Friday, August 15, 2008

Ice Breakers - Activities for the first English lesson (Part One)

Meeting a new class is always an important moment. First impressions (specially the bad ones) persist for a long time. So, in the first lesson, I try to convey the idea that they can have fun while learning English or while reviewing their English. Instead of traditionally roll calling them, I try these Ice Breakers. They always work with my teenage classes! Take a look:

1. The Bingo Ice Breaker

Read this document on Scribd: Bingo Icebreaker

- Use this game to facilitate introductions in new classes.

1. Print and copy of a bingo card for each player.
2. Players circulate to find group members who match descriptions in the bingo squares.
3. When a match is found, the player writes the name of the individual in the square.
4. Different names must be used in each square. When a player has filled a row with names, s/he yells "Bingo!"
5. With the group, check the squares and identify the individuals described.
6. Continue the game for a second round, with the new goal of filling the entire card.
7. When a player has filled the entire card, s/he yells "Bingo!"

2. My Classmates

Read this document on Scribd: My Classmates

1. Hand out the worksheet
2.Tell your students to mingle and find other students so as to fill in the blank spaces
3.They write the students' names
4. After completing their worksheet you can ask them what they have found out about their classmates.

3. Student Search

Read this document on Scribd: icebreaker(new)


- This ice breaker works pretty much the same way as the previous one. The only different is the score they can get. The one who has the highest score, is the winner. This works quite well with very competitive classes.

As usual, if you want a copy of this material, do not hesitate to contact me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Songs for the English Lesson (how to motivate teenagers)

Teenagers love listening to music! In fact, they can't live without it. Some prefer rap, pop, hip-pop, others love listening to rock. So, why not using their favourite songs, singers/bands in class? Either for teaching purposes or just as a background tool during lessons, music is an enjoyable alternative to the traditional listening comprehension. When I'm looking for songs for my students, I try to get the ones which are new at that moment and which have to do with the topic they're studying (as a starting point for discussion, for example). I also use them to consolidate grammar, or teach vocabulary.
I used the following songs in my teenage classes:

* "Wise up", by Aimee Man (topic: alcoholism)
- while listening activity: choosing the correct words in the song
- after listening activities: choosing the correct picture; discussion on the topic

* "Apologize", by One Republic & Timbaland (grammar review)
- while listening activity: inserting the corrects verbs from the box
- after listening activity: filling in a chart about verb tenses

* "Losing my Way", by Justin Timberlake (topic: drug addiction)
- while listening activity: inserting the correct verbs from the box
- after listening activity: American English vs. British English

I also used Christina Aguilera's "Hurt" and U2's "One" as listening comprehension tests. I chose these two songs because they are quite easy to understand.

All the songs can be seen below. If you would like to have a copy of these songs, do not hesitate to cantact me.

If you want to know more about "How to use songs in the classroom", check out these sites:

Have your students pick up the songs they would like to listen. As soon as they get involved, they'll be more interested in your lessons!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Motivating weak students - Creating a Scrapbook

"I hate English!", "I don't need it!", "Do we really have to study it?", "What's English for ?" were my students' feelings in the beginning of the year. They belonged to a CEF class. They were sixteen-seventeen year olds who had been failing for years. This class was their last chance to complete 3º ciclo.
So, what to do with a bunch of unmotivated students?
I tried to think of something which would mix handicraft (one of their best areas!) and their (scarce!) knowledge of the English vocabulary and grammar. So, I asked them to create a Scrapbook with the following sections:

1. Personal Identification
2. My Family
3. My Friends
4. My School and my teachers
5. My daily routine
6. My hobbies
7. (Student's choice)

Well, the idea proved to be a good one, because they really got involved in it. They looked for photos, pictures, materials to create it. They were afraid they didn't know how to write their texts, but each one developed the texts according to their knowledge. I'm glad they enjoyed it!
Here are some examples:

Friday, August 08, 2008

More Poets!

While I was teaching the unit "Dependencies:smoking", I came across with this interesting site:

I thought I would try it with my students (I was not really sure about their reaction, but it was worth giving a try. So I did it! THEY LIKED IT! They were so involved during this lesson, they didn't hear the bell ringing!!!

Smoker's Epitaph Fill-In-The-Blank Poems

Here's a great way to be a poet and learn about why you shouldn't smoke! An epitaph is the writing people put on their gravestones. Each of these Smoker's Epitaph Anti-Smoking Poems is missing a word or two. Can you figure out what they are? For a hint, look at the third line of each poem. The missing word or words must rhyme with the last word in the third line. Good luck.

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, he doesn't have the life he used to dream
(Verónica, 9º 6ª)

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, he won't see the Queen.
(Sílvia, 9º 6ª)

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, he'll never be seen.
(Íris, 9º 6ª)

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, you can only see him on the screen.
(Mafalda Mota, 9ª 6ª)

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, he's out of scene.
(Conceição, 9º 6ª)

Here lies Sam Shay.
Smoked six packs a day.
He started smoking when he was thirteen.
Now, he can't watch Mr Bean on the screen.
(Tiago Baptista, 9º 8ª)

These are just a few examples!

Valentine's Day - Activities

Valentine's Day brings to mind presents, chocolate, flowers, cards, but most of all love. Even small children enjoy this yummy holiday! No exception for teenage students.
Some have just started their first relationship. Why not take advantage of this situation and ask them to surprise their loved ones? And how, you ask me ?? Well, here is the challenge: write a poem to your loved one (or you imaginary loved if it's the case!. I must confess this was absolutely daring, but ... I like challenges!

Well, well, well !!! I've got poets in my classes!!!!

If I..
…could have just one wish,
I wish I woke up every day
to the sound of your breath on my neck,
the warmth of your lips on my cheek,
the touch of your fingers on my skin,
and the sound of your heart beating with mine...
Knowing that I could never find that feeling
with anyone else than you.
(Mafalda Mota, 9º 6ª)

You are the sun shining in the sky
The reason I am alive
For you I will give my life
So as not to see you cry!
(Celso and Luís, 9º 2ª)

Once upon a time love was born
Sometimes we burn inside
And it flows away and eventually we find
It is hard to take it out from our heart
Sometimes everything seems to be amazing
The one we love is perfect
But then all the feelings run away
Without warning
Even though my broke my heart
I'm still in love with you!
(Ruth, 9º 2ª)

These are only a few examples!

A "Country Profile" II

Well, here are some of my students' "Country Profiles". At first they were quite worried about it: they didn't know how to do it, they were not sure their English was good enough to do it, but as it turned out, it was just a momentary lack of self-confidence. Congratulations, boys and girls!

A "Country Profile" I

According to research by the British Council, "English has official or special status in at least seventy-five countries with a total population of over two billion. English is spoken as a native language by around 375 million and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world. Speakers of English as a second language will soon outnumber those who speak it as a first language. Around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language. One out of four of the world's population speak English to some level of competence. Demand from the other three-quarters is increasing.

Being such an important foreign language, and so as to learn more about it, I asked my 9th grade students to choose one of those countries (see Worksheet) and create a "File" about it. Well, the results were not bad at all. See my next post...