Manners, language and the importance of keeping with the times.

So, this lesson was a challenge. Literally, ‘Teaching Cat’ challenged us to make a lesson from this text so here we are.

The original text is one of those fun quirky texts aimed at people in the past that is now ridiculous, you know the type. So far, so not very promising. Except, how many of your students use strange bits of language that make them sound ancient. At EC London we have a 30+ group and this happens a lot, but also with younger students they have often picked up bits of quite bizarre English, outdated phrases, archaic words, or odd uses of more commonly used ones. This lesson aims to ask students to focus and reflect on register and appropriacy in their writing.

Enjoy and thanks Cat.

Objective: by the end of the lesson students will be more aware of appropriate register in their writing

Level: Upper intermediate & advanced

Time: 2-3 hours

Material:

  1. Bicycling Etiquette – teacher’s copy
  2. Bicycling Etiquette

 

Procedure:

Introduction:

  • Sts discuss the questions in small groups. T feeds back as a whole class and prompts them with further questions if they are struggling to come up with ideas
  • The idea here is to get them thinking about their own reading habits and how it largely happens through their devices these days. In question 2, I’m thinking of click bait type posts on social media or even video instructions on Youtube. I’d also like them thinking about formality in English. There is a misconception that more formal mean more polite and therefore better. But English these days, even written English, is very conversational.

Reading:

  • Sts skim the text and answer the questions in pairs.
  • T directs sts towards the reading tip and sends them back to underline anything in the text that shows the author’s world view. If they’re struggling, T directs them to the 3 sentences on the right.
  • The idea here is that very often learners don’t critically analyse the opinion of the writer. Given the archaic views in this text, it should be easy enough to identify them but by doing these kinds of activities little and often, you can improve a learner’s ability to question writers more effectively. 

Discussion:

(N.B. at this point, I would ask sts to fold the sheet along the dashed line so they only have Discussion and Language Focus sections)

  • Sts discuss the questions in small groups.
  • While this will herd them towards the final task, it also gives them space to disagree (or agree) with the text & writer, which is an important part of any lesson. These kinds of real life questions will show comprehension.
  • There is a lot of interesting language in this text, much of it dead (e.g. wheeler). Sts try to find them. T uses this stage to deal with any unknown vocabulary.

Language focus (register)

  • Sts look back at the text for unnatural examples of English. T elicits and writes / highlights on the board.
  • If sts are struggling, T can give one of the examples and send them back to the text.
  • If sts are really struggling, T can instruct them to open their page and direct them towards the 3 sentences.
  • Sts rewrite the 3 sentences and any other words/phrases/sentences they have found.
  • T corrects as a whole class, discussing what would be natural and unnatural in modern writing contexts.
  • Feel free to consider different types of writing contexts. I’ve suggested online articles and such as I figure that’s where we get a lot of advice these days. I also think written English (even at work these days) is conversational and overly formal English sounds unnatural and rude.

Language focus (analysis)

  • As this is for higher levels, I do not see the need for large grammar presentations but judge your learners and do what is necessary.
  • Sts look through the text for repeated language structures particular to this type of text.
  • They are looking for conditional sentences, relative clauses and passive voice.
  • Sts analyse the two sentences.

 

Writing task:

  • Sts make notes, using the questions to guide them.
  • Sts work in small groups to produce their text.
  • T displays them around the room and sts move around in their groups. They judge the writing on register, use of the above-mentioned language points and on how entertaining they are.
  • T displays any errors on the board and sts work together to correct.
  • I would suggest taking common errors and editing them slightly for content. Then allow sts to self-correct their own errors, using the boarded ones as a guideline.

 

Reflection:

  • Sts discuss what they have taken from today and how they can use it in their own writing.

 

 

 

 

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.

School Reunion: A tense review

This is a really simple one that we made as a tense review before an end-of-term test. It had two main aims:

  1. to find out which language points needed a bit more of a review.
  2. 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.

  • Objective: see above
  • Time: 2 – 3 hours
  • level: high intermediate and above

Materials:

  1. Worksheet (word): Reunion tense review worksheet
  2. Worksheet (PDF): Reunion tense review worksheet
  3. Teacher’s copy: Reunion tense review teacher’s copy

 

Procedure:

  1. Students skim read the story and discuss the question at the top of the page. Feedback as a class.
  2. Students match the definitions to the vocab in the story (it’s important that no words / phrases stand in the way of them understanding the text so spend a little time here if needs be)
  3. In small groups, students work through the story, filling in the gaps. I always tell them they should have a reason for every answer they give. I will ask them why!
  4. Students check their answers on the back of the sheet and circle any they got wrong. They should then discuss if their answer was also possible, if it changes the meaning or if it was just impossible.
  5. Feedback as a class, focusing on the ones they had trouble with (this will be clear from your monitoring). If they all had issues with one language point, that’s one to go over in the next lesson.
  6. In the language analysis section, the students look at an isolated piece of language and use the questions to help them analyse it. Discuss as a class.
  7. Finally, students discuss the questions in small groups. Teacher monitors for delayed error correction and emergent language, which they deal with after the discussion.

 

Bowie: Pronunciation in songs

 

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.

normal_k_k_k_kooks_tray

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.

  1. Objective: to raise awareness of connected speech in songs / to examine different uses of “will”
  2. Time: 2 – 3 hours
  3. Level: Pre-intermediate and above

 

Materials:

Songhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSlOGzPM90

 

Barry London: Writing + Study skills

Brixton-Tube-CLosed

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.

Materials:

  1. Barry London arrives in London – teacher’s copy – Answers / notes
  2. Barry London arrives in London – student copy WORD
  3. Procedure Barry London story – Procedure
  4. Barry London arrives in London PDF -student copy PDF

 

Paint it Black – Listening lesson

I wrote the ‘tense review with the stones’ lesson a couple of weeks ago:

https://textploitationtefl.com/2016/05/09/tense-review-with-the-rolling-stones/

and here, as promised, is the follow up!

It is intended as a short follow up, so shouldn’t take too long, but focuses on listening and picking things out from the song.

Rather than picking this song for its specific merits, I picked a song I liked and then looked for what was there.  Hopefully some of the ideas here can be applied to songs you or your students like too.

enjoy,

now where is my black paint?

Level: Int (and surrounding levels)

Procedure: A lot of this is just following the worksheet.

Discussion: – warmer – associations with the colour black, think about collocations as well, get as much as you can from the students.

Listening: Play the song twice or as many times as needed for students to complete the table.

Answer – the girls are walking by – not painted or want to paint

Grammar: Highlighting causatives

follow the exercise, you could always revise this later in the wk / class.  This is more a case of exposing students to it, getting them to think about it and showing them that get can also be used.

Vocab: Here you can either do this as a reading or a listening, but I would go for a listening and then read to check.

Once they have completed the phrases put them in groups and ask them to work together to think about the meaning.

Check it as a class.

Pronunciation: This section is just to draw attention to natural features, something that we think is important for students to enable them to listen well outside the classroom.

You could drill them and ask them to think of other words that like ‘happening’ are written with what seems like 3 syllables but often pronounced with 2.

For the linking /j/ you could follow this up with the maze activity from pronunciation games by Mark Hancock.

https://unihub.mdx.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/187618/5-Link-Maze.pdf

Materials: 

Word: Paint it Black worksheet

PDF:   Paint it Black worksheet

Song without lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPVUa29kHu8

Song with lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4irXQhgMqg

 

 

Tense review with the Rolling Stones

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

Procedure:

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.

Reading gist: 

  1. first read to check listening
  2. Read to answer gist questions – answer together

Grammar hunt:

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.

Reported speech:

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:

  • elision: things like “we wen in”
  • language often used in anecdotes: “we were like”
  • stressed and weak forms
  • sentence stress and where the pauses happen

 

Materials:

AUDIO FILE

 

My “Favourite Film” Lesson

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

Materials:

  1. favourite film worksheet
  2. Procedure

 

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.

Grammary Songs! The Script

I’m sorry…I may have gone too far this time and I completely understand if you want to turn your back on me and leave me to wither away into nothingness. I’ve made a lesson out of a Script song. In my defense, it’s not my fault. A student made me do it. This is what happens when you have Spanish teenage girls, who’ve spent a summer in Ireland as students. Honestly not my fault.scripts 1

Anyway, you may remember that I once wrote abouthaving a short extract from a song for every language point. The idea was that it was engaging for students, it gave them a bit of access to the culture and it (hopefully) made the language point a little more memorable.

My first lesson was on “used to” and “would” using a Coldplay song…again, sorry. Check it out if you want to see what I was on about.

This one shouldn’t be a long lesson but it’s a nice communicative one with some guided discovery in there.

Level: Int and above

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on how chatty your students are)

Aim: see above

Objective: see above

Materials:

  1. if you ever come back – worksheet
  2. if you ever come back – teacher’s answers

 

Procedure:

  1. Listening for gist / engagement: Play the full song and have students discuss the questions at the top of the worksheet. The idea here is that they engage with the song and love it, hate it or loathe it but at least they engage.
  2. Language focus (vocab): these are quite nice phrases and this activity will really encourage them to think about language in context instead of jumping to dictionaries. You can help them out with the individual parts of the expression (e.g. shoulder) if you think they need guidance.
  3. Language focus (wish): this is all quite self-explanatory guided discovery. The hope is that students can analyse the language in context and decide how it would be used. You might need to walk them through the first one if they struggle with this kind of thing.
  4. Practice: always good to practice.
  5. discussion: This will bring the whole thing together and give them a chance to discuss the topic and use the target language.

The bits of the paper we ignore 2

rush hour pic

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)

Objectives:

  • 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

Materials:

  1. Rush hour crush
  2. Rush hour crush PDF
  3. rush hour crush text
  4. Rush hour crush answer sheet

Procedure:

This is reasonably straightforward but I’ll take you through it step by step:

  1. Gist reading: students skim the text for 30 seconds and discuss what it is and where it is from.
  2. Independent research skills: If possible, students Google and search for the text online to check their ideas.
  3. Engaging with the text: Students discuss the concept and share their initial impressions.
  4. Second reading: Students match the texts to the descriptions (see answer sheet)
  5. Vocab focus 1: students match the words/phrases from the text to the definitions given.
  6. Vocab focus 2: using the context and the vocab from the previous exercise, students try to decide what the phrases mean.
  7. Language focus:
  • 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.

Follow-up

  1. 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.