Tag Archives: B2

Reporting verbs: A Translation Exercise Using Grass Skirts

Do you like translation exercises?

If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.

Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀  ).  It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me:  I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.

I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.

In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better.  You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.

 


The activity


Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.

Now, you are ready to start.

Procedure:

Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.

Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.

Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.

Rules.

  • The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
  • The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
  • Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
  • The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.

Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them.  Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.

Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink  😆 

Crime and Punishment: Some Engaging Classroom Activities

I am not a big fan of watching TV. I find most programmes dull and very often uninteresting. However, one of the very first things I do as soon as I wake up (this, of course after my first cup of coffee) is to watch the news. However, lately, I have been considering skipping them. Is it me or do you have the impression that the news is filled with disaster and corruption?  How can you be expected to rise and shine when the world is going crazy,  when all the stories in the news are about crimes and criminals? I’d rather watch the weather forecast! Hey! Hold on!! Just heard about hurricanes and floods? I think I’ll stick to Netflix.

Anyway, please excuse my rambling and let me share with you some of the activities I have designed to help my students learn and practise vocabulary related to crime in a series of engaging speaking activities.


Using grass skirts. Making up a funny crime story

Preparation:

  • Choose a number of crimes and write them down. You can use my own template. See it here.
  • Cut a line between words (see picture) but don’t cut them all the way so that the slip of paper doesn’t detach.
  • Each poster contains 9 crimes. If you have between 10 and 18 students you will need two copies of the poster.
  • Put the poster(s) on the walls of the class.

Procedure:

  • Point to the posters on the walls of the class.
  • Tell students they will have about 10 minutes to make up a funny crime story. They can take notes but they cannot write the whole story.
  • Ask students to stand up and take a crime. They will do it by tearing off the piece of paper containing the crime.
  • Students sit down and began making up their funny crime stories.
  • In groups of 3 or 4, they share their stories and decide on the best story in the group.
  • The best story in each group will be then shared with the whole class and again the best story will be chosen.

 


Using a Feedback Tool to play a game to revise vocabulary.

This one is a lot of fun. Believe me!

Aim:  to revise vocabulary related to crime using the free online tool Answergarden

Preparation: Minimal.

If you have never used a feedback tool, you really should give it a try. I have used feedback tools and also backchannels in my classes in a number of ways to teach English and I like them for several reasons.

  1. They are very effective
  2. They tell you in real time whether students are really learning or not.
  3. They give voice to all the students and not just to the ones who always raise hands.
  4. They are fun and make classes more interesting and engaging.

Downside: it requires the use of devices with an internet connection. However, two students can share the same device.


If you find it hard to integrate technology into your classes, I run workshops  on the use of online free tools in the language classroom (tool+practical tested ideas+practice designing your own activities- see workshops here)


How to set a room in Answergarden in less than 1 minute.

  • Go to Answergarden and click on Create Answergarden
  • Type your topic or question
  • Set Classroom or Brainstorm Mode
  • Set the answer length to 20 characters
  • Click on Create and share the link with your students.
  • Students submit their answers and they are represented in the form of a growing word cloud.

Tip: Don’t forget to refresh your page to see all the answers the students are submitting or to choose the expand tab which will refresh the page automatically every 5 seconds.

The Game.Procedure

Step 1. Creating the wordcloud

Share the link for the Answergarden you have created and ask students to submit words related to crime. Their answers will be represented in the form of an attractive wordcloud.

(Note: This is an active answergarden. You can submit words, but please, only words related to crime 🙂

Step 2. Playing

  1.  Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the word cloud is displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B. Place a table in front of the students and on the table place two reception bells. If you can’t find the bells, any other sound would do! But, there has to be a sound, mainly, because it’s fun!
  2. Set a timer for 90 seconds. Teams have 1m 30´ to describe as many words as possible. Point to a word and ask the class to describe the word using synonyms, definitions or paraphrasing. If a captain knows the word, he will need to press the bell and then say the word.
  • If the answer is correct, his team scores a point and the game continues in the same way until the time runs out.  The teams choose other captains to continue playing.
  • If the answer is incorrect, he won’t be allowed to guess again until the other captain has had a chance at guessing.


Random Questions- A Speaking Activity.

I have created the presentation with questions to discuss about crime and punishment with the free tool Genial.ly

Procedure:

  1. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “ to be sentenced to” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “sentenced “.
  2. Click on the random question button in the presentation. Ask students to swap slips of paper with their partners and get them to discuss the question reminding them to use as many words from the slip of paper as possible. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
  3.  Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
  4. Click on the random question button in the presentation again and repeat procedure.

Hope you have enjoyed the activities.
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Let’s Talk about Crime: is it Rob, Steal or Burgle?

Do you know the difference between steal, rob and burgleHow do we use these three verbs?

TO STEAL

You steal when you take (unlawfully) what belongs to someone else. The object of this verb is generally what you have stolen.Generally, you steal things. The person who steals is a thief.

  • Someone’s stolen my watch
  • He stole all my money
  • They wanted me to steal your ring

You can also  steal something from someone

  • He stole from me and from my friends
TO ROB

You rob when you unlawfully take something from its owner.You rob someone or you rob a place (bank, shop, house…etc. The person who robs is a robber.

  • I have been robbed
  • Robin Hood robbed the rich
  • He robbed a bank

 

A person or institution is robbed of something by someone or an entity

  • She robbed me of all my money
TO BURGLE

It means to steal from a building, a home…etc.   The person who breaks into houses, shops … etc to steal things is a burglar.

  • My house was burgled last night
  • She has been burgled

Test your knowledge with this exercise.

Click at the top right-hand corner to enlarge the window (red arrows)

 

A Low-Prep, Low-Tech Discussion Game to Activate New Vocabulary with a Simple Scrap of Paper

Naturally, I am a huge supporter of any activity that involves students getting out of their seats and interacting with other students. Also, if you have been reading me for a while, you will surely know that I am always worried about making vocabulary stick.
So, this super simple activity combines these two things+ zero preparation. How does that sound? Yes, I know. Besides, it’s compatible with any topic you are working with. Believe me, this activity is a hit.
There is a 99% chance that you will end up participating in the activity, but please, do not get all proper and spoil the fun by telling students to keep their voices down. Let them enjoy.

Aim: to make vocabulary stick by revising, reinforcing and using it.
Topic: Any. I was working with the theme of environment, but any topic would do
Level: Any.

How to go about it

Revising.

1. Revision with slips of paper. Start by revising the vocabulary you have introduced in previous lessons. I usually write the vocabulary I need to revise on slips of paper, place myself in the middle of the classroom (desks are arranged in a U shape) and very quickly give a short definition, synonym or antonym. The student who guesses correctly gets the slip of card. The winner, as you might have guessed, is the student who has more cards at the end of this activity. I do this activity very often. I think I like it because I can see that my students love it and it is a good exercise not only to revise meanings but also to work on pronunciation.

Writing.

2. Writing 5 newly- acquired words. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “make the most of” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “make the most “.

Speaking

3. On the board, write a question for the students to discuss in pairs.

4. Tell the students to stand up with the scrap of paper containing their words and choose a partner to talk to. They can sit down if they want to or they can remain standing.

5. Ask them to swap the pieces of papers and read the 5 words on it making sure they know what they mean. If they don’t, they should ask their partner to explain or clarify meanings

6. Point to the question on the board and ask them to discuss it trying to introduce as many words as possible from their list of words. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.

7. Important step: Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.

8. Write a new question for discussion on the board. Ask students to sit down with their new partner, swap the scraps of paper and repeat procedure.

My students said they loved the game! Let me know what your students think if you decide to give it a go.

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The Liar: a Present Perfect Continuous Game.

This week is not supposed to be a game week. I can feel the “exam cloud” starting to creep up on me. Yes, exams are just two weeks away and I should probably be dedicating the whole lesson to revising. And I‘ll do it. I promise. And it will all be very academic and probably boring.  So what you are about to read is very likely the last fun activity I’m going to do with my students before exams but students deserve a break from time to time and I’m sure they will enjoy this little game to revise the Present perfect Continuous. Besides,it is a ton of fun.

I have to say that I have not invented the game. I was kindly offered to me by a teacher from EOI Plasencia (hello Maite Martínez) after an enjoyable training session. I asked her to write a guest post explaining the game, but she kindly refused and said she could not do that as she was not the author adding that the game had been in her possession for a long, long time and couldn’t remember where she had got it from.

I have googled up the game trying different combinations, but I could find no trace of it. So I have decided to publish it.

Please, if you are reading this and you’re the author, write to me to give you proper credit.

Now, with the game.

Aim: to practise the present perfect continuous in the pattern:

  • How long have you been playing golf?
  • I have been playing golf for 6 years

 

Before the game: You’ll need to prepare cards with the numbers 1 to 10. You will need a deck of cards for every four or five students. Numbers (1-10) will be repeated three times in each deck of cards. So, you will have three 1s, three 2s, three 3s… etc, ie, a 30-card deck.

You can download mine here.

The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

  • Ask students to play in groups of 4,5 or 6.
  • Tell students they are all “nouveaux riches”.
  • Someone in the group shuffles the cards and deals them out. All of them.
How to play:

  • Player A, the person on the right of the dealer, begins. He turns to Player B, the person on his right, and asks him a question. For example:

                   How long have you been eating at Maxim’s?

  • Player B puts one of his cards face down on the table without showing it to anyone and answers, for example:

                    I have been eating at Maxim’s for 5 years.

Important: You must always put down a card equal to, or more than, the previous card. Player B will need to put down a card with a number higher than 5. If you cannot do this, you must lie and hope not to be challenged to show your card. 
  • Now, Player B repeats exactly the same question Player A asked him to Player C, the person on his right. Player C answers and puts one of his cards face down on top of Player B’s card. For example:

                  I have been eating at Maxim’s for 7 years.

  • Now Player C repeats exactly the same question to Player D. In this way, play moves round the circle in turn.
  • If any player suspects that another player is lying, they can say:

 Stop! I don’t believe you- let me see that card.

  • If it’s a lie, that player must pick all the cards on the table. However, if he was telling the truth, the player who challenged him must pick all the cards.
  • After a player has picked all the cards, it‘s he who starts the game again asking a new question.
  • The first player to get rid of all his cards is the winner.

List of snobbish things to do

  • Ski in St Moritz
  • Eat caviar
  • Play golf
  • Fly business class
  • Wear Armani clothes
  • Vote conservative
  • Shop at Harrods
  • Drive a Porsche
  • Go on cruises

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Top Website to Help you with Writing

I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.

Has it ever happened to you?

I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.

For example, let’s take this simple sentence

Global warming is produced by…

Does it sound Ok to you?

For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right.  But is it a natural collocation in English?

Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?

When I am in doubt, I  have a bunch of useful websites I use, but my favourite for this kind of problem is Netspeak. Please check my post Six amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger to read about this “bunch”  I was referring to.

So, when I am not sure if “xxxx ” is correct, this is what I do.

What else can you do on Netspeak?Among other things:

  1. If you have forgotten a specific word, type ?   Ex:  ? for granted
  2. If you need to find many words, type   Ex …granted
  3. If you are not sure about two words or want to compare them [] Ex It sounds [good well.

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First Conditional Sentences: Advanced Grammar and Moral Dilemmas for Discussion

Oh, this tool. I cannot tell you the number of times I have used it to teach English.

Not going to lie to you, although it’s one of my favourite sites to create visual activities, play buzz is way less exciting than using other tools such as Flipgrid. Still, a lot of fun.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t like teaching grammar. I’m not one of those enthusiastic teachers that eat up grammar books in search of the perfect written exercise to give students. I devour vocabulary and speaking activities, but to be honest, grammar exercises bore me. That must be the reason why I always try to find a fun activity so that not only my students but also me, can have a nice time when dealing with grammar. So, it felt really nice to create this visual activity where I could see my students using the First Conditional in context.

Firstly, after explaining the grammar we reinforced its form by watching this video I have created with Lumen5. This tool is the latest craze. If you are attending my workshop on “Using Images” on Tuesday 20 or Thursday 22 (Feb) this is one of the tools we are going to work with. Let me tell you that it is one of the easiest tools I have come across and nowadays, on social media, you can see a lot of presentations created with it.

Secondly, I asked my students to form small groups and discuss what you’ll see below. The questions are thought-provoking, morally challenging and with a touch of fun. It might also be a good idea to ask yourself what you would do in any of these situations.

Display the first photo+caption and ask students to finish the sentence using the first conditional. Encourage discussion within the group and then a whole class discussion.

  • If I find a wallet in the street, I might take it to the police.
  • If I find a wallet in the street, I will probably call the police to let them know I have found it, but will probably keep it until the owner called me.

Show the second picture+ caption and repeat procedure.

The Two-Corner Technique. How I Train my Students to Pass the Standardized Speaking Exam.Part 2

It’s Monday. I swear it was Friday when I last blinked. Exam time is inching closer and closer and I figure it’s about time I share part 2 of how I prepare my students to take oral exams. Please, note that attending classes and piling up dozens of photocopies helps, but this alone does not guarantee you are going to pass the exam. Practice. Keyword here.

In Part 2, you are going to read about the two-corner technique and the websites  I use to help my students gather ideas.

The anecdote.

What I am going to relate here is one of the reasons why I try to offer my students not only vocabulary and structures but also ideas. Yes, I present them with different ideas, but  I don’t ask them to study and use them as if they were theirs, I ask them to discuss them. Why? Mainly because by discussing ideas they can develop their own, acquire some others and also learn to challenge opinions they do not agree with.

You have probably heard students, or experience if you are one, talk about this fear of not knowing what to say.

Only last week I set a writing activity to be done in class. I asked students to write for about 20 minutes giving their opinion about a topic we had already discussed in class.

I observed one of my students was not writing but staring into space. After 5 minutes, I approached him and asked why he wasn’t writing. He said he could not come up with any ideas, said he wasn’t inspired and that he was afraid this would happen on the day of the exam.

And I worry. Even though my students study hard, sometimes they find it hard to think on their feet and start talking or writing.

It’s with this in mind that I try to provide my students not only with grammar and vocabulary but also with other people’s points of view on a given topic so that they can discuss these ideas and develop their own arguments. Speaking is not only talking about what you would do but also about what you wouldn’t do.

Topic:  Ebooks versus paper Books

Level: B2 (upper-intermediate)

Time: about 30 minutes

  • Step 1.  Brainstorming vocabulary.  As usual, we brainstorm vocabulary on the board. This is a necessary step as you don’t want students to get stuck because they can’t come up with a term.
  • Step 2. Posing the question.  I write on the board ht e big question. In this case: What do you prefer? Ebooks or paper books?
  • Step 3. Using the two-corner teaching technique.  This technique is actually called the four- corner technique, but I find a two-corner approach suits my classes better. With this technique, you get your students out of their seats and thinking about the topic they are going to discuss. In one corner of the classroom, I put up a notice saying paper books and in another corner a notice with ebooks written on it.

I ask students, still in their seats, to think which corner of the room they would choose and think of the reasons why they prefer one choice to another. After a bit of thinking time, I ask them to stand up and go to their corner of the room. Once there, they talk to the members of their group sharing ideas and talking about why they favour one choice and not the other.

  • Step 4.  Getting ideas from other sources.

Time to see how others express your same idea and maybe get some others. Give students in favour of ebooks handout A and give handout B to students who prefer paper books. Let them read it and comment it in their groups.

  • Step 5. Persuading and Convincing

This is the part I like best. Pair up students from both corners. Their aim will be to campaign on behalf of their choice and try to convince a student from the opposite corner to flip sides.

For this activity, I have used the website https://netivist.org/ , which is a platform where users can debate and engage in thoughtful discussion sharing different points of view.

Other  similar websites  are:

https://www.kialo.com/

https://debatewise.org/

Going the extra mile?

  1. Students practise talking about what these two sets of pictures suggest to them

2. Students listen to what other people have to say on the subject.

If you have missed Part 1 of how I prepare my students to take oral exams, you can read it here

The Environment: a Lesson Plan for Upper-Intermediate Students

As I thrust this lesson plan towards my students, I realize how little I know about what some environmentally-related terms mean. I know I have heard people talking about the carbon footprint and acid rain, but honestly, I have never given it much thought.  I recycle. I really try to. I don’t eat meat and try to buy local products. But thinking hard. I guess that’s it.  I am drowning in eco-guilt, but this needs to change.

I have promised myself two very simple things: to use reusable shopping bags and to cut down on the minutes I spend singing in the shower. The shower thing is going to be hard. Really hard.

I have just read in the The Guardian this list with 50 easy ways to save the planet. Really, point 16 and 34 are just gross.

 

This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.

You can see this lesson in digital format here and you will also find it embedded at the end of this post

Introducing the Topic

On the board, write I’m eco-guilty of … Ask students in pairs to discuss their environmental dirty secret and then come up to the whiteboard and write it down. Help with vocabulary and then, discuss some the eco-sins written on the board.

Listening: How Environmentally Friendly are you?
  • Lead in: ask students, in pairs, to write their best tips on how to be environmentally friendly. Write their suggestions on the board.
  • Listening Comprehension: How to be environmentally friendly. 

This is a note-taking exercise. Students listen to some more tips and write them down.  Comment on the tips. Correct using subtitles.

Vocabulary: Revising and Introducing New Vocabulary.

After doing the previous activities, students will probably have learnt lots vocabulary. Yes, I know. Wishful thinking. Anyway, let’s keep trying. Draw a mind- map on the board and brainstorm newly-acquired vocabulary drilling pronunciation. Introduce some new terms if appropriate.

Here’s the vocabulary my students will need to learn and use.

Speaking Activity using Posters

An activity my students always enjoy is gallery-walking. It gives them the opportunity to get out of their seats and interact with other students in the class.

  • Display posters on the walls containing some predictions about the future. See my posters here.
  • Ask students, in pairs, to write on a post-it (a scrap of paper+ sellotape would do) a list of 5 words or expressions they have learned related to the topic. Take their lists and put them on the walls next to the posters. There should be at least one list per poster.
  • Gallery Walk: ask students, in pairs or small groups, to stand up and discuss the sentences written on the posters making sure they use some of the words on the list.
Listening: Environmental Issues our Planet is Facing.
  • Warm up: Ask students, in pairs, to brainstorm environmental issues our planet is facing. Write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.
  • The listening task: Play the video below ( only from 0:00 to 1:35)and ask students to find the answers to the following :
  1.  How old is the earth?
  2. How old is the human race?
  3. List 4 general problems mentioned in the video related to the sea, the animals, the ocean and climate change

Check their answers. Play the video with the subtitles on.

Speaking
  • Discussion Questions:

In this part, students will work in pairs. Encourage the use of the vocabulary they have learned in previous exercises. Use the lists of vocabulary students wrote for the posters activity, giving each pair of students one of these lists. Ask them to swap lists as we move through the questions.

Embedded below. you will find the online lesson with the questions for discussion. Just scroll down the different activities.

  • Picture Prompted

Students, in pairs, talk about the topics suggested in the pictures. Brainstorm ideas for a minute or so, and ask them to speak for about 4 minutes.

There are two sets of pictures.

Photo credit: Frits Ahlefeldt – FritsAhlefeldt.com on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson.

 

The Environment

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