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!



Graded readers ESLHere’s what I’m doing on my Saturday night. Ok, ok, I’m almost finished and about to watch a movie, but yes, this is usually what life as a teacher is like nowadays. I’m starting with graded readers with my young students with this action and adventure book called Orca. It’s about a group of adventurous sailors and the things that can happen in the big blue sea. We’re starting the actual reading this week but we’ve been slowly working on vocabulary, games, listenings and video to get their interest before reading. So far they’ve loved it and my dear childhood film “Free Willy” has come to the rescue yet again. Two of my students were actually able to do a listening activity with a CNN news segment on killer whales working together to hunt a seal (I’m still looking for a polite way to squeal with excitement when my students have a little breakthrough like this in class. Did I mention these two students are 9 and 11?!). So last week while we were playing some flashcard games and going through some vocabulary, these two little guys asked if they could photocopy the flashcards to get the answers extra perfect next time (translation: they want to be the first to answer). I told them I would of course give them something for their notebooks so that they could review the new words when I wasn’t there. So these little vocabulary sheets are what I’m up to tonight, the big blank space is for them to write a sentence using the new words.

Vocabulary ESL

Did I tell you I felt incredibly old when my 9 year old student explained how to make videos bigger in my iPad last week? (Sigh…).


creative teachingI know it seems like I suddenly disappeared from the blogosphere, but don’t worry, it was only temporary while I was getting my second teacher certification as a young learners ESL teacher! That’s right, I’m now officially certified for teaching adults and my favorite little friends. I’m so happy I did it, so excited that I’ve finished, and now I get to apply so many of the amazing and creative ideas and techniques I learned these past few weeks. I have to tell you I was not prepared for learning in such a creative environment but that’s what I kept walking into day in and day out. You can imagine my excitement! Not only that but I was so lucky to be in a classroom with such a diverse and interesting group of students (well, teachers really!), and our tutor was a force to be reckoned with. Incredibly creative with one little extra wonderful side to him, he was a technology “junkie” just like me! Suffice it to say I was hooked and happy to learn from someone with so much experience.

In one of my favorite lessons about using dvd and video in the classroom, he said something that really struck a chord. He said that he doesn’t agree with people that say that technology will someday replace teachers, but that teachers who don’t embrace technology will be replaced by teachers who do. I loved this! What a great way of reminding us we must always stay on our toes to continue to create magic in the classroom.

Today I just wanted to pop in to give you my happy news and to say I’m still here, I’m not going anywhere! I leave you with a photo of what my life is like these days. cutouts of cartoons, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, made up memory games to teach verb tenses, and so many other unusual ways to plan my lessons and keep my students engaged and learning. I’ll see you all tomorrow for our Sunday Best!


children's education

I am now officially the cool fun aunt that apart from appearing to have an unlimited supply of stickers has the “really big wall you can draw on”. These are four of my little nieces and nephews, which are that in spite of me being an only child. They are of course my friends’ kids (who now hate me a little bit for showing these guys that painting on walls is an actual possibility). On the day I took this picture, their parents, my hubby, the kids and I were barbecuing outside, our dog was eating all the potato chips the kids were leaving behind, it was just a great fun Sunday barbecue. Towards the end of the day I took them into my studio and gave them a box of colored chalk. They were mesmerized and each got in front of the wall to start drawing. The oldest one arranged the space each of them would have, he explained, and they all started drawing.

I learned a lesson that day, one you don’t learn in classrooms since you’re teaching the same age group at any given time, they were all doing their own thing, in their own way, and lots was going on. Not because of their age or physical development, but because of their preferences, their personality, because of the effect the presence of the other kids was making on them, and because all I told them was “here’s some chalk… go nuts, do whatever you want”. This wasn’t an experiment by any means, I just wanted these guys to have fun, but what happened was very unique! The boy to the left (the oldest, about 5 years old) was trying to draw the human skeleton and was very focused on the height of the wall and how far up he could draw on it. The second boy was very concerned about what others were doing while he continued to draw on the board without looking at his own work, but trying to focus on the other drawings and the movement. The third boy was completely obsessed with drawing and then erasing, and was also the first to notice that you were supposed to draw on the black part of the wall but that the white part of the wall was something different (and he’s 1!). The little girl to the right was entirely focused on the different kinds of chalk and how the colors were different from one another. Four kids, four completely different experiences by just drawing on a board at the same time. None of them were trying to copy each other which is very typical, or what I was doing (yes, I was drawing too of course!), they were simply in the zone doing their own thing.

It got me thinking, what happens when we leave education (at least parts of it) in the hands of the children themselves? Well, I’m not an expert, but here’s education scientist Sugata Mitra explaining just that. You HAVE to watch this video! I thought it was so beautiful and special that I felt like sharing it with you guys today.

At the end of the day the four of them left with star stickers on their hands (as did I) and I was left with this amazing photo and a little bit of insight. What are your thoughts on this? Any mammas, papas or teachers in the crowd?

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