April 29

Sleeping in

Or actually not, in my case!  It’s Saturday but I woke up at 6.30 so I figured I may as well get up and do something useful with my time and blog about yesterday’s lesson.

A bit of background to the lesson itself: we’re just starting TP2 with the part-time TESOL trainees and so yesterday the tutors were teaching.  Although I always feel nervous when being observed on the course, I generally feel better at the start of TP2 as I’m more familiar with the learners.  As such, I’d planned yesterday’s lesson with the original B1 group in mind and they were, generally speaking, a strong B1 group.  Unfortunately, as I found out when I arrived at the school yesterday, only three of the previous group were continuing and I had five new learners that day.  As soon as they walked in, I knew the material would be incredibly challenging for them, especially as a couple felt more like A2 learners.  But, c’est la vie!  We did the tasks a little more slowly and stronger learners were able to support their peers well and although the material was challenging, the tasks associated were simple, as you’ll see below.

We did some initial chat around the three questions below and a collocations task from the book which also provided space for learners to personalise the language and gave me further opportunity to gauge their level.

Do you find it easy to get to sleep?

Are you a heavy or a light sleeper?

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

We did this prediction task before watching the video – the first time they watched, I asked them to check their predictions, we did a quick pair-check, then I asked them to watch again and then tell a partner what they found interesting or surprising about the video.  The text is fast, but the predictions task was simple and the answers for those statements were clearly given.

For the next stage, I’d done a little crowd-sourcing and asked my friends in the UK what time they go to bed and get up – I mapped their responses onto a chart and then got all the learners (and trainees) to add their times.  I pointed out that the difference in the times that people in the UK and Spain get up was fairly minimal and asked them to discuss in pairs why they thought Spanish people go to bed so much later.


This then led on to reading a shortened, graded version of this text from The Guardian, which explains that Spain is in the wrong time zone.  There was an activity to match some tricky lexis from the text to definitions and while I’d originally planned for learners to share their opinion on the text (similar to the video – what did you find interesting or surprising?), I felt that because of the shift in level, the group would benefit from a more structured comprehension/reaction-to-the-text task, so I wrote some statements from the text on the board and asked them to discuss whether they were true.

The reading text led on to the final task – a debate.  I divided the group into two, mixing up learners a little so that a) the original three members were split up, b) there was an even number of stronger/weaker learners in each group and c) the stronger learners who had supported their weaker peers before were paired with someone different.  Group A had to discuss reasons why they thought Spain should change its time zone; group B had to discuss why they felt Spain should stay in its current time zone – I had prepared some points for each group to think about such as how the change might affect businesses or Spanish traditions, amongst others.  After a few minutes to get some ideas together, we did a quick task to look at language of agreeing/disagreeing and then mixed up the groups so learners could debate whether or not to change time zone.  Although I was happy with this final stage, I feel that it would have been more successful if I had made everyone in groups A and B to make notes as then I could have paired people off to debate.  As it was, in group B, only one person had made notes – as I felt that the weaker learners in that group would feel very uncomfortable doing the debate task with no support, I decided to have two people from each group against two from the other, which inevitably meant that some people spoke more than others.

So, what did I learn from this lesson?

I think the main tip I’ve taken away is to plan lower rather than higher for a first lesson with (what could be) an unfamiliar group as it’s much easier to extend simple tasks for stronger learners than it is to adapt materials on-the-spot for weaker learners.








April 8

FCE Practice with EDpuzzle

We’re starting to look into blended learning at Active Language and whilst chatting about it the other day, I remembered a colleague, John, mentioning EDpuzzle.  This site allows you to add questions and comments to YouTube videos (and perhaps does other things though I haven’t explored it fully yet!).  Here’s my first attempt at using it – unfortunately you do need to sign up to use it, although you can log in with your Google account.  In fact, part of the reason for embedding it here was to see if it could be accessed by the class without needing to create an account – I don’t like obliging people to sign up to things.


March 6

Phrasal Verb Stories

Spanish learners often find phrasal verbs difficult and can have problems using the correct one in context, often resorting to more formal Latin-root verbs which they feel more familiar with.  So, if you’re looking for extra practice for your classes or for self-study, you can now download a great new ebook by Michelle Worgan.  The book is called Phrasal Verb Stories 1 and it’s available with English definitions or, in another version, with Spanish translations.  Each story has a short video, which you can watch on the Phrasal Verb Stories channel, and a text to complete.


February 9

Indiana Jones and the Vocab Competition

In Macmillan’s Footprints series, there are always pages for cross-curricular learning and whilst the topics themselves are often interesting, they are frequently explored through an extended text with comprehension questions, which can be less than inspiring for our learners.  The subject for this unit in Footprints 5 was History and as the unit was on “Treasure Hunters”, the topic was archaeologists, with a photo of Indiana Jones (unfortunately from the fourth film which was fairly atrocious!).

I wanted to engage the learners in the topic and also to use a clip from a film as I don’t often use videos with these two groups.  We started with a quick game of Hangman to spell out Indiana Jones and then discussed what the learners knew about him – this surprised me as in the second group of 10, only one of them had ever heard of him and seen one of his films!  In the first group, the learners were more able to produce sentences about him and it gave one of the quieter learners a moment to shine as he was more familiar with the films than others.

We then watched this short clip and I asked them to write down as many objects as they could see in pairs.  We watched the same clip again and wrote down verbs and then a third time, writing adjectives.

The learners then competed against each other for points: an object was worth 1 point; a verb, 2 and an adjective, 3.  Plus, if they chose a word which no other team had, they won double points for it.

Unfortunately we then ran out of time, but if I had had more time, I would have asked the teams to write sentences using all the vocabulary we had boarded to retell the story from the clip.


August 25

Visual Literacy

End of Week 3 now and I’m very excited as this afternoon I’m doing the session on Visual Literacy.  Followers of the blog will have noticed I’ve been using more multimedia resources this year and this afternoon’s session is a very hands-on look at using video and photos in the classroom.

For the trainees attending the session, and for anyone else who’s interested, here are some useful links to sites and lesson plans using video and pictures:

• Ceri Jones has some great lesson plans on her blog close up

Lesson Stream, Jamie Keddie’s site, provides very detailed lesson plans based on short clips

• On this blog you can find a lesson plan on Planking and another on character builds taken from a screenshot

• Michelle Worgan has posted some great activities on her blog, including a lesson based on Free Running

eltpics gives teachers a place to share pictures on a variety of topics, all of which are available under a Creative Commons License.  If you’re interested in joining the venture, check out this post on Sandy Millin’s blog

English Attack is a great site where your students can learn English watching short video clips and music videos

• The onestopenglish article Teaching English Using Video also provides very detailed plans for teaching different levels and looks at the different activities you can do with video