Category Archives: Resources

Summer Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes!

Summer Discussion Questions for ESOL Classes!

Ask and answer the discussion questions about summer with a partner or small group:

  1. How many seasons are there in your country? What is your favourite / least favourite? Why? Do you like summer? Why? / Why not?
  2. How is summer different from other seasons in your country? Compare them. What do you do in summer that you don’t do the rest of the year? Do you change your habits?
  3. How many days of holiday do you normally have in summer? Is it enough? Are you able to switch off and relax on holiday, or do you take your work with you, e.g. emailing?
  4. Do you prefer to have a long summer holiday, or several shorter breaks during the year? Do you think school holidays are too long in your country? How long are they?
  5. What kind of summer holiday do you prefer: seaside, lake, mountain, cruise, camping, fishing, city break, cultural break, adventure, desert, jungle, safari, etc.? Have you ever been on this kind of holiday? What did you think of it? Are there any that you wouldn’t like to try? Why not?
  6. Do you prefer to stay in your own country or go abroad? Why? Are you an “outdoorsy” person? Do you like to camp? Could you survive “in the wild” for two weeks without access to a cashpoint, shops, and restaurants? How would you cope if you got lost without a mobile phone?
  7. What is the best summer holiday you have ever had? What has been the most memorable place you have ever visited? Why was it? Have you ever spent the night in a tent, yurt, cruise ship, ferry, train, B & B, motel, or five-star hotel? Tell me a story about each place.
  8. Which hotel or resort would you recommend? Have you ever made friends with people on holiday, but not kept in touch? Tell me about them. Have you ever had any disasters on holiday? What went wrong?
  9. What special events happen in your town / country in summer (e.g. cultural or sporting)? Do you usually attend / take part? If yes, describe each event. If not, why not?
  10. What effect does summer have on your… a) mood, b) attitude, c) health, d) motivation, e) weight, f) relationships with those around you?
  11. What do you like to wear in summer? How does it make you feel? What kind of food and drink do you enjoy in summer? Is there anything you don’t eat or drink in summer? Why not?
  12. Are you a good cook? Do you like to ‘cook up a storm’ on the barbecue with friends, or avoid the hot weather altogether by staying indoors?
  13. What was summer like when you were a child? What can you remember? How was summer different to now? How did you fill the long summer holidays?
  14. How hot is too hot for you? When was the hottest / coldest summer you can remember? Is summer weather changing for better or worse? Is climate change having an effect?
  15. What is the best kind of summer music? Why do you like it? Have you ever been to a festival in summer? Have you ever been on a summer camp or a school exchange?
  16. Have you ever been travelling, hitchhiking, or worked your way around the world during summer? Why? / Why not? What is your dream trip? What are you planning for next summer?

Image: https://pixabay.com/

FREE Video Class! Why Learn English with Music?

FREE Video Class! Why Learn English with Music?

Wondering how and why we should learn English with music? Watch this great video from Next Step English to get some invaluable tips!

You can view all of their videos here.

Further study:

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.

Teaching Blog – Day 1 (30.03.18)

I’ll start this teaching blog by talking about the two latest teaching resources that I’ve uploaded to the site. I completed a lesson all about Modal Verbs yesterday and added it to the site. I’m really happy about it because, along with containing plenty of new material, it brings together – and breathes new life into – two older resources that I think really work well:

Modal Verbs Revision – Complete Pack

26 Uses of Would – Complete Pack

When I created these resources a few years ago I spent hours researching each one, and learned so much about modal verbs – and would, in particular – in the process. That’s the great thing about writing resources for teaching English – you increase your subject knowledge massively by doing the research and testing the materials in class. Each worksheet pack has an accompanying podcast too.

Writing about ‘would’ was especially interesting, because who would have thought there would be 26 uses of ‘would’? You might say, who needs to know that many uses of would. But anyway, here it is again, along with a lot of straightforward information about modal verbs – and new examples for each modal verb. I particularly like the blank tables for each modal verb (in Exercises) that you can print out and get students to complete. (For homework?)

Today I had the notion to create a new wordsearch for the website. They take about an hour to write and I’m trying to rack up a collection of them. When I’ve used them in class (my classes are sometimes in a computer lab) the students really liked them. One group of three particularly keen teenage girls were able to complete three of the puzzles in a very short space of time! (Not that we spend whole lessons doing wordsearch puzzles.)

I was going to do one on ‘clothes’ or ‘furniture’ or another such ESOL-ly subject, but then I thought: what about Brexit? The words started coming immediately: Michel Barnier, Nigel Farage, March Twenty Ninth (2019), Remainer, Brexiteer, and so on! I had to get to work right away. You can do the wordsearch puzzle here.

I never think it’s relevant to talk about my political views when I write resources and blogs and create website, so I don’t really want to do that here. I wonder if you can guess from the wordsearch what side of the Brexit fence I’m on? Answers on a postcard (made in Britain), please.