Monthly Archives: October 2013

Two Collins ELT titles shortlisted for English-Speaking Union Awards 

We’re delighted to announce that not just one, but two (TWO, t-w-o!) of our books have been shortlisted at this year’s HRH The Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Awards, awarded by the English-Speaking Union. 

Here is what the ESU judges say about the titles:



Collins Key Business Skills is a worthwhile addition to the market and innovative in the possibilities it provides for self-study. The clear presentation aids the logical progression of the content and the tasks provide realistic challenges.



This is an original entry with a strong layout, progression and development. It is easy to use and is successful in making even the mundane activities of daily life engaging and interesting. The audio files are authentic and the content is very suitable for the target audience.


Tips for Teachers: Working with gestures and mime: 5 classroom activities 

Teaching Techniques for Communicative English is a gem full of practical ideas and techniques to bridge the gap between the language of the classroom and the world outside. Lively activities give learners a chance to experiment creatively with newly-acquired language so they can communicate meaningfully in real-life situations.

Here are five classroom activities involving gesture and mime. These activities are important because, as award-winning author Jane Revell puts it, they ‘are intended to incorporate non-verbal aspects of communication into the teaching programme by giving students an opportunity to learn and practise gestures, facial expressions and other paralinguistic ways of communicating’.

These are just some of the many practical and creative activities in Teaching Techniques for Communicative English. We hope you’ll have fun trying them out with your students!

1 Mime a message

Students must get a message across to a person on the other side of the room, without using any words, as if they were at a crowded and noisy party. The teacher gives a card with a message on it to a student, who must then use nothing but gesture and mime to make him/herself understood. The other student(s) must interpret the message, which could be something like:

It’s time to go.

Can I borrow your mobile?

You’ve got a ladder in your tights.

I’m having a terrible time.

I need something to eat.

2 What’s my job?

One student mimes an action that is typical of the job they do. The other students must then find out exactly what that job is by asking questions to which the student can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They are allowed only ten questions. Cues can be put on the blackboard to help the students:


Regular hours?


Common job?

Normally done by men?


‘This is the job I had last year’ will elicit questions in the past tense, just as ‘This is the job I’ve just been offered’ will elicit questions in the future tense, if the teacher wants to focus on a particular tense. ‘Have (got) to’ is another structure which can easily be practised in playing this game.

3 Pass the parcel

The students sit in a circle. The teacher gives every other student a card with the name of an object (always the same object). This imaginary object is then passed around the circle. The half of the class who know what the object is must give the other half of the class visual and verbal clues (without actually naming the object) so that they can guess what it is. They must, for example, hold it in a certain way, and say things like: ‘Careful! Don’t squeeze it!’ or ‘It’s still a bit hot’ or ‘If you hold her like that, she’ll scratch you!’

4 Guess what the guest means!

Students are divided into groups of four or five. One, a guest staying at a hotel, is given a card on which is written something they want or need. The guest has a very bad cold and has lost their voice, so s/he must make him/herself understood to the others in the group – the collective hotel receptionist – entirely by the use of mime.

For elementary students it is enough that they grasp the general idea of what the hotel guest is trying to get across. More advanced students could be asked to produce the exact words written on the card, forcing them to find synonyms for words and to search for different ways of saying the same thing.[2:1]

In trying to guess ‘Could you tell me how to get to the cathedral?’ for example, the students might well come up with any of the following things:

Where’s the cathedral, please?

Which way is the cathedral?

What’s the best way to get to the cathedral?

Could you tell me the way to the cathedral?

I’m looking for the cathedral. Can you help me?

Do you know the way to the cathedral?

I wonder if you could tell me where the cathedral is?



Some suggestions are given below for the sorts of things that might be written on cards:

Where is the nearest underground station?

Could you call me at 7.15 tomorrow, please?

Is there a cheap Indian restaurant near here?

I was very cold last night.

Could I possibly have an extra blanket tonight?

My room is too noisy.

Do you sell postcards?

Is it possible to make a phone call to Ireland from here?

The hot tap in my room isn’t working.

Is there a doctor in the hotel?

Could you tell me how to get to the cathedral?

5 Auditions

Students are told that the director of a play is looking for a cast. They need, for example, a grumpy old man, an

elegant lady, a shy parish priest, a neurotic chain-smoking poet, a sulky teenager etc. Students have to audition for the different parts using both speech and mime, and the class decides who should be given each one.


Tips for teachers: My love of pictures was always on the cards… 

Would you like to get your students to communicate quickly and easily, using lively visuals? Andy Cowle tells us all about the simple but effective Mini Flashcards, and how they make the difference. 

Andy is a writer, presenter and marketing professional who has worked in ELT for 25 years. Throughout his career he has worked with many ELT publishers and teachers’ associations, motivating audiences and introducing materials to language practitioners all over the world. 


My love of pictures was always on the cards…

by Andy Cowle

Visual Instinct


I’ve always been visually-minded. My father is a wonderful artist, so I must get it from him. Art was something I always did well in at school, and I’ve had a lifelong passion for cinema since I was in my early teens. I still flirt with the idea of making films, or taking photography more seriously or even doing graphic design and illustration courses. Time yet.

So, as a trainee teacher way back, I didn’t need to be told to mime, draw on the board, or find pictures to make and use flashcards on a regular basis. It was obvious. Even now, whenever I flick through glossy magazines, it’s hard to resist ripping out the mouth-watering, colourful images, filing them away and thinking of ways to use them later in class. Even now my PowerPoint slides are often only visual.

Images for all

It was when I was an ELT bookseller in London throughout the 90s that I first came across the amazing Mini Flashcards by Susan Thomas and illustrator Heather Clarke. The more I got to know the Mini Flashcards, the more I loved them and sang their praises – those playful, colourful images with their humour and movement; their range, their flexibility, and their invitation to respond and comment. For years I showed them in schools, events and presentations all over Europe – and I still do. Students and teachers love them. Such a change from the coursebook. Such a great way to get the students communicating. So memorable.

Look closely…

The Mini Flashcards are ‘mini’ in the sense that they are playing card-sized – for language-focused tasks, games in pairs, group work, or working alone. You can also combine them with dice [link to dice] which have numbers, colours, language (questions, prepositions, tenses etc) or mood (love/like/dislike/don’t mind etc).

Some teachers used to say the flashcards were too small or just for kids, but they were missing the point – large flashcards have their place but they are too limiting, too teacher-centred. And who says cartoon images are just for kids? Why should they have all the fun?!

The idea, therefore, is to let the learners (of any age…) hold and use the materials – so the cards need to be a manageable playing card size. Only then are we truly addressing a multi-sensory approach to learning: the kinaesthetic learners have something to hold and play with, the visual learners have pictures to rely on, the work-it-out-yourself learners can internalise at their own pace, and so on. Certainly the talkers will thrive in a dynamic which breaks down inhibitions and makes lessons and language truly memorable. And the cards do not just prompt vocabulary – they can be used in an infinite number of ways to introduce or practise even complex structures or functions.

Show and tell – with a kick!

The Teacher’s Book is full of ideas for generic or topic-specific language games, and includes black and white photocopiable versions of all the pictures and spinners. And if you and your students want to make up your own activities, so much the better. I know the cards are now used all over the world, and I’ve heard wonderful stories from teachers about how they use them.

And with preparations already being made for the World Cup next year, the boys – and some girls! – will love the other resource from Mini Flashcards creator, Susan Thomas: English Through Football. It uses the same communication game-playing principles [link to the ETF] and is full of photocopiable mini flashcards on the theme of football, but with everyday topics linked to the sport. Now you lessons can have an even clearer… goal. 🙂 

All you need to know about the Mini Flashcards

Why are the flashcards small? What level and age group are they for? Read answers to the most frequently asked questions to find out all you need to know about the mini flashcards. 



ESP conference Ulm: Ian Badger's summary slides 

We’ve had a fantastic time at the ESP conference in Ulm, Germany last weekend! Thanks to all of you who came along to Ian Badger’s plenary session and workshop, to Andy Cowle’s product presentation, and to the Collins stand!


Ian Badger’s summary slides

You can download summary slides of Ian Badger’s talks below. Thanks very much, Ian, for sharing them!

Download Plenary Slides: Business-critical ESP training

Download Workshop Slides: Working with authentic listening materials

We also wanted to let you know the links of the free authentic recordings Ian mentioned – they are available at and

About Ian Badger
Ian Badger is the award-winning author of Collins English for Business: Listening and Collins English for Life: Listening. Both of  his titles are based on 100% authentic recordings of native and non-native speakers of English, with the aim of supporting learners to understand English however it is spoken around the world.

Would you like to find out more?
Read an EL Gazette interview (November 2012) to find out more about Ian’s background and his work. There is also a video of Ian’s presentation at the IATEFL annual conference 2012 in Glasgow.