In 2019, I remember going to a talk by Peter Watkins and one thing he said really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing but it was essentially that what students needed in the early days of (and indeed throughout) the language learning process was lots and lots of comprehensible input. At the time it really struck a chord with me as I was learning Spanish and all I wanted to do was read, read, read. Sadly, the only graded readers I could find were pretty rubbish and much to my chagrin, I just couldn’t understand the news in Spanish. It was very frustrating.
Well, with that in mind we decided to bring Textploitation directly to learners of English with Tiny Texts for Learning English. The plan being to give learners the opportunity to read a little & learn a lot.
If you have students who need to work on their reading, send them our way. They’ll find recipes, diaries, stories, articles, reviews and much more, all at their level. With each text, they get a little task that helps them exploit what they’ve just read. They even have the opportunity to push themselves, produce something related to the text and get feedback from us and our community.
So you’ve got a text and it’s ridiculously interesting but it’s just that little bit too difficult for your students…
If you’ve ever been in that situation, you might want to try rewordify. A colleague of mine put me onto this website a few years ago and I thought it was time to pass it on.
The idea is simple: you put your text in and it dumbs it down with helpful synonyms and explanations. You may argue that this isn’t authentic and that it stops the flow of the text and you are probably right. But what I love about this website is it then lets you create worksheets for all of the trickier words.
Here are two ways I have used it in the past:
I simplify a newspaper article on a current issue for a lower level class. We work through the trickier language using the worksheets. I then let them watch a news segment on the same topic and discuss the topic. The worksheets have allowed them to both understand the video and discuss it.
When teaching CAE and CPE, encouraging them to show off or upgrade their language in their writing can be difficult. I like to dumb down a text using this website and set them the task of upgrading it. I then get them to compare it to the original and see how they did.
It’s a great little website. Check it out and let us know how you use it.
If you’d like to learn about more useful websites, check out this blog.
This is a really simple one that we made as a tense review before an end-of-term test. It had two main aims:
to find out which language points needed a bit more of a review.
to get my students thinking about how all of the language points they’d learnt over the past term might appear together. (so often they are studied in isolation)
Note: depending on the age of your students (mine were slightly older), you might need to change the discussion questions at the end. I’ve attached an editable word copy so feel free to edit it and make it work for your group.
Look, the fact is we just can’t resist a Bowie lesson. There it is, plain and simple (If you missed our previous one, you can check it out here) and I can’t promise that this one will be the last Bowie lesson we ever do. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that there will be more. This one came about because I was listening to Hunky Dory and got a wee bit obsessed with the song, Kooks. I thought I’d share it with you.
It’s a simple enough lesson using a song to look at vocab, “will” and connected speech. I’ve always felt that songs are a great way for students to practise their listening as they’re usually in quite natural speech (not always) and in real life there is very often background noise that you need to filter out when you’re trying to listen. Songs replicate that quite well. This is something I always point out to my students when I do a song. I think it’s important they see the benefit and don’t just think that songs are something we do on Fridays for fun.
Objective: to raise awareness of connected speech in songs / to examine different uses of “will”
So we finally have it, Barry London’s second official lesson. If you haven’t seen the previous one it’s right here. The idea we came up with was that seeing as how for some reason every character in my lessons is called, Barry, we’d just embrace this and create a person and give him a string of lessons. They’re for different levels and will look at different aspects of the language. Also, they do not need to be done in any sequence. They do not build on each other.
This one is very different to our normal lessons in that it looks at descriptive writing and study skills in more detail than we normally would. It started out as a low level lesson but it was most definitely a high level one by the end.
I’d recommend this lesson as something different to do at the end of the week or course or for more creative students. It’s definitely not a straight grammar lesson.
Level: Upper Intermediate / Advanced
Time: 2 – 3 hours
Objective: to encourage sts to record language in context and to think about metaphors and imagery in creative writing.
I’ve been working out of New English File Elementary recently and it’s a great book but as often is the case with a book, it never really 100% gets the challenge right for your particular group. Sometimes it’s too easy, sometimes it’s too hard. At the moment it’s a smidgen too easy for my group and we are absolutely motoring through it.
This lesson was basically a bit of an extension after we’d studied the Past Simple in the coursebook. It’s got some revision and it pushes a bit extra as well. We’ve also been talking a lot about language chunks / collocations / pieces of language / items of lexis (whatever you want to call them) so it looks at that a bit too.
Plus, it gets them using their imagination a little bit too, which never hurts…unless they say, “teacher I don’t have an imagination” and then we despair, oh yes we do.
TIP: So, I’ve been teaching a lot of low level classes at the moment and they’ve been mostly smaller groups (2 – 4 students). One thing I’ve found is that when the group is this small, any worksheet or coursebook you break out means utter silence as they disappear into its depths. Or, it’s awkward because they’re too aware of you.
One way I’ve found of avoiding this is writing my worksheets up on the board, more or less how I’d have them on the sheet.
the students go up and work on the board as a whole or in pairs on different sections and you monitor from behind them. It really makes a difference.
you can always give them the worksheet afterwards. Here’s a pic of my board for this lesson. You might notice there are some mistakes on the board. Their first task was to correct the errors and then later I gave them the worksheet with the corrected version to check it, which is a slight variation on the procedure above.
Here’s a shot of my board. I like to think that my distinctive cursive script adds an extra layer of challenge to the lesson and is, of course, completely intentionally awful
In an attempt to claw back some credibility after ‘the script’ lesson, I bring you a tense review based on an article on the Rolling Stones. It is a good one to use either as a diagnostic or as a review. There are also a couple of interesting bits of lexis, should be fairly easy to do from the worksheet and as a warmer there is a listening element made from the direct speech from the text, which you can return to later if you fancy.
And as if that were not enough, there is also going to be a follow up listening lesson with Paint it Black!
This as is often the case with our lessons asks you to train students to notice the grammar and there is some vocab to work out from context. The worksheet should be pretty easy to follow I hope.
Apologies for the listening, couldn’t find it online so had to do it myself!
Level: Int +
Aim: to review / test tense awareness
Picture: just follow worksheet
Listening: The idea here is to get the students thinking about what is actually being said, and so rather than standard gist questions I have made a task where they have to paraphrase what the person is saying, this will be hard as there will be some vocab that may be unknown in this context ‘cut’ for example. However, the idea is to start to give them the tools to deal better out of class. Don’t worry about playing the recording a few times or even, give them a time limit, send it to them via ‘What’s app’ and they can listen as many times as they need in that time. They can then read to check if they were right.
first read to check listening
Read to answer gist questions – answer together
Just as it says really, give students a time limit, you know your class! As i said above, this is either a diagnostic or revision, works for either. I would go a bit demand high on this though during the feedback, so on the past simple, “why is it past simple? which time phrase is used?” How else could the present continuous be expressed grammatically? that sort of thing.
Follow the worksheet, as a follow on, i often ask the students to find examples of direct speech by musicians they like and turn them into direct speech and bring it to class next time or email them to me to check.
Vocab from context:
More of our training, I know we put this into almost every lesson, but getting your students comfortable in working out meanings for themselves is important and the more practice they are given, the better they will get.
Listening (the return):
Now get students to listen again to the first recording, they should find it much easier. Here is where you could highlight some of the following:
OK Once is not actually my favourite film but it’s not bad at all. I was in the middle of a lesson the other day and this was the only film I could think of. I did this lesson (or a version of it) and it went really well.
It’s a simple low-level lesson and if you do similar lessons or activities little and often, you really will begin to get slightly more autonomous students. The whole idea is to encourage them to notice the language that’s all around them just a little bit more.
In this case, they have a tiny text but they’re going to use it to notice 3 language points as well as working on noticing errors and getting the meaning of vocab from context.
Level: elementary / pre-intermediate
Time: 1 – 3 hours
Objective: to encourage sts to notice language in context
If you’re looking for some more film related lessons try this one or this one.
Tip: If a film comes up in class that your students don’t know, do a research hunt. Give them 3 minutes and send half the class to IMDB and half to Wikipedia and then see what they come up with. It’s great for practising independent research skills.
So this is the second and last of the “bits of the paper we ignore” series. This one is based on my personal favourite, Rush Hour Crush. If you don’t know what this is, I suggest you check it out. Each morning on the way to work lovely people hand me a copy of the free newspaper, The Metro. It’s mostly awful (but actually very useful for the classroom as the articles are not that difficult or long) but I do love the Rush Hour Crush section.
The idea is that commuters see people they fancy on the tube or a train or bus and they write a text to that person and send it to The Metro who prints it in the paper. It’s sooooo creepy and weird and hilarious and absolutely choc full of lovely vocab and noun phrases. Great fun for the classroom. So, if you don’t live in London, I shall bring London to you in all of its creepy glory. Enjoy!
Level: Intermediate and above
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours (depending on activities)
to encourage students to write more complex sentences, using noun phrases
to encourage students to notice the English around them and to ask questions of it
This is reasonably straightforward but I’ll take you through it step by step:
Gist reading: students skim the text for 30 seconds and discuss what it is and where it is from.
Independent research skills: If possible, students Google and search for the text online to check their ideas.
Engaging with the text: Students discuss the concept and share their initial impressions.
Second reading: Students match the texts to the descriptions (see answer sheet)
Vocab focus 1: students match the words/phrases from the text to the definitions given.
Vocab focus 2: using the context and the vocab from the previous exercise, students try to decide what the phrases mean.
students read the definition of a noun phrase (feel free to change this definition for one of your own).
students identify the noun phrases in the examples from the text (see answer sheet)
students examine them further and find specific types of noun phrase.
check as a group and discuss any issues
Students (in pairs) compete to write the longest complex sentence using noun phrases.
What I would do (especially if you’re living in this country) is get students to write their own Rush Hour Crush texts and send them in. Even if you can’t send them in, get students to write them and make a poster. This is a lovely way to finish things off as it practises all of the target language and will lead to tonnes of new vocab and some lovely error correction before the texts are ready to be sent or put on a poster.