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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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Classroom Posters for the First Day of Class

These are my two favorite classroom posters. They provide great first day of school activities to help students get to know each other. What’s even better is that the bonding and team building goes beyond the first day. All by themselves, students start congregating around these posters to chat and talk about themselves.

iyow
The first poster invites students to share some words in their own language. By letting students bring their own language and identity in the classroom, you’re showing that you know they are more than the sum of what they can express in English and that learning English doesn’t mean forgetting their past. One of the big surprises with using this poster is how fast students start teaching each other words using English as their medium, of course. They start demanding to know things in English so they can translate into their own language! Furthermore, students start thinking about register, tone, difficulties of translating, pragmatics, and social context. Breaks and time before or after class will always find a student staring at this poster.

worldmap

The second poster is a simple world map and I love this one I found with all the flags on it. A simple day one activity is to have students label their country with their name. Then have them look at the map and their classmates’ countries of origin. Get them to form at least one question about one other student’s country, such as what do you eat there, what is the weather like, why is your flag like that. Students find the person they want to ask and briefly share information about their home countries. This is another one that gets students hanging out during breaks, studying who is from where and discussing their countries of origin.

 

Both posters are for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store in multiple sizes: 24 x 36, A2, legal, and letter. Purchase and download the In Your Own Words Poster and the World Flags Map Poster.

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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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Clue by Clue: The Unrelated Murder

Clue by Clue: Unrelated Murder Critical Thinking Activity asks students to solve a murder mystery with no apparent motive. But there’s more than meets the eye. This mystery, based on a classic premise, requires students to think carefully and put together information from a variety of clues.

What are Clue by Clues

Clue by Clues are fun mystery games I came up with to share my love of solving mysteries with my classes. Students work in small groups to solve a puzzle. The catch is that they are given each clue one at a time. This slows down the mystery solving process, meaning students spend more time discussing each clue and revising their theories. That means more time using critical thinking skills. It also means more talking time as students discuss the importance of each clue, reevaluate their previous ideas, and try to persuade others of their point of view.

Each Clue by Clue is solvable and the clues are carefully written to lead students down the path to the answer by eliminating alternative theories. There are also hint questions that teachers can give to students.

Why Clue by Clues

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 thinking activities that teach students to look 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.

Where to Get Clue by Clue Critical Thinking Activities

You can download and purchase Clue by Clue: Unrelated Murder Critical Thinking Activity at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. And check out my ever-growing section of mystery activities and lesson plans for other classroom resources!

Also available as a PowerPoint presentation game

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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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