Film Soundtrack Task

So, the origin of this lesson came when I was still teaching exams. I wanted a task that replicated the skills and language needed for Speaking part 3 in FCE / CAE / CPE, I wanted to show that the language for the task had genuine use outside the exam. I also wanted it to be a bit of fun. I decided to use some music as it would allow students to use high level vocab and in the feedback sessions I would have scope to add input and also to check comprehension. There are other examples of how to use songs in class on the site, for example: https://textploitationtefl.com/2018/03/04/the-cure-pictures-of-you-present-perfect-continuous/

or

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

There are a lot more for you to explore.

Anyway, in this lesson, the songs are used for a slightly different reason.

So without delay, let’s get down to it.

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Level: Intermediate / Upper Intermediate / Advanced / FCE / CAE / CPE (it could be used with lower levels with some scaffolding)
  • Aim: To encourage discussion and practise decision making language.
  • Sub aim: Practising presenting a decision to the group.

Procedure:

Pre-listening: Select 5-7 songs that you intend to use. Try to ensure that the songs have a different feel and that they will evoke a different emotional response.

  1. Listening 
  • Tell the students you are going to play them 5-7 pieces of music/songs. You are only going to play about 30 seconds of each. Ask them to write down any feelings they have about the song. Tell them that you don’t want things like “I like it”, “it is rubbish”, but want adjectives or description of feelings the songs evoke or where it reminds them of being etc.
  • Play the songs allowing time after each for them to write up notes.
  • After all of the songs have been played ask the students to compare what they have written down in small groups. Try to make sure the groups are 2-4 people each.
  • Do group feedback, this allows you to share ideas, but also share any high level / interesting vocab.
  • You may need to play the songs again at this point in order for them to complete the next task.

2. Task – the script outline

Ask the students to skim read the scenes. Ask them what type / genre of film they think it is.

Then, ask students to work in groups and complete the task on the worksheet. 10-15 minutes. There may be some language that the students are unsure of. Try to elicit meanings from them. Encourage them to think about context where possible.

Task: You have been asked to select music to match the scenes. The songs we played you earlier were the ones we have the rights to. We can probably just about afford to license one more song. So if you have a suggestion for one that would work, we can probably manage that.

Direct them to the suggested language on the worksheet (please add extra language to this that you would like them to practice). Encourage as you monitor and also take notes so you can do error correction after.

Give the students 5 minutes to prepare to present their ideas to the group. Try to encourage them to use reasons. This is a chance to recycle the lexis they used earlier and to practice summarising a group discussion.

Optional: Board the different ideas for how the film ends. The students can then vote on the best.

Post task reflection: Ask the students where they can use the language that they have been practising. The aim is that they recognise that this is language that could be used in the exam. If not exam students in business discussions, meetings etc.

Also encourage the students to offer each other feedback on the language they all used. Ask the students which of the phrases they did use, which they didn’t and why. It is about them making choices about the language they use and developing their own personal lexis.

Possible extension activities: 

  • Ask the students in groups or individually to write dialogue for part of one of the scenes. This can then be edited and improved as a writing task. You could also ask the students to film it. This is a great chance for a student to act as director and help students improve. For a similar idea: https://textploitationtefl.com/2017/07/11/modals-of-deduction-a-murder-part-1-2/
  • Use one of the songs and treat it as a text and textploit it. See other ideas from the song lessons on the site.

Materials:

 

 

 

 

Rewordify: website for simplifying a text

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Model answers

I am always shocked by two things when it comes to model answers:

  • Students ignore them in the coursebooks, never look at them, never borrow bits of language from them.
  • Teachers don’t use them, don’t see the value, expecting students to magically be able to produce a piece of writing with almost no instruction.

Both of these are generalisations, but in the many years I have been teaching and observing teachers, both of these things come up time and time again.

This is just a little look at how we can use model answers to get students to notice features of language that they can use in their writing.  It is really simple and totally applicable to any type of writing you can do.

I prepare worksheets like this all the time, one bonus of writing them yourself is that you can focus on exactly what you want.  However, a lot of coursebooks now do exercises like this, focusing students on models.  Even if they don’t, the coursebooks may have examples of text types and typical features at the back of the book.  If you are teaching general English, Cambridge exam books can provide some decent models if you don’t have time to write them yourself.

Level: Upp int – Adv

Aim: raise awareness of what different elements contribute to a piece of writing

Procedure: 

1. Ask students to read the model answer and decide if it is a good example or not, discuss in pairs and then whole class feedback

2. Ask students in turn to look for examples of:

  • hypothetical
  • passives
  • good collocations

3.1 Ask if there is anything that could be improved.  Hopefully they will notice that there is some repetition

  • ‘as’ and ‘however’ used twice
  • It was felt

3.2 Ask if they can think of synonyms for these.  With ‘however’ i ask them to rewrite using ‘although’

It was felt by some, however, that the experience would have been more productive if students had been given more time in each department,

to

Although it was felt by some that the experience would have been more productive if students had been given more time in each department,

4. You can do a synonym hunt for some of the vocab if you think your students will be unfamiliar with it, or if you have trained them how to do this, ask them to work in pairs on the meaning from context.

Follow up

Obviously asking students to do some writing is a good idea, but i am a firm believer that it does not have to be a whole piece of writing.  I would rather see one good paragraph written, with the students focusing on quality and using all of the target language rather than 250 words of mediocrity.

Materials

model answer

Pronouns – giving cohesion to students’ writing

This lesson is based on something I did with an Upper Intermediate class.  With some of them it really did make a big difference to their writing, well, to the ones who took it on board and applied it.  For some of them, it was a bit of a challenge and it is not a panacea but a bit like the articles lesson we put up earlier, it just focuses students on why we use pronouns, what they do, and what they refer to, getting them to notice them.

This is also useful as a little extra for FCE/CAE students as in the long multiple choice reading activities there are often questions asking the students to choose what the pronoun in a certain line is referring to.

This lesson can be done with any text and as a follow up activity, I would recommend that you incorporate a bit of a focus on pronouns regularly after doing this lesson.

Not wanting to confuse the students or put them off, I have only focused on ‘it’ in this lesson, though obviously, if you think your class are ready for more then take the idea and expand it however you want, and let us know how it goes.

Aim: to get students to think about the use of ‘it’

Level: Upp Int + (though if you have a strong Int they might be able to do it)

Time: 45mins-1hr

Procedure: 

1. Speaking – generating interest: Get students to think about their favourite songs, what are the themes/topics in the song?  Chat and compare in pairs or small groups.  Maybe ask if anyone has ever written a song.

2. Reading – context and content: What advice is given by the writer, do the students think it is good advice?

3. Vocab – synonym hunt: Ask the students to try to match up the words, explain that the words are in order in the text.

4. Pronouns – what are they doing: Firstly ask the students to underline ‘it’ in the text.

Then ask them to answer the question at the bottom of the page about what the first ‘it’ refers to, the answer is writing in this case.

Now ask the students to think about what each of the other 8 examples of ‘it’ refers to.

5. Pronouns – function: Ask the students whether each ‘it’ in the text is used to help avoid repetition or introduce an idea?  Check as a class

Materials: pronouns worksheeets

 

Follow up activities

1. For homework you could ask the students to find a text and repeat the activities on pronouns, what do they refer to and what is the function?

2. Set students some writing and before they hand it in, get them to examine their own work for pronouns, and to check what they are replacing, or what they refer to.

Set texts – go on, set a text!

So, CPE is the last one standing, the set texts having been taken away from the FCE and CAE exams as no one answered the questions on them.  Well, some of my students did, and even if they didn’t, reading the set text gave us the chance to practice lots of other skills as well as the obvious benefits of students reading.

When I first started teaching I encouraged my students to read and the first advanced class I taught we read a book together, I have also used audiobooks in class for extended listening practice.  To be honest, some of those were not so successful, but I think that was a failing with me as a teacher, I just wasn’t experienced enough to get the most out of the materials.  Last term I taught CPE, and we read Howards End by Forster and as well as note taking, building character profiles, discussing themes etc. we also did a variety of other things.

I’ve put ideas for some of them below, give them a go, they give the reading much more focus.

  • Turning a page of it into a part 1, 2, 3 Use of English, classic but reliable fall back and a chance to get the tip ex out! Or, if you are very smart try to copy and paste from a digital version.  With my last CAE class last year, I wrote summaries of the chapters and then made them into different parts of the paper.
  • Getting students to create their own reading parts of the exam, for example giving them a section and getting them to write multiple choice questions for it.
  • Cutting up the text and seeing if they can put it back into order using logical sequencing (you have to check that you can do this yourself).  Practices reading part 2
  • Showing the film of the book (if there is one) and getting the students to review it.  With the film there are obviously lots of opportunity to work on pronunciation as you already have a model to work from.
  • Summary writing of sections of the text will help them write concisely and learn how to paraphrase. Summary writing is also a necessary skill for CPEs.
  • Encourage students to make a set text dictionary, especially useful if they can list page numbers and example sentences, to help build vocab.
  • Do a Grammar hunt in a particular piece of text, students search for Conditionals, participle clauses, passives etc to build grammar awareness.
  • Vocabulary from the context, students match synonyms, practises scanning as well as building their vocabularies.
  • Rewriting some of it into a different register, for example if you have a book with rather formal text it can be fun to get them working in pairs to rewrite it in an informal way.
  • Using the direct speech for students to practice intonation and word and sentence stress, get them to record themselves, practice it, get them to think about changes in meaning depending on where the stress is and to think how it should be said, it is also really good to get students to think about where phrases should end and where they should breathe, for many, this is a real challenge and encouraging them to think about it can really help, especially if you do a little of this often.  Recording again after working at it gives students the opportunity to really see progress and who doesn’t like that?

Many students don’t want to read, so short stories or any form of text can be used for a lot of these activities, but I do think that for many students the satisfaction of reading a story and understanding it, along with the practice that they have put in by reading it can make a real difference to their confidence as well as level.

Just always remember to stress why it will be useful for them and what skills you are practising!