Mental Health Hotline – vocabulary-building and speaking activity

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Képtalálat a következőre: „mental health hotline”

The lesson was a follow up of Unit 1C in New English File Upper-Intermediate where symptoms, illnesses, treatments are discussed. And although the topic is serious the whole idea of the lesson comes from a funny listening text.

Step 1.: I put „Mental Health Hotline” on the board. The students were put into small groups (3 students in a group) and they had to discuss what „Hotline” means.

Who might call such a hotline?

What kind of problems can be discussed over the phone?

Why is it a good idea to talk to a stranger about mental problems? Is it a good idea at all?

After some time in the little groups, the students presented the groups’ opinions in a plenary.

Step 2.: I put the names of the mental illnesses on cards as well as the definitions of those illnesses. At this point the students were given the cards with the names of illnesses only. The task was to define what the illness on the individual cards means. If they didn’t know the meaning, they tried to guess on the basis of the name.

Step 3.: Now the definitions were given to the groups and they tried to match the names to the definitions.

Step 4.: After checking the previous task, we discussed a little bit about „answering machines”. What happens when you phone an office and there is an answering machine with a menu system and the caller has to decide which menu number to choose to get to the right operator? At this point I revealed to the students that the following text is funny and not really serious, but a bit „wicked”. They immediately knew they didn’t have to take it seriously! J

So they were given a gapped text and the names of the mental illnesses had to be written. That was also done with a lot of discussion.

Finally we listened to the original text.

The follow-up activity was a set of „Doctor, doctor” jokes. They are usually just 2 lines: a question and an answer. There were two groups. Each group got either the first line or the second line of the jokes on slips. One group started by reading out the „Doctor, doctor” line of the joke and the other group had to find the corresponding second line, read it out – thus completing the joke.


Joey’s Room-Mate Search

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Képtalálat a következőre: „Joey's room-mate search”

This is a video-based lesson connected to the topic of ‘Home’. The level is B1+ but it can be adapted to lower levels as well.

Before wathcing

The students are in pairs and discuss the characteristics of a perfect room-mate. After a couple of minutes of discussion adjectives can be gathered (written on the board) in a plenary.

Following the above discussion the students agree on the “perfect ad” for a room-mate. They can even write the advertisement in pairs, so that the ads can be compared and the best one voted for.

The students are told that we are going to watch a segment from the series ‘Friends’, and discuss the situation why Joey is looking for a new room-mate. (Chandler is about to move out as he and Monica have decided to live together. Monica’s room-mate, Rachel is also looking for a new place to rent.

While watching

The students watch the segment and answer the following questions:

  • What 3 things does Joey offer to Rachel?
  • What does Chandler find strange in Joey’s ad?
  • Why is he advertising like that?
  • What is the misunderstanding between Joey and the girl in blue T-shirt?
  • Why did Joey take the shower curtain down? Is his explanation true?
  • Why doesn’t Rachel accept Joey’s offer for the second time, either?
  • What test does Joey give to the girl? Why?

After watching:

The students are in pairs again and write questions that they find appropriate when looking for a room-mate.

They act out an “interview” situation.

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.

Difficulty with verb patterns


I have come up with the most imaginative activities and have given my students the funniest on-line tasks, the most creative exercises – still ‘verb patterns’ is the grammar point that is best practised with drills.

Old fashioned? Perhaps. Nevertheless in my view it is worth drilling sometimes to see some improvement – or am I just impatient?

Anyway, when I was speculating about some verbs and found that it was really easy for my students to use ‘to + infinitive’ after ‘want’ or ‘try’, I realised that the only reason is that they tend to use those verbs really often. So that would be the real argument for drilling – even if it is found old-fashioned by some methodology gurus.

So the simple task was the following:

– the students are in groups of 3 or 4

– each student receives one card (cut out from the page) with a verb but also indicating if it is followed by to + infinitive or the -ing (Gerund) structure

– in the middle of the desk I put a sheet with lots of different verbs – the verbs that I intended to be the “second” verb, i.e. the one that has to be put into the gerund or infinitive form

– one student from the group asks a question with the verb on their card plus one of the “second verbs” from the sheet in the approproate form. Every group member has to give an answer in a full sentence, making sure that they repeat the whole structure.

e.g. the verb on the card is ‘AGREE’ to

Student 1’s question: Do you agree to come to the cinema with me tonight?

Student 2’s answer: I agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

Student 3’s answer: I don’t agree to go to the cinema with you tonight.

The students take turns to ask and answer with the verbs on their cards.

What is happening here? The students listen to the same structure lots of times thus creating the imprint of that verb pattern. After 3-4 questions with the same verb the students can take new cards (for instance change cards with another group)

Well, I am not saying that drilling is the most exciting activity in the world but with a little twist, like creating group work and a speaking activity it can help the students memorise difficult structures like verb patterns.

The Job – a short, video-based speaking activity



I used this video as a basis for a short speaking activity: not longer than 20 minutes, depending on how responsive the students are that day. We had already discussed a lot about jobs and work, the students had done lots of vocabulary tasks, one lengthy reading, so it was appropriate to shake them up a bit.

The way I used the video was mainly prediction, so grammar used for predictions can be practiced, but my aim was primarily not grammar practise but speaking and bringing a little bit of liveliness into the lesson.

I stopped the short film first at 0:45′. The students asnwered the following questions:

  • Who are the people? What are their jobs?
  • Where are they?
  • Why are they outside?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they talking about?

Next stop at 1:18′

  • Who is this guy?
  • What is the paper in his hand?
  • What is going to happen?
  • Do they know each other?

We watched the video to the end, discussed job names, and were having a nice conversation about the whole situation. Associations to similar contexts did come up quite early and talking about findig a job, legal and illegal jobs, immigration, well and badly-paid jobs followed.

I think the video can even be used as a starting point for a whole lesson, depending on the aims and objectives of your lesson plan.