Tag Archives: B2

Integrating Technology for Active Learning: An Activity Using Google Slides and Padlet.

There is no denying I use a lot of technology in my classes. It gives me great pleasure to discover a new tool and design an activity around it. I really think this is what keeps me motivated after so many years teaching. The challenge that mastering a tool brings and the possibility to use it in my classes to boost students’ motivation and spark their interest is certainly something that keeps my own motivation alive and kicking

Today, I would like to share with you an activity that I did with my intermediate students. I loved designing the activity and the way my students got involved activating their communicative and writing skills during the whole process.

Tools used:

Aims:

  • to develop students’ communicative skills
  • to develop students’ writing skills
  • to revise vocabulary related to “work”
  • to integrate technology in the classroom
  • to encourage collaborative work

Before the class.

I created a Google presentation using Google Slides and wrote the content for the first two slides. I also added three extra blank slides (see below)

I created three Padlets and called them: Work 1, Work 2, and Work 3

In each of these 3 blank slides I inserted a link to one of these Padlets.

 

During the class.

 One. I asked students to form groups of 4. I have 12 students in this class, so I had three groups, one for each blank slide. If you have more students, you can easily add another slide to accommodate two more questions. I asked each group to write three or four questions related to “work”. I certainly encouraged them to come up with some juicy questions and avoid simple ones such as “Where do you work?”

Two. Once they have written their questions, the groups read them aloud and the class decides on the best two from each group to keep.

Three. At this point, there are two things you can do

  1. Assign each group one of the three slides and ask them to write their two questions, being careful not to delete the link to Padlet. Share the link for your Google Drive presentation making sure you share the link with editing permissions (read and write).  I have shortened the link using Google shortener.
  1. If you think this step might be complicated for your students, you can always write them yourself. Have the groups dictate their two questions and move on to the next stage.

Four: Speaking. Ask students in their groups to discuss the questions in the three slides encouraging them to use work-related vocabulary. Get feedback.

Five: Set homework.

Show the presentation from the very beginning where they will see the instructions for their homework.

Explain that at home they will need to answer one of the two questions in each slide. They can do it by writing their answers or by recording them.

Remind them it is the same shortened link you shared with them in Three.

See one of the Padlet below

 

Hecho con Padlet

You Have an Email! An Interactive Writing Activity

It’s true that although I’m a technology enthusiast there are still some things that I want to see written in paper. Especially when I’m studying I want to be able to underline, highlight, mark as irrelevant or write side comments in the margins.

So, for this activity, and despite finding lots of beautiful online presentations explaining the art of writing informal emails or letters (does anyone write letters anymore?), I have decided to stick to the traditional handout.


Level: B1 and above

Materials: checklist and handout (I have slightly modified it to adjust to my students’ needs)

Aims:

  • To teach students how to write informal emails with different purposes
  • To give students practice in writing some of these emails
  • To help students self-correct their own writings

THE THEORY

As explained above, I gave my students this excellent handout and we went through it. To make this process a bit more interactive, before each section we did a bit of brainstorming on the board tapping into the students’ prior knowledge. It is amazing to see how much they already know when you just take the time to ask them. After these brainstorming sessions, I always tell my students “Now, a bit more”. This “Now, a bit more” is based on the idea that new knowledge is constructed from old knowledge and I firmly believe this approach really makes it easier for students to learn and improve.


THE PRACTICE.

In this part the students will have to write two emails: a short one (50-60 words) and a longer one (140-160 words) in reply to a short one.

ONE. On the board write the following

  • Giving news
  • Apologizing
  • Inviting
  • Requesting
  • Thanking
  • Congratulating

 

TWO. Ask students to choose one. Make sure there is variety. They will find useful expressions for the email they have chosen to write in the handout provided.

THREE. Explain that they will need to write, on a clean sheet of paper, a short email to someone in the class. Tell them to follow the “salutation/body/closing structure. They will need to refer to the purpose of their email and then ask 2 or 3 further questions, related or not to the reason for writing their email. Remind them to keep this email short. Allow 10 minutes for this part.

FOUR. Once they have finished, ask students to swap emails with the person sitting behind them making sure they have not written the same kind of email. In that case, help them find someone else to swap emails with.

FIVE. Students will have to write an email in response to the email received, answering any questions asked. Ask them to refer to the handout and use a variety of expressions and a good range of vocabulary and structures. Allow 25 minutes for this part. They should aim to write between 140-160 words.

SIX. Students swap emails again and read the reply to their email.

SEVEN. Ask students to use this checklist to correct their partner’s email and give it a mark taking into account the following:

  • Content: Has he fulfilled the task? Has he answered all the questions?
  • Communicative Achievement: Has he used the right register or is it too formal? Does it sound natural?
  • Organisation: Is it well-structured? Is it logical and ordered? Has he used the right punctuation?
  • Language: Has he used a wide variety of vocabulary and structures? Is it adequate to the level? Are there spelling mistakes?

Correcting each other’s emails is not something the students feel confident about, but if before they start correcting, you write some repetitive mistakes on the board they’ll feel more confident correcting them. Ask them to underline anything that sounds incorrect to them and offer help.

EIGHT. The final step would be pairing up senders and recipients to comment on mistakes and marks awarded.

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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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3 Activities for Bringing Reading Comprehension Texts to Life

I have to admit that my least favourite activity to do in class is Reading Comprehension. I have the feeling that doing reading activities, as suggested in textbooks, somehow disconnects students from the interactive aspect I struggle so hard to maintain and promote during the whole session So, I’m always balancing two options. Either I set the reading task as homework or I try to devise an engaging activity that brings a bit of creativity and engagement into the reading process.

The activities you’ll find below aim at improving the most basic level of reader response, which is the oral retelling of the texts. Oral retelling exercises demand that students recall as many details from the text as possible therefore encouraging communication, oral language development and reinforcing students’ vocabulary.

So, here are three activities to bring Reading Comprehension texts to life.

 


Activity 1. Using word clouds. No preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of word clouds to actively use vocabulary.

To create the word clouds I have used the cloud generator Wordle (it works better with Firefox), but you can also use Tagul or any other. Alternatively, you can just create your own word cloud on the board without using any technology.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can be easily split into two and divide the class into As and Bs.

Ask As to read the first part and Bs the second part once.

Tell students to underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that the aim of the exercise will be retelling their part  in as much detail as possible so they will have to read it several times. Give them some more minutes for this task

Display the word cloud text box and ask them to tell you what keywords will help them remember the text. Type the words they suggest and create the cloud ( to keep words together for phrases, use ~ between each word). The idea is to retell the text in as much detail as possible with the help of key words included in the cloud

Open a new tab and repeat the same procedure with Bs

Retelling. Display word cloud 1 and ask As to retell the text using as much vocabulary from the cloud as possible. Display word cloud 2 and repeat procedure with Bs.

(Wordcloud Student A)


Activity 2. Retelling Competition. No preparation required

Introduction: For this activity students will be competing in teams retelling the story in as much detail as possible and the teacher will guide the competition by monitoring the time each team speaks and by making sure the development of the story is as close to the original as possible.

Procedure:

 Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible. Ask them to read it slowly several times.

Divide the class into two teams and ask them to close their books. Explain that they’ll need to retell the story in as much detail as possible. The winner will be the team who ends the story.

Decide which team starts telling the story. Ask this team to choose one of their members to start.

Rules:

  • Each team can only speak one minute and only one person at a time. At the end of this minute, the other team will continue the retelling of the story.
  • The other team can interrupt the team doing the retelling if
  1. The information is not correct
  2. If they have missed something important

The winner is the team who manages to tell the end of the story.


Activity 3. Using pictures. Some preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs or in small groups retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of pictures and some selected vocabulary.

Before the class, you will need to find some pictures to illustrate each part and select some vocabulary you want your students to use. There will be as many students in the group as parts you have split the text into.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can easily be split into meaningful paragraphs (a story or a biography are excellent for this kind of activity)

Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible.

Put students in small groups and split the text into meaningful parts assigning each student a part. Their aim will be to retell the story using the pictures as prompts and incorporating the vocabulary shown next to the pictures. Ask them to read their part slowly several times.

Display the pictures for the first part and ask students to start the oral retelling. Encourage them to use the vocabulary accompanying the pictures. Repeat procedure.

Tools used : befunky and playbuzz

Below, example of the activity with a text from File Intermediate

The Article in English: Explanation, Exercises and a Challenging Quiz

Although the use of the article in English seems a priori an easy subject to teach, the truth is that some students struggle with the use and omission of it.

What can you find in this post?

  • Intermediate level:
  1. Animated video with some rules on the use and omission of the articles “the, a/an”
  2. Some links to exercises from around the web to consolidate knowledge.
  • Advanced Level:
  1. An engaging quiz with feedback notes featuring some difficult cases related to the use and omission of articles.

 

Grammar. Watch the presentation. Pause it as often as necessary to understand and assimilate the rules.

Exercises: Links to interactive exercises  from around the web to consolidate knowledge.

 


The quiz

 

A Project-Based Learning Activity: Unusual Traditions

These past few days have been hectic with lots of exams to be written and then marked, plus all that red tape I can’t stand involving end-of-term exams. To top it all, my old friend the flu decided to pay me a visit. Very timely.  Right now, thank goodness, deadlines have been met and everybody seems to be winding down for the holiday season. Me, too. So, that’s probably going to be the last blog post of the year.

 

  • Organisation: Group work
  • Level: B2 and upwards
  • Materials: tackk tutorial here (optional)
  • Aims: to encourage collaborative work by giving students the challenge of researching, selecting and presenting a project about unusual traditions around the world.
  • Online tools: Padlet and Tackk

Project Based Learning- What is it?

It is a student –centred teaching method in which students acquire knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to a complex question, problem or challenge.

PBL is an active learning style which inspires and motivates students because they take an active role in their learning process and experience success in their own learning. The role of the teacher here is of mere facilitator and coach.

In PBL students are encouraged to work in pairs or in groups, which is also good because it creates a friendly atmosphere which is a boost to their motivation and creativity.


Project-based learning structure

  1. Choosing the problem or challenge
  2. Organisation
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Coordinating
  5. Sharing learning and refining
  6. Presenting and sharing

1.Choosing the problem or challenge.

For this project, students will be rising to the challenge of presenting information about unusual customs in the world.

2. Organisation.

My classes are quite large so students will work in groups of 4 or 5.

On the board the class as a whole decide on 4 or 5 areas, they want to talk about. There should be the same number of areas as groups you have. Each of these areas is assigned to a group to research.

In this project

  • Relationships
  • Festivals
  • Law
  • House and Home
3. Brainstorming

This step is done entirely at home with the help of an online collaborative free tool. My students are adults, some as old as 70,  and they only see each other in class  twice a week, so it was important to provide them with some kind of free online tool  they could use to brainstorm ideas, share them with the members of the group and organize their project (timing, visuals, specific assignments..etc). I used a Padlet, a well-known collaborative tool, which is very easy to use, something really important as some adults are reluctant to use new technologies. Each group was assigned a different Padlet and given a week to do research on the internet and post on Padlet their ideas.

Below is the Padlet the group”House and Home” used.

Hecho con Padlet

 

4. Coordinating.

This stage might take the first or last 10 minutes of your lesson. Once they have shared their ideas on Padlet, in class they decide on the number of traditions they are going to present, who is going to do what, the order in which they are going to present the information and the visuals or videos they are going to use.

5. Sharing learning and refining

In the next class, allow students time to get together in their groups and share their drafts. Offer help and guidance but ask students to help each other by swapping their drafts within their group  to improve and proofread their written work.

6. Presenting and sharing

Agree with the students on the order of the groups and let the show begin. Below is a picture of one of the groups on stage.

Sharing it with the world is also important. Here’s how we did it. Again, we used a free online digital tool called Tackk.com, which allows  you to beautifully showcase your projects. I gave my students this simple tutorial to help them get familiar with the tool.

Here’s the tackk my students have created.

 

I’m Shamelessly Addicted to this Game

Yes. It’s true. I love this game. It’s just the right kind challenge for someone studying English.

The game is called Fluent and this is how it works:

  • There are 20 different trivia categories all dealing with grammar and vocabulary.
  • You’ll have to answer each question before you run out of time.
  • You have 3 lives.
  • You’ll need to answer 5 questions correctly to go to the next level.
  • As you level up, you are given less time to answer.
  • You can play it pairs (or 2 teams) and the winner is  the top scorer after 8 questions.

Ready for some fun, a bit of challenge and lots of learning. Here we go, then!

Click on the picture.

fluent

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Collaborative Writing Activity: Writing an Article

Do we really dedicate enough time to writing activities? Or is it something we keep putting off because it consumes precious time we feel we can’t afford to lose?

Most of my students think that writing is boring. I haven’t asked them. But do I need to?

Let’s face it! It can be boring. Ok. I might agree.  But most of my students, at the end of the course,  will have to sit external exams containing writing tasks. So yes, writing might be boring, but necessary.

Lately, I have been designing activities to make my students change their minds about the whole process of writing . My far-fetched aim when shaping these activities is that my students leave the class with a smile on their face, even after spending a whole session writing.

With this in mind I have created this activity, which can easily be adapted to any kind of essay, where students will need to follow several steps to create a final product: an article for the school newspaper.

Level: B2 and upward.
Aim: to collaboratively write an article in class.
Materials: the writing process handout, checklist, a model article, PDF of the activity
Time: 50 minutes
Note: this task is to be done after explaining the Writing Process, the parts of an essay and the tips to raise their essay score (handout above).Students will need to refer to this handout. Students will also have read a model article, which can be found in most textbooks.

 


INTRODUCTION. What’s an article?


An article is usually written for a magazine or newspaper. The main purpose is to engage the reader, so the opening paragraph should catch your reader’s interest. Attracting the reader’s attention can be done in a number of ways (refer to handout “The writing process “Part 2).

An article is usually factual and includes some comment, recommendation or opinion. It can be formal or informal depending on the target audience. Remind them, this is academic writing, so they cannot use contractions, abbreviations, or colloquial language.

An article consists of the following parts:
• Opening. It is the general presentation of the topic.

• Body (two or more paragraphs). The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument or example. The second paragraph the second strongest argument and the third the weakest.

A paragraph consists of several sentences about a certain topic. It has the following parts:
o A topic sentence, i.e. an idea.
o One or several supporting sentences to expand on the idea.
o A concluding sentence.

Conclusion. It is the paragraph that summarizes the main idea or presents a conclusion, depending on the kind of essay you need to write. Some things to bear in mind:

o It should not bring new ideas.
o It shouldn’t be very long.
o It can be similar to the opening, but presented in different words.

PROCEDURE


Step 1. Getting Started


• Ideally students work in groups of three. If necessary, ask them to work in pairs trying not to pair two weak students together.

• Suggest the following topics to write about and ask groups to choose one. Topics can be repeated.

1. Family reunions
2. Life lessons learned
3. Moving to another city


Step 2. Writing a Draft


Organisation:

1. Writing the Opening.

In this part, students introduce the subject.
The whole group works on the opening paragraph. Remind them of the three ways to catch the reader’s attention. Refer to Part 2 of “The Writing Process” handout.
Useful language:
Can you imagine…? Have you ever…? Would you like to…? Did you know that…?

2. Writing the Body

In this part, students give facts and details about the subject.
1. The whole group brainstorms for ideas. Refer back to handout the Writing Process to see how to do it effectively.

2. Students choose an idea to use in their paragraphs, and expand it, as explained in the Writing Process handout. One idea= one paragraph= one student. If you have a group of three students, they’ll need to write a body with three paragraphs. If there are only two students, two paragraphs.

3. Students, individually, write their paragraph developing their idea. Remind them to go from “general to specific”.


Step 3. Proofread your draft.


The whole group proofreads and improves their essays making sure the ideas flow naturally and the right connectors are used. Ask them to use the checklist provided.


Step 4. Writing the Conclusion


In this part, students sum up the main points and possibly give an opinion or recommendation.
1. The whole group works on the Concluding paragraph.
Useful language: In my opinion…, in conclusion…. As I see it…, Why not give t a chance..? Why not try it…?

2. The whole group proofreads the essay. Ask them to read it aloud, circling anything that needs to be improved, corrected or clarified. Does it sound “right”? Then, it’s ready.


Step 5. Writing your final essay.


Ask students to write their essays neatly on a clean sheet of paper (I used a different coloured paper for each group.) Display them on the walls of the class and ask students to stand up and read their partners’ articles.

And, of course, you’ll need to take them home to correct errors and offer advice.


On the other hand, I’ve been experimenting with Tackk, and embedded below is an example of some of the things you can do with this tool. But what I found more interesting, and will need to explore further, is the possibility of using this tool as a collaborative tool.  I’ll try to use it soon and tell you how it works.

Thanks for reading!

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Using Genial.ly to Create Visual Activities for the Classroom

Here I am again. Trying another tool.

To be honest, the tool was suggested to me by one of the teachers (Marga Valdés) attending a talk I gave last year. It was a talk about creating activities for the classroom using free online tools, and when I finished the presentation, this teacher came up to me and said she was surprised I hadn’t mentioned Genial.ly. I confessed to her I didn’t know the tool and promised I would give it a go.

It was almost the end of the course and although I gave it a quick try, my mind was in holiday mode, and I didn’t put my heart into it. Now, after trying the tool, I run the risk of becoming addicted to it!.

Genial.ly works like Thinglink but, in my opinion, it’s a lot better.  Genial.ly is a web tool to create engaging interactive visual content. You can make interactive pictures, infographics, presentations, posters and questionnaires or guides. And, for me, the best thing about this tool  is that you can choose from a wide variety of free templates to create very professional interactive content or you can upload your own pictures and start from scratch. It also gives you the ability to integrate videos, audio, and any embeddable code among other things.

THREE ACTIVITIES I HAVE CREATED USING GENIAL.LY
Using how long+present perfect in combination with simple past

Aim: To orally practise asking and answering questions using Present Perfect and Simple Past.

Competition: revising irregular Verbs.

Click on “instructions” to see how to play

 

Indirect questions + questions about money.

A speaking activity revising the grammar for indirect questions and questions about money.

 

Quiz: Word of the Year 2016 and 15 New Words Added to Dictionaries

After much discussion Oxford Dictionaries has decided to choose the adjective “post-truth” as its Word of the Year 2016. The adjective means ”relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief” and although it has existed for a decade now, this year has seen a spike in its use due, mainly, to the referendum in the United Kingdom and the US elections.

Some common collocations for the adjective are:

  • post-truth politics
  • post-truth age
  • post-truth era
  • post-truth democracy
  • post-truth society

The term, closely associated with the noun“post-truth politics” has been chosen ahead of terms such as “Brexiteer” (someone who supports the Brexit) and “alt-right”, (group of people with far right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the United States).

I would gladly explain and elaborate a bit more on this adjective, but it isn’t worth the effort as Oxford Dictionaries has published a beautiful explanatory article giving all the details. You can read it here.

I’m not going to lie. This week has been tough for a multiple of reasons, and believe it or not, one of the things that brought a smile to my face was designing this little quiz with all the new words added to dictionaries this year. To be honest, I didn’t know most of them and learning what they meant and inventing false definitions for the quiz was something I really enjoyed.

So, without further ado, here’s the quiz. I hope you enjoy it!

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