Category Archives: Pair Work

30 ESOL Discussion Questions about Laughter

30 ESOL Discussion Questions about Laughter

30 ESOL Discussion Questions about Laughter

Discuss the following questions with a partner or small group:

  1. What is laughter? Can you spell it? Can you pronounce it? How do you write laughter in your language, e.g. ‘ha ha!’ in English, but ‘Jajajajaja!’ in Spanish?
  2. When did you last laugh? Who or what made you laugh? How often do you laugh? What would I need to do to make you laugh right now?
  3. Do you like laughing? What is the difference between laughing and smiling?
  4. How do we laugh? What happens to our bodies, especially: a) mouth, b) eyes, c) chest, d) diaphragm, e) heart, f) breath? What does laughter: a) sound like, b) look like, c) feel like?
  5. Where do you usually laugh? Why? What effect does the environment have on the potential for laughter?
  6. What effect would laughter have on the atmosphere: a) at a party, b) at a business meeting, c) in church, d) at a comedy club, e) at a funeral, f) in an exam, g) at a family dinner, h) at the doctor’s?
  7. Are you self-conscious about laughing in front of: a) friends, b) family, c) strangers? Why?
  8. Is it easier to laugh in a big group e.g. at a comedy club or at the theatre? Would you laugh as much if you were the only person in the audience? If no, why not?
  9. Is laughter ever wrong? When is laughter inappropriate? Can it be illegal to laugh?
  10. How would you feel if you couldn’t stop laughing and laughed all the time? What would life be like? Is it possible to die laughing?
  11. What is the point of laughter? Is there any evolutionary advantage? Does laughter send out useful signals, e.g. that the one laughing is not a threat? Do animals laugh? Do animals find things funny? If not, why not?
  12. Can robots laugh? Do you think machines will be able to enjoy our sense of humour in the future?
  13. Have you ever laughed till you cried? Have you ever laughed until you couldn’t breathe and thought you might black out, i.e. uncontrollable laughter? What were you laughing at? Do you like that sensation? Why? / Why not?
  14. Can laughter be subversive? Can it be used as a weapon? In what situation(s)? Does satire make you laugh?
  15. Do you prefer to laugh on your own or with friends? Do you laugh at the same things as your friends and family? Do you believe that laughter is infectious? Why? / Why not? Does the Laughing Policeman song (above) make you laugh?
  16. Is there anything that you wouldn’t laugh at? What? Is it possible to laugh when you don’t really find something funny?
  17. Do you know anybody who doesn’t laugh very often – or who never laughs? Why is that?
  18. Are you good at making people laugh? What are the best ways to make other people laugh? How do you feel when a group of people are laughing: a) because of you, b) at you? What is the difference?
  19. What are the benefits of laughter? Is laughter ‘the best medicine’, for example?
  20. How would you describe your laugh? Are you a loud, moderate, or quiet laugher? How did you learn to laugh?
  21. Describe the difference(s) between these different kinds of laughter: a) chuckle, b) giggle, c) cackle, d) guffaw, e) snigger, f) sneer, g) chortle, h) hoot, i) titter, j) snicker, k) roar, l) snort, m) howl, n) fall about laughing? Do you laugh in all these different ways? In what situations would you laugh like that? Can you give an example of each kind of laughter now?
  22. Do you know the meaning of the following idioms about laughter? a) to have a laugh, b) to have the last laugh, c) to get the giggles, d) laughter is the best medicine, e) to be laugh-a-minute, f) he who laughs last laughs longest, g) to laugh your head off, h) to burst out laughing?
  23. Do adults laugh at different things to children? Do women laugh at different things to men? If so, why?
  24. Do you agree that ‘the couple who laugh together, stay together? Is it important for married couples to have the same sense of humour? Why? / Why not?
  25. Do optimistic people laugh more than pessimistic people? If yes, why?
  26. Is it possible to change your mood from angry to happy by forcing yourself to laugh, thus releasing the feel-good chemicals endorphins in the brain?
  27. Do you make funny noises when you laugh? Do you ever say something immediately after laughing, like ‘Oh no!’ or ‘Oh dear?’ If yes, why?
  28. How would you feel if you were walking down the street and heard the following people laugh? a) a baby, b) a group of women, c) a group of teenage boys, d) a lone man, e) a lone woman, f) a lone child? Why? What would be the difference?
  29. Do the things you laugh at change as you get older, or remain broadly the same? Why?
  30. Do you agree with this quotation from the famous poem ‘Solitude’ by Ella Wheeler: ‘Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone’? What does it mean?
Reading the Bible – Discussion Questions

Reading the Bible – Discussion Questions

Reading the Bible – Discussion Questions

Get more FREE Bible study worksheets [Click Here]

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Discuss the following questions with a partner or small group:

  1. What is your favourite: a) book of the Bible (Old and New Testaments), b) verse in the Bible, c) story in the Bible, d) psalm, e) proverb, f) parable of Jesus, g) letter in the New Testament? Say why.
  2. Which person in the Bible do you relate to the most? Why? Compare two characters from the Bible – one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. What features make the Old and New Testaments different? What do they have in common? Which do you prefer to read? Why?
  3. When do you read the Bible? What is the best time of day? How long do you spend reading the Bible? Where do you usually read the Bible? Do you have a favourite place to go? Do you like to read the Bible with others or alone? Why? Have you ever attended a Bible study group?
  4. Which version of the Bible do you prefer? Why do you like it more than other versions? Have you ever tried to understand the Bible in its original languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek? How did you get on?
  5. Describe your Bible. What does it look like? How old is it? How long have you had it? Where did you get it from? Are you thinking about replacing it? Have you ever used a Bible app or an eBible online?
  6. Do you use any tools to help you understand the Bible, e.g. concordances, reading notes and plans, websites, etc.? How do they help you? Do you enjoy hearing the Bible read aloud? Do you listen to readings from the Bible online or on Bible apps?
  7. How important is the Bible to you personally? Why do you read it? Have you ever been encouraged or helped by reading the Bible? Tell me about it. How do you apply the message of the Bible in your life? Do you think you could function as a Christian without reading the Bible? Are you ever reluctant to read the Bible? Why? How do you start reading again?
  8. What would you do if you couldn’t read the Bible anymore? What about if the Bible was outlawed in your country? Do you ever take your access to the Bible for granted? Have you ever been bullied for reading the Bible or being a Christian? How did you respond? Have you ever distributed Bibles?
  9. Did anyone teach you to read the Bible? How did you first hear about the Bible? Have you read the whole Bible? If not, what is stopping you? Would you consider trying to read the whole Bible in a year with a special plan or app? What do you think would be the difficulties? What would be the rewards?
  10. How do you know that you can trust the Bible? Do you believe that everything in the Bible can be taken completely literally? If not, which parts cannot? How do you know?
  11. Do you like to memorise verses of Scripture? How many do you know? Can you tell me some of them now? Why do you do it? How do you memorise verses?
  12. Is the Bible relevant to non-Christians? How? How often do you talk to your non-Christian friends or colleagues about the Bible? What is their response?

Image: https://pixabay.com


Get more FREE Bible study worksheets [Click Here]


 

Hashtag Improve Your Life in Four Words - ESOL Game

Hashtag Improve Your Life in Four Words – ESOL Game

Hashtag Improve Your Life in Four Words – ESOL Game

This is a fun ESOL game inspired by the recent Twitter hashtag: #ImproveYourLifeIn4Words

Method:

  1. SS (students) work in pairs or small groups. They access the hashtag on Twitter and select ten (or more, or fewer) tweets. T (teacher) monitors and helps.
  2. They write the four-word phrases onto a sheet of paper, then delete one of the words from each phrase. SS could focus on deleting words from a particular word class, e.g. verbs, adjectives, or prepositions, etc.
  3. Next, SS exchange their paper with another pair or group, who have to complete each gap with one word only – or more than one word, if you want the game to be easier. Then both pairs of groups come together and compare their answers with the original tweets.
  4. Twist: SS have to suggest more than one word that could possibly fit, e.g. five words – the funnier the better!
  5. The whole class come together and different groups present their work to the class.
  6. Final quick-fire round #1: T (or a student) collects all of the four-word phrases and reads them to SS going round the whole class in a circle. The reader omits the final word and the student has to say the first thing that comes to mind, e.g. “I would buy…” “Sausages.” / “Bread.” / “A pizza.” – and so on. You could make it competitive by putting a five-second timer on each student – if they can’t think of anything, they sit out, and the game continues until there is one student as the winner!
  7. Final quick-fire round #2: T (or SS) collect a number of four-word phrases from the hashtag on Twitter. Play the quick-fire round, as above, but this time SS must come up with the real final word from the tweets. You could play it competitively too, as above.

By the way, don’t forget to follow Purland Training on Twitter! [Click here.] and let us know how it goes!


Example (with tweets below):

Education gives children __________.    e.g. headaches

Pledge to go __________!    e.g. green

Learn to love __________.    e.g. homework

__________, then laugh more.    e.g. eat

Laugh whenever it’s __________.    e.g. raining

Think about others __________.    e.g. sometimes

Go to bed __________.    e.g. late

Watch the Penguin __________.    e.g. film

A Weekend In __________.    e.g. Grimsby

Read more, sing __________!    e.g. less


#Education gives #children choices #ImproveYourLifeIn4Words pic.twitter.com/yOYzPDNfAR


Title image: https://pixabay.com

Robot Vacuum Cleaners - 15 Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes

Robot Vacuum Cleaners – 15 Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes

Robot Vacuum Cleaners – 15 Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes

Robot vacuum cleaners are those little round space-age gadgets that trundle around the floor in your flat or house and promise to clean the carpet. Have you ever seen one in action? Have you considered buying one? Maybe you already own one.

Whatever you think of them, robot vacuum cleaners are probably going to be everywhere soon, so why not create an ESOL class based around this topic, using the activities and discussion questions below?

Discuss the following questions with a partner or small group:

  1. Do you do the vacuum cleaning in your home? Do you like doing it? When do you do it? How long does it take? Do you find it a chore? What would you do with the time if you didn’t have to do it? If not, who does it? How well do they do it?
  2. Tell me about your vacuum cleaner. What kind is it? What make is it? When did you buy it? Where did you buy it? How much was it? Why did you choose it? How efficient is it at cleaning different kinds of floor? Are you planning on replacing it soon? Why? / Why not?
  3. Do you have a robot vacuum cleaner? If yes, tell me about it. Why did you buy it? If not, why not? Are you planning to buy one? Do you think they look cool? Do you think your friends, family, and colleagues would be impressed if you had one?
  4. Compare a robot vacuum cleaner to your current vacuum cleaner. Do you think it would work better than your current regular vacuum cleaner? Why? / Why not?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of robot vacuum cleaners? Do you think that the benefits outweigh the potential problems/costs? Is it worth spending up to £1,000 to buy a top-of-the-range robot vacuum cleaner? Why? / Why not? Is it worth cutting costs and buying a cheaper model, e.g. for £150? Why? / Why not? Are you happy for it to stand there in your living room or corridor all the time, instead of in a cupboard? How good is it if it can be stopped by a stray sock? Could it be a tripping hazard, especially if it is a quiet model and you don’t see it coming? Can it be better than a human doing the job, when it can’t pick up and move anything, or reach high places?
  6. If you bought a robot vacuum cleaner would you keep your old cleaner? Do you think you need both kinds of cleaner to do a good job? How could a robot vacuum cleaner clean hard-to-reach areas, e.g. corners of ceilings?
  7. Would you feel embarrassed to let a robot do the housework, when you feel that you should do it? Would you feel embarrassed about a robot doing a better job than you? Or would you feel thrilled to chill out on the sofa while a machine is doing your duties? Wouldn’t it be healthier to be active and move around doing your own cleaning, than resting? Do you have a dishwasher? Did you have misgivings before buying one, thinking that you could do better? How do you feel now? How is a robot vacuum cleaner any different?
  8. How do you define a robot? Do you have any other robots in your home? How do you think robot vacuum cleaners could be improved? How will they develop and improve in the next: a) five years? b) ten years? Do you think that every home will have a robot vacuum cleaner in time? Is this inevitable progress? Do you think that people complained about vacuum cleaners replacing sweeping brushes?
  9. Can you think of any other ways in which robots improve your life at present? What jobs would you like a robot to do for you, in an ideal world?
  10. Do you believe a robot could do your job? Could you be replaced by a robot? Why? / Why not? What about robot cars? Will they become popular? Why? / Why not?
  11. What is your favourite household appliance? If you had to keep only one, which would it be? Why? How long have you had it? What value does it bring to your life?
  12. Do you think that robot vacuum cleaners are helpful for disabled people? How could they help?
  13. Could we use robot vacuum cleaners to save money on cleaning staff costs at places like office blocks and hotels, which have large areas for cleaning? Why? / Why not?
  14. Is this kind of cleaner good for the environment? Why? / Why not?
  15. If somebody gave you a robot vacuum cleaner as a gift, how would you feel? Would you try to sell it?
Robot Vacuum Cleaners - 15 Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes

Robot Vacuum Cleaners – 15 Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes

Other fun communicative activities you might like to try:

  • Find video reviews online and discuss / compare two different robot vacuum cleaner models. You could use the table below to make notes about each one:
Compare Robot Vacuum Cleaners - Table

Compare Robot Vacuum Cleaners – Table

Then write 10 sentences comparing the two models.

  • Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of buying a robot vacuum cleaner. Discuss them, and try to appreciate the opposite point of view for each point.
  • Write 5 wh- questions and 5 yes/no questions that you would ask a shop assistant about one of these gadgets. Find a real model online and write down the answers to your questions.
  • Role play a conversation between a customer and a shop assistant re. buying one. It could include an in-store demo.
  • Role play a conversation between a customer and a shop assistant re. getting a refund due to… a) broken model, b) unwanted gift, c) too difficult to use, d) inefficient.
  • Choose one model and imagine that you bought it. Write a review about it in your notebook. Give it between one and five stars. Match your review to the star rating accordingly. Read it aloud to the class.

Images: https://pexels.com (top), https://pixabay.com

Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice - Who Gives Way?

Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice – Who Gives Way?

Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice - Who Gives Way?
Picture the scene. You are walking on the pavement when you notice there is somebody coming towards you. If one of you does not move, you will bump into each other. There is room on your left (and their right) for somebody to move to (see picture above). But who moves?

  1. Do you move for the other person? Why?
  2. Do you keep going and when they also refuse to move you stop and wait for them to walk around you – if, in fact, they do?
  3. Do you keep your course and try to force them to move?

This is a fairly light-hearted discussion-based lesson about status, empathy for people we don’t know, etiquette, and personal prejudices.

You will need a set of cards for each group or pair. You can download these worksheets (PDF) below:

Picture the scene. You are walking on the pavement when you notice there is somebody coming towards you. If one of you does not move, you will bump into each other. There is room on your left (and their right) for somebody to move to (see picture above). But who moves? 1. Do you move for the other person? Why? 2. Do you keep going and when they also refuse to move you stop and wait for them to walk around you – if, in fact, they do? 3. Do you keep your course and try to force them to move? This is a fairly light-hearted discussion-based lesson about status, empathy for people we don’t know, etiquette, and personal prejudices. You will need a set of cards for each group or pair:

  • ‘People’ cards (pink)
  • ‘Appearance’ cards (blue)
  • ‘Activity’ cards – two different sets (yellow)
  • ‘Path’ cards (green)
  • Blank cards (white)

(Note: using card is not essential – you could also print the worksheets on normal paper. Card would be better if possible, and the different colours make them easily distinguishable!)

Activities:

  1. SS (students) could begin with discussion questions in pairs or small groups. Establish the proposition:
  • How often do you walk around your town?
  • Are you a confident walker or a nervous walker?
  • How often do you face the situation mentioned above during a normal walk?
  • What do you tend to do? Do you keep walking, stop, or give way? Why?
  • What factors influence your decision? For example: type of person, their appearance, their activity (what they are doing), and the kind of path you are on?
  • Have you ever been involved in an awkward ‘dance’ with somebody walking towards you, because both of you try to move out of the way in the same direction at the same time – and you keep doing it until one person finally stops?
  • Have you ever had an argument with somebody who bumped into you, or who wouldn’t get out of your way? What happened? How did you resolve it?

2. SS work in pairs or small groups. One person selects a random card from each of the four piles (blank cards are optional) and put them in a row. For example:

Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice - Who Gives Way?

They ask the other person: ‘What would you do in this situation – move, stop, or keep going?’ Discussion ensues. The student should state the main factor that influenced their decision (e.g. they give way because the person was elderly) and the next factor too (e.g. the person was carrying something large). Then the next student picks the cards for the next person and the discussion continues. Here are some more sample scenarios:
Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice - Who Gives Way?

SS can combine more than one person, appearance and/or activity. For example, there could be more than one person doing more than one activity. SS could add their own factors on the blank cards. Of course some of the scenarios may be absurd, e.g. you might select:

boy        heavily pregnant        throwing snowballs        beach

In that kind of situation SS could pick other cards to replace the absurd element(s). SS could talk about what happens if you swap around factors, e.g. swap the places in scenario one and three. SS could add ‘conditions’ (e.g. weather: too hot, too cold; raining, etc.) and ‘time’ (e.g. early morning, 11pm, etc.) to each scenario using the blank cards.

3. When SS have discussed 4, 6, or 8 different people and situations, they pick two of them and decide what would happen if those two people met on a path. SS discuss which factors are stronger and weaker. Which person trumps the other person in terms of not having to move out of the way? Why?

4. SS look at a number of different factors in an imaginary person coming towards you and rank them from strongest (you definitely have to move) to weakest (the other person definitely has to move.) SS should justify their reasons. Which factors are dead certs meaning you would have to move, e.g. young people may feel they have to move when faced with an elderly person coming towards them, while somebody else may decide they will not move when a cyclist is coming towards them, since the onus is on the person who is moving fastest to exercise move care. A man may decide that he must always move for a woman, and so on. Which single factor is the strongest? This could lead into a whole group discussion. As a twist, SS could discuss different scenarios when walking behind one or more person and trying to get past them – e.g. trying to pass a family group with a pushchair, dog, etc.

5. SS create and write a dialogue based on one or more of the scenarios and act it out for the rest of the group. Some of the combinations may well suggest dramatic scenes, for example: ‘an ugly boy pushing an empty shopping trolley down a hospital corridor…’ could suggest a heart-breaking situation.

6. SS practise writing and saying questions and answers with 2nd conditional, for example:

A: ‘What would you do if…?’
B: ‘I would…’

7. SS go out into the street in pairs or small groups with their notebooks and write down what happens when they get into different situations with different kinds of people walking towards them. What are their natural inclinations? Who do they give way (defer) to? Who do they expect to move? What happens if they change their normal walking behaviour? SS could interview members of the public or other students/staff members at about what they usually do. (Of course, I’m not in any way suggesting that SS should walk into other members of the public on purpose and write down what occurs! Care may need to be exercised.)

8. SS write an essay about the little-discussed ethics of walking around in public without bumping into each other. How has this lesson related to their lives and touched on their habits and prejudices? What will they take away from it? What will they do differently as a result of studying this discussion topic? Why? If nothing, why not?

9. SS stand in a group in the middle of the classroom; T (teacher) says a factor; SS move to one or other side of the class to vote for either ‘move’ or ‘keep going’. T has the definitive answer for each factor. SS who are wrong go out and sit down and the game continues until one person wins.

I hope you will enjoy using this original lesson plan from PurlandTraining.com! If you do use it, please let me know how it goes by contacting me (Matt Purland) here, or leave a comment below!


Teaching Blog: Discussion Practice - Who Gives Way?

Printable Worksheets (PDF):

‘People’ cards:

people-cards

‘Appearance’ cards:

appearance-cards

‘Activity’ cards – Page 1:

activity-gerund-cards-page-1

‘Activity’ cards – Page 2:

activity-gerund-cards-page-2

‘Path’ cards:

path-cards

Blank cards:

blank-cards

Title image: https://pixabay.com/

Teaching Blog: How do you Escape from a Desert Island?

Teaching Blog: How do you Escape from a Desert Island?

Last week my students crash-landed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and swam for their lives from sharks until they reached a desert island. As luck would have it, a (watertight) container washed up on the shore beside them. It contained fifteen useful items from the plane (see picture below):

Teaching Blog: Could You Survive on a Desert Island?

Laminated page with the fifteen items

knife
mirror
mobile phone
tent
rope
newspapers
sun lotion
fishing net
chocolate
axe
magnifying glass
toilet paper
compass
drinking water
map

Each group had to select six items and explain why they had chosen them over the other items. They also had to say what happened to them at the end of their story, i.e. escape, get rescued, make a new life on the island, or…

Well, that was the setup for the lesson! (They didn’t really crash-land in the Pacific Ocean. If they had, I’m sure our lessons would have been cancelled.) This was my take on the classic team-building problem-solving game.

Procedure for a 45 min. class: (14-15 year olds):

  1. I set the scene in as dramatic a way as possible (involving plane noises, explosions, and swooping hand gestures), then outlined the task, as above.
  2. I gave each group a laminated page with the items on (see above). We checked they knew what they all were and the name of each item.
  3. I explained that there were no right or wrong answers, but they had to justify their choices. I stressed: ‘It’s YOUR story. The island and what happens is up to you. Use your imaginations.’
  4. I explained that their basic aims were: FIRST – escape from the island; SECOND – survive.
  5. SS (students) were allowed to use dictionaries and phone translators, as usual.
  6. After the register and setup (10 mins), and preparation time (15 mins), it was time for the presentations (20 mins). Each group went to the front and presented their choices and their story. I asked questions, e.g. ‘Why this?’ / ‘Why not that?’ and so on. I asked SS about unusual items they had chosen, e.g. the mobile phone or the chocolate, which were both not popular choices. I also asked about life on the island: ‘Have you met any other people on the Island? Can you describe what you can see? How do you feel? What happens…?’ and so on.

Various attempts at putting a brief version of the instructions on the board:

Teaching Blog: Could You Survive on a Desert Island?

Board instructions 1

Teaching Blog: Could You Survive on a Desert Island?

Board instructions 2

Teaching Blog: Could You Survive on a Desert Island?

Board instructions 3

Extension ideas:

  • SS could add drawings and sound effects, if there is time.
  • Role play key moments in the story.
  • Make and edit a film with phone video recorders.
  • Create a competitive version where you assign a value to each item – from low to high – and SS get points for their choices. The ones with the most points win. This would need a rejig of items to make it more difficult – more useful items and fewer low-value items.

There is lots of scope for using creative skills. The lesson could easily have lasted 90 minutes.

Homework:

  • SS write up a diary with x entries, e.g. Day 1, Day 2, Day 8, and Day X (the day their story comes to a head).

What worked?

  • It was another topic that engaged the SS from the outset, and a fairly simple activity compared with previous presentation tasks. The lesson plan worked like a charm and the planning and preparation time that I put in at the weekend paid off big-time. The lesson time flew by but it was really important to keep strict timing so that we could hear everybody’s presentation. On a couple of occasions we ran out of time and I had to hear the last presentation during the break-time.
  • It was a manageable task with an interesting theme that allowed for SS’s use of imagination, for example, one group imagined ‘cannibals’, another an island full of women, while one student wanted to cut the twelve plastic bottles in half and hang them upside down to (somehow) collect the moisture from the air.
  • It was a nice easy class for me to manage. I did the introduction, then SS worked in pairs or threes and I could monitor casually; then we had the presentations; then the lesson was over.
  • I could use the Q&A element as a filler by asking more questions, or ask fewer questions, depending on how the time was going. So, if there were still ten minutes of lesson to go but only two more presentations, I would ask both groups more questions to fill the time.
  • We had fun with the Polish word for axe, which is siekiera, and pronounced almost the same as the name of the popular singer Shakira.
  • It was interesting to see what each group had chosen, and what they valued. I was surprised that the water was so popular, because it could only be used once. There were only six litres, so a three-strong team would only get two litres each. Still, many groups valued it above items such as the tent, and thought they would get some use out of the plastic bottles too (as above), e.g. as containers; for catching fish/insects; for making a raft with floats, and so on.
  • We had a few discussions about boiling seawater. I didn’t think it was possible and it forced me to look it up online and discover that it would be possible to distil it by boiling it and collecting the condensation. However, I don’t think the SS had the right tools to be able to do this – pans, glasses, cups, and so on. Still, it was a moot point!
  • For those who tried to escape by raft or boat I challenged them – do you think you would get far by raft or boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? It would depend on the location. As I had said, it was their story, so some SS managed it because they imagined their island to be fairly close to Hawaii. I thought their best chance of escape would have been to use the mirror and signal for help; there were bound to be helicopters and planes out searching for survivors. Some SS groups preferred to stay on the island and many thought death would be their outcome: ‘We all died’ came the fairly defeatist statement from some groups. Of all the possible outcomes… However, a few SS realised that if they died on the island, or were eaten by sharks, they wouldn’t have to invent much of a story. One group of three guys began their story: ‘We found a knife and killed Kacper for meat, because we were tired of hearing about Martyna [his ex-girlfriend]! Then we killed each other.’ Me: ‘How did you do that?’
  • However, this lesson provided a breakthrough in terms of the problem of getting the SS to speak English during the lessons. As I got used to doing the lesson plan (13 times over the course of one week!) I realised that the longer I sat with the groups while they were preparing, the more they would have to speak English; also, the longer time I allowed for presentations, the longer I could do the Q&A sessions, where again SS had to speak to me in English. As the lessons went on I allowed less time for setup and prep and much longer for the presentations. This really felt like a significant breakthrough, and it is something I will do again in the future.

Challenges

  • If I did this lesson plan again, I would definitely rethink the items. There are too many ‘weak’ items, like the chocolate, the sun lotion, the toilet paper, the newspapers, and the mobile phone, so many groups ended up choosing more or less the same six most useful items, i.e. the knife, axe, net, rope, magnifying glass, and water. There need to be mainly strong items to choose from, so there is more variety and more deliberation/explaining to do. That’s something to improve the activity for next time, but it didn’t spoil the lessons.
  • Early on I realised I had to explain what some of the items were. The mirror was mistaken for a frame a few times, and one group thought the newspapers were towels!
  • In the initial lessons, SS read out short stories, with a list of items usually at the beginning. I decided to ask them questions to try to break up the prepared answers and get some spontaneous answers. This ended up working really well.
  • There is a gap in the narrative / break in the logic, which none of the SS mentioned or seemed bothered about: why, if the washed-up container had fifteen items in it, did they have to choose only six. The task relies on selection, but why only six things from fifteen?! Nobody asked! Why were these fifteen items together in the container anyway? I remembered the mnemonic: KISS (keep it simple, stupid!). But it began to bother me. I didn’t find a suitable narrative. It would have to be that another person – from the plane or from the island – was limiting the number of items to six. Thankfully it didn’t matter! The SS accepted the activity for what it was and ran with it.
  • This lesson was a hard sell at 8am on a Thursday morning! It didn’t help when three students walked in late at intervals as I was trying to go through the setup…

Overall this week’s lessons were really fun. Being able to do this lesson plan with thirteen of my eighteen groups was really rewarding. The lesson plan was solid but it definitely improved as we went along, and can be improved in the future.

As a postscript, during one of the final lessons with this plan I finally realised that the term ‘desert island’ might have given all the groups the wrong impression! In Polish ‘desert’ is pustynia – like the Sahara Desert – while deserted is ‘opustoszały’ (abandoned/desolate). One student asked me in the penultimate lesson – ‘Is the island just desert?’ ‘No,’ I explained. ‘Desert island really means deserted island. The island can be big, with trees and lakes. It’s up to you. It’s about your imagination!’ I could have kicked myself: how I had potentially made it harder and more confusing for them because of the language barrier, and by assuming they know what the cultural concept of a ‘desert island’ is. What I had in my head was apparently completely different to what they might have been imagining. More planning required!

## Please let me know if you try this lesson and how it goes! Click here to contact me. ##

What do you do when students NOOOOOOOOO! your lesson intro?

What do you do when students NOOOOOOOOO! your lesson intro?

So this happened to me on Monday. It was the last lesson of the day and I’d already enjoyed success with my ‘wonderful and imaginative’ lesson plan (my review) five times – including with a couple of difficult groups – and I was looking forward to winding down with the same lesson plan with a high-level group who are usually personable and intelligent people.

I took the register – about eight students were in attendance. It was too hot in the room; the blinds were down and the windows open to allow a meagre wisp of cool air to enter when it chose. I stood in front of the class and introduced the topic: ‘We’re going to discuss social networks!’

I was astonished to hear a chorus of ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’s from the students. Again, I repeat, my lesson plan involved starting with discussion in pairs about social networks. Not a grammar exercise. Not a review of present perfect, or – heaven forbid – future perfect. Not a spelling test, or a written composition ‘na ocena’ – ‘for a mark’. No, discuss social networks in pairs. I had chosen a topic that I knew my students (aged 14-15) were not only interested in, but absolute experts in. They didn’t know but my secret weapon for the second half of the 45-minute lesson was a Kahoot quiz where they were to answer true/false questions about social networks on their (normally forbidden) mobile phones.

‘NOOOOOOOOO!’

So what do you do when the students reject your (fun) lesson plan out of hand at the beginning of the lesson? ‘We want to go home!’

‘OK, but you can’t go home.’

‘We’re tired!’

‘We have to do the lesson.’

‘BRAAAGGHHH!’

‘OK, but this will be fun. Let’s try it.’

I persuaded them to discuss the simplified version of this set of questions, that I had written on the board. Then I led group feedback. IMHO it was interesting and they were more engaged and made some intelligent comment about social networks. (Although they refused to believe that they are, in fact, only ‘free’ with air quotes, as opposed to free without air quotes.)

Then they dropped the bombshell. I announced: ‘Now we’re going to do a quiz about social networks.’

‘NOOOOOOOOO!’

Again – a chorus of NOOOOOOOOOs. What part of my sentence provoked this reaction from the heart – from the belly – ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’ Was it the word ‘quiz’? Did they associate it with ‘test’ and ‘exam’? Did they still not believe, after months of evidence working together, that I only wanted to engage them with interesting and relevant content? I hurriedly put the quiz up on the whiteboard via the projector and asked them to get their phones out and log in with the Kahoot PIN. This kind of quiz is really fun because it’s interactive – you watch the quiz unfold on the big screen and participate by pressing the answer on your phone. I think it’s cool. My other groups had enjoyed it…

The real knockout blow for me came when the students were entering their screen name or nickname for the quiz. This appears on the big screen and everyone can see it, so there is plenty of potential for writing ‘naughty’ nicknames and getting a bit group laugh. In this case they didn’t use swear words (as other groups had done previously) but one student chose the nickname ‘chcę do domu’ – which means ‘I want to go home.’ Like a child in a pre-school or first class of primary school: ‘I want to go home.’

We did the quiz – all twenty questions – but the wind had been knocked out of my sails and I left the school after the lesson feeling a little sad.

How do you engage students who have rejected your lesson plan out of hand before they know what it is, because they want a ‘fun’ lesson – when actually your lesson plan IS the ‘fun’ lesson? (This is the key question for me, but it was too long to be the title of this post!)

How do you engage students who want to go home? ‘Wolny lekcja!’ – ‘free lesson!’ they chorused. They wanted to be allowed to sit and do nothing but chat in Polish for the last lesson of the day. I couldn’t allow that, but then I realised that maybe other teachers do. Can it be true? Perhaps they baulked at having to use thinking and speaking skills when they would have found it easier to answer a reading comprehension in the course book – which I’m briefed not to use in lessons. Did they think I would be a soft touch because my lessons ARE usually more fun and communicative – or because I’m a naïve foreigner? – so they thought they’d try their luck with getting a ‘free’ lesson?

In this blog post I don’t have the answers, just questions, so if you have any tips for how to deal with or avoid the NOOOOOOOOO!s I would be more than grateful!

Image: https://pixabay.com

Teaching Blog: Cartoon Stories - Pair Presentations

Teaching Blog: Cartoon Stories – Pair Presentations

Since last Thursday I’ve been teaching cartoon story lessons with my groups. You may want to try this lesson with your classes, so here’s what we did. If you do try it, please do let me know how it goes down!

Procedure:

I asked the SS (students) to work in pairs and take out their notebooks and pens. I drew a three-panel cartoon strip on the whiteboard (as in the image above). I deliberately chose something simple, with some drama (the “shocked” character in the middle) and some action (the character leaving). The SS were intrigued – to varying degrees! I drew the speech bubbles and asked the SS to think of the story and write the dialogue for the four speech bubbles. I encouraged them to consider:

  • the characters
  • their relationship
  • the situation
  • the expressions of the characters and what emotions they signified

After a few lessons I banned the students from using the topic of romance/love/relationships for their dialogues. Some SS asked “Why?” and I said, “Because it’s too easy.” The comic strip is rather leading in that direction. Many SS from the first groups used relationship tropes – as in “I’m leaving you…!” or “I’m pregnant! And it’s yours…!” – so when the SS had to think of something else they had to work harder, e.g. making the relationship between the characters daughter/father, brother/sister, student/teacher, customer/shop assistant, and so on, rather than romantic partners. This worked much better.

SS worked in pairs or, exceptionally, threes. After about ten minutes each pair came to the front to read out – or act out – their dialogues. (This was the presentation part.) Then I introduced the second exercise of the 45-minute lesson: I drew a series of three blank panels on the board and asked the SS to draw their own comic strip, with dialogue, and with a given topic – in the example above, Crime.

The SS had until the end of the lesson to complete this work. I monitored and checked the pairs (and threes) and collected in the work to mark it. The picture below, by Ola and Ania and reproduced here with their kind permission, was one of the best examples of SS’s work, from a class of 15 year-olds. In this case I had given the SS keywords to include in their comic, rather than a topic.

Extension ideas:

  1. Continue the story with further panels…
  2. Write the next part of the story…
  3. Use the same comic strip, but change the dialogue.
  4. Use the same dialogue, but change the pictures.

Observations

What worked?

  • I used this lesson with almost all of my eighteen groups this week, and it evolved over the course of the week. I had started off using an A4 handout with a much longer comic strip, which the SS had to complete and then present to the class. The strip in my picture above was, to begin with, just the warmer. Over time, I realised that 45 minutes wasn’t enough time to do everything and we were getting bogged down in spelling and grammar with the longer comic strip. My job is to get them talking, after all, not writing in class.
  • The concept of the lesson – writing and drawing comic strips – was engaging for most of the SS, even some of those who had been harder to engage in previous lessons, which was a nice surprise. It was a fun lesson with each group.
  • Neither you the teacher nor the SS need to be able to draw well to pull off this lesson. The goal is to get the SS speaking and doing the presentations. The artwork does not have to be pro standard! (See my example with stick people, above.)
  • It was great to do a lesson without any photocopying – once I’d ditched the original idea for the lesson. The lesson was easy to deliver, with no preparation and minimal resources: just a board and pens or chalk. The resulting work was easy to mark and give feedback on.
  • We were also able to explore topics like using humour in the cartoons and using our imaginations.

Challenges:

  • Some of the pairs tried to pass off very short dialogues, along the lines of “Hi!” “What?” “Don’t leave!” “Bye!” I didn’t accept these and asked them to redo it. A few of the pairs didn’t feel like producing anything.
  • Some students complained about their lack of creativity. One very bright fourteen year-old guy, with a good level of English, said: “But I’m not creative! What would you do?” I replied: “I would try my best.” The problem was that he was not prepared to try. In the end, he refused to do the activity, so he ended up with some extra written homework.
  • There’s a danger that this lesson becomes about writing skills and grammar/vocabulary, with dictionaries out in full force, when what I wanted most of all was to hear the SS speak.
  • There are still significant (I think) issues with the SS using L1 during the preparations stages and not listening to each other’s presentations. I got fed up with saying “OK! Listen, please!” before each presentation.
  • Some of the SS’s work was a bit, well, boring. Their story might be: “Let’s go to the shop.” “OK. I need to buy some bread.” At the shop: they buy the bread. Result: “Let’s have a sandwich!” “OK!” I encouraged them to include drama or humour in their stories by inserting a problem into the situation: “Let’s go to the shop.” “OK. I need to buy some bread.” At the shop: “Hey! The shopkeeper has overcharged us!” Or, at the shop: “Oh no! The shopkeeper is a dolphin!” … and so on.