April Fools Day

This isn’t a proper lesson plan but I put together a little webquest for students on April Fools Day. The answers also make a nice set of hoaxes, jokes and pranks to talk about for an April Fools’ Day lesson.

Feel free to use it, or add comments, suggestions and crtitiques: April Fools’ Day WebQuest And I forgot to link to the Answers earlier (which are also linked to on the webquest page itself.

Or have students do their own webquests. Refer them to Hoaxipedia or the Wikipedia entry on April Fools’ Day and have them come up with their own questions to challenge each other.

Reverse Reading Comprehension

This reverse reading activity by Mike Harrison looks really interesting. The idea is that you have students write questions for an imaginary reading. Then they generate the reading to match the questions.

Seems like it would target a lot of skills at once, not only language skills like grammar, writing, and discussion but also teamwork, creativity, and collaboration.

I also love it as a way of teaching pre-writing. I know a lot of authors come up with an idea for a story, or maybe a first scene. Then they ask themselves questions, at least in their heads, to flesh things out. How did they meet? Why does Bob want the Uzbek Falcon so badly? What could he use to escape from the room? If students generate questions, they are already thinking of a story so it makes it easier for them to generate the text later on.

But also I think this could be adapted as a writing lesson. For example, have students jot down a quick idea (1 or 2 sentences) for a story and then generate 5 questions they would need to answer to finish it. Or have other students read the idea and come up with questions they would like answered by the finished story. Students can use those questions to flesh out their writing.

And I’m talking about stories here but there’s no reason why students couldn’t write non-fiction. A written version of the expert game.

UPDATE: This is a cool variant of Mike’s lesson from Visualizing Ideas.

Valentine's Day Discussion

Had another awesome English Club. Of course, the theme was Valentine’s Day and there was a nice mix of boys and girls and new and old. Could have been a sensitive subject but no one was particularly shy. Like the best English Clubs, I kicked it off with a few questions and soon it took on a life of its own.

Issues that came up were what do young people call people they are dating: lover, girl or boy friend or sweetheart. I clarified like this: boyfriend and girlfriend is the most normal thing to call a couple, lovers is a bit too poetic, and sweetheart is something your parents might say about your relationship.

Big discussion about why in Kazakhstan boyfriends and girlfriends are less visible in public and why in general boys and girls hang out separately in public. I raised the question of why I only see girls going out to restaurants, and a big reason seemed to be that the boys might be forced to pay if it was a mixed group (and as university students, they don’t have any money) and that boys would prefer to drink beer or play billiards.

Also one hopelessly outnumbered kid tried to defend his position that even on a date the boy shouldn’t have to pay for the girl. He would have been doing okay except he seemed to be saying that he would never ever pay for the girl.

It’s always a pleasure to do discussion club when I get to talk a bit for the first 30 minutes, and then get to listen for an hour.

Then I asked if they celebrate Valentine’s Day and how or what they do. That got a few stories going and we talked a bit about the kinds of gifts boys get for girls they like. They started to ask me about the traditions in the US so I threw it back to them, then after the conversation died down, I explained that Valentine’s Day is for couples, not really friends because there had been some confusion on that point and normal things to do like give flowers, give chocolates, and go out for dinner. They started discussing differences between young people in the US and young people in Kazakhstan. For the first time, I felt like a participant in the discussion instead of a moderator. And that is the best discussion club of all!

This is Halloween Lyrics Gap-Fill

Scary Halloween Pumpkin This is Halloween Lyrics Gap-Fill“This is Halloween” is the opening song from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. It makes a great classroom activity to introduce the concept of Halloween, especially setting the mood. Note that this song is not to be confused with the Marilyn Manson song of the same name!

I show the video to my ESL and EFL students and discuss what they see and what it tells them about Halloween. I made a This is Halloween lyrics gap-fill activity, which you can purchase and download at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. This video makes a good opening activity. Or a filler to fill up the last 10-15 minutes of class. Of course, it’s great practice at listening comprehension and it can be a fun sing-along.

This is Halloween Lyrics Video

Here are a few other ways to put the song to use:

  • You can have students watch and list all the scary monsters they see.
  • Introduce the idea of the Boogey man, the monster who hides in the closet or under the bed. Ask if their culture has a similar catch-all monster.
  • Ask if scary and creepy things can ever be fun?
  • Discuss the lyrics. Why do the monsters say they aren’t mean? Are the things mentioned in the song scary or funny?
  • Rank the scariness of the different monster they see in the video
  • Show part of the video for 30-60 minutes and have students make as many sentences as they can about what they see.

If you liked this This is Halloween Lyrics Gap-Fill Activity, check out all my Halloween lesson plans and activities.

Fun Review: Bombs and Jeopardy

Teresa Bestwick has a nice post up on a fun way to review with students, The Bomb Game. Looks like a really good tool.

I also wanted to share some files for doing Jeopardy on the computer. Obviously you can do Jeopardy low-tech without any materials besides a board and a marker. But having a hi-tech version is more fun for the kids and can make them pay more attention. The advantages of using a game like Jeopardy or the Bomb game are obviously that they are a lot of fun and kids often remember things they learned in a competitive situation. So here are two versions for downloading:

Both have questions related to a unit review of the Straightforward textbook, so you’ll have to change the questions and answers. Both also come with a 30 second clip of the Jeopardy theme song.

For those unfamiliar with Jeopardy, it’s a popular game show in the US. There are many international versions so it’s worth taking a minute to find out what it’s called in your country so students will get how to play quickly. In Russia, it’s called Cvoya Igra for example. The gameboard (which you can just write on the whiteboard, or put on a giant piece of paper if you don’t want to download the versions above) looks like this:

Present Simple Vocabulary: Personal Info Questions Words that begin with W
100 100 100 100
200 200 200 200
300 300 300 300
400 400 400 400
500 500 500 500

Each column represents a category of questions and each box is a question. The numbers are how many points the player or team gets for answering the question right. Therefore the 100 point questions should be easy and the 500 point questions should be more difficult or complicated. You can obviously have as many categories and questions as you like. I usually do 5 categories and 5 questions and that takes up 1 hour of class time including explaining the game.

Make sure you write the questions in advance. For a low tech version, write the questions on the board, then paste pieces of paper with the points written on them, over the questions.

To play, first you divide the class into teams (3 or 4 is optimal).

Each team in turn chooses a question by calling out the category and point value (Present Simple 100).You then read the appropriate question.

In real Jeopardy, who ever answers the question first gets the points. If they get it wrong, then another team can try. To avoid complete chaos in the classroom, I usually set a pecking order. The team that picked the question gets first try. If they can’t answer or answer incorrectly, then it moves to the next team in a set order (by alphabet, left to right, right to left, whoever has the fewest points). I also set a rule that the whole team has to agree before they answer–this prevents one student from taking control and it also avoids arguments later. You may also want to set a time limit for answering.

The team that gets the question right, gets the appropriate number of points. In real Jeopardy, the team that answers correctly then picks the next question. In classroom Jeopardy, I usually let the next team pick the next question. Again this avoids one team dominating the whole game or one team deciding to zone out.

Keep going until you’ve cleared the board.

You can also play final Jeopardy at the end. Final Jeopardy works like this:
Prepare a final question, which should be quite difficult or possibly a fun question. I like asking more thematic questions or some detail from a class reading or listening.
Each team should place a wager from their total points. So if a team has 1000 points at the end, they can wager up to 1000 points that they will get the final question right.
Once all the teams have placed their wager, ask the question. Each time must WRITE DOWN their answer.
When all the teams have written down their answer, ask them to show their answers. If a team gets the question right, they get as many points as they wagered. If they get it wrong, they lose that many points.
Now reveal the right answer. Declare a winner by number of points and if you like give them a prize like chocolates or stickers.

Kids love these games and you’ll get a lot of requests to do it every single class!

Students Love to Talk About Food!

The Food lesson plan is one that goes over very well with students. It’s accessible to everyone. Beginners can handle describing their native dishes simply and you can push more advanced learners to describe detailed recipes. The lesson also has a multicultural aspect as the teacher can introduce common foods from his/her home country. Finally, the plan moves on to discussing holiday meals, which means this lesson can be used for any holiday, especially holidays that have associations with special foods: Christmas, New Years, May Day, Nauryz, Easter, Ramadan, Passover.

Or use it in conjunction with At the Restaurant to discuss restaurants and eating out.

Olympics Vocabulary

Since the Summer Olympic Games have opened in Beijing, I wanted to share some Olympics vocab in English. It’s a fun topic and almost everyone watches or at least keeps track of what’s going on. So take a chance to practice your English with native speakers by talking about the Olympics or follow the news in English. Here are some descriptions of key terms by sport to help you out.

  • Archery is a sport played with a bow and arrow. The participants or archers try to hit the target by shooting the arrow with the bow. The highest score goes to those who hit the bulls eye in the center of the target.
  • Boxing involves two boxers who punch each other. A quick sharp punch is a jab and an uppercut is a punch on the chin that moves upward. If one boxer falls down or can’t continue to fight for a short time, it’s called a knockdown and if one boxer gets knocked out it means he has been knocked down and is not conscious or unable to move.
  • Gymnastics is divided into different events: The pommel horse looks a bit like a saddle and male gymnasts do different swings sitting on it. The vault is the event where gymnasts run and then jump over a platform with the help of a spring board. The balance beam is a long thin platform that gymnasts stand on and do flips, leaps and other moves. The uneven bars are two bars placed up high, one higher than the other. The high bar which is a male only event, is just one such bar. Still rings are similar but instead of a bar, the gymnast holds on to two rings suspended from a bar. Finally the floor exercises involve doing flips, jumps, twists and dance moves in a larger area.
  • Tennis is played on a court with a net that divides the court into two. Players swing rackets to hit the ball. If they hit with their arm in front of their body, it’s called a forehand shot. If they with their arm straight out, not crossing their body, it’s backhand. The whole match is made up of sets which are divided into games.

That’s a few of the sports and terms for now. I’ll post some more later on this week. As usual if you have questions or problems, feel free to add them in the comments.Also, here are some awesome worksheets and puzzles on the Olympics you can print out. It’s a great way to learn and test yourself on Olympics vocabulary.

If you’re more interested in Athletics, jump to Athletics vocabulary