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Simple activities with a text for lower levels

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This is a collection of ideas one can do with a text to improve students’ reading skills. And perhaps not only the reading skills. I was trying to do the activities when I thought we had exploited the text in every possible way “dictated” by the coursebook and the students ( weak A2 level) still had problems with it.

  • Actually there were three shorter sections to read, so I grouped the students so that each group was focusing on one particular text. The reading was written in the Simple Present tense first person singular, so the students first had to read it out in third person singular, taking turns to read out the individual sentences.
  • The question words were listed on the board, together with a general revision of word order in questions in the Simple Present tense. Students were now forming questions with those question wors, write them down and finally had to ask and answer those questions.
  • Key words of the three sections were put on cards. The students took a card from the pile placed face down on the desk and they had to define, explain the words to each other: the rest of the group guessed the words.
  • On a different lesson the questions were on slips placed face down on the desk, students took turns to look at a question on slips and answer them. Then placed the questions face up on the desk and simply by looking at the questions tried to retell the story the questions were based upon. Finally the questions were taken away and students had to remember the text they have worked with.
  • One member from the group reads out the text deliberately making factual mistakes. For example if the text says: “I live in Turkey”, the student could say “I live in Norway” – the other students in the group have to listen carefully, and if they spot a mistake, say “Stop!” and correct the mistake. The reader then carries on with the text.
  • As the tasks are very often based on cards, when the groups are ready with one particular series of tasks with a pack of cards or slips, they rotate, i.e. they stand up and move over to a desk, where they find hte cards of the other text(s).
  • Sentences from the texts were taken and cut up into words. The students were in pairs and they had to reorder the cards to make meaningful sentences. When they were ready, I quickly checked the sentences. If they were correct, they could mix/shuffle the word cards, and leave it on the desk, while they were walking to the next desk where another sentence was waiting for them to reorder (previously reordered then mixed up by their peers). With this technique, students move around the classroom, concentrate on the correct order of words, meaning of words, collaborate, and revise the story of simple reading texts.
  • Students took a word – anything they liked. They wrote a sentence demonstrating the meaning of the word, but leaving the word itself out – thus producing a gapped sentence. They fixed the papers with their sentences on the walls of the classroom. The sentences were numbered. The students walked around the classroom and tried to guess the missing words of each of the sentences, by taking note of hte number of the sentence and the word they thought fitted the sentence.
  • Pictures were placed around the classroom walls. Students had to associate the words with one or more of the pictures and explain their choices.

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.

Follow-up lesson – one more connected to “Environment”

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In my previous post I described the project my B1 level students had done on the topic of “environment”. As they could choose the topic they were interested in and there were 4 groups but 5 topics, nobody had presented about “Invasive species”. So that was the topic of this follow-up lesson.

Before the lesson

The text about Invasive species had 5 parts. I didn’t want to change the grouping of the previous lesson, the homework was for everybody to read the introduction for “Invasive species” and the groups were assigned one part of the complete text. The parts were relatively short but because of the new vocabulary it gave them enough work.

During the lesson

Definition

Everything was done in groups. The introduction explained a lot about invasive species including a lengthy definition:

A species is regarded invasive if it has been introduced by human action to a location, area or region where it did not prevously occur naturally (i.e. is non-native),becomes capable of establishing a breeding population in the new location without further intervention by humans, and spreads widely throughout the new location.

I put the following on the board:

A species is regarded invasive if…

and divided the rest of the definition into 3 parts. The first part ended at “(i.e. is non-native)“. This first part was cut into words or phrases and put onto cards for each group that they had to rearrange to make it meaningful. The second part of the definition (until: without further intervention by humans) was written on slips without punctuation or spaces and the third part (and spreads widely throughout the new location) was written without vowels. The groups received the slips and the complete definition was finally solved.

Discussion

There was a short discussion about how these species “travel” and why they are dangerous.

Global divers, Impacts, Local Story, Success Story

Those are the titles of the short texts the 4 groups had been assigned to as homework. Now each group had 5 minutes to sit at a computer, revise quickly their bit and come up with one comprehension question about it. When they were ready, they were re-groupped so that in every “new” group there was one student from each “old” group. Now they gave a very short mini-presentation about their bit of the topic.The students were encouraged to take notes while listening to each other – which they did as they were aware of the fact that their would be a question about each sub-topic.

Finally the students went back to their original groups and answered the questions set by the others.

Conclusion:

Students are usually afraid of the topic of “environment”. The project and the follow-up lesson were only part of the whole picture as discussing that topic could take weeks or even months with all the vocabulary and skills development tasks that come naturally with it. But as they were working on the different aspects of biodiversity, endangered species, coral reefs etc. so many things came up that in the end they felt a lot more comfortable than before.