Posted in Conversation Classes, Vocabulary Classes

Family Expressions Conversation Class

Family clip art

This is a short activity in which students learn some expressions about family and use them in a short discussion.

Have students try to complete the expresions below in pairs.

Complete the expressions:

  1. A family t_______
  2. B______ is thicker than w________
  3. L______ father l_______ son
  4. To take a_______ somebody (to inherit characteristics from a parent)
  5. Like two p_____ in a p______ (very similar)
  6. Like c_______ and c_______ (very different)
  7. Go to a family g_____ – t________ / g_________
  8. A father f__________

Key:

  1. tree
  2. blood, water
  3. like, like
  4. after
  5. peas, pod
  6. chalk, cheese
  7. get-together / gathering
  8. figure

Go through the expressions as a class, then but students in small groups to discuss the following discussion questions:

Discussion questions:

  1. Does your family have a family tree? Have you ever looked at it? Do you know your family’s origins? Do you have any famous ancestors?
  2. Do you agree that blood is thicker than water? How important is family to you? How important is family in your country? Do you think it’s more important than in other countries?
  3. Who do you take after? Your mother or father? In appearance? Personality? Are there any specific hereditary characteristics in your family?
  4. Do you have any family members or friends who are like two peas in a pod? Or any who are like chalk and cheese?
  5. How often do you go to family get-togethers / gatherings? When was the last time? Do you enjoy them? Do you have any annoying relatives?
  6. How important is it for a child to have a father figure? Or a mother figure? How do you think a lack of either can affect children?
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Posted in Conversation Classes, Grammar Classes

Giving Advice

advice

This is a conversation class to practice different forms of giving advice for B1 – B2 students.

Put on the board:

You should quit smoking

You ought to quit smoking

You had better quit smoking

Put students in small groups and tell them to think about the difference between the 3 sentences. Then have them share their ideas.

should and ought to are basically synonyms although ought to is generally more formal, they are used for giving advice: It would be a good idea if you quit smoking.

had better has a slightly different meaning; it implies that if the advice is not followed something bad could happen. In this context maybe the speaker could be a doctor warning a patient about the results of a recent test.

In this way had better can also be used to threaten:

1: Hey! Where’s that money you owe me?

2: I’ll pay you on Monday.

1: You had better.

Here had better contains the implication of violence.

The grammatical form is as follows:

subject + should / ought to / had better + bare infinitive (infinitive without to)

The negatives are as follows:

You shouldn’t smoke.

You ought not to smoke.

You had better not smoke.

To warm the students up present them with a simple problem that you have, for example: I want to get fit / It’s my partner’s birthday, what should I buy them?

Have the students give advice for these situations.

Then tell students that there are other ways of giving advice, try and elicit the following conditionals:

If I were you, I would / n’t………….

If I were in your shoes, I would / n’t…………

Then give out the following situations for advise, have the first student read out the situation as if it was a genuine personal problem, other students then give them advice. After each situations ask the discussion questions listed below the situations.

  1. I have a friend who is really tight-fisted. Every time that we go out for a drink or a meal he says he hasn’t got any money or he mysteriously disappears to the toilet when the bill arrives. At first we thought “poor John he never has any money”, but he works 6 days a week so he must have some money. What should we do?
  2. My best friend is always flirting with my girlfriend. He always pays her lots of compliments like “Wow! You look fantastic tonight!” Also when we go to parties he often asks her to dance. It’s making me really angry. What should I do?
  3. I share a flat with a friend and she keeps borrowing my things without asking. At first it was just little things like books and DVDs but now she’s started borrowing my clothes and when I want to wear my favourite dress for example, I find it on her bedroom floor unwashed! What should I do?
  4. I have invited 20 people over for a big dinner party, they are arriving in 20 minutes. I was going to cook a big roast turkey but I put the oven temperature too high and it burned! The dinner is ruined! What should I do?

Discussion Questions

Discussion questions for first situation:

  • Do you have any tight-fisted friends?
  • What do they do?
  • What is the custom when it comes to paying the bill in your country?
  • Have you ever had an argument over a restaurant bill?

Second

  • Who has a problem in this situation?
  • Is the speaker right to feel angry?
  • Who is to blame for the anger?
  • Have you or any of your friends ever been in this situation?
  • Are you a jealous person?

Third

  • Have you ever been in a situation like this?
  • Do you lend things to friends? Why? Why not?
  • Do you borrow things from friends? Why? Why not?
  • Have you ever lived in a shared house? What problems did you encounter?

Fourth

  • Have you ever been in this situation?
  • What did you do?
  • What was the worst meal you ever cooked?

Another game to practice this is the following:

Send one student out of the classroom. All the other students have to think of an imaginary problem that he / she has. Invite the student to come back in and sit at the front of the class. The student must guess what their problem is based on the advice they receive from their classmates.

If your students aren’t very imaginative you can use these situations:

  1. I have two VIP tickets to see Barcelona vs Real Madrid on the same night as my mother in law’s 50th birthday party.
  2. I found a wallet in the street with €2000 in it.
  3. I am a great chef, I want to open 300 restaurants and get rich but I have no money.
  4. I got very drunk at the office Christmas party and kissed my boss.
  5. My best friend’s ex girlfriend wants to go on a date with me.
  6. I am the manager of a big company. I have a vacancy for a salesman and my son wants the job, but he has no experience.
  7. I saw my best friend’s girlfriend kiss another man.

Class discussion about advice

Afterwards discuss the following questions about advice as a class:

  1. Who do you go to for advice?
  2. Do they give good advice? Why? Why not?
  3. Who comes to you for advice?
  4. Do you give good advice?
  5. Do you follow your friend’s advice?
  6. What’s the best / worst advice you’ve ever received?
  7. Does advice help? Or do most people ignore it?
  8. Sometimes advice can make you less decisive. Do you agree?
  9. Do you think some people are too proud to ask for advice?
Posted in Conversation Classes, Reading Classes

Proficiency Book Club: A Widow’s Quilt by Sylvia Townsend Warner

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.

Vocabulary

Here is some vocab that your students might have trouble with:

page 243

  • the box – the television
  • parlour – a room in a kitchen where food is stored and prepared
  • applique quilts – patchwork quilts

page 244

  • rook – black bird and chess piece
  • blacking out curtains – heavy curtains used during world war two to block light from the windows of the houses
  • taffeta – material made from silk

245

  • to snatch – to take something from another person aggressively
  • jolt – a sudden violent movement

248

  • drudgery – a boring, difficult job
  • fidgeting / to fidget – to move comfortably and nervously
  • to thwart – to prevent the completion of something
  • a harlot – a whore / prostitute
  • to grimace – to make an angry / annoyed face

Discussion

Have your students discuss these questions in small groups or as a class:

  1. What happens in the story?
  2. Can you describe the characters?
  3. What do you think of Charlotte?
  4. How do you think she feels in her marriage? Trapped?
  5. What do her actions say about the position of women in the time the story was written?
  6. What do you think of Everard?
  7. How do you feel for him at the end?
  8. How do you feel for Charlotte?
  9. How can you explain the ending?
  10. Charlotte takes on the challenge of making the quilt, how important is it to have challenges and things to focus your attention on in life? Different stages of life. Things to look forward to etc.
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.