Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Balanced Diet - ESL Listening Exercise

Here's an ESL activity for teaching food vocabulary. I have my students discuss what they think a "balanced diet" is, and then get them to watch this video. It's quite simple and most of the vocabulary is written on the screen for students to see, along with pictures that illustrate the meaning.




Normally, I would have the students take notes and then watch a second time to check their notes, or add more details. Then I give them the following worksheet to test their understanding of the vocabulary:




You may want to point out that the word "fibre" is spelled the British way in both the video and the worksheet, whereas in the U.S. it is spelled "fiber." 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Snow Day: An ESL Lesson feat. The Simpsons

Today I woke up to a thick blanket of snow across my university campus. It's the first time I've seen snow here in years, so I decided to scrap my planned class and teach a lesson based around a classic Simpsons episode: "Bart Gets an F."

Lately, I've been teaching my students how to summarize, so the focus on this was simply having them understand and summarize the episode. It's not hugely difficult to understand the overall ideas, and every student should be able to take something from this hilarious story.

First, though, I had the students do some vocabulary from the episode. They seemed to find it quite useful. I also threw in a few "snow day"-related discussion questions at the end of the PPT because my students love discussions.




The vocabulary takes about ten minutes to teach; the discussion another ten. The episode is a little over twenty minutes, and with writing and sharing their summaries, that should round out a one hour lesson.

--- I found the episode quite easily on a popular torrent site. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

ESL Environmental Speaking Project

Here's a nice, easy class that requires very little preparation, and will be fun for you and your students.

First, teach the vocabulary from this PPT:



You might want to alter it according to your preferences. I elicit all vocabulary, and if students come up with any useful vocabulary relating to ecology/environmentalism, I'll stick it on the board.

Next, put your students into groups. I use six groups of six students because I have a rather large class. I find it personally quite useful to divide the students so that they're with people they don't normally work with.

In their groups, have them work on this worksheet. (It's from ESLflow, which I think is a great website.) Give them whatever time you feel is necessary, and make sure they collaborate to label the issues - don't let any one student dominate.

Next, hand each group two pieces of blank paper, and tell them to select one environmental problem from the above worksheet. If you can make one of them A3 that would be ideal. Tell them - through demonstration - that one piece of paper (the smaller, if you found some spare A3) should be used to jot down notes on their chosen problem. The other piece of paper (the bigger one) should be used for making a poster.

I give them about 15 minutes to make notes and create a poster. I don't often allow my students (who are in university) to draw, but when I do they love it - so many of them have hidden artistic talent!

After time is up, let them know that they will be presenting their ideas to the class. (You may want to mention this earlier, but I personally find that it disrupts their creative thoughts.) Give them some time to figure out how they will present their ideas, and then have each group stand up, display their poster, and present their ideas.

Of course, it helps to be enthusiastic, and maybe give a demonstration presentation yourself. Frame it as "saving the world!" The students will love it, and they'll learn lots of new vocabulary in the process.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

PowerPoint for Adjectives Describing Food

Yesterday I taught a class all about food, which my Chinese students loved. In China, everyone talks about food! It seems strange to us in the West, where we like talking politics and weather and sport, but in China everyone is talking about food all the time... it's just a quirk of culture.

Yet many of the students can't talk about food in English, and the ideas that they express in their native language don't translate well. They will happily say, "This is delicious... that's delicious... those are delicious..." So I wanted to make a PPT that would teach them some useful adjectives to describe flavour and texture.

Important note: In the slide teaching the word "spicy," I used a very rude word ;) I like to check whether my students are paying attention or not, and this always gets them. If you think that is inappropriate for your students, please remember to edit that page before you use the PPT.

Here it is: 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Teaching Debate Skills for ESL

Here's a PowerPoint presentation I made to help you teach debate skills to your ESL students. It looks at what a debate is, why it's important to learn debating skills, and then gives students the necessary language to engage in a debate. Finally, it poses some debating tasks. I use the second last page for splitting the class into two groups and then have them debate against each other, and the final page as a pair exercise, with all pairs working on different topics. But feel free to adapt it to your own class and teaching style!


Saturday, 12 November 2016

A Fun Travel Lesson About Thailand

This video is really great for teaching travel. In my classes I’ll use it as an exciting noticing activity to give students a range of language for talking about travel. It contains a bunch of words that might be useful at a lower levels, like “shopping” and “beaches,” but also some good structures which might work with slightly more advanced students, like “is located” and “you really must.”





After this video, I’ll have the students talk about what they saw, and I’ll introduce the structures I want them to use (for example, “You should…”) and then have them either give suggestions for people visiting Koh Phi Phi or apply it to someplace they know. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Running Dictation for Shopping Lesson

I love using running dictation in my classes. I don't do it often, because that would ruin its effect, but every now and then I'll throw a running dictation activity into my lesson plan. It gets the students excited - bringing out the fun-loving side of even the most sullen student - and forces them to think and speak in English.

Why Running Dictation is Awesome

Firstly, as I said above, it is fun. I've always found it to be fun, and it's always been an activity that has turned a rainy Monday afternoon into a frenzy of excitement, even for the most apathetic students. It is inclusive, too, bringing the outsiders into the fray. 

Most importantly, however, it gets students using English. On the surface it might seem trivial - they just memorize something that they'll soon forget. Yet it is so much more than that. Through gamification, the students are in competition against each other, and there is pressure to remember the spelling, the word order, the grammar... But more than just memorization, the students have to piece it logically together. Realistically, students won't be able to remember everything, and later they'll have to proof their version of the text.

How to Set up a Running Dictation

I like to choose a long passage or long sentences from a short passage. The more challenging it is to remember, the better. You want students unable to remember the words exactly because later they will need to figure out what they missed. If they can do it perfectly, they learn nothing. If they see a sentence that doesn't make sense, they'll work on getting it right. 

Have students in groups with one student as "the writer." Place a text (or multiple texts) somewhere outside the classroom. Give clear instructions (with ICQs) on how to perform the activity. No more than one student should leave the room at any time from each group. 

Set a time limit and when it is reached, allow the students a few more minutes to review their version of the text. Then have them practice reading it, and one student can read to the class from each group. 

When to Use Running Dictation

You can use it for almost any lesson. As long as it contains the target language or sets the context (or preferably both), it can be used. I've used it in grammar lessons for introducing the language point, and today I used it in a speaking lesson to give students some key language. Think of it as a noticing task. 

In today's lesson, I gave students a basic running dictation. I put the following passage outside the classroom door and set the instructions slowly and clearly. 


I put the students in groups and had them run the activity as mentioned above. Afterwards, they checked their written version against my correct version, and I asked them some questions to check comprehension. This led into an exercise where I had them make shopping lists, and then a role play set in the five stores mentioned at the bottom of the above document.

For the role play, I used this lesson.