Baseball Pitches


MAIN ACTIVITIES Vocabulary expansion, prediction, sports idioms

SUITABLE FOR  Upper Intermediate (B2) and above

TEACHER’S NOTES    (Click here for a pdf of the Teacher’s Notes.)


Show the class the word cloud below and ask them to name the sport.

Baseball tagxedo


Divide the class into four groups – A, B, C and D – and organise the groups in a rough circle around the room. There must be at least one person in each group who has a mobile phone or tablet with an internet connection. If you have a big class, you can make eight groups. Display this image and ask them to tell each other what they know about baseball – its vocabulary and its rules. They can use mobiles or dictionaries to look things up.


Ask each group to nominate one member, who must then go and “visit” the next group in a clockwise direction. The visitor and the group compare ideas. Afterwards, the visitors return to their respective groups and give some feedback.


Display this page from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary so that groups can check their predictions.


Tell students that it’s traditional in baseball to have a ceremonial opening pitch, usually performed by someone famous or to celebrate some special event. Tell them that they are going to watch a different YouTube video each showing ceremonial pitches which are famous for being unusual in some way. Each group has to watch their video and work out how to describe exactly what happened in English.

Get each group to watch one of the videos below. In class, you can do this by getting students to look for the video on YouTube using the descriptions in italics as follows:

Group A      cirque du soleil baseball pitch

Group B     Max Ashton baseball pitch

Group C     Shin Soo-Ji baseball pitch

Group D     Zombies baseball pitch


Give students time (and some help!) to come up with accurate descriptions of the scene.


Once they’re ready, reorganise the class into four new groups where there is a representative of each original group in each new one, i.e. the new groups are made up of at least one person each from A, B, C and D. There must be a mobile phone or tablet with an internet connection in each new group.


Each person now takes it in turns to show the opening scene of their original video, being careful to stop it before the ball is thrown. The others have to guess what happens next. The person who showed the video then gives a point to the person who was closest before describing verbally what happens in the video without showing it.


Once all the opening scenes have been seen, they then watch each full video to see what actually happens. Now the group have to decide who gets a point for having given the most accurate verbal description.


Ask students which video they liked best and why. To round off the lesson, ask students to use their mobiles or a dictionary to first figure out the meanings of these questions – all containing sporting idioms – and then answer them.





Look Up


Main Activities Poetry (reading and pronunciation), speaking about social media, vocabulary (words with more than one meaning)

Suitable for Pre-Advanced (B2.2) teens and adults

TEACHER’S NOTES  (Click here for a pdf of the Teacher’s Notes.)


Write the word poem on the board. Ask your students, in small groups, to define it.


Write up their suggestions around the word. Hopefully someone will have mentioned rhyme and metre, both features of more “traditional” or “older” poetry.


Display or hand out copies of this verse from Jonathan Swift. Ask students to decide how it should be read and then ask for some performances.


If students need some help, explain that there are four beats/stresses per line which should fall on the syllables in blue shown here. Point out the rhyming pattern of AA, BB i.e. the first line rhymes with the second, and the third line rhymes with the fourth.


Tell students that they’re going to work with another poem which has the same metre and rhyming pattern. If you have a larger class, divide them into nine groups and make them responsible for a verse each. If your class is smaller, three groups responsible for three verses each. However, all students should have all nine verses even though they may be working on one (or three) at the moment. Give out the poem.


Tell them that their task is to fill in the missing words so that the poem follows the AABB rhyming pattern. They can try to guess the missing word, but the most important thing is to find a word that rhymes even if it doesn’t make sense! Write up their suggestions, one for each gap.


Now tell them to focus again on their section of the poem. They should underline or highlight the four beats in each line and practise reading it – one line per person for a group of four, for example. They can use their mobiles or a dictionary for any problems with meaning or pronunciation.


Get the class to read out the poem in order (verse A to I) and then have a vote on which verse was best in two different categories – the best words in the gaps and the one that was read the best.


Ask them to agree on what the message of the poem is and then show them the video.

Tell them that they have to watch without taking notes. They’ll hear their verses at the end and they should listen out for the missing words. (You can find the whole poem here.)


Ask them to compare his delivery of the lines to their own. Better? Just different?


Now tell them that you’re going to ask them for their reactions. Display these questions and discuss them, either as a whole group or in smaller groups, who then feed back to the class.


In the next class, tell students that they’re going to revisit some of the vocabulary from Look Up, but they’re going to look at second meanings or different collocations. Display these questions for students to discuss.




I Forgot my Phone

Mobile Phones?

Mobile Phones? by Tim Ellis is licensed under CCBY2.0

Main Activities  Vocabulary acquisition, word formation, talking about mobile phone use

Suitable for  Pre-Advanced (B2.2) teens and adults.

We’re moving on to a “mobile” theme this month on the blog and this first post is designed to encourage students to push at the boundaries of their vocabulary and to think about word form as tested in exams such as the First Certificate and Advanced. Thanks to our colleague Nikki for the heads-up on this beautiful and thought-provoking short film about how much those little phones have taken over our lives.

TEACHER’S NOTES    (Click here for a pdf version)


Divide the class into two large groups – A and B. Then, within each group, form pairs so that all As are working with another A and vice-versa. Tell them that they’re going to hear the audio from a short piece of video. They have to guess the different places and events from what they hear. Some are more obvious than others and they’ll need to use their imaginations. Play the video (sound only) and stop at the following points, asking the students to write down what they think is happening and where:

a. 00:10          e. 01:00          i. 01:30

b. 00:24          f. 01:05           j. 01:50

c. 00:43          g. 01:09           k. 02:03

d. 00:51          h. 01:22


Once all the pairs have written their agreed suggestions, hand out the A/B answer sheet to the two large groups. Give them time to look up words/phrases for pronunciation or meaning using dictionaries or mobiles as they’ll have to tell a partner the answer in a moment.


Make A/B pairs. Each person has the answers that the other one is missing. They take it in turns to read each other their suggestions from step 1 and then to hear the answer from their partner.


Tell them that the protagonist of the video is annoyed by a similar thing in all of the scenes described. Ask them to guess with their partner what it might be.


Now show them the video to see if they guessed correctly.


Keep the students in the same A/B pairs. Tell them that you’re going to give them this sheet with 11 sentences describing the people with the mobiles. In each sentence, similar to the FCE/CAE word formation exercise, there is a word missing. To fill the gap, they must use the appropriate version of the word given in bold at the end of the sentence. Note that two of the words don’t need to be changed at all, and one is not the base word, as in the Cambridge exam. They get one point for each correct answer but only if the spelling is perfect!


Now regroup the class into groups of three and ask them to discuss the questions below the 11 sentences. Encourage people to ask questions for vocabulary etc. and make your own notes on interesting errors or nice language, for example. Write everything up on the board and allow some time to go through it at the end of their discussion.


Tell students not to take notes. Finish by telling them that they’re going to use their mobiles for something positive and then ask them to stand up and take a photo of the board. Ask them to write up their own notes, either in their notebooks or on their computer, using the photo. Bring them in, or print them out for the next day to compare how they’ve organised the information.

Crab Invasion

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 07.28.27


In our third post this month, eggs get another mention, a word cloud makes another appearance, and there’s a focus on words with multiple meanings. This time we use footage from the BBC documentary series Wild Caribbean. In the clip we see a cast of crabs (or a consortium of crabs, according to some sources) travel from land to sea to lay their eggs. And this week there’s no boiling, scrambling, poaching, frying or chocolate eggs to make starving students faint with hunger during classes at lunch or dinner time.

Click here for the Teacher’s Notes.


Easter Eggs

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 00.26.06 In our second slightly egg-themed post this month, we take a look at some traditional foods that are eaten at Easter. First, we focus on collocation and explore words that can combine with chocolate, Easter and lamb. We then move on to watch a couple of videos stuffed with a mouth-watering mixture of Easter edibles. To finish off, students put all the vocabulary into practice before going off to do some food photography at home.

Click here for the Teacher’s Notes

easter mosaic

Image made using photos taken from by @mkofab, @YTatLE, @eltpics, @CsillaBen, @CsillaBen and @steve_muir used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

Billy and Jack

To finish our paper theme this month, here’s a video-based lesson from a new section in The Guardian newspaper, where experts encourage people to try out new things. There are prediction and listening tasks while watching the musician teach the cook how to busk successfully in London. To finish off, we have a webquest for homework to find out more.

Click here for the video

Click here for the Teacher’s Notes


Photo taken from by @sandymillin, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

A Piece of Paper

mosaicd7ca0bfe77bcb4eeba5f566b62ebc00d82ad31d6Photo taken from by Eleftheria Papaioannou , used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

The first post of March is taken from The Guardian’s monthly review “Ad Break” – a brilliant video resource for classes. In this ad from Russia, a simple piece of paper can be a powerful force for good or bad. If you can speak the local language, you’re at a slight advantage here but the possibilities for interpretation for the rest of us made for imaginative suggestions in our classes.

Click here for the video.

Click here for the Teacher’s Notes.


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