Tag Archives: intermediate

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!

 

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First Lesson Aims: Dave Tucker Guest Post!

15 Sep

If you’ve had time to look at recent posts on this blog, you’ll have noticed a series of “first lesson” ideas and activities…  after all,  it’s September, we’ve all got “back-to-school-itis”!

Stepping back from the plethora of great teaching ideas to fill the class time, today our guest blogger, Dave Tucker, looks at some broader learning and teaching goals that we might want to think about before we start planning!

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First Lesson or First Week Ideas

9 Sep

Back in July I posted a selections of 20 ideas and activities that might be worth trying out as you get to know your new classes this school year – and since then there’ve been a couple of additional ideas to throw into the mix:

Recently, the 24th Edition of EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival : A Journey in TEFL got posted on Eva Buyuksimkesyan’s “A Journey in TEFL” blog.  I strongly recommend taking a look here if you’re in need of inspiration – Eva’s collated over 40 (I lost count) posts from different contributors.
The Lesson Plans Page also has a wide range of back to school resources and materials, though these are aimed more at native speaker young learner classes than a language learner class – and I’ve not tried any of them, so can’t vouch for them personally!

First Lesson: I don’t know what you did last summer!

5 Sep

A very quick alternative to the standard composition task “What I did on my Summer holidays”.

Essentially, you ask the learners to write the composition (100 words? I guess length will be age & level dependent) about somebody else in the class.

I think I’ve blogged a similar activity at some point before, but not sure when.  Anyway, the key to the activity, is that if John is writing about Amy’s holidays, John can’t talk directly to Amy.  John has to ask the other learners in the class, Frank, Marta and so forth to ask Amy the questions that John wants to know the answers to.

Thus through a constant process of questions and answers John eventually gets enough information to write Amy’s composition for her.  Of course, Amy will be writing Marta’s, Marta Frank’s and Frank John’s, so it all evens out eventually.

This is intended as an alternative for classes where learners do know each other – but it also works really well as the final part of a lesson with a class where nobody knows each other, as John will constantly be explaining to his classmates WHO Amy is, thus meaning everyone should have a much better idea of who everybody else in the class is by the end of it!

Having gathered together all the information during the lesson – the actual writing up of the composition can either be done in class or as a homework task.  What can then be interesting is for the writer and the subject to check how close to the truth the composition is.  The subject can then feedback and edit both the content and language of the composition for later revision – though this would be an optional stage depending on the abilities of the class.

First Lesson: Find Nobody Who…

1 Sep

This is an alternative approach to the inevitable “what did you do on your holidays” conversation.   Many first lesson activities and ideas are based on the premise that nobody knows anybody else but often the students in your classes have come up through the levels together and the only new person in the group is you…

It should also combat those conversations with teenage classes that go:  T: “Hey, how was your summer?”  S: “Alright.”   T:  “What did you do?” S: “Nothing.”

The basic objective is that the learners have to find stuff they did over the holidays that NOBODY else did.

So a simple procedure might be:

Ask the learners if they had a nice summer and lead into a REALLY boring description of what you did over the summer.  e.g.  I watched TV and I played computer games and I did some laundry and stuff.  Ask the learners if they did anything similar.  Establish that pretty much everybody in the class watched TV and played computer games.  Then tell the learners about something slightly more interesting and less usual – for example taking a plane trip – and find out how many people did the same.  Finally, describe something really interesting that you did – or alternatively make something up (e.g. rented a Ferrari and drove up the West coast of the USA).  Find out whether anyone else did the same.

Thus having established the exclusivity principle, ask learners to find something that they did over the summer that nobody else did.  Check that they understand they need to talk to ALL the other learners in the class.

Feedback:  Find out from the learners what interesting and relatively exclusive things they did over the summer.  You could also do some reformulation of any language areas that came up during their mingle activity.

The Vortex Game

29 Jul

The Vortex Game.  This is a game I’ve created that can be used with any age or level – for pretty much any purpose.  It came out of a conversation with a colleague (thanks Sarah!) who was looking for an idea to help learners with minimal pronunciation pairs, but it can be used with pretty much anything!

I can’t claim complete originality here though – this game was inspired by a very old BBC tv show called “The Adventure Game“.  Now this is going back almost thirty years to a time when special effects were….  well a bit shoddy really.  But truly amazing by the standards of the time!  If anyone wants to look at the amount of progress the human race has made in the last quarter century, you only have to look at clips of the adventure game – of which more later…

Anyway – for game board, rules and different ways to play it (there’s a TPR style method) etc – read on!

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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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Working with Project Classes

12 Jul

This is an entry for everyone currently working at an ELT summer school somewhere in the world!  It’s not always easy and there’s a lot of hard work – hopefully this post will help out a bit!  I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy my summer school experiences immensely over the years and one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing most has been the project classes.  This post takes a look at what’s important to remember before the project class kicks off and gives some ideas for different projects and how to stage them.

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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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Postie Postie / Agony Aunt

7 Jul

This is a great activity that you can use as a warmer or as a fun practice task in a number of situations.

I should acknowledge that I originally saw my Dip tutor Peter Moran do this during a lesson in Wroclaw in 2006 – in various forms it’s been one of my staple activities ever since!

I can’t remember why Peter did this – though as I recall he was stepping in to cover an absent colleague – and I can’t even remember what the lesson was about…  In fact now that I think about it, it might have been an input seminar and not a lesson.  But there we go – the important things matter….

In it’s basic form, “Postie Postie” needs only a lot of scrap A4 paper chopped into quarters (or not – depending on how you want to adapt it).  As I recall Peter running the activity you give every learner or pair or small group a large amount of chopped up bits of paper.  The bits of paper then play the role of the message medium – in other words, the learners write short notes to each other.  When they finish writing the note, they shout “Postie Postie” and the teacher delivery system swings into operation – you collect and deliver the messages.  From that point of view, it’s probably a good idea to ask the class to address and acknowledge their messages in a “to” and “from” format.  The recipients then write their reply and send it back – and thus the conversation continues.

Adaptations:

As a warmer – if you brainstorm topic areas / conversations issues to the board (i.e. what everyone did at the weekend – or for summer schools -what the trip was like yesterday / how hot are the teachers / what’s different between my country and yours).  Then learners simply write brief notes to each other in question and reply.

As a “freer” practice task – I have a suspicion that originally I saw this done in the context of “emailing” each other.  It could of course also work in the context of a text messageathon – if text english is a lesson focus.

 

I used it that other day as an “agony aunt” style task.  The learners were paired and had a bunch of scrap A4 paper.  They were encouraged to think Jerry Springer style (e.g.   My husband is in love with a tree  /  My daughter wants to marry our goldfish) but it was basically all their own work.  They addressed their “problem” to another  pair/group in the room and wrote their letter.  As a grammatically correct postman – I refused to deliver letters with mistakes in them – but that was my choice, you could be more lenient!  The agony aunts then wrote their advice by return and so on.

At the end of the task we decided which problems and which solutions were worthy of awards…..

The general idea is a nice variation on a mingle style task.  The learners can stay where they are and can work collaboratively in a way they can’t so easily in a mingle.  Plus, as teacher, you get to vet the messages (essential with any class under the age of 16…) for content appropriacy and grammatical accuracy.  As a really pedantic postman….. this task can run and run….!