Tag Archives: C1

Countable and Uncountable Nouns: a Game and a Quiz with Partitives

Most of the times, it is easy to tell when a noun is countable (ie. can be counted) and when it is uncountable.  Think about the words “dog” and “sugar”. Easy, isn’t it?

We can say one dog, two dogs or a dog, ie, you can count “dogs

But can you count “sugar”? Of course, you can’t. You can’t say one sugar, two sugars or sugars, not even a sugar.

If only it were that easy! 🙂 Take for example vegetables and fruit. Vegetables are countable, but fruit is normally uncountable, though in some cases, to complicate things, it can be made plural when referring to different kinds of fruit.

The vast majority of commonly consumed fruits qualify as non-starchy.
Would you like some fruit for dessert?

There you have it, this is English!

If you want to know more about countable and uncountable nouns, here,  it is clearly explained.

On this post, I want to share with you two activities I did with my Upper-intermediate students in case you want to use them in your classes.

 Game: Sit down. Stand Up

The first one is a very simple activity, perfect to use after a tedious lesson when you see attention is beginning to fade. Actually, it is not a game as there is no competition and nobody is eliminated but, to be honest, I don’t know how to call it. An energizer, perhaps? What is clear is that it will keep your students engaged and motivated.

I have used this activity with upper-intermediate students so the concept of countable or uncountable (mass) is not new to them.

Before the class: prepare a list of names that are clearly either countable or uncountable.

How to play:

  1. Tell students you are going to call out nouns that can be classified as either countable or uncountable.
  2. Tell them they will need to sit down if the noun is uncountable and stand up if it countable.

This is the list of nouns I have used:

Uncountable nouns: weather, advice, accommodation, luggage, staff, furniture, scenery, rubbish, behaviour, health, cotton, politics, work, homework, news, clothes, money

Countable:  vegetables, worksheet, newspaper, item, journey, grape, difference

As you can see there are far more uncountable than countable nouns because my students already have a clear idea of what countable and uncountable means. If you are introducing this concept for the first time, I would suggest you use more or less the same number of countable and uncountable nouns.

The Quiz

So, how can we make an uncountable noun countable? That’s easy! Very often, we can use “a piece of…” before the uncountable nouns.

We can say:

A piece of fruit/cake/cheese/baggage/furniture/news/rubbish/research… etc

But English wouldn’t be considered one of the richest languages if you could just use “ a piece of” with every uncountable noun, would it? So here’s a quiz where you will learn some other partitive structures used with uncountable nouns.

How I suggest you work with the quiz:

You can certainly do the quiz once if you have a prodigious memory and are able to remember every combination, but if you are like the rest of the mortals, taking the quiz once is not enough.

I would suggest taking the quiz two or three times, then writing down all the combinations you can remember and then taking the quiz again to check and consolidate.

Learning or Teaching Reporting Verbs? 5 Low-Tech and High-Tech Activities

And finally, it’s springtime. “Here comes the sun da-da-da-da”. After, like two months raining non-stop and cold spells whimsically coming and going, I was beginning to flirt with the idea of leaving “sunny” Spain. But, fortunately, it seems spring is here to stay. And this means light. Don’t you feel more energetic when you wake up in the morning, and there is this beautiful sunny day waiting for you outside? I do.

It seems to me that even explaining reported speech introductory verbs is a lighter task.

Here you can read some of the activities I did with my students to introduce, revise and consolidate reporting verbs. I have used a variety of online free tools. Free tools, as usual.

  • Aim: to introduce, revise and consolidate reporting verbs other than “say” “ask” and “tell”
  • Level: B2

AN INFOGRAPHIC TO CONSOLIDATE THE GRAMMAR STRUCTURE OF SOME REPORTING VERBS

I like infographics. They are colourful and can be displayed on the walls of the class for students to refer back to if they, God forbid, forget the grammar of these verbs. Honestly? I like creating them. I like playing with the fonts, icons, lines and anything the site has to offer to create them.

reporting verbs by cristina.cabal    I have created this infographic with Canva.

Direct link here


A "HALF-A-CROSSWORD" GAME TO HELP THEM REMEMBER THE MOST COMMON REPORTING VERBS.

This kind of exercise gives students a nice opportunity to use a variety of skills.

I have used a free website with a very complicated name, which I am not even going to attempt to write. Here’s the link. The only thing you need to do is write the terms in the box provided and then print the outcome. It’s magic.


A GALLERY QUIZ: A MATCHING EXERCISE WITH SOME REPORTING VERBS

This exercise takes students a step further as they will have to associate the meaning of a sentence in direct speech with the corresponding reporting verb.

This is a visual exercise you can do more than once to consolidate knowledge.


A STUDY-SET OF FLASHCARDS

Students should be ready to get into more demanding exercises as are the ones I suggest below.

In this exercise, students orally provide the reporting sentence.  The exercise has been created with quizlet, a well-known free tool I highly recommend as study sets are very easy to create and it’s great for rote learning. Although it offers a premium version, the free one is quite generous.
Depending on how confident your students feel, you can set this task to be done as an individual written exercise or orally as a whole class exercise.

Created with quizlet


USING GRASS SKIRTS: A TRANSLATION EXERCISE

This is game from the archives. I highly recommend you do it with your students. Lots of learning and lots of fun too. Your students are going to adore you.

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.


THE FRUIT MACHINE: A MORE DEMANDING EXERCISE ALLEVIATED WITH A BIT OF FUN

This activity is probably the most challenging in this compilation.

How to go about it:

  • Divide the class into two teams, Team A and Team B. Ask a representative of each team to come to the front of the class facing away from the board where the fruit machine is displayed. Let’s call them Captain A and Captain B.
  • Set a timer for 90 seconds.

The activity has two parts:

Part 1.  Team A starts playing. Spin the fruit machine and a reporting verb will be randomly chosen.

For example: Suggest

Team A  needs to, using direct speech, come up with a sentence to exemplify “suggest”

For example: “Why don’t we go to the cinema?”

Captain A needs to guess the reporting verb associated with the sentence. If he does his team scores 1 point.

Part 2. Ask team members to repeat their sentence and have Captain A report the sentence using the reporting verb in indirect speech. If he does, his team scores an extra point.

Teams have a maximum of 90 seconds to do part 1 and 2.

Now, it is Team B’s turn to play.

I have created this activity with classtools.net. Click on the image to see the fruit machine in action. Warning: you might want to turn down the volume in your computer.

6 Steps to Getting a Job: How to write a Cover Letter Applying for a Job and a Résumé

When applying for a job, there are some things you might have to do:

  • Send a résumé or a CV ( Curriculum Vitae)
  • Fill in an application form
  • Write a letter applying for a job

 

In this post, I’ll guide you step by step to help you write a good cover letter and a résumé

  • Step 1. The difference between a résumé and a CV
  • Step 2. Writing a CV or a résumé. Templates
  • Step 3. Writing a cover letter. Some tips. 
  • Step 4. Layout of a cover letter.
  • Step 5. Sending your cover letter via email.
  • Step 6. Some tips on how to answer a job interview.

Let’s start.

Step 1. What’s the difference between a résumé and a CV?

It’s more or less the same. The CV is longer than the résumé. The résumé includes a summary of your education, experience, and skills and it’s usually one page long whereas the CV is two or three pages long and includes more details like research, awards, presentations, publications …etc. It’s ideal for academics.

Some tips:

  • Keep it simple. It shouldn’t be longer than two pages.
  • The content should be  easy to read
  • Use reverse chronological order. You should put your most recent job first and then write the other jobs going back in time.
  • You don’t have to write full sentences. Ex: “Developed a social media strategy…”
  • Skip personal information such “Divorced and with 2 kids”.

 

Step 2. Writing a CV or résumé. Templates.

 

Here are two links to templates to write your CV or résumé. (Please note that this is not a sponsored post)

  • Canva: you will need to register. Find the templates in the Documents section. Make sure you use a free template
  • Uptowork: provides guided free templates to build your résumé or CV.

 

Step 3: Writing a cover letter. Some tips

A job application letter, also known as cover letter normally accompanies a résumé or CV. Nowadays, unless you are specifically required to send a letter by snail mail, cover letters are normally sent by email or attached as a file in online application systems.

Sending an email instead of a letter makes little difference. It’s only the layout that varies slightly.

Now here are some tips:

  • Use formal language.
  • Don’t use contractions and punctuation such as dashes and exclamation marks.
  • Don’t use personal or emotional language.
  • If you are replying to an advertisement, relate to all the points asked for and give additional information.
  • Mention your skills and experience and give supporting details.
  • Have spaces between paragraphs
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Use a professional email address; kittylou@gmail.com might not be appropriate or very professional.
  • Remember to check that you have used the appropriate style for the person you are writing to.
  • Check your email carefully for spelling, grammar mistakes, and punctuation
  • Make sure you sign your cover letter.
  • If you are sending your CV or résumé, put “Enclosed: CV/résumé” at the end of
    your cover letter

 

Step 4. Layout of a cover letter.

Presentation

 

On the Right

  • Your address: on the right-hand side of the page (without your name)
  • Date: below your address. Leave a blank line in between.

On the left

  • Position/name of the person you are writing to. Start one line below the date.
  • Address of the person or company you are writing to.

Greeting:

Use an appropriate formal greeting. Use a comma after the greeting or nothing.

If you know the name of the person you are writing to:

  •  Dear Mrs/Miss/ Ms + surname if you are writing to a woman
  • Dear  Mr+ surname if you are writing to a man.

If you don’t know their names, use

  • Dear Sir or Madam or Dear Hiring Manager or Dear Human Resource Manager
  • Alternatively, you can use To whom it may concern

Note that all the salutations start with Dear.

Follow the salutation with a comma.

Opening Paragraph:  Always start by stating what the purpose of your letter is. Here you should mention the position you are applying for and where you learn of the vacancy. This section should be short and to the point. It’s the most important part of your letter. Here, either you grab the reader’s attention or you can bore him and decide not to continue reading.

Some useful expressions:

  • I am writing in response to your advertisement for…
  • I am writing to express my interest in the …. position listed on …(name of the website)
  • I am writing with reference to your advertisement…
  • I would like to apply for the …. position advertised in /on……

Main Body:  It can be divided into several paragraphs. Organise your content into the different paragraphs.

Here you need to expand on your experience and qualifications showing how you are relevant to this job.  Give clear details and examples. You don’t need to repeat all the information on your résumé but highlight what is relevant to this position. Emphasize your strengths.

Emphasize also your interest in the job and why you think you are suitable for the job. Remember that your goal is to get a job interview.

If you have attached a copy of your résumé or completed an application form, mention it.

Useful expressions:

  • I think I am the right person for the job because…
  • I feel I am well qualified for the position
  • I think I have the knowledge and experience that is needed for…
  • I have some/ a lot of experience working with…
  • With regard to your requirements, I believe that I am a suitable candidate for this post as
  • I believe I would be good at…
  • I believe I would make a good …. because I am…
  • I am very reliable and I get on well with people…
  • I have always had an interest in…
  • I think I would be suitable for the job / a good choice ( to be a/ an…) because...

Closing Paragraph: 

Explain why you think your application should be taken into consideration. If relevant, mention that you enclose a CV/ reference. State that you are willing to attend an interview and thank the reader.

Useful expressions:

  • A résumé/CV giving details of my qualifications and experience is attached
  • As requested, I am enclosing my CV and two references and my completed job application
  • I hope you will consider me for the position.
  • I would be able to start immediately
  • I would be happy to attend an interview any time convenient to you.

Signing  off

  • Using  I look forward to hearing from you   or Thank you for your time and consideration  are good ways to end a formal letter
  • End with Yours faithfully if you begin with Dear Sir/Madam
  • End with Yours sincerely if you begin with Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms + surname

In American English, Yours truly and Yours sincerely are commonly used in both cases.

If in the greeting you have followed the salutation with a comma, write a comma also after Yours faithfully/sincerely.


Some words commonly used in job applications

Nouns such as preference, qualifications, company, reference, information, opportunity, experience, position, vacancy, ability, advertisement, employment, résumé, details, interview…etc

Verbs such as  apply, reply, advertise…etc

Adjectives such as  convenient, excellent, qualified, enthusiastic, necessary, energetic, suitable, available, attached, experienced, interested, responsible, possible, friendly…etc

Adverbs such as immediately, recently, extremely, sincerely…etc


Get some practice writing cover letters here

Step 5.  Sending your cover letter via email
  •  In the subject line of the message, write your name and the job you are applying for.
  • Don’t write the date or the employer’s contact information. Start your email with the salutation
  • Don’t forget to write all your contact details after you sign off.

Practice:

Write a cover letter/email applying for one of these two jobs.

Step 6: Some tips on how to answer a job interview
  • When they ask you to describe yourself in three words, they are asking you about your professional persona and how you would fit in the company. Talk about what makes you stand out. Talk about accomplishments and skills that you know are relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Do some research on the company and show it in your answers.
  • Don’t give them personal details. They are not really interested in your life or your problems.
  • It’s Ok to ask the interviewer questions about the job. You also want to make sure this is the right job for you and at the same time show the interviewer you are interested in the job. Prepare them beforehand  and try not to ask yes/no questions:
  • Can you tell me about the responsibilities of this job?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • Avoid questions about salary, holidays, etc

Hope this post helps you get the best job 🙂

PDF for this lesson here

Special thanks to Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat from English with a Twist for answering some of my questions.

Here’s a funny sketch where former President Obama tries to sharpen his skills to pass a job interview. Don’t miss it!

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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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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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

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