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.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

Tense review with the Rolling Stones

In an attempt to claw back some credibility after ‘the script’ lesson, I bring you a tense review based on an article on the Rolling Stones.  It is a good one to use either as a diagnostic or as a review.  There are also a couple of interesting bits of lexis, should be fairly easy to do from the worksheet and as a warmer there is a listening element made from the direct speech from the text, which you can return to later if you fancy.

And as if that were not enough, there is also going to be a follow up listening lesson with Paint it Black!

This as is often the case with our lessons asks you to train students to notice the grammar and there is some vocab to work out from context.  The worksheet should be pretty easy to follow I hope.

Apologies for the listening, couldn’t find it online so had to do it myself!

Level: Int +

Aim: to review / test tense awareness

Procedure:

Picture: just follow worksheet

Listening: The idea here is to get the students thinking about what is actually being said, and so rather than standard gist questions I have made a task where they have to paraphrase what the person is saying, this will be hard as there will be some vocab that may be unknown in this context ‘cut’ for example.  However, the idea is to start to give them the tools to deal better out of class.  Don’t worry about playing the recording a few times or even, give them a time limit, send it to them via ‘What’s app’ and they can listen as many times as they need in that time.  They can then read to check if they were right.

Reading gist: 

  1. first read to check listening
  2. Read to answer gist questions – answer together

Grammar hunt:

Just as it says really, give students a time limit, you know your class! As i said above, this is either a diagnostic or revision, works for either.  I would go a bit demand high on this though during the feedback, so on the past simple, “why is it past simple? which time phrase is used?” How else could the present continuous be expressed grammatically? that sort of thing.

Reported speech:

Follow the worksheet, as a follow on, i often ask the students to find examples of direct speech by musicians they like and turn them into direct speech and bring it to class next time or email them to me to check.

Vocab from context:

More of our training, I know we put this into almost every lesson, but getting your students comfortable in working out meanings for themselves is important and the more practice they are given, the better they will get.

Listening (the return):

Now get students to listen again to the first recording, they should find it much easier.  Here is where you could highlight some of the following:

  • elision: things like “we wen in”
  • language often used in anecdotes: “we were like”
  • stressed and weak forms
  • sentence stress and where the pauses happen

 

Materials:

AUDIO FILE

 

Is the English Language sexist?

So this lesson uses a fantastic newspaper article from the Guardian.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/27/eight-words-sexism-heart-english-language

It was one of those things I read and knew I had to make a lesson about.

The lesson focuses on collocation, vocab building and reading skills if you fancy going down that route, as ever, you are welcome to pick and choose bits and pieces.

Aims: build awareness of collocation / get students to respond to a text naturally

Level: Advanced / strong upper Ints could cope if it is scaffolded

Time: This really depends on how the conversation part goes but you will need a bare minimum of 1hr, I think 1.30-2hrs is more realistic.

Procedure:

Introducing collocation:

  1. Ask St’s in pairs to come up with 6 collocations for ‘Pop’ on the worksheet.  They can then read the first paragraph of the text to check if there collocations were the same.
  2. Write the word ‘Rabid’ on the board. Now ask students to look at the second paragraph and look for the collocation for the word rabid.  Ask them to think about what the word ‘rabid’ means.
  3. Ask them to complete the second diagram using words from the text.
  4. Ask students to think about recording their new vocab along with words that collocate with them, to help them to be more natural when speaking and writing.  You could at this point direct them to the British National Corpus, or show them how to look for collocations online from any other sites you may use.

http://phrasesinenglish.org/searchBNC.html

Reading:

Feel free to completely change this section adding gist questions or scanning tasks, but what I wanted here was two things:

  • to get students to react in a more natural way to the text.
  • to get students to create their own questions to set for each other. ( I should add here that it was partly to encourage learner autonomy and to test their ability to write synonyms but also to get them to think about how an examiner might write the question.  Therefore, I monitored them closely, helping with synonyms and little grammar fixes here and there).

You could, if you have a nice even number, cut up the 8 words and get the students to read them and then tell the other students about them, a jigsaw reading of sorts.

Otherwise follow the questions on the worksheet.

Reflection:

Having had a chat to a friend about some of the attitudes of her students recently, I was keen to put a reflection section into this lesson, they feature in lots of our lessons, but this one is thinking more globally about language.  This could result in a big discussion or be over in 6 minutes, really depends on your students.  Go with whatever feels right.

Vocabulary:

Again, as part of training students to be more autonomous the idea here is to get them to try to work out the meaning of words using their context.  They can then check them against a-f

As always, if there are any changes you put in, let us know and tell us how it goes.

Materials:

Narrative tenses – higher levels

Narrative tenses, students normally know them, they can tell you what tense it is, but can they identify their functions? that is always the trickier and more important thing.

This lesson uses a few different short story beginnings and moves from a focus on narrative tenses to language that tells us what sort of story is being told, with a view to improving the students’ own production skills.

It also features something you’ll find in most of our lessons, working out some vocabulary from context.

I must say at this point that some of the vocabulary ideas in this lesson were things I first thought about after teaching from the old New First Certificate Gold.

Level: Upp Int + (high level upp ints)

Aims: To check functions of the different narrative tenses.

Procedure:

Introduction

1.a You could give each student a different story and get them to read them before telling other students in the group.

Or

1.b Place the stories around the walls and the students have to read them.

2. Students are asked to match the stories to one of the following genres

love / action / suspense / horror / sci-fi / fantasy / 

There are I suppose no correct answers but the obvious ones to pick would be:

  • story 1 – horror
  • story 2 – love
  • story 3 – suspense
  • story 4 – sci-fi

3. Ask students to discuss in groups and pairs what they think is typical of each genre and what made them choose the answers they did.  At this point you could highlight some of the vocab you elicit from them on the board.

Grammar focus

Hand out copies of the stories

  1. Ask students to identify examples of past simple / past continuous / past perfect / past perfect continuous.
  2. Ask the students to match the tense to its use
  3. Ask them to look at the timeline for story 1, and then to create one for one of the following three stories.
  4. Ask them to look at the story on page 3 the story and decide how it could be improved by using the different tenses.  Obviously there is no definitive correct version, but set them the challenge of using past simple, past continuous and past perfect.

Vocab focus

  1. Ask students to identify words that are typical of the genre. e.g.:
  • story 1 – wind was howling, crept, old abandoned, 
  • story 2 – sun was shining, fluffy clounds, perfect day,
  • story 3 – nervously, paced
  • story 4 – ice clouds, ship’s computer, new planet gleamed

Also ask them to predict the meaning of the words, don’t let them use dictionaries, explain that the exact meaning is not necessary, just a general idea.  Do whole class feedback on any words which present difficulties.

2. Ask the students to add further words typical of one of the genres to the table on p3.

Materials: worksheet

Follow up activities

  1. The obvious thing is to ask them to carry on one of the stories and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the emphasis is on reusing the grammar and getting them to use some of the vocab they worked on together.

2. Another could be to ask them to record an anecdote for you and email it to you, this gives you the chance to really get them to practice the language in a context they may frequently use.  An advantage of this is you can send them notes on their pronunciation, especially the intonation.

E.g. I was walking down the street yesterday when …

You know what will motivate your class best.

Enjoy

Pronouns – giving cohesion to students’ writing

This lesson is based on something I did with an Upper Intermediate class.  With some of them it really did make a big difference to their writing, well, to the ones who took it on board and applied it.  For some of them, it was a bit of a challenge and it is not a panacea but a bit like the articles lesson we put up earlier, it just focuses students on why we use pronouns, what they do, and what they refer to, getting them to notice them.

This is also useful as a little extra for FCE/CAE students as in the long multiple choice reading activities there are often questions asking the students to choose what the pronoun in a certain line is referring to.

This lesson can be done with any text and as a follow up activity, I would recommend that you incorporate a bit of a focus on pronouns regularly after doing this lesson.

Not wanting to confuse the students or put them off, I have only focused on ‘it’ in this lesson, though obviously, if you think your class are ready for more then take the idea and expand it however you want, and let us know how it goes.

Aim: to get students to think about the use of ‘it’

Level: Upp Int + (though if you have a strong Int they might be able to do it)

Time: 45mins-1hr

Procedure: 

1. Speaking – generating interest: Get students to think about their favourite songs, what are the themes/topics in the song?  Chat and compare in pairs or small groups.  Maybe ask if anyone has ever written a song.

2. Reading – context and content: What advice is given by the writer, do the students think it is good advice?

3. Vocab – synonym hunt: Ask the students to try to match up the words, explain that the words are in order in the text.

4. Pronouns – what are they doing: Firstly ask the students to underline ‘it’ in the text.

Then ask them to answer the question at the bottom of the page about what the first ‘it’ refers to, the answer is writing in this case.

Now ask the students to think about what each of the other 8 examples of ‘it’ refers to.

5. Pronouns – function: Ask the students whether each ‘it’ in the text is used to help avoid repetition or introduce an idea?  Check as a class

Materials: pronouns worksheeets

 

Follow up activities

1. For homework you could ask the students to find a text and repeat the activities on pronouns, what do they refer to and what is the function?

2. Set students some writing and before they hand it in, get them to examine their own work for pronouns, and to check what they are replacing, or what they refer to.