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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Modals of deduction – A murder – Part 1 & 2

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)

Procedure:

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.

  1. She is the dead man’s wife. / widow
  2. They are married
  3. He has died
  4. We don’t know, but see above
  5. 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.

  • a) wrist
  • b) icily cold
  • c) slumped
  • d) tut
  • e) pulse

Modals:

  • 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.)

Pronouns: 

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?

  1. the room
  2. light-switch
  3. the light-switch
  4. the light-switch
  5. the moment she pushed him back

Reflection: Ask students how the text would be different if ‘it’ hadn’t been used.

Extra:

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.

Part 2

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?

Checking understanding:

Ask students to decide if the following questions are true or false – ask them to try to answer from memory – they can check after.

  1. He has been married once.
  2. He sometimes plays golf.
  3. He owns a company making computers.
  4. He is well off.

Answers:

  1. false
  2. false – he is a keen golfer and member of the club, probably plays more
  3. false – distributes components / parts
  4. true – owns two houses

 

Vocab:

Read the forensic report and ask them to match the definitions to the words in the text.

  • a) the deceased
  • b) appeared
  • c) condition
  • d) intruder
  • e) other substances
  • f) laboratory

Listening:

  • 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.

Reflection:

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

Materials:

Word Doc: Murder Mystery part 1 & 2

PDF Doc:    Murder Mystery part 1 & 2

 

Listening: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentations: the pronunciation

So, over the years I’ve taught countless presentation lessons. I’ve tackled them from many different sides. I’ve looked at linking words, planning and creating successful Powerpoint slideshows but what I noticed is that no matter how much planning went into the presentation or how much of the target language they used or even how well they used linking words, the presentations were always a bit rubbish. Nobody could ever really follow them and even though the content might have been interesting, they always seemed a little boring.

So, I decided to look at it from another angle, from pronunciation.

The idea is simple, if students are pausing in the right place and stressing the right words, they can more or less control their audience.

When I did this, we had a week of presentation skills lessons in an English for Work class that finished with them all giving their own presentations and getting feedback from me and their peers. The ones who followed the pronunciation guidelines we’d talked about, got the best feedback from the other classmates…I think it was largely because it was easier to follow.

Level: Pre-intermediate / intermediate / upper intermediate / advanced

Time: 30-60 minutes

Objective: By the end of the lesson your students will be more aware of when to pause and what words to stress in a presentation to keep the attention of their audience.

Procedure:

This is a simple lesson and the idea can be used to with any presentation really. You can adopt it and apply it to any speech or Ted talk you might think is interesting.

What I used for this lesson was a snippet from the welcome talk the students receive on the first day.

1.Intro: I like to start by getting the students thinking about the importance of pausing and stress in public speaking so we start by discussing these questions:

  • What makes a good presentation?
  • Do you ever lose concentration in a presentation? What recaptures your attention?
  • What makes a bad presentation?

We discuss these, first in pairs and then as a whole class

2. I give them the following snippet from the welcome talk and ask them to draw a circle over any words I will stress and to put a dash after any word where they think there will be a pause.

Hi guys. First of all, thank you very much for your patience today. I know it’s been a long day. I just want to give you some information about the school: safety, academic information, etc., then we will give you your timetables, your passports and ID cards and then, we’ll take you to the pub, buy you a drink and you can relax after a long day.

3. We listen to the text and students check their ideas in pairs.

4. I display the text above on the board and together we mark where the stress was and where the pauses were.

5. I ask students to analyse the text and come up with some guidelines for pronunciation in presentations. I’m looking for the following:

  • We tend to stress linking words / phrases and pause after them.
  • We tend to stress the final word in a clause / sentence and pause after them.
  • We often stress words we feel carry the key points of the utterance.

6. Just to hammer it home, I often give them the following gapfill to complete.

Complete the gapfill below using the following words:

(saying / linking words x 2 / audience / clause / stress / sentence / pauses / pause)

In public speaking it is very important that you think about your ___________. You can control your audience using _________ ________ , __________ and _____________.

We usually stress __________ ______ and the final word in a ____________ or ______________.

We usually __________ after the words / phrases above.

This helps our audience to refocus on what we are ____________.

7. Practice: For practice I give them another section of my welcome talk. They mark the stress / pauses and then listen to check.

In a few minutes, my colleague is going to come in and organise you into groups. He’ll give you a map of the area and help you to choose team names. After that, you’ll go out for a tour of the area which will finish in our local pub. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. We are here to help. Thank you very much for listening and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

8. As further practice, I like to get some students to practise and record the intro to the welcome talk and some the end and then we play them in the class and give feedback on their pronunciation.

Alternatively, they could just say it in front of the class instead of recording them.

Recordings:

 

One-sided phone calls

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

Procedure:

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.

 

Listening 1:

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.

 

Grammar:

1. answers:

  1. fine
  2. I’m meeting Chris…
  3. 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 third example.

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.

 

audi-future

  • 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.

 

Pronunciation:

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

/haʊzɪt gəʊwən/

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

 

Listening 2:

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?

 

Grammar:

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.

 

Vocab:

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.

 

Pron:

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.

“guess what”

/geswɒ/ – the ‘t’ isn’t pronounced

“he always”

/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.

Grammar (revision):

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.

 

Materials:

Audio 1

Audio 2

 

 

 

 

Bowie: Pronunciation in songs

 

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.

normal_k_k_k_kooks_tray

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.

  1. Objective: to raise awareness of connected speech in songs / to examine different uses of “will”
  2. Time: 2 – 3 hours
  3. Level: Pre-intermediate and above

 

Materials:

Songhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSlOGzPM90

 

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.