Archive | November, 2015

Four “must have” activities for digital teachers!

24 Nov

The title of this post is an example of Clickbait – something that is designed to get you clicking the link to look at the seemingly impossible / brilliant / hilarious story behind the headline.  Something eye-catching that makes you feel as though you’re going to miss out by not looking at it.

Clickbait headlines are a far cry from the traditional news headlines that you see in more traditional newspapers and magazines, though some would argue the trend in the less serious press has always been headed in that direction, and these are the sorts of things that people have to navigate their way through everyday.  Recognising this kind of vague salacious enticement, and knowing how to deal with it, is becoming a core skill in navigating our way through information to find things that we actually need.

In a recent post for the British Council Teaching English blog, Gavin Dudeney offers up a “Digital Literacy Primer” that talks us through the four core digital literacies of focusing on connections, language, (re)design and information.  It is an excellent overview of what these concepts mean in theory and practice and at the end of the article he argues that teachers should be incorporating these ideas into teaching as a way of helping students, particularly younger students, develop these skills.

In my recent post for the British Council Teaching English blog, I present activities and a lesson plan for teachers to do just that.  In Clickbait, Memes and Sharing the Truth – activities for digital literacies, I offer activities that look at building skills in each of the areas that Gavin Dudeney outlines.  Four areas, four activities – you see, my clickbait headline wasn’t lying at least!

In brief:

  • Language –  looks at reworking “traditional” headlines into clickbait speak
  • Remix /Redesign – looks at using meme generators to practice language points or explore an idea
  • Connections – presents a downloadable handout to engage learners with texts and web content, thinking about how they react to texts and what they do with the information afterwards
  • Information – presents a lesson plan for introducing students to the Pacific Northwestern Tree Octopus.  I’ll say no more at this stage, you’ll have to read the post!

I’d be really interested to get feedback from people working with these activities, you can do that either by leaving a comment here, or at the original blog post on the Teaching English site.

Let me know how it goes!




IELTS Writing Part 1 – The Happiness Graph!

19 Nov

How happy have you been over the last week?  Has it been a good or a bad week?  This is (broadly speaking) what my week looked like:
Happiness Graph


The Happiness Graph is a warmer that you can use with any class and which can, with the tiniest bit of adaptation, be used as a student generated IELTS task.


As a warmer, you draw the X and Y axes on the board as shown in the image above.  As you draw the line graph, talk the learners through your week and your reasons why.  For example:  “Monday is the start of the working week and is never a good day for me, but work went well on Tuesday and Wednesday and I was feeling pretty good.  When I woke up on Thursday morning I wasn’t feeling very well and this, as well as a lot of work to do on Friday, left me feeling a bit tired and stressed.  But I recovered well on Saturday, and on Sunday my family and I all went to the beach and had a really nice time, before going back to work on Monday!”

The learners then draw their own version of the happiness graph.  When they’re done, they share and compare their graphs with each other, explaining the peaks and troughs and hopefully asking follow up questions of each other.


In the IELTS writing part one, learners are asked to write about a chart, diagram or graph, so I adapted the happiness graph for this purpose.  This lesson requires no real preparation as the materials come from the learners, though you might want to supplement the language input slightly with additional verbs that describe trends.

Begin in the same way as the warmer, by drawing your version of the graph on the board and describing what happened to you during the previous seven days.

Ask learners to draw their own versions of the graph, but not to show it to anyone.

Refer learners back to the board and your happiness graph.  Ask learners for expressions they can use to describe the level of happiness over the week.  Write up their suggestions on the board and input additional verbs that describe trends (e.g. rise, fall, drop, increase etc) and adverbials of degree (e.g. slightly, massively, a lot, a little etc) as necessary.  In pairs, ask the students to write a brief description of your happiness graph.  Monitor and provide feedback as necessary.  At this stage, depending on your class, you could do some additional input work.  There is a nice task at the back of Scott Thornbury’s “Uncovering Grammar” (page 106), but many IELTS and Business English course books have sections on this area that you could use.

Ask learners to work with a new partner, preferably someone who is seated on the opposite side of the room.  Learners then do a dictadraw activity, where learner A describes their happiness graph and learner B listens and draws a version of it.  Learners then come together to share their drawing, compare what they drew, and explain why the level of happiness moved up and down as it did.  Learners then draw their partner’s happiness level onto the same graph as they drew their original happiness graph, so that there are now TWO different (and accurate) happiness lines on their graph.

Finally, learners write a short (!) 150 word description that compares and contrasts the two lines on their graph.  As a final analysis learners can compare what they wrote and look at why any differences occurred – and can correct any errors spotted!

I would set an authentic IELTS part one writing task as homework from this.



Acknowledgement:  The happiness graph as a warmer was shown to me at International House Katowice by David Magalhaes in 2005 (or so).  I think.  Apologies if I’ve got that wrong, do let me know!