Here be (Dungeons and) Dragons 3

The Wrath of the Math

“Your points are 2 for taking a taxi, plus 1 if you told the driver where exactly to let you out. Then roll the D4. Add courage points to the D4. Divide them by 5.”

I should have seen this coming. How often do you see any English for arithmetic in EFL materials? Never. How many of these ladies at Ladies’ College of Suburban Tokyo (LCST) have played RPGs before? None, so the D4 terminology from the first lesson went in one ear and out the other of some students.
Next time I will provide a little bit of Focus on Form on the arithmetic terms and hope that our dining role plays go well, because other than the maths, it was a good lesson.
Read Here be (Dungeons and) Dragons previous ‘chapters’: 1, 2
Read the future chapters 456

TBL/CLIL-ish Lesson: Paper Aeroplanes

Who doesn’t love paper aeroplanes? I mean apart from the person who has to tidy them up?

This is an easy lesson to do and could take about an hour to two hours depending on how many plane types you teach.
I took different sets of instructions from and told my students to practice making the plane. I made sure to tell everyone they would be teaching how to make their plane later.
The vocabulary needed was in the reading but be aware that inattentive students may ignore it. I would have them read and copy out a list of ten or so useful vocabulary items if I did this again. Focus on form was given as we went.
There was the opportunity to ask meanings of words as we went along and the instruction task was passed if planes were made and failed if they didn’t.
Plane types were tested for speed, height and distance. Students then wrote up a short report.
As extension work, we tried folds to the wings and fuselage to see if the planes would turn or roll.
The students loved doing this and everyone was speaking English all the time. There was even more negotiation of meaning than usual, too.

Resources for Teaching Children

There are a large number of freelance teachers who won’t teach children at all because it can be more trouble than it’s worth: behaviour problems, parental disengagement, poor institutional support, dreadful training (or rather the lack of it). However, for those of us who are fortunate to find settings in which teaching children is not a painful experience, there is a lot to enjoy: witnessing the development, often at a more rapid pace than adults; engaging questions; and, lest we forget, a source of entertainment.
Here are some resources that may be useful for teachers of children/young learners.
Primary Resources
British Council Young Learners
Don’t forget that it is totally possible to go Dogme/materials light with kids as well, if you have paper, pens and imagination. If the class want to play games, it’s OK – provided they teach you the rules. Giving them ownership can be a bumpy ride – not a lot of kids are used to it so you might need to prime them by having little bits of control increasing incrementally. By the time they get to be responsible for choosing what they learn, it is more interesting (though it can be more challenging to teach).
Higher-ability kids can handle CLIL or project-based learning. Computer programming, geology and probability in games are all fun and useful.
Also, some cool people who teach young learners are:
Rose Bard
Anne Hendler
Tim Hampson

TBLT for Kids. Easy science lesson plan.

This is basically to go with an idea that I am trying to run with. Based on the BerlinLanguage Worker GAS group, I would like to see something similar happen in the Greater Tokyo area. There is the ETJ Workshop series, but that is sponsored by Oxford University Press and what I am really interested in is people getting together to share their ideas and producing lesson plans and/or materials together, with the materials being Creative Commons licensed so that anyone who wants to use them can do so and change them or improve them as appropriate for their setting. If you are interested, get in touch via the comments.


Pre-intermediate upward.

Lesson Aims:

  • Students write a report using sequencing language.
  • Students produce a labelled diagram.


About an hour.


Dirt, pebbles/gravel, water, disposable plastic cups (three per group), cloth, coffee filters, a pair of compasses/corkscrew/pocketknife, paper lined one side and unlined on the other.
1. Each group needs three cups. Put holes in the bottom of one.
2. Elicit names for all of the materials.
3. Pour water into one cup for each group and add dirt.
4. Tell students to clean the water. Remind them to use English as much as possible when talking to each other because they may need to write it down later.
5. Students try to clean water. If they don’t manage it after about half an hour drop massive hints or else model it.
6. Students draw a diagram of their most successful filtration setup and label it. You might need to model it, you might not.
Labelled diagram. Spot the spelling error.
7. After diagrams are drawn, students write up what they did. Again, modelling the writing is advantageous and possibly essential depending on the level of the kids.
EXTENSION: Students evaluate their group. Who did what? Who had the most successful ideas.
MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT: Put cooking oil or sugar in the water.