Tag Archives: reading

Developing Fluency Working with News and Fake News

Who needs a fabulous activity to add to their repertoire of activities to teach about the news and the media? Both hands raised? Awesome!

This activity has been inspired by a video I saw on Youtube where Louise Desmier, from British Council Spain, talks about CLIL and offers different activities that can be adapted to different subjects. Check it out 

The idea behind this activity is that by repeating the same information several times, students gain fluency, start making fewer mistakes and gain confidence. 

  • Topic: Newspapers and the media
  • Aim: to develop students’ fluency and incorporate new language by retelling a piece of news several times.
  • Level: Upper Intermediate and above
  • Time:  20 minutes
  • Materials: Short stories (level 2) from News in Levels.
Before the class

Before the class, choose a number of stories from News in Levels that look intriguing or you think might generate interest. Write the headlines of the stories on a folded piece of paper, big enough to see from a distance (see picture). If you have 12 students in class, there should be at least 6  different pieces of news.

Copy/paste each piece of news and print them on different pages. Each headline should be accompanied by their matching piece of news.

Note: You should also include one piece of fake news which, at the end of the exercise, students will need to guess.

Some of my headlines were:

  • Scientist make meat
  • Church sex scandals
Procedure

Bear with me. It takes longer to explain than to actually do the exercise

  • Divide the class into newsreaders and viewers. Ask the newsreaders to sit together in a different area of the classroom.
  • Ask the newsreaders to place their headlines on the desk visible to the rest of the class (viewers)
  • Give the newsreaders the news accompanying the headline and allow them some time to read it. Tell them they will need to retell the story behind the headline.
  • While the newsreaders are reading their piece of news, you can ask the rest of the class to do a small exercise from their textbooks. You don’t want them to be staring at you or wasting their time.
  • Once the five minutes are over, ask the viewers to stand up and choose the headline that intrigues them the most. They should sit facing the newsreader.
  • The newsreader needs to retell the news using his own words but, at the same time, trying to incorporate as much vocabulary from the story as possible.
  • Allow 2 or 3 minutes for this part.
  • Repeat the exercise asking viewers to choose a different intriguing headline.

  • Change roles. Ask students to change roles and repeat procedure. As, ideally, there will be more than 4 pieces of news they can always choose a different headline.

Once the exercise is finished, ask students in pairs to discuss and decide which news was fake news. Answer: the one about the spiders

Find some more fake news here

Hope you have enjoyed the activity! 🙂

Activating Vocabulary in a Reading Comprehension Activity.

Now, this is my kind of activity. Fun, engaging, communicative and effective! And… almost no-prep!

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you surely know about my obsession for “activating “ the vocabulary I teach in class. For this reason, you will always find me devising and designing strategies to bring to life the vocabulary taught during the lesson.

             

This activity I am going to share with you today turns a seemingly boring reading comprehension exercise into an engaging collaborative activity with lots of vocabulary learning involved.

It works really well when you have a text that can easily be divided into sections. Let’s take, for example, a text where 4 people give their opinion about Languages.

Procedure:

Before the class ( I said "almost" non-prep) 

Choose 5 words or expressions in each section you want your students to learn or reinforce. Write them down on a piece of paper (see picture below). You can obviously choose more or fewer words, but 5 works fine for me. Don’t show it to your students. Yet.

In class

Working with vocabulary

  • Form as many groups as different sections in the text you have and assign each group a section to read. For example, group 1 gets text 1, group 2 gets text 2… etc.

Note: In one class, I only had 8 students, so there were only two students in each group. Not a   problem. It worked just fine.

  • Once groups are formed, ask students to individually read their assigned text and underline any words or expressions they think might be worth using/ studying/using.
  • In the group, ask them to compare the words/expressions they have underlined and come up with only 5.
  • Ask them to write them on a piece of paper. Tell them you have also chosen 5 words from their texts. They will score 1 point for every coincidence.
  • Divide the board into four columns ( as many as sections/groups you have) and assign a column to each group.
  • Ask a representative from each group to write the 5 items they have chosen on their assigned column on the board, and explain meanings to the rest of the class.
  • Once this is done, read the words you have chosen and assign a point for every coincidence. On the board, add your chosen words to those written by the group. Clarify meanings and repeat procedure with the rest of the groups.

Retelling

Form new groups. Ask every student in Group 1 to form a different group with students from Group 2, 3 and 4. Allow them to reread their texts once or twice and ask them to retell their part making sure they use the vocabulary on the board.

Finally, do the reading comprehension questions as a whole class. Everybody should be able now to answer the questions for the whole text.

Lesson Plan: Good Manners, Customs and Strange Traditions

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Guy Fawkes PDF , Groundhog Day PDF

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.

Find the quiz here

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson!

3 Activities for Bringing Reading Comprehension Texts to Life

I have to admit that my least favourite activity to do in class is Reading Comprehension. I have the feeling that doing reading activities, as suggested in textbooks, somehow disconnects students from the interactive aspect I struggle so hard to maintain and promote during the whole session So, I’m always balancing two options. Either I set the reading task as homework or I try to devise an engaging activity that brings a bit of creativity and engagement into the reading process.

The activities you’ll find below aim at improving the most basic level of reader response, which is the oral retelling of the texts. Oral retelling exercises demand that students recall as many details from the text as possible therefore encouraging communication, oral language development and reinforcing students’ vocabulary.

So, here are three activities to bring Reading Comprehension texts to life.

 


Activity 1. Using word clouds. No preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of word clouds to actively use vocabulary.

To create the word clouds I have used the cloud generator Wordle (it works better with Firefox), but you can also use Tagul or any other. Alternatively, you can just create your own word cloud on the board without using any technology.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can be easily split into two and divide the class into As and Bs.

Ask As to read the first part and Bs the second part once.

Tell students to underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that the aim of the exercise will be retelling their part  in as much detail as possible so they will have to read it several times. Give them some more minutes for this task

Display the word cloud text box and ask them to tell you what keywords will help them remember the text. Type the words they suggest and create the cloud ( to keep words together for phrases, use ~ between each word). The idea is to retell the text in as much detail as possible with the help of key words included in the cloud

Open a new tab and repeat the same procedure with Bs

Retelling. Display word cloud 1 and ask As to retell the text using as much vocabulary from the cloud as possible. Display word cloud 2 and repeat procedure with Bs.

(Wordcloud Student A)


Activity 2. Retelling Competition. No preparation required

Introduction: For this activity students will be competing in teams retelling the story in as much detail as possible and the teacher will guide the competition by monitoring the time each team speaks and by making sure the development of the story is as close to the original as possible.

Procedure:

 Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible. Ask them to read it slowly several times.

Divide the class into two teams and ask them to close their books. Explain that they’ll need to retell the story in as much detail as possible. The winner will be the team who ends the story.

Decide which team starts telling the story. Ask this team to choose one of their members to start.

Rules:

  • Each team can only speak one minute and only one person at a time. At the end of this minute, the other team will continue the retelling of the story.
  • The other team can interrupt the team doing the retelling if
  1. The information is not correct
  2. If they have missed something important

The winner is the team who manages to tell the end of the story.


Activity 3. Using pictures. Some preparation required.

Introduction: For this activity students will be working in pairs or in small groups retelling the story in as much detail as possible with the help of pictures and some selected vocabulary.

Before the class, you will need to find some pictures to illustrate each part and select some vocabulary you want your students to use. There will be as many students in the group as parts you have split the text into.

Procedure:

Choose a text that can easily be split into meaningful paragraphs (a story or a biography are excellent for this kind of activity)

Ask students to read the text once and underline any difficult words. Write them on the board. Explain meaning and drill pronunciation.

Explain that they will need to retell the text giving as much information as possible.

Put students in small groups and split the text into meaningful parts assigning each student a part. Their aim will be to retell the story using the pictures as prompts and incorporating the vocabulary shown next to the pictures. Ask them to read their part slowly several times.

Display the pictures for the first part and ask students to start the oral retelling. Encourage them to use the vocabulary accompanying the pictures. Repeat procedure.

Tools used : befunky and playbuzz

Below, example of the activity with a text from File Intermediate

Rewordify: a Free Online Tool to Simplify Difficult English

Today I want to share with you an amazing free online tool which has a lot of potential for learning English.

Rewordify simplifies difficult English and helps you understand what you read.

How this tool works

  • Go to Rewordify.com
  • Enter sentences or whole paragraphs difficult to understand into the yellow box at the top of the page. You can also enter a web site URL.
  • Click Rewordify text and you’ll instantly see an easier version of the text providing clear, easy-to-understand definitions. (see picture below)
  • The reworded words are highlighted in yellow— click them to hear and learn the original harder word.
  • You can also click the non-highlighted words to read their definition.
  • Click the Print button and choose the type of printout you want. You can print the original text, the rewordified one, vocabulary lists with definitions and without them, a word bank quiz, a standard quiz or a difficult one… etc (see picture below)
  • By clicking the Parts of Speech button you’ll see nine part of speech categories (see picture below).You can turn on and turn off the highlighting of each part of speech by the words in the header. For example, if you only want the nouns and verbs highlighted, click all other parts of speech in the header

You don’t even have to register but if you free register:

  1. You can change how the highlighting works to match the way you learn
  2. Store, edit and delete your documents
  3. Share your documents
  4. Save vocabulary lists

Up for a little game?

And if after working hard on vocabulary you still feel up for a little challenge, Rewordify has created two word games for you

  • Reword where you’ll have to select the correct definition for the hardest words in English, as fast as you can.
  • Difficult Hangman. An old favourite but with hard words.

Thanks for reading!