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The Interview Round

29 Feb

Job interviews are fun things to prepare learners for.  A colleague and I once prepared a student for a job interview as a hotel receptionist by sitting her in the director’s office and making spurious phone calls to her in a variety of comedy accents with demands ranging from the mundane (clean towels) to the ridiculous (arranging a private jet to pick the children up from school).  I never found out whether it helped her or not….

More recently, my FCE class did a module on the working world and to finish it off we did a job interview task.  It went really well.  They really enjoyed it, there was loads of great language and some truly brilliant questions which, given that they are teenagers with no experience of the job market, made me very happy.  So I thought I’d share it!

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

I divided the class into two groups.  Group A were the interviewers and Group B the interviewees.

Group A worked collaboratively to decide which jobs they were interviewing for and what questions they would ask.  Each interviewer had to recruit for a different job, so we had John recruiting for an astrophysicist and Mary recruiting for a babysitter and Anne for a stage prompter.

Group B worked collaboratively to think of what kind of qualities and experience might help them to get different types of jobs and to think of questions to ask about the terms and conditions, working hours etc.

The key is that Group B doesn’t know what jobs they are interviewing for, so group A have to keep it a secret!

In the interview stage, group A were sat separately around the edges of the room and paired off with someone from group B.  Each pair had two or three minutes to interview / be interviewed and then the students from group B rotated to the next interviewer.

At the end of the activity, Group A got back together and decided which candidates they would hire for their job – and they had to hire someone, so there was a bit of additional negotiation going on there!  Group B had to work out which interviewer was interviewing for which job – piecing it together from clues obtained during the process.

Because of time constraints, I stopped the interview process about two thirds of the way through, so that everybody had only spoken to about four or five other people.  I think that also worked quite well because it added a bit more of a jigsaw element to working out the final task.  I also liked that the interviewees had more of a task to do than just compare questions, which is a problem I’ve come across in the past.

Try it out yourself and let me know how it goes – or if you have any variations on the theme?

 

The WHY Game – for practicing clauses of reason and purpose

4 Feb

 

This is an activity I did with with an intermediate group of young learners – who absolutely loved it.  It led to what was easily the longest conversations they’d had in English all year.  It probably wouldn’t take much to adapt it to higher levels or older classes.

This came as a freer practice activity after we’d already dealt with the input – in this case we’d been working with:

  • to + infinitive
  • in order to + infinitive
  • so (that) + subject & clause

I asked the class to write down five things they’d done today and five places they’d been to recently (but not today).

I then asked them to build these out into sentences with time references.  e.g. “This morning I brushed my teeth.”  /  “Last weekend I went to the park.”

Once they had their sentences I picked one of the stronger students and asked him to tell me one of his sentences.  Our conversation went like this:

  • John, tell me one of your sentences.
  • Uh.  OK.  Last week I went to the theatre.
  • Why did you go to the theatre?
  • It was a school trip.  I had to.
  • Why did you have to?
  • Because the school made me,
  • Why did they make you?

…..  and so on.

You may have noticed this modelling didn’t lead to much production of the target language.  But at this point the rest of the class knew what was expected of them.  I drew their attention to the target language and told them to try and use it.  I also told them they would get one point as soon as their partner gave up, said “I don’t know” or told them to shut up (or similar).  I then put them into groups of three and off they went!

 

whyAs I said, the class loved it.  They really went for it and some die hards were still on their first sentence after about five minutes.  I noticed some students were using the target language, some weren’t, but they were all speaking English and were really on task and engaged.  I think in future I’d set a time limit per sentence of two or three minutes, after which the victim wins a point, to try and avoid one student over-dominating the group.

Clauses of reason and purpose and result come into a lot of exam books, so this could be a nice change of pace for some of those classes.

Enjoy, try it out and let me know what you think!

 

First Lesson: Student generated ID card Swap

3 Oct

This was a lesson I did with a class of elementary level learners yesterday.  My class were quite young, hence some of the content below, but it is quite easily adaptable to other ages and levels.  It doesn’t need any preparation, though the students will need pens / pencils and paper.

I started by eliciting “an ID card” and then by eliciting the kind of information you typically find on an ID card. The class came up with: name, age, date of birth, Card expiry date, and address.

I then said we were going to make our own ID card – what other information could we put on it?  And elicited: likes & dislikes, abilities & skills.

We then worked together to come up with a model:

Bobo the nose monkey(And in case you were wondering (a) “nose monkey” is the Portuguese for a bogey or snot in your nose; (b) these are my reformulations of what they wanted to include on the card.)

Having done this, I got the learners to work individually for five minutes or so to create their own version – a weird and wacky ID card for whatever alien monster their imagination could come up with.  An alternative for adult learners might be to channel various celebrities – it doesn’t matter if they don’t know – they can at least imagine!

When the cards were ready, I elicited the questions they would need to ask for each but of information:  What is your name?  What do you like?  etc.  I then drilled the pronunciation of these.

Finally, the students did a mingle, introducing themselves to each other, asking and answering questions.  The twist is that after each Q&A session, they swap ID cards with their interlocutor.  So if John and Jane are talking, at the end, John walks away with Jane’s ID card and vice versa, and John therefore has to introduce himself as Jane to the next person he meets.

 

***

It worked really well as a lesson and was a nice way for me to gauge the ability of the learners in the class.  Everyone had fun and it was a nice light start to proceedings!

If anyone has any variations – let me know!

 

Write and Improve: An Online writing helper

22 Apr

Writing is probably the most difficult area for learners to improve on by themselves.  Writing demands an audience and if you have no-one to tell you how successful your efforts are – or not – then you are doomed to repeat your failures into eternity.

Cambridge English have, however, just released a beta version of an online, browser based writing helper.  Currently free to use and requiring only a facebook login (or email registration), the service allows learners to input their answers to one of the five questions provided (or submit a piece of writing of their own choice) and to get feedback on their efforts.

write and improve 01

In the screenshot above, the highlighted text at the bottom of the image is the submitted text.  The colour coding represents the program’s opinion of the learner level the different sections of the text represent.  The deeper the green, the closer to B2 level (or above) the text is – the more furious the reds, the closer to B1 level (or below).

You’ll also notice the “tabs” under the heading Detailed Feedback  these are meant to provide a closer look at what errors the writer has made and give suggestions for improving them:

write and improve 02

It’s worth remembering that this is still in the stages of testing and ironing out initial problems – and there are quite a few things that I think need improving!

As it stands, the feedback it gives is primarily linguistic and syntactical.  In other words it looks at the grammar of the sentences and makes suggestions.  And it doesn’t currently catch everything – as in the third sentence above; “I the town you can…” or the fourth sentence “You can go to the shopping”.

The text itself was an answer to a question from a Cambridge English Preliminary paper from a student studying at Intermediate level.  There is a lot of repetition in the text and very limited grammatical range.  The student has also some word choice issues – again there is a lot of repetition (a lot of which is repeated from the input) and some vocabulary inappropriacy.  The task was also a letter (replying to a penfriend) and there are a couple of genre features missing, though in fairness to the system – it didn’t know that as this was submitted to the free writing section.  Overall though, this is a piece of writing which I think is close to B1 level, but which is nowhere nearly sophisticated enough to achieve B2 level, as the system suggests.

I had some fun writing an error strewn letter of application for a summer camp job, just to test whether it does pick up on these things.  It doesn’t.

So who should use this tool?  It’s unfair to judge it too harshly at this stage of development but I don’t think the target audience of B1- B2 are actually the people who should be using it.  Students hoping to achieve a B2 certificate need to consider a much wider range of things to improve on and if this tool is to be useful for them, then it needs to more accurately reflect the things they’re being assessed on.  However, I think students who are at B1 level or below may well find it useful, as they will get to see the improvements they make to their texts improve their scores – as long as they don’t mind seeing their work highlighted in quite a lot of red to start with!

I have yet to try it with a class and I’m curious to see how useful students think it is, so that’s the next obvious test!  But in the meantime, why not check it out and see what you think:

write and improve04

 

 

The zombie apocalypse and its role in the ELT classroom

6 Jan

From the always interesting yearinthelifeofanenglishteacher comes what is clearly the best blog post title of 2011:  “The zombie apocalypse and its role in the ELT classroom“.

I missed the original post in June, only picking up on it via Tyson Seburn’s 11 posts I wish I’d written  in December, but it is a truly inspired way of teaching speculative language – mainly focusing on conditional forms – through the medium of you tube “choose your own adventure” style videos.

The original post features the Zombie Apocalypse (courtesy of a New Zealand pizza company ad campaign);  the time travelling adventures of office-bound Chad, Matt and Rob; and a UK anti-knife crime campaign.  This last features incredibly authentic North London dialect – while making the choices will be accessible to all levels – the language from the participants will not!  Also worth watching it all the way through (as with all the videos) to check for suitability!

That last point is also worth making of all these type adventures, it’s not always necessary for learners to understand everything the characters in the videos say – unless you specifically want to work on listening skills – the choices, as you see from the picture above, are quite clear and these should prompt the discussion, which will in turn probably clarify any areas of confusion relating to the events on screen.

Finally – it’s also worth reading through the comments section below the post – some great ideas and further links from the commenters.

 

 

Online Teaching Resource: Idioms Videos

29 Sep

I just came across, during a further exploration of the Pearson ELT Community site, their idioms discussions space.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of discussion, but they have posted a set of mini-videos which purport to explain English idioms and expressions.  The videos are very short (about a minute) and are followed with a dictionary definition.  One of the tasks they give is “Can you guess the idiom before the definition comes up?”  If you had learners in teams with different coloured board pens, and they raced to write the expression on the board before it came up, it could work….

The videos are also available via the Pearson You Tube channel (I’ve tried to embed one of them below, but don’t think it’s worked – so click the link instead).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHo5DXDFGyo

Here’s the original page again:  ELTCommunity.com: Space: Idioms Discussions.

Tea, Coffee and Comparisons

14 Jul

Just a quick lesson overview rather than a full plan etc today:  this is an idea for helping learners with comparisons / comparatives.

Basically it starts out with the activity “Tea or Coffee”, follows up with the language input stage, invites comparisons between learners’ home country and the UK / USA etc and finishes off with an oppostion debate based around the initial “Tea or Coffee” activity.  It’s materials light – in fact there aren’t any!

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First Lesson Ideas / Warmers

10 Jul

For many teachers, though the school year might have just ended – the joy of summer school classes is about to start.  Or may have already, but I think lessons at my habitual summer haunt are due to begin on Monday morning – I’m not there this year, so not sure.

In any event this post contains a collection of getting to know you type activities / ice-breakers or first lesson warmers for you to choose from.  If you started teaching summer school last week – sorry about the delay – but you can probably use these or adapt these as warmer or lead in type activities – so it might still be useful!

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The disabled access friendly world blog challenge: Creature Discomforts

29 Jun

Following on from the recent blog challenge on raising awareness of disability access issues, I came across the Leonard Cheshire Disability campaign whilst watching Shaun the Sheep dvds with my daughter.

The campaign is called “Creature Discomforts” and has very similar aims to the blog challenge – namely to get people to think about the way they see disability.

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Zip Zap Boing (I think?)

24 May

I blame that Simon Thomas over at efl-resource.  It’s all his fault.  And I’m still not sure whether it’s “zip zap zop” or “zig zag zog” or something else entirely!

I’ve inherited a class, which Simon once taught back in the misty dawn of time, of 12-year-old pre-intermediate students.  When I walked in the classroom the other day, they were all so keen and motivated to begin the lesson that they roundly rejected my fun warmer and started going on about this bizarre pointing game.  With some careful misunderstandings on my part, it took them ten minutes to explain the rules to me, all of which they did in extremely fluent English (which only goes to show if the motivation is there, the language will follow).

As far as I can work out, everyone stands in a circle.  Someone starts things off and the game runs as follows:  if you point (in a sort of two handed gun gesture) to the person on your immediate left or right you say ZIP,  to anyone else in the circle you say ZAP.  To deflect someone’s pointing at you back at them, you hold both hands up (as if in surrender) and say “BOING”.

It’s meant to be a fast paced, rapid fire game and if you get it wrong you’re out (though I’m not sure how you then declare a winner?).

To give this a larger linguistic focus or to work with higher levels, you could do this with parts of speech:  Nouns to the left, verbs to the right and adjectives down the middle!  A colleague, Alexis, also does this with vocabulary categories:  learners have to precede their ZIP/ZAP/BOING with a vocabulary item linked to the target category.

A nice way to start the lesson – or a fun way to finish it!