May 18

Visualise This!

Thanks to everyone who came along to my session on Saturday at InnovateELT. Below are the slides and links to the activities we did. If there are any doubts, just leave a comment, send me an email or message me on Twitter. Happy visualising!

Visualise this! from verybouncyperson

The Rock

Nora

An explanation of SPRE in more detail

Spot the difference

Guided visualisation leading on to an agreement-reaching discussion (similar to FCE and PET speaking exams)

 

May 16

Nora

Thanks again to Jane Arnold – I first heard her read this story years ago at a TESOL-SPAIN event and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Part 1

Nora was a little old lady who lived in a remote part of Scotland. She had lived alone for many years since her husband died and to pass the time on lonely nights, she would do jigsaw puzzles.

Part 2

One stormy night, Nora was doing a puzzle when suddenly, she heard a knock at the door. She was more than a little surprised.

“Who can be calling at this late hour?” she thought to herself as she walked down the hallway and opened the door.

February 27

Spot the difference

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the FECEI conference in Madrid and held a workshop called Engaging Exam Exercises.  The first activity we practised was a picture description with a twist.  I started doing this activity in my class for two reasons:

  1. to give learners a reason to listen to their partner’s description, which is a great opportunity for them to pick up new lexis and structures from peers
  2. to provide a model in the early stages so that learners were able to describe a picture well for a minute, without becoming repetitive

Tell learners to close their eyes and describe a picture to them, but make some changes.  If you check out the slides in this post, see if you can spot the differences with the first picture.

I can see a girl who looks about 50. She’s wearing a black, long sleeved T-shirt and she’s got short, brown hair. She looks really happy and she’s holding a piece of paper that says, “4 intense weeks”. She’s in a building and I can see a plant behind her. There are also some pictures on the wall next to the plant and to the right there’s a big window. It’s daytime and it’s a really sunny day – you can see the sun coming in through the windows. I imagine she’s in a house and that she’s having a good time.

After you’ve modelled the task, put learners into pairs, A and B. A closes their eyes whilst B describes a picture; then A looks at the picture and tells B about the differences. In the next slide, you can see a model of the task with the sentence stems to help learners and on the third slide, instead of stems, there are the questions they should think about when describing the picture – giving them more autonomy and removing some of the scaffolding.

February 24

More questions

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about questions recently and in my adolescent B1 group yesterday the grammar point was indirect questions.  The book we’re using this year, Gold Experience, is strong on controlled practice activities (which unfortunately aren’t particularly challenging for my group) but I find that the language the book covers, both grammatical and lexical, needs much more dynamic and personalised activities to make it enjoyable and memorable.

After presenting the grammar and doing a quick controlled practice, I gave the learners small pieces of paper like this:

They had to draw themselves on the top left and a classmate on the bottom right (there was also a space to put names in case the drawings weren’t clear!).  They had to think of a question to ask each person in the class – nothing too personal or rude, but something interesting that they would like to know.  There’s a wonderful vibe in this group so I wasn’t worried about them asking anything impolite or distasteful – but it’s worth laying out the ground rules just in case.

We then put all the papers in a pile on the table and then did a mingle: each person took a card and had to approach the person drawn on the bottom right and ask the question indirectly, then write their answer in the speech bubble.

Jaime, Nacho would like to know why you only come to class once a year.

Belén, Inma wants to know what your boyfriend’s name is.

They were really enjoying the mingle and the end of the lesson crept up on us, but the next logical stage will be to do a quick review of reported speech and feedback.

 

January 20

Interviewing Trump

OK, I couldn’t resist a lesson about Donald Trump – he does have a way of making reported speech great again 😉

With my FCE group, we were doing a review of reported speech, reporting questions and reporting verbs.  Having elicited in the previous lesson the changes which take place when using indirect speech, the first activity of the lesson looked at reporting verbs – namely categorising them into their patterns, such as RV+object+infinitive, and so on.  As I said, this was a review session and learners had already seen reporting verbs previously and done more controlled practice exercises with them.  After feedback on the reporting verbs, I told the learners that we’d come back to them later and put a wordle on the board:

To be honest, they didn’t really even need time to confer with a partner as the lexis was familiar and it was fairly obvious who the words related to!  I then set up a listening task using Sean Banville’s famouspeoplelessons.com and gave the learners the following numbers to listen out for: 1946, 45th, 324th, 70/7/6.  After listening they had a couple of minutes to share with a partner what they had understood the numbers related to – again, not too tricky, though it did throw out the word ‘wealthiest’ which they were unfamiliar with, but understood in the context.

I could have done more with the listening – and indeed, Sean prepares a wide variety of tasks to do for each of the biographies he presents – but I got the sense that nobody was particularly interested in learning more about the 45th President of the United States…there were some stony faces around the classroom just at the mention of his name!

So, we moved onto the next stage and I asked the learners to write three questions they would like to ask Donald Trump, any three questions.  They were quite creative and I was surprised that some of them were using more emphatic language in their questions, like:

“Does your wife actually love you?”

“Do you really think the USA can survive without immigrants?”

Whilst they were writing their questions, I’d written up a quick review on reporting questions on the board, with a couple of examples which we went through together.  I then put them in different pairs and set up the freer practice activity.  I explained that they were journalists who had interviewed Trump and were going to report back on how the interview had gone.  They had to work together to re-phrase their questions into indirect speech and then write Trump’s answers, including at least three of the reporting verbs we’d seen at the start of the class.  Although this is an activity they could have done individually, I found that they were able to support each other more working together – correcting each other as necessary when writing indirect questions and chatting about what his answers would be.

All in all, that took about 60 minutes and a similar activity could be done for any famous person – I found that using someone who the learners were less keen on meant that they wrote more creative questions, but the plan could work equally well with another celebrity.  You could also adapt the plan for lower levels by just focussing on reporting questions and indirect speech (He said…) rather than using reporting verbs.