Tag Archives: speaking

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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Spicing up my Lessons: Talking about Holidays in a more Visual Way.

Spark Adobe is my new addiction. I’m hooked on it and I am not ashamed to admit it.

It’s soooo easy to use and the result is amazing. Only last week, I was running a workshop and I was behind schedule, but I just couldn’t leave without showing the bunch of dedicated teachers  attending a Saturday workshop, a glimpse of how  Spark Adobe could be used in the classroom. So, in five minutes, I briefly explained how to use it. After thanking the teachers for their attention, a Portuguese teacher came up to me and asked me to have a look at what he had created for his next class. Pity I can’t share it with you, but I can assure you that his students are going to be very pleased this Monday.

Embedded below you’ll see the speaking/listening  activity I have designed for my B2 students on the topic of Travelling, created with the Page feature.And make sure you don’t forget to try the Video option with lots of potential for language learners.

By the way, have I mentioned that it’s free?

Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to visit the three sections on the blog dedicated to speaking activities

Off the Beaten Track

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.

 

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.

 

10 Games and Activities to Practise Personality Adjectives.

Ten entertaining ways to  practise personality adjectives with activities for all ages and levels. In this post, you’ll find listening,writing, speaking activities and games to help students master this vocabulary.

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This is me.  

Ask students to work in pairs and write down as many personality adjectives as they can in two minutes.

On the board write three columns: positive, negative and neutral adjectives and ask students to provide adjectives for the three columns. Have students choose one adjective from each column to describe their personality and in pairs talk about how these adjectives they have chosen are representative of their personality. Ask students to elaborate on their answers and provide examples to support their choice of adjectives.

Roleplays
Prepare cards with a personality trait written on it (talkative, cheerful, arrogant, stubborn, immature, possessive…etc). Give students a card telling them this is their personality. Pair up students and ask them to start a conversation and act the way the card says until their partner guesses what adjective they were given. Ask students for example to talk about buying a present for the teacher or deciding on what do at the weekend.

Reading your signature.

What does your signature say about you? According to handwriting analysts, signatures reveal a lot about your personality.

  1. Ask students to write the sentence Write soon on a piece of paper and then sign under the sentence.
  2. Ask them to work in pairs and look at their partner’s signature and explain what it means. See interpretation here
  3. Ask them to discuss whether they agree with their partner’s interpretation and why or why not.

What’s your job?

Research has shown that different personality traits tend to have distinct preferences in their choice of careers. On the board write the jobs below. Ask students in pairs to choose five and discuss what personality types the jobs would attract and why. Then discuss their choices with another pair:

Tax inspector    Teacher      politician     computer programmer   librarian

Actor    fashion model    psychologist   entrepreneur   judge

Acting out

Prepare cards with personality adjectives. Divide the class into 2 teams. For each team’s turn, set a time (1 minute).

On the board write the sentence: I want to go to the cinema tomorrow.

Team 1 begins and choose a player to sit at the front of the class. The player draws a card and acts out the phrase according to the adjective on the card. When the team guesses correctly, he can draw another card. He continues until the time is up. The timer is set again for the other team, and turns continue until all the slips are gone. Count the slips and give those points to their teams.

Quotes.

On the walls of the class stick the following quotes. Students in threes stand up and discuss what the quote means and whether they agree or disagree with them.

  • Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Bruce Lee.
  • It is better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not. André Gide. 
  • If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am
  • Beauty attracts the eye but personality captures the heart.
  • Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
  • It’d never too late for what you might have been. George Elliot.

 

Guess who. A speaking or writing activity.

Speaking. Before the class, prepare a set of pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. For this activity the students are sitting in pairs, one student (A) facing the board and the other (B) with his back to the board. Display the photo of a celebrity and ask student A to describe this person in general terms focusing on his personality.

Writing. Before the class, prepare a collage with pictures of famous people with very clear personality traits. Ask students to write a description of one of them focusing on their personality without saying their names. Descriptions are read aloud and students will need to determine the identity of the person being described.

The four big questions.

Tell students you’re going to analyse their personality by asking them four key questions to which they should answer using three adjectives for each question. Adjectives cannot be repeated.
1. Choose a colour, the first colour that comes to mind.
Once you have that colour, list three adjectives that describe it.

2. Choose an animal, the first animal that comes to mind.
Once you have selected an animal, list three adjectives that describe it.

3. Choose a body of water like a river, ocean, sea, or lake. Once you have chosen a body of water, list three adjectives that describe it.

4. Let’s say you are in a white room with no windows no doors, list three emotions that you are feeling.

When you are done answering those questions, highlight the following to get your results: your colour represents what you think of yourself, the animal represents what you think of other people, the body of water represents your love life, and the white room represents what you will feel like when you are about to die.

Birth order

Do you think birth order has any influence on our personality?

Ask students to work in groups of 4. Tell them they are going to see a video where personality is related to birth order. Assign each person in the group the task of writing down information they can gather from the video about either first borns, middle children, last borns or only children.

Whole class discussion. Starting with “first-borns”, write on the board all the information the students learnt from the video. Start a class discussion where first borns in the class will say whether they agree or disagree with the content in the video. Repeat procedure for middle children, last borns and only children.

 

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe. also known as noughts and crosses or Xs and Os is a game for two players, X and O, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 (3×4 in this game) grid. The player who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.

In this game, to place their mark they’ll need to talk for about two minutes about the question in the box.

 

 

 

Lesson Plan: A Picture-Based Activity to Enlarge Students’ Vocabulary on Travelling

I’m really happy to introduce a guest writer to you. Maria Jose Díaz is a friend and fellow teacher from EOI Avilés and, in this blog post, she will be sharing with us an excellent communicative activity for C1 students based on pictures. María Jose also runs a blog Ingles en Aviles, which is really worth a visit.

Once again I have to cover the topic of travelling with my C1 students. You might think there shouldn’t be a problem dealing with this theme because everybody likes travelling plus it’s a common topic in the elementary and intermediate levels, which means students are familiarised with it. However, what might be seen as an advantage is a disadvantage for me: students seem bored with talking about different kinds of accommodation, means of transport and flopout versus niche holidays.

After racking my brains for a while I came up with this idea to help students talk about travelling from a different point of view.

Aim: activating new vocabulary through class discussion and providing students with new ideas to talk about travelling.

Level: C1

Materials: pictures of prehistoric people, explorers, missionaries, pilgrims, refugees and holidaymakers.

Instructions:

1. Start the lesson by asking students why people travel. From my experience, they will come up with the following: to broaden their minds, to work, for business, to relax, to know other cultures or to brush up a foreign language.

2. Ask for more reasons and show a picture with prehistoric people. Ask why people travelled in those times and try to get words like look for edible plants, follow animals to hunt (game), survival, look for better climes, nomads, caves…

3. Show a picture with explorers to help them think about people who travelled searching for better trade or commercial routes; they can give examples like Columbus or Marco Polo. You can also show them the silk route.

4. Show pictures with pilgrims or missionaries or the Mayflower. The idea is to make them think about why people move for religious reasons, either to evangelise new civilisations or to go on pilgrimage to places that are important to their faith and beliefs such as Santiago de Compostela, Meca or Jerusalem. Also, some people are forced to leave their countries to avoid persecution because of their religious beliefs or because they do not follow the religion of the country where they live.

5. The idea of persecution links the pictures in number 4 with the picture below. Refugees or asylum seekers also flee their countries to avoid persecution or to escape conflicts or wars, they seek refuge or asylum somewhere else, they look for a better life, in the same way immigrants and emigrants did in the past (and in the present!).

6. Finally, show the pictures below and make students think about their relationship with holidays. Hopefully they will talk about volunteering, ethical tourism and niche holidays.

 

Walk, Talk and Give Opinion

Is there anything that students love more than walking around the classroom while talking to their classmates? I doubt it!

One of the most effective techniques to keep students engaged is probably varying the dynamics in the classroom. It’s true that some tasks require that students work alone, but working in pairs or in small groups is always a good alternative and if you add movement to the activity, then you can almost guarantee success. What is more, varying the dynamics during the course of your lessons helps to reduce the weariness that sets in when students are asked to sit two-hour lessons, which are the ones I teach.

The activity I am going to share with you today is a very simple one where students will need to work in small groups and move around the classroom discussing some controversial statements. It is highly adaptable to any topic. In this example, I am revising food- related vocabulary with intermediate students. This discussion technique allows students to be actively engaged as they walk around the class.

  • Level: intermediate to advanced
  • Time: one hour
  • Language point: Expressing opinion. Agreeing and disagreeing
  • Organisation: Small groups of 3 or 4 students
  • Materials: Posters containing controversial statements (see mine here). Handout with target language. PDF here
  • Aims: To teach how to express opinion and how to support or contradict other people’s opinions through the discussion of some controversial food-related statements.

PROCEDURE

Before the class

Write some controversial statements you want your students to discuss about the current topic of study. Write each one on a slip of paper or print some photos and add the text to the picture- I have used picfont. Stick them on the walls of the class. For more advanced classes you can choose random polemical statements. I would suggest that you avoid statements that might lead to embarrassment or offence.

Teach how to give opinion

Give students the handout with the target language and ask a student to read it out, clarifying meanings and focusing on pronunciation and intonation.Ask them to choose 3 or 4 expressions from each column; the ones they feel most comfortable using.

Group students.

Ask students to work in small groups of three or four students depending on the size of the class and direct students’ attention to the walls of the class, where the statements will be displayed.

Begin

Ask students to stand up. Each group should start at a different statement where they will discuss their opinions and agree or disagree accordingly. Remind them to use the expressions they have underlined, either to give opinion or to agree/disagree with someone’s opinion.

Help

While the students are talking, walk around the class offering help and guidanc

Rotate.

After six to eight minutes, ask the groups to rotate to the next statement. Repeat until all the groups have talked about all the statements

Share

Ask students to sit down and choose a statement to discuss as a whole class.

Below, some of my students doing the task.

Wanna Watch British TV Online for Free?

I should preface this by saying that I’ve never really been a fan of watching TV. Then I came across this site,  watchallchannels.com,  and now not only do I recommend it to my students but also find myself spending more time watching TV.

So if you have internet, you can watch British TV channels online for free including BBC1, BBC2,(3 and 4) ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Film4 Live plus a lot more.

The site is mobile friendly so you can watch these channels on any device.

Watching British TV is a nice alternative to watching series or listening to podcasts to improve your listening skills.

Give it a go!

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Spinning the Wheel: an Engaging and Productive Speaking Activity.

This is a very simple communicative activity that works wonders because it is highly engaging, students love it and it is very productive. It takes 2 minutes to create and it is adaptable to any topic of discussion and suitable for all levels.

 

Aim: activating new vocabulary through discussion questions.

Levels: all

PROCEDURE.

  1. Easy peasy! Just go to wheeldecide.com and fill in one wheel with the target vocabulary and another one with the questions you want your students to discuss.
  2. Students in pairs
  3. Spin the wheel containing the questions and then, the wheel containing the word/ expression you want your students to use when answering the question.
  4. Student A has 2 minutes to talk about the question and use the target vocabulary. If he does, he scores a point.
  5. Spin the wheels again. It’s student B’s turn.

NOTE: When creating the wheel, go to the advanced section to choose colour and whether you want the option to be removed after it is landed on or not.

 

 

If you are a student and you’re preparing for exams or studying on your own, you probably have your own studying strategies, but I invite you to try this new one. I’m sure you’ll find it engaging and productive.

I ‘d like to thank Cristina Serafim for bringing wheeldecide to my attention.

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Lesson Plan: US Elections Explained

On November 8,  Americans will cast their ballots and decide who is going to be their new president. I don’t know about your country but, in Spain, the “war” between H. Clinton and D. Trump is every day in the news and the “poisonous” debates are thoroughly discussed ad nauseam on TV current affairs programmes.

Being this an issue of so much interest, I thought my students would welcome a brief explanation of what the presidential election in the US entails.

Level: suitable for upper intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) level English students.

Time: About 60 minutes

Materials: lesson plan pdf here

In this lesson students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary, improve their communicative skills by discussing some interesting quotes and also, their writing skills by choosing one of the quotes to write an opinion essay.

The lesson starts off with some questions about politics which will be discussed in pairs or small groups, followed by some vocabulary exercises extracted from the video in preparation for the listening task that follows. The video for the listening activity is from “The Telegraph” and lasts 2.16.  It will be followed by group discussion of two controversial quotes.

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