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group and this happens a lot, but also with younger students they have often picked up bits of quite bizarre English, outdated phrases, archaic words, or odd uses of more commonly used ones.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
- 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.
- 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.
(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.
- 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.
- Sts discuss what they have taken from today and how they can use it in their own writing.