An Outdoors QR-Codes Listening and Speaking lesson about Cities

I need to share this activity. It really has all the ingredients for a perfect lesson.

Things I want you to know about this lesson.

  • It is super engaging and gives your class a touch of modernity
  • It is collaborative
  • It deals with two basic skills, listening and speaking, but a lot of subskills are also at work.
  • It gives students and teachers a good excuse to stand up from their seats and even take the lesson outside, as I did.
  • It helps build rapport in the class, which is sooo important at the beginning of the course

I am not going to lie to you. It needs some initial preparation, but it pays off. Believe me! Besides, I find the whole process of preparing the activity very entertaining. Ok. I know. You don’t have time. The good news is that you can always use mine if you like my choice of cities.

  • Topic: Cities
  • Level: C1
  • Main skills: listening and speaking
  • Time: 50-60 minutes
  • Materials: here
Before the session
  1. Before the session, look for a video that can easily be divided into parts. In my case, we were learning about cities and their problems so I decided on this one 10 of the most overrated cities from one of my favourite channels on Youtube. I chose only 4 cities to form groups of 4 students.
  2. I used Camtasia to make 4 new videos, one for each city: Rome. London, New York and Río de Janeiro. If you don’t have Camtasia, don’t let this put you off, you can easily use the free online https://online-video-cutter.com/es/.
  3. Once you have the videos, you need to upload them to, for example, Google Drive.
  4. Once online, you need to copy the URL and create a QR Code. I create mine here. The Gif below shows how to do it once the video is uploaded to Google drive.

5. Now, you need to print the  4 QR Codes on separate pieces of paper.

6. Before the class, you will also need to tell students to download- I bet they already have it- a QR Code reader (I use QR Scanner) to their mobile phones and bring some earbuds for the next class.

Done!!! See? No big deal!! Now, everything is ready. Ready for the fun part!! 🙄

Tell the students this class will be done outside. Yay!! It could be the aisle or any other place on the premises that has enough room for the students to move. In my case, I used the schoolyard and pasted the QR Codes on the walls, well, not exactly walls as you can see from the picture.

Part 1.Listening and  Retelling
  • Ask students to form groups of 4. Each of them should choose a different city
  • Ask students to scan the code for their city and take notes.
  • Explain they will need to share as many details as they can about the city of their choice with their group. Apart from the main specifics of the city, they will need to explain why the city is overrated.
  • Allow 15 minutes for this part as students will need to watch their video several times to write down as many details as possible.
  • Next, students get back to their groups and start sharing the information gathered about their cities.
Part 2:  Speaking. Critical Thinking

 

In their groups, students talk about the issues the city in their videos has and together they debate whether the city where they live faces these same problems. Ask them to elaborate on their answers and offer possible solutions to tackle the problem.

Hope you have enjoyed my lesson and decide to give it a try!!

Teaching Students the Technique to Ace a Cloze Listening Exercise

Engaging, challenging and highly effective activity to teach students how to do a  Listening Cloze Exercise! This is a must-do activity to help students learn the technique for a fill-in-the-blanks exercise.

If I have to name the activity most of my older students find highly frustrating, it is probably doing a listening comprehension activity and not being able to understand anything. At least, that’s what they tell me. I suspect they are stretching it a tiny bit and they have managed to get the gist of what is being said but, already in a black mood when the audio finishes, they just feel they will never get better. The truth is that getting the gist is not enough when you are unable to answer the questions posed, especially when tested in an exam. That, we both know.

Though I always tell them that they need to work on this and promise that if they make a habit out of listening every single day, they will eventually get it and blah, blah, blah…, the truth is that we, as teachers, also need to find the time to explain how to do this kind of listening exercises.  Because although it doesn’t work magic, there is a technique… and it can help them.

It seems to me the beginning of a course is the right time to do it and so, this past week,  I set out to explain this technique.

But, you know me. With a game. Playing.

Step 1- Choose a Cloze Listening Exercise.

Step 2: Form Groups

Give all students the exercise on paper and ask them to form groups of 3ish people.

Step 3. Explain the Task

Explain that prediction in this kind of listening exercises is key. Stress the importance of trying to predict two things:

  1. The grammatical category of the word(s) that will fit in the gap: is it a noun, a verb…etc?
  2. The challenging part: ask students in their groups to try to guess the word (s) that they think will fill the gap. Ask students to name a secretary in the group that will be in charge of writing down their guesses.

For example in Number 1, one group might write “their teachers” but another group might decide “parents”  is the best option.

Give students some individual time to read the text and start thinking about the options. Then ask them to join their groups and decide on one option for each gap.

Step 4. The Whiteboard

Divide the whiteboard in as many columns as groups- see the picture- and ask the secretaries of each group to come up to the whiteboard and write their options. Comment on any coincidences to build suspense- in the picture, have a look at question Nº 2, they all wrote “culture”-.  Remember you are teaching them the technique, but it is also a game.

Step 5: the Listening

Play the audio (2 or 3 times). At this point, ask students to focus on their exercises and forget about their guesses.

Step 6: The Winners

Correct the listening exercise. Write the correct answers on the board and give 1 point for every coincidence. You know who the winner is, don’t you?

Note: In one class, one group got as many as 4 correct answers without even listening to the audio. Amazing, isn’t it?

Do you want to try? Follow all the steps and then listen to the audio. Check. How many wild guesses did you get right? Surely, you can’t expect to wild guess the exact number for gaps 3,5 and 6 but you know that it is a number and that, is saying a lot. Answers here. 

 

 

The Climbers’ Challenge: a Game to Energize the First 10 Minutes of your Class

Back to the grind!!! First days are not first days without a game, are they?

Err scratch that, first days are not first days…  without a game that allows students to brush up their English and have some fun.

Well  I guess a game where they play in teams, gently competing against each other in an attempt to brush up the English learned before the summer, is a step in the right direction, right?

I have invented this game inspired by one I saw on TV called El  Picu (TPA) but, after all the variations I have introduced, I think I have earned the right to rebaptize it as  The Climbers’ Challenge.  As the name suggests,  teams will need to climb a mountain. How does it sound???

Context

Tell students they will need to climb a steep mountain and be the first to reach the summit to plant their flag. On the slope of the mountain, there are “camps” where they can rest. To hike from “camp” to “camp”, they need to win the “round”. You will need something to monitor 60 seconds, which is the time limit for each round.

Here’s how you go about it.

Step 1:

Ask students to form teams of 5ish and name a secretary in charge of writing. On the board, draw as many mountains as teams you have in the class. Ask teams to give themselves a winning name. Assign a mountain to every team.

On the slope of the mountains, decide and draw as many “camps”  – I would go for just 2 or 3 camps -where teams can rest.  To climb to the next camp, teams will need to win the round; the more camps you draw, the longer it will take teams to reach the summit, which is how they win the game.

Step 2.

Deal the first card and explain that teams will have 60 seconds to write at least 4 items of what is featured in the card. The minimum to start playing is 4 items but teams collaboratively can write as many as they know. Remind them that only the designed secretary writes the words.

This is the game we are going to play.

Step 3.

Decide which team starts the game: say it’s Team A. Digitally display the first card. When the time is up, ask Team A to shout how many items they have. Let’s imagine they say 6 items. Now, ask teams: Who can beat 6? Say Team C raises hands and says “we’ve got 9“. Ask: who can beat 9?

Step 4

Ask the secretary of the team who has the most items to say them aloud. If correct, on the board,  choose their mountain and move them upwards to the next “camp”. If for some reason, they make a mistake, they will climb down a “camp”: this will ensure that teams don’t rush and write things randomly.

Part 2. Extension. Speaking.

At the end of each round, write on the board some of the words they have written, work on their pronunciation and then, ask a conversation question asking students to answer it in pairs or in 3’s, using as many words as possible from the board.

For example, for the card Things you can turn on and off, they have probably come up with the words heating, TV, mobile phone, radio, modems and routers, chargers.. etc., I would ask a question like

Are people these days too wound up in technology?

It’s great to be back! I hope you have liked the game!!!

Summer Break Is Here

Ohh this year. I am not going to deny it’s been a hard one.

There was a period in my life when I could easily multitask and take care of my family and home, work as a full-time teacher, run webinars, travel the country training teachers and even managed to keep fit and go shopping. This year, I have to confess, I have concentrated on running webinars ( 68 and counting – thanks for your trust) to the neglect of some other duties and hobbies.

Anyway, I hope next year I will be able to publish more regularly, mainly because it makes me really happy to share with you all my ideas and experiments and read your feedback, but for now, the blog is taking its usual summer break.

Thanks for reading me. Thanks for your supporting comments and feedback. See you again in September/October. I’ll be taking attendance!!!

The Golden Minute: a 1-Minute Revision Game

It’s a gorgeous spring day here, in Asturias. My classes end tomorrow, and before I find it impossible to resist the siren call of a full shift to summer mode, I wanted to tell you about one last fun, fast-paced pandemic-era game I have adapted from one game I heard on the radio.

Does it happen to you? Every time I see a  new game in a TV show or listen to a game on the radio, I am like a dog on alert, ears pricked, bodyweight rolled forward and tail lifted, eager to see if it’s possible to adapt and use it to teach English. Yes. That’s how my mind is wired!

So, I came up with this game while listening to the Spanish radio station, KISS FM. The game the presenters (Xabi and María)  were playing with their listeners was called “El Milnuto”, but since I have adapted it, I will officially rename it “The Golden Minute”. I know, not so good!

Why this game?

First of all, because it can be used as a warm-up for the first 5-10 minutes of the lesson and you know, how important these 5 minutes are.

Secondly, because you can never go wrong with a game. Learning is a serious business,  but this doesn’t mean they cannot have fun while doing it.

Thirdly, because it helps them revise and reinforce content.

Ready? Here we go:

Preparation: prepare a set of 10 questions to revise vocabulary or grammar. They need to be short and to the point. If you add a funny question in between some more academic ones, that would be a blast.

Materials: a stopwatch to monitor 1 minute.

Procedure:

  • Tell students you are going to ask them 10 questions in  60 seconds ( to be honest, I give them a minute and a half, but I don’t tell them)
  • Ask them to write down numbers 1 to 10 (see picture below) in their notebooks. This is an important step for 2 reasons:
  1. They won’t waste time writing down the numbers.
  2. You will use up the whole minute and this means you will have time to repeat some of the questions but always beginning with question number one and then number 2… etc. Writing down the numbers will facilitate identifying the ones they haven’t answered.
  • When the time is up, ask students who have managed to answer all the questions to raise their hands and ask the students sitting next to them to check their answers.

The prize? a big round of applause or perhaps a free homework pass.

TIP: There should be a variety of questions: difficult, easy, translation of one or two words, a surprise funny question not content-related… etc

So, this is the game… creating the right atmosphere to play the game is kind of up to you.

Example of questions:

  1. Preposition that collocates with “depend”
  2. What’s the past of “forecast”?
  3. Phrasal verb beginning with “look” meaning ” to admire someone”
  4. Write the word pronounced /prəˈsiː.dʒər/
  5. Finish this proverb ” An apple a day keeps the doctor..”
  6. Elisabeth II’s grandson: Harry or Larry?
  7. How do you say in English? sotenible
  8. Which is correct: people is or people are?
  9. Which is correct: despite of or despite?
  10. Phrasal verb beginning with “look” meaning ” to despise”

Have fun teaching.  Have fun learning!