The idea for this one came from a teacher I used to work with, great teacher. He used wikipedia entries on the Beatles to compare Past Simple and Present Perfect. I loved the idea and so when I had to cover a class last minute the other day, I decided I’d try it out.
This is the lesson I did. It works on a couple of things:
- Reinforce and examine the difference between present perfect and past simple.
- Raise awareness of the features of different texts (in this case wikipedia entries)
- Encourage students to notice chunks of English and adopt them into their own writing / speech.
- Encourage learner autonomy (ye olde holiest of grails) in reading.
Level: Int / Upper int
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours
Materials: wikipedia present perfect – BEATLES
List the following discussion questions on the board:
- What kind of music do you listen to?
- Have you ever been to a concert/gig/festival?
- Have you ever met anyone famous?
- Who would you like to see perform live?
Let students discuss these questions in small groups. As you monitor, note down any present perfect/past simple mistakes (if there are any) for use later. Choose any errors you like to give feedback, but I find with music discussions, learners very often misuse a lot of vocabulary (e.g. live) and I tend to focus on that area.
Display the pictures of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In small groups, students discuss everything they know about the two musicians. Feedback as a whole class and board all of their facts.
Fold the sheet in two so that students can only see one wikipedia entry. Divide your class into two groups (Johns and Pauls). Students have 2 minutes to read through the text and note any extra facts that they didn’t know. DO NOT MENTION THAT THEY ARE WIKIPEDIA TEXTS!
Put Johns together to compare their facts and do the same with the Pauls.
Then get a lovely mingle exercise going so that Johns share their info with Pauls.
As a whole class, board the most interesting facts from the students.
Focus on genre:
Sit the students down in pairs of Pauls and Johns (to mix them up a bit) Display the following questions and get students to discuss in pairs:
- What type of text is this? Where does it come from?
- How do you know? What clues are in the text?
- What is the writer’s opinion?
Obviously you want the students to notice that not once does the writer give their opinions as it’s a factual text. (By raising awareness of features of different texts, you can encourage students to think more about what they are writing and about appropriate language for different genres and situations)
Focus on language 1: Present Perfect
Encourage students to look more closely at what they read. We want to create fully autonomous language analysts. One way is trying the following type of exercise. Little and often is the key.
Display the following questions for discussion:
- What are the main tenses used in the texts?
- Is there any difference between the tenses used in John’s text and Paul’s text?
- Why do you think that is?
What we’re looking for here is that John’s contains past simple only whereas Paul’s contains both. Past simple for his early life with the Beatles and Wings (ahem) and Present Perfect for his life and achievements since then.
At this point, you could bring out any pres perfect errors from the introduction stage and get sts to correct them in pairs.
Focus on language 2: Passive
Highlight/Display the following sentence from the text and compare it to the one below it:
“He was murdered three weeks after its release”
“Someone murdered him three weeks after its release”
In pairs, students discuss why the author chose the first one over the second one. What we’re looking for is that the author wanted to keep John Lennon as the focus of the sentence.
Get students to scan the text and find other examples. It might be a good idea at this point to highlight that the musicians are the subject of almost every sentence and definitely every paragraph.
Focus on language 3: Vocabulary
By now students will be chomping at the bit for all of the vocabulary in the texts. In pairs, get them to find the phrases from the vocabulary section of the worksheet.
Feedback as a whole class. Then point out that there are some phrases that you would commonly find in such an article (e.g. born and raised / critically acclaimed / of all time). In pairs get students to hunt for more chunks they can lift from the text and use for themselves.
Focus on Organisation
Ask students to take one final look at the texts and decide how they are organised. Essentially, in both of them there is a general intro paragraph about the musician and then a second section going into more detail about their various achievements.
You have now focused the students’ attention on all of the necessary features of this genre. It’s now up to them to write something.
In small groups, get them to choose a teacher in the school and give them ten minutes to write a short Wikipedia entry on their life. Allow them to make up whatever crazy details they like. You’ll undoubtedly end up with “teachers who reached worldwide fame for their critically acclaimed present perfect lessons”.
When they’re finished, put them up around the room. Students walk around and vote on whose they like best and whose was most like a wikipedia entry.
Teachers use this time to move around and board some errors on the board and then correct as a group.
After this type of lesson, you really need to sit down and chat about what’s been achieved. Yes the students have created something, worked on their own errors, gather lots of vocab and discussed the present perfect but the real aim is autonomy!
You want them to take these skills outside and use them when they’re reading their own texts. We need them to be stealing their own chunks of language from their own texts.