Tag Archives: listening

In Times of Crisis, Laughter is the Best Medicine

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.

The coronavirus

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

The Perfect Gift: a Listening and Speaking Lesson Featuring Rihanna

Hiii! Hello! Happy New Year!  Here I am again! Back to the grind or so they say!

Almost a month has passed since my last post. And this break ends right now. The holiday break has me going mad and sometimes I don’t even know what day of the week it is. So, I have started preparing classes. Sort of miss them. Can you believe it?

Anyway, I feel so full of energy and I have prepared so many activities that I have written three posts on a row. I will refrain from publishing them all at once and save them for a rainy day.

This first one has to do with presents, something that almost everyone gets these holidays. I know that some people don’t get any presents; some other people don’t like giving presents and some others don’t like receiving them. It does not matter. This lesson fits all moods.

Warm-up

Ask the class to discuss in pairs or in threes the question: What do you prefer, giving or receiving presents? Why?  Get class feedback.

Ask students if they know the singer Rihanna and the famous American talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. I think Rihanna is world-famous but I am not so sure they will know who Oprah is. If necessary, show them a picture. Tell them they are going to watch a video where the protagonists are Rihanna, her mother and Oprah Winfrey. Ask them to predict the content of the video.

Listening Comprehension: Back to the boards

Ask students to work in pairs: one of them faces the board and the other one faces away from the board. Play the video without sound and ask the student facing the board to describe to his partner what is happening in the video.

Listening Comprehension: the questions

You can ask students to do it online or you can print the PDF. If you decide to do it online, you will get feedback immediately; just press, see your score.

After the listening, ask students: What is the most expensive present you have ever given to someone?

Speaking

You know when you are on holidays, and have some time to spare and decide to try some crazy stuff? What you see below is the result of me having some time on my hands. Obviously, the idea can be simplified and the gift drawn on the board. But, as I said, I was feeling creative and with nothing to do.

As I have 24 students, I have designed two identical gifts (one in green as in the picture and the other one in red). The idea is to divide the class into two teams and assign each team a different gift.  On one side, they can see nonmaterial gifts; they should choose the one they would like to possess in 2020 and on the other side, a conversation question about gifts and presents.

Ask students to remain standing. The two groups should not mix – easy, as the two gifts have different coloured cards, red and green- and they should talk to everybody in their groups asking and answering questions. Encourage them to elaborate on their answers but let’s keep it flexible.

Click here to get the PDF with the conversation questions on the other side of the card.

Enjoy teaching, enjoy learning!

My latest Tech Crush: Fluentkey. An Interactive Listening Competitive Game

If you have been following me for a while, you must know that I am deeply into technology. I don’t know how it happened. I am not a digital native. Far from it. I don’t know. I think it was love at first sight. We have been together for almost 14 years and I don’t think we are going to split up anytime soon.

Technology is so integrated into my lessons that I no longer realize how often or how many different activities I have created with a certain tool. Technology is just part of the lesson and using it feels like having a break. Like  having a shower after a long day. Students are beginning to tune out? Time to introduce an activity created with a digital tool. Carefully planned, of course. With methodology, of course.

Anyway, the hardest question I’ve been asked lately has been, “What’s your favourite digital tool to use in class?” Well, this is hard for me to answer. I have so many. The question I  automatically asked was: What for? There are some tools that are more versatile than others but if I had to answer, I’d wince( I love so many) and say the ones where students can take an active role and that add an element of healthy competition. And the tool I am going to share with you today offers that.

Can you imagine a tool, just like Kahoot, but for Listening Comprehension activities? That’s what FluentKey.com/live is.

There are lots of different ways we can exploit video or audio in class. Some more engaging than others. Well, let me tell you that Fluent key is totally engaging. It is just the tool I was waiting for. It makes listening fun by turning real-life videos into an interactive game student can play using their mobiles.
Created by two language teachers, Hollin Wakefiled and Hugo Xiong and a software engineer Tajddin Maghni, it is bound to revolutionize the way we do listenings.

What is Fluentkey?

FluentKey Live is an interactive classroom listening game. The teacher displays a video on a projector while students race to answer comprehension questions on their own devices and compete for the highest score.

How does it work?

o Register for free
o Find the right video
o Choose Play Fluentkey/live
o Share the code with your students and ready to go!

Why do I like it?
The teachers:

o Are you up to your eyes and don’t have the time to look for a video and create the comprehension questions? No problem. Fluentkey has a library of ready-made videos with quizzes. You can find the right video for your class by using the different filters (level, category, theme). Choose the video, have a look at the questions in the quiz and if you like them, just share the code with your students and get ready to play.
o Do you like the video but need to modify some questions or/and add new ones?? No problem! Duplicate the video and edit it.
o Can’t you find the right video for you? No problem! 😆 Upload a video from YouTube or Facebook (Yes!!. Facebook.) or copy/paste the link,  click on Create a quiz and add your own questions. You can add multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, matching… among others.
o Playing Fluentkey/live is completely free.
o You can adjust the speed of the audio

The students

o The students do not need to download any app. You just instruct them to go to fluentkey.com/live , type the code you give them and play.
o Students can use their computers, tablets or mobile phones.
o They can play individually or in groups
o The faster they answer, the more points they get

The game:

Once you press Play, the video will automatically play until it reaches a question. Students on their devices can preview the question and the kind of question (multiple choice, matching…) but the answers are not yet visible. At this point, the teacher can choose Watch again or Ready to answer. If you press Ready to answer, the answers show up on the students’ devices and a 30-second countdown begins. The faster they answer, the more points they get. Press Next to show the score and then again Next to keep playing the video

What I don’t like

o You cannot change the time students are given to answer a question. It’s always 30 seconds.

TIP: FluentKey was released only this year and they are still growing so not everything is perfect right now. I strongly recommend turning off the subtitles on YouTube before pasting the link on Fluentkey.

I’ll be presenting this tool for the first time in Menorca this weekend. Can’t wait to hear what teachers think about it!

Have a look at my face-to-face workshops: here and here.: the perfect combination of the latest technology and traditional teaching.

When in Rome do as the Romans Do: a Lesson about Manners, Habits, Customs and Traditions

Say hello to one of my favourite activities.

Here’s what makes this activity perfect for me and my style of teaching

  • Enhancing their listening skills by listening to authentic audio. Giving students authentic audio they can understand is a real boost to their confidence. Another plus, if there are no comprehension questions, as is the case, students feel more relaxed. Did you know that reducing stress enhances learning? (D Krashen 1981).
  • Gallery walks using posters which gives students the chance to stretch their legs, and practise their speaking abilities.
  • A small writing activity related to the posters
  • Giving students the possibility to work with different students in the class

The lesson
Lead-in

On the board, write the proverb below and ask students, in pairs, to comment on its meaning. Encourage students to share their anecdotes.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Listening Comprehension: British manners. A note-taking listening exercise

This authentic material is great for B2 learners. It poses just the right challenge. Not too hard, not too easy!

Tell students they are going to hear a man called Elliot talking about 5 British manners. The task is simple. Play each example of good manners individually and…

  • First time: ask students to write what manners he is talking about
  • Second time: play the video again and ask students to take down notes
  • Pair up students and ask one of them to retell the information offered in the video. The other student listens and /or helps. This role will be changed for the second example of manners
  • Ask someone to retell the information for the whole class.
  • Write any relevant vocabulary on the board.
  • Ask: what about in your country? 
  • Repeat procedure for the second example of manners. Remember, there are 5 of them.

 

Gallery Walks: a speaking and writing activity using posters

Can you see any benefits to always working with the same person/student? I cannot. That’s why I always encourage my students to change partners regularly. However, some of them are quite reluctant and need a gentle push.

Forming groups: I have used small popsicle sticks to form groups of three.  The sticks were coloured as in the picture and they just needed to find the other two students with the same colour.

Before the activity: I cut small pieces of paper of different colours and I assigned each poster a different colour

  • On the walls – I put up simple posters – I had to use the space outside my classroom as my class is tiny. I had six posters: Greetings, table manners, punctuality, gender roles, tipping and taboos.
  • Students in their groups choose a poster and they are instructed to do the following:

  1. Discuss the manners on the poster in their country and in other countries they might have been to. Is it the same or different?
  2. Before moving to the next poster, students are instructed to take a piece of paper with the colour corresponding to the poster they have been working with and write a piece of advice for someone visiting their country, in this case, Spain.  ( if they were talking about Tipping, they should write a piece of advice on tipping).They were instructed to leave their written piece of advice on the table, choose a new poster and repeat procedure.
  3. Allow 25-30 minutes for this part
  4. Quickly correct spelling and grammar mistakes. Using blue-tack, put all the pieces of advice around the posters the advice has been written for.
  5. Ask students to do a second gallery walk commenting on all the tips and having a look at their mistakes.

Posters here

Writing an article about an unusual custom in the world

Lead-in:

Ask students: Have you ever experienced culture shock? Where were you? What happened?

Unit 1 in our textbooks explains how to to write an article. Using this format, I have asked students to do a bit of research on the internet and write about an unusual custom. To spice things a tiny bit, I have assigned students different countries using a random wheel.