Friday, 30 December 2016

ESL Fashion Lesson Plan

This lesson was designed around the Let's Talk 1 chapter, 15B: "Fads and Fashions."

Firstly, I show my students this amusing skit from Key and Peele:

We discuss what is happening, pointing out any useful vocabulary. I try to correct "hat" to "cap" where necessary. Useful vocabulary here is: "jealous," "fashion," and so on.

I tell them that we will now look at fashion in relation to clothes, and that they need to practice the vocabulary for clothing. So I show them this video, which is a bit slow and silly. You might want to make your own PPT instead. I will do that in future.

You can then demonstrate on the board how to add details to clothing by adding adjectives. I point out what I'm wearing and elicit details. For example: "black coat," "smart trousers," "warm scarf," and so on.

I'll then have the students talk about changing fashion over the decades (maybe pre-teach "decade," which will appear again in the book). I show them this video, which always amuses my students. Chinese fashion is pretty conservative even today and it's unimaginable for my students to think of a girl showing so much skin in the 1950s!

This usually gets them interested and sparks their imaginations, so I'll have them work in pairs or small groups to talk about changing fashions in China over the past few decades.

After that, I'll go through the textbook p.68-69 and try to make a point whenever words or ideas are repeated from the videos.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

ESL Teaching Tip: Avoiding L1

I know this blog is normally a collection of teaching resources, but today I want to give you something just as valuable: a piece of advice that will help you produce better English learners.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really is important not to use L1 (the learner’s native language) in class. Many teachers attempt to do so, and they are proud of themselves if they succeed. However, it really is detrimental to the learning process, so please avoid doing it.

Almost ten years ago, when I was first teaching in South Korea, I learned to speak Korean and was eager to show that I knew how to do so. Almost every Korean I met just assumed I couldn’t speak the language, and I wanted to counteract that prejudice and put forth a good impression. Moreover, in class I was desperate to do a good job a teacher, and so I would occasionally use my Korean in spite of the fact that it was supposedly an “English immersion” environment.

I didn’t use much Korean, but you don’t need to in order to derail the language learning process. What I found was that as soon as the students knew I could speak their language – even a little bit – they would stop trying so hard to speak my language. At the time, I was teaching very young children and they were keen to tell me everything they did at the weekend, or all about their favourite TV show. But as soon as they thought I could speak a little Korean, they’d try using a Korean word for some difficult part of the communication process instead of searching for the English equivalent.

When I came to China, I found that the language here is far harder to learn, and it took me some time to get any level of Chinese proficiency. However, by this time I was a bit more savvy, and even when I learned Chinese I would avoid letting my students know that fact. Of course, it stings when you’re students think you can’t speak their language… it suggests that a) you’re too stupid to learn, or b) you don’t care enough to learn.

However, it really is important not to allow L1 interfere with communication. A few times in recent years my students have stumbled upon my Chinese social media profiles and seen that I can use Chinese, and immediately their efforts at communicating in English diminish as they start slipping words of Chinese into our conversations.

I try to put myself into my students’ shoes, and honestly, if I had Chinese lessons and knew my teacher spoke English, I would probably get frustrated with my lack of fluency and resort to using a few words of English here and there. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it would severely impact my language acquisition.

Sometimes people question the value of having native English teachers, but I believe that immersion learning is incredibly valuable. However, as soon as you allow the students to use L1 the benefits start to disappear.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

ESL Airport Vocabulary

This PPT offers some great ESL airport vocabulary for intermediate English learners. It works very well for introducing important language in the following areas:

  • at the airport
  • on the airplane
  • people who work there
  • what you must remember (ie passport and boarding pass)

For a more advanced lesson, see here.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Gap-fill Exercise

Here's a fun ESL activity for Christmas - a gap-fill exercise based upon a song that your students are guaranteed to find funny: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

This worked really well for me because I'd just been teaching my students about house vocabulary (lesson coming soon) and so they were tested on "stairs" and "bedroom." I also prefaced this activity with a Christmas vocabulary PPT so they knew "santa" and so forth.

The worksheet is pretty self-explanatory. Just play the song (I like the Jackson 5 version because, in China, people are crazy about Michael Jackson) and get them to fill in the blanks.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Song Lyrics Correction - An ESL Activity

There are just a few more days until Christmas and here's another great activity for you to try with your students.

When I was on my CELTA course, the instructor taught us how to use music in class by giving out song lyrics that were riddled with errors. We had to listen to the song in order to correct the lyrics. It was great fun!

I picked perhaps the most famous Christmas song - Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" - and fiddled about with the lyrics. The point is to make it manageable but challenging. Don't expect your students to know the word "glisten"!

Perhaps pre-teach blocking vocabulary for the song prior to beginning this activity.

ESL City Vocabulary

This Powerpoint presentation gives useful words and phrases for describing an urban environment. It is intended for intermediate level students, as the words are a bit more advanced than the usual "supermarket," "post office," etc., and some of the concepts are slightly abstract.

I have sourced images and definitions from Google which I think illustrate the meaning of the words quite well.

I began my lesson with a discussion on the differences between living in the city and living in the country, and finished by talking about the future of cities. This PPT came in really useful for the vocabulary section in the middle.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Vocabulary PPT

It's now only five days until Christmas!!! Are you excited?!

Well, if you're like me, the countdown to Christmas means extra work... However, teaching ESL classes at Christmas time can be a lot of fun. I find students want to know all about the holiday but really don't understand it too well. This is a great opportunity to teach them some of the most fun parts of Christmas and get them in the mood.

Here's an ESL Christmas Vocabulary PPT that I made:

ESL Christmas Vocabulary from David Wills

I'll be posting more Christmas materials over the week as we lead up to the day itself, so keep coming back to get some great lesson ideas. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Teaching Animal Vocabulary

Teaching animal vocabulary to ESL students is one of my favourite things in this world. Firstly, I just love animals - even more than I love teaching! I spend my holidays travelling the world, seeing all the amazing animals I can find, and taking photos of them.

When I get back to class, I use my photos to show my students all about this amazing world. Living in China, they are brought up in big apartment buildings where they can barely see any wildlife - maybe just a bird or a stray cat. They think animals belong in zoos.

It's a privilege to be able to teach them about the wonderful world of animals, and hopefully I can make a difference by bringing up a few hundred students to have some respect for nature that they wouldn't get taught in any other Chinese class.

To teach the animal vocabulary, I use this Powerpoint presentation:

ESL Animal Vocabulary from David Wills

With higher level students, I have them describe the animals - what they look like, what they eat, where they live, etc. With lower level students it's probably enough just to teach the names of the animals.

You'll notice a lack of farmyard animals and pets here... They usually pop up in storybooks and textbooks, so I didn't bother including them here.

I also like to include a discussion with my intermediate students, using some of the following discussion questions:
  • What is your favourite animal? Why?
  • What do you think is the most dangerous animal in the world?
  • What sort of animals make good pets?
  • How can humans help protect animals?
  • How do you feel about zoos? 
And for my IELTS students, I'll use the topic covered in this video I made:

More teaching ideas:

Have students think of their favourite animal and describe it to a partner. The partner should guess what it is. For this, you obviously need to pre-teach words like horn, hoof, stripes, spots, fur, and so on.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Writing Test for Sentence Types and Parallelism

This worksheet provide a good test for your students to find out whether they know the different kinds of sentence type, as well as parallelism. I believe that understanding these - and knowing what a fragment is - is essential for good writing. I teach this from intermediate level and up so as to break any bad habits that may form when doing other writing lessons.

When I do this test, I've already taught the concepts of sentence type and parallelism. The students should know it. This really is just a test, rather than a teaching tool. I helps me identify their problems, and it also helps them as well.

The first page has a sort of guided-discovery approach, followed by some identification and correction exercises. The answers are on the second page.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Upper-Intermediate Reading Task

I recently made this reading lesson for an upper-intermediate group of Chinese students. I think it's quite challenging, and could also serve well in an advanced class. The topic is one that I thought was very interesting for them - the idea of a school with no teachers. In China, this is entirely unthinkable! The teacher still is incredibly important here, and anyone who's tried teaching the Western teaching methodology in the East knows the difficulty of encouraging peer review and so forth.

The article comes from the BBC, although I have edited it so that it is more suitable, and also so that it doesn't take up so much space on the page. It is still very long, and will take students an hour or so to complete.

There is a response task at the end to get the students' opinions. You could also just have them write notes and then discuss it, if you prefer. Of course, there are numerous possibilities for follow-up activities, such as designing the perfect school, listing the pros and cons of peer-teaching, and discussing the necessity of teachers in modern society.

As always, feel free to download and adept this lesson for your class. I would appreciate a share on social media if you do.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

ESL Celebrity Balloon Debate

The "balloon debate" is an ESL classic. How does it work? You get your students to think of a hot air balloon up in the sky... There are people in the balloon, but not all of them can stay! So who gets kicked out?

Success and Fame

In this lesson, the students discuss success and fame. In the PPT below, I've outlined a pretty simple 45 minute class, beginning with a brainstorm session on success, followed by discussion of some quotes on success, and ending in a balloon debate.

As my students are Chinese, the next step looks at celebrities including Jack Ma, Fan Bingbing, and G-Dragon (who's Korean, of course, but super popular in China), but I strongly recommend editing to use celebrities your students will care about. It is a major boost for student participation. You can download and edit the PPT to change for regionally specific celebrities. I finished up the PPT with a homework task. Of course, if you want to do this in class you can do it.

This lesson is intended for lower-intermediate students, but can be tailored up or down with minimal changes.

Don't forget to follow me on Slideshare and share this post on Twitter if you find it useful! T

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Teaching Landscape Vocabulary

I needed to teach some landscape vocabulary to my students and the photocopied textbooks they were given by the school were too dull and drab. I wanted to show some vivid pictures, and some more interesting words. I made this Powerpoint presentation that mixes together lots of vocabulary for describing natural features, as well as human-made structures and settlements.

ESL Landscape Vocabulary from David Wills

After teaching this vocabulary, I have my students watch a short video. During the video, they should note down all the landscape features that they see. You could probably choose any relevant video, but since I'm from Scotland and my students are interested in my home country, I used this video:

From this particular video, my students noted the following vocabulary:

  • hills/mountains
  • lakes (I told them that technically, in Scotland, they're called "lochs")
  • lighthouse
  • sea/ocean
  • river/stream
  • cliff
  • beach
  • castle
  • island
  • bridge
  • valley

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Indigenous People ESL Vocabulary

Today my students' textbook asked them to talk about indigenous people. Anticipating that they might not know what "indigenous" means, or other related vocabulary, I made this short PPT, which introduces five useful words.
  • Indigenous
  • Minority
  • Aborigine 
  • Immigration
  • Assimilation
Of course, it requires a bit of explanation, but the definition and some related images are there. I try to point out the double-edged sword (without using that particular cliche :)) of assimilation - that some would say it's gaining a new culture, while others say it's losing your old one. 

You might also want to edit this to add "emigration" or other ideas for higher level students. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Practicing the Passive Voice

The passive voice is often used in writing, and sometimes also in speaking. But how can you give your students an opportunity to practice using it? 

Changing their own work

I like to start my writing or grammar lessons by having students write somewhat freely, and then later edit their writing using the lessons taught in the class. I feel this helps them to better internalize the meaning of the material. 

In teaching passive voice, I tell my students to write a set number of simple sentences (they already learned the four sentence types) about a picture. It can probably be any picture, but I use these ones:

Sometimes it is better to get a picture with more action, and featuring people's names, like this:

At the end of the lesson, with ten minutes or so remaining, I will tell to the students to return to their notebooks and look at the sentences they wrote. I will give them two minutes to identify whether each sentence is active or passive, and invariably they will be 90% active voice.

I then instruct the students to see whether they can convert the active sentences to passive voice - reminding them that not all sentences can be changed. I will have them peer check to finish the lesson. 

It helps to give them examples to work with. As such, I'd say for the first picture:

Superman is visiting the boy in hospital. (active)
The boy in hospital is being visited by superman. (passive)
For the second picture:

 The man is taking photos of the couple. (active)
The couple are being photographed by the man. (passive) 

Make “who” questions

 To practice using passive voice in speech and to create sentences more spontaneously, I encourage students to write questions that will require an answer in the passive voice. I give them the following, presented on an overhead projector: 


Use the verbs above to make "who" questions like the examples below. Ask them to your partner, and see if they can answer correctly.

For example:
A: Who was Pulp Fiction directed by?
B: Pulp Fiction was directed by Quentin Tarantino.

A: Who was the Mona Lisa painted by?

B: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What is Plagiarism? A Simple PPT for ESL Students

I've been working in China for a long, long time now and one problem that keeps rearing its ugly head is the issue of plagiarism. In every class I have between one and three students who will try to cheat on an assignment by copying from the internet. This year that number jumped up to fifteen students in one class! In response, I decided to make a short and simple PPT to give my class. I think it states in very basic terms why cheating is wrong.

In some countries cheating is a normal part of life. In China, for example, you can walk around the high street and so many  things are stolen from elsewhere that one begins to feel that copying is normal. Chinese companies have for years made profits by simply copying from companies in other countries. It's a way of life. In addition, Chinese teachers don't actively dissuade students who cheat. It's just considered the normal thing.

Therefore, it is important to teach your students about plagiarism and to deal with it firmly but fairly. I hope this PPT can help.