Tag Archives: B2

Learning Languages: my Fave Videos to Spark Discussion

Hello March!

Kicking off the month with one of my favourite topics of conversation: languages learning. This is a lesson I feel I could entirely teach based on videos from the internet and conversation questions.

I always like to introduce a new topic with some visual aid that either sparks discussion or puts a smile on my students’ faces. This time, I might have gone too far and used not one but four videos. Ohh, but they are so good!

These are the videos I have been using over the years and that have never failed me!

TO PUT A SMILE ON THEIR FACES

I normally play this video at the very beginning of the lesson and ask them to guess our next topic.  Believe it or not, although I have seen it a thousand times, I still laugh my head off.

Useful Vocabulary:

  • translator, interpreter, to translate from Spanish into English, native speaker,  to be fluent, to speak a language fluently, to be proficient in (English); to speak like a native speaker, to be bilingual, lingua franca.

Discussion Questions

  • How many languages do you speak?
  • What is the most difficult language to learn in your opinion?
  • Have you ever tried to learn a language and given up because it was very difficult?
  • Do you think that in the future there will be just one language in the world?
  • Nowadays English is the lingua franca; do you think this is going to change any time soon?
TO BOOST THEIR MOTIVATION

Before playing the video, ask students:

Why are you learning English?

Useful Vocabulary:

to do a course, have a chat, standard English, slang, take a message,  widely spoken, mother tongue, make mistakes, pronunciation issues, to make an effort, to sign up for a course, to learn a language online, a complete beginner.

Discussion Questions

  1. How old were you when you started learning English? Do you think it is a good age?
  2. What motivated you to start learning English?
  3. What are the advantages of learning a foreign language?
  4. Are there any similarities between English and Spanish? Does Spanish have many loan words from English?
  5. When you are speaking in English, do you try to be accurate or do you just talk and not worry about making mistakes? Which way do you think is better?
TO HELP THEM GET BETTER AT ENGLISH

 

Useful Vocabulary:  to switch between two languages, to put into practice, to feel frustrated,   a conversation partner, to memorize vocabulary, to improve your grammar, speaking skills, to have a good range of vocabulary.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think it is possible for a non-native speaker to speak the language like a native?
  • What do you find most difficult to learn in English?  Why do you think is that?
  • What is the best way to speak a language?
  • What do you do on your own to improve your English?
  • What techniques do you use to learn new vocabulary?
TO SPARK DISCUSSION

 

Useful Vocabulary:

translator, interpreter,  context, translation fails, to come in handy, accurate translation,  basic conversation, translation app, a translation device.

Controversial Statements

On the board, write these two statements and ask students to choose the one they agree with.  Form two groups depending on their choice. Allow them to discuss their reasons to support the statement and then pair up students from different groups to try to convince each other to change sides.

The statements:

  • There is no point in learning a foreign language when Google Translator can do it for you”
  • “Translation technology is good but should not replace learning languages”

You,  as a teacher,  want to agree with the second statement. Here are some reasons against the use of translation apps and in support of the second statement  I have found to convince my students to keep on learning English. Do you think I’ll manage to convince them? Translation apps:

  • They cannot understand context or  translate pronouns correctly
  • Cultural references are lost
  • They don’t produce high-quality translations
  • Accuracy depends on your accent  or on background noise
  • You cannot use it for long  and involved conversations
  • It is not good at recognising proper names and names of cities
  • Your data is not safe

Modern Taboo with a Twist

Is there anything students love more than a good game? The Taboo Game is an oldie but goodie and I have yet to find a student who does not like it.  Playing and learning? It’s always a win-win.

Playing games in class is something that I often do. Well, not this year. I have been on sick leave for 2 weeks and it is taking its toll on my lessons. I feel like I am always in a  hurry trying to make up for lost time. It might be working. I might be finally catching up with the syllabus but I am not having as much fun this year as in the previous ones. And this needs to stop. Right now.

So, to give my students a much-needed respite, we have revised the relative sentences using the Taboo game.

GUIDED PRACTICE: RELATIVE SENTENCES
  1. Before playing, I wrote the beginning of a sentence and asked students to provide the relative pronoun. This is the best time to correct potential mistakes.
  • It’s a person… WHO/THAT
  • It’s something … WHICH/THAT
  • It’s  a place … WHERE
  • It’s a time … WHEN

2. I wrote the word  DOG on the board and asked students to define it using the correct relative pronoun. (for ex, it is an animal that barks).

3. Then, I wrote TEACHER in capitals and under the word TEACHER, I wrote 4 taboo words they were not allowed to use in their description of the word. For example: teach, students, subjects, school. Their definition could be something like ” it is a person whose job involves using the board a lot and helping people learn  English or maths”.

Tip: if it’s a B1 class, I would use only 3 taboo words instead of the 4 you have in this game

SEMI-GUIDED PRACTICE: MODERN TABOO

Once again, to create this game I have used the flexible multipurpose Spark Adobe ( honestly, I cannot go without it).

Procedure:

  1. Divide the class into two teams and ask a representative from each team to come to the front of the class and face away from the board. Decide which team is going to start.
  2.  Player A faces their team A.  Display the presentation below. Team A describes the word at the top of the slide, without using any of the words below it (taboo words). If they use any of the taboo words, they will lose 1 point for their team and a new slide will be displayed. When Player A guesses a word, the team gets 1 point and a new slide is displayed.
  3. Team A continues to describe words for Player A for 1 minute. The game continues with teams and players taking it in turns to describe and guess words. The team with the highest score at the end of the game are the winners.

NOTE: Make sure you don’t use all the words on the presentation below. You will need at least 4 for a variation od the Taboo Game you can do at the end of the game to practise questions.

Taboo

FREE PRACTICE

Once each team has had their turn, I have put them in groups of 4 and given them paper cards to continue playing. This time, Player A describes the word to their Team. One player from Team B is allowed to see the card to make sure none of the words on the card are used. You can get plenty of Taboo cards on IslCollective. Bear in mind, you will need to register to download content.

You can also download the traditional Taboo Cards here (B1-B2)  and here (A1-A2)

THE TWIST: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

To wrap up the activity, ask a representative from Team A and Team B to come to the front of the class. Ask them to face their team and away from the board.  Display a word. The team will have to ask questions so that Student A guesses the word; again, they cannot use any of the Taboo words in their questions.

Remember our example?TEACHER? This could go like this…

Team A to Student A

  • Who helps you learn English?  Who is standing right next to you? Who writes your school report?

I hope you have enjoyed the activity! Have fun teaching, have fun learning!

8 Engaging ESL Activities for Teaching about Travelling

Engaging ideas and activities revolving about the topic of travelling coming right up!

These are some of the activities I have been doing with my upper-intermediate students. I thought I might share them with you, in case it saves you some time.

I have split the activities into two days as some of the activities in Day 2 require studying the vocabulary introduced in Day 1.

DAY 1

Activity 1: Tapping into students' previous knowledge with  Half a Crossword

As my students are upper-intermediate, it is not the first time they study this popular topic.  Therefore, to revise some of the words I thought they knew, I used the website Half a crossword. I wrote about this useful website here.

Activity 2: Introducing new vocabulary

Addicted to using technology in my class, as I have confessed time and again, I have used Genial.ly to create some flashcards.  The flashcards were initially used in class and then shared with them to encourage revision outside the walls of the classroom.

The flashcards contain common collocations related to travelling, but some words are missing. Before flipping the card, students try to guess the hidden word(s). The initial letters are provided to make guessing easier for them.

Note: click on the 3 dots to enlarge the presentation.

 

Activity 3:  Using their own pictures.

Think about it: how many pictures are stored on our mobile phones? What could engage students more than talking about what is real for them, about their own experiences, about their own trips?

Ask students to take out their mobile phones and ask them to choose their favourite picture from their last holiday. Allow some minutes for this part. Ask students to work in pairs or threes. Ask them to show the picture to their partners talking about it and sharing the story behind the picture.  Encourage the use of the collocations in the exercise above.

DAY 2

Activity 4: Flexible seating using cards with common collocations and their pronunciation

This “flexible seating” strategy is quickly becoming one of my favourites to pair students with different partners. I explained the strategy here

For this exercise, I sellotaped to the back of the chairs of the classroom the phonetic transcription of the collocations studied in the flashcard activity. This way, I killed two birds with one stone as the exercise helped me to revise the collocations and ensure they pronounced the words in the correct way.  To transcribe the collocations, I used a website I have been using for years. Check it out here.

Cards here

Activity 5: Speaking: conversation questions

Using a presentation with some conversation questions I created on Spark Adobe some years ago, I asked my students to discuss the questions trying to use the collocations studied in Activity  4.

Every two questions, I gathered all the cards containing the collocations, shuffled them and redistributed them. This meant, standing up and finding the matching card with the corresponding pronunciation and then, sitting on that chair and talking to a different student.

Off the Beaten Track

Activity 6: Speaking: Ethical Dilemmas

Groups of 4 students.  I displayed the first dilemma and asked students to pair up within the group and discuss for some minutes what they would do.  Then, I asked them to share their ideas in their groups and finally, we had a whole-class discussion.

 

Activity 7:  Gallery Walk with Posters and Vocabulary on Cards

I created some posters using Canva.com and put them on the walls of the classroom. To form groups, I numbered them off and asked all number 1s to form a group, all number 2s to form a group, …etc. This way, I made sure they worked with different students.

Before the class, I put the 5 posters up on the walls of the class. Next to the posters, I also put 3 or 4 cards containing common collocations from Activity 4.

I instructed the groups to choose a poster and discuss the question in the poster trying to use the vocabulary in the cards.

I did not set a time for each poster, I gave them the freedom to discuss as much as they wanted but encouraged them to do at least three posters. I dedicated 25  minutes to this activity.

Posters here

Activity 8:  Using Google Maps Street View for Virtual Travelling

Giving your class a touch of modernity can’t get any easier. Ask your students to choose a city – any city in the world is at your fingertips-, and ask them to give a short speech about that city.  Just open Google Maps, write the keywords in the search box, drag the Pegman and enjoy the virtual trip. For more details, click here

Guess my Age: a Fun Game to Practise Modal Verbs of Possibility and Certainty

Have you ever seen the contest  “El Concurso del Año” on TV? It is on Channel 4. I had never seen it before and I don’t think I am going to see it again any time soon. I found it incredibly boring and uninteresting. But dull as it was, I realized it had great potential to teach modal verbs. Yep. That sad! I am watching TV and  I can only think of teaching. So guess what, I am about to make this contest your new favourite thing to teach modals of possibility and certainty.

  • Now, what is the goal of the game? to guess the exact age of 6 celebrities. 
  • What’s the target language?  modal verbs of certainty and possibility in both their simple and perfect forms.
  • What skills are we working with? speaking and writing.

Materials: you will need blank slips of  paper  (a good opportunity to recycle the back of some old photocopies)

These are the basic rules of the game, which I have slightly modified to meet my students’ needs but hey, the ingredients in this game are just really appealing: celebrities, music, interaction, fun, new technologies…etc and lots of learning.

  1. The class is divided into teams. The aim of the game is to find out the exact age of some famous people while using the target language. In this case, modal verbs.
  2. Teams will be offered a clue to help them guess the exact age.

There are 3 types of clues:

  • the SONG ( one song released on the year of birth of the famous person)
  • the EVENT (an important event of the year the celebrity was born)
  • the CELEBRITY ( another famous person born in the same year)

To see how to play, and to play this fun game, open the interactive presentation below.

Personal experience: students really enjoyed the game and in their excitement, they tended to say just the age or slip into Spanish. Remind them to use the target modal verbs and English.

Note: To enlarge this beautiful interactive presentation created with Genial.ly, click on 3 dots and then on the arrows.

Agony Aunts: a No-Prep Activity to Practise Giving and Receiving Advice

Are you gearing up for the first classes of the new year?  I  am. And I want to give my students a back-to-the-grind activity which would get them into the right mood, namely, engaged, learning and having fun.

Have you ever heard about “agony aunts” or“agony uncles”? I am sure you have! In case you have no clue about what I am talking about, this is the definition the Cambridge dictionary gives.

an agony aunt is a person, usually a woman, who gives  advice to people with personal problems, especially in a regular magazine or newspaper article

I bet you all have a famous Agony Aunt in your country.

Inspired by this well-known figure, I have designed this effective activity with two aims

  • To practice writing skills
  • To give students the opportunity to practise the language used to ask and give advice
  • To provide speaking practice interacting with different students

Materials: a piece of paper with “Thank you”  written on it for every student in the class. You can easily ask them to do it before the activity begins.

Step 1: Writing

1. Reading a model.

  • Ask students to discuss, in pairs, who is better at giving advice, men or women.  Ask for feedback.
  • Using the OHP, display the picture below and read it with your students.I hope nobody takes offence, it is just meant for fun!

2. Writing. Individually, ask students to write about a problem they might have. They can also invent it. Walk around the class helping them with grammar and vocabulary.

Step 2 Revising vocabulary to give and ask for advice

Write two columns on the board; one with the heading Giving Advice and the other one with the heading Asking for Advice and ask students to contribute to both. It could look like this

Giving Advice

  • if I were you, I’d…
  • I think you should…
  • In my opinion, you shouldn’t
  • Why don’t you…?
  • I would advise you to
  • You might try….

Asking for Advice

  • What should I do ( about)…?
  • What do you think I should…?
  • Can/ could you give me some advice about…?
  • Do you have any advice on—?
  • Could you recommend…?
  • What do you suggest I do?
  • What ought I to do?

 

STEP 3. Speaking

Divide the class into two groups: Agony aunts and Advice seekers. Using the speed chatting technique, the two groups sit facing each other; there should be an agony aunt for each advice seeker. If you have an odd number of students, consider participating yourself.

The idea is that each problem seeker will tell the agony aunt their problem and the agony aunt after considering the problem, should offer a piece of advice. After two minutes, a bell rings and the advice seekers should move one position to talk to the next aunt agony.

Once they have talked to all the agony aunts, they will need to choose the best piece of advice given for their problem. They will thank the Agony Aunt by giving him/her a card with the words Thank you. The student who gets more Thank you cards  is named Agony Aunt of the Day year and gets a big applause from the class

Now, they change roles and the Agony Aunts become advice seekers and vice-versa.