Film Soundtrack Task

So, the origin of this lesson came when I was still teaching exams. I wanted a task that replicated the skills and language needed for Speaking part 3 in FCE / CAE / CPE, I wanted to show that the language for the task had genuine use outside the exam. I also wanted it to be a bit of fun. I decided to use some music as it would allow students to use high level vocab and in the feedback sessions I would have scope to add input and also to check comprehension. There are other examples of how to use songs in class on the site, for example: https://textploitationtefl.com/2018/03/04/the-cure-pictures-of-you-present-perfect-continuous/

or

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

There are a lot more for you to explore.

Anyway, in this lesson, the songs are used for a slightly different reason.

So without delay, let’s get down to it.

  • Time: 90 minutes
  • Level: Intermediate / Upper Intermediate / Advanced / FCE / CAE / CPE (it could be used with lower levels with some scaffolding)
  • Aim: To encourage discussion and practise decision making language.
  • Sub aim: Practising presenting a decision to the group.

Procedure:

Pre-listening: Select 5-7 songs that you intend to use. Try to ensure that the songs have a different feel and that they will evoke a different emotional response.

  1. Listening 
  • Tell the students you are going to play them 5-7 pieces of music/songs. You are only going to play about 30 seconds of each. Ask them to write down any feelings they have about the song. Tell them that you don’t want things like “I like it”, “it is rubbish”, but want adjectives or description of feelings the songs evoke or where it reminds them of being etc.
  • Play the songs allowing time after each for them to write up notes.
  • After all of the songs have been played ask the students to compare what they have written down in small groups. Try to make sure the groups are 2-4 people each.
  • Do group feedback, this allows you to share ideas, but also share any high level / interesting vocab.
  • You may need to play the songs again at this point in order for them to complete the next task.

2. Task – the script outline

Ask the students to skim read the scenes. Ask them what type / genre of film they think it is.

Then, ask students to work in groups and complete the task on the worksheet. 10-15 minutes. There may be some language that the students are unsure of. Try to elicit meanings from them. Encourage them to think about context where possible.

Task: You have been asked to select music to match the scenes. The songs we played you earlier were the ones we have the rights to. We can probably just about afford to license one more song. So if you have a suggestion for one that would work, we can probably manage that.

Direct them to the suggested language on the worksheet (please add extra language to this that you would like them to practice). Encourage as you monitor and also take notes so you can do error correction after.

Give the students 5 minutes to prepare to present their ideas to the group. Try to encourage them to use reasons. This is a chance to recycle the lexis they used earlier and to practice summarising a group discussion.

Optional: Board the different ideas for how the film ends. The students can then vote on the best.

Post task reflection: Ask the students where they can use the language that they have been practising. The aim is that they recognise that this is language that could be used in the exam. If not exam students in business discussions, meetings etc.

Also encourage the students to offer each other feedback on the language they all used. Ask the students which of the phrases they did use, which they didn’t and why. It is about them making choices about the language they use and developing their own personal lexis.

Possible extension activities: 

  • Ask the students in groups or individually to write dialogue for part of one of the scenes. This can then be edited and improved as a writing task. You could also ask the students to film it. This is a great chance for a student to act as director and help students improve. For a similar idea: https://textploitationtefl.com/2017/07/11/modals-of-deduction-a-murder-part-1-2/
  • Use one of the songs and treat it as a text and textploit it. See other ideas from the song lessons on the site.

Materials:

 

 

 

 

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

Connotations

This is going to be the first in a mini series of lessons on connotations. Why bother looking at connotations? Well, there are a few reasons, firstly, for students being able to say precisely what they mean without misunderstanding is key. Secondly, can you really know a word without understanding the implications its use has to those who read it and hear it. Finally, for some students, especially those in CAE or CPE classes a lack of knowledge of connotation can prevent high scores in the Use of English paper.

This whole idea was triggered by my colleague William Tweddle, talking about teaching vocabulary and highlighting the difference in connotation between Opium and Heroin. They are both effectively the same thing and yet with one we conjure images of poets languidly lying in beautiful rooms on divans, music wafting in with the opium haze. The other conjures images of junkies, needles, misery and grime. No surprise which has a perfume named after it.

 

Aims: To raise awareness of how important connotation is when learning vocabulary

Level: Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Procedure:

Discussion

The aim here is to raise awareness of how heroin / opium are perceived

Dictionary example from OUP: “A reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, used illicitly as a narcotic and occasionally in medicine as an analgesic.”

They will probably find the word ‘drug’ / heroin and the fact it is addictive.

The aim is to have a discussion on the name but leading to the point that Heroin and Opium have very different connotations.

Activity 1

Remind students here that we are really looking for the best answer. All of them could be used.

answers:

  1. affordable – now possible to buy
  2. good value – the price is fair
  3. cheap  – perhaps low quality

Emphasis that cheap can have a neutral use too.

As an extension, you could ask the students to write a sentence for inexpensive and put the best on the board.

Activity 2

Obviously there is no correct answer here, but it is worth checking with students the meanings

  • thin – neutral though sometimes used in a negative sense
  • skinny – negative – too thin
  • slender – positive – also contains an idea of elegance
  • slim – positive – in good shape

Activity 3

  1. a gossip
  2. a chatty person
  3. a chatterbox

The best synonym for talkative is chatty, but perhaps chatty focuses more on informal chats.

Activity 4

A chance to use those words in a longer text.

1.

“So, last week I went to a party with a friend, she’s lovely but she is a bit of a chatterbox, so I know I can never tell her too much. Anyway, when we got to the party we went to the kitchen to find some food. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I really did hope that there would be something other than affordable crisps. If I had known, I would have brought some nibbles myself. There again, I am supposed to be on a bit of a diet. I don’t want to get too slender, but I would like to be a bit slimmer. The party was ok I suppose, I didn’t stay long, especially after I got stuck talking to this one guy. He was a chatterbox and friendly, but so boring. I didn’t spend any money though, so it was a good value evening I suppose. That’s something!”

2.

  • a chatterbox – a gossip
  • affordable – cheap
  • slender – thin / skinny
  • slimmer – fine
  • a chatterbox – chatty / talkative
  • good value – cheap / inexpensive (if the article is changed)

 

Reflection activity – get students to think about how they could record connotations and their differences in their note books.

Extra activity pronunciation

Eradicating the robots.

Ask students to record themselves saying the improved dialogue and save it.

Drill any words you hear being mispronounced.

You can then look at where they should be pausing. Highlight the punctuation and also get them to think about where the stress should be in each clause – what is the important information?

After they have practised a few times get them to think about tone – how does the speaker feel – ask them to practice this again taking this into account.

Ask the students to rerecord and listen back to both versions and reflect on how the second is an improvement.

Materials:

 

Coming soon, another connotations lesson featuring the following words:

Relaxed / laid back / calm / easy going

Juvenile / youthful / childish / childlike

Famous / notorious / renowned / well-known

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from ads: Conditionals

If you are a regular to our blog, you may have noticed that I use ads quite a lot. I suppose the idea here stems from my time in Korea and Spain where a lot of the language I taught myself came from signs, billboards, ads and basically anything I saw as I walked around the city. I learnt so many chunks and phrases and was then able to manipulate them slightly to express myself. I also saw words and phrases that I’d learnt elsewhere being used in different ways. I really think it is important that students are taught to use this skill of analysing everything that they see around them and so here is yet another in the English is all around you series.

If you’d like to see some of the others, you can find them here:

  1. reported speech
  2. might
  3. text messages
  4. it’s even in the toilet

 

This is a very quick lesson and could probably slip into any larger lesson on conditionals or could be used as a revision.

Level: Pre-intermediate / Intermediate

Objective: By the end of the lesson students will be better able to analyse and manipulate the language around them.

Aims:

  • to examine hypothetical conditionals for the present
  • to encourage language analysis

Material:

Procedure:

As far as procedures go, this one is short and sweet like the lesson. Basically follow the instructions on the worksheet and you’ll be fine.

What I will say is that at the end, I would include a reflection stage where students think about the benefits of analysing the language all around them. Also, I’d encourage them to think about when / where they would use this language.

Follow-ups:

  1. Take the sentences that the students produced in the final activity and examine the pronunciation. (I’d is one of the hardest features of fast speech to hear for learners of English as it is reduced to practically nothing, something being little more than just a schwa).
  2. Students bring in ads from online, papers or around the city and analyse them in class.

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: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Presentations – structure and shape 1

One of the activities I have ignored most over my teaching career has been student presentations, recently however, I have been working in EAP and the need for presentations has become far more pressing and apparent. Therefore I have resolved to make a lesson focusing on this. The fact I don’t teach it is itself odd as I do them in quite a few different forms all the time, but, I digress.

The lesson starts with a listening task, then moves to noticing skills on a good presentation, focusing on the language used and structures, before some reflection and hands over the possibility of your students making their own.

Aim:

  • to focus students on the shape of a good presentation by identifying the different parts of one
  • To better prepare students to give a short presentation in class.

Level / classes: Upper Intermediate / Advanced / IELTS / FCE / CAE / CPE / Business

Procedure:

Intro – ask students to write the first ideas that they have when they think of the word ‘globalisation’ or ask them to find a picture that represents this.

If you are unsure what to expect from this, you could always provide pictures

Listenening 1: 0-2.03mins

This is just a short listening task, encouraging students to take notes. An important skill, the questions that follow the notes are useful to assess whether the notes they took were useful.

Answers:

  1. How globalised we are, how globalised we aren’t?
  2. National borders don’t matter, we live in one world
  3. It is shared by pro-globalisers and anti-globalisers
  4. First mention, David Livingston, 1850s
  5. Railroad, steamship, telegraph

You can of course play again should you need to.

Speaking and brainstorming:

Put students into pairs or small groups and ask them to think of what makes a good/bad presentation.

Whole class feedback.

Predictions: 2-5.50mins

  1. 2% – 6/7% including internet calls
  2. 3% – 1st Gen immigrants
  3. Just under 10% – FDI

The Shape of the talk: 

He states that he is going to look at

  • How globalised we are
  • How globalised we aren’t
  • Why it is important to be accurate

Now students watch the rest of the talk, take notes and match the talk to the two shapes (this could be set as homework, but is needed for the next part of the class).

Encourage students to take good notes, getting them into the habit will be useful and will enable the discussion at the end to be more fruitful.

Answers:

The talk fits the SPSE ( Situation / Problem / Solution / Evaluation) model.

This is pretty typical for an academic talk, the second model is more suited to an essay, although it is important that students really see what easy of these parts relate to.

It is important for students to try to think about how presentations are structured, it relates to all stages of making a text, written or spoken, seeing what others do and learning from it is a vital stage in them becoming more autonomous. Encourage them to look at other presentations and assess what structure they think has been used.

Table completion:

Problems:

  1. If we don’t see the world accurately as being only 20 -25% globalized, we won’t be aware of the benefits of further integration.
  2. People become needlessly alarmed when by their belief that the world is already completely globalized.

Solution:

If, particularly in terms of aid, developed nations were even slightly more globalized, many people in developing countries would benefit.

 Evaluation:

Even a small change in how aid is allocated would help.

 Reflection:

Ask them whether they thought the talk was interesting, whether it told them things they were unaware of. Elicit things they were surprised by etc. What things from their original good / bad discussion did they see/hear?

Follow on: 

Obviously, this leads nicely to the students themselves doing a presentation, which is how I would follow it. I think start with a shorter one 3-5 mins, but make sure that they are doing it from research and structuring it well so that they maximise their time.

I would recommend letting them choose a topic, but maybe check that it is going to be suitable for the audience and what the aims are.

Materials:

 

 

 

One-sided phone calls

Some of the more eagle-eyed among you may recognise the title from another lesson that we have done. This one seeks to differ though in its focus on future forms. There is also a focus pronunciation, intonation in the first listening and connected speech in the second.

The idea for this came, as so many of ideas do, when I was a little grumpy. This time i was imagining how much worse my mood would be if someone were to cancel plans I had made. If you know me, changing or cancelling of plans is one of my pet hates, unless it means I no longer have to do anything, then that is ok! However, I digress. The focus of this is to present the different structures we use for future forms within a context in which they may exist in the ‘real world’ and obviously to provide listening practice and hopefully some chances for them to use the newly acquired knowledge in a review of what was learnt from listening two at the end:

Level: Strong Int with scaffolding but prob Upper Int and above

Aims: To highlight the uses of future forms / to focus on pronunciation and intonation

Procedure:

Pre listening (optional) ask students to discuss their plans for the evening and the rest of the wk and record themselves. 1 min max recording time.

 

Listening 1:

Play the first recording once.  Ask students how the person speaking feels at the beginning and the end of the conversation.  Ask them how they can tell and what do they think caused this change?

Who is speaking to who, about what? what is the relationship between the speakers? How do they know?

*If you wanted you could board some hypothetical language of prediction for them to use: could be, sounds like / as if / I suppose/guess.

Additionally, you could add some adjectives to describe emotions to the board, for students who struggle a little more.

 

Grammar:

1. answers:

  1. fine
  2. I’m meeting Chris…
  3. We’ll maybe go…

 

2. answers and instructions:

What tense is each one? 

present simple / present continuous / will

Why was each tense used here?

This is the more interesting part, it is all about reflection on the tenses and what they know about them with regards to their function.

for me, present simple used for timetabled event

present continuous used for an arrangement

will used to imply that the event is not fixed, less certain.

What would be the difference to the meaning if any of the other future forms were used?

In the first, this is the only tense that sounds natural here.

in the second be going to’ could easily be used and this is also the case in the third example.

3. Reflection on st’s own usage – (if you recorded students at the beginning use it here, ask them to listen and write down which future structures they tend to use.)

group discussion, the rules they select are fine, try not to correct too much at this point, encourage them to think about how they differ, by all means monitor and prod them towards the right direction though.

4. This is something I call Audi Future, the idea is that we often use more than one tense for one function, but that they don’t all get used for the same things.

 

audi-future

  • Will – offers / spontaneous decision / promises / predictions
  • Be going to – plans / predictions with fact
  • present continuous – arrangements
  • present simple – timetabled events

These will be known to you and to many of your students, the whole point of the graphic though is to show how native speakers are often a little flexible with these definitions, hence the fact they overlap. Despite this though, we never really use present continuous for a spontaneous decision, so only when the two circles overlap can there be a mixture of use.

*also perhaps pointing out that often when ‘will’ is used for promises it is often pronounced fully, rather than it’s more usual contracted form.

 

Pronunciation:

A brief focus on natural pronunciation

How’s it going?

Ask students how to pronounce this – you will probably get 3 or four separate words.

Here you are trying to get them to notice that it is in fact two words

/haʊzɪt gəʊwən/

The second sound in the first could be a schwa for some, but I think I pronounce it /ɪ/.

Intonation – ask students to draw what happens to the voice during this

‘go’ has the big stress

Ask if students can think of any other examples of native speakers putting words together like this.  You might get the following:

whatcha doing / dyer like  / etc

 

Listening 2:

Prediction – this is a much neglected listening skill. We do it instinctively, but it seems to be one of those skills that students don’t use when learning English.

Explain the second conversation is the person phoning the other person, Chris, and ask the students to predict what will be said in groups.

All class feedback, board suggestions

Ask what grammar they would expect to hear.

Listen to check, ask students to take notes on what they hear then ask the following questions:

  • Is this the first time James has let them down?
  • How does the speaker feel about it?
  • What is their plan for the evening?

 

Grammar:

The focus on conditionals ties into something that we both talk about a lot, which is the limitations of putting conditionals into the 0/1/2/3 categories.

Neither of these conditionals fit neatly into those boxes, which can throw some students of the scent a little in terms of their meanings.

This aims to focus on the meaning, and when they refer to, rather than just focusing on the more traditional numbers.

 

Vocab:

There are only two things that I would draw the student’s attention to here.

Bail – to cancel at the last minute (in this context)

This could be a good opportunity for students to see how dictionaries really don’t always have the answers they are looking for. You could get the students to look in their dictionaries and then listen for the word and see if it fits with the meaning in the situation.

Alternatively, you could ask them just to work out the meaning of the word from the context. Make sure that they have considered register here.

Fancy – ask them to listen and to see what they think the meaning is in this context.

Draw attention to the register difference of ‘fancy’ / ‘would like’ / ‘to be up for it’ see in which situations they think they would be used. maybe ask if they can think of any other ways of saying this and ask them to create a cline from formal to informal.

 

Pron:

Just to draw some attention to some common features of connected speech. You can drill it, but for me the focus hear is very much preparing them for what happens in the real world, rather than trying to get them to take on all the features of connected speech in their own pronunciation.

“guess what”

/geswɒ/ – the ‘t’ isn’t pronounced

“he always”

/hɪjɔːleɪz/ – the /j/ sound connects the two vowel sounds, students are probably not aware of this. Ask the students if they can think of other examples of this.

“to be honest”

/təbiːjɒnɪs/ – the to uses the schwa and as above there is an intrusive /j/ sound and the /t/ is dropped from honest

“if we fancy it”

/fwiːfænsɪjɪt/ – ‘If we’ becomes one sound – /fwiː/ – this frequently happens when native speakers are using conditionals.

Grammar (revision):

Ask students to listen and note down future forms they hear, and ask them to reflect whether the use of them connects to what was examined earlier in the class.

Place them in groups and ask them to discuss this together.

 

Materials:

Audio 1

Audio 2