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group and this happens a lot, but also with younger students they have often picked up bits of quite bizarre English, outdated phrases, archaic words, or odd uses of more commonly used ones.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.

 

 

 

 

Responding to a Reading – Critical Reading

Continuing the theme of IELTS lessons, this is another that looks to help students with their exam but also their university studies after.

This looks to explore what arguments are being made and then asks students to respond to them. Stance and criticality are key elements of university study. The ability to understand a writer’s ideas and then use them in their own writing will be tested but sometimes perhaps gets lost in the IELTS classroom. This is a lesson which will work a little on reading skills, but which mostly seeks to prepare students for university. That in turn makes it suitable for any high-level class.

Of course, you can, and should, do all the other lovely textploitation things with a grammar and lexis focus.

Level: IELTS / Advanced / Proficiency

Aim: To give students an opportunity to examine a writer’s opinion and respond to it.

Procedure: 

Reading Skills – Prediction

  1. Direct Students to the worksheet and put them in pairs to discuss what the terms could mean. Focus students on the form of the words. Remember to stress the importance of prediction as a reading skill.
  2. Read to check – Now ask the students to read the text and find out what the two terms mean. Ask the students which reading techniques they will use: ‘Scanning’ to find the terms and then ‘deeper reading’ to understand.
  3. To check understanding and practice paraphrasing, ask the students to write their own definitions. Encourage them to think of synonyms and to use different grammar structures. This might be a time to bring in the idea of plagiarism if they haven’t discussed it before. Below are the sections of the text that would need to be paraphrased:

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a policy whereby a financial payment is made to every citizen, unconditionally, without any obligation to work, at a level above their subsistence needs.

Half-Earth – the simple but profound idea that environmental repair could come from allocating half the Earth’s surface primarily for the benefit of other species

 

Reading – Note-taking

  1. This skill will help with IELTS tasks such as matching, but it is a skill I encourage all of my students to do every time they read an exam text. Ask the students to skim read the text – set a time limit (5mins) – encourage them to take notes in the margins.
  2. Now ask them to compare their notes to their classmates. Make your own notes and see how similar your students are.

NB The article roughly fits a situation / problem / solutions / questioning solutions and conclusion structure.

Reading – Stance and argument

  1. Ask the students to reread the text and look for the writer’s opinions. Then follow the instructions on the worksheet.

Answers: People would still work; break link between work and consumption; ability to say no to undesirable jobs; chance to think long-term

2.

Answers: Reforesting already in action / our views on nature are forged by our society / re-establishing humans as part of nature / seems popular

note taking on different sections – explain how it helps with matching

Students’ Reactions

Ask students to work in pairs or small groups and discuss the points on the worksheet.

Writing: summary and reacting to it in an academic style to be set as homework.

When marking, encourage students for their content, don’t just mark the grammar and the vocab. Look at the structure, arguments and how they are supported and their paraphrasing / summarising skills.

Materials:

Original article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/12/universal-basic-income-and-rewilding-can-meet-anthropocene-demands

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

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

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

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

Let’s go.

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

Objective:

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

Aims:

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

Time: 2-3hrs

Procedure:

Pre Reading:
Prediction task.

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

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

Reading:
Skimming

Ask them to quickly find out:

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

Natural Response

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

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

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

Grammar:

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

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

Exercise 1

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

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

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

Exercise 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise 3

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

  1. extra info
  2. yes

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

Exercise 4

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise 5

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

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

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

Exercise 6

Vocabulary

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

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

Exercise 6

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

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

Pronunciation

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

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

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

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

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

Further practice:

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

Materials:

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

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 

 

 

 

 

Modals of deduction – A murder – Part 1 & 2

So, I have been teaching modals recently and I wanted to make modals of deduction a little more interesting. Voila: here we go.

This lesson has a lot of reading, which should give the opportunity for some past tense work as well as lexis.

It’s a murder mystery and the students work out who did it from clues, gives them the chance to work as pairs.

It is a challenge; I haven’t really altered vocabulary too much. I hope though that it gives them some good reading, grammar and speaking work.

It is also a long one, so I am serialising it. The next sections will follow shortly.

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

Start with the reading – Part 1.

The aim of the gist is just to get the students thinking about the set up of the story. For me the answers are all in the text except for the 4th question, which is all about opinion. Some students said they were rich, others poor. At this stage that doesn’t matter, but encourage them to justify why they think that. Here is also a place for them to use modals so you could board some examples.

E.g. He’s sat at a desk so they might have a study so they could be rich. / They have two floors so the can’t live in a flat.

  1. She is the dead man’s wife. / widow
  2. They are married
  3. He has died
  4. We don’t know, but see above
  5. Not in London – “she was away in London”

Ask the students to write 3 sentences describing the situation using could / might / must in the present.

The vocab section encourages learner autonomy, try to discourage them from using dictionaries.

  • a) wrist
  • b) icily cold
  • c) slumped
  • d) tut
  • e) pulse

Modals:

  • First use of modals: monitor and board examples, correcting errors and encourage them to think about the pronunciation of have – /əv/
  • Group feedback – see what the students think – get them to talk to each other in groups.
  • board examples and correct errors

 

(Feel free to do other normal textploitation things, such as focusing on the tenses used. I use it to ask the students what the pronouns refer to as I often find these are overlooked.)

Pronouns: 

Ask the students to underline the uses of ‘it’ in the text.

The room felt icily cold as she walked into it. Her fingers felt for the light-switch on the wall. It was never where she thought it was. She found it and suddenly the room was bathed in light. Her husband was where he normally was, at his desk. He was slumped over and was sleeping. She walked over to the desk, put the lid onto the open bottle of whisky, and tutted. She didn’t like him drinking so much, but he always did when she was away in London. She ran a hand through his hair. He felt cold. She pushed him back so that she could look at him. It was then that she realised something was wrong. She stared at him, he wasn’t breathing. She grabbed his wrist, no pulse, nothing. Upstairs her son was woken by the sound of uncontrolled screams.

what does each one refer to?

  1. the room
  2. light-switch
  3. the light-switch
  4. the light-switch
  5. the moment she pushed him back

Reflection: Ask students how the text would be different if ‘it’ hadn’t been used.

Extra:

N.B. I was unsure that my students had fully followed all the details of part 1 so I asked them to act it out in small groups, I had 12 so I put them into groups of three, one of them being a director and telling the others what to do. I was surprised how willing they were and it ended up being really good as a way of checking understanding in a different way and gave the class a different feel.

Part 2

Prediction: Encourage your students to take guesses about the victim from the photo and only then let them read the report to check their assumptions.

Students read the police report, take notes and discuss ideas as to what has happened, have their ideas changed?

Checking understanding:

Ask students to decide if the following questions are true or false – ask them to try to answer from memory – they can check after.

  1. He has been married once.
  2. He sometimes plays golf.
  3. He owns a company making computers.
  4. He is well off.

Answers:

  1. false
  2. false – he is a keen golfer and member of the club, probably plays more
  3. false – distributes components / parts
  4. true – owns two houses

 

Vocab:

Read the forensic report and ask them to match the definitions to the words in the text.

  • a) the deceased
  • b) appeared
  • c) condition
  • d) intruder
  • e) other substances
  • f) laboratory

Listening:

  • Ask the students to take notes and then compare them in groups. I played the recording 3 times.
  • Then ask them to decide which pieces of information was the most important for the case.

Below is the tapescript with the sections I think most important underlined

Hi is that the chief inspector? Good, good. This is Laura Donavon from the lab. Right, I have some information for you. Mr Brown did not die of natural causes. In fact, from the tests we’ve carried out on his body we are 75% sure he died of poisoning. Yes, I know. We examined the crystals in the glass and it was definitely poison. Now, this is the really interesting bit. We think it was cyanide, and I know what you are thinking, but let me tell you a bit about cyanide. It can be swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin and it stops people being able to take in oxygen, causing an ‘internal asphyxia’.  The victim suffocates to death as he breathes in oxygen he cannot use. Yeah, not very nice is it. Yeah, yeah,  effects are almost immediate. Oh, and you might want to know something about this, it can be made from the stones of fruits as well as from chemicals, so something for you to think about there. Yeah, good luck with the enquiry.

Reflection:

Once the students have understood this, ask them to reflect on what they know so far and what they think may have happened now.

 

More to come soon and let us know what you think.

P.S. thanks to Jess for recording the text for me. x

Materials:

Word Doc: Murder Mystery part 1 & 2

PDF Doc:    Murder Mystery part 1 & 2

 

Listening: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How can I write it if I don’t know what it is?

So, this lesson was something I taught yesterday to try to help my students with their writing, I only took over the class recently and in the needs analysis a few of them stated that they needed to work on their writing, two of them telling me that they hadn’t been able to join the advanced level because they hadn’t done well in the writing paper of the level test.  When I asked what had been wrong with the writing, one reported that the writing had been “good but in the wrong style”, I asked what she meant, but she just said, that was what she had been told and wasn’t sure how to change it.  A quick check with the rest of the class confirmed that she was not alone in being a bit lost when it came to how to write in different styles, so I thought I would start at the beginning.

That’s what this lesson is, a beginners guide to genre, or a quick revision of it, whichever you prefer.

Aim: to increase awareness of genre and register in writing, so that the know the key features so that they are at least aware of what they should be using for different writing

Level: High Int + (the class I did this with yesterday were a pre-advanced level)

Procedure:

1. Cut the extracts out from the page, stick them on the wall and invite the students to read them with some background music playing. (I only did this to generate interest as I felt handing them a piece of paper would be a little dull.) While reading I asked them to think about what type of writing they were and where they thought they had come from.

2. Ask them to sit down and discuss it in pairs or groups for a few minutes

3. Write the possibilities on the board and ask them to match the types of writing to the possibilities in their groups.  Once most of them had got close to finishing I asked them to sit down and gave them the worksheet so that they could look at them and confirm their decisions.

4.  Check the answers but at this stage I gave them the answers only, I did not give them reasons.

5. Elicit from the students how they knew the first one was an essay and wrote what they put on the board.  I then asked them as a group to go through the other examples explaining what features of the text they thought were typical.  I monitored and helped to steer them in the right direction if they were lost.

6. Group feedback – you could give them the answer sheet here, but I think it is more fun to elicit and get the information from the students.

7. Give the students the opportunity to check any vocabulary they don’t know, they may have done this already, as always try to encourage them to guess the meanings, but help if needed. (you could arrange a matching exercise here if you wanted with meanings, but as it wasn’t the main focus of the lesson I chose not to this time)

8. Ask the students to arrange the different types of writing into similar styles, don’t set them any rules here, what they decide is often very interesting and useful for them.  If you have them get them to write it up on the IWB, the different groups.  Make sure all the groups are involved even if it is only to affirm other groups decisions.

You can obviously make your suggestions once they have discussed theirs.  For example, all of the formal types together, etc.

Follow on: Obviously writing, but where you go totally depends on your students and where you feel they need practice.  The easiest would be to carry on the story.

You could also get them to predict what the title of the article might be, or activities that get them interacting with the texts more.

Hopefully the good thing is that this lesson can be referred back to whenever you want to focus students on different genres.

 

Materials: 

1.Genre

2. Answers