Barry London: a tale of two cities

You may or may not have noticed but I have a tendency to call everyone in my lessons Barry. I don’t know when this started, I don’t know why but it has definitely become a thing for me. Maybe I just like the name.

So, in keeping with this, we’ve decided to make Barry a little more real. We’ve given him a second name and over the next few months, we’re going to do a string of Barry-related lessons. Obviously they’ll all be standalone lessons but there’ll definitely be a thread running through them.

This is the first of many Barry-lessons and we join him in the Shard in London…but it doesn’t start off well for the poor fella.

spire shard

Level: Intermediate and above

Objectives: By the end of the lesson, your students will be better able to identify useful chunks of language in a text by themselves

Language Points: Phrasal verbs and expressions related to relationships and dating

Time: 2-3 hours depending on activities

Procedure:

The worksheet and text are pretty straightforward for this one and take you through the steps one at a time. The general idea of this lesson is that your learners are gradually brought from just finding the meaning of vocabulary, to identifying useful chunks of language and finally grasping their meaning from the text.

Material:

  1. Word: Barry London – up the shard
  2. PDF: Barry London – up the shard

A might well:The many forms of “might”

A borderline advanced student stopped me in the corridor the other day and asked me what the difference was between might, might as well and might well and for a moment I was stumped. He was holding his Upper Int coursebook on the grammar reference section for “might” and he made a very good point which was:

The Upper Intermediate book has exactly the same information as the Intermediate.

He was right, so I decided to look at it in a little bit more detail and came up with the lesson below.

The materials and the teaching notes are all in the same file and I’ve attached it as a PDF and as a WORD doc so that you can edit it if you like.

Enjoy

  1. might-as-well  – WORD doc
  2. might-as-well  – PDF

 

guys pic

 

The Beatles – Dead or Alive!

The idea for this one came from a teacher I used to work with, great teacher. He used wikipedia entries on the Beatles to compare Past Simple and Present Perfect. I loved the idea and so when I had to cover a class last minute the other day, I decided I’d try it out.

This is the lesson I did. It works on a couple of things:

Objectives:

  1. Reinforce and examine the difference between present perfect and past simple.
  2. Raise awareness of the features of different texts (in this case wikipedia entries)
  3. Encourage students to notice chunks of English and adopt them into their own writing / speech.
  4. Encourage learner autonomy (ye olde holiest of grails) in reading.

Level: Int / Upper int

Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Materials: wikipedia present perfect – BEATLES

john and paul

 

Procedure:

(1)

Introduction:

List the following discussion questions on the board:

  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Have you ever been to a concert/gig/festival?
  • Have you ever met anyone famous?
  • Who would you like to see perform live?

Let students discuss these questions in small groups. As you monitor, note down any present perfect/past simple mistakes (if there are any) for use later. Choose any errors you like to give feedback, but I find with music discussions, learners very often misuse a lot of vocabulary (e.g. live) and I tend to focus on that area.

(2)

Before Reading

Display the pictures of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In small groups, students discuss everything they know about the two musicians. Feedback as a whole class and board all of their facts.

(3)

Gist Reading

Fold the sheet in two so that students can only see one wikipedia entry. Divide your class into two groups (Johns and Pauls). Students have 2 minutes to read through the text and note any extra facts that they didn’t know. DO NOT MENTION THAT THEY ARE WIKIPEDIA TEXTS!

Put Johns together to compare their facts and do the same with the Pauls.

Then get a lovely mingle exercise going so that Johns share their info with Pauls.

As a whole class, board the most interesting facts from the students.

(4) 

Focus on genre:

Sit the students down in pairs of Pauls and Johns (to mix them up a bit) Display the following questions and get students to discuss in pairs:

  1. What type of text is this? Where does it come from?
  2. How do you know? What clues are in the text?
  3. What is the writer’s opinion?

Obviously you want the students to notice that not once does the writer give their opinions as it’s a factual text.  (By raising awareness of features of different texts, you can encourage students to think more about what they are writing and about appropriate language for different genres and situations)

(5)

Focus on language 1: Present Perfect

Encourage students to look more closely at what they read. We want to create fully autonomous language analysts. One way is trying the following type of exercise. Little and often is the key.

Display the following questions for discussion:

  1. What are the main tenses used in the texts?
  2. Is there any difference between the tenses used in John’s text and Paul’s text?
  3. Why do you think that is?

What we’re looking for here is that John’s contains past simple only whereas Paul’s contains both. Past simple for his early life with the Beatles and Wings (ahem) and Present Perfect for his life and achievements since then.

At this point, you could bring out any pres perfect errors from the introduction stage and get sts to correct them in pairs.

(6) 

Focus on language 2: Passive

Highlight/Display the following sentence from the text and compare it to the one below it:

“He was murdered three weeks after its release”

“Someone murdered him three weeks after its release”

In pairs, students discuss why the author chose the first one over the second one. What we’re looking for is that the author wanted to keep John Lennon as the focus of the sentence.

Get students to scan the text and find other examples. It might be a good idea at this point to highlight that the musicians are the subject of almost every sentence and definitely every paragraph.

(7)

Focus on language 3: Vocabulary

By now students will be chomping at the bit for all of the vocabulary in the texts. In pairs, get them to find the phrases from the vocabulary section of the worksheet.

Feedback as a whole class. Then point out that there are some phrases that you would commonly find in such an article (e.g. born and raised  / critically acclaimed / of all time). In pairs get students to hunt for more chunks they can lift from the text and use for themselves.

(8) 

Focus on Organisation

Ask students to take one final look at the texts and decide how they are organised. Essentially, in both of them there is a general intro paragraph about the musician and then a second section going into more detail about their various achievements.

(9)

Follow-Up:

You have now focused the students’ attention on all of the necessary features of this genre. It’s now up to them to write something.

In small groups, get them to choose a teacher in the school and give them ten minutes to write a short Wikipedia entry on their life. Allow them to make up whatever crazy details they like. You’ll undoubtedly end up with “teachers who reached worldwide fame for their critically acclaimed present perfect lessons”.

When they’re finished, put them up around the room. Students walk around and vote on whose they like best and whose was most like a wikipedia entry.

Teachers use this time to move around and board some errors on the board and then correct as a group.

(10)

Reflection:

After this type of lesson, you really need to sit down and chat about what’s been achieved. Yes the students have created something, worked on their own errors, gather lots of vocab and discussed the present perfect but the real aim is autonomy!

You want them to take these skills outside and use them when they’re reading their own texts. We need them to be stealing their own chunks of language from their own texts.

Present not so simple

I’ve often wondered about the logic of teaching present simple to beginners. It is the most complex and fiddly tense to get right. If proof were needed, how many high level students still make mistakes with it? Yet we ask beginners and elementary students to struggle with this tense, their first.

Of course, I know why we focus on this tense. It has to be done. The present is the logical starting point. It doesnt make it any easier for our poor students though.

This lesson aims to try to solidify those rules, and also offer reading skills practice and some vocabulary work. The context is someone talking about their likes and dislikes looking for a flatmate. The final task is about them leaving a voice message with the opportunity for some controlled and free practice.

Here is a copy of the text.

Hi there!
I’m looking for a social friendly fun flatshare with people my age. I currently live in Dalston east London and I am looking to move south to New Cross, Brockley or Deptford. £650 pcm is my budget and I would like a double room.

I work 9-5 for a charity and volunteer at the weekends, which keeps me pretty busy but I love having flatmates I can socialise with. I love going out to eat, exploring fun bars, watching good films and experiencing all London has to offer. I am looking to share with fun and interesting people. I also love animals, so cats and dogs are not a problem for me! I’m a smoker so I’d need somewhere I could smoke but happy to go outside.
Thanks in advance!

Sarah

 

Enjoy and let us know how it goes

Aim: practice present tenses

Level: Elementary +

Procedure:

Pre reading task

1.1 Chat about flats, ask students to think of what they want when they move to a place?

1.2 Ask about what they they want the people they live with to be like?

Vocab

2.1 Do vocab match and check as a class

Grammar focus

3.1 Look at the Present simple practice exercise, checking together.

3.2 Look at the rules and help the students by monitoring

Production

Target: to record a voice message that they could leave on Sarah’s phone

4.1 Ask the students to think whether they would like to live with Sarah

4.2 Ask them to complete the plan for a phone call and add any extra parts they choose

4.3 Ask the students to record it – and save – this part of the lesson goes test – teach – test.

4.4 This is where you can get into any pronunciation details you want. I looked at connected speech, weak forms and tone units.

4.5 Now ask them to listen to their first recording and think of where they could improve it. They will initially tell you it is all terrible so make them listen a couple of times.

4.6 Ask them to rerecord it and email it to you so that you can send feedback.

Materials:

I wish I’d never been born! – Conditionals / Hypothetical language

After you’ve taught the same lesson a bazillion times, you do tend to get a little bored of it and it falls into the  forgotten depths of your USB or sits crumpled in a plastic wallet at the back of your locker. The great thing is when you come across one of these lessons after a year or so and remember why you loved it in the first place. This lesson uses a silly little story I wrote years ago and have recently resurrected.

This lesson came about as a result of my frustration with how conditionals were taught in coursebooks. In general, they were taught as if they were rigid structures and that every conditional sentence fit into these strict frames. As we all know, this is not the case.

The reality is that a conditional sentence is just a sentence made up of two clauses, if students understand the language to make up each clause, they’ll be able to create their own sentences without worrying about 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

That’s the idea anyway…

Level: Intermediate and above (possibly a strong pre-int group too)

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Materials:

  1. Tony’s story
  2. Language focus 2 – answers
  3. conditional questions

Procedure:

(1) 

Intro / Pre-reading:

In the past I’ve used Harry Enfield’s Kevin character as the intro picture for this lesson but any stroppy teenager will do really. I usually display the picture and get the students to talk about how he’s feeling and why he might be feeling this way. Naturally, words like “stroppy”, “moody”, “teenage angst” , etc will come up at this point.

(2) 

Gist reading:

Any gist-reading question will do here. I like to ask them what kind of relationship the characters have and who they sympathise with in this story.

This is nice as it usually starts a little discussion and gives them the opportunity to use some of the vocab from the first section. It also gets them engaging with the story a little, and not just a simple true/false question.

(3) 

Language focus 1:

I like to keep my students on their toes and I like to constantly review and practise language points from previous lessons which is why I tend to use this as a quick revision of narrative tenses. Students discuss the first paragraph and decide what tense to use in each case. Feel free to ignore this and put the correct tenses in yourself if you don’t want to focus on this at all.

(4) 

Vocabulary Focus:

Direct the students to the vocabulary section below the story. They must match the definitions/synonyms to words and phrases in the story.

(5)

Language Focus 2:

This is where the real fun begins. The guiding questions on the second page are designed to break down a typical hypothetical conditional into 2 language points:

1- hypothetical language (e.g. wish/if/if only + past perfect for speaking hypothetically about the past)

2- Hypothetical modals (e.g. would have done / would do / might do)

Students should work through these 3 stages in small groups, using the story to guide them. One of the benefits of this is it encourages them to think critically about language in texts and to helps them to analyse language.

I would probably stop after each of the three sections and discuss it as a class. You can find the answers in the materials section above.

(6) 

Possible follow-up exercises:

There are a few ways you could follow this up. I’ve added a few below.

  1. Pull out the modal sentences and focus on the pronunciation. These are all spoken in the story but the way it’s written, there are no contractions. For example, “you should have told me” would probably be pronounced: /jəʃədətəʊldmiː/ or something similar.
  2. Print out some nice conditional questions that might give students the opportunity to explore the language from the text. I’ve attached a few questions in the materials section above. I usually chop them up and put them face down in the middle of a circle of students. One student picks one up and reads it aloud. The other students can’t see the paper but can ask them to repeat or speak up etc. It becomes a nice pronunciation and listening exercise as well. and the teacher can sit back and write down any nice conditional sentences or any errors for examination later on.
  3. Discussion on teenagers / youths and how they are treated in different countries.

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

Narrative tenses – higher levels

Narrative tenses, students normally know them, they can tell you what tense it is, but can they identify their functions? that is always the trickier and more important thing.

This lesson uses a few different short story beginnings and moves from a focus on narrative tenses to language that tells us what sort of story is being told, with a view to improving the students’ own production skills.

It also features something you’ll find in most of our lessons, working out some vocabulary from context.

I must say at this point that some of the vocabulary ideas in this lesson were things I first thought about after teaching from the old New First Certificate Gold.

Level: Upp Int + (high level upp ints)

Aims: To check functions of the different narrative tenses.

Procedure:

Introduction

1.a You could give each student a different story and get them to read them before telling other students in the group.

Or

1.b Place the stories around the walls and the students have to read them.

2. Students are asked to match the stories to one of the following genres

love / action / suspense / horror / sci-fi / fantasy / 

There are I suppose no correct answers but the obvious ones to pick would be:

  • story 1 – horror
  • story 2 – love
  • story 3 – suspense
  • story 4 – sci-fi

3. Ask students to discuss in groups and pairs what they think is typical of each genre and what made them choose the answers they did.  At this point you could highlight some of the vocab you elicit from them on the board.

Grammar focus

Hand out copies of the stories

  1. Ask students to identify examples of past simple / past continuous / past perfect / past perfect continuous.
  2. Ask the students to match the tense to its use
  3. Ask them to look at the timeline for story 1, and then to create one for one of the following three stories.
  4. Ask them to look at the story on page 3 the story and decide how it could be improved by using the different tenses.  Obviously there is no definitive correct version, but set them the challenge of using past simple, past continuous and past perfect.

Vocab focus

  1. Ask students to identify words that are typical of the genre. e.g.:
  • story 1 – wind was howling, crept, old abandoned, 
  • story 2 – sun was shining, fluffy clounds, perfect day,
  • story 3 – nervously, paced
  • story 4 – ice clouds, ship’s computer, new planet gleamed

Also ask them to predict the meaning of the words, don’t let them use dictionaries, explain that the exact meaning is not necessary, just a general idea.  Do whole class feedback on any words which present difficulties.

2. Ask the students to add further words typical of one of the genres to the table on p3.

Materials: worksheet

Follow up activities

  1. The obvious thing is to ask them to carry on one of the stories and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the emphasis is on reusing the grammar and getting them to use some of the vocab they worked on together.

2. Another could be to ask them to record an anecdote for you and email it to you, this gives you the chance to really get them to practice the language in a context they may frequently use.  An advantage of this is you can send them notes on their pronunciation, especially the intonation.

E.g. I was walking down the street yesterday when …

You know what will motivate your class best.

Enjoy

English is everywhere…even in the toilet!

 

As long as you don’t think about its origins too much, this is a nice idea for a lesson.

The overall aim is to get students into the frame of mind that English is everywhere (if your teaching in an English speaking country that is), it’s all around them and they can/should be noticing it…even if they’re in the bathroom.

This is a quick lesson based on a half-ripped sign on the cistern of the toilet in school. It could be done at the beginning or end of a lesson. These sorts of mini-lessons could be done regularly (here’s another one on using a text message) to keep students thinking and noticing the language around them. They take very little prep but over time you can train your students to analyse chunks of language and hopefully they will start bringing in their own signs, emails and text messages for you to exploit in class.

Level: Pre-int and up

Materialtoilet sign

Procedure: You could do some or all of these.

  1. Identify the origin: get students to try to decide what kind of a text it is and where it came from. As a class discuss how they figured it out (language / register / how it looks).
  2. Gapfill: the sign is half-ripped. Get your students to fill in the blanks. The clues are all in the text. Encourage your learners to use them. (answers below).
  3. Grammar grab: Get your learners to identify the passive voice in the sign. Find a prefix (what is its meaning). Why is “must” used instead of “have to”
  4. Reformulation: Rewrite the sign as a conditional sentence. Rewrite it in the active voice. Rewrite it as spoken advice to a friend.

 

Quotes – the return

Good afternoon from a sweltering London (words that don’t often appear together).  As some of you may have seen there is a lesson written months ago on Inversion that feature in quotes.  link below for those who haven’t seen it.

https://textploitationtefl.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/mini-lesson-inversion-in-quotes/

So it will come as no shock that we are going to return to some quotes.  I love them as they are little nuggets of text, great for prediction activities, great for grammar, and often chock full of interesting lexis.  Frankly, what is not to love.

This time rather than focusing on quotes for a particular grammar point, we are going to look at a collection of quotes and take what we can from them.  All sitting comfortably, then I will begin.

Obviously, you can use whichever quotes you want and use the same activities i have just picked out 4 that i felt i could make a lesson from and ones which might engage my students.

The ideas below are a sort of pick and mix of different activities, select the ones that you think would work with your students, the worksheet has some of these activities for the quotes i selected.  But really they should all transfer across.

Level: Int +

Ideas

1. Word Jumble – broken sentences need fixing (see worksheet)

2. Independent research – prediction and a reason for reading. Give the students the quotes and ask them to predict what type of film they came from, get them to chat in groups and explain why they think that and then ask them to try to find out which film they did come from using smart phones or computers. (I am sure that your students will have no problems doing this, but if they are remind them of quote marks.)  When they have found which film they come from ask them to find a summary and does the summary match their prediction?

Obviously, at this point it would be good to get the students to think about what they mean.

3. Grammar hunt – This is pretty easy as it is aimed at Ints, the conditional though may need some scaffolding, such as try to find a phrase that could be replaced by ‘if’.

4. rewriting – The most obvious thing to do with all quotes is to turn them to reported speech.  When I do this I prefer to give them a choice of reporting verbs so that they are reporting the meaning a little and not just relying on said/told.  I always find that students are ok with the backshift, it is the pronouns they tend to forget, so maybe remind them of that.  To raise the level of challenge I have put in extra tests like linkers.

5. Follow up – Encourage the students to watch one of the films.  Or you could watch one, or clips of one in class together – obviously giving the opportunity for work on vocab and pronunciation

Materials: Quotes – the sequel

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/what-to-watch/greatest-quotes/

 

A quick guide to exploiting articles.

During a peak period when my teaching hours went up to 37.5 hours a week, I have to admit that the time I spent planning went down accordingly. I just didn’t have the time. But, I didn’t want to deliver sub-standard lessons and I still wanted them to be relevant and using authentic texts. So I developed a quick and easy way of turning an article into a lesson.

I’ve attached a template below that you can adapt as well as some step by step instructions and an example lesson using the same format.

It’s not perfect by any means as every group and every article is different but it should be enough to get you started.

  1. Lesson template
  2. Example

Step by Step:

  1. Reading: Scan or copy the picture from the article and place it beside the headline at the top of the worksheet. When you hand it to the students, fold the sheet over so they can only see these two parts.
  2. Scan or copy the entire article and place it below the headline / picture.
  3. Vocab Focus: Pull out some words / phrases from the text that you think will help the students to understand the text or that they might be interested in learning. (practising the skill of finding the words from the context is the real aim here).
  4. Organise the vocab so that they have the word form and a synonym or definition. This will help them to find them in the text.
  5. Discussion: The aim here is to get them to engage with the text. It’s not just about comprehension. Give them questions that encourages them to share their opinions and to think critically.
  6. Language focus: This doesn’t need to be a massive grammar lesson (although it can be) but the key is to get the learners to analyse a piece of language in context. Pull out an interesting language chunk and ask them why this tense has been used or if it could be rephrased. Get them looking at verb patterns and how prepositions are being used.
  7. Follow-up: As a follow-up you could encourage writing. Students could try to summarise the article, they could rewrite it as a story or they could write a similar article using the same vocab and style.