Paint it Black – Listening lesson

I wrote the ‘tense review with the stones’ lesson a couple of weeks ago:

https://textploitationtefl.com/2016/05/09/tense-review-with-the-rolling-stones/

and here, as promised, is the follow up!

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.

enjoy,

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.

https://unihub.mdx.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/187618/5-Link-Maze.pdf

Materials: 

Word: Paint it Black worksheet

PDF:   Paint it Black worksheet

Song without lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPVUa29kHu8

Song with lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4irXQhgMqg

 

 

Low-level Past Simple Story Lesson

THE WAKE-UP CALL

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.

  • Level: Elem / Pre-int
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Procedure: see below

Materials:

  1. Wake-up call (word worksheet)
  2. Wake-up call pdf (PDF worksheet)
  3. Wake-up call procedure
  4. Wake-up call – teacher’s copy

 

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

wake up call boardwork

Tense review with the Rolling Stones

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

Procedure:

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.

Reading gist: 

  1. first read to check listening
  2. Read to answer gist questions – answer together

Grammar hunt:

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.

Reported speech:

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:

  • elision: things like “we wen in”
  • language often used in anecdotes: “we were like”
  • stressed and weak forms
  • sentence stress and where the pauses happen

 

Materials:

AUDIO FILE

 

My “Favourite Film” Lesson

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

Materials:

  1. favourite film worksheet
  2. Procedure

 

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.

Grammary Songs! The Script

I’m sorry…I may have gone too far this time and I completely understand if you want to turn your back on me and leave me to wither away into nothingness. I’ve made a lesson out of a Script song. In my defense, it’s not my fault. A student made me do it. This is what happens when you have Spanish teenage girls, who’ve spent a summer in Ireland as students. Honestly not my fault.scripts 1

Anyway, you may remember that I once wrote abouthaving a short extract from a song for every language point. The idea was that it was engaging for students, it gave them a bit of access to the culture and it (hopefully) made the language point a little more memorable.

My first lesson was on “used to” and “would” using a Coldplay song…again, sorry. Check it out if you want to see what I was on about.

This one shouldn’t be a long lesson but it’s a nice communicative one with some guided discovery in there.

Level: Int and above

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on how chatty your students are)

Aim: see above

Objective: see above

Materials:

  1. if you ever come back – worksheet
  2. if you ever come back – teacher’s answers

 

Procedure:

  1. Listening for gist / engagement: Play the full song and have students discuss the questions at the top of the worksheet. The idea here is that they engage with the song and love it, hate it or loathe it but at least they engage.
  2. Language focus (vocab): these are quite nice phrases and this activity will really encourage them to think about language in context instead of jumping to dictionaries. You can help them out with the individual parts of the expression (e.g. shoulder) if you think they need guidance.
  3. Language focus (wish): this is all quite self-explanatory guided discovery. The hope is that students can analyse the language in context and decide how it would be used. You might need to walk them through the first one if they struggle with this kind of thing.
  4. Practice: always good to practice.
  5. discussion: This will bring the whole thing together and give them a chance to discuss the topic and use the target language.

Giving advice with Connected Speech!

At our school we offer weekly free pronunciation lessons to all of our students. We get quite a lot of students attending each week and some of them come week on week but for others it’s their first week. This means we need to come up with new ideas all the time, building on the previous week but ensuring that new students can join at any time and not be lost. We also need to design lessons that span all levels from Elementary to Advanced (sometimes Beginners attend but not so often).

My favourite thing to look at in these classes is connected speech for the following reasons:

  1. All students from Elem to Adv need it.
  2. Most of them haven’t come across it in their countries so it is usually new, even for Adv.
  3. We need to raise awareness of features of connected speech over and over if sts are to be able to understand native English speakers.
  4. They love it!
  5. The easiest way for you to get to grips with it is to teach it. 

In the teacher’s worksheet below, I have included my own boardwork so that you can visualise what I’m talking about.

NB: don’t panic if you don’t know the phonemic chart off by heart. Highlight where linking occurs and model any other connected speech that comes up. You don’t need the phonemic symbols (but they do help).

boardwork

Level: All levels

Time: 60 – 90 minutes

Topic: advice (almost every level has come across 1 or 2 ways of giving advice).

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Display the discussion questions from the worksheet and allow sts to discuss them in small groups. Discuss as a whole class (see possible answers on the teacher’s sheet).
  2. Tell the students that you will be talking about giving advice today. In groups ask them to brainstorm different forms for giving advice.
  3. Tell them your problem. I usually use the one below but feel free to improvise.
  4. Ask the students to write one or two pieces of advice per group using the different forms from part 2.
  5. Write them up on your board, 1 from each group. Ensure that they have used the advice forms from above. If they have all used “should”, reformulate their ideas as a class so that you have some variety on the board.
  6. These pieces of advice are what you’re going to analyse for features of connected speech.
  7. NB – don’t panic! you don’t need to be a pro at connected speech, just follow the steps below.
  • Ask students to underline which words they think will be stressed in each sentence. Check as a class.
  • Say each sentence out loud as you would normally and ask students what happens to the other (unstressed) words in the sentence. e.g. are they weaker? are some words connected? do some sounds disappear?
  • As the same things happen in each sentence, draw your sts attention to the patterns. E.g. “to” is usually pronounced = /tə/ & “and” is usually pronounced /ən/.
  • Drill each sentence with the class.
  • Ask sts to examine the sentences and try to find common patterns.
  • Get sts to fill in the Sentence Pronunciation Guidelines on their worksheets.
  • Check together.

Help me, I need some advice!

My girlfriend came home last night and told me she wanted to move to Brazil. She says she is sick of London and needs a change. The problem is that I have friends here, I have a job, my family live close to here.

I would love Brazil, it sounds amazing but now is not the time to move. I’m scared if I say no that it will be the end of our relationship.

 

A lesson in implication from David Bowie

So along with what feels like the rest of the world, I was heartbroken to hear of Bowie’s return to space.  In my former life as a musician he was a huge influence on me and it seems I wasn’t alone if this weeks outpouring of emotion is anything to go by.

Like the rest of the world, I found my facebook page filled with posts and clips and affectionate homages, but I also saw this video.  Now, this video when I first watched it made me smile, but then I watched it again and started to think about how it could be used.

In my experience some students, and this can be nationality dependent, really struggle with implied meanings.  This can affect their results in Cambridge exams as often multiple choice requires implied or inferred understandings.  This aims to highlight what to look for and to try to help them ‘read between the lines’.  There is a little bit of ‘lexical chunking’, discussion,  and a tiny bit of pron, this is textploitation after all!

Level: Upp Int +

Time: 1hr

Procedure:

I’ve tried to make the worksheet as straightforward as possible and if you follow it you should be fine.

Discussion: I’d probably start by asking what they know about MTV and David Bowie and then hand out the sheet, but feel free to go off-piste.

Listening:

Be prepared to play it a couple of times, it is fine if they don’t get it all first time.

Vocab: 

Ask the students to predict and then listen to check

Discussion:

I know this could be seen as a controversial subject and breaks ‘tefl rules’ but if you are uncomfortable with it drop it, my students were fine and put forward some interesting points.

Pronunciation:

“I understand your point of view” – here the stress of understand implies he doesn’t agree.

Ask students to think of differences in meaning if they stress different words in the sentence.

e.g. I understand your point of view – i.e. someone else doesn’t

have fun!

Materials:

  • Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZGiVzIr8Qg&app=desktop
  • Worksheet Word: Worksheet
  • Worksheet PDF: Worksheet

 

A message to MTV – formal letter writing

So, like many of you, lessons are something which invade every facet of my day.  I can be innocently running my eyes over facebook and they hit me, like this one did.  The beauty of this for me is that there are two complete and separate sections to the lesson.

the listening and the writing

In that sense it is not that dissimilar to the Beatles’ song I did months ago, paperback writer, as shown below, but it differs in that this features a ready made model letter for students to sink their teeth into.

https://textploitationtefl.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/writing-lesson-based-on-a-song/

For the listening section there are a few options and by all means feel free to come up with something different, but I wanted  basic prediction and gist questions and vocab building from an authentic listening text.  Should you just want to focus on the writing, the listening could be dropped, and vice versa. Though, I always think more listening is a good idea.

Aim: practice listening / raise awareness of register / practice letter writing

Procedure: (and answers)

Listening:

pre listening – ask the students what they know about Kylie and Nick Cave. (see worksheet)

Then

You could ask them to quickly do some independent research on their phones asking the following questions:

  1. Why are they both famous?
  2. What do they have in common?
  3. In which year did they work together?

do pair, then class feedback.

Listening tasks – basically follow the worksheet

Now you have activated a bit of schemata you can move onto actually listening

general gist questions

  1. Who is the letter to?
  2. what is the letter about?
  3. What does the writer ask for?
  4. what does the writer say he feels unhappy with?

Vocab building – fill in from listening

Attitudinal questions – for me the answer is amused

Reflection:

ask students to discuss whether they think of the letter and the writer’s decision in small groups. Then do full class feedback.

Writing

This section is focused on recognising register and then on using it.

follow the worksheet, here are the answers

  1. it is formal
  2. words which could be picked out include, but not exclusive to:

grateful / flattered / be withdrawn / furthermore / arise / to be of the opinion that / inhabited / subjecting / appreciate

3. things that are formal:

No contractions / linkers (so / therefore etc.) / formal lexis / longer sentences / introduction / paragraphing

4. Things that are unusual:

all capitalised / the third paragraph where he goes crazy /  no ending name / use of exclamation marks

Production

Planning

In pairs ask students to plan what they would say in reply to the letter, follow instructions on worksheet

monitor during the planning and help them where needed

4. something like this

Dear Mr Cave,

Many thanks for the letter, we at MTV are saddened to hear your decision.

Follow on:

For homework, ask the students to individually finish the letter in a similar style, remind them to think about linkers that might be appropriate and the vocab and grammar that could be used.

Materials:

1 worksheet word doc

worksheet pdf

3 link:

http://pitchfork.com/news/61727-kylie-minogue-reads-nick-caves-infamous-1996-mtv-rejection-letter/

Creating your own listening texts – One sided phone conversations

We recently ran a CPD in our school, EC LONDON, on creating your own listening texts and (t)exploiting them in the classroom. In preparation for this, we created a simple listening and used it in the CPD. This is the lesson that goes with this listening.

You can use the audio below or alternatively, you could just create your own.

ONE-SIDED PHONE CONVERSATIONS

The idea is to record your side of a functional phone conversation and then use it in class to teach the language of that function. We chose 2 close friends, confirming plans for later that day as the function. A good idea is to just give yourself a function and then record yourself speaking into your phone without planning too much. This usually results in a more natural recording with:

  1. false starts
  2. natural functional language
  3. natural pronunciation (connected speech)

It’s also fun. Try it out.

Level: Pre-int and above

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Audio

ProcedureProcedure one sided convos

After we used this lesson in a workshop at IATEFL, we spoke with the wonderful Richard Cauldwell (if you haven’t come across his blog or his book, I highly suggest you take a look) and he very kindly made some suggestions on additions to this lesson. I’ve included them below along with the audio files he created for us from our original recording.

His idea is that we tend to teach connected speech “rules” or “patterns” but the reality of what we say in ordinary natural speech is far different from what we think we say and we really need to be preparing our students for what is actually being said. He proved this by taking a few snippets from our recording.

when you play this snippets you can really hear that what we think we’re saying is not always the reality. Either at the end or at the beginning of this lesson play these recordings for your students in isolation and just spend a few minutes with them trying to work out what’s being said. Then play the whole recording and see if they can get it.

Little and often is the key here I think. If you’re going to play a real recording, try taking a snippet of it and breaking down the reality of natural speech for your students. Otherwise we’re only preparing them for coursebooks!

Tip: There is software that you can buy that will help you with the above but Audacity is one that I’ve been recommended that is free and reasonably easy to use.

 

.

Listening skills – making use of global knowledge

Disclaimer: This is more of an idea than a lesson (however, I am going to give you some materials at the bottom that you can use to turn it into a lesson should you so desire).

It’s an answer to a question and the question is one that my students ask me over and over, again and again.

Teacher, why can’t I understand the news and the radio?

The answer is very simple: you just got her and you don’t know enough of the back story to have a hope of making head nor tail of a complex news story.

Realising this, I have over the years done virtually the same lesson with a variety of different news stories. It’s simple and it only has 4 steps:

  1. Test: play a radio / news story about something complex and topical. Ask the students how much they understood. Usually, to their dismay, not a lot.
  2. Teach: Break out a lovely article from a current newspaper on this topic and do with it what you will. Perhaps some vocab, a bit of a discussion, general and specific comprehension…all the classics. (see here for tips on using articles in class).
  3. Test: Replay the original story.
  4. Reflect: How much did they understand now? What did they use?

This is a simple formula but it has a number of benefits:

  • Encourages students to use what they know about the world when engaging with listening texts. Instead of just waiting for information to reach their ears and make sense. It’s all about being pro-active listeners.
  • Can foster an interest in the culture and society of the language they are learning.
  • Leaves students with a sense of accomplishment.
  • It can be applied to any topical story.

 

So, as promised, here is a link to a news story. It’s a little old but it’s one that works and usually leads to some interesting discussion. The article you can use is below.

Material: living wage