February is a short month. First round of exams is over and I need to concentrate on preparing my students to take standardized exams. I am beginning to feel the pressure. OMG! It’s only February and I am already a bit stressed out. Will I make it to the end of the course with all my wits about me? Highly unlikely!
So, next topic on my list is Food and Nutrition and all the subtopics around it, which are …like a lot.
What you will see in this post is an example of how I prepare my students to take oral exams.
Revision and introduction of vocabulary-related terms
Listening Comprehension Activity: Food waste
Pronunciation Activity: Organic Food No More Nutritious
Speaking Activity through Reading passages with Follow-up Questions
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always feel up to creating material from scratch for my classes. The reasons vary from feeling too tired to even open my laptop to an absolute lack of inspiration.
Thank goodness, there are always people out there making our lives as teachers so much easier and generously giving away their work for free. Just for the taking.
In this post, I want to share with you three of my favourite sites for working with video clips and I also want, and need, to thank the people behind these three awesome sites that not only handpick the best video clips and sort them out according to level and topic, but also offer free worksheets that make my life as a teacher so much simpler.
These three are keepers. Don’t forget to bookmark them.
Owned by a couple of teachers from Poland, this amazing website offers video-based lessons for level B1, B2 and C1 for free. Right now, they are looking for financial help and offer extra material if you support them by becoming a “patron”.
For my next lesson on Housing with B2 students, I am going to use this video lesson, which comes complete with the downloadable student’s version, teacher’s version and even an extra warm-up exercise.
It’s not the first time I have written about TedEd, owned by the popular platform TED.
TedEd is a collection of original animated videos lessons. You can choose by subject and view the video in class or assign it as homework. Every video is accompanied by a lesson with multiple choice questions that check your general comprehension. If your answers are wrong, you can always check with the video hint. There is also a Think section with questions that further explore the topic.
For teachers, one of the most powerful features is the Customize your Lesson area, where you can customize the lesson by editing the title, giving your own instructions, selecting or deselecting multiple choice questions…etc.
This is a lesson I have customized for my students. I have used the video clip Questions No One Knows the Answer To to give my students some practice using Reported Speech Questions. You can see my lessonhere
Last, but not least, is the fabulous site Jamie Keddie owns and runs with an amazing collection of video activities. On this website, you can choose by level, topic, time and many other options which help the teacher or the student find the perfect lesson in two shakes.
A downloadable worksheet is offered with every lesson. Again, for free.
I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to. Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.
Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.
So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.
In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:
Two texts about unusual customs
A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
How I use Google slides for collaborative projects
In this lesson, students will have to:
Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)
Lead-In : Speaking
Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.
There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.
Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country
Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.
Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.
Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.
Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then, in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.
Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.
The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.
I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described, while listening to the students’ performances.
Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.
Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it. Problem solved.
A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?
This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.
Do the quiz with the whole class. Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him. Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.
Unit 1 of my textbook is dedicated to questions. All sorts of questions: indirect, with prepositions at the end, negative interrogative questions, echo questions, question tags… etc. Yeah, I know. Lots of teaching here. On the bright side, teaching questions offers such a variety of activities you can do with your students that sometimes it is hard to find the time to do all the amazing stuff published all around the web.
This year, for my first lessons dealing with questions, I have decided to choose one of the hundreds of interviews to celebrities available online. It is still the beginning of the course and I wanted something quick and not too difficult to understand. And, I found this interview with Selena Gomez who, to be honest with you, I didn’t know much about just perfect as it is all about questions and, more specifically, get-to-know-you questions.
Anyway, I wanted a short simple listening exercise and I wanted to post it on the blog so that my students could do it again at home. To do the whole activity, I needed to solve a few technical issues regarding YouTube which I’ll detail below, in case you find them helpful.
YOUTUBE VIDEOS: SOME TRICKS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start time
You probably know how to share a video starting at a specific point. You don’t? Well, that’ s pretty easy to do.
Sharing a youtube video with a specific start and end time
That’s a bit more complicated. Keywords “ a bit”. The first thing you need to know is the specific time you want your video to start and to finish. For example, if you need your video to run from 1:20 to 2:15, you need to convert it into seconds.
Getting the transcript. Call me lazy but if technology can save me some time….
You can easily get the transcript from a youtube video clicking on the three dots next to the save button.
VIDEO-BASED LISTENING ACTIVITY: 18/73 QUESTIONS WITH SELENA GOMEZ
(Follow -up activity: I am looking for one or two EOI teachers, teaching the B2.2 level, to work with me on a simple single get-to-know-you project using the free online tool Flipgrid. If anybody is interested, please send me an email)
Skills: listening and speaking
As I have mentioned above, I wanted a short listening activity which could serve as a springboard for a speaking get-to-know-you activity among my students.
Play the video once and ask students to just listen. At the end of the video (the video is set to stop at 2:08) students will probably complain that it goes too fast. My advice? Smile and say “You can do it! “, because they actually can.
Give them the handout with the questions and play the video twice more.
Before you play it a third time, ask students to share their answers in pairs and, needless to say, in English.
Play the video once more, pausing after each answer. Ask students to provide the answer and repeat procedure for question 2.
Hereare the questions. To get the answers, just display the transcript as indicated above.
SPEAKING ACTIVITY: 15 minutes
Play the video again, this time and depending on the number of students, play a couple more minutes or if necessary the whole video.
Tell students, they will need to listen very attentively to the questions asked to Selena and choose one they would like to ask their classmates.
Ask them to write it down and check with you that it’s Ok. When they are ready, ask them to stand up in a mingling activity and interview as many classmates as possible.
I must have been in my teens, but I vividly remember my mother telling my father that someone called James Dean had called. The funny part was not only that the famous now-long- deceased actor had phoned my dad, but the way everybody pronounced his name, /jamez dean/, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, while me and my naughty siblings couldn’t help cracking up, repeating /james dean, james dean/while in stitches. (The Spanish pronunciationof the “j” is similar to the Scottish word “loch” or the German word “Bach”)
In case you are wondering, my parents (now almost 80) had never ever heard a word in English so everybody said /james dean/ just like that and never gave it a second thought. We, me and my three siblings, just liked fooling around. I know better now!! 🙂
About the lesson:
In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students discuss their names and their personalities through some engaging activities.
In part 2, you have the possibility of asking students to use their own devices and complete the task in class or alternatively set the task for homework.
Part 1. Talking about your name
A video-based listening activity
Tell students they are going to watch a short extract from the Graham Norton show, where the actresses Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman discuss their birth names. Play from 0:00 until 2:50.
To be named ( after someone)
To name someone
A pet name
A middle name
Play the video once and ask students some comprehension questions. Play the video a second time if necessary.
Meryl Streep was named Mary at birth. How did she end up being called Meryl?
Is she happy about her surname? How does she wish it to be different?
Why is Nicole Kidman called Hokulani? Who is she named after?
Are you happy with your name? Why (not)?
Does your name have a meaning? If so, what does it mean?
Do you have a middle name? What is it?
Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it and how did you get it?
If you could change your name would you? What would it be? Why?
U2’s lead singer, Bono, called his daughter Memphis Eve and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is called Apple. Do you know any “normal people” with unique baby names? What about you, do you prefer giving your child a more traditional name or a unique name?
In some countries, when women marry they take their husband’s last name? What do you think of this?
Part 2. Talking about your personality
In this second part, we are going to revise and learn some more complex personality adjectives. To introduce personality adjectives we are going to use a website which analyses your personality based on the numerical value of your name. Whether students believe in it or not should be irrelevant, we are only interested in language acquisition here.
As this lesson is aimed at upper-intermediate students and above, students will have some prior knowledge of the most common personality adjectives, at least enough to get them started.
Ask students whether they think a name can shape their personality and refer them to this website where they’ll have to write their name in the space provided and read about their personality.
You can always ask them to read their horoscope, but this is “old news”, so I thought this might better spark students’ interest.
At home, students go to the website and find out about their personality based on their names. They look up any new words they don’t know, especially personality adjectives, as they will need to share this analysis with their classmates and say whether they agree or disagree with it, giving reasons.
This activity can be done in a traditional way i.e board and chalk. Students call out an adjective and you write the personality adjective on the board.
Again, with the aim of creating a more engaging activity, I’m going to use a free online tool called “Answergarden” to get instantaneous feedback. The tool is very easy to use. Here’s a tutorial in case you need it, but it really has a very friendly intuitive interface making it very easy to use, even for those teachers who are not too tech-savvy. The app takes students answers and creates a word cloud that can be exported or embedded. Students will need to use their own devices but, if necessary, every three students can share one.
Once you have created the word cloud in Asnwergarden, use the overhead proyector to display it and ask volunteer students to explain the meaning of the adjectives and say whether they think it is positive, negative or neutral.
Below, an example of a word cloud created with Answergarden.
Put students in pairs and ask them to share their name report from the website and say whether they agree or disagree with such analysis.
Ask them to discuss the following questions.
What kind of people do you usually get along with?
What kinds of personality traits do you hate?
Is your personality more similar to your mother’s or father’s?
Do you think we are born with our personalities, or do we develop them because of what happens to us?
Do you tend to fall in love with good looks or with a great personality?
Does one person’s character affect the personalities of the surrounding people? Are you influenced by anybody you know?
Does birth order affect personality? What qualities do a first-born child, a last-born and an only child have?
The Quiz: As Free as a Bird.
Let’s go the extra mile! In this quiz, you’ll find more colourful ways to talk about someone’s personality. In order to learn them, I suggest taking the quiz two or three times, the last time checking if just by looking at the picture students can remember the simile.
After doing the quiz, you can always ask some follow-up questions like:
So what do you do to practise listening for exams?
Growing up, I never had the opportunity to do any extra practice to improve my listening skills. We didn’t have the Internet and the thousand possibilities it offers to learners of any language nowadays. The teachers had an old tape player that sometimes stopped and started on its own and old tapes that ended up sounding distorted and most of the times unlistenable so if you wanted to get better at listening, you just listened to the radio and struggled to understand the lyrics and sing along. Not that I ever complained. That was the perfect excuse to listen to music while claiming to be working hard. I have to say that my father never bought it!
So, exams are just around the corner and I know you’re beginning to freak out. Don’t worry! Here I am, coming to the rescue!
These are, in my opinion, the best sites with quizzes to practise listening comprehension. In no particular order.
Levels: three main levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced)
Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: no
Audio Download: no
What I like best: it has some other listening activities like dictations or listening based on pictures for lower levels. It also has a section dedicated to advanced students with a story and some comprehension questions. See here
What I don’t like: In my opinion, the “listening” categorised under “advanced level” is far too easy.
Pre-listening /Post-listening activities: all the lessons have three parts : watch, think (where you can do the comprehension exercise) and discuss (post-listening questions)
Transcript: no, although most lessons are on youtube, and you can watch them with subtitles
Audio Download: the videos are on youtube, so they can be easily downloaded
What I don’t like: the audio is not sorted by level and although most of videos are for advanced students, some of them are much easier than others so I would say that they are suitable for B2 students and higher. You need to register although it’s free.
Mr Banville has put together a very timely lesson about Donald Trump and it got me thinking how I could best use it with my students. Fortunately, this prolific writer had also published a lesson about Barack Obama. So, I had everything I needed to tweak his lessons and adjust it to the way I teach. I just needed to ask for his permission, which he kindly gave me.
Aim: This timely lesson aims at offering students the opportunity to discuss a current event and therefore boost their motivation to learn English. Students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary and improve their communicative skills.
Show the picture of Donald Trump and ask students in pairs to share any information they have about the new president of the USA.
Slide the juxtapose, (that’s how the sliding picture below is called) and show the image of Barack Obama. Again, ask students to share what they know about the former president of the USA.
STEP 2. Listening
Divide the class into As and Bs. Tell As they are going to listen to some information about Barack Obama. Tell Bs they are going to listen to some information about Donald Trump.
Give student A a photocopy containing Obama’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match and give student B a photocopy containing Trump’s exercises for Listening Gap Fill and Synonym Match. (see links above)
Procedure: Play Obama once and ask student A to fill in the gaps with the words they hear. Play Trump once and ask students to do the same. Play each part one or twice more, depending on the level of your students. Correct both exercises, teach any vocabulary they don’t know and drill pronunciation.
STEP 3.Working on Vocabulary
Ask students to do the Synonym Match exercise in their photocopies. Point out that this exercise is very important as they will need to use some of this vocabulary in the next exercise.
STEP 4. Building a word cloud with students’ suggestions.
Tell students that they will now have to read their part several times as the next step will be retelling their text in as much detail as possible. As they read, ask them to underline any key words that might help them retell their biography.
Open Wordle (it works better on Firefox) and ask students A to help you feed the word cloud with the words they have underlined. Open a new tab and do the same with student B.
Alternatively you can use mine 😉
Step 5. Retelling
Pair up student A and student B. Display the word cloud for Obama and ask student A to retell Obama’s biography in as much detail as possible and using the prompts in the cloud. Repeat procedure for student B.
Step 6. Homework
Check out the creative suggestions Sean gives for homework.
I should preface this by saying that I’ve never really been a fan of watching TV. Then I came across this site, watchallchannels.com, and now not only do I recommend it to my students but also find myself spending more time watching TV.
So if you have internet, you can watch British TV channels online for free including BBC1, BBC2,(3 and 4) ITV, Channel 4, Sky News, Film4 Live plus a lot more.
The site is mobile friendly so you can watch these channels on any device.
Watching British TV is a nice alternative to watching series or listening to podcasts to improve your listening skills.
On November 8, Americans will cast their ballots and decide who is going to be their new president. I don’t know about your country but, in Spain, the “war” between H. Clinton and D. Trump is every day in the news and the “poisonous” debates are thoroughly discussed ad nauseam on TV current affairs programmes.
Being this an issue of so much interest, I thought my students would welcome a brief explanation of what the presidential election in the US entails.
Level: suitable for upper intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) level English students.
In this lesson students will get listening practice, learn new vocabulary, improve their communicative skills by discussing some interesting quotes and also, their writing skills by choosing one of the quotes to write an opinion essay.
The lesson starts off with some questions about politics which will be discussed in pairs or small groups, followed by some vocabulary exercises extracted from the video in preparation for the listening task that follows. The video for the listening activity is from “The Telegraph” and lasts 2.16. It will be followed by group discussion of two controversial quotes.