ESL Activities for adult learners

Tate Modern quiz.ppt

This is a short quiz on Tate Modern which you can use in your class. You can find it here

Tate Modern quiz.ppt

but also here.




3 Suggestions for Essential Apps for ESL Students in Higher Education

This is my 3rd post for EdTech Review India. You can find it here :


Apps are useful and practical a lot of times and young people know all about them and use them.

But students are interested mainly in using apps for their own pleasure and entertainment and not so much for educational purposes.  It is not always easy to include them in everyday classroom practice but I think that it is worth the trouble to try to make a few of them part of your College students’ everyday classroom practice.

If the target group is College students, as mentioned above, you need to choose the right apps to introduce them to. They have to be easy to use, practical and exciting. You don’t want to overwhelm them after all! My 3 main choices would be:


This is a very popular communications platform which I was introduced to this year and I have found immensely practical for many reasons. It can be used in various ways, initially to communicate information to your students, e.g. homework tasks, useful links, photos, giving feedback using voice messages. But it can also be used in other ways, such as hosting a chat, which is a great idea since using twitter for a chat is too public and intimidating for a lot of students, but being on a more ‘private’ platform, like Remind, can minimize the feeling of ‘exposure’ that weaker students perhaps feel. It is safe, simple and secure both for educators and students to use.


This is another ‘must’ for encouraging ESL students to share boards where they can post language tips, exam strategies, useful videos they find. Teacher and students can also post text, graphs and even photos and videos related to a specific topic. Another idea is encouraging students to post questions, either as part of an activity or anonymously, post-lesson, which the teacher can then read off and answer them every day.


If Powerpoint is dead, then Prezi is its worthy successor! Prezi is indeed a very exciting tool to create presentations because it allows you to present your work in a non-linear way, creating maps of texts, videos, images, graphics, etc. It is very easy to master and some of its features, like the zoom, can easily make an impression on these young adult students and tempt them to use it in their presentations!

One way or another, these are not new tools (Prezi, for example, was designed in 2009) but it is useful to remind ourselves of a good combination of practical, easy to use digital tools that our ESL students would feel motivated to use on a daily or weekly basis. Good luck everyone!

Lesson plan : Learning with YouTube videos

This is a new Lesson Plan I wrote and is now published on the current ELTA SERBIA NEWSLETTER, in the July-August issue

You can check out the whole newsltter here :


Learning with YouTube videos: Internet censorship

Key words: ​YouTube videos, debate, internet censorship, blended learning

Target learners:​Young adults or adults, C1+ level

Learning outcomes:

● By the end of this course, the learners will learn to search for a small variety of videos and to critically synthesize information/arguments to use in their debate,

● they will be able to enrich their knowledge about a current and controversial matter which they have experienced in some ways,

● they will learn to work together to reach an agreement on a controversial problem, solve a problem,

● they will learn to use online platforms to upload their written work and to hold a debate, like, and, and finally

● they will have to reflect on the debate by summarizing the important points of it.

Short description

In this blended learning activity, students will have to work on a controversial matter. While divided in teams, they will have to find youtube videos relevant to the side they have to present and defend, record their arguments to support their position and finally, make evaluations and judgments about this controversial matter. In the end, the two teams will have to hold a debate and reach a consensus.


The T spends some time choosing videos that present opposing arguments or depict opposing sides. 2­4 videos for each side should be enough but the T should make sure their duration is not over 15’ each. (In this activity, Ss are asked to search for the videos they should use, on their own. Yet, because this is time­consuming and/or difficult for some students, it is advisable that the T has already prepared a selection for them, at least for the weaker ones). Some example videos the T could show them or post on the platform are the following:

An informative video about internet censorship.

The Past, Present and Future of Internet Censorship

Internet Censorship Is the Wrong Answer to Online Piracy

Procedure ​(approximately 3 hours)

1. Tell your students that you have noticed that people of their age are very dependent on the internet and they spend a lot of time surfing the net. It is also true that there are a lot of voices currently calling out for online censorship because the internet is far too open. So, since this is a situation that they are familiar with, you thought it was time they discussed internet censorship because this is an issue in discussion lately. (5’)

2. Tell them that to be able to form a well­rounded opinion about the topic, they have to find videos on YouTube that support or condemn this kind of censorship. (5’)

3. Explain to them that they are going to be divided in 2 teams . (10-15’)

4. Allow them time to search for these videos online. Explain to them that you are going to be present and offer any help needed but you expect them to be independent in their search.

5. Tell them that in the next lesson, both teams are going to watch their videos about internet censorship in class. The first team are going to watch videos that support it and team number two will view videos against this censorship. (1 h)

6. Tell the students they should focus on three questions, which you have already posted on These are the following:

• Is internet a public or a private sphere?

• Should there be more censorship?

• Should freedom of speech be absolute or should it be limited?

7. They should note down all of the arguments used. Then, they have to upload the relevant videos as well as their arguments on so that both teams can prepare their counterarguments. No analysis or reflection of the arguments will be posted there, though. (30’)

8. You should set up the day the discussion will take place (online class).

9. On the day the online debate takes place, ask them to share the videos online on a specific platform and tell them they can also add the arguments they have come up with. Each member of every team starts a brief discussion by posting their comment/argument and their video. Other members are asked to post their responses to this (this procedure can be done synchronously as well as asynchronously). (1h)

10. You should moderate the discussion.

11. Once each team has decided about their arguments, they should also rank them in terms of validity. (10’)

12. At the end of the debate, the Ss can vote and then see the results. Remind everybody that they should reach an agreement in the end and perhaps even specify a solution. Remember, you are there to moderate and not intervene in any other way. (5’)

13. At the end of the class, the students will present their decision, again in the forum. (5’)

Follow up

Ask each team to write a summary of the debate as well as the decision on the matter and how the whole discussion has changed their perspective (if it has). They can post it later on

Software/web 2.0 tools


The learners need access to PCs with internet connection, possibly 1 PC for every 2 students.




Listen to my painting

This is a new series of activities about art paintings and sound effects.

In this activity students will explore sound effects and storytelling. They will compose a sound effect sequence from a picture stimulus and tell a story. They will have to find and select the sound effects on the internet, build up their own sequence and create their narrative and share it with the rest of the students who will have to guess which picture the sequence relates to and why.

Lesson Plan

Paintings and sound effects


Language level: Intermediate – Upper Intermediate


Learner type: Adults


Time: 60 minutes


Activity: Listening to sounds, narrating and writing stories

Language:  1) use of the simple past, 2) you might want to pre-teach some structures, such as :

It might be…

I think it is possible that…

Could it be …?

I believe it is..

Skills : The primary aim of this activity is to encourage students to use their imagination to build up a story with the use of sound and image.

Materials: Sound effects websites, art paintings/photos

Prepare a selection of pictures. In this case, it is : Matisse (Dance I), Edward Hopper (New York Movie) and David Hockney (My parents), Edward Hopper (Night Windows), Henri Rousseau (Luxemburg Gardens), Raph Steiner ( American Rural Baroque). Depending on the size of the class, of course, they could be more.

Henri Matisse  Dance (I)Ed. Hopper New York movie


download (1)


download (2)

Ralph Steiner American Rural Baroque



It could be art paintings or art photos– in this case, you can browse through the various museum sites, such as the MOMA or the Getty museum )

You can also suggest some sites with sound effects which the students can use, such as : , , , etc.

Step 1

Divide your students in pairs and give each of the pairs a painting or photo. Tell them that they have to come up with sound effects to fit the pictures. Using the painting as a point of reference, they need to build up a story around it. (Show them, for example, Edward Hopper’s ‘New York Movie’. They should come up with the sound of a movie playing, the opening of a cinema door, the sound of the velvet curtain, the walking of a person on a thick carpet, etc.) . Also, tell your students NOT to reveal their pictures to the other groups/pairs.

Step 2

Allow each pair of students time to discuss a short narrative for their pictures. Tell them that they have to write down only the basic parts of their story and not all the details.

Step 3

Let them explore ways of expressing it using sounds. Ask them to find the MP3 files of the sound effects on a relevant site.

Step 4

After they have prepared their sound sequences, let the groups share them with the rest of the class. Now it’s also time to reveal all the paintings.

Step 5

Ask the rest of the class to guess which picture each pair of students used. Encourage the other students to describe the elements that led them to this conclusion.

Step 6

Now, ask them to explain the story that each sound-sequence think that it narrates.

Follow up

  • Get the students to explore each other’s stories and decide who made the better sound adaptation

  • Encourage students to research online more about the paintings or photos and the real story behind them (if there is one documented, but most of the times there is one and that’s why using paintings for this purpose is ideal, they can be a starting point for comparisons between the initial idea behind the painting and the story learners made up)
  • Ask the students, in the end, to write their stories in a more elaborate way.


Writing for the Witness Project of the Online Edition of The Guardian


One of the first writing activities we embarked on with my AMC College 1st year Speech and Language Therapy students (Intermediate Level) this year was participating in the Witness Project of the Online Edition of the Guardian

What is the Witness Project

As they explain on their page, ‘GuardianWitness is the home of user-generated content on the Guardian. You can contribute your video, pictures and stories, and browse all the news, opinions and creations submitted by others‘.In other words, it’s a place where the readers can contribute their own written material along with a video or a picture.

The contributions fall into 3 main categories : a. assignments, b. live news tie-ins and c. open suggestions. The main requirement is that you post your own material (photo, video, etc.) or have permission for what you post. Also, posts are reviewed by their team and suitable contributions are published on the Guardian Witness. So, permission is required for your post to appear on their pages. Finally, some of what the Guardian’s team consider the best pieces might be featured on the Guardian site – on an appropriate page each time.

How the students participated

My students browsed through the page’s topics, picked the topic they were interested in, chose one of their own pictures or videos to write about, or took a new picture or video. The Project’s topics vary and change on a regular basis (there are new ones every 7-10 days and not all of them have the same duration – some of them are open for 10,20,25 days, etc.). There are , in fact, so many that it is difficult for someone NOT to find something interesting.


The objective was for the students to practice writing short grammatically correct texts. The most important objective though was to motivate them to write something that they could choose themselves using a medium such as photography or video, quite popular among young people, and not only. Even though it was a short project, it could increase the students’ engagement in writing.


The procedure

  1. We checked the topics and decided which students would work individuallyand which in pairs. Also, we decided which topics they were going to write about.
  2. The students had a week to produce and deliver their work.
  3. After deciding on the topics, we needed to discuss the kind of help they needed: a. brainstorm ideas? , b. did they need help with new vocabulary?c. help with the content and structure of the assignment.
  4. Some of the topics themselves included specific questions that the writer should focus on. This served as a kind of guidance and I insisted that the students use it. Also, there is a word limit on the text you submit every time, which was also convenient for all of us.
  5. The following week, when they brought their material back in the class, we all looked at their work. We talked about the way it was written, the language, the photo chosen etc. Any mistakes which could cause any misunderstanding, were corrected.
  6. In the end, after all of their posts were submitted and accepted, a Pinterest Board was created and all of them were pinned on it along with some photos of them working on their projects in class.

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Anticipated problems

As was mentioned earlier, once you submit your work on the Witness Project,permission is required for your post to appear on their pages. A few of the students’ work did not get permission (the reason is not known, it could be a problem with the email verification or even a problem with the photos submitted). So, we needed to work on a different topic with 2 of them. Since, there is no limit in how many posts one can submit, I suggest that each of them writes at least 2.

I hope you enjoy their work. I know that my students did! You can look at their work below.


World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) 2014

This is a lesson plan I prepared for my Speech and  Language Therapy students at AMC College to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. Perhaps it can  used with other students, too. The inspiration came from the Saatchi & Saatchi video circulated all over the internet a few days ago.

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) 2014

Lesson Plan

Language level: Intermediate – Upper Intermediate

Learner type: Adults

Time: 60 minutes

Activity: Speaking, reading short texts, writing and watching a short video

Topic: Down Syndrome

Language: Down Syndrome related vocabulary, Can/Can’t, (not) be able to, should/shouldn’t

Skills : talking about myths and facts related to Down Syndrome

Materials: Wordle, Short video, sets with cards 


Show the Ss your Cloud and ask them to make out what the topic of this lesson is about : World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) 2014. Explain that today, 21st March, is World Down Syndrome Day.


2014 World Down Syndrome Day

Ask them what they know about the topic

Do they know any people with Down Syndrome?

Would they like to know more?

Step 1

Ask your students if they know what people with Down Syndrome can or can not do. Write their ideas on the board.

Step 2

Tell them that they are going to watch a short video called ‘DEAR FUTURE MOM | March 21 ‘

Explain to them that the email a pregnant mother, expecting a child with Down syndrome, sent to CoorDown (Italian Association of People with Down Syndrome) posed the following question : “What kind of life will my child have?”

It triggered a video, created by Saatchi & Saatchi , where 15 individuals with Down Syndrome, from across Europe , sent her a heartwarming message in their native languages . Show the video.

Step 3

Ask them to compare their ideas about these people’s abilities with the video’s ideas. Were their ideas mentioned in the video? What other ideas were mentioned?

Write them on the board.

Step 4

Ask the Ss if they have ever thought about the way we address people with Down Syndrome. Put them in groups.

What language should we use when referring to Down Syndrome?

What language shouldn’t we use because it can be hurtful?

Let them look at the expressions below and list them accordingly.

intellectually and developmentally disabled, a Down syndrome child, Down’s child, a child with Down syndrome, he has Down’s, suffer from, afflicted by, syndrome, disease, condition, cognitive disability, retarded, retardation, differently-abled, handicapped, ‘challenged’, idiot, moron, imbecile


Positive Language we should use when referring to Down Syndrome

Derogatory language we should NOT use when referring to Down Syndrome

Go round the class and offer any help/ explanations needed with the vocabulary.

Tell them that, in fact, as renowned educator and inclusion specialist Patti McVay emphasizes, “the best name to call someone is the name he or she was born with.”

(The information was taken from the Global Down Syndrome Foundation site )

Step 5

Write on the board ‘Myths and Facts”.

Pair up Ss with a partner from a different group. Ask them if they think that there are a lot of misconceptions in society about people with Down Syndrome. Why?

Organize the Ss in groups and give them the cards about the «Myths and Facts». 


The cards are divided into 2 categories: one set with Myths and another with Facts. Give the cards to the groups and explain that they have to read the cards about the Myths and the ones about the facts regarding Down Syndrome and match them. Every time they find a match, allow some feedback if needed.

(The information regarding the myths and facts about Down Syndrome was taken from the site :

Step 6

Have a short discussion about the information they have just read.

Which fact/myth really surprised them?

Were they familiar with these facts?

Did the Ss have the same opinion? Why? Why not?

Has society really changed in the way they see people with Down Syndrome?Why? Why not?

Follow up

Ask them to research and then write a short article about people with Down syndrome who broke the stereotypes and they are now having a professional career in any sector which they would be barred from in the past, like teaching, for example.


Padlet in the classroom : Useful ideas for the adult ESL class

Padlet in the classroom : Useful ideas for the adult ESL class