Posted in Conversation Classes, Current Affairs Classes

Conversation Topic: Mars One

mars-one-colony-astronauts-2

This is a conversation activity in which students discuss human achievements and the Mars One colonisation project. Either split the class into small groups (3-4) or for smaller groups have a class discussion. You can download the handout here.

Introduction

  • How many amazing physical achievements (climbing Everest, walking to the South Pole etc.) can you think of?
  • Which achievement was the most impressive?
  • What’s the most physically difficult thing you’ve ever done? (climb a mountain, run a marathon etc.)
  • Are there any you would like to try in the future?
  • Are there any you wish you had tried in the past?
  • Are the world’s best athletes present at the Olympic Games?
  • What type of athletes or sportsmen/women do you think deserve the most respect?
  • What do you think of ‘extreme’ sports (bungee jumping, tightrope walking…)?
  • What do you think is the most impressive human achievement? (not necessarily physical, could be scientific/technological/medical for example the moon landings)

Mars One

  • How much do you know about Mars? Share your knowledge with your group.
  • Are you interested in astronomy and the science of space travel?
  • Do you have any memories of important achievements in space travel?
  • Have you heard of the Mars One project? Share your knowledge with your group BEFORE READING THE DESCRIPTION BELOW.

Mars One is a privately funded project which intends to establish a human colony on Mars by 2025. They plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to the planet in 2018 followed by equipment and supplies over the following 6 years. They are currently accepting applications to be part of the first 4-man crew that will take off in 2024 on a one-way 7 month trip to the red planet. Once the colony is established 4 people will be sent every 2 years.

  • What do you think of the project? Is it realistic?
  • The project is currently accepting applicants to be part of the 4 man crew that will leave in 2024. What kind of people do you think they are looking for?
  • Would you be interested in participating? Why? Why not?
  • What kind of people do you think would apply for the project?
  • If you were running the project what tests would you do on the applicants to check if they are suitable?
  • What are the biggest problems the people could encounter on the 7 month journey to Mars? And when they land?
  • How would you feel if a member of your family wanted to apply for the project?
  • Do you know anyone who you think would like to apply?
  • Why do you think people would apply to be part of the project?
  • Imagine you have been selected to be part of the first crew. You are allowed to take 1 item of hand luggage (standard budget airline size) of personal belongings. What would you take and why?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Current Affairs Classes, Reading Classes

The Spanish Timetable: Reading and Speaking Activity

siesta

 

This is a reading and speaking activity based around an article from the New York Times about possible changes to the Spanish working say timetable. The original article is quite long so I have edited it down a bit, it should be suitable for B2/FCE upwards. Here is a link to the edited version and the discussion questions:

Spain time article

Start by asking students to tell the class about their average day with specific focus on the times at which they get up, eat, go to work, go to bed etc. Ask them if they follow the typical Spanish timetable outlined in the introduction to the article. Do they eat late? Do they have a siesta?

Once they have shared their different schedules set the class a time limit depending on their level to quickly read the article and underline any unfamiliar vocabulary. This could include:

To hunker down – to meet up/get together

a boon – a bonus

a lag – a delay

Go over the new vocabulary on the board, then either split the class into small groups and give out the discussion questions or hold a whole-class discussion. Below are the discussion questions from the hand out:

What’s your initial reaction to the article?

Do you agree with any of the opinions stated? Which ones?

Describe your daily routine; does it follow the “Spanish” timetable?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of both the Spanish and the “European” timetable?

How difficult would you find it to adjust to a new timetable?

Do you think changing the timetable would affect the country’s culture?

Do you think most people would find it easy of difficult to adjust to a new timetable?

Do you think the current system helps people be efficient?

 

When you have finished the questions you could organise a class debate for/against the idea of changing the Spanish timetable to be more in line with the rest of Europe. Sometimes when organising debate teams it’s a good idea to force your students to argue for a point that they don’t actually agree with. Debate structure should be as follows:

  • Each team presents their argument (3 uninterrupted minutes per team)  – the other team must remain silent but can take notes for the rebuttals later
  • Rebuttals (10 minutes) – Teams can attack the opposition’s arguments based on statements made in the presentation of their argument.
  • Result – Teacher can decide which team has the most coherent argument.

You may find my activity on language of agreement/disagreement useful for the debate.

Posted in Conversation Classes

Role play: Making Polite Requests

makingrequests

Just a quick note…

Before you use these materials… We’ve created a new podcast aimed at B2+ level English students and teachers alike. You can listen for free at our SoundCloud page below. You can download teacher’s notes to accompany them from our Facebook page or from this blog. All comments and feedback welcome! Give us a like and a share 😉

https://soundcloud.com/2tspod


https://www.facebook.com/2tspodcast/

Role play: Making Polite Requests

This is a fun conversation class to help students with language for making, accepting and rejecting polite requests in work or home situations. Here is the link to the handout.

Start by asking students the following:

Have you ever asked for a pay rise?

Have you ever asked for time off?

When was the last time you asked for permission for something? What was it? How did you ask?

First have students brainstorm language of polite requests, then go over the language in the handout.

Making Requests

I was wondering if it would be possible to…….

Is there any chance that I could…….

Would it be alright if I……..

I believe I’m entitled to/I deserve…… (a pay rise/a day off)

Giving Reasons

You see the thing is……………

The problem is that………….

Accepting Requests

Ok, I don’t see why not.

Of course.

No problem at all

Adding Conditions

As long as/provided that/on condition that you……..

Rejecting Requests

I’m afraid that’s just not possible at the moment.

That’s out of the question.

I’m afraid I have to turn your request down.

Once you have gone through the language, put students in pairs and give out the role play cards. Tell students that it is important that they keep their role cards secret as some characters are required to keep certain information secret.

Run the same role play simultaneously and after 4-5 minutes have students report back what happened to the rest of class (a good opportunity to practice reported speech).

Role plays

A:

You are an employee in a company. Next weekend your best friend is having his/her stag/hen party (despedida de soltero). You have to ask your boss for the Monday and Tuesday after off work. Your boss will probably reject the request if he/she knows you are going to a stag/hen party.

B:

You are the boss of the company. An employee comes to ask you something. This particular employee has seemed distracted recently and keeps forgetting important things.

A:

You are and sales person in a company. You are very stressed and you need a rest, you have decided that you want to take a sabbatical to go and volunteer in an elephant sanctuary in Africa for a year. You need to speak to the boss. You are very hard-working and the company is doing very well because of your hard work.

B:

You are the boss of a company. One of your employees comes to ask you something. You have heard a rumour that this employee wants to take a sabbatical. He/she is your best sales person and the company really needs him/her. You can offer him/her a pay rise, a promotion and a 1 month holiday.

A:

You are a strict parent. Your son/daughter comes to you with a request about the weekend.

B:

You are a teenager. Your best friend is having a massive party at his/her house this weekend because his/her parents are away, the boy/girl of your dreams is also going to be there. You need to get your parent’s permission to go but they are very strict and will not give you permission if they know it’s going to be a crazy party.

A:

You are a teacher. Your best student comes to you with a request.

B:

You are a student. You are very intelligent and you work very hard. You want to be a journalist. You have been offered a part time job in a national newspaper. If you take the job you will have to work from 9am-12am on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays but you have classes on these days. Speak to your teacher and see if you can find a solution.

Posted in Conversation Classes

Desert Island Problem Solving Speaking Activity

Desert-Island

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

Before you use these materials… We’ve created a new podcast aimed at B2+ level English students and teachers alike. You can listen for free at our SoundCloud page below. We have released 5 episodes so far and you can download teacher’s notes to accompany them from our Facebook page or from this blog. All comments and feedback welcome! Give us a like and a share 😉


https://www.facebook.com/2tspodcast/

Task handout:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!503&authkey=!ABjaGRY8sNM-iRU

Language handout:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!504&authkey=!AICWqGyfQ2DTrCE

It’s an old classic but as they say, the old ones are the best!

Warm up questions

What’s the most remote place you’ve ever visited?

Did you spend the night there?

Do you like camping?

Have you ever slept under the stars?

Would you consider it?

What’s the most dangerous natural environment you’ve been in? Jungle? Desert?

What things do you always take with you on holiday?

Part 1:

Give out desert island and language handouts and explain the situation.

Task:

You have been selected to take part in a social experiment. You and your group will be taken to a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You will have to survive there for a year without contact with the outside world. The island has:

  • Fresh water
  • Banana trees
  • Coconut palms

The climate is mild (not too hot, not too cold) first individually make a list of 8-10 things you think you will need to survive. Then, as a group you will have to decide on 8 things, list them in order of importance.

Students think of their own personal lists first.

In groups they first list all the possible problems they will encounter, then decide on a list of items that will help with these problems.

Students present their lists to class explaining their decisions.

Part 2:

Students must go into more depth about how their island will work.

Students must decide on:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Division of labour
  • Leadership
  • Justice / punishment / laws /rules
  • Decision making

Students present their system to the class, other groups can ask questions.

Language:

We’re definitely going to need ________________

__________________ will be vital / essential / extremely useful / completely useless / a waste of space

I can’t live without ____________________

Making Suggestions

I think we should……………….

I reckon we ought to…………………

Why don’t we………………………..

How about / what about + gerund………………………….

Agreeing / Disagreeing

Agreeing Disagreeing Ending an argument:
  • We see eye to eye
  • I couldn’t agree with you more.
  • That’s exactly how I feel.
  • You have a point there.
  • I was just going to say that.
  • Absolutely.
  • We don’t see eye to eye
  • I take your point but
  • I tend to disagree with you there
  • I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there
  • I beg to differ
  • That’s not always the case.
  • Let’s just move on shall we?
  • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
  • We’ll come back to that later.
Posted in Conversation Classes

The €100,000 question, conversation topic

US100000dollarsbillreverse

Put your students in groups of 3 and ask them the following question:

What would you do with €100,000?

Give them 2 minutes to share their ideas, then have them report each other’s answers to the class. (each person reports someone else from their group’s answer)

Did anyone give it to charity?

Give out the following handout:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!452&authkey=!AB2H6x3IinOC6wE

In their groups students discuss the problem and then present their ideas to the class.

As a wrap up ask the students which suggestions they thought were the best, see if they can come to an agreement as a class on how to give the money away.

Task:

A long lost aunt that you didn’t know you had has recently passed away. In her will she left your group €100,000 with a note saying it should be given away to “make the world a better place.” Decide in your groups who you are going to give it to.

Making Suggestions

I think we should……………….

I reckon we ought to…………………

Why don’t we………………………..

How about / what about + gerund………………………….

Agreeing / Disagreeing

Agreeing Disagreeing Ending an argument:
  • We see eye to eye
  • I couldn’t agree with you more.
  • That’s exactly how I feel.
  • You have a point there.
  • I was just going to say that.
  • Absolutely.
  • We don’t see eye to eye
  • I take your point but
  • I tend to disagree with you there
  • I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there
  • I beg to differ
  • That’s not always the case.
  • Let’s just move on shall we?
  • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
  • We’ll come back to that later.
Posted in Conversation Classes

Child’s Play – Conversation plan for older adults

kids-playing

This is a conversation plan for older adults, more specifically adults who have children.

Start by writing this sentence on the board.

The exam was child’s play.

Have students try and guess what the expression “child’s play” means. (very easy)

Then bring up the following document on the projector or print it and hand it out:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!410&authkey=!ANbQUt3tf7NITy4

It is a selection of classic children’s games. Go over them and see if they exist in the country where you are teaching.

Then give out the first page of the following handout:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!413&authkey=!AHywlmzFiuZEhW0

Split the class into group of 3 -4 and have them discuss the questions.

While they are discussing encourage them to use the following handout for language of agreeing and disagreeing:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!247&authkey=!ANBIbEVteXyYHnY

 

Agreeing Disagreeing Ending an argument:
  • We see eye to eye
  • I couldn’t agree with you more.
  • That’s exactly how I feel.
  • You have a point there.
  • I was just going to say that.
  • Absolutely.
  • We don’t see eye to eye
  • I take your point but
  • I tend to disagree with you there
  • I’m afraid I have to disagree with you there
  • I beg to differ
  • That’s not always the case.
  • Let’s just move on shall we?
  • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

Your childhood

What games did you use to play as a child?

Where did you use to play?

Who did you use to play with?

Which one of your friends had the best toys or best place to play?

Did you have a garden as a child?

Were there any games or activities that you weren’t allowed to play at school or at home?

What was your parent’s view on children watching TV?

Did you have lots of toys? Did you have to share with brothers and sisters?

What did you get for your birthday / Christmas?

 

Your children

(If you don’t have children think of other children in your family nephews / nieces or friend’s children)

What games do / did your children play? Do / did they play any of the games you used to?

Where do / did the play? Who do / did the play with?

Are there any games / activities that you don’t  / didn’t let your children play?

Are there any activities / games that you think should be banned?

Do you have rules about watching TV or using computers in your house?

How much time do you think a child should spend watching TV? On the computer? Outside playing?

Do / did your children have lots of toys? Do / did they have to share with brothers and sisters?

What do you give your children for birthdays / Christmas?

 

Get feedback from the class about their responses to the questions.

 

Then give out the 2nd page and have the students discuss them and decide if they agree or disagree and explain their reasons.

Discuss the following statements in your groups, do you agree or disagree?

  • Forget toys. Let children go outside and play in the garden, with nothing but their imagination to guide them!
  • Children are given too many toys that they never play with. Books are more important.
  • Toys are important educational tools for pre-school children.
  • Carefully chosen toys can help a child develop.
  • Children today have less imagination than children in the past.
  • A child learns more from 2 hours in the countryside than 20 hours in the classroom.
  • Adverts should not be shown during children’s TV shows.
  • Some people use children as a fashion accessory.
  • Children today should be given more free time to play and be children.

Students report back to the class to recycle vocabulary.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Recommended Websites

Links to a squillion conversation topics

Here are some links to sites with tonnes of different conversation topics for the ESL classroom. Good for quick time fillers or to generate class discussions.

http://esldiscussions.com/

http://iteslj.org/questions/

This one has lots of graded conversation topics:

http://www.headsupenglish.com/index.php/upper-intermediate-students/upper-intermediate-skill-builders/upper-intermediate-speaking

Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes, Vocabulary Classes

Proficiency Book Club: The Waterfall by H E Bates

short stories

This is a series of lesson plans for proficiency level students based around stories from “The Oxford Book of English Short Stories” edited by A. S. Byatt. Set the story as homework the week before, encourage students to bring any vocabulary questions to class.

The Waterfall tells the story of a repressed reverend’s daughter trying to cope with the emotions and sentiments of life and love. These feelings are symbolised by the waterfall in her garden which is being renovated. The breaking of the damn and the water surging down the waterfall could symbolise the release of all her bottled up affections and feelings towards her husband and the jovial Mr. Phillips who has been staying with the family.

Download this lesson plan here:

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=79CFF252BEEA0A7D!383&authkey=!AJRdYjvoRf1OhyM

Vocabulary

First copy to the board or project the vocabulary table in the attachment above, students must try to match the new vocab to the definition.

Key: 1 – g, 2 – d, 3 – a, 4 – b, 5 – j, 6 – e, 7 – f, 8 – I, 9 – h, 10 – c.

Once they have matched the vocab give them 5 minutes to find the vocabulary in the text, make it a race, the first team to find all 10 wins.

Then discuss the following discussion questions:

Discussion Questions:

  • What happens in the story?
  • How would you describe the characters? Straight-laced. Prim and proper, repressed, damaged,
  • What does the waterfall represent?
  • How do you feel about Rose? Do you sympathise with her?
  • How do you think she feels about her new husband?
  • How do you think she feels about Phillips?
  • Do you think people are more or less emotionally repressed these days?
  • Do you think this is a good or bad thing?