Number one for English language teachers

Things students say and do

A selection of your classroom anecdotes involving the funny things that students say and do.

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  • Anecdote: A practical attitude

    Author: Joanna Plichta Type: Anecdote

    We were having a repetition class a few days before a test. I had prepared a worksheet with a set of tasks similar to those planned for the test. One of them was drawing conclusions about the past using modals (can't have, must have and so on). Among others, I prepared a cue "He was rich and handsome, but she didn't want to marry him". I was expecting something like "She must have been in love with another man" or "She can't have loved him". What I got instead, and quite promptly, from ...

  • Anecdote: A punishing lesson

    Author: Lynne Pereira Type: Anecdote

    I was teaching a proficiency class a few years ago in London. They were a marvellous group apart from one thing: almost all of them said, "What means...?" instead of "What does ...mean?" I felt I had to do something but nothing seemed to work.

  • Anecdote: An outing

    Author: John Byrne Type: Anecdote

    I teach in an English School in Hanwell, West London and took a group of TEFL students to Oxford a couple of weeks ago.

  • Anecdote: At cross purposes

    Author: Jane Richards Type: Anecdote

    This anecdote from Jane Richards highlights the confusions that can arise with modern slang, innit.

  • Anecdote: Big people words

    Author: Dijana Type: Anecdote

    A group of kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed to the first grade. The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk!

  • Anecdote: Catchy tune

    Author: Stacy Flint Type: Anecdote

    I teach at an Intensive English Program at a university. Every fall we have a heritage festival. The festival is held in mid-November and includes a craft bazaar. I was walking through the bazaar one afternoon with two young men from the Middle East.We stopped where 4 ladies were playing the hammered dulcimer, a stringed instrument indigenous to the Appalachian Mountains. One of my students was amazed at the sound and started asking me about the ...

  • Anecdote: Curiosity

    Author: Marilyn Cherry Type: Anecdote

    I am a fifth grade teacher from Nevada, U.S.A. I teach at a year round school. The school has 12 lifeskills. We focus on a lifeskill each week and teach character lessons relating to that lifeskill. Each marking period, each teacher hands out certificates to two students who have exemplified a lifeskill during that marking period. Last year, I gave one of my students, I'll call him "J", a certificate for the lifeskill of curiosity. Let me tell you why.

  • Anecdote: Farmyard fun

    Author: Anton Balažovic

    Anton Balažovic reminds us of the Hollywood adage, 'Never work with children or animals'!

  • Anecdote: Lap dancer

    Author: Sallie Howson Type: Anecdote

    I was teaching my elementary class of handsome young Italian men recently when I wrote a few ‘truths’ about myself on the board to introduce ‘can’ and ‘can't’. As an overweight older woman I do like to put some unusual but true things about me to surprise them, even give them a giggle. I wrote several things including "I can tap dance".

  • Anecdote: Moving swiftly on

    Author: Roxana Fermani Type: Anecdote

    This month's winning anecdote comes from Roxana Fermani.

  • Anecdote: My student the stud

    Author: Marilyn Strosse Type: Anecdote

    Recently, I was teaching the Present Simple. We were doing some exercises and when there is something ‘special’ I sometimes ask my pupils to spell the word (or the form of the verb) for me.

  • Anecdote: My trivial pursuit

    Author: Mike Julian Type: Anecdote

    Mike Julian struggles to keep a straight face with a student whose general knowledge is lacking …

  • Anecdote: New York, New York!

    Author: Jennifer Carter Type: Anecdote

    To teach a young man, about 30 years old, to use the past simple tense, I gave him a scenario to use. "Your friend came to visit from New York. You took him on a tour of your city. Tell us what happened."

  • Anecdote: Next!

    Author: Liliana Mihalachi Type: Anecdote

    Liliana Mihalachi from Romania shares her anecdote about the misunderstandings that can arise when students don't pay attention.

  • Anecdote: Overconfident students beware

    Author: Chris Ellison Type: Anecdote

    Chris Ellison shares this winning anecdote about a cheeky student.

  • Anecdote: Poor Grandma

    Author: Jim Slatcher Type: Anecdote

    I was recently teaching a class of adult students on the joint theme of Family and Feelings (English Upgrade Chapter 2). I was asking the students questions such as "how is Anna's uncle feeling?" etc. I then asked one student "how is Anna's cousin feeling?" The student replied, "sad."I then asked "why is she feeling sad?" and the student replied, "because she's feeling Grandma.” I needed a few moments to compose myself before continuing that line of enquiry!

  • Anecdote: Religion

    Type: Anecdote

    I have been teaching English for many years in Los Angeles, a small city in the south of Chile. I have taught adults, teenagers and young children. The story I am recalling now took place in a small basic school of very deprived children where I worked in my first year as a teacher. This class was formed by children of eight or nine years old and they had one head teacher who taught them most of the subjects, except English - I was their English teacher - and Catholic Religion, which ...

  • Anecdote: Simon says

    Author: Cecilia Vian Type: Anecdote

    Cecilia Vian shares a story about a very sweet misunderstanding.

  • Anecdote: Sleep

    Author: Andrew James Type: Anecdote

    I was giving a lesson on the theme of 'sleep' to a class of French university technology students. They had to ask each other questions and compete a questionnaire. One of the questions was, "What's the longest time you've ever slept uninterruptedly?"

  • Anecdote: The alphabet game

    Author: Tara Kenway

    Tara Kenway shares her winning anecdote about an animal-themed mix-up.

  • Anecdote: The colour purple

    Author: Brynn Hanson-Nogues Type: Anecdote

    Brynn Hanson-Nogues shares her winning anecdote about a cheeky student in France.

  • Anecdote: The meaning of life

    Author: Krisztina Fogarasi Type: Anecdote

    I was teaching an elementary group. I asked them to make up an optimistic sentence. I wasn't expecting much, something like the sun's shining would have done it, but one of my students came up with "LIFE IS NOT DEAD" all of a sudden. I wonder what he would have said if I'd asked them to say something rather pessimistic ...

  • Anecdote: The older man

    Author: Catherine Gramling Type: Anecdote

    This is a blooper one of my Catalan students made years ago and I still smile whenever I’m reminded of it.

  • Anecdote: The things students get up to

    Author: Mariel Coates Type: Anecdote

    During my first months as a teacher my VHS advised me to contact any students who had stopped attending class without saying why. I dutifully phoned one of my male students only to get his wife on the phone. She was extremely surprised when I gave the reason for my call. She wanted to know how many weeks her husband had missed class. I covered up for him ( and for me) very quickly and said only twice. Obviously he had been using his English evenings for completely different reasons. ...

  • Anecdote: Uncomfortable moment

    Author: Brian Sholz Type: Anecdote

    Whilst teaching English to a small group of foreign businessmen of different nationalities, we began a role play based upon the report we had just seen. The subject concerned smoking - cancer and the resulting lawsuits initiated by those afflicted. Casting the German student in the role of cancer victim and his Dutch classmate as a rich tobacco executive, I sat back to watch the action unfold.

  • Anecdote: What's your name?

    Author: Warren Bunn Type: Anecdote

    Warren Bunn shares this month's winning anecdote about encountering students on the street in South Korea.

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