Mobile Mini Sagas


I’d like to thank Ursula, our first guest poster, for this very interesting lesson on using mobile phones in the classroom.

This is a lesson that enables the students to use their mobile phones in a useful way in the classroom to practise intelligible pronunciation and speaking in ‘chunks’.

Language Level:  Intermediate and higher (lower levels are possible, with simplified texts)

Time:  60 minutes

Activity:  Recording a short story on a mobile phone, listening to and writing down a story from a partner’s phone.

Skills:  Reading, speaking, listening and writing

Materials:  A selection of mini sagas, the students’ own mobile phones.

Optional warmer: Show a picture of Princess Diana and elicit who she is. Play an extract from one of her speeches (from 24-46 secs on this link works as a brief example).  Ask students what they notice about how she speaks (elicit lots of pauses, clear speaking).

Choose a selection of ‘mini sagas’ (stories with exactly 50 words). These from English File Upper Intermediate work well, and there are others online (some nice ones here). Take one story and pre-teach any potentially difficult words.

Give all the students a copy of your story and give them time to read it. Explain they are to listen to you reading it and mark where all the pauses are. Read it again and ask them to underline the stressed words. After feedback, ask the students to practise reading the story, incorporating all the pauses and stressed words.

Give each student a different mini saga.  Give them time to read it and think about and mark the pauses and stressed words.  They then record themselves on their mobile phones.

Students swop phones with a partner, listen and write down the story.  They then compare their written version with their partner’s original text, circling on it any words which weren’t clear or they misunderstood. They discuss and compare what they heard.

Each student then looks at their original text and the words their partner circled, and practises saying the words more clearly.  They then record themselves again on their phone.

The students keep their text and change to a different partner.  They swop phones and repeat the process, using a different colour pen to do the circling.  There should be fewer misunderstandings the second time around.


Spelling doesn’t have to mean Test


UPDATE: Very pleased to announce that this post won the British Council’s Blog of the Month Award for May.

Are bureaucrats dangerous?

I want to tell you about how I adapted my advanced students’ favourite spelling activity for lower levels –all the way down to beginner.  The original activity called Three in a Row is available free on Johanna Stirling’s spelling blog here.  The original version can be challenging – even for teachers. Just try thinking of ‘something dangerous’ with the spelling ‘eau.’  But the activity itself is great, which is why I created the lower level version.


Lower Level  ‘Three in a Row’

Time   45 minutes


  • The board with spelling topics is here. You’ll need 1 per four-six students. I recommend laminating them.
  • You will need 1 coloured pen and paper or a mini-whiteboard per team of 2.
  • For pre-intermediate students you can add vowel dice or cards.

Play   (these rules were created by my students)

  • Students play in teams of two or three with two teams per board.
  • One team chooses a topic square and then the other team chooses a word related to the topic.
  • Both teams try to spell the word without looking at each others’ paper.
  • The team which spells the word correctly wins the square and places a cross in the square. A draw means no one wins.
  • When a team gets three in a row they score 1 point.

*For pre-intermediate students you can add vowel dice to make it more challenging. The word they choose must also contain the vowel thrown.

*I have also played with three teams per board –just add an extra coloured pen.


Continue reading