Friday, 9 March 2012

Do animals speak different languages?

the use of words that sound like the thing that they are describing, for example 'hiss' or 'boom'
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English

Do animals really speak different languages?
Click on the image to see some wonderful examples of onomatopoeic animal noises in different languages. These are provided on the University of Adelaide website.

I thought that planning a lesson around this idea would provide some well-deserved fun activities for our learners as they have worked hard in the last two lessons on their writing, whilst also having good focus on vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation.

We had a lot of fun exploring how we use words to immitate sounds. It's very interesting and often amusing to find that these words can be very different in other languages. Whilst our main focus is on the English language we were also able to appreciate the wonderful (and very amusing) differences amongst the several languages within the class.


Introduce the topic
Focusing on a picture of a large ornate gong on the board, students were asked what this is in their own languages. The variations were quite noticable but students immediately understood that although there were some differences we can see that the words in some way represent the sound a gong makes. This helped the learners to understand the topic of the lesson.

Learn new vocabulary
The learners were given the task of matching words with the correct pictures on a handout, first working individually, then they compared their choices in their groups before feeding back their answers to the whole class. After drilling pronunciation we moved on to the next activity.

Focus on selected onamatapaeic words (activating the vocabulary through guided practice)
Using a slideshow students were first shown an image and asked what words they would use in their own language to describe the sound, variations were fed back to the class and then the English version was presented, we then focused on the phonetic quality of the words and drilled pronunciation. Working together sentences were elicited and discussed using these words. This was repeated with all 19 onamatapeic words chosen for the lesson. We had a lot of fun using the words together, creating 'flocks' of sheep/ducks and 'packs' of dogs and so on. This was greatly enjoyed, much to the amusement of the learners themselves and to the volunteers at the group observing the lesson.

Free (unguided) practice
The learners were then set the task of writing a few sentences using their choice of the vocabulary, these were then fedback to the class followed by peer and teacher correction.

Competition time
We then played a game where the class were shown random images, the first person to shout the relevant word/sound scored a point. This became very competitive with some very effective use of the target language.
Onomatopoeia Worksheets

This video demonstrates how interactive whiteboard software was used to enhance our lesson on onomatopoeic words. Please note that this is provided as an example and does not reflect the 'real time' aspect of the activities used throughout the lesson.

Let's practise using the words

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The final 'ed' sound

March 17th 2011

The mixed group lesson was based on the pronunciation of the final ‘ed’ sounds in past simple verbs. This was requested by some students as they had failed to get clarification of the pronunciation rule for this in their regular classes elsewhere. This was an excellent opportunity for me to resource this and provide help, making this particular lesson ultimately student led.  Students grasped the idea and were using it effectively by the end of the lesson. Graham was a great help in supporting the lower level learners.

FINAL /t/, /əd/, or /d/?

Test yourself here

The Final ED Sound

The final 'S' sound

March 24th 2011

This class was our biggest to date with eight students attending, We continued focus on pronunciation as requested by the students themselves, this week looking at the final ‘s’ sound. In a warm-up activity students correctly identified 3 ways in which we use the letter ‘s’ on the end of words; in plural nouns, possessive nouns and verbs in the 3rd person singular. We then focused on the different sounds of the letter ‘s’, ( /s/ /z/ /iz/). I had made a PowerPoint presentation where students were able to have a go at pronunciation, then the rules involved were shown. A printed ‘key’ to the pronunciation rules was handed to each student to help them with the following tasks, also given on handouts. The students did very well to identify the correct pronunciation for all the example words given. We then looked at a slideshow that presented further vocabulary and students were prompted to use what they’d learnt to pronounce the ‘s’ endings in words correctly. The lesson ran on about 10 minutes longer than expected and the students were still keen to continue. One participant said “I have been studying for one year and we’ve never covered this, I’m happy to understand it now”. He also said that his full-time teacher was happy to obtain a copy of the key I’d provided last week with the final ‘ed’ sounds. I believe we are very lucky with this class as we are not constrained by the regular structure/curricula of the accredited classes the students attend, we have free reign and are able to focus on what the students identify as being their needs. Just before leaving 2 students who had been discussing something asked Graham and myself “how do we use ‘ago’ and ‘before?’, ‘What is the difference?’ This provides another excellent opportunity for us to plan and deliver something the students want, and feel they need.

FINAL /S/, /Z/, OR /IZ/?

Test yourself here

The Final S Sound

The final S sound - key

final s handout #2 - Choose the correct sounds

final s handout #1 - Choose the correct sounds

08 - Mixed Group Lesson Plan - 24-03-2011

Preposition & Verb +ing

May 19th 2011

Today's mixed group lesson focussed on verbs in their 'ing' form following a preposition (test yourself). Students started off by thinking of things they are and are not good at and we were all tickled to remember how good Ali was 'at skiing' when we all did the superman dance. Students were then presented with the grammatical form and some other examples of prepositions before completing a reading activity where they identified target language in a thank you letter. The following task allowed students to analyse some sentences in order to find and correct any mistakes, this was done very well indeed as the target language had obviously been firmly learnt. This led on to what has developed to be a favourite activity/game with the group, students sorted prepositions and verbs into groups whilst being timed - once again the target language was well absorbed with the only issue being how fast they could complete the task, this led to an exciting finale where Allana beat Sam by only 1 second. We then had a warm-up activity where the students as a group made sentences with prepositions randomly generated by the smartboard. Then finally in a productive written activity everyone wrote as many sentences as they could in 10 minutes using the target language and then fed these back to the class. The aims of this lesson were met with all the students understanding the form and usage of prepositions followed by verb + ing.

At the end of the lesson we wished our friend and fellow student Allana the best of luck as she is travelling back to China for the summer, we look forward to her return.

Handout - Make Your Own Sentences

Prepositions & verb+ing - Handout - Find Prepositions and Verbs

Prepositions & verb+ing - Mixed Group Lesson Plan

Tell us about it

24 November 2011

Today's lesson provided further focus on writing and its planning. I was searching Google Images for award winning photographs and decided to use some of them as prompts in our class. The students were shown a picture of a busy Indian street with lots of traffic and an elephant casually strolling through the scene. Using example questions we started to make notes about what we could see in order to plan a piece of writing to describe the images. The group worked together to elicit certain aspects of the image, notes were made on the board and any difficult vocabulary that arose was clarified. The group then worked together to transfer the notes into a written composition on the board with help from the teacher and peer input. The learners were then put into 3 groups to work on new images, the planning process was then set into motion with help provided in spelling, vocabulary and encouragement to be creative. The groups were very careful not to let others see their pictures. Once the groups had successfully planned and written their pieces all the images were shown on the board one by one with the learners reading aloud their work, describing the scenes to the rest of the class.

Tell Us About It - Worksheets

What would you do if?

6th September 2011

Today’s lesson focused on the 2nd Conditional

The Second Conditional is used to talk about 'impossible' situations.
• If we were in London today, we would be able to go to the concert in Hyde Park.
• If I had millions of dollars, I'd give a lot to charity.
• If there were no hungry people in this world, it would be a much better place.
• If everyone had clean water to drink, there would be a lot less disease.

In a thematic lead-in to the target language, students were asked ‘what would you do if you were young again? After conferring in pairs answers were fed back to the class with the majority of answers being ‘I would study harder’ and ‘play more sports’. We then focused on how this form is used to discuss hypothetical, ‘unreal’ possibilities.

A task was then given to match new vocabulary (relevant to following activities) with their definitions, students worked in pairs and did well to identify correct meanings. In order to check answers the interactive whiteboard was used.

Students were then shown a video where random people in the street were asked a particular question. The initial task was to identify what question was asked and who was asking it? The question was ‘what would you do if you were invisible for 24 hours?’, interestingly the question isn’t actually ‘asked’ by anyone, we know the question because the people being asked repeat it, giving an opportunity to point out that we don’t usually repeat questions before answering and that it happens here because of the informal nature of the situation where people are actually enjoying being imaginative. The second task was to watch the video again and find further information, providing more practice and exposure to the target language. The students conferred and again did well to find the relevant points:

• What would most people do? Rob a bank
• What would the man do after he hopped on the plane? Travel the world
• Who would the woman spy on? People
• How would the woman earn some money? Mind reading

The answers given in the video were often amusing and also raised some interesting questions for the group. We discussed the validity of some of the answers, again providing further focus and practice of the 2nd conditional form. Some ideas discussed were ‘how could you make money mind-reading by being invisible?’ and ‘travelling around the world takes longer than 24 hours so effectively you’ll only see the inside of a plane’. The students enjoyed ‘investigating’ the answers and this helped tie in the idea of ‘spontaneous’ introduced with vocabulary at the beginning of the lesson.

Students were given a handout with the grammatical forms highlighted and we discussed the use these with examples elicited and presented on the board. This was followed by pronunciation practice focusing on connected sounds and the contracted form of ‘I would = I’d’ in natural speech.


In order to practice the form further students were given a gap fill worksheet where they had to choose the correct verb and put it in it’s appropriate form. This proved to be a little tricky for some of the learners but after conferring with each other the correct answers were fed back to the class.

In a final activity the students used their own ideas to form ‘what would you do if?’ questions. These were written on a worksheet and the group asked each other their questions, noting answers they felt were interesting or amusing. At the end of the lesson we shared ideas discussed with some very interesting questions like ‘what would you do if you were the leader of your country?’ This provided some interesting discussion and again helped the learners to practice the target language from the lesson.

Vocabulary Cards

Handout – Q-A activity

Handout - 2nd Conditional+Verb-Adjective Activity

2nd Conditional Grammar Key

Gist+Further Info Tasks

2nd Conditional lesson plan

2nd Conditional Lesson Prompt


20th September 2011

In today's lesson we focused on adjectives that describe feelings and the different uses of the word 'feel'.

In a warm-up activity the students were asked to list as many feelings as they could in pairs. When answers were fed back to the board we were able to identify and highlight 'emotional' feelings.

The next task was to learn new vocabulary ahead of following activities in the lesson. The students were asked to match the new words with their definitions, after 5 minutes they did well to get most of the definitions correct and the correct answers were elicited and presented on the board. The students then put the words in categories of 'positive' and 'negative' and fed back their answers.

In order to activate the new vocabulary students were asked how they would feel in the following situations.

How do you normally feel?

  • When at home watching TV
  • Before an important exam
  • When you forget someone's name
  • If you have to speak in front of a lot of people
  • If you have to wait in a long queue in a shop
  • When you have nothing to do
  • If you go to a concert
  • If you miss a train or bus
  • If you see a big spider
  • If a large animal like a cow runs towards you
This activity worked well giving us the opportunity to use the words in context and to discuss how different words can be used for each idea.

We then focussed on different ways of using the word 'feel'.

A person:
He feels sad/fine. She felt ill.
A thing
These clothes feel wet. The room felt cold.
Have an opinion
You know how I feel about my new boss.
Feel + like + -ing
Do you feel like going for a walk?
Feel + like + noun
I feel like a cup of tea

The students then did a sentence matching activity in order to practice these uses.

How’s your mum today?
What do you feel like doing tonight?
What time did you go to bed last night?
How do you feel about our new boss?
Ooh, your hands feel cold!
Do you feel like a rest after your journey?
How was work?
I feel terrible about what I said to Tina.

Oh, before nine, I felt really tired.
Don’t worry I’m sure she wasn’t upset.
No it’s ok I slept a lot on the plane.
Oh, she’s feeling much better thanks.
Oh, terrible, sometimes I fell like walking out.
I think he’s ok. He’s got some good ideas.
I don’t know….. What’s on at the cinema?
I know – I left my gloves at home.

In a final activity students used their own ideas to make statements using the target language.

Feelings Vocabulary

Sour Grapes and Wet Blankets

27 October 2011

  • To say that someone's attitude is "sour grapes" means that they are making complaints or accusations because they are jealous.
  • A person who is a wet blanket is so boring or unenthusiastic that they prevent other people from enjoying themselves. "Come on! Don't be such a wet blanket!"

Teaching idioms and slang is quite a subjective topic. I believe that it is an integral part of teaching EFL. I agree with the school of thought that says that slang and idioms are an every day part of our language and it is important that foreign students are aware of the most common forms they are likely to encounter, the appropriate use of these language forms and what is considered to be taboo in polite society. 

An important matter to consider is that although students can find endless reference books on almost every other form of the English Language, slang and idioms are not considered part of the syllabus and paid no or very little attention.

If we do not teach idioms how is a student ever going to cope with phrases such as - To bury the hatchet, to be in the same boat and to kick the bucket, and to go straight over my head? If you do not know what they mean there is no formula to work out their translation, the words bear no resemblance to what we are saying.

The International TEFL Corporation

In this lesson our learners focused on idiomatic phrases and the use of slang expressions. Our learners often comment on how English can be difficult to understand because of such cryptic language and requested that we have some focus on this in lessons. I can not express how nice it is to have such eager learners and a free-hand in providing what our  students want and need - a truly client-led provision.

The learners focused and discussed between themselves the possible meanings of idioms/slang provided on a worksheet. Their ideas were fed back to the class and we discussed and noted the meanings of the phrases, students were keen to use examples in their own sentences, often with much laughter. Once we'd covered the list a slideshow was shown and students guessed which idiomatic phrases were connected to each image, this helped to further internalise the subject. This provided excellent conversational input and the activity went on for some time with learners often leading the discussion.

The students were then encouraged to write sentences using their own ideas, myself and Stuart circulated and helped the students with the task. The students then fed back their sentences to the class and as always peer correction from the group helped further understanding of usage and pronunciation.

Now, a few weeks on we are hearing our learners eagerly using some of the phrases with much satisfaction and effectiveness - 'all talk and no trousers' seems to be a favourite.

Idioms relating to Personality - Slideshow

English Idioms Relating to Personality Worksheet

getting used to it......

27th September 2011

In today's lesson we focused on  'get used to', following on from our last lesson on 'used to be'.

In a warm-up activity we watched an amusing video where an Englishman is a guest in a Chinese restaurant, there is some misunderstanding regarding whether his plate should be left empty or not. This allowed the target language to be 'activated' through discussion, particularly concerning our learners' ability to 'get used to' British food - or not.

Using the board we focused on the grammatical form, presenting/eliciting examples with discussion.

In the next activity students were given a 'wordle', a printed sheet with selected words, students then attempted to predict from the text what was going to happen in the following video clip. 

After watching the clip the students were given the task of listing what Audrey is and isn't used to. This provided lots of ideas and good practice of the target language.

In a final productive task students used their owns ideas to make statements and questions with 'used to'. These were fed back to the class and we discussed our favourites.

What is Audrey Used to - Worksheet

Grammar Key Sheet

Write About Yourself With USED To

Prediction Sheet

* Please note that there appear to be mistakes on the worksheets when viewed on this page. These do not appear on the downloaded/printed versions, it's just a glitch in how they display :-)

Have you Ever? - Part 2

In today's lesson we continued our focus on the present perfect tense. We began by looking at some visual prompts that enabled the students to practice what they'd learnt from the last lesson. The students easily picked up from where we'd finished in our last lesson and it was clear that they had retained the main points.

If technology can go wrong - it will!

Unfortunately the power supply to my laptop decided to give up the ghost which meant that all the remaining activities planned for the lesson on the interactive whiteboard were not to be. This was quite unfortunate as I'd devised some games and activities that would help the students further internalise the target language whilst having fun at the same time, my intention being that this lesson would be 'easy going' as they'd studied some serious issues in the last 2 weeks. I decided we would try 'Chinese whispers', using the present perfect tense. I whispered "I have seen the Queen" into the first student's ear which was then passed on by all eleven students. Hilarity immediately ensued with some shyness of whispering into each other's ears, the sentence obviously changed rather quickly and dramatically with some incredulous looks on people's faces and the occasional "huh?" The sentence returned to me as "I have never seen a cigarette". This was greatly enjoyed by the class with raucous laughter echoing around the building. The students were then encouraged to write 2 sentences each using the target language, 1 truth and 1 lie. When they fed back their sentences to the class we had the task of determining which was a lie. The students were quite creative with their ideas and it was often difficult to spot the lies. In a final productive written task students wrote about themselves using the target language. Overall the lesson went well even though most of what I'd planned went out of the window with my laptop's power supply.

I will include a video demonstration of what was planned on the interactive whiteboard anyway as I'd worked quite hard to make it enjoyable and personalised for the student group. I intend to use it in the future to review what we've studied this week.

Have you Ever? - Part 1

21st June 2011

Today’s lesson focused on the present perfect tense. This lesson was intended to provide some requested grammar focus, plus it was meant to be a break from some of the serious matters we’ve been dealing with in the last few weeks. As a lead-in students were asked “what countries have you been to?” Students made a list and then fed back to the class with myself prompting the use of the target language. A song was then played and students completed a gap-fill activity on a handout, I chose this particular song to exploit for its extensive use of the present perfect tense. Once they had finished the song and fed-back their answers to the class we then looked at the grammatical structure of present perfect. In the next task the students re-ordered words to make correct sentences, this led to a more in-depth activity where students made full sentences with the few prompts provided. Then as a final productive task everyone wrote 4 sentences and fed them back to the class; two things they had done and two things they had never done. The target language was used effectively with no errors and some humour.

Bingo Lingo!

21st July 2011

In today’s lesson we focused on good old fashioned rhyming bingo calls.  They contain so much humour and expression of real life concepts that are particular to the UK. How the phrases represent the numbers by rhyming or meaning provides excellent pronunciation practise and oodles of vocabulary. Traditionally the phrases are called before the numbers, giving those who have internalised the code the advantage.
As a warmer the learners were given the task of sharing what they know about ‘bingo’, surprisingly only two knew of the game and went on to describe it to the others. I set the scene of a local bingo hall and its patrons, how serious it can be, little old ladies furiously stamping an array of cards with their wide-tipped marker pens. I went on to explain that if you know the phrases you can shout ‘BINGO’ first!

The students were given a handout and then focused on a slide-show presenting the numbers 1 – 21 with pictures. We read a phrase at a time, predicting what would be in the upcoming picture. This provided lots of interesting and often funny ideas and with regular concept checking the group soon had them down. We then played a few games, each picking up in pace in the competitive atmosphere and they were soon using 3 cards at a time. This was greatly enjoyed and I’m toying with the idea of trying to slowly introduce all 90! Perhaps offer a certificate in Bingo Linguistics ;)

I’m bemused that this old tradition has fallen by the way due to ‘political correctness’, after having a good laugh at Frankie Boyle’s jokes and watching two fat ladies doing new and exciting things with lard on their cookery show. Nevertheless I am aware of my multicultural group and will change a few things in order to avoid any inappropriate discussion.

1. Kelly's Eye 
2. One Little Duck
3. Cup of Tea
4. Knock at the Door
5. Man Alive
6. Tom’s tricks
7. Lucky 7
8. Garden Gate
9. Doctors Orders
10. Tony's Den
11. Legs Eleven
12. One Dozen
13. Unlucky for Some
14. Valentines Day
15. Young and Keen
16. Sweet Sixteen
17. Dancing Queen
18. Coming of Age
19. Goodbye-Teens
20. One Score
21. Key of the Door
22. Two Little Ducks
23. Thee and Me
24. Two Dozen
25. Duck and Dive
26. Pick and Mix
27. Gateway to Heaven
28. Over Weight
29. Rise and Shine
30. Dirty Gertie
31. Get up and Run
32. Buckle my Shoe
33. Dirty Knee
34. Ask for More
35. Jump and Jive
36. Three Dozen
37. More than Eleven
38. Christmas Cake
39. Steps
40. Naughty Forty
41. Time for Fun
42. Winnie the Pooh
43. Down on your Knees
44. Droopy Drawers
45. Halfway There
46. Up to Tricks
47. Four and Seven
48. Four Dozen
49. PC
50. Half a Century
51. Tweak of the Thumb
52. Danny La Rue
53. Stuck in the Tree
54. Clean the Floor
55. Snakes Alive
56. Was she worth it
57. Heinz Varieties
58. Make them Wait
59. Brighton Line
60. Five Dozen
61. Bakers Bun 
62. Turn on the Screw
63. Tickle Me 63
64. Red Raw
65. Old Age Pension
66. Clickety Click
67. Made in Heaven
68. Saving Grace
69. Either Way Up
70. Three Score & Ten
71. Bang on the Drum
72. Six Dozen
73. Queen B
74. Candy Store
75. Strive & Strive
76. Trombones
77. Sunset Strip
78. Heavens Gate
79. One More Time
80. Eight & Blank
81. Stop & Run
82. Straight On Through
83. Time for Tea
84. Seven Dozen
85. Staying Alive
86. Between the Sticks
87. Torquay in Devon
88. Two generously proportioned people of either gender
89. Nearly There
90. Top of the Shop

A video demonstrating how interactive whiteboard
 software was used to support and enhance the lesson

Bingo Lingo Slideshow

Bingo Cards