(T)ex(t)ploiting a coursebook listening text

So this one is not a lesson as such but more an idea for your lessons.

Coursebooks are rich resources for texts and sadly, due to completely understandable constraints (space / industry traditions / overall themes of a book / editor pressure) they are very often under-used. Listening exercises tend to test comprehension or act as a vehicle for uncovering the target language. While this is a totally valid use of a listening text, I’ve often asked myself if perhaps we could be exploiting them further.

Recently a teacher came to me with a problem. She had finished her double page spread as per her plan, her students had really nailed the controller and freer practice and she had dealt with feedback. All in all, a perfect lesson. But, she had been left with 30 mins in the class so she has dragged out feedback a little and then let them start on some of their homework. She hadn’t really been satisfied with how the class had ended and wondered if I had any advice.

I suggested revisiting the listening text from earlier in the lesson. There is so much that can be done. What follows are just a few ideas that you should be able to apply to almost any listening text.

Reflection:

The idea here is to encourage sts to think about why they struggled (if they did) with comprehension. This can then inform what part of the text you examine. It also means learners don’t just blame their “bad listening”, there will always be something we can teach them that will improve things.

  • What percentage of this text do you feel you understood?
  • What did you find difficult about this listening?
  • What would help you to understand it better?

Pronunciation for listening skills:

The main idea is that if students don’t know it is possible, they won’t hear it. Consider “do you want to” versus /juhwanna/. We cannot expect a learner to know that they are the same. They do not expect written English to vary so drastically from spoken English. It is our job to highlight the differences, little and often.

  • Listen to the text with the transcript. Encourage sts to underline chunks that sound different to what they would expect.
  • Highlight one or two chunks in the text that sound different to the expected written form. Drill them, encourage sts to write personalised sentences and then drill them.
  • Highlight one feature of spoken English (schwa for articles / final consonant & initial vowel linking / stressed words at the end of a sentence or clause) and then encourage sts to listen for other examples within the text.

Speaking skills:

Very often coursebook texts will work on functional language for conversations but if you revisit the text, you may find something else that will help them with their speaking.

  • Give sts the transcript and ask them to mark a circle above words they think will be stressed (spoken clearly). Then listen and check. Examine which words tend to be stressed (info words: nouns/verbs/adj/adv)
  • Do the same but ask them to mark when the speaker pauses with a slash. Listen and check. Notice it tends to be at the end of a sentence, after a comma or after a linking word. This will help sts with the flow of spoken English.
  • Examine any fillers in the text. It might seem strange but the noises we make in one language can be very different to another. Take for example the Turkish /tch/ that simply means “no” but in English can signal a lack of respect or interest and can be quite offensive. It’s worth pointing these differences out.

Learner training:

What we really want are learners that can analyse texts by themselves, that notice chunks, that don’t really need us. If done little and often, these exercises can help create these super students.

  • Ask sts to underline any prepositions on the transcript. Notice what their function is. Are they linked to an adjective, are they part of a phrase, are they related to time or movement? Prepositions are so often overlooked but by drawing their attention to them in context we can avoid having to do lengthy preposition lessons.
  • Get sts to underline any interesting chunks in the text. Discuss the meaning, drill the pron and ask them to choose 2 that they will use in conversation that week. Remember to get them to think about how they will use it. They must plan the context. Make sure you follow up with them at the end of the week or they will never do it again.

So, just a few ways you could revisit your listening texts the next day or during the lesson. Just because the coursebook hasn’t had time to look at these, doesn’t mean you don’t. And remember, I don’t expect you to do all of these for every text. That would be insanity and you’d never get anything done.

The key is little and often!

So try some out and let us know how it goes.

Murder Mystery Part 3 & 4

So, this is the follow up to the lesson: https://textploitationtefl.com/2017/07/11/modals-of-deduction-a-murder-part-1-2/

It has quite a bit of listening, they are included here, but feel free to rerecord them using colleagues. They are not my finest.

Aim: to practice modals of deduction / create opportunities for using them in speaking. Reading and listening practice and vocab building.

Level: Pre-Int / Int / High Int / Upper Intermediate (The lower levels will find it challenging, but that is fine, as long as you tell them it will be, and provide lots of scaffolding and support)

Procedure

Reading:

You could do this as a jigsaw reading, where the students have different information they have to share with each other, if you have the right number of students, or you could dictate one and get students to do the remaining two as a jigsaw. Alternatively, you could pass them all to the students.

For further reading on Jigsaw readings see: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/jigsaw-reading

Vocab:

Answers: A – 4, B – 6, C – 1, D – 5, E – 3, F – 2

Modal verbs:

Just an opportunity for the students to practice the target language. Encourage them to share ideas and support them with linking words. As groups ask them to present the questions or pieces of information they would like to be able to say who committed the crime.

Listening:

This is challenging, you might need to play it more than once. For the answers try to encourage the students to give fuller answers.

If they are really struggling you could ask them to read it and listen at the same time.

Answers:

  1. No they have different interests.
  2. He says they get on fine as they avoid each other.
  3. He wanted Adam to take over the family business.
  4. He uses it for his photographs.
  5. Obviously this is subjective, but no, he is rude, arrogant – try to get the students to explain this.
  6. Not happy at all.
  7. Yes very.
  8. Working with stones from the fruit trees – encourage students to think why this may be significant.
  9. He didn’t say what really, he just said some tools.
  10. It’s normal / he is surprised it is illegal.

Encourage them to think further about the new evidence and to make suggestions. If you have time get them to build up a picture of what they think happened and explain it to the class.

Prepositions

  1. on
  2. of
  3. at (but in also works)
  4. up

Optional task

This is something I like to do, but can easily be left out, ask the students to find a picture online using their phones which represents what they think the three characters look like and ask them to justify their choices.

Modals

Encourage the students to make statements using must have and can’t have related to the story.

The ending

I did this as a cut up and asked them to match the sections to the different times shown below.

  1. 9.00
  2. 11.00
  3. 11.45
  4. 15.00
  5. 16.00
  6. 18.30

The end is in order, but the times are attached in the tapescript page.

After, ask the students to explain in pairs or groups what has happened in the story to check understanding. Monitor and do all class feedback.

Ask them what surprised them / annoyed them about the story.

Follow up:

I asked them to write a short newspaper article which enabled us to practice passives and recycle some of the vocabulary seen. I did it as pair work, but of course it could be done as homework.

Materials:

 

Adam Brown

Jim Birch 

Leslie Forbes 

 

 

 

 

Using a song for reported speech.- Madness: Shut up

So, this lesson arose from my desire to get students to think about filling in listening gap fills while thinking about the grammar and language of the gap, not just robotically writing what they heard.

I chose this song as it tells a story, or is like two people telling their side of a story to a policeman. V cartoon-like and simple which served the purpose.

I’ve expanded it here to include a little section on reporting verbs and comparatives and also suggested a couple of follow ons.

It obviously fits neatly into a unit on crime or as an extension to reported speech.

PS When I first did this, I didn’t tell them it was a song. It was an exam class and I wanted to surprise them. I am still unconvinced as to whether telling them or not is better. I leave it up to you to decide.

  • Level: Intermediate / Upper-Intermediate / Advanced (at a push)
  • Aim: to focus students on the grammar of the gaps they are filling / to practise listening to language at a faster pace than normally presented.
  • Time: 30mins +

Procedure:

Activating stigmata / pre-listening:

Write “I didn’t do it” on the board. Ask students when they might say this?

Listening:

Ask them to predict what is missing and think of answers that could work.

check in pairs / small groups

Listen and fill in. – listen as many times as needed, I have normally found twice is enough.

Answers

  1. do
  2. listen
  3. remember
  4. T.V. set
  5. watching
  6. married
  7. honest as
  8. less

They will probably make a fuss about number 3 / 5 / 6 as it is not the words used. Explain that the meaning here is more important. (if you are doing it for an exam class they would never do anything as nasty as number 3 but it pays for students to think about the sentence meaning, not just note down the word.)

*You could ask them to listen again and take notes of what is actually said for the answer to each.

grammar focus:

Reporting verbs

Ask the students to underline all of the reporting verbs in the worksheet.

claim / say / ask / boast / deny

Now ask them to turn over to the second page.

This is about getting them to notice the structures used. For most this will be revision

  1. Which are followed by a direct object? ask
  2. Which are followed by that + clause? deny / boast / claim / say

Getting them to think of their own words that are similar is great as it allows you to see what they do / don’t know and also to correct any misconceptions.

Maybe ask them the difference in meaning of the words, or at least clarify it.

‘claims’ often expresses doubt from the speaker about whether what is being said is true and students may not know this.

Comparatives

‘As honest as’

  1. As ________ as – which type of word completes this structure? – adj
  2. If you were going to make it negative, where would ‘not’ go? not as adj as

 

‘The longer the daylight, the less I do wrong’

The + comparative + noun / clause, + the comparative + noun / clause

  1. What does this phrase mean? possibly crime at night, accept different interpretations that work
  2. Why would someone English use this sort of structure? to emphasis something

 

“The more I practice, the luckier I get” – what does this mean?

See if you can write one yourself, e.g. the more I sleep, ….

Follow ups

Ask students to find examples of reporting verbs in newspapers and bring them into class. I normally ask for 5-10 different verbs. It encourages them to be autonomous as well as getting them to notice language. Plus it gets them reading outside of class.

Also, you could ask them to turn the song lyrics into a short news report, recycling the reporting verbs.

Maybe give them a short introduction such as

“police were called yesterday to a burglary in London, when they arrived they caught two men red handed. They arrested both and took them for interview where the first man claimed …

Materials:

 

 

 

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

 

Low-level Past Simple Story Lesson

THE WAKE-UP CALL

I’ve been working out of New English File Elementary recently and it’s a great book but as often is the case with a book, it never really 100% gets the challenge right for your particular group. Sometimes it’s too easy, sometimes it’s too hard. At the moment it’s a smidgen too easy for my group and we are absolutely motoring through it.

This lesson was basically a bit of an extension after we’d studied the Past Simple in the coursebook. It’s got some revision and it pushes a bit extra as well. We’ve also been talking a lot about language chunks / collocations / pieces of language / items of lexis (whatever you want to call them) so it looks at that a bit too.

Plus, it gets them using their imagination a little bit too, which never hurts…unless they say, “teacher I don’t have an imagination” and then we despair, oh yes we do.

  • Level: Elem / Pre-int
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Procedure: see below

Materials:

  1. Wake-up call (word worksheet)
  2. Wake-up call pdf (PDF worksheet)
  3. Wake-up call procedure
  4. Wake-up call – teacher’s copy

 

TIP: So, I’ve been teaching a lot of low level classes at the moment and they’ve been mostly smaller groups (2 – 4 students). One thing I’ve found is that when the group is this small, any worksheet or coursebook you break out means utter silence as they disappear into its depths. Or, it’s awkward because they’re too aware of you.

One way I’ve found of avoiding this is writing my worksheets up on the board, more or less how I’d have them on the sheet.

the students go up and work on the board as a whole or in pairs on different sections and you monitor from behind them. It really makes a difference.

you can always give them the worksheet afterwards. Here’s a pic of my board for this lesson. You might notice there are some mistakes on the board. Their first task was to correct the errors and then later I gave them the worksheet with the corrected version to check it, which is a slight variation on the procedure above.

Here’s a shot of my board. I like to think that my distinctive cursive script adds an extra layer of challenge to the lesson and is, of course, completely intentionally awful

wake up call boardwork

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.

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.

 

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

 

A message to MTV – formal letter writing

So, like many of you, lessons are something which invade every facet of my day.  I can be innocently running my eyes over facebook and they hit me, like this one did.  The beauty of this for me is that there are two complete and separate sections to the lesson.

the listening and the writing

In that sense it is not that dissimilar to the Beatles’ song I did months ago, paperback writer, as shown below, but it differs in that this features a ready made model letter for students to sink their teeth into.

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

For the listening section there are a few options and by all means feel free to come up with something different, but I wanted  basic prediction and gist questions and vocab building from an authentic listening text.  Should you just want to focus on the writing, the listening could be dropped, and vice versa. Though, I always think more listening is a good idea.

Aim: practice listening / raise awareness of register / practice letter writing

Procedure: (and answers)

Listening:

pre listening – ask the students what they know about Kylie and Nick Cave. (see worksheet)

Then

You could ask them to quickly do some independent research on their phones asking the following questions:

  1. Why are they both famous?
  2. What do they have in common?
  3. In which year did they work together?

do pair, then class feedback.

Listening tasks – basically follow the worksheet

Now you have activated a bit of schemata you can move onto actually listening

general gist questions

  1. Who is the letter to?
  2. what is the letter about?
  3. What does the writer ask for?
  4. what does the writer say he feels unhappy with?

Vocab building – fill in from listening

Attitudinal questions – for me the answer is amused

Reflection:

ask students to discuss whether they think of the letter and the writer’s decision in small groups. Then do full class feedback.

Writing

This section is focused on recognising register and then on using it.

follow the worksheet, here are the answers

  1. it is formal
  2. words which could be picked out include, but not exclusive to:

grateful / flattered / be withdrawn / furthermore / arise / to be of the opinion that / inhabited / subjecting / appreciate

3. things that are formal:

No contractions / linkers (so / therefore etc.) / formal lexis / longer sentences / introduction / paragraphing

4. Things that are unusual:

all capitalised / the third paragraph where he goes crazy /  no ending name / use of exclamation marks

Production

Planning

In pairs ask students to plan what they would say in reply to the letter, follow instructions on worksheet

monitor during the planning and help them where needed

4. something like this

Dear Mr Cave,

Many thanks for the letter, we at MTV are saddened to hear your decision.

Follow on:

For homework, ask the students to individually finish the letter in a similar style, remind them to think about linkers that might be appropriate and the vocab and grammar that could be used.

Materials:

1 worksheet word doc

worksheet pdf

3 link:

http://pitchfork.com/news/61727-kylie-minogue-reads-nick-caves-infamous-1996-mtv-rejection-letter/

Creating your own listening texts – One sided phone conversations

We recently ran a CPD in our school, EC LONDON, on creating your own listening texts and (t)exploiting them in the classroom. In preparation for this, we created a simple listening and used it in the CPD. This is the lesson that goes with this listening.

You can use the audio below or alternatively, you could just create your own.

ONE-SIDED PHONE CONVERSATIONS

The idea is to record your side of a functional phone conversation and then use it in class to teach the language of that function. We chose 2 close friends, confirming plans for later that day as the function. A good idea is to just give yourself a function and then record yourself speaking into your phone without planning too much. This usually results in a more natural recording with:

  1. false starts
  2. natural functional language
  3. natural pronunciation (connected speech)

It’s also fun. Try it out.

Level: Pre-int and above

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Audio

ProcedureProcedure one sided convos

After we used this lesson in a workshop at IATEFL, we spoke with the wonderful Richard Cauldwell (if you haven’t come across his blog or his book, I highly suggest you take a look) and he very kindly made some suggestions on additions to this lesson. I’ve included them below along with the audio files he created for us from our original recording.

His idea is that we tend to teach connected speech “rules” or “patterns” but the reality of what we say in ordinary natural speech is far different from what we think we say and we really need to be preparing our students for what is actually being said. He proved this by taking a few snippets from our recording.

when you play this snippets you can really hear that what we think we’re saying is not always the reality. Either at the end or at the beginning of this lesson play these recordings for your students in isolation and just spend a few minutes with them trying to work out what’s being said. Then play the whole recording and see if they can get it.

Little and often is the key here I think. If you’re going to play a real recording, try taking a snippet of it and breaking down the reality of natural speech for your students. Otherwise we’re only preparing them for coursebooks!

Tip: There is software that you can buy that will help you with the above but Audacity is one that I’ve been recommended that is free and reasonably easy to use.

 

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