Are you a visual teacher? An amazing free resource based on pictures

As of yesterday, I’m almost (not yet though!) done with correcting essays for the year.  I cannot even tell you how happy this makes me. I’ve spent the whole long weekend trying to squeeze in time to correct students’ compositions.

I cooked, I corrected; I washed my hair, I corrected; I watched TV, I corrected.

Now, I am almost finished. And I’m celebrating by writing this post to share with you a website that I love.

What is there in a picture? I don’t know. What I know is how differently my students react and perform when the task has been introduced with a picture.

Imagine this, you need to do a reading text about Alcatraz, the infamous prison.

Option 1. Ok, now, open your books at page 7. We are going to do a reading about Alcatraz.

Option2.  Display a picture of Alcapone’s cell in Alcatraz. Don’ t tell them anything about the picture just yet. Ask the sort of questions that might arise interest to finally disclose that it is the picture of a cell where Alcapone lived in Alcatraz.

I won’t insult your intelligence by asking which option you think will arise interest in the reading test, but the truth is that it takes nothing to introduce the reading with a picture of the prison and it makes a world of difference.

 

I am a very visual teacher and  love working with images to enhance learning. In my humble opinion, images should play an important role in the language classes as they help students retain information and make learning more memorable and effective.

The site I’m sharing with you, Pobble365, is certainly worth a visit if you keen on using pictures in your classes. Pobble365 offers you engaging lessons based on images.

The site offers one interesting picture a day and different activities related to the picture. These activities include:

  1. A story starter: the perfect prompt if you want to do some creative writing with your students.
  2. A sentence challenge: it challenges you to write or say a complex sentence based on the picture. Perfect to improve your grammar skills while rising to the challenge.
  3. Question time: you are offered some questions to help you describe the picture. Excellent to boost your speaking skills.
  4. Sick sentences: in this part, you are offered the opportunity to improve some sentences, which are grammatically correct, but are too simple.

Some extra features:

  • It’s free and you don’ have to register unless you want to.
  • You can download the pdf for the lesson
  • You can also see other pictures with their corresponding resources by clicking on Pick a Day at the top right-hand corner.
  • You can search images with Pobble to find relevant images or videos to the topic you want to discuss. For example, say you want to find images or videos about the weather; you just type the word in the search box and see what Pobble has to offer.
  • Here you can read about  9 ways to use Pobble 365 with your students.

I hope you enjoy using Pobble.

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Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom

When I teach something new, I’m always worried about one simple thing. Will my students internalise any time soon the new “whatever it is”? How can I help them? How long does it take for them to feel confident using the new structure/expression/word? How many times do they have to be exposed to the new term? How many different examples/contexts do you have to give them? How long does it take before a word becomes familiar and therefore usable?

This is an article I wrote for Voices, the British Council magazine, where I suggest  Six Low-Preparation Vocabulary Activities for the English Classroom, which can help.

Winner of the British Council Blog of the Month Award

I am humbled and grateful that my blog has won this month’s British Council Teaching English blog award for my post

Lacking inspiration? 6 awesome resource websites to find stuff for your classes

Thank you so much to the British Council for so much support. This is a day to celebrate lots of hard work and perseverance; always with a smile on my face ’cause teaching really makes me happy.

This award is dedicated to my students who are the source of my inspiration.

 

Do you Think Translation Exercises are Boring? Just the Opposite!

Believe me, they don’t have to be boring. In fact, just the opposite.

I know some teachers consider translation activities a thing of the past and that, arguably, they should be banned from our classes. I don’t completely agree.
If I am honest with you, I can’t say that I like giving students a whole paragraph to translate, but a one-sentence translation exercise can help consolidate and reinforce grammar and vocabulary.
And it doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. How?

Easy. Let’s combine a seemingly boring traditional exercise with an online fun tool and let’s turn it into a competition.

Preparation:

• Decide on few sentences you want students to translate. I’d suggest 6-8 sentences. If you like exploring tools, my favourite for this kind of activities is Playbuzz flip cards.
• Slips of paper

How to go about it:

1. Pair learners and give them as many slips of paper as sentences you want them to translate.
2. Write the first sentence on the board and ask students to translate into English. If you use the online tool I mentioned above, just show the first card. (See mine below)
3. Depending on the length or difficulty of the sentence to be translated, set a time limit.
4. Once the pair have their sentence, ask them to write it on the slip of paper big enough for you to see from a distance.
5. When the time is up, ask the pair to hold it up and quickly go through all the translated sentences awarding 1 point to the pair who has the correct translation.
6. The winner is the pair who get the most points.

Note: Be strict with spelling mistakes or any other tiny mistakes. Students love it when you are strict and don’t give away the points easily.

Follow-up: Revise again all the sentences, but this time orally.

Fun and Simple: Adjective Order

If you have following me for a while, then you know how much I love stepping aside from the course book and surprising students with activities that might add a spark to my classes.

Things like flip cards or wheels of fortune are constant guests in my classes. But for this activity, I have decided to invite an old friend I haven’t used for some time. Don’t ask me why. I still love him very much. Word clouds have a lot of potential when teaching languages and they are very easy to use. For this activity, I have used wordart.com.

Aim: to practise the order of adjectives before a noun (attributive position) in a writing competition.

Time: 5 minutes

Level: B2 students

Time: 10 minutes

Preparation: Go to wordart.com or any other word cloud generators and just type the words you want to see in the cloud. In my case, I typed five or six nouns and five adjectives relating to opinion, size, age, temperature, shape, colour, material and origin.

How to go about it:

1.  Revise. You might want to revise the order of adjectives before the noun before doing the activity.

Although not all grammarians agree on the order of the adjectives and the rules for adjective order are quite complicated, it is necessary to give them some kind of order they can stick to. I always use this sentence to help them remember.

 

Important points:

  1. Don’t overuse adjectives. While having two adjectives before a noun sounds natural, more than three would have the opposite effect.
  2. Purpose adjectives go just before the noun: riding boots (boots for riding), sleeping bags (bags for sleeping).
  3. Numbers go before adjectives: three huge houses.

2. Competition

  • Ask students to form pairs and either display the word cloud on the board or photocopy it.
  • Underline the nouns in the word cloud
  • Tell students they have two minutes to come up with the longest description for the any of the nouns in the word cloud.
  • The winners are the students who have managed to write the most adjectives before the noun.

Rules:

  • The adjectives before the noun must be placed in the correct order. Have the class check it while the students read their sentence.
  • It has to have sense, ie “a narrow boy” would be incorrect.

Have fun!

Storytelling Contest. Help me Find the Winner

About two weeks ago, to celebrate Halloween, I decided to set up a contest where my students could try their hands at writing a paranormal story. The task was to write a story beginning with:

I don't believe in paranormal, but one day...

I want to thank my students for making the contest a resounding success as 58 students wrote 58 great stories. Thank you very much for your effort. Your contribution was vital to the success of the contest.Now, it’s time to choose a winner!

I have selected these 4 stories. Please, read them and help me pick a  winner. After reading the four stories, you can vote. Please, vote only once!

Thanks for voting. Now, here’s the winner of the contest, Remedios Gámez. Thank you very much for your story “Hide-and-Seek”

Health and Illness: A Lesson Plan for Upper-Intermediate Students

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to health and illnesses through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.

This lesson plan works well on its own, but I have used it to complement Unit 2 of the course book New English File Upper-intermediate.

 

The Hot Seat. Revising and consolidating vocabulary.

A fun way to revise and consolidate vocabulary is playing the hot seat with the wheel of fortune.

PROCEDURE

    1. Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard
    2. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game. Tell them each team will have one minute to describe and guess as many words as possible.
    3. Spin the wheel. Team A will have to define the word for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will spin the wheel again for the same team. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word.
    4. Repeat procedure for Team B.

Role-Play: at the doctor's

At this stage, students will have already learned the vocabulary for minor and more serious illnesses and conditions so now, it’s time to practise it.

Step 1.  Working on pronunciation

On the board, write some of the words students have found most difficult to pronounce and revise their pronunciation. In my case, they might include:

Stomach ache   cough   temperature   consciousness   sprained   antibiotics   antihistamine  wound     blood pressure   medicine    paracetamol

Step 2.  Visiting the doctor

      • Ask students about the last time they were ill. What symptoms did they have? Did they go to the doctor? What was the treatment? Did you follow his advice? Could you go to work/school?
      • Tell students that they are going to role-play a conversation at the doctor’s where half the class will be patients and the other half will be doctors.
      • Students playing the role of patients will get a card with their ailment and they will need to talk to the doctor, describe their ailment and get some advice or treatment.
      • Students playing the role of doctors will have to ask questions and then prescribe some medicine, if necessary, and give some advice (rest, diet…etc).

Step 3.

Build the basic guidelines of the conversation on the board with the students’ help

Doctor: “Good morning/afternoon. What seems to be the problem?”

Patient: “I haven’t been feeling well for a few days/ I don’t feel well”. Explain your symptoms

Doctor: Asks more questions like ” Are you taking anything for… ?“Do you have a headache”? When did it start?” Have you taken your temperature?” …etc

Step 4.

Ask half the class (the doctors) to remain seated at their desks and ask the other half (the patients) to stand up and move to a corner of the room. Give each of the patients a card with their illness and ask them to choose a doctor and role-play the conversation.

When a student playing the role of patient finishes, he should go back to the corner and wait there for another student (patient) to swap the cards. Students will role-play as patients twice.Once this step is over, change roles: patients will now be doctors and doctors will role-play as patients.  Give them new cards or reuse the previous ones.

Cards here

Listening comprehension: Complementary and alternative medicine

Write “alternative medicine” on the board and ask students if they know what it is and if they have ever tried it.

Tell students they are going to watch a video where Dr Mc Cann discusses traditional medicine and alternative medicine. Ask them to listen once and then, in pairs, share any ideas they got from the video.

Ask students to listen a second time (even a third, if necessary) and answer the following:

True or False? Justify your answers

      1. Integrative medicine is a combination of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine.
      2. At medical school, professors show you some alternative and complementary medical practice.
      3. Dr McCAnn thinks a doctor needs to treat patients with either conventional or alternative medicine
      4. According to alternative medicine, the human being can heal himself
      5. Patients of integrative medicine are willing to take an active role in their healing process.
      6. Some patients of integrative medicine are not ill at all.
      7. Dr McCAnn believes integrative medicine is here to stay.

Answers: At the end of this post

Going the extra mile: Introducing more advanced vocabulary
      • To feel under the weather = to feel slightly ill
      • To be as fit as a fiddle= to be healthy
      • To phone in sick= to call work and say you’re ill
      • To suffer from a disease
      • To be a hypochondriac or a cyberchondriac /ˌhaɪ.pəˈkɒn.dri.ək/
      • To give someone a diagnosis /ˌdaɪ.əɡˈnəʊ.sɪs/ Ex: The doctor cannot give a diagnosis without doing some tests
      • To treat an illness such as asthma, depression, high blood pressure
      • To relieve a headache, dental pain, arthritis /ɑːˈθraɪ.tɪs/
      • To practise self-medication with non-prescription medicines /ˈmed.ɪ.sən//ˈmed.sən/
      • To have an operation, to undergo an operation
      • To donate organs, to be a donor
      • To go down with a cold / the flu
      • To need surgery /ˈsɜː.dʒəi/
      • Symptoms
      • A life-threatening illness
      • A tumour /ˈtʃuː.mər/ (UK) /ˈtuː.mɚ/ (US). Ex: Brain tumours develop in fewer than one in 50,000 people
      • The side effects of drugs
      • Vaccination
      • Integrative medicine: a combination of traditional and alternative medicine
      • Home-made remedies
      • Alternative medicine /ɒlˈtɜː.nə.tɪv/
      1. Homeopathy /ˌhəʊ.miˈɒp.ə.θi/: a way of treating illnesses using very small amounts of natural substances,
      2. Osteopathy /ˌɒs.tiˈɒp.ə.θi/:  the treatment of injuries to bones and muscles using pressure and movement
      3. Yoga
      4. Reflexology: a treatment in which your feet are rubbed and pressed in a special way in order to improve blood flow and help you relax,
      5. Acupuncture /ˈæk.jə.pʌŋk.tʃər/: to insert very fine needles into the body at points along the meridians
Controversial Statements about health.Discussion Posters

Using vocabulary is key in this lesson. In fact, all the lesson is aimed at motivating students to use vocabulary they are already familiar with and to give them a chance to use newly-learnt terms.

So, this lesson could not finish without devising another strategy to help them use the target vocabulary; this time with the help of visual images in the form of posters and with controversial statements that will, hopefully, spark discussion.

Procedure: Gallery Walk

On the wall of the class, display the posters. Ask students in threes to choose a poster and discuss the statement written on it. Encourage the use of target vocabulary.

You can download the posters here.


Listening Comprehension Answers:

1.T  2.F  3.F  4.T  5.T  6.T  7.T


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Oh! English Pronunciation! Let’s pronounce words ending in -ture!

On this blog post, we are going to address a very common pronunciation mistake among my students, and maybe among yours too.



Let’s start

Write on the board the word CULTURE and ask your students to try to pronounce it. It could be tried in pairs or just shouted. You’ll be surprised at the variety of different pronunciations your students will come up with.


Time to explain a bit of phonetics.

Your students might not be familiar with the international phonetic alphabet, but don’t let this discourage you.

Let’s break the sound up:

Write the symbol /tʃ/ on the board and model pronunciation. It should be quite easy as this sound exists in many languages. If it helps, ask them to find words in their language that have the same sound.

Got it? Now, write the vowel /ə/. You’ll probably want to explain this is the famous schwa, resist the temptation, or maybe not but, really, there is no need to add to their burden.

To get the sound right, just ask your students to relax and punch (slightly, you don’t want them to pass out) their stomachs. Ask: What sound did you get?  Exactly, this is the schwa.

Now that we have the two sounds, put them together and there you have it. Tada!!! /tʃə/


Competition Game

Let’s go back now to our word CULTURE. Again, write it down on the board and, again, ask students to pronounce it. Better? Much better, I’m sure!

Competition: Ask students to work in pairs and tell them they have one minute to write down words ending in –ture. Needless to say, the winner is the pair with more correct –ture ending words.

Write their words on the board. If you feel there are some important ones left, write them on the board. Drill pronunciation.This is my selection of words:


Writing. More fun coming

Once all the words ending in -ture are on the board, ask students to work in pairs and write a sentence containing at least three words ending in- ture.  Give students slips of paper ( I normally fold a regular sheet of paper in two, horizontally) and ask them to write (nice and legible) their small tongue twister there. Ask them to pass it to the pair sitting next to them. In pairs, they practise reading the sentence. Repeat procedure as many times as you deem appropriate.

Example:

The texture of the creature in the picture in the literature classroom was just amazing.


Spoiling the fun

This is English. One of the most unpredictable languages as regards pronunciation.

You might want to point out that in some cases, the ending -ture is not always pronounced /tʃə/, as in the word “mature”. Fortunately, this happens in only very few cases.

 

Lesson Plan: I don’t believe in paranormal but….

Fall has finally hit!This is Halloween’s week and it seems the weather has finally chilled out and stopped being silly. The truth is that I don’t see myself telling scary stories in class while the sun outside is shining bright. It just wouldn’t do! Telling scary stories requires a dark, grey, gloomy day; one cannot be telling scary stories and thinking about going to the beach.

Level: B2

Aim:

  • to introduce and revise vocabulary used to talk about paranormal or unnatural phenomena
  • to give students’ some listening and speaking practice.
  • to develop students’ writing skills

STEP 1. INTRODUCTION

Write Paranormal on the whiteboard. Ask students if they know what it means (if necessary, explain that a paranormal activity is not scientifically explainable), and ask them if they believe in paranormal phenomena.

STEP 2. LISTENING COMPREHENSION. A PARANORMAL STORY.

Ask students if they know what a Ouija board is and ask them whether they, or anybody they know, have ever played with a Ouija board. I have a real experience to share with them but in case you don’t, there are plenty of terrifying stories online you might want to share with your students (just to build the right kind of atmosphere).

  1. Play the first 0:53 seconds of the video and ask students to predict what will happen next. Listen to their predictions and then, play the rest of the story.
  2.  Play the video a second time and ask the following questions:

True or False? Justify your answer

  1. The narrator and his brother had just bought a Ouija board
  2. The narrator’s brother was willing to play with the board
  3. The first time, the narrator’s brother moved the planchette.

Answer the following questions in your own words:

  1. Why did they decide to play a second time?
  2. What is the ideal environment for a Ouija board?
  3. Why did the narrator leave the room?
  4. Why did he run back to the room and what did he see?

 

STEP 3. SPEAKING

Before asking students to discuss the questions you might want to pre-teach or revise some vocabulary.

  • To set the mood: gloomy, desolate, haunted, abandoned, scary, spooky, frightening, creepy and supernatural
  • To say how you feel:  horrified, terrified, petrified, panic-stricken, trembling, paralysed, shuddering
  • To talk about “people”: a ghost  ( a ghostly figure), an apparition, a shadow, an entity, an (evil) spirit, a hallucination, a medium, a UFO.

Ask students to work in groups and answer the following questions.

  • Do you believe in ghosts? If not, how do you explain people’s claims to have seen them?
  • Have you experienced the feeling of déjà vu? How do you explain this strange feeling?
  • Telepathy is communication directly from one mind to another. Is it possible to communicate this way?
  • Sometimes, the police use psychics to help them. What do you think about this?
  • Do you believe in hypnosis? What happens when a person is hypnotized?
  • Can people predict the future? Have you ever had a feeling about the future that turned out to be true?
  • Have you ever visited a fortune teller?
  • What do you think about UFO sightings?
  • Are you a superstitious person? What things are you superstitious about?

Most of the questions are from this site. 

STEP 4. WRITING CONTEST. I DON’T BELIEVE IN PARANORMAL, BUT….

I love telling stories, don’t you?  Well, the heading in this Step 4 needs no explanation. A contest.  A contest which will give me the opportunity to revise narrative tenses and connectors to help students sequence their ideas.

I’m going to use this excellent post from Thought.Co

A good contest, deserves a nice poster. Here it is.

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