Marcos e Maria (in Portuguese) grew from an idea about travelling cousins, who find a magic phone manual with the power to transport them to different English-speaking cities around the world, into a series of educational material that has been designed for use with children from low-income communities in Latin America. Thinking about the multiple aims of a social project, I designed the material to combine English language teaching with discussions about citizenship and activities designed to improve interest in reading in Portuguese/Spanish.  Rather than a traditionally structure English course, I wanted the material to motivate students’ interest in education and learning and to form more socially aware young citizens with a clearer view of their role in society.
All of the characters and themes have been designed and created to reflect the reality of young people living in low-income communities, through the physical features of the characters, family structure and issues addressed in the material. 

Only being able to work on the material in my free time meant that it took a while to get off the ground. However, I'm very pleased to report that a grant proposal was accepted last year which has meant that I have been able to print and start using the material with 60 children in an NGO in Duque de Caxias, Brazil. I hope to write further blog posts about the successes (or areas for improvement) of using this multidisciplinary material with students in a low income community. 

9 March 2015

Food, glorious food (part 1)

Here is the first in a three part series on food. It can be used with high-basic or pre-intermediate learners and is designed to practise speaking skills. The teacher's notes are in the final slide of the powerpoint presentation and there is also an accompanying handout.

Download the powerpoint here

Download the handout here 

2 February 2015

Speaking activity- Job Interview

Here's a very simple, quick speaking activity that can be used to practise the present perfect and past simple with the theme of job interviews. Students complete the questions using 'have you ever' + the correct form of the verb then work in pairs to interview eachother about past work experience. If an interviewee answers yes to any of the questions, then the interviewer should ask them to elaborate further by saying 'can you tell me about it', in order for students to practise the difference between present perfect and past simple. 

Download the worksheet here 

29 January 2015


It seems like a day can't pass without a public figure- be it authority or celebrity- makes a gaffe of some sort, which is reproduced, shared, tweeted, parodied, made into a meme within seconds. In the past month or so we've seen a Fox news reporter claim that the British city of Birmingham is 'totally Muslim', a reporter told actress Rashida Jones, who comes from a biiracial family, that she was 'very tanned' and actor Benedict Cumberbatch was criticised for accidently mixing up 'coloured' and 'of colour' when referring to black actors. 
Thinking about my own gaffes (I'm quite clumsy, so there are many), I realised that we all have our own embarrassing stories to tell. Using funny celebrity quotes to introduce the theme, this lesson looks at idioms and expressions related to embarrassment and awkward situations, before moving on to a thought-provoking reading and video activity about advertising campaigns that caused embarrassment for the company. 

Download the complete lesson plan here 

The Dove 'Onslaught' and Greenpeace '(On)Slaughter' videos can be seen below. 

26 January 2015

Business English: Meet our people

Depending on what mood you catch your students in, job satisfaction can be a potentially explosive topic! However, talking about their job and the company they work for is great for practicing natural conversation with business English students, many of whom need to feel confident with this topic to socialise at conferences or trade fairs. This intermediate lesson plan uses videos from the careers site of two global companies to practise listening comprehension skills, before moving on to analyse recruitment slogans and ending with students preparing a presentation about their own job role and company. 

Download the complete lesson plan, including student handout HERE

Watch the videos here: L'oreal and Nestle