I am going to be honest here and tell you that although I love Asturias and have always lived here, I miss the light. Whenever it gets cold and blustering outside, whenever I look through my window at 6 pm and see darkness outside, the number one thing that I always crave is travelling to a place where it’s summer and the days are long and sunny and bright. I dream. I daydream.
So, almost winter in Spain. Time to talk about holidays.
Have a look at these two sentences. Are they correct or incorrect?
Have a safe travel!
The trip by train took two hours.
Let’s find out!
Travel, Trip and Journey: How to use them
As a verb: “travel” is normally used as a verb. It is used to refer to the general activity of moving from place to place
I travel to work by car
As a noun: “travel” as a noun is normally uncountable
The pass allows unlimited travel on all public transport in the city.
As it’s uncountable, things such as “ I had a nice travel” are wrong
Note: although uncountable, sometimes “travel” can be used in the plural
This exhibition reflects scenes and inspiration from his travels at home and abroad.
The novel is based on her travels in Asia
More common collocations associated with the noun “travel” are
The travel industry
A travel bag
“Journey” is also usually used as a noun. It means the time when you travel from one place to another. The emphasis is on the travelling itself, it does not refer to the time you stay there.
It was a long and difficult journey through the mountains I read during the train journey to work. Did you have a good journey?
“Trip” is used as a noun and it’s countable. A “trip” is when you go on a short journey, or a journey you do not usually make, and come back again. We use this when the emphasis is on where you are going or why you are going there. The time you stay there is important.
It was my first trip to the States
I am going on a business trip
Was it a good trip?
Let’s go back to our two sentences at the beginning of this post. Are they correct or incorrect?
Have a safe travel!
The trip by train took two hours.
They are incorrect.
“travel” is uncountable, you cannot use the indefinite article “a” with it. The correct sentence would be. “Have a safe journey”
It’s incorrect because the focus is only on the travelling itself, we are not interested in where you are going or what you are going to do there, only on the duration. The correct sentence would be: ” The journey by train took two hours”.
I know, I know, I can see some of you raising an eyebrow and thinking… “well, I must be weird then, if I don’t like shopping”. Of course, you are not, it’s just that I love it so much that now that I don’t have as much spare time as I used to have, I miss it like crazy.
But I know, not everyone is a shopper, not everyone is a consumer. However, we all need to buy, whether it’s clothes, food or any other stuff. So, this lesson might come in handy whenever you decide to set your foot in a shop.
Hold on! Shop? Did I just say, “set your foot in a shop”? Like in a physical shop? It seems to me that right now, the online shopping experience has become so incredibly diverse and sophisticated that no matter what you need, it is simply a click away from you. You don’t even need to physically go to a shop. You can get yourself the latest craze from anywhere in the world without actually moving from your sofa. Kind of awesome! Yeahhh, awesome but boring!!!
Anyway, in this lesson aimed at B2 students, we will be focusing on the topic of shopping and we ’ll be comparing online shopping to traditional shopping.
ONE: Lead-in Activities
A. Types of shops
Although students have a B2 level, I find they always welcome an opportunity to review vocabulary and maybe learn the names for some less common shops.
Play the video once without stopping and at the end of it, ask students in pairs to write down as many different kinds of shops as they can remember from the video. Write the words on the board for correct spelling and drill pronunciation.
Divide the class into As and Bs. Ask As to face the board and Bs to face away from it. Play the video, display the first picture and ask As to quickly describe the kind of shop they see on the board. As describes half the pictures and then they change roles with Bs doing the description and As guessing the shop.
Note: The slides contain music. Turn down the volume if you do not want it.
You’ll find the list with all the shops featured in this video at the end of the post.
Click on each of the pictures below to enlarge them and ask students in pairs to comment on them briefly. Ask for feedback.
Note: the slides contain music. I didn’t want it, but I did not have an option. It’s Mozart. Turn down the volume now if you prefer not to be distracted by the music.
TWO. Brainstorm and introduce new vocabulary
Give students two minutes to write down as many words as they know related to shopping. When the two minutes are over, ask them to stop. After a quick round to see who has written the highest number of words ask students to tell you their words, writing on the board only the ones that are a bit more challenging.
For example, words such as “deal” or “goods” will be written on the board while “shop” or “money” will not.
More useful vocabulary:
A good deal: if something is a good deal, you pay a low price. You can say that a store has some great deals, for example
A bargain: the same as above
20% off : the price is now 20% less than the original price
Overpriced: if sth is overpriced, it costs much more than you think it should
To order: when you order something that you are going to pay for, you ask for it to be brought to you, sent to you, or obtained for you. “to order things online”
To place an order
If you have a discount on the retail price, you pay less price than the price normally charged
Goods: things made to be sold
To be scheduled for delivery (tomorrow)
A secure payment page
To enter your card details
Get a refund
You can pay “Cash on Delivery”
To exchange a product
To track your package
Ready to test your knowledge? Fill in the blanks with some of the words above.
THREE. Listening. Video Activity: Singles’ Day
Lead-in: Ask students if they know anything about Singles’ Day. Info,here
Play the video once without giving students any tasks.
Give students the gapped text and ask them to complete it with the words they hear. Play the video.
Play it again, if necessary
See the activity here. You can check the answers by activating the subtitles in the video.
FOUR. Speaking: Online Shopping versus Traditional Shopping
Divide the class into two groups: those preferring online shopping and those preferring traditional shopping. Ideally, you would pair up students in this way, but more often than not, you’ll have to persuade some students to take a different view for the sake of the exercise.
Give each student their corresponding handout and ask them to read the information on it. Their aim, when pairing up with a student holding an opposing view, will be to try to convince their partner to change their mind.
NOTE: These activities will be in Spanish. Students will need to act as mediators in an oral interlinguistic mediation activity.
This is the first time I am going to do an interlinguistic oral mediation activity with my students. My students are going to take the role of mediators and use a source text in Spanish and relay the selected information to an English speaker, who does not understand Spanish.
What is a mediator and what does he do?
The mediator acts as a facilitator in a social event during which two or more parties interacting are experiencing a communication breakdown or when there is a communication gap between them.
Watch the video and find out a bit more about mediation.
These are the first two tasks I have prepared for my students. More would be coming!
Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives. It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.
You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.
This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo). Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!
Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.
This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.
In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
At this point, student A will need to start again.
Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂 This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.
Ohhh! The power of a game! I don’t know anybody who does not welcome a bit of fun while learning/teaching. Playing a game transforms everyone’s mood. It is magical to see what having a little break from routine tasks, can do for students who have been working hard.
I teach two-hour lessons and trust me when I tell you that even people who do not typically like games go out of their way to beat the other teams.
If, to the thrill of playing competitively among teams, you add movement, give them the opportunity to stretch by asking them to stand up and also offer them the chance to change partners frequently, smiles and good vibes are guaranteed.
For this game, I have used the free website baamboozle.com/, which is super easy to use and allows me or my students to create and play games.
If you do not want to register, you can still click on Featured games and choose from the large bank of games saved on the website.
Revising: give students the link to the game and ask them at home to revise using the Study Mode.
Writing: ask students to choose one of the questions and write about it for about 15 minutes paying attention to their grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. During the class, the next day, choose a box, tell students to quickly provide the collocation and ask a student who has written about it to summarise his ideas for the rest of the class.
I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to. Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.
Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.
So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.
In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:
Two texts about unusual customs
A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
How I use Google slides for collaborative projects
In this lesson, students will have to:
Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)
Lead-In : Speaking
Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.
There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.
Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country
Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.
Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.
Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.
Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then, in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.
Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.
The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.
I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described, while listening to the students’ performances.
Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.
Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it. Problem solved.
A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?
This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.
Do the quiz with the whole class. Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him. Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.
We are talking about Cloze Tests today. Not the printed fit-all-size cloze texts that you can get and photocopy from any textbook or exam preparation book, but the online tailor-made no-prep cloze tests you can get at the wonderfully simple site created by L. George. See it here
Why is it Cristina’s way, you might be wondering? Well, because it combines two of my favourite ingredients in an activity:
A touch of technology
A game-like activity
The online tool I have used to create the cloze has two features you can choose from: text only (that you can easily copy/paste into a document) and interactive (that you can save as an HTML page). The tool is free and you don’t even need to register.
In this exercise, I have used the simpler text-only version.
Cloze Test Exercise with a Twist
Choose a text that contains a variety of terms you want your students to revise or work with.
On the right yellow box with the options, choose “every… words” ( I have chosen to gap my text every 9 words)
Using the OHP, display the gapped text on the board or alternatively, print it and give it to your students. Two students can share a copy.
Ask students to work in pairs. Give or show the Close Test and ask them to predict the lexical category or part of speech that could fit each gap: is it a noun, an adjective, a preposition or maybe an article? Allow a couple of minutes for this task. You might want to show an example.
For example, I wrote a letter___ my mother (students will most likely agree, they ‘ll need a preposition to fill in this gap)
Ask Student A to face the board. Ask Student B to face away from the board and concentrate on the text.
Tell students you’ll write the words on the board in random order, but each of the words will be identified with a number. If you have 8 gaps in the cloze text, you will write the words on the board preceded by the number. Tell Student B to do the same in case he cannot guess a word in the allotted time. For ex: 1. house 2. wrote 3. for.
Write one of the missing words on the board, and ask student A to define the word, or give a synonym or antonym for student B to guess and write down. For example, if the word on the board is “wrote”, Student A might say “it’s a verb in the past and you use a pen or a pencil to do it”.
Tell students you’ll write a new word every 30 seconds. If Student B guesses the word quickly, he might try to use the rest of the time (up until the 30 seconds) to try to place the word in the right gap but tell them you’ll not wait.
Continue in the same way until you have written all the missing words. The words should be written in random order.
NOTE: If one of the words hasn’t been guessed, at the end of this part Student A will need to try to define the words again. (Remember that the words are still written on the board). This time, Student A can help Student B by giving him the first letter.
Once they have all the words, Students A and B will work together to complete the gapped test.
Place a bell on your table and ask the first pair to finish to come up to your table. Silently check that the exercise is correct and if it is, ask them to ring the bell. From that moment, the rest of the class will have one minute to finish the exercise.
Choose another text and repeat procedure. This time Student B will face the board and Student A will concentrate on the text.
Note: If you are a student, this is a great tool for self-study. Choose a text from around the web, gap the text every 10 words and then select the interactive feature, which will check your exercise. Enjoy learning English!
You see, Halloween and me, we are not on friendly terms. I don’t really get good vibes off this holiday. Gory and scary … just scares me. But, that’s ok. I don’t have to like every single holiday. However, I have students and teaching a language is not only about words, it’s also about the culture and traditions of the country you are trying to teach. Halloween is important in Anglo-Saxon countries so this year I have made a point of trying to give it some real attention. I’ll even attend a small Halloween party, where I’ll be wearing a knife-through-head prop and some Halloween skeleton tights. Organising the party? Let’s start small! This year, the party will be hosted by my enthusiastic colleague Marta Dominguez, who has also provided me with some of the activities you’ll see below.
Activity 1. Video Activity. The Ten Steps (2004)
This activity aims at
learning vocabulary: adjectives to describe houses
improving their listening skills
This is a great short film (less than 9 minutes and worth every second) that sets the right atmosphere. Draw the curtains and turn off the lights.
I would like to just for one day forget I’m an English teacher and just play the film, but I can’t. So, we are going to work a bit on vocabulary before the film starts and we are going to focus on some questions to answer in pairs after watching the film.
Before playing the video, show them the picture below or alternatively pause the video. Do the vocabulary exercise with them ( handout)
Remember the lights should be off and the curtains drawn. Lighting a candle might be a good idea for two reasons: it helps create a mysterious atmosphere and prevents students from reading from their essays.
The New York Times has a sitewhere, every day, they publish a picture prompt to inspire students writing. Days prior to the great Halloween Day, I have shown my students this picture and asked them to write a scary story about this house. They should bring their stories on the day of the party.
The idea is to put students in groups of four and tell (not read) their stories. Each group will decide on the best and the whole class will listen to the best stories from each group and then vote on the best one.
It’s also a good idea if you share a story of your own and yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ll still need to correct their stories.
Activity 3. A bit of fun with Kahoot.
This activity aims at:
teaching about traditions
developing digital abilities
having fun 🙂
I would just not feel fine if, after all the spooky storytelling, my students went home and couldn’t sleep that night, so a Kahoot is in order.
Again, I have not created it. My colleague Marta has just chosen one from the enormous bank of Halloween quizzes Kahoot has and we have adapted it to our needs.
I’m currently in the middle of —what I like to call—beginning-of-the-course chaos. I am busy doing nothing, wasting time on probably unnecessary things and when the day ends, I find I have done nothing from the to-do list I carefully planned in the morning. Total chaos.
Today, I have a guest post from a colleague from EOI Oviedo, Ángeles Jimenez, who from time to time, saves my a** by agreeing to send me some of her creative activities. This is one of them. I hope you like it as much as I did.
This lesson plan is based on a two-minute short film launched by the B.B.C on Christmas 2017. It’s suitable for intermediate and higher levels.
The lesson starts with a lead-in speaking activity to help students differentiate -ed from -ing adjectives. It’s then followed by a brainstorming activity where students get a lot of talking time.
-ed / -ing adjectives can be a challenging task to teach as students mix them up easily. Sometimes such confusion can lead to amusing mistakes such as “I’m boring” or “I’m tiring” when they truly mean “I’m bored” and “I’m tired”.
To clear up the confusion, I start with a warm-up activity. I write, on the whiteboard, 3 or 4 -ing adjectives and tell students they will need to come up with a wide range of things, activities and/or people that can fit in each category. “Boring”, “Exciting”, “Frightening” and “Disgusting” are some of the -ing adjectives that work well.
For example, if I write the adjective ” Boring” students might say: studying for exams, politics, queuing at the supermarket…etc.
This is an engaging warm-up as students can personalise the grammar point you’re trying to teach.
I begin with myself writing the word “moths” in the “frightening” column. They may not be familiar with the noun but students love it when the teacher includes anecdotes and personal examples. They get involved in the activity in no time!
Once the whiteboard is full of the students’ own ideas, I then follow with a “How do you feel” question to elicit the -ed adjective.
Example: “How do I feel about moths? I feel frightened”
and I write the word “frightened” on the board with capital letters underlying the -ed part to emphasize that’s how I feel. To make sure they’ve understood the difference, I go through the adjectives on the board asking the same question: “How do you feel about studying for exams?” To round up, a simple graphic is very helpful:
Something ING ⇒ makes you feel ED
I project the frame above from the silent advert because it’s open to interpretation, it offers a lot of speaking practice and I find it’s a great way to revise the use of narrative tenses, especially for intermediate levels. I ask my students to come up with a short story that can explain what is happening/happened, what the girl is/was doing, how she is feeling and what they think is going to happen at the end.
At a more advanced level, they can even make deductions. Elicit some examples such as “It’s late. She must be worried because her parents haven’t arrived home yet”
Also, make sure they use as many adjectives related to feelings as they can.
Play the video.
Speaking: Ask students to compare it with the stories they created. Ask some follow-up questions: Did they like it? Did they find it touching? Can they relate?
Vocabulary and speaking. Pdf here. Give the students the handout that accompanies the video activity. It includes an exercise to learn new vocabulary, another exercise to revise -ed / -ing adjectives and last, but not least, a more ludic and relaxing one to test how good their memory is. You can see the first two exercises below:
Vocabulary exercise. Summarising the story. Choose the most appropriate word from the drop-down menu
Oral exercise. Using adjectives -ed adjectives to talk about feelings. Ask the following questions and encourage students to use -ed adjectives
Watch the T.V add and talk about how the girl felt…
when she came out of school. Ex: excited
when she gave her dad the talent show leaflet.
when her dad answered the call.
when she rehearsed at home, in the street…
How did her dad feel when he saw her jumping on the escalators?
Why did she slam the door?
How did she feel when she …
drew the curtains?
couldn’t remember the dance?
when her dad came out of the audience to help?
the dance finished?
Silent movies have a great potential for language teaching. They’re a fantastic tool to get students to produce language at any level since it’s the task the teacher sets the one that provides the level. They usually find it easier to memorise vocabulary and grammar when it’s associated with a captivating image or story and when it comes to holding their attention, a short clip does the trick.
Unit 1 of my textbook is dedicated to questions. All sorts of questions: indirect, with prepositions at the end, negative interrogative questions, echo questions, question tags… etc. Yeah, I know. Lots of teaching here. On the bright side, teaching questions offers such a variety of activities you can do with your students that sometimes it is hard to find the time to do all the amazing stuff published all around the web.
This year, for my first lessons dealing with questions, I have decided to choose one of the hundreds of interviews to celebrities available online. It is still the beginning of the course and I wanted something quick and not too difficult to understand. And, I found this interview with Selena Gomez who, to be honest with you, I didn’t know much about just perfect as it is all about questions and, more specifically, get-to-know-you questions.
Anyway, I wanted a short simple listening exercise and I wanted to post it on the blog so that my students could do it again at home. To do the whole activity, I needed to solve a few technical issues regarding YouTube which I’ll detail below, in case you find them helpful.
YOUTUBE VIDEOS: SOME TRICKS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start time
You probably know how to share a video starting at a specific point. You don’t? Well, that’ s pretty easy to do.
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start and end time
That’s a bit more complicated. Keywords “ a bit”. The first thing you need to know is the specific time you want your video to start and to finish. For example, if you need your video to run from 1:20 to 2:15, you need to convert it into seconds.
Getting the transcript. Call me lazy but if technology can save me some time….
You can easily get the transcript from a youtube video clicking on the three dots next to the save button.
VIDEO-BASED LISTENING ACTIVITY: 18/73 QUESTIONS WITH SELENA GOMEZ
(Follow -up activity: I am looking for one or two EOI teachers, teaching the B2.2 level, to work with me on a simple single get-to-know-you project using the free online tool Flipgrid. If anybody is interested, please send me an email)
Skills: listening and speaking
As I have mentioned above, I wanted a short listening activity which could serve as a springboard for a speaking get-to-know-you activity among my students.
Play the video once and ask students to just listen. At the end of the video (the video is set to stop at 2:08) students will probably complain that it goes too fast. My advice? Smile and say “You can do it! “, because they actually can.
Give them the handout with the questions and play the video twice more.
Before you play it a third time, ask students to share their answers in pairs and, needless to say, in English.
Play the video once more, pausing after each answer. Ask students to provide the answer and repeat procedure for question 2.
Hereare the questions. To get the answers, just display the transcript as indicated above.
SPEAKING ACTIVITY: 15 minutes
Play the video again, this time and depending on the number of students, play a couple more minutes or if necessary the whole video.
Tell students, they will need to listen very attentively to the questions asked to Selena and choose one they would like to ask their classmates.
Ask them to write it down and check with you that it’s Ok. When they are ready, ask them to stand up in a mingling activity and interview as many classmates as possible.