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

 

Barry London: Writing + Study skills

Brixton-Tube-CLosed

So we finally have it, Barry London’s second official lesson. If you haven’t seen the previous one it’s right here. The idea we came up with was that seeing as how for some reason every character in my lessons is called, Barry, we’d just embrace this and create a person and give him a string of lessons. They’re for different levels and will look at different aspects of the language. Also, they do not need to be done in any sequence. They do not build on each other.

This one is very different to our normal lessons in that it looks at descriptive writing and study skills in more detail than we normally would. It started out as a low level lesson but it was most definitely a high level one by the end.

I’d recommend this lesson as something different to do at the end of the week or course or for more creative students. It’s definitely not a straight grammar lesson.

  • Level: Upper Intermediate / Advanced
  • Time: 2 – 3 hours
  • Objective: to encourage sts to record language in context and to think about metaphors and imagery in creative writing.

Materials:

  1. Barry London arrives in London – teacher’s copy – Answers / notes
  2. Barry London arrives in London – student copy WORD
  3. Procedure Barry London story – Procedure
  4. Barry London arrives in London PDF -student copy PDF

 

Grammary Songs! The Script

I’m sorry…I may have gone too far this time and I completely understand if you want to turn your back on me and leave me to wither away into nothingness. I’ve made a lesson out of a Script song. In my defense, it’s not my fault. A student made me do it. This is what happens when you have Spanish teenage girls, who’ve spent a summer in Ireland as students. Honestly not my fault.scripts 1

Anyway, you may remember that I once wrote abouthaving a short extract from a song for every language point. The idea was that it was engaging for students, it gave them a bit of access to the culture and it (hopefully) made the language point a little more memorable.

My first lesson was on “used to” and “would” using a Coldplay song…again, sorry. Check it out if you want to see what I was on about.

This one shouldn’t be a long lesson but it’s a nice communicative one with some guided discovery in there.

Level: Int and above

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on how chatty your students are)

Aim: see above

Objective: see above

Materials:

  1. if you ever come back – worksheet
  2. if you ever come back – teacher’s answers

 

Procedure:

  1. Listening for gist / engagement: Play the full song and have students discuss the questions at the top of the worksheet. The idea here is that they engage with the song and love it, hate it or loathe it but at least they engage.
  2. Language focus (vocab): these are quite nice phrases and this activity will really encourage them to think about language in context instead of jumping to dictionaries. You can help them out with the individual parts of the expression (e.g. shoulder) if you think they need guidance.
  3. Language focus (wish): this is all quite self-explanatory guided discovery. The hope is that students can analyse the language in context and decide how it would be used. You might need to walk them through the first one if they struggle with this kind of thing.
  4. Practice: always good to practice.
  5. discussion: This will bring the whole thing together and give them a chance to discuss the topic and use the target language.

The bits of the paper we ignore 1!

This is to be part 1 of a 2 part series focusing on the bits of the newspaper we throw away. A lot of our lessons on this blog and the lessons we do in class use articles as the basis for the lesson. But what about the rest of the paper?

We want to encourage our students to be fully-functioning autonomous machines out in the real world, constantly analysing the English around them, learning new words and structures and reconfirming what they have learnt before. One way to do this is to help them find what they should be analysing in the first place.

This first lesson looks at an advertisement for a film. It’s a film I haven’t seen a to be honest I have absolutely no intention of seeing ever…but that doesn’t matter. Check out the lesson and let me know how it goes.

Level: Intermediate and above (although low-ints might need some help with some of the questions on the worksheet. A lot of ICQs and CCQs please!)

Time: 1 – 2 hours (depending on discussion times and follow-up activities)

Aim:

  1. to encourage sts to notice and analyse the language in the world around them.
  2. To gather vocab on dating

Materials:

 

full ad

Procedure:

This is quite a straight forward lesson. The worksheet takes you through it nice and easily. I think the only part that might need to be commented on is the final part, the reflection. The idea here it to get them thinking about the English that surrounds them. Even if you don’t live in an English speaking country, the Internet is at your disposal and by driving them to sites like IMDB.com, you can help them to see this.

Possible Follow-up Activities:

  1. students write their own tweets about bad dates (real or imaginary) and either put them up around the room for correction or tweet them using the hashtag at the bottom of the ad.
  2. Students look up new films in groups on IMDB and summarise them to their partners.
  3. Students set up a class online dating profile and send comments to people.

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 might well:The many forms of “might”

A borderline advanced student stopped me in the corridor the other day and asked me what the difference was between might, might as well and might well and for a moment I was stumped. He was holding his Upper Int coursebook on the grammar reference section for “might” and he made a very good point which was:

The Upper Intermediate book has exactly the same information as the Intermediate.

He was right, so I decided to look at it in a little bit more detail and came up with the lesson below.

The materials and the teaching notes are all in the same file and I’ve attached it as a PDF and as a WORD doc so that you can edit it if you like.

Enjoy

  1. might-as-well  – WORD doc
  2. might-as-well  – PDF

 

guys pic

 

Could I ask your advice on something? Should / If I were you…

beaten up

This is a relatively straightforward test/teach/test type of lesson but there’s lots that you can do with it. I’ve put the basic lesson plan below and then a few suggestions for extra activities you could do.

The whole point of the lesson is to practise giving advice, largely using conditionals and should. It really encourages students to analyse language and hopefully to use it afterwards.

Level: Intermediate and above

Time: 2 – 3 hours

Materials:

  1. advice
  2. problems and pics
  3. advice (PDF)
  4. problems-and-pics (PDF)

Procedure:

(1)

Test:

As the first test, I like to walk in and tell my students a personal problem. I quite like pretending that it’s a real one and asking their real advice but that’s up to you, you could even say it’s your friend’s problem and your telling them about it. Here’s a problem I often start with:

So, my girlfriend rang me last night. Turns out she wants to move to Brazil. She says she can’t handle the weather here anymore and needs a change. I completely get it, going to Brazil would be amazing but we’ve got stable jobs here, things are going well, I’m really enjoying where I live right now…I just don’t know what to do.

We usually discuss it for a bit and then I say OK everyone, write down one piece of advice for me. (It’s a nice idea to give them a post-it note and then collect them in afterwards). you can come back to these pieces of advice later on.

(2)

Pre-Reading / Gist Reading

Display the picture of the 2 men on the board or hand them out and get sts to decide what they’re discussing.

Instruct sts to read through the dialogue and answer the questions on the top.

(3)

Language Focus: Advice structures

Get the students to read the dialogue again and underline any structures giving or asking for advice. They should find the obvious “should” and “if I were you” but also highlight the chunks of English “Do you mind if I ask your advice on something?”.

Very often students skim over language without really noticing what’s going on. The idea with this exercise if to get them in the habit of examining the structures they come across in the hopes they can reproduce them in the future.

The really interesting piece of language here is that the “If I were you” structure is used twice, once to give advice for future and once to comment on the past. Draw their attention to this and to the form as they’ll have the opportunity to practice it in a second.

(4)

Controlled Practice

Display one of the pictures and the problems from the set, whichever one you like.

In pairs, ask sts to write their reply to this person. Don’t give them too much in the way of guidelines here as this can produce some really interesting language. I like to give them a post-it note to do this on as then I can collect them in easily.

Correct any errors in advice that come up, board any other ways of giving advice that come up and any interesting language you find.

(5)

Freer Practice

Display the remaining problems and pictures around the room. Students walk around in pairs and give advice to the pictures.

Teacher monitors, helps out when necessary and notes down interesting errors and language.

Feedback as a whole class and correct anything that has arisen.

The Beatles – Dead or Alive!

The idea for this one came from a teacher I used to work with, great teacher. He used wikipedia entries on the Beatles to compare Past Simple and Present Perfect. I loved the idea and so when I had to cover a class last minute the other day, I decided I’d try it out.

This is the lesson I did. It works on a couple of things:

Objectives:

  1. Reinforce and examine the difference between present perfect and past simple.
  2. Raise awareness of the features of different texts (in this case wikipedia entries)
  3. Encourage students to notice chunks of English and adopt them into their own writing / speech.
  4. Encourage learner autonomy (ye olde holiest of grails) in reading.

Level: Int / Upper int

Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Materials: wikipedia present perfect – BEATLES

john and paul

 

Procedure:

(1)

Introduction:

List the following discussion questions on the board:

  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Have you ever been to a concert/gig/festival?
  • Have you ever met anyone famous?
  • Who would you like to see perform live?

Let students discuss these questions in small groups. As you monitor, note down any present perfect/past simple mistakes (if there are any) for use later. Choose any errors you like to give feedback, but I find with music discussions, learners very often misuse a lot of vocabulary (e.g. live) and I tend to focus on that area.

(2)

Before Reading

Display the pictures of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In small groups, students discuss everything they know about the two musicians. Feedback as a whole class and board all of their facts.

(3)

Gist Reading

Fold the sheet in two so that students can only see one wikipedia entry. Divide your class into two groups (Johns and Pauls). Students have 2 minutes to read through the text and note any extra facts that they didn’t know. DO NOT MENTION THAT THEY ARE WIKIPEDIA TEXTS!

Put Johns together to compare their facts and do the same with the Pauls.

Then get a lovely mingle exercise going so that Johns share their info with Pauls.

As a whole class, board the most interesting facts from the students.

(4) 

Focus on genre:

Sit the students down in pairs of Pauls and Johns (to mix them up a bit) Display the following questions and get students to discuss in pairs:

  1. What type of text is this? Where does it come from?
  2. How do you know? What clues are in the text?
  3. What is the writer’s opinion?

Obviously you want the students to notice that not once does the writer give their opinions as it’s a factual text.  (By raising awareness of features of different texts, you can encourage students to think more about what they are writing and about appropriate language for different genres and situations)

(5)

Focus on language 1: Present Perfect

Encourage students to look more closely at what they read. We want to create fully autonomous language analysts. One way is trying the following type of exercise. Little and often is the key.

Display the following questions for discussion:

  1. What are the main tenses used in the texts?
  2. Is there any difference between the tenses used in John’s text and Paul’s text?
  3. Why do you think that is?

What we’re looking for here is that John’s contains past simple only whereas Paul’s contains both. Past simple for his early life with the Beatles and Wings (ahem) and Present Perfect for his life and achievements since then.

At this point, you could bring out any pres perfect errors from the introduction stage and get sts to correct them in pairs.

(6) 

Focus on language 2: Passive

Highlight/Display the following sentence from the text and compare it to the one below it:

“He was murdered three weeks after its release”

“Someone murdered him three weeks after its release”

In pairs, students discuss why the author chose the first one over the second one. What we’re looking for is that the author wanted to keep John Lennon as the focus of the sentence.

Get students to scan the text and find other examples. It might be a good idea at this point to highlight that the musicians are the subject of almost every sentence and definitely every paragraph.

(7)

Focus on language 3: Vocabulary

By now students will be chomping at the bit for all of the vocabulary in the texts. In pairs, get them to find the phrases from the vocabulary section of the worksheet.

Feedback as a whole class. Then point out that there are some phrases that you would commonly find in such an article (e.g. born and raised  / critically acclaimed / of all time). In pairs get students to hunt for more chunks they can lift from the text and use for themselves.

(8) 

Focus on Organisation

Ask students to take one final look at the texts and decide how they are organised. Essentially, in both of them there is a general intro paragraph about the musician and then a second section going into more detail about their various achievements.

(9)

Follow-Up:

You have now focused the students’ attention on all of the necessary features of this genre. It’s now up to them to write something.

In small groups, get them to choose a teacher in the school and give them ten minutes to write a short Wikipedia entry on their life. Allow them to make up whatever crazy details they like. You’ll undoubtedly end up with “teachers who reached worldwide fame for their critically acclaimed present perfect lessons”.

When they’re finished, put them up around the room. Students walk around and vote on whose they like best and whose was most like a wikipedia entry.

Teachers use this time to move around and board some errors on the board and then correct as a group.

(10)

Reflection:

After this type of lesson, you really need to sit down and chat about what’s been achieved. Yes the students have created something, worked on their own errors, gather lots of vocab and discussed the present perfect but the real aim is autonomy!

You want them to take these skills outside and use them when they’re reading their own texts. We need them to be stealing their own chunks of language from their own texts.

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

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

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

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

I used to Rule the world by Coldplay

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

Possible Quick Activities:

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

Possible Guided Discovery Questions:

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

Pronunciation:

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

Benefits:

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

Film Reviews: A Diagnostic Listening exerise

A long time ago I came across an article that argued that a Dictogloss would be used in class to assess a student’s listening ability, that it could be used as a kind of diagnostic listening and the results could inform your following lessons. Sadly I have lost the article and forgotten the name of the author…which is pretty crappy of me.

At the time, I remember thinking that it was quite an interesting idea. OK, we all know dictoglosses as a great way of introducing a topic, as a nice listening exercise and as a way of working on a student’s general knowledge of English syntax…but, with a little twist it can work as a diagnostic! I’ve only ever taught this lesson once or twice and it’s always been quite interesting. I could see why people might disagree with the idea above but try it out and let us know how it goes.

Time: 1- 3 hours (depending on which activities you choose to do)

MaterialsSafe House – Dictogloss

Level: Pre-int + above

Procedure:

(1) Intro

I suppose it’s good to get the ould schemata activated so any little discussion question on films will do here. “what’s the last film you saw?” “Would you describe yourself as a film buff?” “Can you describe the plot of a famous film from your country?”

If you’re giving feedback at this point, I’d focus on gathering adjectives to describe different films as this will be useful later.

(2)  Dictogloss

Hand out the page with the “Notes” box facing up. Make sure you tell the students not to turn over the page until you tell them to (if they do, give them a little tap on the nose, bad student!)

Let them know you’re going to read a description of a film to them but you’re going to read it at the normal speaking speed of a native speaker. Tell them to write down any words they hear in the “Notes” box. Read the description twice at normal speed and then allow students to check their answers.

(3)  Reflection

This is where the dictogloss changes into a diagnostic. The theory being that everything the students have written down is what they heard and everything else is what they have missed and therefore their notes can be used as a diagnostic of sorts.

Have the students turn over the page and compare their notes with the actual text. I usually get them to circle the words they got correct. Then direct them to the reflection questions below the text. This is the really interesting part. Encouraging your learners to think about why they found a listening task difficult and going beyond “You speak too fast” can be really useful for them.

Once they’ve done it, it’s important that you sit down with them and talk it through. Their answers should give you the information to plan what is taught in future lessons. For example:

  1. if they have combined two words into a new word, perhaps you need to focus on linking between words.
  2. if they have focused on grammar words and missed out on the important words, then you need to encourage them to focus on content words.
  3. if they’ve completely ignored any content words that were new to them, then perhaps you could help them with writing what they hear or raise their awareness of common English pronunciation Versus spelling rules.
  4. If it was a speed issue, perhaps this type of exercise should be repeated more often so that they’re more confident with taking notes while someone is talking.

At the very least, the students will be able to focus on their own issues. Let them know that you will be using their answers to inform their future lessons.

(4) Engaging with the text

We always think it’s important for students to have a real response to a text and not just do TEFLy exercises. At this point, following the quite heavy reflection stage, I usually get them to read the text very briefly one more time and then discuss the questions at the bottom of the page.

When you’re listening to them, think about the kinds of things you might say in this situation and then correct them based on that instead of just looking at grammar errors. Think of the natural pieces of English you would use. E.g. “It sounds…” , “I’m not really into / a fan of…”.

(5) Language Focus:

Even though this is a tiny little paragraph, you’ve got quite a bit to work with here. I usually pluck out one or two features and, instead of doing an entire grammar lesson based on it, just use it to train students to notice language in context.

For example, you could choose to focus on present perfect continuous versus present perfect by highlighting the sentence: “Frost has been working with the CIA for years but has recently changed sides” and asking them to compare the two forms and discuss why each was used in this situation. You could also briefly examine the passive “Frost is marched” or you could look at reduced relative clauses: “Frost, played by Denzel,…”. You’re spoilt for choice.

(6)  Writing follow-up

I think after all of this it’s nice for students to go back to the beginning of the lesson and think about the plot from a famous film in their country and write their own mini review. Limit the number of words and highlight the adjectives from the beginning of the class.

A nice idea once they’re finished it to put them up around the room and have students move around in pairs and discuss which films they’d be interested in seeing and which review grabbed their attention. Meanwhile you can be pulling out a few of the common errors and boarding them for a final feedback stage.