Guest post: Talking about the past

Isabelle Julienne, a reader of this blog, is sharing this game adaptation for students to practise the Past Simple in an engaging, interactive way.

Here are the different games you can play and the procedure for each one of them:

You need a regular deck of cards.

GAME 1: Make up 4 teams, or 4 individual players, and 1 game master. Hand out the “player” sheets and give the deck of cards to the game master. The game master takes out a card, calls out colour and number. All the players check their sheet and the one who has the colour and number reads out the question or statement. The other three players check their sheets to find the corresponding answer or question. Play until the pack of cards has been used.

GAME 2: For this version, keep only hearts and clubs in the deck of cards. Make up 4 teams, or 4 individual players, and 1 game master. Hand out the “player” sheets and give the deck of cards to the game master. The students have to invent questions, using the simple past or any other tense you wish to revise, and write them in the space provided if there is a question mark at the end of the line. The game master takes out a card, calls out colour and number. All the players check their sheet and the one who has the colour and number reads out the question. The other players check their sheets to find who has the same number and colour on the line and must answer the question spontaneously. Play until this pack of cards has been used.

– Isabelle Julienne

Endless stories

The following lesson idea is based on an ‘infinite’ story by Vaskange. The mesmerising way in which he recounts his holidays, through art and feelings, and how these build on one another, seemed too appealing not to use in a lesson.

1. Set the scene by playing the video till 0:02 and asking: “What is this person doing?” Then play it till 0:06: “What is he drawing?”


2. Give out the jumbled sentences in the set of cameras. Tell the students these sentences belong to the rest of the video. The students first complete each sentence with the words provided, changing the form of the words when needed.


3. The students watch the video and put the sentences from each camera in the right order by writing the number. (You may also ask them to guess the order before watching!)

4. Check the students’ immediate personal reactions by discussing the video briefly: “How does the artist feel?”, “What can you tell about this person?” Write down any key words related to feelings and personality that may come up.

5. As a follow-up activity, have the students create a plan for a story that starts “I drew a new story to tell you about my holidays…” This could be an actual holiday they enjoyed, but it could also be imaginary or one they are planning to enjoy in the future (even a walk around Mars will do!) In all cases, encourage the students to plan their filmstrip by thinking of a number of relevant scenes each of which must be closely related to, at least, one feeling. Use the vocabulary shared and/or introduced in 4 to help you brainstorm vocabulary related to feelings, especially those related to happiness and surprise.

6. The students write the different scenes.

7. Can the students create an infinite story similar to Vaskange’s in digital form? (probably not the same technique – a digital storyboard will do, for instance.) Perhaps on paper, and then create a display with the different filmstrips? A brief oral presentation or a gallery walk? QR codes of the digital products with general comprehension questions or a whole-group plenary discussion? How about…?

End product ideas for language projects or tasks

With the gradual implementation of a new education law here in Spain about to start, which includes a competency-based and project-based approach to learning, teaching will revolve around “learning situations” which will typically result in an end product. Nothing we hadn’t been doing in EFL for years, I suppose even more so those of us working in CLIL schools, but it’s now an approach that will be used across the content areas and no matter the type of school you work in.

Whenever I plan a project, I usually start by thinking of the topic first (sometimes following the curriculum itself, sometimes “imposed” by the textbook *sigh*) and an end product that could go with it. It is also true that the final choice is often marked by the interests a particular group of students may have and their specific learning needs. Of course, it is the objectives, and especially the process, that count here, but I think it helps to start with these ideas and build the lesson, task or project around them.

In the document below, I’ve collected a few end product ideas and arranged them in alphabetical order to have a handy reference we can use for inspirational purposes when planning. These are all intended for secondary school students learning English as a foreign language. Some end products are digital in nature, and I believe the rest can all be easily carried out using different types of technology, so I haven’t specified the type of format.

This is a first draft, however, and I’m sure I’m missing loads of ideas. Could you please share any other ideas for end products you’ve tried in the past or you’ve read about? I’ll add them to the document and update it so we can all use it! Please leave a comment below or email me at onthesamepage.elt@gmail.com.

Thanks for your help with this!

______________________

UPDATE 3/9/22

Please check the updated document here.

Roller coasters

Lead-in

1. “Have you ever ridden a roller coaster?” “What was it like?” “What do you think makes a roller coaster exciting?” Write down a few ideas.

Listening

2. Explain that you are going to watch a video about how roller coasters are designed. The students first watch the video till 2:04 and decide whether the sentences in 1 (bottom right corner, the start of the roller coaster on the worksheet) are true or false. Ask the students to provide the right information if the sentence is false. Listen to that part of the video again if needed.

KEY: a. FALSE (He wasn’t the first one, but he popularised them.); b. TRUE; c. FALSE (It was 18 miles long.); d. FALSE (It opened in 1884.)

3. Listen to the four main components engineers take into account when designing roller coasters by watching the video till 2:46.

4. Ask the students to follow the track of the roller coaster on their worksheet to complete a number of activities:
Component 1: Train cars. In their own words, the students explain how train cars are kept attached to the tracks.


Component 2: Track design. Here four key words are provided. The students listen and write down why they are mentioned in the video.
KEY: a. steel (Most roller coasters are made of steel nowadays.); b. 4 minutes (“Steel Dragon 2000” takes 4 minutes to complete.); c. sick (The way people might feel if the roller coaster is too fast.); d. boring (People will find roller coasters boring if the ride is too slow.)


Component 3: System to raise the cars. The students complete the sentences with six words as they listen.
KEY: a. gravity; b. pulley; c. crest / is released; d. beneath / conveyor


Component 4: Braking system. The students join several sentence halves in the best way possible.
KEY: 1. b; 2. d; 3. a; 4. c

Follow-up

5. How about having the students try and design their own roller coaster? At its very simplest, you may want to stick to the more creative part of it and have teams design a roller coaster they would enjoy using some of the information in the video (and at least make it as safe as possible!):


1. What do you want to achieve with your design? What kind of audience will it target?
2. Where will you build your roller coaster?
3. What kind of theme will it have?
4. Try to use as much information from the video as you can when designing your roller coaster!

The teams then present their designs and the group discusses whether they would work or not, taking physics and safety but also fun into account!

If you want to provide some further reading, the students may benefit from this user-friendly website that allows them to build their own roller coaster. They first decide on the height of the first hill, the shape of the first hill, the exit path, the height of the second hill, and the loop. The website will then check whether the ride is possible or not!

Enjoy the ride!


Down” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Several seconds

Chicago’s best ice cream

I lived in Oak Park, Illinois, for 5 years, so I know what shovelling loads of snow and rushing to Petersen on the following day for some ice cream in hot humid weather feels like. In the following activity, elementary students write down Petersen’s Turtle Pie recipe after being introduced to several words related to food and cooking.

Feels like summer’s here!

1. Write the following letters on the board:

  e      r       c       i       a      m       e        c    

In pairs, the students come up with as many words as they can (e.g. “car”, “am”, “ice”, “care”, “are”, “Marc”, “rice”, “mic”.) Set a time limit. Write down the words they have found. Have any of them used all the letters to write the word “ice cream”?

2. Explain to the students they are going to watch a short report about an ice-cream shop called Petersen. Watch until 0:56 and have the students answer the questions in 1 (a. Oak Park, in Chicago, USA; b. since 1919.)

3. Tell the students one of Petersen’s best-known desserts is called Turtle Pie. Have them read its ingredients in 2 and explain any unknown words. The students then match 5 words that will be used in the recipe with the corresponding pictures.

4. Watch the video until 2:18, where the different steps to make a Turtle Pie are explained.

5. Go over the cooking verbs in 3 and elicit their meaning. Ask the students to write down the recipe using the ingredients, the words in 2, and some of the cooking verbs in 3. Write the first step as a model and watch this part of the video again.

6. Watch the rest of the video and discuss: “What do you think of Petersen’s Turtle Pie?” “Would you like to try it?” “Why/Why not?”

7. Are the students now ready to write and share one of their favourite summer recipes?

“Dream A Little Dream Of Me”

1. Write the word “dreams” and have the students answer the following questions:
– Do you like having dreams?
– Do you remember your dreams?
– Do you think dreams have special meanings?
– Have you ever had the same dreams?
– Have you ever had a dream which seemed to come true? What happened?
– Do you ever daydream?
– What is the best type of dream?

2. Give out the worksheet with the gapped lyrics.

3. In order to find the words for the 24 gaps, the students first solve a puzzle in which they need to match the cut-out squares to make a 4×4 grid by joining word halves. The words are arranged both vertically and horizontally.

4. Depending on the level of the students, you can use different versions of the puzzle:
– The first one is the most challenging by far, including a few distractors around it.


– The second version has shaded squares in a chessboard manner, which should help in the matching process.


– Finally, a third version has both shaded squares and no distractors around it.

5. Once they solve the puzzle, have the students read the lyrics and fill in the blanks with the 24 words. You may want to provide extra scaffolding by having them classify the words into verbs, nouns and adjectives first. There are a few other word categories, but most of them belong to one of these.

6. Do the first two or three lines with the students, showing the kind of reasoning behind each choice, such as the word category that may be needed in each gap or context clues.

7. The students listen to the song and check their answers.

The history of Bluetooth

1. Display this icon:

Elicit any words related to it and its use. Write them down. Have the students complete the following sentence:

“Bluetooth is the technology that…”

The students share their sentences.

2. Ask the students to read about the origin of the name Bluetooth. Check comprehension orally.

3. For each sentence, the students look for extra information in the Bluetooth icon. Tell the students to pay attention to what or who the extra information is about so that they can match the sentences correctly and in the right place. Remind the students that, since this is additional information, they will be using non-defining relative clauses to rewrite the sentences (including the use of commas and not using “that” in this type of clause.)

KEY:

1. Not many people have given much thought to the inspiration behind the iconic Bluetooth name and logo, which has become very popular.

2. Bluetooth is actually named after an ancient Viking king. King Harald, who reigned as the king of Denmark and Norway in the late 10th century, was known for uniting the tribes of Denmark and converting the Danes to Christianity.

3. Scholars say Harald was nicknamed “Blåtand”, which means blue tooth, because he had a dead tooth that looked blue and dark.

4. In December 1996, Intel’s Jim Kardach, who had read a book on Viking history, suggested the name Bluetooth as a codename until the marketing group could come up with a formal technology name.

5. “When I was asked about the name Bluetooth, I explained that Bluetooth was borrowed from the 10th century, second King of Denmark, King Harald, who was famous for uniting Scandinavia, just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link,” Kardach said.

6. He added that he created a PowerPoint foil with a version of a runic stone, where Harald held a cellphone in one hand and a notebook in the other hand.

7. The codename Bluetooth was first used for a while. When other names, which had been considered for some time, did not work out, Bluetooth remained.

4. The students watch a short video with more information about the origin of Bluetooth. Have them read the selected words provided first and ask them to take notes about each of them as they listen, explaining why they are mentioned in the video.

POSSIBLE ANSWERS:

Jelling – a town in Denmark where the rune stones are.
The Jelling stones – rune stones which were placed by some of the first kings of Denmark.
bright colours – the rune stones were once painted with bright colours.
climate-controlled glass box – where the stones are, to keep them safe from the weather and vandals.
Thyra – King Gorm’s wife; smaller rune stone.
Intel – the company Jim Karachi worked for.
Biz-RF, MC-Link and Low Power RF – the names that were first suggested for the new technology.
Swedish – a coworker that told Karachi the story of Bluetooth.

5. Using their notes, the students complete eight sentences using both defining and non-defining relative clauses.

6. Ask the students to look for the origin of the following names (or use this website to work as a whole group):
– wifi
– meme
– spam
– robot

The students write a short description for each of them.

The climber

In this reading comprehension and vocabulary lesson, the students are first exposed to a few words from the text and asked to establish relationships between them as they read.

1. Explain to the students they are going to read a four-paragraph text, but they are first going to read only a few words, one at a time. The goal is for them to be able to answer the following questions:

What?
Who?

When?
Where?
Why?
How?

Tell them there might be some information and details they won’t know for sure until they read the whole text.

2. The first words (Kevin Schmidt) and the second ones (Rapid City) are simple and straightforward, and they provide a good starting point.

From the third word onwards, hold a conversation with the students to identify possible connections between the words and phrases: e.g. 3. light bulb (“How is this connected to Kevin Schmidt?”); 4. job (“Does Kevin sell light bulbs in Rapid City? Is he an electrician?”); 5. during the past eight years (“Is this the time he’s been doing this job?”); etc. The students will be confirming, modifying or discarding their guesses as more words are revealed.

Google Slides: https://bit.ly/35XEOX1

3. Have the students complete the questions with the information they have and their own ideas and share a few of them. Then ask them to read the text to check the answers. Was there any basic information missing?

(POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Who? Kevin Schmidt; What? He climbs high towers to change the light bulbs on top; Where? Rapid City; When? For the past 8 years; Why? To warn aircraft; How? He climbs for 2 hours.)

4. Focus on vocabulary: the students look for words in the text for the definitions provided.

(KEY: a. odd; b. stunningly; c. crisp; d. ascending; e. aging; f. expect; g. flashing; h. obstacles; i. willing; j. beat; k. by yourself)

5. Play the video mentioned in the text. What does Kevin Schmidt do at the end?

6. Hold a short discussion: “What does Kevin like about this job?”, “What do you think of it?”, “What are some of the pros and cons of having a job like this?”, “What other unusual jobs can you think of?”