As many of you know, I am extremely interested in register and style and feel it is often something that is overlooked in coursebooks as well as class.
The number of students who have no idea what I am talking about when i raise this issue is pretty high, too high. So, I think we should try to make it a feature of everything we teach.
This lesson follows on from some on phrasal verbs, which are often, though not exclusively, informal. I wanted a revision session which provided scope to use some, but also gave time for us to examine student examples and look at how they could be improved.
Why texts? Well, they write them, so they are relevant. They give opportunity to use some of the TL. They are short so don’t discourage. Plus they are short so can really be broken down.
Aim: to check register and appropriacy through the writing of short texts
Level: pre int / int / upp int / advanced
1. Write the four texts on the board. Ask the students in pairs to discuss who wrote them and why. Encourage them to think about how the writer felt and which words or features give this away.
Hi. Can you call me asap please. x
Hey, wondering if you’d chosen anywhere yet. I finish here at 4 so let me know before then. Cheers.
Have you got any plans for later? I’ve got a spare ticket going for a gig if you fancy it.
Where are you? Do you know what time it is? I’ve been here for ages now.
Do whole class feedback. Really go into detail.
Hi. Can you call me asap please. x
This really troubled my class. They said work so I asked why. They said the polite question and the fact it was direct. I agreed but asked about the x. It was a name they said. I pointed out it meant kiss. So they came up with the idea that it might be a parent messaging a child with bad news. I was pretty happy with this explanation.
Mine got that this was two friends arranging something. Cheers was interesting as they knew it in other contexts. We looked at whether there was a difference between Hi / Hey – concluding Hey could be seen as more friendly
Some of my students decided that this was a guy inviting a girl out, which I liked as a possibility. We checked meaning of gig – one of the students was able to explain it.
Mine didn’t get the repetition of the same thing as possibly being anger. Some did suggest it was to a friend as a joke, we discussed the potential for that to be misconstrued
I think the secret here is to really ‘demand high’ don’t let the students be lazy. Ask further questions, make them ask you questions. Encourage them to consider the connotations of the choices writers make.
2. Once you have gone through them all ask them in pairs to select two which they are going to reply to. Monitor and cajole. Again question what they want to say. For me, this was a great chance to prompt the students to use some of the TL, but also to fix register issues e.g. When i arrive – not wrong but is there a more natural way of writing this to a friend?
Additionally, it prepared me for things that could be highlighted for the whole class.
Then put some/ all of the student answers up onto the board. Ask which questions were being answered and how the person would feel receiving the reply. Highlight the examples of good language and fix what needs fixing through elicitation.
3. Finally, allow a few minutes for reflection. Ask the students to discuss what they feel was useful from the class; ask what they might now do differently. Highlight too that this was a chance to see them using new language and to provide an opportunity for them to use language they need for daily communication.
So, I’m a huge fan of using adverts for lessons. I suppose my aim is that if I do it often enough, my students will go out and start analysing these tiny little snippets of language themselves. There’s so much interesting language out there plastered all over the walls. Now, obviously not everyone lives in an English speaking country so the opportunity might not be there but there are ads all over the internet or maybe it’s our job to bring these ads to them.
Either way, here’s yet another lesson using an advert from the tube. If you’re looking for others, you could try:
Intro: the idea here is just a discussion to get them thinking about the idea of using ads for language analysis.
How to say: This is a word I find sts often struggle with and there is quite a difference between British English and American English. I personally think it’s easier to steer them towards “ad” or “advert” which I feel are more common anyway.
Reading between the lines: The nice thing about this ad is that it seems quite obvious to us but only if you assume the reader knows about the Tube, knows about how people can sometimes treat tube workers and understands that this is a child speaking.
Vocab focus: This is a straightforward matching exercise and by the end of this and the previous discussion, sts should be able to answer the single comprehension question, thus showing they have read between the lines.
Language focus 1: This shouldn’t take too long or be too taxing but it sets the sts up for the final practice section and encourages them to analyse language when they see it.
Language focus 2: For some of them this may be new. Take them through it one step at a time and they shouldn’t have any issues.
Practice: This can be adapted to any kind of story that might be relevant for your learners. Something short and snappy that might encourage them to use reported speech is the key.
Final reflection: Discuss with the learners what skills they have practised today and how they could use them in their real lives. Encourage them to tell short anecdotes at the beginning of the next lesson. Encourage them to bring in pictures of ads they have found.
Look, screw it, it was St. Patrick’s day last week and I’m Irish so I’m doing one on Ireland.
Living abroad as an Irishman means two things:
No matter how profound a comment you make, there is always the chance that someone will repeat what you’ve said back to you in the voice of a leprechaun and then laugh uncontrollably at the hilarity…it’s awesome.
If you are speaking with another Irish person, nobody will have a clue (although we might say an iota) what you’re talking about.
This lesson largely came about thanks to the second one. I was watching two of my Irish friends having a conversation and, because they’d known each other for years, I noticed that they didn’t actually finish any of their sentences. Our English friend found it next to impossible to follow the conversation. They were using words he didn’t recognise and they weren’t even speaking in full sentences. He didn’t stand a chance.
(by the way if you’re interested in learning more Irish-English, you might want to check here)
For this reason I decided to have a expose my students to this kind of conversation and see what happened. In reality, they weren’t that much more confused than normal because they expected words they didn’t understand. What they found tricky was the assumed / shared knowledge these two people had.
This lesson examines that.
Objective: by the end of the lesson, you will be more aware of what kind of words can be omitted from a conversation. You will be better able to follow a native-speaker conversation.
I introduce this by asking students to discuss the introductory sentence in Italics and thinking about what kinds of words people might leave out. I put these up on the board for later but don’t really comment on them just yet.
I ask students to read through the text and discuss what they know about the two men. We check this as a class. Again, you can put this on the board and add to it as more info is revealed.
I tell students that these two people are from Ireland. Sts discuss what different versions of English there are in the world and which one they should be learning
What you kind of want to get from them here is that these days there are many different types of English but that in general there is a global English that is being used. That said, it doesn’t hurt to know a few of the major differences between the types.
sts match up the Irishisms using the information in the vocabulary section.
Sts re-read the text to check what the words in bold refer to in the text.
Sts examine the sentences from the text and decide which words have been omitted (they may not get every word from the teachers’ notes but as long as they’re getting the main ones, you’re fine)
Teacher encourages the sts to refer back to section 1 and see if they can add anything from their answers at the beginning of the class.
Sts should also see if there’s anything they could add to section 2 above.
Teacher directs sts to final comprehension questions and checks as a class.
Reflect on what they have used to answer the above questions and how this can help them with future native-speaker conversations.
one of the biggest issues students have with native-speaker conversations is that they assume that the problem is all theirs. It never enters their head that maybe an English person might not understand everything 2 Irish people are saying. This is worthy of discussion as it could help stop students blaming themselves when they don’t understand and instead focusing on what other clues are available to them.
OK so, it being International Women’s Day, we couldn’t very well do a lower level lesson and not give you a higher level one. The idea with this one is to get them thinking about quite a tricky hypothetical situation.
The language throughout the lesson builds so that they can finally have a debate on the subject.
Level: Upper intermediate / Advanced
Time: 2-3 hours
Objective: by the end of the lesson the students will be able to have a debate on a hypothetical situation
The procedure for this one is pretty straight-forward, especially with the teachers’ copy and the answers.
What I will say is that the idea is to herd your students towards a situation where they are able to handle a debate on quite a high level, hypothetical topic. This not only develops their language skills but also their critical thinking skills. It’s not always easy to play devil’s advocate and they might just have to in this situation.
Depending on your group, they might need more or less hand-holding. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
So, it’s international women’s day today and I couldn’t resist popping a topical lesson up. This one is a simple little one, with the content mostly ripped off from Wikipedia. The idea is to examine how / when we use the passive voice. There is some quite high level language in here but I’ve always felt that if the task was right, you could use any text. I recommend this for a pre-intermediate or intermediate group.
Objective: By the end of the lesson students will be better able to write an informative paragraph with the focus on one individual.
To examine how / when we use the passive voice.
To give students a reason to read.
To encourage students to analyse language in context before going to their dictionaries.
Level: High elementary / Pre intermediate / Intermediate
Intro: Open up with the first question about the day. This can be done on any day but 8th March makes it a little more topical. The idea is to awaken interest and then answer their questions.
Answer their questions: The paragraph from Wikipedia should give them some history to the day. Discuss as a class.
Vocabulary 1: The words here shouldn’t be tricky for them but they give them some key language for later.
Discussion: With the vocab and history in place, this gives them a chance to give their own opinion. Students discuss in small groups. Teacher should monitor and note down any interesting vocab they didn’t quite get right but which might help them later on. Feedback as a whole class and deal with the emergent language.
Creating interest: the picture and info box about Emily Davison is designed to awaken some interest. Discuss as a class.
Pre-teaching: nothing kills interest like not understanding the key vocab. Spend a few minutes ensuring they understand the words in the pre-teaching section.
Reading for interest: Allow students to read it first to see if anything surprises them. This gives them the chance to get a general overview and engage with the text with a more realistic task.
Vocabulary 2: Throughout the lesson we have been spoon-feeding them a little with regards vocabulary. Now it is time for them to really try and see what they can get from context. Check they understand the questions properly before letting them loose. If they can’t come up with any ideas, let them check on wordreference.com or any other appropriate site. It doesn’t matter that they get the right answer, just that they are trying to figure it out. Help nudge them in the right direction by looking at words they might know like “hunger” and “feed”.
Language focus: Assuming they have already come across the passive, this will be a revision. Students can run through the questions in groups and then discuss as a class. If they are new to the passive, spend some time going through these questions with them and looking at form.
Practice: try to get students from similar countries together so they can research and write together. Direct them to Wikipedia / Simple Wikipedia or let them research in their own language.
Follow-up: put the paragraphs up around the room and allow sts time to move around and read them. Pull errors from them (specificially passive / vocab related) and place on board. Correct them as a class.
Ahoy hoy all! Being a reflective teacher, I think I have to accept that there are some things I like teaching more than others. Take for example, relative clauses…I’ve never been a fan of teaching them. “Might” on the other hand, now there’s something that’s fun to teach. To highlight that point, this is my second lesson on “might”.
I can’t quite put my finger on why, I think it might be because I feel that native speakers use it all the time but non-native speakers (in my humble opinion) tend to avoid it and favour “maybe”, especially at the lower levels. Whatever the reason, I love it and so here’s yet another lesson on it.
Level: Pre-intermediate / intermediate
Objective: by the end of the lesson the students will be better able to describe possible situations in the present & future.
Aim: to encourage students to analyse the English all around them every day.
Test what they know: Give them the picture of Bob in the bin and let them come up with some ideas as to why he is there. I’ll bet you dollars for doughnuts you only get “maybe”. Put those sentences aside and tell the students you’ll be coming back to them later and you’ll be upgrading the language in them.
Intro: If your students aren’t currently living in an English speaking country, these intro questions would have to be tweaked. The idea is to encourage them to learn English from the ads all around them. However, these days, with social media regardless of where they are living, they are very often exposed to English ads.
Reading: For these questions, students will have to use the information in the ad itself but also their own world knowledge. If they are quite young or are struggling with these questions, you may need to encourage them to apply their world knowledge of these types of websites.
Alternative to the above: if students are struggling, you could always get them to look up Gumtree and find out what services it provides.
Language focus 1: having established the context, students should be able to answer the vocabulary questions. See the teacher’s copy for the answers.
Language focus 2: Students work in pairs to analyse “might” and complete the rules. Check as a class and help with any questions.
Test what they have learnt: Students should be able to rewrite their sentences about Bob using “might”. Focus on reformulating any present sentences they gave earlier.
Practising the skill: it’s the skill of analysing language that’s really important here. Display the second ad and let them draw their own conclusions. E.g. what kind of person are they talking about, what patterns with “might” are there, and ultimately, how do we use “might” in the past?
Test what they have learnt 2: Bring Bob back in and let them consider how he got himself in this predicament. I’m sure there were a few examples from task 1. If not, let them come up with them now.
Note: at this point other uses of “might” might come up (e.g. might have done). If it comes up, I see no harm in teaching it.
So, this lesson arose from my desire to get students to think about filling in listening gap fills while thinking about the grammar and language of the gap, not just robotically writing what they heard.
I chose this song as it tells a story, or is like two people telling their side of a story to a policeman. V cartoon-like and simple which served the purpose.
I’ve expanded it here to include a little section on reporting verbs and comparatives and also suggested a couple of follow ons.
It obviously fits neatly into a unit on crime or as an extension to reported speech.
PS When I first did this, I didn’t tell them it was a song. It was an exam class and I wanted to surprise them. I am still unconvinced as to whether telling them or not is better. I leave it up to you to decide.
Level: Intermediate / Upper-Intermediate / Advanced (at a push)
Aim: to focus students on the grammar of the gaps they are filling / to practise listening to language at a faster pace than normally presented.
Time: 30mins +
Activating stigmata / pre-listening:
Write “I didn’t do it” on the board. Ask students when they might say this?
Ask them to predict what is missing and think of answers that could work.
check in pairs / small groups
Listen and fill in. – listen as many times as needed, I have normally found twice is enough.
They will probably make a fuss about number 3 / 5 / 6 as it is not the words used. Explain that the meaning here is more important. (if you are doing it for an exam class they would never do anything as nasty as number 3 but it pays for students to think about the sentence meaning, not just note down the word.)
*You could ask them to listen again and take notes of what is actually said for the answer to each.
Ask the students to underline all of the reporting verbs in the worksheet.
claim / say / ask / boast / deny
Now ask them to turn over to the second page.
This is about getting them to notice the structures used. For most this will be revision
Which are followed by a direct object? ask
Which are followed by that + clause? deny / boast / claim / say
Getting them to think of their own words that are similar is great as it allows you to see what they do / don’t know and also to correct any misconceptions.
Maybe ask them the difference in meaning of the words, or at least clarify it.
‘claims’ often expresses doubt from the speaker about whether what is being said is true and students may not know this.
‘As honest as’
As ________ as – which type of word completes this structure? – adj
If you were going to make it negative, where would ‘not’ go? not as adj as
‘The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong’
The + comparative + noun / clause, + the comparative + noun / clause
What does this phrase mean? possibly crime at night, accept different interpretations that work
Why would someone English use this sort of structure? to emphasis something
“The more I practice, the luckier I get” – what does this mean?
See if you can write one yourself, e.g. the more I sleep, ….
Ask students to find examples of reporting verbs in newspapers and bring them into class. I normally ask for 5-10 different verbs. It encourages them to be autonomous as well as getting them to notice language. Plus it gets them reading outside of class.
Also, you could ask them to turn the song lyrics into a short news report, recycling the reporting verbs.
Maybe give them a short introduction such as
“police were called yesterday to a burglary in London, when they arrived they caught two men red handed. They arrested both and took them for interview where the first man claimed …
Some of the more eagle-eyed among you may recognise the title from another lesson that we have done. This one seeks to differ though in its focus on future forms. There is also a focus pronunciation, intonation in the first listening and connected speech in the second.
The idea for this came, as so many of ideas do, when I was a little grumpy. This time i was imagining how much worse my mood would be if someone were to cancel plans I had made. If you know me, changing or cancelling of plans is one of my pet hates, unless it means I no longer have to do anything, then that is ok! However, I digress. The focus of this is to present the different structures we use for future forms within a context in which they may exist in the ‘real world’ and obviously to provide listening practice and hopefully some chances for them to use the newly acquired knowledge in a review of what was learnt from listening two at the end:
Level: Strong Int with scaffolding but prob Upper Int and above
Aims: To highlight the uses of future forms / to focus on pronunciation and intonation
Pre listening (optional) ask students to discuss their plans for the evening and the rest of the wk and record themselves. 1 min max recording time.
Play the first recording once. Ask students how the person speaking feels at the beginning and the end of the conversation. Ask them how they can tell and what do they think caused this change?
Who is speaking to who, about what? what is the relationship between the speakers? How do they know?
*If you wanted you could board some hypothetical language of prediction for them to use: could be, sounds like / as if / I suppose/guess.
Additionally, you could add some adjectives to describe emotions to the board, for students who struggle a little more.
I’m meeting Chris…
We’ll maybe go…
2. answers and instructions:
What tense is each one?
present simple / present continuous / will
Why was each tense used here?
This is the more interesting part, it is all about reflection on the tenses and what they know about them with regards to their function.
for me, present simple used for timetabled event
present continuous used for an arrangement
will used to imply that the event is not fixed, less certain.
What would be the difference to the meaning if any of the other future forms were used?
In the first, this is the only tense that sounds natural here.
in the second‘be going to’ could easily be used and this is also the case in the thirdexample.
3. Reflection on st’s own usage – (if you recorded students at the beginning use it here, ask them to listen and write down which future structures they tend to use.)
group discussion, the rules they select are fine, try not to correct too much at this point, encourage them to think about how they differ, by all means monitor and prod them towards the right direction though.
4. This is something I call Audi Future, the idea is that we often use more than one tense for one function, but that they don’t all get used for the same things.
Will – offers / spontaneous decision / promises / predictions
Be going to – plans / predictions with fact
present continuous – arrangements
present simple – timetabled events
These will be known to you and to many of your students, the whole point of the graphic though is to show how native speakers are often a little flexible with these definitions, hence the fact they overlap. Despite this though, we never really use present continuous for a spontaneous decision, so only when the two circles overlap can there be a mixture of use.
*also perhaps pointing out that often when ‘will’ is used for promises it is often pronounced fully, rather than it’s more usual contracted form.
A brief focus on natural pronunciation
How’s it going?
Ask students how to pronounce this – you will probably get 3 or four separate words.
Here you are trying to get them to notice that it is in fact two words
The second sound in the first could be a schwa for some, but I think I pronounce it /ɪ/.
Intonation – ask students to draw what happens to the voice during this
‘go’ has the big stress
Ask if students can think of any other examples of native speakers putting words together like this. You might get the following:
whatcha doing / dyer like / etc
Prediction – this is a much neglected listening skill. We do it instinctively, but it seems to be one of those skills that students don’t use when learning English.
Explain the second conversation is the person phoning the other person, Chris, and ask the students to predict what will be said in groups.
All class feedback, board suggestions
Ask what grammar they would expect to hear.
Listen to check, ask students to take notes on what they hear then ask the following questions:
Is this the first time James has let them down?
How does the speaker feel about it?
What is their plan for the evening?
The focus on conditionals ties into something that we both talk about a lot, which is the limitations of putting conditionals into the 0/1/2/3 categories.
Neither of these conditionals fit neatly into those boxes, which can throw some students of the scent a little in terms of their meanings.
This aims to focus on the meaning, and when they refer to, rather than just focusing on the more traditional numbers.
There are only two things that I would draw the student’s attention to here.
Bail – to cancel at the last minute (in this context)
This could be a good opportunity for students to see how dictionaries really don’t always have the answers they are looking for. You could get the students to look in their dictionaries and then listen for the word and see if it fits with the meaning in the situation.
Alternatively, you could ask them just to work out the meaning of the word from the context. Make sure that they have considered register here.
Fancy – ask them to listen and to see what they think the meaning is in this context.
Draw attention to the register difference of ‘fancy’ / ‘would like’ / ‘to be up for it’ see in which situations they think they would be used. maybe ask if they can think of any other ways of saying this and ask them to create a cline from formal to informal.
Just to draw some attention to some common features of connected speech. You can drill it, but for me the focus hear is very much preparing them for what happens in the real world, rather than trying to get them to take on all the features of connected speech in their own pronunciation.
/geswɒ/ – the ‘t’ isn’t pronounced
/hɪjɔːleɪz/ – the /j/ sound connects the two vowel sounds, students are probably not aware of this. Ask the students if they can think of other examples of this.
“to be honest”
/təbiːjɒnɪs/ – the to uses the schwa and as above there is an intrusive /j/ sound and the /t/ is dropped from honest
“if we fancy it”
/fwiːfænsɪjɪt/ – ‘If we’ becomes one sound – /fwiː/ – this frequently happens when native speakers are using conditionals.
Ask students to listen and note down future forms they hear, and ask them to reflect whether the use of them connects to what was examined earlier in the class.
Place them in groups and ask them to discuss this together.
This is a lesson that I had almost forgotten, until recently I taught a private student who wanted to focus on improving vocabulary to talk about art. Though the topic is art a lot of the collocations are more general than that and I think are a useful addition to students knowledge from B2 upwards.
This is a short little lesson, though there are undoubtedly ways in which you could stretch it, I’ll give you a couple of ideas at the end.
The lesson is based on a 9 minute film about art in Siena, so may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is nicely done and well-presented in my opinion, and features Andrew Graham-Dixon, who I am rather fond of. Students who I have used this with have found it relatively easy to understand what he is saying which is good as the focus here is on collocation, though you could easily build some pron work into this.
Aims: to increase students collocation knowledge / to practice listening using an authentic text.
Level: B2 +
Discussion regarding Siena, has anyone been and then fast independent research using mobiles and then all class feedback
For this to begin with the main focus is prediction, put students in groups and ask them to think of words which might fit. During group feedback praise good collocations and highlight ones which don’t quite work.
Explain to the students that all you want them to do is watch and try to complete the gapped phrases. They should be able to get most at the first listen, but be prepared to play it again if need be. Get students to check with a partner and then do group feedback.
Speaking and follow on
This is just a quick follow on to tie it together
However, what I would ask them to do next is to either write a short radio or video show that they present to the class or ask them to find a clip and to take note of what they believe to be strong collocations and bring them to class.