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The World’s English Mania

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Many thanks to IELTS Advantage, where I found the post about the best TED Talks the other day. At the same time some of my students were blogging about language learning, more precisely about learning Icelandic,which I found surprising. Anyway, that post and Jay Walker’s talk on why the world is obsessed with learning English inspired me and the result was today’s English lesson.

The lesson is appropriate for levels B1-B2 and focuses on listening and speaking mainly.

1. Warmer

Students are in groups and they come up with a definition of the word ‘mania’.

After discussing their ideas, they get the words of the definitions of ‘mania’ on cards that they have to unjumble to make up the definitions themselves.

Definition 1: An extremely strong enthusiasm for something especially among a lot of people

Definition 2: A mental illness that makes someone behave in an extremely excited and active way.

They brainstorm ideas of what manias people can have, and share them with the whole class.

2. Pre-watching acitivity:

We agree that today we are looking at mania according to the first definition. I put the title of the talk on the board – the students discuss in groups what they think the title means. They try to guess how many people are trying to learn English, why they are trying to learn English and what the benefits of learning Englsih are.

3. During watching:

The students watch the video once to check their predictions.

They watch it for the second time to answer some questions on their worksheet.

3. Post-watching activity

The students discuss in groups if they agree or disagree with the speaker and why. They also discuss why they are learning English and what motivates them when learning a language. The spokesperson from each group reports about their discussion to the whole class.

Blogging with my students reloaded

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Well, with a different group. It is not a new idea, I did some blogging with my students a long time ago in 2013-2014, but now as another group needs some motivation (and practice) in writing, I thought “why not try it again?”

So here it is: this time groups of three students, one of them posts once a week, the other  two comments on hte blog post and they take turns. The new thing here was that after some weeks we did an evaluation session, when the students could vote (with the help of an on-line questionnaire) on the best blog and on the best post.

There were two posts that were voted number 1: one of them was entitled ‘Feminism’ the other one Focus on children about UNICEF.

The most popular blogs at the moment are

Across the Moon

and

Teen Thoughts

I hope there will be a competition to win ‘The Best Blog of the Year’ title and ‘The Best Post of the Year’ title as well!

Newspapers – how to teach about them?

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This is a collection of activities that I did in class to teach about newspapers for upper-intermediate students.

1. Headlines into sentences

We looked at headlines, and discussed their peculiar grammar (no articles, infinitives referring to future, abbreviations, etc) and some of the special vocabulary that you can find in them. This is closely connected to unit 5A in Solutions Upper-Intermediate.

Then we had loads of practice of headlines transformed into “normal” English sentences keeping in mind all the grammar rules.

2. Guess the article

We worked on headlines quite a lot. In another activity the students were given real headlines. They had to guess what the headlines might be about and write a short article on the basis of what they thought.

3. Articles into headlines

In this activity I handed out articles (from websites of different newspapers) and the students had to create the headlines. They did it in small groups – it was really great fun to compare the different headlines of the same article!

4. Compare the newspapers

We also looked at the different types of newspapers (broadsheets, tabloids, freesheets), I showed them this chart and we analyed it a bit. Then the students were put into small groups and the groups had different tasks. They had to open the websites of the newspapers, and compare them according to the articles they found there, the topics, the proportion of home news and international news, the types of news, the depth of analysis in an article, pictures, etc.

– one group compared broadsheets of different political orientations

– one group compared broadsheets and tabloids

– one group compared tabloids of different political orientations

– one group compared freesheets and tabloids

– one group compared freesheets of different political orientations

The result of hte comparison was then presented to the class and was the basis of a nice discussion.

5. Present a newspaper

This was done partly as homework on a voluntary basis. One student looked at a broadsheet and presented the news of the front page. The point was mainly what topics he could find, and the main idea of the articles were given, too. The same task was given to another student but with tabloids. They presented their findings to the rest of the class.

This task can be elaborated more, e.g. if studentss teach new words to each other or if they guess the type of paper or the political bias of the paper, or if the students presenting the papers don’t say the headlines, the rest of the group can give titles to the individual articles, thus creating the front page of a paper, etc.

Reporting verbs

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The following activities were all follow-up activities for Unit 5E in Solutions Upper-Intermediate. Having looked at the examples of the different reporting structures following the reporting verbs in the unit and having done all the exercises in the book and the workbook, some more activities were necessary to make students more confident about using the appropriate structures.

Activity 1. Grammar police

Six students in the class get a sign with one of the 6 sturctures i.e

  • verb + infinitive with to
  • verb + object + infinitive with to
  • verb + gerund
  • verb + preposition + gerund
  • verb + object + preposition + gerund
  • verb + that + should-clause

They stand in different parts of the classroom so that they are not too close to each other. All the reporting verbs are put on cards and scatterd on a desk in the middle of the classroom.

(Reporting verbs on cards – here in the order of the structures above:

  • agree, offer, promise, refuse, threaten
  • tell, advise, ask, order, forbid, instruct, invite, encourage, remind, warn, persuade, beg, command, request, dare, urge
  • admit, deny, recommend, suggest, report, mention, propose
  • apologise for, boast of, confess to, insist on
  • accuse sb of, warn sb agains, congratulate sb on
  • demand, insist, suggest, propose, recommend, request, advise)

The students without a sign have to pick up a card and try to “sell” it to the student with a sign – that is they have to find which verb is followed by which structure. The students with the signs can accept the cards or refuse them – then the appropriate sign/structure has to be found for that card.

When all the cards have been selected and none is left on the desk in the middle, the students become grammar police and now they can use their courssebooks to check whether all the verbs (cards) are at the right place. Corrections can be made now.

Activity 2. Demo sentence

Now that each structure has its verb, students sit down in 6 small groups according to the reporting structures – they join the students with the signs from the previous activity.

The small groups have to come up with 3-4 sentences demonstrating 3 or 4 of the verbs in their group. When ready, they read out their demo sentences and the other groups have to make a sentence with the appropriate reporting verb and structure. For example the demo sentence might be “Please, young lady, give me some money, I am hungry!” and then the right sentence is “He begged the young lady to give him some money.

I turned this part of the activity into a competition – the fastest group to come up with the right sentence was given points.

Activity 3. Noughts and crosses

It is quite easy to turn this grammar point into the popular game where one group is assigned noughts the other one crosses and on a grid of 3×3 they have to make 3 in a row.

Of course at the beginning each square is given a number, as the students (groups or pairs) call out a number, they are given a reporting verb and they have to produce a sentence. If the correct sentence is produced they get a nought or a cross according to their group. The winner is the first group with three noughts/crosses in a line.

Activity 4. Translation

It was my students’ homework to write a sentence with each of the above verbs. In class I gave them slips of papers and they had to choose 2 or 3 sentences that they now translated into Hungarian. I collected the slips and read out the sentences that the students now had to translate back into English.  (not too much preparation for the teacher and great practice for the students!)

Activity 5. Short dialogues

In this activity the students have to produce short dialogues, little situations demonstrating  any of the above reporting verbs. They act it out in front of the rest of the class, who have to guess with an appropriate sentence which reporting verb have been demonstrated. (similar to Activity 2. but more kinaesthetic)

Breakfast

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It is not going to be a revolutionary blog post. Just a memory of a Friday morning, first lesson, a grey day in January, sleepy students, need for motivation, etc. When I entered the classroom one of my students quickly took another bite of her sandwich and I felt sorry for her that she couldn’t finish her breakfast. But then I had an idea.

The following week: Friday morning, first lesson, a grey day in January. Chairs placed in a circle around a desk. On the desk tea, cups, sugar, lemon, some cookies. Smiling faces, and lovely chat in English. Not a single word in Hungarian, I don’t even have to warn the students that every word has to be in English. A conversation class, with breakfast. We even invite a student from the corridor to have tea with us.

No, nothing revolutionary. Just an English lesson in a different way.

Past Simple vs Past Continuous – two simple activities

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1. The first activity is good for the beginning of a lesson to warm students up a bit.

Put you students in pairs. Tell them that they are going to talk about their last weekend. They are going to take a paper (from a bag, a basket, or a hat), When they look at the paper they have to keep it secret! You can set up the whole activity in a way that students get excited about what they are going to find if they unfold the piece of paper. Tell them that if there is a letter “T”, they have to tell the truth, but if they see a blank paper they have to lie about their last weekend. Warn them that if they find a blank paper, they shouldn’t tell each other something that is obviously not true. They should invent a story that could be true. The other student can ask questions to find out any sign of an untrue story.

Of course the two past tenses (simple and continous) should be used.

After a couple of minutes stop them and ask who thinks their partner’s story was fake. You can do it with a show of hands. Then you can reveal the secret: All the papers were blank!

My students always find it very funny and they happily invent stories and in the end they are happy to find out that all the stories have been invented.

2. The second activity is a more direct practice of the difference between the two past tenses.

Put the students in pairs. Each pair is given a card with a simple situation on it. Give them a minute or two to discuss how they are going to act out the situation. Words cannot be used: only miming is allowed.

The pairs act out their situation and the rest of the class tries to guess by answering the question: “What didi they do and what were they doing?”

By clicking here you can see the cards with the situations that I used.

Writing made buzzworthy: a magazine – written by students

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All right, this post still belongs to 2014, but I just didn’t find the time to blog about it.

The idea of a student-magazine came from earlier last year from a colleague of mine. We improved the idea with my students and they preapred an on-line magazine.

In Solutions Upper-Intermediate students learn about the rules of writing a magazine article and in the follow-up unit the topic is given for that article, too. Well, I would have never thought of making my students write about something absolutely indifferent for them – unenthusiastic work is the death of creativity. So I immediately decided to let my students write about anything they are interested in, but they had to stick to the rules of article-writing.

So here we have the result and I am simply proud of them! Good job, my dear students!

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