Monthly Archives: October 2018

Three Activities to Do on a Spooky Gloomy Halloween Day

You see, Halloween and me, we are not on friendly terms. I don’t really get good vibes off this holiday.  Gory and scary … just scares me. But, that’s ok. I don’t have to like every single holiday. However, I have students and teaching a language is not only about words, it’s also about the culture and traditions of the country you are trying to teach. Halloween is important in Anglo-Saxon countries so this year I have made a point of trying to give it some real attention. I’ll even attend a small Halloween party, where I’ll be wearing a knife-through-head prop and some Halloween skeleton tights. Organising the party? Let’s start small! This year, the party will be hosted by my enthusiastic colleague Marta Dominguez, who has also provided me with some of the activities you’ll see below.

Activity 1.  Video Activity. The Ten Steps (2004)

This activity aims at

  • learning vocabulary: adjectives to describe houses
  • improving their listening skills

This is a great short film (less than 9 minutes and worth every second) that sets the right atmosphere. Draw the curtains and turn off the lights.

I would like to just for one day forget I’m an English teacher and just play the film, but I can’t.  So, we are going to work a bit on vocabulary before the film starts and we are going to focus on some questions to answer in pairs after watching the film.

Before playing the video, show them the picture below or alternatively pause the video. Do the vocabulary exercise with them ( handout)

PDF here

The Ten Steps

 

Activity 2. Writing and Story-Telling

This activity aims at

  • developing creative writing
  • using their stories to develop oral fluency

Remember the lights should be off and the curtains drawn. Lighting a candle might be a good idea for two reasons: it helps create a mysterious atmosphere and prevents students from reading from their essays.

The New York Times has a site where, every day, they publish a picture prompt to inspire students writing. Days prior to the great Halloween Day, I have shown my students this picture and asked them to write a scary story about this house. They should bring their stories on the day of the party.

The idea is to put students in groups of four and tell (not read) their stories. Each group will decide on the best and the whole class will listen to the best stories from each group and then vote on the best one.

It’s also a good idea if you share a story of your own and yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ll still need to correct their stories.

Activity 3.  A bit of fun with Kahoot.

This activity aims at:

  • teaching about traditions
  • developing digital abilities
  • having fun 🙂

I would just not feel fine if, after all the spooky storytelling, my students went home and couldn’t sleep that night, so a Kahoot is in order.

Again, I have not created it. My colleague Marta has just chosen one from the enormous bank of Halloween quizzes Kahoot has and we have adapted it to our needs.

Happy Halloween! Let’s enjoy the holiday break!

The Supporting Act- A Beautiful Lesson to Work with -Ed/-Ing Adjectives

I’m currently in the middle of —what I like to call—beginning-of-the-course chaos. I am busy doing nothing, wasting time on probably unnecessary things and when the day ends, I find I have done nothing from the to-do list I carefully planned in the morning. Total chaos.

Today, I have a guest post from a colleague from EOI Oviedo, Ángeles Jimenez,  who from time to time, saves my a** by agreeing to send me some of her creative activities. This is one of them. I hope you like it as much as I did.

This lesson plan is based on a two-minute short film launched by the B.B.C on Christmas 2017. It’s suitable for intermediate and higher levels.

The lesson starts with a lead-in speaking activity to help students differentiate -ed from -ing adjectives. It’s then followed by a brainstorming activity where students get a lot of talking time.

-ed / -ing adjectives can be a challenging task to teach as students mix them up easily. Sometimes such confusion can lead to amusing mistakes such as “I’m boring” or “I’m tiring” when they truly mean “I’m bored” and “I’m tired”.

STEP 1

To clear up the confusion, I start with a warm-up activity. I write, on the whiteboard, 3 or 4  -ing adjectives and tell students they will need to come up with a wide range of things, activities and/or people that can fit in each category. “Boring”, “Exciting”, “Frightening” and “Disgusting” are some of the -ing adjectives that work well.

For example, if I write the adjective ” Boring” students might say: studying for exams, politics, queuing at the supermarket…etc. 

This is an engaging warm-up as students can personalise the grammar point you’re trying to teach.

I  begin with myself writing the word “moths” in the “frightening” column. They may not be familiar with the noun but students love it when the teacher includes anecdotes and personal examples. They get involved in the activity in no time!

Once the whiteboard is full of the students’ own ideas, I then follow with a “How do you feel” question to elicit the -ed adjective.

Example: “How do I feel about moths? I feel frightened”

and I write the word “frightened” on the board with capital letters underlying the -ed part to emphasize that’s how I feel. To make sure they’ve understood the difference, I go through the adjectives on the board asking the same question: “How do you feel about studying for exams?” To round up, a simple graphic is very helpful:

                  Something ING  ⇒  makes you feel ED

Step 2

I project the frame above from the silent advert because it’s open to interpretation, it offers a lot of speaking practice and I find it’s a great way to revise the use of narrative tenses, especially for intermediate levels. I ask my students to come up with a short story that can explain what is happening/happened, what the girl is/was doing, how she is feeling and what they think is going to happen at the end.

At a more advanced level, they can even make deductions. Elicit some examples such as “It’s late. She must be worried because her parents haven’t arrived home yet”

Also, make sure they use as many adjectives related to feelings as they can.

STEP 3: 

  1. Play the video.
  2. Speaking: Ask students to compare it with the stories they created. Ask some follow-up questions: Did they like it? Did they find it touching? Can they relate?
  3. Vocabulary and speaking.  Pdf here. Give the students the handout that accompanies the video activity. It includes an exercise to learn new vocabulary, another exercise to revise -ed / -ing adjectives and last, but not least, a more ludic and relaxing one to test how good their memory is. You can see the first two exercises below:

Vocabulary exercise. Summarising the story. Choose the most appropriate word from the drop-down menu

Oral exercise. Using adjectives -ed adjectives to talk about feelings. Ask the following questions and encourage students to use -ed adjectives

  1. Watch the T.V add and talk about how the girl felt…
  • when she came out of school. Ex: excited
  • when she gave her dad the talent show leaflet.
  • when her dad answered the call.
  • when she rehearsed at home, in the street…
  1. How did her dad feel when he saw her jumping on the escalators?
  2. Why did she slam the door?
  3. How did she feel when she …
  • drew the curtains?
  • couldn’t remember the dance?
  • when her dad came out of the audience to help?
  • the dance finished?

Silent movies have a great potential for language teaching. They’re a fantastic tool to get students to produce language at any level since it’s the task the teacher sets the one that provides the level. They usually find it easier to memorise vocabulary and grammar when it’s associated with a captivating image or story and when it comes to holding their attention, a short clip does the trick.

Thank you Ángeles, a beautiful activity.

3 Useful YouTube Tricks, a Video Listening+Speaking Activity. A Flipgrid Proposal.

Unit 1 of my textbook is dedicated to questions. All sorts of questions: indirect, with prepositions at the end, negative interrogative questions, echo questions, question tags… etc. Yeah, I know. Lots of teaching here. On the bright side, teaching questions offers such a variety of activities you can do with your students that sometimes it is hard to find the time to do all the amazing stuff published all around the web.


This year, for my first lessons dealing with questions, I have decided to choose one of the hundreds of interviews to celebrities available online. It is still the beginning of the course and I wanted something quick and not too difficult to understand. And, I found this interview with Selena Gomez who, to be honest with you, I didn’t know much about just perfect as it is all about questions and, more specifically, get-to-know-you questions.
Anyway, I wanted a short simple listening exercise and I wanted to post it on the blog so that my students could do it again at home. To do the whole activity, I needed to solve a few technical issues regarding YouTube which I’ll detail below, in case you find them helpful.

YOUTUBE VIDEOS: SOME TRICKS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
  • Sharing a youtube video with a specific start time

You probably know how to share a video starting at a specific point. You don’t? Well, that’ s pretty easy to do.

  • Sharing a youtube video with a specific start and end time

That’s a bit more complicated. Keywords “ a bit”. The first thing you need to know is the specific time you want your video to start and to finish. For example, if you need your video to run from 1:20 to 2:15, you need to convert it into seconds.

1:20 -1 minute= 60 seconds+ 20= 80 seconds (start time)

2:15- 2 minutes= 120 seconds+15 = 135 seconds (finish time)

Now, grab the embed code for the video. In my case, it was

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/_GFkHA5EZdE?start=1″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; encrypted-media” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Change the start time and instead of 1, write 80 and then add &amp;end=135

The resulting embed code is

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/_GFkHA5EZdE?start=80&amp;end=135 ” frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; encrypted-media” allowfullscreen></iframe>

  • Getting the transcript. Call me lazy but if technology can save me some time….

You can easily get the transcript from a youtube video clicking on the three dots next to the save button.

VIDEO-BASED LISTENING ACTIVITY:  18/73 QUESTIONS WITH SELENA GOMEZ

(Follow -up activity:  I am looking for  one or two EOI teachers, teaching the B2.2 level, to work with me on a  simple single get-to-know-you project using the free online tool Flipgrid. If anybody is interested, please send me an email)

  • Level: B2
  • Skills: listening and speaking

As I have mentioned above, I wanted a short listening activity which could serve as a springboard for a speaking get-to-know-you activity among my students.

LISTENING COMPREHENSION

Procedure:

  • Play the video once and ask students to just listen. At the end of the video (the video is set to stop at 2:08) students will probably complain that it goes too fast. My advice? Smile and say “You can do it! “, because they actually can.
  • Give them the handout with the questions and play the video twice more.
  • Before you play it a third time, ask students to share their answers in pairs and, needless to say,  in English.
  • Play the video once more, pausing after each answer. Ask students to provide the answer and repeat procedure for question 2.

Here are the questions. To get the answers, just display the transcript as indicated above.

SPEAKING  ACTIVITY:  15 minutes
  • Play the video again, this time and depending on the number of students, play a couple more minutes or if necessary the whole video.
  • Tell students, they will need to listen very attentively to the questions asked to Selena and choose one they would like to ask their classmates.
  • Ask them to write it down and check with you that it’s Ok.  When they are ready, ask them to stand up in a mingling activity and interview as many classmates as possible.

A Game of Cards to Revise Vocabulary in a Speaking Activity. Effective, Engaging and No-Prep.

I have always liked playing cards.  Like about 20 years ago, I used to meet with some friends at the weekend to play cards. We usually met at a cosy old cafe where most of the elderly in my village met to play cards and domino with their buddies. They were old, we were in our twenties. They wanted peace and quiet. We wanted fun and noise and laughs.

It didn’t last. Somehow, we realized we were not welcomed and eventually stopped going. But, I still like playing cards and whenever I can talk some of my friends into playing, I immensely enjoy it. Let’s play cards, then!

  • Aim: to revise vocabulary in a speaking exercise
  • Level: B1 upwards
  • Topic: any

THE  GAME OF CARDS

The game is SO simple. The only prep is to make sure you have enough pieces of paper cut up in advance. By the way, a good opportunity to reuse photocopy paper that has been used only on one side.

Preparation:

Take a regular A4 sheet of paper. You want to obtain 8 pieces of paper. Fold it in half and cut it along the crease. Fold the two pieces again and repeat procedure. Do it a third time and there you have your 8 pieces of paper resembling the size of an average size of a card in a deck of cards.

 

  • Ask students to sit in groups of three in a circle around a table.
  • Write the topic you want to revise on the board. For example, Education.
  • Give each student in the group 8 blank cards and tell them they will need to write on each card a word or expression related to the topic on the board. Explain that it does not matter if the words are repeated in the same deck of cards, in fact, if they get the same words twice, it will only help consolidate meaning and use. Challenge students to write newly-acquired vocabulary. Allow them to have a look at their notes.
The game:
  1. Ask a student in the group to take all the cards, shuffle them and deal 3 cards one at a time, face down, starting with the student to the dealer’s left.
  2. Place the rest of the cards face down on a pile in the centre of the table.
  3. Write on the board or call out a question for discussion. For example,                                            Are exams necessary or are they a waste of time? 
  4.  Tell students they will all need to talk about the question in their groups trying to use the words on their cards.  As they use them, they place them face up on the table and pick up another one from the pile. They always need to have three to choose from.
  5. Allow 5-6 minutes per question. Once the time is up, ask students to count how many words they have used.
  6. Repeat all the steps and write another question for discussion on the board.

Note:

  • Every two or three questions, you can ask groups to swap cards and repeat steps 1-5. By swapping cards students get a new batch of cards with hopefully some new words to use.

Using an Interactive Image to Play a Game to Revise and Consolidate Feeling Adjectives

Autumn is probably my favourite season. Autumn is the season of birthdays in my family. Also, it’s not too hot or too cold. This year, this is especially important for me as I have been assigned a small class facing south and I know, come May,  I’ll be sweating up a storm. So, for the time being, let’s enjoy beautiful autumn.

This year I am teaching 2-hour lessons so, more than ever, I feel the necessity to design activities that might change the pace of the lessons and keep my students from dozing off in my classes. The activity below is aimed at that. Still, I need to be completely honest here. I have not started teaching proper lessons so this activity has not been tested yet.  I’ll let you know how it goes and if I hear any snores or see people yawning, then I would know it has been a complete failure.

 

Aim:

  • to revise and consolidate adjectives related to feelings
  • to use these adjectives in a speaking activity.

Tool: Genial.ly. For this activity, we will use the grid below with gifs representing different feelings. This is an interactive image created with an awesome tool called Genial.ly, which I am proud to say is a Spanish start-up used all around the world. Genial.ly lets you create engaging interactive visual content and for this activity, I have used the “Hide” effect so if you mouse over the gif, you’ll be able to see the adjective. Also, the questions for discussion will be displayed when you click on the numbers.

(click on the arrows to enlarge the image)

 

Procedure

For each of the squares in the grid, do part 1 and then part 2.

FIRST PART: WORKING ON VOCABULARY

  • Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will be playing “against” Student B.
  • Ask student As to choose a number from the Feelings Grid below. You can ask all the As to agree on a number, but in some classes, it might prove a difficult task to reach quick consensus, so you might want to just choose a random student A to decide on a number.
  • Once they have chosen a number, both student A and B will write the adjective they think is hidden behind the gif representing the feeling. Allow 30 seconds for this step. Let student A and B compare their answers and then mouse over the gif to display the hidden adjective.
  • If they have guessed the adjective, they score 2 points. If the adjective they have written is a synonym, they score 1 point. Ask students to keep score of the points they get.
  • On the board, you might want to write the target adjective and the synonyms they come up with. Drill pronunciation of the adjective and all its synonyms.

For example, if they choose Gif  9 and the adjective is worried you might want to accept “anxious, troubled or concerned” as synonyms. You can use a synonym dictionary, like this one https://www.thesaurus.com/. There is no shame in this. 😉

SECOND PART: WORKING ON SPEAKING

  • Click on the number, in this case, number 9 and a question will be displayed. Ask students in pairs to discuss the question. Set about 4 minutes per question. Walk around. Monitor and help. Avoid overcorrecting.

Now, B’s choose a new number from the Feelings Grid.

Note: if you haven’t taught any of the adjectives, you can still use the activity.  Change the rules of the game and instead of scoring two points if they guessed the adjective, you might want to give them the points if they come up with a synonym even though it’s not exactly the one hidden behind the gif.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid wasting time checking the dictionary, you might want to write a list of synonyms before you play the game.

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