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group and this happens a lot, but also with younger students they have often picked up bits of quite bizarre English, outdated phrases, archaic words, or odd uses of more commonly used ones.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

 

 

 

 

Academic register and style

This is a little lesson that could be tagged onto an IELTS lesson or used in the EAP classroom.

Its aim is just to raise awareness of writing style while also giving a some opportunity for some writing practice.

The lesson is on powerpoint, as well as having a worksheet. However, in the spirit of materials light teaching, if you have the ability to use the powerpoint, you probably won’t need the worksheet, unless you want them to have it as a record.

Level: IELTS / EAP / Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Aim: To raise awareness of academic style

Time: 45mins – 1hr

All of the answers for this, apart from the students rewriting answers are on the powerpoint. So it is handy if you can show it.

Procedure:

Ask the students to look at the cloud and decide what is normally a feature of academic writing.

  1. Ask the students to examine the sentence, highlighting where the sentence is not academic. Ask them to focus on:

vague language                      subjective language                informal vocabulary

2. Ask the students to rewrite it and improve it. Board examples and briefly highlight the improved features.

3. Ask them to look at the longer example and highlight what is wrong. Then focus them on the questions. (In the powerpoint this is done step by step with highlighted examples)

The seal is there as that is Paro – the robot discussed in the paragraph, you could do prediction work based on the picture, or leave it there for decoration. Here is a video showing it. If you wanted to go further.

4. Board good examples or get them to peer correct for some variety.

Follow up / Reflection: 

Ask students to look at some of their recent writing and ask them to critique it, bringing in an example paragraph with corrections for the next class.

Materials: 

 

Text messages – Register focus

Hi all,

As many of you know, I am extremely interested in register and style and feel it is often something that is overlooked in coursebooks as well as class.

The number of students who have no idea what I am talking about when i raise this issue is pretty high, too high. So, I think we should try to make it a feature of everything we teach.

This lesson follows on from some on phrasal verbs, which are often, though not exclusively, informal. I wanted a revision session which provided scope to use some, but also gave time for us to examine student examples and look at how they could be improved.

Why texts? Well, they write them, so they are relevant. They give opportunity to use some of the TL. They are short so don’t discourage. Plus they are short so can really be broken down.

Aim: to check register and appropriacy through the writing of short texts

Level: pre int / int / upp int / advanced

Procedure:

1. Write the four texts on the board. Ask the students in pairs to discuss who wrote them and why. Encourage them to think about how the writer felt and which words or features give this away.

IMG_0414

  1. Hi. Can you call me asap please. x
  2. Hey, wondering if you’d chosen anywhere yet. I finish here at 4 so let me know before then. Cheers.
  3. Have you got any plans for later? I’ve got a spare ticket going for a gig if you fancy it.
  4. Where are you? Do you know what time it is? I’ve been here for ages now.

Do whole class feedback. Really go into detail.

Hi. Can you call me asap please. x

  1. This really troubled my class. They said work so I asked why. They said the polite question and the fact it was direct. I agreed but asked about the x. It was a name they said. I pointed out it meant kiss. So they came up with the idea that it might be a parent messaging a child with bad news. I was pretty happy with this explanation.
  2. Mine got that this was two friends arranging something. Cheers was interesting as they knew it in other contexts. We looked at whether there was a difference between Hi / Hey – concluding Hey could be seen as more friendly
  3. Some of my students decided that this was a guy inviting a girl out, which I liked as a possibility. We checked meaning of gig – one of the students was able to explain it.
  4. Mine didn’t get the repetition of the same thing as possibly being anger. Some did suggest it was to a friend as a joke, we discussed the potential for that to be misconstrued

I think the secret here is to really ‘demand high’ don’t let the students be lazy. Ask further questions, make them ask you questions. Encourage them to consider the connotations of the choices writers make.

2. Once you have gone through them all ask them in pairs to select two which they are going to reply to. Monitor and cajole. Again question what they want to say. For me, this was a great chance to prompt the students to use some of the TL, but also to fix register issues e.g. When i arrive – not wrong but is there a more natural way of writing this to a friend?

Additionally, it prepared me for things that could be highlighted for the whole class.

Then put some/ all of the student answers up onto the board. Ask which questions were being answered and how the person would feel receiving the reply. Highlight the examples of good language and fix what needs fixing through elicitation.

3. Finally, allow a few minutes for reflection. Ask the students to discuss what they feel was useful from the class; ask what they might now do differently. Highlight too that this was a chance to see them using new language and to provide an opportunity for them to use language they need for daily communication.

 

 

 

Phrasal verbs – Register

One of the things I have noticed most is that our students lack knowledge of how much lexis affects register.  Even CPE students I have taught have been puzzled to find phrasal verbs highlighted (by me) in essays, assuming the issue was with meaning, not style or register.  I think students need to know about register and how their choices affect it and so here is a little lesson to highlight it.

The other reason for doing it like this is that students often say:

“phrasal verbs are hard, I’m just not going to use them.”

This hopefully gives them a reason to use them in a way that is manageable and demystifies them, seeing them as just another piece of vocab.

For follow up I am setting noticing skills, asking them to see if they can find other examples in newspapers / magazines / films and bring them into class.  As always, the key is trying to make them a little more autonomous and get them reading outside the classroom environment.

*I am using ‘phrasal verb’ in the lesson to describe multi-word verbs, I know therre is a debate about what is and what isn’t but don’t think it is necessarily helpful for students to play that out in front of them.

Level: High Int +

Aim: To highlight the effect on register of using phrasal verbs

Procedure: 

This lesson starts with a little sort of needs analysis, getting students to think about this first just helps you to find out more about their strengths and weaknesses.

Needs Analysis: You could set it as homework and then ask them to bring it to class to discuss, but I do this as my warmer.  Depending on the students this stage can last between 10-30 mins.

Answers

  1. I think the second option is correct, but in a sense you could accept that both are correct
  2. look at is not a phrasal verb – look into (investigate) and look up (search in a dictionary/online) can be both normal verb and phrasal verb.  Look for meaning search for something is a phrasal verb.
  3. Students own answers and good for discussion
  4. probably more spoken but not exclusively.  There are some phrasal verbs which we use a lot in written English

Get letter – sheet 2: 

T/F questions -answers

  1. F
  2. T
  3. F it is grammatically good but has register issues
  4. F

Meanings of get

  • get your reply – receive
  • getting around to – finding time to
  • get involved in – take part in / participate
  • have got – have
  • will we get – receive
  • get picked up – be picked up – get used in passive
  • get on well – have a good relationship with

The rewrite could be done in class as groups, something I like to do, or could be set as homework

Putting knowledge into action

When I do this I ask them if there is a subtle difference in the two choices, highlighting that synonyms are rarely perfect for each other and that they add subtle shades and nuances.  Try to elicit this from students as well as any other synonyms that come up.

  • talk – catch up
  • spend time with – hang out with
  • plan – sort out – in this context
  • meet – get together – I also emphasise that meet up would work here too
  • like to go – be up for it
  • come – pop by
  • interested in – keen on
  • excited about – looking forward to

These words make it more informal and friendlier in its feel.

Materials:

 

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/

Writing lesson based on a song

Sat listening to my ipod one day, this song came on and I started thinking as I heard the opening, hmmm, this could be a lesson on letter writing, it has taken a bit of time to properly come to fruition, but now here it is, ready to go.

Like some of our other lessons, this was born out of a frustration with teachers doing wonderful things with songs, gap-fills, questions on feelings, what the song meant,  but then moving onto a completely different thing.  Leaving language left untouched and with no real follow up exercise.  I have tried to do that a little here.

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Level: High Int +
  • Aim: To raise your students’ awareness of register
  • Sub aim: highlight conditionals

Materials:

  1. Paperback writer lyrics by the beatles – easy to find online
  2. Worksheet register
  3. Worksheet Language focus
  4. Answers

Procedure:

1. Listening: Cut up the song lyrics before the class and then do it as a listening exercise to order the lyrics, a lighthearted bit of fun and a good way to practice listening.  (Feel free here to change this exercise and if you have good ideas let us know!)

You can do either stage two or three next depending on your main focus and also pre-existing knowledge of register in your class

2. Introducing the main aim: Ask students to think about the lyrics of the song and ask them if they notice anything about them, put them in pairs for this.  Then if they haven’t found it, highlight “Dear Sir or Madam”.  Ask the students where they would normally find this.  Ask students in what situations they may have to write letters / emails.

3. Register: Ask them if they know the word “formal”.  if they do, ask for examples of formal language.  Ask them to look at worksheet 1 and complete gaps 1-9.  Check in pairs and then as a class Then ask them to complete the missing two sentences.

4. Language focus: Go through worksheet two.  Feel free to change the order.

5. Homework: Ask students to write a reply to the letter either agreeing to publish the novel or turning it down.