Cheat sheets for English conversation classes

Someone has asked to see examples of my grammar cheat sheets from when I taught larger EFL conversation classes. That’s why I’m posting a few and hoping that they will help conversation class teachers everywhere.

It’s been a while since I have taught any large classes. I’ve been focusing more on my private students, as well as a few freelance writing and translating jobs. So these examples are from when I was teaching back in Leipzig.

English Teaching Books

My collection of English teaching books.

Why not use textbook references?

The full-on grammar tables in textbooks are often too much in a conversation class. I want my students to talk comfortably for most of the lesson, and not to be overwhelmed by a set of rules they need to follow.

My cheat sheets typically include an extremely concise description of each grammar rule, plus one or two examples.

Because they are short and simple, students are less intimidated, and more encouraged to talk.

When they make a mistake, or feel unsure, it doesn’t take much time for them to check the rules, and carry on.

Beginner cheat sheets

Absolute beginners want these to refer to, especially when forming plurals and conjugating verbs. My beginning students used them when doing homework tasks, during warm-up activities, and when writing simple sentences together.

They were less often used during conversations, and I didn’t care – getting most beginner students to feel comfortable talking means not correcting them.

Some of the most often referred to pages include:

Intermediate cheat sheets

Intermediate cheat sheets can be larger, and contain a little more detail. I found that intermediate students referred to them more often during both conversation and textbook classes.

Sometimes, overuse can become a crutch, so I encourage students to read through it thoroughly at the beginning of the lesson. To support this, we do warm up activities where they can use it and ask questions. The other side of the page has the conversation prompts or group exercises, so they must ‘put it away’, at least for some of the time.

Most of my cheat sheets were made for intermediate classes. Here are a couple of examples:

I used the modal verb cheat sheet in all classes from upper beginner through to advanced. The future tense cheat sheet was on the back of a list of conversation prompts and additional exercises for textbook classes. My conversation class students said they referred to these often when doing their optional written homework.

Advanced cheat sheets

I’ve taught only a few advanced classes. I have found that the more advanced grammar books, like Martin Hewings’ Advanced Grammar in Use (available on, or on, have excellent reference sections that are perfect to use as cheat sheets.

Of the cheat sheets I created, comma rules (PDF) and conjunctions (PDF) were the students’ favorites.

Do you like these cheat sheets?

If you like them or use them in your classes, and want more, please leave a comment or send me an email!



  1. Muhammad Adib Basout says:

    How can I download it

  2. Carol van Zanten says:

    Hi Kymberly,
    I’ve just finished teaching a English conversation class for beginner’s in The Netherlands. Today I received the feedback from my class. What I thought were good lessons evidently weren’t for all in my students. So now I’m researching for next year! I would love anything and everything that you are willing to send me. Thank you for the offer!

    • Hi Carol! I find conversation classes definitely the trickiest: Because there is no ‘curriculum’ or text book to follow, students don’t know what to expect. It took me a couple of courses to find a good approach, and even then I need to tweak this for certain classes where the mix of students doesn’t fit together well.

      Do you have the same students again next year, or a new batch? I’d recommend including their suggestions of topics or things to work on in your course – when they want to talk about a certain topic, or work on a specific grammar recommendation, participation, happiness, motivation and confidence all improve. Ages? Goals? Let me know, and I’ll see what resources I have tucked away 🙂

  3. Hi Kymberly,

    I just started teaching conversation classes, and your tips were really helpful for me, how can I get the rest of your works please? I’ll be so glad if you could help me more.
    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Soodeh, Thank you! I’m so happy that these resources are helping teachers around the world. I’ll be adding more cheat sheets soon. Please do sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll let you know when they are available. Kym

  4. Frances Ann Paciente says:

    This is very useful, thank you!

  5. Basel says:

    Thank you so much .. Such great efforts ..

  6. Thanks a lot Kymberly – some great advice for someone just starting out in a (very basic) environment. As it should happen, I’m just starting out teaching ESL in Thailand – if you have any basic worksheets any help is welcomed.

    • Hi Alex, Thank you! You might find the activities in my earlier posts useful for conversation classes or for interactive activities in a ‘textbook’ class. Let me know what you find most useful! Kym

  7. Hi Kymberly, Thank you so very much for these tips. I have been teaching two conversational classes in France. I made up my own topics for the first year and now have a textbook (Headway) to use. They are older students and I must say it is great fun and I have made a lot of friends now. For the second year running we are producing a play in December and this really helps students with their speaking skills.

  8. Lots of inspiration here, and i really like your cheat sheets!

  9. Hi Kymberly,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am teaching an ESL conversational class, but only one-on-one. With only myself and the student exchanging dialogue, I find it difficult sometimes to avoid periods of silence. Do you have any advice?


    • Hi Angela,
      There can be periods of silence, especially if the topic isn’t one that both of you are fascinated by. I’ve tutored several students in both specialist and conversational English, so I know how uncomfortable those silences can be!
      It helps to have one main and at least one backup topic for each session. If you know your student likes reading or watching movies/TV series, those are good fall-back topics to end a lesson. If they are interested in politics or another ‘touchy’ subject that is difficult to handle with a large class, it can work to get and keep them talking.
      One of my students also wanted help polishing her medical research papers and prepare for conference presentations, and that was a good way to discuss grammar and work on her pronunciation. Of course, the discussions were all in English, so she was using her conversation skills!
      Having a few games prepared can help – word association games (blue = …, soft = …, list 10 things that can fly …, list words relating to travel as quickly as possible …) can also be used to fill the gaps and work on vocabulary (you can suggest other things they didn’t).
      Alternatively, have a cup of coffee and just chat as if you were friends. Many of my individual classes ended up like this, and that’s when they did the most talking. 🙂
      Good luck!

  10. Hi Kimberly, I’ve been browsing through your site gathering ideas and material. I’ve been giving English classes for more than 10 yrs and I suddenly felt stuck and needed to search for new ideas and material. Your site is so helpful, thank you so much! Can you share more cheat sheets and material? I can’t get enough of it!

    • Thanks Eunice!
      I plan to share more cheat sheets once I’ve recovered from my operation. 🙂
      Good luck and lots of fun with your classes!

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