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The Gift of the Magi Lesson Plan

watch-iconThis The Gift of the Magi lesson plan packet has taken me years to compile!

“The Gift of the Magi” is without a doubt one of my favorite short stories, especially for the Christmas season. I’ve been teaching it to my students for years, and now I’ve compiled 15 different “The Gift of the Magi” lesson plans, activities, and resources for you. It’s 108 pages of activities, handouts and worksheets that cover vocabulary, irony, the moral of the story, character analysis, close reading, critical reading skills, and a lot more. The packet even includes some assessment materials. Each resource comes with comprehensive teacher notes and answer keys.

Isn’t “The Gift of the Magi” Too Difficult for ESL Students?

The story itself is actually very simple:

hair-comb1A husband and wife are very much in love with each other. The wife has very beautiful hair that she loves very much. The husband has a pocket watch that he loves very much. They want to buy very nice Christmas presents for each other, but they don’t have much money. So, the wife sells her hair to get money. and buys a chain for the watch. Unfortunately, the husband sells his watch to buy the woman beautiful combs for her hair. Each one gives up the thing they love for the other one. While tragic, the story proves that the couple love each more than anything.

It’s a beautiful and touching story, a perfect example of how situational irony can work. But we don’t often do it in class, because it’s a difficult story. But it’s difficult for only two reasons, both of which I’ve addressed in my packet.:

  1. The references: There are references to things that may be unfamiliar to a modern-day student, especially one from another country. There are also allusions to the Bible and other sources in the story that students may not be familiar with. That’s why I’ve provided a lightly graded text with footnotes to explain the more obscure references and early 20th century items. This lesson pack also includes warm-up activities to get at the main theme and explain the references to the magi.
  2. The vocabulary: Let’s face it. O. Henry was a wordsmith and this story has a lot of words that are off the 200 most frequently used lists and the AWL. That’s why I’ve included:
  • A master list of those hard words for your reference.
  • More importantly, a fun quick vocab match to teach hair comb, pocket watch, watch chain, and gift.
  • There’s also an extensive vocabulary learning lesson plan which focuses on 24 words that students may not know, but which are fairly easy to explain, such as butcher and howl and platinum. Students use social learning methods to learn the meanings and then do a series of flashcard games to review them.
  • There’s also a lesson plan on predicting the meaning of difficult words in context, including figuring out how much you need to know about a word to follow the story. Keep students from looking up every single word they don’t know!
  • Finally a critical reading skills lesson models reading for the gist, focusing on words you do know and grasping the main idea without knowing every word.

gift-1008886_1280

What Does This The Gift of the Magi Lesson Plan Packet include?

  • The original version of the story, untouched and unabridged. (From the Gutenberg Project-text in the public domain)
  • The graded version, with some of the tougher vocabulary and turns of phrase simplified as well as explanatory footnotes for the more antiquated or obscure references.
  • A brief one-paragraph summary and a scene-by-scene guide to the text that students could read as a simplified easy-to-read version.
  • A word association warm-up where students brainstorm on the word “Gift”
  • A quick vocab pre-teach activity to teach gift, pocket watch, watch chain, and hair comb. If students don’t picture the right kind of comb, the story can fall flat.
  • Predicting vocabulary words meaning from context lesson plan.
  • An extensive set of vocabulary activities to pre-teach 24 key words from the text.
  • A thematic warm up on the moral of the story and the meaning of the magi. Students read the last paragraph closely and discuss the moral of the story. I love to start the lesson this way so that students can see the broader picture as they read.
  • An alternate warm-up where students discuss what a wise gift is and compare wise things to valuable things. This gets at the heart of the theme of the story.
  • A lesson on modelling critical reading skills, including ways of getting the gist of a story without knowing every word, lessons on forming questions and predicting as you read, and an unknown vocabulary prediction worksheet.
  • Extensive comprehension questions to guide reading. There’s also a “Find the Phrase” activity to help students find examples of common themes in the story.
  • Worksheet on the Scene to highlight the way the author sets the scene and establishes that Jim and Della are poor, but love each other very much.
  • Character Study Sheets for Jim and Della, plus a fun creative activity to retell the story through another character’s eyes.
  •  A complete lesson on situational irony including what it is, how it works, and how it differs from coincidence or bad luck.
  • Discussion Questions for students to dig deeper into the meaning of the text.
  • Practice doing exegesis or deep passage analysis on selected quotations from the story.
  • A set of essay and Creative Writing Topics
  • Assessment tools in the form of various quizzes and tests, all in open-answer and multiple choice form.
    giftofthemagi

This packet is designed for maximum flexibility and adaptability. Go through the whole packet and spend a week on this text alone. Or pick and choose the activities you like best. Follow the order of the packet for a great unit on this classic story. Or put together your own The Gift of the Magi lesson plan from the 15 activities included.

For a long preview, go to the Teachers Pay Teachers page and check it out for yourself.

 

 

 

 

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Giving Directions

This lesson teaches students how to give directions in English by using a map to let students practice describe where buildings are located and then give and follow geographical directions to locate specific buildings.

This lesson teaches students how to give directions in English by using a map to let students practice describe where buildings are located and then give and follow geographical directions to locate specific buildings.

direction-1076223_640Objectives

  • To give students practice in describing the location of places.
  • To teach prepositions and prepositional phrases as used to describe location
  • To practice asking and answering questions about locations
  • To give authentic practice in asking for and giving directions in a town or a city

Materials

  • Map of Downtown Imagineville
  • Giving Directions Worksheet
  • A map of your town. Open Street Map (https://www.openstreetmap.org is a great resource to print road maps of a particular town or neighborhood or even region)
  • Extra blank city maps You can use these maps to make your own exercises if you want to target particular vocabulary or give students extra practice.

Warm Up

  1. Start by asking students where you can buy good vegetables. When they give you the name of a store, ask them where it is. Listen to the problems they have giving directions in English.
  2. When students give you imprecise information, ask them to clarify or if they give wrong information, call them out on it. You might say something such as, “Next to the train station? That’s an office building, isn’t it? I can’t buy vegetables at an Italian restaurant.”
  3. Ask for a few more places. Remember to ask for the location and challenge them to be precise and accurate. This is a great chance for authentic communication with your students as you can ask for places that you genuinely want to go to. You’ll get the whole class arguing over the location and then correcting each other’s directions.

When I’m in another country, I often ask my students:

  • Where can I go to meet other expats?
  • Where can I buy macaroni and cheese?
  • Where can I buy frozen vegetables?
  • Where can I buy nice clothes?
  • Where is there a good Italian restaurant?
  • Where can I get a screwdriver? (or whatever tool or spare part I might need to fix something at home)

Locations

  1. Now hand out the Map of Downtown Imagineville. Call on students one at a time to find the locations below, eliciting the street and the corner street as well as what it is next to or across from.

Students can do this as a whole class or in small groups.

……

Giving Directions

Introduce giving directions by asking a few of them how to go from their home to school.

You can view a more comprehensive preview and purchase the entire lesson at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store: Where Is It? Lesson Plan: Practice Giving Directions on a Map. I always want to hear how people use these lessons in their classrooms and how I can improve my lessons, so feel free to leave me a comment here or feedback at my store!

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Restaurant Roleplay for Beginners

restaurant roleplayThis restaurant role play is how I teach beginner students to order at a restaurant. The goal of the lesson is to get them to do a role play of being at a restaurant, so the focus of the lesson is as communicative as possible. In addition, I have an intermediate/advanced level restaurant lesson that you can check out.

Restaurant roleplays are a great way to teach students survival skills. They also provide a basic customer service dialogue that they can modify. And I like how they absorb more complex grammar such as “would” without having to parse it just yet.

This full lesson plan helps ESL false beginners and low-level students practice ordering at a restaurant. The lesson includes:

  • complete teacher notes
  • a warm-up
  • an exercise that elicits key language
  • an exercise to write a sample dialogue
  • work with some target vocabulary and grammar
  • materials for a role play including sample menus and a sample dialogue for students to follow.

Objectives

  • To give students practice ordering in a restaurant
  • To practice the structures “I would like” and “May I have”
  • To promote fluency and automaticity

This restaurant role play lesson plan has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can purchase and download it there.

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Interview a Star: An Interview Activity for Fun Speaking Practice

This is a pretty simple speaking lesson where each student picks a famous person and then the other students interview him/her as that person. It can be done in class or assign kids to do research for homework first.

interview activityThis is a pretty simple speaking lesson and interview activity where each student picks a famous person and then the other students interview him/her as that person. It can be done in class or assign kids to do research for homework first.

Materials

Preparation

Each student should choose a famous person they plan to act as. Alternatively you can assign roles so this lesson can be linked to a recent reading about famous people, or it can be linked to current events where students choose people in the news. Students can also choose or be assigned fictional characters so it can be linked directly to a novel, film or almost any activity you’ve done in class.

If the characters are well-known to everyone (ideally they should be), you can run the activity in class. Otherwise you might have students choose the famous person for homework and do research. Or you can bring source materials to class and do a lesson on researching. In any case, students should be prepared to be interviewed as this person. To keep the class focused or make sure they do some research, you can use the Interview Fact Sheet. In any case, students should be ready to be interviewed as this character so they should know something about them and be prepared to improvise, guess or make up any answers on the spot!

Interview a Star

Now, you can do this two ways:
1) Put the students in pairs. Each student prepares 5 questions for the other student and then they take turns interviewing each other.

2) Do a mock talk-show in class. In turn, each student goes to the front of the class, announces who they are acting as, and the whole class can interview them.

You may choose to have the interviewers in turn do some research first. This works best if you pair the students. One way to do it is to have each student choose who they will be. Then pair them, at random or have them choose who they want to interview. Now each student has to do research on both the person they picked AND the person their partner picked. That way the questions will be more relevant and focused.

You have to be a little careful to make sure that people don’t ask insulting or slanderous questions like, “President Bush, why are you so ugly?” Or, “Angelina Jolie, will you sleep with me?” Other than that, this is a very fun lesson and students get very creative explaining away scandals or making up histories of their characters. It’s especially fun when the interviewer knows more about the person than the actor does. Encourage students to be creative!

Note: For beginner students, you might ask them to just find some basic information on the star and formulate basic questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you like to do?” For higher level students, I would push them to ask more probing questions and give complete answers.

Thanks to EnglishBaby! for reminding me of this great idea.

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How to Use Videos in Class

FIlmFBMediaAlthough, I freely admit that I’ve planned movie lessons upon occasion in order to get out of preparing a real less, students actually can get a lot out of videos and films. When students are watching a video, they’re listening and also absorbing body language. Videos are full of visual cues that students can pick up on. Finally, films are often fun and engaging, so students want to pay attention. But without a plan, a film-based lesson can turn into kids just watching a movie.

Now there are some great sites for using films in class, such as I’ll also  Film English . But what if you have a film you love, and you want to use it in class. But no one’s done a lesson about it yet?

How to Use Films in Class

Here’s a basic framework for how I like to use videos in class, along with some examples of how it can be used with a video that I love: Mr Bean. It does require breaking the video into shorter sections. I recommend watching the video before class to get an idea of how it logically breaks down into sections. Note the times when each section begins and ends.

Preparations

You’ll also need to prepare a few sets of questions. First you need questions that students can answer while watching the film. These questions should have clear and concrete answers. They should guide the student to understand the important parts of the film such as “Why did the man go into the building?”, “Who did he see in there?” Avoid questions about small details, like “What color was the man’s suit.”

On the other hand, if the film maker is using color or clothing to depict a theme, it’s good to direct students’ attention to that while they are watching.

The second set of questions should be more abstract and focus on the themes of the film or larger artistic issues. Ideally, these should be questions that require an understanding of various parts of the film, and be open to debate: “What kind of person do you think the hero is?” or “Do you agree with the mother that people are always cruel to each other?”

If the film is not one that lends itself to heavy themes, or it’s a non-fiction film, you can ask questions such as, “Have you ever been in that situation?” or “What do you think would happen if something was a bit different?”

The Procedure

1. Put students in pairs or small groups.

2. Play the video bit by bit. Have students watch and try to answer questions related to that section.

For the Mr. Bean video, I’d divide it into the parts where he makes the sandwich, eats the sandwich, and perhaps making tea/the ending. So I’d give students a worksheet with three sets of questions to answer as they are watching.

As for what would be good questions: I’d ask lots of questions about what he pulls out of his coat and why. Very concrete questions about what he does. Incidentally, this would be a good video for practicing vocabulary or verb tenses as students describe Mr. Bean’s actions.

3. Have them check their answers with another pair.

At the end of each section, stop the video and give them a chance to check their answers with another pair or group. This lets them help each other recap what happened, too. If you hear confused students, hopefully you’ll also hear other students explaining what happened to them.

4. If the whole class is completely lost, replay that section.

If 75% of the class, can’t figure it out, give them another chance or two, before stepping in to help.

5. Discuss the questions and any other questions students have to make sure they are following the video.

Before going on to the next section, give students a chance to ask any burning questions or quickly underline any key points. You might say something as simple as, “So, we’ve seen Mr. Bean make a sandwich in a very odd way. And his neighbor, well, his neighbor is pretty surprised. He probably thinks this is pretty gross.”

6. Have students predict what will happen next.

You may also want to give them any information they might need to interpret the next section.

7. For the next section of the video, repeat steps 2-6.

8. When the video is over, review the video as a whole. Discuss questions about the general theme or objective of the video.

You might do a quick summarizing activity, such as having students write a short summary or each tell one thing that happened. I sometimes do paragraph frames with key words missing and have students fill in the missing words.

Then move on to thematic questions. For Mr. Bean, questions about intercultural understanding often work well, as well as the theme of clowning. Clowns show us why we do things the way we do them, by showing what happens if you do them the wrong way. At the same time, clowns are very consistent in their own universe. You might ask students what is the normal way to make a sandwich? Why do you think Mr. Bean does it his way? Does Mr. Bean think we are strange? Can you think of different ways to do the same thing?

You could discuss the performance. Why doesn’t Mr. Bean talk? How does the actor use his face to make us laugh? What is the role of the straight man?

9. Move on to talking about how the video relates to something personal. This is a good time to do a writing or task where students apply something from the video to their lives. Students could also create their own scenes, or talk about a time they saw a clown or comedy performance.

I hope that framework works for you. I’d love to hear how it goes for your film-based lessons. Let me know in the comments.

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Clue by Clue: Murder of a Millionaire

Clue by Clue: Murder of a Millionaire is one of my favorite mystery activities. It’s an original mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie. A wealthy businessman having a dinner party at his country house is found murdered. The catch? The room was locked from the inside!

Who did it?

His wife, who found out he was cheating on her? The secretive maid? His own business partner? You give the students the clues one by one. By the end, they have all the information they need to solve it.

Murder of a Millionaire is the longest Clue By Clue, with 22 clues. As with all clue by clue mysteries, students are given the situation to analyze. They are then given the clue cards, one at a time. In pairs or small groups, students analyze each clue to try to decide if it’s relevant or irrelevant and what it means. It’s a great way for students to practice critical thinking skills, such as evaluating evidence, synthesizing information from different clues, and also telling truth from lie and fact from opinion. (Check out my post on Why short mysteries make awesome critical thinking activities for more and a list of all my clue by clue activities).

Previews

Clue by Clue Murder of a Millionaire Preview
The Teacher Sheet with the Situation, Hints and the Solution.
Clue by Clue Murder of a Millionaire Preview
One page of the clues to cut out and give to the students one by one.

Download Murder of a Millionaire

So, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store to purchase Clue by Clue: Murder of a Millionaire Mystery Activity!

Or check out the other Clue by Clue Mystery Activities.

You can also visit my ever-growing section of mystery activities and lesson plans for other classroom resources, including a graphic organizer and story cards to help students write their own mysteries.

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Clue by Clue Mystery Bundle

The Clue by Clue Mystery Bundle contains 7 of my Clue by Clue Mystery Activities. What is a Clue by Clue Mystery? It’s a great warm-up, filler, or time killer for early finishers. Students are given a mystery to solve–whodunit or how did they do it or why. They have to figure it out by reading a series of clues, one at a time. As they receive each clue, they speculate on its significance and what it tells them about the situation.

Once they have received all the clues, they should have enough information to figure it out!

Clue by Clues make great warm-up activities, fillers, or time killers for those last minutes of class and early finishers. They can be critical reading activities that teach students to read closely for details, synthesize information from different sources, apply prior knowledge about the world, and to recognize the logic of a claim and evaluate its validity.

They are also a lot of fun!

While students are solving the mysteries they are also developing their spoken language skills, such as:
* Modal verbs of speculation: She must have forgotten her keys, It could have been the butler
* Opinion language: I think…., I’m positive…, I’m not sure…
* Hedging: It’s possible, probably, maybe, it’s not impossible.
* Conclusions: That means that…
* Emphasis: There’s no way that…
* Hypotheticals: What if he didn’t do it; If he was at the movies, he couldn’t have done it.

Teacher Notes are included with hints and the solution along with a students sheet that contains the clues for you to copy and cut-up.

The activities included (with previews for each one) are:
The Break-In

The Elevator Routine Riddle

Imprisoned!

An Unrelated Murder

Murder of a Millionaire

Empty Bank

The Perfect Crime

The Break In

And the Mystery Story Reading Graphic Organizer

Buy the full bundle here. And check out my ever-growing section of mystery activities and lesson plans for other classroom resources!

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Clue by Clue: The Perfect Murder

Clue by Clue: The Perfect Murder asks students to solve the mystery of how a woman killed her husband. Her husband never saw it coming. The police never even investigated her.

How did she do it…and get away?

The Perfect Murder is based on one of my favorite episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. The best part is, once students solve it, you’ve got a great topic of conversation.

Did she even commit a crime?

Like many of the Clue By Clue mysteries, The Perfect Murder gives students all the information they need to figure out how she did it, and got away! There are no tricks or gimmicks here. But what happened is so unbelievable, that students come up with all sorts of great theories!

What is Clue by Clue?

In pairs or small groups, students analyze each clue to try to decide if it’s relevant or irrelevant and what it means. It’s a great way for students to practice critical thinking skills, such as evaluating evidence, synthesizing information from different clues, and also telling truth from lie and fact from opinion. (Check out my post on Why short mysteries make awesome critical thinking activities for more and a list of all my clue by clue activities).

Previews

Clue by Clue The Perfect Murder Preview
The Teacher Sheet with the situation, hints and the solution.
Clue by Clue The Perfect Murder Preview
Student sheet with the situation and the clues to be cut out and shared with them one by one.

Download The Perfect Murder

So, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store to purchase Clue by Clue: The Perfect Murder Mystery Activity!

Or check out the other Clue by Clue Mystery Activities.

You can also visit my ever-growing section of mystery activities and lesson plans for other classroom resources, including a graphic organizer and story cards to help students write their own mysteries.

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Graphic Organizer for Reading Mysteries

I love teaching mysteries to my English students. The best mysteries are complicated and involve close reading and holding a lot of details in your head at once. So I designed this mystery reading graphic organizer that students can fill in as they read a mystery or suspense story.

It helps students solve the mystery by finding all the clues and suspects and then analyzing them. At the same time, it teaches important reading skills such as reading for details, evaluating information from different parts of a reading, critical analysis, reading for an unreliable narrator/character and of course reading for fun.

As students read, they fill in the sheet with key details such as clues and suspects. After reading, they share their worksheets with each other. They can consult in groups to add or revise the worksheet. Then, if the mystery is well-written, they should be able to say Who did it? by the end of class!

You can also find short mystery games to read with these mysteries in the Mystery section of my store.

The mystery reading graphic organizer is on my TpT store and comes with complete instructions on how to fill it out.

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Clue by Clue: Elevator Routine

Clue by Clue: The Elevator Routine is a puzzle, based on a well-known joke for children. Every day a woman leaves her apartment on the 20th floor. She gets in the elevator and goes to the ground floor. But when she comes home, she gets off at the 15th floor. Then she walks up the 5 remaining floors.

What’s going on?

Is the elevator broken? Does she forget where she lives? Maybe she’s trying to get some exercise. When students go through all the clues and figure out the answer, they’ll probably groan. It’s a pretty silly puzzle, but one that gets students practicing critical thinking and talking about their theories.

What is Clue by Clue?

In pairs or small groups, students analyze each clue to try to decide if it’s relevant or irrelevant and what it means. It’s a great way for students to practice critical thinking skills, such as evaluating evidence, synthesizing information from different clues, and also telling truth from lie and fact from opinion. (Check out my post on Why short mysteries make awesome critical thinking activities for more and a list of all my clue by clue activities).

Previews

Clue by Clue Elevator Routine Preview
The Teacher Sheet with the situation, hints and the solution.
Clue by Clue Elevator Routine Preview
The student sheet with the situation and clues to be handed out to them one by one.

Download Elevator Routine

So, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store to purchase Clue by Clue: Elevator Routine Mystery Activity!

Or check out the other Clue by Clue Mystery Activities.

You can also visit my ever-growing section of mystery activities and lesson plans for other classroom resources, including a graphic organizer and story cards to help students write their own mysteries.

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