Tag Archives: methodology

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

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.

 

10 Creative Ways to Use the Wheel of Fortune to Teach English

The wheel of fortune? I know. I know. If I want you to continue reading, I’d better explain what it is. Have you ever seen the game show Wheel of Fortune? Yes, that one where you spin a wheel and get money if you successfully guess the missing letters in a word or phrase.

Good news. It can also be used to teach/learn English.

Unfortunately I am not working with primary or secondary students. I know they would love this tool. It’s a lot of fun to work with -spinning a wheel normally is, isn’t it?-, but it also has a lot of potential to teach/learn English. I teach adults and it normally takes them more time to get used to the way I teach. Sometimes, a far cry from traditional. Well, yes, I take my work very seriously but, from time to time, I like to spice up my lessons with little games and online tools to energize my lessons. This tool I’m using today is from classtools.net.

In this post, you’ll learn

  1. How to feed the wheel
  2. Ideas to use the wheel of fortune to teach/learn English

 

 

1. How to feed the wheel

  • Click here to get to the wheel
  • Click on Edit and write whatever you want to see displayed on the wheel.
  • Click on Save this list as currently shown
  • Choose a password to edit the wheel in the future
  • Make sure you make a note of the unique address of your wheel. I suggest you email yourself the link.
  • After a name or category is selected you can remove it from the wheel.

2. Ideas to use the wheel of fortune to teach/learn English

Vocabulary

  • Revising vocabulary. Very useful to revise vocabulary either as a whole class, in pairs or in competitions. Students will need to either explain the meaning of a word or use it in context. Nobody will ever accuse you of favouring a team and there are countless options when working with vocabulary. While you’re reading this article, I am sure your brain is already suggesting lots of possibilities, like irregular verbs, phrasal verbs, phonemic transcription…etc
  • Another possibility to explore would be feeding the wheel with different topics and asking students to write or say as many words related to the topic as possible in one minute. Some easy topics could be: jobs, shops, nationalities, animals, food…etc.

Speaking

  • Three minutes. Feed the wheel with different topics you want students to talk about and ask students to work in pairs and spin the wheel. They’ll have to talk about the topic for about three minutes. Great to revise for oral exams!
  • Hot seat.  Again feed the wheel with different topics you want students to talk about and divide the class into teams and ask a student from Team A to sit in the “hot seat”. Spin the wheel. Members of the other  team need to ask him questions about the selected topic; he’ll need to talk for about three minutes answering the other team’s questions but his answers cannot contain the words YES or NO.
  • Comparing. Do you want students to compare? Feed the wheel accordingly: compare living in the countryside/city, travelling  by bus/plane, working as a teacher/shop assistant…etc

Writing

  • Storytelling. Give students an inspiring story starter and feed the wheel with prompts they need to incorporate in their story. Spin the wheel and give students a minute to use the prompts in their stories. Spin the wheel as many times as you deem appropriate. Display on the walls of the class the stories for everybody to read.
  • Using connectors. Feed the wheel with different connectors (and, but  however, although,…etc). Ask students to work in pairs. On the board, write three sentences and ask students to choose one. Tell them this sentence will be the first in their stories. Spin the wheel and display the first connector they need to use.  Spin the wheel as many times as you deem appropriate. Display on the walls of the class the stories for everybody to read.
  • Dependent prepositions: feed the wheel with verbs such as depend, rely, insist…etc and ask students to write a sentence using the verb together with its dependent preposition.
  • Order of adjectives. Are you teaching the order of adjectives before the noun? Feed the wheel with nouns and ask the students to write a sentence containing the noun modified by two or three adjectives.
  • Verbs followed by infinitive/gerund. Are you teaching/learning verbs followed by infinitive or gerund? Rotate  the wheel and ask students to write a short sentence containing the verb randomly chosen.

I’m sure you have some more ideas to use this classroom tool, which is free and embeddable.  Have fun while learning, have fun while teaching.  😉

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Practice Makes Perfect: Two End-of-Course Revision Activities.

Time to revise!

It’s almost too late to revise. Almost. Key word being almost.

The school year is wrapping up and it’s time to revise, prepare, practise and administer end-of-course assessments. Not that I like the last part the slightest bit.

Revision activities are a great help to students. It helps them see where they are and what areas they need to study harder.

These are two revision activities I did with my intermediate and upper-Intermediate students that could easily be adapted to any level to suit your needs.

  • revising grammar and vocabulary
  • revising topics for the oral exam

 

REVISING GRAMMAR AND VOCABULARY

I got this idea from a lecture given by Roy Norris, although I have slightly modified it to adjust it to my students’ needs and I have also invented the rules, which can be altered in any way you choose.

Materials: a dice and a set of coloured strips of paper for each group. (an alternative to colour coding below)

Procedure:

  1. Decide six areas you want to revise and find a different coloured paper for each one. Alternatively, you can use a standard sheet of white paper giving each area the same number, up to six. I revised I wish/if only, conditional sentences, passive, phrasal verbs, word building, and miscellaneous. The type of exercise in my revision game was mainly “rewriting exercises”, except for the “word building” area. I would suggest a minimum of 5 sentences for each area you want to revise.

Don’t panic! There are plenty of these exercises online, so you don’t really need to type the sentences, just copy/paste.

  1. Print the six areas – as shown in the pictures- and at the back write the answer to the exercises in a way that the typed sentence and your written answer coincide. This is an important step as you are later going to cut strips of paper containing the typed sentences on one side, and on the other the answer. (see pictures).
  2.  At the beginning of the game, divide the class into groups of four. Give a dice and a set of coloured strips of paper to each group.
  3. Once in groups of four, tell them they will be working in pairs and competing against the other pair in their group.
  4. Ask them to place the strips of paper on a pile, sorted out by number or colour, with the typed part facing up. Give each group a dice. If you have opted for the colour-coded option, on the whiteboard assign numbers 1-6 to the  different colour. (For ex: number 1-orange, number 2-pink…etc).

Rules:

  1. Pair A throws the dice. Depending on the number they take a strip of paper from one pile or another. There is no time limit. Both pairs need to write down the answer. When one pair finishes they say so, and the other pair has 20 seconds to finish. When time’s up, Pair A is first to give the answer. They check being careful not to show the answer to the other pair. If it’s wrong, then it’s Pair B’s turn to try. They score one point for every correct answer.

This kind of activity allows the students to work on their own without much teacher supervision, which is both empowering and motivating.

If you are a student, studying on your own, you can write your own exercises and revise in the same way.

REVISING TOPICS FOR THE ORAL EXAM

This is a simple exercise I did with my students to revise the topics they needed to study for the oral exam. I normally give them a set of questions to discuss about a given topic, so this time I thought it might be a good idea if, for a change, they provided the questions.

Procedure

  1. On the walls of the class, stick the topics to be revised. Write them big enough for the students to see from a distance.If you have a large class, ask students to work in threes and if you have a smaller class, ask them to work in pairs or even individually.
  2. Tell them they will need to come up with a question for each of the topics displayed on the walls. Walk around the class, offering help and correcting mistakes.
  3. Once they have their question about a topic, give them a sticky note and ask them to write their question on it and put it next to the topic the question relates to. (see picture). Allow 10-15 minutes for this step.
  4. Ask students in pairs to stand up and choose the topic(s) they want to revise. In pairs they take it in turns asking and answering the questions. Encourage students to use a variety of structures and a wide range of vocabulary.

Hope you liked the activities!

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Activating Passive Vocabulary

One of the things that worries me most when teaching vocabulary is that students tend to store the newly acquired knowledge as passive vocabulary. Agreed that most of us have more passive  than active vocabulary, agreed  that we use a larger variety of words when we write than when we speak, but still I think that as teachers we need to go the extra mile and help our students see the importance of incorporating new vocabulary into their communicative tasks.

Designing activities to convert passive vocabulary into active vocabulary is one of the things that occupies most of my planning.

This is a very simple activity I have designed to” force” my students to use new vocabulary and connectors to express contrast.

Level : Intermediate and above

Aim:

  • To use newly acquired vocabulary
  • To improve students’ writing abilities by using connectors of contrast
  • To encourage collaborative writing

Step 1.  Selecting vocabulary.  Ask students to work in pairs. Explain that they’ll need to write on a clean sheet of paper ten words or expressions recently studied. (You can also be more specific here and tell them the unit or the pages of the book you want them to get the vocabulary from).

Step 2.  Explaining the task .Ask students now to pass their list of 1o words to the pair sitting behind them or next to them.

Tell students they are going to write a story in pairs. In this story they’ll need to use at least 7 of the words on their list and three out of the five connectors of contrast you are going to write on the board (see below an interactive flyer explaining Clauses of Contrast)

Give them the beginning of a story, for example “When Fiona entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes” or use a story starter generator here.

Step 3. Writing and editing. Encourage students to dedicate some time to planning their story. Set a time limit of 30 minutes, but I suggest not limiting the number of words in their stories to encourage fluency and boost their imagination.

Once they have written their draft (20 minutes), ask students to carefully edit their stories. Display the following checklist on the board  (click here to download it) or alternatively print it and give one to every student.

Give each pair a different coloured paper or if you have more stories than colours, use different pen colours or assign a number to every story.

Ask students to write their story and underline the targeted vocabulary and the connectors of contrast used.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Clauses of Contrast Flyer

Photo credit: Deb Stgo via Visual hunt / CC BY

Error Correction in Writing: Grammar and Vocabulary Checklist

Do you think you can correct some of your own writing errors? Yes. You just need this checklist! 🙂

If you have read my last posts, you may have noticed that lately,  I’m kind of obsessed with writing.

  • I wrote about connectors of contrast here
  • I did a collaborative writing activity here
  • Students wrote about unusual traditions here
  • And here, I recommended some amazing websites to make your writing stronger

And you may think that enough is enough. Well, it is not. It might only be my impression, but I feel students are making the same writing mistakes over and over again. It seems to me that no matter how many times I correct their errors, they still make them.

So, I think I need a change of tactics and I have decided to surprise my students by asking them to correct their own errors. I firmly believe that most of their errors are silly mistakes they make just because they don’t pay enough attention.

The idea is

  • Set a writing activity to do as homework and to be handed in to be marked.
  • Set a deadline and on this day, when students have their neat and tidy essays ready to be handed in, give them the “grammar and vocabulary checklist” (the star in this post) and ask them to correct their own writings, using pencil, and the grammar and vocabulary checklist.
  • Allow 10 or 15 minutes for this step.
  • Tell students that their mark in their writing will be lower if you find any of the  errors written on the checklist.
  • Collect the edited essays and take them home to correct. Unavoidable, sorry!

Download pdf here

checklist

Teaching Collocations: a Low-Prep Activity

I am almost embarrassed to share this super easy lesson plan with you, but right now I am in the middle of a love affair with collocations and all my classes, no matter the level, are working  with collocations.

Please, don’t freak out! I am not going to give you an obnoxious list of collocations and ask you to learn them by heart. That’s not the way I do things!, but you’ll surely agree with me  that there is no point in learning the adjective “interested” if you don’t know that it’s followed by the preposition “in”. Yes, Ok, you can say “I’m interested”, but that’s it!! And we are aiming for a bit more, aren’t we?

(at the end of this post, you’ll find  some interesting links to learn more about collocations)

So, take a deep breath and follow me!

Step 1. What is a collocation? Though students don’t really need to be familiar with the term, it might be a good idea to introduce the concept.

In English we can say I absolutely agree but we cannot say I absolutely go; we can say I am interested in, but not I am keen in. We can say a heavy drinker, but not a strong drinker or a  chain drinker. These conventional combinations of words, chosen naturally by the English speakers to express an idea, are called “collocations”.

Below you’ll see some of the collocations I am going to use, but this activity will work with any collocation:

Depend on/ interested in/ arrive in/ arrive at/ fed up with/ spend on/good or bad at/ close to/fond of/keen on/ look forward to…etc.

Step 2. Slips of paper. Oral activity.

  • Select the collocations to be studied, as many as students you have in the class. In my case, I have decided to give them dependent prepositions with common adjectives and verbs because I have noticed they always make mistakes here.
  • Write the adjective or verb on the slip of paper and on the back of it, the preposition(s) it collocates with. Stand up in the middle of the class for everybody to see you. Show students the slip of paper containing the adjective or verb and ask them to guess the missing preposition, and then give you a sentence containing the collocation.
  • A small competition. Divide the class into two groups and repeat procedure. This time, groups will need to guess the preposition and give a sentence -different from the one they gave in the previous stage- to win the point.

Step 3. Slips of paper. Writing activity.

  • Give every student a slip of paper from the previous activity and ask them to individually think of a question to ask their partners containing this collocation.

Offer help if necessary.

Step 4. Speaking activity using the speed-dating technique.

Students sit facing each other. Some students will remain seated during the whole event (in real speed dating, women remain seated). They have 4 minutes to talk asking and answering the question they have written containing the collocation. Then, a bell rings and “men” need to stand up and move to their right to start a new conversation and the whole process is repeated again. I didn’t have a bell so I used a Class Timer (here).

A highly engaging activity your students are likely to enjoy!

Useful links to learn more about collocations

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Thanks for reading!

Lesson Plan: Are you a Risk Taker?

In this engaging series of activities students will discuss different actions that involve taking risks. It aims at developing students’ communicative, listening and writing skills through the acquisition of new vocabulary.

Level: advanced

Time required: 60 minutes

Materials: handout 1 and handout 2

Warming up: The video

  • Do a quick survey asking students: Do you enjoy taking risks?
  • Play the first 55 seconds of the video and pause it. Ask students in pairs to discuss what they would do in this situation. Get feedback. Ask the class as a whole to predict what might happen to the people who decide to run the risk and take the two empty seats.
  • Play the video until the end.

Step 1. Speaking based on visual prompts

  • Class as a whole. Ask students: What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
  • Put students in pairs. Tell them you are going to show them different activities that involve taking risks. Ask students to discuss whether they would be willing to try them or not, giving reasons for their choice.

Powered by emaze

Step 2. Working with vocabulary .

  • Put students in pairs and ask them to write, in two minutes, words related to taking risks. On the board, write their suggestions.
  • Give them handout 1. Focus on any new words/expressions.
  • Prepare slips of papers with the new vocabulary and follow the steps given for activity number 4 in the article “Nine ways to revise vocabulary using slips of paper”.

 

Step 3. Speaking. Using new vocabulary.

We all know how difficult it is for students to introduce  new vocabulary when they speak. This activity aims at encouraging students to use new words.

Step 4. Listening Comprehension

Tell students they are going to see a video about parkour. Hopefully, students will remember what parkour is as they came across this word at the beginning of the lesson.

 

If you are running short of time, you can always set this activity as homework.

Step 5: Writing

Ask students to write a “for and against essay” on one of these quotes

  • “To know what life is worth you have to risk it once in a while” Jean- Paul Sartre
  • “The biggest risk is not taking any risk”-Mark Zukerberg

Tips on how to write a for and against essay” in the Writing Section of Blog de Cristina.

 

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