Wonders of Street View: some activity ideas

Wonders of Street View is a website from Neal Agarwal that collects weird and wonderful things on Google Street View:

By clicking “Random” on the upper-right corner, you will be taken on a trip to unique places around the world, including some really strange situations about which our students will certainly have a lot to say!

You can read where each Street View is located (upper-right corner), and you can get the address of a specific view by clicking “Share” (bottom-right corner) and copying the address provided, or opening the link on Google Street View itself.

The website is perfect for a whole-group speaking lesson in which the students use all kinds of descriptive language, together with functional language such as agreeing and disagreeing, or asking for / giving opinion.

I’m also attaching a choice board with task ideas that the students can do using this fun resource, first independently or in pairs/groups, but which can then be used in the classroom to practise other skills. Notice that these are general ideas and they will need to be specified to meet your students’ needs. I’ve tried organising them according to the level of difficulty, with the easier tasks at the top and the more challenging ones at the bottom. And if you’re following a structural syllabus, it might give you some ideas for actitivies you can do depending on the language focus you’re working on!

I will be happy to edit the choice board with any other ideas you may have, so feel free to share them!

“Romeo and Juliet”: a post-reading mini-project

To check comprehension of a B1 graded reader based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, I asked my younger students to choose four key scenes or snapshots from the play and plan a short oral presentation explaining their choices, including:
– a description of each “snapshot”, including the setting, the characters and the action;
– which part of the plot they belong to;
– why they think they are important, providing at least three reasons.

Working in pairs, the students created a paper diorama for each scene which helped them both with the planning process and as a visual aid in the presentation. To make these dioramas, we simply used regular DIN-A4 white paper:

1. Fold the paper to make a square.

2. Fold the paper again so that it is folded on both diagonals.

3. Cut on one of the folds to the centre.

And there you go!

We even tried some stage curtains on each diorama!

This type of diorama makes it easy for students to take home before assembling and gluing them together, and for pairs to distribute the amount of work to be done.

The pairs of students finally took turns explaining their choices, followed by several questions from the audience. (And they did really well!)

For other similar post-reading ideas, you may want to check the following:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: an alphabet book.

One-pagers: “The House on Mango Street”

15 post-reading activities.

Life in the year 2100

In 1966, BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” featured a number of students from the UK sharing their own predictions about what they thought life would be like for them in the year 2000. The selection in the video around which this lesson revolves is certainly not the most optimistic, but I thought it would still be a good exercise for the students, and it might even help them refine their own predictions about our future.

LEAD-IN

1. Ask the students what they think life will be like in the year 2100. Have them compete the table on the worksheet with their own predictions for each of the categories provided: population, advances in technology, quality of life, housing, climate, and health and medicine. If necessary, elicit and/or model the structures they may want to use to talk about future predictions.

2. Have the students share their predictions and discuss any major differences.

LISTENING

3. The categories in the table are the main areas that are discussed in the BBC video broadcast on 28th December 1966. The students listen to the video with the English pupils’ predictions for the year 2000 and take notes for each category as they complete the table.

Here are some of the main ideas in the video:
– Population – The world will be overpopulated.
– Advances in technology – There won’t be enough jobs because of computers and robots.
– Quality of life – Life will be dull and boring. / People will be regarded more as statistics than as actual people. / Possessions will be rationed due to overpopulation.
– Housing – People will live in very small houses. / People will live under the sea or in the desert due to lack of space.
– Climate – The world might be too hot because of nuclear explosions. / The sea level will rise. / There may be another Ice Age.
– Health and medicine – There will be more cures and not so many sick people.

4. Encourage the students to discuss some of the predictions, and what they think of them in general. Are any of their predictions for 2100 similar to any of the predictions in the video?

FOLLOW-UP

5. Have the students write a few more predictions for the year 2100 related to other categories: school, transportation, food, clothing, relationships, and happiness. Are they now ready for a whole group discussion about each category?

Thanks a _____ !

ACTIVITY 1
Do you often write thank-you notes? Do you think they are important? Discuss.

ACTIVITY 2
Read the following thank-you note. What is the mystery word?

Dear readers,

I started this informal blog a few years ago as a way to share a few lessons and ideas (ah, some of them sort of crazy, I know!), but I never thought in a ________ years that it would reach one ________ page views, with visitors from all around the world. It’s truly a ________ to one that a tiny project like this could have this kind of impact.

Thanks a ________ for your unwavering support and for being a part of this journey. It does mean a lot.

All the best,

Miguel

SOLUTION:
uoᴉllᴉɯ

ACTIVITY 3
(Optional) Write a short personal response to the text. Make sure you use the mystery word at least once!

Relative clauses

I read the following idea from Sophie Bartlett on Twitter a few months ago and thought it was a brilliant way to work on non-defining relative clauses with the students.

1. Ask the students to fold the four vertical lines as shown below:

2. Have the students read the text.

3. Now provide the following information for the students to complete the first six sentences using non-defining relative clauses. Elicit the reason for the foldable. Introduce or revise the types of relative pronouns that can be used and the punctuation needed.

The girl was walking her dog.
The girl’s name was Sarah.
The dog was a golden retriever.
The park was near her house.
The boy was playing frisbee with his little sister.
The boy was wearing a baseball cap.

EXAMPLE: The girl, who was walking her dog, stopped to admire the flowers in the park.

4. Correct the first six sentences and have the students write extra information in the next four sentences. The students take turns reading the different ideas.

5. The students write a title for the story in the box provided. Encourage the students to explain their choices.

6. The foldable can be used for other more creative and collaborative writing, too!

“‘Twas the Night before Christmas”

Using “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, this explosion book features a series of activities related to different language areas and reading comprehension skills that the students complete as they walk through the poem.

KEY:

2. 1. c 2. f 3. e 4. b 5. a 6. d The children were nestled/ And mamma in her kerchief / …for a long winter’s nap / …there arose such a clatter / I sprang from the bed… / Tore open the shutters

4. 1 – With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
2 – I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
3 – More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
4 – And he whistled, and he shouted, and he called them by name;
5 – “On, DASHER! on, DANCER! on, PRANCER and VIXEN!
6 – On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
7 – To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
8 – Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

5. leaves / hurricane / sky / roof / sleigh / toys

6. in a twinkling / turn around / bound / prancing / hoof

7. 1 – He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
2 – And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
3 – A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
4 – And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
5 – His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
6 – His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
7 – His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
8 – And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
9 – The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
10 – And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
11 – He had a broad face and a little round belly,
12 – That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

8. a right jolly old elf / I laughed / when I saw him / A wink of his eye / Soon gave me to know / I had nothing to dread

9. He spoke not a word / straight to his work / filled all the stockings / and laying his finger

To assemble the book, follow these instructions:


1. Print the three pages on cardboard paper if possible (although regular paper will do, too!) Cut the three squares.


2. Fold Square 1 (1-4) and Square 3 (7-10) forward, both vertically and horizontally. Then fold the square diagonally outwards, following the line provided.


3. For Square 2 (5-6), the vertical and horizontal lines are folded outwards, and the diagonal line is folded inwards.


4. Place the three squares in the right order. Glue the squares as shown on the worksheet.

Now the students can draw their own book cover with the title!

To correct the activities, you may want to use this version of the poem sung by Noel Paul Stookey from Peter, Paul and Mary:

Enjoy!

________________________________

I’m Going Back

“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”

Graphic organisers

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll probably know I’m a huge fan of graphic organisers. These visual displays of ideas, facts or concepts help to organise, clarify or even simplify complex information, ideally improving comprehension and allowing for deeper understanding. They are a great way to encourage active learning, too!

But as a secondary school EFL teacher working in a CLIL programme for several years, I’d say the way in which graphic organisers make content accessible to language learners is their most powerful characteristic. Actually, if I had to choose the one thing every CLIL school needs to focus on for it to work well, that would be the effective use of graphic organisers across all content areas. It is certainly one of the best ways in which we can guarantee that the students learn the concepts being taught despite their proficiency limitations, without the content being watered down. And if the use of graphic organisers is initiated and widely used in the English classroom, then the rest of the areas will automatically benefit from it.

With such a scaffold that is not difficult to use, and which allows students to interact actively with both oral and written texts to demonstrate comprehension, or to make connections, even to plan a presentation or a piece of writing, I’ve always missed it in the course books I’ve used. It’s funny to see the same evaluation activities all over again to check comprehension of the selected texts, and then attempts at incorporating critical thinking skills, communication or creativity on the following page, usually in rather artificial ways.

Graphic organisers can be designed for specific texts and tasks without much preparation, but there are also a series of great resources with ready-to-use organisers that can be used with any type of text. Here are some of my favourite ones:

An excellent collection of editable graphic organisers and templates:

What are the best graphic organizers for promoting critical thinking?

Google Drawings graphics organizers:

Graphic organisers for text structure:

Food waste

1. Write or read the following definition:

“unwanted or unusable material, substances, or by-products”

___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Elicit the word “waste”. Brainstorm different types of waste (electricity, paper, glass, food, wood, water, plastic, metal, chemicals, heat, clothes, etc.)

2. Tell the students you will be focusing on food waste. Why is food waste a problem? Write down a few answers.

3. The students watch a series of short videos with specific ideas or measures to reduce food waste. Each of them has a different focus, from school projects to other types of measures implemented at a national level. The students watch the first three videos and write down the country and/or city where each measure is being implemented and a brief description of the solution that is suggested in each video.

In South Korea, an innovative push to cut back on food waste

Young Singaporeans’ smart answer to the world’s food waste problem.

Insects As A Solution To Food Waste

4. Have the students choose one of these videos based on originality, creativity and usefulness, but also thinking of how feasible it might be to implement the suggested solutions where they live.

5. Repeat the same procedure with the next three videos.

How Rotting Vegetables Make Electricity

Pennsylvania students invent solution to their school’s food waste problem

School Food Waste Solutions

6. After choosing the best idea, have the students discuss which solution they would choose, including its strengths and any weaknesses they can find.

7. Encourage the students to think of specific measures we could try at our school to reduce food waste:
– Which are some of the problems they can identify within the school premises?
– What are some solutions they can put forward to help prevent food waste?
Teams work on a list of solutions and prepare a short presentation to be shared with the whole group.

A fashionable Halloween

Using Gemma Correll’s Ghost Fashions poster as inspiration, within a few days we will be exploring different fashion styles and using them to define unique Halloween characters which will hopefully result in some interesting (and not necessarily spooky!) narrative texts.

2. Explain to the students they are going to design a similar poster based on other Halloween characters. Create six teams and give one character to each of them: mummy, monster, witch, warlock, jack-o’-lantern and zombie.

1. Share the “Ghost Fashions” poster with the students. Clarify any unknown words or any questions the students may have. Have them choose their favourite fashions and discuss their choices as a whole group.

3. The students go over vocabulary related to different fashion styles using this site and this site, together with some picture dictionaries. The idea is for them to revise vocabulary related to fashion and learn new words as they look for inspiration for their own poster. The students choose 16 different fashion styles that they think will help to make their character the most unique.

4. The students take turns drawing their character according to the 16 chosen styles. As they do this, have them discuss briefly what they think each of the characters might be like.

5. Tell the students each team will get one character from each grid and that they will be planning a story with these six characters. Display the posters, have the teams explain the different fashion styles, and use a die to select the characters for each team.

6. Ask the teams to plan a story with the six main characters in mind. Encourage them to use the forest worksheet to plan six scenes and write down or sketch their plan.

7. The students write the story individually or in groups. Simultaneous or roundtable writing could be a good option here, too!

8. Have the students share and compare their stories. If time allows, I may use some of them with my younger students and have them sketch the stories on the forest worksheet as they listen to demonstrate comprehension.

I was thinking of sharing this activity once we’d finished, but then I thought I’d share it now in case some of you want to try it. If you do, it’d be great if you could share some of the posters created by your students!

Greetings from 1980!

A news article published by The Guardian, Greetings from 1980: Dutch postcard finally arrives – 42 years late, is the basis for this activity in which students practise comprehension skills, and both direct and indirect speech.

POSSIBLE ANSWERS:

1. Ludwina Verhoeven told the local broadcaster Omroep Brabant that her sister Veronica had sent that card.

2. She said Jan, who is her brother-in-law, had died four years before.

3. She added that her husband, Piet, had left them in February.

4. She explained that was why she thought it was very special to receive that card.

5. “My son has seen local news reports about the card,” Verhoeven said.

6. “I did holiday at Camping Hoeven in 1980,” her sister recalled.

7. “I am not sure why the card was not delivered to me at the time,” she wondered.

8. She confirmed that the address on it was the right one.

9. She went on to say that she still lived there.

10. She also wondered why it had suddenly resurfaced at that time.

11. A spokesperson from the Dutch post office explained that, in the past, when the mail was sorted out manually, cards sometimes got lost.

12. The spokesperson remarked that it could have also been delivered to the wrong address in 1980 and had stayed there until now.

13. “We will be forwarding the card to Verhoeven imminently”, said Camping Hoeven.

14. An employee told the broadcaster that it was in excellent condition.

15. He added that they would probably send it in an envelope.

What if you received a postcard written 40 years ago? Who would have written it? What would the message be? How would you feel about it?