Overt Teaching

Overt Teaching is something we have spoken about many times but never really written about…overtly. It is a part of our lessons, our procedures, our approach to teaching English but we’ve never really made the case for it on our blog…which seems odd.

No time like the present to sort that out.

What do we mean by Overt Teaching?

In our industry there has often been a tendency to hide what we are doing from our students. We sneak grammar in under the cover of darkness like spies crossing from East to West Berlin, afraid that our eagle-eyed students will notice the present perfect and completely disengage from the lesson. Or, we work towards the big reveal, the “ahhhhhh” moment when our students realise what we’ve been working towards this whole time.

The flaw with the above is that if our students don’t know what they’re doing and how it applies to their life, they’re much more likely to be disengaged. Equally, if we tell our learners we’re doing the present perfect, they are likely to disengage if they don’t see how it applies to their real lives.

Teaching overtly suggests that we involve our learners in the learning discussion throughout the lesson. Below are some key stages of the lesson when this can be easily applied.

Starting off on the right foot:

The beginning of your lesson is arguably the most important aspect as this is where we get all of our buy-in from our students. If we look in the average coursebook, considerable time and page space is (quite rightly) taken up with engaging our learners in the topic of the lesson. As an industry we recognise the importance of this but the actual aims and the objectives of the lesson are not given the same pride of place.

They are very often squashed into a tiny box in the top-left corner of the page. As teachers we very often display them on the wall or on a board or as part of our lesson plan that nobody looks at but why do we do this? Is it because our institution demands it? Is it so we can tick an accreditation box? Or, is it because we recognise that a clear understanding of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it is crucial to student engagement? If it is the latter, then we should be bringing it into our lesson, not as a monologue from the teacher but as a dialogue with our students.

Tip 1:

Have a clear distinction between your objective (the final outcome you are working towards) and your aim (the things you will cover in the class to help them achieve the objective successfully). Careful and consistent wording can help with this. Consider:

Today we are going to:

  • aim
  • aim
  • aim

So that you can:

  • Objective

Tip 2:

Make it a discussion and increase student engagement through simple questions:

  1. How will this objective help you in your real life?
  2. Which of these aims will be challenging for you?
  3. Which is most important for you?
  4. Which do you feel will be revision for you?

By involving our learners in this discussion, we put some of the learning responsibility on them. They have decided which aims they will need to focus on more; they have related the objective with their lives and decided how it will benefit them.

Setting up an activity:

Aims and objectives at the beginning of the lesson are crucial but it doesn’t stop there. Sadly, minutes after we’ve finished with the above discussion, our learners have probably forgotten what we’re working towards and are focusing on the interesting reading or listening exercise. Maybe they’re entirely focused on the grammar because they’re finding it challenging. Continued discussion throughout the lesson is key. We need to help our learners see that everything in our lesson is building towards the final objective; it’s not busy work, it’s not just stuff we’re doing, it’s building towards something greater.

Tip1:

Before or after an activity consider asking your students why it was important. For example, why did we just learn 6 new collocations to do with work? Because we’re going to need them later when we introduce our jobs. And will all of these collocations be useful for all of you? No, these 3 are useful for me but the others aren’t as useful because I don’t work in an office.

Or

Why did we just listen to that conversation? Because it was a model for the conversation we’re going to have later on.

These quick interactions help keep our students (and us) on track and moving towards our objective. Don’t expect them to have the above answers the first time you ask them though. As with anything, you will need to elicit and support your learners in coming to these realisations. Gradually, you can train them to understand why as opposed to just what they are doing.

Ending up on the right foot:

The beginning of the lesson is crucial to engagement but if you don’t actually reach the objective, you’ll lose your students’ trust the next time around. We’ve all been derailed mid-lesson and changed our plan because something more important has come up but how often do we communicate this to our students? It’s so important that we explain our decision-making process to them. We laid out our objectives and why they were important; if we veer from them, we owe it to our learners to explain why.

But lets assume we don’t get derailed. We reach our final production stage. We’ve spent 2 hours teaching vocabulary, grammar and skills that we now want our students to use in this final conversation. We set up the task and…none of them use the language! We’ve all been there but the question is what do we do about it?

Tip 1: Success Criteria

Very often our learners just forget what is expected of them. They’re keen to communicate so they fall back on what’s easy and use the language they had at their disposal at the beginning of the lesson. Clearly setting our your expectation before the activity is key. Ask your learners what a successful conversation looks like for them. Elicit that in order to be successful, they’ll have to use the language and skills from the lesson. The beauty of this is that everyone goes into the activity clear in their minds what success looks like but this can vary from one student to another. Success for a new student to the group might just be using the grammar correctly but for a stronger student, it might be combining the grammar and the new vocabulary. By opening it up to students and making it a dialogue, you move the responsibility for success back onto them. They’ve decided their own level of success and now they have to try to achieve it.

Tip 2: Repetition

Accept that you will have to do the final activity two or more times and plan this into your lesson. The first time students have the conversation, they are usually considering the content. They’re just trying to communicate and asking them to add in new language and skills is quite the load.

Let them have the conversation, then refocus them on the success criteria. Ask them to discuss whether or not they used the language from the lesson and then set the task up again. The second and third time round, content is not an issue anymore and they can focus on upgrading their language and skills.

Conclusion:

Overt Teaching doesn’t require you to change how you teach drastically, it just suggests you ask a little more of your learners. We all say we want more autonomous students…perhaps this is a first step. Throw back the curtain on your teaching & planning, let them in.

12 Angry Men – Persuasive Language Listening Lesson

Using clips of films has long been a favoured method of mine in classes. Sometimes as a model for pronunciation as with this lesson: https://textploitationtefl.com/2015/02/18/video-lesson-catch-it-if-you-can-connected-speech/

This lesson instead looks at persuasive language as well as offering students the chance to practise listening and giving natural responses.

Why 12 Angry Men? I have wanted to write a lesson using this clip for about 3 years and with the current political climate, this seems like a good moment to look at a clip which demonstrates prejudice. I find this clip optimistic in that most of the jurors move away from the speaker. Anyway, I digress. We were both impressed by a session given by Angelos Bollas (Dublin: 2018) on using materials that are emotionally engaging and hope some of that has filtered into this.

  • Time: 2hr
  • Level: Intermediate (B1) and above
  • Aim: to look at persuasive language and structuring a response
  • Sub-aim: to generate discussion in class

For more lessons like this, check out our book: https://www.bebc.co.uk/textploitation

Materials:

Procedure:

Getting the Gist

Pre-Listening:

  1. Show the clip with the sound off and ask the students what they think is happening? What makes the men stand up one by one and walk away from the table? This is to generate interest and pique their curiousity.

Listening:

2. This task relates back to question in pre-listening – giving a reason to watch and a chance for those who are stronger to identify the issues with what the speaker is saying.

In terms of answers you might want to let them know that it is the jury in a trial

3. This is more detailed and is looking for the following answers or similar. (However, if you think other answers work, go with it.)

  • Who has been accused and of what? – a kid (probably can infer murder)
  • What is the speaker’s attitude towards the case? clearly prejudiced against the kid and ‘others like him’
  • What do the rest of the juror’s think about what he is saying? again you can infer they disagree by walking away in peaceful protest
  • How does the speaker react when he is told to stop talking? Bemusement – defeat 

Natural Response:

This section is meant to promote discussion in a lest gist orientated fashion. Allowing the students to analyse the text discuss it.

  1. Is there any language here which is used to generalise a group of people? phrases like “you know how these people lie” “it’s born in them” “They don’t know what the truth is” “they don’t need any real big reason to kill someone either” “they get drunk”
  2. Why might that be a problem in a trial? Clearly this speaker isn’t impartial
  3. Do you think the speaker is racist? clearly this is contentious, but acting like this could definitely be considered as ‘Cultural racism’

Persuasive Language:

  1. This is just a simple matching task

1 = H  2 = F  3 = D  4 = B  5 = I  6 = G  7 = E  8 = A  9 = C

Adapted from BBC Bitesize Literary techniques: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zx7cmnb/revision/2

2. The following techiques were used in the speech

Techniques: 1 2 3 4 7 9

Responding and debating: the rebuttal

The point of this is to give the students some chance to respond to the speech used in the clip by recording their own version. You could hold class discussions on suitable topics to include. The main aim is to get them to record a response that you can check and to use the check list.

The two methods of beginning are by no means the only options, but should give the students some help in starting. If you have others you prefer, please use them.

  1. What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of both?

Concession – advantages deflames situation / disadvantage could be that it implies a degree of agreement

Refutation – opposite to above.

Your response:

Give students time to plan. Let them think of arguments (claim and evidence) to help them in their short response.

Setting Success Criteria: When you mark these, tell the students in advance exactly what you will be checking for. If you are looking for structure, do not only correct them on their grammar or pronunciation. The checklist is here to help with structure, but depending on the needs of your class you could negotiate others with them. Or, in mixed ability classes even for each student.

Extension activities:

  • After feedback, students rerecord their response focusing on one or two points highlighted.
  • You could ask your students to read this review and again look for persuasive devices featured in the lesson or any of the myriad of ideas for reviews you would normally use

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-12-angry-men-1957

  • Alternatively, you could ask your students to look for any examples of cultural racism and the generalising of different nationalities into negative traits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Materials:

Procedure:

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

Reading and Reaction

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

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

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

Vocabulary from context and co-text

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

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

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

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

Grammar Focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading and Reaction II

Now look at the letter again and answer these questions

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

Reading and Reaction III

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

Preposition focus

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

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

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

Reflection

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

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

 

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 section is here: https://textploitationtefl.com/2017/07/18/murder-mystery-part-3-4/

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: