Category Archives: Lesson Plan: Advanced

Are we Killing or Promoting Creativity? A Collaborative Writing and Speaking Lesson

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

I had a full-blown, real, very much needed holiday. The last two months had been unbelievably hectic: end-of-term exams, working full-time during the week and some teacher training weekends and, to top it all, I was also writing a project to apply for a European grant, which unfortunately I won’t get.

So, there I was, fully enjoying my break , when I stumbled upon an article in El Pais about a short animated short film “Alike”, which had won a Goya award in 2016, and I was struck with how beautiful, touching and thought-provoking the video was. And I just knew I had to show it to my students, do something with it and well, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

About the lesson: In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students watch a short silent film called Alike (7 minutes) with two main aims:

  1. To give voice to the story and for this:
  • they will have to collaboratively write the story
  • they will have to collaboratively retell the story

2. To discuss some questions related to education, the promotion of creativity and         daring to be different.


Step 1. Warm-up: Copi and Paste

Tell students they are going to watch a short  video called Alike, where the main two characters are a father and a son whose names are Copi and Paste. Focus on the names, write them on the board and ask students to predict what the story could be about. Hopefully, students will come up with some of these ideas

  • (Lack of)Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Routine
  • Lack of ideas
  • Plagiarism
  • Inspiration
  • Deception

Step 2. Introducing the video and the task

Explain that the video they are about to see is an animated short film (7 minutes) called “Alike” where there is no dialogue. However, the video is so touching and thought-provoking that words are not necessary; images and especially colours play an essential role and are enough to tell this beautiful story and to give us something to think about.

Play the video once asking students to focus on how the colours (or lack of colour) help tell the story. You can also tell them that, later in the lesson, they will need to narrate the story so they need to concentrate on everything that happens.


Step 3.Working on vocabulary.


The next step will focus on teaching/revising the vocabulary they will need to know to write the story.  Below, some flipcards I have used with my students.
Flash Card Deck created by Cristina Cabal with GoConqr

 


Step 4. Collaborative Writing and Retelling

1. Form groups and assign each group a part of the story. The aim is first to write and then to tell their part of the story as it happens, but also to analyse the hidden meaning and the values it tries to highlight.

  • The day begins (0:06- 1:32)
  • At school/ at work ( 1:33-2:38)
  • Leaving the office/school (2:39-3:07)
  • The next days (3:08-3:52)
  • Copi’s surrender (3:53-5:00)
  • But one day (5:01-6:50)

Depending on the number of students, you can ask them to work in pairs or assign each group two parts.

2. Play the story once again for the students to take down notes and get stsrted with the writing task. Walk around offering help and guidance.

3.  Play the story again to help students polish their part.

4. Ask each group to name a spokesperson and ask these students to come to the front of the class and give voice to the story as you play it once again.  Be ready to pause the video as required.

(below my students performing)

via GIPHY

 


Step 4. Speaking


For this activity there should be a supportive atmosphere within the class.

Form groups to discuss the following questions. When all the questions have been discussed, the groups should report back to the whole class.

  • Have you ever done something different or behaved differently from your peers?
  • Do you remember a time when, for some reason, you stood out as different?
  • Do you remember a time when you went against the established rules?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • Do you think the way education is organized destroys children’s creativity?
  • Do you think education for children under seven is excessively focused on the curriculum?
  • Do you think that be learning to be creative is more important than knowing how to spell correctly?

Life Begins at 70: a Future Perfect and Future Continuous Lesson

To me, old age is always ten years older than I am”  John Burroughs

In this engaging lesson students will consolidate the use of future perfect and future perfect continuous through some engaging activities.


WARM UP


Show them a picture of how you see yourself when you are 70 and explain why you see yourself like that. (below you’ll see the picture I showed my students). After some laughs and a bit of explaining, ask students:

How do you see yourselves when you are 70? Do you look forward to getting old?

Ask them to talk in pairs for two or three minutes and get feedback.


THE POEM- WARMING by Jenny Joseph


This is a nice opportunity to introduce poetry in class.

Explain that the poem they are about to listen/read, written by Jenny Joseph,  goes hand in hand with the picture of yourself shown above. After listening to the poem, ask students whether they think the author is looking forward to getting old and why.

It seems the poetess is rebellious, but she is only comfortable to ‘break the rules’ when she has the excuse of old age and senility. Ask students what they think about her attitude.


GALLERY WALK

  • On the walls of the class display pictures of elderly people reflecting different attitudes towards life when they are old.
  • Ask students to stand up, have a look at all of them and decide which one will best represent their attitude to life. They now return to their desks.
  • Ask them to write two sentences using the future perfect and two sentences using the future continuous, based on the picture they have chosen.
  • Get students in threes now and ask them to explain their choice to their partners and use the 4 sentences they have written.
  • For example and based on my picture
  • I will have tried parachuting when I am 70
  • I will have probably written a recipe book.
  • I will probably be living in Bhutan
  • I will be living life to the fullest

I have used these pictures  to display on the walls, and this presentation when giving feedback see  here.


SPEAKING


Students now work in small groups and answer the following questions about the future. Remind them that they need to elaborate on their answers giving reasons and using different expressions to give opinion. All the questions contain either a future perfect or a future continous form; encourage students to use these tenses in their answers.

You might find this handout useful

Looking Forward to the Future

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.

 

Lesson Plan: US Elections Explained

On November 8,  Americans will cast their ballots and decide who is going to be their new president. I don’t know about your country but, in Spain, the “war” between H. Clinton and D. Trump is every day in the news and the “poisonous” debates are thoroughly discussed ad nauseam on TV current affairs programmes.

Being this an issue of so much interest, I thought my students would welcome a brief explanation of what the presidential election in the US entails.

Level: suitable for upper intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) level English students.

Time: About 60 minutes

Materials: lesson plan pdf here

In this lesson students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary, improve their communicative skills by discussing some interesting quotes and also, their writing skills by choosing one of the quotes to write an opinion essay.

The lesson starts off with some questions about politics which will be discussed in pairs or small groups, followed by some vocabulary exercises extracted from the video in preparation for the listening task that follows. The video for the listening activity is from “The Telegraph” and lasts 2.16.  It will be followed by group discussion of two controversial quotes.

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“You’re Lying”: a Game to Practise Present Perfect Simple and Past Simple

Today I’m really happy to introduce a guest writer to you. Angeles Jimenez is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Oviedo and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us an excellent communicative game to consolidate the use of present perfect simple and past simple. Ready for a lot of fun!

Do you want your students to keep their noses in the course book? Don’t read on then.

Going into a new class on the first day can be a little bit stressful both for teachers and students. Teachers get ready to greet their students, anxious to get started, and learners are nervous wondering what is to come. That’s why it’s important to have a first day of class that will set the tone for what the course will be like. And it will be FUNtastic!!!

Games for getting to know one another can be an excellent way to establish a stress-free environment in the classroom. Let your students know that they’re welcome in order to put their insecurities aside, try to make them feel comfortable participating. They’ll have fun learning English in no time!

The “You’re lying “game lives up to its name.

It’s a fun game which works very well at the start of the term as a ‘getting to know you’ kind of game. Teenagers love it because they don’t feel like they’re learning, and advanced students love it because it’s a break from the monotony of learning with serious assignments.

It’s also a great way to consolidate the use of the present perfect tense to talk about experiences and the use of simple past to ask follow-up questions.

  • Language point: Present perfect tense and simple past
  • Organisation: Pair work
  • Level: This speaking activity is designed for advanced levels.
  • Materials: One copy of “You’re lying: student A” for half of the students in the class and one copy of “You’re lying: student B” for the other half of the class.Pdf here
  • Aims: To present the present perfect tense (have + past participle) with the function of talking about past actions. Students should be able to recognise that the present perfect and the simple past are both used to talk about a past action but the present perfect is used when the time is not stated and the simple past when the time is known.It works well as an ice-breaker for C1 students since it requires some previous knowledge of verb structures and some command of vocabulary.

For B2 students some warming up may be necessary.

  • You could begin the lessons by speaking about your own experiences in a general way. Be careful not to give any details about these experiences. In other words, keep to the present perfect. For example:

 I’ve been to many countries in my life. I’ve been to Italy and I’ve visited France, Germany, and Switzerland. I’ve also driven a lot in the United States.  

  • Ask students to ask you questions about the specifics of some of your adventures. On the board you can draw a time line and point when they took place. Students will hopefully be able to catch on fast and keep to the past simple.

 How to play

Students are invited to lie to their opponents, something which they usually tend to enjoy! The more detail the students can give in their answers, whether invented or not, the more convincing they will be.

  • Put students in pairs and give them A and B handouts.
  • Students ask each other “Have you ever..?” questions. Remind them they must answer all the questions with “Yes”.
  • Student A asks student B a question using the Present Perfect. Student B must answer “Yes, I have”.
  • Student A can then ask them 3 “Wh” questions in the Simple Past and try to spot from B’s answers (sometimes body language ) if their opponent is lying or telling the truth.
  • If student A guesses, then he / she gets the point. If he’s been fooled, then student B gets the point.
  • The winner is the student with the most points. They could also start with a maximum number of 10 points. Student A subtracts one point if he / she fails to guess whether B is lying or telling the truth. Student B substracts one point if Student A guesses.

For more advanced learners, this is a great opportunity to bring in modal verbs (“That must be true, it can’t be / have been true because…”)

 Why does this game work?

Because students tend to remember more when they are relaxed and enjoying the activity. It’s also an easy way to encourage quiet students to get involved too!

It makes it a lot more fun if they think of facts that may trick or surprise others so tell them to be creative.

As a follow-up they can also write five sentences about themselves and then get into pairs or groups and repeat the interrogation. Have fun!!

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Stars in their Eyes

When I was a kid in my hometown, a little village in the north of Spain, there used to be a cinema. Not any more and not for a long time. In fact, it seems to me there are very few towns or even cities which still have a cinema and I’m not talking about the outdoor cinemas, which are so popular in summer, I am talking about the real thing. Cinemas with endless rows of seats smelling oldish and where the usher always told you off before you even got to your seat and started cracking up. I remember we didn’t get to see the latest films until they were 4 or 5 years old and then, they were not new any more as our friends from the capital city kindly reminded us rolling their eyes in disbelief when they came on holiday, but all the same it brings back very good memories. I must be getting old!

So today I’m sharing with you an engaging lesson with lots of activities around the theme of films and the cinema. Hope you enjoy it!

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

Activity 1. Warming-up. Learning and using vocabulary.

Step 1.Wordcloud.
Display the word cloud and ask students to guess the topic. Click on the words you want to highlight and ask students to guess meanings and try to use them in a sentence. Alternatively, you can choose the latest box-office hit and ask students to give you a sentence about this film containing the targeted word.

 

Step 2. Mind mapping.  Handout with vocabulary here

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board a mind map as the one below (give them only the words inside the circles) to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes to complete their mind maps and get feedback from the whole class, completing the mind map on the board with their suggestions.

  • Exercise on types of films here
  • A crossword with film words here

Activity 2. A game.

The class is divided into two groups. In turns, one member from each group sits on the Hot Chair facing  away from the whiteboard. The members of their group have  one minute to describe the film being displayed  without mentioning the title ( that goes without saying, but just in case, I’m saying it). The aim is to guess as many films as possible in one minute. Then, it’s the other team’s turn.

They will need to talk about:

Kind of film/ Nationality of the film/ director/ plot/

Some hints:

♥The film ‘_______’ is a(n) _______ film which takes place in _______.
♥The film is set in __(ancient Greece)__.
♥The story is based on __(a popular novel)__.
♥The film is directed by _______.
♥The main character(s) in the film is/are _______.
♥_______ is a character who _______.
♥__(Johnny Depp)__ stars as __(Captain Sparks)__.
♥In the film, __(Jack Black)__ plays __(a rock guitarist). The story is about _______
♥The best scene of the film is_____

Activity 3. A listening : interview with Hitchcock talking about his film Psycho.

Ask students: What kind of films do you like? Do you have a favourite director?

Write on the board Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho and ask students if they know who he is and if they know any of his films. Students most probably will have heard about Hitchcock and seen some of his films, but in case they haven’t, tell them Hitchcock is considered “the master of suspense” and “Psycho”(1960) s is arguably Hitchcock’s best-known film.

Play the video and ask students to answer the questions. (Find the answers at the end of this post).

  1.  What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
  3. When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

Activity 4. Speaking.

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

Activity 5. Writing a film review.

Handout with the task and useful vocabulary and expressions to use in your review.

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Answers to the listening

  1. What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?He thinks they are very easy to make and that they are props.
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
    He believes in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.
  3.  When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
    An amusing film
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

There is only one violent scene in the film, which is at the beginning when the girl is     violently murdered in the shower. As the film developed, there is less and less violence. The horror and the tension are transferred to the mind of the viewers, which are the end of the film are screaming.

Tools used
Tagul, Hot Potatoes, Picture Trail, Thematic

Tourism: Developing Writing Skills through Collaborative Writing

It is true that I don’t dedicate enough time to writing activities. I ask my students to do small writing tasks but not the real thing, at least not as often as they would probably need. Would it be a plausible excuse to say that I have 148 students and that it takes an awful lot of time, time I don’t have, to correct their essays? No, I know. I need to make amends, and I have started this week.

Haven’t you always dreamed of travelling to exotic off the beaten track destinations? Well, this activity is all about it! I guarantee you’ll not only enjoy writing and presenting your chosen destination, but you’ll also love hearing what your classmates have to say!

This lesson plan, which aims at developing writing skills through collaborative writing, is based on the theme of tourism and travelling.

Topic: Tourism

Level: Upper Intermediate and above

Time:  About 2 teaching sessions

Aims

  • To consolidate and extend understanding of vocabulary associated with tourism and travelling
  • To develop writing skills through collaborative writing
  • To give a presentation in front of an audience

Materials: suggested destinations here

THE TASK

Setting the context. You own a travel company and offer luxury holidays. Business has been bad the last couple of years due to the crisis and you have decided to lower the price of one of your most successful package tours, which happens to be a three-day trip to… (chosen destination)

You and your team have decided to attend the international tourism trade fair in London and try to sell your trip there.

You’ll need to explain the following to the potential customers:

  1. Brief description of the tour
  2. Transport to the chosen destination and once there
  3. Accommodation (options available) and meals included in the price (any extras?)
  4. Brief description of the three-day tour itinerary (sightseeing/ things to do…etc)
  5. Why customers should book with your agency

Display on the walls of the class posters of different package tours. Ask students to stand up and stand next to the tour they would like to take. There should be about 4 students per tour. Suggested  destinations pdf  here.

Writing. Students sit in groups now. Assign the following writing task to the group:

Student 1-

  • Brief description of the tour
  • Why the customer should book with your agency

Student 2 –

  • Transport to the chosen destination and once there
  • Accommodation (options available) and meals included in the price (any extras?)

Students 3 and 4 –

  • Brief description of the three-day tour itinerary (sightseeing/ things to do…etc)

Walk around the class offering help and guidance.

Presenting. Ask students to imagine they are at the International tourism trade fair in London and that they are going to try to sell their trip to their potential customers (the students in the class). Ask all the students in a group to come to the front of the class and read their part enthusiastically.

Buying. Ask students in the class to vote for the best trip.

(below, students trying to sell their trip)

Below, a nice presentation of Nepal created by Noelia Espinosa, Isabel Pardo, Yolanda Alonso and Silvia García. And here’s a link to the beautiful website created by Sharon Calderón as support for her presentation.  Thank you girls!

 

Photo by Kerry Lee Smith

Creating visual content for my classes with two awesome free online tools

Let’s go visual!

If you have been following my blog for a while you probably know how much I like exploring new tools to spice up my lessons. We all know students prefer looking at a screen than at a book so, for this lesson I have decided to explore two new free online tools, which have a lot of potential for language teaching.

 

Perhaps  you have never considered creating your own content because you think you aren’t tech-savvy and you don’t really know how to go about  these  modern things, but I can assure you that creating these two videos has been as easy as falling off a log.

In class, we are studying how to express preference with the structure would rather and (would)pefer  and this is just the perfect excuse to “play” with these two little tools.

1. For a revision of the grammar for Would Rather and Prefer, I have used biteable.com. This is how this tool works:

  • Login for free.
  • Click “create a new video”.
  • Choose your scenes one by one and enter the text. You can choose between animation scenes, footage scenes and image scenes where you can upload your own pictures. Click + to add a new scene.
  • Choose the colours for your presentation and then the music track or upload your own.
  • Click Preview and the video will be sent to your email address once it’s created.
  • At this point, you can download it, share it on facebook and twitter, or post to youtube.

(presentation created with biteable)

2. For a speaking activity using Would Rather, I have used emaze.com. This is how this amazing free online tool works:

  • Log in for free.
  • You can create a new presentation form scratch or upload a power point presentation.
  • Choose a template.
  • Share it or embed it on your blog.

(presentation created with emaze)

Powered by emaze

Give them a go! You won’t regret it!

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Lesson Plan: Are you a Risk Taker?

In this engaging series of activities students will discuss different actions that involve taking risks. It aims at developing students’ communicative, listening and writing skills through the acquisition of new vocabulary.

Level: advanced

Time required: 60 minutes

Materials: handout 1 and handout 2

Warming up: The video

  • Do a quick survey asking students: Do you enjoy taking risks?
  • Play the first 55 seconds of the video and pause it. Ask students in pairs to discuss what they would do in this situation. Get feedback. Ask the class as a whole to predict what might happen to the people who decide to run the risk and take the two empty seats.
  • Play the video until the end.

Step 1. Speaking based on visual prompts

  • Class as a whole. Ask students: What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
  • Put students in pairs. Tell them you are going to show them different activities that involve taking risks. Ask students to discuss whether they would be willing to try them or not, giving reasons for their choice.

Powered by emaze

Step 2. Working with vocabulary .

  • Put students in pairs and ask them to write, in two minutes, words related to taking risks. On the board, write their suggestions.
  • Give them handout 1. Focus on any new words/expressions.
  • Prepare slips of papers with the new vocabulary and follow the steps given for activity number 4 in the article “Nine ways to revise vocabulary using slips of paper”.

 

Step 3. Speaking. Using new vocabulary.

We all know how difficult it is for students to introduce  new vocabulary when they speak. This activity aims at encouraging students to use new words.

Step 4. Listening Comprehension

Tell students they are going to see a video about parkour. Hopefully, students will remember what parkour is as they came across this word at the beginning of the lesson.

 

If you are running short of time, you can always set this activity as homework.

Step 5: Writing

Ask students to write a “for and against essay” on one of these quotes

  • “To know what life is worth you have to risk it once in a while” Jean- Paul Sartre
  • “The biggest risk is not taking any risk”-Mark Zukerberg

Tips on how to write a for and against essay” in the Writing Section of Blog de Cristina.

 

Nine Ways to Revise Vocabulary Using Slips of Paper

In today’s post I would like to share with you the link for an article I wrote for the  British Council’s magazine, Voices. As a result of winning this month’s  TeachingEnglish blog award with my article on pronunciation  Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Oral Exams I was kindly invited to write a new article for their magazine.

Here’s the article Nine ways to revise vocabulary using slips of paperwhich I hope teachers will find useful.

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