songs by Gabriel Finn and class Personalised compositions are great for bringing to life books that perhaps don’t have the kind of song that reinforces the vocabulary that you want to teach.
Here is an example of two such compositions from my youtube site.
Time: 60 mins / Age: teenagers / Level: any
Here is an idea on how to turn consolidation material into a competitive activity. Useful especially in review lessons before a test.
- Take a review page with exercises, photocopy it and cut up so that each exercise is on a separate piece of paper. (Photocopy and cut up the answers as well)
2. Put the pieces of paper up the walls in your classroom.
3. Put students into pairs (it’s better to pair up shy or weaker students together, as they will be forced to co-operate without depending on stronger students). Give each pair a colour pencil.
4. Students have 5 mins to go around the classroom and complete the activities. RULES: they must take turns to complete the exercises. They can help one another. After completing one sentence on one card they must move to a different card.
5. When the time is up, give each pair a card to check against the answers you have photocopied earlier. They put ticks or crosses on the cards and award each colour team their points.
Students now move on to creating their own tasks.
- Choose two types of tasks you want them to practise, e.g. Student A: ‘complete the gaps with the correct form of a verb’, and Student B: ‘correct the sentence’.
- Each student in the pair creates an activity for the others writing 4 test sentences to be completed by the others. They write their tasks on separate pieces of paper. The teacher monitors and helps when necessary.
- They put their tasks up on the walls.
- Students continue the previous game (with the same rules). They must not complete their own tasks.
- When the time is up they take down their cards and check the answers.
- Again they award the colour teams their points.
This is a way of making a boring resource a little bit more fun. If you monitor attentively you will be able to see which students are struggling with the tasks and help them without drawing the attention of the other students. Also, creating tasks for other students to complete raises their awareness of grammar, helps them concentrate on accuracy and creates a situation in which they definitely know the right answers because they wrote the task! What is more, if a team did badly in Step 1, they have a chance to do better in the other step (the Green team from the photo did rather poorly at the beginning, but it looks like they’d learned something in the process as they improved a lot in their second go). The turn taking keeps everyone on task and the rules on completing keeps everyone working at a similar pace.
And the best thing is that it’s material light and needs very little preparation 🙂 So, you’re welcome!
by Kasia Kępka
Time: approximately 2-3h / Age: teenagers / Level: B1 upwards
This post presents a project I did a few years ago with my teenage groups (12 and 15-year-olds) to celebrate World Book Day (23rd April). It took two classes, in which students were first introduced to the idea of a book swap and discussed their reading preferences and then were guided through the process of writing a short book about themselves. Below is a brief description of the two stages.
- Present slides with pictures of book piles. Students discuss why the books may have been left there and who might have left them there.
2. They read a text about a book swap project and answer questions about it.
3. Students discuss the idea of book swapping and whether they would participate in it.
4. Students look at some opinions about reading and discuss whether they agree with them or not. They also talk about their own reading preferences and habits.
5. Students look at ideas of encouraging young people to read more and discuss which of them would be effective and which wouldn’t.
1. The teacher tells the students they are going to write a short book about themselves and presents a slide with introductory instructions.
2. Students are guided throughout the process chapter by chapter working on their drafts.
3. The teacher monitors the work, helps with ideas and corrects the drafts.
4. Students are given time to finish off their final draft and decorate the covers of their books.
5. Students swap books and read each others work giving feedback on which information they found surprising, whose book they found funny, well decorated, creative, etc.
The content of either stage can be obviously adapted depending on the age of the students and their interest. The introductory stage may be shortened if you anticipate that the writing stage will take a long time. Alternatively, you could stretch the project over 3 lessons.
When I did the project with my students I expected them to have a negative attitude towards the task. However, the introductory stage put them in the right mood when it comes to talking about books and surprisingly they got down to it quite eagerly. The clear guidance throughout the writing process helped them stay focused and provided ideas on what to write about. Still the best part was the outcome. I was honestly touched by my students’ sincerity and creativity. I saw completely different people through their writing and found out things I had never known about them. It was especially moving to find out how they perceive themselves as their texts revealed some of their insecurities, parts of their personality they tend to hide, and their ambitions.
I highly recommend doing a project of this kind with teenage students as it allows them to express themselves freely and write about what is important to them. Since it’s very personal it is possible that some students may be sensitive about revealing information about themselves. It would be then advisable to consider each group individually and adapt the content to the students in those particular groups. It also means monitoring and assisting students is crucial for the success of the project. The teacher should be led by empathy and offer moral support when needed.
by Kasia Kępka
Level: A2+, B1 / Age: teenagers / Time: 20 mins
This activity is meant to help consolidate or revise future tenses.
- Students get a piece of paper, draw a vertical line towards the left side of the sheet.
- Students are going to write 6 sentences using three different structures: going to, will, Present Continues. In each sentence they need to leave out the subject and instead draw a line on the left side of the vertical line they have drawn and continue the sentence on the right side. They also have to make sure all their sentences are 3rd person singular. Tell students to make their sentences funny or unusual but never offensive (e.g. ____________ is going to eat a snake tonight.).
3. Once they are finished writing they self-correct the sentences paying special attention to grammar (e.g. verb forms, appropriate time expressions, prepositions). The teacher monitors helping with language and making sure the content of their sentences is appropriate.
4. When they have all finished writing, students fold their paper along the vertical line and pass on their sheet to their right, making sure that the other students can’t see the sentences but the side with the gaps.
5. Once they have a different sheet students complete the gaps with the names of students in the group written in random order.
6 . They again pass the sheet to their right.
7. Students are put into groups of 3-4 and read out the funniest sentences from their sheets.
8. In a whole group feedback session each student shares what they have found out about themselves (e.g. I am going to eat snake tonight.)
It would be a good idea to stick the students’ sheets to the walls so they can reread them when they feel like it and have a laugh. Here are some of my students’ sentences.
In this fun and personalised way students practise learned grammar in writing. It’s a great alternative to gap fill exercises where sentences have no context and mean nothing to teenage students.
by Kasia Kępka
When preparing students for exam writing we need to keep in mind that, as in other parts of the exam, students are aiming at getting a specific score, or actually getting the highest score possible. To help them achieve this aim we should focus on a few aspects:
- task analysis
- model texts analysis
- awareness of exam assessment criteria
- the ability to evaluate one’s own writing
Incorporating these aspects in writing lessons will ensure that students have the necessary knowledge to attempt higher scores in their writing and that they understand how they can get there. The only thing for them to do once they know all of this is to practise a lot.
This post suggests some materials that can help you prepare yourself to teach exam writing and some practical materials for classroom use.
Here are some materials to help you guide students through essay writing:
The suggested approach can be successfully adapted to other genres too.
Here are some materials focusing on email writing at B1 level:
You can also watch a video by Kasia on how to help students write essays and how to raise their awareness of assessment criteria. Another video, by Gabriel, explains how exam writing is assessed, which may help you prepare your students and give them some tips on how to meet the assessment criteria.
Additionally, here are extracts from the FCE Handbook by Cambridge: fce writing assessment, and from the PET Handbook: PET writing assessment. The awarding of points is explained here: cambridge-english-scale-scores
It is also useful to look through various coursebooks and read the sections on writing as they offer very useful tips and information given in a student-friendly way. Here is a sample taken from Gold Preliminary (Pearson):
Finally, go to Chealsea teachers’ website to get marking sheets for both levels.
Please contact me if you would like to be sent Power Point formats of the materials.
by Kasia Kępka
This post originally comes from my blog where you can find more ideas on how to use the material presented below. Here is a fragment taken from the post.
Level: B1-B2 / Age: teens, adults / Time: 20 mins
This material works very well with groups preparing for PET or FCE exams where students are assessed on using turn taking language as well as for discussions on general courses.
- Revise or pre-teach phrases for agreeing, disagreeing, expressing and asking for opinion. I normally project a slide with a collection of expressions and check with the students the meaning of unfamiliar phrases. You may also first practise them with your students using Quizlet.
- Go through the exam task (PET speaking part 2, FCE speaking part 3) and make sure students know what to do. Alternatively, you could have a list of questions/topic for students to discuss (I would give them one topic at a time).
- Put students into pairs or threes. Give each team a set of cards with the turn taking expressions written on the them (see the pdf file below), which they then spread face up on their table.
- Set a 3min limit for the discussion. Tell students to discuss the topic using the expressions on the cards. Every time they use one of the expressions they take away the card and keep it. The object of the game is to collect as many cards as possible in one round. (Some useful rules are: you cannot use two or more expressions one after the other, but you can use up to 3 expressions in one turn.)
- In the next rounds students continue collecting cards without returning them to the table. They keep playing until they use up all the cards (in this way you will ensure they have practised using all the expressions).
For more games with the turn taking cards and downloadable material visit my blog
by Kasia Kępka