“‘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”

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.

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.

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.

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 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?

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?”

“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.

“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

“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.

Libraries and bookshops around the world: a video project

For World Book Day on 23rd April, my students are working on very short videos showcasing unique libraries and bookshops around the world. Once they are edited, QR codes for each video will be displayed around the playground for students to watch them and look for specific information about each of them.

1. After explaining the goals of the project, I used wheelofnames.com to assign one library or bookshop to pairs of students. As simple as cutting and pasting the list below!

Tianjin Binhai Library (Tianjin, China)

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library (Chicago, USA)

Stuttgart City Library (Stuttgart, Germany)

Trinity College Long Room (Dublin, Ireland)

Boston Public Library (Boston, USA)

Epos (Norway)

The Library of Alexandria (Alexandria, Egypt)

Royal Library (El Escorial, Spain)

Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Bodleian Library (Oxford, UK)

Biblioteca Vasconcelos (Mexico City, Mexico)

Beitou Public Library (Taipei, Taiwan)

Handelingenkamer Library (The Hague, Netherlands)

State Library Victoria (Melbourne, Australia)

Livraria Lello (Porto, Portugal)

Cărturești Carusel (Bucharest, Romania)

El Ateneo (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Boekhandel Dominicanen (Maastricht, Netherlands)

The Bookworm (Beijing, China)

Libreria Acqua Alta (Venice, Italy)

Shakespeare & Co. (Paris, France)

Cafebrería El Péndulo (Mexico City, Mexico)

Oodi Central Library (Helsinki, Finland)

Duchess Anna Amalia Library (Weimar, Germany)

Biblioteca Statale di Lucca (Lucca, Italy)

The Black Diamond, Royal Danish Library (Copenhaguen, Denmark)

2. Before starting their research, I told the students their videos should be around 30 seconds long. We revised the differences between synthesising and summarising information, and the need to identify key points in each source, differentiate main ideas from details, or distinguish facts and opinions.

3. To help them through the planning process, I suggested following this basic structure:

  • Name of the library or bookshop, city, country.
  • When was it built?
  • What makes it so special? Include at least three distinctive features.
  • Think of a powerful closing sentence for your video.

4. Students started researching and selecting information in class, they looked for sources of public domain pictures and/or videos they could use, and they planned how they wanted to create the video, including their roles and responsibilities. With so many months of distance/blended/hybrid learning under their belts, it should have come as no surprise when they found tons of different (and tech-savvy!) options in a few minutes!

5. The students are sending their videos through our LMS. I will be holding conferences with each pair to go over their work and check what may need improving. I know the videos will be fine content-wise, and the students know we will be focusing on accuracy and intelligibility (and that they might need to make slight – or major – changes after the conference!) The students have also been asked to write two questions they would ask about their library or bookshop.

6. I will be uploading the final videos to the media site of our LMS and will create a QR code for each of them (qrcode-monkey.com/). These will be printed out and displayed outdoors on the school premises so that students can use their mobile phones to watch each video and answer the questions in the worksheet(s) I will be writing (using a selection of questions they have submitted.) The activity can be easily adpated to any level, so other groups of students will be invited to take this virtual tour around these fascinating bookshops and libraries as they practise a variety of listening comprehension skills.

By the way, would you add any other library or bookshop to the list?