Friday 31 July 2009

Debate in the Classroom - All you need to know

One of the highlights of my stint at I.E.S. La Minilla last year was when I introduced the concept of debating to the Secondary 4 CLIL students. When I first suggested the idea, I wasn't very sure what their reaction would be. Well, their enthusiasm caught me by surprise. Most of us will agree that the most difficult task facing an English teacher in a 'foreign' environment is to get the students to speak - in English, of course. They can't stop talking in their own language, can they? So, when they seemed to like the idea, I was thrilled, and I was even more thrilled when some of the volunteers were those that I'd hardly ever heard speak in class.

What are the benefits of an organised debate in the classroom? Here are some examples:
  • The quiet ones get their chance to speak uninterrupted.
  • There are those who don't speak as much because they need time to gather their thoughts together; this is ideal for them.
  • It exposes them to speaking in public, something that most of us are terrified of.
  • It is important that learners are taught the different registers of the language, and debate is an excellent oportunity for them to practise formal usage.
  • They learn to organise their thoughts. A lot of students find writing compositions a useless and boring task. Debate allows them to put what they have learned into practice.
  • They learn to work together as a team.
  • They learn to listen and take notes. (How many of your students take notes when you're giving a class?)
  • They learn to do research.
What should you expect from the students?

Much depends on their level. The higher the level, the more you should demand. In my case, just to hear them speak was already a reward! Debating is a skill which takes years to acquire, so don't expect an Obama in your midst. They are very likely to make tons of mistakes - grammar, expressions, register, etc. Make sure you take notes, and run through them after the debate. Never correct anyone during the debate - this is a fluency activity; the accuracy activity comes in the post-debate discussion.

How does a debate work?

The system I had chosen was the Mace system, from which I made some adaptations. In the Mace system, there's a chairperson, a timekeeper, three judges, and two teams of two speakers each. All the participants were students. I dispensed with the timekeeper, and made the chairperson do the timekeeping, too. Instead of two speakers, I had three, and the summary was done by the 3rd speaker. In the original Mace debate, each speaker is allocated 7 minutes, and 4 minutes for the summary. I knew this was too long for my students and cut it down to 5. Even that was too long for them!

My advice is be flexible. Adapt the system to the needs of the class. If you think it's a good idea, you can be one of the judges, or the chairperson. I, personally, prefer the students to be the protagonists.

The finer details are set out on files uploaded to Scribd, which you can either read online below, or download for offline use.

Watch out for these common problems:

  • The language employed is not formal enough.
  • The chairperson is important. She or he sets the tone for the whole proceedings, and controls the event. Make sure s/he is well organised and remembers the order of the speakers. Pay careful attention to the seating arrangement.
  • Most of them tend to speak too fast or too softly. They ought to practise their timing, and to make sure the judges at the back of the room can hear them.
  • They don't rebutt enough. In the summary, especially, they should address the issues brought up by the opposing team and by the audience during the floor debate.
  • They need to back up their arguments by solid figures, examples, case studies, analogies, and they should mention the sources they quote from.
  • Make sure they understand the motion, and speak to attack or defend it. As an example, if the motion is "This house believes recycling is the solution to environmental pollution", the proposition team needs to convince us WHY we ought to recycle not HOW to recycle.
They could do well to listen to the great speakers such as Martin Luther, JFK, and Obama. Also, I'd heartily recommend watching The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington.

PowerPoint Presentation:
Debate in the Classroom

Debate-Timekeeper's Flowchart

Debate-Chairperson's Flowchart

Debate-Judging Notes Sheet

Debate-Guidelines for Judges

Debate-Example of How a Debate Should Be Conducted

Thursday 30 July 2009

Q&A: Plural form of Grand Prix

Q: Intan from Indonesia asks, "What is the plural form of Grand Prix?"
A: Thank you, Intan, for your query. First, we must understand that Grand Prix /ˌɡrɒ̃n ˈpriː/ is derived from French, and is pronounced as in French. Macmillan says the plural is Grand Prixs, while both Oxford and Cambridge say Grands Prix. Merriam-Webster, on the other hand, says both Grands Prix and Grand Prix are acceptable. I've also seen Grand Prixes, but I think this is incorrect.
So, who's right? The beauty of the English language is such that they're all probably correct! Personally, since it's a French word, I'd stick to the French rule whereby the adjective takes the plural form, and words ending in -x stay the same: Grands Prix
"The duo were together for six years and ended up as constructors' championship runners-up in 2002 and 2003, while winning 10 grands prix and taking 17 pole positions." BBC Sport reporting on BMW's decision to quit F1, 29 July 2009

Wednesday 29 July 2009

fhqhosting site down?

Ok, folks, it was just a minor hitch - it's back up again! Have fun learning!

fhqhosting site down?

Apologies - the site I used to host my flash games appear to be down today. I'll be keeping an eye on it and will post some news soon, hopefully. Meanwhile, you still can play the other games hosted on

Games for Education: Test your phrasal verbs (get + ...)!

Did you test yourself on the previous phrasal verb (break)? Well, I hope you did! Now, test yourself with the extremely common verb 'get'.
Have fun learning!

Chiew's ESL EFL CLIL Blog: Phrasal Verb Get

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:
Games for Education

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Courageous or suicidal? Man plunges 186 feet!

Isn't it masochistic madness? Tyler Bradt, a young 22-year-old American, has been receiving tremendous media coverage after he ran the 186-foot (equivalent to almost 60 metres) Palouse Waterfalls in Washington State in a kayak. In waterfalls, the run is the linear distance from where the stream flows at the top of the waterfall to its base, and in water sports, going down the run is called running it. When Bradt ran The Palouse Waterfalls, risking life and limb, he broke the previous world record of 127 feet, held by Brazilian Pedro Oliveira. However, in an interview, Bradt said that reclaiming the world record (he had held the record prior to Oliveira) hadn't been his motivation, but rather "to help people understand that the only limits that exist are the ones you create".

He says, "I would rather risk my life than risk not living my life."

What drives people like Bradt to achieve feats which mortals like us would faint simply at the mere thought of it? I'd love to hear your comments!

To know more about kayaking and running waterfalls, just google it. In case you haven't noticed it, I've made things easier for readers of this page by incorporating a Google search bar on the top of the left column.

Monday 27 July 2009

Have you been testing yourself or not?

So, you think your level of English is pretty decent? Well, put yourself to this simple test and see how well you score! Have fun learning!
To start the game, click on the icon below.
Chiew's ESL EFL CLIL Online Games Juegos Activities Actividades

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:
Games for Education

Sunday 26 July 2009

Are you too chicken to play? Places in a Town

Do you know what the places in your town are called? Test your knowledge and skills with this game!

Click here for full screen version

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (ctrl+A anywhere inside the box, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:
Games for Education

Saturday 25 July 2009

Are you game to learn?

Game time yet again, folks! This one is a mixed bag; it starts easy, then... it gets ahem... interesting!
You have 16 questions. If you get them all right, you get to FLING the teacher! For the teachers: I created the game using Fling the teacher quiz generator, which is available at Content Generator. Then, I host the file in Feedback on the comments, please. Have fun learning!

PLEASE NOTE: In one of the questions, I just noticed I'd made a mistake. It said, 'Whenever there was a visitor, the door ...... run to the door.' It is, of course, '...the dog ...... run to the door'! Sorry!

To start the game, click on the icon below.
Chiew's ESL EFL CLIL Games Activities

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:

Games for Education

Thursday 23 July 2009

Games for Education: Match the dialogue (Elementary)

This is now superseded by this one:

Game time again, folks! Here's one for the elementary level. It's a dialogue in a shop and you have 30 seconds to match the sentences. For the teachers: I created the game using Match-up quiz generator, which is available at Content Generator. Then, I host the file in Feedback on the comments, please. Have fun learning!
To start the game, click on the icon below.
Chiew's ESL EFL CLIL Game and activities

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (click anywhere inside the box, click ctrl+A, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:

Games for Education

Recipe time! Family favourite - butter chicken with orange sauce

We all know recipes are an enriching way to learn imperatives, so here I'd like to share a recipe of a simple dish which everyone who has tried it has told me how much they liked it. Then, it's your turn to practise your imperatives by emailing me one of your favourites and who knows, it may get published here!

Butter Chicken With Orange Sauce


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
Juice of 2 oranges
some butter
some olive oil
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
some raisins or other dried fruit


- Cut the breast lengthwise, about 3cm wide. Here, in Las Palmas, Mercadona sells it pre-cut (they call it "solomillo de pollo").
- Season the pieces with salt and pepper.
- On a plate, mix the 2 types of flour together.
- Coat the pieces of chicken with this mix.

- In a frying pan, heat a knob of butter and some olive oil.
- Dip the chicken pieces, one by one, into the beaten egg and shallow fry them in the pan on a medium-low heat (as a guide, mark 4 / 9). If the pieces are quite thick, you may have to fry them on the side a little to make sure the inside gets cooked.

- When they are golden brown, turn them over.
- I've never timed it, but I guess it'll take about 3-5 mins per side. Cooking is an art, so go with your gut feeling!
- While the chicken is being fried, grate or thinly cut some peel of an orange. Avoid the white part (called pith), as this will make the sauce bitter.
- Chop the peel into small pieces.
- Cut the oranges into halves, and squeeze them for juice.
- In a small saucepan, heat a little butter on a slow flame.
- Add a teaspoon of brown sugar.
- Since orange juice is rather sour, to avoid putting too much sugar, I normally add some dried fruit. I often use raisins as they are cheap and I always have some in the kitchen, but you can use your favourite, or leave it out altogether.
- Stir for a few seconds, then add the juice, but keep a little of the juice aside.
- Don't forget the chicken!
- Keep the juice on the fire while you tend to the chicken.
- Put 2 teaspoons of cornflour in a small cup. Add the remaining juice, a little at a time, stirring constantly.
- When the flour is completely dissolved, add it to the juice in the saucepan, again stirring it constantly. If you don't, it may get lumpy.
- Keep it on the fire until it thickens to a consistency you like.
- By now, the chicken ought to be cooked. Remove them to a plate.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken.

- You can serve it with a refreshing salad, some boiled potatoes and carrots, or whatever takes your fancy!
- Wallow in the compliments your guests will shower you with!

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Phrasal verbs (break + ...): Arcade Game

If you like this game, please link to it by copying and pasting this HTML code (ctrl+A anywhere inside the box, then ctrl+C) into your own blog or web template. This is the badge you'll get:

Games for Education

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Cooling off?

Next time you're on the beach, before you start complaining of how crowded it is, spare a thought for these people in China!

Monday 20 July 2009

A Swine of a Flu: epidemic, pandemic or endemic?

For these past couple of months not a single day has gone by without some mention or other of swine flu in the news. Alan Johnson, Britain’s Home Secretary went as far as to say that swine flu would be a greater threat to Britain than terrorism (The Daily Telegraph, 19 July 2009).

And not for a single day did I not ask myself who the smart alecs who had coined the term were. Why ‘swine’? Wouldn’t ‘porcine flu’ or plain ‘pig flu’ have been a better term? The Spanish called it ‘gripe porcina’, and the French, ‘la grippe porcine’. But the English had to be different, of course.

Porcine /ˈpɔ:sɒɪn/ means relating to pigs, or similar to a pig. Swine /swaɪn/, on the other hand, is an almost archaic word meaning a pig. It is also used informally (almost rudely) to mean an extremely unpleasant man, or something that is extremely unpleasant or annoying. So, swine flu, although technically correct, tends to leave a rather foul taste in my mouth.

Hand in hand with swine flu, you’ll undoubtedly read ‘pandemic’. Now, you might have asked yourself, ‘What happened to plain old epidemic?’ Well, there is actually a difference.

A pandemic disease is one which affects a large proportion of the population over a wide geographical area. Macmillan even defines it as ‘a disease that affects almost everyone in a very large area’.

“Ministers had accused the National Childbirth Trust of overreacting after it said that women should delay getting pregnant until the pandemic had passed.” The Times, 20 July 2009

An epidemic, however, is defined by Oxford as ‘a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time’.

In other words, a pandemic disease is an epidemic affecting many people over a wide geographical area, but an epidemic is not necessarily pandemic. HIV can be considered an epidemic, while the Black Death was a pandemic.

Then, there’s ‘endemic’, which refers to a disease which is almost constantly present in a given area, though usually at low levels. Malaria in parts of Africa can be considered an endemic disease.

Read more about swine flu in CDC or

Sunday 19 July 2009

How to create charts and diagrams in PowerPoint

So, you would like to impress your colleagues with some graphical presentation instead of merely citing boring old figures, but you’re not so IT-savvy? Fret not, because it isn’t that difficult to convert numerical data to illustrated charts. I presume you already possess some basic knowledge of PowerPoint; if not, tell me what you would like to know and I’ll try to post another guide. Click on any image to enlarge it.
1) Navigate to the slide where you want to insert the charts, or create a new slide.
2) Click the Insert tab at the top.
3) Click chart
The insert chart dialogue box appears. You’ll see on the left a series of categories such as column, line, pie, etc. Click to select or you can scroll down using the bar on the right. Select the type of chart which is best suited for your needs. Click ok.

PowerPoint inserts a default chart into the slide, and opens an Excel worksheet. Click and drag the lower right corner of the worksheet to adjust the size of your data range. Change the descriptions and data to your requirements. I also presume you have some knowledge of Excel; if not, let me know. Knowledge of Excel is useful, but not necessary for creating charts. Whatever data you put in the worksheet, PowerPoint automatically updates the chart.

To increase or decrease the size of the chart in the slide, hover the mouse in a corner until you see a double-headed arrow. Left click. Without lifting your finger off the mouse, with your other hand press the Ctrl and shift keys together, and don’t lift these fingers off either. Drag the mouse until the chart is of the size you want. Alternatively, hover your mouse over the chart on the slide until you see a double headed arrow cross, then click on it. Click format, then size. Adjust the height/width.

To change the colours of the bars, right click on the bar you want, and choose format data series or data point. Click on fill, then, solid fill and choose the colour you want.

You may close the worksheet any time you like. To re-edit, right click anywhere on the chart and choose edit data. To change style of charts, right click and choose change chart type.

If you haven't got access to a projector, you can always print the slides.

Isn’t that easy? Now, you can impress your colleagues and bosses!

If you prefer, you can watch a simple video presentation:

Friday 17 July 2009

Education Games! Name these famous people! Arcade Game

If you're a teacher, you are probably already aware of the value of using games as an educational tool, and if you're a student, you probably think games are great fun! Well, I stumbled upon the site,, today, and it allows you to create your very own flash games to use in the classroom or to publish on your site. The game below is an example of what can be done. Have fun and watch this space for more games! W00t!

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Unscramble these jumbled sentences!

Learners often find it difficult to construct sentences, and unscrambling jumbled sentences is always a good exercise for them. Rather than merely mixing the words and asking students to rearrange them, I've enlisted the help of Wordle and compiled a few sentences of varying difficulty in a PowerPoint show. It's visually and intellectually more exciting and stimulating than merely writing the sentences on the board, don't you think?
Before you download the ppt however, try the exercise yourself! Answers on the comments, please.
Jumbled Sentences 1

Saturday 11 July 2009

How to convert pdf to word

I'm sure many of you, at one time or another, had become very frustrated trying to edit a pdf file. There might have been some text you'd wanted to use for a lesson or a test, but not as it was; it needed some changes here and there. Even after tearing your hair out trying, you'd failed to figure it out. In the end, you had to retype it yourself! True or false?

I'd tested a program called PDFZilla, but found it didn't work very well. Until recently, I've got by with copying and pasting, but graphical items such as images and tables cause a few problems.

However, here's the good news. Now, you can convert a pdf to a word file for free, and edit it as a normal word document. The bad news is that it isn't a program, at least not the freeware version. You'll have to do it online. Here's how.

You go to You'll see that it's a simple process. Browse to the pdf file you'd like to convert (Step 1).
Choose either the doc or the rtf format (Step 2). Fill in an email address (Step 3). After a few seconds, you'll find the doc file in your inbox!

So, what's the snag? I've tested it on a few files and it works well. However, some characters such as ticks and arrows may not be converted accurately. It's not such a big deal.

If you need to edit graphics heavily, you may find some niggling issues, but other than that, I'm sure you'll adore the product! Just tell your friends where you first heard it from!

Thursday 9 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So, the film everyone's been waiting for is almost here now, but some of you will agree with me that when a film has been too hyped up, they always end up very disappointing. I didn't think Slumdog Millionaire deserved as many Oscars as were given to it, but, on the other hand, Dark Knight certainly deserved more. So, once in a while, a film does come along and live up to our expectations.
I've been skimming through some reviews - I don't like to read too much as they tend to ruin my enjoyment or raise my expectations too high. By all accounts, it's got a lot less action than the other Harry Potters and that if you haven't read the book, you may have trouble following the plot.
Perhaps now is the time to brush up on your reading!
Read this review by Felix, who's 9 3/4 years old. Don't we wish more of our students would write like him?
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a very scary film with a lot of surprises.
The sound effects are really good, with brilliant music changing all the time. All the special effects are excellent, such as really realistic fire in two parts of the film.
It also had amazing graphics: Hogwarts had every tiny detail and was really clear. The film missed out a lot from the book but added quite a bit!
The Half-Blood Prince is probably the best Harry Potter film made. It has plenty of everything, but maybe a bit too much kissing."
Watch trailer here: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Tuesday 7 July 2009

The Importance of Language Teachers in CLIL

Hear! Hear!
Three cheers for the language teachers! We've always known that content and language are inextricably /ɪnɪkˈstrɪkəblɪ/ linked, haven't we?

Monday 6 July 2009

Michael Jackson's ghost?

Watch it and believe what you want to believe! (See idiom posting on the right column)

Sunday 5 July 2009

NEW! Widgets and Gadgets NEW!

Ok, I know most of you are on holiday and taking it easy, so I'm not getting much traffic flowing through here. However, I've taken advantage and incorporated some changes - hopefully, you'll like them; your comments would be much appreciated.
On the left column, you'll now see a few new items.
You can show your loyalty to this site by incorporating a button on your site to link your readers to here. Just copy the html code and paste it in your site's HTML section.
Further down, you can now search for words in The Free Dictionary and Macmillan dictionary directly. ***EDIT*** I have since removed Macmillan because the style clashes with my template. Sorry. End of EDIT***
And even further down, you can put your spelling skills to the test! There are 3 levels to choose from, but please note that it's a US version.
And don't forget to look at the phrasal verb and the idiom on the right column, and not forgetting the Tao Te Ching at the bottom!
Happy learning and have fun!

Friday 3 July 2009

Wizard's Widgets

Listen to Jim Pettiward talking about widgets, but before you do, try this quiz. Then, listen and do the quiz again. Post your answers in the comments section below.

Choose the best answer:

1. A widget /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ is
a) a small bird b) a mini computer program c) a weather gadget

2. Draught /drɑ:ft/ beer is
a) British canned beer b) beer served directly from a barrel c) a beer containing a widget

3. An etymologist /etɪˈmɒləʤɪst/ is someone who
a) studies the origin of words b) designs widgets c) regularly plays roulette

4. 'Widgetry' is best described as
a) a very high level of skill at something b) the art of designing widgets c) magical powers

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Mind Your Language

I wonder how many of you have seen this comedy series popular in the 70s. Oh, it probably will never see the light of day now because almost certainly it'll be deemed politically incorrect. It still makes me laugh my head off after all these years. Now, I'm British, though not born British but rather a 'naturalised' British (strange word, that - as though I wasn't 'natural' before that!). If there's one thing I can say about the British, it's that they're a bunch of people who can laugh at themselves, and the series is really about people being able to laugh at themselves. If you enjoy it, I suggest you look for the dvds. Great teacher and great students! LoL