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.
One of the activities I have ignored most over my teaching career has been student presentations, recently however, I have been working in EAP and the need for presentations has become far more pressing and apparent. Therefore I have resolved to make a lesson focusing on this. The fact I don’t teach it is itself odd as I do them in quite a few different forms all the time, but, I digress.
The lesson starts with a listening task, then moves to noticing skills on a good presentation, focusing on the language used and structures, before some reflection and hands over the possibility of your students making their own.
to focus students on the shape of a good presentation by identifying the different parts of one
To better prepare students to give a short presentation in class.
Intro – ask students to write the first ideas that they have when they think of the word ‘globalisation’ or ask them to find a picture that represents this.
If you are unsure what to expect from this, you could always provide pictures
Listenening 1: 0-2.03mins
This is just a short listening task, encouraging students to take notes. An important skill, the questions that follow the notes are useful to assess whether the notes they took were useful.
How globalised we are, how globalised we aren’t?
National borders don’t matter, we live in one world
It is shared by pro-globalisers and anti-globalisers
First mention, David Livingston, 1850s
Railroad, steamship, telegraph
You can of course play again should you need to.
Speaking and brainstorming:
Put students into pairs or small groups and ask them to think of what makes a good/bad presentation.
Whole class feedback.
2% – 6/7% including internet calls
3% – 1st Gen immigrants
Just under 10% – FDI
The Shape of the talk:
He states that he is going to look at
How globalised we are
How globalised we aren’t
Why it is important to be accurate
Now students watch the rest of the talk, take notes and match the talk to the two shapes (this could be set as homework, but is needed for the next part of the class).
Encourage students to take good notes, getting them into the habit will be useful and will enable the discussion at the end to be more fruitful.
The talk fits the SPSE ( Situation / Problem / Solution / Evaluation) model.
This is pretty typical for an academic talk, the second model is more suited to an essay, although it is important that students really see what easy of these parts relate to.
It is important for students to try to think about how presentations are structured, it relates to all stages of making a text, written or spoken, seeing what others do and learning from it is a vital stage in them becoming more autonomous. Encourage them to look at other presentations and assess what structure they think has been used.
If we don’t see the world accurately as being only 20 -25% globalized, we won’t be aware of the benefits of further integration.
People become needlessly alarmed when by their belief that the world is already completely globalized.
If, particularly in terms of aid, developed nations were even slightly more globalized, many people in developing countries would benefit.
Even a small change in how aid is allocated would help.
Ask them whether they thought the talk was interesting, whether it told them things they were unaware of. Elicit things they were surprised by etc. What things from their original good / bad discussion did they see/hear?
Obviously, this leads nicely to the students themselves doing a presentation, which is how I would follow it. I think start with a shorter one 3-5 mins, but make sure that they are doing it from research and structuring it well so that they maximise their time.
I would recommend letting them choose a topic, but maybe check that it is going to be suitable for the audience and what the aims are.
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.
Look, the fact is we just can’t resist a Bowie lesson. There it is, plain and simple (If you missed our previous one, you can check it out here) and I can’t promise that this one will be the last Bowie lesson we ever do. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that there will be more. This one came about because I was listening to Hunky Dory and got a wee bit obsessed with the song, Kooks. I thought I’d share it with you.
It’s a simple enough lesson using a song to look at vocab, “will” and connected speech. I’ve always felt that songs are a great way for students to practise their listening as they’re usually in quite natural speech (not always) and in real life there is very often background noise that you need to filter out when you’re trying to listen. Songs replicate that quite well. This is something I always point out to my students when I do a song. I think it’s important they see the benefit and don’t just think that songs are something we do on Fridays for fun.
Objective: to raise awareness of connected speech in songs / to examine different uses of “will”
It is intended as a short follow up, so shouldn’t take too long, but focuses on listening and picking things out from the song.
Rather than picking this song for its specific merits, I picked a song I liked and then looked for what was there. Hopefully some of the ideas here can be applied to songs you or your students like too.
now where is my black paint?
Level: Int (and surrounding levels)
Procedure: A lot of this is just following the worksheet.
Discussion: – warmer – associations with the colour black, think about collocations as well, get as much as you can from the students.
Listening: Play the song twice or as many times as needed for students to complete the table.
Answer – the girls are walking by – not painted or want to paint
Grammar: Highlighting causatives
follow the exercise, you could always revise this later in the wk / class. This is more a case of exposing students to it, getting them to think about it and showing them that get can also be used.
Vocab: Here you can either do this as a reading or a listening, but I would go for a listening and then read to check.
Once they have completed the phrases put them in groups and ask them to work together to think about the meaning.
Check it as a class.
Pronunciation: This section is just to draw attention to natural features, something that we think is important for students to enable them to listen well outside the classroom.
You could drill them and ask them to think of other words that like ‘happening’ are written with what seems like 3 syllables but often pronounced with 2.
For the linking /j/ you could follow this up with the maze activity from pronunciation games by Mark Hancock.
I’ve been working out of New English File Elementary recently and it’s a great book but as often is the case with a book, it never really 100% gets the challenge right for your particular group. Sometimes it’s too easy, sometimes it’s too hard. At the moment it’s a smidgen too easy for my group and we are absolutely motoring through it.
This lesson was basically a bit of an extension after we’d studied the Past Simple in the coursebook. It’s got some revision and it pushes a bit extra as well. We’ve also been talking a lot about language chunks / collocations / pieces of language / items of lexis (whatever you want to call them) so it looks at that a bit too.
Plus, it gets them using their imagination a little bit too, which never hurts…unless they say, “teacher I don’t have an imagination” and then we despair, oh yes we do.
TIP: So, I’ve been teaching a lot of low level classes at the moment and they’ve been mostly smaller groups (2 – 4 students). One thing I’ve found is that when the group is this small, any worksheet or coursebook you break out means utter silence as they disappear into its depths. Or, it’s awkward because they’re too aware of you.
One way I’ve found of avoiding this is writing my worksheets up on the board, more or less how I’d have them on the sheet.
the students go up and work on the board as a whole or in pairs on different sections and you monitor from behind them. It really makes a difference.
you can always give them the worksheet afterwards. Here’s a pic of my board for this lesson. You might notice there are some mistakes on the board. Their first task was to correct the errors and then later I gave them the worksheet with the corrected version to check it, which is a slight variation on the procedure above.
Here’s a shot of my board. I like to think that my distinctive cursive script adds an extra layer of challenge to the lesson and is, of course, completely intentionally awful
In an attempt to claw back some credibility after ‘the script’ lesson, I bring you a tense review based on an article on the Rolling Stones. It is a good one to use either as a diagnostic or as a review. There are also a couple of interesting bits of lexis, should be fairly easy to do from the worksheet and as a warmer there is a listening element made from the direct speech from the text, which you can return to later if you fancy.
And as if that were not enough, there is also going to be a follow up listening lesson with Paint it Black!
This as is often the case with our lessons asks you to train students to notice the grammar and there is some vocab to work out from context. The worksheet should be pretty easy to follow I hope.
Apologies for the listening, couldn’t find it online so had to do it myself!
Level: Int +
Aim: to review / test tense awareness
Picture: just follow worksheet
Listening: The idea here is to get the students thinking about what is actually being said, and so rather than standard gist questions I have made a task where they have to paraphrase what the person is saying, this will be hard as there will be some vocab that may be unknown in this context ‘cut’ for example. However, the idea is to start to give them the tools to deal better out of class. Don’t worry about playing the recording a few times or even, give them a time limit, send it to them via ‘What’s app’ and they can listen as many times as they need in that time. They can then read to check if they were right.
first read to check listening
Read to answer gist questions – answer together
Just as it says really, give students a time limit, you know your class! As i said above, this is either a diagnostic or revision, works for either. I would go a bit demand high on this though during the feedback, so on the past simple, “why is it past simple? which time phrase is used?” How else could the present continuous be expressed grammatically? that sort of thing.
Follow the worksheet, as a follow on, i often ask the students to find examples of direct speech by musicians they like and turn them into direct speech and bring it to class next time or email them to me to check.
Vocab from context:
More of our training, I know we put this into almost every lesson, but getting your students comfortable in working out meanings for themselves is important and the more practice they are given, the better they will get.
Listening (the return):
Now get students to listen again to the first recording, they should find it much easier. Here is where you could highlight some of the following:
OK Once is not actually my favourite film but it’s not bad at all. I was in the middle of a lesson the other day and this was the only film I could think of. I did this lesson (or a version of it) and it went really well.
It’s a simple low-level lesson and if you do similar lessons or activities little and often, you really will begin to get slightly more autonomous students. The whole idea is to encourage them to notice the language that’s all around them just a little bit more.
In this case, they have a tiny text but they’re going to use it to notice 3 language points as well as working on noticing errors and getting the meaning of vocab from context.
Level: elementary / pre-intermediate
Time: 1 – 3 hours
Objective: to encourage sts to notice language in context
If you’re looking for some more film related lessons try this one or this one.
Tip: If a film comes up in class that your students don’t know, do a research hunt. Give them 3 minutes and send half the class to IMDB and half to Wikipedia and then see what they come up with. It’s great for practising independent research skills.