Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes, Writing Classes

Reality TV Conversation Class

reality-tv

This is a conversation class for higher levels (high B2 +) the main reason for the level specification is that uses clips from the UK version of the reality show “Wife Swap” which lower levels might find difficult to follow. Then again, you never know, it might be a good challenge.

Brainstorm reality TV shows

Have your students brainstorm all the reality TV shows they have in their country. Encourage students to describe the formats of the shows. If you have a mixed nationality group encourage the students to compare reality shows from their different respective countries.

Discussion

Either put students in small groups (3-4) or discuss the following questions as a class:

  1. How long do you spend in front of the TV on an average day?
  2. What shows do you watch?
  3. What your favourite / least favourite shows?
  4. What are the most popular shows on TV at the moment? Are any of them reality shows?
  5. Do you watch any reality shows? Which ones?
  6. Why are they entertaining?
  7. Would you ever go on a reality show? Why? Why not? If so which one?
  8. What about talent shows like “The X Factor” or “American Idol”?

Have students report back to the rest of class.

Write “Wife Swap” on the board. Tell students that it is the name of a reality show in the UK and the US. Have them guess the format of the show from the name (two wives swap families for a week, each has to live the others life; do their job, look after their kids etc), then ask them the following:

  • Do you have this show in your country?
  • Do / Did you watch it? If you did would you watch it?
  • What do you think would be some entertaining swaps? Brainstorm entertaining swaps with reasons.

Tell students that they are going to watch part of an episode of wife swap, first you need to pre-teach some expressions that will help them understand the clip. Put the following expressions and vocab on the board and have students try to guess the meanings.

  1. a country pile – a big country house / mansion
  2. to go to the dogs – to deteriorate / get into a bad state. Old people in England often say: “This country has gone to the dogs.”
  3. I can’t hack it – I can’t bear it / I can’t cope with it / I can’t tolerate it
  4. council house – a government owned house rented by low-income families
  5. to do jackshit – to do nothing
  6. to be on benefits – to be receiving financial help from the state; unemployment money for example
  7. to be stuck in a rut – expression meaning to be in a boring lifestyle that never changes
  8. to roam – to walk / move with no fixed objective
  9. a hoover – a vacuum cleaner
  10. a man / woman of leisure – a person who spends all their time doing things they enjoy, usually a rich person.
  11. a hooker – a prostitute
  12. to see eye to eye – to agree
  13. slack / slovenly – lazy
  14. give him an inch and he’ll take a mile – expression meaning that someone will exploit you / take advantage of you if you give them the opportunity

Show students video of part 1 of wife swap UK until 00:38 (this is just the introduction of the two participating families)

Put them in groups and have them make predictions about what sort of problems and conflicts the two families are going to have and also to make comparisons between the two families. Students report back to class.

Now show students the whole of part 1, it’s about 10 minutes. Before showing them tell them to listen out for the expressions you have pre-taught then go through them afterwards. Students report back the context of each one of the pieces of vocabulary.

Ask students what they thought of the show:

  1. Was it entertaining?
  2. Do you want to know what happens next?
  3. Which family did you prefer?
  4. Which family would you prefer to spend a week living with?

Homework

Students watch the rest of the episode for homework and make notes on what problems the two wives encountered. In the next class students can report and discuss this. If you are preparing your students for a Cambridge exam (FCE, CAE, CPE) you can have them write a review of the show as this format often comes up in part 2 of the writing paper of these exams. A review task type idea could be:

An English language television magazine has asked for readers to send in their reviews of the first episode of wife swap. Reviews should:

  • Give a brief description of the show
  • Comment on the shows entertainment value
  • Say if the writer would recommend the show to other viewers.
  • If they would recommend it, who would they recommend it to?

FCE word limit – 120-180

CAE – 220-260

CPE – 280-320

Let me know how it goes in the comment, especially if you try it with FCE levels.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Persepolis Journal: Chapter 5, The Letter

persepolis pic

This is a series of lesson plans based around “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. Each plan deals with the next chapter of the book, students read a chapter a week and bring any vocabulary questions they have to class.

Vocabulary

Here are some things that may cause problems from chapter 5.

a porter – a person who carries bags in a hotel or hospital

weave – wove – woven = in relation to the weaving of carpets on the first page.

maid – a cleaner / person who helps maintain a house or cleans a hotel room.

to get along with somebody – to have a friendly relationship

to lace a shoe – to tie a bow to keep a shoe on

to slap – to hit with an open hand

Discussion Questions

  1. What happens in this chapter?
  2. What new characters do we meet?
  3. What does Marji learn in this chapter?
  4. Are there distinct social classes in your country?
  5. Can people marry people from other social classes?
  6. Have you ever sent love letters?
  7. Did you have a crush / infatuation when you were growing up?
  8. We see Mehri telling Marji scary stories about jackals, what scary stories do you remember from you childhood?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Proficiency Book Club: An Englishman’s Home by Evelyn Waugh

short stories

This is the latest in a series of lesson plans for proficiency level students based around short stories from “The Oxford Book of English Short Stories edited by A. S. Byatt. This one is based on “An Englishman’s Home” by Evelyn Waugh, you can read the story for free here:

http://novel.tingroom.com/html/29/149.html

As with the other plans in this series, students read the story for homework and then bring any vocabulary queries or new words they discover to class. Start by asking for these queries. Here are some pieces of vocabulary that might come up in class:

I opened the class by teaching the following 2 expressions: “An Englishman’s home is his castle” and “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) two expressions which neatly sum up the various themes in the story.

aphorisms (page 295)  = sayings / idioms

to wreak stark havoc (296) = to cause chaos

ha-ha (296) = a type of fence built at the bottom of a ditch so that it’s not visible from the house’s windows

Crown Derby (297) = A type of expensive ceramic, plates etc.

impecunious (297) = poor, no money

to pull your weight (298) = to do your share of communal work

to eschew (298) = to avoid

The Peace Ballot (298) = a national survey carried out in 1934-35

jerry builders (302) = cheap unskilled builders

to put / pull a fast one over on somebody (309) = to trick / cheat somebody

to mope (309) = to complain and be worried about something

to fret (309) = to be worried and nervous

Discussion Questions:

  1. What happens in the story?
  2. What do you think of the characters?
  3. What does the story say about people?
  4. Does anybody come out of it looking good?
  5. The story talks a lot about manners and maintaining appearances, do you think these things are as important in your country?
  6. We see Mr. Metcalf trying to follow the instructions on how to live as a country gentleman should. Do you think lots of people act like this in real life? Do they try to act as society expects them to act? Can you think of any examples?
  7. The story reflects English village life very accurately, can you see parallels with villages in your country?
  8. What does the expression NIMBY mean? Do you see examples of NIMBY attitudes in your country? Can you think of any examples?
  9. In the book we see the residents of the village cheated out of their money, what other similar confidence scams and tricks can you think of?

Students may be interested to read about the life of the writer Evelyn Waugh, here is his wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Waugh

His most famous book “Brideshead Revisited” has been adapted for the screen twice, the 1981 small screen mini series garnered an excellent response from critics.

 

Posted in Conversation Classes, Games

The Interpreter: Game to practice direct / indirect questions and reported speech.

interpreter

Before you use these materials, why not check out our new podcast for learners and teachers alike? It’s called 2Ts in a Pod, have a listen here:

This is a game for upper intermediate students and upwards. The main focus is the differences in structure between direct and indirect questions, something even the highest level English speakers struggle with.

Arrange students into groups of 3. In each group you have 1 interviewer, 1 celebrity and 1 interpreter. Tell students that the interviewer and the celebrity don’t speak the same language (in fact they do, everyone must speak English during the exercise). The interviewer asks a question to the celebrity but for the celebrity to understand the question it must be “translated” into an indirect question by the interpreter. The celebrity can then answer the question but the interpreter must report his / her answer back to the interviewer in reported speech. It can get a little complicated, and careful monitoring is required but students tend to enjoy focusing on the specific grammar point in use. Here is an example of a typical exchange:

Interviewer: Where did you go to school?

Interpreter: He would like to know where you went to school.

Celebrity: I went to school in a big boarding school in the English countryside.

Interpreter: He says that he went to a big boarding school in the English countryside. OR He said that he had been to a big boarding school in the English countryside.

For lower levels encourage the interpreters to report in the present tense to make it easier. There is a lot of pressure on the interpreter, they’re basically doing all the hard grammar work, so make sure you switch roles often.

Other indirect question beginnings could be:

Could you tell us…………….

He /she is interested to know……………..

He / she was wondering……………

Remember the form for yes / no questions:

Direct: Did you like your school?

Indirect: She was wondering if you liked your school.

If students need subjects to ask and answer questions about you can use some of the following:

  1. your favourite film
  2. your first day at school
  3. what you did last weekend
  4. your favourite place in the whole world
  5. the best / worst thing about living where you live

The celebrity students can give true answers about themselves or they can invent fantastical lives for their celebrity persona.

Let me know how it goes in the comments.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Persepolis Journal: Chapter 4, Persepolis

persepolis pic

This is the fourth in a series of lesson plans based around the graphic novel “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi.

Vocabulary

Here is some of the vocabulary that students had difficulty with from this chapter.

to be ashamed – to feel regret or embarrassment

to take in – strange choice of verb in the text as it is used in the context of Marji’s grandmother taking in sewing. Here is means to start doing an activity. I advised my students to use “take up” instead.

sewing – students had problems with pronunciation, stress that the verb “to sew” is pronounced the same as “so”.

verbs that collocate with “a promise” – make a promise, break a promise, keep a promise.

“the population couldn’t have cared less” – useful, common expression meaning not to care.

cemetery – place where dead people are buried.

stretcher – equipment to carry an injured person.

widow – wife of a dead man.

Discussion Questions

  1. What happens in this chapter?
  2. What new information do we learn?
  3. How did it make you feel?
  4. How does the chapter end?
  5. Why is Marji confused?
  6. In this chapter we see Marji asking her grandmother to tell her stories of her life. What stories did your grandparents / parents tell you about their lives?
  7. In this chapter Marji’s grandmother talks about politicians who don’t keep their promises. Do the politicians in your country keep theirs? Can you think of any examples of promises they have kept and broken?
  8. Marji’s Dad bravely tries to take photos of the demonstrations. How important is this kind of action?
  9. Can you think of any famous war correspondents? Or famous war photography?
  10. How do people document demonstrations and revolutions nowadays?
  11. How has this activity changed since the time Persepolis was written?

Next week chapter 5: The Letter

 

Posted in Conversation Classes, Current Affairs Classes

Cyprus Conversation Class

Cyprus bank queue

This is short conversation class based on the ongoing financial problems in Cyprus.

First show students the photo above and try to elicit the news story.

You may want to pre-teach the following vocabulary:

bank bailout / rescue package – a big loan to stop the collapse of a country’s banks

a run on a bank – when everybody panics and tries to withdraw all their money

The IMF – the International Monetary Fund (they probably have the initials in another order)

Give out the following questions and have students discuss them in small groups:

  1. What’s been happening in Cyprus this week? Share your knowledge with your group.
  2. What’s your opinion on the situation there?
  3. What do you think of the original proposal to pay for the bank bailout? (taking money from people’s savings)
  4. What do you think would happen if they made a similar proposal here?
  5. How do stories like this make you feel? Scared? Frustrated?

Here are 2 headlines from sensationalist UK newspaper “The Daily Mail”:

“The Germans are trying to take our lives and our money” say angry Cypriots.

“If Cyprus falls into Putin’s hands we will have lost the first battle of the new cold war.”

What do you think of these two headlines?

  1. Who do you think is most responsible for the crisis?
  2. What do you think of Iceland’s response to it? (jailing bankers and refusing to pay back loans)
  3. Many people who live in Cyprus are retired ex-pats, have you ever thought of moving to another country when you retire? If so where would you like to live? Where are the most typical places to retire to?
Posted in Conversation Classes

Easter Conversation Class

Easter-Eggs-1

This is a short conversation activity about Easter. Put students in small groups and give out the following questions:

  1. What are your plans for Easter week this year? Do you have to work?
  2. How do you usually feel at this time of year?
  3. Do you have any family Easter traditions?
  4. What are the traditional Easter traditions in your country? Maundy Thursday / Good Friday / Easter Sunday / Easter Monday traditions.
  5. Are there any traditional foods / drinks for Easter?
  6. Do you normally go on holiday at Easter?
  7. Do you go to church at Easter?
  8. What did you used to do at Easter when you were a child?
  9. How have Easter celebrations changed during your lifetime?
  10. Have they been influenced by other cultures?
  11. Do you give Easter eggs?
  12. Do / did you organize egg hunts for your children?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Proficiency Book Club: Nuns at Luncheon by Aldous Huxley

eating nuns

 

This a series of posts for proficiency level students based around short stories taken from “The Oxford Book of Short Stories” edited by A.S Byatt.

This lesson plan is based on “Nuns at Luncheon” by Aldous Huxley. Start by addressing any vocabulary issues the students might have.There is a lot of new vocabulary in this story so try to keep this section as brief as possible to leave time for the discussion. Here is a brief run down of some things that might need explaining.

a hare – a kind of  large rabbit

a mixed grill – a plate of assorted types of grilled meat

gaudy / gaudily – tasteless, lots of bright colours

to wriggle out of st – to escape from a responsibility – my students try to wriggle out of doing their homework

to talk shop – to talk about your job / studies during free time

gallows – the place where people are hanged (see also gallows humour)

the plot thickens – expression meaning that something becomes more complicated or interesting

to harness – to capture and use the power of something – windmills harness the power of the wind

folly – stupidity

the coast is clear – expression meaning nobody is watching

to rule with an iron rod – to be very strict

chaste – pure / innocent

to shuffle off this mortal coil – expression from Shakespeare’s Hamlet meaning to die.

to wallow – to immerse yourself in something, usually in something bad – pigs and hippos wallow in mud, people sometimes wallow in self-pity.

to savour something – to enjoy something and try and make it last longer

the Norns – Nordic goddesses of destiny

sullen – moody, sad

to gloat – to show a lot of self-satisfaction about something, usually at someone else’s expense.

to trudge / to tramp – to walk with heavy feet as if you are tired

dingy – badly lit, dirty

Discussion Questions

  1. What’s the story about?
  2. How did it make you feel?
  3. The story uses a framing device (a story within a story), what effect does this have?
  4. What happens in the story of the nun?
  5. Why does the nun run away with the man? For love? Or to save his soul?
  6. What does the story say about our fascination with tragedy?
  7. In English we have the expression “car crash TV /cinema” what do you think it means? (shows or films that deliberately show disturbing material to get a reaction or higher viewing figures.)
  8. Do you think the media exploits other people’s tragedies for higher viewing figures? Can you think of any examples? (Oscar Pistorius trial)
  9. Based on the events in the story and the repeated scandals involving priests do you think that celibacy is realistic in today’s society?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Persepolis Journal: Chapter 3, The Water Cell

persepolis pic

This is the third in a series of posts based around the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I am reading through the book with several groups of ESL students. Each week we go over new vocabulary that arises and have a short discussion based on any issues that come up.

Vocabulary

There are several vocab points that came up from this chapter:

a putsch = a coup

to overthrow = to remove a government from power

proof = noun from verb “to prove”

westerner = person from the west, also northerner, southerner, easterner.

illiterate = someone who cannot read or write

vast = very big

nevertheless = 1 use as a contrast linker like “however” or another use is as a synonym of “anyway”

entourage = group of people who accompany and support a person

the rabble = a disorganised group of people, here referring to the workers

to rule = to govern

to be sidetracked = to be distracted or prevented from doing something

wrinkled = with fold lines

Discussion Questions

  1. What happened in this chapter?
  2. What was your reaction to it?
  3. What new information do we learn in this chapter?
  4. How aware were people of British involvement in regime change at the time?
  5. Were your country’s government involved in anything similar?
  6. Do you think this type of interference still happens today?
  7. How have the tactics and strategies changed?
  8. On the opening page we see the police’s heavy-handed response to the demonstrations, are the police heavy-handed in your country? What was the governments reaction to the last big demonstration in your country?

Next week chapter 4: Persepolis