Reading and tense discovery: “I caught a falling baby”.

So, the inspiration for this came yesterday at the Pearson Amazing Minds day in London. Ken Beatty mentioned this story and as he put up one of the direct quotations, I found myself just looking at the past tenses thinking, “ooooh, lesson”. I really am that dull.

The lesson itself is fairly standard textploitation. We have a text, we are going to look at the grammar used, look to build learner autonomy with the vocabulary and investigate a litte bit of pronunciation. Also borrowing in the grammar from the wonderful Danny Norrington-Davies ( https://dannynorringtondavies.wordpress.com/ )asking students to identify what the grammar is doing and why it is used.

Like with all textploitation this focuses on a little and often.

Let’s go.

Level: Intermediate (with support) / Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Objective:

  • By the end of the lesson, students will be better able to analyse language in context and to recognise subtle differences in meaning.

Aims:

  • To analyse language in context (vocab / grammar)
  • To build the skills needed for the above
  • To practice the schwa and connected speech

Time: 2-3hrs

Procedure:

Pre Reading:
Prediction task.

  • Write the phrase “I caught a falling baby” on the board and ask students what they think happened immediately before.
  • Ask them to create and build a back story.
  • Put them into pairs or groups for this.
  • Then do feedback as a class.

Prompt them with questions such as where did this happen / when. Also, ask them to justify these answers.

Reading:
Skimming

Ask them to quickly find out:

  • Where the story took place?
  • How the baby got out of the apartment?
  • Why was it not surprising the woman caught the baby?

Natural Response

Place the students into small groups and ask the following questions:

  • Did you find the story interesting?
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • Do you think the woman is a hero?
  • Do you think that the parents of the baby should be punished?

(you could break these questions into two sets if you prefer)

Grammar:

Rather than looking at the whole text this lesson breaks the text into little chunks.

Make sure the students really look at the function and use of the grammar. Do not let them just trot out grammar book rules.

Exercise 1

(picture is of Christina Torre just for context and as the sheet was looking dull)

“I’ve always known that I’m very quick with my hands. If someone throws something, I catch it almost before I’m aware it has been thrown.”

  1. present perfect and present simple
  2. Present perfect is used to describe a skill / ability that the person has had for ever. – the adverbs ‘always’ is a natural fit here. Present simple is used for a fact / ability. Encourage the students to think of how the present perfect and present simple work with each other.
  3. 0 conditional + the present perfect time clause
  4. 0 conditional is used to refer to something that always happens “If someone throws something, I catch it”, the present perfect here relies on ‘almost before’ and I think places the time close to the first ‘throws’ in the conditional. It doesn’t neatly fit any rule, and that is important for you to get across to your students.

Exercise 2

For these put students in pairs to check before doing all class feedback.

I was going to visit a friend with her newborn and was on my way to a toy store to buy a gift. I’d once lived in the neighbourhood and on a whim I decided to head back to my old haunt, a cupcake shop, for a coffee.”
Vocabulary

On a whim (adverbial phrase) – spontaneously – normally used in positive stories. It is important to let students think about connotation as well as meaning

I decided to head back to my old hauntMy old haunt – a place i used to spend a lot of time in. Get them to give you examples of their own ‘old haunts’ and provide examples yourself. Also, worth highlighting the meaning of head back to here.
Grammar

  1. Past version of be going to used to talk about a plan that did not happen.
  2. Past simple used for the main actions in the story.
  3. Past perfect used to refer to a time before the time of this story.

Extra – ask if they can find other examples of these tenses being used.

Exercise 3

“I just wanted the child, who I later found out was called Dillon, to feel safe”

  1. extra info
  2. yes

(if they ask about why there seem to be two clauses in the relative clause I told them that find out always needs an object) sentence could be rewritten as just “who was called Dillon”. If they don’t ask, I wouldn’t raise it at this stage)

Exercise 4

We didn’t practise together, but I guess my reflexes must have naturally developed.

  1. it could fit in the beginning, between the clauses, or at the end. (Though) We didn’t practise together, (though) I guess my reflexes must have naturally developed (though).
  2. The first place sounds more formal, the middle is possible but quite informal(to me, not so natural), the end is also informal

I was approached by a typical Brooklyn older man, who in a calm and very matter-of-fact way told me to call 911, because there was a baby on a fire escape.

  1. because –> as / since
  2. because (informal / neutral), as (neutral), since (formal)

(If you wanted here you could extend this by asking them to rewrite using ‘despite’ or in the second sentence maybe think about restructing using ‘so’

Exercise 5

“what would have happened if I hadn’t caught him.”

“if we let intuition lead us, we can deal with anything.”

  1. A – elicit the form from students
  2. Imaginary / hypothetical past – to talk about regrets or how situations could have turned out differently. “If I hadn’t been late, she wouldn’t have dumped me”
  3. It talks about every time / general time. It is general advice for the future.
  4. It is used at the end, to provide a motivating ending / student’s own answers may be more interesting than that.

Exercise 6

Vocabulary

This is focused on developing learner autonomy, so do not let them use dictionaries until they have tried to work out the meaning themselves. Explain why, get them to think of substituting other words etc.

  • looking around nonchalantly – without a care
  • baby boy became my only priority. – my main focus
  • Apparently he had slipped through pieces of cardboard – people told me (might suggest surprise)
  • Instinctively, he grabbed on as he fell, – without thought
  • my attention was purely focused on my intention to catch the baby – purely means solely or only here
  • As he tumbled, he hit a protruding plastic sign – tumbled – fell / protruding – it was sticking out
  • it turned out it was only his lip that had been cut – we later found out
  • Dillon’s parents had been woken by the commotion – the noise and fuss

Exercise 6

The reality of saving someone’s life is intense. I play it over in my head so many times, I think it has changed me. I am calm and more at ease with things. I study mindfulness, and I see now that if we let intuition lead us, we can deal with anything. I think I was meant to be there.

This paragraph has present simple / present perfect / past simple and a 0 conditional. Again get them to think about why each tense is used – sometimes the reasons are not the same as earlier.

Pronunciation

The idea is to look at the schwa and the effect that it has on rhythm when we are speaking.

Schwas are in bold (different native speakers may decide differently. To me, this is the most likely.) Connected words underlined

  1. ‘The reality of saving someone’s life is intense. I play it over in my head so many times’

Ask the students to practice saying the words, model and drill, but really focus on the schwa and the connected words.

If you wanted to do further work, you could ask them to work in pairs and select another piece of direct speech and examine it, looking for the same features.

Further practice:

You could ask students to find a news story that they found interesting and examine the grammar in it. Bringing it to a future class and asking them to explain it to others in a group and discussing it.

Materials:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/18/experience-i-caught-falling-baby

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.

One-sided phone calls

Some of the more eagle-eyed among you may recognise the title from another lesson that we have done. This one seeks to differ though in its focus on future forms. There is also a focus pronunciation, intonation in the first listening and connected speech in the second.

The idea for this came, as so many of ideas do, when I was a little grumpy. This time i was imagining how much worse my mood would be if someone were to cancel plans I had made. If you know me, changing or cancelling of plans is one of my pet hates, unless it means I no longer have to do anything, then that is ok! However, I digress. The focus of this is to present the different structures we use for future forms within a context in which they may exist in the ‘real world’ and obviously to provide listening practice and hopefully some chances for them to use the newly acquired knowledge in a review of what was learnt from listening two at the end:

Level: Strong Int with scaffolding but prob Upper Int and above

Aims: To highlight the uses of future forms / to focus on pronunciation and intonation

Procedure:

Pre listening (optional) ask students to discuss their plans for the evening and the rest of the wk and record themselves. 1 min max recording time.

 

Listening 1:

Play the first recording once.  Ask students how the person speaking feels at the beginning and the end of the conversation.  Ask them how they can tell and what do they think caused this change?

Who is speaking to who, about what? what is the relationship between the speakers? How do they know?

*If you wanted you could board some hypothetical language of prediction for them to use: could be, sounds like / as if / I suppose/guess.

Additionally, you could add some adjectives to describe emotions to the board, for students who struggle a little more.

 

Grammar:

1. answers:

  1. fine
  2. I’m meeting Chris…
  3. We’ll maybe go…

 

2. answers and instructions:

What tense is each one? 

present simple / present continuous / will

Why was each tense used here?

This is the more interesting part, it is all about reflection on the tenses and what they know about them with regards to their function.

for me, present simple used for timetabled event

present continuous used for an arrangement

will used to imply that the event is not fixed, less certain.

What would be the difference to the meaning if any of the other future forms were used?

In the first, this is the only tense that sounds natural here.

in the second be going to’ could easily be used and this is also the case in the third example.

3. Reflection on st’s own usage – (if you recorded students at the beginning use it here, ask them to listen and write down which future structures they tend to use.)

group discussion, the rules they select are fine, try not to correct too much at this point, encourage them to think about how they differ, by all means monitor and prod them towards the right direction though.

4. This is something I call Audi Future, the idea is that we often use more than one tense for one function, but that they don’t all get used for the same things.

 

audi-future

  • Will – offers / spontaneous decision / promises / predictions
  • Be going to – plans / predictions with fact
  • present continuous – arrangements
  • present simple – timetabled events

These will be known to you and to many of your students, the whole point of the graphic though is to show how native speakers are often a little flexible with these definitions, hence the fact they overlap. Despite this though, we never really use present continuous for a spontaneous decision, so only when the two circles overlap can there be a mixture of use.

*also perhaps pointing out that often when ‘will’ is used for promises it is often pronounced fully, rather than it’s more usual contracted form.

 

Pronunciation:

A brief focus on natural pronunciation

How’s it going?

Ask students how to pronounce this – you will probably get 3 or four separate words.

Here you are trying to get them to notice that it is in fact two words

/haʊzɪt gəʊwən/

The second sound in the first could be a schwa for some, but I think I pronounce it /ɪ/.

Intonation – ask students to draw what happens to the voice during this

‘go’ has the big stress

Ask if students can think of any other examples of native speakers putting words together like this.  You might get the following:

whatcha doing / dyer like  / etc

 

Listening 2:

Prediction – this is a much neglected listening skill. We do it instinctively, but it seems to be one of those skills that students don’t use when learning English.

Explain the second conversation is the person phoning the other person, Chris, and ask the students to predict what will be said in groups.

All class feedback, board suggestions

Ask what grammar they would expect to hear.

Listen to check, ask students to take notes on what they hear then ask the following questions:

  • Is this the first time James has let them down?
  • How does the speaker feel about it?
  • What is their plan for the evening?

 

Grammar:

The focus on conditionals ties into something that we both talk about a lot, which is the limitations of putting conditionals into the 0/1/2/3 categories.

Neither of these conditionals fit neatly into those boxes, which can throw some students of the scent a little in terms of their meanings.

This aims to focus on the meaning, and when they refer to, rather than just focusing on the more traditional numbers.

 

Vocab:

There are only two things that I would draw the student’s attention to here.

Bail – to cancel at the last minute (in this context)

This could be a good opportunity for students to see how dictionaries really don’t always have the answers they are looking for. You could get the students to look in their dictionaries and then listen for the word and see if it fits with the meaning in the situation.

Alternatively, you could ask them just to work out the meaning of the word from the context. Make sure that they have considered register here.

Fancy – ask them to listen and to see what they think the meaning is in this context.

Draw attention to the register difference of ‘fancy’ / ‘would like’ / ‘to be up for it’ see in which situations they think they would be used. maybe ask if they can think of any other ways of saying this and ask them to create a cline from formal to informal.

 

Pron:

Just to draw some attention to some common features of connected speech. You can drill it, but for me the focus hear is very much preparing them for what happens in the real world, rather than trying to get them to take on all the features of connected speech in their own pronunciation.

“guess what”

/geswɒ/ – the ‘t’ isn’t pronounced

“he always”

/hɪjɔːleɪz/ – the /j/ sound connects the two vowel sounds, students are probably not aware of this. Ask the students if they can think of other examples of this.

“to be honest”

/təbiːjɒnɪs/ – the to uses the schwa and as above there is an intrusive /j/ sound and the /t/ is dropped from honest

“if we fancy it”

/fwiːfænsɪjɪt/ – ‘If we’ becomes one sound – /fwiː/ – this frequently happens when native speakers are using conditionals.

Grammar (revision):

Ask students to listen and note down future forms they hear, and ask them to reflect whether the use of them connects to what was examined earlier in the class.

Place them in groups and ask them to discuss this together.

 

Materials:

Audio 1

Audio 2

 

 

 

 

Could I ask your advice on something? Should / If I were you…

beaten up

This is a relatively straightforward test/teach/test type of lesson but there’s lots that you can do with it. I’ve put the basic lesson plan below and then a few suggestions for extra activities you could do.

The whole point of the lesson is to practise giving advice, largely using conditionals and should. It really encourages students to analyse language and hopefully to use it afterwards.

Level: Intermediate and above

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Materials:

  1. advice
  2. problems and pics
  3. advice (PDF)
  4. problems-and-pics (PDF)

Procedure:

(1)

Test:

As the first test, I like to walk in and tell my students a personal problem. I quite like pretending that it’s a real one and asking their real advice but that’s up to you, you could even say it’s your friend’s problem and your telling them about it. Here’s a problem I often start with:

So, my girlfriend rang me last night. Turns out she wants to move to Brazil. She says she can’t handle the weather here anymore and needs a change. I completely get it, going to Brazil would be amazing but we’ve got stable jobs here, things are going well, I’m really enjoying where I live right now…I just don’t know what to do.

We usually discuss it for a bit and then I say OK everyone, write down one piece of advice for me. (It’s a nice idea to give them a post-it note and then collect them in afterwards). you can come back to these pieces of advice later on.

(2)

Pre-Reading / Gist Reading

Display the picture of the 2 men on the board or hand them out and get sts to decide what they’re discussing.

Instruct sts to read through the dialogue and answer the questions on the top.

(3)

Language Focus: Advice structures

Get the students to read the dialogue again and underline any structures giving or asking for advice. They should find the obvious “should” and “if I were you” but also highlight the chunks of English “Do you mind if I ask your advice on something?”.

Very often students skim over language without really noticing what’s going on. The idea with this exercise if to get them in the habit of examining the structures they come across in the hopes they can reproduce them in the future.

The really interesting piece of language here is that the “If I were you” structure is used twice, once to give advice for future and once to comment on the past. Draw their attention to this and to the form as they’ll have the opportunity to practice it in a second.

(4)

Controlled Practice

Display one of the pictures and the problems from the set, whichever one you like.

In pairs, ask sts to write their reply to this person. Don’t give them too much in the way of guidelines here as this can produce some really interesting language. I like to give them a post-it note to do this on as then I can collect them in easily.

Correct any errors in advice that come up, board any other ways of giving advice that come up and any interesting language you find.

(5)

Freer Practice

Display the remaining problems and pictures around the room. Students walk around in pairs and give advice to the pictures.

Teacher monitors, helps out when necessary and notes down interesting errors and language.

Feedback as a whole class and correct anything that has arisen.

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.

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.

 

Office Politics – Listening

So, this is a little listening lesson, pretty tricky unless it is scaffolded properly.  It also shows students some conditionals in a natural situation, which is always a plus in my book, it can conveniently fit into either a lesson on work or comedy, but for the purposes of this, it is as a bit of a break from a unit/week on work.

Do let them listen a few times, especially at the beginning, as it is pretty fast.  Your job as teacher is to stop them getting discouraged and to explain that the reason for this is to try to bridge the gap between what they do inside the classroom and what happens outside those walls.

Enjoy

Aims: expose students to real conversation, show grammar, conditionals, in a real context, focus on pronunciation, sentence stress.

Time: 1hr +

Level: High int +

Procedure:

The worksheet should be fairly easy to follow so the procedure would be to follow that, rather than me writing a lengthy one here.  But do have a look before you go into class as i’ve tried to really mix the activities, listening as the main background activity with lots of things coming off it

I would recommend putting in the time for students to reflect on what they have seen as for this I think it is important for all lessons, but especially this one.

Here are the answers to the word stress exercise at the end, feel free to disagree but this is what I hear.

T. Hey dude

G. Give it back

T. I’m just using it for a second

G. It’s got my name on it, Gareth

T. No, it says Garet, actually, but

G. Ask if you want to borrow it.

T. Yeah, you always say no mate, so what’s the point

G. Perhaps that’s why you should ask

T. Gareth it was just there ok

G. Yeah, that’s its home, leave it there.

Also, you could obviously go onto connected speech at this point or other pronunciation features, depending on how your students are feeling.

Materials

Worksheet: the-office-worksheet

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1PHpkdvNOs

Filling out a form – Job applications

So, every Monday we get another bunch of lovely students coming through our doors and the first thing we do is ask them to fill in a form with their personal details. Having done this in another language, it’s not always the easiest thing to do at low levels.

This lesson is quick and easy but can really help any low level students you have who might be interested in getting a part-time job in English or just with filling in forms in general.

Level: Elementary / pre-intermediate

Materials:

  1. Job advertisement
  2. APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT

Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Procedure:

(1)

Intro

I  like to start off slowly with this lesson by asking students to think of all of the different jobs they could physically do with their current level of English and then discussing the kinds of duties each role would involve. You could also talk about their jobs or the jobs they’d like to have, anything to get them thinking/talking about jobs.

(2)

Pre-Reading

I tell the students they’re going to read a job ad but first they should think with their partners about what kind of info they’d expect to see in this ad.

(3)

Reading

Get the students to skim through the job ad and tick off the information they had correctly predicted would be there. Then discuss as a class.

Direct the students to the comprehension questions and then let them work through the vocabulary exercise. It’s quite nice even at this level to encourage them to notice and analyse language instead of reading for their dictionaries every five seconds.

(4) 

Post-reading

First of all I like to have a chat about the job itself and give the students a chance to discuss it. Any discussion questions you like would be appropriate but I usually go with these ones:

  • Have you ever worked in a restaurant? How was it?
  • Do you think you’d be a good waiter?
  • What was your first job?
  • Have you ever done a job you hated?

After the discussion I tell the students they’re going to apply for this job and I hand out the application form for them to fill out by themselves but I give them a minute first of all to look at the headings with their partners and decide what information would go in each section and then we discuss it as a group so that they’re all prepared.

(5)

Follow-up

When all the students are done, I like to put them up around the room and have them move around in pairs and decide who was most suitable for the job. While they’re doing this, I take any mistakes or issues and board them for correction when they’re all done.

(6)

Other possible activities

If you like you could go into a bit more detail with the job ad itself:

  • You could analyse the question forms at the beginning?
  • You could have a look at the conditional sentence: if you answered yes to these questions, then don’t stop reading. which is very interesting as it doesn’t fall neatly into the strict first or second conditionals they made already come across. It’s always good to show them this variety and move away from rigid conditional forms that don’t allow them to express themselves fully.
  • You could look at the phone number (020 2555 7653) and look at how it would naturally be pronounced. There’s a rhythm that numbers follow and also explaining that “0” is pronounced “oh” instead of “zero”. You could also look at double 5 and triple 5.
  • Once you’ve analysed the type of language you might find in a job ad, you could give each group a job and have them write the advertisement.

You’ve got Voicemail

So this lesson is based on something I did for my DELTA many years ago.  Back then I had to phone each of them and leave them all a little voice mail message.  Now, just create a what’s app group and share it.  Much easier, and less time consuming.

Why make it a voice mail, well a lot of the listening practice that we do as teachers involves us playing the text to them, in the real world they normally only hear things once, unless watching T.V. The exception is voice mail, I think everyone has had to listen to a voice mail a few times to get a long number or to catch a name.  So in this lesson, students can listen as many times as they want, the power is in their hands. Literally!

The context for this is looking for a flat, which is something many students may have had some personal experience of, especially living abroad.  One of the main focuses here is on prediction and script work, getting students to think before listening about what information they really expect to hear.

Also be prepared for the fact that a lot of house vocab can come up in the discussion stage, monitor and board the language that you think would be beneficial for the whole class.

  • Time: 30-60mins + follow on activity
  • Level: Int +
  • Aim:  To help students listen better for specific information in a natural context
  • Sub aim:  To raise awareness of stressed and weak forms in natural speech patterns.

 Procedure

Before going into the classroom you will need to have recorded the text, either yourself or using someone else – it is important to make sure it is natural sounding.

1. The context: Explain to students that the context is that they have contacted an estate agent looking for a flat for them and a friend. They have been told about two, property A and property B.  You can show them the details to the property at this point and ask them to discuss with partners what they think and which place they would prefer to live in and why.

2. Prediction: Tell students that they are going to get an answerphone message in a minute about another house on their phones.  Get them to predict what might be said, what vocab they expect to hear and also if there is any grammar that they think will be used in the recording.

3. Strong and weak forms: Write the first line of the message on the board

“Hi , this is (name) calling from Fairhouse”

Ask the students, in pairs/groups, to think about which words they would expect to hear clearly, if you have done some work with them previously, they should be able to identify them, if not, then give them time and help when monitoring.

Play the 1st line of the recording only and ask students to see which words are stressed

Hi , this is (name) calling from Fairhouse

Say only the stressed words and ask if they can understand the meaning of the sentence

Hi, (name) calling Fairhouse

Get the students to reflect on why those words are stressed and why the others aren’t – ie, it gives meaning, the others don’t.

Tell students that it will be important to listen out for only the key information while doing the task.

4. Note taking: Get students to reflect back on what information they expect to hear and then share the message with them using what’s app or another similar method.  Hand out the questions on the worksheet and let them listen for the answers. Give them 3-5 minutes, remember the whole point is that they can listen as many times as they want.

Hand out the final property information sheet (C) and now ask the students if they would change their first choice of property and in pairs/groups ask them to discuss this and why?

5. Language focus:  Ask the students to listen again and make a note of any grammar structures they hear used.  They should hopefully notice the repeated use of conditionals.

Then ask if they can write them down – a bit of dictation.  Encourage them to listen only twice and then try to reconstruct the rest of the conditional with a partner (dictagloss).

Then pass on the small section on function or put the information on a board.

(this section is short as I don’t want conditionals to be the focus of the lesson, if you want, feel free to go into much more detail on them)

6. Pronunciation: Ask students what happens to the first ‘I’ in if when saying a conditional.

Write this on the board

/faɪ wə juː/

explain that the first sound often vanishes when native speakers talk quickly.  Highlight the fact they therefore need to be prepared for this while listening.

Get them with partners to practise the pronunciation of the three conditional sentences or drill chorally, whichever you prefer or more importantly your class respond best to.

7. Reflection: Place students in small groups / pairs and ask them to think about what different aspects of listening skills they have focused on and why.  Then share as a group discussion.

Optional

8.  Follow up: Ask students to make notes for a reply to the estate agent explaining which house(s) they would like to view and putting forwards ideas for a time. Remind them of the use of conditionals for giving choices. Once they have ideas, get them to record it, don’t worry about mistakes at this point.

Ask them to listen, focusing on their pronunciation and get them to think about two parts they could improve.  Ask them to record again, trying to improve those two things. When they have done this and are happy, ask them to send the recordings to you.

Listen to them, make some notes on the different recordings and work on any issues in forthcoming lessons.

 

Materials:

Property details

worksheet 1