Clever Way to Practice Using “Can you~?”

It’s easy. Simply adapt the game of “go fish” and replace the question, “Do you have~?” with “Can you~?” Students will reply with a “Yes” or a “Yes, I can” if they have the card in question and vice versa. Same rules of “Go Fish” apply, unless you want to make up your own set of rules!

go fish card

example of one of the cards in the “can you~?” go fish game card deck

“Go Fish” has been a huge part of my curriculum this year especially because I have been able to play it in small groups of students were I can direct the game for students and encourage the use of “table talk” English as the game progresses. Never has it been easier to teach students important phrases like, “oh man!” or “Too bad!” or “That’s lucky!” There are a lot of other benefits that I will leave to you to discover. Now’s a great chance for you to start because first grade JHS students have either just learned or are about to learn about this important grammar point.

example card 2

the deck has 52 cards, 13 4-set pairs and uses 4 verbs: cook, play, eat and sing

I’m trying out the new set of cards using “Can” now because of this success. You can download a pdf of the cards template I made and start using them at your school. You’ll need to make 6 sets for a whole class (30 students in groups of 5-6) or you can just make one deck to play with kids during lunch break. Gluing the cards to a piece of construction paper is a good idea.

Get the free “Can you~?” Go Fish cards now (PDF version)

This pdf is 6 pages and one printing will give you the complete set of cards. You can also download the Hoyle card backs below to make your cards seem more realistic.

Hoyle Card Backs (PDF version)

Do you like this free material? Please support by sharing it with your friends on facebook!

Illustrating the Differences Between “Fun”, “Exciting” & “Enjoy”

Today one of my co-workers asked me about the differences between these words because students often confuse them when trying to translate the word “tanoshii” from Japanese. I made this “learn by example” sheet, which uses simple example sentences to illustrate common ways we use these words.

preview of the pdf

the “w/out elliott” version below leaves blanks for you to fill in your own name and draw your own face in the third bubble.

Download the PDF for free (with Elliott)

Download the PDF for free (w/out Elliott)

If you like this material please tell your friends about it.

Help Improve Your Students’ Grammar (Free Download)

tip stubs

What better way to help your students improve their English than to give them a friendly reminder?  These raffle-ticket-sized stubs come in 3 colors and give students a quick reference for how to answer “Do you~”, “Are you~” and “Can you~” type of questions.

The intricate font and light colors were specially chosen to make these stubs collectible and amiable — because the only thing worse than making a mistake is being harshly corrected for it.

Hand them out in your classes when covering these grammar points. Or use them in the hallway when you encounter a student who is struggling with their do’s am’s and can’s.

Download Now in PDF or Word!

PDF download

WORD download

Got an idea for how to use these “Tip For You” stubs? Post your comment now!

Dictogloss: Team Teaching Demonstration Lesson

By Jessie Giddens

As ALTs, we often see JTEs working busily at their desks, and we wonder how we can help. At the high school where I work, I feel lucky that JTEs often ask me to help them prepare for and participate in English classes.  Recently, my school housed a demonstration where we showed over fifty teachers from around Yamagata a team teaching  lesson. The observers greatly enjoyed our lesson, and I was asked to share it with other ALTs.  I hope our lesson will give you some ideas to use in your own classrooms!

In my school, we use a method of learning English called Dictogloss. Dictogloss is a listening, writing, and speaking collaborative activity. During the lessons, students listen to a short text, jot notes, and speak with others to reconstruct the text. Unlike dictation which requires students to write down words verbatim, dictogloss encourages creativity. This lesson is especially useful as Yamagata transfers to use “as much English as possible” in the classroom. Virtually no Japanese was spoken by we teachers, and students too speak English with each other to reconstruct the text. For months before the lesson, we did practice “classroom English” for many months leading up to the demonstration.  Students learnt words like “make groups,” “pass your papers forward,” “speak louder,” “open to page 25,” and others. Just learning these words gave students confidence in English. The observers said that they were surprised how possible it seemed to speak only English in the classroom.

The text that the students listened to during this lesson was a synopsis I made of a page from the student’s textbooks that they had  studied in a previous lesson. Though many textbooks include a summary in the teacher’s edition, making your own is helpful because you can alter the difficulty. Other preparation for the lesson included making easy English definitions and review questions.

Below is the lesson plan that we used:
Minutes Part Details
10 Review: Pair work and Individual work.
  • Students are given a handout with a copy of the text they had studied in the previous lesson. From the text, a few words are removed. The translation of said words is given. Reading aloud in pairs, students remember the missing words with the help of the translation.
  • Students write down the missing words in English.
  • Students check the original text to see if they spelled the words correctly.
  • Students listen to ALT read the text to prepare for pronunciation practice of the text.
  • Students repeat the text after the ALT, focusing on pronunciation and intonation.
  • Students perform overlapping (which is reading at the same time as the ALT).
  • Students shadow the ALT (which is listening and repeating just after hearing) while only listening, without the help of the text.
10 Warm Up: Group Work
  • Students make groups and are given a new handout. This handout includes easy English definitions to unknown words.
  • The JTE makes a grid-like shape on the board to prepare to give points to groups of students for correct answers.
  • Working in groups, students listen to the ALT read again, hoping to “find the words” for the definitions.
  • The JTE checks their understanding of the definitions and gives points to groups with correct answers.
  • Next each of the groups has one member stand, and the class plays a question and answer game. The JTE reads a question about the text and students strive to answer and earn points. Upon a correct answer, the next member stands.
15 Dictogloss:
Group Work
  • Students listen to the ALT tell a summary of the text they had been studying. The summary is much shorter (only five sentences) than their text, but includes much of the same vocabulary and sentence structures. At first, students listened only (i.e., no pencils!).
  • Next, students take memos while listening to the CD. Rather than strict dictation, students tried to find important keywords.
  • Students listen to the ALT a third time and then share their memo ideas with the members of their group.
  • Group members together begin writing their own versions of the summary.
12 Check
  • Groups are invited to earn points by writing one of their sentences on the board. Each of the sentences are checked for grammar by ALT/JTE.
  • Students repeat the new sentences after the ALT.
3 Self-Evaluation
  • At the bottom of their handout, students circle answers to the questions:
    1. I master the words (perfect // so-so // not good).
    2. I understand the text (perfect // so-so // not good).
    3. I try hard to use English and cooperate with friends! (perfect // OK // so-so // not good).
I hope that you can use ideas from this lesson in your own classrooms. Recommend dictogloss to JTEs, especially those who are worried about using mostly English in the classroom.
If you have questions about the lesson, please let me know!

Sushi Lines

Updated: Download the PDF or .PPT file

This system for arranging pairs has revolutionized our English classrooms. Say goodbye to the days of “stand up and talk to your friends (in Japanese).” Finally a way to get students matched up with pairs easily to maximize their talk time with other students.

Click on the image to download the PDF file, which explains and demonstrates how to use Sushi Lines.


Ken Can Kick Cats

Make it memorable. This is a truism I’ve learned to live and teach by recently. Do it with pictures. Do it with words. Do it with gestures and music. Find ways to make the words and sentences you are using memorable.

One way I like to do this is with wacky sentences.

“Can Ken Kick Cats?”

“Yeah, he can kick cats!”

“Spokemon spoke!” (pun with ‘Pokemon’)

“Remember November!”

Do you have some catchy phrases you like to use? Please share them in the comments below. How do you make your classes and points memorable?

Small Steps

“It’s amazing what small steps can do.” This is what my JTE said to me yesterday after one of our Talk More! communication classes.

And it’s so true.

If you tell students, “We want you to have good English conversations. Here’s some questions. Alright? Ready? Go!” It’s probably gonna fail.

But if you can break every lesson up into 5 or 7 small steps that build and lead into the final activity, suddenly you have a revolution.  You have climbed a mountain, not by running devil-may-care up the face of the largest cliff, but by starting in the rolling hills and gradually climbing to the top.

The point is: You can still think big. (Please do!) But remember to break those larger journeys into smaller steps so even the weakest climbers are able to reach the great heights of achievement.

It’s amazing what small steps can do…