Saturday, 9 August 2014

Book Review from ESL teacher Christopher Harcom,: These ESL activities incorporate a huge variety of games that capture the imagination and engage learners in a format that is both familiar to them and loads of fun. Everyone processes language differently, of course, but the author has included insightful tips regarding how to apply ESL tools based on gender, culture, and unique individual differences in learning style. On a practical level, the table of contents is detailed and enables fast navigation through all 175 activities. The author also provides useful tips for those who want to print out hard copies, including advice on how to use 20% less ink. With printer ink prices so high that is a thoughtful addition. ESL Classroom Games and Activities

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Classroom Management with Young Children

It can be difficult to manage a classroom of children, even if they are only three !
Here is a question from a teacher on managing her classroom of mixed ages - not an easy task...


"In one class I have  8 children. 6 of age 5 and  2 of  age 3.
The 3 years old are distracting the rest of the class, meaning they scream, throw the animals toys around the class ,turn over the small chairs etc etc.  I was running after them trying to involve them in  the game activities.

Yesterday I  was exhausted at the end of the lesson.
I gave the 5 years old animals coloring page and told them to cut and glue it at the board.
Then I took the two 3 years old and I played, or rather tried to play on the floor with the animals.
They started screaming, running and bothering the others 

Any suggestions on how to handle  them and the lesson?"


To manage this classroom well you cannot abandon the majority of the class to colouring.

As you have the majority of the class aged five and only two 3 year olds I would do the opposite of what you are doing currently.  That is to say instead of abandoning the five year olds to colouring, where they won't be learning English and devoting yourself to the two brats (!) I would ignore the brats and focus on teaching the five year olds.

The three year olds cannot learn at the same pace as the five year olds (unique exceptions aside).  If you go at the pace of the three year olds the five year olds will be bored out of their minds.  Focus on the older ones and let the three year olds absorb what they can as sponges.  Ideally you might even drop them from the class since they are a total nuisance.

You'll have to crack down on those three year olds so that you can get on with giving a proper English lesson to the others.  If you don't eventually the parents will notice that no-one is learning anything !  Everyone loses with the current set up:
1. Five year olds are not learning and will be dissatisfied
2. Three year olds are being rewarded with your full attention for behaving badly
3. You are exhausted
4. Parents will be dissatisfied with the results

So you have to change things radically and I would do it by:

1. Drop the three year olds from the class if you can, they are a nuisance in this context.
2. Tell them off if they scream and throw things, let them play QUIETLY in the room while you are teaching.  From time to time encourage them to join in but give them easy tasks, things they know, things you know they can do.  They will absorb the English slowly and it's still good for them to be in the room hearing English spoken around them.

Classroom management is as vital as the subject being taught.  With an badly managed classroom no one can learn anything and the teachers gets exhausted.

For more classroom management tips please see these two articles:

All the best

Friday, 25 October 2013

How many classes should I work on the same topic?


How many classes should I work on the same topic, like Farms animals?
It seems that some of the children are bored  after 3 weeks of the Farm animals subject, even thought I tried to have different activities in  each lesson.


You have the right attitude, you are observing the class and thinking about how things can be better.

I'm not surprised they are bored after three weeks on the same topic !!  Some teachers are perfectionists and do not move on until every single class member knows the target vocabulary perfectly.  This may be thorough but it's a bit too slow for the majority of the class.  Students can become frustrated if presented for lesson after lesson with the same vocabulary.  They have the impression that they are not advancing very fast and it's true !

On the other hand the problem might not be the TOPIC but the way it is taught and the length of time spent on each activity.  I can't tell that without observing one of your lessons.  But you will figure it out by continuing to notice how things are going and making adjustments.  If students are becoming restless then change something - either the activity or the topic.

Here's a way I really like to do lessons:
Introduce some new language in each lesson and continue working on previous topics as a constant revision process.

Start on Farm animals and do half the lesson on that.  Then do a song and then some revision of previously taught themes - that way your lesson has variety not only in the things you are doing but in the topics.  You can change the order around as you please but usually I start the lesson with the new things while the children are freshest.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Teaching this and that

Today I received a question a teacher on how to teach "THIS" and "THAT" with possessives.


I have started teaching mixed age and ability preschool group. I want to do the Cars play - from your plays - with them. I can`t think of an interesting way of teaching them this, that etc..

Do you have any suggestions? I would appreciate it very much.
Warm wishes,
Sanja Jeremic



For this and that use a pointing game with pens or pencils since everyone has those. All the children have a pencil in their hand and you stick a pencil up on the board or wall - a real one with tape ! Now point to your pencil and say "this is my pencil".  Use gestures to be clear, pointing at the pencil and at your body.

Go to a child and get them to say "this is my pencil" clearly holding his/her own pencil to his/her body. Go back to your pencil, stand right next to it and say "this is my pencil" and you indicate the pencil and your body to show it's yours.

Now point at the child you were with earlier, point at his/her pencil and say "THAT is YOUR pencil". Repeat this three times, alternating between your own pencil and the child's, using clear gestures each time.


Have the whole class repeat "this is my pencil".  Eveyone holds up a pencil in his/her hand while saying "this is my pencil" three times over.

Now have them point at the child you went to earlier and say with you "that is your pencil' three times over.

When you say: "This is my pencil" everyone should hold up his or her pencil and gesture it is theirs. When you say: "That is your pencil" everyone should point at the child's pencil you were with earlier, using gestures.
Switch between the two slowly at first and gradually getting faster.


Everyone has objects on their desks.  The teacher says: "This is my book" and all the kids take one of their books and hold it up indicating that it is theirs. Say: "That is your book" and indicate someone else's book. Repeat "this is my book" with everyone responding by holding up and showing his/her book. Repeat: "That is your book" with everyone pointing at someone else's book.  Check no one is still showing his or her own book.

Say: "This is my shoe" and every one shows a shoe by lifting up a leg and pointing. Continue using different nouns such as: That is your shoe. This is my nose. That is your nose. This is my chair...and so on.

If students are all doing great you can complicate the game by saying "This is my RED book". Only children with a red book can show it, and so on. That would work well with coloured pencils or with clothing.

It's important that all the nouns you use are things the children already know. This and that, my and your are the new words so we don't want new nouns as well or it's too much to take on board. This is an opportunity to revise body parts,clothing and classroom objects while you are at it.

CIRCLE GAME If you have smallish groups put piles of possessions in the middle of the group - keep the groups small to avoid chaos. Kids take out their possessions saying "this is my pen, this is my book, this is my hat". That way you are starting to work on the play script "CARS" already.

Use a circle game where students pass round an object to music and when you stop the music the person with the object picks something out of the circle saying either "this is my" or "that is your". Make sure if they say "that" that they are pointing to it not holding it. This is near, that is far.

Play Hot Potato where children pass round an object that belongs to one of them such as an individual pencil case. When you clap the person holding the pencil case says to the pencil case owner "THIS is yours". If ever the owner has the pencil case when the music stops he or she says "THIS is MINE".  As the children become good at this add in more objects so there are several going around the circle at once.

All the best

PS Get all these ideas and more in 176 English Language Games for Children or on Amazon as a paperback.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Tips for a new class and the first English lesson

QUESTION: Do you have any tips for getting off on the right foot from the very first day?


When meeting a new class for the first ever English lesson the temptation is to ask all the students their name. Whatever you do I would not do this ! Of course it is FINE to do this if you have only a handful of students but with a large class, if you start with "what's your name?" and go round the class it's so boring and it's been done over and over, plus the students already know each other's names. This type of activity is somewhat pathetic, it allows the teacher to use up 15 minutes of a lesson doing something that bores the students totally and teaches them nothing, it's purely for the benefit of the teacher who can't be bothered to think up anything more imaginative. This might sound harsh, but it's fair don't you think ?!

I'd get right into a game like a quiz where they write questions for the quiz on different topics - the first lesson can be a general lesson where you get a feel for the students' level. Check out quizzes in the teen games book - there are several including Jeopardy, Who wants to be a millionaire, and there are some blanks and some pre-prepared questions in the Appendix.

On the other hand if you find they are too hopeless at English to be able to form questions then have a more basic lesson prepared to fall back on with a mixture of quieter games, and something like "Find Your Friend" where students move around in class once, just to keep them from becoming sleepy at their desks. Keep a mix of quiet and louder games but prefer quieter games for the first lesson. You are asserting your authority right from the start, it's important not to lose control at first. You'll be able to let them make more noise as you feel more confident at the new school. Plus you don't want the other teachers thinking you can't control your class on day one.

Quiz games and classroom activities needing little or no preparation: And Paperback on Amazon US,, Spain, France, Italy and Germany: Search under "Shelley Ann Vernon". All the best Shelley

How to manage a classroom while using games and activities

QUESTION: How can I manage a large classroom while using games and activities?

Do you have any tips on how to get a class off "on the right foot" from the very first day? How should I set the tone of authority that will enable me to use games and activities without losing control of the class? I am a flexible and generally very capable teacher, but I can appear too "gentle" and sometimes loud or aggressive students can intimidate me. I would appreciate any advice you can offer me concerning discipline in a large classroom with students of various abilities and mother tongues.

ANSWER: Check this site, I believe it's key, especially with the teen age group - taking time outside of class to chat to the students and ask them about themselves informally shows them you are interested in them:

From day one you need to be yourself, and be firm. Before you start classes find out from the head and from the other teachers what options you have for dealing with difficult students, ask if there are any to watch out for and how other teachers deal with them. If possible see if any of the teachers will let you observe a class where there are difficult kids.

Teen / Adult Games Book in PDF for instant download with printable games:

And as a paperback on Amazon UK (also on US, and European Amazon sites):

Feel free to ask any questions to the author. All the best Shelley Ann Vernon

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Fun English Play "What Day Is It?"

Well done to Natasa in Greece, at the Primary School of Ormilia in Chalkidiki for teaching and putting on this fun skit from my book of thirty easy English plays for kids learning English. The 30 plays are available here: And also as a paperback from here: