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 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?”

Come rain or shine

1. Write the word “rain” on the board and ask students to come up with words related to it. Write them down. Are they positive or negative? Can they sometimes be both? Why?

2. Introduce a few idioms with the word “rain” in them. The students read the definitions and write the corresponding idiom next to each of them. Then they decide whether the idiom is positive, negative, or whether the meaning can depend on the context.

KEY: 1. come rain or shine; 2. save up for a rainy day; 3. be rained in; 4. when it rains it pours; 5. right as rain; 6. rain down on (someone or something); 7. come in out of the rain

3. The students read a few lines from “Singin’ in the Rain” and complete the lyrics with them. Encourage the students to use the rhyme and the context to look for possible combinations, and tell them there might be more than one option. Have the students listen and check their answers:

Elicit what the song is about. The students circle any weather words in the lyrics and decide if they are used in a positive or negative way. Can they use any of the idioms in activity 1 to describe the song?

4. Read the information about “Singin’ in the Rain” with the students, and how it became popular with time. What if Rihanna’s “Umbrella” had appeared in the 1952 musical? The students read the lyrics of the song first and then make any necessary changes: all the words in each stanza are correct, but some of them are in the wrong order; the students look for pairs of words in each cloud and change their order so that the lines make sense.

KEY: Cloud 1: star – heart, dark – car, always – never; Cloud 2: shine-shines; together – forever; my – your; stand – stick; now – more; still – that; Cloud 3: world – fancy; together – between; cards – part; mend – hand; Cloud 4: rain – arms; be – don’t; distance – love; I’ll – all

5. Ask the students what the song is about and tell them to compare both “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Umbrella”, paying special attention to how rain is used in each of them. Introduce a few more weather idioms and have the students use these and the ones in activity 1 to write down a few comparisons.

KEY: 1g, 2i, 3c, 4e, 5h, 6f, 7b, 8a, 9j, 10d

The rotating house

A couple of seasons of George Clarke’s “Amazing Spaces” were broadcast this summer on national public TV here in Spain. I had seen clips on the internet and knew about the show, but I didn’t know it’d be so addictive! Anyway, the main project in one of the seasons was the building of a space-saving, four-room house in which every floor is also a wall and it rotates on command! I thought I might well need a pencil and some paper to watch the last programme, and the following listening comprehension lesson for B1-B2 students was designed based on this.

1. Students watch the video till 1:07. Using the information in the video, ask the students to make a quick sketch of the project with whatever they think it might look like at this point. What potential problems can they see?

2. Now watch the video till 2:14. Pause the video and have the students compare the actual project with what they sketched in step 1. Discuss the differences.

3. Tell the students they are now going to watch the rest of the video and get to see how the rotating house works and what each room looks like. To check comprehension, the students use the worksheet below with four cubes for each room: 1. hallway; 2. kitchen, 3. bedroom and 4. living room. First, have the students read the box in the middle with a series of household objects and parts of the house. Then, tell them they will be drawing the ones they can see in the video in the right place within each cube. There are four words they won’t need!

4. Pause the video every now and then to allow time for students to draw inside the cubes and label the rooms, pieces of furniture or any other items. After each room, have a few students describe what the room looks like using prepositions of place. Which words in the box are not needed?

5. Ask the students to match the words to make compound nouns and adjectives used in the video. In pairs, the students decide how and why these compound nouns and adjectives were used in the video and write a short explanation: e.g. “vac-packed” was used in the bedroom to describe the wardrobe.

6. Discuss the following:

  • Would you live in this house? Why/Why not?
  • What do you like about the whole project?
  • Is there something in the rotating house you wouldn’t mind having at home?
  • Even if it doesn’t become a reality soon, do you think it could be used in the future in some way?

“To Space and Back”

Sally Ride was about to become the first American woman in space when she boarded the space shuttle “Challenger” on 18th June 1983. In “To Space and Back”, Sally describes what it’s like to launch into space.

Lead-in

1. Discuss the following questions:

  • Would you like to be an astronaut? Why/Why not?
  • What characteristics make a good astronaut?
  • Do you think travelling in space would be an exciting or a boring experience?
  • What would you be afraid of?
  • Is space exploration important?
  • How about space tourism?

Reading

2. Tell the students they are going to read an extract from a book written by Sally Ride, the first American woman that travelled into space back in 1983. Explain that the first extract will help to set the scene and revise and/or learn a few words related to space shuttles. As they read, the students label the picture of the space shuttle with as many words from the text as they can. (Examples: elevator, launch tower, nose, space shuttle, pad, access arm, movable walkway, hatch, tail, windows.)

3. Ask the students to look for the words “strap”, “awkward” and “safety” and to explain why they are used in the text.

4. The second extract is a fascinating account of the launch itself, marked by the use of action verbs. The students first have a look at the verbs in the box and decide which words they know the meaning of, which ones they are not sure about, and the words they definitely don’t know. This time the students will be filling in the gaps in the text with one of the verbs that matches the definitions provided and using the right form. (KEY: 1. whirring, 2. quivers, 3. light, 4. shakes, 5. strains, 6. launch, 7. leaps, 8. are rattling, 9. zoom, 10. burn out, 11. fall away, 12. streaks on.)

5. The students read the text again and look for a series of synonyms. (KEY: a. pulls away, b. check, c. decide, d. rough, e. instant, f. barely, g. smooth/quiet, h. faint.)

Follow-up

6. The students write a short personal response based on their thoughts and impressions about the text. Would they like to be right there with Sally Ride and the rest of the crew? You may also want to revise some of the questions discussed at the beginning of the lesson and check if anyone would change any answers after the reading the texts!

Cover image: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/119192

Hitting the headlines

I’ve used this “Let’s write an intriguing science headline!” cartoon by Tom Gauld to design a speaking activity in which students will be providing short explanations for each headline and adapting them to suit different audiences.

1. Have a student throw a die three times: the first number will be used to choose one of the options in the second column, the second number will determine one of the three verbs in the blue column, and the third one will decide which one of the options in the green column will be used to complete the headline.

2. Read the headline aloud. Notice that these topics have been selected for teenagers here, but you can easily choose any others to target different age groups.

3. Provide some think time for the student or team to come up with an explanation for that headline (and yes, it’s OK to come up with crazy speeches!)

4. Once the students are ready, say they will now be choosing the audience that they will be speaking to. Throw the die to choose one.

5. Have the student(s) start the explanation adapted to that type of audience. You may want to throw the die after some time to change the audience, and therefore the register. Or even do it several times!

Depending on the level, the students will use different types of linguistic resources to accommodate their speech. More advanced students should be able to include some formal, informal or colloquial language based on the audience, but it’s always interesting to see which strategies the rest of students adopt (volume of voice, body language, use of a few colloquialisms they may be familiar with, etc.) With all students, however, this is the perfect time to listen, take notes, and teach a mini-lesson on register based on student production.

“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.

The football pitch

Henningsvær, in the north of Norway, is a small fishing village located on several small islands off the southern coast of the large island of Austvågøya, in Lofoten archipelago. 

And on one of these tiny islands, there lies a football pitch.

Lead-in

1. Display the pictures of Henningsvær Idrettslag Stadion. Ask the students to describe their first impressions. Write down a few adjectives they come up with on the board.

2. Have the students think of any problems that players may have on this football pitch, taking its special location into account. Allow some time for students to write down their answers individually, then discuss as a whole group: the snow, the ice or the freezing temperatures in winter, keeping the grass, footballs ending up in the sea, etc. What do they think the locals do to solve some of these?

Listening

3. Tell the students they’re going to watch a video about the football pitch. Before watching, the students read the 10 sentences and decide whether they think each of them are true or false. Explain that this is only a prediction and that they will be checking their answers later after watching the video. Do allow them to share and discuss some of their predictions with their partners! This activity should get them ready for what they’re about to watch and encourage them to pay special attention to specific information.

4. Watch the video and have the students answer the post-anticipation guide. In addition, ask them to correct the false statements using information from the video. Apart from checking the answers, go over the problems that were brought up at the beginning of the lesson and check if they now have an answer to each of them. Play the video (or parts of it) again if needed!

Focus on grammar and vocabulary

5. Direct students’ attention to the adjectives they came up with at the beginning of the lesson to talk about their first impressions about the football pitch. Explain or elicit the difference between gradable and non-gradable adjectives and the different types of intensifiers that typically go with each category. In pairs or groups, students think of the gradable equivalents to each non-gradable adjective in the table. Check with the whole group.

As they fill in the table, the students choose 5 gradable adjectives and 5 non-gradable ones that they think best describe the pitch. Have them write 5 short sentences using appropriate intensifiers and share them with their team or the whole group. 

Follow-up

6. Henningsvær Idrettslag Stadion is a fantastic example of community building. The students design a project of a unique facility in their area, explaining its uses and the benefits it would bring to their community.