esl gamesHi everyone! I´m so sorry I wasn’t able to get together with you for Sunday Best last weekend but I was preparing something really special for you. In fact, it will be the focus of this week’s Sunday Best, if I can hold my tongue until then that is!

Today I want to share an incredible game and lesson plan with you which I created for my young students but that has actually been an incredibly big hit with adults as well.

In this game I call ‘Once Upon a Time’, students become storytellers, not of someone else’s stories but of their own. Students will be presented with three sets of story sticks, the green sticks represent the place where their story will take place, the blue will be their main character(s) and the red (my personal favorite) will be the central problem of the plot or a problem their main character must endure or overcome. Using games in the classroom

You can download my set of story sticks here and print them on card paper, or you can certainly edit the document or make your own. Making them on popsicle sticks by hand is even more fun, but if you’re pressed for time this is a faster option. Here are the steps to set up this activity in class:

1) As a warmer I like to ask students about some famous stories they might know or ask them to recap one we have worked in class. I use the one they choose to elicit who the main character is, where the story takes place and what the main problem or challenge is. That way, they’ve come up with examples themselves to serve as inspiration.

2) Ask each student to select one story stick of each color. In the first two or three rounds I always let them read through all the sticks and choose the one they like the best. In the next rounds I have them choose them at random (the funniest and craziest stories will come up at this point). Of course if you’re teaching a large class it might be best to do this at random from the beginning, students might take a long time choosing at the rest of the students might get restless.

3) Give students a few minutes to think about their story.

4) Students take turns telling their stories.

5) Awards ceremony: After a very creative lesson like this where students have worked really hard I always like to have a little awards ceremony. Click here to download my award envelopes. Inside I write what the prize is. In my case this usually includes earning one or two star stickers (I use a sticker system in my classes), being able to choose the extra activity or game next class, stickers, being able to choose and animated short to watch or the next song we will sing in class. These may vary depending on the type of class you have, so I’ve left the envelopes blank so that you can adapt them. If you find them to be too small, you can always select the figures and make them larger. Storytelling

My categories include:

– Creativity

– Best Character

– Best storytelling (pronunciation and fluency)

– Best grammar

– Best use of vocabulary

– Best behavior (and this includes their behavior while telling the story as well as their behavior while listening to their classmates stories).

I have to tell you, I have a big box of games and activities for my young students, but no other game has provided as much concentration, interest and good behavior as this one. Phrasal verb UNO comes in second in this department. It’s also great for you to check students’ progress and see what areas need a little more review or focus.storytelling game

I hope you enjoy it! Ask me any questions or leave me some comments in the section below. If you try this out and have some incredible stories (it’s amazing what their little minds can come up with), please share them in the comments as well!



Dear CEPI class of Oct-Nov 2012! Today was our last class! Congratulations!

I was so happy to have you in my class. Thank you so much for your hard work these last few weeks, you did a great job! It was a real pleasure having a group as friendly and as dedicated as you were. I can’t wait to see some of you in January (remember to review for the entry test!) and to continue helping you improve your English!

I have a surprise for you! Our dear Javier from the CEPI center told me that our class in January for Level 2 will be for 2 months instead of 1! He told me after you had left today. Now we will have even more classes to continue our English studies. Thank you so much and I send a big hug to: Sofía, Juan Manuel, Rosa, Rosario, Carmen, Letizia, Gustavo, Ricardo, Olga, Luz, Olinda, and Juan! I’ll see you soon and good luck with your other CEPI classes! Do you recognize the photo above? It´s our friend Bichin when he joined us during our first class together!

Big hug,

Your teacher,


En español:

Querida clase CEPI Oct-Nov 2012! Hoy fue nuestra última clase! Enhorabuena!

Estuve muy feliz de tenerlos en mi clase. Muchísimas gracias por todo su fuerte trabajo estas últimas semanas, lo han hecho genial! Fue un gran placer para mi tener un grupo tan amigable y dedicado como el de ustedes. Ya quiero verlos de nuevo en Enero (no olviden repasar para la prueba de entrada!) para continuar ayudándolos a mejorar su nivel de Inglés. Les tengo una sorpresa! Nuestro querido Javier del CEPI nos ha dejado dar el nivel 2 en Enero por dos meses en lugar de uno! Me lo dijo después de que ya todos se habían ido hoy. Así que ahora tendremos aún más clases para nuestros estudios de Inglés. Muchas gracias y un gran abrazo para: Sofía, Juan Manuel, Rosa, Rosario, Carmen, Letizia, Gustavo, Ricardo, Olga, Luz, Olinda, y Juan! Nos vemos pronto y buena suerte con sus otros cursos en el CEPI! Reconocen la foto de arriba? Es nuestro amigo Bichin, cuando nos acompañó en nuestra primera clase juntos!

Un fuerte abrazo,

Your teacher,



Here are the answers to your final homework:

1D a)

Singular    /     Plural

1- a bag  / bags

2- a country / countries

3- an identity card / identity cards

4-a watch / watches

5- an e-mail / emails

6- a sandwich / sandwiches

7- a key / keys

8- an umbrella / umbrellas

b) (1) this  (2) these   (3) that   (4) those


Every Thursday, I’m a volunteer English teacher at a very special and one of a kind place, the CEPI center. Roughly translated CEPI stands for ‘centers of immigrant participation and integration’, and they are home to hundreds of users from all over the world, where mostly low income families go to for free assistance in everything from psychological treatment, job placement, education, legal assistance, day care and pretty much anything else you can imagine. It’s all free, sponsored by the government, run by some extremely hard working and wonderful people, and almost entirely supported by volunteers. To paint you a little picture, a family of four immigrants without papers and without a job and sadly sometimes without any means of supporting themselves visits the CEPI, and while the mom and dad are attending a session for job placement and legal advice, the kids are being well taken care of at the center’s day care, taking dance or guitar lessons, at a scouts meeting or at summer camp. After the meeting the parents might also join in on the activities by attending cooking classes, workshops for women, sessions on how to write your CV, Italian, French or English classes (where they get to meet yours truly!), and all sorts of professional training from hotel management to hairdressing, cooking, bar tending and geriatric care. It’s all open to anyone who wants to learn and it’s all 100% free.

The minute you walk in, you notice this very unique and wonderful atmosphere, wonderful people that have smiles on their faces in spite of all the struggles they go through, and it’s all because they now we’re there for them expecting nothing in return and hoping to help and spend time with them. I’ve been a volunteer at many different moments in my life, but I’ve never been involved in anything as substantial and incredible as this. Especially because it’s not all fluff, this place is making a real difference in the lives of these families.

This week it was the center’s 6th anniversary and they had this very special event in front of government officials, and I felt so honored when they asked me to speak at such a wonderful event. I was extremely nervous of course, in spite of all the speaking in public I do with my classes. Not only did I speak, but I was first in line! Boy do I hope I did ok! The front row was filled with government officials and there I was standing before them, microphone in hand talking about what my experience as a volunteer has been, the wonderful lessons I’ve learned along the way, the amazing and supporting staff that make me feel so at home, and of course my students. By then I was so emotional and excited that when it was time to listen to Pape, our volunteer French teacher from Senegal, I just broke down and started crying (as did everyone else that was present). Pape has such an amazing and heartbreaking life story and spends every spare minute he has working at the center, showing us that sometimes those who have the least are willing to give the most. You couldn’t listen to his words without feeling your heart jump to your throat, and at that moment I felt so incredibly happy to have joined this team a few months ago. The words of two other volunteers followed and then a beautiful demonstration by the center’s Karate teacher, and his incredible speech about how he teaches a violent martial art that actually prevents future violence. 

Not that we needed to get even more emotional, but the children followed him by showing their drawings and speaking about values like integration, equality, peace, solidarity and collaboration. You could hear the ‘aaawws’ and ‘ooohhs’ a mile away.

The teens from the center’s guitar class gave us a little concert after that by playing “Every Breath you Take” by The Police and “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

The event was closed with some very special words from government officials and staff, we were all interviewed by the press (it was the very first time for me!), and after that we all joined in for a little party, some Peruvian and Spanish food and some sangria. My students came to hear me speak and I stayed there chatting with them until the very end, when they gave all of us girls a beautiful red carnation on the way out. I felt so happy and blessed to be a part of something like this. Since I’ve started my work at the center I’ve met people from Mexico, Honduras, Spain, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Italy, Senegal, Venezuela and Bolivia, just to name a few. In the end, we’re all the same, and in this very special place, we get to spend some time together and help each other. There’s no bigger lie than to say volunteer work pays nothing, I can tell you that…

Happy 6th Birthday my dear CEPI! May we celebrate many more together.