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Teaching Blog: What’s in my Bucket?

Teaching Blog: What’s in my Bucket?

The lesson proposition

There were four teams: Shoulder, Rabbits, Nie wiem ('I don't know'), and Sebamobile

What’s in my bucket? These ten everyday items!

This week I based some of my lessons on the game called ‘What’s In The Bag…?’ (Click here.) I adapted this rather simple idea to make it into a competitive team game that could fill a 45-minute lesson.

I had been thinking about doing this activity with my students for a while, but earlier in the week I had impulsively bought a large blue plastic bucket for garden use (clippings and so on) and it occurred to me that this would be the ideal receptacle for this game.

So it became ‘What’s in my bucket?’ rather than ‘What’s in my bag?’ There had to be a way to keep the contents of the bucket secret as students dipped their hands in, so I covered it with a 120l bin bag (see picture above).

The language aims were:

  • teaching vocabulary
  • to be able to discuss and describe everyday items
  • to practise using descriptive language
  • to have fun with English

Props:

  • bucket / bag
  • something to cover it with, e.g. a blanket or a bin bag
  • a spare bin bag in case SS (students) destroy or damage the original (they did!)
  • one or more sets of x (e.g. 10) interesting everyday items for SS to guess. I had three different sets which I could use in different lessons (see picture below). You could vary the number of items to fill the time you have
Teaching Blog: What’s in my Bucket?

30 different everyday items that I could separate into three sets

Procedure for a 45 min. class:

  1. As SS entered the class they could see ‘What’s in my bucket?’ on the board and the large bucket in a big blue bin bag standing on a table in the middle of the room. SS became a tiny bit interested in what the lesson was going to be.
  2. After doing the register, I asked SS to work in groups of 3 (or 4 if necessary). The aim was to have 4 or 5 groups max. in each class. SS thought of a team name and I wrote them on the board. This was a fun way to identify the teams. Rather than ‘Team 1’, ‘Team 2’, etc. we had ‘Racing Team’ or ‘Damek’s Carrots’!
  3. Warmer: I asked them straight out: ‘What’s in my bucket?’ SS had to guess cold, without feeling inside the bucket. If anybody had been able to guess cold they would have scored points. Again, the aim was to arouse interest in the activity – and, if I’m being honest, pad out the lesson content a bit.
  4. I gave the SS the instructions: each group had one minute to feel inside the bucket and try to guess the ten items in there. I used a timer on my phone. SS could take it in turns, but it had to be one at a time. ‘You can’t look! No looking!’  (Of course, some did. In the case of some SS I had to hold the bag as a sleeve so that they couldn’t lift it up and see in.)
  5. SS wrote items that they had identified on the board (under their team name – see picture below) – in English. (SS were allowed to use dictionaries and the internet to check words they didn’t know.) If one team had guessed an item, another team couldn’t claim the same item. SS had to be fairly specific, so for example in the case of the toy polar bear the word ‘TOY’ or ‘ANIMAL’ was not accepted by me, while ‘PLASTIC BEAR’ was. With higher-level groups I made them be even more specific: ‘Yes, it’s a battery, but what kind?’ SS feels in the bucket again: ‘AAA?’ ‘Yes, that’s right! But what colour is it?’ Seriously, you could give bonus points for correct guesses to questions like this.
  6. Each group had a turn. After one round there were several items written on the board, under various team names. I said which were correct. After the second round (60 seconds each) the SS had maybe been able to correctly guess seven or eight items between them. Time-permitting we played a third and final time, but with only 30 seconds per group. If at the end they hadn’t guessed all ten items I gave clues and tried to elicit what they were until the SS guessed them. Or just told them, if we were in a hurry. With a few groups I helped them by removing the guessed items one by one (and eliciting their names from the whole class) to leave the last two or three items, making them easier to identify.
Teaching Blog: What’s in my Bucket?

How the board looked at the end of a lesson. There were four teams: Shoulder, Rabbits, Nie wiem (‘I don’t know’), and Sebamobile

Extension ideas:

With one higher-level group I was able to use two sets of ten items in the 45-minute lesson, because they were so fast. It was necessary to have more than one set of items prepared, partly for this reason and also in the case of SS stealing or throwing the items. (One class inevitably did this!)

If you have time, you could ask SS to pick some items to put in the bucket for you to guess. Of course, don’t look when they are doing this! One of my classes did this and I had to guess the items, but I felt it was a bit boring for the SS and the focus was all on me, which I wanted to discourage.

What worked

  • It was really interesting that the hardest part of the game for the SS was not guessing the items, but finding the correct name for those everyday things. I had chosen things that we see around the home all the time, but don’t necessarily know in the target language (English). One example was the word ‘coaster’. In Polish this is ‘podstawka’ which basically means ‘stand’. In Polish this single word can mean one of half a dozen or more different items, so the SS came up with various names when they felt this item: ‘tea tablet’, ‘tea pad’, ‘tea stand’, ‘tea saucer’, ‘tea tray’… all of these words are served by the same word ‘podstawka’, while in English we have many different words, including ‘coaster’.
  • The SS were intrigued by the initial concept: ‘What’s in my bucket?’ I was able to use theatricality, e.g. showing a squeamish face as I gingerly delved into the bucket. Some SS remarked that there could be a snake in there. I hope it was a fun and unusual lesson that will be memorable for my SS, who are so often used to sitting still for 45 minutes reading the course book in class. (Not in my classes, I’m happy to say.)
  • It was really nice to see teamwork within the groups of three. Most of them naturally – without being told by me – adopted the dynamic of one feeling and speaking, one checking the translation, and one writing on the board.

Challenges

There had to be a group who didn’t take the activity in the spirit in which it was given; I knew that they wouldn’t, but I wanted to try it with them anyway and see what would happen. So we got chaos:

  • cheating
  • stealing the items, keeping them, even after the lesson into the following break
  • hiding the items
  • drawing ‘rude’ pictures on the board
  • tearing the bin bag to make a hole so they could see in
  • throwing items around
  • pulling the ring pull off the can of sweetcorn, then near the end of the lesson, when they felt hungry, trying to open the can by smashing it on the corner of a desk. They now owe me one can of sweetcorn!

And yet this class were still able to guess six out of ten of the items. In hindsight, should I have played this game with them?

In terms of the language goals it’s debatable how much English the SS learned from doing this activity. It wasn’t really a communicative activity and SS used Polish throughout, apart from to say/write the names of the items. There was no presentation element, unlike the previous few weeks’ lessons. However, it was undoubtedly fun for each group. Next week we will have to work harder on speaking in class.

What Time do English People Usually Eat?

pixel2013 / Pixabay

A) Match the sentence halves:

  1. We have breakfast at __________.
  2. We have a mid-morning snack at __________.
  3. We have lunch at __________.
  4. We have a cup of tea and a biscuit at __________.
  5. We have dinner at __________.
  6. We have supper at __________.
  7. We have a snack __________.

a) whenever we feel a bit peckish!

b) one o’clock.

c) six o’clock in the evening.

d) about eleven o’clock.

e) eight o’clock at night.

f) seven o’clock in the morning.

g) about four o’clock in the afternoon.

B) What time do YOU eat during the day?

Answers (no peeping!):

1. f)  2. d)  3. b)  4. g)  5. c)  6. e)  7. a)

Learn 20 New English Phrasal Verbs! Doreen’s Problem

sharonang / Pixabay

a) Translate fifteen phrasal verbs connected with diet and fitness below. Read the dialogue then complete each gap with the correct form of one of the phrasal verbs:

Doreen is talking to her good friend Barbara at a bus stop:

Doreen: ‘You know, Bar, I just can’t seem to 1. _______________. It doesn’t matter what I do. I 2. _______________ for that gym in December, the one that I told you about, and I’ve been 3. _______________ there really intensively, you know, to try and 4. _______________ the calories – honest! – but it’s just no use. When I get home from work there’s my husband Bazza tucking into a lovely chicken sandwich, and I can’t help but join him. After that I might fill up on crisps and popcorn, then in the evening I’ll probably 5. _______________ a few more chicken sandwiches in the kitchen… It’s no wonder that I 6. _______________ weight, is it, Bar?’

Barbara: ‘I don’t know. Maybe you’re just big-boned. Do you still 7. _______________ at different restaurants every weekend?’

Doreen: ‘Yes, but I always mean to have the healthy option. You know, I can’t help wolfing down a delicious plate of chicken and chips and then 8. _______________ a huge cake for pudding.’

Barbara: ‘You know, you mustn’t pig out, Doreen! How many times do I need to tell you? It’s no good for your body. You know, you’ve got to cut back on your food, right, and 9. _______________ your calorific intake.’

Doreen: ‘You what, Bar?’

Barbara: ‘Try to 10. _______________ the fatty food and sweets for a few weeks, and 11. _______________ the crisps for good. Have you thought about 12. _______________ jogging? That would help you to 13. _______________ the calories in a controlled kind of way.’

Doreen: ‘I did try that once – with Bazza. We were exhausted after a few hundred metres and walked to the nearest pub, where we met some pals and 14. _______________ a few drinks – and the landlady 15. _______________ a fabulous chicken pie…!’

b) Find five more phrasal verbs connected with eating in the text. Translate them and write two sentences with each phrasal verb.




Answers:

a) 1. slim down. 2. signed up. 3. working out. 4. burn off. 5. knock up. 6. put on. 7. eat out. 8. putting away. 9. cut down. 10. cut out. 11. give up. 12. taking up. 13. work off. 14. knocked back. 15. dished up.

b) tuck into; fill up on; wolf down; pig out; cut back. Answers will vary.

NEW Podcast! The Schwa Sound

NEW Podcast! The Schwa Sound

Learn about the schwa sound in English:

Download link: 52. The Schwa Sound in English (MP3 12 MB)

What is the schwa sound in English? With Matt Purland. Listen to the podcast and follow the text here:
The image shows the schwa sound as sound waves (stereo) captured by Audacity software.
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Idiom of the day – Get that Friday feeling!

johny_deff / Pixabay

If you’ve got ‘that Friday feeling‘ you are ready for the weekend and in the mood for fun and relaxation. This is the kind of thing you could say when you get into work on a Friday morning – it means you are happy because work will soon be finished and it’s time to celebrate the fact that two days of holiday (the weekend) is on the horizon. However, not everybody might share or appreciate your cheery demeanour:

Jeremy: Morning, Carol.

Carol: Morning, Jeremy. What are you so happy about?

Jeremy: It’s Friday! It’s nearly the weekend! I can’t wait. I’m going to a massive party with my mates in Cornwall! What about you, Carol? Have you got anything planned for the weekend?

Carol: Not really. I’ll probably do my ALDI big shop tomorrow.

Jeremy: Oh, cheer up, Carol! It’s Friday!

Carol: So you keep saying. I’ve got to get all these accounts finished by four.

Great FREE Teaching Material – New on PurlandTraining.com this week!

qimono / Pixabay

New Podcasts:

Days, Months, and Seasons

The English Alphabet

Free Printable Worksheets:

Time-Travelling Job Swap

New Infographics:

8 Common Writing Errors & How to Avoid Them

Skills of the Future – 10 Skills You’ll Need to Thrive in 2020

New Wordsearches:

Find 20 Pets

Find 20 Hobbies

New Idiom of the Day:

They’re a Match Made in Heaven

Learn Days, Months, and Seasons

NEW! FREE Podcast – Learn Days, Months, and Seasons – with Matt Purland

Learn Days, Months, and Seasons – with Matt Purland.

In this podcast we learn the vocabulary for days, months, and seasons, and practise the correct pronunciation.

Click here to read the lesson notes and exercises.

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Days, Months, and Seasons (5 MB, Google Drive)

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Learn the English Alphabet - with Matt Purland

NEW! FREE Podcast – Learn the English Alphabet – with Matt Purland

Do you know the English alphabet? It’s time to learn – or revise – the English alphabet!

Listen and download the free MP3 lesson: Learn the English Alphabet (9 MB, Google Drive)

Visit the lesson page here!

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