You see, Halloween and me, we are not on friendly terms. I don’t really get good vibes off this holiday. Gory and scary … just scares me. But, that’s ok. I don’t have to like every single holiday. However, I have students and teaching a language is not only about words, it’s also about the culture and traditions of the country you are trying to teach. Halloween is important in Anglo-Saxon countries so this year I have made a point of trying to give it some real attention. I’ll even attend a small Halloween party, where I’ll be wearing a knife-through-head prop and some Halloween skeleton tights. Organising the party? Let’s start small! This year, the party will be hosted by my enthusiastic colleague Marta Dominguez, who has also provided me with some of the activities you’ll see below.
Activity 1. Video Activity. The Ten Steps (2004)
This activity aims at
learning vocabulary: adjectives to describe houses
improving their listening skills
This is a great short film (less than 9 minutes and worth every second) that sets the right atmosphere. Draw the curtains and turn off the lights.
I would like to just for one day forget I’m an English teacher and just play the film, but I can’t. So, we are going to work a bit on vocabulary before the film starts and we are going to focus on some questions to answer in pairs after watching the film.
Before playing the video, show them the picture below or alternatively pause the video. Do the vocabulary exercise with them ( handout)
Remember the lights should be off and the curtains drawn. Lighting a candle might be a good idea for two reasons: it helps create a mysterious atmosphere and prevents students from reading from their essays.
The New York Times has a sitewhere, every day, they publish a picture prompt to inspire students writing. Days prior to the great Halloween Day, I have shown my students this picture and asked them to write a scary story about this house. They should bring their stories on the day of the party.
The idea is to put students in groups of four and tell (not read) their stories. Each group will decide on the best and the whole class will listen to the best stories from each group and then vote on the best one.
It’s also a good idea if you share a story of your own and yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ll still need to correct their stories.
Activity 3. A bit of fun with Kahoot.
This activity aims at:
teaching about traditions
developing digital abilities
having fun 🙂
I would just not feel fine if, after all the spooky storytelling, my students went home and couldn’t sleep that night, so a Kahoot is in order.
Again, I have not created it. My colleague Marta has just chosen one from the enormous bank of Halloween quizzes Kahoot has and we have adapted it to our needs.
I’m currently in the middle of —what I like to call—beginning-of-the-course chaos. I am busy doing nothing, wasting time on probably unnecessary things and when the day ends, I find I have done nothing from the to-do list I carefully planned in the morning. Total chaos.
Today, I have a guest post from a colleague from EOI Oviedo, Ángeles Jimenez, who from time to time, saves my a** by agreeing to send me some of her creative activities. This is one of them. I hope you like it as much as I did.
This lesson plan is based on a two-minute short film launched by the B.B.C on Christmas 2017. It’s suitable for intermediate and higher levels.
The lesson starts with a lead-in speaking activity to help students differentiate -ed from -ing adjectives. It’s then followed by a brainstorming activity where students get a lot of talking time.
-ed / -ing adjectives can be a challenging task to teach as students mix them up easily. Sometimes such confusion can lead to amusing mistakes such as “I’m boring” or “I’m tiring” when they truly mean “I’m bored” and “I’m tired”.
To clear up the confusion, I start with a warm-up activity. I write, on the whiteboard, 3 or 4 -ing adjectives and tell students they will need to come up with a wide range of things, activities and/or people that can fit in each category. “Boring”, “Exciting”, “Frightening” and “Disgusting” are some of the -ing adjectives that work well.
For example, if I write the adjective ” Boring” students might say: studying for exams, politics, queuing at the supermarket…etc.
This is an engaging warm-up as students can personalise the grammar point you’re trying to teach.
I begin with myself writing the word “moths” in the “frightening” column. They may not be familiar with the noun but students love it when the teacher includes anecdotes and personal examples. They get involved in the activity in no time!
Once the whiteboard is full of the students’ own ideas, I then follow with a “How do you feel” question to elicit the -ed adjective.
Example: “How do I feel about moths? I feel frightened”
and I write the word “frightened” on the board with capital letters underlying the -ed part to emphasize that’s how I feel. To make sure they’ve understood the difference, I go through the adjectives on the board asking the same question: “How do you feel about studying for exams?” To round up, a simple graphic is very helpful:
Something ING ⇒ makes you feel ED
I project the frame above from the silent advert because it’s open to interpretation, it offers a lot of speaking practice and I find it’s a great way to revise the use of narrative tenses, especially for intermediate levels. I ask my students to come up with a short story that can explain what is happening/happened, what the girl is/was doing, how she is feeling and what they think is going to happen at the end.
At a more advanced level, they can even make deductions. Elicit some examples such as “It’s late. She must be worried because her parents haven’t arrived home yet”
Also, make sure they use as many adjectives related to feelings as they can.
Play the video.
Speaking: Ask students to compare it with the stories they created. Ask some follow-up questions: Did they like it? Did they find it touching? Can they relate?
Vocabulary and speaking. Pdf here. Give the students the handout that accompanies the video activity. It includes an exercise to learn new vocabulary, another exercise to revise -ed / -ing adjectives and last, but not least, a more ludic and relaxing one to test how good their memory is. You can see the first two exercises below:
Vocabulary exercise. Summarising the story. Choose the most appropriate word from the drop-down menu
Oral exercise. Using adjectives -ed adjectives to talk about feelings. Ask the following questions and encourage students to use -ed adjectives
Watch the T.V add and talk about how the girl felt…
when she came out of school. Ex: excited
when she gave her dad the talent show leaflet.
when her dad answered the call.
when she rehearsed at home, in the street…
How did her dad feel when he saw her jumping on the escalators?
Why did she slam the door?
How did she feel when she …
drew the curtains?
couldn’t remember the dance?
when her dad came out of the audience to help?
the dance finished?
Silent movies have a great potential for language teaching. They’re a fantastic tool to get students to produce language at any level since it’s the task the teacher sets the one that provides the level. They usually find it easier to memorise vocabulary and grammar when it’s associated with a captivating image or story and when it comes to holding their attention, a short clip does the trick.
Unit 1 of my textbook is dedicated to questions. All sorts of questions: indirect, with prepositions at the end, negative interrogative questions, echo questions, question tags… etc. Yeah, I know. Lots of teaching here. On the bright side, teaching questions offers such a variety of activities you can do with your students that sometimes it is hard to find the time to do all the amazing stuff published all around the web.
This year, for my first lessons dealing with questions, I have decided to choose one of the hundreds of interviews to celebrities available online. It is still the beginning of the course and I wanted something quick and not too difficult to understand. And, I found this interview with Selena Gomez who, to be honest with you, I didn’t know much about just perfect as it is all about questions and, more specifically, get-to-know-you questions.
Anyway, I wanted a short simple listening exercise and I wanted to post it on the blog so that my students could do it again at home. To do the whole activity, I needed to solve a few technical issues regarding YouTube which I’ll detail below, in case you find them helpful.
YOUTUBE VIDEOS: SOME TRICKS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start time
You probably know how to share a video starting at a specific point. You don’t? Well, that’ s pretty easy to do.
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start and end time
That’s a bit more complicated. Keywords “ a bit”. The first thing you need to know is the specific time you want your video to start and to finish. For example, if you need your video to run from 1:20 to 2:15, you need to convert it into seconds.
Getting the transcript. Call me lazy but if technology can save me some time….
You can easily get the transcript from a youtube video clicking on the three dots next to the save button.
VIDEO-BASED LISTENING ACTIVITY: 18/73 QUESTIONS WITH SELENA GOMEZ
(Follow -up activity: I am looking for one or two EOI teachers, teaching the B2.2 level, to work with me on a simple single get-to-know-you project using the free online tool Flipgrid. If anybody is interested, please send me an email)
Skills: listening and speaking
As I have mentioned above, I wanted a short listening activity which could serve as a springboard for a speaking get-to-know-you activity among my students.
Play the video once and ask students to just listen. At the end of the video (the video is set to stop at 2:08) students will probably complain that it goes too fast. My advice? Smile and say “You can do it! “, because they actually can.
Give them the handout with the questions and play the video twice more.
Before you play it a third time, ask students to share their answers in pairs and, needless to say, in English.
Play the video once more, pausing after each answer. Ask students to provide the answer and repeat procedure for question 2.
Hereare the questions. To get the answers, just display the transcript as indicated above.
SPEAKING ACTIVITY: 15 minutes
Play the video again, this time and depending on the number of students, play a couple more minutes or if necessary the whole video.
Tell students, they will need to listen very attentively to the questions asked to Selena and choose one they would like to ask their classmates.
Ask them to write it down and check with you that it’s Ok. When they are ready, ask them to stand up in a mingling activity and interview as many classmates as possible.
This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to health and illnesses through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.
This lesson plan works well on its own, but I have used it to complement Unit 2 of the course book New English File Upper-intermediate.
The Hot Seat. Revising and consolidating vocabulary.
A fun way to revise and consolidate vocabulary is playing the hot seat with the wheel of fortune.
Divide the class into two teams and ask them to choose a person to play for them and take the “hot seats”. These two students will be facing their teams and with their backs to the whiteboard
Decide which team starts the game by tossing a coin. Let’s say Team A starts the game. Tell them each team will have one minute to describe and guess as many words as possible.
Spin the wheel. Team A will have to define the word for its player. Once the player has guessed the word, the teacher will spin the wheel again for the same team. For every word they guess, they will get 1 point. If the player for Team A doesn’t know the word, then Team B gets the chance to define the word for its player. If he guesses, the team gets 2 points for this word.
Repeat procedure for Team B.
Role-Play: at the doctor's
At this stage, students will have already learned the vocabulary for minor and more serious illnesses and conditions so now, it’s time to practise it.
Step 1. Working on pronunciation
On the board, write some of the words students have found most difficult to pronounce and revise their pronunciation. In my case, they might include:
Stomach ache cough temperature consciousness sprained antibiotics antihistamine wound blood pressure medicine paracetamol
Step 2. Visiting the doctor
Ask students about the last time they were ill. What symptoms did they have? Did they go to the doctor? What was the treatment? Did you follow his advice? Could you go to work/school?
Tell students that they are going to role-play a conversation at the doctor’s where half the class will be patients and the other half will be doctors.
Students playing the role of patients will get a card with their ailment and they will need to talk to the doctor, describe their ailment and get some advice or treatment.
Students playing the role of doctors will have to ask questions and then prescribe some medicine, if necessary, and give some advice (rest, diet…etc).
Build the basic guidelines of the conversation on the board with the students’ help
Doctor: “Good morning/afternoon. What seems to be the problem?”
Patient: “I haven’t been feeling well for a few days/ I don’t feel well”. Explain your symptoms
Doctor: Asks more questions like ” Are you taking anything for… ?“Do you have a headache”? When did it start?” Have you taken your temperature?” …etc
Ask half the class (the doctors) to remain seated at their desks and ask the other half (the patients) to stand up and move to a corner of the room. Give each of the patients a card with their illness and ask them to choose a doctor and role-play the conversation.
When a student playing the role of patient finishes, he should go back to the corner and wait there for another student (patient) to swap the cards. Students will role-play as patients twice.Once this step is over, change roles: patients will now be doctors and doctors will role-play as patients. Give them new cards or reuse the previous ones.
Listening comprehension: Complementary and alternative medicine
Write “alternative medicine” on the board and ask students if they know what it is and if they have ever tried it.
There is a nice Reading Comprehension on Acupuncture here
Tell students they are going to watch a video where Dr Mc Cann discusses traditional medicine and alternative medicine. Ask them to listen once and then, in pairs, share any ideas they got from the video.
Ask students to listen a second time (even a third, if necessary) and answer the following:
True or False? Justify your answers
Integrative medicine is a combination of traditional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine.
At medical school, professors show you some alternative and complementary medical practice.
Dr McCAnn thinks a doctor needs to treat patients with either conventional or alternative medicine
According to alternative medicine, the human being can heal himself
Patients of integrative medicine are willing to take an active role in their healing process.
Some patients of integrative medicine are not ill at all.
Dr McCAnn believes integrative medicine is here to stay.
Answers: At the end of this post
Going the extra mile: Introducing more advanced vocabulary
To feel under the weather = to feel slightly ill
To be as fit as a fiddle= to be healthy
To phone in sick= to call work and say you’re ill
To suffer from a disease
To be a hypochondriac or a cyberchondriac /ˌhaɪ.pəˈkɒn.dri.ək/
To give someone a diagnosis /ˌdaɪ.əɡˈnəʊ.sɪs/ Ex: The doctor cannot give a diagnosis without doing some tests
To treat an illness such as asthma, depression, high blood pressure
To relieve a headache, dental pain, arthritis /ɑːˈθraɪ.tɪs/
To practise self-medication with non-prescription medicines /ˈmed.ɪ.sən//ˈmed.sən/
To have an operation, to undergo an operation
To donate organs, to be a donor
To go down with a cold / the flu
To need surgery /ˈsɜː.dʒəi/
A life-threatening illness
A tumour /ˈtʃuː.mər/ (UK) /ˈtuː.mɚ/ (US). Ex: Brain tumours develop in fewer than one in 50,000 people
The side effects of drugs
Integrative medicine: a combination of traditional and alternative medicine
Alternative medicine /ɒlˈtɜː.nə.tɪv/
Homeopathy /ˌhəʊ.miˈɒp.ə.θi/: a way of treating illnesses using very small amounts of natural substances,
Osteopathy /ˌɒs.tiˈɒp.ə.θi/: the treatment of injuries to bones and muscles using pressure and movement
Reflexology: a treatment in which your feet are rubbed and pressed in a special way in order to improve blood flow and help you relax,
Acupuncture /ˈæk.jə.pʌŋk.tʃər/: to insert very fine needles into the body at points along the meridians
Controversial Statements about health.Discussion Posters
Using vocabulary is key in this lesson. In fact, all the lesson is aimed at motivating students to use vocabulary they are already familiar with and to give them a chance to use newly-learnt terms.
So, this lesson could not finish without devising another strategy to help them use the target vocabulary; this time with the help of visual images in the form of posters and with controversial statements that will, hopefully, spark discussion.
Procedure: Gallery Walk
On the wall of the class, display the posters. Ask students in threes to choose a poster and discuss the statement written on it. Encourage the use of target vocabulary.
I like to consider myself a creative person and I’m always designing and devising activities to step away from the course book with the aim of sparking students ‘interest. Unfortunately, I’m not always in that mood. No problem :)Luckily, there are plenty of websites offering free resources that can really save the day.
These are my favourite go-to sites when I am feeling kind of lazy or uninspired, but still want to shine in class.
This site doesn’t probably offer an astonishing variety of discussion topics, but I find the questions in each set quite stimulating. Scroll down the page to find their selection of topics for your conversation classes.
This is an excellent site. The section for lesson plans specifically offers well-designed lesson plans to suit adults and teens. It also provides downloadable worksheets for both teachers and students.
Highly recommendable is also their Facebook page where tips, ideas, practical advice and lesson plans are offered.
I must have been in my teens, but I vividly remember my mother telling my father that someone called James Dean had called. The funny part was not only that the famous now-long- deceased actor had phoned my dad, but the way everybody pronounced his name, /jamez dean/, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, while me and my naughty siblings couldn’t help cracking up, repeating /james dean, james dean/while in stitches. (The Spanish pronunciationof the “j” is similar to the Scottish word “loch” or the German word “Bach”)
In case you are wondering, my parents (now almost 80) had never ever heard a word in English so everybody said /james dean/ just like that and never gave it a second thought. We, me and my three siblings, just liked fooling around. I know better now!! 🙂
About the lesson:
In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students discuss their names and their personalities through some engaging activities.
In part 2, you have the possibility of asking students to use their own devices and complete the task in class or alternatively set the task for homework.
Part 1. Talking about your name
A video-based listening activity
Tell students they are going to watch a short extract from the Graham Norton show, where the actresses Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman discuss their birth names. Play from 0:00 until 2:50.
To be named ( after someone)
To name someone
A pet name
A middle name
Play the video once and ask students some comprehension questions. Play the video a second time if necessary.
Meryl Streep was named Mary at birth. How did she end up being called Meryl?
Is she happy about her surname? How does she wish it to be different?
Why is Nicole Kidman called Hokulani? Who is she named after?
Are you happy with your name? Why (not)?
Does your name have a meaning? If so, what does it mean?
Do you have a middle name? What is it?
Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it and how did you get it?
If you could change your name would you? What would it be? Why?
U2’s lead singer, Bono, called his daughter Memphis Eve and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is called Apple. Do you know any “normal people” with unique baby names? What about you, do you prefer giving your child a more traditional name or a unique name?
In some countries, when women marry they take their husband’s last name? What do you think of this?
Part 2. Talking about your personality
In this second part, we are going to revise and learn some more complex personality adjectives. To introduce personality adjectives we are going to use a website which analyses your personality based on the numerical value of your name. Whether students believe in it or not should be irrelevant, we are only interested in language acquisition here.
As this lesson is aimed at upper-intermediate students and above, students will have some prior knowledge of the most common personality adjectives, at least enough to get them started.
Ask students whether they think a name can shape their personality and refer them to this website where they’ll have to write their name in the space provided and read about their personality.
You can always ask them to read their horoscope, but this is “old news”, so I thought this might better spark students’ interest.
At home, students go to the website and find out about their personality based on their names. They look up any new words they don’t know, especially personality adjectives, as they will need to share this analysis with their classmates and say whether they agree or disagree with it, giving reasons.
This activity can be done in a traditional way i.e board and chalk. Students call out an adjective and you write the personality adjective on the board.
Again, with the aim of creating a more engaging activity, I’m going to use a free online tool called “Answergarden” to get instantaneous feedback. The tool is very easy to use. Here’s a tutorial in case you need it, but it really has a very friendly intuitive interface making it very easy to use, even for those teachers who are not too tech-savvy. The app takes students answers and creates a word cloud that can be exported or embedded. Students will need to use their own devices but, if necessary, every three students can share one.
Once you have created the word cloud in Asnwergarden, use the overhead proyector to display it and ask volunteer students to explain the meaning of the adjectives and say whether they think it is positive, negative or neutral.
Below, an example of a word cloud created with Answergarden.
Put students in pairs and ask them to share their name report from the website and say whether they agree or disagree with such analysis.
Ask them to discuss the following questions.
What kind of people do you usually get along with?
What kinds of personality traits do you hate?
Is your personality more similar to your mother’s or father’s?
Do you think we are born with our personalities, or do we develop them because of what happens to us?
Do you tend to fall in love with good looks or with a great personality?
Does one person’s character affect the personalities of the surrounding people? Are you influenced by anybody you know?
Does birth order affect personality? What qualities do a first-born child, a last-born and an only child have?
The Quiz: As Free as a Bird.
Let’s go the extra mile! In this quiz, you’ll find more colourful ways to talk about someone’s personality. In order to learn them, I suggest taking the quiz two or three times, the last time checking if just by looking at the picture students can remember the simile.
After doing the quiz, you can always ask some follow-up questions like:
Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
I had a full-blown, real, very much needed holiday. The last two months had been unbelievably hectic: end-of-term exams, working full-time during the week and some teacher training weekends and, to top it all, I was also writing a project to apply for a European grant, which unfortunately I won’t get.
So, there I was, fully enjoying my break , when I stumbled upon an article in El Pais about a short animated short film “Alike”, which had won a Goya award in 2016, and I was struck with how beautiful, touching and thought-provoking the video was. And I just knew I had to show it to my students, do something with it and well, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
About the lesson: In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students watch a short silent film called Alike (7 minutes) with two main aims:
To give voice to the story and for this:
they will have to collaboratively write the story
they will have to collaboratively retell the story
2. To discuss some questions related to education, the promotion of creativity and daring to be different.
Step 1. Warm-up: Copi and Paste
Tell students they are going to watch a short video called Alike, where the main two characters are a father and a son whose names are Copi and Paste. Focus on the names, write them on the board and ask students to predict what the story could be about. Hopefully, students will come up with some of these ideas
Lack of ideas
Step 2. Introducing the video and the task
Explain that the video they are about to see is an animated short film (7 minutes) called “Alike” where there is no dialogue. However, the video is so touching and thought-provoking that words are not necessary; images and especially colours play an essential role and are enough to tell this beautiful story and to give us something to think about.
Play the video once asking students to focus on how the colours (or lack of colour) help tell the story. You can also tell them that, later in the lesson, they will need to narrate the story so they need to concentrate on everything that happens.
1. Form groups and assign each group a part of the story. The aim is first to write and then to tell their part of the story as it happens, but also to analyse the hidden meaning and the values it tries to highlight.
The day begins (0:06- 1:32)
At school/ at work ( 1:33-2:38)
Leaving the office/school (2:39-3:07)
The next days (3:08-3:52)
Copi’s surrender (3:53-5:00)
But one day (5:01-6:50)
Depending on the number of students, you can ask them to work in pairs or assign each group two parts.
2. Play the story once again for the students to take down notes and get stsrted with the writing task. Walk around offering help and guidance.
3. Play the story again to help students polish their part.
4. Ask each group to name a spokesperson and ask these students to come to the front of the class and give voice to the story as you play it once again. Be ready to pause the video as required.
This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B1 (intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to learning languages through a variety of engaging activities.
In this lesson students will get listening and speaking practice, learn new vocabulary, and have the opportunity to improve their writing skills.
Guessing the topic.This funny sketch below works like magic to introduce the topic. The idea is to play this short funny video (2:48) and let students guess what we will be talking about.
Now, ask students to discuss these 2 questions:
What’s the most spoken language in the world?
What’s the most widely spoken language in the world?
Revising, introducing and using vocabulary
The idea is to elicit vocabulary by posing some questions and showing some pictures meant to stimulate spontaneous speech and class discussion. New vocabulary will be written on the board. See PDF with targeted vocabulary here
Tell students that of a total of 1, 5 billion speakers only 375 million are native speakers, so this means that over 1 billion people speak English as a second language. Ask them:
How do you think your country ranks in terms of English language proficiency?
Show them the picture below. If their country is not there, click here to see how it ranks. Elicit any reactions to the picture.
Does the ranking surprise them? Why (not)?
Get students in pairs to discuss the question below:
What do you find most difficult about learning English? Why do you think is that?
Listening and speaking
In this section there are 3 videos. Below you’ll find instructions to work with them. You can watch all of the snaps in a row or freely jump around from snap to snap.
Part 1: Speaking. English borrowings.
Follow the instructions in the video.
Part 2. Listening Comprehension. Note taking exercise.
Alex Rawlings, who speaks 11 languages, says that the way to start speaking a language more fluently and more proficiently is to practise speaking. In the video, he gives us four tips to get more practice speaking the language we’re learning.
Get a conversation partner
Talk to yourself.
Learn vocabulary in phrases
Imagine how you’ll use the language.
Watch the video and summarise what he says about each of these tips.
Part 3. Speaking. Reasons for learning a foreign language.
After watching the video, in groups of 3 share the reason why you’re learning English
Answer the following questions
Do you know anybody who has emigrated from your country?
Do you know any immigrants? Can they speak your language?
Before entering your country, should immigrants be required to speak the local language?
Write an article on one of the following:
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” Zig Ziglar
“There is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs”.Zig Ziglar
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.
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.