Tag Archives: reading

Lesson Plan: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”

I have to confess that I had to look up who Alfred Mercier, the owner of this quote, was. And I say “was” because although this inspirational poet was born at the beginning of the XIXc.,  he is very much in line with my way of thinking:  “what we learn with pleasure, we never forget”.

This has always been my aim: to teach trying to make my lessons memorable for my students. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. But I am always trying. Anyway, I really believe the first five minutes of the class, mark its rhythm and that the way you present the information to students is of the utmost importance.

This lesson for C1 students focuses on education. It offers practice in the following:

  • vocabulary
  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading
Warm-up: What's the weirdest thing your teacher has done?

So, let’s start with some fun. On the board, write the word Weird and drill pronunciation. Show them the gif for a bit of fun and display or read some of the tweets sent to Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag game #MyWeirdTeacher. Here’s the link.  I think my fav is Number 1. That’s the one I would give my students as an example.

Ask the question: What’s the weirdest thing your teacher has done?. Give them some thinking time and listen to their stories.

Revising vocabulary

For a student, learning new vocabulary can be a bit overwhelming so it’s always a good idea to tap into students’ knowledge. It really helps make learning new words much easier. The method or activity used to extract previous knowledge should differ from the one used to teach new content using more dynamic strategies to work with the former.

A simple activity could be giving students 1 minute to write down as many topic-related words as they can remember, emphasizing words such as “teacher” or ” primary school” are not adequate for this level and will be dismissed.  I will be using Mentimeter for this activity but feel free to use the familiar pen and paper. The prize for the winner? a round of applause- we are suffering cuts in the school budget 🙂

Speaking and Writing: Small activities

Change one thing: If I could change one thing about the past school year…

Six adjectives: use 6 adjectives to describe your last academic year

What advice would you give to someone who is beginning to learn English?

Listening: What makes a good teacher? What makes a good student?

Pre-listening:

a. Give students some thinking time to come up with their ideas of what, in their opinion, makes a good teacher. This is a good opportunity to introduce vocabulary they will find in the video.

b. At the same time, ask them to write 3 adjectives that a good teacher needs to possess.

Before playing the video,  ask students to read the three adjectives they have written. Play the video once and see whose choice of adjectives are on the video. Play a second and even a third time and ask students to take notes.

Tapescript, here

Repeat procedure for What makes a successful student?

Introducing new vocabulary collaboratively

Give them the list of new words and ask students to underline the words they already know. This is a good way to guarantee you are not going to be the only one doing the work here and they will be engaged throughout the activity. After a couple of minutes, go through the list asking individual students to provide definitions and give examples. Clarify and exemplify any real new words.

Get the PDF here

Drill the pronunciation of…

  • creativity
  • data
  • discipline
  • plagiarism
  • poem
Speaking Interactive Posters : thumbs up, thumbs down.

Present the students with the following statements, one at a time, and ask them to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the statement on display.

Once they have established where they stand, click on the interactive button on the poster, displaying suggested vocabulary they can use when presenting their point of view. Give them one minute to plan what they are going to say. Repeat procedure with all or some of the posters.

 

Further Practice. Homework

 

Free Reading and Downloading Graded and Unabridged Books

Here, in Spain, we are beginning our fifth week of quarantine. A few days before lockdown,  I asked my students to go to the school library and borrow a book to read. Some of them could not attend that day for various reasons – I never ask, they are adults- and therefore could not borrow the book. Their  problem now  is that confined at home, some of them are finding it difficult to get their hands on a graded book in English. No worries! I’ve got you covered!

But before sharing with you this site, let me tell you the story of a time in my life when I almost hated reading.

Why  I don't select  reading books  for my students

I never tell my students which book to read. I have always enjoyed reading, not the point of being called a bookworm, but pretty close. However, when I was at university I was asked to read tons of books, compulsory books someone had decided for me. Every literature teacher had a long reading list of books we had to read if we wanted to pass his or her subject. No point in cheating. Some teachers in exams ,  to make sure we had read them, simply wrote a paragraph from a chapter in the book  and we were asked to write what went before and after the paragraph. They thought they were being smart! I thought they were nuts!

These teachers almost made me hate reading. Almost. So I promised myself that if I ever got the chance to decide on this matter, I would never pick a compulsory book for my students. I would just take them to the library and let them choose something that would engage them. This is what I have been doing for a very long time and have never regretted my decision. I find that students read more and learn more if they are allowed to select their own books.

But, enough of my ramblings and let’s get back to the part where my students are at home, confined, but still in need to find a nice graded book to read. And this is where I need to thank María Argente del Castillo for bringing English e-Reader to my attention.

What is English E-Reader and why do I like it?

English e-Reader offers one of the biggest online libraries of graded e-books. Here, you can find plenty of ebooks in different digital formats: epub, fb2, mobi, rtf, txt, as well as audiobooks in mp3 format. You can download the ebook of your choice and if you sign up, you can read it online for free.

Most books in this website are graded (also called adapted)  by levels: from Starter (A1) to Advanced C1, but you can also find unabridged books suitable for level C2.
Now, choose your book and let’s enjoy 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!