Posted in Listening Classes

700 Free Audiobooks

Check out this amazing range of free audio books. Great if you want to implement an extensive listening program with your class:

Posted in Listening Classes, Proficiency

Proficiency Podcasts: Radiolab, Words

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Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is the second in a series of lesson plans based around podcasts for high level learners (high C1+). This one is based on the first part of Words by radiolab. The link, transcript and lesson plan are below:

Proficiency Podcasts words, Lesson plan

Words Transcript – divided into sections.

Warmer – Charades

SS have to sign the following sentences:

I don’t like bananas

I love soup

I think it will rain

Where is Joan?

I went swimming yesterday.

Can I have a pen?

Was it easy? Which sentences were the easiest? Do you ever play this game with your family?

  1. Do you know sign language?
  2. How difficult is it to communicate without words?
  3. What’s your favourite word in your own language/English?

Listening – Radiolab, words

1st section 00:15 – 01:02

Listen and answer these questions:

  • What happened to Susan? She was hit by a catering truck while riding her bike.
  • What were the consequences? She had concussion and couldn’t go to school.
  • How did she feel? Very bored

Listen once, ss share answers in pairs. Listen again for specific detail and language.

  • How does she describe the accident? A catering truck hit me.
  • How does she describe her feelings? Bored out of my mind.

Follow same sequence with each section, general comprehension questions, then listen again and clear up language problems.

2nd section 01:02 – 1:40

  • What did she do? Why? Her friend suggested that she crashed classes at the local uni.

2nd listen for language.

Make a prediction in pairs:

  • What happened that changed her life?

3rd section 01:40 – 2:15

  • What happened? She walked into a signing class.
  • What was her reaction? Mesmerised

Predict: What’s going to happen next?

4th sections 2:15 – 3:05

  • What happens next? Becomes a signer.
  • Where does she go? LA
  • Who does she meet? A man born deaf.

5th section 3:05 – 3:50

  • How does she describe the man? Beautiful, great cheekbones, black hair black eyes.
  • What’s the guy’s problem? Copies everything, visual echolalia

6th section 3:50 – 4:48

  • What does he realise about the guy? Has no language
  • How does he think the world works? That we figure stuff out visually

7th section 4:48 – 5:07

  • What questions do they ask?
  • What do words do for us?
  • Are they necessary?
  • Can you live without them?
  • Can you think without them?
  • Can you dream without them?
  • Can you swim without them?

Discuss these questions as a class.

Set the rest of this part of the podcast as homework with the following questions:

5:07 – 8:35

  • What problems did she have teaching him? He copied everything she did, he thought everything was an order. Didn’t know how to say goodbye, didn’t know if he would come back.
  • How did she make a breakthrough? Acted out the role of student and role of teacher.
  • What was his reaction? He broke down in tears.


  • Have you ever had to communicate without words? Why?
  • How do you make yourself understood if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language?
  • Have you ever had a misunderstanding with someone in this situation?
  • How much do you rely on signing and body language?
  • Have you ever spoken English on the phone? What was it like?

Accuracy vs Fluency

  • What’s more important accuracy or fluency when speaking?
  • If you spoke extremely accurately but with no fluency what problems would you have? And vice versa.
  • In what situations is it especially important to be accurate?
  • In what situations is it especially important to be fluent?
  • “Only teachers notice your mistakes” Do you agree?
  • “As long as the errors don’t affect understanding they don’t matter” Do you agree?
  • “Little mistakes will go away over time, you don’t have to focus on them.” Do you agree?
  • “Confidence is more important than how much you’ve studied when speaking a foreign language” Do you agree?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes, Proficiency

Proficiency Podcasts: Radiolab, Darkode

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Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is the first of a new series of lesson plans based around different podcasts for proficiency and post-proficiency students. They’re appropriate for high C1+.

These lesson plans work in a similar way to the Proficiency Book Club series; set the podcast as homework so that students can listen to it at their leisure and then discuss it in the following class. For this lesson plans students will need to listen to the first part of the Darkode podcast by the amazing radiolab team of Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad. Download the plan here:

Proficiency Podcast Darkode LP

Lead in

How computer literate are you?

How often do you use a computer?

Could you live without one?

What would you lose if your computer suddenly died or was stolen?

Have you or anyone you know ever been hacked?

What do you do to stay safe online?

Darkode Discussion

What happened to Ina?

Russian hackers hacked her computer and held all her files hostage for 500 dollars.

Where does she suspect the hackers are from?

Russia or the Ukraine

Why did she decide to pay?

Her husband’s tax receipts are worth more than $500.

What does she have to do?

Get $500 in bitcoins to pay the ransom

What happened when she decrypted one file?

A timer started counting down until the files would be permanently deleted.

What are bitcoins?

An unregulated, untraceable online currency.

What did she have to do to get the bitcoins?

A lot of paperwork, take a photo of her husband holding his driving licence, get in contact with and send them the $500 from the post office.

What different problems did she encounter?

A snowstorm, thanksgiving holiday, the change in exchange rate.

How did she overcome in the problem of the exchange rate?

Contacted her daughter in Brooklyn to get her to go to the Bitcoin ATM.

What happened next?

She paid the ransom but she was 2.5 hours late, she received a message telling her she now had t pay $1000.

How did she solve this problem?

She wrote to them in Russian explaining all the problems she had encountered and the hackers took pity on her and decrypted her files.

Who else has been a victim of cryptowall?

Police departments, universities and normal people.

How many people have been a victim of cryptowall?

1 million.


What would you do it this happened to you? Would you pay?

How much are the files on your computer worth to you?

If you could save 1 file from your computer which would it be?


Here are some phrases and words taken from the podcast:

top it up/off – to refill something to the top. I topped up my wine glass.

pay a ransom – to pay a criminal to return something or someone they have taken

playdate – US, when parents meet up so that their children can play together.

speak in airquotes – to make quotation mark gestures with your fingers while speaking to show that you’re not speaking literally.

Posted in Listening Classes, Recommended Websites, Uncategorized

Experimenting with English (Part 2) – Activities for learners to do outside the classroom [26 and counting!]

A great way to push students to do more outside class.

Lizzie Pinard

In my blog post Experimenting with English: scaffolding learner autonomy, I discussed how I approached helping my learners to use English outside the classroom, drawing on learner autonomy theory and methodology (e.g. Benson, 2011; Oxford, 2003; Smith 2003). Central to that project, alongside the very important element of discussion, was a handout I created for my learners.

Here is a screenshot of a sample page, taken from the listening section:

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 20.47.59 Sample page from my Experimenting with English activities handout, listening section.

As you can see, the handout consists of a series of activities for learners to try, with space for them to record when they tried it and what they thought of it. The handout is divided up by skill (reading, listening, speaking, writing). What you can’t see here is that in each subdivision, as well as the activities I’ve added, there is space for the learners…

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Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes, Video Classes

Past Modals of Deduction: The Hangover


This is a lesson plan based around the theme of hangovers in which students get to grips with past modals of deduction, and question formation.


What is hangover?

Do you get hangovers?

When was the last time you had one?

What’s the worst hangover you can remember?

Do any specific drinks give you a worse hangover?

Part 1:

Give out the situation handout.

Read out the situation and clear up any vocabulary issues.

You wake up on your sofa with a very sore head. Your friends are all sleeping on the floor of the living room. One of your friends is wearing a wedding dress. You have a big bruise on your knee. There is an unfamiliar cat walking around the room. The room smells of vomit. Your car is not outside.

What happened last night???

Possible past actions Could/might/may have + past part.


My friend might have got married!
Almost certain past actions


Must have + past part. We must have got really drunk.
Impossible past actions


Can’t have + past part. I can’t have driven home.
Expressing regret


Should/shouldn’t have + past part. We shouldn’t have drunk so much.


First brainstorm the questions for the mysteries.

Where did I leave the car?

Where did the cat come from?

Why is my friend wearing a wedding dress?

Why did I fall asleep on the sofa?

Why does my head hurt?

How did I hurt my knee?

Why does the house smell like vomit?

Part 2

Tell students you are going to show them a clip from the film “The Hangover” that contains a similar situation. Tell them that while they watch they should make a note of the different mysteries.

After watching brainstorm the mysteries, putting all of them on the board paying special attention to question formation.

Then have students speculate on the mysteries using past modals of deduction.

Follow up

Put students in groups and have them write new hangover situations with lots of mysteries, they then exchange situations with another group and speculate about each other’s situations.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes

Speaking on the phone in English



This is a fun lesson plan for A2+ students. It can be adapted for different levels.

Here are the handouts you will need:

Discussion questions:!431&authkey=!AAlHxxKilDRy890

Role cards:!430&authkey=!AMxbkbpkHybUhS8

Part 1 – discussion

Start by telling students to get there mobiles out. Encourage each student to talk about their phone. When they got it, what they use it for, if they like it or not.

You can either go through the following conversation questions as a class or split the class into groups of 2 or 3.


What phone have you got?

How many different things can your phone do?

Do you know how to use all of the functions on your phone?

How often do you speak on the phone?

When do you switch off your phone?

When do you think phones should be switched off?

What annoys you about mobile phones?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mobiles?

At what age should a child have a mobile?

What effect do you think they have had on society?

Have you ever spoken in English on the phone? Where? Why? How was it?


Have students report back their opinions and ideas to the class. Focus especially on the last question. Encourage students to share their experiences of speaking English on the phone.


Part 2 – phone role plays

Put students in pairs and tell them to swap phone numbers with their partners in English.

Assign letters A/B to to the students.

Tell all As to imagine that they have just arrived in the UK, they have moved to the country to live in and work. They are looking for a flat / house. They have seen an advert on the internet for accommodation, they are going to call the landlord / lady to ask for information.

Tell all Bs that they are landlords/ladies, they are expecting calls from potential tenants. Give all Bs one of the role cards from the handout.

Tell A’s that they will need a pen and paper. They have to call B and take down the following information:

  • Landlord / lady’s personal details – Full name, address, telephone number and email address. Correct spelling!
  • Information about the house they are letting.
  • The price of the rent and whether or not it includes bills.
  • Any rules that the house has.

On the board go over the following:

  • How to read phone numbers (o not zero, 77=double 7 etc.)
  • How to read email addresses (@-at, .-dot, _-underscore etc.)
  • Vocabulary – bills included, fully furnished, €300 a month, deposit, no pets allowed etc.
  • Polite phrases – could you repeat that please? Could you spell that please? Could you speak slower please? etc.

Now send the landlords / ladies out of the classroom. Encourage the tenants (As) to think of some extra questions to ask about the house.

Tenants call landlords / ladies and take details.

When they have finished ask Bs to come back in and check the details for spelling the winning pair is the one who made the least mistakes. Now rotate the role cards to the left and As and Bs swap roles and repeat.

Afterwards students feed back to class. Was it difficult? Which bits were most difficult? etc.

Here are the role cards:

Mr Smith

Address: 13 Waterloo road, Exeter, Devon EX2 9DT



House information:

Small flat sharing with two other people. Small bedroom with a single bed.


€400 a month bills included

House rules:

No pets, no smoking, no parties.

Mrs. Davis

Address: 17 Park view, Swansea, Wales, SW1 4FG

Tel: 07655423152


House Information:

Large private apartment next to the park. 2 bedrooms with double beds.


€700 a month bills not included

House rules:

No pets, no students,

Miss Johnson

Address: 15 winterbrook park, Bradford, Yorkshire, YO4 4RC

Tel: 01566 344987

House information:

1 bedroom flat on the 8th floor. No furniture included.


€500 a month bills not included

House rules:

Maximum 2 people living in flat, no smoking, pets allowed.

Mr. Brown

Address: 16 Clinton avenue, Exeter, Devon EX1 5GG

Tel: 01392 211345


House information:

Large bedroom in shared student house. Sharing with 3 19 year old students.

Price: €250 a month bills included.

House rules:

There are no rules!!!

Mrs. Folkstone

Address: 1 Green avenue, Newcastle, NW3 9RG

Tel: 01298 600999


House information:

Small room in a family home. Sharing with a family of four.

Price: €500 a month bills and meals included.


No parties, no partners sleeping in the house, no pets, no noise after 9pm.