Sunday, 11 December 2016

English for begiNNers

This short lesson plan is designed around a Christmas advert. It is mainly aimed at upper-intermediate and advanced students because these are the groups I usually teach, but can be used with any other level with little adaptation.


We start by discussing in small groups and brainstorming some (as many as students can think of):

1.- reasons why people learn a second language (to find a job, for pleasure, to enhance brain activity, to travel/ live abroad…)

2.- reasons why people decide to go and live in another country (looking for better working conditions, for love, weather/climate/ health issues, political reasons…)

3.- strategies/ useful tips for learning a foreign language and improving: grammar, pronunciation, listening, speaking, vocabulary etc. at both a beginner and at a more advanced level 

4.- the main advantages and disadvantages of learning a language at a young/ old age


Go through the students’ answers. After conducting feedback and sharing their ideas and recommendations with the whole group, tell them they are going to watch the start of a short film entitled “English for beginners” in which they will see the difficulties of learning a foreign language at advanced age.


Pause the video after 1:46 and comment on those difficulties most of us have gone through.
Ask Ss what they think is the reason why this old man is trying to learn English. Let them take guesses while predicting what happens next. Give them some time to come up with an interesting and original ending for the video.


After watching, ask your students if they like the film and tell them this is a viral Christmas advert. Get them to guess what they are advertising, debate what makes a successful Christmas advert and how they feel about this type of Christmas ads.

Hope you enjoy the activity!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Good fences...

Mending Wall by Ken Fiery
This lesson plan was designed long ago as part of a course about materials development for language teaching. It was the first based on one of my favourite poems with the aim of introducing literature into the classroom. Addressed at adults at upper-intermediate/ advanced levels, it promotes the practice of all five skills and language awareness by focusing on direct and reported speech. Although originally split into two sessions, its duration will depend on the group dynamics and your own pace. (Please, note this time instructions are given directly to the students and that you can find the full handout here.)


         I.- WARM-UP

A man was trying to sleep but he couldn’t
He got up and made a phone call
The person he called was very angry
The caller felt better and fell asleep
_ Read the story and ask your teacher yes-no questions to solve the puzzle:
´Why do you think he called?´ ‘What was the problem?’


_ In pairs, comment on the following questions:
·         What kind of relationship do you have with your neighbours?
·         What makes for a good neighbourhood?
Take upon consideration the following aspects:
  •       Location
  •       Nearby facilities
  •       Price and characteristics of the houses
  •      Compare it with your present neighbourhood and explain why you would or wouldn’t move there

Listen to the poem being read. Try to see in your mind what is happening.
Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun, 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. 
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair 
Where they have left not one stone on a stone, 
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, 
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, 
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 
But at spring mending-time we find them there. 
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; 
And on a day we meet to walk the line 
And set the wall between us once again. 
We keep the wall between us as we go. 
To each the boulders that have fallen to each. 
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls 
We have to use a spell to make them balance: 
’Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’ 
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 
Oh, just another kind of out-door game, 
One on a side. It comes to little more: 
There where it is we do not need the wall: 
He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 
If I could put a notion in his head: 
’Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it 
Where there are cows? 
But here there are no cows. 
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out, 
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him, 
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather 
He said it for himself. I see him there 
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 
He moves in darkness as it seems to me 
Not of woods only and the shade of trees. 
He will not go behind his father’s saying, 
And he likes having thought of it so well 
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”



IV.A.- DRAWING [U Listening ^ Talking ¥Drawing]

Individually, draw the scene this poem conjures up in your mind. Add commentary text to the picture if necessary and then, compare your drawing with a classmate. Explain any differences and discuss what you think the poem is about.

What do you think is the writer’s opinion about the wall? And his neighbour’s? Why does his neighbor think that ‘good fences make good neighbours’?

IV. B.- VIDEO-POEM DISCUSSION  [N Watching ^ Talking/ Language Awareness]

1. - Watch the video from minute 5:55 and compare the images shown in it with your own drawings. How different are they?

2. - After watching the video, has your interpretation of the poem changed in any way? In what ways do walls become metaphorical or symbolic in the poem? (Some say it's actually about tearing down religious and social boundaries)

3. - Go back to the text and try to differentiate thoughts from actual speech. How is speech conveyed?



4. - Try to imagine the real conversation between these two neighbours and write the dialogue down   

5. - Report the conversation to your classmate.



V. A.- ROLEPLAY [_ Conversation]

_NEIGHBOURS: Try and solve this neighbourhood problem.


Resident of APT 202, 2nd floor:

It’s 7:00 AM. You were up until 4:00 AM preparing for an important business meeting. You have to give your presentation at 10:30, and you really need another hour to sleep. You can’t sleep because the person who lives downstairs is playing the drums. Persuade your neighbour to stop playing. Be as convincing as possible


Resident of APT 102, 1st floor:

(by jblaha on flickr)

It’s 7:00 AM. You are a drummer, and a music student. Today is your final exam. If you don’t play well you can’t graduate so you have to practice as much as possible. Explain this to your neighbour to persuade him. Be as convincing as possible


Read what someone wrote about his complaining neighbours and post a reply giving him advice on what to do.

What do you notice about the language used? Edit the text to correct spelling and punctuation mistakes.

Dogs And Complaining Neighbours !!!! Help

We have had a complaint from our neighbours that our dogs are barking in the garden, the neighbours have a small dog and we have 2 dogs, we have put up a 1.5 mtr reed fencing which is fixed to a wire lower fence so the dogs would stop jumping up at the fence( they have never jumped over the fence into the neighbours garden) the only time the dogs bark in the garden is when someone is about( like dogs do) when we come home from work friday they have told our 11 year old son that the dogs bark all day and they never shut up in the garden which is not true our other neighbour whose house adjoins ours has not complained?? but this neighbour whose house is about 40 feet away has, (we are end terrace facing south there house is facing east big garden between us)

today sunday my wife and a few friends were sitting in the garden and said neighbour returns with his dog, my dogs obviously run over to the fence when i call them back so they come, so the neighbour then decides to pick his dog up above the fence so my dogs can see it and obviously my dogs now try and jump up at the fence, now he reckons I should put a proper fence up to stop them but my wife has said no way if they want a fence they can put it up as he has antagonised our dogs and is proberbly doing it when we aint looking or around ( by the way dogs are never outside when we are not home)

does anyone know where we stand on this situation please help 

( i think they have had it in for us since we moved in 6 months ago and thats prob why last peeps moved so quick)

 [¥ Writing]

¥ Now imagine you are this man’s neighbour, you have talked to the owners of the dogs many times before but they simply won’t do anything about their barking and jumping over the fence. 

Write a note of complaint and threaten them with taking the matter further if they don’t solve the problem.

Finally, go back to your writing and try to improve it by revising punctuation and spelling.

Hope you liked it!


Friday, 8 January 2016

Keep Calm and...

This lesson plan is designed around an interesting video that tells the amazing story of the Keep Calm poster and mainly promotes listening and speaking practice at Upper-intermediate and Advanced levels.

1.- Show students this slideshow of propaganda posters and ask them about the kind of poster, their message and purpose, i.e. what the poster encouraged, whether it was positive or negative persuasion and who they were addressed to. We have from office propaganda posters in a soviet union-fashion layout and other preventive health campaigns, Obama’s memorable electoral campaign posters, to II World War Propaganda Posters (including the original Uncle Sam poster used to recruit soldiers during both World War I and II, the We Can Do it and the Keep Calm wartime propaganda posters)

2.- Focus their attention on this last nowadays-ubiquitous poster that has become a notable meme –the same as the other two- and ask them to tell you where they have seen it, which versions of the posters they have enjoyed most and whether they know about the origin and the secret story behind the poster

3.- Tell them we are going to watch the video below about the story of these Keep Calm posters while they try to answer the following comprehension questions

4.- As the popularity of the poster in various media has grown, innumerable parodies, imitations and co-optations have also appeared with messages that range from the cute to the overtly political, typically with references to other aspects of popular culture turning it into an iconic image of the 21st century. Here are some other versions that may work as inspirational examples

5.- Let them now use Poster generator apps both for IOS and Android or any of these merchandising websites offering poster generators and personalized products (Keepcalm-o-matic, Keepcalmstudio and Keepcalmandcarryon) for personalizing their own Keep Calm posters to remind class rules or just for fun.

Hope you enjoy the lesson!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Bang Bang

This activity combines picture and video telling to revise simple past tenses in an attempt to give a practical edge to the wide array of tools we are presented with as part of the INTEF course for storytelling as I cannot see the point in making videos without any purpose for actual use in the classroom.


Tell students that you want them to draw two sketches to activate vocabulary. Tell them to listen to your complete instructions before they start. Give the following instructions:

I’d like you to draw a scene from a western film: the main characters are, as usual, Indians and cowboys. There is a young Indian all tied up with a rope around his body standing immobile at gun point, while an equally young cowboy, holding him close by the rope, threatens to shoot him down. There are speech bubbles coming from their mouths.
I also want you to draw a second picture. In this one a bride dressed in a beautiful white wedding dress holding a bouquet is standing alone in the middle of the church aisle in front of the altar. Church bells are ringing, benches are decorated with flowers but there’s no one sitting there. There’s a thought bubble coming from her head.

Ask students to repeat the instructions back to you before drawing. Ask students to consider what the characters in their sketches might be saying/ thinking about and what might have happened (i.e. she must have been left at the altar, they might be children playing Indians and cowboys…etc.) Elicit as many possible answers as you can.


Show them the following bunch of pics and add they tell the whole story. Ask them to order them chronologically and get them to try and tell the story behind the pictures using simple past tense


Play the video without sound to show how the images link togetger. Luckily by now, some of them may have recognized the images illustrate a popular song. Teach students the full song lyrics and play the video with sound.


Tell them to choose a song (Tom’s Diner to work with present continuous, California Dreaming for conditional sentences… etc.) and encourage them to illustrate the songs with pictures or their own drawings, by scanning them and using editing software to create a collage to accompany the song just like Jamie Keddie did and inspired me to create these activities with his lesson plan here.  


Monday, 17 February 2014

Take a Seat & Make a Friend

This listening and speaking activity is based on the video below -and great powers of imagination as it's very unlikely that you can have a ball pit in your classroom if you teach adults-. ;-) It may be well used at the beginning of the course as part of the presentation activities or at any time during the year with large groups of students which tend to flock together and never really get to know everyone in class.

Tell them that when you're a kid, you can connect with almost anyone. But as you get older, friendships can be harder to find. Get them to imagine they’re walking down the street when they find a ball pit with a banner inviting them to get inside and meet a complete stranger. Would they do it?

Tell them this is exactly what people here in this video do. Let them watch it while they take a note of all talking prompts written on the bigger balls for them to speak about life’s big questions.

Play it again and conduct feedback while asking comprehension questions and going through some of the answers. Once done, encourage them to find at least two classmates in their group to go into “the ball pit” and try to make friends with by working through the issues together. Conversation practice guaranteed and a good laugh while handshaking, believe me!