Language in Isolation

These are interesting times we live in. Interesting in that the entire world has been turned upside down but also interesting in terms of how quickly we have all adapted. One thing I’ve found interesting is all of the new lexis that has just snuck into daily use. I don’t think I’ve ever said the word “furlough” before and suddenly the UK government used it one and now I say it 10 to 15 times a day.

This lesson aims to look at some of the new lexis we’ve adopted as well as what I’ve been calling “checking in”. In this Covid era, the words “how are you?” as a greeting are a bit redundant. We know people are not great. Instead we’re seeing questions like “How are you doing?”and “How are you coping?”, meaning “I know it’s gone to crap but how are you surviving?”. With everyone stuck in their homes, online communication is our key form of communication so this lesson uses chatting.

As most of us are teaching online, I’ve chosen to use PowerPoint instead of a handout and  I’ve put some notes on the slides instead of a standard procedure.

  • Level: Intermediate / Upper Intermediate
  • Time: 60-90 minutes (depending on what activities are done outside lesson time)

Materials:

 

Howard’s End: Reading for natural reactions – high level learners

So, the origins of this lesson go back to the sunlight times when I taught the Cambridge Exams. Forster’s Howards End was a set text for, I think, CPE. I always loved the three letters that begin the book and those who have followed this blog for a long time will know a lot of the earlier lessons had a literature base. This then, is a return of sorts.

The text itself gives us the chance to do some Danny Norrington-Davies style grammar activities and the chance to really look at how we examine gist.

As always when I use some Literature in class it is only fair to draw attention to Gillian Lazar’s excellent book: Literature and Language teaching.

There is a lot of reading in this lesson and this gives us the chance to look at prepositions as part of chunks of language.

  • Level: advanced C1/C2 (High upper Ints could maybe manage if scaffolded well)
  • Aim: to examine tone and how it is conveyed in an authentic text
  • Time: 2-3hrs

Materials:

Procedure:

For all of these activities I would recommend asking the students to look on their own first and then work in pairs or groups.

Reading and Reaction

The reading here aims to give the students the chance to react more naturally to the text than the standard gist questions. Answers obviously some are subjective here. Your job is to probe the reasoning. I have put some answers below. I would give them time to read, and then put them into groups to answer the questions.

  1. How old do you think Helen is? (Why?) perhaps young – refers to aunt, whole style of the piece
  2. What is the relationship between Helen and Meg? sisters
  3. Who do you think Tibby might be? brother
  4. Who are the Wilcoxes and where did Meg and Helen meet them? family they met while travelling
  5. What is the impression given of the Wilcoxes? Sporty – different from Helen’s family

However, accept any reasonable answers. Here the key is to encourage the students to engage and come to their own conclusions.

Vocabulary from context and co-text

This activity is about building a skill rather than teaching ‘key’ lexis. We want the students to be able to work out meaning from context and co-text. The students will enver need the word wych-elm, but they will need to be able to see when a lexical set is being referred to as it is here.

  1. it is a tree and they can see this from the following sentence ‘I quite love that tree already’
  2. There are 6:

‘Also ordinary elms, oaks—no nastier than ordinary oaks—pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No silver birches, though’

Focus students on the reflective activity, we want them to know why we have done the task. Ask them where they can use it next.

Grammar Focus

This is about moving away from established rules and looking at why a tense or structure is used and how they work together. This can be important as a lot of students can trot out the rules for tenses but don’t seem then seem to be able to use them productively. This type of activity aims to address that.

  1. mostly present simple as it is a series of descriptions of things as they are now. e.g. ‘it is old and little’
  2. This extract gives the chance to see different tenses interacting.

I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden. She evidently loves it. No wonder she sometimes looks tired. She was watching the large red poppies come out.

  • Which tenses are used here? past simple / present simple / past continuous
  • What difference in meaning do the different tenses show us here?
  1. Past simple – used for main activity in the anecdote
  2. Present simple – Helen’s comments on it
  3. Past continuous – an activity that happened over a period of time in the anecdote.

The interesting thing here is the present simple which is used in an interesting way. The other two tenses follow what we would expect in a story.

3. Now look at the conditional in the sentence below:

…if you shut your eyes it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected.

  • What type of conditional is it? Does it refer to present / past / future / all time? 0 conditional talking about all time
  • Why is it used here? I think to give them impression of this being like a dream – the idea of being able to go back to their assumptions about the house and people who live there.

Reading and Reaction II

Now look at the letter again and answer these questions

  1. Is there anything unusual about the letter? things have been omitted, lots of fractured sentences, the use of burn this
  2. What impression does Helen give us about Aunt Juley? that she is boring
  3. Can you think of three adjectives to describe Helen? Any answers fine
  4. Use your phone to find a picture of what she looks like to you and compare with your neighbour. Any answers fine

Reading and Reaction III

All answers in this section are up to the students, you should put them into groups and let the students discuss them before coming together in all class feedback to check them.

Preposition focus

The aim here is to get the students to focus on chunks of text. Too often students think of prepositions without seeing them as part of larger chunks.

There is the secondary aim in that looking in the letters for the answers gives them scanning practise.

  1. We can scarcely pack in as it is
  2. … and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel
  3. I must get on to my host and hostess
  4. … she kept on smelling it
  5. how good of her to come
  6. the others do not take advantage of  her
  7. I laugh at them for catching hay fever

Reflection

These questions are just to make them realise the point of the different activities so put them in groups to discuss and monitor.

There is a lot more you can do with this text if you wanted, but these are some hopefully interesting things.

 

Christmas Invite: “will” & participle clauses

This one is quite grammar heavy but there are a lot of skills in there as well. The biggest one is analysing grammar in context and this lesson draws heavily on Danny Norrington Davies’ idea of asking students “why” a particular language point has been chosen in this particular situation. We’ve really found that doing this little and often encourages our students to ask the same question of the language in the world around them.

Try it out and let us know how it goes.

  • Level: Intermediate / Upper Intermediate
  • Time: 90mins – 2 hours
  • Age: Adults
  • Objective: To be able to write an engaging invite to an event

 

Material:

This time for the material, I’ve gone with a presentation instead of a worksheet. I’ve tried to make the slides as intuitive as possible but let me know if you have any questions.

Email invite

 

 

Christmas Memories: Used to / Would

It’s been a while since we have put any new lessons up but for a very very good reason, which will become apparent in about March 2020.

I couldn’t resist putting up a Christmas lesson and what better to focus on around this period but memories. I know there are many who don’t celebrate Christmas so while this lesson focuses on a Christmas memory, the skills and language that will be learnt can be used for any regular public holiday or festival memory.

As with some of our other lessons on memories, this one focuses on how “used to” and “would” are used together but this one also adds in one-off memories as well.

If this one isn’t enough for you, you can find the previous “used to” lessons: here and here.

  • Level: Upper intermediate & Advanced (could be easily adapted for Intermediate)
  • Objective: by the end of the lesson, you will be better able to describe childhood memories
  • Time: 2-3 hours

 

Materials:

  1. Textploitation used to would
  2. Textploitation used to would teachers notes
  3. Audio 1: Christmas
  4. Audio 2: New Years

 

Enjoy, and as always let us know what you think!!!

 

Film Soundtrack Task

So, the origin of this lesson came when I was still teaching exams. I wanted a task that replicated the skills and language needed for Speaking part 3 in FCE / CAE / CPE, I wanted to show that the language for the task had genuine use outside the exam. I also wanted it to be a bit of fun. I decided to use some music as it would allow students to use high level vocab and in the feedback sessions I would have scope to add input and also to check comprehension. There are other examples of how to use songs in class on the site, for example: https://textploitationtefl.com/2018/03/04/the-cure-pictures-of-you-present-perfect-continuous/

or

https://textploitationtefl.com/2015/01/27/writing-lesson-based-on-a-song/

There are a lot more for you to explore.

Anyway, in this lesson, the songs are used for a slightly different reason.

So without delay, let’s get down to it.

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Level: Intermediate / Upper Intermediate / Advanced / FCE / CAE / CPE (it could be used with lower levels with some scaffolding)
  • Aim: To encourage discussion and practise decision making language.
  • Sub aim: Practising presenting a decision to the group.

Procedure:

Pre-listening: Select 5-7 songs that you intend to use. Try to ensure that the songs have a different feel and that they will evoke a different emotional response.

  1. Listening 
  • Tell the students you are going to play them 5-7 pieces of music/songs. You are only going to play about 30 seconds of each. Ask them to write down any feelings they have about the song. Tell them that you don’t want things like “I like it”, “it is rubbish”, but want adjectives or description of feelings the songs evoke or where it reminds them of being etc.
  • Play the songs allowing time after each for them to write up notes.
  • After all of the songs have been played ask the students to compare what they have written down in small groups. Try to make sure the groups are 2-4 people each.
  • Do group feedback, this allows you to share ideas, but also share any high level / interesting vocab.
  • You may need to play the songs again at this point in order for them to complete the next task.

2. Task – the script outline

Ask the students to skim read the scenes. Ask them what type / genre of film they think it is.

Then, ask students to work in groups and complete the task on the worksheet. 10-15 minutes. There may be some language that the students are unsure of. Try to elicit meanings from them. Encourage them to think about context where possible.

Task: You have been asked to select music to match the scenes. The songs we played you earlier were the ones we have the rights to. We can probably just about afford to license one more song. So if you have a suggestion for one that would work, we can probably manage that.

Direct them to the suggested language on the worksheet (please add extra language to this that you would like them to practice). Encourage as you monitor and also take notes so you can do error correction after.

Give the students 5 minutes to prepare to present their ideas to the group. Try to encourage them to use reasons. This is a chance to recycle the lexis they used earlier and to practice summarising a group discussion.

Optional: Board the different ideas for how the film ends. The students can then vote on the best.

Post task reflection: Ask the students where they can use the language that they have been practising. The aim is that they recognise that this is language that could be used in the exam. If not exam students in business discussions, meetings etc.

Also encourage the students to offer each other feedback on the language they all used. Ask the students which of the phrases they did use, which they didn’t and why. It is about them making choices about the language they use and developing their own personal lexis.

Possible extension activities: 

  • Ask the students in groups or individually to write dialogue for part of one of the scenes. This can then be edited and improved as a writing task. You could also ask the students to film it. This is a great chance for a student to act as director and help students improve. For a similar idea: https://textploitationtefl.com/2017/07/11/modals-of-deduction-a-murder-part-1-2/
  • Use one of the songs and treat it as a text and textploit it. See other ideas from the song lessons on the site.

Materials:

 

 

 

 

Invisible Women: Independent Research Skills

We feel strongly that one of our jobs as teachers is to encourage discussion. For this reason, each year we write a lesson for international women’s day (9th March) in an effort to increase discussion on this topic specifically.

You can find our previous lessons here, here and even here. Or, you could try our latest one.

This lesson marks a bit of a departure from our norm as I will not actually be encouraging the use of the whole text and I will be encouraging you to allow your students to use their own phones to read the text…I know, I know. But the way I see it, people these days don’t tend to sit down with a broadsheet and read it cover to cover, they dip in and out of articles online and follow the trail wherever it takes them. I wanted to reflect this in class.

Note: I will include the text as an attachment for those whose students to not have access to the internet in class.

  • Objective: by the end of the lesson, students will be more confident researching online and reporting their findings.
  • Level: Upper int / Advanced
  • Time: 1.5 – 2 hours

Material

  1. The article
  2. Invisible Women Article
  3. Women’s Day Independent research skills – worksheet

 

Teachers’ Notes:

Discussion:

  • This is a simple discussion designed to create interest in the topic and see what learners already know.

Introduction:

  • I find that learners can sometimes rely heavily on their own language / sites for internet research. The idea here is that they consider googling in English.
  • By the end of this section, they should have googled the key words from the article and found it on their phones. They should all be ready to read.

Reading:

  • This is quite a tricky article. There are a lot of cultural references and high level language. I would like the learners to choose which of these they look up. Whether it is specific words or information, it should prepare them to discuss the main point of the introduction.

 

Reading 2:

  • I have specifically chosen not to read the whole article here as I didn’t want it to take away from the research and discussion and I wanted it to mirror real life. If they’re really interested, they’ll read it themselves later on. If not, that’s ok. They can move onto something else.
  • I think it’s important to engage with the text and the facts but I wanted them to consider how they would tell others.

 

Useful phrases:

  • I’ve just given them a few phrases here. I would encourage them to report their favourite facts to each other, using some of the phrases.

 

Engaging with the article:

  • It is important to give them space to discuss the article, perhaps in ways you might not have imagined. I’ve tried to leave this as quite an open discussion. Feel free to add questions or poke and prod as needed. The aim is to encourage discussion and to see where their interest is taking them.

 

Language Focus:

  • I’ve isolated the introduction here as it is quite important to understanding the whole article but there is quite a bit of tricky language in here. I’ve focused on the 4 words that students might be thrown by or might need to describe the article:
    • patriarchy / prejudice / jaded / neophiliac

 

Independent Research

  • Learners follow the instructions and choose something related to the article to google. They make notes, following the research tips.
  • They then report what they’ve found to their partners. Remind them to use:
    • the reporting language
    • any key vocab from their research
    • key vocab from the text they’ve just read

Reflection:

  • I always think it’s important to take time to reflect. They haven’t just read part of an article today, they’ve learnt how to engage with online articles in English and report what they’ve found. This can be applied to any interest.

Further practice:

  • Take them to a news website (e.g. BBC News) and let them run free on their phones, researching a story / topic they like.
  • In groups, they can report back to their partners.

Manners, language and the importance of keeping with the times.

So, this lesson was a challenge. Literally, ‘Teaching Cat’ challenged us to make a lesson from this text so here we are.

The original text is one of those fun quirky texts aimed at people in the past that is now ridiculous, you know the type. So far, so not very promising. Except, how many of your students use strange bits of language that make them sound ancient. At EC London we have a 30+ group and this happens a lot, but also with younger students they have often picked up bits of quite bizarre English, outdated phrases, archaic words, or odd uses of more commonly used ones. This lesson aims to ask students to focus and reflect on register and appropriacy in their writing.

Enjoy and thanks Cat.

Objective: by the end of the lesson students will be more aware of appropriate register in their writing

Level: Upper intermediate & advanced

Time: 2-3 hours

Material:

  1. Bicycling Etiquette – teacher’s copy
  2. Bicycling Etiquette

 

Procedure:

Introduction:

  • Sts discuss the questions in small groups. T feeds back as a whole class and prompts them with further questions if they are struggling to come up with ideas
  • The idea here is to get them thinking about their own reading habits and how it largely happens through their devices these days. In question 2, I’m thinking of click bait type posts on social media or even video instructions on Youtube. I’d also like them thinking about formality in English. There is a misconception that more formal mean more polite and therefore better. But English these days, even written English, is very conversational.

Reading:

  • Sts skim the text and answer the questions in pairs.
  • T directs sts towards the reading tip and sends them back to underline anything in the text that shows the author’s world view. If they’re struggling, T directs them to the 3 sentences on the right.
  • The idea here is that very often learners don’t critically analyse the opinion of the writer. Given the archaic views in this text, it should be easy enough to identify them but by doing these kinds of activities little and often, you can improve a learner’s ability to question writers more effectively. 

Discussion:

(N.B. at this point, I would ask sts to fold the sheet along the dashed line so they only have Discussion and Language Focus sections)

  • Sts discuss the questions in small groups.
  • While this will herd them towards the final task, it also gives them space to disagree (or agree) with the text & writer, which is an important part of any lesson. These kinds of real life questions will show comprehension.
  • There is a lot of interesting language in this text, much of it dead (e.g. wheeler). Sts try to find them. T uses this stage to deal with any unknown vocabulary.

Language focus (register)

  • Sts look back at the text for unnatural examples of English. T elicits and writes / highlights on the board.
  • If sts are struggling, T can give one of the examples and send them back to the text.
  • If sts are really struggling, T can instruct them to open their page and direct them towards the 3 sentences.
  • Sts rewrite the 3 sentences and any other words/phrases/sentences they have found.
  • T corrects as a whole class, discussing what would be natural and unnatural in modern writing contexts.
  • Feel free to consider different types of writing contexts. I’ve suggested online articles and such as I figure that’s where we get a lot of advice these days. I also think written English (even at work these days) is conversational and overly formal English sounds unnatural and rude.

Language focus (analysis)

  • As this is for higher levels, I do not see the need for large grammar presentations but judge your learners and do what is necessary.
  • Sts look through the text for repeated language structures particular to this type of text.
  • They are looking for conditional sentences, relative clauses and passive voice.
  • Sts analyse the two sentences.

 

Writing task:

  • Sts make notes, using the questions to guide them.
  • Sts work in small groups to produce their text.
  • T displays them around the room and sts move around in their groups. They judge the writing on register, use of the above-mentioned language points and on how entertaining they are.
  • T displays any errors on the board and sts work together to correct.
  • I would suggest taking common errors and editing them slightly for content. Then allow sts to self-correct their own errors, using the boarded ones as a guideline.

 

Reflection:

  • Sts discuss what they have taken from today and how they can use it in their own writing.

 

 

 

 

Hand in hand, arm in arm, we all read together…

I should say that this is not a lesson but rather an idea to put into your reading lessons.

Recently at my school we were running some sessions on developing reading skills and I remembered a website I used to use quite a lot to help students read more quickly and to read in chunks instead of one word at a time.

The idea is simple:

  1. Choose a text
  2. Copy it into online teleprompter software
  3. Choose the speed
  4. Set the task
  5. We all read together…

For students who tend to read one word at a time instead of in chunks, it forces their hand a little.

There are just a few things to take into consideration though:

  • Your students may find it stressful at first. It’s very important that you explain to the students what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  • The task must be appropriate. It should probably just be a gist question as you are asking them to skim read the text really.
  • It’s important that you don’t just test their reading skills. You have to help them to develop. After choral reading, discuss how they felt, what their strategies were. Discourage them from reading one word at a time.

My favourite website to use is this one as it’s easy to use and soooooooooooooo free.

Check it out and let us know how you get on.