Giving advice with Connected Speech!

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

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

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

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

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

boardwork

Level: All levels

Time: 60 – 90 minutes

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

Materials:

Procedure:

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

Help me, I need some advice!

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

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

 

Is the English Language sexist?

So this lesson uses a fantastic newspaper article from the Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/27/eight-words-sexism-heart-english-language

It was one of those things I read and knew I had to make a lesson about.

The lesson focuses on collocation, vocab building and reading skills if you fancy going down that route, as ever, you are welcome to pick and choose bits and pieces.

Aims: build awareness of collocation / get students to respond to a text naturally

Level: Advanced / strong upper Ints could cope if it is scaffolded

Time: This really depends on how the conversation part goes but you will need a bare minimum of 1hr, I think 1.30-2hrs is more realistic.

Procedure:

Introducing collocation:

  1. Ask St’s in pairs to come up with 6 collocations for ‘Pop’ on the worksheet.  They can then read the first paragraph of the text to check if there collocations were the same.
  2. Write the word ‘Rabid’ on the board. Now ask students to look at the second paragraph and look for the collocation for the word rabid.  Ask them to think about what the word ‘rabid’ means.
  3. Ask them to complete the second diagram using words from the text.
  4. Ask students to think about recording their new vocab along with words that collocate with them, to help them to be more natural when speaking and writing.  You could at this point direct them to the British National Corpus, or show them how to look for collocations online from any other sites you may use.

http://phrasesinenglish.org/searchBNC.html

Reading:

Feel free to completely change this section adding gist questions or scanning tasks, but what I wanted here was two things:

  • to get students to react in a more natural way to the text.
  • to get students to create their own questions to set for each other. ( I should add here that it was partly to encourage learner autonomy and to test their ability to write synonyms but also to get them to think about how an examiner might write the question.  Therefore, I monitored them closely, helping with synonyms and little grammar fixes here and there).

You could, if you have a nice even number, cut up the 8 words and get the students to read them and then tell the other students about them, a jigsaw reading of sorts.

Otherwise follow the questions on the worksheet.

Reflection:

Having had a chat to a friend about some of the attitudes of her students recently, I was keen to put a reflection section into this lesson, they feature in lots of our lessons, but this one is thinking more globally about language.  This could result in a big discussion or be over in 6 minutes, really depends on your students.  Go with whatever feels right.

Vocabulary:

Again, as part of training students to be more autonomous the idea here is to get them to try to work out the meaning of words using their context.  They can then check them against a-f

As always, if there are any changes you put in, let us know and tell us how it goes.

Materials:

A lesson in implication from David Bowie

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

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

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

Level: Upp Int +

Time: 1hr

Procedure:

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

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

Listening:

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

Vocab: 

Ask the students to predict and then listen to check

Discussion:

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

Pronunciation:

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

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

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

have fun!

Materials:

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

 

A message to MTV – formal letter writing

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

the listening and the writing

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

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

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

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

Procedure: (and answers)

Listening:

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

Then

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

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

do pair, then class feedback.

Listening tasks – basically follow the worksheet

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

general gist questions

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

Vocab building – fill in from listening

Attitudinal questions – for me the answer is amused

Reflection:

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

Writing

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

follow the worksheet, here are the answers

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

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

3. things that are formal:

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

4. Things that are unusual:

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

Production

Planning

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

monitor during the planning and help them where needed

4. something like this

Dear Mr Cave,

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

Follow on:

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

Materials:

1 worksheet word doc

worksheet pdf

3 link:

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.