How to improve your English (year 1)

Now that the second term is almost over, maybe we can have a look at this list of activities, apps and resources you can use to improve your English, and particularly some skills that might be more complicated to you. All my recommendations are free, or at least have some functionalities which are free.

Using a dictionary: 

At this level, you should really be using an English-English dictionary, and only use a Spanish-English dictionary from time to time.


These are my recommendations for online dictionaries:

  • Oxford dictionary: English-English dictionary, with definition and pronunciation of the word. You can also use the thesaurus, if you want to find synonyms (and you really should).

  • Cambridge dictionary: English-English, Spanish-English dictionary, with definitions, pronunciation of the words (British and American), and phonetic transcription.
  • Macmillan dictionary: English-English dictionary, with definition, pronunciation, and very good thesaurus.


Spelling City– On this website you can create your lists of words you know you have to learn. They may come from our literacy classes, or from Social /Natural Science. Then, click on “play game”, and you can practise the words you wrote but playing games, not just memorising. It will be easier for you to remember both spelling and pronunciation.

Tutorial on how to register with Spelling City and create lists to play games.

In any case, reading is what is going to help you the most. (More about reading later)


  • For most words, go to any of the dictionaries I mentioned above.
  • For countries and place names, people, (and for all other words) you can visit this website: FORVO. Real native speakers (not computers) have recorded themselves pronouncing these words and names for you.

Type the word or name you need, then look it up:

Then you can choose if you want to listen to a British person pronouncing the word, or American, or Australian…



Apart from the books I recommended at Christmas, there are some books in English you can borrow from the school library. You have quite a few by Roald Dahl, for example. Please visit the library. You will get a Class Dojo point if you tell me examples of books in English you could borrow from the library (because you’ve had a look there).

Reading books, comics, articles online…is going to help you understand better, but it will also help you with your writing and spelling. 


In the English Department there are some films you can borrow, and that can help you improve your English. Please ask me.

You can also visit the British council Learn English section on listening. Choose exercises for A2 level, and if that’s too easy, take B1.

QR codes in the classroom

For the past few days I’ve been using QR codes in my lessons. They come in very handy when you need to share links, whether in the class or for home use.

QR codes are simply another way of representing a link to a website, video, sound clip, as well as text you input…anything that is hosted on the internet. Instead of providing your students with the usual link, you only share something like this:


To convert a link into a QR code you simply need to use a QR code generator. There are plenty of free online generators, just google it and you will find lots.

Then, you need to install any free QR code reader app. Again, there’s a great variety of free readers for Android and iOs. You open the app, and point your device camera to the code. It scans the code and automatically takes you to the website. Much easier than having to type a URL.

You can print the codes you need for everyone to scan, either on a handout, or stick them on the wall…

I’ve been using it these days, for example, with my C1 group at the CARLEE, for reading comprehension exercises. Previously, we had listened to five restaurant reviews, and students had to take notes about what they heard. Now, they had to check the written reviews from Time Out London for the very same restaurants. But instead of printing the reviews, I just put the codes up on the wall, and they could stand up and scan them. Then, they read the reviews on their devices, and took notes as well, checking them against the previous radio reviews.

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I’ve also used it with my year 1 secondary students. We’re working on a project about relevant women in the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We’ve selected five different women, and each group has to prepare either a video biography, the trailer for her biopic, or an interview with one of these women (more here). In order for them to have some background information, I have prepared a handout with some links they could visit in class, using as many devices as I could gather for them to use. But instead of plain old chunks of URLs, I have given them QR codes, to save time.

Our final products will be part of a whole-school project. Their videos and recordings will be visible to other students, parents, teachers…probably, they will be accessed through QR codes.


Poll 1BC- What was the best app?

Watch UK TV online

Gone are the days when you could watch BBC iPlayer online from outside the UK, and for free too (see how here). Watching UK TV on demand is getting harder and harder, ever since the new TV licence was introduced. However, you can still watch BBC and other UK channels live online, through these servers:

Along with that, you may check UK TV listings and times here, to know what and when to watch.



Using a green screen in the classroom

For quite some time I had been toying with the idea of using a green screen for some activity, or for the end product of a project. And finally I’ve had the chance to do it both with my year 1 students and with some of the teachers learning English at CARLEE.

I bought a reasonably priced green screen from a well-known online retailer. I have some trouble getting it to stick to the frame, but until I come up with a better option, good old duct tape will have to do. It’s not the smartest of setups, I should have ironed the screen, I know, but I get by.


Then, I bought the Green Screen app by Do Ink (not too expensive anyway, but I’m sure there must be others, and for other platforms as well). Then, it’s as easy as A,B,C. You simply record the video with the “actors” playing their roles in front of the green screen with the usual camera (in my case, of my ipad). Then, students have to choose up to three pictures to be used as their background. Of course, these pictures need to be related to the product they’re creating. You may even trim the video or the pictures a bit, or resize the video in case some parts outside the chroma key were recorded. Then, you mix the two elements, and there you have it! A lovely video! It’s a good excuse to foster speaking, creativity…

ICT tools for English / CLIL teachers- recording audio or video, transcribing text

If you need to download audio clips from the internet or video files for your lessons, you may use these websites:

That way, you can record exactly what you need for your activities; you won’t depend on your school’s internet connection…

Finally, if you want to transcribe the text from an audio file, you may use It transcribes automatically the text from the audio file you upload. It’s not perfect, but it may save us quite some time.