Oh dear, another bizarre and unreal week. I know we will all be struggling to get through it so thank you for stopping by. I hope you can find on this blog lots of ideas and lesson plans which will make your teaching easier.
Today, what I want to share with you is nothing fancy but probably useful. A bunch of teachers from different Official Language Schools in Spain have gathered together to host webinars trying to help teachers shift to online teaching. In one of them, given by Fernanda from EOI Málaga, I learned how to use Google Sites to create, in a flash, beautiful websites. It literally took me less than 15 minutes to put together what you can see when you click on the picture.
You can see her webinar here and subscribe to the channel for more interesting webinars here. You might also want to see mine covering Flipgrid here
Anyway, this is a Google Site I have shared with my students to help them revise Passive Sentences. There is also a board with a speaking activity I am planning to play with them in our weekly speaking session via 8×8.vc
As we are confined in our homes trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we must try and make the most of this situation. Nobody could have predicted, back in September when we started the course, that talking about viruses and fear and panic and death was going to be one of our topics this course. Despite our growing concern for what lays ahead of us, I cannot and will not give my students a lesson that will cause them more pain and sadness. Yes. I want them to understand and use the vocabulary related to the situation we are living nowadays, but I also want to do my bit and help brighten up their day. I hope nobody takes offence.
We all know it’s bad out there but fear and worry over the coronavirus have prompted a crop of funny videos that I hope help me put a smile on your face. We need to be worried and we need to have a sense of common responsibility. That’s undeniable. But a little levity now and then is surely appreciated. I don’t need science to know that in times of crisis, laughter is the best medicine we have.
In this lesson, you will find
useful language to talk about the situation we are living now due to the coronavirus
a bit of listening practice
funny videos featuring situations or attitudes prompted by the pandemic
some conversation questions following the videos
Note: it goes without saying this speaking lesson will be done online. I have shared this lesson with my students in advance and asked them to see the videos and have a look at the vocabulary.
I always start my classes revising what we learned in the previous lesson. I do it for many reasons: it allows students who have missed the previous lesson to catch up and not fall behind, it gives students the opportunity to clarify meanings or pronunciation they haven’t quite grasped, and also it encourages retrieval practice that, in my opinion, is the way to learn.
I really think that the first 5 minutes are really important as it sets the mood for the rest of the lesson. That’s why I am always designing revision activities that add variety in my lessons and, if possible, fun.
This one I will call The List. It’s quick, fun and effective.
Context: I have been working with the topic Language Learning and my students have been learning some new vocabulary. Time to revise it!
Procedure: Ask your students to write a secret list of 10 words, collocations or expressions they learned during the previous lesson. Ask them to keep it secret.
Pair students up. Tell students they will have 1 minute to try to guess the words on their partner’s list. Say Student A starts trying to guess the words on Student B’s list. As B listens to the words, he crosses the ones Student A has guessed. Ask them to change roles. Let students compare lists and have a look at the ones they could not guess. You might want to write them on the board to revise and reinforce.
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.
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.
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?
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.
How old were you when you started learning English? Do you think it is a good age?
What motivated you to start learning English?
What are the advantages of learning a foreign language?
Are there any similarities between English and Spanish? Does Spanish have many loan words from English?
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.
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
translator, interpreter, context, translation fails, to come in handy, accurate translation, basic conversation, translation app, a translation device.
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.
“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
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!