Category Archives: Lesson plans

#AusELT and Cambridge University Press video competition: How to engage learners online.

How to engage learners online:

An #AusELT and Cambridge University Press video competition

Student working on a laptop

To usher in the New Year, #AusELT and Cambridge University Press are running a video competition open to all #AusELT members.


Participants make a video that we will post on our new #AusELT YouTube channel. The video needs to be focused on How to engage learners online. There are three ‘strands’ that can be covered:

  • In the class (Activities that can be done inside the class)
  • Outside of the class (Activities learners can do outside of the class but which are set up by the teacher)
  • Learner autonomy (Activities that learners are in complete control of)

The video needs to show the activity and briefly discuss the rationale behind it. Materials can be shown in the video, but cannot be copyrighted materials; only self-designed materials. Website links can be given (for example Kahoot, Textivate etc.)

The video should be a narrative of the activity with instructions to set it up in class and how to manage it.


3 copies of Interaction Online will be awarded by Cambridge University Press at the end of the competition.

Interaction Online by Lindsay Clandfield and Jill Hadfield is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to incorporate an aspect of online interaction in their language teaching.


Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Usefulness to the target audience
  • Creativity and originality
  • Practical applications for teachers
  • Ease of preparation

Two students working together on a laptop

Competition rules

  • Entrants must be members of the #AusELT community, demonstrated through joining the #AusELT group on Facebook, contributions to #AusELT on Twitter, or otherwise demonstrating meeting the community membership guidelines.
  • Send videos to #AusELT at Videos will be distributed to committee to ensure rules have been followed and then uploaded to YouTube.
  • The videos will then be judged according to the judging criteria (See above).
  • There will be no correspondence after winners have been announced.
  • Activities must be the participant’s own work. A copy of a published activity will be immediately disqualified.
  • Participants may reproduce the activity elsewhere, but should credit #AusELT if the video is published or shared elsewhere.
  • No students can be present in the video for privacy issues and we are too small to deal with consent forms.
  • The video cannot exceed 5 minutes.
  • Videos must be clearly labeled using the following naming convention: participantname_monthofsubmission for example gerharderasmus_January2018
  • Quality should be sufficient to be viewed on YouTube. Submissions which are of poor quality will be returned. If you use a mobile, please turn the phone on its side when recording to avoid black stripes along the side of the video.
  • No mention of any promotional materials.
  • No textbooks or other published materials may be used or referenced.
  • Activities that require printed material or is a novel way of working with a textbook should be highlighted with self-designed materials and the textbook cannot be mentioned.
  • There is no limit on the number of submissions. Participants can submit as many videos as they are comfortable with.
  • Closing date: 28th February.

Watch this introduction video where Gerhard explains and demonstrates a lesson idea.

Intellectual Property

#AusELT is the host of the competition and Cambridge University Press is the sponsor. All intellectual property remains with the person who produced the video and will not be published by any party without consent. We do, however, ask that should you publish elsewhere, that it is mentioned that the activity first appeared in the #AusELT and Cambridge University Press YouTube competition.

Please follow the YouTube channel as we will be posting more ELT related videos in months to come and might run another competition in the future if this one proves to be useful and fun for #AusELT members.

Photos taken from by @yearinthelifeof, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,


Lessons to go: Passive Quiz

Cavendish Banana

Cavendish Banana


The passive is a difficult structure for English language learners to understand and more so to put into use. One misunderstanding they have is in regards to who or what is doing or instigating the action in question. As Parrot (2010, p. 336) points out, learners can confuse the subject for the agent in a passive sentence e.g. “A man was attacked by three women.” Another issue is that they have trouble selecting appropriate verbs with which to construct the this pattern. For instance, as Carter, McCarthy, Mark, and O’Keeffe (2011, p. 367) explain, we cannot form the passive voice with intransitive verbs. The reason this is, Swan (2005, p. 386) says, is because “there is nothing to become the subject.” Swan also points out that there are also some transitive verbs not used in the passive, most of which are state verbs. Even once an understanding of the passive has been reached, learners still have trouble using it. Parrot (2010, p. 337) observes that many learners, even those with a good grasp of the passive, avoid using it all together. Conversely, one of the main problems I have witnessed after instructing students is that they over-use it, using it in sentences and expressions that are not typically expressed in the passive. With this in mind, the aim of this lesson is to present the present and past simple forms of the passive to students and give them a controlled opportunity to use it so that they can produce appropriate sentences.

Level: Pre-intermediate as first presentation of passive, intermediate and above as a review

Materials: Students’ notebooks and smart phones

Lesson Plan:

Begin the lesson by bringing attention to a sentence you have already written on the board:

Bananas are grown in Queensland.

Ask the students, ‘What is grown in Queensland?’ (Bananas) Then ask them, ‘Who grows the bananas?’ (Farmers) These questions could be answered and problem-solved in pairs/groups or as a whole class. Now ask, ‘How can we write a similar sentence but using farmers?’ Try to elicit from the whole class and write the following sentence below the first one:

Farmers grow bananas in Queensland.

Ask the class, ‘Why are farmers not written in the first sentence?’ (The main focus is bananas; it’s obvious who grows them.) Now bring attention to the form of the second sentence. Elicit the tense from the students: present simple. Underline the verb: grow. Then bring attention to the passive sentence and elicit what auxiliary verb is used: be. And what form the other verb is: past participle. Underline and label these verbs. (It is probably better to model the passive using irregular verbs because the past participle can easily be distinguished from the past simple verb.) You can now explain that the first sentence is a passive sentence and the second sentence is an active sentence because the subject (the agent) does the action.

Now give the students a chance to use this form. Explain to the class that you are going to have a quiz, explaining what a quiz is if the students do not already know. Divide the students into teams of 2-3 and ask them to create a team name and write them down the side of the board. Then bring their attention to the quiz question (sentence) you have written on the board:

Coffee is grown in Russia/Colombia/Canada.

Ask the class, ‘What is the correct answer?’ (Colombia) Write the following verbs on the board: grow, produce, sell. Task the students to write three present simple passive sentences using verbs from the board, providing three possible options at the end of the sentences. Explain that they can search for information on the internet using their smart phones. Elicit things the students can write about e.g. foods, electronic devices, cars etc. Monitor the students to make sure they are doing the task correctly but do not correct them as this will be part of the quiz. Once they have all completed their three sentences bring their attention to another sentence on the board:

The Mona Lisa was painted by Michaelangelo/Picasso/Di Vinci.

Ask them if they all know what the Mona Lisa is and what it is a painting of. Show them a picture on a phone if they do not. Then ask the class, ‘Who painted the Mona Lisa?’ Followed by the question, ‘Is this an active or passive sentence?’ (Passive) Elicit the position of the agent in a passive sentence and highlight the preposition needed before the agent (by). Now ask the students, ‘What is the tense of the sentence?’ (Past simple passive) Highlight the past form of the verb to be and the past participle. Then bring their attention to another list of verbs on the board: paint, invent, create, write. Instruct each team to write another three sentences in the past simple passive using the verbs on the board. Elicit things the students can write about e.g. paintings, inventions, books etc. Monitor and assist without directly correcting the sentences.

Once the students have completed their six sentences you can then start the quiz. Tell them they will receive one point for every correct answer they guess and one point for every correct sentence they write. The first team will read their first sentence and the three possible options. Give the other students about 30 seconds to decide on the answer. Collect answers from around the class. Now have the first team read out the original answer and give a point to any of the teams who had the correct answer. Then ask the class if the grammar of the sentence was correct. If the essential features of the passive were present, give the team a point on the board. Then move to the first question of the second team and repeat the steps. After all the questions have been read and answered, tally the scores and announce the winner. If you are running out of time, you can simply have three or four rounds of questions instead of six.


This has proven to be an effective lesson by which to both teach and practise the passive. It also works at higher levels as a review. Its effectiveness hinges on the novelty and competitiveness of practising grammar through a quiz and also because of the verbs that have been given to the students. The latter point is extremely important with lower levels since it helps prevent students from writing passive sentences which do not resemble native language. Furthermore, the verbs provide direction in content, since the students will probably know some common collocations of the verbs i.e. paint a picture, grow fruits and vegetables.


Carter, R., McCarthy, M., Mark, G., & O’Keeffe, A. (2011). English Grammar Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parrott, M. (2010). Grammar for English Language Teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Swan, M. (2005). Practical English Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This post by Peter Guylay. 

Peter has been working as an English language teacher for over ten years and has taught in Korea, China and his home country of Australia. He has an interest in Critical ELT and has also written for the English Australia Journal.