Talking about Art: the Battle of Wills

Introducing movement in my lessons is one of my favourite things to do when I am teaching.

On most days, when I am preparing my lessons, I really hate how this pandemic has put a stop to some of the most fun dynamics to engage our students. Fortunately, the headmaster in my school has had the bright idea to convert the staff room into a more flexible kind of room and pushed tables together, got rid of unnecessary furniture and provided teachers with a space to give free rein to our creativity, a place big enough for students to move around and keep their distance.

 

  • Level: C1
  • Topic: Art
  • Time: 60-70 minutes
  • Skills: Speaking
  • Material: Posters here, Cards here

I am not going to lie. This lesson has required preparation, like a lot. The good news is that you can use my lesson if you like it.

Before the class
  • I have designed 3 posters; one for every controversial statement. It was not necessary, I know. I could have easily read out the statements. But it is not the same. Plus, I just enjoy doing this kind of thing.
  • I have trawled the web looking for arguments for and against to help my students get some ideas. Come on! It is not easy to talk about art when you are not even remotely interested in the topic.
  • I have made cards with arguments for and against, I have printed and cut them out.
  • I have labelled two corners of the room with AGREE and DISAGREE.

In the class

Brainstorm vocabulary related to the Arts and write on the board. Add to their suggestions, the vocabulary listed below and drill pronunciation.

  • Exhibition/an exhibit = an object or collection of objects on public display in an art gallery or museum
  • Sculpture /ˈskʌlp.tʃər/ /sculptor /ˈskʌlp.tər/
  • Art installation= a form of modern sculpture
  • Artefact /ˈɑːtɪfakt/ or antiquity = an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest
  • Artist
  • To commission a portrait/ a piece of art (normally in the passive)= a paid request for artwork
  • An auction
  • To bid at an auction
  • A collector
  • Street art/street artist
  • Optical illusions
  • Canvas
  • Graffiti artists
  • Artistic movement/style
  • Sitter
  • Self-portrait
  • Landscape
  • Still life
  • Minimalism/impressionism/classicism/cubism
  • Fake or counterfeit /ˈkaʊntəfɪt/
  • A curator= a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.
  • A work of art/ a piece of art
  • Patron /ˈpeɪ.trən/, patronage/ˈpatr(ə)nɪdʒ,ˈpeɪtr(ə)nɪdʒ/
  • Protegee /ˈprɒt.ə.ʒeɪ/ a young person who is helped and taught by an older and usually famous person
  • To promote the art
Revising vocabulary with a crossword

Speaking: Warm-up. Here we go.
  • Do you have any art in your house? What’s your favourite piece?
  • Do you have any artistic friends? What kinds of art do they create?
  • Are Arts sufficiently promoted in Spain? Do you think Art is important to society?

Stirrer:

Show this picture and ask students to guess what it is.  Someone will probably come up with the right answer.  Ask: Do you like this painting? How much would you pay for it?

Before displaying the image, it might be a good idea to read the news here.  (Robert Ryman’s Untitled sold for $20 million)

News here

Speaking: Battle of Wills (so to speak)

For this activity, I have used two corners of the classroom and labelled them AGREE and DISAGREE. You will find the PDF for the posters above.

Procedure:

Step 1. Explain they are going to see a poster with a debatable statement about art and they will need to choose the corner that best represents how they feel about the statement.

Step 2. Explain that in their corners, they will need to talk about the reasons for their choice and develop strong arguments to support their opinion as they will be challenged by students with opposing views. Encourage the use of vocabulary.

Step 3. Give them enough time to come up with their own arguments to justify their position.

Step 4. After a 10-minute discussion, ask students from both corners to face each other.

Step 5. Battle: This is the part I like best. Ask students to choose someone from the opposing corner. Pair them up and tell them they have 5 minutes to try to convince each other, using strong arguments,  to switch corners. For drama, ask them to use the phrase: “I challenge X”. ) Have a look at the picture above to see the position they take when they start the challenge. This is also important. “The magic behind every outstanding performance is always found in the smallest of details.”

These are the 3 posters I have used. Get the printable version here

Note: After Step 3, I have helped students build more solid arguments by handing out the cards below, which they had to read and comment on before the battle.

Get the printable version here

Art posters here    Art cards here

 

How to Ace the C1 Monologue: the Skeleton

I have never been politically correct so let’s not mince words. For an exam, you need to follow these three tips:

  1. study
  2. practise
  3. be smart

I know you are able to maintain a conversation at a decent level but this is not what an exam is about. An exam is about impressing the examiner. Yes! You heard me correctly! You need to make a strong, though not necessarily lasting, impression on the examiner(s).

Disclaimer: this is the way I would do the monologue. This does not necessarily mean it is the only way to approach it.

So, now that we are on the same page, the big question is…Do you want to ace your exam?

Assuming you have followed tips number 1 and number 2 above( I would reconsider taking the exam if you have not studied or practised, like a lot. ), here comes the most difficult part: bringing to mind vocabulary specific to the topic you have been given, which is part and parcel of tip number 3 and this brings us back to tip number 1.  

Am I making any sense?

Tip 3: About being smart. General TIPS
  1. Say you are given a monologue with three prompts to talk about. They might also throw in some images for visual effect but you do not, and I repeat do not, need to describe them. Can you make references to them when you are speaking? Yes. 
  2. You are not being tested on your honesty. So, if you feel you have nothing to say on the topic, lie, invent… all is fair in love and war! 
  3. If you are allowed some time to organise your ideas, use that time in a clever way and plan. I have often seen candidates not taking this minute and making a mess of the exam just because they didn’t take the time to organise their ideas.
  4. You need to talk about all the prompts given. If you do not have much to say about a certain prompt, spend less time on it and introduce it by saying something like: I am not really much into… I am not an expert st/in… 
  5. Brainstorm vocabulary (idioms, phrasal verbs, specific vocabulary to include). This is a unique step, and this where studying and feeling confident that you know the vocabulary is important. Listen up! You need to use a good range of vocabulary.
  6. Remember that you need to use a full range of grammatical structures and this is again where being clever is important. You need to think in advance of some “flashy” grammar you want to use. OK. Say you want to use an inversion. Easy…

I could go on and on but I think you get the gist.

NOTE: These are some ideas and you should be adding to this list the items you feel most comfortable with. You don’t have to use these ones, what you need to bear in mind is that you have to use advanced vocabulary and structures. So, you need to pull your weight and add to this list or cross off what you don’t feel confident using.  It is up to you, now.

It is important to practise key phrases, which you can use no matter the topic in the exam. What I like to call the “skeleton” of your monologue and you need to write it down and say it and try it with different topics and figure out a way to make it work with whatever topic you land yourself with.

  • write it down
  • say it aloud
  • practise it with different topics

So, here you have some ideas for your “skeleton”:

Download the poster here

 I know that taking an oral exam is a nerve-wracking experience but, if you practise and study, I cannot promise it is going to be a walk in the park but it will certainly be easier.

NOTE: my students will be using Flipgrid to record themselves doing a number of topics.

A Guessing Game Using Tenses

Clear a spot in your lesson plan for this engaging activity because you are going to love it. This is a small writing guessing activity using Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous- you can also throw in Past Simple if you are feeling adventurous-  with an added touch of technology.

  • Skills and subskills: writing, vocabulary, speaking  and grammar
  • Strategy: whole class, individual work, whole class
  • Level: B1,B2
  • Magic Touch: Wordwall
Step 1: Learning Vocabulary: Jobs

Revise vocabulary related to jobs using the FlipTiles template on Wordwall- see the game below. If you don’t want to create your own, you can always use mine. I’d be honoured.

In the Flip Tiles, you will see vocabulary for professions or jobs they already know like  teacher, architect… and some more challenging ones like priest, street vendor or surgeon. That was the idea, to revise old content and introduce new.

And so, we spent some time guessing the words and flipping the tiles.

Bonus. Fun revising activity:  after revising all the vocabulary on the tiles, I pointed at one job and instructed students to repeat after me but only if the word matches the tile and remain silent if I was making a mistake. Fun! I told you.

More? Yes! You can do the same with pronunciation. Instruct students to repeat after you only when you have pronounced the word correctly. 😊(most of the times  I give myself away when doing this exercise)

Step 2: Writing. Using Grammar.

Individually, students choose a job from the ones displayed.

Ask students to write clues for this job without mentioning the job. Tell them they will then read their sentences aloud one by one and the class will have to guess their job.

They will need to write three sentences:

  1. Using the present perfect continuous
  2. Using the present perfect
  3. Optional: using the past simple

Example.

  • I have been training all morning  ( 3 points)
  • I have scored two goals today (2 points)
  • Yesterday, I played a match (1 point)
Step 3: Here comes the fun

Ready to play? Divide the class into 2 teams. Instruct a student from Team A to read his/her first sentence, ie, his/her first clue to the job. If members of the other team guess the job only by listening to the first sentence, they score 3 points; if the second sentence needs to be read, they score 2 points and well, you know what the score is if the student needs to read sentence number 3 or if they can’t guess the job.

I hope you have enjoyed this little game. If you use it, let me know how it goes.

 

Housing Issues. A Lesson Plan for C1 students.

Is there a limit to how long you can spend teaching and talking about a topic? I wonder,  how many subtopics are there to talk about? It’s been one month since the course began and I am still doing lesson One. OMG! At this pace, I am never gonna reach the end of the textbook.

Here is a little something I did with my C1 students. Unit 1 was about cities, but how do we talk about cities and not about Housing? My thoughts exactly, we cannot.

  • Topic: Housing
  • Level: C1
  • Activities: Speaking, Listening, Mediation, Vocabulary. Board Game
  • PDF ( available at the end of the post) 🙂
Optional lead-in:  Speaking

Students get into pairs and talk about these 2 questions.

  • It is said an average person lives in 11 homes in their lifetime. What is your number?
  • If money was not a problem, where would you live and what kind of house would you have?
Revising Vocabulary

It is always a good idea to give students some time to come up with vocabulary they already know. You can do it in different ways.

  1. The traditional way: give students a couple of minutes to come with as many words or expressions they can think of related to housing.  This can be done in pairs with one person writing down the answers. Get group feedback and write the most interesting words/chunks on the board.
  2. Using technology to create a word cloud on the board: you can use Answergarden, Mentimeter or Wooclap for this. (hover over the name of the tool and it will take you to the tool)

Fun extension: ask pairs to write a sentence using as many words as possible from the board. Score pairs a point per word and award a bonus point for the longest.

Introducing Vocabulary
  • affordable home
  • low-income housing
  • budget
  • low -income households
  • mortgage
  • tenants
  • landlords
  • overburdened with housing costs
  • homeowners
  • social housing
  • to make a down payment
  • disposable income
  • average price
  • to evict /eviction
  • homelessness
  • rising home prices
  • overcrowding and under occupations
  • real state bubble
  • subsidized
  • housing issues
  • cohousing
  • utility bills
  • to downsize
  • squatting/squatters
  • to rehabilitate /rehab, rehabilitation

 

Listening and Speaking. Video: Affordable Housing

Time to listen

Before watching the video, ask students to predict the answers to these questions. This will hopefully lead to some discussion where students will be encouraged to use some of the vocabulary above.

Play the video and ask students to check their predictions. Comment on the answers. Were their predictions accurate?

  • Making housing more accessible would help reduce…
  • What share of a household budget do you think is spent on average on housing?
  • Why has the price of housing risen so dramatically in the last decade?
  • What share of a household budget is spent on housing in low-income households?
  • In many countries, a large share of young people is still living with their parents. Predict: is your country one of these countries? Justify your answer

Reading and speaking

Divide students into pairs  for this activity

STUDENT A: cohousing

Cohousing, which is a form of intentional community, originated in Denmark in the 1960s Intended to recreate an “old-fashioned sense of neighbourhood” through resident participation in the design and operation of their communities, this type of community model allows families and individuals to occupy private homes while at the same time contributing both time and money to common facilities that are owned and managed by the larger community.3 Community members pay monthly or yearly membership dues and often help with tasks such as cleaning and repairing shared resources. While residents contribute to the financial responsibilities of acquiring and maintaining common facilities and resources, each member maintains an independent economy and personal income.

Source: https://ala-apa.org/

Summarize what you have just read and give your opinion

STUDENT B: Squatting

Squatting has a long history in Spain, often fuelled by high rates of homelessness. But there is now a darker phenomenon too – squatters who demand a “ransom” before they will leave a property. And this has led to the rise of private eviction companies, some of which use threats to achieve their goal.

Source : https://www.bbc.com/

Summarize what you have just read and give your opinion

Speaking: Conversations questions+ Board game

Driven by my obsession to make students use new vocabulary, I am constantly thinking and trying different ways to “force” new vocabulary into my students’ speeches. In this case, I have created a board game here using the vocabulary above. A dice, some counters and some conversation questions and they are ready to go. Students throw the dice and try to use the word/chunk in the square they have landed on. They can also try to use the word/chunk in the previous and following square. If they do so, they can move forward one square.

  • Is giving homeless people homes more effective and sensible than making them stay in shelters or on the street?
  • How much is Airbnb affecting the housing market in cities where rent is on the rise?
  • What can be done about rising homelessness in big cities?
  • Does it make sense to encourage homeownership through tax policies?
  • Should housing policy be more balanced, supporting rental housing and homeownership on a more equal footing?

Source https://www.nytimes.com/

 

Exam-oriented task using vocabulary

.

In this case, I gave them this task and asked them to discuss the prompts in pairs. Needless to say, encouraging them to use the new vocabulary,

Exam-oriented: Oral Mediation Task

Here and Here

Here’s the PDF for the lesson.I hope you find this lesson useful.

Learning Chocolate: a Free Website to Learn Vocabulary and How to Pronounce it.

It is not the first time I have written something about this great site to learn vocabulary but, it was such a long time ago, that I think it deserves to be brought to your attention again.

Learning Chocolate that’s the name of the website. Hey!! I even like the name. I wonder why they’ve chosen this name for a website that helps students improve vocabulary but it certainly does so and in a very efficient way.

What do I like best about this site? It teaches vocabulary in a visual way but also, and this of the utmost importance to me, is that it teaches students how to pronounce the words they are learning.

How does it work?

The vocabulary is organized into categories, ranging from the easy  Numbers or the Seasons to the more sophisticated Insect Life Cycle.

How do you learn with this page?

First, on top of the page, you will need to choose your language and also, the language you want to learn.

Now, you are ready to start.

  1. Choose a category. The main categories are: beginning, around you, daily life, your society, your world and special series.

2. You will see words related to this category with the corresponding image and pronunciation.

3. The website also offers exercises to consolidate the vocabulary. For each category, you will find 3 match-up exercises, a fill-in the gaps and a dictation.

There are three different kinds of match up exercises:

  • Match up 1: you will find a list of words and below the words, a list of sound icons. Click on a sound icon and drag it and drop it to the corresponding word. When you finish, click Complete.
  • Match up 2: you will see the pictures and below the words to drag and drop.
  • Match up 3: same as match up 1, but in this exercise, you will see the pictures and not the words.

Also

  • Fill in: you will see several gaps and you will have to type the words that correspond to each image.
  • Dictation: you will find a list of sound icons. Click each of them and write the word you hear.

What I especially like about this site is that it uses visual aid to help students learn better and faster and, at the same time, teaches them how to pronounce the words.