Category Archives: Vocabulary

Ready-Made Lesson: Personal Identity

I must have been in my teens, but I vividly remember my mother telling my father that someone called James Dean had called. The funny part was not only that the famous now-long- deceased actor had phoned my dad, but the way everybody pronounced his name, /jamez dean/, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, while me and my naughty siblings couldn’t help cracking up, repeating /james dean, james dean/while in stitches. (The Spanish pronunciation of the “j” is similar to the Scottish word “loch” or the German word “Bach”)

In case you are wondering, my parents (now almost 80)  had never ever heard a word in English so everybody said /james dean/ just like that and never gave it a second thought. We, me and my three siblings, just liked fooling around. I know better now!! 🙂

About the lesson:

In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students discuss their names and their personalities through some engaging activities.

In part 2, you have the possibility of asking students to use their own devices and complete the task in class or alternatively set the task for homework.

 


Part 1. Talking about your name

A video-based listening activity

Tell students they are going to watch a short extract from the Graham Norton show, where the actresses Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman discuss their birth names. Play from 0:00 until 2:50.

Introduce: 

  • To be named ( after someone)
  • To name someone
  • A pet name
  • A middle name
  • A nickname

Procedure:

Play the video once and ask students some comprehension questions. Play the video a second time if necessary.

  1. Meryl Streep was named Mary at birth. How did she end up being called Meryl?
  2. Is she happy about her surname? How does she wish it to be different?
  3. Why is Nicole Kidman called Hokulani? Who is she named after?

Discussion questions:

  • Are you happy with your name? Why (not)?
  • Does your name have a meaning? If so, what does it mean?
  • Do you have a middle name? What is it?
  • Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it and how did you get it?
  • If you could change your name would you? What would it be? Why?
  • U2’s lead singer, Bono, called his daughter Memphis Eve and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is called Apple. Do you know any “normal people” with unique baby names? What about you, do you prefer giving your child a more traditional name or a unique name?
  • In some countries, when women marry they take their husband’s last name? What do you think of this?

Part 2. Talking about your personality

In this second part, we are going to revise and learn some more complex personality adjectives.  To introduce personality adjectives we are going to use a website which analyses your personality based on the numerical value of your name. Whether students believe in it or not should be irrelevant, we are only interested in language acquisition here.

The warm-up

As this lesson is aimed at upper-intermediate students and above, students will have some prior knowledge of the most common personality adjectives, at least enough to get them started.

Choose any activity from 10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives, a very successful – if I might say so-blog post I wrote last year

Homework.  The Website.

Ask students whether they think a name can shape their personality and refer them to this website where they’ll have to write their name in the space provided and read about their personality.

You can always ask them to read their horoscope, but this is “old news”, so I thought this might better spark students’ interest.

At home, students go to the website and find out about their personality based on their names. They look up any new words they don’t know, especially personality adjectives, as they will need to share this analysis with their classmates and say whether they agree or disagree with it, giving reasons.

Gathering Feedback

This activity can be done in a traditional way i.e board and chalk. Students call out an adjective and you write the personality adjective on the board.

Again, with the aim of creating a more engaging activity, I’m going to use a free online tool called “Answergarden” to get instantaneous feedback. The tool is very easy to use. Here’s a tutorial in case you need it, but it really has a very friendly intuitive interface making it very easy to use, even for those teachers who are not too tech-savvy. The app takes students answers and creates a word cloud that can be exported or embedded.  Students will need to use their own devices but, if necessary, every three students can share one.

Once you have created the word cloud in Asnwergarden, use the overhead proyector to display it and ask volunteer students to explain the meaning of the adjectives and say whether they think it is positive, negative or neutral.

Below, an example of a word cloud created with Answergarden.

Speaking

Put students in pairs and ask them to share their name report from the website and say whether they agree or disagree with such analysis.

Ask them to discuss the following questions.

  • What kind of people do you usually get along with?
  • What kinds of personality traits do you hate?
  • Is your personality more similar to your mother’s or father’s?
  • Do you think we are born with our personalities, or do we develop them because of what happens to us?
  • Do you tend to fall in love with good looks or with a great personality?
  • Does one person’s character affect the personalities of the surrounding people? Are you influenced by anybody you know?
  • Does birth order affect personality? What qualities do a first-born child, a last-born and an only child have?

The Quiz: As Free as a Bird. 

Let’s go the extra mile! In this quiz, you’ll find more colourful ways to talk about someone’s personality. In order to learn them, I suggest taking the quiz two or three times, the last time checking if just by looking at the picture students can remember the simile.

After doing the quiz, you can always ask some follow-up questions like:

Do you know anybody who is as stubborn as a mule?

Enjoy!

Integrating Technology for Active Learning: An Activity Using Google Slides and Padlet.

There is no denying I use a lot of technology in my classes. It gives me great pleasure to discover a new tool and design an activity around it. I really think this is what keeps me motivated after so many years teaching. The challenge that mastering a tool brings and the possibility to use it in my classes to boost students’ motivation and spark their interest is certainly something that keeps my own motivation alive and kicking

Today, I would like to share with you an activity that I did with my intermediate students. I loved designing the activity and the way my students got involved activating their communicative and writing skills during the whole process.

Tools used:

Aims:

  • to develop students’ communicative skills
  • to develop students’ writing skills
  • to revise vocabulary related to “work”
  • to integrate technology in the classroom
  • to encourage collaborative work

Before the class.

I created a Google presentation using Google Slides and wrote the content for the first two slides. I also added three extra blank slides (see below)

I created three Padlets and called them: Work 1, Work 2, and Work 3

In each of these 3 blank slides I inserted a link to one of these Padlets.

 

During the class.

 One. I asked students to form groups of 4. I have 12 students in this class, so I had three groups, one for each blank slide. If you have more students, you can easily add another slide to accommodate two more questions. I asked each group to write three or four questions related to “work”. I certainly encouraged them to come up with some juicy questions and avoid simple ones such as “Where do you work?”

Two. Once they have written their questions, the groups read them aloud and the class decides on the best two from each group to keep.

Three. At this point, there are two things you can do

  1. Assign each group one of the three slides and ask them to write their two questions, being careful not to delete the link to Padlet. Share the link for your Google Drive presentation making sure you share the link with editing permissions (read and write).  I have shortened the link using Google shortener.
  1. If you think this step might be complicated for your students, you can always write them yourself. Have the groups dictate their two questions and move on to the next stage.

Four: Speaking. Ask students in their groups to discuss the questions in the three slides encouraging them to use work-related vocabulary. Get feedback.

Five: Set homework.

Show the presentation from the very beginning where they will see the instructions for their homework.

Explain that at home they will need to answer one of the two questions in each slide. They can do it by writing their answers or by recording them.

Remind them it is the same shortened link you shared with them in Three.

See one of the Padlet below

 

Hecho con Padlet

Vocabulary Competition: a Nice Simple Activity to Revise

A nice simple idea to start a lesson.

I always like to start my lessons doing some quick revision of what I taught the previous day. I do it using different techniques, but they always have something in common: they help get students into the mood and start using English from minute one.

The idea in this activity is to combine two things:

  • Revision of targeted vocabulary
  • Consolidation of relative sentences

PROCEDURE

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard.(see picture above)
  2. Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game.
  3. Display the first word cloud on the board.
  4. Team A will choose a word or expression from the word cloud and define it for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will cross it off and the team will define another one. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word and this same team continues defining words and scoring points.
  5. Continue until all the words have been defined.
  6. Procedure is repeated again with word cloud 2. The teams choose other players to take the “hot seats”. Team B starts playing now.

As stated above, the idea is to revise relative sentences, but obviously in the heat of the game I’d allow any paraphrasing students can come up with.

Online Word Cloud used: ABCya. A word of warning: this tool is so easy to use that you’ll soon get addicted to it! See tutorial below.

Word Cloud 1

Word Cloud 2

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.

I’m Shamelessly Addicted to this Game

Yes. It’s true. I love this game. It’s just the right kind challenge for someone studying English.

The game is called Fluent and this is how it works:

  • There are 20 different trivia categories all dealing with grammar and vocabulary.
  • You’ll have to answer each question before you run out of time.
  • You have 3 lives.
  • You’ll need to answer 5 questions correctly to go to the next level.
  • As you level up, you are given less time to answer.
  • You can play it pairs (or 2 teams) and the winner is  the top scorer after 8 questions.

Ready for some fun, a bit of challenge and lots of learning. Here we go, then!

Click on the picture.

fluent

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Quiz: Word of the Year 2016 and 15 New Words Added to Dictionaries

After much discussion Oxford Dictionaries has decided to choose the adjective “post-truth” as its Word of the Year 2016. The adjective means ”relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” and although it has existed for a decade now, this year has seen a spike in its use due, mainly, to the referendum in the United Kingdom and the US elections.

Some common collocations for the adjective are:

  • post-truth politics
  • post-truth age
  • post-truth era
  • post-truth democracy
  • post-truth society

The term, closely associated with the noun“post-truth politics” has been chosen ahead of terms such as “Brexiteer” (someone who supports the Brexit) and “alt-right”, (group of people with far right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States).

I would gladly explain and elaborate a bit more on this adjective, but it isn’t worth the effort as Oxford Dictionaries has published a beautiful explanatory article giving all the details. You can read it here.

I’m not going to lie. This week has been tough for a multiple of reasons, and believe it or not, one of the things that brought a smile to my face was designing this little quiz with all the new words added to dictionaries this year. To be honest, I didn’t know most of them and learning what they meant and inventing false definitions for the quiz was something I really enjoyed.

So, without further ado, here’s the quiz. I hope you enjoy it!

Some Personality Adjectives Spanish Speakers can Easily Remember & Why

Do you speak Spanish? Then, it’s your lucky day today! Why? Because without you being aware of it, you know lots of personality adjectives in English. Unfortunately, in most cases, you’ll  still have to learn the Germanic equivalent if you want to sound informal, but we are off to a good start and besides, sometimes we all want to sound a bit more academic, don’t we?

A bit of history first.

Why does English have so many words of Latin origin?

Although some of the most frequent used words in English have Germanic roots, there are lots of words in English that have Latin origins.

This is due to the fact that during the Renaissance period, which started in France but reached England via France, there were a lot of new ideas or old ideas rediscovered. The problem was that there were no words to describe them in English, so the language adopted or adapted Latin words. In fact, during this period the English lexicon is said to have doubled in size.

What is more, for more than a century, the English aristocracy couldn’t speak any English. William the Conqueror had conquered England (1066) but he didn’t speak the language and although he tried at first, he very soon gave up. He was the first Norman King of England and all the barons he appointed spoke French. But not only did the aristocracy speak French, the religious institutions also spoke French. And that’s the reason why Latin words sound more prestigious than Germanic ones.

About 10,000 French words entered English in the century after the Norman invasion.

It was not until 1204 that the English nobility lost their estates in France and it is then when they started to adopt English as their language, but the Latin form coexisted with the Germanic one.

So, English has a huge number of synonyms, where the main difference is the level of formality, being the prestigious form the Latin option.

Think for example of the adjectives friendly, motherly or clever and their synonyms amicable, maternal and intelligent where the difference is the level of formality, being the Latin choice the most formal one.

So, these are some of the adjectives to describe personality you didn’t know you knew. Warning: spelling sometimes is different. Every cloud has a silver lining!

Source: Oxford Dictionary blog

At the end of the list, you’ll find a spelling quiz .

PERSONALITY ADJECTIVES SPANISH PEOPLE CAN EASILY REMEMBER

  • Responsible /rɪˈspɒn.sə.bəl/
  • Rebellious /rɪˈbel.i.əs/
  • Emotional /ɪˈməʊ.ʃəəl/
  • Anxious /ˈæŋk.ʃəs/
  • Strict /strɪkt/
  • Adventurous /ədˈven.tʃəəs/
  • Affable /ˈæf.ə.bəl/
  • Calm/kɑːm/
  • Considerate /kənˈsɪd.əət/
  • Ambitious /æmˈbɪʃ.əs/
  • Generous /ˈdʒen.əəs/
  • Sociable /ˈsəʊ.ʃə.bəl/
  • Creative /kriˈeɪ.tɪv/
  • Diplomatic /ˌdɪp.ləˈmæt.ɪk/
  • Intellectual /ˌɪn.təlˈek.tʃu.əl/
  • Intelligent /ɪnˈtel.ɪ.dʒənt/
  • Passionate /ˈpæʃ.əət/
  • Persistent /pəˈsɪs.tənt/
  • Practical /ˈpræk.tɪ.kəl/
  • Romantic /rəʊˈmæn.tɪk/
  • Competitive /kəmˈpet.ɪ.tɪv/
  • Aggressive /əˈɡres.ɪv/
  • Insecure /ˌɪn.sɪˈkjʊər/
  • Impatient /ɪmˈpeɪ.ʃənt/
  • Patient/ˈpeɪ.ʃənt/
  • Immature /ˌɪm.əˈtʃʊər
  • Mature/məˈtʃʊər/
  • Affectionate /əˈfek.ʃəət/
  • Independent /ˌɪn.dɪˈpen.dənt/
  • Stupid /ˈstjuː.pɪd/
  • Honest /ˈɒn.ɪst/
  • Organized /ˈɔː.ɡəaɪzd/
  • Imaginative /ɪˈmædʒ.ɪ.nə.tɪv/
  • Conservative /kənˈsɜː.və.tɪv/
  • Conventional /kənˈven.ʃəəl/
  • Cruel/ˈkruː.əl/
  • Extrovert /ˈek.strə.vɜːt/
  • Introvert /ˈɪn.trə.vɜːt/
  • Modest /ˈmɒd.ɪst/

On the hand, be careful with these “false friends”.

  • Sensible /ˈsen.sə.bəl/= someone who has common sense and is practical
  • Sensitive /ˈsen.sɪ.tɪv/ = a person who is easily hurt or offended
  • Sympathetic /ˌsɪm.pəˈθet.ɪk/= someone who understands other people’s feelings

Here’s a little spelling quiz.

10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives.

Ten entertaining ways to  practise personality adjectives with activities for all ages and levels. In this post, you’ll find listening,writing, speaking activities and games to help students master this vocabulary.

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This is me.  

Ask students to work in pairs and write down as many personality adjectives as they can in two minutes.

On the board write three columns: positive, negative and neutral adjectives and ask students to provide adjectives for the three columns. Have students choose one adjective from each column to describe their personality and in pairs talk about how these adjectives they have chosen are representative of their personality. Ask students to elaborate on their answers and provide examples to support their choice of adjectives.

Roleplays
Prepare cards with a personality trait written on it (talkative, cheerful, arrogant, stubborn, immature, possessive…etc). Give students a card telling them this is their personality. Pair up students and ask them to start a conversation and act the way the card says until their partner guesses what adjective they were given. Ask students for example to talk about buying a present for the teacher or deciding on what do at the weekend.

Reading your signature.

What does your signature say about you? According to handwriting analysts, signatures reveal a lot about your personality.

  1. Ask students to write the sentence Write soon on a piece of paper and then sign under the sentence.
  2. Ask them to work in pairs and look at their partner’s signature and explain what it means. See interpretation here
  3. Ask them to discuss whether they agree with their partner’s interpretation and why or why not.

What’s your job?

Research has shown that different personality traits tend to have distinct preferences in their choice of careers. On the board write the jobs below. Ask students in pairs to choose five and discuss what personality types the jobs would attract and why. Then discuss their choices with another pair:

Tax inspector    Teacher      politician     computer programmer   librarian

Actor    fashion model    psychologist   entrepreneur   judge

Acting out

Prepare cards with personality adjectives. Divide the class into 2 teams. For each team’s turn, set a time (1 minute).

On the board write the sentence: I want to go to the cinema tomorrow.

Team 1 begins and choose a player to sit at the front of the class. The player draws a card and acts out the phrase according to the adjective on the card. When the team guesses correctly, he can draw another card. He continues until the time is up. The timer is set again for the other team, and turns continue until all the slips are gone. Count the slips and give those points to their teams.

Quotes.

On the walls of the class stick the following quotes. Students in threes stand up and discuss what the quote means and whether they agree or disagree with them.

  • Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Bruce Lee.
  • It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not. André Gide. 
  • If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am
  • Beauty attracts the eye but personality captures the heart.
  • Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
  • It’d never too late for what you might have been. George Elliot.

 

Guess who. A speaking or writing activity.

Speaking. Before the class, prepare a set of pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. For this activity the students are sitting in pairs, one student (A) facing the board and the other (B) with his back to the board. Display the photo of a celebrity and ask student A to describe this person in general terms focusing on his personality.

Writing. Before the class, prepare a collage with pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. Ask students to write a description of one of them focusing on their personality without saying their names. Descriptions are read aloud and students will need to determine the identity of the person being described.

The four big questions.

Tell students you’re going to analyse their personality by asking them four key questions to which they should answer using three adjectives for each question. Adjectives cannot be repeated.
1. Choose a colour, the first colour that comes to mind.
Once you have that colour, list three adjectives that describe it.

2. Choose an animal, the first animal that comes to mind.
Once you have selected an animal, list three adjectives that describe it.

3. Choose a body of water like a river, ocean, sea, or lake. Once you have chosen a body of water, list three adjectives that describe it.

4. Let’s say you are in a white room with no windows no doors, list three emotions that you are feeling.

When you are done answering those questions, highlight the following to get your results: your colour represents what you think of yourself, the animal represents what you think of other people, the body of water represents your love life, and the white room represents what you will feel like when you are about to die.

Birth order

Do you think birth order has any influence on our personality?

Ask students to work in groups of 4. Tell them they are going to see a video where personality is related to birth order. Assign each person in the group the task of writing down information they can gather from the video about either first borns, middle children, last borns or only children.

Whole class discussion. Starting with “first-borns”, write on the board all the information the students learnt from the video. Start a class discussion where first borns in the class will say whether they agree or disagree with the content in the video. Repeat procedure for middle children, last borns and only children.

 

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe. also known as noughts and crosses or Xs and Os is a game for two players, X and O, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 (3×4 in this game) grid. The player who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.

In this game, to place their mark they’ll need to talk for about two minutes about the question in the box.

 

 

 

Rewordify: a Free Online Tool to Simplify Difficult English

Today I want to share with you an amazing free online tool which has a lot of potential for learning English.

Rewordify simplifies difficult English and helps you understand what you read.

How this tool works

  • Go to Rewordify.com
  • Enter sentences or whole paragraphs difficult to understand into the yellow box at the top of the page. You can also enter a web site URL.
  • Click Rewordify text and you’ll instantly see an easier version of the text providing clear, easy-to-understand definitions. (see picture below)
  • The reworded words are highlighted in yellow— click them to hear and learn the original harder word.
  • You can also click the non-highlighted words to read their definition.
  • Click the Print button and choose the type of printout you want. You can print the original text, the rewordified one, vocabulary lists with definitions and without them, a word bank quiz, a standard quiz or a difficult one… etc (see picture below)
  • By clicking the Parts of Speech button you’ll see nine part of speech categories (see picture below).You can turn on and turn off the highlighting of each part of speech by the words in the header. For example, if you only want the nouns and verbs highlighted, click all other parts of speech in the header

You don’t even have to register but if you free register:

  1. You can change how the highlighting works to match the way you learn
  2. Store, edit and delete your documents
  3. Share your documents
  4. Save vocabulary lists

Up for a little game?

And if after working hard on vocabulary you still feel up for a little challenge, Rewordify has created two word games for you

  • Reword where you’ll have to select the correct definition for the hardest words in English, as fast as you can.
  • Difficult Hangman. An old favourite but with hard words.

Thanks for reading!

Quiz Challenge: 30 Common Phrasal Verbs that you Really Need to Know

Can we still be friends if today’s post is on phrasal verbs?

I know, I know, I’ve been a student, too. I know what you’re thinking. How, for goodness sake, one is supposed to learn that a car pulls in/off/over/out/up/away and into something and be expected not to make a mistake?

When I was a student at university, they made us learn like two thousand phrasal verbs or maybe more. I cannot remember exactly how many, but what I do remember is that I had them sellotaped  -sticky notes hadn’t been invented yet- on the walls of every single room in the flat I was sharing. I am pretty sure my flatmates entertained the idea of asking me to leave, especially when they heard me enter a room, point at the wall and recite the list, but I am pretty sure they learned a phrasal verb or two.

Anyway, I am not planning to ask my students to memorise long lists of phrasal verbs out of context. There are more pleasant ways to learn them, aren’t there?

This quiz below is a good example of that. According to Roy Norris, author of Ready for First, Ready for Advanced and Straightforward (advanced) among others, these are the 30 most common phrasal verbs in English.

Do you have any others to add to the list?

 

This is how I suggest you work with the quiz:

  • Do the quiz
  • Once you have finished doing it, try to remember which phrasal verbs were tested and write them down on a piece of paper together with their meaning.
  • Do the quiz once again and compare your written answers with the ones given in the quiz.
  • Write down the ones you didn’t know. Look them up in a good dictionary and read the example sentences to see how they are used in context.
  • Try the quiz again some other day to consolidate knowledge.

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