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?”

16 short films and videos that work well with teenagers

Here are 16 short films and videos I’ve been using for the past few years in my classes and which have worked well with teenagers (at least in my context!) The selection includes different types of video content, but they all provide such unique contexts that any lesson or task we design around them will help to make that skill or specific language area we’re practising a little bit more stimulating and engaging. Their flexibility is another advantage, since we can use the videos both to suit different levels and to adapt them to meet specific learning objectives.

It is difficult to keep up with so many changes around us, and teenagers’ interests and expectations today are different from, say, just five years ago. In our case here, though, I think this is not a bad thing, and actually the older certain short films and videos the better: the students are not likely to be familiar with the material, so that element of surprise or engagement many of them bring will not be missed.

By the way, I first tried categorising them in some way, but finally decided to list them in alphabetical order for easier reference. I hope you find this useful!

1. Alike

This short film on how the system affects our creativity and imagination, the relationship between father and son, and the use of colour as a symbol for change and transformation, is the perfect introduction to a lively discussion or an opinion essay. Stop the film at regular intervals to analyse the characters’ feelings and how these change throughout the film.

2. Are you a robot?
I wrote this activity based on a video by Stevie Martin which explores the different ways in which computers ask us to prove our humanity.

3. BBC Interview
Ah, if only we knew we’d be doing video calls for such long hours from home in a few years’ time! We did find this video hilarious back in 2017, when Professor Robert Kelly’s daughter and son walked into the room as he was explaining South Korean politics live on the BBC. Has anything similar happened to you in the past few months? 😉

Here’s an interesting lesson plan by Luiz Otavio Barros based on this. And make sure you don’t miss the parodies that followed!

4. Choice

A lovely lesson plan from AllatC based on “Choice”, a visual poem which documents the filmmaker’s thoughts and emotions on a four-week holiday travelling around South Africa and Mozambique.

5. Dumb Ways to Die
Back in 2012, this Australian campaign video which promotes railway safety went viral:

The pre-watching speaking task from AllatC will certainly get your students talking!

6. Fresh Prince: Google translated
Google Translate may have got a little better, but meanings are often missed in context and the results are often rather bizarre. You may want to warn your students by watching and discussing this video (and perhaps having them try for themselves with lyrics they’re familiar with!)

7. Going viral

I used this lesson from AllatC a few weeks ago and, yes, the videos have dated a little. Still, the activities in the lesson are great practice.

Students can then agree or disagree with Kevin Allocca’s reasons for videos to go viral, decide if these elements are still true these days, and provide any new ideas:

8. I forgot my phone

The students work on vocabulary and word formation as they analyse this thought-provoking short film about how much mobile phones have taken over our lives.

9. I’m a creep
“Fear lies. Learn to conquer it.” Stop the video after each scene to describe the place, the characters, their feelings, and the students’ personal reactions.

For a writing activity idea based on the video, click here.

10. Just
What would you do if you found a middle-aged man in a suit lying on the pavement? Radiohead’s iconic video clip is a fantastic opportunity to work on pronunciation as the students take turns reading the dialogues and answer questions related to the scene and the people involved. Have students write down what they think the man uttered at the end!

11. Kidnap

When was the last time you got one of those hilarious excuses for being absent or failing to do some homework? This lesson revolves around the theme of school excuses and gets students working on past tenses, reading and listening comprehension, and creative writing.

12. Procrastination
A great lesson on procrastination from LessonStream!

13. Multiple Choice

Three students oversleep and miss a final exam. They phone their teacher telling him they’ve had a terrible car accident. Will they get away with this excuse?

14. The rotating house
Revise vocabulary related to the house with this project: a space-saving, four-room house in which every floor is also a wall and it rotates on command!

15. Tick Tock
What if you were told you only have 5 minutes to live? What would you do? This frenetic short film shot in one take and viewed in reverse shows what a young guy would do in this situation. Apart from having students reconstruct the plot and put it in chronological order, the words we can read throughout the film (cowardice, reputation, greed, indifference, laziness) will certainly help to analyse the meaning of the film.

16. Wallet mystery
A wallet full of money lying on Regent Street? And only one circle around it to prevent it from being stolen?

Which short films and videos you have used would you recommend?

A helmet has always been a good idea

1. Have the students work together and fill in the speech bubbles in the conversation below. When a word is provided (sail, ships, annoying, to ruin), ask them to use it:

2. The students share their stories with the rest of the class and discuss any differences. This is the perfect time to work on intonation!

3. Play the video and allow some time for personal reactions. Do the students think this is an effective campaign? Why/Why not?

4. The students write one of the following:

You have just watched a road safety campaign encouraging people to wear helmets. Write a report analysing the use of helmets where you live. Make sure you include a series of recommendations.

Would increasing bike lanes be a good idea where you live? Write a letter to a local newspaper explaining your point of view.

Should the minimum legal age for driving a car or a motorbike be increased? Discuss.

Write an essay analysing the different modes of transport where you live, such as walking, cycling, cars, motorbikes and public transportation. Make sure you include issues such as safety, pollution, noise or health.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” alphabet book

My younger students read a graded reader based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this term. As a post-reading activity, the students have created an alphabet book with two DIN A3 papers on cardboard and 28 flaps (26 for each letter, and 2 extra ones.)

I asked the students to start by including words related to the settings and as many characters as possible, and then to use the rest of the letters for any key words in the story. On the outside of each flap, the students wrote the word for the corresponding letter (we found it was difficult to find words starting with a couple of letters, so we agreed a few could just contain that letter.) On the inside of the flap, they wrote one or two sentences explaining why that word was relevant in the story. Finally, on the upper part, the students wrote a short extract from the book in which the word is used, including the page number.

We are now going to take turns presenting the books to the rest of the class, especially focusing on the key words each pair has chosen. As a final task, the students will be asked to fill in the remaining two flaps with one of the following:
– Your opinion about the play.
– A summary of the play.
– A piece of music you would choose to go with the play.
– A short monologue by one of the characters explaining their feelings after the events.

“I want a hippopotamus for Christmas”

Remember that weird thing you once badly wanted for Christmas? Something you were completely sure would change your life and bring eternal happiness?

The following lesson, based on the song “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” (John Rox, 1953), tries to recapture some of those childhood memories and associated feelings. These provide an interesting context: they are distant enough to be looked at quite comfortably, you can laugh at them with some degree of confidence, and even if they become the object of conversation in a random English lesson, we all know that memories are fallible and are often reconstructed and manipulated, don’t we?

1. Ask students to think about something they once wanted for Christmas, why they thought they really needed it, and whether they finally got it or not! You may want to have pairs talk about this for 2 or 3 minutes, and then have students talk about their classmates’ past Christmas gift wishes.

2. Tell the students they are going to reconstruct a text in which the narrator explains what he/she wants for Christmas, including the reasons for this. For the first part of the song lyrics, the students use the fireplace bricks: starting at the bottom of the fireplace above number 1, the students choose the following line by selecting one of the bricks in the row immediately above until they reach the last row at the top. Continue with 2, 3 and 4.

KEY:

1. I want a __ for Christmas / Only a will do / I don’t want a doll, no dinky Tinkertoy / I want a __ to play with and enjoy

2. I want a __ for Christmas / I don’t think Santa Claus will mind, do you? / He won’t have to use our dirty chimney flue / Just bring __ through the front door /
That’s the easy thing to do

3. I can see me now on Christmas morning / Creeping down the stairs / Oh, what joy and what surprise / When I open up my eyes / And see my __ standing there

4. I want a __ for Christmas / Only a __ will do / No __ , no __ / I only like __ / And __ like me too

3. Do your students know what this person wants for Christmas yet? Elicit a few ideas.

4. The students focus on the second part of the text. Display or give out copies of the stockings for students to put in the right order:

KEY : 1. Mom says a __ would eat me up but then / 2. teacher says a __ is a vegetarian / 3. There’s lots of room for __ in our two-car garage / 4. I’d feed __ there and wash __ there / 5. And give __ __ massage

Using the new information, allow a few minutes for students to write down what this person badly wants, providing reasons for their choice. Share a few of them with the whole group.

5. Tell the students they are now going to listen to the song and find out the answer. Ask them to fill in the blanks with the right words as they listen. “Hippopotamus”, “hippopotamuses”, “rhinoceros”, “rhinoceroses” or “crocodile” may well require some spelling work at some point, too!

6. Read this article with the students:

Discuss the following:
– In your opinion, which is the weirdest Christmas gift request in the list? And the funniest?
– Are any of these gift requests similar to the ones you and your classmates shared at the beginning of the lesson?
– What is the weirdest Christmas present you’ve ever wanted or received?
– Can any of these gift requests tell us something about a child’s personality? In what ways?

Inside a painting

Jumping straight into a painting and immersing ourselves into the beauty of Van Gogh’s art is what Mathy147’s astonishing work allows us to do. Hosted on Kuula, which features all kinds of virtual tours, this imaginative 360º painting is actually a mixture of several paintings by the artist: “Café Terrace at Night”, “The Church at Auvers”, “Sunflowers”, “The Night Café” and “Starry Night”.

With an interactive painting like this, the starting point of any task we design needs to be inside the painting itself. The students first choose where in the painting they want to be by thinking of the following:
– Look at the painting. What can you see? How does it make you feel?
– You are going step inside the painting and become part of it. Where in the painting are you? What are you doing? Why are you there? How do you feel? What were you doing an hour ago? What are you going to do in an hour?

Once they have defined their viewpoints, the students should be ready to perform one of the following descriptive tasks:
1. Write a description of the painting from your point of view.
2. Hold a conversation with a partner describing the scene.
3. In groups of 3 or 4, write text messages describing what each of you can see from where you are standing.
4. Record some voice messages describing what you can see.

You may want to have the students use the following words to help them with their descriptions or to have them look for details they could have otherwise overlooked. The students cross out the words as they use them:

No matter the task they choose, the students should avoid saying where in the painting they are so that the rest of the class can guess when sharing their work, and therefore have another purpose to read or listen!