Category Archives: Students’ Corner

Reporting verbs: A Translation Exercise Using Grass Skirts

Do you like translation exercises?

If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.

Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀  ).  It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me:  I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.

I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.

In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better.  You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.

 


The activity


Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.

Now, you are ready to start.

Procedure:

Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.

Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.

Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.

Rules.

  • The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
  • The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
  • Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
  • The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.

Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them.  Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.

Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink  😆 

Making Vocabulary Stick: a Fun Game to Make New Terms Stick

It is said that you need to use a new word at least ten times to be able to remember it. I don’t know what to say about it.

I should probably not be saying this, I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t let it pass.  For some students, using the word once or twice is enough and for some others, you can work on it and repeat it until the cows come home and still, no luck. If you are a teacher, I know you understand what I mean. Fortunately, this is not true for most of my students  🙂 🙂

 

This is a simple activity you can do to encourage the use of newly-acquired vocabulary and to help students remember it.

I’m afraid if you don’t have a computer and OHP in your classroom, this activity would probably be useless to you. So, I won’t blame you if you stop reading right now.

  • Topic: Travelling and holidays. (You can easily use any other topic).
  • Level: Upper -intermediate (I would say this activity will work well with B1 students and upwards)
  • Time: about 30 minutes

Pre-game

  1. Activating previous vocabulary. I introduced the topic by asking students to discuss in pairs some uncomplicated questions, such as:

      What kind of holidays do you prefer?  Do you prefer package holidays or making your own?

       2.Introducing new vocabulary.  Nothing fancy here. I introduced and worked on new vocabulary using a variety of activities, but most from their textbook.

Boring part over.

Game.

  1. Brainstorming. I asked students to close their books and, in pairs, brainstorm words and expressions related to the topic. I completely forbade “easy” words such as plane, ticket or suitcase. Reserve some “Awesomes and well-dones” for the advanced vocabulary they are likely to provide.
  2. Using a word cloud. In my computer, I opened the free word cloud generator https://wordart.com/ . I like this tool for two reasons:
  • it allows you to maintain words together very easily.
  • It very nicely highlights the words you want to work with.

I asked a student to help me with the typing of the words. So while I was writing on the board the words students volunteered, he was typing these same words in the wordart app.

  1. Magic. When all the words were written and after drilling pronunciation and meaning, I cleaned the board, turned on the overhead projector and magically displayed the word cloud containing all words they had provided.

(click on the image)

Steps 1, 2 and 3 took about 5 minutes.

  1. Teams. I divided the class into two teams and asked a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud was displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table (or two) in front of the students and on the table(s) place two reception bells. I got mine from the Chinese Bazaar shops. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!

Procedure:

Team A starts. I point to a word (very nicely highlighted in this app) and team A has to describe the word to their captain using synonyms or paraphrasing. The only problem is that both Captains can press the bell if they know the word. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible.

Award one point for each correct guess.

Some more rules:

  • If the two captains press the bell and answer at the same time, the point is awarded to the captain whose team is playing.
  • If the two captains answer at the same time, but one of them has not pressed the bell, the point is awarded to the other team.
  • If a captain gives the wrong answer, he cannot answer again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing. In this case, the other team can try to explain the word to their captain.

Have fun while teaching and your students will learn better!!!

 

The 8 Best Audio/Video News and Current Affairs Websites to Learn English.

I’m currently really tied up with checking exams, so I’m going to make the introduction to this blog post really brief.  I’m sure you have enough on your plate, too. June is usually a hectic month for almost everybody, isn’t it?

So, how do you keep up with the latest news? Or maybe, are you one of those who, sick and tired of reading bad news, have decided to completely isolate yourself from the world? I wouldn’t blame you!

If you are one of those, I kindly suggest you make an exception for the sake of learning and improving your English. You won’t regret it! Reading is one of the best ways of acquiring vocabulary and learning grammar without studying.If you read and listen to one article every day, or two if you feel overzealous, your reading and listening skills will improve very quickly. Trust me on this!

This is my selection of the best audio/video news and current affairs websites to learn English.

I have looked at the following features in all the websites:

  • If the news is written in levels
  • If the same news is written/read at different levels
  • If it is audio news or video news
  • If the transcript is provided
  • If the site provides a ready-to-use lesson plan for the news
  • Any other relevant additional content

The image below is interactive. Click on the icon and read what each website has to offer.

How else can I use these sites in the classroom?
• Choose one news website from above and ask students, as homework, to read a piece of news they find interesting. Ask them to read the news several times until they feel confident they can retell it. In the next class, ask students to work in threes and share their news.

• The news. Same procedure as above but this time, at home, students will need to rewrite the piece of news in their own words. In class, and again working in threes, students will be asked to assume the role of newsreaders and present the news to the rest of the class.

The interactive image has been created with Genial.ly,a free online tool for creating visual interactive content.

Moving away from Traditional Homework

This is my suggestion for Christmas homework and the kind that if I were a student , I would love to be given.

1. Word Games. Do you have five minutes to spare? Find your level and choose from these 13 addictive games. Click here

2. Watching Series. Do you like watching series? Go to ororo.tv, choose the series you’d like to see and watch an episode every day on this site. I am suggesting series and not films ’cause I hope you’ll get hooked on the series . The only catch is that you can only see an episode a day on this site. Click here

3. Listen to music, but not any kind of music; for this exercise listen to ballads , which are easier to understand. Listen to a song and  concentrate on understanding the lyrics. Then, look up the lyrics online  and sing along. I suggest singers such as the mighty Adele, Ed Sheeran or James Blunt. If you live in Spain, you can listen to radio stations such as  Kiss FM.

Merry Christmas  and thanks for reading!

The winners of the I Short Scary Story Writing Contest are announced!

It’s with great pleasure that I announce the three winners of the I Short Scary Story Writing Contest for Intermediate (B1)students.

It hasn’t been easy to choose a winner from the 45 scary stories you have sent me. I was really impressed by the talent shown.So I have decided to choose three winners .A big thank you to everyone who took the time to write the story.

Winner: Diana Corrales  with “Do you want to hear a story?”

Runners-Up: Andrea María González  with “At the end of the ladder” and  Verónica Rodríguez with “A horror story”.

 

DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A STORY? by Diana Corrales Caamaño

Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Have you ever felt that you weren’t alone in the middle of the night? And… have you felt scared? You should be!

It wasn’t the first night spent in that house. It wasn´t the first month, not even the first year  but that night, Mary, a seven–year–old girl who had never had nightmares, woke up screaming. Her parents ran to her side, but she couldn’t remember anything.

That evening, while her father was reading a bedtime story, she asked him:

“Daddy, who lived here before us?”

Her father, surprised, replied: “I don’t know Mary, why do you ask?”

“I can’t tell you! It´s a secret!” said Mary

“A secret between you and…..?” asked her father.

“Don´t insist Daddy! I won´t tell you! Good night!” said the girl.

Mary kissed her father and lay down in her bed.

During the following weeks, Mary was very happy. She was always playing in her room and her parents realized that she was becoming more independent. They thought it could be because she was growing up and one night Mary didn’t even want a story.

“I only want a story! The story about the girl who lived here before us, and you don´t know it”. She told her father

Her father felt sad and Mary looking at his father said: “Don’t worry Daddy, I still love you” but instead of kissing him, turned off the light and said good night.

Mary’s mother, worried about the distance that was growing between them and their daughter, decided to do some research about “the famous story” and thought that if she couldn´t find anything, she would invent it. It was very hard to find because the house had been empty for many years, but finally she found something. She discovered a terrible story.

“Honey, are you sure that Mary asked about the girl who lived here? She didn´t say family, she said “girl”, didn’t she?”

“Yes, sugar, she clearly said “the girl”; what is the problem?”

“I don’t understand how she could have known that in our house lived a girl. I didn´t even know, and the house has been recently renovated.”

“Maybe she just imegined it”

“Well, you will not believe what I´m going to tell you”.

That night, after dinner, Mary’s mother told her husband what she had discovered. In the house, there lived a girl called Catherine, who was killed by a thief who never got caught. All the neighbours suspected her parents because Catherine had a lot of problems with them; she never went out to play or went to school. People said she was crazy. Two days after Catherine’s death, her parents were found dead in the same way as Catherine, and on their foreheads, engraved with a knife, the words “sweet dreams”.

In that moment.  they heard a scream from Mary’s bedroom but when they entered the room she was sleeping.

“Baby, are you ok?”

“Yes Daddy, why you did you wake me up? It is still early to go to school”

“Sorry baby, my mistake, good night”

“Sweet dreams, Daddy”

“What did you say, Mary?”

“I´m not Mary ,daddy, my name is Catherine…”

AT THE END OF THE LADDER by Andrea María González López

“I’m telling you, seriously!”

“Look,Tobias! I know what you’ve been going through lately and I don’t want to seem insensitive when I tell you this” Sergio hit his friend’s shoulder in a gesture of support “but I think you should look for help”.

Tobias couldn’t believe why his best friend might be saying that. Okay, maybe grief was clouding his senses but he was completely sure that his sister’s death was related to that sinister package that had come to his door three days ago. Especially considering how they had found María. He could still see in his mind the clown’s smile she had drawn on her face, the black mascara smeared on her cheeks, her eyes still open, lifeless… she was sitting at the end of staircase like an abandoned doll.

“Thank you, Sergio, but right now all I want to do is forget everything”

On hearing this, Sergio left.

Tobias was going to end with everything that night. He was going to break that stupid doll which rested on his sister’s bed. He was sure that the clown was guilty of her death.

He went to his sister’s room. What he didn’t expect were all the events that happened then. The doll wasn’t on the bed. Suddenly, the lights went out and he heard footsteps in the hallway downstairs. He decided to silently go down to the hallway and turn on the lights; as he grabbed the banister in total darkness to climb down the stairs, he stopped. Breathing behind him made his skin crawl. And before he fell down the stairs and broke his neck, he only could hear one more thing.

Let’s play.

A HORROR STORY by Veronica Rodriguez

Two months ago, my best friend María and me were on our way to an old town 60km away, when our car stopped without any reason. It was late in the evening and it was getting darker and darker, therefore we were a bit nervous and scared.

Surprisingly, our mobiles  were not working  because apparently they  had run out of battery. It looked like a joke, but as adults, we tried to keep calm.

Ten minutes later, we decided to leave the car and look for someone who could help us. but there was nobody around. Suddenly , our luck changed because Maria managed to stop a car. He was a 27- year-old, good looking man. He seemed reliable and friendly.

He tried to fix our car but as it was dark, he suggested  going  to his house and spending the night there. He lived in a small wooden house with his grandparents, not very far away, so in spite of being scared we decided to go with him, considering we did not have another choice.

We hid the car among the trees and we went ahead through the forest to the house.

Inside the house, there was a nice elderly couple sitting on rocking chairs. They didn’t say  anything; they just looked  at us and smiled.

The man showed us where we were going to sleep that night and then he disappeared. Everything was very strange and when we were trying to fall asleep a frightening noise scared us.

María went to the window and saw the two rocking chairs moving alone! It was terrifying because there was nobody nearby and the wind was not blowing.

Quickly, we left the house and  ran as fast as we could.

To our surprise, when we found our car hidden in the forest and tried to start it , it worked properly; therefore ,we drove several hours until  we reached the nearest town.

Once in the town, we parked in front of  the first restaurant we found  and just as we were parking the car, we saw a policeman coming towards us. He wanted to know  if the car was ours, because he had seen it the previous night.

We explained  everything to him, including where the house was and all about the mysterious man. The policeman did not believe us. He said that  nobody  lived in that house  because the man who lived there had killed all his family and then he hanged himself.

Perhaps we were wrong about the house, but it was the only house that was a bit away from the forest. We had to make sure that we were right about the house and we finally decided to take the policeman there. We were sure about our story and when we arrived, our suspicions were confirmed.

The house was not the same; it was completely abandoned ,without a  roof and with a lot of cobwebs. We saw the two rocking chairs in the same place! But in the man’s bedroom there was still the rope with which the man had  hanged himself.

 

 

Picture Description Intermediate: New Technologies and Food

Once again I thank my students for  kindly contributing to this blog. These  two examples of Picture Description have been sent by Noelia and Carmen from the Intermediate Level.

Thank you girls! Well done!

FOOD by Carmen Gayol

These pictures are clearly both connected with the topic of food.

The picture on the left shows two women who are cooking in a kitchen. One of them is younger than the other, but they seem to  get on well; I’d say that they have a lot in common, they could  be mother and daughter or have  a close relationship.

In the picture on the right, we can see a young couple eating. I think they are in a restaurant, an oriental restaurant because the decoration that can be seen in the background.

 We all need to eat to live, but It‘s clear that the food, in our society, is something more than nutrition. Nowadays, we all use the meals to socialize. We have family meals, business meal, and we all enjoy eating with friends.

Sometimes we prefer eating at home, like in the photo on the left, but other times, we eat out.

However, the main problem isn’t where, but what we eat. In my view, today people tend to eat fast food because they don’t have enough time to prepare a meal and they are always in a hurry. This food isn`t   always healthy, it is many times junk food which contains many calories and carbohydrates and there is a good chance  people will get overweight.

If I had to choose one of the photos, I’m sure I’d choose the first, because it makes me remember old times with my mother , and in addition, I believe that it’s a good way to enjoy eating and cooking.

INTERNET AND THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES by Noelia Espinosa

These two pictures show a connection with the topic of new technologies ,especially with the  internet.

In the first photo there is a woman sitting behind  a desktop and she has a tablet between her hands; probably she is in an office, maybe her workplace. In the second one, a little girl looks as if  she is surfing the internet and she  seems very interested in what she is seeing.  Although I can´t be sure ,I think  she is at home.

Nowadays, both pictures are very common in daily life, although in different ways. The first one shows a typical day at work in all the offices in the world.It is generally accepted that today no company would be operative without the  internet and the  new technologies because they would be unconnected and inefficient. And in the second one, children tend to be connected to the internet every day. When I was child, there was no internet, mobiles or computers, only some privileged people could afford them, but I was very happy playing traditional games with my friends in the street, for example with a  ball,  my dolls …

In my opinion, internet is very important in our lives, I couldn´t live without my mobile, my laptop etc… everybody surfs the net, everybody knows Facebook and even some people work vía Internet. However, I believe sometimes it could be dangerous especially in teenagers and children because there are parents who don´t control what their children are uploading or downloading onto the web and who their children are in  touch with.

You might also find  this section interesting. Check it out!

SPEAKING:PICTURE DESCRIPTION

 

 

A Fun Writing Activity to Practise Giving Advice . Students in the limelight

Raise your hand if you have never had a problem!  Nobody??? Good! That’s what I thought! Now, raise your hand if you have never asked for advice!! I see !! OK ! Maybe some of you don’t like to ask for advice!!

Ok folks !!! What’s clear is that we all have problems and and when we have them, we most usually turn to friends or family asking for advice; it remains to be seen whether we follow the advice but even if we  end up feeling that the advice  given hasn’t helped much, I’m sure, at least, you would  feel grateful  just because someone you trust has been willing to take the time to listen to you.

In this post, I want to share with you an activity to practise giving advice, which has worked really well with my students (see photo below)

LEVEL: B1

AIM: to give written advice using

♥I think / I don’t think you should…

♥ If I were you , I would…  

MATERIALS: A clean sheet of paper and a pen or you can download the template here.

STEPS

1. Introduce / revise the two structures above, used to give advice. Share with your students a problem and ask them to offer you advice using the two structures above. Choose the funniest or most sensible advice as the best offered.

2.  Give students a copy of I NEED SOME ADVICE or display the template so that they can copy the information on a clean sheet of paper.

2. Students write their name  and their problem in the space provided and leave it on their table, face up.

3. Introduce the idea of Agony Aunts ( see definiton here) and tell students they are going to act as agony aunts to solve some problems.

4. Students stand up and they go around the class reading their classmates’ problems and writing their piece of advice in the space provided, together with their name inside the brackets. The same advice cannot be repeated. Allow 10 minutes for this step

 5.  Students sit down at their desks, read the advice offered for their problems and decide on the best. Problem and advice will be read aloud. The students who has offered the best advice gets one point. See who gets more points and name him the new Agony Aunt.

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Students’ Corner: Two Opinion Essays

There is little that gives more satisfaction than publishing students’ work ;they are  the reason behind all the hard work that means keeping  this blog going.

Thank you very much to Raquel de Paz and Lucía Fernández, from the Intermediate Level (B1)  for sending their essays.

Education is the single most important factor in the development of a country.

By Raquel de Paz 

In my opinion, there is a very important thing in society which helps us to improve: education. A strong education system helps people to improve their knowledge and to be successful in their lives.
Education gives the keys to solve the problems. There is a famous saying which says: “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you teach the man to fish you feed him for a lifetime”. Firstly, education is essential to our life. Again and again we have to call on to our basic knowledge to understand basic daily information about life. We need it to do the shopping, to understand signs and signals, etc.
Secondly, a good education brings a long number of qualified people with a lot of knowledge on a wide range of subjects and, as a result, these people work in different areas improving technologies and techniques supporting the development of a country.
To sum up, education is a very important factor in the development of a country. Education provides experience, training and personal development and, as a result, more skills, better productivity and greater ability to improve living conditions.

Children watch too much television   by Lucía Fernández

Nowadays children spend an excessive amount of time watching  television wherever they are, helped by the Internet and mobile phones instead of enjoying other kinds of activities healthier and more educative .
Although many people believe that watching  television is a good way of learning new things and an  innocent distraction for children, from my point of view,you waste a lot of time doing something unproductive. It’s more like something parents use  so as not to be  bothered by their children in some situations; for example,when a child is nervous, the parents play cartoons on his mobile and the child then  stares at the  mobile screen  for hours as if  he were in another world.
Children should play with each other and develop their imagination in a healthy mood ,but also  their parents should help them to achieve it.
To sum up,I think television is necessary and  complements  other activities, but it should be used with care.

 

A Guess the Word Game to Practise Relative Sentences and Paraphrasing

What do you normally do when you are talking to a person in English and you don’t know the word? I guess you don’t tell the person ” OK, right, hold on! I am going to look it up on my mobile phone”. You might be tempted to do it, but know that the person you are talking to might lose interest in what you are saying.
So, the thing to do would be Paraphrasing.

How do we paraphrase?? There are some expressions you can use
It’s A KIND OF house
It’s THE OPPOSITE OF lazy
It’s LIKE cleaning but… trying to explain what you want to say but using other words you know. That’s calle
It’s SIMILAR TO book but..
FOR EXAMPLE, you do this when
It’s A SYNONYM OF..
It’s A PERSON/SOMEBODY WHO…
It’s a THING/SOMETHING WHICH…
It’s SOMEWHERE/A PLACE WHERE

It can also help to say “ It’s a noun, or an adjective…. “ If it’s an expression, you can also say “ It’s an expression and there are three words in it”

Right, now we are ready to play the game. It’s called WHAT’S THE WORD?

How we play the game:

  • Divide the class into two teams
  • Ask a member of Team A to sit on chair with his back to the whiteboard.
  • Display the first word on the screen
  • The members of the team have two minutes to describe the word but they cannot use any parts of the words on the screen. For example if it is “teacher” they cannot use the word “teach”.The aim is for the student to guess as many words as possible in one minute. Every word in black scores one point , the ones in red score two points.
  • Then, it is the other team’s turn to choose someone to take the hot seat.
  • Needless to say, you keep the score on the board for everybody to see. Have fun!!!

 

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