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.

 

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.

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

 

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.

Star Wars – may the grammar be with you

So, Star Wars, love it or hate it, I am firmly in the former camp, it is going to be a big deal this winter.  So, what better way to engage students with a bit of grammar?

This is using quotes from the film, the whole tiny texts thing that we are into.  I’ve tried to use them for different grammar points and it should be seen as either revision, or perhaps an introduction for some of these grammar points.

I would say you should be thinking Upper Int upwards, though you could edit out sections, for example the section on negative adverbial inversion, and do it with Intermediates.  It really is a bit of a pick and mix, whichever parts you want.

Procedure:

Just follow the worksheet really.

However,  with the scrolling text you need to try to get them to take notes to check, or you could throw some simple questions up there for them.

  1. What type of base is it?
  2. What did rebels steal?
  3. Where is Leia going?

Materials:

  1. Star Wars – Word
  2. Star Wars – PDF Version
  3. star-wars-answers

PS – the reason for the PDF was that the fonts changed and it really annoyed me.

Today you might meet a tall dark stranger – Horoscopes for Modals

So as you know, we try, as much as possible, to use found authentic sources here, though sometimes we do write them ourselves.  This is in the former category, as I don’t fancy myself as a mystic meg.

Why horoscopes, well, basically, because one day as I was flicking through the paper I noticed they contained a lot of modals.  I’m not a big horoscope reader, but I’ve found that it is something that some, not all, students enjoy and can get into.

I would obviously recommend using the days horoscopes but have included two example ones taken from the independent to show what I mean.

I use this as a revision exercise of modals, so from Int upwards really.  I always try to get students noticing grammar in the real world.  The vocab is often very challenging but can be really good for working out meaning from context as hopefully I’ve shown in the worksheet.

For this you will either need copies of the days horoscopes or let them use their smartphones to access one, I used the Independent’s ones as they had quite a lot of good language in them and seemed to avoid lots of mentions of phases of the moon and other lexis that isn’t so high frequency.

Procedure:

Introduction

  1. Basic question to introduce topic
  2. Ask students to find their horoscope for the day, what does it predict? (if you have a really large class, you could start off altogether with one persons on the board and use that for the following exercises, before moving to students looking at other horoscopes.

Language analysis

  1. Ask Students to underline the modals in the text, there are normally a few. – see example worksheet
  2. Ask the students to match the modals to their function, are they talking about possibility / advice / prediction, etc.  Monitor and help sort out any problems / confusion.
  3. Synonym hunt, I have scaffolded it here, and as long you are all using the same paper, then you can do the same.  Otherwise, encourage students to write down the words they don’t know, and ask them to predict the meaning by substituting other words in their place.  Again, this will involve you monitoring and again, using one example with a large class may be more beneficial.

Possible extra:

You could, with higher levels, examine the other language that is contained in the examples.  Virgo contains lots of relative clauses, which could be good for Ints / Upp Ints.  Virgo also contains ‘Not only…, but also…’ good for higher levels.   Aries has some lovely ‘passives’ and ‘imperatives’.

Production:

  1. Ask the students to write / and/or record a horoscope, get them thinking about the style that is used and encourage them to use the appropriate modals and other language.
  2. If you have asked them to record it, then you can really work on pronunciation, getting them to think about the way it might be said, the added pauses to increase tension etc

Follow on:

  1. Ask the students to find a horoscope as homework and to underline the modals as they have done in class.  Also ask them to try to predict any unknown lexis.  Just to give them some extra noticing and vocab from context practice.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t see this as being a lesson for everyone, I predict some classes will like it while others won’t, which is ok.  You know your class, try it out on the classes it might work with.

I’m going back to my runes and crystal ball.

‘Used to’ and ‘Would’ for past habit dictogloss

This is something I do whenever this language point comes up, it backs up another point that we have mentioned before; students won’t hear something unless they know it exists.

Why bother teaching ‘would’ for past habit?

I got asked this recently, and the best answer I can give is that when speaking native speakers may use ‘used to’ once but will rarely chain it together for a list of repeated actions for that we tend to use good old ‘would’, so if students want to progress and become more natural communicators then knowing this will be a step on the way.

This is a short lesson, hence its inclusion in the mini lessons section, it could be used to introduce the grammar point or to revise it, whatever you choose is fine and the script can obviously be altered to your own life.

Procedure:

Pre task: Ask your students which structures we can use to talk about past habits, if most of the students know would, there may be less call for doing this lesson!

  1. Tell students that you are going to read two sentences twice and that you want them to try to write down as much as they can.  Tell them not to worry about writing down every word but that they need to get the general meaning and then reconstruct the sentences from there.
  2. Read this text, or one you have altered

“When I was young I used to play football everyday, I’d get to school early everyday and me and my friends’d play for about half an hour. Then the bell’d ring and we’d all run to class.”

It is really important to only read it twice and to try to not emphasise ‘would’.

3. Ask them to  try to rewrite in pairs or groups what you said, encourage them but do not mention ‘would’.  Instead, ask questions such as what time is being talked about, present or past?  What type of word has to go before an infinitive etc.

4.  When they have struggled for a while and maybe some of them have got it, reveal it to them either with a hand out or on the board.

5.  Get them to identify the function of ‘used to’ – past habit

6.  Ask them to think about the use of ‘would’ – does it describe future or past?

Ask them which structures we can use to talk about past habits, they should come up with

  1. past simple
  2. used to
  3. would

7. Ask them to correct the following passage.

“When I was young I wanted to be a doctor, I would want to work in a hospital”

then ask them to complete this rule.

We can use used to / past simple / would to talk about past habits when the verb is stative.

we cannot use past simple / would with stative verbs.

8. Production stage

Ask your students to tell their partners something they used to do when they were younger and ask them to decribe the details using “would”.  Ask them to record it so they can listen back and make any corrections that are needed.

9. Reflection

Ask them again which tenses can be used to talk about past habits.  The old test-teach-test.

From here you could move onto present habits, I’ve noticed that some students tend to struggle with present habits, we normally use present simple and will, but some students want to use ‘use to‘ – when we would use ‘usually’.

Sing a song of Grammar, a pocket full of…hammers?

So, over a pint…or ten, a friend of mine and I came to the conclusion that if we were going to teach our teenage students grammar, we needed a way for it to stick in their head. We decided that if they had a catchy line / verse from a song for each grammar point they might actually learn it.

Whether or not we were right remains to be seen but what did happen was that we came up with a lot of quick and easy grammar lessons based on one verse / chorus of songs from a variety of genres. Over the next while, I’ll hopefully share some of these with you.

Here’s one that worked well with my Spanish teenagers. They really liked Coldplay…don’t judge me.

I used to Rule the world by Coldplay

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

Possible Quick Activities:

  1. Gapfill
  2. Focus on pron
  3. Changing the words but keeping the rhythm.
  4. “used to” / “would”  Guided discovery – see below

Possible Guided Discovery Questions:

  • Does the singer rule the world now? When did he rule it? Was it just one brief action?
  • Does he own the streets now?
  • Can you find another word that has the same use as “used to”?

Pronunciation:

  • How does the singer pronounce “I used to rule…”?
  • Which word is stressed?
  • How do they pronounced “would”? Is it stressed?

Benefits:

  1. These are short musical lessons that can break up a grammar lesson.
  2. With long term students, you can refer back to this if the language point arises again.
  3. The lyrics can be placed around the room to remind them.
  4. Students are encouraged to engage with the language and the culture. By fostering an interest in music inside the classroom, hopefully learners will go off and seek it out outside the classroom. The little taster of the song will hopefully whet their appetite.
  5. Songs are perfect for a bit of guided discovery as shown above.

Pinball Wizard – Listening and tenses

This idea came to me in class during a CAE class when students didn’t identify the phrase “ever since”.  The song came to my head and as i ran through the lyrics I thought to myself, it might make a decent listening lesson, so let’s see if it does!

The advantages of doing songs are well catalogued, but in my experience some teachers don’t like them, and I think that is ok, you have to be comfortable with what you teach.  For students though I think songs can give them something a bit different, they break the routine of class and prove a memorable example of language points.

The procedure is below and the accompanying worksheet shouldn’t be too hard to follow.

Aim: To highlight different tenses used to talk about the past

Level: Int +

Procedure: 

Pre listening: A talk about talent and abilities, e.g. innate talents / being gifted etc.

Listening:

1.  I am sure you have lots of listening activities you do as standard, so feel free to go for one of them.  I would either:

  • chop up lines and get them to put them in order
  • do a gap fill
  • pick out words and ask them to say in which order they heard them

Language focus:

1. Recognition

ask students to underline examples of these different tenses:

  • Past simple
  • Present Perfect
  • Present simple
  • modal talking about the present
  • modal talking about the past

I’ve highlighted some examples for the students on the worksheet.  The students may get confused by ‘has got’ used informally instead of ‘has’.  Also, ‘aint’, which is here used to mean ‘has not’.

If you can use an IWB you can show this

2. Function:

For me without this, there is no point in looking at grammar, so here is a quick matching exercise.

2.1 Ask students to match these functions to the uses they have highlighted.

  1. an experience in the past with no time phrase
  2. present ability
  3. A prediction about the past
  4. an activity in the past that continues now
  5. a completed event in the past
  6. a fact

*Answers on page 2 of the worksheet.

2.2 Ask students if they can think of a synonym for ‘has to’

3. Ellipsis

Ask students if they can find examples of where language has been omitted and why they think this has happened?

e.g.

  1. “Never seen him fall” – I’ve never seen him fail.
  2. “Always playing clean.” – He is always playing clean

Ask students if the effect of this is to make it formal or informal?  Here it makes it more informal.

4.1 Vocab from context

Ask students to do the exercise on page 3 (answers below)

  1. A place where you can play pinball – amusement hall
  2. Trusts his feelings / instincts – intuition
  3. Numbers – digit
  4. Very good (slang) – mean
  5. Flexible – supple
  6. Things that take away your attention – distractions
  7. Sounds – buzzers / bells
  8. Followers – disciples

5.1 Follow up discussion

  • How do you think the singer of the song feels? Why?
  • Is there someone you know who is super talented at something?  Are you jealous of them?

Materials:

  • Song – easy to find online if you don’t own it
  • Worksheet: worksheet

Follow up

This is a bit of fun, but could work with some students.

Below is a link to an online pinball game, ask students to play and write a 100 word review of the game, saying what they thought of it in comparison to other games they have played, and if they would recommend it.  Focus them on the production of the tenses seen earlier, e.g. the most boring/best thing I’ve ever done / Yesterday I played ___ which was ____ etc.

http://www.y8.com/games/Magic_Pinball