Category Archives: Listening

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!

A Listening and Speaking Lesson: Fair Trade

Level: B2 

Warming-up

  • Are you a coffee person or a tea person?
  • Are there any benefits to drinking coffee?
  • Do you check where coffee is produced before you buy it?
  • How do you decide which coffee to buy?
  • Do you know what fair trade is?

 

LITENING COMPREHENSION

Watch this video to learn more about fair trade and answer the following questions

 

Preteach: Yield /jiːld/ the total amount of crops, profits, etc. that are produced

  1. How does buying fair products help developing countries?
  2. Coffee farmers earn very little money with the coffee they produce. Why is that? ( 3 reasons)
  3. Fair Trade coffee makers are members of cooperatives. What are the advantages?
  4. What is the most important thing about the fair trade system?
  5. Fair Trade organisations also receive the fair trade premium. How can this money be used?
  6. How does the environment benefits from fair trade?
  7. How many fair trade products can be found in the market?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS. 

In pairs, discuss the following questions

  • Have you ever bought or tried a fair trade product?
  • Why do you think fair trade products are more expensive?
  • You always wear a brand of trainers and one day you find out that they are made in factories where children work under very bad conditions. Honestly, would you continue buying this brand?
  • Do you think mass media and society influence consumerism, especially in teenagers?

PDF download

10 Best Free Listening Websites with Quizzes to Practise for Listening Exams

So what do you do to practise listening for exams?

Growing up, I never had the opportunity to do any extra practice to improve my listening skills. We didn’t have the Internet and the thousand possibilities it offers to learners of any language nowadays. The teachers had an old tape player that sometimes stopped and started on its own and old tapes that ended up sounding distorted and most of the times unlistenable so if you wanted to get better at listening, you just listened to the radio and struggled to understand the lyrics and sing along. Not that I ever complained. That was the perfect excuse to listen to music while claiming to be working hard. I have to say that my father never bought it!

So, exams are just around the corner and I know you’re beginning to freak out. Don’t worry! Here I am, coming to the rescue!

These are, in my opinion, the best sites with quizzes to practise listening comprehension. In no particular order.


TALK ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.talkenglish.com/listening/real.aspx
  • Levels: three main levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: no
  • What I like best: it has some other listening activities like dictations or listening based on pictures for lower levels. It also has a section dedicated to advanced students with a story and some comprehension questions. See here
  • What I don’t like: In my opinion, the “listening” categorised under “advanced level” is far too easy.

 ELLLO


  • url: http://www.elllo.org/
  • Levels: six levels (beginners-advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: grammar or vocabulary activities
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: only audio for vocabulary
  • What I like best: there are seven activity types (see them here) and a variety of accents.
  • What I don’t like: a bit disorganised.

ESL LOUNGE


  • url: http://www.esl-lounge.com/student/listening.php
  • Levels: four  (elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: it offers different kinds of comprehension exercises (multiple choice, cloze, true/false…etc)

BRITISH COUNCIL


  • url: http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice
  • Levels: five levels ( A1, A2, B1, B2, C1)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: very user-friendly for both students and teachers. PDF available for exercises, answers and transcript.
  • Extra: The British Council also runs some other sections to improve and practise your listening skills and learn about Britain, its culture, its language and its people. See here

 EDTED LESSONS WORTH SHARING


  • url: http://ed.ted.com/lessons
  • Levels: advanced
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: all the lessons have three parts : watch, think (where you can do the comprehension exercise) and discuss (post-listening questions)
  • Transcript: no, although most lessons are on youtube, and you can watch them with subtitles
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: the audio is not sorted by level and although most of videos are for advanced students, some of them are much easier than others so I would say that they are suitable for B2 students and higher. You need to register although it’s free.
  • Extra: you can also create your own lessons

ESOL COURSES


  • url: http://www.esolcourses.com/content/topicsmenu/listening.html
  • Levels: four main levels (upper elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: most of the times
  • Transcript: no
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like best: carefully designed  user-friendly lessons plans

ESL VIDEO


  • url: http://www.eslvideo.com/index.php
  • Levels: five ( from beginner to advanced)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: not always
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I don’t like: anybody can create a listening quiz so it might contain mistakes
  • Extra: You can create your own quiz

 


BREAKING NEWS ENGLISH


  • url: http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/index.html
  • Levels: seven levels
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: yes
  • What I like best: you can listen to the same piece of news at different levels and the news can be read at different speeds.
  • Extra: Sean Banville’s also runs eight other sites, check them out here

 


RANDALL’S ESL CYBER LISTENING LAB


  • url : http://www.esl-lab.com/
  • Levels: three levels ( easy, medium and difficult)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: Both
  • Transcript: yes
  • Audio Download: No
  • What I like best: the post-listening activities and the vocabulary section ( see here) where you can learn how to pronounce words associated to different topics.

LYRICS TRAINING


  • url: https://lyricstraining.com/
  • Levels: four ( from beginner to expert)
  • Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
  • Transcript: any lyrics site will have the lyrics for the song
  • Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
  • What I like: it’s fun and a different way to approach listening exercises.
  • Extra: You can create your own exercises (beta).

Check also:

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Lesson Plan: the 44th and 45th USA Presidents

As I was browsing the Teaching English- British Council facebook page (posts from visitors) I came across a lesson by Sean Banville, the owner of some popular sites like Breakingnewsenglish.com and Famous People lessons.com.

Mr Banville has put together a very timely lesson about Donald Trump and it got me thinking how I could best use it with my students. Fortunately, this prolific writer had also published a lesson about Barack Obama. So, I had everything I needed to tweak his lessons and adjust it to the way I teach. I just needed to ask for his permission, which he kindly gave me.


Level: Upper-Intermediate

Aim: This timely lesson aims at offering students the opportunity to discuss a current event and therefore boost their motivation to learn English. Students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary and improve their communicative skills.

Materials:

 


STEP 1.Warm up.

Predicting. Write the following words on the board and ask students to guess what the activity is going to be about.

politician, businessman, wealthy, Republican, Democratic, controversial

Speaking

  • Show the picture of Donald Trump and ask students in pairs to share any information they have about the new president of the USA.
  • Slide the juxtapose, (that’s how the sliding picture below is called) and show the image of Barack Obama. Again, ask students to share what they know about the former president of the USA.

 


STEP 2. Listening

Divide the class into As and Bs. Tell As they are going to listen to some information about Barack Obama. Tell Bs  they are going to listen to some information about Donald Trump.

Give student A a photocopy containing Obama’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match  and give student B a photocopy containing Trump’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match. (see links above)

Procedure: Play Obama once and ask student A to fill in the gaps with the words they hear. Play Trump once and ask students to do the same. Play each part one or twice more, depending on the level of your students. Correct both exercises, teach any vocabulary they don’t know and drill pronunciation.


STEP 3.Working on Vocabulary

Ask students to do the Synonym Match exercise in their photocopies. Point out that this exercise is very important as they will need to use some of this vocabulary in the next exercise.


STEP 4. Building a word cloud with students’ suggestions.

Tell students that they will now have to read their part several times as the next step will be retelling their text in as much detail as possible. As they read, ask them to underline any key words that might help them retell their biography.

Open Wordle (it works better on Firefox) and ask students A to help you feed the word cloud with the words they have underlined. Open a new tab and do the same with student B.

Alternatively you can use mine 😉

OBAMA

 

TRUMP


Step 5. Retelling

Pair up student A and student B. Display the word cloud for Obama and ask student A to retell Obama’s biography in as much detail as possible and using the prompts in the cloud. Repeat procedure for student B.


Step 6. Homework

Check out the creative suggestions Sean gives for homework.


Hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

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Wanna Watch British TV Online for Free?

I should preface this by saying that I’ve never really been a fan of watching TV. Then I came across this site,  watchallchannels.com,  and now not only do I recommend it to my students but also find myself spending more time watching TV.

So if you have internet, you can watch British TV channels online for free including BBC1, BBC2,(3 and 4) ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Film4 Live plus a lot more.

The site is mobile friendly so you can watch these channels on any device.

Watching British TV is a nice alternative to watching series or listening to podcasts to improve your listening skills.

Give it a go!

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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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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.

Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.


In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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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

Internet Radio: All the Radio Stations only a Click Away from you!

Do you like listening to the radio?

Today, I want to share with you a very nice  user-friendly site to listen to the radio.  With a simple click you can listen  to the best live radio stations from the UK. In fact, you can listen to any online radio station in the world, but the focus here is on English, isn’t it?

Internet Radio UK lists all top online radio stations from the United Kingdom. On the right of the screen, you will see a menu with links to different radio stations in the UK.

Hope it helps you improve your English!

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