Tag Archives: speaking

A Game of Cards to Revise Vocabulary in a Speaking Activity. Effective, Engaging and No-Prep.

I have always liked playing cards.  Like about 20 years ago, I used to meet with some friends at the weekend to play cards. We usually met at a cosy old cafe where most of the elderly in my village met to play cards and domino with their buddies. They were old, we were in our twenties. They wanted peace and quiet. We wanted fun and noise and laughs.

It didn’t last. Somehow, we realized we were not welcomed and eventually stopped going. But, I still like playing cards and whenever I can talk some of my friends into playing, I immensely enjoy it. Let’s play cards, then!

  • Aim: to revise vocabulary in a speaking exercise
  • Level: B1 upwards
  • Topic: any

THE  GAME OF CARDS

The game is SO simple. The only prep is to make sure you have enough pieces of paper cut up in advance. By the way, a good opportunity to reuse photocopy paper that has been used only on one side.

Preparation:

Take a regular A4 sheet of paper. You want to obtain 8 pieces of paper. Fold it in half and cut it along the crease. Fold the two pieces again and repeat procedure. Do it a third time and there you have your 8 pieces of paper resembling the size of an average size of a card in a deck of cards.

 

  • Ask students to sit in groups of three in a circle around a table.
  • Write the topic you want to revise on the board. For example, Education.
  • Give each student in the group 8 blank cards and tell them they will need to write on each card a word or expression related to the topic on the board. Explain that it does not matter if the words are repeated in the same deck of cards, in fact, if they get the same words twice, it will only help consolidate meaning and use. Challenge students to write newly-acquired vocabulary. Allow them to have a look at their notes.
The game:
  1. Ask a student in the group to take all the cards, shuffle them and deal 3 cards one at a time, face down, starting with the student to the dealer’s left.
  2. Place the rest of the cards face down on a pile in the centre of the table.
  3. Write on the board or call out a question for discussion. For example,                                            Are exams necessary or are they a waste of time? 
  4.  Tell students they will all need to talk about the question in their groups trying to use the words on their cards.  As they use them, they place them face up on the table and pick up another one from the pile. They always need to have three to choose from.
  5. Allow 5-6 minutes per question. Once the time is up, ask students to count how many words they have used.
  6. Repeat all the steps and write another question for discussion on the board.

Note:

  • Every two or three questions, you can ask groups to swap cards and repeat steps 1-5. By swapping cards students get a new batch of cards with hopefully some new words to use.

Using an Interactive Image to Play a Game to Revise and Consolidate Feeling Adjectives

Autumn is probably my favourite season. Autumn is the season of birthdays in my family. Also, it’s not too hot or too cold. This year, this is especially important for me as I have been assigned a small class facing south and I know, come May,  I’ll be sweating up a storm. So, for the time being, let’s enjoy beautiful autumn.

This year I am teaching 2-hour lessons so, more than ever, I feel the necessity to design activities that might change the pace of the lessons and keep my students from dozing off in my classes. The activity below is aimed at that. Still, I need to be completely honest here. I have not started teaching proper lessons so this activity has not been tested yet.  I’ll let you know how it goes and if I hear any snores or see people yawning, then I would know it has been a complete failure.

 

Aim:

  • to revise and consolidate adjectives related to feelings
  • to use these adjectives in a speaking activity.

Tool: Genial.ly. For this activity, we will use the grid below with gifs representing different feelings. This is an interactive image created with an awesome tool called Genial.ly, which I am proud to say is a Spanish start-up used all around the world. Genial.ly lets you create engaging interactive visual content and for this activity, I have used the “Hide” effect so if you mouse over the gif, you’ll be able to see the adjective. Also, the questions for discussion will be displayed when you click on the numbers.

(click on the arrows to enlarge the image)

 

Procedure

For each of the squares in the grid, do part 1 and then part 2.

FIRST PART: WORKING ON VOCABULARY

  • Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will be playing “against” Student B.
  • Ask student As to choose a number from the Feelings Grid below. You can ask all the As to agree on a number, but in some classes, it might prove a difficult task to reach quick consensus, so you might want to just choose a random student A to decide on a number.
  • Once they have chosen a number, both student A and B will write the adjective they think is hidden behind the gif representing the feeling. Allow 30 seconds for this step. Let student A and B compare their answers and then mouse over the gif to display the hidden adjective.
  • If they have guessed the adjective, they score 2 points. If the adjective they have written is a synonym, they score 1 point. Ask students to keep score of the points they get.
  • On the board, you might want to write the target adjective and the synonyms they come up with. Drill pronunciation of the adjective and all its synonyms.

For example, if they choose Gif  9 and the adjective is worried you might want to accept “anxious, troubled or concerned” as synonyms. You can use a synonym dictionary, like this one https://www.thesaurus.com/. There is no shame in this. 😉

SECOND PART: WORKING ON SPEAKING

  • Click on the number, in this case, number 9 and a question will be displayed. Ask students in pairs to discuss the question. Set about 4 minutes per question. Walk around. Monitor and help. Avoid overcorrecting.

Now, B’s choose a new number from the Feelings Grid.

Note: if you haven’t taught any of the adjectives, you can still use the activity.  Change the rules of the game and instead of scoring two points if they guessed the adjective, you might want to give them the points if they come up with a synonym even though it’s not exactly the one hidden behind the gif.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid wasting time checking the dictionary, you might want to write a list of synonyms before you play the game.

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Please, Come In! 3 Activities to Start Off the Course on the Right Foot

Ahh almost October! How are we here already?

I can’t even wrap my head around the idea that this is going to be my 27th year teaching English. Time, please stand still! OMG, It makes me cringe to even think about it! Ugh. But, here we are.This is life.

I know, I know. Most of you have already started classes in late August or early  September, but here in the EOI in Asturias, we dedicate the whole month of September to assessing written and oral exams. Nothing to envy here, trust me!

Anyway, a new school year, new students, a fresh start, a clean slate. I feel like in these 27 years I have tried all the different get-to-know-you activities that have been used all around the world, so this year I’m going to recycle and tweak some of my favourite activities,  changing the context to fit the mood.

So, the plan for the first day is the one below. An interactive game to revise grammar and vocabulary from the previous year (lots of fun, but also lots of learning) and not one, but 2 highly engaging speaking activities that can be considered, if you wish, get-to-know-each-other activities but that can be easily adapted to any context.

Activity 1. A Kahoot to revise

We will start the course playing a Kahoot to revise some of the content studied in the previous course. Always fun and to be honest, I am going to be recycling the one I did last year. That’s one of the things I like about technology, it’s paperless, recyclable and “findable”( meaning, easy to find,  yes, I know, I have just invented the word)

If you ask students to play in pairs or in threes, you’ll just need a device for each group. I like playing Kahoots in groups. It enhances learning as students will need to discuss the right answer and it’s more engaging and therefore much more fun.

This is the link in case you want to use my Kahoot. Here

 

Activity 2.  Welcome post-it notes

(I know! It looks home-made, but this is because it is)

  • On one wall of the class, I have displayed the word “Welcome” formed using Post-it notes, as in the picture.
  • On the back of each post-it note, I have written a question that will help students and teachers get to know each other.
  • I have asked students to stand up and pick a post-it note containing a question.
  • I have asked students to remain standing, pair up with another student and ask each other the questions on their post-it notes.
  • I have allowed them about 4 minutes to ask and answer their questions before asking them to find a new partner.
  • I have also participated in this mingle activity. After all, I also want them to know me and it gives me a good chance to assess their English.
  • Please, refrain from overcorrecting or even correcting. It’s their first day.

Can’t think of questions to ask? This site has you covered. bit.ly/2zqxcJP

Idea for the post inspired by Post-it.com

Activity 3. Yes, I have, I have never

This activity is just so much fun.  What do we need? We need slips of paper, as many as students in the class. I normally fold a regular sheet of paper in half, lengthwise, and get two slips of paper.

  • I ask students to write on one side I HAVE and, on the other side, I HAVE NEVER. Ask them to write the words big enough to see from a distance.
  • Tell students you are going to ask them questions and they should display their slip of paper with their answer to the question.

For example. Imagine that I ask  Have you ever failed an English exam?

In the picture below, you can see Julio, the German teacher, and me exemplifying the possible answers (sorry, as I said, classes have not started yet and I had to bribe a colleague).

  • Choose one or two students to elaborate on their answer and then ask another question and repeat procedure.
  • To add to the fun, and because it’s also important that students get to know you,  you should also have a slip of paper and once or twice give some details about you.

Note: Make sure you ask randomly I have and I have never answers, otherwise some students might never display the I have option.

Possible questions:

  • Have you ever been on TV?
  • Have you ever won a contest a received a prize?
  • Have you ever been stuck in a lift?
  • Have you ever got in trouble at school?
  • have you ever helped someone who was in danger?

Get more questions here and here  

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Great to be back!!! I’ve missed you!

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

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

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

How to go about it

Revising.

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

Writing.

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

Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Liar: a Present Perfect Continuous Game.

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

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

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

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

Now, with the game.

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

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

 

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

You can download mine here.

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

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

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

                   How long have you been eating at Maxim’s?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

List of snobbish things to do

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

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First Conditional Sentences: Advanced Grammar and Moral Dilemmas for Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show the second picture+ caption and repeat procedure.

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

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

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

The anecdote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topic:  Ebooks versus paper Books

Level: B2 (upper-intermediate)

Time: about 30 minutes

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

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

  • Step 4.  Getting ideas from other sources.

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

  • Step 5. Persuading and Convincing

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

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

Other  similar websites  are:

https://www.kialo.com/

https://debatewise.org/

Going the extra mile?

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

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

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

The Environment: a Lesson Plan for Upper-Intermediate Students

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

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

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

 

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

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

Introducing the Topic

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

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

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

Vocabulary: Revising and Introducing New Vocabulary.

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

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

Speaking Activity using Posters

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

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

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

Speaking
  • Discussion Questions:

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

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

  • Picture Prompted

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

There are two sets of pictures.

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

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson.

 

The Environment

Step by Step: How I train my students to pass Part 2 (the pictures) of the standardized speaking exams. Part 1.

Alright, alright!

I know this is the third time I’ve posted this week. It seems I’m full of energy after the Christmas break. I really needed that break, didn’t you? Anyway, happy to go back to teaching, but hanging ominously over my head like a black cloud about to burst is the pressing necessity to start training my students to take their standardized speaking exams which will allow them to promote to the C1 (advanced level).

For those of you who are not familiar with the exam, let me explain how it goes. You might find you can apply it to your own classes, even though it’s not exactly the same kind of exam.

There are two tasks in the speaking exam.

  • Part 1: examiner-led conversation. The examiner asks questions about a topic and the students give full answers.
  • Part 2: the monologue, where the students are given a set of pictures (normally two or three).

About Part 2

In this second part, the one this whole post is built upon, the student is offered two or three colour photographs. Normally, the photos are in contrast or represent different options of the same issue.  Also, there is a title or a statement which suggests the topic of the monologue. After some thinking time, normally a couple of minutes, the student is given the opportunity to speak for about 4-5 minutes without interruption.

At this level, students are expected to talk about the topic using a wide range of vocabulary and grammar structures and they will have to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the most important issues related to the topic.

Students face different fears when preparing for the oral exams. Some of them are:

  • Do I know enough specific vocabulary?
  • Will I be able to use a variety of structures or will I stick to the simple subj+verb+complement structure?
  • Now,  the topic is “food”?  3 or 4 minutes talking about food? Seriously?  For heaven’s sake, I cannot even talk for one minute, let alone three or four!

Vocabulary and ideas. Keywords here.

How I train my students. Topic: Food

This is how I help them step by step. Bear in mind this is the first post of a series of posts dedicated to training students to pass the oral exam. As students gain confidence, guidance will be less necessary and some of these steps will be either unnecessary or done by students as part of their learning process.


1. Brainstorming vocabulary. Learning progresses through prior knowledge, so tapping into students’ prior knowledge is an essential part of learning.

On the board, we brainstorm the vocabulary they already know. This is an important step because it helps students reinforce and bring to life the vocabulary studied in previous courses.

Then, I ask them some very simple questions where they can activate this vocabulary: What’s your favourite food? What is the most expensive restaurant that you have ever been to? What did you eat there?


2.Acquiring new vocabulary. We work on new vocabulary using a number of written and oral exercises. (Any good course book provides enough vocabulary input, at least to get started). It’s important to emphasize here the importance of learning words in chunks. Surely, you can teach the word “ obesity” on its own, but there some other words you really want to teach in collocations like, for example, “eating disorders” or to “be obsessed with”. Also important, essential I should say, is pronunciation.


3.  Getting Ideas. Reading and Speaking. More often than not students find it hard to think on their feet. They find it difficult to come up with ideas that will fill in the 3 or 4 minutes allowed for this part.

You might disagree with me here, but I always tell them that oral exams are like the rest of the exams they might take. They need to prepare. They need to study.

Lack of preparation might result in something I’ve seen very often when assessing oral exams; students might talk for one minute and then, suddenly, stop. Now, you might wait patiently for them to come up with something else but the truth is that very often, when prompted to continue, they just repeat the same ideas they have already used. Why? most of the times due to lack of preparation. They mistakenly think that they don’t need to study for oral exams. They do.

So, listen up dear students! You need to study for oral exams.

 

Reading about different issues related to the topic not only reinforces the vocabulary they have learnt and gives them a chance to see it used in context but also gives them ideas of what they can talk about when doing the real task.

I normally use short extracts from The Pais in EnglishHere’s my choice of extracts for the topic of food. This how we do it:

  • We read the extracts in class or set the reading task as homework.
  • We underline relevant vocabulary.
  • Students discuss the questions in pairs, followed by class discussion.

 


4. The pictures. I am lucky to have a computer and an overhead projector in my class, so I normally display a collage with two or three related pictures on the board. You can see the ones I have used for this topic here and here.

Together we read the title and brainstorm ideas to fill in these 3 or 4 minutes. This step should be easy now as we have previously discussed some ideas in the previous task. Some ideas could be:

Together, we brainstorm vocabulary

  • Pesticides
  • Label
  • To be obsessed with
  • Bulimia
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Carbs
  • …etc

  1. Tips.
  • Look at the pictures and the title if there is one. It will hint at what you need to talk about.
  • If you are given some thinking time, use it.
  • Remember that you are not asked to describe in detail what you can see in the pictures. You are asked to compare and contrast the pictures talking about the topic.
  • Focus on three or four ideas and develop them as much as you can without repeating yourself. Start with a short introduction about the topic, talk about the first idea, develop it; start with the second idea and repeat procedure.
  • Don’t forget to use specific vocabulary and a variety of structures.
  • Essential: practise a lot and record yourself taking the exam.

6. Homework. Further practice. Collaboratively writing on a Padlet.

This follow-up task has two main aims:

  • to reinforce acquired knowledge and strategies
  • to share ideas. By asking students to write on a  collaborative Padlet, they benefit from each other and see other ideas which might help them improve their own performance.

All the Padlets created for this purpose will then be shared in a single one where students, at a glance, can decide what topic to revise.

In the next post, we will move from writing to speaking on a Padlet.

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