All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today

What makes a good teacher word cloud

Leave a comment

Anyone who read my very first post Blogging and the art of procrastination will know that, among other things, it took me a while to find a name for this blog.

Why ACE?  What can I say, I’m an 80’s kid… Everything that’s “awesome” now, was “ace” in the 80’s (where I was growing up) and it’s one of my all-time favourite words. Synonyms are; excellent, outstanding, first-class, first-rate, brilliant, expert

So, am I an ace English teacher? Not always.  Do I aspire to be?  Of course, hence this blog…

Question marks

Leave a comment

The Question Box: Recycle vocabulary and grammar

– “Teacher, we haven’t done this”

– “Yes we have, cast your mind back to last term, last month, last week…” (in some cases!)

Sound familiar?

Aware that we are covering a large amount of content (defined by the curriculum) and that a lot of my students cram for exams then promptly forget everything they studied until they cram for the next one,  I’ve been looking for ways to revisit and recycle vocabulary and grammar.  And thus The Question Box came into being…

question box

The Question Box lives in the classroom of its owners (the students) waiting to be called upon at any opportune moment… The Question Box belongs to the class, it is the students who determine what goes in and what comes out.

Similar to the Word Bag concept, students write a question on a slip of paper to ask their classmates using vocabulary and/or grammar structures we are studying or have studied. Questions are checked by peers and/or the teacher before posting in the box.  Questions can be formulated individually, in pairs or in groups.  

Revising and recycling vocabulary and grammar with The Question Box helps students develop oral and written accuracy and fluency.

These are some of the ways we’ve been using ours…

Activity 1

  • Warm up/cool down…

At the beginning of class to get in the “English” zone. A 5 minute question/answer session to warm up as a whole class/in pairs or in groups.

The question box can also be used at the end of a class if you have 5 minutes to fill.


Some of you will know I’m a fan of Wheel Decide for, amongst other things, choosing students at random to answer questions. I also have an envelope with all the students’ names in for the days when we have no internet.

This can also be done as a Think-Pair-Share activity.  Students are given time to think about their answer to the question, discuss it with their partner and then share with the group.  Alternatively it could be done as a Three-step interview.  Students form pairs and interview each other then from a new pair and report their findings from the original interview to their new partner.

Activity 2

  • Round Robin

Using the cooperative learning strategy Round Robin all team members answer the question from the box. When all team members have answered the question, they prepare a one sentence summary for their group


Do you like going to the beach?


We all like going to the beach / Three of us like going to the beach but one of us doesn’t / None of us like going to the beach

How often do you study?


We all study everyday / Three of us study everyday but one of us only studies the day before an exam.


Using the same strategy, students write a (10) word answer practising complex sentence structures and linkers to develop written fluency.  Teammates revise and edit each other’s answers.

This can be done in pairs within the team if some students need support.

This activity can even be extended to writing a short paragraph in response to the question.

Each team can choose a different question from the box to discuss.  When teams have finished discussing their question using the Round Robin technique, they can move to the other teams’ stations to answer their questions.  The recorded answers for each team can them be read out by the designated speaker for each team when all questions have been answered by all teams.

Activity 3

  • Speed interview

Pick (5) sentences from the box and prepare the answers for a speed interview. Students make 2 concentric circles and discuss their questions with the person facing them.  When time’s up one circle moves one space to the left or right and students repeat the activity with their new partner (instead of concentric circles you can put students in two lines and they move down the line)

Students can write up their findings depending on time and objectives.

Activity 4

  • Guess the questions.

Individually, in pairs or in groups students answer the questions (spoken or written) and their partner/team/classmates guess what the question was.

Activity 5

  • Who am I?

Students adopt the persona of a famous person or even a classmate and answer questions from the box as that person.  Their classmates guess who they are.

Activity 6

  • Truth or lie?  

Students choose a question for a classmate to answer.  They can tell the truth or tell a white lie. Their classmates try to determine if they are telling the truth.  They can ask more questions to help them decide.


Prepare “tell the truth” and “tell a white lie” cards so students can’t change their mind about whether they were telling the truth or lying!

Any of the above activities can be used with fast finishers who can pair up or work in groups.

The Question Box encourages students to take some ownership of their learning. The box belongs to them.  It is kept in their classroom.  They are responsible for the content. Students could even design their own activities to do which involve using the question box.

As we know, learning a language is not linear, students will learn, forget and relearn vocabulary and forms.  They need multiple opportunities to encounter and engage with the language to be able to retrieve it and use it effectively.  The Question Box provides endless opportunities for revisiting and recycling language 😉


google classroom


Flip learning with Google Classroom

This post is kind of the 3rd installment in my flipped learning “diary.”  Some of you will know back in February last year, I got very excited about flipped learning (Why flipped learning has got me excited.) after completing the EVO sessions.  I consequently started to dip my toes in and test out the water until last September when I decided to flip learning in earnest with one class.

At this point, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, having done lots of background reading and completing the Flipped Learning Certified 1 course.  I was all “badged up” and ready to go…

In October I wrote a post about getting started, Flipped learning and we’re off…  I worked hard to get students on board and got in touch with parents to explain how flipped learning worked, the benefits for teachers and students and their role as parents in the flipped learning model.  I received no opposition from parents or kids, so far so good 😉   

Then came the dreaded slap in the face.  I knew it would probably happen but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen on such a large scale.  First assignment, only 14 out of 25 students did their prep for class (and despite my optimism, things didn’t get much better.)

This is how that post ended back in October…

Now, I’d like to say there’s a happy ending to this story, however the story is just beginning…
Things are looking up though, I’ve just assigned the next video task and although the deadline isn’t for another 2 days, half the class have already done it ….. so I’m feeling optimistic 😉
The only way is up…. (surely?)

Unfortunately it wasn’t.  I continued to struggle to get students to do the prep on time.  I tried to find out what the problem was…

  • Were the videos too difficult, easy, boring…? No.
  • Were the tasks to check understanding/accountability tasks too difficult, easy, boring…? No.

I came to the conclusion that the majority of the students not doing the prep just weren’t used to doing their homework (copying their classmates’ exercises at breaktime before class wasn’t an option anymore!) For some students it was a case of being so disorganised they were forgetting what they needed to do or where the task was, and if on the slight off chance they remembered and decided to do it, they couldn’t because they’d forgotten their one of many logins for different classes/platforms/apps etc…

I have to admit I was feeling pretty defeated.  Week after week of the same thing happening was getting exhausting and I was feeling alone and miserable (I’m a lone flipper at my school.)   I talked to some colleagues and asked for advice.  Would they continue in my situation?  Was it a lost cause?  Should I just go back to traditional methods after the Christmas holidays?  The one response that really resonated (and which was probably meant to steer me in the opposite direction) was Is it really worth it?  That’s when I was finally able to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with the job…

Yes, it was!  I just needed to find a solution to the problem…

Fortunately I’d just received news from Google that our application for an upgrade to Google for Education had been successful.  That meant that I could now use Google Classroom.  Could this be the solution I was looking for?

And so a new chapter began… Continue reading

wheel decide

Leave a comment

3 more ways to use Wheel Decide

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about using Wheel Decide, a free online spinner tool.  This tool has proved to be a favourite amongst my students and makes a frequent appearance in class.  It has the power to transform something quite mundane (like a gap fill exercise) into something quite exciting.  

In my original post I shared 5 ways which I am using Wheel Decide to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.  In this post I’ll share 3 more ways that I have used this tool successfully with my students. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Look what you missed in 2017!

The end of a year/beginning of a new one is often a time for reflection when we look back at our triumphs and failures…

A common post I see around now is “My most popular posts in “insert year” “My top 10 posts of “insert year”
I thought about doing the same but then felt kind of sorry for the not-so-fortunate ones. So I’ve dragged my least popular posts of 2017 out of hibernation to give them another chance in 2018.

Here’s what you might have missed …

Word Art 23

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Increase productivity at school (and at home) with Google Keep…

It’s that time of year when we are busy making and breaking New Year’s resolutions.  I have to say that I have never been one for making resolutions only at the start of a new year,  I am constantly making (and breaking) them! However, there is one resolution I made a while ago that I try never to break… be productive and manage my time efficiently!

As a keen advocate of anything that can make life that bit easier and help me with my resolution, I added a page called Bright Ideas to my blog; a place to share these ideas and discoveries…

I found out about the latest Bright Idea whilst training to earn the Google Certified Educatator level 1 certificate. I learnt to use some Google tools that have made both my personal and working life more productive and helped me save lots of time. One of these is Google Keep, an online note-taking tool. Continue reading

Christmas tree

1 Comment

3 ways to practise grammar at Christmas

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean the grammar’s got to go…

In fact just after the end of term exams (now) is when I need to be going over content that students haven’t yet mastered.  Here are 3 ideas to spice up the grammar and give it a Christmas twist…



There are some great adverts around and the Christmas season sees a plethora of ads to convince you it’s their turkey and Christmas pud you want on the table.  Some of these ads we wait for with anticipation: Come November in the UK, small talk at the bus stop is no longer about the weather but what the new John Lewis Christmas ad will be like… Continue reading

1 Comment

Collaboration: improving outcomes

After writing a post celebrating my first anniversary blogging and sticking (more or less) to my personal goals of posting every couple of weeks, I’ve since managed not to (albeit with good reason!)

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Bett Asia 2017 in Kuala Lumpur with Chatta English last week. Consequently,  most of my “free” time over the past few months has been spent preparing for it (hence no posts.) Given that it was amazing opportunity which transpired to be an amazing experience, I don’t feel too bad… Continue reading