This lesson came after I started learning Spanish and the immense sense of achievement I got from reading and actually understanding a short story. I was fully aware that it was written entirely in the present simple and was probably the worst written story of all time and that the ending did not make sense in any language…but that didn’t matter, I’d read a story a I felt great.
This is a simple story for lower level students, hopefully giving them a similar feeling. There are a number of activities that go along with it but I particularly like the last one, in which the students write a text message from one character in the story to another. Students tend not to think about the different language you might put in a note/text as opposed to a story or a formal email. It’s important to draw attention to these differences and to practise different types of writing.
A) Material: A Day in the Life A Day in the Life
(1) Intro (Get the students thinking/predicting)
Get the students to give you a list of famous people. Choose one that they all know and ask them what they think they do on a normal day. Get some student suggestions up on the board and work through any present simple errors that come up. I’ve always found Tiger Woods works well for this…I can’t imagine why.
(2) Reading (Checking predictions)
Tell the students they are about to read a story about a new movie star. Ask them to give you a few ideas about what his average day is like. Board their ideas.
Give the students a limited time to read through the story. Negotiate this time with them but really highlight that you don’t want them to focus on every detail, you don’t want them worrying about vocab or grammar, you ONLY want them to check their predictions.
Let them discuss in pairs before feeding back as a class.
(3) Language focus 1: Vocab
(Giving the students access to the text / encouraging sts to move away from dictionaries)
Ask students what if they don’t understand a word. Have a discussion about how dictionaries have a time and a place but that there are other ways to understand a work (e.g. the context / the type of word / the surrounding words). Direct their attention to the vocab section.
When you’ve finished correcting this exercise, take a moment to ask the students how they found the answers. Reflect on it for a moment and ask them if they could have found the meanings without the help of the exercise.
(4) Detailed reading
Ask students to reread the story, negotiate the time again. Direct their attention to the true/false questions afterwards.
(5) Engage with the text (Encourage sts to have a real response to a text)
Let the students have a real reaction to the text. It’s not important that they loved the story, they could hate it with every fiber of their being but at least they have the chance to express that. Try a few of the following questions but feel free to add more:
Did you enjoy the story? / Did you like the characters? / Were you surprised by his answer? / Do you think any celebrities have similar lives? / Do you think he will have the same life in one year? / How much of the story do/did you understand? / How did you feel when you read the story?
(6) Language focus 2: Chunks of English
It’s nice, even from such a low level, to introduce sts to lexical chunks and different ways of using words they “know”. Draw their attention to walk in the story, ask them to underline all the examples and then to do the activity.
(7) Follow-up (Encourage students to use appropriate levels of formality)
Hand out a post-it note to each student and ask them to write the text message at the end of the worksheet. Give them 5 minutes and then take in the post-its. Don’t just look for mistakes, focus on unnatural language, get it up on the board and naturalise it with the students. As a class, build one perfect text message, highlighting the type of language as you go.
As a further follow-up or for homework, ask the students to write another text message in the space at the bottom of the page. This can be a reply to the one above or something more personal.