Category Archives: General

7 Activities and Ideas to Practise B and V sounds

Let’s not beat about the bush.

Some of us are probably spending lots of time and energy teaching how to pronounce the schwa /ə/ or helping our students’ /ð/ sound just right, and while this is not a bad idea and something we obviously need to do, we might be overlooking a very subtle yet essential pronunciation distinction: the difference between the /b/ and /v/ sound.

If you are Spanish, it might be even more difficult for you as there’s no difference in the pronunciation of b and v.  In Spanish, despite differentiating in writing between “vaca” and “baca”, when it comes to pronouncing them,  the “v” sound is miraculously transformed into a /b/ sound. 

So, it is imperative that we teach our students that the “v” sound exists much like Teruel) and here are some exercises we can do to help our students with this elusive sound.

One. The obvious. Practise the sounds in isolation.  

Demonstrate how to pronounce the sounds /b/ and /v/ and ask students to imitate you. I can guarantee they will have no problem pronouncing the bilabial plosive /b/ sound but some fun and a bit of reluctance on their part are bound to happen when they attempt to pronounce the labiodental fricative /v/. 

Now, give them a minimal pair they can easily recognise like “boat/vote” to do some practice and help them while they struggle with the “v” sound.

Two. Guess the words. Lady Gaga and Beyonce's  video "Telephone"

Nope. We are not going to sing.

For this exercise -not necessarily done after  One above-, we are going to use a short clip (4:30-4.55)  from Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s video “Telephone”.

Play the video once without sound. Tell students they will need to guess Beyonce’s words. You might want to stop the video to elicit that Gaga is leaving prison. I can already warn you the first time you play it, students will look at you and tell you: “It’s impossible to guess“. Do not give up. Tell them it is a very short sentence containing “v” and “b” words. Play it a couple more times and listen to what they think Beyonce says. Play it with sound now. The important thing here is that they realize how the “v” sound is pronounced when emphasized.

Write the sentence on the board and play the video once again to pronounce along with Beyonce. If only Gaga was called Vivien, it would be perfect!!!!!!

You’ve been a very bad girl. A very very bad bad girl, Gaga!

Three. The Clever Parrot.

 1. On the board, write some minimal pairs and drill pronunciation.  If possible, listen to all the students individually pronouncing a set of minimal pairs.

 2.  Tell students you are going to point to one of the words on the board and pronounce it. They should only repeat after you only if they think the pronunciation is correct. If they think you are mispronouncing the word, i.e. pronouncing a /b/ when it should be a /v/, they should remain silent. Repeat and reinforce the correct pronunciation of all the words on the board.

Four. On their own now. Minimal Pairs Pyramids.

Lovely exercise from www.myhappyenglish.com/.   The instructions for the activity are on the second page. I have demonstrated the activity twice before asking them to pair up and do the activity. They liked it so much that most of them did it more than once. Then, ask some students to volunteer to do it for the rest of the class. A great success. They didn’t want to stop.

Five.  Fun. Tongue twisters.

Tongue twisters are a fun and challenging way to encourage confidence.

Tip: the only way, if there is one, to get your tongue twisters straight is to do it very slowly at the beginning and then increase the rhythm. And to be honest, it is very hard to get it right but this is not the point, is it?

Write tongue twister 1 and tongue twister 2 on the board and ask students to practice them in pairs. After a couple of minutes, write tongue twister 3 and ask for volunteers to read it.

Six. Getting Creative.Creating your own tongue twisters.

Ask students to write a list of 10 words containing either “b” or “v”. Encourage them to write nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs… etc.  Give them about 2 minutes for this task.

Now, you can do this activity in two ways: you can write their words on the board- I find this very time-consuming- or you can ask them to use  Wooclap or Mentimeter and effortlessly you will get a very nice word cloud in under 1 minute.

Once their words are displayed, ask students to write their own tongue twisters with some of the words on the word cloud. Give them 2-3 minutes and then ask them to write their sentence on a slip of paper. Collect all the slips and put them on the walls of the class; ask students to stand up and gallery walk in pairs trying to read their partner’s tongue twisters. Lots of fun guaranteed!

Ex: Bob’s beautiful vase has been visited by visitors vaccinated with available vaccines.

Seven. Speaking Activity with the same Word Cloud

Ask students to write a question to ask someone in the class using at least a word containing a “b” sound and a “v” sound. Needless to say, I encouraged them to be creative and, as long as the sentence had sense and could be answered, use as many words as possible containing /b/ or /v/.

The sentence should start with… When did you last…?

Allow 2-3 minutes for this task.

Whole class: ask a student to ask his/her question to another student. The answer should start with the same words used in the question to further practise these two sounds?

Example:

A: Peter, when did you last watch a beautiful music video? Peter: I last watched a beautiful video last month. It was Telephone by Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

I hope you have enjoyed the activities. If you have, please share this article!

 

2 Activities to Activate Health Vocabulary in a C1 Class

Are you teaching vocabulary? Silly question. Who isn’t?

On the flip side, perhaps the chunk “teaching vocabulary” might sound a bit weird to you; and yes, controversial opinion alert… can vocabulary be taught? I don’t know. I think you can teach form, pronunciation and meaning but arguably, this is not teaching vocabulary; this is more like presenting vocabulary. Vocabulary needs to be used to be learned and that’s my ambitious aim in every single lesson.

And yes… I feel you dear fellow teacher, whose life is as crazy as mine right now, who has a hard time finding the time to prepare the lesson, who knows his students are beginning to feel tired after so many months struggling to understand their classmates when talking through their facemasks and who stares at the book thinking… what can I do today that will bring a spark to my lessons and engage my students?

I see you. I feel you.

So since I see you and understand you because I am just like you in these feelings, today I am sharing with you two ideas to activate vocabulary. I hope it helps you and makes tomorrow’s lesson planning easier.

Vocabulary. First things first: the vocabulary we are going to work with. Get the PDF here

Activity one: Choose a quote

In this activity, which has two parts, students are presented with 4 quotes and asked to choose one.

Quotes:

  1. Health is the greatest possession” Lao Tzu
  2. “A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite” Leo Tolstoy.
  3. “Your body hears everything your mind says” Naomi Judd
  4. ” Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory” Albert Schweitzer.
Part 1: students in pairs
  • Put students in pairs and ask them to make sure they do not talk about the same quote.
  • Give students 4 minutes to prepare a 2-minute speech sharing what the quote means and whether or not they agree with it. In their speeches, they should include at least 10 of the words in the vocabulary list.
  • Students get into their pairs and listen to each other. While Student B listens to Student A, he needs to mentally keep track of the number of expressions/ collocations used.
Part 2: whole class
  • Divide the class into two teams. Team A chooses a representative to give his speech to the rest of the class. While Student A is talking, members of Team B listen and write down the words from the list Student A has used. Then, it’s Team B’s turn to choose a representative to try to beat Team A.
Activity Two:  Chain Talking

In this activity, we are going to use a random wheel, which is fed with the target vocabulary. My absolute favourite is random wheel is wheeldecide.com.

  • Pair students up.  Explain you are going to pose some questions related to health and each student in the pair, and in turns, will have 45 seconds to talk about the question. For each question, students will have two opportunities to speak. This means student A talks for about 45 seconds, then Student B for 45 seconds, then back to Student A and then, Student B again.
  • Tell them you are going to use a stopwatch and every 45 seconds, you will ring a bell.
  • Display the wheel using the OHP and tell students that, in their conversations, they will have to use the word on display in the wheel. Every time a student talks, a new word will be displayed.
  • On the board, write controversial statements or questions and let’s the show begin!
  1. ” Modern lifestyles can seriously endanger our health”
  2.  Countries should make vaccination compulsory
  3. Do you think the numbers of vegetarians and vegans will continue to grow? If so, what explains their continued popularity?
  4. How do you feel about surgery? Would you consider having surgery that isn’t completely necessary, like plastic surgery?
  5. Lifespans are getting longer. How long do you think the Millennials Generation (1980-1994) will live on average?

Name 4: a Game to Energize the first 10 Minutes of your Class

I write a lot about games on this blog but the truth is that there are many days when all we do in class is course book related. It is easy to fall prey to the monotonous rhythm of the book and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it; but I never get a kick out of doing the exercises the book suggests and I might be wrong, but I don’t think the students do either. And I, for a start, need this kick to keep me going.

So, from time to time, I like to give them games that will not only engage them but also help them fix previously studied content in an attractive way.

The game I am sharing with you today is called NAME 4, and the aim is to revise content studied in this course and mix it with some easy bits and bobs from previous courses.

I have created the game in Genial.ly. If you don’t want to create your own, you can easily edit mine and write your own categories. Also, in each slide I have placed a countdown timer. The time allotted for each category varies. If you need to modify the time, you can  find numerous countdown timers on YouTube; you just need to write “X seconds countdown”in the search box.

I have used the same template for C1 and B2, slightly varying the categories.

All the instructions to play the game are on the second slide. We had great fun so I really encourage you to give it a go.

GAME FOR C1 STUDENTS. Click on the three dots … to enlarge the presentation

GAME FOR B2 STUDENTS.Click on the three dots … to enlarge the presentation

Free Website to Create your Own Multidecker Cards to Learn/Revise Vocabulary

One of my biggest goals when I started posting, was to have a virtual space where I could share free websites or apps that helped me teach better and more effectively by offering my students an alternative to the predictable, and less varied, exercises in the textbooks.

If you have been a regular visitor of this blog, you might have guessed by now the importance I place on reinforcing and revising content. I have always found students learn much more when prompted to remember, even when they can’t.

This website I am sharing with you today is meant for that, to help students revise and learn. It is multidecker app, meaning that you can have as many as 4 different categories.  For example:

  • you can write cards ( for ex. blooper on one side of the card and on the other side its definition )  and then test yourself with the options I know or Not Yet.
  • You can have two options of your choice; for example regular and irregular verbs
  • Once in, you can have 3 options; for example when working with nouns, countable, uncountable and both.
  • And you can have four options; for example four lexical categories.

See here a 3-decker example for prepositions of time.

So, this super simple website works like this:

  1. The first amazing thing is that you don’t even have to sign up to use the already created decks  in the library. Check it out here. Just choose one, click play, and off you go!
  2. But… if you want to create your sets, then you have to sign up. Don’t worry, as I said it’s free.
  3. You can use the search box to find what you are looking for and if you like a deck, just click on the heart and you will find them stored in your Favourites.

 

Let’s see how to create your own deck. I have made a video to help you go about it but, trust me, it is a piece of cake.

First, go to multidecker.com/ and sign up.

Time to share the link or play in class and… enjoy learning, enjoy teaching!!!

 

Quiz: Love is in the Air

Not a big fan here of St Valentine’s day, but… it is not about the day, it is about the language that comes with the day. So, very quickly I have put together a small quiz to teach/revise some expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs related to love and friendship, well… mostly about love.

Before the quiz, we will have some fun doing a listening comprehension on St Valentine’s using Edpuzzle (Go Live mode) and after doing the quiz, we will answer the questions below, in pairs. Please, bear in mind I teach adults.

1. Would you rather find out that your partner cheated on you while drunk once, but it doesn’t mean anything and will never do it again or never learn the truth about it?

2. Would you rather marry a funny person who was always poor or a boring person who was very rich?

3. Would you rather never have a best friend but have a long and happy marriage or never get married but have the closest and strongest friendships ever?  Questions from buzzfeed.com

And here’s the quiz. Enjoy it!!

Note of warning: This free website for making quizzes only allows 250 visits/month for free. So, if you get here and cannot see the quiz, I apologize in advance. Please, come back next month or on second thoughts, next St Valentine’s to do it.