Tag Archives: writing

Reporting verbs: A Translation Exercise Using Grass Skirts

Do you like translation exercises?

If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.

Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀  ).  It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me:  I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.

I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.

In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better.  You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.

 


The activity


Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.

Now, you are ready to start.

Procedure:

Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.

Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.

Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.

Rules.

  • The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
  • The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
  • Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
  • The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.

Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them.  Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.

Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink  😆 

Top Website to Help you with Writing

I’m not a native speaker. I work in English, write, read and watch TV in English. In short, I breathe English. But I’m not a native and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes, especially when correcting written work, I have this feeling that a collocation is just not right but I cannot I come up with the correct one straight away.

Has it ever happened to you?

I could rely on my instinct, I could certainly do it, but sometimes I just can’t without making sure I’m doing the right thing. Problem is that a dictionary would be no help here as we are dealing with more complex issues. We are not talking about grammar or vocabulary meanings, we are dealing with how words collocate with some words, but not with others and this is just something that if you are not a native, you will have a hard time deciding whether it is correct or a bad translation from your native language. The problem, of course, is that to your non-native ears it might sound perfect.

For example, let’s take this simple sentence

Global warming is produced by…

Does it sound Ok to you?

For a Spanish speaker, this sounds just right.  But is it a natural collocation in English?

Doesn’t Global warming is caused by… sounds better?

When I am in doubt, I  have a bunch of useful websites I use, but my favourite for this kind of problem is Netspeak. Please check my post Six amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger to read about this “bunch”  I was referring to.

So, when I am not sure if “xxxx ” is correct, this is what I do.

What else can you do on Netspeak?Among other things:

  1. If you have forgotten a specific word, type ?   Ex:  ? for granted
  2. If you need to find many words, type   Ex …granted
  3. If you are not sure about two words or want to compare them [] Ex It sounds [good well.

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Are you a visual teacher? An amazing free resource based on pictures

As of yesterday, I’m almost (not yet though!) done with correcting essays for the year.  I cannot even tell you how happy this makes me. I’ve spent the whole long weekend trying to squeeze in time to correct students’ compositions.

I cooked, I corrected; I washed my hair, I corrected; I watched TV, I corrected.

Now, I am almost finished. And I’m celebrating by writing this post to share with you a website that I love.

What is there in a picture? I don’t know. What I know is how differently my students react and perform when the task has been introduced with a picture.

Imagine this, you need to do a reading text about Alcatraz, the infamous prison.

Option 1. Ok, now, open your books at page 7. We are going to do a reading about Alcatraz.

Option2.  Display a picture of Alcapone’s cell in Alcatraz. Don’ t tell them anything about the picture just yet. Ask the sort of questions that might arise interest to finally disclose that it is the picture of a cell where Alcapone lived in Alcatraz.

I won’t insult your intelligence by asking which option you think will arise interest in the reading test, but the truth is that it takes nothing to introduce the reading with a picture of the prison and it makes a world of difference.

 

I am a very visual teacher and  love working with images to enhance learning. In my humble opinion, images should play an important role in the language classes as they help students retain information and make learning more memorable and effective.

The site I’m sharing with you, Pobble365, is certainly worth a visit if you keen on using pictures in your classes. Pobble365 offers you engaging lessons based on images.

The site offers one interesting picture a day and different activities related to the picture. These activities include:

  1. A story starter: the perfect prompt if you want to do some creative writing with your students.
  2. A sentence challenge: it challenges you to write or say a complex sentence based on the picture. Perfect to improve your grammar skills while rising to the challenge.
  3. Question time: you are offered some questions to help you describe the picture. Excellent to boost your speaking skills.
  4. Sick sentences: in this part, you are offered the opportunity to improve some sentences, which are grammatically correct, but are too simple.

Some extra features:

  • It’s free and you don’ have to register unless you want to.
  • You can download the pdf for the lesson
  • You can also see other pictures with their corresponding resources by clicking on Pick a Day at the top right-hand corner.
  • You can search images with Pobble to find relevant images or videos to the topic you want to discuss. For example, say you want to find images or videos about the weather; you just type the word in the search box and see what Pobble has to offer.
  • Here you can read about  9 ways to use Pobble 365 with your students.

I hope you enjoy using Pobble.

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Do you Think Translation Exercises are Boring? Just the Opposite!

Believe me, they don’t have to be boring. In fact, just the opposite.

I know some teachers consider translation activities a thing of the past and that, arguably, they should be banned from our classes. I don’t completely agree.
If I am honest with you, I can’t say that I like giving students a whole paragraph to translate, but a one-sentence translation exercise can help consolidate and reinforce grammar and vocabulary.
And it doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. How?

Easy. Let’s combine a seemingly boring traditional exercise with an online fun tool and let’s turn it into a competition.

Preparation:

• Decide on few sentences you want students to translate. I’d suggest 6-8 sentences. If you like exploring tools, my favourite for this kind of activities is Playbuzz flip cards.
• Slips of paper

How to go about it:

1. Pair learners and give them as many slips of paper as sentences you want them to translate.
2. Write the first sentence on the board and ask students to translate into English. If you use the online tool I mentioned above, just show the first card. (See mine below)
3. Depending on the length or difficulty of the sentence to be translated, set a time limit.
4. Once the pair have their sentence, ask them to write it on the slip of paper big enough for you to see from a distance.
5. When the time is up, ask the pair to hold it up and quickly go through all the translated sentences awarding 1 point to the pair who has the correct translation.
6. The winner is the pair who get the most points.

Note: Be strict with spelling mistakes or any other tiny mistakes. Students love it when you are strict and don’t give away the points easily.

Follow-up: Revise again all the sentences, but this time orally.

Fun and Simple: Adjective Order

If you have following me for a while, then you know how much I love stepping aside from the course book and surprising students with activities that might add a spark to my classes.

Things like flip cards or wheels of fortune are constant guests in my classes. But for this activity, I have decided to invite an old friend I haven’t used for some time. Don’t ask me why. I still love him very much. Word clouds have a lot of potential when teaching languages and they are very easy to use. For this activity, I have used wordart.com.

Aim: to practise the order of adjectives before a noun (attributive position) in a writing competition.

Time: 5 minutes

Level: B2 students

Time: 10 minutes

Preparation: Go to wordart.com or any other word cloud generators and just type the words you want to see in the cloud. In my case, I typed five or six nouns and five adjectives relating to opinion, size, age, temperature, shape, colour, material and origin.

How to go about it:

1.  Revise. You might want to revise the order of adjectives before the noun before doing the activity.

Although not all grammarians agree on the order of the adjectives and the rules for adjective order are quite complicated, it is necessary to give them some kind of order they can stick to. I always use this sentence to help them remember.

 

Important points:

  1. Don’t overuse adjectives. While having two adjectives before a noun sounds natural, more than three would have the opposite effect.
  2. Purpose adjectives go just before the noun: riding boots (boots for riding), sleeping bags (bags for sleeping).
  3. Numbers go before adjectives: three huge houses.

2. Competition

  • Ask students to form pairs and either display the word cloud on the board or photocopy it.
  • Underline the nouns in the word cloud
  • Tell students they have two minutes to come up with the longest description for the any of the nouns in the word cloud.
  • The winners are the students who have managed to write the most adjectives before the noun.

Rules:

  • The adjectives before the noun must be placed in the correct order. Have the class check it while the students read their sentence.
  • It has to have sense, ie “a narrow boy” would be incorrect.

Have fun!

Storytelling Contest. Help me Find the Winner

About two weeks ago, to celebrate Halloween, I decided to set up a contest where my students could try their hands at writing a paranormal story. The task was to write a story beginning with:

I don't believe in paranormal, but one day...

I want to thank my students for making the contest a resounding success as 58 students wrote 58 great stories. Thank you very much for your effort. Your contribution was vital to the success of the contest.Now, it’s time to choose a winner!

I have selected these 4 stories. Please, read them and help me pick a  winner. After reading the four stories, you can vote. Please, vote only once!

Thanks for voting. Now, here’s the winner of the contest, Remedios Gámez. Thank you very much for your story “Hide-and-Seek”

Lesson Plan: I don’t believe in paranormal but….

Fall has finally hit!This is Halloween’s week and it seems the weather has finally chilled out and stopped being silly. The truth is that I don’t see myself telling scary stories in class while the sun outside is shining bright. It just wouldn’t do! Telling scary stories requires a dark, grey, gloomy day; one cannot be telling scary stories and thinking about going to the beach.

Level: B2

Aim:

  • to introduce and revise vocabulary used to talk about paranormal or unnatural phenomena
  • to give students’ some listening and speaking practice.
  • to develop students’ writing skills

STEP 1. INTRODUCTION

Write Paranormal on the whiteboard. Ask students if they know what it means (if necessary, explain that a paranormal activity is not scientifically explainable), and ask them if they believe in paranormal phenomena.

STEP 2. LISTENING COMPREHENSION. A PARANORMAL STORY.

Ask students if they know what a Ouija board is and ask them whether they, or anybody they know, have ever played with a Ouija board. I have a real experience to share with them but in case you don’t, there are plenty of terrifying stories online you might want to share with your students (just to build the right kind of atmosphere).

  1. Play the first 0:53 seconds of the video and ask students to predict what will happen next. Listen to their predictions and then, play the rest of the story.
  2.  Play the video a second time and ask the following questions:

True or False? Justify your answer

  1. The narrator and his brother had just bought a Ouija board
  2. The narrator’s brother was willing to play with the board
  3. The first time, the narrator’s brother moved the planchette.

Answer the following questions in your own words:

  1. Why did they decide to play a second time?
  2. What is the ideal environment for a Ouija board?
  3. Why did the narrator leave the room?
  4. Why did he run back to the room and what did he see?

 

STEP 3. SPEAKING

Before asking students to discuss the questions you might want to pre-teach or revise some vocabulary.

  • To set the mood: gloomy, desolate, haunted, abandoned, scary, spooky, frightening, creepy and supernatural
  • To say how you feel:  horrified, terrified, petrified, panic-stricken, trembling, paralysed, shuddering
  • To talk about “people”: a ghost  ( a ghostly figure), an apparition, a shadow, an entity, an (evil) spirit, a hallucination, a medium, a UFO.

Ask students to work in groups and answer the following questions.

  • Do you believe in ghosts? If not, how do you explain people’s claims to have seen them?
  • Have you experienced the feeling of déjà vu? How do you explain this strange feeling?
  • Telepathy is communication directly from one mind to another. Is it possible to communicate this way?
  • Sometimes, the police use psychics to help them. What do you think about this?
  • Do you believe in hypnosis? What happens when a person is hypnotized?
  • Can people predict the future? Have you ever had a feeling about the future that turned out to be true?
  • Have you ever visited a fortune teller?
  • What do you think about UFO sightings?
  • Are you a superstitious person? What things are you superstitious about?

Most of the questions are from this site. 

STEP 4. WRITING CONTEST. I DON’T BELIEVE IN PARANORMAL, BUT….

I love telling stories, don’t you?  Well, the heading in this Step 4 needs no explanation. A contest.  A contest which will give me the opportunity to revise narrative tenses and connectors to help students sequence their ideas.

I’m going to use this excellent post from Thought.Co

A good contest, deserves a nice poster. Here it is.

Lesson Plan: Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world- Nelson Mandela

I’m so excited. Truly. I am. It’s been months since the last time I taught a class full of students. I know it’s going to be hard but I’m really willing to get back in the swing of things. I’m also preparing material for my workshops, and I have a bunch of work to catch up on, but I’m anyway feeling really motivated. So, it seems I am off to a good start.

This is a lesson for upper- intermediate students (B2) about education. In this post, you will find

  • Some vocabulary you might need to revise/learn when discussing this subject.
  • A small challenge with some confusing terms related to education
  • A video about  6 problems of our education system
  • Speaking practice: questions to discuss
  • A written assignment

The warm-up. Setting the context

I don’t think there is a better way to introduce a topic than by showing students a picture that will probably spark interest and hook students into the lesson. That’s the aim of the picture below.

Show the picture and listen to student’ reactions. Probably, the first one would be “Me, neither”, but let’s dig in for more profound reactions.

Tell students to get into pairs and think of three reasons why this boy wouldn’t want to go to school. Allow them 2 or 3 minutes and the write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.

Ask students: Can you relate to the boy in this picture? What can you remember about your kindergarten? In your opinion, what’s the ideal age to start school?

The vocabulary

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board the word “education” and ask students to brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic. Encourage them to mind map to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes and get feedback from the whole class.  I gave handout 1   to my intermediate students last year, so this year (B2), I will probably need to revise and add the terms in handout 2 explaining difficult vocabulary.

The challenge.Did you know?

In this part of the lesson, students are presented with some confusing terms.

Ask them to work in pairs and discuss the questions posed in the flip cards. Award 1 point to the student who has guessed the right answer.
Flash Card Deck created by Cristina Cabal with GoConqr
 

Speaking. The questions.

Ask students, in pairs or small groups, to answer the following questions about education, where they will revise some of the vocabulary learned in the previous step. Encourage the use of new vocabulary.

You can get the PDF with the questions here, but isn’t it more appealing to use the Spark below.

Education

Listening. The video: 6 problems with our school system.

Methodology: collaborative retelling

It is a longish video. It lasts almost 6 minutes so I’d suggest breaking it up and asking students to work on different parts of the video.  In the video, 6 problems with our education system are mentioned.

This activity will be set as homework.

  1. Introduction.  In class, play the first 34 seconds of the video and tell students to give you a summary. They will probably say that the video shows how our system of education has become obsolete and is not preparing children for the real world. Ask them whether they agree with this idea.

2. Homework.

  • Explain that everybody will need to listen to the introduction again (first 34 sec) which summarizes the content of the video.
  • Tell students the video talks about 6 problems our current education system is facing nowadays.
  • Form groups of six students and tell them that, in the next lesson, they will be working in groups of six and each of them will share what they have learned about their assigned problem and their opinion on whether this is a real problem in their country providing examples, if possible.Alternatively, you can form groups of 3 students and assign each student two problems.
  • Assign tasks to the different students in the  group
  • Student 1: Industrial Age values 0:35-1:26
  • Student 2: Lack of autonomy 1:26-2:18
  • Student 3: Inauthentic learning  2:18-3:12
  • Student 4: No room for passion 3:12-4:15
  • Student 5: Differences in how we learn 4:15-4:40
  • Student 6: Lecturing 4:40-5:56

Writing. An opinion essay.

Write an opinion essay on the following:

Our current system of education is now outdated and ineffective.

Here’s a nice post I wrote last year which might help you.

Five Steps to Writing an Excellent Opinion Essay

Thanks for reading!

Quiz: Persistent Spelling Mistakes and some Orthodox and Unorthodox Techniques to Get Rid of them

The course is almost finished.

Admittedly, I’m in sore need of a respite from the pressure of end-of-the-course classes, but it’s also true that I have a lot of ideas to try and share sitting on the drafts shelf of my mind. Little by little they will see the light.

My students struggle with English spelling. Who doesn’t? Little by little I can see they’re making progress, but unfortunately there are some spelling mistakes that I keep finding in my student’s exams. A quick search on the Internet reveals that the occurrence of these spelling mistakes has little to do with your mother tongue though, admittedly, the quiz is based on my students’ spelling mistakes who are, for the most part, Spanish.

What about you? Do you also make these mistakes? Let’s find out!


Some orthodox and unorthodox techniques to get rid of these spelling mistakes


  1. Write them down. This is the dull, traditional but effective way of correcting spelling mistakes. Start with one mistake and write it down, at least 10 times. This was my mother’s favourite method. I guess it served two purposes: to help us learn the correct spelling and also to keep us quiet for a while. I can’t blame her. I have 4 siblings and there are 6 years between the youngest and the oldest.
  2. Do the quiz. Do it once and write down all the targeted words you can remember. Take the quiz again. Correct the ones you misspelled. Repeat procedure.
  3. Ask someone to help you. Write a list of the words you have trouble spelling. Write the translation in your own language next to each one. Ask someone in your family to call any of these words at random. Write them down and ask this person to correct them. Once you have mastered the spelling of the words, you might want to buy your helper a drink. He deserves it.
  4. Write a short story. Write the words you seem unable to spell correctly. Make sure you write them down properly. Read them several times. Write a short story containing them and give yourself a high five if you got most of them right. Warning: don’t ask anybody to read it. The story will probably not make any sense at all.
  5. Stick on the walls of your house flashcards with the correct spelling. I used to do it with phrasal verbs when I was at uni. It worked but my flatmates were not very happy.
  6. Use Quizlet or any other app to create flashcards. This app is great to work with spelling as it offers a variety of games to practise the correct spelling. I’ve made a short video tutorial. See it below.

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Photo via Visual hunt

2 Superb Activities with Posters to Review Topics before Oral Exams

I love working with posters and these two activities combine some of the elements that guarantee a successful lesson: movement, interaction, visuals and fun.

It is great if you need to revise a number of topics before an oral exam.

 

ACTIVITY ONE: 

Aim:  to revise several conversation topics integrating grammar, speaking and writing.

Level: B1 (intermediate and above)

Time: 50 minutes or more

Materials: post-it notes (alternatively, you can use pieces of paper+ Sellotape/blu-tack). I have used the free website Canva to create my posters. You can see them here. I have used the free website wheeldecide to create a wheel for the wh-words. (short video tutorial here)

Task. In this engaging activity students will need to work in pairs or small groups and provide the questions which will be later answered in groups about a certain topic.

Preparation:

  • Create as many posters as topics you want to revise and display them on the walls on the class. See mine above. You can also do this activity without posters by writing the different topics on pieces of paper, although obviously this is less appealing. Ideally, the topics should be written big enough to be seen from the back of the class.
  • Create a wheel containing wh- words and a yes/no question option. See mine below. If you don’t want to use a wheel, you can write the wh- words on pieces of paper and put them in a box.

In class

This activity is divided into two stages

Stage 1.

  • Direct students’ attention to the walls of the class and read the different topics to be revised.
  • Ask students to work in pairs or small groups.
  • Spin the wheel. Students in their groups choose a topic  from the ones displayed on the walls and write a question about it beginning with the wh- displayed on the wheel. Give students sticky notes and ask them to write their question there, and then stick it next to the poster it refers to.

For example: the wheel displays How?. Group A decides to write a question about City life and Country Life. They might write something like: How are city people and country people different?

  • Spin the wheel again and repeat procedure as many times as you want. Each time students will need to choose a different topic.

Stage 2

  • Ask the groups to stand up and stand next to a topic. Students read the questions on the sticky notes and discuss them. Encourage the use of specific vocabulary.
  • After five minutes, ask the groups to rotate to the next topic.

 


ACTIVITY TWO: 

Aim:  to revise several conversation topics .

Level: B1 (intermediate and above)

Time: 30 minutes or more

Materials:  I have used the free website Canva to create my posters. You can see them here

Task. In this fun activity students will alternate playing the roles of interviewer and interviewee while reviewing different topics before taking an oral exam.

Preparation:

For this review activity you’ll need to create posters on different topics and write two or three topic-related questions to be used in the interview.

In class

Ask as many students as posters you have displayed on the walls of the class to stand up and stand next to a poster. One student, one poster. Let’s call them Student A. They are now the interviewees. There should be, at least, the same number of students sitting down. Let’s call them Student B. They are the interviewers.

Ask Student B to stand up and choose a student A to interview using the questions on the poster. Encourage Student A to elaborate on the answers. Allow 3-4 minutes.

Ask student B, i.e. the interviewer, to exchange places with Student A and become the interviewee and ask student A to rotate to the next topic and become the interviewer.

In this way, students alternate being the interviewer and interviewee while revising a variety of topics in a dynamic way.

Repeat procedure until all the topics have been covered.

(Note: this activity can also be done if you need to have two Students B in one station. They’ll just have to take the role of interviewer twice before becoming an interviewee.

Hope you enjoy the activities!

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