Tag Archives: writing

A Project-Based Learning Activity: Unusual Traditions

These past few days have been hectic with lots of exams to be written and then marked, plus all that red tape I can’t stand involving end-of-term exams. To top it all, my old friend the flu decided to pay me a visit. Very timely.  Right now, thank goodness, deadlines have been met and everybody seems to be winding down for the holiday season. Me, too. So, that’s probably going to be the last blog post of the year.

 

  • Organisation: Group work
  • Level: B2 and upwards
  • Materials: tackk tutorial here (optional)
  • Aims: to encourage collaborative work by giving students the challenge of researching, selecting and presenting a project about unusual traditions around the world.
  • Online tools: Padlet and Tackk

Project Based Learning- What is it?

It is a student –centred teaching method in which students acquire knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to a complex question, problem or challenge.

PBL is an active learning style which inspires and motivates students because they take an active role in their learning process and experience success in their own learning. The role of the teacher here is of mere facilitator and coach.

In PBL students are encouraged to work in pairs or in groups, which is also good because it creates a friendly atmosphere which is a boost to their motivation and creativity.


Project-based learning structure

  1. Choosing the problem or challenge
  2. Organisation
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Coordinating
  5. Sharing learning and refining
  6. Presenting and sharing

1.Choosing the problem or challenge.

For this project, students will be rising to the challenge of presenting information about unusual customs in the world.

2. Organisation.

My classes are quite large so students will work in groups of 4 or 5.

On the board the class as a whole decide on 4 or 5 areas, they want to talk about. There should be the same number of areas as groups you have. Each of these areas is assigned to a group to research.

In this project

  • Relationships
  • Festivals
  • Law
  • House and Home
3. Brainstorming

This step is done entirely at home with the help of an online collaborative free tool. My students are adults, some as old as 70,  and they only see each other in class  twice a week, so it was important to provide them with some kind of free online tool  they could use to brainstorm ideas, share them with the members of the group and organize their project (timing, visuals, specific assignments..etc). I used a Padlet, a well-known collaborative tool, which is very easy to use, something really important as some adults are reluctant to use new technologies. Each group was assigned a different Padlet and given a week to do research on the internet and post on Padlet their ideas.

Below is the Padlet the group”House and Home” used.

Hecho con Padlet

 

4. Coordinating.

This stage might take the first or last 10 minutes of your lesson. Once they have shared their ideas on Padlet, in class they decide on the number of traditions they are going to present, who is going to do what, the order in which they are going to present the information and the visuals or videos they are going to use.

5. Sharing learning and refining

In the next class, allow students time to get together in their groups and share their drafts. Offer help and guidance but ask students to help each other by swapping their drafts within their group  to improve and proofread their written work.

6. Presenting and sharing

Agree with the students on the order of the groups and let the show begin. Below is a picture of one of the groups on stage.

Sharing it with the world is also important. Here’s how we did it. Again, we used a free online digital tool called Tackk.com, which allows  you to beautifully showcase your projects. I gave my students this simple tutorial to help them get familiar with the tool.

Here’s the tackk my students have created.

 

Collaborative Writing Activity: Writing an Article

Do we really dedicate enough time to writing activities? Or is it something we keep putting off because it consumes precious time we feel we can’t afford to lose?

Most of my students think that writing is boring. I haven’t asked them. But do I need to?

Let’s face it! It can be boring. Ok. I might agree.  But most of my students, at the end of the course,  will have to sit external exams containing writing tasks. So yes, writing might be boring, but necessary.

Lately, I have been designing activities to make my students change their minds about the whole process of writing . My far-fetched aim when shaping these activities is that my students leave the class with a smile on their face, even after spending a whole session writing.

With this in mind I have created this activity, which can easily be adapted to any kind of essay, where students will need to follow several steps to create a final product: an article for the school newspaper.

Level: B2 and upward.
Aim: to collaboratively write an article in class.
Materials: the writing process handout, checklist, a model article, PDF of the activity
Time: 50 minutes
Note: this task is to be done after explaining the Writing Process, the parts of an essay and the tips to raise their essay score (handout above).Students will need to refer to this handout. Students will also have read a model article, which can be found in most textbooks.

 


INTRODUCTION. What’s an article?


An article is usually written for a magazine or newspaper. The main purpose is to engage the reader, so the opening paragraph should catch your reader’s interest. Attracting the reader’s attention can be done in a number of ways (refer to handout “The writing process “Part 2).

An article is usually factual and includes some comment, recommendation or opinion. It can be formal or informal depending on the target audience. Remind them, this is academic writing, so they cannot use contractions, abbreviations, or colloquial language.

An article consists of the following parts:
• Opening. It is the general presentation of the topic.

• Body (two or more paragraphs). The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument or example. The second paragraph the second strongest argument and the third the weakest.

A paragraph consists of several sentences about a certain topic. It has the following parts:
o A topic sentence, i.e. an idea.
o One or several supporting sentences to expand on the idea.
o A concluding sentence.

Conclusion. It is the paragraph that summarizes the main idea or presents a conclusion, depending on the kind of essay you need to write. Some things to bear in mind:

o It should not bring new ideas.
o It shouldn’t be very long.
o It can be similar to the opening, but presented in different words.

PROCEDURE


Step 1. Getting Started


• Ideally students work in groups of three. If necessary, ask them to work in pairs trying not to pair two weak students together.

• Suggest the following topics to write about and ask groups to choose one. Topics can be repeated.

1. Family reunions
2. Life lessons learned
3. Moving to another city


Step 2. Writing a Draft


Organisation:

1. Writing the Opening.

In this part, students introduce the subject.
The whole group works on the opening paragraph. Remind them of the three ways to catch the reader’s attention. Refer to Part 2 of “The Writing Process” handout.
Useful language:
Can you imagine…? Have you ever…? Would you like to…? Did you know that…?

2. Writing the Body

In this part, students give facts and details about the subject.
1. The whole group brainstorms for ideas. Refer back to handout the Writing Process to see how to do it effectively.

2. Students choose an idea to use in their paragraphs, and expand it, as explained in the Writing Process handout. One idea= one paragraph= one student. If you have a group of three students, they’ll need to write a body with three paragraphs. If there are only two students, two paragraphs.

3. Students, individually, write their paragraph developing their idea. Remind them to go from “general to specific”.


Step 3. Proofread your draft.


The whole group proofreads and improves their essays making sure the ideas flow naturally and the right connectors are used. Ask them to use the checklist provided.


Step 4. Writing the Conclusion


In this part, students sum up the main points and possibly give an opinion or recommendation.
1. The whole group works on the Concluding paragraph.
Useful language: In my opinion…, in conclusion…. As I see it…, Why not give t a chance..? Why not try it…?

2. The whole group proofreads the essay. Ask them to read it aloud, circling anything that needs to be improved, corrected or clarified. Does it sound “right”? Then, it’s ready.


Step 5. Writing your final essay.


Ask students to write their essays neatly on a clean sheet of paper (I used a different coloured paper for each group.) Display them on the walls of the class and ask students to stand up and read their partners’ articles.

And, of course, you’ll need to take them home to correct errors and offer advice.


On the other hand, I’ve been experimenting with Tackk, and embedded below is an example of some of the things you can do with this tool. But what I found more interesting, and will need to explore further, is the possibility of using this tool as a collaborative tool.  I’ll try to use it soon and tell you how it works.

Thanks for reading!

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Join us!

 

The Writing Process and 13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score

Writing is a process. For some students it might seem like a daunting task, but if you look at it as a succession of small steps to follow instead of looking at it as the big final product, writing can be fun and easy.

Useful Links:


Part 1. The Writing Process


Brainstorm for ideas

  • Write down all the ideas you can think of. You can try mind mapping your ideas. It is a good technique to generate ideas and expand on them. You can begin by writing a big bubble in the middle of the page with the topic and then use arrows to draw new bubbles with ideas and again arrows with more specific points or observations about this idea.
  • At this stage, don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes.

Organise your ideas

  • Decide which ideas to keep.
  • Group similar ideas together.
  • Organise your ideas according to the writing task.

Focus on language 

  • Think of words and expressions you will need in your work.

Write a draft

  • Write quickly. Don’t worry about things such as accuracy or neatness.
  • Use a pencil so that it is easier to make corrections and erase things.
  • If you are writing your draft by hand, leave a wide margin for notes and space between the lines for additions and corrections.
  • If you can’t think of a word in English, write it in your own language. You can look it up in a dictionary later.
  • If you don’t know the spelling of a word, write it anyway you can. You can look it up in a dictionary later.

Improve your draft

  • Do it slowly and conscientiously.
  • Check spellings in the dictionary and look up any word you felt unsure of. Here’s a very useful post Six Amazing Websites that Make your Writing Stronger.
  • Use a checklist to improve your work. See the one my students use here.
  • Read your draft aloud. Circle the things that need to be improved, reworded or clarified.
  • Take a break from writing and reread your draft after 30 minutes. Does everything sound right?

Write a final draft

  • Copy your corrected work neatly on a clean sheet of paper.
  • Make sure your paragraphs are clearly indicated.

Adapted from Burlington Books


 Part 2. Writing an Essay


An essay consists of several paragraphs about a topic. Although there are many different kinds of essays, they all have the same basic structure.

Opening

It is the general presentation of the topic. Try to get the reader interested in your essay. How can you do that? For example, by beginning

  • With a surprising fact.

Humans usually imitate the speech of someone with a strong accent due to empathy and to create a bond and assimilate with them.

  • With a short anecdote.

If you could interview anybody in the world, who would you choose?” asked the teacher. “Nelson Mandela”, I replied.

  • With a question.

Did you know that there is an island in Japan that has more than 450 people living above the age of 100?

 The Body.

The body can have one or more paragraphs which develop the topic. The first paragraph should contain the strongest argument or example. The second paragraph the second strongest argument and the third the weakest.

A paragraph consists of several sentences about a certain topic. It has the following parts:

  • A topic sentence, i.e. an idea.
  • One or several supporting sentences to expand on the idea.
  • A concluding sentence.

The parts should flow logically and the ideas should be easy to understand.

  • Go from general to specific. Give a general idea and then expand it.
  • Avoid unnecessary repetition by using pronouns to refer back to nouns already mentioned.
  • Use connector to join sentences and show the connection between ideas.

 The Closing

It is the paragraph that summarizes the main idea or presents a conclusion, depending on the kind of essay you need to write. Some things to bear in mind:

  • It should not bring new ideas.
  • It shouldn’t be very long.
  • It can be similar to the opening, but presented in different words.

 


13 Tips to Raise your Essay Score


  1. Read the assignment thoroughly, several times if necessary and underline anything relevant. Sometimes there is a question or several. Make sure you cover all of them. Focus on the purpose of the composition, on the tone and the style required and also on the length requirements.
  1. Plan your writing. You need to dedicate several minutes to planning what you are going to say and how you are going to say. It makes a big difference.
  1. Write a first draft. Use pencil, if possible, to erase or correct errors.
  1. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence and then write some supporting sentences about this topic sentence. 1 idea= 1 paragraph.
  1. Use a variety of vocabulary and grammar structures. Avoid repeating the same words over and over again. Use synonyms or paraphrase. A thesaurus or a lexicon is useful as a source of alternative words. Use a range of grammar, sentence structure should be varied and clear.
  1. Use connectors to join ideas. They also play an important part in stringing together sentences and paragraphs.
  1. Time management. Organize the time you are given to write the essay. If you have one hour to complete the task, dedicate 10 minutes to planning and organizing your ideas and allow about 10 minutes at the end to proofread your essay before giving it to the teacher. You will still have 40 minutes left to write and develop your ideas.
  1. Keep to the topic. Don’t write about things that have nothing to do with the assignment.
  1. Sound natural. Just because you know lots of connectors, it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them.
  1. Punctuation. Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. Your text can be confusing if you don’t use them adequately.
  1. Style. Think about the purpose of the assignment and the audience it addresses and use the correct style and tone. If it’s informal, you can use colloquial language, simple and shorter sentences, contractions, abbreviations and emotional language. On the contrary if it’s a formal assignment, you will need to use more complex sentences, avoid contractions and abbreviations and you should definitely avoid emotional language or colloquial expressions.
  1. Proofread your essay. Have a coffee or go for a walk. Come back, take your essay and reread it aloud. Does it sound “right”? Then, it’s ready!
  1. Read a lot and try to write about anything for 30 minutes every day. You’ll soon get better.

Thanks for reading!

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Follow us

Lesson Plan: US Elections Explained

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

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

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

Time: About 60 minutes

Materials: lesson plan pdf here

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

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

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Follow us!

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

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

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

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

In this post, you’ll learn

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

 

 

1. How to feed the wheel

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

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

Vocabulary

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

Speaking

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

Writing

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

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

Blog de Cristina is also on facebook. Follow us!

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

I must be doing something wrong. On second thought, perhaps my students are doing something wrong.

Do you know when your mum tells you off over and over again for not tidying your room and you just nod your head, promise it will never happen again and then, for some unknown reason, you seem unable to keep your promise? My students do it all the time. It’s called being nice. They are very nice, but being nice won’t help them pass exams.

So, you highlight the mistake, explain why it is a mistake, ask students if they have understood, they nod their head and  say they do, you elicit some examples and  give them exercises to consolidate and when you think you have seen the last of this mistake, here it is again, sticking its tongue out at you.

Below you’ll find a quiz with some of these very persistent mistakes students at intermediate level, and probably above, make.

This is how I suggest you do this quiz

  1. Do the quiz. Obviously 🙂
  2. Read the grammar and do the exercises when provided.
  3. For spelling mistakes: try to remember the words commonly misspelt featured in the quiz and write them down with the correct spelling.
  4. Grammar mistakes: Do you remember the mistakes? Can you remember why they were wrong? Write a sentence for each of the mistakes you can remember.
  5. Do the quiz again and correct your own sentences and the spelling of the words now.
  6. Were there any grammar or spelling mistakes you could not remember? Repeat numbers 3, 4 and 5.

Blog de Cristina is also on Facebook. Follow us

 

Quiz: Fixing Most Common Mistakes Seen in Intermediate Written Exams

Ready to start the quiz? Here we go! Which of these sentences is correct?

I am interested in participate in a seminar

I am interested in participating in a seminar

Which of these sentences is correct? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises

There are a lot of meals that they are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals that are easy to cook

There are a lot of meals they are easy to cook

Another very frequent mistake. Which is correct?

From my point of view is very difficult to be the boss.

From my point of view, it is very difficult to be the boss.

Let’s try spelling now! Which is correct?

possible

posible

accommodationaccomodation
helpfulhelpfull

Ready for the next grammar mistake? Which is correct?

I don’t mind sharing it with other family

I don’t mind sharing it with another family

Think hard! Which is correct? Choose and then read the grammar and do the exercises

I would like to know how much does it cost

I would like to know how much it costs

Let’s see vocabulary now. Which is correct?

My mother is a great cook

My mother is a great cooker

Concentrate! Which is correct?

I prefer stay in a hotel

I prefer to stay in a hotel

And now, what do you say?

I couldn’t find the information on your website

I couldn’t find the information in your website

Let’s go for spelling again. Which one is correct?

comfortable

confortable

definitelydefinetely

Which is correct?

business

bussines

What’s the plural of “life”

lifes

lives

Let’s focus on articles now. Which is correct?

I strongly believe that the fast food is not healthy

I strongly believe that fast food is not healthy

Which is correct?

The dates of the seminar are not enough clear

The dates of the seminar are not clear enough

What do you say?

I am completely agree wih you

I completely agree with you

Think hard! What do you say?

Fast food is becoming very popular

Fast food it is becoming very popular

What’s the opposite of the adjective “polite”?

Impolite

Unpolite

Which is correct?

Everybody loves you

Everybody love you

What’s the correct spelling?

greatful

grateful

And now?

successful

sucessful

Which is correct?

neccesary

necessary

What do you say? At or in?

They arrived in London yesterday

They arrived at London yesterday

Which is correct in this context? Don’t forget to read the grammar and do the exercises.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip

At the end we decided to cancel the trip

Which preposition collocates with “depend”?

It depends on her

It depends from her

It depends of her

What do you say? Choose the correct answer and then read the grammar and do the exercises

The mountains were covered with snow

The mountains were covered by snow

www.cristinacabal.com

Blog de Cristina

Follow us on facebook and twitter @blogdecristina

You might be interested in doing these other quizzes

Four Excellent Sites for Online Dictations

Oh boy. Does it bring back memories!
Dictations! To be completely honest with you, I have mixed feeling as regards dictations. I remember back in primary school when the language teacher gave us lots of dictations like a well- deserved break after a tough grammar lesson; and then, this feeling of “I don’t want to ever hear the word dictation again” that I got from my classes at university where the teacher gave us one-page-long dictations so quickly that when he finished, he was panting for breath and we were seeing red.

Although doing dictations is somewhat regarded as an old-fashioned technique, it is undeniable that a lot of benefits can be derived from doing this exercise. In fact, it is an integrative activity requiring the use of various skills like listening, writing and reading -when you read the passage you have written, looking for grammar or spelling mistakes. You might even add speaking if the dictation is used as a prompt to encourage discussion of the passage.

In case you are not fully convinced that dictations also have their place in the twenty-first century classroom, here are some more benefits you might want to consider:
• It improves spelling.
• It improves recognition of grammatically correct sentences.
• It helps students distinguish sounds in continuous speech.
• It improves students’ awareness of punctuation.
• It gives students practice in comprehending and helps them gain fluency in writing.

If I have managed to convince you, here are some links to online dictations you might want to try or if you are a teacher, heartily recommend to your students.

Dictations  Online.

This site specializes in dictations and although it is free, you can sign in to do more dictations or keep track of your score  and view your score history. They are graded from elementary to advanced.

The students hear the dictation four times

  • The first time, the whole passage is read at normal speed to listen for gist.
  • The  second time, each phrase is read slowly twice, with punctuation.
  • Then the whole passage is read again to check your work.
  • And finally, the written text is shown  for you to see  your mistakes.

Englishclub.

I like the site. It is very user-friendly. The dictations are graded going from Elementary, with short recordings of one or two phrases, to Advanced with recordings of one or two paragraphs.

Learn English free

This site features two levels: elementary and intermediate. It has a very clean interface where you’ll see two recording of the same dictation. One recorded at a normal speed and the other one at a slow speed with pauses to give you time to write down what you hear. You only need to follow the instructions.

ESL: English as a Second Language

Aimed at Intermediate and Upper-intermediate students, this site offers an amazing numbers of dictations

Do you like these sites or would you rather create your own dictations? Here are two online free tools to convert text to speech.

VOKI

SLIDETALK

Blog de Cristina is also on facebook. Follow us!

Stars in their Eyes

When I was a kid in my hometown, a little village in the north of Spain, there used to be a cinema. Not any more and not for a long time. In fact, it seems to me there are very few towns or even cities which still have a cinema and I’m not talking about the outdoor cinemas, which are so popular in summer, I am talking about the real thing. Cinemas with endless rows of seats smelling oldish and where the usher always told you off before you even got to your seat and started cracking up. I remember we didn’t get to see the latest films until they were 4 or 5 years old and then, they were not new any more as our friends from the capital city kindly reminded us rolling their eyes in disbelief when they came on holiday, but all the same it brings back very good memories. I must be getting old!

So today I’m sharing with you an engaging lesson with lots of activities around the theme of films and the cinema. Hope you enjoy it!

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

Activity 1. Warming-up. Learning and using vocabulary.

Step 1.Wordcloud.
Display the word cloud and ask students to guess the topic. Click on the words you want to highlight and ask students to guess meanings and try to use them in a sentence. Alternatively, you can choose the latest box-office hit and ask students to give you a sentence about this film containing the targeted word.

 

Step 2. Mind mapping.  Handout with vocabulary here

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board a mind map as the one below (give them only the words inside the circles) to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes to complete their mind maps and get feedback from the whole class, completing the mind map on the board with their suggestions.

  • Exercise on types of films here
  • A crossword with film words here

Activity 2. A game.

The class is divided into two groups. In turns, one member from each group sits on the Hot Chair facing  away from the whiteboard. The members of their group have  one minute to describe the film being displayed  without mentioning the title ( that goes without saying, but just in case, I’m saying it). The aim is to guess as many films as possible in one minute. Then, it’s the other team’s turn.

They will need to talk about:

Kind of film/ Nationality of the film/ director/ plot/

Some hints:

♥The film ‘_______’ is a(n) _______ film which takes place in _______.
♥The film is set in __(ancient Greece)__.
♥The story is based on __(a popular novel)__.
♥The film is directed by _______.
♥The main character(s) in the film is/are _______.
♥_______ is a character who _______.
♥__(Johnny Depp)__ stars as __(Captain Sparks)__.
♥In the film, __(Jack Black)__ plays __(a rock guitarist). The story is about _______
♥The best scene of the film is_____

Activity 3. A listening : interview with Hitchcock talking about his film Psycho.

Ask students: What kind of films do you like? Do you have a favourite director?

Write on the board Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho and ask students if they know who he is and if they know any of his films. Students most probably will have heard about Hitchcock and seen some of his films, but in case they haven’t, tell them Hitchcock is considered “the master of suspense” and “Psycho”(1960) s is arguably Hitchcock’s best-known film.

Play the video and ask students to answer the questions. (Find the answers at the end of this post).

  1.  What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
  3. When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.

Activity 4. Speaking.

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

Activity 5. Writing a film review.

Handout with the task and useful vocabulary and expressions to use in your review.

Blog de Cristina is also on facebook. Follow us!

Answers to the listening

  1. What’s Hitchcock’s opinion of films such as Frankenstein?He thinks they are very easy to make and that they are props
  2.  What’s his idea of a horror film?
    He believes in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.
  3.  When he made Psycho, did he have a mind a horror film or an amusing film?</li>
    An amusing film
  4. Was the film “Psycho” a very violent film? If not, why did it make people scream? Explain in your own words.
  5. There is only one violent scene in the film, which is at the beginning when the girl is violently murdered in the shower. As the film developed, there is less and less violence. The horror and the tension are transferred to the mind of the viewers, which are the end of the film are screaming.

Tools used
Tagul, Hot Potatoes, Picture Trail, Thematic

A Quiz: 25 Common Idioms that you Really Need to Know

I know the feeling. I have been there. You have studied English really hard this year. You have been willing to go the extra mile a thousand times because you knew it was going to be worth your while.  You have even burnt the candle at both ends staying up too late and getting up too early when studying for finals. Now you feel really happy with your effort, and it is time to take a breather. At last, after struggling for a long time with English pronunciation you are able to communicate in English fluently and understand native speakers pretty well, at least in an academic context.

Just by sheer luck, at a party, you are introduced to a British person and you feel it’s your opportunity to shine. You feel confident. You have a little chat and everything is going well. You are beginning to relax when all of a sudden, you are like…

  • “Did he just say something about the skin of my teeth?”
  • “Hot potato? Where are the potatoes? I can’t see any! Oh my God! Is this English?”
  • “Did he just say “you rock!”?, and now what ? Am I supposed to take him to a rock concert or maybe he wants me to sing rock?”

Yes. I’ve been there. I know how you feel. Native speakers use idioms all the time, just like you do in your own native language, probably without realizing it. The good news is that you can do something about it. It’s true that it’s quite difficult to feel confident using idiomatic expressions when you’re speaking a foreign language, and I wouldn’t dare suggest  that you use them, but you need to know what they mean if you want to follow a conversation.

In this quiz you’ll find some very common idioms used by native speakers.

Blog de Cristina is also on facebook. Follow us!

Tool used: Riddle

25 COMMON IDIOMS

Do you know what these idioms mean ?

If something is on your bucket list

You need to buy it quickly

You want to do it before you die

It is something you do when it is raining

If you cut corners

You do something in the easiest or most inexpensive way

You are in a strong position when you are competing with someone else

You stop doing something before you have finished

If you bite off more than you can chew

You eat everything on a plate, thus depriving anyone else of having any

You take on a task that is way too big

You drink very heavily

If you hit the sack

you go to bed

you go to the gym

you quit your job

If you do something once in a blue moon

You do it very often

You do it once a month

You do it very rarely

If something is a piece of cake

It is easy or simple

It is very sweet

It is only for girls

If you see eye to eye with someone

You are in love with someone

You agree on something with someone

You have a dispute with someone

If you rock

You’re great

You love music

You love dancing

If you do something by the skin of your teeth

You do it by a very narrow margin, only just

You do it because you’re very stubborn

You do it because it’s important for your health

If you go the extra mile

You run a marathon although you haven’t trained for it

You pay a lot of money for something

You make a special effort to achieve something

If you cannot get your head around something

you cannot decide between two options

you don’t understand something

you cannot attend an event because you have a headache

If something is a far cry from something else

It is very different

It is very far

It is very irritating

If something is a hot potato

It is an issue that makes you very happy

It is an issue that sounds unbelievable

It is an issue which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed

If you beat around the bush

You do whatever it takes to help someone

You avoid talking about a difficult or embarrassing subject

You begin to talk about important things

If you pull yourself together

you calm down and behave normally

you state a fact so that there are no doubts or objections

you start studying for finals

If you blow smoke

You are a chain- smoker

you exaggerate or say things that aren’t true to make you seem better

You speak in an angry tone

If something is a no-brainer

it is priceless

it has no brains

it is an easy decision

If you take something with a pinch of salt

you don’t completely believe something

you add salt in it because it is insipid

you assume something is true without checking

If you hit the books

You throw the books away because you don’t plan to use them again

You begin to study in a serious way

You don’t like books

If something is up in the air

It is very light and it floats

It is very high and you cannot reach it

It is uncertain or unsure

If you sit tight

You wait patiently

You take a test or an exam

You are in a comfortable position

If you face the music

You do what somebody wants you to do

You are in an excellent state of health

You accept the consequences of your mistakes or actions

If something rings a bell

It sounds familiar

It is musical

It is important

If you cut to the chase

You take shortcuts to get somewhere

You leave the unnecessary details and get to the point

You stop chasing someone

If someone kicks the bucket

They die

They reveal a secret

They break their leg and have to use crutches

Six Steps to Writing a Good Book Review

Here are some considerations and tips about writing book reviews. I hope you find them useful.

  1. Difference between a book report and a book review.
  2. Getting started.
  3. Some tips.
  4. Useful language.
  5. Revising your review.
  6. The task.

1. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BOOK REPORT AND A BOOK REVIEW.

A book report contains facts. It includes information about the author, title, place and year of publication as well as a summary of the content of the book.

A book review, on the other hand, is much more personal. It contains the reader’s opinion and specific aspects of the book. The review will probably include factual information, but it is the reader’s personal opinion that is most important.

2. GETTING STARTED

How can I start? You have read your book. Your next step will be to organize what you are going to say about it. Writing the basic elements down in an outline format will help you to organize your thoughts.

How shall I organize the information? Normally a book review is divided into four parts: introduction, summary, opinion and conclusion.

  • Introduction: In the introduction you give facts and background information about the book and its author. It should contain the book title, and the name of the author. Don’t forget to mention the book’s genre (such as mystery, fantasy, biography, essay, comedy or adventure).
  •  A main body: usually made up of two paragraphs.

In the first paragraph, give a concise outline of the plot and introduce the main characters, mentioning the setting (where and when the story takes place) and the overall theme of the book. Be careful not to re-tell the whole story in detail.

In the second paragraph you can give your opinion, including sentences about how you liked the book, which characters you liked and disliked and how the ending made you feel. You can also express what you felt was the best part of the story. Don’t be afraid to include negative points.

  • Conclusion: It consists of the overall feelings and opinions on the story and whether or not you would encourage others to read it and why. No new information or ideas should be introduced in the conclusion.

3. SOME TIPS.

  • Before you begin writing, make a few notes about the points you want to get across.
  • Try to get the main theme of the book across in the beginning of your review. Your reader should know right away what he or she is getting into should they choose to read the book.
  • Mention the name of the author and the book title in the first paragraph – there’s nothing more frustrating than reading a review of a great book but not knowing who wrote it and what the title is!
  • Think about whether the book is part of a genre. Does the book fit into a type like mystery, adventure, or romance?    What aspects of the genre does it use?
  • When mentioning a character for the first time, don’t forget to use his/her full name.
  • Make sure your review explains how you feel about the book and why, not just what the book is about. A good review should express the reviewer’s opinion and persuade the reader to share it, to read the book, or to avoid reading and make sure that someone who has not read the book will understand it after reading your review. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion openly, even if it is a negative one.
  • Use adjectives and adverbs in order to strengthen your opinion about the book or its plot. For ex. extremely disturbing.
  • The style depends upon the intended reader, so it can be either formal or semi-formal, but not colloquial.

Some of these tips are from Rodman Philbrick.

4. REVISING YOUR REVIEW

  • Write your draft and then allow some time to pass, at least a few hours, before you start your revision.
  • Check the layout and that the information is arranged in paragraphs. Look for unity, organisation and logical development.
  • Correct all mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation as you find them. You can use this checklist.
  • Use a range of present tenses, including the Present Perfect, to outline the plot as well as a variety of adjectives to make the review more interesting to the reader.
  • Don’t use informal language, slang or contractions. Make sure that your language is formal or semiformal and academically correct.
  • Don’t use long quotations from the book.
  • Read your paper through again looking for unity, organisation and logical development. If a sentence looks awkward, don’t hesitate to rewrite it.

5. USEFUL LANGUAGE

Introduction:

  • The book/novel was written by…
  • This well-written/informative/fascinating book…
  • This original first novel…
  • This novel is based on…
  • “ __” is a powerful first novel by…

Main body

  • The story is set in …. (rural Spain at the beginning of the XV century)
  • The story takes place…
  • The book tells the story of…
  • The story begins/ is about…
  • The story is told by…
  • The plot focuses on….
  • “___” is rich and detailed in plot.
  • The plot has an unexpected twist…
  • The plot is absolutely thrilling/ boring/clever/ exciting…
  • A plot with well-developed believable characters.
  • The character I like best is

General comments and opinion

  • The characters are very well drawn and readers can identify with them easily.
  • The story is totally convincing.
  • It has a tragic/dramatic /surprising end.
  • There was an unexpected twist to the story.
  • What we don’t learn until the end is…
  • What I liked best was (the way)…
  • What I didn’t like was…
  • My only reservation about this book…

Recommendations

  • Don’t miss it.
  • I would/wouldn’t recommend it because…
  • It is at the top of my list.
  • It’s a highly entertaining read.
  • Don’t bother with this one.
  • It’s well-worth reading.
  • It will change the way you see…
  • It’s a bore to read.
  • I definitely recommend that you add this book to your collection.
  • The book was so good that I couldn’t put it down..
  • The book certainly lived up to my expectations.

Adjectives to describe a book

  • Positive: gripping, best-selling, intriguing, thrilling, fascinating, enthralling, evocative, heart-warming, sensitive, memorable, powerful, beautifully written, engaging, fascinating.
  • Negative: disturbing, unconvincing, preposterous, predictable, dull, unimaginative, poorly-written, confusing.
  • Neutral: fast-paced (most of them collocate with the adjectives above).

Adverbs (most of them collocate with the adjectives above)

  • Amazingly, considerably, exceedingly, extraordinarily, extremely, highly, immensely, noticeably, radically, remarkably, significantly, totally, truly, utterly.

6. THE TASK

(adapted from Advanced Masterclass)

You have seen this announcement in a magazine.

Pdf here. Hope you find it useful!

Blog de Cristina is on Facebook. Follow us!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...