#122 Good Fortune Cookies

Published on November 4, 2007

=> What’s a Fortune Cookie?
=> Quick Fortune Writing Activity
=> Funny Fortune Cookie Contest – and a poem?
=> Three Quotations About Fortunes – gap-fill
=> In the Next Issues


Fortune cookies are those things that you get at Chinese restaurants after your meal, and usually along with your bill. You won’t find them in China though. Fortune cookies were invented in California.

You won’t find them in China though. Fortune cookies were invented in California.

They sometimes will prognosticate. That is, they will predict will happen to you in the future. “You will go on a journey.” “You will find 50 cents on the ground.” “You will fall in love.”

Quick Fortune Writing Activity

Ask students in pairs to write some fortune-cookie-like predictions. Brainstorm a few possibilities on the board first. Don’t be afraid of making these examples more specific than the very general fortunes above.

For instance, “Someone will give you a flower on the street.” “You will fall in love with a puppy.” “You will eat some pretty marvelous Italian food.” “A squirrel will laugh at you.”

Put students in pairs, and ask each pair to write several fortunes on separate pieces of paper. After this, fold up the fortunes, gather them into a hat or box. Then each student will choose two or three fortunes (depending on how many the class has written) at the end of class and take them home.

It’s good to do this activity before a weekend or holiday. That way, when you come back, you can ask students to repeat their fortunes and to see if they came true, or anything remotely similar happened.

Well, actually…

It might be a good time to introduce the phrase, “Well, actually…” As in… “Well, actually, I did SEE a squirrel. He didn’t laugh at me. But he seemed to be in a good mood.” Or “Actually, someone did give me a flower. It wasn’t a stranger though. It was my father. Saturday was my birthday.”

Funny Fortune Cookie Contest — and a Poem?

You might also have a contest to see who can write the wildest, funniest, most impossible fortunes: “You will not talk on your mobile phone today.” “A ballet dancer will make fun of your Adam’s Apple.”

After pairs of students compose these, ask students them to write them on the board. Next, vote for the top six or eight. Put these together and you’ll have a kind of strange poem about the future.

Three Quotations about Fortunes — gap-fill

Below are three quotations on the subject of fortune.

But 12 nouns have been removed. Return them, please, to their proper places…

cases / door / dragon / friend / heart / joys / life / man / others / penny / pleasure / saloon

1. “Fortune knocks at every man’s (1) __________ once in a life but in a good many (2) __________ the (3) __________ is in a neighboring (4) __________ and does not hear her.” –Mark Twain.

2. “One of the sanest, surest, and most generous (5) __________ of (6) __________ comes from being happy over the good fortune of (7) __________.” –Robert A. Heinlein.

3. “To attract good fortune, spend a new (8) __________ on an old (9) __________, share an old (10) __________ with a new friend and lift up the (11) __________ of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a (12)__________.” Proverb.


(1) door (2) cases (3) man (4) saloon
(5) joys (6) life (7) others (8) penny
(9) friend (10) pleasure (11) heart (12) dragon

In the Next Issues

Tapering Dialogues (by Mario Rino Rinvolucri)
The Paper Game (by Dana Yastremskaya)

copyright 2007 Kevin McCaughey and I.M. Poosheesty

#121 Birthday Card Activities

Published on September 19, 2007

Birthday Card Activity

Below, you can see the familiar format of the birthday card: a partial sentence on the outside of the card, followed by an ellipses (that’s three dots, like this …). Then the birthday boy/girl opens the card to reveal the (often surprising) finish of the sentence.

Outside of card                                 Inside
To the nicest person I know…             … Happy birthday!
I was going to buy you a present …     … but I’m cheap. Happy Birthday!
You don’t look one day over…             … the hill. Happy Birthday!

idiom: over the hill = past the peak of your health and vigor.

Below you’ll find some activities for Birthday Cards. Do them in the following order to make a full lesson, or choose those that’ll will work with your class or level.

Activity #1: Matching

Here are five of the many birthday cards that I actuallywrote and tried to sell to a greeting card company. Alas, no one bought them. These birthday cards are intended to help us laugh at our worries about aging. So they are probably not useful to young learners.

Match the first half (the outside of the card) with the inside (the punchline or funny part).
Birthday Card Outside 1. A birthday without a funny card…
2. You don’t look your age…
3. You’re not as old as …
4. Another birthday….
5. Never throw this birthday card away…

A. … you don’t even act it.
B. … because it’s from me, stupid!
C. … Deal with it!
D. … is better than a birthday without presents.
E. … you will be tomorrow

Activity 2: Unfinished Birthday Cards

Now you’ll get the first halves (the outside) of five birthday cards. The students’ job is to finish them, to write the inside of the card. Work in pairs. Students may be polite or funny. Creativity should be rewarded. (Afterwards compare students answers with the originals below.

Birthday Card Inside 1. You’re at the age where…
2. No way I’d forget your birthday…
3. The best gift ever…
4. Trying to hide your birthday again…?
5. I baked you your favorite cake…

Activity 3: Write Your OWN

Write and design your own birthday cards. Fold a paper in half. On the outside draw a picture and make some words. Design your own birthday card. This activity works great for any level: young learners will write basic wishes. Advanced learners can use wit, wisdom, rhymes, or puns.

Further Greeting Card Activities

There are lots of other types of cards, generically called “greeting cards.” There are cards for religious holidays, weddings, condolences, births, anniversaries, graduation, job promotions, celebrating friendship, Valentine’s Day, Get-Well-Soon cards for sick people, and more.

Have students write some of these.

And let’s say the class comes up with some great ideas for cards. Why not submit them online to a greeting card company to see if they will buy some? Who knows?

For more information, check out this article…http://www.writing-world.com/poetry/arrieta.shtml

Activity 1
1. A birthday without a funny card… is better than a birthday without presents
2. You don’t look your age… … You don’t even act it.
3. You’re not as old as… you will be tomorrow.
4. Another birthday… … Deal with it!
5. Never throw this birthday card away… … because it’s from me, stupid.

Activity 2
1. You’re at the age where… your inner child has reached adolescence.
2. No way I’d forget your birthday… Not now that you’re this old.
3. The best gift ever… … could have been yours if the ATM machine [bankomat] was working
4. Trying to hide your birthday again…? … Nice try.
5. I baked your favorite cake… … Man, was it good.

#120 Crossfire Dictation

Published on August 22, 2007

=> Crossfire Dictation – a multi-listening/writing task
=> In the Next Issue

Crossfire Dictation

I tried this activity in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It’s a listening/writing
task that is, well, pandemonium. Chaos. But the teachers in Dushanbe
seemed to like it.

Here’s what I did: I gave each teacher a picture of a US State. The name of the capital city was written on the state too. Then I assigned each person a partner. That partner was on the other side of the room–or at least not sitting nearby.

Each person had to communicate to his partner (1) the name of the State and (2) its capital. I counted to three and told the class to begin. Everyone talked at the same time. Chaos, lovely chaos.

Some people had to raise their voices, or question their partner, cock
their head to hear at a different angle, ask for spelling, make sure that
what they were hearing was correct.

In short, people had to do what they do in real life: filter the language
they wanted to hear from unwanted noise and verify that what they were hearing was correct.

No, it’s not an activity to do every day, but adding it to your repertoire
of listening activities is worthwhile. It’s so important to practice a

Naturally, you don’t need to use a picture of a US State. Any short text
will work, but it should be very short. Perhaps 1 or 2 of the current
vocabulary words for each partner. Perhaps an exchange of phone numbers or email addresses. Or you might first ask each person to write a question that they would like their partner to answer: What did you do last Saturday? What’s your favorite type of juice? etc.

Any kind of short information exchange will work.

New at English Teachers Everywhere (www.etseverywhere.com)

More Sounds activities. Including the “Thermos Joke…”

In the Next Issue

Birthday Cards – a writing activity
Around September 2nd.

© 2007 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty

#119 Multi-Listening Tasks

Published on August 10, 2007

=> Multi-Listening Tasks
=> Welcome to Subscribers from CATEC and Tajikistan
=> In the Next Issue

Multi-Listening Tasks

What’s a multi-listening task? I’m not sure–I just made up the name. But recently I worked in Tajikistan, by invitation of of the US Embassy there in Dushanbe.

I tried a couple new listening activities. They take very little preparation, and they add a listening dimension that is worth practicing: comprehension through noise.

1. Multi-dictation.
Write three lists of ten words. They can have a theme, whatever theme you happen to be studying at the moment: household items, languages, food, underwater archaeology. Let’s try food. Here’s one sample list:

1. pizza
2. apples
3. sugar
4. watermelon
5. hot dogs
6. candy
7. sandwiches
8. soup
9. eggplant

You want 3 lists like that. They should be different (though some items can repeat).

Next, get three students to come up to the front of the room. Each student will have a DIFFERENT LIST.

Each then reads her list. She will read items 1-10, allowing a second or two in between each item, and when she reaches the end, she will start again from the top.

Each reader will do this simultaneously. At the same time. All three readers will continue for two minutes or more.

It’s extremely important for the teacher to monitor the readers, so that they do not go too fast, and so they begin again when they reach the bottom of the list. It is also wise for the teacher to check the list beforehand to make sure students know what they are reading and how to pronounce it.

The task of the rest of the class is to write down the contents of all three lists.

Why do this?

(a) Well, in real life situations we often have to dig out language from outside noise. It is VERY common that we tune in one person while others are talking. (Think of the simultaneous conversations at a large dinner). This is great practice, and you will gain respect for your ears: how they can zero in on a particular person’s words.

(b) A new listening task! Variety is good.

(c) This is an easy way to review or introduce new vocabulary.

(d) we can do the activity with no preparation and no materials (other than scraps of paper).

(e) Who’s doing all the work? Students. That’s good. The teacher’s only task is to direct the activity.


1. The number of items on the list can vary: fewer for lower level learners.
2. The number of readers can vary, from 1-4.
3. Students can write their own lists based on the topic.
4. The vocab items can be phrases or sentences.

Here’s a kind of competitive version of the activity:

Follow the instructions above, except that each list will have three items in common.

Put the listeners in pairs. They will listen reading of the lists for two minutes. At the end of this time, each pair will state what the 3 common words were.

You can make the activity trickier by having a few words that are on 2 lists, but not all three.

Welcome to Subscribers from Tajikistan and CATEC

Dear folks from Central Asia. I have added you to this e-textbook, “English Teachers in Russia & Elsewhere.” You will receive it in your e-mailbox once a month–sometimes more often. It provides ideas for activities (like the above) and tells you what’s new English Teachers Everywhere–the web site with tons of free audio.

If you don’t want to be on my mailing list, just click on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this page and I won’t bother you anymore.

CATEC people, If you’d like to see some photos, a short video, and more go to English Teachers Everywhere and click on CATEC Kyrgyzstan. Don’t forget to check out the photo Gallery.

Teachers from Tajikistan. Hi, you’ll find lots of new Tajikistan-related stuff at www.etseverywhere.com (click on Tajikistan) including…

— a photo gallery
— 2 songs composed, performed, and recorded during a single lesson by Access students in Dushanbe
— slower versions of some audios (the counting song, the animal song)
— “Buzaki Jingalapo” song, words written by students at School 19, Dushanbe
— PDF copies of Kevin’s handouts (you open them with Adobe reader)
— an interview and audio activity with teacher Venera from Dushanbe

If it’s not there now, it will be coming soon…

In the Next Issue

Crossfire Dictations: easy to do dictation activity involving chaos.

Announcements of new material at English Teachers Everywhere.

© 2007 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty

#118 Sound Effects Bingo

Published on June 20, 2007

=> Number Bingo – game for number learning
=> Sound Bingo! – listening game
=> Word Origins – “Bingo”
=> In the Next Issues

Number Bingo

If you know about using traditional number Bingo in the classroom, skip this section and go right to Sound Effects Bingo.

Most everybody is familiar with the game Bingo. In the most generic variant of the game players have a board or grid made up of squares. In each square is written a random number, like this:

15 02 89
71 05 11
26 64 20

One person (the “caller”) draws numbers written on slips of paper from a box. Then he calls out the number.

Each player marks the number on his playing card if he hears it called. The first player to complete a line—whether up, down, or diagonally—shouts out “Bingo!”

Students could draw a chart similar to the one above and write in their own numbers between 1-100 (or 1-30, or whatever—depends on the level of the class). The teacher or another student then calls out letters at random. Students listen for the number on their Bingo card and mark it when they hear it.

I’m sure many teachers have done number Bingo, but I’m repeating it because it will help us move on to Sound Effect Bingo.

Sound Effects Bingo

For sound bingo I have made recordings of 25 sounds.

1. Understand the Language of Sound

Handout the list of the 25 sounds. (I usually just dictate the sounds). Give students a few minutes to look it over. One easy way to proceed is to ask students to produce the sounds described, as best as they can. What is the sound of a chair creaking, of a crowd applauding, of glass breaking, etc.?

2. Bingo Card

Next each student will draw a Bingo card on a piece of paper. The card is always a square. It can have 3 rows by 3 columns, 4X4, or 5X5. I recommend 4 X 4 (for sixteen total squares) for intermediate groups.

3. Write Sounds Onto the Bingo Card

Now each student will choose sounds from the list of 25. (Again, the activity is adjustable; if a teacher thinks 25 sounds are too many, he/she need only list—and play—the first 10 or 12.) Each student can place any of the 25 sounds in any of the squares. Each square should have a different sound. (The sounds need not be written exactly as typed; students can abbreviate).

4. Listen
Now play the entire list of 25 sounds. When students here the sound corresponding to what they have written in a square, they can mark that square with an X. (Sometimes students will be unsure about sounds; that’s okay. They can be discussed and reviewed later).

5. The Winner
State the goal. The first student who Xs out an entire row, whether up, down, or diagonal, yells, “Bingo!” Ask the student to read back the sound descriptions to make sure all the sounds have been played.

6. Another Winner
Because we want to play more, let’s find a second winner. If the first winner’s line was ACROSS, ask for an UP/DOWN winner and a diagonal winner. The first students to complete a complete line of these will shout Bingo.

7. One More Winner
Our last winner will be the first to black out his whole card. The first person to write an X over all his sounds will call out “Bingo.”


a. Mix the sounds again. You can change the order of the sounds, and thus, play again and again. To do this you’ll need a sound editor (like the free Audacity, or GarageBand if you are lucky enough to have a Mac), but it’s not hard to learn.

b. Make your own sound effects dictations. There are 1000s of sounds on line. Those who have iTunes or a music player on their computer can download the sounds into a playlist, and, bingo, they have a list for the game of bingo.

c. Ask students to gather sound lists. They can create their own bingo games.

d. Get students with tape recorders, computers and microphones, or portable mp3 players to go out in the field and actually record their own sounds.

Word Origins: “Bingo”

Bingo is a kind of lottery, and it is based on an old Italian game. But in 1929, I man named Ed Lowe stopped at a carnival. People were playing Bean. A caller pulled wooden pieces with numbers written on them from a cigar box, then he called out the number. The players had cards with numbers written in squares, and when one of their numbers was called they placed a bean on the number. Thus, Beano.

Apparently Ed Lowe was taken with the game—and saw its moneymaking potential. He went back to New York and introduced the game to friends and acquaintances. During one game, a girl got very excited and instead of “Beano!” she blurted out, “Bingo!”

Lowe sold sets of cards and marketed the game as Bingo.

Now Bingo is an actual word. It’s an interjection used to express the sudden completion of an event, occurrence of an idea, or confirmation of a guess.

Example: You’re looking all over for your watch. You look under the bed, in the drawers, then check your coat pocket. You find it! “Bingo!”

The history comes from Gambling Times Guide to Bingo by Roger Snowden
and Strange Life.

Copyright 2007 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty

#117 Fathers’ Day Stuff

Published on May 25, 2007

=>ETs in Russia is Back
=> Quotations About Fathers – Gap-fill
=> “A father is someone Who . . . ” – Unfinished Sentence Writing
=> “A Very Short Story About Your Dad’ – Writing
=> In the Next Issues

Read on »

#116 News Headlines Activity

Published on February 21, 2007

=> What is Presidents’ Day? – an explanation
=> News Headlines With Double Meanings – a language analysis activity
=> What’s New at ETsEverywhere.com
=> Do you have a Yandex address?
=> In the Next Issues

Read on »

#115 Valentines Games and Song

Published on February 5, 2007

=> 2 Valentine’s Games
=> Dumb Valentine’s Song
=> 5 Questions: a Valentine’s Day Warm-up
=> What’s New at ETsEverywhere.com
=> In the Next Issues

Read on »

#114 Unfinished Love Quotes

Published on January 26, 2007

=> Unfinished Love Quotes for Valentine’s Day
=> What’s New at ETsEverywhere.com
=> 3 Great Web Sites
=> Follow-up on last issue’s Dichotomies
=> In the Next Issues

Read on »

#113 Fun with Dichotomies

Published on January 19, 2007

=> Fun with Dichotomies
=> What’s New at www.ETsEverywhere.com?
=> In the Next Issues

Read on »