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

 

 

 

 

Listening to build vocabulary – Collocations

This is a lesson that I had almost forgotten, until recently I taught a private student who wanted to focus on improving vocabulary to talk about art. Though the topic is art a lot of the collocations are more general than that and I think are a useful addition to students knowledge from B2 upwards.

This is a short little lesson, though there are undoubtedly ways in which you could stretch it, I’ll give you a couple of ideas at the end.

The lesson is based on a 9 minute film about art in Siena, so may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is nicely done and well-presented in my opinion, and features Andrew Graham-Dixon, who I am rather fond of.  Students who I have used this with have found it relatively easy to understand what he is saying which is good as the focus here is on collocation, though you could easily build some pron work into this.

Aims: to increase students collocation knowledge / to practice listening using an authentic text.

Level: B2 +

Procedure:

Pre-listening

Discussion regarding Siena, has anyone been and then fast independent research using mobiles and then all class feedback

Listening

For this to begin with the main focus is prediction, put students in groups and ask them to think of words which might fit. During group feedback praise good collocations and highlight ones which don’t quite work.

Explain to the students that all you want them to do is watch and try to complete the gapped phrases.  They should be able to get most at the first listen, but be prepared to play it again if need be. Get students to check with a partner and then do group feedback.

Speaking and follow on

This is just a quick follow on to tie it together

However, what I would ask them to do next is to either write a short radio or video show that they present to the class or ask them to find a clip and to take note of what they believe to be strong collocations and bring them to class.

Materials

Video:

Taken from a BBC programme – via youtube

Worksheet:

 

 

 

 

Paraphrasing and IELTS

This was a lesson I wrote earlier this week, when asked to cover a class with little notice. Having been teaching a lot of EAP, I wanted to bridge the gap between what students do in IELTS classes and at Universities.

The class begins with some reflection, I think the important thing here is that even if they are not planning to go to university, paraphrasing is a crucial skill, however, why then are they doing IELTS, especially if studying within the UK.

When teaching it I highlighted how much we paraphrase in our daily lives, the fact native speakers find it almost impossible to repeat what someone has just said to us without altering it.

This lesson aims to serve as an introduction to paraphrasing, and looks at both lexis and vocabulary within the framework of IELTS.

Aim: introduce students to paraphrasing, to better prepare them for IELTS and their studies afterwards.

Level: High Int +

Procedure: 

Reflection to begin: for all of this section set up groups and monitor and then do all class feedback

the things that students should need will be numerous but should include: register, ability to use a variety of grammar / vocab, cohesion, coherence and the ability to paraphrase. Any others that you think work, please include.

For what should come next, all of them.

Definition:

I asked them to define without looking and then showed them the definition, but you could ask them to read the definition and then rewrite it using different words if you think your class can do this.

Why we do it – again, I did this and ‘how we do it’ as a group discussion

Why – to avoid repetition, to show off range, to avoid plagiarism

how – changing vocab, changing grammar

Using Vocabulary / Grammar

examples and graph come from

http://www.ielts-exam.net/academic_writing_samples_task_1/162/

  • Ask the students to read the two example paragraphs and evaluate it. It is a good example and would have got an 8 approximately
  • .Ask them to focus on the words shown and in pairs think of synonyms, try to discourage them from using dictionaries.

here are possible synonyms, accept any others and explain why some may/may not work here.

shows –                                                             depicts

a gradual decrease –                                     a steady fall

study for their career  –                              learn in order to further their future job prospects

gradually declines –                                     steadily reduces / experiences a step by step fall

 

Identify the word form difference:

people who study for career reasons – study (v) / career (acting like adj)  / reasons (n)

interested in studying for their career – studying (n) / career (n)

 

Grammar:

Passives – this is really easy, just a way of them adding and rewriting

answer: it can be seen that the percentage increases slowly

conditionals – 

answer: if we look at the graph, it can be seen that the percentage increases slowly

final change

If we look at the graph, it can be seen that there is a slow increase in the percentage

Nominalisation

follow and guide students through this.

n.b. – I ask students to find examples in the real world as part of their homework and to bring them to the next class to check

Answer for “women earn less than men”:

earn (v) –> earnings

The earnings of women are less than those of men

Free practice part 2

There are no correct answers here, I gave students around 5-10 mins to work on this in pairs and asked them first to think about words where synonyms could be used.

I would recommend getting different versions on the board and comparing them.

 

Remember this is only supposed to be an introduction, there will be more in-depth lessons coming soon.

Materials:

PDF  –   paraphrasing

Word – paraphrasing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phrasal verbs – Register

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

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

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

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

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

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

Level: High Int +

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

Procedure: 

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

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

Answers

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

Get letter – sheet 2: 

T/F questions -answers

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

Meanings of get

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

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

Putting knowledge into action

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

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

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

Materials:

 

Identifying text types

The idea with this lesson is twofold (love that word):

  1. get sts thinking about what is appropriate in different text types.
  2. make them more aware of what they can learn from the little things all around them.

It’s a simple little lesson but it works.

  • Level: pre-intermediate and above
  • Time: 1 -2 hours
  • Aims: see above

 

Materials:

  1. worksheet (word): text types
  2. worksheet (PDF): text types
  3. Teachers’ worksheet: text types teachers’ copy
  4. Audio: 

 

Larry’s First Day: Past Perfect

I don’t know when I made this lesson. Honestly, I was looking through an old USB and there it was. I love it when that happens. I suppose I should have named it something better than “First Day” when I made it first, then I might have come across it before now.

Anyway, it’s a nice little lesson on narrative tenses with a focus on past perfect. I used it for a class today and it went down very well. The procedure is quite straightforward.

Try it out and let us know what you think.

  • Level: Pre-intermediate / Intermediate
  • Objective: to revise / examine + practise the use of past perfect in conjunction with other narrative tenses.
  • Time: 2 – 3 hours

 

Materials:

  1. Worksheet (word): first day
  2. Worksheet (PDF):first day
  3. Teacher’s copy:first day teacher’s copy

Procedure:

PART 1

  1. Students discuss the Qs and feedback as a class. T deals with any lovely errors of emergent language on the board.
  2. Sts read through the story and discuss: How did Larry feel? Why?
  3. T establishes that the actions didn’t happen in order and asks sts to decide in pairs which action happened first. T draws their attention to the table and asks them to number the actions in order from 1 – 8 (the first one is done for you/them). T monitors and helps out where necessary.
  4. Feedback as a whole class. Take some time with this. It’s important for sts to really grasp the order.
  5. Ask sts what tenses they can see in the story.
  6. Draw their attention to the FORM section and ask them to fill in the form using the story to help.
  7. Same as above with the USE section.
  8. Feedback as a class, giving further examples if necessary.

PART 2

  1. Sts read through the story and ignore the blanks. They answer the same gist questions as above: How does he feel? Why?
  2. Sts match up the vocab. Feedback as a class. Spend some time ensuring sts understand all the words. A lot of them can be illustrated better through actions. Nothing should stand in their way for the next activity.
  3. Sts work in small groups and decide which tense goes in which spot. Tell them they should think about WHY as well because you will ask them why they chose each tense.
  4. Feedback as a class. Deal with any common issues.

PART 3 – Follow up

As a follow-up, I would either have them write about their first day at school or at a job or I would ask them to write the end of Larry’s story. I’d use the mistakes from this as a basis for revising these tenses in the next lesson.

School Reunion: A tense review

This is a really simple one that we made as a tense review before an end-of-term test. It had two main aims:

  1. to find out which language points needed a bit more of a review.
  2. to get my students thinking about how all of the language points they’d learnt over the past term might appear together. (so often they are studied in isolation)

Note: depending on the age of your students (mine were slightly older), you might need to change the discussion questions at the end. I’ve attached an editable word copy so feel free to edit it and make it work for your group.

  • Objective: see above
  • Time: 2 – 3 hours
  • level: high intermediate and above

Materials:

  1. Worksheet (word): Reunion tense review worksheet
  2. Worksheet (PDF): Reunion tense review worksheet
  3. Teacher’s copy: Reunion tense review teacher’s copy

 

Procedure:

  1. Students skim read the story and discuss the question at the top of the page. Feedback as a class.
  2. Students match the definitions to the vocab in the story (it’s important that no words / phrases stand in the way of them understanding the text so spend a little time here if needs be)
  3. In small groups, students work through the story, filling in the gaps. I always tell them they should have a reason for every answer they give. I will ask them why!
  4. Students check their answers on the back of the sheet and circle any they got wrong. They should then discuss if their answer was also possible, if it changes the meaning or if it was just impossible.
  5. Feedback as a class, focusing on the ones they had trouble with (this will be clear from your monitoring). If they all had issues with one language point, that’s one to go over in the next lesson.
  6. In the language analysis section, the students look at an isolated piece of language and use the questions to help them analyse it. Discuss as a class.
  7. Finally, students discuss the questions in small groups. Teacher monitors for delayed error correction and emergent language, which they deal with after the discussion.

 

Bowie: Pronunciation in songs

 

Look, the fact is we just can’t resist a Bowie lesson. There it is, plain and simple (If you missed our previous one, you can check it out here) and I can’t promise that this one will be the last Bowie lesson we ever do. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that there will be more. This one came about because I was listening to Hunky Dory and got a wee bit obsessed with the song, Kooks. I thought I’d share it with you.

normal_k_k_k_kooks_tray

It’s a simple enough lesson using a song to look at vocab, “will” and connected speech. I’ve always felt that songs are a great way for students to practise their listening as they’re usually in quite natural speech (not always) and in real life there is very often background noise that you need to filter out when you’re trying to listen. Songs replicate that quite well. This is something I always point out to my students when I do a song. I think it’s important they see the benefit and don’t just think that songs are something we do on Fridays for fun.

  1. Objective: to raise awareness of connected speech in songs / to examine different uses of “will”
  2. Time: 2 – 3 hours
  3. Level: Pre-intermediate and above

 

Materials:

Songhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSlOGzPM90