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:
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.
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).
Students bring in ads from online, papers or around the city and analyse them in class.
It has quite a bit of listening, they are included here, but feel free to rerecord them using colleagues. They are not my finest.
Aim: to practice modals of deduction / create opportunities for using them in speaking. Reading and listening practice and vocab building.
Level: Pre-Int / Int / High Int / Upper Intermediate (The lower levels will find it challenging, but that is fine, as long as you tell them it will be, and provide lots of scaffolding and support)
You could do this as a jigsaw reading, where the students have different information they have to share with each other, if you have the right number of students, or you could dictate one and get students to do the remaining two as a jigsaw. Alternatively, you could pass them all to the students.
For further reading on Jigsaw readings see: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/jigsaw-reading
Answers: A – 4, B – 6, C – 1, D – 5, E – 3, F – 2
Just an opportunity for the students to practice the target language. Encourage them to share ideas and support them with linking words. As groups ask them to present the questions or pieces of information they would like to be able to say who committed the crime.
This is challenging, you might need to play it more than once. For the answers try to encourage the students to give fuller answers.
If they are really struggling you could ask them to read it and listen at the same time.
No they have different interests.
He says they get on fine as they avoid each other.
He wanted Adam to take over the family business.
He uses it for his photographs.
Obviously this is subjective, but no, he is rude, arrogant – try to get the students to explain this.
Not happy at all.
Working with stones from the fruit trees – encourage students to think why this may be significant.
He didn’t say what really, he just said some tools.
It’s normal / he is surprised it is illegal.
Encourage them to think further about the new evidence and to make suggestions. If you have time get them to build up a picture of what they think happened and explain it to the class.
at (but in also works)
This is something I like to do, but can easily be left out, ask the students to find a picture online using their phones which represents what they think the three characters look like and ask them to justify their choices.
Encourage the students to make statements using must have and can’t have related to the story.
I did this as a cut up and asked them to match the sections to the different times shown below.
The end is in order, but the times are attached in the tapescript page.
After, ask the students to explain in pairs or groups what has happened in the story to check understanding. Monitor and do all class feedback.
Ask them what surprised them / annoyed them about the story.
I asked them to write a short newspaper article which enabled us to practice passives and recycle some of the vocabulary seen. I did it as pair work, but of course it could be done as homework.
So, I have been teaching modals recently and I wanted to make modals of deduction a little more interesting. Voila: here we go.
This lesson has a lot of reading, which should give the opportunity for some past tense work as well as lexis.
It’s a murder mystery and the students work out who did it from clues, gives them the chance to work as pairs.
It is a challenge; I haven’t really altered vocabulary too much. I hope though that it gives them some good reading, grammar and speaking work.
It is also a long one, so I am serialising it. The next sections will follow shortly.
Aim: to practice modals of deduction / create opportunities for using them in speaking. Reading practice and vocab building.
Level: Pre-Int / Int / High Int / Upper Intermediate (The lower levels will find it challenging, but that is fine, as long as you tell them it will be, and provide lots of scaffolding and support)
Start with the reading – Part 1.
The aim of the gist is just to get the students thinking about the set up of the story. For me the answers are all in the text except for the 4th question, which is all about opinion. Some students said they were rich, others poor. At this stage that doesn’t matter, but encourage them to justify why they think that. Here is also a place for them to use modals so you could board some examples.
E.g. He’s sat at a desk so they might have a study so they could be rich. / They have two floors so the can’t live in a flat.
She is the dead man’s wife. / widow
They are married
He has died
We don’t know, but see above
Not in London – “she was away in London”
Ask the students to write 3 sentences describing the situation using could / might / must in the present.
The vocab section encourages learner autonomy, try to discourage them from using dictionaries.
b) icily cold
First use of modals: monitor and board examples, correcting errors and encourage them to think about the pronunciation of have – /əv/
Group feedback – see what the students think – get them to talk to each other in groups.
board examples and correct errors
(Feel free to do other normal textploitation things, such as focusing on the tenses used. I use it to ask the students what the pronouns refer to as I often find these are overlooked.)
Ask the students to underline the uses of ‘it’ in the text.
The room felt icily cold as she walked into it. Her fingers felt for the light-switch on the wall. It was never where she thought it was. She found it and suddenly the room was bathed in light. Her husband was where he normally was, at his desk. He was slumped over and was sleeping. She walked over to the desk, put the lid onto the open bottle of whisky, and tutted. She didn’t like him drinking so much, but he always did when she was away in London. She ran a hand through his hair. He felt cold. She pushed him back so that she could look at him. It was then that she realised something was wrong. She stared at him, he wasn’t breathing. She grabbed his wrist, no pulse, nothing. Upstairs her son was woken by the sound of uncontrolled screams.
what does each one refer to?
the moment she pushed him back
Reflection: Ask students how the text would be different if ‘it’ hadn’t been used.
N.B. I was unsure that my students had fully followed all the details of part 1 so I asked them to act it out in small groups, I had 12 so I put them into groups of three, one of them being a director and telling the others what to do. I was surprised how willing they were and it ended up being really good as a way of checking understanding in a different way and gave the class a different feel.
Prediction: Encourage your students to take guesses about the victim from the photo and only then let them read the report to check their assumptions.
Students read the police report, take notes and discuss ideas as to what has happened, have their ideas changed?
Ask students to decide if the following questions are true or false – ask them to try to answer from memory – they can check after.
He has been married once.
He sometimes plays golf.
He owns a company making computers.
He is well off.
false – he is a keen golfer and member of the club, probably plays more
false – distributes components / parts
true – owns two houses
Read the forensic report and ask them to match the definitions to the words in the text.
a) the deceased
e) other substances
Ask the students to take notes and then compare them in groups. I played the recording 3 times.
Then ask them to decide which pieces of information was the most important for the case.
Below is the tapescript with the sections I think most important underlined
Hi is that the chief inspector? Good, good. This is Laura Donavon from the lab. Right, I have some information for you. Mr Brown did not die of natural causes. In fact, from the tests we’ve carried out on his body we are 75% sure he died of poisoning. Yes, I know. We examined the crystals in the glass and it was definitely poison. Now, this is the really interesting bit. We think it was cyanide, and I know what you are thinking, but let me tell you a bit about cyanide. It can be swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin and it stops people being able to take in oxygen, causing an ‘internal asphyxia’. The victim suffocates to death as he breathes in oxygen he cannot use. Yeah, not very nice is it. Yeah, yeah, effects are almost immediate. Oh, and you might want to know something about this, it can be made from the stones of fruits as well as from chemicals, so something for you to think about there. Yeah, good luck with the enquiry.
Once the students have understood this, ask them to reflect on what they know so far and what they think may have happened now.
More to come soon and let us know what you think.
P.S. thanks to Jess for recording the text for me. x
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.