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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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Valentine's Day Discussion Lesson

A lesson plan on love, dating and romance.

Valentine’s Day is one of the few times when it is OK to break the rule about avoiding talking about love and dating in the classroom. Since our students generally are intensely curious about those things and highly opinionated, Valentine’s Day is a great topic for endless authentic conversation. I first did this lesson in Kazakhstan, a fairly conservative culture, years ago and was astounded when at the end of our 90 minute session, I couldn’t get the students to leave.

Preview

Warm Up #1: The story of a relationship in phrasal verbs

  1. Put up the following list of phrasal verbs/idioms:
    • get to know someone
    • hang out
    • ask out
    • go out
    • be together
    • get engaged
    • get married
    • move in together
    • have children
    • break up
    • get divorced
  2. Have students look it over and see if they can guess what these words have in common. Hold off on defining any of the terms at first to let students practice getting the main idea of a “text” without knowing every word.
  3. When students have had a few guesses, reveal that it is describing a relationship from meeting to divorce! Ask students if they feel this is typical or not. You can also ask students which steps they feel are necessary to a good relationship and which are not.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
  2. What do we celebrate on Valentine’s Day?
  3. How do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
  4. Is Valentine’s Day celebrated differently in your country or culture?

  1. Who should pay on a date?
  2. Is love only for young people?
  3. Women: What advice would you give men who want to have a girlfriend?
  4. Men: What advice would you give women who want to have a boyfriend?
  5. What is the difference between being friends and being a couple?

  1. Is it possible to be friends with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend?

Extension Ideas
1. Have students interview their parents about how they met and fell in love.

3. Have students make Valentine’s Day cards. You can also have fun with this by having them make the worst ever Valentine’s Day card. Or give them a target audience such as teachers, farmers, doctors, the elderly, supermodels, or anything else you can think of.

hearts-37308_1280The full lesson includes:

        • 4 different warm up activities. You can choose one to use or chain them together to make a whole unit on Valentine’s Day.
        • 36 Discussion Questions that scaffold from basic factual questions to open-ended questions about opinions on love, marriage, and relationships.
        • The questions are formatted to be handed out to students and organized by topic. However, you may want to keep the list of questions yourself and ask them one by one.
        • 5 extension activities for homework or a group project. You may also want to use all of these or pick just one.

Download it at TpT

You can purchase and download the Valentine’s Day Discussion Lesson Plan at my Teachers Pay Teachers store along with many of my other high quality, high interest lesson plans, activities, and classroom resources.

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Vocabulary Square

This is one of those activities I stumble on in my files and think, “Surely, I’ve posted on this before.” That’s because this is such a  productive way to review vocabulary–students have to think about the meaning, the part of speech, and how to use it. And it’s an activity that produces something you can hang on your wall and refer to later, or reproduce and give to students in the form of flash cards. Most importantly, students love it. I did this in class and the students raved about it so much to their other teachers that the whole school started doing it.

Vocabulary Squares are easy to make but they should be done only as review of a list of vocabulary words or as further practice when students know the words well enough to use them in a sentence. Otherwise, they can reinforce errors.

Making Vocab SquaresVocabulary Square

  1. Give students one piece of paper for every word you want them to do.
  2. Have them fold the paper in half and then in half again. When they unfold it, they will have a piece of paper with four sections.
  3. In the top left section, students write the word they are studying. It’s good to have them mark the part of speech, either explicitly or by putting “to” in front of verbs and an article in front of nouns.
  4. In the top right section, students should illustrate the word. For some abstract words, they might have to draw a scene or make a little comic strip or caption.  Remind students that they don’t have to be great artists; stick figures will do just fine. Optionally, I let students Google search an image as long as they are critically thinking about the image they choose rather than just printing out the first result. That defeats the purpose of having students reflect on the meaning of the word and using their visual brains to depict it.
  5. In the bottom left corner, students should write the definition and/or synonyms.
  6. Finally, students should use the word in a sentence or ideally, write a question that other students can answer which involves the word.

Note: As students are doing this, make sure to monitor and correct any mistakes. Also make sure students aren’t copying from a dictionary or using the word oddly, possibly confusing it with a synonym or related word. 

In terms of dividing the vocabulary, that’s up to you. You might have every student do every word on their vocab list. You might give each student one or two or three words. This can be a group activity. It can even be a station activity, where students rotate doing different words or different quadrants.

Using Vocabulary Squares

The activity of doing the vocabulary squares itself is a great review. It targets the definition, visual associations, context, and even spelling. However, there are also a number of ways to use it.

  1. Students can fold their squares so that only the picture shows. Then they pass around their squares so that other students can guess. Or they hang them on the wall and students walk around and guess the meanings before checking their answers.
  2. Students can fold their squares so that only the definition shows and pass around their squares or hang them on the wall for other students to guess the word.
  3. If more than one student is doing the same word, you can hang up the vocab squares for the same word and have the class decide which the best one is. Alternatively, each creator can present to the class on why his vocab square is the best. This activity should focus on the sentence and the picture.
  4. Cut up a set number of vocab squares and have students reconstruct them by picking out and matching the word, definition, picture, and sentence. Of course, to do this you have to use squares done by the same students. Otherwise, students can use the handwriting to match.
  5. You can hang the vocab squares up and have the students respond to the sentence, or answer the question.
  6. Finally, you can just hang the vocab squares on the wall to make a giant wall of review. My students often browsed my vocab square walls before class or before a test or quiz.

 

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Question Matrix

We all want to teach our students critical thinking skills. The best way to do that is to help them formulate questions, collect evidence for both sides of the question, weight that evidence, and come to a conclusion. That involves teaching them to be comfortable with ambiguity as they read, process and critically analyze a reading or a discussion topic.  Remember that they are already floating in a world of uncertainty as they learn a second language. Now we’re asking them to consider nuances of words and grammar functions they are just beginning to understand how to use.

That’s why I love worksheets for teaching critical thinking.  I particularly think teaching critical thinking works best with reading texts as well because students have a written page that they can go back to and analyze at their own pace. Reading provides a grounding that the ephemeral nature of speaking cannot.

So here’s my worksheet that works well for helping students address critical reading questions in texts, although it could easily be adapted to discussions or even choosing the topic of an essay.I I don’t think the method is particularly unique but this worksheet helps student see the process of collecting and weighing evidence for a point of view.

The handout

Question Matrix

Sample Question Matrix filled out by yours truly.

How to use it

After students have read the text, pose a question that requires critical thought. It should be one where the answer is not clearly cut and dry. This might mean that the author of the text is himself equivocal on the topic or one where tone is important. It might also require two step logic or looking at various points in the text and synthesizing that with background knowledge.

Have students take the worksheet and write the question in the box marked Question. Now have them collect all the evidence that might demonstrate that the answer to their question is positive in the box under Yes. After they have done that, they can collect evidence that the answer might be negative in the box under No. 

Then, let students evaluate the evidence they have collected. They can cross-out evidence that doesn’t really provide strong support or evidence that after a second look is irrelevant. They can star particularly strong or convincing evidence. Advanced students might draw lines to make connections between ideas and figure out which evidence relies on other evidence. In this way, they can get into analyzing the structure of the arguments themselves.

Finally, students should be asked to write an answer to the question,  their conclusion, and an explanation of why they feel that their answer is correct or at least supportable.

And that conclusion may lead to yet another question on yet another worksheet…

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Target Vocabulary Questions

This is less of a coherent lesson plan and more of a series of related activities to recycle or review vocabulary through questions that drive the student to use the target words or phrases.  Teaching vocabulary is difficult because it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what learning or knowing a word really means, let alone how we evaluate when a student actually knows a word. As much as possible,  I like to give students the chance to be exposed to and use the vocabulary in a meaningful context. Asking and answering questions that authentically use the vocab is a great way to do that. Questions also lend themselves to incorporating other learning points like grammar, language style, or content. So here’s a few ways to do it.

I. Simple Vocabulary Questions

The simplest way to review or test vocabulary knowledge with questions is to give students questions that have the vocabulary in them, which sounds fairly obvious. See the image below for one example:

SimpleVocabQuestionsIt seems straightforward enough. But there are a few important points for writing good questions .

  1. The questions should use the vocabulary authentically. There’s no point in giving the students input if it isn’t good input. And students can pick up a lot from context, consciously and unconsciously including the most commonly used form of a word, the register and collocations. All of these are things that will help them later. And all of these tend to be things that students get wrong when using a new vocabulary word. For example, while “inflict” means to cause, it is really only used with negative situations and it generally collocates with a handful of words. A question like, “What do you enjoy inflicting on others?” is not going to help students learn to use the word correctly.
  2. The questions should help the student reflect on the meaning of the word in some way. Depending on the part of speech, students should be asked to give an example, or reflect on a nuance of the word, or relate it to a synonym or antonym, or discuss the word in some authentic context.
  3. That being said, you also need to consider what kind of knowledge of the word the student needs. Do they need to be able to recognize the word, grasp vaguely what it means, use it in a set chunk, or write and speak it clearly with 100% accuracy in all situations?
  4. Consider bolding or underlining or italicizing the word in some way so that students notice it.
  5. Finally, don’t be afraid to sneak in grammar review and content review by making the questions also feature a particular grammar form or relate to the theme of the unit you’re doing. This is especially easy if the vocabulary is on a particular topic. However do be sure that the questions aren’t taken directly from the book or already covered elsewhere so that students are sick to death of saying what their favorite food is or why salt is bad for you or whatever.

II. Question Dictations

Even if you can’t relate your questions to another topic, you can get in a bit more speaking practice, not to mention practice asking  for clarification by having students dictate the questions to each other before discussing them. Here’s an example of the Vocab Dictation Game. You’ll see a teacher’s sheet with all the questions that feature the target vocabulary and then a sheet for Student A and a sheet for Student B.  Basically each student has half of the list of questions and they need to take turns dictating their half of the questions to the other student. This is a great way to increase student talk time, force them to pronounce the word, and hear it, and also a chance to practice survival phrases like,

  • What did you say?
  • Can you say that again?
  • How do you spell it?
  • What did you say after “blue”?

Obviously to be done right, students should not see each other’s papers until they have finished dictating the questions. Then they can check if they got everything down correctly before discussing the questions.

III. Simple Vocabulary Answers

Obviously, if students are answering questions that use the word then they are recognizing the word and what it means. However, they may or may not use the word in the answer. If you do Question Dictations, then at least they are speaking the word. However that doesn’t mean they’re getting meaningful practice with it.  So one variation is to in some way force students to use the word in the answers as well as the questions.

A nice way to do this is with prompts:

VocabAnswers So here, I’m demanding that the students use the target idioms in their answers. The trick to doing this is to give authentic questions and imagine authentic answers–without forcing an answer. I think if you look at questions 5, 7, and 8, I’m basically forcing the student to give an answer of my own devising. #5 is pretty much set up for students to say something like, “You have to narrow down the textbook by underlining what’s important and what’s not.” Or, “You have to narrow it down to what you think will be on the test.” And that may not be the student’s strategy, so this is a bad example. Or a good example of what not to do. Because you want students to be focusing on expressing themselves with the language and not trying to read the teacher’s mind.

 

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Guide Students Through a Sample Problem Solution Essay

This is less a lesson plan and more a worksheet to guide students through writing the problem-solution essay: Guide to a problem solution essay.

I found that when teaching the problem-solution essay, it was difficult to get students to understand how to do more than write a list of solutions. So I deliberately created a slightly complicated problem with lots of potential solutions for students to follow. This can be used as review or even as a test. You can also go through it in class step by step and have students fill it out together as a way of teaching how to write and organize a problem-solution essay.

More and more, I am moving away from the traditional 5-paragraph essay and these set text-types such as compare-contrast, process, problem-solution because they are rather inauthentic and don’t often exist outside the classroom. But problem-solution organization is valuable as defining a problem and presenting a solution are common parts of writing essays, articles, even business letters. Feel free to let me know how you use this Guide to a problem solution essay.

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Leading Questions to Get Opposing Arguments and Rebuttals

This is a worksheet I designed to help teach students the all-too confusing art of writing argument or opinion essays. It’s particularly difficult for them to write convincing opposing arguments and rebuttals. The format of an argumentative essay is also difficult to write. So in this worksheet, I ask them to think of a change they want to make to the school.Usually students want to do something pretty controversial such as have school start later or cut classes or fire all the teachers or something. So it’s easy for them to imagine how the director of the school might not be sympathetic. The worksheet leads them to formulate a good opposing argument by imagining what the director might say about their proposal. They then come up with a rebuttal. Finally, they put it all together into a paragraph. This is also a very authentic use of the opposing argument-rebuttal form, so it gives them excellent practice.

Leading Questions for an Argument Essay Body Paragraph

There are a few ways you can use this worksheet.

1) Talk out an example in class and lead students collectively to answer questions 1-4, taking questions, modeling your thought process and so on. Then have students work on it individually.
2) Give it to students as an outlining/brainstorming exercise.
3) Use it as a quiz or test after covering opposing arguments and materials.
4) It’s also a fun way to get feedback from students about their

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Only Like This Do I Teach Negative Inversion

Demystify negative inversion for emphatic sentences with this painless lesson plan that places the grammar form in the context of other similar structures in English.

There aren’t a lot of resources out there for teaching negative inversion. That’s the form in which the verb comes before the subject when the sentence starts with a negative word such as:

  • Nowhere else do we have such fun.
  • Not only do I like coffee but I also like tea.
  • Never have I seen such a beautiful sunset.

It’s not the most common form to use, but it still crops up in the textbook every now and then.  And honestly, advanced students do need to at least recognize the form and understand sentences that use it.

If you have ever had to teach negative inversion, however, you know that it’s difficult for students. Because it’s so rarely used, students don’t get much input of this form. And many grammar books omit it, so students haven’t learned it before. That also means you, as the teacher, don’t have a lot of resources out there.

That was my problem, so I made this lesson plan to Make Negative Inversion in English Easy which you can preview and purchase at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Practice TOEFL Worksheets

Many years ago, I found myself with not much going on at work. So I began working on my own TOEFL iBT textbook and practice tests, as one does. There was a plan to have them published in Kazakhstan and to have the tests used by a scholarship program, but it never came to much. So I figure I might as well put them up here. They include the grammar and style questions as well as reading comprehension and listening.

These were written a few years ago, so they might be stylistically a bit out of touch. Also, standard disclaimer that the information here is shared for testing purposes only. I don’t claim to be an expert on the greenhouse effect or budgeting or anything else. And of course, I have no affiliation with ETS or the TOEFL test itself. These were written purely by me as materials to help you get ready for the TOEFL iBT exam. I will be updating it as I find, edit and polish my old tests.

And of course, you are welcome to use these for any kind of grammar or reading comprehension practice!

 

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Compare and Contrast Signal Words

A long and comprehensive list of Compare Contrast Signal Words categorized by grammatical function. It helps students to use although, however, similarly and both..and correctly. I’ve also included some ways to use it in the classroom.

One of my pet peeves when it comes to lists of helpful words or phrases for essay writing is that students often do not learn the grammar of these phrases. In other words, they learn that but and however are both contrast words. However, they do not learn that they can’t always be used interchangeably. So I made up this list of   Compare Contrast Signal Words  shown in grammatical context. They are divided by whether they talk about similarities or differences and by whether they connect clauses or start sentences or require parallel structure.

It’s very comprehensive and long. I certainly wouldn’t just give it to students. In fact, I initially designed it with a specific textbook in mind that had follow-up exercises.

Ways to use it in the classroom:

  • Give it to students as a reference when they write.
  • Give it to students for homework to review and come back with questions.
  • Have students write compare and contrast sentences using but, and, yet and however. Assign them a more interesting signal word (as well as, in addition to, by contrast, whereas) and have them rewrite the sentences, changing the grammar as necessary. This could be a chain activity where one student says a simple sentence and the next student has to use a different contrast word.
  • Put students in groups and assign them one signal word from each box. Have them write example sentences for each signal word using them grammatically correctly. Go over them as a class.
  • Put up pairs of words on the board, some obvious comparisons and some less so. Dogs and cats, cars and planes, rain and snow are obvious ones. Teacher and professor, child and adult, house and home, hero and role model and idol require some deeper thinking. In teams have students write as many sentences as they can using different signal words about one pair. Then as a class go over the sentences and edit them.
  • Write a paragraph, or have students write a paragraph with no compare and contrast signal words. Have students insert them, rewriting sentences as necessary.
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