Lesson Plan: the 44th and 45th USA Presidents

As I was browsing the Teaching English- British Council facebook page (posts from visitors) I came across a lesson by Sean Banville, the owner of some popular sites like Breakingnewsenglish.com and Famous People lessons.com.

Mr Banville has put together a very timely lesson about Donald Trump and it got me thinking how I could best use it with my students. Fortunately, this prolific writer had also published a lesson about Barack Obama. So, I had everything I needed to tweak his lessons and adjust it to the way I teach. I just needed to ask for his permission, which he kindly gave me.


Level: Upper-Intermediate

Aim: This timely lesson aims at offering students the opportunity to discuss a current event and therefore boost their motivation to learn English. Students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary and improve their communicative skills.

Materials:

 


STEP 1.Warm up.

Predicting. Write the following words on the board and ask students to guess what the activity is going to be about.

politician, businessman, wealthy, Republican, Democratic, controversial

Speaking

  • Show the picture of Donald Trump and ask students in pairs to share any information they have about the new president of the USA.
  • Slide the juxtapose, (that’s how the sliding picture below is called) and show the image of Barack Obama. Again, ask students to share what they know about the former president of the USA.

 


STEP 2. Listening

Divide the class into As and Bs. Tell As they are going to listen to some information about Barack Obama. Tell Bs  they are going to listen to some information about Donald Trump.

Give student A a photocopy containing Obama’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match  and give student B a photocopy containing Trump’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match. (see links above)

Procedure: Play Obama once and ask student A to fill in the gaps with the words they hear. Play Trump once and ask students to do the same. Play each part one or twice more, depending on the level of your students. Correct both exercises, teach any vocabulary they don’t know and drill pronunciation.


STEP 3.Working on Vocabulary

Ask students to do the Synonym Match exercise in their photocopies. Point out that this exercise is very important as they will need to use some of this vocabulary in the next exercise.


STEP 4. Building a word cloud with students’ suggestions.

Tell students that they will now have to read their part several times as the next step will be retelling their text in as much detail as possible. As they read, ask them to underline any key words that might help them retell their biography.

Open Wordle (it works better on Firefox) and ask students A to help you feed the word cloud with the words they have underlined. Open a new tab and do the same with student B.

Alternatively you can use mine 😉

OBAMA

 

TRUMP


Step 5. Retelling

Pair up student A and student B. Display the word cloud for Obama and ask student A to retell Obama’s biography in as much detail as possible and using the prompts in the cloud. Repeat procedure for student B.


Step 6. Homework

Check out the creative suggestions Sean gives for homework.


Hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

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Spicing up my Lessons: Talking about Holidays in a more Visual Way.

Spark Adobe is my new addiction. I’m hooked on it and I am not ashamed to admit it.

It’s soooo easy to use and the result is amazing. Only last week, I was running a workshop and I was behind schedule, but I just couldn’t leave without showing the bunch of dedicated teachers  attending a Saturday workshop, a glimpse of how  Spark Adobe could be used in the classroom. So, in five minutes, I briefly explained how to use it. After thanking the teachers for their attention, a Portuguese teacher came up to me and asked me to have a look at what he had created for his next class. Pity I can’t share it with you, but I can assure you that his students are going to be very pleased this Monday.

Embedded below you’ll see the speaking/listening  activity I have designed for my B2 students on the topic of Travelling, created with the Page feature.And make sure you don’t forget to try the Video option with lots of potential for language learners.

By the way, have I mentioned that it’s free?

Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to visit the three sections on the blog dedicated to speaking activities

Off the Beaten Track

3 Activities for Bringing Reading Comprehension Texts to Life

I have to admit that my least favourite activity to do in class is Reading Comprehension. I have the feeling that doing reading activities, as suggested in textbooks, somehow disconnects students from the interactive aspect I struggle so hard to maintain and promote during the whole session So, I’m always balancing two options. Either I set the reading task as homework or I try to devise an engaging activity that brings a bit of creativity and engagement into the reading process.

The activities you’ll find below aim at improving the most basic level of reader response, which is the oral retelling of the texts. Oral retelling exercises demand that students recall as many details from the text as possible therefore encouraging communication, oral language development and reinforcing students’ vocabulary.

So, here are three activities to bring Reading Comprehension texts to life.

 


Activity 1. Using word clouds. No preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of word clouds to actively use vocabulary.

To create the word clouds I have used the cloud generator Wordle (it works better with Firefox), but you can also use Tagul or any other. Alternatively, you can just create your own word cloud on the board without using any technology.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can be easily split into two and divide the class into As and Bs.

Ask As to read the first part and Bs the second part once.

Tell students to underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that the aim of the exercise will be retelling their part  in as much detail as possible so they will have to read it several times. Give them some more minutes for this task

Display the word cloud text box and ask them to tell you what keywords will help them remember the text. Type the words they suggest and create the cloud ( to keep words together for phrases, use ~ between each word). The idea is to retell the text in as much detail as possible with the help of key words included in the cloud

Open a new tab and repeat the same procedure with Bs

Retelling. Display word cloud 1 and ask As to retell the text using as much vocabulary from the cloud as possible. Display word cloud 2 and repeat procedure with Bs.

(Wordcloud Student A)


Activity 2. Retelling Competition. No preparation required

Introduction: For this activity students will be competing in teams retelling the story in as much detail as possible and the teacher will guide the competition by monitoring the time each team speaks and by making sure the development of the story is as close to the original as possible.

Procedure:

 Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible. Ask them to read it slowly several times.

Divide the class into two teams and ask them to close their books. Explain that they’ll need to retell the story in as much detail as possible. The winner will be the team who ends the story.

Decide which team starts telling the story. Ask this team to choose one of their members to start.

Rules:

  • Each team can only speak one minute and only one person at a time. At the end of this minute, the other team will continue the retelling of the story.
  • The other team can interrupt the team doing the retelling if
  1. The information is not correct
  2. If they have missed something important

The winner is the team who manages to tell the end of the story.


Activity 3. Using pictures. Some preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs or in small groups retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of pictures and some selected vocabulary.

Before the class, you will need to find some pictures to illustrate each part and select some vocabulary you want your students to use. There will be as many students in the group as parts you have split the text into.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can easily be split into meaningful paragraphs (a story or a biography are excellent for this kind of activity)

Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible.

Put students in small groups and split the text into meaningful parts assigning each student a part. Their aim will be to retell the story using the pictures as prompts and incorporating the vocabulary shown next to the pictures. Ask them to read their part slowly several times.

Display the pictures for the first part and ask students to start the oral retelling. Encourage them to use the vocabulary accompanying the pictures. Repeat procedure.

Tools used : befunky and playbuzz

Below, example of the activity with a text from File Intermediate

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2016

Happy New Year!

Annnnd I’m back! This break felt so good. I’m not going to lie, at the end of 2016 I was way burnt out and dead tired and I really needed a whole lot of days squeezed together where I did absolutely nothing.

The truth is that I have been working nonstop this Christmas, preparing some workshops I need to run, but working at home and at your own pace is not the same as teaching for six hours nonstop. Not quite the same. Surely you agree with me.

Clearly the first post of 2017 is for the most visited posts in 2016. I don’t want you to miss any of them.

Here they are: from useful links to help you improve your writing skills to entertaining quizzes. Hope you enjoy them!
The 5 Most Popular Blog Posts in 2016

Created with SparkAdobe

Winner of the British Council Blog of the Month Award

I am very pleased to share with you that I am the winner of this month’s British Council’s Teaching English blog award. This is the third time that I have been honoured with this award and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure most of my readers know about this prestigious organisation, but for those of my students who have just started learning English know that the British Council, funded by British government, can be considered UK’s international cultural body. It works in more than 100 countries worldwide and reaches 20 million people face to face and more than 652 million people online.
The goal of this blog has always been to provide my students with useful material to help them improve their learning skills and strategies, but as the blog grew into something bigger I have also aimed to provide teachers with hand-on practical ideas, tips, tricks and resources to use in their classes. Being a technology enthusiast, I have also tried to help teachers integrate technology in their teaching and I am pleased that the number of visitors to the blog has increased dramatically in the last years. Over 1 million hits this month.

This award is dedicated to my students who are the source of my inspiration. Here’s the link to the post that was chosen as representative of my blog.

10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives

A Project-Based Learning Activity: Unusual Traditions

These past few days have been hectic with lots of exams to be written and then marked, plus all that red tape I can’t stand involving end-of-term exams. To top it all, my old friend the flu decided to pay me a visit. Very timely.  Right now, thank goodness, deadlines have been met and everybody seems to be winding down for the holiday season. Me, too. So, that’s probably going to be the last blog post of the year.

 

  • Organisation: Group work
  • Level: B2 and upwards
  • Materials: tackk tutorial here (optional)
  • Aims: to encourage collaborative work by giving students the challenge of researching, selecting and presenting a project about unusual traditions around the world.
  • Online tools: Padlet and Tackk

Project Based Learning- What is it?

It is a student –centred teaching method in which students acquire knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to a complex question, problem or challenge.

PBL is an active learning style which inspires and motivates students because they take an active role in their learning process and experience success in their own learning. The role of the teacher here is of mere facilitator and coach.

In PBL students are encouraged to work in pairs or in groups, which is also good because it creates a friendly atmosphere which is a boost to their motivation and creativity.


Project-based learning structure

  1. Choosing the problem or challenge
  2. Organisation
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Coordinating
  5. Sharing learning and refining
  6. Presenting and sharing

1.Choosing the problem or challenge.

For this project, students will be rising to the challenge of presenting information about unusual customs in the world.

2. Organisation.

My classes are quite large so students will work in groups of 4 or 5.

On the board the class as a whole decide on 4 or 5 areas, they want to talk about. There should be the same number of areas as groups you have. Each of these areas is assigned to a group to research.

In this project

  • Relationships
  • Festivals
  • Law
  • House and Home
3. Brainstorming

This step is done entirely at home with the help of an online collaborative free tool. My students are adults, some as old as 70,  and they only see each other in class  twice a week, so it was important to provide them with some kind of free online tool  they could use to brainstorm ideas, share them with the members of the group and organize their project (timing, visuals, specific assignments..etc). I used a Padlet, a well-known collaborative tool, which is very easy to use, something really important as some adults are reluctant to use new technologies. Each group was assigned a different Padlet and given a week to do research on the internet and post on Padlet their ideas.

Below is the Padlet the group”House and Home” used.

Hecho con Padlet

 

4. Coordinating.

This stage might take the first or last 10 minutes of your lesson. Once they have shared their ideas on Padlet, in class they decide on the number of traditions they are going to present, who is going to do what, the order in which they are going to present the information and the visuals or videos they are going to use.

5. Sharing learning and refining

In the next class, allow students time to get together in their groups and share their drafts. Offer help and guidance but ask students to help each other by swapping their drafts within their group  to improve and proofread their written work.

6. Presenting and sharing

Agree with the students on the order of the groups and let the show begin. Below is a picture of one of the groups on stage.

Sharing it with the world is also important. Here’s how we did it. Again, we used a free online digital tool called Tackk.com, which allows  you to beautifully showcase your projects. I gave my students this simple tutorial to help them get familiar with the tool.

Here’s the tackk my students have created.

 

Teaching Both, Neither and Either with List.ly

Several times I have been on the verge of almost writing a post exclusively to share with you this beautiful presentation tool without any reference whatsoever to English teaching.

But I didn’t. I don’t know why, but I’m glad I didn’t.

Normally posts about tools and apps you can use in the classroom go unnoticed, unless you’re clearly into incorporating technology into your classes.

So, next week I’ll be teaching the grammar for both, neither and either and I thought it would be nice to use this tool to present and teach these pronouns as, among other things, List.ly helps you build beautiful presentations, add text and links.

Now, if you’re not interested in incorporating List.ly into your classes, you can skip all about List.ly below and go straight for the grammar. 🙂 although I hope you don’t.


About List.ly


What is List.ly?

Basically it’s a tool for creating and curating lists. With List.ly you can

  • Curate content
  • Create original post content
  • Get feedback from your students

Other features

  • You can add items with or without links, photos, text, video, audio…etc
  • Also, it’s a highly collaborative tool. Students can participate:

-by voting individual lists items up or down

-by adding to the lists

-by writing comments

  • It’s free ( you can create 3 free lists) and you can easily share it and embed it on your blog.
  • You can choose from 6 formats: list, gallery, magazine, slideshow, minimal and badge.
  • You can make it private. You can obtain the link and share it privately.
  • You can moderate the list to approve any comments or contributions to the list.
  • You can decide the order in your list: curated order (great for collaborative storytelling), crowdrank (great for voting), alphabetical or newest.
  • Below you can see some of the things you can add to your list

 Tutorial: here

   How can I use it in the classroom?

Given that you can allow students to collaborate, there are endless possibilities. To mention just a few:

  • Create a list of tips. For example: for scoring high in the oral exam and have students vote the most helpful.
  • Choose a topic, for ex. stereotypes and let students add their own ideas to the list.
  • Create a list linking to specific content they need to see or study: videos, grammar exercises, topic-related lessons, …etc.
  • As you can also upload audio, give them a topic for discussion and ask them to add to the discussion by uploading a recording with their own view on the issue.
  • Create beautiful presentations with links to extra content.
  • Writing contest: share their writing and ask students to vote on the best.
  • Start a list with the songs they would like to work with, ask them to add their favourites and then vote on the best.
  • Collaborative Speaking activity: brainstorming of ideas.

Any other ideas?

 


 Using BOTH, NEITHER AND EITHER


  1. Traditional? Pdf with exercises here. 
  2.   A bit less traditional? Down here!

I have embedded the presentation using two formats:

  • slideshow format
  •  List format

Sentence Betting: a Vocabulary Revision Game

I’m really happy to welcome  again Angeles Jimenez as guest writer on the blog. Ángeles is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Oviedo with over 25 years’ experience teaching adults and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us a fun engaging game to revise vocabulary.

The Sentence Betting  game is a vocabulary revision game which requires students to recognize, correct and explain vocabulary related to the topic of work. It’s highly adaptable to any semantic field and it’s a great game to review vocabulary as end-of-unit activity and usually a lot more fun than the typical course book review.

Level: This game in particular works best with C1 students since there are difficult expressions B2 students haven’t studied yet.

Preparation: Prepare a worksheet for students to check for word-usage mistakes related to the topic of work. Include correct sentences in a random order.

Time: about 45 minutes

Materials:

  • A sentence betting worksheet (see handout).
  • Fake money or poker chips (optional). You can download play money here

How to play:

1. Divide the class in teams of 4 students. If you want to play with bigger groups, split each group into two teams.

2. Give each team a handout of the betting sheet. Allow them 10 minutes to go down  the list of sentences to decide and mark which one is either correct or incorrect.

They need to put a tick or a cross and bet a sum of money between 1$ and 5$ depending on how confident they feel about their answer.

3. The auction. Call sentences aloud one by one and ask each team to bet a sum of money stating whether they think is correct or incorrect. Display the answer on the screen. Ask students to fill in the 3rd column with the amount won or lost.

For example, if a pair of students bet 5$ on a sentence because they believe it’s true and they’re correct, then they win 5$. But if they get it wrong, then they lose that sum.

Students add up the figures both plus and minus. The winner is the team with the most money at the end.

Once a team has won the bet by correctly saying that a sentence is wrong, they have the chance to double their money again by correcting it.

Remind students that once the game starts you will limit the amount of time they have to decide if the sentences are right or wrong.

Variation: If you want to build up excitement, divide each group into two teams appointing a spokesperson, who will be in charge of reading each sentence aloud and giving the correct answer after each bet.

Tip: if you want to keep the activity fast-paced, it may be better to play in teams as poor pronunciation will slow down the game.

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