Food waste

1. Write or read the following definition:

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

___ ___ ___ ___ ___

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

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

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

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

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

Insects As A Solution To Food Waste

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

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

How Rotting Vegetables Make Electricity

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

School Food Waste Solutions

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

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

A fashionable Halloween

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

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!

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

“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!

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?

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.