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Recycling Language in a Dogme Classroom


I have often have teachers asking me, ‘If language just emerges, how do you ensure learning takes place? How do you recycle the langauge?’

Many of you have read, or written blogposts on the same subject, but I thought I’d share my favourite ways of recycling language (which I’ve, of course, stolen and adapted from all the wonderful teachers and colleagues around me).

First things first, I find a retrospective record of my Dogme lessons useful in helping me keep track of what has gone on, so as to revise the language covered, and also to enable me to provide the appropriate scaffolding for subsequent lessons. To do this, I simply take a photo of my boardwork (with my mobile phone) at the end of each lesson. (The other advantage of taking photos is that when students tell you that they have no recollection of a language item being clarified, mainly because they…

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Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Uncategorized

Formal Writing: CAE Essay

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Image credit: LitReactor

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This is a lesson plan designed to help students tackle the CAE writing part 1 formal essay task. It walks students through structuring their essays correctly. Download the handout and Powerpoint below:



Student Handout


In this day and age a worrying percentage of children are showing signs of obesity. The past few years have seen a steep decline in the number of school-aged children taking part in team sports or getting regular exercise. What is the most effective way to tackle this problem and encourage children to be more active?

In this essay I am going to talk about the problem of children not getting enough exercise. I will start by talking about parental influence and then I will discuss the role schools can play.

Hardly a week goes by without another article on the topic of childhood obesity appearing in the media. This is clearly a growing issue which must be addressed urgently. There are a number of ways in which this problem could be tackled.

Language for introductions

  • In this day and age…
  • … is a hotly-debated topic that often divides opinion.
  • … is a growing issue in today’s society
  • We live in an age when many of us are…
  • More and more families are choosing to have only one child.
  • The trend nowadays is towards having smaller families.
  • Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ……………
  • Recent research indicates that the number of teenagers who smoke is increasing.
  • Hardly a week goes by without another report of …………….. appearing in the media.
  • Although most people would generally agree that …………… few would deny that ……..

Language for topic sentences

First Paragraph

  • …. clearly/undoubtedly has an impact on…
  • It is common knowledge that… plays a crucial role in…
  • It is undoubtedly the case that…
  • There is little doubt that…
  • … is widely believed to contribute to…
  • It is generally considered that…
  • Recent research suggests that…
  • Studies have shown that… has an impact/influence on…
  • Few people would contest/dispute the fact that…

Second Paragraph

  • Another factor to consider is…
  • On the other hand/In contrast…
  • It is often claimed that…
  • All the evidence suggests that…

Language for supporting ideas

Language for introducing supporting ideas:

  • For example,
  • For instance,
  • An obvious example of this is…
  • A clear example of this is…
  • This is illustrated by…
  • As a case in point…

Paragraph Skeleton

It goes without saying that ______________________________________ A clear example of this is ___________________________________________ In addition,________________________________________ Nevertheless,_____________________________________________________________

Language for conclusions:

  • In light of the above, / Taking all this into consideration/account,…
  • As far as I am concerned, / in my opinion, / as I see it, etc.
  • … is the most effective way to… due to the fact that…


  • In light of the above, / Taking all this into consideration/account,…
  • Despite the fact that… undoubtedly plays a role in… I firmly believe that… is more effective due to the fact that…

Credit to Cork English Teacher for some of the language from the handout.

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Shop Till You Drop!

Resultat d'imatges de shopping

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This is a lesson plan designed to be used with a range of levels and ages. The different slides of the powerpoint indicate the level and age group.

shop-till-you-drop-lp – Lesson plan

shopping-conversation – Powerpoint

Quizlet set – shopping vocab



Use the quizlet set to introduce the different shopping vocabulary and then have students play the “match” game in teams to practice it.


Put students in small groups (2 or 3) and show them the first slide from the powerpoint, have them ask and answer the questions in their groups. Repeat for slide 2. Note: Questions are slightly different for teenagers.

Corner shop role-play

There are three different dialogues for use with different levels:

  • ELM – elementary, very basic, using “do you want?” not “would you like?”
  • ELM+ – slightly higher, using “do you want?” and other phrases like “here you are”
  • Pre-int – slightly higher again, using “would you like?”

Choose two strong students to demonstrate the dialogue to the class or 1 strong student to perform it with you.

Then, put students in pairs and have them practice the dialogue. Monitor and correct pronunciation: weak forms in questions, vowel sounds etc. When students have finished have them swap characters and repeat.

Memory: Flash up the memory slide and have students fill in the blanks in open class.

Your shopping list: Students write their own shopping lists and then repeat the dialogue with the items they have listed. Note: limit students to countable items to avoid opening a can of worms with countable/uncountable nouns many/much etc. unless they’re ready for it, in which case introduce it here.

From memory: Now switch off the projector and challenge them to perform the dialogue by heart helping where needed, then ask if any confident students would like to come to the front and perform it for the class.


This one is only really suitable for higher levels (B1+). Split the class into two groups, flip a coin to decide which group is for/against. Give them 5-10mins to think of as many arguments to support their position as they can and then hold a debate. Allow each team to present one of their arguments uninterrupted, then give the other team the chance to counter the argument, repeat until both teams have exhausted their list. Award a winner at the end. Focus on encouraging the use of the expressions of opinion, agreeing and disagreeing.

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CAE Ice-Breaker UPDATE

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This is an updated version of my CAE/C1 ice-breaking activity for the first class of a course. Click this link to the prezi (you’ll only need the first 5 slides).

Obviously it’s tailored to my interests but you’ll get the idea and be able to adapt to your own.

First I flash up the sentences with the adjective/verb + preposition combination (petrified of) etc. and tell them that some are true and some are false. They have to decide which are true and which are false in pairs. Award points to the pairs who guess correctly.
Then test them on the prepositions by flashing up the slide with them omitted. Then they have to write 4 sentences using the same combinations, some true some false and read them to their partner, who has to guess which are T/F.
Then the next bit is 6 sentences with some nice phrases about personal interests etc. “I’m into….” etc. I show them my examples (they’re all true) and let them ask me some questions. Then they have to complete the sentences so they’re true for them.
Then they have to mingle around the class reading their sentences to each other, flash up the expressions for showing interest: Uh-huh, mm-hmmm etc. and encourage them to use them. Tell them that they should try to remember as much information as they can about their classmates. While they do this, monitor and board any emergent language to look at later.
After 10 mins or so have them sit down and split them into two teams. Select one member from the first team, the other team then has to remember as much as they can about that person:
“He’s into football and rugby.”
“He has a burning ambition to meet Messi.” etc.
Award 1 point for each correct bit of info. The idea is that they’re recycling the 6 expressions over and over and getting to know each other at the same time.
Posted in Exam Preparation Class, Uncategorized

FCE Speaking Phrases

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First post in a while as I’ve been tied up with DELTA module 1 exams. Modules 1 and 2 are done! It’s been a fantastic but extremely taxing experience.

So it’s back to the bread and butter of exam prep classes and two long-standing private students have their FCE next week, so I’ve made this handy FCE speaking phrase sheet. Download it below:

FCE Speaking phrases

FCE Speaking Phrases


I’m into…

I’m a keen/avid (surfer)

I’m keen on/fond of (surfing)

I’m a fan of…


In my opinion…

I think/reckon…

From my point of view…



Both pictures show…

In this picture we can see… whereas/while in the other picture…

In contrast

On the other hand

Describing pictures

He/she/they seem to be…

He/she is probably…

In this picture it looks as if/though they are…

They could/might/may be…

They could/might/may have just…

In the background there is/are…

At the top/bottom…

In the corner…


You’re absolutely right.

I feel the same.

I couldn’t agree more.

I think so too.



I don’t think so…

I take your point but…

Hhhmmm, I’m not so sure…

I see what you mean but…


Shall I start?

Shall we start with….?

Would you like to start?

Do you mind if I start?

That’s a difficult/interesting question.

Now let me see…

Asking for opinion

What’s your opinion on….?

What do you think about….?

How do you feel about…?

Would you agree with that?


Speaking from personal experience,…

For me personally,..

I’d prefer to be in this situation because….


Impressive structures

Another point I’d like to add about … is…

Coming back to what… was saying about…

It’s also important to remember that…

Another idea which has just occurred to me is…

Repairing and Rescuing

I can’t remember the word at the moment but…

It’s the thing you use to…

The person who…

I have the word on the tip of my tongue.

The word has slipped my mind.

What I’m trying to say is…

What I mean is…

Asking for repetition

I beg your pardon, I didn’t catch that.

Sorry would you mind repeating that?

Could you repeat the question please?

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An Open Letter to all TEFL/ESL Teachers

The New Me - Life After Uni


Dear Fellow TEFL/ESL Teachers,

I am writing this in the hope of support and help from fellow ESL teachers around the world. I am sorry if this becomes longer than hoped.

Recently I have been researching TEFL courses for a friend as she can’t afford the CELTA that I did. I realised how little there is of realiable information. A lot of it is true but many seem to be written written for the benefit for the company, rather than for the person reading it. Thus causing lots of contradictions from post to post and making it very confusing.
So I have started to try and help answer questions and give personal and impartial advice to those who ask for it. A Facebook group seemed a good idea and was a popular idea. Thus I have just set one up.

I hope that in the future this group can be…

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Game: Alphabet Quiz CPE Idioms Version

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This is a new version of my Alphabet Quiz game designed for very high levels (high C1) in which students have to guess different idioms which begin with each letter of the alphabet. Credit to my colleague Peter Rassa for the idea. The game is similar to the gameshow “Pasaparabla” on Spanish television. You will need the lesson plan with the question sheet:

Alphabet Quiz CPE Idioms Version


Write the alphabet on the board, if you’re feeling really creative you can do it in a circle as shown in the picture above. Quickly recap the letters that often cause your students problems. It varies from place to place but in Spain they struggle with J, G, E, I, Q, W, and Y.

Quickly recap the letters that often cause your students problems. It varies from place to place but in Spain they struggle with J, G, E, I, Q, W, and Y.

Write all your students’ names on the board in a list.

Choose a player to go first, explain to them that you are going to ask them a question, the answer to the question begins with the letter A. They have two options: they can attempt to answer the question or they can say “pass”. If they choose to answer and they get it right, they get 1 point but if they get it wrong they lose 1 point. If they choose to pass, then it is the next student’s turn but the next student is asked the “B” question. You continue like this through the list of questions, every time a question is answered correctly you cross that letter out from the list on the board. When you reach the end of the list (the “Z” question) you then return to the top of the list and work your way through any questions which were not answered the first time around.

NOTE: It is important that students don’t shout out the answers to the questions if it’s not their turn as that question could be revisited later.

The winner is the student with the most points when all the questions have been answered or at the end of a set time limit.


  1. A person’s weak spot. Achilles heel.
  2. A person who is bad and makes other bad. Bad Apple
  3. A relaxed, quiet time immediately before period of violent activity or argument .Calm before the storm.
  4. If you are overcharged or underpaid, open, unfair and hard to prevent. Rip-off has a similar meaning. daylight robbery.
  5. If someone has egg on their face, they are made to look foolish or embarrassed.
  6. If you have to face the music, you have to accept the negative consequences of something you have done wrong.
  7. If you get something off your chest, you confess to something that has been troubling you.
  8. If someone is happy-go-lucky, they don’t worry or plan and accept things as they happen.
  9. This expression is used to refer to something good that happens on top of an already good thing or situation. Icing on the cake
  10. If people are joined at the hip, they are very closely connected and think the same way.
  11. When someone kicks the bucket, they die.
  12. The last straw is the final problem that makes someone lose their temper or the problem that finally brought about the collapse of something. It comes from an Arabic story, where a camel was loaded with straw until a single straw placed on the rest of the load broke its back.
  13. If you make a killing, you do something that makes you a lot of money.
  14. If two competitors or candidates, etc, are neck and neck, then they are very close and neither is clearly winning.
  15. If you’re on a roll, you’re moving from success to success.
  16. If you go out for a night out with lots of fun and drinking, you paint the town red.
  17. If someone’s as quiet as a mouse, they make absolutely no noise.
  18. Someone who starts life very poor and becomes rich goes from rags to riches.
  19. When all the best people, things or ideas and so on are used up and people try to make do with what they have left, they are scraping the barrel.
  20. If you take a leaf out of someone’s book, you copy something they do because it will help you.
  21. If you are feeling a bit ill, sad or lack energy, you are under the weather.
  22. A vicious circle is a sequence of events that make each other worse- someone drinks because they are unhappy at work, then loses their job… ‘Vicious cycle’ is also used.
  23. If something belongs to the past and isn’t important or troubling any more, it is water under the bridge.
  24. If something is x-rated, it is not suitable for children.
  25. This idiom means that if you do something for me, I’ll return the favour. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
  26. This is used to tell someone to be quiet. Zip it.