Seven Other Activities That Can be Used As Warmers

These warmers require a bit of preparation (printing, copying…), setting up and scaffolding or technology (internet connections, data projectors…). Of course they don’t have to be warmers you could use them at any point in the lesson as appropriate – some of them can be used to practice certain language points.

Once again I do not claim any originality in the ideas behind these warmers – these are things I have picked up during my teaching career.

  1. Marrakech Market – Bartering

In this activity the learners use their bargaining skills to barter for goods at a market. You may use this activity to allow the learners to express themselves using any language at their disposal or after specific language input – conditionals for example.

I have linked to a Prezi to introduce the topic (i), produce (ii) & prices (v). Here is a link to a set of cards students can use (bartering).

 i. Introduction. Spend some time setting the scene and building interest the scene (Prezi slide 1). Key information:

– the classroom is a market that does not use money. They barter (it is a good idea to demonstrate – try to buy an object from one of your students – “I’ll give you my beautiful blue board marker for your telephone…” and see what happens…).

– the learners are traders at the market with a list of things they have to sell and a list of things they wish to buy. They should try to obtain the items on their shopping list.

– the traders may have to be strategic in their dealing. If they cannot make direct trades they may have to buy items not on their lists from one trader and then trade these for the items they actually want from another trader (did you follow that?).

– all trades are done on paper, trader must keep good records of sales and purchases, with the goods being collected at the end of the trading day.

– as this is an international market all trades must be completed in English.

 ii. Introduce the produce (Prezi Slide 2).

Use the Prezi (or board) to introduce the items that are traded at the market (and are on the activity cards).

iii. Model the activity. Project these cards (bartering example) onto the board and demonstrate the task with two learners. As you make trades amend the cards by adding or removing the produce each trader now has.

 iv. Learners complete the activity as you monitor. I usually explain that as this is a medieval market there wasn’t any electrical lighting so trading starts when the sun rises (you turn the classroom lights on) and ends when the sun sets (you turn the lights off). Let the activity run as long as you feel productive.

v.Post activity. After the activity and feedback on task completion and language used explain that each item does have a value. Display Prezi slide 3.

Ask the learners to calculate the value of the items they originally had to sell – it should add up to 100. Now ask them to calculate the value of the produce they own – this means any item on they have recorded on their  paper so it includes items not traded & any item bought whether on the original shopping list or not.

The learners can now decide if they have made a profit, made a loss or broken even

 vi. Remedial work. You may use your observations from the activity to plan some remedial language work. If you do consider doing the activity again to practice the language the learners will be aware of the twist and the trading may become more serious!

  1. Online Word Games

Word games such as Scrabble and Boggle are fun ways to recycle lexis and encounter new vocabulary. Here are a few suggestions based on the affordances of technology to use them as warmers.

Scrabble Sprint is a great game for a warmer. You have one minute (time is added as you add words) to make words using the scrabble tiles in your tray. At the end of the game you get a score.

Play this as a class activity – connect your computer to the data projector and ask learners to shout out words they see. You, or even better a learner, type them.

This is a game you can play regularly to see if you can beat your previous best. My class got 220 today.

Wordtwist is a Boggle-like game. As with Scrabble sprint you can play with a timer (2 minutes for a 4×4 board and 3 minutes for 5×5). As well as giving you a score at the end of the game this gives you more puzzle stats including the longest word and best word found by other players.

You can also play it in the traditional, way with teams and longer time limits, with a little preparation. Take a screenshot of grids and embed them in a presentation tool. Here is a link to a Prezi I created – I used Jing for the screenshots.

  1. The Marshmallow Challenge

This is a great ice-breaker to use at the start of a course or a time when you want to build class and team spirit (and have some fun)

Each team of 3 or 4 learners must build the largest free-standing structure with these materials:

18 pieces of spaghetti

1 metre of string

1 metre of adhesive tape

1 marshmallow

The marshmallow must be on the top of the structure.

This is an activity used in corporate training – here is a link to the website and a TED talk.

You may wish to follow up by asking learners to describe the process they went through with their design (past tenses), comparing their efforts to other teams or the video (comparison), describing what they would do differently (conditional sentences).Or you may wish to use the video to promote a discussion on the creative process…there is a lot you can do…

  1. Online Quiz Sites

Tools such as Socrative and Kahoot allow you to create your own quizzes that learners complete in real-time using any devise with internet access (laptop, Smartphone…etc). Quizzes can be played in different modes – the most popular with students in my experience is as a competition.

I have a preference for Socrative as it is slightly more flexible and allows you to create open-ended as well as multiple-choice questions.

A very nice feature of these tools is that you can create quizzes and share them with your colleagues. By sharing the work you can build up a nice bank of resources fairly quickly.

  1. Tell us about your favourite song

Giving your learners some time to talk about their favourite song or music is a nice way to make your classroom a more inclusive place. You may wish to set aside a regular slot for a student, or students, to present their song. Create a calendar so that the learners know when they will be presenting and have enough time to prepare.

As a class you can decide on the format. The learner may wish to give some information about the singer / group, the song and explain why they like the song. They may also create an activity to accompany the song – this could be a gap-fill, comprehension questions or even digital activity.

Before the learners present their songs model the task yourself by presenting your own favourite song.

  1. What happened / What will happen next?

Painting and photographs capture moments in time but what happened before the picture and what will happen afterwards?

i.Introduction. Print or display an interesting picture or photograph that could be part of a story for example Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Elicit the context of the current scene – Where is it? When is it? Who is in the picture? What are they doing?…etc. Then elicit the story leading up to moment of the painting and/or the story after the moment of the painting or both.

 ii. Main activity. Give or even better allow learners to source a picture that could be a moment in a story. In groups the learners create a story to retell the events leading to the picture, those afterwards or both.

iii. Groups then tell their stories to the class whilst displaying the picture.

iv. Follow up. Post the pictures and stories on your class blog or stick on your wall.

  1. Vocabulary Recycling

This vocabulary activity recycles vocabulary that has been introduced in your lessons. As you introduce new items of vocabulary or they are brought up in class write them down individually on small pieces of paper. Fold the paper and put them in a vocabulary jar.

After a short amount of time you will have quite a few items in your jar which you can use for several recycling activities including:

– Pairs or groups of learners take 5 words from the jar and write a short story containing these words.

– A learner picks one item from the jar and describes it to the class without using the vocabulary item.

 You pick the words from the jar and use them as a backs to the board activity.


7 Activities Using Music and Song (Gap-fill Free Zone)

Music is a great way to teach English but often we limit our activities to gap fill exercises. But there are many more ways to exploit music and song. Also we often limit ourselves to a repertoire of ELT classics (you know the ones!)  – it’s time for a change and to let the learners’ preferences  be heard.

1. Misheard Lyrics

One of the great joys (and sometimes disappointments) of listening to music is to find that the lyrics to songs you had been singing for years are not the real lyrics.  Letting learners into this secret can encourage them to explore lyrics and language while also having fun.

Here is one possible activity.

i. Here are links to two adverts for cassette tape (you may need to explain this to younger learners or even ask an older teacher yourself!) from the 1980s – The Israelites by Desmond Dekker and the Aces and Into the Valley by The Skids. After you have listened for the first time replay the clips and ask the learners to listen for the real lyrics.

Show the learners the actual lyrics and ask which they preferred – often our misheard lyrics are better. Here are the original lyrics and songs without the distracting visuals.

The Israelites LyricsVideo.

Into the Valley  LyricsVideo.

ii. Ask the learners to think of lyrics in songs that they think they know but are not quite sure of. They could write the lyrics out and decide if their lyrics are grammatically correct and make sense (they may not and the originals may not either).

Learners then use the internet to search for the original lyrics – there are lots of sites. They should decide if they prefer the original lyrics or their own versions – sharing the information with the class. They can also investigate the vocabulary and grammar used in the original lyrics.

iii. You may follow up the activity by discussing ways in which listening to music with English lyrics may help learners improve their listening skills and linguistic knowledge.

There are plenty of other websites and you tube videos with misheard lyrics – just be careful because some of them contain adult content.

 2. You look terrible tonight.

Personally I’m not a fan of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” (a true ELT classic if there ever was one) but my friend Graham Pritchard did something interesting with it back in the 90s. The following lesson could be done with any other song (please!!!!). This is what he did.

i. Change the lyrics by swapping key words or phrases in the song. The first verse could look something like this:

 It’s late in the morning
She’s wondering what shoes to wear
She puts on her hat
And brushes her curly brown hair

The original lyrics are here.

ii. Learners work in groups to try and identify the incorrect words and suggest the correct version.

iii. Learners listen to the song and check their suggestions.

You can of course do this with any song – and hopefully make those in course books a bit more interesting for the learners. You could also ask learners to produce similar lyrics to their favourite songs.

3. Scenes from a film

Film music can be evocative and can be used to encourage learners to express themselves creatively. This example activity uses the present tenses to describe what is happening in the film.

i. Introduction. Explain that you will play the soundtrack from the opening scene of a film. The learners listen and imagine the scene.

Play the soundtrack to the beginning of the film Bladerunner (from 59 seconds)  – do not show the picture. Elicit suggestions of the scene from the learners then watch the clip to compare the learners ideas with the film.

ii.Main activity. Explain that screenwriters create a screenplay for films that include both the dialogue and descriptions of the scenes. Show them the screenplay for the introduction to Bladerunner.



We are MOVING TOWARD the Tyrell Corporation across a vast plain of industrialization, menacing shapes on the horizon, stacks belching flames five hundred feet into the sky the color of cigar ash.  The CAMERA MOVES INTO a window in the large pyramid-shaped building.  A man is sitting at a table.

You may ask them how the screen play reflects the actual images (this seems to be an earlier draft that doesn’t contain all the visuals in the film) and if they would add any more information.

Group your learners and give them a piece of music from a film (without the images*). Groups then listen to the music and as a group write a screenplay to describe the scene.

iii. When the learners have written their screenplays they can read them to the rest of the class with the music in the background (after some rehearsal). Then you can show them the scene from the film.

iv. Follow up. Hopefully your learners have enjoyed and feel good about their work so if you have a class blog or even a wall – post / stick them up.

*Your learners will need equipment to play the music on. There are programs that will convert you You Tube videos to mp3 sound files such as this one.

4. Reported songs.

In this instance I am using “Crazy” by Gnarls Barclay but you could use any other song that is sung in the first person. This song lends itself to the practice of reported speech but other songs will be applicable to other language.

i. Introduction – well you may wish to introduce the song with a gap-fill or even a listening but I’ll leave that up to you. The learners should have a reasonable understanding of the song’s meaning and have a copy of the lyrics.

ii. Main activity. Elicit the first line – then elicit what he (the singer) said using reported speech.

“I remember when I lost my mind” – He said that he remembers / remembered when he lost his mind.

Learners then work in groups to write the remainder of the song in reported speech. Alternatively assign parts of the song to different groups. Or put sections of the song on the walls – groups move around writing and then checking / correcting the reported sentences.

iii. Follow up. You may want to ask which of the sentences seemed suitable to use in reported speech. Did any seem odd or inappropriate?

5. What’s the story

Many songs tell a story for example David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (a proper astronaut’s version) or even Barry Manilow’s “Copacobana” both dramatic stories but maybe not the songs the younger learners wish to hear. So this activity asks learners to choose a song they like.

i. Introduction. Choose a song that you like that tells a story. Tell the story of the song to the class – use your own words (not the lines from the song) and make it as interesting and dramatic as possible. Once you have told the story play the song and elicit feedback from the learners.

ii. Main activity. Learners in pairs or individually choose a song they like that tells a story. The learners then rewrite the story using their own words then practice telling the story to make it interesting.

iii. The learners read their stories and then play the songs. The other learners may ask questions afterwards.

iv. Follow up. Again if you have a class blog this would be a great place to post them if not stick them on the wall.

This could also be a regular planned activity similar to number 6 (below).

6. Tell us about your favourite song

Giving your learners some time to talk about their favourite song or music is a nice way to make your classroom a more inclusive place. You may wish to set aside a regular slot for a student, or students, to present their song. Create a calendar so that the learners know when they will be presenting and have enough time to prepare.

As a class you can decide on the format. The learner may wish to give some information about the singer / group, the song and explain why they like the song. They may also create an activity to accompany the song – this could be a gap-fill, comprehension questions or even digital activity.

Before the learners present their songs model the task yourself by presenting your own favourite song.

7. Song Dictation

In the first activity we looked at misheard lyrics – this is a slightly different activity and one that is not as easy as it appears.

i. Choose a song that you think your learners will be able to understand reasonably easily (or ask for the learners to choose one).

ii. Group learners and assign one verse or chorus to each group if you have enough room and appropriate equipment. The groups listen to their section and try to transcribe the song. If you do not have enough room or equipment play the song in sections to the whole class. Groups can still work together to transcribe the lyrics they hear.

Once the transcription has finished ask the groups to spend some time focussing on the grammatical accuracy of their transcription and also to decide if it makes sense. They could compare their lyrics with other groups.

iii. The groups display or read their transcriptions to the class before you play show the original lyrics. Ask the learners which version they prefer.

Seven Lateral Thinking Puzzles

In an earlier post I suggested using lateral thinking as a warmer. Lateral thinking problems encourage learners to think creatively and critically to solve problems. Remember your learners can ask any question but you (or the puzzle setter if it is a learner) can only answer yes, no or not important/relevant.

If it works with your learners here are seven more puzzles of differing complexity.

Again I’m not claiming any originality for these puzzles – they are some of the goodies I have picked up over the years. There are plenty more on out there on the web.

  1. A man in a box.

This story took place in England in the 1980s. A man is standing in a box. He has his arms spread wide. There is broken glass on the floor. There is also a stick in the box.

What happened?

  1. Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet are dead. They are lying on the floor in a pool of water. There is also broken glass around them. A window is open.

What happened?

  1. How many babies?

A woman gave birth to two sons on the same day of the same year. However, they are not twins.


  1. Who is the surgeon?

This is a great one for challenging stereotypes about gender roles

There is a terrible accident in which a boy and his father are injured. They are both taken to the hospital and the boy is rushed to surgery. The surgeon enters the room and looking at the boy exclaims “I can’t operate on him, he is my son!”.


  1. The old man and the elevator.

An old man lives on the top floor of a very tall apartment building. Every morning he takes the lift to the ground floor and goes for a walk. When he returns home he takes the lift three-quarters of the way up the building and then walks the remaining floors. However, if it is raining he travels all the way to the top.


  1. The new driver.

A young woman has just passed her driving test. As she leaves the driving centre a police officer watches her turn into a one-way street and travels down it. The police officer takes no action.


  1. All is black.

A man is dressed all in black clothes with black gloves and a black mask. He is standing in the middle of the road surrounded by buildings that are all painted black. The street lights are broken and there is no moon. A black car without headlights drives straight towards him but doesn’t hit him.


And the solutions

And the solutions

1. He is in a telephone box – one for the older readers! He has just been fishing and is describing the size of fish he caught (or the one that got away). As he was describing this on the phone he naturally held out his hands to show how big the fish was – forgetting the consequences.

2. Romeo and Juliet are goldfish. They had been living happily in their bowl until one day a strong wind blew the window which in turn knocked the bowl onto the floor. Alternatively the strong wind blew the bowl onto the floor.

3. They are two of the sons in a set of triplets.

4. The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

5. The old man bought his apartment when he was much younger and taller. As he aged he shrank and can no longer reach the top button – unless it is raining when he uses his umbrella.

(I don’t know why he doesn’t take his umbrella with him every day).

6.She is walking down the street.

7. It is daytime.

7 Digital Tools I Use Regularly for Teaching

It wouldn’t be a new day without a new app or digital tool available to improve our lives as teachers. Here are seven that I use pretty regularly and have been using for at least a year. Sometimes is good to have tried and trusty tools that you know and can fully exploit.

All of these tools are free (at a basic level at least) and are intuitively easy to use – so no need for training sessions.

  1. Symbaloo

This is a great way to store your web-links. Easily create a page and organise your links in the way that suits you best. You can create multiple pages with different themes if you wish.

Another great feature is that you can also share the pages so you can create pages on specific topics for your learners. I also create pages to support teacher development sessions that I deliver.

  1. Jing

Jing allows you to take screenshots and videos from your computer (screen). The pictures can be easily edited using the TechSmith software. It is great for creating short instructional videos or documents.

Download the app and a little sun lives on your screen for easy access.

  1. Prezi

When a person is tired of PowerPoint …then turn to Prezi. I love this as a presentation tool – it is intuitive to use so try playing around with it. It also allows for collaboration and online presentation so the possibilities for classroom (and homework) use are great.

The only thing to avoid is creating canvases with too much swinging and zooming.

  1. Socrative / Kahoot

Both of these tools can be used for creating online quizzes and are popular with learners. They have slight differences and I have a slight preference for Socrative – but that is just me.

Coming soon:

7 ways to use Socrative

7 ways to use Prezi

  1. Dropbox / Google Docs

Both are ways to store your documents and share with others. If you have a computer at work and one at home and don’t want to use USB storage to move files backwards and forwards these are the perfect solution.

Google Docs also allows for online collaboration of documents – great for working with colleagues and for learner collaboration.


A quick and easy way to schedule meetings. I use it to schedule tutorial meetings with my learners – create a schedule, send the link to your learners and they can choose the times they want.

  1. SurveyMonkey

Create online surveys quickly and easily. This is a great tool to get feedback from your learners (or others). I often use it to get feedback when I run teachers development sessions.

Seven Preparation-Light Warmers

It’s good to have a repertoire of warmers that don’t need much preparation up your sleeve. These ones can be recycled in different contexts. You can use technology if you wish but it is not necessary – a board, pen and paper will do.

1. Tell me about your picture

This is a personal favourite for so many reasons that can be adapted to many topics, language points or learner level.

i. Learners, individually, draw a picture. Tn this case their family or people they would like to talk about – give them the choice.

ii. In pairs, or small groups, learners ask (specific questions) about each others picture – “Who is this?”, “How old is she?”, “What do you think she is doing now?”, “When did you last see her?”…..

iii. After the Q&A activity each learner tells their partner some things they remembered about  the people in their picture.

2. Text deletion

A nice activity to introduce some text you are about to use in the lesson. It gets learners to use their grammatical knowledge creatively.

i.. Divide your class into groups (suggested maximum of 4 per group).

ii. Select a paragraph from a text / tape-script you will be using in the lesson and write it on the board. The length will depend on the level of your learner but 5-6 sentences should be plenty.

iii. The groups take it in turns to  erase up to 5 consecutive words from the text. They can change the punctuation. However, the remaining be grammatically correct – the meaning may change.

iv. The last team that can erase any text whilst maintaining grammatical correctness is the winner.

3. Backs to the board

This vocabulary revision exercise can be played as a team game or a whole class warmer.

i. Make a list of recently introduced vocabulary.

ii. Learners sit or stand with their backs to the board.

iii. Write the vocabulary item on the board.

iv. The class or teams describe the word to the student who must guess it. In a team game the first team to guess gets a point.

v. Swap guessers after each vocabulary item.

4. Organise yourselves

Getting students to do something physical, even if it just means standing up and walking around is a great way to raise energy levels. This activity asks learners to organise themselves according to a certain criteria and then find out / share some information once they are organised.

This example is based on the fact that each Turkish city has a number (I work in Istanbul – 34) you could use any criteria – cities by alphabetical order, height, age,  alphabetical order of the weekend activity they are looking forward to  most…etc

i. Learners self-organise according to the criteria. This can generate a lot of good, natural language if conducted in English and be targetted towards a specific language point if the criteria is chosen carefully. The list of criteria is inexhaustible- cities by alphabetical order, height, age,  alphabetical order of the weekend activity they are looking forward to  most, which historical time would you have liked to live in…etc

ii. once in  a line learners can be given a task related to the criteria – how tall is your partner? What is the most popular food in your partners city? Which historical period would you friend have liked to live in and why? How do you feel about that?…etc

5. Lateral Thinking

With lateral thinking problems you set a scenario and ask the learners to find a solution by asking yes / no questions.To fined the solution learners have to think around the problem. For example:

i. Board “A man walked into a cafe. He asked the waiter for a glass of water. The barman picked up a gun and pointed it at the man. The man said “thank you” and left the bar. Why?”

ii. The learners ask you yes/no questions – you answer yes, no or not important.

iii. You may wish to share the answer with a learner (or one may already know the solution) and they can answer the questions instead of you.

(Answer at the bottom of the page)

 6. What can I use this for?

This activity encourages divergent thinking. Choose an everyday object  – a pen, a paperclip, a fork… It may be related to the topic of your lesson.

i. Group learners.

ii. Set a 3-5 minute time limit. The groups must think of as many uses for the object as possible – conventional and unconventional.

iii. The winning team is the one with the most uses.

7. Ball Q & A

And finally another old favourite. If you don’t have a ball a scrunched up piece of paper will do or for even more fun use an imaginary ball. The questions could be open – ask anything you can or focused on a recent language point or topic.

i. Learners stand around in a circle (or stay seated if you want).

ii. throw the ball (or whatever it is) to a learner and ask a question. They answer and throw the ball to another learner and then ask the catcher a question….and so on.

The answer to the lateral thinking question is, of course, that the man had hiccups!

Seven Reasons To Use Warmers

We all know that a great warmer can wake up and energise learners (and teachers) for the upcoming lesson. Beyond this key role warmers can also have other functions. As you prepare your warmers consider what else they add to a lesson.

Here are seven, other, reasons for using warmers.

1. To raise the learners interest and schemata in a lesson

A warmer based around the theme or topic of the lesson can prompt the learners to recall their knowledge of this area (their schemata) for upcoming learning activities. A warmer can also provide information to entire the learner into knowing more about a subject.

A learners schemata can also refer to their experience. If we are teaching adults or even teenagers there schemata of learning a language or even the classroom may not be positive. Warmers offer a way to introduce topics or language, that may be associated with negative schema, in an alternative and  positive way.

2. To revise and recycle language

Nobert Schmitt* tells us that while lexis can be learned incidentally. This though actually takes a lot of incidences of exposure – in the case of reading eight to ten exposures are needed to establish a basic word to meaning correspondence. More are needed when listening. Most course books do not provide this frequency of repetition of even key lexis. Warmers provide the opportunity to recycle and revise vocabulary in different, interesting and memorable ways.

Similarly, the way we teach grammatical structures does not always give us the time or opportunity to go back and revisit them. Once again warmers present an interesting, anxiety-free occasion to revisit previously covered language.

3. As a diagnostic opportunity

During warmers learners are often more relaxed concentrating on the task at hand rather than their language. These situations provide a fantastic opportunity for us to assess the level of our learners skills and knowledge without the anxiety of formal, or even informal tests.

4. To pre-teach or introduce new lexis and language

Warmers present a great opportunity to introduce the new vocabulary or language in an interesting and non-threatening way. You don’t even need to focus on this as target language but can present it passively as part of the warmer activity.

5. To change the focus of a lesson

Warmers do not always have to be at the start of the lesson. Teachers often have to change topics or move to completely different activities during a lesson. A warmer can help mark this change and help the learners refocus.

There are also times when lessons lose energy or focus. Having a warmer up you sleeve for one of these unplanned situations can be a life-saver.

6. To promote creativity and divergent thinking

Teachers I talk to never really seem to have the time in lessons to do the sorts of creative activities they would like to. There is always content that needs to be covered or a test to be prepared for. And as much as we would like to approach these from a truly different direction it is not always possible in our teaching contexts.

Warmers provide the opportunity to unleash the learners creativity and to unleash divergent thinking (because learning a language is a human, non-linear activity.

7. To encourage prompt attendance

If your learners expect the lesson to start promptly with a warmer that is not only fun but also contributes in some way to the learning in the lesson they may be more motivated to make an effort to be there at the start of the lesson.  

Over to you.

Can you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas


* This is a link to Norbert Schmitt’s website. It contains much of Norbert’s work. The information I have referred to can be found on slides 47-48 of his Power Point presentation on ‘Research Based Principles of Vocabulary Testing’ in Poland in 2013.

Related Posts

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Seven Features Of a Good Warmer

Seven Ways To Motivate Your Learners

How do you motivate your learners? In 1999 Zoltan Dörnyei & Kata Csizer published research suggesting the ten most effective ways to motivate EFL learners. Here are the top seven – do they match your list?

1. Set a personal example with your own behaviour

This may seem obvious but how can we expect our learners to be motivated and interested in learning if we do not display the same enthusiasm and motivation for out teaching.

2. Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom

Learners are more likely to be motivated when they are in an environment that promotes a positive, non-threatening attitude to learning and reduces the learners chance s of becoming stressed.

3. Present the tasks properly

Not one we may immediately think of as important but in my opinion it justifies its position. What does properly mean here? Amongst other things it means – ensuring the learners know exactly what the task entails and they are expected to do, setting up tasks positively with an expectation of achievement, ensuring learners understand the relevance of the task to their learning…

4. Develop a good relationship with the learners

A good rapport between teachers and learners can provide learners with the motivation to trust in and work for their teacher – sometimes called affiliate motivation. The world of communicative language teaching is based around the relationship between the classroom participants and their wishes to share ideas feelings and information. This cannot happen effectively  without good relationships between all the classroom participants.

5. Increase the learners’ linguistic self-confidence

Interestingly this does not refer to actual linguistic competence in using the language but the learner’ own perception of what they can do with the language and the goals they feel they can achieve. (This is the gateway to the fascinating area of goal-directed learning and ideas such as  attribution theory.) As teachers we need to give learners plenty of opportunities to use they language they have in communicative situations and recognise successful communication. We should also help learners in setting realistic goals to improve their competence – recognising and praising this achievement as it occurs.

6. Make the language classes interesting

It is important to remember that fun and games does not necessarily equate to learning (although it may). Interesting is also not necessarily a synonym for fun and games either. However,  learners who are engaged by the lessons are more likely to be motivated to learn. Sometimes it is worth asking ourselves this question such as this –  “On a cold winter morning what will make the learners get out of their warm bed to come to my lesson?”

7. Promote learner autonomy

This is, of course, easier said than done. But encouraging learners (often in small steps) to take control and responsibility for their own learning is taking steps towards autonomy. Once a learner has taken control and responsibility for their learning they are “by definition motivated” according to Emma Ushioda.

Over to you

So what do you think of this list of seven? Do you agree with the order? Would you add anything to the list? What is your experience of motivating your learners?  I’d love to hear.

And for the sake of completion –  here are suggestions eight to ten.

8. Personalize the learning process. 
9. Increase the learners’ goal-orientation.
10. Familiarize learners with the target language culture.


Dorneyi, Z & Csizér, K 1998, ‘Ten commandments for motivating language learners: results of an empirical study’, Language Teaching Research, vol.2 no.3, pp.203–229.

Seven Bad Reasons To Teach Grammar (& Two Good Ones)

Michael Swann got in on the seven action back in 2002 with “Seven Bad Reasons to Teach Grammar and Two Good Ones for Teaching Some“. Here briefly are the Bad Reasons for teaching grammar – the original article is short and worth a read (despite the fact he spoilt the concept by including two good points!).

1. Because it is there

If the grammar is in the books we have to teach it and the learners should learn it – whatever the context.

2. It’s tidy

Unlike vocabulary and even pronunciation it has clear, boxed rules to learn. As Swann points out “Learning grammar is easier than learning a language”.

3. It’s testable

Again because it is ‘tidy’ grammar is relatively easy to test unlike other messy areas such as speaking and writing. As a result grammar gains too much prominence in testing – resulting in an increased need to teach what will be tested. This is bad-washback.

4. Grammar as a security blanket

In the spirit of points 3 & 4 teaching or learning grammar gives a feeling of comfort that we are teaching and learning something rather than areas of the language where a sense of progress less tangible.

5. It formed my character

Well I had to learn all these things to teach it so it must be important. This applies just as much to many of  us ‘native-speakers’ who have struggled to learn the grammar of the language we teach.

6. You have to teach the whole system

We have to teach all aspects of grammar as it is interconnected and inseparable. (And besides we have atomised the language in to grammar McNuggets in our coursebooks – so we need to reconstruct it again before we use it properly. This is my contribution to Swann’s point via Scott Thornburry).

7. Power

Teachers sometimes use grammar to assert their power over their learners. The next bit is an interesting idea – attitudes to grammar and grammar testing reflect the freedom of the society. The more authoritarian a society the more adherence is paid to the learning and testing of grammar.

and the good reasons…

1. Comprehensibility

Without certain common structures it is hard to communicate comprehensibly – we need to identify these. Also even if learners can communicate with minor errors these errors may become a barrier to communication if they are frequent.

2. Acceptability

The level of grammatical knowledge and application will depend on the contexts in which the learner will be speaking English. We need to have this information in order to make informed decisions.

Over to you

What do you think about these points? Where do you stand? I’d love to hear your thoughts but suggest you quickly read the original article first – although short it goes into more detail than my summary.


About this blog



The world is full of sevens and here are just seven of them:

1. The seven colours in a rainbow

2. The seven wonders of the ancient world

3. The seven deadly sins

4. Shakespeare’s seven ages of man

5. Snow Whites’s seven dwarfs

6. The seven hills of Istanbul and Rome

7. 007 – James Bond

This blog aims to add some more sevens from the world of English Language Teaching.