EFL worksheet: Russell Brand’s new podcast

listen-to-russell-brands-new-pod

The British standup comedian and political gobbermouth Russell Brand has gone back to school (well, university) (well, SOAS) to learn more about politics, and he’s sharing his new knowledge in the form of an excellent new podcast in which he (making the most of his celebrity connections) interviews leading figures from areas related to religion and global politics. This lesson uses the first episode, which is an interview with the political philosopher Brad Evans called ‘Can we really stop terror?’. It will work well with upper-int(+)/advanced EFL/ESOL students with an interest in  global issues and also with EAP/IELTS classes.

Worksheet

  1. Preparing to listen

On your phone or tablet, google the following to find out who or what they are and then compare notes with a partner:

Russell Brand                      Ed Miliband             Brad Evans               SOAS

Now see if you can find anything they have in common.

  1. Podcast – gapfill

Try to identify the missing words. Remember that a) you won’t be able to understand every word and b) you don’t need to!

Part 1 (0.50 – 8.43)

  1. I’m doing a three-year __________ in Religion and Global Politics.
  2. His work introduced me to the relationship between governments and _________.
  3. …the sudden lurch to the __________ as demonstrated by Brexit and the rise of Trump.
  4. I realized this was a very complex world and I realized I didn’t have the artillery to engage in this __________.
  5. What do you say to someone like me who feels __________ with politics but doesn’t know quite where to begin?
  6. Our power to change the world is still __________ to these nationalistic models.
  7. We feel __________ because we know change is not going to happen through those kinds of mechanisms.
  8. One of the purposes of an academic is to ask how we can __________ the right types of questions.
  9. What is the historical __________? What makes this moment this moment?
  10. Why is it that we often put the blame on the __________ of the most vulnerable?

Now check your answers with your partner.

Part 2 (8.43 – 17.57)

  1. There is no such thing as Muslim __________ separate from US imperialism.
  2. The term terror has a much broader historical __________.
  3. If you look at the old colonial seafaring powers, they had the __________.
  4. On the one hand you had powers trying to establish __________.
  5. The best way to understand any political regime is to understand the relationships of __________ that it’s engaged in.
  6. Liberalism says it has a __________ over these terms – universality, rights, security, justice – but it doesn’t.
  7. He doesn’t stipulate one precise point about what this shared universal __________ system actually looks like.
  8. The idea that liberalism can transform the world for the better is __________.
  9. People are denied the most fundamental political right, which is the right to __________.
  10. You have these impoverished communities who are taught by the media and people like __________ to fear these people who are deeply vulnerable.

Now check your answers with your partner.

Part 3 (17.57 – 26.07)

  1. Whose story is the __________ story, and how do they get to maintain it?
  2. You get people to __________ the conditions they should find intolerable.
  3. Global capitalism today doesn’t require __________ of the world’s population.
  4. Why doesn’t that idea get __________ more?
  5. People are working in such __________ environments today, they can just turn on the TV and be filtered a message which is comforting to them.
  6. It’s what the late Zygmunt Bauman called ‘__________’.
  7. We live in an age of what I’ve called ‘__________’.
  8. You have to __________ them from trying to achieve the kind of lifestyles that we’ve been selling to them.
  9. The ways in which certain elites are operating is having __________ consequences for people on the planet.
  10. One of the questions we need to ask is ‘where is the __________?’.

Now check your answers with your partner.

  1. Discussion

Now you’re going to have a conversation about what you’ve heard. Think on your own for two minutes about the following question:

How does the conversation relate to a) your life b) your country c) your view of the world?

You can take some notes if you wish. Look up or ask your teacher for any vocabulary you might need.

Now get into a group of three or four and compare your reactions to the podcasts for ten minutes. One person in the group will need to report back to the whole class on what is said so they need to write down any interesting points. Remember that you don’t have to agree with each other – if you have different points of, explore them, but remember that this isn’t Facebook – be respectful!

Homework

Using your phone, either with a classmate or on your own, make a 5-minute podcast in which (similarly to what you just did in class) you talk about your reaction(s) to the podcast. You might want to listen to the rest of the podcast before you start, but you don’t have to.

HEALTH WARNING: You might find the ambivalence of your students upon hearing that 60-70% of the world’s population is surplus to the requirements of global capitalism somewhat dispiriting.

Lesson Plan: Procedure for writing a story

This is a very simple procedure for writing a story in the first person about a personal experience. It’s in the form of a Powerpoint presentation so you can just show it to your students and put your feet up. At the end of the lesson get your students to stick up their stories on the walls, walk round reading them and choose their favourite. For homework they can either do a second draft with more details (which don’t by any means have to be true) or write another story. 매우 쉬운!


Great activity for getting to know who you’re teaching

84b277629f1c1f50db5f9d252e3e4eb5

It’s easy to forget, but your students are never just students. They are parents, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, third cousins twice-removed, guitar players, Japanese speakers, chess players, travel bloggers and many other things besides, many of them entirely surprising*. How many times have you, towards the end of a course, found out something really interesting about one of your students and thought, I wish I’d known that sooner? I once, on the last day of an (ahem) challenging low-level ESOL course, found out that one of my students had played football for the Iraqi national team 40 years earlier and that another had eleven (count ’em) children. Silly me for not making the effort to find out such things sooner.

In order to trust you to teach them they need to know who you are and who their classmates are. This is a fun activity which helps with that process. You can do it at the start of your course or at any point afterwards and it works well with pretty much any level post-beginner.

  1. Write up on the board/screen your own version of the following (n.b. don’t just copy mine):
  2. I am a teacher, an examiner, a dad, a brother, a son, an uncle, English, half-German, a husband, an immigrant, a second-generation immigrant, a Northerner, a Sheffielder, an East Londoner, an avid reader, a music-lover, a Momus fan, a Thomas Pynchon obsessive, a blogger, a cyclist, a non-driver, an English speaker, a Philosophy graduate, a Portuguese speaker, a Spanish speaker, an Italian speaker, a language learner, a former DJ, a former part-time comedian, a former part-time actor, a former activist…
  3. Encourage your students to ask you: “so you’re a …”. Then tell them a couple of entertaining details. Do this for five minutes or so, dealing with vocabulary as it comes up.
  4. For lower levels point out the difference between where you’ve used an adjective (with no article) and where you’ve used a noun (with an article), and also the meaning of ‘former’.
  5. Get them to make their own lists. Monitor to help out if they’re stuck. Make sure they each have a decent list of things (at least eight or nine).
  6. Put them in pairs and get them to swap lists and take it in turns to ask. They don’t need to take notes. Make sure they’re asking follow-up questions (‘when?’, ‘why?’).
  7. Rotate the pairs once or twice depending on how many students you have.
  8. The third time they swap pairs, get them to film each other on their phones.
  9. At the end of the lesson, get each of them to report what the most surprising thing they found out was.
  10. Extension: If you and they like, make (or get one of them to make) a short film compiling the most interesting snippets of the interviews. This might sound challenging but there will probably be someone in the class with the technical know-how.
  11. Extra extension: You could easily incorporate a listening comprehension activity using this.

Dekiagari!

* Some of them might even be racists, but you’ll have to hope they don’t proudly announce that in the course of the activity.

Lesson plan: Getting your students to solve the world’s problems

society-economy-environment

A lot of exams (like IELTS) quite reasonably expect candidates to be able to talk about social, environmental and economic issues. I’ve noticed over the years that some lack the basic conceptual tools. This lesson is designed to classify global problems and discuss possible solutions. It works well with B2+ classes.

  1. Match the definition with the keyword

Keywords

  1. Society
  2. The Environment
  3. The Economy

Definitions

  1. The area in which something exists or lives
  2. The system of production and distribution and consumption
  3. An extended group of people with a specific cultural and economic organization
  1. Problems

Are the following problems social, economic or environmental? (some of them fit into more than one category). Decide for yourself and then compare with a partner.

  • Unemployment
  • Climate Change
  • Violence against women
  • Racism
  • Poverty
  • Corruption
  • Inequality
  • Poor healthcare services
  • Deforestation
  • Financial collapse
  • Underemployment
  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Homelessness
  • Alcoholism
  • Illiteracy 
  1. Solutions

What possible solutions are there to each of the above problems? Can you think of any more? Discuss in small groups. Feel free to disagree!

  • Awareness-raising
  • Regulation
  • New legislation
  • Education
  • Redistribution of wealth through taxation
  • Investment
  • Subsidies
  • Aid
  • Leave it to the market
  • Revolution

Evaluating solutions

Look at the list of words for describing solutions, and look up any you don’t know in a dictionary. 

utopian      practical/impractical      equitable      viable/unviable      sufficient/insufficient      popular/unpopular      expensive      radical

4. Writing

Plan and write a paragraph (150 words) headed ‘The world’s biggest problems and what should be done about them’.

5. Reading and Speaking

Stick your paragraph up on the wall. Walk round and read what others have written. If you disagree, find the writer and tell them!

6. Homework

Bearing in mind the conversations you’ve just had, rewrite and expand your paragraph and then email it to your teacher for feedback.

Lesson plan: Talking about experiences and abilities

taxi-driver-004
Could this be one of your students?

After two months, seventy or so blog posts, 880,000 views and the arrival of one impossibly cute baby daughter, I am now back at work. This is the lesson I just did with a low B1 class. I think it’s very important in any lesson for the students to produce something they can feel proud of, so (with their consent) I have posted the recordings of their interviews at the end. You could use them as examples/models at the start of the lesson or to demonstrate the task to the students before they do their own interviews (you could also use them to highlight errors in question formation. Then do some drilling of the correct forms. I didn’t do this and it shows). The point of this lesson is to give them a chance to reflect on their English at the start of term, but you could easily use it in the middle or at the end of a course. The items in the list relate directly to what they’ll need to do in the next few months (some of them do, anyway. I’m not planning to send them to do an eye test) so obviously feel free to change them.

Worksheet:

Your experiences and abilities in English

Look at the list below and make sentences using ‘I have (never)…(past participle)’ / ‘I could (not)…(bare infinitive)’, eg ‘I have never written a 200-word essay in English’ or ‘I could write a 200-word essay in English’.

  •         Write a 200-word essay
  •         Work in a bar
  •         Read Shakespeare in the original language
  •         Order a meal in a restaurant
  •         Work as a taxi driver
  •         Give a five-minute presentation
  •         Read a short novel without a dictionary
  •         Watch a whole TV series with no subtitles
  •         Do an eye test
  •         Teach a beginner’s class
  •         Do a Master’s degree

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Now look at your sentences and decide if you want to insert any of these expressions:

if I had to         easily                 with difficulty                when I was at school                 with a bit of practice

Now look at the list of things you couldn’t do and choose two you would really like to be able to do, eg ‘I would love to be able to…’:

1.

2.

Now think of one more thing you would love to be able to do in English:

1.

Now prepare to be interviewed about your English. Don’t worry about making mistakes. If you are the interviewer, ask questions beginning with ‘Have you ever…?’ and ‘Do you think you could…?’. Remember to choose the appropriate verb form and then ask follow-up questions: when, why, why not, etc.

Swap partners and take out your phones. This time you are going to record the interview! Once you’ve finished, listen to it and check that you’re happy with the result – if not, delete it and do it again.

(nb. I know this is not strictly speaking a lesson plan but the material sort of teaches itself so I don’t feel it’s necessary to specify the points at which you should monitor, look out of the window, do the TEFL crouch, etc.)

Polyglots/language freaks lesson plan

maxresdefault

This is a lesson about learning languages quickly. The input is mostly in the form of videos, so your students get to develop their listening skills. More importantly, however, it uses five examples of savants – extraordinarily gifted/freakish language learners – in order to encourage your students to think about what they could do to improve their command of English as quickly as possible. Due to the demanding level of the input I wouldn’t attempt it with anything lower than a solid Upper Intermediate group. If you use all the material it should take between 75-90 minutes.

Procedure

  • Begin by telling the students you’re going to talk about learning languages -not just English. You want to start by finding out which languages they have a command of or would like to learn.
  • Stick up a piece of A4 paper on each of the four walls of the classroom. At the top of one write ‘I’m fluent in’; another ‘I can get by in’, the third ‘I know a few words of’ and the fourth ‘I’d love to learn’. Establish that in this context ‘be fluent in’ means ‘have a full command of’. Students walk round and add their names and languages to each sheet, eg. ‘Davide – French’. Monitor to clarify what the terms mean in case of confusion.
  • Have a brief whole class discussion, drawing on what they’ve written: ‘So, Sandra, you can get by in German’, or ‘So, Yuki, you’d like to learn Chinese’, etc.
  • Elicit/introduce the word ‘polyglot’. Decide together on the basis of the discussion who in the class could be considered a polyglot. Explain you’re going to watch two short interviews with polyglots. The first one is Alex, from the UK. Their task is to write down which languages he speaks.
  • Compare lists. If there is anyone who speaks any of the languages mentioned, ask how well Alex spoke it.
  • Then ask them: if a 20-year-old can speak 11 languages, how many could a 16-year-old speak?
  • They can then repeat the previous exercise with the second video. (NB: If you prefer, there is also a listening gapfill exercise here.)
  • Ask the student how the two polyglots learned all those languages – put them in pairs to discuss.
  • Tell them you’re going to watch two more videos which present very different methods for learning languages quickly. The students’ task is to choose which method they prefer.
  • Gather ideas. This will be very subjective- some will prefer the music/radio approach, others the book-based method. That’s fine.
  • Give them 5 minutes in small groups to discuss how the videos relate to their own language-learning experiences. Get one person in each group to report back on their discussion.
  • Tell them you’re going to show them one more video. Write on the board the phrase ‘from scratch’ and ask them what it means. Once the meaning is established, ask them how fluent you could become in a week in a completely unfamiliar language if you really dedicated yourself to it.
  • Tell them to take notes on: the name of the person; the language; the challenge; how successful they think he is at it. (NB: there is also a listening comprehension exercise here.)
  • Gather responses. Give them a chance to watch some or all of the video again if they need to.
  • Put on the board the following questions, and tell the students on their own to write down their responses:

1. Which example do you find most inspiring?
2. What lessons can you learn from the five videos you’ve seen?
3. What three specific things are you going to do in the next week to improve your English as much as possible?

  • Do a 5-minute whole class stand-up mingle in relation to the third question.
  • To close, elicit some of the things they’re going to do. Make sure they’ve chosen specific things, not just ‘read a book’ or ‘listen to music’. What book? What music? Remind them that they have a week to do those things and you will dedicate time in next week’s lesson to discussing how each thing went.

Det är det!

ps. there’s an interesting dimension to this whole polyglot thing, viz. why are most of those who go online to boast about their language skills men? You could open up this question with a higher-level class, using this blog entry (and the subsequent comments) to guide you.

EFL shoes lesson

pair-of-shoes-a

The only two people I’ve ever met who have never worn shoes were 1. a stark-raving mad bloke I once met on a beach in Northeast Brazil and 2. my ten-day-old daughter. Everybody else wears shoes and has lots and lots of stories to tell about them. This is a speaking lesson in which students talk about their personal footwear histories: favourite pairs, fashion disasters, biggest wastes of money, etc. A good way to introduce the lesson is to show them the above painting and ask them who painted it (A: Vincent Van Gogh). Then elicit some ideas as to what kind of person the shoes belonged to, what sort of life they lived, etc. Once you’ve done that, tell them about the pair you’re wearing (think in advance of some entertaining detail to share, e.g ‘I bought these Birkenstocks because my wife objected to me buying another pair of Crocs’) and then ask them to tell their partner about the pair they’re wearing. Then they can move onto the worksheet.

Students sometimes find it a bit of an odd topic at first but when they get going they find they have lots to say, because actually it’s just a way to get them to talk about their memories, tastes, aspirations, etc in a fresh way from an unusual angle. Every five or so minutes they can change partners. Make sure they’re not just going down the list of topics from the top – they can choose whatever they want to talk about in any order. Also encourage them to ask follow-up questions and respond to what they hear, using the expressions on the worksheet. The short interview format lends itself very well to their filming the conversations on their phones, so that they have a recording of their English which they can then use for all sorts of purposes – they could write up the interviews for a ‘magazine article’ or edit them together to make an amusing short film of the whole class to stick on YouTube. Or, if you fancy politically enlivening/depressing your students, you could open up the thorny political question of who made their shoes, which country they live in, what kind of shoes they wear, etc, and then get them to research and write about that for homework. One thing that’s not a good idea is to write up the proverb ‘you shouldn’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes’, and then get them to swap shoes and walk around the school. I’ve tried to do that twice and it was not popular in the slightest. Anything that’s not that will work wonders, I promise. If it doesn’t, get in touch with me and I’ll send you a pair of genuine Made-in-Mexico fayuca Crocs.

WORKSHEET TO PRINT OUT/PUT ON BOARD:

Today you’re going to talk about shoes. Ask your partner about:

  • How many pairs of shoes they have
  • How many pairs of shoes they actually need
  • The most expensive pair they’ve ever owned
  • The cheapest pair they’ve ever owned157378
  • A pair they wore even though they hurt like hell
  • The coolest pair they’ve ever owned
  • The oldest pair they still have
  • The newest pair they bought
  • A pair of summer shoes
  • A pair of boots
  • A pair they miss
  • A pair they regret buying
  • A pair they’d love to own
  • A pair they really should throw away, but can’t for some reason
  • A pair they’ve hardly worn
  • A brand of shoe they hate (eg. Crocs)

* by the way if you really want some shoe-related idioms to ‘sell’ the lesson to the students, here are some I can think of the top of my, er, shoe: put yourself in someone’s shoes; big shoes to fill; when you greet a stranger look at his shoes; if the shoe fits, wear it; the shoe’s on the other foot; step into someone’s shoes; bossy boots; get the boot; tough as an old boot, the boot’s on the other foot, put the boot in, let sleeping Crocs lie, etc.

Lesson Plan: Features of a language (int upwards)

67dde25c2a569f6db126df3db3baa229

In celebration of my recently having welcomed my 850,000th visitor to this site, I decided to share one of my favourite ready-made lessons. It’s one I’ve done dozens of times and it’s always worked really well. It encourages students to think carefully about the grammatical features of English and how it compares to their own language(s). In the process they have in-depth and important discussions about what the function of a particular form (eg. continuous aspects) actually is.

It’s designed for multilingual classes but it could easily be adapted for monolingual groups by simply asking each group to discuss their opinions as to whether or not their main language has such features. It could end with the students presenting their ‘ideal’ language to the whole class, followed by further discussion of why plurals are necessary in English, what the function of countable nouns is, etc. They could then write a short essay for homework reflecting on what they like and don’t like about English and why.

Features of a language

1. Does your partner’s language have all these features? Find out!

Language feature

Partner 1

Partner 2

Subject-Verb-Object eg: I love you

Articles eg: The weather is terrible! I’d like a coffee

A perfect aspect eg: I have been to China

A continuous aspect eg: I am learning English

Cases: eg: He loves her; She loves him

Prepositions eg: We are at the airport; I am going to Swansea

Auxiliary verbs eg: Does he like coffee? I didn’t go out last night

Tenses eg: I speak Spanish; We spoke Spanish when we were on holiday

Verb conjugation eg: She likes cheese

The passive eg: My bag was stolen

Countable nouns eg: I am looking for some informations

Irregular verbs eg: I am, you are, she is

Modal verbs eg: must, should, can

Capital letters in nationalities and languages eg: Austria, Chinese

Plurals: eg: dogs; cats; people

Fixed word order eg: I like very much chocolate very much

Reversed order in questions eg: You are South American; are you Brazilian?

2. Now, imagine that we were going to invent an entirely new language which was easy to learn. Which features would you need to include and which could you do without?

Language feature

An ideal language (yes/no)

Subject-Verb-Object eg: I love you

Articles eg: The weather is terrible! I’d like a coffee

A perfect aspect eg: I have been to China

A continuous aspect eg: I am learning English

Cases: eg: He loves her; She loves him

Prepositions eg: We are at the airport; I am going to Swansea

Auxiliary verbs eg: Does he like coffee? I didn’t go out last night?

Tenses eg: I speak Spanish; We spoke Spanish when we were on holiday

Verb conjugation eg: She likes cheese

The passive eg: My bag was stolen

Countable nouns eg: I am looking for some informations

Irregular verbs eg: I am, you are, she is

Modal verbs eg: must, should, can

Capital letters in nationalities and languages eg: Austria, Chinese

Plurals: eg: dogs; cats; people

Fixed word order eg: I like very much chocolate very much

Reversed order in questions eg: You are South American; Are you Brazilian?

Learning Metaphors lesson – good fun and very useful

luna_park_melbourne_scenic_railway

You’re a teacher. You’re in a classroom, and you’re teaching a class. But where do your students think they are? Do some of them feel like they’re in prison, while others are just hanging out with their mates and having fun? Is there anyone who feels like they’re in a courtroom, or that they’re being experimented upon? This is a great activity for helping your students reflect on their experiences of learning English, and also for you to find out what they really think of your classes. It should take around 30 mins. You can try it with high pre-int upwards, and as you’ll see it can easily be extended into all sorts of other activities.

Procedure

Stage 1: Briefly tell your students about a classroom language learning experience you’ve had. It could be good or bad, but make sure you compare it with something, e.g.: being in the army, being back at primary school, being on trial…put them in pairs and tell them to compare similar experiences. After 3 minutes, gather a couple of experiences, encouraging them to think about what it was like, e.g.: “sounds like being at a party!” or “sounds like a disco!”.

2. Tell your class they’re going to look at some metaphors for learning English (make sure they understand what a metaphor is). Tell them you’re going to start with a memory game: you’re going to show them some photos and you want them to try to remember all the things they see, and then write down all those they can remember.

3. Silently show them this presentation once.

4. On their own, then in pairs, students write down all those they can remember.

5. Show them this and let them write down the ones they missed.

6. Clarify any vocab issues and make sure they’ve all got them written down.

7. Write up on the board:

‘A classroom can be like a ___________ because…’

‘A classroom should be like a ___________ because…’

‘A classroom shouldn’t be like a ___________ because…’

8. Make sure they understand the difference between the three phrases. Give them one example for each. Try to use places which were not in the presentation.

9. Students in pairs write sentences. It works well if they write each one on a post-it note, if you have any. (10 mins)

10. Student stick their sentences up on the wall, walk round reading the others and ticking the ones they like. If they don’t understand one of them, they can seek out the pair who wrote it and ask them what they meant.

HW: If you and they like, they could write a paragraph or short essay on ‘the ideal classroom’, using the ideas they’ve come up with in class.

Çok kolay!

EFL Fake News lesson plan

sin-titulo

This is a plan for a lesson I taught a couple of times before Christmas on the very timely subject of fake news. I did it with Politics and International Relations students on University courses, but it could be very easily adapted to a more conventional EFL context. The lesson develops their reading, writing and discussion skills and is aimed at upper-int and upwards. It should take about 90 minutes. My students really enjoyed the class and produced some interesting responses and some very imaginative pieces of writing.

Procedure

  1. Write the words ‘fake news’ on the board. Get your students to give you some examples. Have a couple to hand if they can’t (if you’re in Italy, like I am, you could always show them this). (5 mins)

  2. Explain you’re going to give them a presentation in which they will look at how to tell the difference between facts and opinions.

  3. Take them through this presentation, doing the practice exercise in pairs and clearing up any confusion at the end. The final slide directs them to where they can do further practice online. (15-20 mins)

  4. Tell them you’re going to read together an article about a ‘fake news sausage factory’. Elicit ideas about what that might be (Ans: it’s a website which produces and distributes fake news stories – don’t tell them that yet). (5 mins)

  5. (If they have internet access) Direct them to the article online or (if they don’t) hand out paper copies of the article. Instruct them to skim the beginning of the article to check if their guesses were correct. Give them two minutes and then get feedback; clarify if they’re confused. (5 mins)

  6. Put these questions up on the board. Students work through them in pairs. Monitor and give the occasional mild hint to those who are struggling. With weaker upper-int students let them use (but not overuse!) a dictionary. (15 mins)

  7. Go through the factual answers, also eliciting the appropriate part of the text. (5 mins)

  8. Make sure you leave time for discussion of the more subjective questions. (5 mins)

  9. If you have time and the students are willing, you can get the students to do a short writing task. Depending on their level, get them (individually or in pairs) to write the first paragraph or more of a fake news article about someone in the news in their country. (15 mins)

  10. Students stick their articles on the wall, read the others and choose their favourite (5-10 mins).

  11. Homework: Get them to redraft and extend their writing.

  12. Additional reading for very strong students: direct them to this.

Bob’s your uncle; Nora’s your aunt :-).