The bits of the paper we ignore 1!

This is to be part 1 of a 2 part series focusing on the bits of the newspaper we throw away. A lot of our lessons on this blog and the lessons we do in class use articles as the basis for the lesson. But what about the rest of the paper?

We want to encourage our students to be fully-functioning autonomous machines out in the real world, constantly analysing the English around them, learning new words and structures and reconfirming what they have learnt before. One way to do this is to help them find what they should be analysing in the first place.

This first lesson looks at an advertisement for a film. It’s a film I haven’t seen a to be honest I have absolutely no intention of seeing ever…but that doesn’t matter. Check out the lesson and let me know how it goes.

Level: Intermediate and above (although low-ints might need some help with some of the questions on the worksheet. A lot of ICQs and CCQs please!)

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on discussion times and follow-up activities)

Aim:

  1. to encourage sts to notice and analyse the language in the world around them.
  2. To gather vocab on dating

Materials:

 

full ad

Procedure:

This is quite a straight forward lesson. The worksheet takes you through it nice and easily. I think the only part that might need to be commented on is the final part, the reflection. The idea here it to get them thinking about the English that surrounds them. Even if you don’t live in an English speaking country, the Internet is at your disposal and by driving them to sites like IMDB.com, you can help them to see this.

Possible Follow-up Activities:

  1. students write their own tweets about bad dates (real or imaginary) and either put them up around the room for correction or tweet them using the hashtag at the bottom of the ad.
  2. Students look up new films in groups on IMDB and summarise them to their partners.
  3. Students set up a class online dating profile and send comments to people.

For shame, Nandos! Editing texts

 

So there I am, sitting in Nandos in Gatwick airport, killing time with chicken, when I glance to my left and see a large text painted on the wall. As all EFL teachers know, there are two aspects of the job that we just can’t turn off:

  1. Constantly looking out for new material for our lessons.
  2. The mistake alarm. Every time we see or hear one it rings loud and clear.

The second of these has made Facebook and Twitter hard to bear for much of us, especially with friends writing things like “You should of called me”…GAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Sadly Nandos is no different and this little text had three separate mistake clangers in there. However, it also had some negative inversion and some nice vocab in there so I decided to take a photo (I then had to put up with weird looks from around the room) and use it in a lesson.

I’ve yet to use it but here’s the material and the procedure. If you try it before me, let me know how it goes.

Level: Upper intermediate + above (nice for Cambridge exam groups too)

Time: 90 mins – 3 hours

Material:

Objective:

  • The main aim here is to encourage our students to be more analytical, to notice the English all around them. This mean noticing mistakes as well as new vocab and interesting language patterns.

 

Procedure:

  1. Display the word “Legend” on the board and ask sts to discuss what it means. Then show them the dictionary definition and get them to check their ideas. (I like to use full dictionary definitions from time to time to encourage sts to use English – English dictionaries and to look at common features of dictionaries, especially how to understand the pronunciation)
  2. Get students to chat about the discussion questions and then feedback as a group. I’d try to get as much interesting language from their legends up on the boards now as it could help later.
  3. Students skim read the text (30 seconds) and in pairs retell it in their own words.
  4. Vocab focus: Sts match the key vocab from the text with the definitions/synonyms on the worksheet.
  5. Editing: Sts work together to find the mistakes. See the teacher’s copy for the answers.
  6. Language focus: Sts examine the negative inversion sentence and feedback as a class.

Follow-up:

  1. Ask sts to retell the story and record their stories. I think it would be interesting to compare the language they use to tell the story and the language of the text. The key vocab will be the same but the style of the text is very much that of a legend. I think this would be an interesting comparative analysis.
  2. Going back to the discussion at the beginning of the lesson, sts use the vocab boarded then and the legend style discussed above to write their own legends.
  3. Place them around the room and encourage sts to move around with two tasks. (1) find errors & (2) decide who has written the best legend in keeping with the style discussed above.

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.

 

Barry London: a tale of two cities

You may or may not have noticed but I have a tendency to call everyone in my lessons Barry. I don’t know when this started, I don’t know why but it has definitely become a thing for me. Maybe I just like the name.

So, in keeping with this, we’ve decided to make Barry a little more real. We’ve given him a second name and over the next few months, we’re going to do a string of Barry-related lessons. Obviously they’ll all be standalone lessons but there’ll definitely be a thread running through them.

This is the first of many Barry-lessons and we join him in the Shard in London…but it doesn’t start off well for the poor fella.

spire shard

Level: Intermediate and above

Objectives: By the end of the lesson, your students will be better able to identify useful chunks of language in a text by themselves

Language Points: Phrasal verbs and expressions related to relationships and dating

Time: 2-3 hours depending on activities

Procedure:

The worksheet and text are pretty straightforward for this one and take you through the steps one at a time. The general idea of this lesson is that your learners are gradually brought from just finding the meaning of vocabulary, to identifying useful chunks of language and finally grasping their meaning from the text.

Material:

  1. Word: Barry London – up the shard
  2. PDF: Barry London – up the shard

A might well:The many forms of “might”

A borderline advanced student stopped me in the corridor the other day and asked me what the difference was between might, might as well and might well and for a moment I was stumped. He was holding his Upper Int coursebook on the grammar reference section for “might” and he made a very good point which was:

The Upper Intermediate book has exactly the same information as the Intermediate.

He was right, so I decided to look at it in a little bit more detail and came up with the lesson below.

The materials and the teaching notes are all in the same file and I’ve attached it as a PDF and as a WORD doc so that you can edit it if you like.

Enjoy

  1. might-as-well  – WORD doc
  2. might-as-well  – PDF

 

guys pic

 

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

 

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.

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.

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