I finally had the opportunity to experiment with an application which a colleague (Stella!) mentioned to me quite a few months back.  It’s called Padlet and can be used for collaborative work with students sharing things such as written work, links, pictures, ideas, vocabulary and poems.  Once you sign up, you can create your Padlet and by sharing the unique URL students are able to add their work to the Padlet board.

padlet logo

I used it earlier this week with my upper-intermediate students who are really keen on developing their writing skills.  This finally gave me the chance to actually try out Padlet.  We had been working on using prefixes and suffixes to change the meaning of words.  This was then followed by some pronunciation work with students identifying which syllables were stressed.  As a final production activity I then asked students to choose three adjectives and write a sentence with each one.  This led to the following Padlet being formed:

Padlet - opposites

I was able to monitor their progress via the IWB which was much less invasive than walking around the class and peering over shoulders.  It is a very easy application to use and has so many uses.  Stella mentioned using it for presenting homework and sharing new vocabulary.  Once you make a Padlet, students can access it by using the URL which you can give them in class, post on a wiki or send via email.  The URLs can be quite long but you can easily shorten them using a website such as

I made a quick tutorial if you are interested in seeing how it looks!



Emojis – adding personality to communication (and lessons!)

The BBC’s Word of Mouth is one of my favourite radio shows.  While listening to a recent episode, Emoji: The Future of Language, it was reported that UK adults now spend on average more than 20 hours a week online!1. One of the reasons for this is the use of apps in digital communication which has also led to more and more people using emojis. In 2015 an emoji, ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ was the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year (even though it’s actually a pictograph).

WOTY emoji banner

Emojis are a fun way for people to express emotion and empathy in online interaction.  Have you ever used emojis in class? I haven’t yet but it got me thinking as my students (adults, teens and kids) are likely to be using them every day.

Vyvan Evans highlightss that when we communicate we often use speech prosody to better transmit what we want to say; this includes intonation, tone, stress and rhythm to indicate sarcasm, irony, to show contrast and emphasize among many other things.  To compensate for the lack of this paralanguage in written communication we tend to use emojis which add ‘personality’ to our messages.  Vyv also mentions research that suggests the use of emojis in the digital age makes us more effective communicators.

The Emoji Code (UK edition)

I found a good idea for the use of emojis in the classroom from Tim at  He posted a lesson plan after attending a conference by Lindsay Clandfield.  I think it could be easily adapted for many different classes.

A final, interesting finding was the use of emojis in different countries; Canadians use the 💩emoji most, French 💕 emojis (four times more than anyone else!), Arabic users more 🌺 emojis, and Brits…. 🍺!

1. Ofcom Adults’ media use and attitudes report 2016.

Emojipedia – The emoji search engine. A fast emoji search experience with options to browse every emoji by name, category, or platform.

Subterranean London

Students are always interested in finding more about English speaking countries, none more so than good ol’ blighty.  Most of my students here in Qatar have only ever visited London.  They enjoy the shopping, fancy restaurants, tourist sites, palaces and museums;  so why not teach them about the subterranean sewage system!?  Something different and not likely to be found in the old fashioned textbook.  Being serious, this story is interesting and has lots of short accessible written texts, sound effects and authentic native speech which is sure to engage and interest them.



(This could have helped us in our last pub quiz: Which city was the largest city in the world during the middle of the 19th century? We chose Istanbul.)

The Guardian: Subterranean London.

Stop Disasters!

Stop Disasters! is a disaster simulation game.  You can choose from five types of natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, tsunami, wildfire and hurricane.

Students have to think about what precautions can be taken to reduce the impact of natural disasters.  There are missions, challenges, students are given a budget etc.  It would be really interesting to use this in class or set it up as homework and students report back to class.


Engaging Video Clips

Level: B1+

Age: Young Learners to Adults

Theme: Friends, Adjectives, Picture description, Present simple, Present continuous

Tell students that they’re going to watch a video about Harvey and his best friend.

Why do you think they are good friends?
Who do you think Harvey and Rabbit are?

Further questions to ask before watching the clip:

Why do we need friends?
Why are your friends important?
What do you do together?

Watch the video, do you do these things with your friends?

Watch the video again, write as accurately as possible all the things Harvey and Rabbit do.

  • They play on a see-saw together.
  • They have their photos taken in fancy dress in a photo booth.
  •  Harvey buries Rabbit in the sand and makes him into a mermaid. 
  • Harvey rescues Rabbit from a burning house and resuscitates him by licking him. 
  • They steal sausages from the butcher’s and Rabbit drives the getaway car.
  • Harvey makes a compilation tape for Rabbit and dances to it on his hind legs while Rabbit listens on headphones.
  • They lie down on their backs in the grass watching cloud shapes.

I sometimes stop the video at different parts and get students to tell their partner what is happening / has happened / is going to happen.  This was particular helpful for Cambridge exam preparation such as PET and First where candidates have to describe pictures.

I put the following images in a power point slide:

(FRIENDS! a-la-la-poo-poo-la-la-laaaaaa..)

Dragon Dictation


Dragon Dictation is a free app which students can download to practice their speaking and pronunciation skills.  It is a speech recognition application which is only available on the Apple iOS platform.

When I tried the transcription of my speech was 99% accurate.  The only error was the absence of the definite article before Apple iOS due to the fact that structural words, such as auxiliary verbs and prepositions, are often pronounced in their weak form and so often go unheard (by electronic devices and students themselves!).

Learners can practice reading short extracts and compare their recorded transcription with that of the written text that they have chosen.

ESL Games+

Educational Gaming

ESL Games Plus offers interactive online games for learning and teaching English as a Second Language.

Learning games are mostly suitable for teaching ESL Kids and Teenagers. There are activities for teaching and practising English grammar, vocabulary, sentences, listening and pronunciation skills.

Playing these fun educational games, students learn English vocabulary, sentence structures, grammar, listening, pronunciation and phonics.

My favourite games are the Rally Game and the Pirate Board Games.  They were particularly helpful during a recent course I taught in which the group consisted of five male Qatari teenage beginner students.  It was very hard work trying to motivate them and it was quite a forgettable class.