Monthly Archives: November 2018

Hey! Hold On! A Simple Activity to Fix Slipping to the Present Tense when Talking about the Past

Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives.  It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is  that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.

You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.

This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo).  Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!

Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.

This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.

  • In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
  • At this point, student A will need to start again.
  • Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
  • Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂  This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
  • Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
  • When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
  • After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.

Ready? Let’s start!

Hey! Hold On!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”- Playing with Baamboozle

Ohhh! The power of a game! I don’t know anybody who does not welcome a bit of fun while learning/teaching. Playing a game transforms everyone’s mood. It is magical to see what having a little break from routine tasks, can do for students who have been working hard.

I teach two-hour lessons and trust me when I tell you that even people who do not typically like games go out of their way to beat the other teams.

If, to the thrill of playing competitively among teams, you add movement, give them the opportunity to stretch by asking them to stand up and also offer them the chance to change partners frequently, smiles and good vibes are guaranteed.

For this game, I have used the free website baamboozle.com/, which is super easy to use and allows me or my students to create and play games.

  • If you do not want to register, you can still click on Featured games and choose from the large bank of games saved on the website.
  • If you register, you can create your own games.

You can use Baamboozle in 2 ways:

  • On your own, choosing the study mode option
  • In class, in teams, choosing a number, doing the task and getting the points

The game shown below has several goals in mind.

  • Provide students with the opportunity to revise some common collocations associated with Health and Illnesses
  • Provide students with some conversation questions about health and illness
  • Have a break from the textbook and have a bit of fun.

Procedure:

  • Divide students into two or more teams. You can have up to 4 teams.
  • Ask each team to choose a competitive name for their team. The team will also need to name a spokesperson.
  • On the board, display the game.
  • Team A starts by choosing a box. Once I click on the box the points assigned to this answer are displayed.
  • Team A will have 15 seconds to decide on the correct answer. They can have a brief discussion but when the time is up, the spokesperson will need to give an answer.
  • Click on Check and if it is correct, click the Okay! button and the points will be added to their team. If it is incorrect, click the Oops! button and no points will be added.
  • Ask students in pairs to answer the question and repeat procedure for team B.

Ready to play?

Follow-up:

  • Revising: give students the link to the game and ask them at home to revise using the Study Mode.
  • Writing: ask students to choose one of the questions and write about it for about 15 minutes paying attention to their grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. During the class, the next day, choose a box, tell students to quickly provide the collocation and ask a student who has written about it to summarise his ideas for the rest of the class.

Lesson Plan: Good Manners, Customs and Strange Traditions

I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to.  Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.

Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.

So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.

In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:

  •  Two texts about unusual customs
  •  A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
  •  The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
  •  How I use Google slides for collaborative projects

In this lesson, students will have to:

  • Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
  • Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
  •  Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
  • Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
  • Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)

Lead-In : Speaking

Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.

There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.

Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country

Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.

Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.

  1. Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
  2. There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.

Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
  • Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
  • Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
  • Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then,  in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.

Guy Fawkes PDF , Groundhog Day PDF

Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.

The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.

I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described, while listening to the students’ performances.

Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.

Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it.  Problem solved.

 

A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?

This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.

Do the quiz with the whole class.  Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him.  Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.

Find the quiz here

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

Cloze Test Activity, Blog de Cristina’s Style

We are talking about Cloze Tests today. Not the printed fit-all-size cloze texts that you can get and photocopy from any textbook or exam preparation book, but the online tailor-made no-prep cloze tests you can get at the wonderfully simple site created by L. George. See it here

Why is it Cristina’s way, you might be wondering? Well, because it combines two of my favourite ingredients in an activity:

  • A touch of technology
  • A game-like activity

The online tool I have used to create the cloze has two features you can choose from: text only (that you can easily copy/paste into a document) and interactive (that you can save as an HTML page). The tool is free and you don’t even need to register.

In this exercise, I have used the simpler text-only version.

Cloze Test Exercise with a Twist

Choose a text that contains a variety of terms you want your students to revise or work with.

  • Go to l.georgesCopy/paste the text in the box
  • Choose Text Only and No Clues
  • On the right yellow box with the options, choose “every… words” ( I have chosen to gap my text every 9 words)
  • Using the OHP, display the gapped text on the board or alternatively, print it and give it to your students. Two students can share a copy.

TASK
  • Ask students to work in pairs.  Give or show the Close Test and ask them to predict the lexical category or part of speech that could fit each gap: is it a noun, an adjective, a preposition or maybe an article? Allow a couple of minutes for this task. You might want to show an example.

For example, I wrote a letter___ my mother (students will most likely agree, they ‘ll need   a preposition to fill in this gap)

Let’s start:

  • Ask Student A to face the board. Ask Student B to face away from the board and concentrate on the text.
  • Tell students you’ll write the words on the board in random order, but each of the words will be identified with a number. If you have 8 gaps in the cloze text, you will write the words on the board preceded by the number. Tell Student B to do the same in case he cannot guess a word in the allotted time. For ex: 1. house  2. wrote 3. for.
  • Write one of the missing words on the board, and ask student A to define the word, or give a synonym or antonym for student B to guess and write down. For example, if the word on the board is “wrote”, Student A might say “it’s a verb in the past and you use a pen or a pencil to do it”.
  • Tell students you’ll write a new word every 30 seconds. If Student B guesses the word quickly, he might try to use the rest of the time (up until the 30 seconds)  to try to place the word in the right gap but tell them you’ll not wait.
  • Continue in the same way until you have written all the missing words. The words should be written in random order.

NOTE: If one of the words hasn’t been guessed, at the end of this part Student A will need to try to define the words again. (Remember that the words are still written on the board).  This time, Student A can help Student B  by giving him the first letter.

  • Once they have all the words, Students A and B will work together to complete the gapped test.
  • Place a bell on your table and ask the first pair to finish to come up to your table. Silently check that the exercise is correct and if it is, ask them to ring the bell. From that moment, the rest of the class will have one minute to finish the exercise.
  • Choose another text and repeat procedure. This time Student B will face the board and Student A will concentrate on the text.

 

Note: If you are a student, this is a great tool for self-study. Choose a text from around the web, gap the text every 10 words and then select the interactive feature, which will check your exercise.  Enjoy learning English!

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