Letter to the Coursebook Writers

Levels: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: writing a real letter; reflecting on progress; class discussion; homework.
Skills: listening; speaking; writing drafts and final copies of the letter.
Language focus: vocab and grammar of formal letters; vocab – agreeing/disagreeing/expressing opinions.

Preparation: copies of this worksheet, if required (one per student).

Time needed: this activity could be given as homework, in which case it should take one hour maximum; the example lesson idea offered below should take between one-and-a-quarter and one-and-a-half hours.

Procedure:

As students reach the end of their coursebook, it can be fun and useful to look back over it, and to discuss in groups what students liked best about it and what they didn’t like so much. This can give you extra feedback as to what kinds of text or theme your students respond well to, as well as beginning to give your students a sense of ownership over the content of their language course.

This worksheet is designed for strong intermediate level students and could be given as homework after just such a discussion.

How could you use the worksheet in a lesson?

You could turn the worksheet into a lesson by, perhaps, doing part one of the worksheet in class (moving from a solo marking activity, to a small group ranking task, to a whole class discussion activity), then dividing the coursebook into parts – and your students into small groups – and assigning each group a different part of the coursebook to compare with class preferences (they could present their findings to the class). If time, you could ask students what makes a good formal letter (openings and closings, paragraphing, etc.) and elicit/board the following structure:

  1. opening (“Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms [surname]” / “Dear Sir/Madam/Sir or Madam” – make sure students know we use the second structure if we don’t know the writer’s name, and the last if we don’t know their sex)
  2. paragraph 1 – giving reason for writing
  3. paragraph 2 – a positive statement
  4. paragraph 3 – more information
  5. paragraph 4 – more information/ conclusion
  6. closing (“Yours sincerely” / “Yours faithfully” – make sure students know “sincerely” closes “Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms…” letters and “faithfully” closes “Sir/Madam/Sir or Madam” letters)

You could then dictate a bad letter to the coursebook writers that you “found.” Give copies to students to compare against their own, give a section of the letter to each small group and ask them to re-write it; then conduct a round-robin reading of the remade letter. Finally, students could write their own letter – planning in class (perhaps then discussing their plans in pairs or small groups) or at home, and drafting at home.

After you’ve collected your students’ work, you could photocopy it and give marked copies back for further editing – after all, their initial letters may be amongst the first formal letters they’ve written in English, and they would almost certainly benefit from feedback and re-writing.

DIY Gapfill

Levels: elementary to advanced.
Ages: kids; teens; adults.
Type: gapfill.
Skills: primarily reading, though also speaking and listening.
Language focus: revising vocabulary; grammar – textual cohesion.

Note: this idea comes from Humanising Your Coursebook, by Mario Rinvolucri. It is used here with permission.

Preparation: spare black ballpoint pens and photocopies of a reading passage from your students’ coursebook. I find it useful to enlarge the copies to about 110%.

Procedure:

  1. After students have practised reading for (gist and) detail, put them in pairs and give out copies of the reading text they have just looked at, and be prepared to give out any black ballpoint pens as needed.
  2. Ask each pair to delete ten words from different places in the text – if necessary, explain that they will give their texts to another pair to try and put the words back in. Make sure students know they should choose which words to delete and that they must keep a record of the words they’ve deleted on another piece of paper, which they will keep.
  3. Show the students that it’s OK to make holes in the paper, as long as their deleted words can’t be read at all, even under direct light.
  4. When each pair have finished deleting their words, ask them to pass their paper to the pair next to them.
  5. Set a time limit, or ask the first pair to finish to shout “stop!” when they have done so, and ask each pair to try and put the words back in.
  6. After the time limit has been reached, or the first pair have shouted “stop!”, pairs split up, or make groups of four: one student comes to mark a student from another pair’s work and reveal the correct words.
  7. Get general feedback from the class: did they enjoy it? What were the hardest words to put back? Who got the most correct? etc.

“The World’s Strictest Parents” Youtube Lesson Plan

Levels: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: engaging and working with interesting TV excerpts; encouraging students to justify their opinions.
Skills: listening; speaking.
Language focus: vocab – parents & children, agreeing/disagreeing/giving opinions; grammar – imperatives, unreal conditionals.

Time needed: approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Preparation: copies of this worksheet and chopped-up copies of these questions for all students. These pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (the main protagonists) – one per six or so students should be plenty. Access to a laptop or interactive whiteboard for the video part of the lesson. Whiteboard and pens.

Procedure:

  1. Divide students into pairs or groups of three. Draw a bee on the whiteboard and elicit what it is; board “spelling bee” and elicit what each team of two or three students must do.
  2. Dictate the following list of adjectives and ask students to write them as they think they are spelt: obedient, fun-loving, respectful, lenient, strict, lazy, hard-working, adventurous, rebellious, loving, bossy, demanding. You can go over any unknown vocabulary with them afterwards – the test now is to use their knowledge of English spelling to write the words.
  3. Pairs have a minute or two to check each other’s spelling and agree on a team list of words. They then pass their team list to the group on their left, who will give one point for each correctly spelt word. Nominate different students to spell the words and deal with any vocabulary questions as they arise. Board the words as they are spelt and elicit any corrections. Drill pronunciation as necessary.
  4. Students give feedback to their peers. Teacher asks: did anyone get more than five points? More than ten? to find the top team.
  5. Teacher boards two columns, one headed “parents” and the other headed “teenagers.” Re-group students into fours or fives and ask them to decide together which adjectives go best with “parents” and which with “teenagers.” Elicit that they must agree on their answers and that they must justify them.
  6. Get feedback from the class – which adjective goes where, and why. Promote disagreement wherever possible, as this will encourage students to justify their choices.
  7. Divide students into new pairs or threes and give out this worksheet. Ask them to decide together on the most appropriate minimum ages to do these activities, and to give reasons for their answers.
  8. After a few minutes, and if the enthusiasm for discussion is still there, combine pairs into larger groups of fours or fives and ask them to agree on a list of ages; extend this again until you have a class decision.
  9. Get feedback and find out why students have ascribed the ages they have.
  10. Board “The World’s Strictest Parents” and explain that students will watch a British programme with this title. Show the pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (see above) and ask students what adjectives they would use to describe them.
  11. Ask students what they think will happen in this programme, then play the first 1 minute 30 seconds and check their answers as a class (useful questions to ask could be: how many British teenagers do we follow in each programme? [two]; how long do they go away for? [one week]; in this episode, which country do they go to? [Ghana]).
  12. Give each student a copy of the questions on Part One of this worksheet. Explain that they will now watch part one of the programme, and ask them to listen for the answers to each of these questions. Explain any unknown vocabulary on the question sheet.
  13. Play part one of the youtube video, get your students initial reactions, go through the answers together and ask what they think will happen next. Give out the questions for part two of the video and repeat the procedure above.
  14. After playing part two and going through the answers to the questions, ask students how they think the programme will end. Do they think the teenagers’ behaviour will improve? Do they think the teenagers will miss Ghana when they return home? Do they think the teenagers will start to love life with their host family in Ghana? etc.
  15. Play the first six minutes (exactly) of Part V of the programme above. Ask your students who they think has changed the most, and whether they think Lizzie will change. Ask them how they think the programme will end and, if you have time and your students are still in the mood to watch, play the episode Finale (below).
  16. Round off the lesson with a discussion. You could use these questions to get things going or keep the lesson on track: is it good to be strict? Do you think the teenagers have changed permanently, or is it just a temporary change? How are the British and Ghanaian families different? Which family would you prefer to live with? How would your life change if you had to live with the Ghanaian family? Is your family more like the British one or the Ghanaian one? How do you feel about that?