In this lesson plan designed for the British Council Teaching English site, we explore the topic of vitiligo, an autoimmune condition which causes some people to lose pigment in their skin, and look at how attitudes are changing towards what does or does not make someone attractive.
This lesson was devised to mark World Vitiligo Day on 25 June. However, it could be used at any time of year as this is not specifically mentioned.
The lesson begins with students looking at a photo of a young woman with vitiligo and discussing their reactions to the photo. They then go on to read about a model with vitiligo, Chantelle Brown-Young (also known as Winnie Harlow- pictured above), and discover what makes her special. The lesson reviews a range of tenses that might be used in a biography of a living person and looks at how to organise such a text, before the students go on to write their own.
To encourage students to question their perception of what is beautiful and become more tolerant of difference
To practise reading for specific information (true/false)
To revise a range of tenses that students should know at B1 level
To help students structure and write a biography-type text
CEF Level B1 (intermediate) or strong A2 (pre-intermediate)
Teachers notes and student worksheets can be downloaded here.
A free lesson plan, which I wrote for the British Council Teaching English Teens page.
This lesson begins by focusing on some anti-smoking posters with students discussing the message and effectiveness of each one. They then learn some vocabulary to talk about four key reasons not to smoke: (health, cost, the impact on your attractiveness, and the impact on others). Students then choose one of these reasons and write a paragraph about it, using the vocabulary as appropriate.
As an optional final activity, the students design their own anti- smoking poster and present it to another pair or to the class.
Click here for the lesson plan and student’s worksheet.
Raise awareness of the many reasons not to smoke, or to give up smoking.
Extend students’ vocabulary to talk about health risks and other issues connected with smoking. E.g. bad breath, anxiety, blood pressure.
Develop students’ writing skills through writing a paragraph (using vocabulary) about one negative aspect of smoking.
Encourage peer feedback and correction on writing.
As an optional final task, develop students’ oral fluency as well as their ability to work together to design a poster and present it to their peers
Marking written work can be incredibly time-consuming, and it’s disheartening when you see the students glance quickly at your detailed comments and put the piece of writing away in their bags never to be looked at again.
So, what can be done to a) reduce your workload as a teacher and b) encourage students to actually learn something from your feedback*?
We all know that it’s important to get students to take responsibility for their own work and many teachers use a correction code to encourage students to self-correct. This can be useful, but you still need to be selective. Too many corrections/comments can lead to the student feeling overwhelmed and demotivated, and/or the student not knowing which of these areas are high priorities.
Choose one or two areas with the whole class that you will focus on for this set of written work only. For example, if it is an opinion essay, you might choose to focus on text organisation. Or you could choose a grammatical area, such as articles, that the whole class finds difficult. Instead of the teacher choosing these areas, you could negotiate them with the class before they start or after they have written the work but before they have handed it in.
Ask students to individually select two areas they want you to focus on as you mark their work. They could either write these at the bottom of their work, or highlight sections that they don’t feel as confident about.
Focus on just one or two (anonymous) pieces of work that you look at with the whole class. Take it in turns so that everyone has this opportunity. Especially with a monolingual group, it is likely that many of the issues will be the same for most students.
Just correct one paragraph of each student’s work. Then ask them to self-correct anything similar in the rest of the piece.
Of course, with all these approaches it is important that the students understand that not highlighting something doesn’t automatically mean that it is correct, but that you are being selective.
Set aside time for students to respond to and act on your feedback
In the UK this has the lovely acronym DIRT (directed improvement and reflection time). If we don’t want our carefully thought through feedback to be ignored, DIRT is vital. However, it is unlikely in most contexts that you will have sufficient class time for students to sit and re-draft the whole pieces of work in class. Again, be selective.
So, if you have just marked one paragraph, students could work on that one paragraph in class, and then look at the rest at home. Or, if you have just marked errors with articles, you could write a selection of errors on the board for the class to correct, and then ask students to correct just one paragraph of their own work in class. Or if they have asked you about a particular section, give them time to work on rewriting that section in class, in response to your feedback.
Once students are familiar with the DIRT technique, you can write DIRT activities on the bottom of their written work. For example, ‘Find at least three sentences where you have used ‘and’ and ‘but’ and change them to use more complex linkers’ or ‘rewrite paragraph 3 and make sure that the tenses are used correctly.’
Extensive feedback that students do nothing with is, quite frankly, a complete waste of everyone’s time, so why not experiment with some of these ideas?
*Of course, feedback is not only about pointing out what could be better, and it is also important to point out what went well.
You can find another post on written feedback here:
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.
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.
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.
A free downloadable lesson, based around a Russian advertising video for shampoo. Despite what is aims to sell, the video is actually quite inspiring, with the story of a girl who succeeds against the odds through pure grit and determination. Students start by watching the video and trying to guess what it is trying to advertise (so don’t tell them!). They then try to reconstruct the story in pairs, watching the video again to check their ideas. The lesson then goes on to focus on a range of linkers used to give reasons or results, make contrasts and show when something happened. Students then work with some vocabulary to describe personality, and then put it all together by writing the story of the video, using the linkers and the vocabulary where appropriate. Finally, there are some quotes about success for them to discuss.
A free downloadable lesson, based around an authentic video. Research shows that feeling grateful for what we have and the people in our lives is a key factor in feeling happy. The video shows a group of people carrying out a task designed to increase their happiness in this way. It’s quite moving.
Suitable from Intermediate/B1+, the lesson starts with a short text to introduce the topic and get the students thinking about how people recognise and celebrate gratitude in their cultures. It then moves onto the video, where students watch two people visiting a friend and reading aloud a letter they have written , thanking them for what they have done. There is some focus on vocabulary, and some useful phrases that students could use themselves to say thank you. Finally, the students are asked to write their own thank you letter, which they may or may not choose to actually deliver.
A free downloadable lesson based around the recent Dove advertisement, showing the huge difference between women’s views of their looks and how other see them. The lesson starts by focusing on collocations to describe facial features, such as thick hair, full lips and so on. Students then watch the video and discuss some of the issues raised, including self -esteem, the role of the media,and differences between men and women. More language to describe physical appearance is ‘pulled out’ of the video, and the lesson ends with students writing detailed descriptions of themselves.
An optional extra that might work well to lighten the class a little is a very funny spoof video, where some men find out that they are actually much uglier than they think they are! The link is in the accompanying notes.
Recently there has been a focus on dealing with ‘emergent language’, rather than following a syllabus. But does this mean that coursebooks are irrelevant? Surely coursebooks are ultimately a collection of topics, texts and tasks- the bedrock of any course.
In this 20 minute presentation, I look at some ideas for using coursebooks (or any other off the shelf material) while still allowing the teacher to facilitate and engage with emergent language.
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