“‘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”

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 Braban 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?

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…?

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

“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.

“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?

“The Great Gatsby”

1. Play the following: 

Have students write down 10 words they can think of while listening to this piece of music. Ask them to share a few words with their partner or team. 

Explain that jazz became very popular in the 1920s, influencing dances, fashion and culture.

2. Tell the students they are going to watch a party scene set in the 1920s where this type of music would be played. Play the clip with no sound so that the students can focus on the atmosphere. As they watch, the students tick any words from their previous list that they can see in the clip and add any other words that may help to describe the atmosphere. The students share their ideas. 

3. Explain to the students they are going to read a few extracts from a book set in the 1920s in the USA. Think-Pair-Share: the students write a question for the answers provided, first individually, then checking with their partner, and finally with the whole group. Notice that there are several answers provided for most questions, but the students should only focus on writing a question that can answer any of the options at this time.

4. Ask the students to look at the front and back covers of the book and to read the information. Which questions can they definitely answer? Which ones can they guess? Now they should be able to choose the correct answer to the questions with more than one option. Encourage the students to share any additional questions they may have about the story.

5. The students read the first extract and decide whether the sentences are true or false. If false, have them provide the right information using evidence from the text.

6. The students focus on 6 words and expressions from the text. They first match the words and expressions with their meanings. Then they read the text again and explain why each of these words or expressions are used in the story.

7. Play the following: 

Before watching the clip, read the following questions with the students: 

  • What’s the name of the man at the beginning of the clip?
  • Where does he live? 
  • What or who is he looking for? 
  • What is this man’s role in the story? 

Discuss the answers.

8. Have the students read the second extract belonging to the end of the novel and ask them to answer the questions. Allow enough time for students to answer the questions individually first, since most of them will ask them to provide their own personal reaction to the text. The students share their answers with the rest of the group. Is the information gap we have created distinctive enough to get the students to read the novel or watch the film?

9. Writing: Does money bring happiness? The students write a for and against essay on this topic. To help them with the planning stage, ask them to discuss a few statements with their partners first.

Music Borders: some lesson ideas

Music Borders maps number 1 songs in over 3,000 places around the world. The sheer experience of visiting different continents and countries and listening to whatever is popular at the moment has obvious cross-curricular and interdisciplinary implications per se probably not something we usually do, and I’m sure this largely depends on where in the world you live. So what if we used this quirky, enriching adventure as the basis for an English lesson and try to make learning the most memorable at the same time?

At its very simplest, the site can offer a great context to present or revise comparative and superlative structures. The group of students will first choose two different continents and countries and listen to the songs. As they listen, the students can complete this fact sheet about each song:

Song title:
Singer/Band:
Country:
Continent:
Language:
Description:

With the song titles on the board, you can now present or review comparative structures using a number of high-frequency adjectives such as the following (but also any other adjectives the students may have come up with in the description of the song!):

loud
catchy
interesting
good
original
strange
happy
sad
beautiful
slow
bad
unusual
unique
boring
repetitive

And if you have students choose one or two more songs, you are now ready to practise superlative structures!

I work in a secondary school with a strong CLIL programme, and analysing similarities and differences is a common type of text the students are expected to produce across different subjects in the earlier years. As a pre-writing activity, the students can choose between two or three songs, complete the fact sheets, and fill in the sentence frames below with a few ideas. The goal here is for students to simply brainstorm a number of similarities and differences using several types of sentences that may prove useful later on at the writing stage. The students will then share their ideas orally with the rest of the group, and finally select the similarities and differences they will be focusing on in their own four-paragraph piece of writing.

SIMILARITIES

Both __ and __ have __.

__ and __ are alike because __.

A similarity between __ and __ is __.

Their common characteristics include __.

They also __ as well as __.

Words and phrases that introduce additional points may be used: ‘Furthermore…’, ‘Also…’, ‘In addition…’, ‘Another similarity is…’ , “Likewise…”, “By the same token…”, etc.

DIFFERENCES

___ and ___ are different because ___

___, but ___

One major difference between and ___ is ___

On the other hand, one way they differ is ___

Words and phrases that introduce contrasting points may be used: ‘However…’, ‘On the other hand…’, ‘In contrast…’, “Nevertheless..:”, “Conversely…”, “Although…”, etc.

Combine with Describing windows around the world to supplement this fascinating journey!