Daily routines: writing a report

Inspired by this infographic on the daily routines of famous artists, the students in this lesson develop team-building skills as they create a graph about specific habits and routines of their classmates. After brainstorming possible categories as a whole group, each team chooses six habits and routines they want to know more about. The students in each team take turns interviewing other classmates on their categories, collecting data, and reporting back to the team for the data to be graphed. Inside-Outside Circles are a good structured way to have the students interview each other and collect information.

Daily routinesDaily routines.pdf

The students then use their team’s graph to write a report that will include its purpose as an introduction, an explanation of the kind of data that was collected and how this was accomplished, an objective analysis using figures and percentages (“5% per cent of the students…”; “17 out of 27 students in the class…”; “only 4 students…”; “half of the class…”; “the vast majority of…”; and so on), and a final conclusion in which each student will offer recommendations and suggestions concerning areas that may need improving or changing, and corroborate those which are deemed appropriate. The graphs and the reports can be shared at the end with the rest of the teams and the final conclusions discussed orally as a whole group.

Creating a good classroom atmosphere by having students get to know each other a little bit better, training the students to take on different roles in their teams and to be accountable for their contributions, engaging in student-generated short informal interviews which revolve around their very own lives, and writing an expository text with both objective and subjective information, are just some of the goals that will have been reached by the end of this lesson.

“All Summer in a Day”

The story of Margot – of (in)difference, (in)justice, hope – was not unfamiliar to me but was brought to my attention during a workshop a few years ago and have since used it in my classes. Perhaps one of the reasons why Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day” (1954) works so well with teenage students is because they can easily relate to it from different perspectives. Despite the richness of vocabulary, it is also a text that is easy to read at language levels as low as B1, with the students being able to reconstruct the key elements of the story and a good amount of details without having to understand every single word. Most interestingly, the short story leaves so much unsaid that it provides a perfect flexible framework that encourages the sharing of different ideas and interpretations, resulting in all language skills flowing naturally as the students attempt to explain their rather complex ideas and feelings related to a conflict about which they have so much to say.

The ending is in fact a rather open one, and it is at this point of Bradbury’s story that I decided to start reading the last time I used it. Reading this story backwards and challenging chronological order provides just the right type of scaffolding to help with the reading itself and creates higher interest and motivation to keep on reading: both the added problem-solving element and the process of reconstruction that will help to identify the reasons and details leading to such a mysterious ending will certainly get the students involved in the text, help them to understand it better, and make further connections based on this as they put all four skills into practice.

To walk the students through the text, the four-page short story was here divided into four parts and a circular graphic organiser was designed with a variety of activities that mainly focus on comprehension but also on vocabulary building. This circular structure will encourage students to go back and forth in the text while revising previous questions as they read, completing the missing information, and confirming or rejecting previous predictions.

  • Part 1: from “A boom of thunder startled them…” to “… and let Margot out”
  • Part 2: from “’Ready, children?’ She glanced at her watch…” to “… their smiles vanishing away”
  • Part 3: from “’Get away!’ The boy gave her another push …” to “… just as the teacher arrived”
  • Part 4: from “’Ready?’…” to “… her waiting silence, her thinness, and her possible future”All Summer in a Day

1. Write “Summer” on the board and have the students come up with words related to it. Tell them they are going to read a story called “All Summer in a Day”. Elicit what it might be about.

Reading

2. Read the first part, which belongs to the end of the story. Give out the graphic organiser and discuss numbers 1, 2 and 3 together: what do we know about the setting, the characters and the problem? Any predictions?

3. Ask the students to read the second part. As they read, ask them to choose five words from the text that describe the scene and write them down in 4. In addition, students write a short sentence that describes the way they feel about it. Discuss any new information related to the setting, the characters and the problem.

4. After reading part 3, the students fill out number 5 and try to work out what the conflict might be about using both the information they have and their own predictions.

5. As the students read the last part belonging to the beginning of the story, the students underline any words or expressions related to the rain and circle any words related to the sun. They then write any words that are new to them in 6. Discuss 7 as a whole group.

6. Allow some time for students to put all the pieces together and write a short personal reaction to the text in 8: “I think…”, “I feel…”, “I wonder…” Have them share their thoughts with the rest of the students.

Writing

7. The students write a short text explaining what happened immediately after Margot was let out of the room: What was her reaction? What did she do? Did she say anything? How did her classmates feel? What did they do? Did they apologise? Did their relationship change? How? What do you think of William? Did he do or say anything?

Listening

8. Ask students to look for five similarities and five differences as they watch the short film based on Bradbury’s story. The students fill out a Venn diagram with their findings, which are later shared with the rest of the class.

All Summer in a Day 2

Speaking

9. What could have prevented Margot from being bullied? What could each of the characters involved have done differently?

The discussion will, in fact, largely depend on the group of students and has always taken on a different focus each time I’ve done it. In all cases, however, it became a time when error correction was not a priority, complex grammatical structures were uttered in a natural way, and a careful choice of vocabulary allowed the students to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings efficiently and to the best of their ability. It is in tasks like this that language seems to flow naturally, hypotheses restructured, words become the most relevant, and meaning – personal meaning, the student voice – becomes the ultimate driving force that pulls together that chaos we call “language”.

All Summer in a Day Worksheets.pdf

All Summer in a Day

Parties, story maps, and all that jazz

Using Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” and its sequel, “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, students work on comprehension skills, identifying and analysing story elements, making predictions and discussing the events in the story. Most of the oral discussion will get students talking about hypothetical situations, so this is also a good activity to practise all types of conditional structures.

  1. Tell the students they are going to listen to a song called “It’s My Party” and that two of the main lines in the song are “and I’ll cry if I want to” and “you would cry too if it happened to you”. Ask them to think of possible situations or conflicts that might be going on at this party and the reason why the narrator seems to be so upset. Write them down.
  2. Students listen to the song and complete the first part of the story line (see below), identifying the setting (Where?), the main characters in the story (Who?), the plot (What? How? Why?) and the solution (So what?) Give out a copy of the lyrics to help them check their answers.
  3. Tell the students there is a sequel to this song they are going to listen to. Ask them to work in pairs or groups and fill in the blank circles in the worksheet with five predictions about what might happen next. Share and discuss their ideas.
  4. Students listen to “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and look for two causes and their consequences, which will in turn explain the final solution to the conflict. Does it match any of the students’ predictions?
  5. Discuss the story: “What do you think of each of the characters in the story?”, “Do you think there is any important information missing?”, “What do you think of this relationship?”, “How could they have solved the problem in a different way?”

    Song lyrics

    Story Line

    Story Line

    https://youtu.be/mIsnIt1p978


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Communication strategies

I always start the school year introducing or revising communication strategies that students can use to overcome the problems they may face in communicating a message:

Communication strategies are potentially conscious plans for solving what to an individual presents itself as a problem in reaching a particular communicative goal.
— Færch & Kasper (1983)

Asking for help, explaining the word or idea and using similar words are just a few of the strategies the students can identify, and putting them into practice is what the following activitiy is all about:

1. Tell the students they have five minutes to finish the picture (see below). They should not be able to see each other’s pictures or write their names.

2. Collect the pictures, shuffle them, and show one of them to the rest of the class.

3. Explain that they are going to take turns describing each picture which may allow for multiple interpretations and for which we may lack vocabulary. Compare it with everyday communication and the problems we usually face both as native and non-native speakers. Emphasise that if students give up or use their first language, they are missing an important opportunity to acquire new language.

4. Elicit paraphrasing structures: “It’s a kind/type of…”, “It’s like…”, “It’s used for…”, “It looks….”, “It seems…”, “It’s the shape of…”, “It’s made of…”, “It’s the size of…”, “It’s similar to…”, and so on.

5. Students take turns describing the pictures orally. Notice that some pictures will be abstract or contain elements for which we lack vocabulary in any language.

6. Reshuffle the pictures, give a few to each team, and have them create a story based on them.

 

Communication by DailyPic, on Flickr

Communication” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by  DailyPic 

Habits and routines: a flip book

By having students draw a hint next to each day of the week, this weekly routine flip book can effectively become the basis for a speaking activity in which students make guesses about their classmates’ routines and then check them by reading the sentences inside. A good way to practise the present simple in the affirmative, negative and interrogative, adverbs of frequency and everyday life actions.

1. The students make their own flip book first:

2. For each day of the week, the students write two or three sentences using adverbs of frequency or time expressions. A few of them could be false. On each flap they also draw a picture that represents each of the actions.
3. In pairs or teams, the students take turns guessing other classmates’ routines by looking at the pictures and then checking their answers inside. They may also be encouraged to ask a few questions to get more specific information (“How often…?”, “Where do you usually…?”, “What time do you…?”, and so on), which will help them find the routines that are not true.

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Daily routines: writing a report

F

The Burning House

Today, developed countries are consuming more than ever before. This culture of consumption is often fueled by people’s desire to define themselves by the possessions they amass. The Burning House: What Would You Take? takes a different approach to personal definition. By removing easily replaceable objects and instead focusing on things unique to them, people are able to capture their personalities in a photograph.

— Foster Huntington

I read about this collaborative online project just a few months ago and knew it would make an engaging class activity. Students practise speaking and listening skills while focusing on language used to talk about hypotheses (If my house were on fire, I would…; I could/might…; I wish…; Suppose…; in case…) and develop a wide array of vocabulary related to personal belongings and personality traits. What’s more, this conflict between rationality (what is pratical) and intuition (unveiling our most sentimental side) will reflect the students’ interests and priorities and help to build a positive classroom atmosphere that is conducive to learning.

BEFORE THE LESSON

1. Have the students take a picture of ten objects they would take if their house were on fire. You may want to have them e-mail it to you so that you can have the photos ready for the lesson.

2. At home, the students prepare a short oral presentation explaining their choices:


What would you take if your house were on fire? Choose 10 things, put them together, and take a photo. Get ready to explain your picture to the rest of the class:

  • Can you name all the objects you have chosen in English?
  • Why would you take these objects? Make sure you can provide a brief explanation for each of them.


IN CLASS

3. Display each picture and have the group guess who it belongs to. The students then take turns explaining their choices. A lot of new vocabulary will be generated at this point, with each presenter introducing the new words in a natural and meaningful way. Allow for questions at the end of each presentation.

4. Visit the original online project: http://theburninghouse.com/ The students choose one of the pictures and write a paragraph about what they think this person may be like. You may want to brainstorm and/or introduce common adjectives used to describe personality first. Have the students share their work and predictions, and compare each other’s opinions.

5. Discuss: “How much can we tell about a person by looking at these objects?”