Category Archives: Materials development

Left handers

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Another lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, this lesson, aimed at higher level learners (C1+) explores what it is like to be left handed – the advantages, the disadvantages and the prejudices left-handed people may face.

The lesson begins with an optional video, and then leads into a reading text in the style of an online article. Students carry out two exam-style tasks – matching summaries to paragraphs and identifying if statements about the text are true or false.

After some discussion of the content of the text, students focus on  grammar showcased in the article – relative clauses, reduced relative clauses and present participle clauses. This should review what students already know and add a little more to their understanding of the area.

If time, students can then go on to write about another group who often experience prejudice, using relative clauses where appropriate.

Aims:

  • Raise awareness of the issues related to being left-handed, and consider prejudice in general
  • Develop the skills of reading for gist (multiple matching) and specific info (true/false)
  • Encourage students to justify/back up their answers to true/false questions.
  • Review defining and non-defining relative clauses and look at reduced relative clauses and clauses using present participles instead of a relative clause.
  • Develop listening skills though an optional video lead-in
  • Develop writing skills and practice using relative clauses accurately and appropriately thought an optional writing activity.

 

The lesson materials can be found here. 

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Filed under Downloadable lesson materials, Exploiting authentic recordings and videos, Grammar, IELTS, Materials development, participle clauses, relative clauses

Some lesson plans on gender equality

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The American dictionary, Merriam Webster recently tweeted, ‘Lookups for ‘feminism’ spiked today. It’s “the belief that men & women should have equal rights and opportunities.” It is believed that this was in response to Kellyanne Conway’s (a top Trump adviser) remark that “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in a classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male..”

Feminism is not about being anti-male, but it is about recognising that, despite the strides that have been made in certain parts of the world, women are still very much disadvantaged. This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to men, or that men aren’t discriminated against too sometimes, but that there is still a lot of work to be done to make things equal.

I’m a member of a new group on facebook, Women in ELT, (set up by Nicola Prentis) and the stories I have heard from my fellow female teachers around the world (more than 600 members so far) would make your hair curl. It’s only open to women teachers (which has been controversial), but if you’re one, just put in a request to join.

The great thing about this group, and the great thing, in my opinion, about Trump’s election, is that it is waking people up and pushing them into standing up for what they believe. And that includes me. I hope I don’t get a backlash, but I think it’s something I’ll have to risk.

So here are some lesson plans you could use to look at feminism and gender equality with your classes and wake them up too. Some from me, and some from some very talented teachers I’ve met through the facebook group. I’ll add more as I find them.


Women in Science– the lesson begins by challenging some stereotypes and asking students to consider why there aren’t more women in science. They then read a text which provides some possible reasons, and discuss how these relate to their own opinions.

The lesson then focuses on reference words, and how they link a text together, before a final speaking tasks about different jobs and gender.


Unsung Heroes– the lesson begins by asking students to think of well-known people that they consider to be heroes. It is likely that many of these will be men, so the students then go on to learn about 5 remarkable women in a jigsaw reading activity.

The students discuss these women’s achievements, and learn some useful vocabulary for talking about social issues. There is then a focus on relative clauses, before the final task of writing about another female hero, using the vocabulary and relative clauses where appropriate. For a 50-60 minute class the writing stage could be done at home.


Labels– the lesson is built around a viral advertising video which focuses on the idea that women are not treated equally in the workplace, being judged differently from men for doing the same things. The video has no dialogue, just a soundtrack.

The lesson starts by looking at the words used in the video to ‘label’ men and women. For example, persuasive vs pushy. It would probably work best not to tell the students the topic of the video at this stage.  Students then watch the video and answer a couple of simple comprehension questions.

They then go on to read an article about the video, which discusses the issue in more depth, and also how suitable it is to use an advert selling a beauty product to discuss a feminist issue.

Finally the students discuss their own opinion of the message of the video and consider other viral videos they have seen which promote a message.


A conversation lesson about self love– by Cecilia Nobre. Cecilia says, ‘When I first came across Jessamyn’s story, I thought it was gutsy and moving. She is a yoga teacher who has become an Instagram star for her body-positive message and for showing the world that Yoga teachers can come in all shapes and sizes. I tend to plan my lessons around topics that interest me first, and I then reflect on whether my students might also connect and engage with these topics.

Most of my sources are authentic and this one is no exception. I essentially based all of the tasks on Jessamyn’s impressive Facebook profile; she posts interesting news articles, videos, photos and different sorts of media items.

This topic couldn’t be more relevant: self-love, self-acceptance, self-esteem, fat shame are currently hot topics in the mainstream media. She talks about her body insecurities and I believe that 98% of all women can relate to this, in one way or another – and certainly some men too. Therefore, your adult learners might have dealt with these issues at one point or another during their lives – so why not bring the topic into the classroom?’

The Women’s March Vienna 2017– by Katy Simpson on her site, myenglishvoice.com. Katy says, ‘My English Voice is all about helping people to make their voices heard. So we were very excited to join in the protests on Saturday, 21st January 2017; it was a historic day for people around the world who feel their voices are not being heard.Up to 2 million people took part in protests around the world in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. There were marches in 161 cities across all seven continents the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States. (Source: The Guardian). This lesson is about the march in Vienna, Austria.’

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Filed under classroom ideas, Exploiting authentic recordings and videos, Materials development

36 questions to fall in love

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A free downloadable lesson, particularly suitable for Valentine’s Day, but usable at any time of the year, about 36 questions which might make you fall in love.

The lesson starts by discussing different views of love, before the students read a short text, giving the background to an experiment where strangers asked these questions to see if they would fall in love.

The students then watch a video of two strangers getting to know each other by asking these questions, and see how they become closer as the interview progresses.

There is then a focus on question forms, looking at some slightly more complex questions. This would be suitable from B1 upwards.

Finally the students choose some of the questions that they are happy to answer, and discuss them in pairs (falling in love definitely not obligatory!)

[NB. Be aware that at around 4.19, Cam gives a couple of examples of swear words.]

Download lesson plan PDF here: elt-resourceful-36-questions-to-fall-in-love

Look here for more lessons suitable for Valentine’s Day: 

https://elt-resourceful.com/2013/02/10/to-r-p-salazar-with-love-free-downloadable-lesson/

https://elt-resourceful.com/2013/06/19/secrets-of-a-long-and-happy-marriage-free-downloadable-lesson/

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Filed under classroom ideas, Downloadable lesson materials, Exploiting authentic recordings and videos, Grammar, Materials development

A collection of lesson plans

Over the last few months I have been writing lesson plans for the British Council Teaching English site. Here is a collection of links. All materials are free to use.

Is Slavery a Thing of the Past? [click on the lesson title for lesson plan and materials]

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Designed to raise awareness of the UN’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons, this lesson begins by asking students to consider what they know about the issue, then takes them through a process of learning more before concluding by asking them about what they have learnt, and how their understanding might have changed.

The lesson involves plenty of speaking, a vocabulary focus, which pre-teaches topic related vocabulary later found in the text, a jigsaw reading and a focus on passives.

Unsung Heroes [click on the lesson title for lesson plan and materials]

This lesson, devised for International Women’s Day, will help to raise awareness of some not very famous, but nonetheless important, women.

The lesson begins by asking students to think of well-known people that they consider to be heroes. It is likely that many of these will be men, so the students then go on to learn about 5 remarkable women in a jigsaw reading activity.

The students discuss these women’s achievements, and learn some useful vocabulary for talking about social issues. There is then a focus on relative clauses, before the final task of writing about another female hero, using the vocabulary and relative clauses where appropriate. For a 50-60 minute class the writing stage could be done at home.

Get to know the neighbours [click on the lesson title for lesson plan and materials]

This lesson for adults and teenagers at a minimum A2 level is designed to develop fluency skills.

Students are led through a series of activities to create profiles for imaginary characters who live in the same neighbourhood. The lesson then brings these characters together at a neighbourhood party, where students can practice asking and answering simple questions about work, family, hobbies and so on.

As well as developing spoken fluency, there are opportunities to expand vocabulary (personality adjectives) and some useful questions for making small talk.

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Filed under classroom ideas, Grammar, Materials development, Reading, Speaking, Vocabulary, Writing

How a book changed my life

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By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A free downloadable lesson, based on a video from StoryCorps, which tells the true story of Storm Reyes, who grew up poor in a migrant camp in Washington State.   Students start by watching the video without sound, which encourages them to make predictions, which they then check on a second viewing. There is then some further comprehension and discussion, before an activity which helps students to develop their listening skills by focusing on the weak forms that are so difficult to hear.

Finally there is a focus on opinion or comment adverbs, before a speaking activity to round up the lesson, about the topic of books and reading.

The lesson would be suitable from B1  upwards.

Download lesson plan PDF here: ELT Resourceful – How a book changed my life

Look here for more free downloadable lessons

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Filed under Downloadable lesson materials, Exploiting authentic recordings and videos, Listening, Materials development, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

All about writing activities

This week has been all about writing activities, with a webinar for British Council Teaching English, and the publication of my ebook for English Language Teacher 2 Writer, on How to Write Writing Activities.

As part of publicising the webinar, the British Council shared an old post, about Process Writing, which, to be honest, I’d even forgotten I’d written. And, there’s some good stuff in there, if I do say so myself.

So, as it’s a writing activities week, I thought I’d round up all the old posts on writing and put them in one place.

Real World Writing Activities

Using a Genre Approach to Writing

Process Writing: Mixing it Up

Collaborative Writing Activities

Just Write: Short, Inspiring Activities to get Students Writing

Responding to Students’ Writing

 

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Filed under classroom ideas, Materials development, Uncategorized, Writing

What are reading skills? –They’re not (only) what you think

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When we talk about reading skills, what usually comes to mind? Prediction, reading for gist, reading for specific information and skimming and scanning?

If you’ll forgive the clickbait style title of this post (I couldn’t resist), the fact is that there’s a lot more to the skill of reading than this.

Let’s start by looking at these commonly referred to skills, and then look at what else we could (and should) be teaching our students.

Prediction

Students are very often encouraged to use the title of the text, or any accompanying pictures to make predictions about the content. There are good reasons for teaching students to do this; the idea is to activate whatever students may already know about the topic and help them to start creating a context. Without context, comprehension is much harder. Think about those moments when you turn on the radio and have no idea for a few moments what is being discussed. It only starts to make sense once you realise what the basic topic is.

Reading for gist

This doesn’t mean telling the students , ‘read the text to get a general idea of what it’s about’. That is never a very helpful task because it doesn’t give the students any reason to read, or any orientation to the topic or context. A gist question should mean that the students have to read the whole text, though not necessarily very thoroughly, in order to answer the question. For example, students might choose which title or picture most closely matches the content of the text. The idea is for students to get an overview of the text, which can help them when they return to the text to find more detailed information.

Reading for specific information

In contrast, reading for specific information means setting questions or a task which require the students to read the text much more carefully. This isn’t really a skill so much as a way of testing comprehension.

Skimming and scanning

These two words sound nice together, and make a memorable pair, but most people are a little vague about what they actually mean. Skimming has some crossover with reading for gist, because they are both about getting an overview. However, I would suggest that skimming and scanning are more properly called strategies rather than skills. They were originally both methods of speed reading. Skimming strategies are often taught as part of EAP (English for Academic Purposes) because these students have to read a great deal of content in English. So students may be taught, for example, to read just the first line of every paragraph, as this is often the topic sentence, which contains the main idea of the paragraph.

Scanning is a way of reading text quickly by only looking for specific bits of information, and not reading everything. For example, looking at the index or contents page of a book to find a specific topic you’re interested in, or picking out the figures in a text to see what the results of a piece of research were.  Again, this strategy can be particularly useful in academic contexts.

Understanding that we read different texts in different ways, using different strategies, is very important for learners. The way we read a novel on the beach is very different from the way we read a legal contract. We probably read the novel much faster, with more of a skimming/gist approach, whereas we are likely to read the contract carefully and slowly, checking that we understand the details. Students reading in a second language often fail to transfer these different ways of reading across from their first language.

Teaching reading skills

However, while looking at different ways of reading, and different reasons for reading,  is important, to what extent are these traditional reading activities actually helping students to read more effectively or fluently? Aren’t we mostly just giving them practice and/or checking their comprehension?

A reading lesson usually goes something like this:

  1. Set the scene/pre-teach vocab/elicit predictions.
  2. Read for gist (hopefully by setting a suitable gist question)
  3. Read again to answer for detailed comprehension questions.
  4. Discuss the content/focus on language in the text.

By encouraging students to predict and to read for gist first, we are perhaps helping them to develop their top-down skills- using context and their previous knowledge to make sense of what they are reading. However, there is a lot more to the reading skill than this.

According to Grabe and Stoller (2011:23) in each and every two seconds of reading fluent readers:

‘1 focus on and access 8-10 word meanings

2 parse a clause for information and form a meaning unit

3 figure out how to connect a new meaning unit into the growing text model

4 check interpretation of the information according to their purposes, feelings, attitudes and background expectations as needed

5 monitor their comprehension, make appropriate inferences, shift strategies and repair misunderstanding, as needed.

6 resolve ambiguities, address difficulties and critique text information, as needed.’

Fluent reading means that readers must be able to carry out all of these reading comprehension processes simultaneously and very quickly.  Just like driving a car, some of the processes taking place simultaneously must be automatized. If the reader is struggling to decode the words, or understand how the words fit into the sentence, or how the sentence fits into the discourse as a whole, their working memory will become overloaded, and they won’t be able to hold onto the overall meaning of the text.

So helping students to develop their reading skills must, I believe, include specific and conscious work on bottom up or decoding skills as well as top down skills, such as predicting.

Decoding skills

Whereas top down skills start from the reader and what the reader already knows or understands, bottom up or decoding skills start from the text. At the lowest level, students need to recognise alphabetic letters and then the words formed from these letters. Clearly, recognising and understanding written words is a key part of reading, even though we would usually deal with it under the heading of vocabulary. According to Paul Nation, in order to understand a written text without any assistance, students need to comprehend 98% of the words. So, if we want to work on developing reading skills (rather than using the text as a way of introducing new language) it is important that students aren’t getting stuck on too many unknown words.

Assuming that students recognise and understand enough of the vocabulary, the next layer of difficulty comes in putting those words together, understanding sentences, how those sentences fit together, and how what we are reading links with what we’ve already read. This is an area where there is huge potential to help students, and yet, outside academic reading courses, it is rarely a focus.

This is why I was so excited to work on Oxford University Press’s new series, Navigate. In this series, there is a clear syllabus and focus on these kinds of decoding skills. At lower levels, this might be understanding conjunctions or pronoun reference. At higher levels, we also focus on understanding complex sentences, ellipsis, paraphrasing and so on.

If we don’t focus on these kinds of skills, we are only teaching students part of what they need to know in order to improve their reading skills, and most of our focus is on testing comprehension rather than teaching.

Other posts on reading:

Learning vocabulary through reading

A lesson from my great-grandfather’s ELT coursebook- extensive reading and vocabulary

Developing meaning-building skills in reading

Repeated reading- some activities to build reading fluency

Listening while reading: can it actually help develop reading skills?

What kind of reading tasks might be worthwhile?

Creating effective reading tasks

Should we pre-teach vocabulary before reading, and if so how?

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under classroom ideas, Materials development, Reading, Teaching methodology, Uncategorized