Beginner Activities

Dimmi Domanda (Questions)

Dimmi Domanda is adapted from an idea I saw on The Language Gym (a great resource for this kind of thing!). Using DimmiDeck, or even scrap paper on which the students have written or drawn the relevant vocabulary, students practise question forms and short answers in a simple, fun and frantic card collecting game. Great for kids and teens!

Blog Giveaways

Free 1-year subscription to English Teaching Professional PLUS free DimmiDeck!

It’s giveaway time!

To celebrate our returning to the classroom for a new term DimmiDeck are giving away a 1-year digital subscription to the excellent English Teaching Professional magazine.

Plus, the winner will also get a free DimmiDeck Standard Edition enabling them to use all our DimmiDeck activities in their classroom, plus add a few of their own! If you’re new to DimmiDeck, check out our about page for more information.

Click here to enter for free!

Entry is completely free – and by sharing your unique link with your teacher friends they will not only get a chance to win, but you will get an extra three chances to win for each friend who signs up!

What are you waiting for? Sign up for the contest today! Entries will close on Sunday evening and the winner will be announced the following week.

Thank you and good luck!

Anthony and Alessandra


Disaster at the Art Gallery

Disaster at the Art Gallery

A renowned artist has lent the art gallery 12 of his most famous portraits for a special exhibition. There’s only one problem – the exhibition starts in fifteen minutes and you still haven’t set up!

What’s it all about?

I’m a big fan of gallery readings. Focusing on language from a reading text is one of the most effective ways of highlighting new vocabulary and grammar. However, it is really ineffective if the students aren’t engaged in the text.

This is fine for a lot of topics where it’s easy to engage students, but what about those times when it just isn’t going to work?

For this activity I’ve used the example of ‘the passive voice’ as one of those somewhat dull grammar points that is nevertheless important to highlight. This activity, by making the ‘reading’ part of the lesson more of a game, effectively ‘tricks’ your students into noticing the grammar form without having to engage them immediately in a particular topic.

What’s more, there are two options for language study in the same activity – adjectives with -ed/-ing endings or the passive.

Take your pick and slip this fun activity seamlessly into your syllabus!

What You Need

1x DimmiDeck

1x Set of information cards for your chosen language focus

Adjectives with -ed/-ing Endings


Passive and Passive Expressions

.. and some blu tack!


Cut up the different Picture Information cards from the PDF.

Optional – Remove one of the information cards. As a follow-up activity the students can identify the missing card (as there will be one picture without one) and write it together in the same style as the other descriptions.

Place the DimmiDeck characters from the PDF on walls around the room as the ‘art gallery’.

Lesson Plan

  1. Divide students into two or three small groups.
  2. Divide the information cards equally between the groups (ideally three or four per group).
  3. Explain that they must read their information cards and place them under the correct picture on the wall using blu tack.
  4. After all the cards have been placed (and assuming every picture has just one information card) students must read through and check the work of the other groups.
  5. Clarify the meaning of any new and emerging language.

Now focus on your chosen language point as you normally would. The students have now read the texts in order to complete the task and so you can now bring their attention to the language point. You can then continue with standard practice activity such as a gap fill followed by a production task.


There’s a lot of scope with this activity to adapt it for all levels and as an introduction to various vocabulary topics. Why not create your own Information Cards for the deck? Create 8-10 new cards each containing a word from a new vocab set, for example, clothing words, to focus on after the match up.

The examples given here are just that – examples! Create your own cards with your own short texts and give your students an alternative to traditional reading exercises.


The End of the ‘Grammar-based Syllabus’?

Treetops Town

I recently had the pleasure of buying my first course books aimed at young learners. I say pleasure, but actually finding materials that I found both engaging and well illustrated was a much larger struggle than I’d anticipated.

Long story short I eventually settled on ‘New Treetops’ (Oxford Press), a cute EFL course aimed at Italian primary students. It focuses on teaching grammar through four modules based around the seasons. Each one tells stories of some little elves and animals who live together in ‘treetops town’.

The book is nicely illustrated, comes with loads of extra activities and is gives just enough new language and grammar in each module without overloading the students. So far I’m impressed and it has made my 121 students so much more engaged.

It got me thinking about where I stand on materials creation. Treetops does follow the CEF and definitely has clear ‘vocabulary’ and ‘grammar’ sections but, and this may just be because it’s aimed at kids, they are much less ‘in-your-face’ as in the more often used adult course books such as Cutting Edge or Headway.

I started to wonder – why are our adult course books always so blatant about their following of a grammar-based syllabus when it can be much more engaging to disguise language like this?

The Coursebook Dilemma

I’m a relatively recent graduate of CELTA so was frequently taught about the general love/hate attitude towards course books in our industry. In fact it was a crucial part of the syllabus. I do, however, find the problem quite perplexing.

On the one hand, the majority of teachers bemoan course book syllabuses as being too restrictive and uninspired, whilst on the other hand many of these same teachers continue to use them and are unable or unwilling to suggest alternatives – probably because this alternative may mean creating all our lessons from scratch!

Scott Thornbury’s talk at the end of the IATEFL conference last year talked about a similar thing. His words were along the lines of ‘we’ve been talking about moving away from a grammar-based syllabus for 30 years. We know the pitfalls of the grammar-based syllabus and we know the alternatives. So why are our course books still so rooted in the idea?’

Another teacher and blogger Peter Viney caused a stir last year with his post ‘The Dead Hand of The CEF’ which pointed the finger directly at the Common European Framework for this lack of creativity and desire to think outside the box. Again, many teachers agreed. So what now?

A Different Approach

I recently worked at one of the more modern school franchises in Italy called My English School. Their method utilises aspects of blended learning and positive psychology in SLA with a communicative focus. Their course breaks the CEFR into 13 individual levels where 80% of the lessons are based around a functional syllabus. This means they spend the majority of their lessons learning functional language (ordering a coffee, discussing recent events, describing your town) and the ‘grammar lessons’ are much shorter and spread less frequently throughout.

When grammar lessons do occur (five times per ‘level’) they are blended. The student completes a task online before the lesson. They practise the language during the lesson and do a final task online afterwards.

After every level there is a revision lesson reviewing all the grammar that they have covered and a final ‘test’. After passing this test the student can move onto the next level. If they fail, they simply repeat the lesson or lessons on which they need to focus while continuing their spoken practise with the multitude of functional language lessons through the week.

I have to say I liked the method and so did the students. It’s not perfect but it did show what can be achieved with a little creative thinking. I would love to see some research on it’s effectiveness over a longer term but generally it was just refreshing to see a different approach.

The Future

Now with DimmiDeck having reached it’s Kickstarter goal we’ve started to focus on the future. Downloadable materials and worksheets are absolutely part of this, but where do we start? Do we stick with grammar based activities? Should we look at functional language? Do we try a situational approach? Or do we take aspects of all three and create something totally new?

I guess over the next few months we will see. For now though, I can’t help wondering if there’s a good reason why course book writers are hesitant to change. The research is there. The information is out there for us all to find and we study it on just about every further development course we do.

So why are we still not doing it?

If you know of any course books or schools with an alternative and interesting syllabus structure please let us know in the comments!


Don’t Interrupt! How to Correct Correctly

The Correction Dilemma

Few of us would argue that correction is one of the most important things we can provide as language teachers. Taking someone’s own, often carefully crafted response or utterance and helping them to perfect it is something that students often only receive in the classroom. This makes it valuable, desired and ultimately expected by your students.

Teaching Teaching Teenagers

3 Ways to Get Your Students to Use Their Smartphones More

In Defence of Smartphones

Let’s face it, things change.

Even as a (relatively) young teacher I often find myself feeling out of touch with how fast things have moved on since I was a teenager. Just the other week, I presented a computer keyboard to one of my younger students in order to type her name and she explained that she didn’t really know how to use one. She’d only ever used tablets and phones.

Jesus, I felt old.

Yet when it comes to smartphones I’m not intimidated by them. For many teachers they are a scourge amongst teenage classes. They’re an obsession and a distraction, and they have no place in the classroom.

I disagree. Not only should you allow mobile phones in class, but you should integrate them into your activities from time to time.

Hear me out!

DimmiDeck News

Live on Kickstarter – We need your support!

We’ve launched on Kickstarter!

We are now live on Kickstarter!

‘Early Birds’ get a 15% discount on the DimmiDeck – limited to the first 150 backers! We are also offering discounts on double decks, limited edition ‘large’ decks and bulk orders as well as Kickstarter Exclusive Cards (scroll down to see!)

One year in the making

For the past year we have been testing, tweaking and improving the DimmiDeck to reduce preparation time and make our language lessons more engaging and more fun.

We’re so happy with the 50 characters that made it into the final deck. 100s of activities, dozens of games and tonnes of vocabulary. Total engagement with minimal preparation. If you’re a language teacher, you’re going to love this deck of cards!

Not your average flashcard!

Each of the 50 DimmiDeck characters has 9 different vocabulary sets (plus some surprises…) built into each card. The same card can be used for teaching a dozen different words.

Don’t have any time to prepare? No problem, any card you choose will show one of the desired vocab topics. Got a little more time? Check out our ‘quick reference’ guide to varied vocabulary sets (plus a sneak peak at all the cards!)

We need your support!

Kickstarter is ‘all or nothing’. We either reach our goal and print a large run of DimmiDecks for language teachers all over the world, or we don’t.

Support us today and as well as being the first to get your DimmiDeck, you can look forward to free activities and lesson plans, future products that expand on new ideas and vocabulary topics, a community of language teachers sharing activities and advice for free and support from us here at DimmiDeck.

What are you waiting for? Check out our Kickstarter campaign, watch our video, try our free activity ideas, see our productions stills and, most importantly, order your DimmiDeck before the discount expires!

Thank you for your support!

Anthony and Alessandra

Support DimmiDeck – Click Here!




The 12 most misused words in English – can you beat our quiz?

There’s much more to teaching than vocabulary and grammar. But secretly, we all like to think we know it all, don’t we? Most English speakers use these words incorrectly on a daily basis.

English teachers we challenge you – how many do you know? Post your scores below!


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DimmiDeck News

Happy New Year from DimmiDeck

Happy new year!

We are currently taking a few days off while we prepare to return to Italy after the Christmas break, so there’ll be a smaller blog update this week. Christmas may be over for us in the UK, but in Italy there’s still one big event left to finish off the Christmas period – Epiphany.


Pair ‘Em Up! – A Culture of Collaboration

Pair ‘Em Up!

I wrote an article a while ago about the difficulties that language teachers often face in the classroom with regards to ‘preconceptions of teaching’, which related to the expectations we have when entering a new classroom and how that shapes our engagement in a course.