Here is an example Test-Teach-Test lesson to present the function of “Ordering in a Restaurant.” Try utilizing this sample by thinking of ways that you can teach your chosen function by using a Test-Teach-Test approach. Remember, there are many activities that could be tests, I’ve just provided a couple of ideas in this lesson. 


Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer


In this post, I am sharing several activities that can be adapted for any particular function you plan to teach. Also provided is a sample language analysis sheet to go along with the ‘Landlord/Tenant’ role cards, to give you a sense of how to analyze the meaning, form, and pronunciation of an exponent or two…

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Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer


In this post, I want to share some activity ideas for how to extricate the meaning and how to clarify the form for trainees and students. These activities are used in input sessions to provide a better awareness for our trainees, but certainly, these can be adapted for the classroom, as well. 


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Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer (Freelancer – New York, Japan, Atlanta, San Francisco, Kiev, Vancouver, Brussels, Tbilisi, Miami, Boston, Beirut, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bogota, Chicago, San Diego, Detroit)





The Training Session

Start off: “You’re at a Party.” Distribute a slip of paper to each trainee.


Complain about the types of                                   Encourage people to drink more
people here                                                               

Profusely apologize for bumping                            Convince people to dance more
into other partygoers 


Have trainees mingle and play out what’s on their cards – make sure they don’t see each other’s slips of paper – (for about 7 minutes, make sure they talk to everyone)

Feedback: Return to seats, have trainees talk to a partner for about two minutes just recapping what all of the others had been saying at the party

Whole Group Feedback: Choose a trainee and ask various people what he/she was saying at the party (hopefully you can elicit 3-4 exponents, i.e. “Are you thirsty? Do you want more to drink? You should have another beer! Why aren’t you drinking anything? You aren’t drinking enough.) Then, ask everyone what they thought the person’s function was, i.e. Encouraging people to drink. Do this a few more times so that the trainees can notice that there’s one function with several exponents/ways of expressing the function.

*If a trainee only used one or two exponents, try to elicit more ideas from the group

Second Task: Place two rows of photos on the whiteboard.




Tell the trainees: “Look at these two rows of pictures. One row represents grammar. One represents functions.” In pairs, discuss which you think is which, and Why?

This ‘analogy’ exercise usually helps trainees to distinguish a basic difference between grammar and functions.

The answer: The top row represents functions. They are three very different structures, but they all serve the same function (providing shelter.)

Consider the function of giving advice:

TeePee: If I were you I’d …(structure = 2nd conditional)
Igloo: You should…(structure = modal verb)
House: Why don’t you…(structure = negative question)

Same function, just very different structures to express it.

The bottom row (the strip mall) represents grammar because these three places have the same structure but provide very different functions, i.e. sandwich shop, shoe store, and a cash advance shop.
Consider: grammatical structure – modal verb “can’t”

I can’t dance. (function = expressing (in)ability)
She can’t be a grandmother. (function = speculation)
Can’t you arrive on time for a change? (function = criticism)
©Materials from Thornbury and Watkins, 2007, The CELTA Course, CUP
*consultant/contributor: Lizzy Adams, Director of Teacher Training, Teaching House



Fifth Task: Provide pairs with a function and ask them to first: create the context, and next: write a short dialogue. Afterwards, they will act it out. For feedback, the group guesses the situation and the function, as well as provides the exponents they heard.

Classroom application:

You will be given a language function and a level (e.g. Pre-Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate.) With your partner, create a short dialogue as follows:
• Think of a situation in which the function might typically occur.
• Choose an appropriate way of expressing this function for the situation.
• Write a short dialogue (8-10 lines) which contextualizes the functional exponents you have chosen.


©Materials from Thornbury and Watkins, 2007, The CELTA Course, CUP

What approach should I use? How do I teach the function?

At this point, it’s important to review the types of approaches we generally use to teach language systems lessons, i.e. Test-Teach-Test, Text-Based Presentation, Situational/P.P.P./A.R.C., etc, because this is what usually intimidates them – how to teach functions using the same approaches they use for grammar or lexis – Take them back to the first activity of the lesson. Ask them “What approach utilizes that type of activity “At a Party” at the beginning of the lesson?” (Test-Teach-Test)

Use any functions from the initial activity that you’d prefer. Here, I’ll use: “Convincing people to dance more” Elicit as many authentic convincing statements and responses as possible, (aim for 6-8.) Write them on the board as trainees provide ideas (this is what we want them to do in their lessons when they teach, too.) *Don’t forget to put them in pairs first, to brainstorm these ideas before you do a whole group feedback and elicit. ** Monitor their pair work to assess their level of understanding. For example:

Convincing -A-                                              Response -B-

Why aren’t you dancing?! Let’s dance!     Nah, I don’t feel like it.

Come on, dance with me!                              No, thanks. I’m good.

Please…just one song!                                    I’d really rather not.

Everyone’s having so much fun!                  Yeah…I’m not much of a dancer.

Don’t be shy, no one will care!                     Maybe later.

You can’t be worse than him.                       OK, why not?

*On the CELTA course we know all about M (meaning) F (form) and P (pronunciation,) don’t we? 🙂

To clarify Meaning, show the trainees how to check the concept of ‘convincing’: (*NB to cause someone to agree to do something; to persuade)

Is B dancing now? (no)
Does B want to dance? (no)
Does A want B to dance? (yes)
Does A care a little or a lot that B isn’t dancing? (a lot)
Is A trying to get B to agree to dance? (yes)
Do you think B will dance? (probably not)
Why not? (B says “No, thanks, I’d rather not, I don’t feel like it, I’m not much of a dancer.”)
“Ok, why not?” If B says this, does it mean A convinced him/her? (yes)
(and then clarify responses as necessary. Example below):
“Not much of a dancer.” Do you think B thinks of himself as a good or bad dancer? (bad)
Do you think B dances often? (no)

To clarify Form, this is where the real fun begins, in my opinion, and makes functions more appealing to teach than grammar. Clarify the form by presenting the exponents in chunks. For example:

Why aren’t you + ___________? Let’s + _________ !
                                    (verb-ing)                        (inf. verb)
Come on, + __________ + with + _________!
                         (inf. verb)                    (pronoun/name)
Please… + __________

*and so on…this helps learners build their lexicons by seeing that they can add other verbs to the exponents, depending on context, e.g. going, swimming – go, swim
**Come on, swim with him.
***Come on, go with Sam.
(these are just examples that you can expound upon)

Everyone’s + ____________

Don’t be + __________

You can’t be + _________ + than

And do the same with the responses where appropriate. For example:

No, thanks. I’m + ________.

I’m not much of a + _________.

So, remember, first elicit the parts of speech (verb, noun, adjective) so that the learners can see the formulaic patterns and then elicit actual words from them so that they can build their vocabulary and options with language use.

To clarify Pronunciation, just drill the exponents. Clarify connected speech/weakened vowel sounds where appropriate and practice intonation. Really prepare them to speak the language authentically, as we native speakers generally use it and hear it. As this post is more for clarifying the whole process for CELTA trainees, I will deal more specifically with drilling ideas in future blog posts when I introduce some possible ideas for functions lessons to be taught in the classroom.

In the input session, elicit from the trainees what come after m-f-p clarification (controlled and then freer practice)

(Helpful Hint: In regards to formality, the general rule is the more grammar, the more formal. For example: “Would you mind if I opened the window?” is more formal than “Can I open the window?”)
You can ask them to brainstorm some ideas for each type of practice and get some feedback, as a way to end the session.

From teaching other language systems lessons, trainees will know how to do the practice parts. This post is more about showing them how to do the clarification part. Hopefully, they will see that it’s not so scary and they will volunteer to teach more functions lessons.

Good luck and Enjoy the process!

Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer



The reason for this series of upcoming posts on Functional Language for the ESL/EFL classroom is that trainees are always asking “Where is the book on functions?”

Standard grammar books don’t do the job of helping to parlay the fears of skittish trainees. The book most recommended for trainees to try to get a better idea of functions is, “The Lexical Approach” by Michael Lewis. The idea of lexical chunks, i.e. “If I were you…” lends as nicely to the idea of how we want to present functional exponents, as anything out there right now.

Functions is one of the language systems (along with grammar, lexis, phonology, and discourse.) We present it in the classroom by using any of the same approaches used to teach systems: text-based presentation, test-teach-test, situational presentation (P-P-P or A-R-C), task-based presentation, etc. and it still confounds and intimidates trainees.

In order to erase the intimidation factor and to encourage and inspire trainees to embrace a positive mindset when presenting functions lessons, I will offer various suggestions on how to present functions language in the ESL/EFL classroom.
I will begin with an initial post sharing how I present the concept in my training input session. In follow-up posts, I will share different ways to teach them using many of the aforementioned approaches.

Form poses a problem for trainees because, whereas with grammar, there are fixed structures, in functions there can be a variety of structures to express one function. In my next post I will share an activity from my input session that usually helps trainees to understand the basic difference between grammar and functions in regards to the clarification of form.

Many people learn new languages by memorizing exponents (lexical chunks) and building upon them. For example, I think “Ok, I’m going to a restaurant and I want to know how to ask ‘Do you have/Have you got…?’” So, in Paris, I learned “Avez vous _______?” With that exponent/chunk, I can add any food/drink related noun: “Avez vous + des salmons?” (Have you got salmon?) or “Avez vous + le cidre?” (Have you got cider?) and in Japan, I learned “Anata wa + niwatori + o motte imasu ka?” (Do you have chicken?) and “Anata wa + akawain + o motte imasu ka?” (Do you have red wine?) Language learners can build their restaurant/food lexicon substantially and with acceleration!

Not only that, but “Avez vous” and “Anata wa ________ o motte imasu ka” work in all kinds of societal domains: the pharmacy “Have you got + aspirin?” or the post office “Do you have + postcard stamps?” or the market “Have you got/Do you have + olive oil?” You get the picture.

Coming soon: “The Training Session”

author: Jackie Hadel, DELTA, M.Ed., CELTA Trainer 

Many thanks to the people who have given me their time over the past two years to discuss and share their views about how to teach functional language in the ESL classroom:

Nerina Conte, Trainer/Assessor – Lizzy Adams, Teaching House – Stephanie Vogel, Teaching House – Svetlana Bulkina, Grade Center, Ukraine – Andrew Cox, Freelance trainer/Assessor – Matthew Noble, trainer – Christina Cipriani, Freelance trainer/Assessor