Tag Archives: writing

The Environment: Do we Really Care?

This month many of us, teachers and students alike,  are celebrating the anniversary of all kinds of things we had no idea would define the year ahead of us.  I distinctly remember the day when only two or three students turned up for class and  myself saying things like: “this soon will pass” and “I will see you in a fortnight! before going into confinement.

With human activity slowing down due to the strict restrictions, March will probably also mark the month when our planet could breathe some fresh air for the first time in decades.  Reversing decades of destruction is, of course, not possible in such a short time, but at least, we could have a glimpse of what the earth would feel like without fossil fuels.

The lesson I am sharing with you today is, as you have probably guessed, explores the theme of the environment and is meant for C1 students.

I have designed the lesson using my favourite tool ever, Spark Adobe Page, but in the presentation, you will find links to other websites that will help my students work on vocabulary relevant to talk about this topic, enhance their listening skills by watching videos and discuss questions to boost their speaking abilities. Also, at the end of the post, you can have a look at a writing collaborative activity using Google Slides.

Before you jump right into the lesson in Spark Adobe, perhaps you would like to explore some vocabulary related to the environment.  I have used the awesome tool Flippity. I cannot embed the activity but click on the image to have a good look at all the possibilities it offers for introducing, revising and reinforcing.  As you can see, I have created an activity with a template, but then I can reuse it in a number of different ways. That’s what I call, a real time-saver!


Ready to explore the lesson? This is what you will find in this visual session

  • Natural Disasters: Vocabulary  and exercises
  • Natural disasters: Conversation questions
  • National Geographic repository of videos explaining natural disasters
  • Man-made disaster Video activity with a pronunciation game
  • Environment: vocabulary and games
  • Speaking: conversation questions to  use vocabulary  in context

The Environment. Do we really care?

To round up the lesson, I gave students a writing activity using Google slides in editing mode.  This beautiful template has been designed by Paula from Slides Mania. Thanks; Paula, I think I can call myself a Slides Maniac.


By the way, if you want students As and Bs to work on their questions at the same time, it might be a good idea to use a Chrome extension to split the screen into two. I use Tab Resizer. But, if you do not want to install an extension on the Chrome bar, you can always do it manually.

  1. Depress the left mouse button and “grab” the window.
  2. Keep the mouse button depressed and drag the window all the way over to the RIGHT of your screen. …
  3. Now you should be able to see the other open window, behind the half window that’s to the right

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson

Digital Gallery Walks with QR Codes for Creative Writing

Before this pandemic started, way back in January 2020, I created lots of activities where students had to stand up and move around the class. These activities were SO engaging, perhaps even more than playing a game with bells or any other prop I am so keen on using in my classes.

The majority of the questions I get asked via email or on the blog are from teachers asking me to share ideas that can somehow substitute this “moving around” the class. It is not easy. So far, I have found nothing that can substitute movement in class; we can only try out different activities and alternatives and hope for the best.

 

One of my favourite activities is  Gallery Walks. Sadly, we will have to do without traditional gallery walks for a while but, if you have read my previous post, you will have read about a nice alternative. Yes. Virtual. So, hi and hello and welcome to a new era: Digital Gallery Walks. And this time, with a task that I have pompously titled Gallery Walks with QR Codes for Creative Writing.

QR Codes? Why not? We’re all pretty familiar with QR Codes nowadays, aren’t we? Even my 80-year-old mum has a QR Reader on her mobile phone. So, nobody is going to be telling you they cannot do the task because they don’t have a QR Reader installed in their mobiles.

So, ready? Let’s dive into the task! What’s the idea and what’s the final product?

The idea is that students, with the same story starter and in a semi-guided activity, write different stories using only 4 posters. How? by doing a virtual gallery walk using QR codes while, at the time, prompting them to use picture-prompted vocabulary, grammar, connectors and linkers. That is, the whole package!

Aims:

  • to write a mystery story (or any other genre)
  • to boost students’ writing skills
  • to stimulate students’ creativity
  • to encourage the use of connectors
  • to “force” them to use a variety of newly-acquired grammar structures

A step-by-step guide to designing the activity

Step 1: Creating the posters

The first step is to design the posters. For my activity, I designed  4 different posters containing, each of them,  a collage with 4 pictures, a couple of connectors or linkers and some grammar. I used Canva to create my posters.

Step 2. Creating the QR Codes

The next step is creating the QR Codes for each of the posters. I have used QR Code Monkey for this activity because it allows you to insert a number inside the QR Code and for this activity, I needed to number the Codes. To create a code, you just need to paste the URL of your posters and get the QR Code. You can see the QRCodes for my posters below. Wanna try if they work? Open your QR Reader and scan them!

Next, photocopy the QR Codes and stick the 4 QR Codes to the deks with sellotape or, alternatively, give students a photocopy with the task.

Step 3: Explaining the activity

Desks in my class are now arranged in rows. There are 4 rows. I called the first row: student A; the second row, student B …etc

I gave all students the same story starter and instructed Student As to scan QR Code 1; Student Bs QR Code 2; Student Cs,  QR Code 3, and Students Ds, QR Code 4. I explained that they needed to continue the story using one or more pictures from the poster; at least a connector or linker and the grammar point.

I gave students about 5 minutes to continue the story and then we “gallery walked” to the next poster. This means that I told As to scan QR code number 2; Bs QR code number 3; Cs QR code number 4 and Ds QR code number 1.

Repeat procedure every 5 minutes until students have used all 4 posters.

Step 4:  Giving feedback

I collected all the stories and corrected the most important mistakes. While students were busy doing another activity, I put their stories on the walls outside the class so that they could read some of the stories on their way out of the building.

Download my activity here

Showcasing Students’ Written Work Using Google Slides Magazine Style

Happy New Year to everyone! And here we are, back at the start of a new year. I am kicking off this one with a post about writing,  inspired by another post written by a fellow teacher from EOI Pontevedra, Paula Gómez. You can read her post here.

Have you ever entertained the idea of publishing students’ written work but were put off by the limitations imposed by free online publishing apps?  Not any more.

This post is about showcasing students’ written work using one of the greatest free collaborative apps: Google Slides.

How often, when you are marking essays think ” Gosh, this essay or this covering letter is soooo good! I only wish the rest of the class could have it as a model of good writing”   And then, you find yourself contemplating the idea of photocopying it and sharing it with the rest of the class.  But…what if I told you there is an easier way to do it? What if I told you you only need to have a free Google account to showcase your students’ written work in a beautiful way, for free and without any limitations? What if I told you that you can very easily change the dimensions in Google Slides to resemble a magazine?

You don’t believe me? Have a look at this Google slides-magazine style boasting some of my students’ book reviews here

Ready to make one? It is really very easy to set up. We are going to do it in 7 steps.  If you have already grasped the idea, you can stop reading now. If you need further guidance, I have recorded a video tutorial to walk you through the steps.

  • Step 1: setting up the slide
  • Step 2: creating the cover of the magazine
  • Step 3: creating the template
  • Step 4. Duplicating the slide
  • Step 5: sharing the magazine/editing permissions
  • Step 6: Sharing the magazine/present mode
  • Step7: downloading and printing the magazine

Before you watch the video, some highlights:

  1. Log in to your Google account and open a Google Slides presentation here https://docs.google.com/presentation/u/0/ and open a blank presentation
  2. The first step to making my magazine on Google Slides is changing the default dimensions. The slide needs to have the same dimensions as an ordinary page in case you want to print it. To do this go to File/ Page Set up/ Custom/ and choose: in cms 23×28; in inches 9×11
  3. Now we need to set up the two most important slides: the cover and the template the students will need to duplicate and fill in with their own content.
  • The cover: Amazing the results one can get inserting shapes, pictures and playing with different fonts. It is all about creating a beautiful inspiring cover.
  • The template: This is also an important part. Spend some time deciding what your magazine will look like and design the template students will duplicate and use to write their own content.

Eager for more? Watch this video tutorial and  show the world what your students can do

 

Timesaver: Repository of Writing Prompts for Every Essay Type

Although I have been doing this job for a long time, it still surprises me to realize how terribly inefficient I can be at times. I think this must be one of the reasons why I started this blog.

It’s hard to understand, even for me and about myself, why I do not have a repository of writing topics to give my students. Is it the same for you?

How many times, for God’s sake, have I given my students the task of writing an opinion essay or a cover letter? Hundreds. Well, believe it or not, every single time I spend precious time looking for an adequate topic or a suitable advertisement. After 3o years doing the same, one would think I should have a dozen to choose from.

Nothing like that, believe me; that’s why this post is so necessary. What you will find below are links to websites with lots of possibilities to choose from. In some cases, they are not only inspiration for writing but also for speaking activities/assignments. Lets’ jump right in!

A bit of everything

501  Writing Prompts ( persuasive, expository, narrative and literary) targets students,  encouraging autonomous learning by including model essays for a certain number of prompts so that students can compare and contrast their writing. It also includes a  scoring guide. Students are encouraged to use this guide to get an idea of how their essay may be graded.

Essay questions divided by topic

From IELTS LIZ, we get 100 essay questions organized alphabetically by topic: from Art to Work and much more.

Narrative and Personal Writing

From The NewYork Times, we get 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.

Lots of writing prompts touching from family life to pop culture, gender roles, video games, social media, travel and more.

Creative Writing Prompts

  • Creative writing Prompts is a site that I use for 15-minute writing practice in class.Some suggestions to use this website:
    • A quick writing activity in class. Students decide on a number and write for about 15 minutes. You can do this activity often as it only takes 15 minutes and gives them a lot of practice if done regularly. They also get direct help from the teacher as it’s a class activity.
    • You can also divide the class into pairs or groups of three, depending on how large your class is and ask each group to assign a writing task to another group in the class by choosing a random prompt. Students write their stories. Set a time limit of 30 or 35 minutes. Put their stories up on the walls of the class for all the students to read.
    • Brainstorm vocabulary recently studied. Make sure there is a variety of nouns, adjectives, phrasal verbs, idioms…etc to choose from. Write them on the board. Ask students to choose two numbers and write the two prompts on the board too. Students choose one of these options and write their story including some of the target vocabulary.
  • 100 Creative Writing Prompts for Middle School includes a selection of story starters, research prompts and expository prompts among others
Argumentative, Persuasive, Opinion Essay Prompts

 

Formal and Informal Emails/letters

If you know of any other great sites, please leave a comment with writing prompts, leave a comment.

Lesson Plan for C1: Politics and Politicians.

I am certain I am not the only one who is fed up with politicians. Should you ask my friends, they’ll tell you that I never talk about politics. I never criticize or praise politicians. I talk about life, about life issues, but always being respectful of other people’s attitudes. I don’t like radical people. I don’t want them around me. I know that some of you might think knowing about politics is a necessity. I don’t disagree.  However, getting into heated arguments with people who have a different point of view is, in my opinion, a waste of time and frustrating. So, I don’t do it. And, in this frame of mind, I will approach this lesson about Politics.

PDF Teacher’s     PDF Student’s

Warm-up. Whole class
  •  What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word POLITICIAN?
  • What is the minimum voting age in your country? Should it be higher or lower?   See: Voting age around the world
  • What are the main political parties in your country? Who is the most controversial politician?  useful vocabulary here.

 

Working on Vocabulary: Adjectives
  • On the board, write three headings: positive, negative and neutral and ask students to do the same in their notebooks. Tell them you are going to dictate a list of adjectives and qualities that can be applied to politicians.
  • Start calling out adjectives and ask them to place them under one of the columns. You might need to spell some of them, or alternatively write them down on the board. It is a good opportunity to drill pronunciation and clarify/teach meanings.
  • Do the exercise on the board. There might be slight disagreements and that is just fine.

Focusing on Listening:  How the US  and the UK election works

This listening exercise has different parts

Individual work:

  • Students are divided into pairs. Student A listens to How the US election works and Student B to How the UK election works. In my case, I have set it as homework but you can do it in class, asking students to bring some earbuds.
  • As students listen, ask them to write down any words/expressions related to the topic. Ask them to look them up and practise their pronunciation as they might be asked to explain some terms to the class.

In class:

  • Using Mentimeter, ask them to write the words they jotted down from the video. Once the cloud is formed, point to one word and ask them to explain it.

  • Pair up A and B and ask them to report their findings.

Student A. How the US election works

Student B: The voting system in the Uk

Follow up: Cloze with a twist.

Give students the transcript for both videos. Tell them you have deleted some words from the transcript. They will have to listen very attentively as there are no empty spaces showing there is a missing word. Ask them to compare in pairs before correcting the exercise.  You will find the exercise in the PDF.

Working on Vocabulary

Have a look at how these verbs collocate

  • Boost the economy
  • Harm/benefit someone or an organization
  • Put a strain on the finances of a country/area
  • Exacerbate a problem
  • Undermine the morale of citizens
  • Create divisions
  • Lead to tensions
  • Cut taxes
  • Extend working hours
  • Increase public spending
  • Abolish unemployment benefits
  • Allow a vote on independence
  • Increase penalties for…
  • Damage the economy
  • Resolve existing social problems
  • Rise of income inequality
  • Reform the education system
  • Solve social problems
  • Ensure prosperity
  • Hold an election
  • Rig the election
  • Stand for election

Other words you might want to know: floating voters. popularity ratings, a right-winger, a left-winger, a polling station, a running mate, a high turnout, voting booth, ballot card

Speaking

Before each section, ask students to call out 6 words or expressions they have learned in this unit. Divide the class into As and Bs and assign As three words and Bs three words. Display the first section and ask them to take in turns to answer the questions trying to use the vocabulary on the board

Politcs and Policiticians

 

Speaking and writing using Flipgrid

I have been dying to use Flipgris’s new update. “And what is it that has you so excited?” -you might be wondering. Well, it is the possibility of responding to a video in a written form.  Imagine the possibilities, imagine the potential it has for language teaching.

So, here’s the first activity for my students using the brand new Text Comments. I know it is a dangerous activity, but I teach adults and am relying on their self-restraint.