Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘lesson plan’

Teaching the same thing all over again (paragraph blogging)

This week I’ve taught six 90-minute classes at a company, working through needs analysis and getting examples of speaking and writing as we are working with them for the first time. I had the same plan for all six lessons, covering every level from elementary to advanced, but it panned out completely differently in each group. The general structure was:

  • Students write questions for me and their teacher (who was observing and data collecting), then ask them.
  • Annotate a copy of the contents page of the book they’ve been using for lessons before we started teaching them, to show which things they’ve done, what they’d like to do, and what they’d prefer to avoid.
  • Individually, divide up 40 points between the speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation to show their course priorities (an idea I adapted from Teaching English One-to-One [affiliate link] by Priscilla Osborne and now use all the time!). Write this on the back of the contents page.
  • Write a paragraph about their job, roles and responsibilities, when/if/how they use English at work, their hobbies, and anything else they choose, also on the back of the contents.
  • Extend the paragraph by finishing various sentence starters from a choice of 10, such as:
    • I prefer English lessons which…
    • I am confident/not confident about ____ in English because…
    • I generally have good/bad memories of learning English/Russian/German/… at school because…
    • A good English teacher…

Pretty straightforward, right? None of the lessons are encapsulated in that plan though! At various points this week, I (sometimes with my colleagues) have done error correction based on questions, looked at the grammar of questions in general, created indirect questions, discussed at length good places to visit in London, talked about the etymology of Wolverhampton and Chichester, discussed learning strategies and how to make English a habit, shared websites that can be used in addition to doing homework, explained various Polish/English differences, discovered all seven students in a single class prefer dogs to cats, encouraged (elementary) students to speak up so that I can give them feedback and then praised them a lot for speaking pretty much only English for 90 minutes, and probably many more things that I’ve forgotten. It’s a reminder, if one was needed, to teach the students, not the plan 🙂

Lady Wulfruna statue

Lady Wulfruna, the source of the name of Wolverhampton – Image by David Stowell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The scaffolding continuum

I was giving feedback on an observation today when an idea occurred to me. When we plan a series of activities, particularly for low-level learners, it can be difficult to work out how much support they need at each stage. Thinking of the support we offer (scaffolding) as a kind of continuum might help.

Here’s a basic version:

The scaffolding continuum - left has teacher managing the full activity and providing lots of support, right has students doing everything completely independently

The activity I was watching which inspired the idea was asking a group of nine 8- and 9-year-old beginners to perform a comic book story they’d just read in their course book. The story had about 10 lines of dialogue and was about a postman delivering letters to two children and being scared by the neighbour’s dog. This was lesson 14 or 15 for the students, so quite early in their learning. This is what happened in the lesson:

  1. Students were given roles.
  2. They were put into groups to practise for a couple of minutes.
  3. They were asked to perform in front of the group, but struggled with pronunciation and knowing who should speak next. Other students weren’t really listening.
  4. They were given new roles in their small groups and practised again.
  5. They performed in front of the class with similar problems.

Here’s how I might use the continuum to think about planning the sequence differently:

Scaffolding continuum - with numbers 1-7 running left to right

  1. Teacher reads the whole story aloud with students repeating each line after the teacher.
  2. Students are grouped by role, but stay in whole-class mode. Teacher reads the whole story aloud with each group repeating their lines after the teacher. Do this two or three times if necessary, drilling any problem words and focussing on intonation and stress patterns as needed.
  3. Students break into groups with each role represented. They practise the dialogue while reading from their books. The teacher monitors and helps when needed.
  4. Students put their books away and continue to practise in their small groups. Give them a time limit to keep the pace up.
  5. Ask students to choose two things to change in their version, for example the name of one of the characters or the adjective used to describe the dog.
  6. Give them time to practise with their changes.
  7. Students perform in front of the class, with the other students noticing the changes.

Hopefully that should give the students the support they need to be able to act out the story confidently, by gradually removing teacher support until they’re perform their own version of what they’d read.

P.S. I made the continuum by changing PowerPoint slides to ‘banner’ using page setup, something I discovered you could do yesterday (thanks Milada!)

Itchy feet

A few days ago I shared a lesson plan which Claire Hart created based on a recording I did about Moving to Sevastopol.

Now Lizzie Pinard has got in on the act, and created another set of materials based on the same recording. You can find the post she wrote about how she will use the materials on her excellent blog, as well as the materials themselves (scroll down to number 3: Itchy Feet).

I hope you find them useful!

Another gratuitous picture of Sevastopol, this time at Chersonesus

Another gratuitous picture of Sevastopol, this time at Chersonesus

Moving to a new country (Sevastopol)

A few days after I arrived in Sevastopol, Lea Sobocan posted this on facebook:

I have a request for my PLN – more specifically for the segment of you who have experienced living in another country/culture.

I’m currently discussing moving to another country/immigration with my students and I’d really appreciate any thoughts, feelings, difficulties and joys to be found in living abroad. Preferably in audio form, but whatever works for you.

Some of the people I’ve spoken with saw immigration to another country as something you just get up and do and they seem to be certain everyone will greet them with open arms. I’d like to offer a more balanced view and a first-hand account of someone who had this experience.

Any help, in form of text, audio clip or similar will be greatly appreciated.

Lea had helped me before by recording a clip about her favourite TV show, so I thought it was only fair I return the favour. I recorded this audioboo about moving to Sevastopol, then promptly forgot about it:

A few days later I was surprised to get a message from Claire Hart telling me that she had created a series of activities around my two-minute recording. I asked her to share the result with you, and I think you’ll agree, it’s a pretty good lesson. Thanks Claire!

How Claire used the recording

Killing a bit of time before the first class of the day, I found myself reading my Twitter feed. One of the tweets that popped up was from Sandy Millin. It was a link to an audio recording she had posted on Audioboo where she talked about her experience of recently relocating to Sevastopol, Ukraine. The class I was about to start teaching was a C1 group who had asked for practice listening to British people speaking because they tend to find their British colleagues difficult to understand. I’d been using excerpts from BBC television series and BBC world service podcasts with them over the previous weeks, but Sandy’s recording seemed to provide a refreshing alternative to that.

I decided to take a chance and improvise an activity around Sandy’s recording with just 2 minutes to go before the class started. This was a bit of a challenge, but I found that having to think on my feet rather than going through a pre-planned, pre-rehearsed routine made me more present and alert. What was striking is how surprised the learners were to learn that Sandy is a real person and she’s talking about experiences that she has really had. I suppose this just goes to show how learners get used to listening to people playing fictional characters having scripted conversations with each other. When I told them that I actually know Sandy, their enthusiasm shot up even more. I’ve used this recording with several groups at a range of levels and, interestingly, all of them seem to have understood more of what Sandy said than they usually understand when we listen to a recording designed for English learning. Even my A2 group could accurately recount the key points that Sandy made and include some of the detail.

The “real-ness” of this activity was particularly palpable when I used the recording with a group of eight, five of whom have moved to Germany from either Turkey, Hungary, Russia, Poland or Romania. When I asked them to consider why people would move to a foreign country, what difficulties you can face when you make that move and how you can overcome them, the non-Germans in the group were able to tap into their real experiences and share those with the others. When I asked them to write short texts evaluating the benefits and difficulties of moving to a foreign country, what I got back from them were honest and touching accounts of how hard moving to a foreign country can be, but how it can help you to find a better quality of life. They put a lot of effort into writing these texts because the topic was important to them. Even the learners who haven’t had the experience of moving to another country themselves, seemed to have a lot of empathy for Sandy and were keenly interested in what is going on in her life.

The lesson skeleton

1. Look at the statement “I’ve just moved to Sevastopol”

  • What have I done?
  • When did I do it?

2. Ask the learners if they know where Sevastopol is. Can they find it on a map of Europe? What do they know about Ukraine? Which countries are its neighbours? What languages do they speak there? What food do they eat? Have they ever visited this part of the world?

Memorial to Heroic Defenders of Sevastopol

Memorial to Heroic Defenders of Sevastopol

3. Show them information about the population of Sevastopol, its climate and its landmarks and ask them to say what questions this information gives you the answers to. You can also use this as an opportunity to practise saying long numbers, comparing temperatures or discussing what sights they enjoy visiting.

Chersonesus, an Ancient Greek town in the suburbs of Sevastopol

Chersonesus, an Ancient Greek town in the suburbs of Sevastopol

4. Ask them if they think Sevastopol would be a good place to go on holiday to. Why/ why not?

5. Ask them to brainstorm reasons why someone would move to Sevastopol. Then ask them to speculate about why Sandy, an English teacher who is originally from England but who’s lived in a few different countries, would move to Sevastopol.

Why would you move to Sevastopol?

6. Listen to the recording and give them level-appropriate questions to answer. A lower-level question could be: What words does Sandy think you should learn first when you move to another country and why? A higher-level question could be: What difficulties did Sandy face when she arrived in Sevastopol and how has she been able to overcome them?

7. As a follow-up or homework task, you can ask the learners to write a text on the benefits and difficulties of living a foreign country.

This presentation has slides connected to each of the steps in the lesson skeleton:

(You can download it by clicking ‘slideshare’ and logging in – it’s free to create an account, and you can link via facebook if you want to.)

What I’ve learned here is that if you make a recording where you honestly describe interesting, unusual or important experiences in your life and share it through sites like Audioboo, you can produce meaningful authentic audio material that learners will respond really well to because it’ll resonate with them and their lives. The response I’ve received to using this recording has been extremely positive and my learners are now keen to know what Sandy does next.

About Claire

Claire Hart

Claire Hart teaches general English, business English and technical English to university students and business people in Southern Germany. She frequently presents on topics such as using authentic materials, mobile learning and teaching technical English at ELT conferences. She’s also a course book and teacher’s book author and an online materials writer, specialising in business English and ESP materials.

My favourite TV show

In my first lesson with my B2 Upper Intermediate group way back at the start of January, I found out that all of the students were fans of American TV series. We brainstormed the series they watched, and came up with about 30 different ones, everything from Big Bang Theory to White Collar (which I’d never heard of before). Because of that, I decided to base my first week on giving opinions about TV shows. (It was possibly a little too easy at times, and I think it could work with a  B1 Intermediate group)

[Well after my lessons, but before I finished writing this post, Scott Thornbury wrote about the value of soaps and TV for language learners.]

Vocabulary

We started with vocabulary, like so:

  • Tell each other about your favourite TV show, and say why you like it. While they were doing this, I monitored and noted examples of missing vocabulary and language would could be improved later in the week.
  • On the board, write as many words as you can think of connected to TV shows.
  • Fill in as many words as you can on this sheet:

20130309-223344.jpg

  • Look at the wordcloud and match any missing words:

TV shows word cloud

  • The teacher check the meanings and definitions with students. They drill any necessary pronunciation.
  • Students test each other by saying the definition, and the others in their group remember the word.
  • You can give students the link to the whole set on Quizlet to practise the words at home.

My favourite TV series

I then introduced the class to one of my favourite series, and one I was fairly sure they wouldn’t know, namely Doctor Who, through this very entertaining video by Charlie McDonnell:

They had to listen to the video twice and answer the questions on the first sheet, then listen again and correct the mistakes in the transcript. It bears repeated listening because Charlie speaks very quickly – be prepared for a look of shock the first time they hear him! The corrected version of the transcript is in the second slideshare document below. To download them, click on ‘view on slideshare’. You need to join to download, but it’s free.


Other people’s favourites

In the next lesson, we started off by revising the vocabulary with a board race. The aim for this lesson was for students to learn some useful phrases to talk about their favourite TV shows. We started by listening to Adam, with three questions:

  • What’s the show?
  • Why do they like it?
  • Do they give you any extra information about it?
Adam – The Walking Dead

Here are the phrases I pulled out of Adam’s text:

  • The first thing you think about when I say…
  • The main purpose of the show is…
  • There are deeper things than this in the show.
  • That’s why I like it.
  • The show really looks at the human condition.
  • It looks at…what happens when…
  • He was in one of my favourite shows.

I then divided the class into two groups (there was an empty classroom next door). One group had my iPad, and the other my phone (I trust them!). Each group listened to three of the other recordings – Vicky/Deniz/Matt or Rachel/Sian/Lea. They had the same questions as above, plus the additional job of choosing any useful phrases they could steal.

Once they’d listened to their three texts, they told the other group about what they’d heard.

They then talked about their own favourite TV shows, trying to use some of the phrases.

Deniz: How I Met Your Mother
  • It’s a sitcom set in…
  • The main character is…
  • In each episode…
  • The reason why I like this show is…
  • If you haven’t watched the series, I really recommend it.
  • I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, just like I do.
Vicky – Glee
  • My favourite TV series is…
  • I really like it because…
  • It deals with…
  • It’s also something I really enjoy because…
  • I really look forward to watching each episode…
Lea – The Borgias
  • It’s set in…
  • It’s all about… [described in present simple]
  • What I like about this series is…
  • You find yourself rooting for them.
  • My favourite character is…

[Side note: thanks to this lesson, I’m now a big fan of The Borgias and How I Met Your Mother :)]

Matt – Six Feet Under
  • My favourite TV show of all time is…
  • It’s about… [described in present simple]
  • It’s an amazing show because it deals with…
  • It can be very dark.
  • The opening credits are something I enjoy in and of themselves.
  • The acting was incredible.
Rachel – Eastenders
  • It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.
  • It’s a soap opera which is set in…
  • I just love it.
  • One of the other reasons that I love it is…
Sian – The Killing
  • One series I enjoyed very much last year was…
  • It’s quite funny that I enjoyed this because…
  • …and that’s something that I’m not particularly used to…
  • There was a good strong central character.
  • By ten minutes into the first episode I was completely gripped by…
  • A fantastic supporting cast…
  • …were so good that…

[Thanks to these lovely people for answering my Twitter/facebook call for one-minute recordings about favourite TV shows. If anyone else wants to record one and post the link in the comments, that would be great!]

To finish the week, I taught this lesson from allatc, based on the first episode of The Walking Dead. They mingled at the end to tell each other about their favourite scenes from any TV show. It brought together everything we’d been discussing all week perfectly.

So, what’s your favourite TV show?

Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday lesson plan

I know it’s a little late for this year, but I thought I’d post this for anyone who wants to use it in the future. I taught the lesson to Upper Intermediate students, and it took about one hour 45 minutes.

Start off by eliciting the prepositions you need to describe a photo: at the bottom, at the top, in the middle, on the left, on the right, in the (top-left…) corner.

Put students in pairs. Give each student in the pair one of the two photos below. One student describes, the other draws. Afterwards, they compare the drawing and the original picture and try to decide what is going on, and what connects the two pictures.

(You can download it by clicking ‘slideshare’ and logging in – it’s free to create an account, and you can link via facebook if you want to.)

Put these questions on the board:

  • What are English pancakes?
  • What is Pancake Day?
  • What is Shrove Tuesday? When is it?
  • Why are pancakes eaten on Shrove Tuesday?

Challenge students to guess what the answers to these questions might be. If they have no idea about Pancake Day (which they probably don’t!), encourage them to make it up. Then ask them if they want to know the answers – my students immediately shouted ‘yes’! Give them this text to read, adapted from the excellent Woodlands Junior School website:

Answer any questions students might have – mine weren’t quite clear on the explanation of Shrove Tuesday. Ask them if they know how to make pancakes. Then give them this recipe, cut up, and ask them to put it in order:

I downloaded the original recipe from the Times Educational Supplement website which has thousands of resources created by school teachers in the UK for their students, quite a few of which are suitable for EFL/ESL learners. The recipe is here, entitled ‘Posters and Displays’. Read the original recipe, or hand it out, for students to check their answers. They have lots of other Pancake Day resources too (just run a search, making sure ‘Resources’ is selected). You need to join the website to be able to download things, but it’s completely free.

Go back to the photos from the beginning of the lesson. Ask students what is happening in the first photo (the pancake race). Why do they think people are running with pancakes? Tell them this is a very old tradition. They should read about it and find out when it started, why it is still done today, and what the connection with the USA is:

If you have video access, you can then show them this video of an unusual pancake race which takes place every year. They should find out who is competing and why. You could give them more support with the video, but I ran out of preparation time!

To round off the work on Pancake Day, ask students to put all of their paper away, then try and remember as much as they can about the traditions connected to Shrove Tuesday.

As a follow-up, students could talk/write about ‘unusual’ traditions in their country/city.

After class, I went home and made pancakes. Here’s one in the pan 🙂

Photo by @sandymillin, shared on http://flickr.com/eltpics

Photo by @sandymillin, shared on http://flickr.com/eltpics

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy – a lesson

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and although I don’t normally do anything for it, I thought that this year I would take the opportunity to share one of my favourite poems with my students. Here’s the plan in case you want to do it too.

A heart for you

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @vale360, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

Ask your students what day it is, and whether anything special happens on this day in their country. What do they know about Valentine’s Day in the UK?

What kind of gifts do people normally give for Valentine’s Day? Brainstorm them on the board.

Give each group the word cloud. They decide what links the words in the cloud and what she is sending her Valentine. They can also look up any words they don’t understand, so they are ready to appreciate the poem as a whole later.

Show them an onion. What connection could this have to Valentine’s Day and the poem?

Ask the students to close their eyes and put their heads on the desk (but try not to fall asleep!). Read them the poem – take your time and savour the words.

Ask them to discuss how similar the poem was to their ideas. They can then read it and decide whether they would like to receive an onion as a Valentine.

You can then do some pronunciation/speaking work. Read the poem again. This time students mark where you pause using slashes.

They talk about why you pause in those places – it’s because of line/stanza breaks, and also phrases within the lines.

They can chose whether to read Valentine, or an anti-Valentine poem. You can find lots of them on the net. This is the one I chose:

In groups with other students who have chosen the same poem, they practise reading it. They decide where the pauses should be, how fast to read it, how to space the phrases…and then some of the braver students perform it to the class, or the whole group performs the poem together (providing their patterns aren’t too different).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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