Learning from ads: Conditionals

If you are a regular to our blog, you may have noticed that I use ads quite a lot. I suppose the idea here stems from my time in Korea and Spain where a lot of the language I taught myself came from signs, billboards, ads and basically anything I saw as I walked around the city. I learnt so many chunks and phrases and was then able to manipulate them slightly to express myself. I also saw words and phrases that I’d learnt elsewhere being used in different ways. I really think it is important that students are taught to use this skill of analysing everything that they see around them and so here is yet another in the English is all around you series.

If you’d like to see some of the others, you can find them here:

  1. reported speech
  2. might
  3. text messages
  4. it’s even in the toilet

 

This is a very quick lesson and could probably slip into any larger lesson on conditionals or could be used as a revision.

Level: Pre-intermediate / Intermediate

Objective: By the end of the lesson students will be better able to analyse and manipulate the language around them.

Aims:

  • to examine hypothetical conditionals for the present
  • to encourage language analysis

Material:

Procedure:

As far as procedures go, this one is short and sweet like the lesson. Basically follow the instructions on the worksheet and you’ll be fine.

What I will say is that at the end, I would include a reflection stage where students think about the benefits of analysing the language all around them. Also, I’d encourage them to think about when / where they would use this language.

Follow-ups:

  1. Take the sentences that the students produced in the final activity and examine the pronunciation. (I’d is one of the hardest features of fast speech to hear for learners of English as it is reduced to practically nothing, something being little more than just a schwa).
  2. Students bring in ads from online, papers or around the city and analyse them in class.

Text messages – Register focus

Hi all,

As many of you know, I am extremely interested in register and style and feel it is often something that is overlooked in coursebooks as well as class.

The number of students who have no idea what I am talking about when i raise this issue is pretty high, too high. So, I think we should try to make it a feature of everything we teach.

This lesson follows on from some on phrasal verbs, which are often, though not exclusively, informal. I wanted a revision session which provided scope to use some, but also gave time for us to examine student examples and look at how they could be improved.

Why texts? Well, they write them, so they are relevant. They give opportunity to use some of the TL. They are short so don’t discourage. Plus they are short so can really be broken down.

Aim: to check register and appropriacy through the writing of short texts

Level: pre int / int / upp int / advanced

Procedure:

1. Write the four texts on the board. Ask the students in pairs to discuss who wrote them and why. Encourage them to think about how the writer felt and which words or features give this away.

IMG_0414

  1. Hi. Can you call me asap please. x
  2. Hey, wondering if you’d chosen anywhere yet. I finish here at 4 so let me know before then. Cheers.
  3. Have you got any plans for later? I’ve got a spare ticket going for a gig if you fancy it.
  4. Where are you? Do you know what time it is? I’ve been here for ages now.

Do whole class feedback. Really go into detail.

Hi. Can you call me asap please. x

  1. This really troubled my class. They said work so I asked why. They said the polite question and the fact it was direct. I agreed but asked about the x. It was a name they said. I pointed out it meant kiss. So they came up with the idea that it might be a parent messaging a child with bad news. I was pretty happy with this explanation.
  2. Mine got that this was two friends arranging something. Cheers was interesting as they knew it in other contexts. We looked at whether there was a difference between Hi / Hey – concluding Hey could be seen as more friendly
  3. Some of my students decided that this was a guy inviting a girl out, which I liked as a possibility. We checked meaning of gig – one of the students was able to explain it.
  4. Mine didn’t get the repetition of the same thing as possibly being anger. Some did suggest it was to a friend as a joke, we discussed the potential for that to be misconstrued

I think the secret here is to really ‘demand high’ don’t let the students be lazy. Ask further questions, make them ask you questions. Encourage them to consider the connotations of the choices writers make.

2. Once you have gone through them all ask them in pairs to select two which they are going to reply to. Monitor and cajole. Again question what they want to say. For me, this was a great chance to prompt the students to use some of the TL, but also to fix register issues e.g. When i arrive – not wrong but is there a more natural way of writing this to a friend?

Additionally, it prepared me for things that could be highlighted for the whole class.

Then put some/ all of the student answers up onto the board. Ask which questions were being answered and how the person would feel receiving the reply. Highlight the examples of good language and fix what needs fixing through elicitation.

3. Finally, allow a few minutes for reflection. Ask the students to discuss what they feel was useful from the class; ask what they might now do differently. Highlight too that this was a chance to see them using new language and to provide an opportunity for them to use language they need for daily communication.

 

 

 

Ads on the Tube – Reported Speech

So, I’m a huge fan of using adverts for lessons. I suppose my aim is that if I do it often enough, my students will go out and start analysing these tiny little snippets of language themselves. There’s so much interesting language out there plastered all over the walls. Now, obviously not everyone lives in an English speaking country so the opportunity might not be there but there are ads all over the internet or maybe it’s our job to bring these ads to them.

Either way, here’s yet another lesson using an advert from the tube. If you’re looking for others, you could try:

Level: Elementary / Pre-Intermediate

Time: 1 – 2 hours

Objective: By the end of the lesson, students will be more aware of how to report speech in English.

Aims

  • To analyse context
  • To read between the lines
  • To analyse language in context

Materials:

Procedure:

  1. Intro: the idea here is just a discussion to get them thinking about the idea of using ads for language analysis.
  2. How to say: This is a word I find sts often struggle with and there is quite a difference between British English and American English. I personally think it’s easier to steer them towards “ad” or “advert” which I feel are more common anyway.
  3. Reading between the lines: The nice thing about this ad is that it seems quite obvious to us but only if you assume the reader knows about the Tube, knows about how people can sometimes treat tube workers and understands that this is a child speaking.
  4. Vocab focus: This is a straightforward matching exercise and by the end of this and the previous discussion, sts should be able to answer the single comprehension question, thus showing they have read between the lines.
  5. Language focus 1: This shouldn’t take too long or be too taxing but it sets the sts up for the final practice section and encourages them to analyse language when they see it.
  6. Language focus 2: For some of them this may be new. Take them through it one step at a time and they shouldn’t have any issues.
  7. Practice: This can be adapted to any kind of story that might be relevant for your learners. Something short and snappy that might encourage them to use reported speech is the key.
  8. Final reflection: Discuss with the learners what skills they have practised today and how they could use them in their real lives. Encourage them to tell short anecdotes at the beginning of the next lesson. Encourage them to bring in pictures of ads they have found.

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:

 

Identifying text types

The idea with this lesson is twofold (love that word):

  1. get sts thinking about what is appropriate in different text types.
  2. make them more aware of what they can learn from the little things all around them.

It’s a simple little lesson but it works.

  • Level: pre-intermediate and above
  • Time: 1 -2 hours
  • Aims: see above

 

Materials:

  1. worksheet (word): text types
  2. worksheet (PDF): text types
  3. Teachers’ worksheet: text types teachers’ copy
  4. Audio: 

 

For Shame Ryanair: Error Correction

This is not so much a lesson as an idea for using what is around us as the beginning or end of a lesson. Done little and often, it could really make a difference.

As an English teacher you’ve probably had that moment when you read your friend’s Facebook messages and despaired at their shocking inability to use “their”, “there” and “they’re”…and these are native English speakers.

The fact is none of us are perfect and I only found out the other day that little things got my “hackles up” and not my “heckles up” like I’d thought for years…that was embarrassing.

Mistakes are all around us and one way of encouraging your students to correct errors in their work and that of others is to highlight this fact whenever possible. One option is to bring in Facebook comments or the comments from online newspapers.These are often chock-full of interesting little mistakes. Personally, I like to take pictures of any signs I find with errors on them. Sadly, in London these are everywhere. This one I actually found whilst flying over the Irish Sea on a Ryanair plane.

Ryanair needs to think long and hard about their use of hyphens. Check these pictures out and ask your students what the difference between “on-board” and “on board” is.

 

 For more on the errors all around us, check out this lesson on Nando’s.

I was in the same restaurant the other day and noticed yet another legend on the wall, once again riddled with missing words and spelling mistakes…come on, Nando’s, have a word with yourself.

Editing Texts – Exam Classes

I don’t know about you but I have had awful trouble in the past, trying to get my exam students to think beyond grammar and spelling when it comes to editing texts. I completely understand it, every writing exercise they’ve done in every language class ever has essentially been a language test and nothing more. Most of our correction keys (if we even use them) revolve around language errors and maybe paragraphing if they’re lucky. Then suddenly they rock up to an exam class and we start banging on about style and register.

Luckily, my girlfriend produced this email from her inbox the other day. And what a treat it was. Having kindly ordered some toys for our cat (in the hopes that it would play with them and not our ankles or toes) online, she patiently waited for a month before saying: “ehhhh…China, where are my toys?”. She received the email below. And it is fantastic!

cat toys

This is a quick and simple lesson, using a real email that just didn’t nail their communicative aim. It’s a nice way of highlighting to students that it’s not just about the spelling. The phrases you use can really miss the mark if you’re not careful. my favourite is: “we’re always here for you”.

Dear Customer.

Thanks for your e-mail, these are imported products,  under normal ,it will take 15-20 working days to arrive, I’m sorry to hear that you still have not received it , we contact with Logistic agent today, and have Urged them to send this package as soon as possible, now could you please check the delivery address:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

If the address is correct, could help you to wait 2 days, when 2 days have passed, in normal it will be put in your  mail box directly , could you please atttention for this , my customer ,if days past , you still have not received, send me an e-mail, we will issue refund to you immediately, that’s ok? if you have something to this purchase, please send me email, we will solve it immediately. we are always here for you.

Keep in touch!

Best regards,

  • Level: Int and above
  • Time: 60 – 90 mins (this may take longer if you feel you need to teach a lot about punctuation. This lesson is designed more to raise awareness than to teach but it may be necessary depending on your group).
  • Objective: to encourage students to consider more than language errors when editing their own texts.

 

Materials:

  1. online shopping (word document)
  2. online shopping (pdf document)

Procedure:

This is a simple one as the students do all the work really.

  1. Discussion: activate a bit of schemata with a nice opening discussion on online shopping. Add in any questions you like.
  2. Gist reading: Sts skim the letter to find the purpose of the email.
  3. Second reading: Sts read it again and discuss how successful the writer is in getting their point across and whether or not it’s an example of “good” or “bad” writing. I suppose what you’re looking for here is that communication occurs and the fundamental information is there but that’s not enough. This text doesn’t read well and is largely inappropriate. 
  4. Pre-editing: Discuss as a class, what aspects of this email you might think about edting. Draw their attention to the editing tip below the email if they’re having trouble.
  5. Editing: sts edit in small groups.
  6. Comparing: I would put them up around the room gallery-style and let sts move around and compare each other’s work. Feedback as a whole class and take bits and pieces from each one.
  7. Comparing 2: reveal the sample answer on the back of the sheet and compare with sts answers. Did they miss anything? Were their ideas better than mine? Were there any sentences they should have deleted because they were irrelevant that they didn’t?
  8. Feedback as a whole class.
  9. Reflection: how can they apply this to their own writing.

 

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.

Star Wars – may the grammar be with you

So, Star Wars, love it or hate it, I am firmly in the former camp, it is going to be a big deal this winter.  So, what better way to engage students with a bit of grammar?

This is using quotes from the film, the whole tiny texts thing that we are into.  I’ve tried to use them for different grammar points and it should be seen as either revision, or perhaps an introduction for some of these grammar points.

I would say you should be thinking Upper Int upwards, though you could edit out sections, for example the section on negative adverbial inversion, and do it with Intermediates.  It really is a bit of a pick and mix, whichever parts you want.

Procedure:

Just follow the worksheet really.

However,  with the scrolling text you need to try to get them to take notes to check, or you could throw some simple questions up there for them.

  1. What type of base is it?
  2. What did rebels steal?
  3. Where is Leia going?

Materials:

  1. Star Wars – Word
  2. Star Wars – PDF Version
  3. star-wars-answers

PS – the reason for the PDF was that the fonts changed and it really annoyed me.

Today you might meet a tall dark stranger – Horoscopes for Modals

So as you know, we try, as much as possible, to use found authentic sources here, though sometimes we do write them ourselves.  This is in the former category, as I don’t fancy myself as a mystic meg.

Why horoscopes, well, basically, because one day as I was flicking through the paper I noticed they contained a lot of modals.  I’m not a big horoscope reader, but I’ve found that it is something that some, not all, students enjoy and can get into.

I would obviously recommend using the days horoscopes but have included two example ones taken from the independent to show what I mean.

I use this as a revision exercise of modals, so from Int upwards really.  I always try to get students noticing grammar in the real world.  The vocab is often very challenging but can be really good for working out meaning from context as hopefully I’ve shown in the worksheet.

For this you will either need copies of the days horoscopes or let them use their smartphones to access one, I used the Independent’s ones as they had quite a lot of good language in them and seemed to avoid lots of mentions of phases of the moon and other lexis that isn’t so high frequency.

Procedure:

Introduction

  1. Basic question to introduce topic
  2. Ask students to find their horoscope for the day, what does it predict? (if you have a really large class, you could start off altogether with one persons on the board and use that for the following exercises, before moving to students looking at other horoscopes.

Language analysis

  1. Ask Students to underline the modals in the text, there are normally a few. – see example worksheet
  2. Ask the students to match the modals to their function, are they talking about possibility / advice / prediction, etc.  Monitor and help sort out any problems / confusion.
  3. Synonym hunt, I have scaffolded it here, and as long you are all using the same paper, then you can do the same.  Otherwise, encourage students to write down the words they don’t know, and ask them to predict the meaning by substituting other words in their place.  Again, this will involve you monitoring and again, using one example with a large class may be more beneficial.

Possible extra:

You could, with higher levels, examine the other language that is contained in the examples.  Virgo contains lots of relative clauses, which could be good for Ints / Upp Ints.  Virgo also contains ‘Not only…, but also…’ good for higher levels.   Aries has some lovely ‘passives’ and ‘imperatives’.

Production:

  1. Ask the students to write / and/or record a horoscope, get them thinking about the style that is used and encourage them to use the appropriate modals and other language.
  2. If you have asked them to record it, then you can really work on pronunciation, getting them to think about the way it might be said, the added pauses to increase tension etc

Follow on:

  1. Ask the students to find a horoscope as homework and to underline the modals as they have done in class.  Also ask them to try to predict any unknown lexis.  Just to give them some extra noticing and vocab from context practice.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t see this as being a lesson for everyone, I predict some classes will like it while others won’t, which is ok.  You know your class, try it out on the classes it might work with.

I’m going back to my runes and crystal ball.