Tag Archives: writing

Messy Words: a Vocabulary, Writing and Speaking Activity

It is October and autumn has officially hit. I am just beginning to come to terms with the fact that days are getting shorter and warm days are saying their goodbyes. Well, welcome autumn! I am all here for you!

Let’s kick it off this new season with a vocabulary revision activity that aims at reinforcing vocabulary while at the same time providing an opportunity for students to stretch their legs and interact with other students in the classroom. Gallery-walks, my favourite!

Aim: 

  • to reinforce the vocabulary of the lesson
  •  Use the vocabulary in context by
  1. writing an open-ended question containing the target word/expression
  2. answering the question by using the gallery-walk class dynamics

Procedure:

Before the class

  • Choose a few words you want to revise. I suggest 8-10 words. 
  • Fold a regular sheet of paper horizontally and cut it in half. You will get two slips of paper. This is a good opportunity to recycle the back of spare photocopies from other courses.
  • Write the letters of each word/expression you want to revise in random order. Number each of the slips of paper for easier reference.

During the class:

Step 1. Slips of paper on the walls

Put up the slips of paper on the walls of the class and ask students in pairs or in threes to stand up and work out what the hidden word on each slip of paper is. Ask them to number them as displayed on the walls. The first pair to have all the words, rings the bell (needless to say, there should be one on my table) and the rest of the class has one extra minute to finish this part.

Ask students to sit down.

Step 2. Writing open-ended questions

  • Students continue working in their pairs. Assign the pairs two of the words/expressions on the walls and ask them to write two open-ended questions –one per term related to “education” (this is the topic this week) containing the word or expression. 

For example, one of the words was “state-funded school” and one of the questions was “Would you send your children to a state-funded school? Why (not)?”

  • Give them small cards to write their questions and, using sellotape, place them next to the term the question refers to.  Ask them to write their names at the back of the card so that you know who has written the question and to give feedback.
  • Quickly correct the questions on the walls, and if there is more than one per word, choose the best one, which will remain displayed together with the slip containing the word in random order. Give the discarded questions back to their owners and allow them some time to focus on their possible mistakes.

Step 3. Speaking. Gallery walks

With the words and the questions displayed on the walls, ask students in pairs to stand up and choose a station (slip+card).

Instruct them to answer the question elaborating on the answer. Allow 5 minutes/station and then ask them to move clockwise to the next station. Repeat procedure.

Until next post! 🙂

Fixing Fossilized Grammar and Spelling Errors in an Engaging Effective Way

End of the school year for me! And for you?

This is a post especially dedicated to all non-tech lovers! I am capping off this wonderful school year with an engaging yet effective activity for error correction. It may not be much when you read how to do it but trust me on this one, your students are going to love it!

If you follow me at all on my blog or on social media (facebook, twitter ), you will know that I am a huge fan of using technology in my classes. When I mean “huge”, I don’t mean that technology dominates my teaching practice. I use technology only when I think it’s going to contribute to effective learning. Otherwise, it’s time wasted.

Slips of paper are hands-down my favourite teaching tool. Essentially, they are scraps of paper that I use and reuse constantly in various ways. In fact, my record is having used the same set of slips of paper six times for a single class. I am sure some of my students will remember this day. They certainly learned everything on them.

The activity I am sharing with you today is a  brand new one. I have to say I am happy with the result. It worked really well, it was effective, meaningful and engaging.

This time slips of paper have been used to fix fossilized grammar and spelling errors, but I firmly believe that the use of slips of paper as a teaching tool is a great addition to any lesson plan.

Note 1: “fossilization” refers the way in which some errors become a permanent feature of a language learner’s language

Note 2: at the end of the post, there is a video I’ve put together with some pics and clips I took from the activity. In case you want to see it. Just saying! 🙂

Materials:

  • slips of paper
  • sticky notes
  • sellotape or blue-tack
Before  the class

Yes. I am afraid there is some prep to do but it’s worth it.

  1. Correct their compositions and write down common or relevant errors: for this activity, I have used common spelling or grammar errors.
  2. Write them down on slips of paper.
  3. Write the correction on sticky notes or scraps of paper.
  4. Hang the slips of papers around the room. Identify each slip of paper with a number and write it down on the bottom right-hand corner.
  5. For each slip of paper, and displayed next to it, is a sticky note containing the correction. The sticky note is folded in half so that the right answer cannot be seen unless unfolded.

How to go about it

Round 1

  • Ask students to take out a regular A4 piece of paper, write Round 1 at the top and number it- whatever X slips of paper you are using. Ask them to do the same on another piece of paper and but this time they should write Round 2.
  • Note: It is spring so if it is sunny, why not take them outside the building and hang the slips of paper on the walls of the building? In fact, this is what I did. If you also play some upbeat music while they are doing the exercise, they are going to love you.
  • Ask them to form pairs.
  • Ask them to walk around the class in their pairs, read the sentence, spot the error, discuss the way to correct it and then write their answers on the response sheet. If the number on the slip of paper is 3, they should write it next to number three on their response sheet.  Tell them it doesn’t matter where they start as they will end up doing all the cards.
  • Emphasize that they will need to speak English all the time and that they will both need to discuss how to correct the error- you want both of them to learn, not just one student-  then write down the answer and then, only then, unfold the sticky note with the corrected version.
  • I like to meander around the room and check to see if they are having difficulties with a specific error and try to help them figure out where the mistake is.
  • Once the activity is finished, I ask them to count up the number of mistakes they have been able to correct and write that number at the top of their paper.

Round 2.

We are working here with fossilized errors, ie, errors we have already corrected a thousand times but we haven’t been able to fix.  Reinforcement and consolidation are essential. So, let’s go for Round 2.

Group students: I asked students to form a line based on their birthdays (day/month). Once they formed the line, I ask them to work with the person on their right. (have a look at the video).

  • Explain that they are going to be competing against each other.  At the end of the activity, the winner is the student who has managed to correct the most mistakes.
  • Everything is the same as above, but this time they don’t discuss the error. Together and silently they read the error on the slip of paper, write the correction on their sheets of paper, compare their answers, unfold the sticky note and put a tick or a cross depending on whether they have been able to spot and correct the error. Hopefully, most students will have been able to fix all the errors.

Round 3

Yes. Again. Remember they are fossilized errors.

Follow-up: Ask students to sit down and ask them to write from memory all the mistakes they have been able to fix. Once they have finished, ask them to share them in pairs. Let’s hope that by writing them down from memory and talking about them in pairs …again, we will have helped them eliminate these fossilized errors from their oral and written production.

I love how slips of papers can turn into a simple and fun formative assessment tool that gets students out of their seats and learning, don’t you?

Have a look at the video now to have a clearer picture of the whole activity.

Lesson Plan: Work

After a little bit of a crazy few months, we are finally heading for final exams. More craziness. I know. But, of a different kind.

My first time on Twitter was in December 2015. I was kind of “forced” to open a Twitter account as I was doing an online talk for the British Council on “How to Keep students Motivated” and the app we were using for the event required that I had a Twitter handle.  I didn’t know much about Twitter and even thought, in my ignorance,  it was something bound to disappear but I couldn’t be more mistaken. I love Twitter and have to say  I am kind of hooked on it.  What? You are not following me?  Hey! You’re missing out! This is my twitter handle @blogdecristina.   I hope to meet you all there.

Anyway, I got the idea for the first exercise in this lesson plan from Twitter.  Twitter users were tweeting about “five jobs I have had” and I was like “hmm, that’s a good idea to start a lesson about work!” and without further ado, I set out to write this post about work. Hope you find it useful.

Step 1. Writing and Speaking.Three Jobs I have Had.  

Telling an anecdote about yourself never fails to engage students. It’s only fair that if you are asking them to talk about themselves, you do the same.  On the board, write the following:

Before working as a teacher,

  • I worked as a waitress
  • I worked on a farm picking apples
  • I worked as a baby sitter

Briefly, explain your experiences working in the jobs you have chosen to share with them and then ask them to do the same. Once they have written their sentences, ask them to work in groups of 3 sharing their experiences in these jobs. They are gonna love this exercise!

Step 2. Writing. Choose a Job Game. Working with adjectives
  • Write on the board or give students a hand-out with adjectives used to describe positive character traits for the workplace. Check that they know the meanings.
ambitious confident conscientious easy-going hard-working
honest loyal methodical motivated reliable
punctual responsible dynamic cheerful charming
communicative flexible sociable creative resourceful
  • Display the collage below and ask students to identify the jobs in the collage.

  • Individually and without telling anybody, students choose one of the jobs in the collage and write three clues for the rest of the class/group to guess the job.
  • The first clue needs to necessarily include three character traits associated with the job. This clue is worth 3 points.
  • The second clue needs to be associated with either the workplace or the people you work with if you are doing this job. This clue is worth 2 points.
  • The third clue needs to be associated with something you are required to do in this job. This clue is worth 1 point.
  • Once they all have their clues, ask students to form groups of 4. Taking it in turns, they read Clue 1. If someone guesses the job after reading clue 1, they score 3 points; if clue number 2 has to be read, they will score 2 points …etc.
  • Rules: if a student in the group has a wrong guess for a job, he won’t be allowed to guess again for this job. This will prevent students from giving wild guesses.

Example:

  • In this job, you have to be hard-working, cheerful dynamic and sociable.
  • In this job, you have to work with young and old people
  • In this job, you have to take orders

Answer: waiter

Step 3: Introducing/Revising & Consolidating Vocabulary related to Work

 

Every time I revise or introduce vocabulary in my classes, I make a point of reminding my students that they need to study the vocabulary in chunks. There is no point in studying the verb “apply” if they don’t know the preposition it collocates with.  The next activity is a good one to remind students of this necessity.

 

 

  • Give students two minutes to write all the vocabulary they know related to work, excluding professions.
  • On the board, write a circle with the word Work inside. Do a mind-map with all the vocabulary students provide.
  • Drill pronunciation and then do a quick translation exercise to consolidate meaning and pronunciation.
  • Introduce new vocabulary.

I find it really important to tap into students’ prior knowledge, especially when teaching vocabulary. If they feel they know most of the words, they won’t feel overwhelmed and will be able to maintain a positive attitude.

PDF Vocabulary 

Step 4.Speaking. Playing Cards. A game to activate vocabulary

Aim: to activate vocabulary in a speaking activity

Give each student 10 pieces of paper, more or less the size of a card in a deck of cards. Ask them to write down vocabulary they can remember related to work. Encourage them to write chunks, for ex. “apply for” or “quit a job”.  They should write each chunk on a different piece of paper. Encourage legible clear handwriting. Once this is done:

  1. Ask students to form groups of three
  2. Ask them to place their cards face down on the table. They might want to shuffle them a bit. Each student is dealt two cards.
  3. Display the first question from the presentation below and ask students to discuss it trying to use the words in their cards. As soon as they use the chunk in a card, they discard it and take a new one, they should always have two cards in their hands.
  4. Allow 4 minutes per question and then display a new question for the students to discuss.
  5. Students continue in the same way using vocabulary, discarding and taking new cards until there are none left in the pile. At this point, they will count the number of cards they have managed to use. Each card is worth 1 point. Very quickly they decide who the winner is and shuffling the cards the game starts all over again until all the questions have been answered or you deem appropriate.

Work

Step 5. Oral and written Mediation

Yes. Mediation.  I know some of you hate it, and some of you don’t even know what it is. Mediation and I, I think we have clicked, and as  I am afraid it is here to stay, emotional intelligence should apply here if we want to keep the good vibes coming. I have decided to be smart and embrace mediation.

Below, you’ll find two examples of oral interlinguistic, also called cross-linguistic,  mediation and an example of written interlinguistic mediation

Interested in spicing up your lessons? I ran face-to-face workshops helping teachers integrate technology in their classes in an easy way, using free online digital tools. Practical tested ideas that combine traditional teaching with modern techniques. Fun and learning, a win-win!

From teacher to teacher. In English and in Spanish.

Revising and Consolidating Vocabulary: No-Prep Fun Strategies

Before we dive into the content of the post today, I’d like for you to know a surprising fact about me. I love traditional teaching. Yes, chalk and board. I say “surprising” because if you have been reading this blog for a while, you will have probably noticed how often I incorporate technology in my lessons. True. I love surprising my students with a new idea to revise, learn or consolidate learning using a digital tool, but I absolutely also adore surprising them with an exercise where the only help is their mind, their classmates and occasionally their teacher.

If I combine both traditional and digital learning, then it’s just my dream lesson. And this is what you’ll find on this post, the traditional Cristina and an updated version of myself. Which one do I love best? That, I still need to decide.

B2 students revising vocabulary

  • Aim: revise and consolidate vocabulary in a communicative way.
  • Levels. B1 upwards

Although the ideas below work better for a topic-based lesson- in my case it was used to revise food-related terms-, I think it might also work to revise random vocabulary as long as you specify which vocabulary you want to revise.

Step 1: Standing Up 

That’s probably one of my favourite ways to revise the vocabulary learnt the previous days.  My students already know me, so when I say: “please, stand up”, they already know what is coming and automatically, it brings a smile to their faces.

Instructions: students need to come up with a food-related term from the ones studied in the unit. They take it turns to say their word and I repeat it loud enough for all the class to hear it. This also gives me a good chance to repeat the word that might have been occasionally mispronounced.

A student sits down, ie. is eliminated,  if…

  • he cannot come up with a word
  • if another student has already said the word
  • if he cannot come up with a word in 10 seconds.

Big applause for the last person to remain standing and one of the sweets I keep in my candy box.

Step 2: Using Slips of Paper. Moving around the class.

Once terms and pronunciation have been revised, it’s time to work on meaning.

  1. Give students a slip of paper. I use old photocopies printed only on one side and cut them lengthwise. You should get two slips of paper per copy.
  2. Ask them to write two terms they would like to revise. Encourage them to write big enough to see the words from a distance (Note: this is unnecessary but I find the bigger their letters are, the easier it is to understand their handwriting). Once they have done so, ask them to make sure they know how to define them. Also, help with pronunciation.
  3. Ask students to stand up. The desks in my class form a U so I tell them to move to the centre of the class. Students choose a partner and they take it turns to define their words for the other student to guess/revise. Before they move on to find a new partner, they swap cards. This is a very important step as once they swap, they will need to define/revise other words.

After 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the number of students, students sit down, Ask them to keep the last slip of paper they have defined.

Step 3:  Asking Open-Ended questions. 

Now, this is the part where I use technology and one of my favourite tools to get feedback. But, let’s go step by step.

a. Writing the questions

Students sit down. Ask them to write down an open-ended question using one of the words on their slip of paper. Tell them some of the questions will be chosen to do a speaking activity. Encourage them to write questions related to the topic, in my case food.

Questions are difficult in English so walk around the room helping students.

b. Using  Mentimeter.com to get feedback

As I mentioned above, this tool is one of my favourites to get feedback.

It takes less than 30 seconds to set up the task.

  • Go to mentimeter.com
  • Choose the open-ended slide
  • Click on Present and  display the slide with the OHP
  • Ask students to take out their mobiles and go to menti.com
  • Give them the code
  • Ask them to write their questions and submit them

Once their questions are displayed, correct possible grammar mistakes and choose 6 or 8  to be discussed in pairs or in groups of 3.

I hope you have enjoyed the lesson.

Teach and have fun!

Lesson Plan: Save Mother Earth

Hey! How’s the new year treating you?

Question for you. Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Or let me rephrase it, have you announced to friends and family that you are finally going to hit the gym, eat fewer carbs and give up smoking? Have you? Sorry to be the party pooper here. Statistics say that only 8% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them. I am definitely part of the 92%. What about you?

However, I have made a New Year’s resolution. It’s the same I made last year. I am going to try to reuse single-use disposable plastic bags when I do my daily shopping. Last year,  I even went as far as putting a bunch of these bags in the boot of my car. There they are. Exactly in the same place. This year I am going to try again. I am really going to try. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really want to do my part. It’s just that I forget. So, I am considering moving the bags to the front seat. It might work. What do you think?

That’s what I’m eco-guilty of. What about you? What is your darkest eco-sin?

The lesson today is aimed at students with a language level of B2  (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them learn vocabulary and  improve listening, speaking and writing.

Introducing the Topic: Playing Hangman. Vocabulary and Speaking

Aim: Introduce some common vocabulary and to work on pronunciation.

On the board, write the word “Environment” and drill pronunciation.

Divide the class into two or three groups, depending on the number of students in your class.

  • Team A starts saying one letter. Whether they guess right or wrong, the turn goes now to Team B who will say another letter.
  • To try to guess the hidden word, a member of the team will need to stand up and say. “We know!”. If they guess right, they score 1 point. If they don’t, the other team can say up to two letters before anybody tries to guess again.
  • Note: they can only attempt to guess the word once half the letters have been guessed. For this, before each game, you will have to count the number of gaps. For example, if the word contains 8 letters, they can only guess when 4 letters have been filled.

There are four words and expressions to be learnt or revised with this exercise. After they have guessed the words, ask them a question where the target word is used in context. You might need to introduce some new vocabulary at this stage.

  1. Environment: What do you do to help the environment?
  2. Global warming: How do you feel when you hear about global warming?
  3. Recycle: Do you recycle? What kind of things do you recycle?
  4. Renewable energies: Do you know what renewable energies are? Do you use any of them? Why? Why not?
Leaning Vocabulary
  • Drill pronunciation as you teach the words and then flip the cards to see how they are used in context. Do this exercise twice.
  • Reinforcement: there are 24 terms here. Ask students in pairs to write in two minutes as many as they can remember.

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Listening. School Strike for Climate Change

In this inspiring thought-provoking talk, 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the world leaders demanding they act against climate change.

Ask students to take down notes from Greta’s talk and then in pairs talk about the most important ideas in her speech.

Encourage the use of vocabulary.

Three Speaking  Activities
  1. Gallery Walk. Thought-provoking Posters with a Humorous Twist. Giving a Monologue.

Posters here

  • Put the posters containing environmental issues up on the walls of the class.
  • Ask students to stand up, tour the gallery and choose a poster they would like to talk about for about 4 minutes.
  • Ask students to stand next to the poster they would like to talk about.
  • Arrange students in groups of three, being careful to mix students doing different posters.
  • Ask students to sit down and give them 3 minutes to prepare their speeches. Encourage the use of specific vocabulary.
  • Students, in their groups, gallery walk stopping next to the posters they have chosen and delivering their speeches.

 

2. Speaking: Pictures with prompts. Monologues.

Pair students up. Give each of them a speaking task. Allow them 2 minutes to prepare their monologue and ask them to speak for about four minutes.

Student A

Student B

Oral and Written Mediation

Oral Mediation

PDF 1  PDF 2

Context: A friend of yours from New Zealand, who until two weeks ago lived for 20 years in a monastery in Bhutan, has decided to pay you a visit. He doesn’t speak the language and besides, knows nothing of the real world we live in.

Student A. He shows you this infographic but needs help to understand it.  Choose two or three ideas and explain what they mean.

Student B. He sees this cartoon in a newspaper and doesn’t understand it. Explain it to him.

Written Mediation

See the Task  here

Hope you have enjoyed the lesson!