Category Archives: Writing skill

Introducing Question Tags Using What you Know about your Students

Introducing, Understanding and Using Question Tags

I don’t know about you, but I have like 15-20 students per class. This number suits me fine as it allows me to do plenty of activities which require group work without students feeling the class is too crowded to interfere with academic success. At the same time, this number of students also gives me the chance  to get to know  my students quite well, even know some personal details about them, which are going to prove useful to  introduce question tags in an easy way.

Aim: Introducing , Understanding and Using Questions Tags with a Falling Intonation

Level : B2

STEP1. Introducing. Surprise your students by producing some statements about their lives. Make sure your intonation is falling as we are just checking something we already know.

  • Esther, you are a nurse, aren’t you?
  • Felix, you have been to  France several times, haven’t you?
  • Isabel, you spent your childhood in France, didn’t you?
  • Laura, you aren’t married, are you?
  • Carlos, you don’t work in a bank, do you?

At this stage, students are on tenterhooks waiting for you to say something about each of them so you have all their undivided attention. While I would say the first sentences  containing the tags in a normal way, for the last ones I would emphasize the question tag so that they realise something is going on.

Step 2.  Understanding. Focus on meaning/form/pronunciation.  At this point , some students would have probably  asked the question  “When do you use them? “Tell them you use  question tags with a falling intonation when we are sure of the answer, so the question tag here is not a real question (meaning). With the students‘ help , write some of the previous sentences  on the board for students to infer the rules (form). Focus on intonation now, making sure all the students have had a chance to do enough practice before we move on to the next step (pronunciation).

Step 3. Using Question Tags

♥Controlled Practice. Now ask students how much they know about you and ask them, in pairs, to write some facts they think they know about you. Students tend to write positive sentences, so encourage them to write negative ones, too. Once they have written their sentences about you, point to the board where hopefully the rules will still be displayed and  ask them to write  the question tag  .

Stundents take it in turns to  read  their sentences aloud asking for confirmation (gently correct if necessary) and the teacher answers accordingly.

  • Cristina, you worked in EOI La Felguera some years ago, didn’t you?  Yes, I did.
  • Cristina, you don’t eat meat, do you? No, I don’t. I’m a pescatarian.

At this stage, it is important to teach students how you answer to a question Tag.

If you answer  Yes, do not use contracted forms.

If you use No, contracted forms are possible.

  • Yes, he is.
  • No, he is not./ No, he isn’t/ No, he‘s not

♥Freer Practice. Students, individually now, write five facts they think they know about their partner using question tags.  Allow 5 minutes  for this step helping students with vocabulary and questions tags. Students carry out the speaking task in pairs. The teacher monitors, promts and corrects gently.

Question Tags Grammar Handout here. (black and white version here)

Two Wonderful Sites to Practise Listening and other skills

So, you’ve done all the listening exercises in your textbook, workbook  and on my website 😉  but still, you feel you  really need to go the extra mile ?

Here you are two wonderful websites where you can find tons of Listening exercises to practise before the exam.

1. ESOL COURSES. Choose your level and then choose the skill you want to practise ; they are all great!

2. ESl Lounge Students: on this site you can also practise all skills . Scroll down the page and on the right sidebar, choose the skill you want to practise and your level.

 

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A Nice Way to Introduce Orders in Reported Speech

Sometimes I spend an awful lot of time writing the draft for an article which will never see the light of day. That happens mainly on those days when I begin to wonder  whether a certain article I am about to publish will interest any of my readers and also on those days when I run out of inspiration and words don’t seem to flow. More often than not, these wannabe posts end up being deleted while some other times I save them in  a folder and then forget about them until, like  with my wardrobe, spring cleaning frenzy strikes and I decide to do some computer  spring cleaning and bump into them. This is what happened with this article you are about to read.

INTRODUCING REPORTED SPEECH ORDERS

Step 1. Draw some circles on the white board containing the following sentences or any others you fancy

Step 2. Ask students to choose one circle. They now need to write on a separate sheet of paper some orders/instructions they were given in these situations. (Encourage them to write positive and negative orders/instructions). Demonstrate, if necessary, by choosing one circle and writing down some examples. Allow 5 minutes for this step.

Step 3 and Step 4. Students in small groups. Now students need to swap situations with their partners and their partners need to report within their group some of the orders and instructions their partners were given.

For example:

When Carlos got his driving licence ,he was told to keep both hands on the steering wheel.

On the first day at school, Cecilia was told not to stand up without permission.

Step 4 and Step 3. Before students  start, demonstrate  with your own situation (hopefully still on the whiteboard), making sure they understand the task and asking them to infer the rule.

Step 5. Call out a situation and ask students to volunteer orders or instructions given to their classmates in the chosen  context.

Hope you find it useful!

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In Exam Mode? Check Out These Two Sites for Listening and Reading

Yes, we are all in exam mode. Classes are finished and it’s time for a final effort.

In this post I want to  … Hold on!!… Noo, it’s more like  I need to share these two sites with you. You see, I say” I need” because I really want all of you to pass your exams. There is nothing less frustrating for a teacher than having to fail a student  who has been attending classes all throughout the year.

And this  is the reason  why I am posting at 11.00 pm, after having just arrived from work. ( you can bring me flowers once you’ve passed with flying colours)

♥LISTENING.The first link is for practising Listening and it was kindly shared with me by one of my students. Thanks a lot Maite!

 

Englishaula.com offers different exercises to practise all  four skills, though I especially recommend it to do Listening Comprehension. On the right you’ll need to choose your level.

Choose KET for A1/2

Choose PET for B1

Choose FCE fo B1+ /B2

Choose CAE for B2/B2+

♥READING. This second website  Easy Reading is run by the British Council and it offers articles to read at three levels A2, B1 and B2 and interactive exercises to check your comprehension.

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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.

 

Today is on me- Let’s Go to a Musical Show !

Who doesn’t like music? Today I am inviting you to take a glimpse at the Top Ten Musicals in London. Tough  job to choose one ! A video-based lesson you’ll positively enjoy!

Level: B1/B2

Skills :listening, writing and vocabulary

Step 1. WARM UP. In pairs, talk about the questions below

♥How important is  music in your life?

♥Have you ever been to a musical show? Why(not)?

♥Do you know  any famous musicals?

♥There are lots of things to do in London, would you consider going to a musical?

 

Step 2. Look at the following collage containing pictures of different musicals. In pairs, can you identify any?

Get feedback. Most possibly students won’t be able to come up with the names for all the musicals. If this is the case, show them the options below.

A. The Lion King

B. The Phantom of the Opera

C. Wicked

D. Mamma Mia

E. Thriller

F. Billy Elliot

G. Les Miserables

H. The Book of Mormon

I. The Commitments

J. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Step 3. Play the video  for the first time without giving students any task.After watching it , ask them whether they  would fancy watching any of these musicals. Students watch the video a second time  and fill in the gaps in the exercise below

 

Number 10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Grab your won golden ticket and step inside the ____ (1) and wonderful Wonka Chocolate factory

Number 9. The Commitments.Originally a novel, then a hit movie, this musical is jam ____ (2) with classic soul hits

Number 8. The Book of Mormon.From the ____  (3)of South Park, this outrageously funny musical is not for the faint -hearted

Number 7. Les Miserables.An epic tale of broken dreams, passion, ____ (4) and redemption

Number 6. Billy Elliot.The ____ (5) story of a boy’s struggle against the odds  to become a ballet star

 Number 5. Thriller Live.The spectacular show takes you on an electrifying journey through Michael Jackson’s musical ____ (6).

 Number 4.Mamma Mia. Abba’s  timeless songs create the ultimate feel-good tale of love , laughter and ____ (7)

 Number 3. Wicked.The untold story of the witches of Oz has won 90 international awards and is loved by ____ (8) and critics.

 Number 2.The Phantom of the Opera.Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  musical ____ (9) continues to captivate audiences

 Number 1. The Lion King.Set in the Serengeti, this epic show explodes with glorious colours, stunning effects and  ____ (10) music

 Step 4. Vocabulary. Find a synonym for the following words in the video

-ageless

-impressive

-strange

-fight

-located

-prize

-full

 Step 5. Writing . You’ve been asked to create a poster to advertise your high school end-of-the-term musical.Use postermywall.com to create the poster and think of something to say about the musical to attract an audience . Use some of the adjective+noun combinatios below

Mapa Mental creado con ExamTime por cristina.cabal

ANSWERS HERE

Confusing Words

Can you tell the difference between  farther and further or especially and specially? Do you know for certain when to use arrive in or arrive at?  Which one is American English at the weekend or on the weekend, math or maths? Is it think of, about, in or on?? Do you have problems using and/or pronouncing weigh, weighed and weight? You are pretty certain you know how to use boring and bored, but  does it work the same for stressed and stressing?  If these questions have raised serious doubts, then this post is for you. 🙂

Click on the picture if you want to go straight to the section

I sometimes have to remind my students  I’m not a walking dictionary !!  I honestly believe what makes a good teacher is not how many words  he knows in the dictionary or whether he knows a  given idiomatic expression. I don’t  think knowing what “stuck in a rut” means makes you a good  or a bad teacher. I firmly believe a good teacher is the one who loves his work and is able to transmit his love for what he does to  his students  and  is able to keep them motivated  whenever  they want to give up. I  have learned that being a good teacher is not teaching to those who want but to those who don’t.

Although initially English is not such a difficult  language to learn, it cannot be argued that for some students it is easier than for others. Take for example , a native speaker of Dutch or German  and a native speaker of Japanese or Russian. Obviously, German and Russian are closely related to English whereas  Japanese or Russian are completely unrelated so I’m sure   you can draw your  own conclusions in this matter.

Very often students tend to systematically makes mistakes with a given word either in its pronunciation or in the way it collocates with certain prepositions, adjectives …etc and we cannot forget here the issue of false friends which causes so many problems and, trust me,  sometimes funny misunderstandings, like in Spanish, the false friend “embarrassed ” and “pregnant”.

To help my students and readers of this blog overcome  these difficulties, I have created a new section in this bog called CONFUSING WORDS. I hope it’s helpful!

Six Wonderful Sites to Help you Write, Speak and Sound Better

I’m not a native speaker. Even though I read, write, work and I would almost dare say live  and dream in  English, I haven’t learned the language from birth and sometimes have moments of self-doubt. These websites I am going to share in this post have been an invaluable help.

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Howjsay  and Forvo: The world’s largest dictionaries of English Pronunciation

How often have you come across a proper name you had no clue how to pronounce and you desperately needed to know the  correct standard  pronunciation of or perhaps  a variant pronunciation of this word?  Let’s say you want to know the pronunciation of the word “selion”. You go to the most important online dictionaries offering pronunciation, but the word you’re looking up is not there and you suddenly begin to panic. At this stage you can do three things: panic, pretend you know how to pronounce it ( you just know how to sound British, no problem there) or look up the word in any of these two amazing sites that have saved my skin countless times.

Linguee

We all know how difficult it is to write, even more in a foreign language. More often than not we look up words in dictionaries only to find that it offers so many possibilities for the translation of the word that  we don’t know which one to choose for the context we need. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t help us at all but makes things more complicated as we don’t know which word to use to mean what we want to express and we end up completely frustrated. Here, Linguee can help us as it is a bilingual dictionary but  in context

Phraseup

Sometimes we know what we want to write, the sentence is phrased in our mind, but we can’t figure out some of the words we need. This is where phraseup*comes in. It assists you with writing, by suggesting possible combinations to fill-in the words you can’t remember. Each suggestion is accompanied by definitions, synonyms and translations to other languages.
Imagine you know there is an expression containing the words ” take” and “granted” but you have forgotten what goes in the middle, PhraseUp can help you here, too. Just type the words that you remember and put an asterisk * where you want the application to insert something. Very useful, isn’t it?

Or maybe  you want to use the verb+preposition combination “cope with” but you are just not sure which words it collocates with, just type it in PhraseUp and options will be provided.

Ozdic.com

I have been using ozdic.com for years and this is a dictionary I cannot live without. It is not any dictionary, it also help you to sound more natural when speaking or writing in English. Let’s  say you don’t know the preposition that collocates with the verb “insist”, or which adverbs sound  more natural with this verb; let’s imagine you need to use the word “idea” but you have no clue what adjective to use  apart from the overused “good “. Go to the dictionary now, this is just a sample of what you’ll find : bright, brilliant, clever, excellent,, marvellous | valuable, worthwhile | exciting, inspirational, interesting, stimulating | constructive, positive | absurd, bad, mistaken, ridiculous | , crazy, mad, outlandish, wild | half-baked | ambitious, big, grand.

The dictionary contains over 150,000 collocations for nearly 9,000 headwords and it is based on the 100 million word British National Corpus.

Text2Phonetics 

It is a wonderful tool that can save a lot of time if you need to transcribe something. I have tried it with small texts (two or three lines) and it’s incredible! You will be able to  pronounce a whole text perfectly .
Just paste the text you want to transcribe and click the Transcribe Button to get the transcription.

Both, None, Either and Neither and a New Presentation Tool

You know how it is. Once I start surfing the net I need to remind myself that I need to get some sleep. So, just last night I was about to call it a night when blog hopping, I “bumped into” this new tool which, though still in their beta version, has a lot of potential. Slidebean is a cloud based platform that lets you create presentations for free, you only need to register and explore a bit.

And as I was preparing a lesson for the Intermediate level about Conjunctions I decided to give it a go and  I don’t regret it. I think it has created a beautiful presentation out of a boring point of grammar. What do you think?

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A Formal Email

I know it might be a tiny bit too late to be posting this but I’ve  just come across it and given that we are having the test on Monday/Tuesday I sort of hope the idea of visiting the blog crossed your mind and you are one of the lucky  who will be reading and doing the interactive exercises on the website where these snapshots have been taken from:      http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/.

Scroll down their  page and make sure you do the following exercises

  • ♥Check your writing: indirect questions
  • ♥Check your writing . gap fill: Useful Phrases

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