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.

 

 

 

 

Barry deals with “get” collocations and inequality.

Barry, the main character in this lesson, has wormed his way into a number of our lessons. If you’d like to see his other ones you could try here, here, here, or even here.

With this lesson I have learnt something about myself. I have learnt that try as I might, I cannot write a lesson without including some study skills. I tried to do a straight collocations lesson for my students and came out with a collocations + online concordance lesson.

“Get” is one that my students ask about all the time and I am often reluctant to do a lesson on it as I never feel it will do much good unless students actually go out and start to notice these collocations themselves. It’s the whole fish saying thing:

Give me some “get” collocations and I’ll use them for a day, teach me to find them and I’ll use them forever…

That’s the saying, right?

Objectives:

  1. By the end of the lesson students will be better able to notice collocations in context and to use an online concordance to find common collocations.

Time: 1-2 hours

Level: intermediate and above

Material:

  1. Barry Deals with Get Collocations – teachers’ copy
  2. Barry Deals with Get Collocations – worksheet

Procedure:

  1. Display the question: what are the major issues we face in the workplace these days? Sts discuss. Feedback as a class and deal with any emerging language but don’t focus on any one over the others.
  2. Explain students are going to read an extract from story. In it, the main character raises an issue with his boss. Read the story and decide in pairs what that issue is. The issue is inequality in the workplace.
  3. Discuss as a class if they have similar issues in their countries and what could be done to avoid this in the future.
  4. Explain that one word is used quite frequently in the story (get) and see if they can find it.
  5. Sts underline all meanings of get and document them and their colocation in the space below.
  6. In small groups, sts examine the get phrases and decide what they mean in this context.
  7. Optional practice: sts write their own sentences using the phrases to check understanding.
  8. Discuss the following questions with sts:
  9. Do you avoid get in general? Why?
  10. Do you use alternative words?
  11. Are these words more or less natural than get?
  12. Where can you find more examples of collocations?
  13. Depending on your tech, either display the following on an iwb or take sts to computer rooms or encourage them to use their phones. For the purposes of this procedure I will assume you are using an iwb. If you don’t have any tech, I have taken some examples and copied them into the worksheet for you.
  14. Display the British national online corpus and explain what it is. Ask sts how this could be useful. Show them how to use it with “get” as an example.
  15. Turn over the page and ask sts to analyse the examples. Are they the same as previous examples, are some different?
  16. Feedback as a class.
  17. Direct students to the controlled practice exercise to do by themselves and then check in pairs.
  18. T deals with any errors or confusion. (Note: confusion and errors will probably occur when manipulating these semi-fixed language chunks in context. Students tend to understand them but can struggle when it comes to using them.)

Optional follow up:

  1. To encourage some level of autonomy, ask the students to choose another verb they find difficult to use. Suggest “have” or “pick” or something that has a lot of collocations or uses.
  2. Students use the concordance and find common collocations. They record them in a spider gram like with get.
  3. Students write their own story using as many as they can.

Optional Follow up 2:

  1. Students write the conversation between Barry and his boss and act it out, trying to incorporate as many “get” collocations as possible.
  2. T gives points for originality, accuracy and use of collocations and decides on a winning pair.

Reading and tense discovery: “I caught a falling baby”.

So, the inspiration for this came yesterday at the Pearson Amazing Minds day in London. Ken Beatty mentioned this story and as he put up one of the direct quotations, I found myself just looking at the past tenses thinking, “ooooh, lesson”. I really am that dull.

The lesson itself is fairly standard textploitation. We have a text, we are going to look at the grammar used, look to build learner autonomy with the vocabulary and investigate a litte bit of pronunciation. Also borrowing in the grammar from the wonderful Danny Norrington-Davies ( https://dannynorringtondavies.wordpress.com/ )asking students to identify what the grammar is doing and why it is used.

Like with all textploitation this focuses on a little and often.

Let’s go.

Level: Intermediate (with support) / Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Objective:

  • By the end of the lesson, students will be better able to analyse language in context and to recognise subtle differences in meaning.

Aims:

  • To analyse language in context (vocab / grammar)
  • To build the skills needed for the above
  • To practice the schwa and connected speech

Time: 2-3hrs

Procedure:

Pre Reading:
Prediction task.

  • Write the phrase “I caught a falling baby” on the board and ask students what they think happened immediately before.
  • Ask them to create and build a back story.
  • Put them into pairs or groups for this.
  • Then do feedback as a class.

Prompt them with questions such as where did this happen / when. Also, ask them to justify these answers.

Reading:
Skimming

Ask them to quickly find out:

  • Where the story took place?
  • How the baby got out of the apartment?
  • Why was it not surprising the woman caught the baby?

Natural Response

Place the students into small groups and ask the following questions:

  • Did you find the story interesting?
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • Do you think the woman is a hero?
  • Do you think that the parents of the baby should be punished?

(you could break these questions into two sets if you prefer)

Grammar:

Rather than looking at the whole text this lesson breaks the text into little chunks.

Make sure the students really look at the function and use of the grammar. Do not let them just trot out grammar book rules.

Exercise 1

(picture is of Christina Torre just for context and as the sheet was looking dull)

“I’ve always known that I’m very quick with my hands. If someone throws something, I catch it almost before I’m aware it has been thrown.”

  1. present perfect and present simple
  2. Present perfect is used to describe a skill / ability that the person has had for ever. – the adverbs ‘always’ is a natural fit here. Present simple is used for a fact / ability. Encourage the students to think of how the present perfect and present simple work with each other.
  3. 0 conditional + the present perfect time clause
  4. 0 conditional is used to refer to something that always happens “If someone throws something, I catch it”, the present perfect here relies on ‘almost before’ and I think places the time close to the first ‘throws’ in the conditional. It doesn’t neatly fit any rule, and that is important for you to get across to your students.

Exercise 2

For these put students in pairs to check before doing all class feedback.

I was going to visit a friend with her newborn and was on my way to a toy store to buy a gift. I’d once lived in the neighbourhood and on a whim I decided to head back to my old haunt, a cupcake shop, for a coffee.”
Vocabulary

On a whim (adverbial phrase) – spontaneously – normally used in positive stories. It is important to let students think about connotation as well as meaning

I decided to head back to my old hauntMy old haunt – a place i used to spend a lot of time in. Get them to give you examples of their own ‘old haunts’ and provide examples yourself. Also, worth highlighting the meaning of head back to here.
Grammar

  1. Past version of be going to used to talk about a plan that did not happen.
  2. Past simple used for the main actions in the story.
  3. Past perfect used to refer to a time before the time of this story.

Extra – ask if they can find other examples of these tenses being used.

Exercise 3

“I just wanted the child, who I later found out was called Dillon, to feel safe”

  1. extra info
  2. yes

(if they ask about why there seem to be two clauses in the relative clause I told them that find out always needs an object) sentence could be rewritten as just “who was called Dillon”. If they don’t ask, I wouldn’t raise it at this stage)

Exercise 4

We didn’t practise together, but I guess my reflexes must have naturally developed.

  1. it could fit in the beginning, between the clauses, or at the end. (Though) We didn’t practise together, (though) I guess my reflexes must have naturally developed (though).
  2. The first place sounds more formal, the middle is possible but quite informal(to me, not so natural), the end is also informal

I was approached by a typical Brooklyn older man, who in a calm and very matter-of-fact way told me to call 911, because there was a baby on a fire escape.

  1. because –> as / since
  2. because (informal / neutral), as (neutral), since (formal)

(If you wanted here you could extend this by asking them to rewrite using ‘despite’ or in the second sentence maybe think about restructing using ‘so’

Exercise 5

“what would have happened if I hadn’t caught him.”

“if we let intuition lead us, we can deal with anything.”

  1. A – elicit the form from students
  2. Imaginary / hypothetical past – to talk about regrets or how situations could have turned out differently. “If I hadn’t been late, she wouldn’t have dumped me”
  3. It talks about every time / general time. It is general advice for the future.
  4. It is used at the end, to provide a motivating ending / student’s own answers may be more interesting than that.

Exercise 6

Vocabulary

This is focused on developing learner autonomy, so do not let them use dictionaries until they have tried to work out the meaning themselves. Explain why, get them to think of substituting other words etc.

  • looking around nonchalantly – without a care
  • baby boy became my only priority. – my main focus
  • Apparently he had slipped through pieces of cardboard – people told me (might suggest surprise)
  • Instinctively, he grabbed on as he fell, – without thought
  • my attention was purely focused on my intention to catch the baby – purely means solely or only here
  • As he tumbled, he hit a protruding plastic sign – tumbled – fell / protruding – it was sticking out
  • it turned out it was only his lip that had been cut – we later found out
  • Dillon’s parents had been woken by the commotion – the noise and fuss

Exercise 6

The reality of saving someone’s life is intense. I play it over in my head so many times, I think it has changed me. I am calm and more at ease with things. I study mindfulness, and I see now that if we let intuition lead us, we can deal with anything. I think I was meant to be there.

This paragraph has present simple / present perfect / past simple and a 0 conditional. Again get them to think about why each tense is used – sometimes the reasons are not the same as earlier.

Pronunciation

The idea is to look at the schwa and the effect that it has on rhythm when we are speaking.

Schwas are in bold (different native speakers may decide differently. To me, this is the most likely.) Connected words underlined

  1. ‘The reality of saving someone’s life is intense. I play it over in my head so many times’

Ask the students to practice saying the words, model and drill, but really focus on the schwa and the connected words.

If you wanted to do further work, you could ask them to work in pairs and select another piece of direct speech and examine it, looking for the same features.

Further practice:

You could ask students to find a news story that they found interesting and examine the grammar in it. Bringing it to a future class and asking them to explain it to others in a group and discussing it.

Materials:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/18/experience-i-caught-falling-baby

Academic register and style

This is a little lesson that could be tagged onto an IELTS lesson or used in the EAP classroom.

Its aim is just to raise awareness of writing style while also giving a some opportunity for some writing practice.

The lesson is on powerpoint, as well as having a worksheet. However, in the spirit of materials light teaching, if you have the ability to use the powerpoint, you probably won’t need the worksheet, unless you want them to have it as a record.

Level: IELTS / EAP / Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Aim: To raise awareness of academic style

Time: 45mins – 1hr

All of the answers for this, apart from the students rewriting answers are on the powerpoint. So it is handy if you can show it.

Procedure:

Ask the students to look at the cloud and decide what is normally a feature of academic writing.

  1. Ask the students to examine the sentence, highlighting where the sentence is not academic. Ask them to focus on:

vague language                      subjective language                informal vocabulary

2. Ask the students to rewrite it and improve it. Board examples and briefly highlight the improved features.

3. Ask them to look at the longer example and highlight what is wrong. Then focus them on the questions. (In the powerpoint this is done step by step with highlighted examples)

The seal is there as that is Paro – the robot discussed in the paragraph, you could do prediction work based on the picture, or leave it there for decoration. Here is a video showing it. If you wanted to go further.

4. Board good examples or get them to peer correct for some variety.

Follow up / Reflection: 

Ask students to look at some of their recent writing and ask them to critique it, bringing in an example paragraph with corrections for the next class.

Materials: 

 

The Cure (Pictures of You) – Present Perfect Continuous

This is quite a short one. I am a big believer in using music in the classroom but I like to use snippets of songs. I’ve always felt that if you use the whole song, you very often end up with students who hate the song. But, if you listen to one or two verses, they might go off and listen to it themselves.

If you would like to try other lessons using songs or snippets of songs, you could try:

  1. here
  2. or here
  3. or even here
  4. or maybe here
  5. Orrrrrrr…here
  6. Or finally, here
  7. …or here

I really like this song as they used present perfect continuous when I feel present perfect would have worked just as well. It’s the perfect opportunity for students to consider why someone might choose one over the other. The continuous aspect really conveys the singers emotion and emphasises how long they feel these actions have been going on for.

Having recently seen the wonderful Danny Norrington-Davies at the ELT Ireland conference, I have decided to take his approach to the grammar for this lesson. I have asked the students why the writer has used the Present Perfect Continuous and I want them to go beyond “It’s an action that started in the past and continued to the present and is still continuing”. I want to hear about the emotion that is being conveyed.

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you.

That I almost believe that they’re real.

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you

That I almost believe that the pictures are, all I can feel.

Objective:

By the end of the lesson, the students will be more aware of the emotion that can be conveyed through the present perfect continuous.

Time: 1 hour (max)

Level: Intermediate and above

Material:

 

Procedure:

Intro:

  • T should fold the handout in half so that sts cannot see the lyrics.
  • T instructs sts to discuss the opening questions in small groups and then feeds back as a class.
  • This is a nice opportunity to look at language to discuss music. I’ve included “Taste in music” but I think others will emerge naturally e.g. “I’m not a fan of” “It’s not for me” “I’m not really into X music” “I’m more of a X person”.

Listening

  • T plays the opening 2mins of the song (or as much as they feel is necessary) and instructs sts to listen and consider the questions at the beginning of the listening section.
  • Sts discuss in pairs.
  • This is a nice opportunity to introduce the chunk “It makes me feel X” or “It sounds (like)”
  • T tells the students that this is a song by The Cure and it is on Youtube if they would like to listen to the whole song. Today, they are just going to listen to about 10 seconds of it and they will be using it for both grammar and pronunciation.
  • T plays the first verse (starting at about 2mins 35) and instructs sts to write everything they hear in the empty box. T replays the first verse 2-3 times and sts write down whatever they hear. After each play, give sts time to check with partners.
  • T instructs sts to unfold their handout and check their answers. Sts should circle any words they didn’t hear / heard incorrectly.
  • This is a wonderful chance for some listening skills reflection. Encourage sts to reflect on what / why they didn’t hear it. Was it:
    • because of the music? They will often have music in the background when listening. Is there anything they can do to help them in this situation?
    • because of the accent? What in particular surprised them? Focus on these words/phrases and drill them.
    • because of the vocabulary? Which words were new?
    • because of weak forms and connected speech? See Pron focus section

Language Focus

  • T directs sts to the language focus section (putting extra importance on the third question). Sts discuss the questions in pairs. T moves around and helps where necessary.
  • At this point you will find sts regurgitating a Raymond Murphy style explanation of the present perfect continuous. Try to discourage this and encourage sts to think why the writer chose to use this tense. 
  • T gives the sts a post-it note and asks them to write down their answer to the third question. T collects, places them on the board and gets sts to crowd around the board in their pairs and discuss the suggestions. They should choose their favourite answer.
  • While they are still standing, discuss their ideas as a class.
  • You are looking for something like: The writer wants to convey that they feel these actions have been ongoing for a long time. They want to emphasise the time over the action. Their emotions are being conveyed through this tense. The writer could have used present perfect as well but it would not have conveyed the same emotion and would have highlighted the action instead.

Pronunciation Focus

  • T moves to the pronunciation section and replays the song to allow sts to decide how “been” and “can” are pronounced.
  • Sts have often been encouraged to pronounce “been” with /i:/ but in natural speech it is closer to /bIn/. “Can” becomes /kən/. Drill the chunks as a class, correcting where necessary. 

Practice

  • Sts write their own version of the lyrics below, either keeping the song as a sad one or perhaps changing it to a happier one. Sts make a choice on which tense to use.
    • you can either play the song and they all sing their versions together for fun.
    • or you can get sts to read them out and practise the pronunciation.

 

Back to Work: Writing Skills

I’ve been looking for an excuse to turn this text into a lesson for ages now and with International Women’s Day coming up in on the 8th March, it seemed perfect.

If you’re interested in the lessons we did for last year’s Women’s Day, they can be found here and here, looking at the passive voice and debating respectively.

This lesson actually uses two texts and is absolutely fantastic. Basically some genius of a mother rewrote her daughter’s homework because it was massively sexist. And any time I see 2 versions of the same text, I see a lesson.

Objective: by the end of the lesson, your students will be better able to write complex sentences

Level: Int and above

Time: 2-3 hours

Material:

Connotations

This is going to be the first in a mini series of lessons on connotations. Why bother looking at connotations? Well, there are a few reasons, firstly, for students being able to say precisely what they mean without misunderstanding is key. Secondly, can you really know a word without understanding the implications its use has to those who read it and hear it. Finally, for some students, especially those in CAE or CPE classes a lack of knowledge of connotation can prevent high scores in the Use of English paper.

This whole idea was triggered by my colleague William Tweddle, talking about teaching vocabulary and highlighting the difference in connotation between Opium and Heroin. They are both effectively the same thing and yet with one we conjure images of poets languidly lying in beautiful rooms on divans, music wafting in with the opium haze. The other conjures images of junkies, needles, misery and grime. No surprise which has a perfume named after it.

 

Aims: To raise awareness of how important connotation is when learning vocabulary

Level: Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Procedure:

Discussion

The aim here is to raise awareness of how heroin / opium are perceived

Dictionary example from OUP: “A reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, used illicitly as a narcotic and occasionally in medicine as an analgesic.”

They will probably find the word ‘drug’ / heroin and the fact it is addictive.

The aim is to have a discussion on the name but leading to the point that Heroin and Opium have very different connotations.

Activity 1

Remind students here that we are really looking for the best answer. All of them could be used.

answers:

  1. affordable – now possible to buy
  2. good value – the price is fair
  3. cheap  – perhaps low quality

Emphasis that cheap can have a neutral use too.

As an extension, you could ask the students to write a sentence for inexpensive and put the best on the board.

Activity 2

Obviously there is no correct answer here, but it is worth checking with students the meanings

  • thin – neutral though sometimes used in a negative sense
  • skinny – negative – too thin
  • slender – positive – also contains an idea of elegance
  • slim – positive – in good shape

Activity 3

  1. a gossip
  2. a chatty person
  3. a chatterbox

The best synonym for talkative is chatty, but perhaps chatty focuses more on informal chats.

Activity 4

A chance to use those words in a longer text.

1.

“So, last week I went to a party with a friend, she’s lovely but she is a bit of a chatterbox, so I know I can never tell her too much. Anyway, when we got to the party we went to the kitchen to find some food. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I really did hope that there would be something other than affordable crisps. If I had known, I would have brought some nibbles myself. There again, I am supposed to be on a bit of a diet. I don’t want to get too slender, but I would like to be a bit slimmer. The party was ok I suppose, I didn’t stay long, especially after I got stuck talking to this one guy. He was a chatterbox and friendly, but so boring. I didn’t spend any money though, so it was a good value evening I suppose. That’s something!”

2.

  • a chatterbox – a gossip
  • affordable – cheap
  • slender – thin / skinny
  • slimmer – fine
  • a chatterbox – chatty / talkative
  • good value – cheap / inexpensive (if the article is changed)

 

Reflection activity – get students to think about how they could record connotations and their differences in their note books.

Extra activity pronunciation

Eradicating the robots.

Ask students to record themselves saying the improved dialogue and save it.

Drill any words you hear being mispronounced.

You can then look at where they should be pausing. Highlight the punctuation and also get them to think about where the stress should be in each clause – what is the important information?

After they have practised a few times get them to think about tone – how does the speaker feel – ask them to practice this again taking this into account.

Ask the students to rerecord and listen back to both versions and reflect on how the second is an improvement.

Materials:

 

Coming soon, another connotations lesson featuring the following words:

Relaxed / laid back / calm / easy going

Juvenile / youthful / childish / childlike

Famous / notorious / renowned / well-known

 

 

 

 

 

An IELTS essay compared to an EAP essay

Hi all, apologies for the recent radio silence, but we have been super busy.

Anyway, here is a lesson using a model answer to an IELTS part two writing task. It is pitched at between a 7 and an 8 in case students are interested. It contains a section on brainstorming and planning, before a little on vocabulary and grammar. Where this is perhaps different is that it then examines how this would be different if it were written for university. This is not an EAP lesson, what it seeks to do is to raise the awareness of the students for what may be needed.

Level: IELTS

Aim: Provide a good model answer for IELTS and to raise awareness of what will be needed at University

Procedure:

Speaking: This is just to get them thinking about the topic. Put the students in pairs or small groups.

Writing:

1 The aim here is to help with brainstorming ideas and also moving them onto thinking about whether these are good or bad changes. This is helpful in a ‘to what extent’ essay, but will also be very important at university where they will need a position.

2 Here you are just asking them to further extend what they saw in 1a.

3 Skimming practice – a) Give students the model answer and ask them to read and check whether the writer used the same ideas that they came up with. b) ask them to try to evaluate the essay, is it good / bad  and ask them to justify. Give them 4 minutes to read it in detail and then put them into pairs or groups to discuss it. They should decide it is a pretty good essay – good vocab / well linked and so flows / some higher level grammar.

Vocabulary focus:

1. a) The aim here is to build synonyms – make sure students focus on and record the prepositions here. If they don’t, they will be unable to use the vocabulary in their own writing.

Answers:

  1. changing quickly –> progressing rapidly
  2. will have a negative effect on –> will be detrimental to
  3. do not talk to –> lack interaction with
  4. ignores –> overlooks
  5. decrease in the number of people who work –> shrinking of the workforce
  6. is dangerous to –> could pose a threat
  7. gives us a chance to –> presents an opportunity to

b) This focuses students on the difference in register. These words are more formal, less general and therefore will result in better scores.

2. This is all about reinforcing the chunks of language and checking that they are using them correctly as well as giving a chance for students to personalise. While the students write their sentences, monitor and offer help and encouragement. When they have finished do all class feedback and board some of the examples.

N.B. It is worth focusing a little on the pronunciation of these words too as they would be suitable for part 3 speaking.

Grammar focus:

This essay talks about changes in the past twenty years so the writer has used present perfect to talk about the changes. This section aims to focus on specific grammar usage and ask students to analyse it.

1 Ask students to look at the example sentence and work alone to answer the questions. Then put them into pairs to check before all class feedback.

Answers

  1. present perfect
  2. The question talks about the last 20 yrs, this allows us to talk about a change that happened in that time and which may not have stopped or which still has impact.
  3. paragraph 2this overlooks the huge change that these screens have made to the lives of millions. paragraph 3 – As well as the communication change, people often complain of the increase in automation that machines have brought. 
  4. present simple – this is standard in essays.

2 This looks at hedging* and the use of could.

  1. b is softer and a more defensible position academically so better in an essay. Could is used to hedge the sentence or position.
  2. possible answers – may / might / can (depending one tense) / it is possible that etc
  3. They make your writing more academic – soften the position and demonstrate a considered argument.
  4. possible answer – technology may make life easier

*Hedging is the use of modals or phrases to lessen the impact of a sentence, or to soften. It is common in academic writing.

An essay at University

This section is focused on raising students awareness of how the IELTS exam does and doesn’t prepare them for university.

It starts by asking them what they think is required. This is interesting as some have an idea, some clearly have very little idea. Both are fine, it is good to know where they are.

As an answer, the essay is not suitable – too short – most university essays will be in the 1000s not 100s, not cited, no real thesis position. Areas where it is suitable would be the academic style, cohesion.

1 They are different as the new example takes a position. It tells the reader what the essay is going to argue – This is the thesis statement and students need to be aware that for most essays, this will be a key part. IELTS essays can contain them and it is a good habit to encourage.

2 Ask them to read and then work in pairs. Then do class feedback. They will notice the citations, these are in the Harvard style. They will also hopefully notice the concluding sentence which provides a link to the thesis position. try to elicit this from them.

3 This exercise examines what they do and don’t know about citations

  1. True – they can do, but this is not the prime reason for using them
  2. True – you need to base your argument on the research and arguments of others, but blend it together to create something new.
  3. False – if you do this, your essay will contain no synthesis (blending of sources)
  4. False – paraphrasing is very important
  5. False – most have never had to use them before, or if they have they may not have used the same system.

The big thing here is highlighting that they exist. The students do not need them for IELTS but they will need them after.

Ask the students to turn their ideas into full sentences.

The positions are limitless in a sense but could include:

  • This essay will argue that technology is having an adverse effect on society.
  • This essay will argue that the impact of technology is mixed and that though some areas are negatively effected others benefit
  • This essay will argue that it depends on which technology

 

Reflection

Ask the students what they feel the differences are between university in their country and the UK, and also how IELTS fits into this. encourage them to reflect on how to use what they learn in IELTS classes at uni, but not to think this is the end of the journey.

Follow up.

Ask the students to write the essay using one of the thesis positions that they wrote in exercise 4. Remind them that it is a good idea to get used to taking a position. Also remind them that each paragraph should have a conclusion that links to the overall position. It is not ok just to get to the conclusion and present your ideas like a magician revealing the answer.

Materials:

Learning from ads: Conditionals

If you are a regular to our blog, you may have noticed that I use ads quite a lot. I suppose the idea here stems from my time in Korea and Spain where a lot of the language I taught myself came from signs, billboards, ads and basically anything I saw as I walked around the city. I learnt so many chunks and phrases and was then able to manipulate them slightly to express myself. I also saw words and phrases that I’d learnt elsewhere being used in different ways. I really think it is important that students are taught to use this skill of analysing everything that they see around them and so here is yet another in the English is all around you series.

If you’d like to see some of the others, you can find them here:

  1. reported speech
  2. might
  3. text messages
  4. it’s even in the toilet

 

This is a very quick lesson and could probably slip into any larger lesson on conditionals or could be used as a revision.

Level: Pre-intermediate / Intermediate

Objective: By the end of the lesson students will be better able to analyse and manipulate the language around them.

Aims:

  • to examine hypothetical conditionals for the present
  • to encourage language analysis

Material:

Procedure:

As far as procedures go, this one is short and sweet like the lesson. Basically follow the instructions on the worksheet and you’ll be fine.

What I will say is that at the end, I would include a reflection stage where students think about the benefits of analysing the language all around them. Also, I’d encourage them to think about when / where they would use this language.

Follow-ups:

  1. Take the sentences that the students produced in the final activity and examine the pronunciation. (I’d is one of the hardest features of fast speech to hear for learners of English as it is reduced to practically nothing, something being little more than just a schwa).
  2. Students bring in ads from online, papers or around the city and analyse them in class.