Used to and other patterns – rethought and put into practice

screenshot used to

In the morning today I had a chance to see how my substitution table from the previous post worked. I knew my student would still be struggling with all the 4 patters (get used to, be used to, used to, would) from his e-mailed homework, so before we actually started working with the table, I suggessted doing some preparation work.

So first I just showed and read him a couple of examples about me, featuring all the 4 patterns used in context (see the picture)

Then, based on my examples, he could match the patterns with their Russian equivalents (I felt translation was vital here, otherwise it seemed impossible to stop my student from confusing the meaning of all the 4 ones) . It was not very easy, but with looking back at my examples and a little help, he managed to do that, so I dragged the right translations to the respective patterns and left it on the screen as a kind of reference. I also asked him to make a sentence for each of the pattern, so he produced smth quite close to my phrases.

The next thing was to look at some of the patterns in (authentic) context, so we moved to the next square on the board (pink one). featuring the results of my brief Googling:

“it takes getting used to”
Get Used to It (Brand New Heavies album)
“I’m Getting Used to You” – a song by Selena from the album “dreaming of you”
23 Things Parents Used To Do That Would Get Major Side-Eye Today
Getting used to the Cyrillic alphabet is nothing to be worried about

He read the headings and together we made sure he understood what was meant in each of them and what they could be about.

Only after that (it took about 20 mins) did we move to the table itself. And it worked pretty well (although I am not sure it would do without all the preparation and clarifying. It involved a welcome repetition element, as first he matched the sentences, and then he had to repeat (and rethink) the sentences again when he was expanding on each of them to think who could say that and in what context.

My student told me he felt much better about the patterns by the end of the lesson, and I hope it will be like that by our next class.

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Used to, get used to, be used to and would – an activity to train, revise and speak

usedtoA couple of days ago I felt there wasn’t a good material on would, be used to, be used to used to and get used to that would meet all the requirements for my student.

And so I decidecd to make up something myself.

I needed smth that would let us briefly refresh and revisit the knowledge, rather than dwell on it for a long time. And something that encouraged speaking rather than filling in the gaps. Very often such materials are based on stories, but somehow all those stories didn’t seem good enough for my student (an open-minded young male working for an IT giant). So I decided to try a substitution table.

The sentences in it are kept pretty simple just to let students focus on grammar. The idea has smth to do with stories, but in a different way:

the task is to

1) recreate sentences containing would, used to, be used to or get used to and

2) then to think how each of those sentences (completely different and not connected) could be continued/ what could be the context for each sentence. So this still gives your students a chance to work with stories, but in a different, more personalised and creative way.

If you teach a group of students, they could probably think of thier own continuations, then compare them and choose the best ones.

If you’d like to make your lesson more kinaesthetic-friendly ))), especially in groups, you can cut out some of the squares and let your students put them back to recreate the sentences.

substitution table

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what will your life be like in 5 years’ time? Premier League Stars interview + lesson plan

5 years time

I decided to take part in the Premier Skills Lesson Plan competition, having chosen an interview about the future (the interview features 4 players: Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Ivar Ingimarsson and Sun Jihai).

Here is my try, with grammar and vocabulary of speaking about future, featuring a song (“5 years time” by Noah and the Whale), practising listening, and giving a lot of opportunities to speak:

the interviews are great materials, by the way, being authentic, but at the same time appropriate for lower levels.

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Intermediate+ speaking and reading worksheet:How to learn a new language: 7 secrets from TED translators

If you ask me, I like to reflect (and inspire my students to do the same) on learning languages and what works and what doesn’t, so I’m always happy to offer to my students such opportunities.

Here is a worksheet that brings actual learning languages experiences into class: some practical advice (from professionals!) how we should do it, and a lot of opportunities to discuss how your students do that. The worksheet is based on an article “How to learn a new language: 7 secrets from TED translators” from TED Blog. If you do all the worskheet’s tasks, it should take you around 90 minutes, and probably one of the last activities will be left as a homework.

You can start with some general talk about learning laguages (see p.1 for some quotes and ideas”, then proceed to the reading and matching, and then do the follow-up tasks focusing on the vocabuary. This lesson plan is suitable both for group and one-to-one setting.

I should also say it’s good to provoke a discussion about various ways of learning (and probably teaching) languages, as there has already been some time since I wrote and started using this worksheet with my students.

TED tips learning a language fresh

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I am a slowpoke or How chunking helps with connected speech

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the video I nearly lost: looks like a great base to revise&refresh grammar tenses

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teaching grammar based on what our students actually SAY

A big share of my students is represented by people who have a long string of English learning experience,  especially learning grammar, and not all of this experience is always positive. That’s why I usually try to minimize all the usual things like reading the rules, answering the questions, doing the gap-fills…or at least, I try to move these (definitely useful) things to a later point in time. Because first a need for that should be established. If such need appears,the grammar work will (hopefully) not become just another topic from the student’s curriculum, but will be something meaningful to them personally. And after that there is time and space for grammar exercises, reviews and explanations.

That’s why I love making notes when my students speak, and then starting grammar review from their very own phrase.

Today in the morning I was lucky.. and here is how:

I have long known my morning student’ s problem with Present Perfect/ Past Simple choice, and we even tried once to work with it, but he still makes mistakes, although his theory seems just fine.

Last lesson we were reading about the BBC show “I’ve never seen star Wars”, and so today I asked him if he still remembered what the idea of the show was like. Part of his answer was “They ask them to do something they didn’t do before“. I noted it down and continued (happily;-) listening to him. “ahha”, I thought. So now I had the material that I could base all my grammar explanations on.

the good thing about such “personalised grammar approach” is that if I just told my student that he was having some problem with the 2 tenses and that’s why we were going to spend some time on “doing grammar”, he wouldn’t be too excited. He would probably think something like “oh, I’ve heard both of the tenses names hundreds of times, I seem to use them more or less successfully, so why bother, again?”. But in this case, as I was starting with something he has just said, he was willing to find out why it was wrong and what he should have said instead.

I know we are not always that lucky to catch our students to say exactly what we need them to (so that it corresponds to the next grammar topic in the plan/book/ our heads), but it might just mean we should focus more on what they say and not on what the book says…

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40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally

TED Blog

Tomato_Eyes What does it mean to “have tomatoes on your eyes?” Find out below…

By Helene Batt and Kate Torgovnick May

It’s a piece of cake. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. Why add fuel to the fire? Idioms are those phrases that mean more than the sum of their words. As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language. Which made us wonder: what are their favorite idioms in their own tongue?

Below, we asked translators to share their favorite idioms and how they would translate literally. The results are laugh-out-loud funny.

From German translator Johanna Pichler:

The idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben.
Literal translation: “You have tomatoes on your eyes.”
What it means: “You are not seeing what everyone else can see. It refers to real objects, though — not abstract meanings.”

View original post 1,656 more words

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business&office buzzwords: article and worksheet

Last year I came across a real gem of an article – at least it looks like one from an ESL teacher’s perspective. I am sure it was not the use the author of the article had in mind, but it still worked perfectly for me and some of my students (the ones studying business English) , so I decided to share. The article was published in December on my favourite Mind Tools site

The worksheet based on the article introduces us to some terribly overused buzzwords (or buzzphrases? idioms), lets us see how they can be used in a natural context, and then finishes with a speaking task that lets the students try the new vocab items out in their talk.

Here is the article along with some discussion questions:


and here is the second worksheet, which asks students match the idioms to the right definitions:

buzzwords match

As so far I’ve only tried it in one-to-one situatio, I asked my students to think of talk they might make up using as many idioms as possible.

If you work with groups, I guess playing buzzwords bingo would be just the thing.

Oh, and if you decide to take it to your classroom, please tell me how it went down!

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activities to discuss the year’s results

UPD:this year h b

here is my try at encouraging students to talk about what this year has been for them, in more or less business terms. Here is the worksheet

This year has been

It’s just a framework, so it could encourage various talks and discussion. For more advanced students, it could be just a short speaking activity, and for lower levels it would be the ending point after some preparation and learning vocabulary for success, failure and talking about results and achievements was learned.


this year is almost over..

so are you doing something to wrap up all the year’s results and achievements? Do you have any favorite activities you do at this time of the year?

I’m asking because I’ve been working on a kind of a framework activity now, and just about to test this on one of my students.

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