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Creating Extension Activities

Extension activities
This year’s Headway Scholarship task is to create an extension activity for your class. To get you started, here are some ideas for creating some good quality extension activities.

From a quick activity to fill in the last 5-10 minutes of class, to a review game, or even a full-blown project; extension activities are a way to further the learning aims for a lesson. For this reason, extension activities should always have a clear link to the activities which have come before.

Before starting, decide on the aim of your extension activity. An aim could be:

  • To give students more practice with a grammar structure or vocabulary because they haven’t quite ‘got it’ yet
  • To explore a particular topic further
  • To review material from the lesson or unit
  • To assess where students are in their learning

Whatever the aim, be sure to link the activity to the language, skills or topic that you want to extend, assess or review.

  1. Personalise it – An extension activity is a good way for students to relate the topic to themselves. In this way, the topic becomes more relevant and can make communication about the topic more meaningful. Students also tend to remember more when the language or topic is personalised. A simple extension activity would be to ask students their opinion about a topic: What do you think about…? Do you agree with…? Which do/would you prefer…? What would you do about…? More extensive activities might include students creating a set of questions and interviewing their partner, writing a personal response to a topic, or taking their own photos and creating an oral narrative using an app such as ‘fotobabble’.
  2. Integrate higher order thinking skills – Thinking skills can be categorised into lower-order (remembering, understanding, applying) and higher-order (analysing, evaluating and creating). If students have been learning vocabulary, they have most likely been learning the definition (remembering), seeing the new words in context (understanding), and completing gapped sentences with the words (applying). An analysing extension activity might ask students to categorise the new words (you can provide the categories, or students could create their own categories), or you might ask students to compare the words to other words – for example, finding synonyms and deciding what the difference in nuance is between the words. If the words are used in a reading or listening text, you could ask students why certain words or phrases were used (evaluating). Students might also use the words creatively – in writing their own sentences (creating).
  3. Review regularly. Hermann Ebbinghaus famously showed how much we forget over time, and how memory can improve with regular revision. Have a set of extension activities for the purpose of review in your teacher’s toolkit. Flashcards, revision games, spelling games, and pronunciation activities are all examples of extensions for quick revision. An extension activity can also serve to review what has come before in previous units.
  4. Give some choice – All classes have a mix of students with different abilities and strengths, so it’s a good idea to give students options to choose from according to what they feel they can do. For example, you might want students to show their understanding of a text. One option could be to write a summary (more language needed), another might be to create an infographic or timeline (less language needed). Another way to increase choice and provide differentiated instruction is to vary how much students have to produce. For example, you could ask students to write 1-3 true sentences about themselves and 1 false one. They then read their sentences to each other and guess which one is false.
  5. Have some time extenders up your sleeve – for when you finish your lesson plan and still have 5-10 minutes left, or when you have fast finishers. Some standard activities include: (1) Students write 1-3 questions or sentences using the grammar structure they’ve been studying; (2) Pairs write 3-5 gapped sentences with the vocabulary from the section. They swap with another pair and complete each other’s sentences; (3) Students work in pairs – each student changes 5 words in a reading text. Student A begins reading the text. When student B hears a word that is different from what is in the text, s/he says, ‘stop’, quotes the word from the text, and then takes over reading where student A left off.
  6. Integrate an informal assessment – An extension activity might simply be a way to informally assess whether students have grasped the language or skill aim of the lesson. One way to do this is with ‘can do’… statements. Write a list of ‘can dos’ based on your lesson aim on the board for students to copy. For example, if the aim of the lesson is “Students will be able to order a meal from a menu.”, then the ‘can do’ statement might be: “I can order a meal from a menu”. Students tick ü the things they feel they can do. You can then discuss these or collect them up. No ticks = need revision. Another simple assessment is a “ticket out the door”. If, for example, you have been working on a certain language point, you could ask students to write 3 sentences using that language. These are collected up and used to assess whether or not you need to spend more time on the language point in subsequent lessons.
  7. Make it different, interactive or just plain fun. Extension activities that focus on interaction or competition can be very engaging, and can make a change from the norm. Try some team competitions that focus on language, skills or topics. One time-honoured example is a grammar auction, in which teams ‘buy’ sentences they think are correct. Teachers can also create board games based on language in the units, or play an on-line quiz using an app such as Quizlet.
  8. Turn it into a project – Projects are a great way to integrate a number of skills, including the 21st century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. They also cater for mixed abilities because students can do them at their own language level. Projects should start with a question that gets students interested in finding out more. At this point, they may ask more questions or make hypotheses. Students should then do some research to find out the answers to their questions. Research can include surveys, interviews or internet searches. You could even invite a knowledgeable speaker into the classroom. Once they have done their research, students then decide how they will show it. What is important here is that they present their finished product to an audience – another class, the whole school, the headmaster, or parents, for example. When planning a project, think of the aims and work backwards.

If you would like to try some of the ideas above with your students, download my try this in class document for even more activity ideas and tips.

If you are interested in creating your own Headway extension activity to enter the Headway Scholarship 2018, and win an all-expenses paid place on the two-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Oxford University next summer, click here take a look at my Headway sample entry form, and check out my video explanation below.


Find out more about the Headway Scholarship 2018 here. The competition closes on February 12th 2018, so do get your entries in as soon as you can. Good luck!


Stacey Hughes works as a teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and educational consultant in ELT. She has taught English in the US, Poland, Italy and the UK in many different contexts, and currently volunteers as a teacher for FELLOW in Oxford. She has recently run an introduction to teacher training course for the Oxford Department of Education Summer School. Stacey has written a number of blogs, online student exercises and teacher support materials.


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Winning the Headway Scholarship – could you be next?

Natalia with the other 2015 winners and Liz Soars, Headway author. From left to right: Inanc Karagoz (Turkey); Svetlana Kandybovich (Montenegro); Natalia Valentini (Argentina); Liz Soars (Headway author); Elena Ryabova (Russia); Erika Orban (Hungary); Xiaoyan Deng (China).

Natalia with the other 2015 winners and Liz Soars, Headway author.
From left to right: Inanc Karagoz (Turkey); Svetlana Kandybovich (Montenegro); Natalia Valentini (Argentina); Liz Soars (Headway author); Elena Ryabova (Russia); Erika Orban (Hungary); Xiaoyan Deng (China).

Ever wanted to know what it’s like to win the Headway Scholarship, and spend two weeks on an all-inclusive teacher training course at Exeter College in Oxford?

Natalia Valentini, one of our 2015 winners, and Gloria Rossa, one of our 2014 winners, reveal how they found the experience.

This could be you next year – enter today!

Natalia Valentini – Headway Scholarship 2015 winner from Argentina

Every August just after the winter holidays, I’ve been experiencing this burning desire to explore what it is like to live, study or work in a foreign country. As a teacher and translator there came a point in my professional life when I started thinking that in my local context there were no further opportunities for me to make progress in my career.

Anyway, it was not until this summer when I came across this post on the Oxford University Press Facebook site when my luck began to change. The Headway series written by Liz and John Soars were opening a competition for teachers who used the series. I didn’t hesitate to take part in it and I worked for two weeks on my video and PowerPoint® presentation to submit them in due time. And after waiting for 3 months I got an email. The subject line was: “Headway scholarship. Winner!.” The email went on like this: “Congratulations – you are a winner of this year’s Headway Scholarship competition! On behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Scholarship Foundation, we are delighted to tell you that you have been awarded one of the Headway Scholarships for 2015 which means that you are entitled to a place on the 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford. Now I couldn’t believe my eyes. It actually said I was entitled to a place -a proper scholarship I would say! And I was one of the lucky ones, together with 5 more teachers from Europe and Asia.

So there I went, off to Oxford for 2 weeks on a Teacher Summer Seminar where I would meet colleagues from over 30 countries to share our experiences and to learn from the best tutors, those whose names we’ve been reading on the covers of the coursebooks we use. I know, I know… lucky me!

Read Natalia’s full blog here

Gloria in Oxford

Gloria in Oxford

Gloria Rossa, Headway Scholarship 2014 winner from Argentina

I have a confession to make: I fell head over heels in love with England the moment I set foot in it. I must say tears ran down my cheeks when the plane landed. The flight had been long – 13 hours! – yet quiet and interesting.
It was a night flight, but I didn’t get to sleep much – I was so excited! I arrived at Heathrow Airport at 6:30 am on Sunday, 27th July, 2014. I went through Customs and Passport Control very quickly. Friendly staff, documents and letter of recommendation from Exeter College OK, no problem at all.

The trip from London to Oxford was charming. It was a nice summer morning and there wasn’t much traffic due to the early hour.

I’m a quite shy person. Many people don’t know this, but I have to overcome a series of personal obstacles whenever I want to approach someone and say “Hello!” -and when you are in an English-speaking country for the first time in your life and you´re not a native speaker, this is even harder! However, I must have turned into a completely different person on arrival at Exeter, for it was so easy for me to start talking to the others. Everybody seemed so friendly and happy to be there! Anyway, getting used to the variety of accents was particularly difficult for me: there were 60 teachers attending the seminar, and we were from 20 different countries. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? I had never lived such a cosmopolitan experience in my whole life!

Read Gloria’s full blog here

The Headway Scholarship 2016 is open now. You could win a 2-week all-inclusive teacher training course in Oxford in July 2016. Enter today!

The Headway Scholarship is made possible through the generosity of John and Liz Soars.


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Why enter the Headway Scholarship competition?

There’s only one month left to submit your Headway Scholarship entry and have the chance to win a 2-week all-inclusive teacher training course at Oxford University.

But why should you enter? We asked some of last year’s winners to share their top 7 reasons why you should apply for the Headway Scholarship.

The top 7 reasons why you should apply for the Headway Scholarship:

Gloria-NewGloria Rossa

  1. Professional development and personal growth
  2. Experiencing life in an English-speaking country
  3. Studying in a renowned Oxford University college, with top yet humble tutors
  4. Increasing self-esteem and feeling a sense of accomplishment
  5. Meeting teachers from different countries and sharing teaching experiences with them
  6. Meeting one of the inspiring Headway authors, Liz Soars, and sharing teaching anecdotes with her
  7. Practising English in an academic environment and getting used to a variety of accents

Gloria also writes her own blog, My English World, in which she discusses her Headway experience in more detail. A great resource for anyone considering applying for the Scholarship!

Marianne ChavarriaMarianne Chavarria

  1. First of all, Oxford is a magical place, full of ancient buildings and stunning colleges, with colorful gardens and parks that invite you to relax and enjoy nature.
  2. Second, having the opportunity to meet teachers from all over the world, developing friendship ties, partnership and creating a great chance for learning from everyone’s culture.
  3. Third, improving my professional development by learning new techniques and tools to apply in my teaching practice.
  4. Fourth, developing my language skills by practicing everyday with people with different accents and backgrounds.
  5. Fifth, having the reliability that all members from OUP, The Department for Continuing Education from Oxford University and IP Teachers’ Team will do a great job in organizing a pleasant journey, an optimal stay and a worthy experience for teachers.
  6. Sixth, the workshops are given by professional teacher trainers that are very well prepared, full of expertise and willing to share their knowledge and promote our professional growth.
  7. Last but not least; learning to trust a little bit more in myself, in the fact that I am capable to participate and win in this kind of competitions, and be a proud ambassador for two weeks for my country.

Magya DygalaMagya Dygala

Magda couldn’t pick just 7 reaons, so here are her 8 top reasons!
As it comes to these 7 reasons, I guess I could enumerate at least 20 of them but I will try to make it shorter… Oxford was, is and always will be a place where my heart belongs. I will quote here Aung San Suu Kyi who described Oxford in such a beautiful way:
‘The past is always there, it never goes away,
but you can select what is best from the past
to help you go forward to the future…’

  1. Having a chance to meet the incredible and warm person, the author of Headway – Liz Soars
  2. Getting professional experience and knowledge from amazing Oxford tutors.
  3. A chance of a lifetime – meeting new people from all over the world and sharing teaching experience with them.
  4. Making friends for life
  5. Having a chance to experience being ‘out of the box’ (out of your country) in an English speaking country.
  6. Having a pleasure to have classes and dine at 700 year old Exeter College.
  7. Experience living in a place where past meet present, and every building has its own history.
  8. Last but not least, make your DREAMS come true and believe in yourself more

IrinaIrina I. Krestianinova

Well, it’s been twice Headway was a turning point in my both professional and personal life.

The first time was when I started teaching with it twenty years ago. That is where the FIRST reason why I applied for the Headway scholarship 2014 comes from. My essay was meant to be a thank-you to Liz and John Soars and the Headway team. I mean people who do the extraordinary work should know there is at least one person who highly appreciates the significance of this work. I mean it!

The second turning point was a two-week course at Exeter College, Oxford in Aug 2014. And this is the SECOND, as well as the THIRD, the FOURTH, the … reason why I would strongly recommend taking part in the competition.

  1. Just at the moment you arrive in Oxford and open the heavy old oak door to Exeter College, you feel you are in the right place and at the right time;
  2. You become a part of the community, the fellowship of 60 people from 33 countries from all over the world. People who come from absolutely different social, political, religious, and cultural backgrounds, but who, in just two weeks, manage to create their own tiny world full of patience, tolerance, and love. People who you might not see ever again, but who have come into your life and will stay forever;
  3. Every day in the course, though thoroughly planned and scheduled, is absolutely unpredictable. Every day with a lecture, workshops, social activities, free time, and whatever, is an amazement, even for a person who is hardly prone to be amazed;
  4. Great, inspiring and motivating lecturers, course  tutors and students who shape you in some way. You try to pick up something from everybody. You then introduce it into your classroom back home and realize that both you and your students really love your new shape;
  5. taking part in the competition for the Headway scholarship, no matter if you win or not, is sure to give you the greatest sense of achievement: you’ve managed to come out of your comfort zone to find out the new surrounding is much more comfortable;
  6. and in the end you feel you’ve lived another life, no way better or worse than your usual one, but, anyway, different. You’ve been an Oxford student for at least two weeks and in that way you’ve become at least some tiny part of its tremendous history.

Do you still need convincing? Liz Soars, author of Headway, explains why she and John set up the Headway Scholarship 11 years ago:

Start your entry today by visiting our Headway Scholarship competition page! Deadline: 8th March 2015.

The Headway Scholarship is made possible through the generosity of John and Liz Soars.


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Headway Scholarship 2014 – Winners announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Headway Scholarship competition 2014, on behalf of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation.

Headway Scholarship 2014 applicants map

Around 230 teachers from 54 countries took part in the competition, which was based on the theme of “Headway makes a difference”. Using short stories, blog posts, photo montages, presentations, videos or podcasts, and even some lesson plans and research papers, the teachers illustrated how Headway has made a difference to students, teachers, and the community. They drew on a wealth of experience, as between them they had taught more than 115,000 students over 1600 teaching years!

As well as showing what Headway means to them and their learners, the teachers had to show what difference winning the scholarship would make to their own professional development. The various tasks were judged and moderated by a team of specialists, including author Liz Soars herself, and we can now announce that the winners are:

Hanna Dudich Magdalena Dygala Olga Gurchak
Marianne Chavarría Hernández Irina Krestianinova Gloria Rossa

Exeter CollegeEach of these teachers has won a place on a 2-week English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Exeter College in Oxford, including flights, accommodation and meals – a wonderful opportunity to share and develop best practice.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Headway Scholarship and, thanks to the generosity of Liz Soars and the Headway Foundation, there are six first prize winners this year instead of four. To further celebrate this landmark, additional prizes have been awarded to 12 runners up, and so congratulations also go to:

Oksana Bondus Letizia Cinganotto Claudia Gambier
Catalina Iacobuta Kiomars Karami Maria Fernanda Montu
Elena Maximova Miglena Petrova Uliana Proshina
Magdalena Pedro Anna Savina Valeriya Tabarina

As a personal ‘Thank you’ to all the teachers who entered the competition, Liz Soars has recorded the below video, and everyone who applied will be receiving a Certificate of Acknowledgement.

Go to the Headway fourth edition page for more information, or the Winners Gallery to see all the winners.