Howard’s End: Reading for natural reactions – high level learners

So, the origins of this lesson go back to the sunlight times when I taught the Cambridge Exams. Forster’s Howards End was a set text for, I think, CPE. I always loved the three letters that begin the book and those who have followed this blog for a long time will know a lot of the earlier lessons had a literature base. This then, is a return of sorts.

The text itself gives us the chance to do some Danny Norrington-Davies style grammar activities and the chance to really look at how we examine gist.

As always when I use some Literature in class it is only fair to draw attention to Gillian Lazar’s excellent book: Literature and Language teaching.

There is a lot of reading in this lesson and this gives us the chance to look at prepositions as part of chunks of language.

  • Level: advanced C1/C2 (High upper Ints could maybe manage if scaffolded well)
  • Aim: to examine tone and how it is conveyed in an authentic text
  • Time: 2-3hrs

Materials:

Procedure:

For all of these activities I would recommend asking the students to look on their own first and then work in pairs or groups.

Reading and Reaction

The reading here aims to give the students the chance to react more naturally to the text than the standard gist questions. Answers obviously some are subjective here. Your job is to probe the reasoning. I have put some answers below. I would give them time to read, and then put them into groups to answer the questions.

  1. How old do you think Helen is? (Why?) perhaps young – refers to aunt, whole style of the piece
  2. What is the relationship between Helen and Meg? sisters
  3. Who do you think Tibby might be? brother
  4. Who are the Wilcoxes and where did Meg and Helen meet them? family they met while travelling
  5. What is the impression given of the Wilcoxes? Sporty – different from Helen’s family

However, accept any reasonable answers. Here the key is to encourage the students to engage and come to their own conclusions.

Vocabulary from context and co-text

This activity is about building a skill rather than teaching ‘key’ lexis. We want the students to be able to work out meaning from context and co-text. The students will enver need the word wych-elm, but they will need to be able to see when a lexical set is being referred to as it is here.

  1. it is a tree and they can see this from the following sentence ‘I quite love that tree already’
  2. There are 6:

‘Also ordinary elms, oaks—no nastier than ordinary oaks—pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No silver birches, though’

Focus students on the reflective activity, we want them to know why we have done the task. Ask them where they can use it next.

Grammar Focus

This is about moving away from established rules and looking at why a tense or structure is used and how they work together. This can be important as a lot of students can trot out the rules for tenses but don’t seem then seem to be able to use them productively. This type of activity aims to address that.

  1. mostly present simple as it is a series of descriptions of things as they are now. e.g. ‘it is old and little’
  2. This extract gives the chance to see different tenses interacting.

I looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden. She evidently loves it. No wonder she sometimes looks tired. She was watching the large red poppies come out.

  • Which tenses are used here? past simple / present simple / past continuous
  • What difference in meaning do the different tenses show us here?
  1. Past simple – used for main activity in the anecdote
  2. Present simple – Helen’s comments on it
  3. Past continuous – an activity that happened over a period of time in the anecdote.

The interesting thing here is the present simple which is used in an interesting way. The other two tenses follow what we would expect in a story.

3. Now look at the conditional in the sentence below:

…if you shut your eyes it still seems the wiggly hotel that we expected.

  • What type of conditional is it? Does it refer to present / past / future / all time? 0 conditional talking about all time
  • Why is it used here? I think to give them impression of this being like a dream – the idea of being able to go back to their assumptions about the house and people who live there.

Reading and Reaction II

Now look at the letter again and answer these questions

  1. Is there anything unusual about the letter? things have been omitted, lots of fractured sentences, the use of burn this
  2. What impression does Helen give us about Aunt Juley? that she is boring
  3. Can you think of three adjectives to describe Helen? Any answers fine
  4. Use your phone to find a picture of what she looks like to you and compare with your neighbour. Any answers fine

Reading and Reaction III

All answers in this section are up to the students, you should put them into groups and let the students discuss them before coming together in all class feedback to check them.

Preposition focus

The aim here is to get the students to focus on chunks of text. Too often students think of prepositions without seeing them as part of larger chunks.

There is the secondary aim in that looking in the letters for the answers gives them scanning practise.

  1. We can scarcely pack in as it is
  2. … and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel
  3. I must get on to my host and hostess
  4. … she kept on smelling it
  5. how good of her to come
  6. the others do not take advantage of  her
  7. I laugh at them for catching hay fever

Reflection

These questions are just to make them realise the point of the different activities so put them in groups to discuss and monitor.

There is a lot more you can do with this text if you wanted, but these are some hopefully interesting things.

 

The Cure (Pictures of You) – Present Perfect Continuous

This is quite a short one. I am a big believer in using music in the classroom but I like to use snippets of songs. I’ve always felt that if you use the whole song, you very often end up with students who hate the song. But, if you listen to one or two verses, they might go off and listen to it themselves.

If you would like to try other lessons using songs or snippets of songs, you could try:

  1. here
  2. or here
  3. or even here
  4. or maybe here
  5. Orrrrrrr…here
  6. Or finally, here
  7. …or here

I really like this song as they used present perfect continuous when I feel present perfect would have worked just as well. It’s the perfect opportunity for students to consider why someone might choose one over the other. The continuous aspect really conveys the singers emotion and emphasises how long they feel these actions have been going on for.

Having recently seen the wonderful Danny Norrington-Davies at the ELT Ireland conference, I have decided to take his approach to the grammar for this lesson. I have asked the students why the writer has used the Present Perfect Continuous and I want them to go beyond “It’s an action that started in the past and continued to the present and is still continuing”. I want to hear about the emotion that is being conveyed.

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you.

That I almost believe that they’re real.

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you

That I almost believe that the pictures are, all I can feel.

Objective:

By the end of the lesson, the students will be more aware of the emotion that can be conveyed through the present perfect continuous.

Time: 1 hour (max)

Level: Intermediate and above

Material:

 

Procedure:

Intro:

  • T should fold the handout in half so that sts cannot see the lyrics.
  • T instructs sts to discuss the opening questions in small groups and then feeds back as a class.
  • This is a nice opportunity to look at language to discuss music. I’ve included “Taste in music” but I think others will emerge naturally e.g. “I’m not a fan of” “It’s not for me” “I’m not really into X music” “I’m more of a X person”.

Listening

  • T plays the opening 2mins of the song (or as much as they feel is necessary) and instructs sts to listen and consider the questions at the beginning of the listening section.
  • Sts discuss in pairs.
  • This is a nice opportunity to introduce the chunk “It makes me feel X” or “It sounds (like)”
  • T tells the students that this is a song by The Cure and it is on Youtube if they would like to listen to the whole song. Today, they are just going to listen to about 10 seconds of it and they will be using it for both grammar and pronunciation.
  • T plays the first verse (starting at about 2mins 35) and instructs sts to write everything they hear in the empty box. T replays the first verse 2-3 times and sts write down whatever they hear. After each play, give sts time to check with partners.
  • T instructs sts to unfold their handout and check their answers. Sts should circle any words they didn’t hear / heard incorrectly.
  • This is a wonderful chance for some listening skills reflection. Encourage sts to reflect on what / why they didn’t hear it. Was it:
    • because of the music? They will often have music in the background when listening. Is there anything they can do to help them in this situation?
    • because of the accent? What in particular surprised them? Focus on these words/phrases and drill them.
    • because of the vocabulary? Which words were new?
    • because of weak forms and connected speech? See Pron focus section

Language Focus

  • T directs sts to the language focus section (putting extra importance on the third question). Sts discuss the questions in pairs. T moves around and helps where necessary.
  • At this point you will find sts regurgitating a Raymond Murphy style explanation of the present perfect continuous. Try to discourage this and encourage sts to think why the writer chose to use this tense. 
  • T gives the sts a post-it note and asks them to write down their answer to the third question. T collects, places them on the board and gets sts to crowd around the board in their pairs and discuss the suggestions. They should choose their favourite answer.
  • While they are still standing, discuss their ideas as a class.
  • You are looking for something like: The writer wants to convey that they feel these actions have been ongoing for a long time. They want to emphasise the time over the action. Their emotions are being conveyed through this tense. The writer could have used present perfect as well but it would not have conveyed the same emotion and would have highlighted the action instead.

Pronunciation Focus

  • T moves to the pronunciation section and replays the song to allow sts to decide how “been” and “can” are pronounced.
  • Sts have often been encouraged to pronounce “been” with /i:/ but in natural speech it is closer to /bIn/. “Can” becomes /kən/. Drill the chunks as a class, correcting where necessary. 

Practice

  • Sts write their own version of the lyrics below, either keeping the song as a sad one or perhaps changing it to a happier one. Sts make a choice on which tense to use.
    • you can either play the song and they all sing their versions together for fun.
    • or you can get sts to read them out and practise the pronunciation.

 

Is the English Language sexist?

So this lesson uses a fantastic newspaper article from the Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/27/eight-words-sexism-heart-english-language

It was one of those things I read and knew I had to make a lesson about.

The lesson focuses on collocation, vocab building and reading skills if you fancy going down that route, as ever, you are welcome to pick and choose bits and pieces.

Aims: build awareness of collocation / get students to respond to a text naturally

Level: Advanced / strong upper Ints could cope if it is scaffolded

Time: This really depends on how the conversation part goes but you will need a bare minimum of 1hr, I think 1.30-2hrs is more realistic.

Procedure:

Introducing collocation:

  1. Ask St’s in pairs to come up with 6 collocations for ‘Pop’ on the worksheet.  They can then read the first paragraph of the text to check if there collocations were the same.
  2. Write the word ‘Rabid’ on the board. Now ask students to look at the second paragraph and look for the collocation for the word rabid.  Ask them to think about what the word ‘rabid’ means.
  3. Ask them to complete the second diagram using words from the text.
  4. Ask students to think about recording their new vocab along with words that collocate with them, to help them to be more natural when speaking and writing.  You could at this point direct them to the British National Corpus, or show them how to look for collocations online from any other sites you may use.

http://phrasesinenglish.org/searchBNC.html

Reading:

Feel free to completely change this section adding gist questions or scanning tasks, but what I wanted here was two things:

  • to get students to react in a more natural way to the text.
  • to get students to create their own questions to set for each other. ( I should add here that it was partly to encourage learner autonomy and to test their ability to write synonyms but also to get them to think about how an examiner might write the question.  Therefore, I monitored them closely, helping with synonyms and little grammar fixes here and there).

You could, if you have a nice even number, cut up the 8 words and get the students to read them and then tell the other students about them, a jigsaw reading of sorts.

Otherwise follow the questions on the worksheet.

Reflection:

Having had a chat to a friend about some of the attitudes of her students recently, I was keen to put a reflection section into this lesson, they feature in lots of our lessons, but this one is thinking more globally about language.  This could result in a big discussion or be over in 6 minutes, really depends on your students.  Go with whatever feels right.

Vocabulary:

Again, as part of training students to be more autonomous the idea here is to get them to try to work out the meaning of words using their context.  They can then check them against a-f

As always, if there are any changes you put in, let us know and tell us how it goes.

Materials:

Office Politics – Listening

So, this is a little listening lesson, pretty tricky unless it is scaffolded properly.  It also shows students some conditionals in a natural situation, which is always a plus in my book, it can conveniently fit into either a lesson on work or comedy, but for the purposes of this, it is as a bit of a break from a unit/week on work.

Do let them listen a few times, especially at the beginning, as it is pretty fast.  Your job as teacher is to stop them getting discouraged and to explain that the reason for this is to try to bridge the gap between what they do inside the classroom and what happens outside those walls.

Enjoy

Aims: expose students to real conversation, show grammar, conditionals, in a real context, focus on pronunciation, sentence stress.

Time: 1hr +

Level: High int +

Procedure:

The worksheet should be fairly easy to follow so the procedure would be to follow that, rather than me writing a lengthy one here.  But do have a look before you go into class as i’ve tried to really mix the activities, listening as the main background activity with lots of things coming off it

I would recommend putting in the time for students to reflect on what they have seen as for this I think it is important for all lessons, but especially this one.

Here are the answers to the word stress exercise at the end, feel free to disagree but this is what I hear.

T. Hey dude

G. Give it back

T. I’m just using it for a second

G. It’s got my name on it, Gareth

T. No, it says Garet, actually, but

G. Ask if you want to borrow it.

T. Yeah, you always say no mate, so what’s the point

G. Perhaps that’s why you should ask

T. Gareth it was just there ok

G. Yeah, that’s its home, leave it there.

Also, you could obviously go onto connected speech at this point or other pronunciation features, depending on how your students are feeling.

Materials

Worksheet: the-office-worksheet

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1PHpkdvNOs