Lesson Plan: What’s in Your Kitchen? TPR for Adult Learners

As someone who has been teaching (young) adults at a mostly intermediate level in strict settings from Day 1 of my teaching career, I haven’t had a chance to incorporate TPR into my lessons until last week. Everything I knew about TPR was served under the YL sauce and, therefore, I deemed this approach redundant.

While having the recipe lesson, my student realised that her knowledge of kitchen-related vocabulary was not as good as she would like it to be so we decided to devote our next lesson to filling this gap. I turned to the Internet in search of some inspiration but wasn’t excited about numerous gap-fills and other typical tasks offered for adult learners. Lesson plans designed for YLs seemed way more engaging and I thought that I could give it a go. This lesson was a pure experiment, and it turned out to be one of the best lessons we’ve had so far.

Focus: Vocabulary
Level: A2-B1
Duration: 60 minutes
Learning objectives – by the end of the lesson, student(s) will have:
– been introduced to a range of most common kitchenware-related vocabulary
– practised using new vocabulary in speaking / writing by giving orders to the teacher / fellow students
Setting: online, you and your student(s) should be sitting in your kitchens; could be taught face-to-face if you don’t mind bringing a whole suitcase of kitchenware to work
Materials: These slides and a whole kitchen of realia

0. WARM-UP/LEAD-IN

Start by doing whatever you usually do at the beginning of the lesson (I usually start by having a small talk and then looking through student’s homework if there’re any mistakes).

Then ask your student(s) to describe what they have in their kitchen.

I. VOCABULARY PRESENTATION

I usually teach new vocabulary through pictures (https://pixabay.com/ is my ultimate favourite for getting free stock images). I used two criteria to select the items:
– they had to be common
– they had to be present in my kitchen and, ideally, in my student’s kitchen (but that was hard to predict)

1) Introduce the items using Slides 1-12. Elicit/feed in the vocab, check spelling by asking your student to type each word into the chatbox, and drill pronunciation.

2) After you have done all the things in 1), go back to Slide 1 and quickly review the vocab.

II. PRACTICE

1) To warm up and consolidate new vocabulary, use Slide 13: your student(s) just has(ve) to finish the sentences using correct vocabulary items.

Another task you can try is the guessing game: describe an item and ask your students to guess what it is and ask them to do the same for you or for each other (although this one requires the knowledge of certain cooking-related expressions).

2) Here comes TPR: you and your student(s)  give instructions to each other to do something with different kitchenware items. You can go first and give some simple instructions like ‘take the colander with your right hand and put it on the chopping board’. After some time, hand it over to your student(s). Now they tell you what to do. From time to time make mistakes (e.g. take a wrong item) and make students correct you. They can go as creative as they wish; for example, my student asked me to fry some imaginary potatoes and drain them – now, I didn’t expect that but had to comply.

Alternatively, put your students in BOs (pairs) and tell them to instruct each other. Remind them to perform wrong actions to test each other 🙂

For freer practice aka performance, you can ask your student(s) to choose some items and tell stories about them, e.g. Where did they get this nice saucepan? Or this wooden spatula? It looks old – have they been using it for a long time? etc.

Conclusions:
– My student said she enjoyed the class tremendously
– At the end of the lesson, she felt confident about using the vocab items because she had repeated them so many times during the lesson
– She managed to meaningfully incorporate some of the vocab items she learnt during the recipe lesson, i.e. this lesson naturally built on the previous one, which led to higher satisfaction
– TPR can be fun – for both teachers and students! (this came as a revelation to me)

Lesson Plan: A Cooking Recipe

It’s a vocabulary and TBL lesson based on this authentic blog post: Super Creamy Vegan Mushroom Sauce Pasta. Originally, it was designed for a 121 lesson, but it can be easily adapted to a group one. It’s good for any student(s), but especially for those who LOVE cooking 🙂

Level: B1+ and higher
Objectives: to introduce a set of useful lexical items for reading (and understanding) and writing cooking recipes; to provide practice in writing cooking recipes
The ultimate goal: to write and publish a cooking recipe of student’s choice
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Materials: The Recipe, Gap-fill

0. LEAD-IN

  1. Show the picture of the dish (can be found in the original blog post) and ask what ingredients the student thinks it has.
  2. Then show the picture of raw ingredients (can be found in the original blog post) and ask the student to name each of them (you’ll most likely need to introduce spicesnutritional yeast and cornstarch).

I. READING & VOCABULARY

  1. The student reads through the first page of The Recipe (ingredients).
  2. Drag their attention to the words in yellow and ask to google ounces to grams; then elicit (or explain) what tBsp and tsp mean.
  3. The student looks at the photos of the stages and puts them in the right order (jamboard).
    Alternatively, you can add all photos into a folder on Google Drive and ask your student to rename them using appropriate numbers.
  4. The student reads through the steps (the second page of The Recipe), matches the photos to the stages and checks their answers.
  5. Vocabulary focus (words and expressions in yellow): ask the student to decipher the meaning of each word using the photos of the stages from the re-ordering task. Only help if they struggle. We did it through my student’s L1 because that’s the way she likes it – and, to be honest, so do I. L1 is a powerful tool, and it’s not a secret that adult L2 learners do learn foreign languages through their L1 so no need to ignore it.
    Alternatively, you can send the list to your student in advance and ask them to check the meaning using a dictionary and find pictures on the Internet to illustrate each item (if possible), i.e. do it in a flipped-classroom way. In this case, during the lesson, you’ll have more time to focus on pronunciation and form.
  6. Gap-fill task to practise the use of the new words and expressions.

II. TASK

  1. The student thinks of a simple dish they know how to cook and makes a list of words they’ll need to describe the recipe (can be bilingual).
  2. They use a dictionary to find the English translation for the words in L1 – double-check they got it right!
  3. The student then writes a draft of the recipe.
  4. Give feedback on content and accuracy.

III. Homework

The student writes the full recipe and adds some pictures (if they wish, they can cook the dish and take photos of it).

You’ll have to check it and provide feedback. The student then edits the recipe according to your feedback until it’s perfect.

The final stage: help your student to register at some English recipe website to publish their recipe (e.g. allrecipes.com or yummly.com).

Optional homework for passionate cooks: the student tries to cook the super creamy vegan mushroom sauce pasta and shares their impression (their family members and friends are also invited!) 🙂

Lesson Plan: Travel Guide – What to Do in…

This is a lesson plan based on this blog post: https://whatoliviadid.com/2016/09/how-to-spend-48-hours-in-copenhagen/.

Skills: Reading, FL, speaking

Level: B1-B2

Learning objectives – by the end of the lesson, students will have:

  • been introduced to a range of functional exponents to make travelling recommendations;
  • practised using these exponents in speaking/writing by making recommendations on what to see and do in a city they have visited in the past.

Duration: 60 minutes

Materials: This article, this vocabulary match task, and these slides.

Notes: Can be used with both groups and individual students

Lesson Procedure

0. LEAD-IN

1) I usually start with checking homework because typically, I assign a speech that has to include grammar or vocabulary we covered in the previous lesson.

2) Ask students to discuss these questions:

  •  Do you like travelling?
  • Did you use to travel a lot before COVID-19?
  • What are the three places you want to visit the most?

I. READING

1) Show the photo of Copenhagen and ask students if they know which city it is. If no one knows, tell them.

2) Students do the vocabulary match activity (answers – Slide 1)

3) Distribute the copies of the reading (How to Spend 48 Hours in Copenhagen). Let students read it. Walk around and help with any other unfamiliar words.

4) Ask students to discuss some follow-up questions in pairs, e.g. which of the places mentioned in the article they would like to visit the most.

II. FUNCTIONAL LANGUAGE

1) Ask students to find all phrases in the text which are used for making recommendations (answers – Slide 2). If they struggle, use the first phrase (If you’re looking for somewhere… then [place name] is one to note down) as an example.

2) Show students the slide with all phrases from the article and ask them to quickly analyse the form, i.e. do we use verbs in these phrases? nouns? what’s the form of the verb in each phrase? You can create a gap-fill or a spot-an-error exercise to focus on form.

3) Ask students to come up with their own examples for each phrase using any of the cities they’ve been to. Can be either a writing task or a speaking task.

III. PERFORMANCE

Students choose one of the cities they’ve been to and tell each other about things to do there using the new language. Give them some time to prepare and look for a couple of pictures to show. If they have some photos stored in their smartphones, encourage them to use those.

HOMEWORK:

Students have to write a blog post about a city of their choice in their home country. It should be similar to the article they read during the lesson and must include pictures. Tell them to be mindful of copyright! (i.e. they either have to provide links for all pictures or use free image stock websites).

Ideally, if your students wish, they could publish their final pieces on some travel website, or use some parts of it to post reviews on, for example, Tripadvisor.

Here’s the opening part of the article my student wrote (shared with her permission) – she did a great job and managed to use not only the target language but some of the expressions from the original text! I guess this means it was a success 🙂

Continue reading “Lesson Plan: Travel Guide – What to Do in…”

My Top-10 Resources for Teaching Pronunciation Physically and Visually

I am a strong advocate of the physical approach to pronunciation teaching. I mean, how can you pronounce a sound if you have no idea about what’s involved in the process? Articulation comes first, and only then it is followed by imitation. So if you want to teach pronunciation physically and visually, here is the list of 10 invaluable resources for you to use:

  1. Introduction to Articulatory Phonetics: Vowels and Consonants.
    These are two short but informative videos aimed at teachers and linguistics students that give you insight into how vowels and consonants are articulated.
  2. Seeing Speech
    This is a product of collaboration between researchers at six Scottish universities, including my alma mater, Edinburgh University. The sounds on this website are visualised in three different ways: MRI, ultrasound, and animation. This is a great tool to use in class.
  3. SPAN: Speech Production and Articulation Knowledge Group
    This is a project similar to the one above. Some differences are: MRI only; separate words and sentences are recorded as well.
  4. Tools for Clear Speech and Sounds of Speech
    These are two different resources for animated versions of English IPA sounds. Both of them are using American English, which means that some vowel sounds are missing though.
  5. Interactive Pronunciation Animations
    This one is good for introducing the sounds of British English to young learners. Funny cartoons contextualise each sound and make it memorable.
  6. English Club’s Learn English Pronunciation
    This page offers a range of resources, from an interactive phonemic chart to various pronunciation games, that will keep your students engaged.
  7. The Sounds of English
    This is basically a ready-made British English pronunciation course on YouTube. Not a single sound is missing! What I like the most about these pronunciation videos is that they focus on contrasting sounds and minimal pairs as well. Can be used both in class and at home.
  8. Pronuncian.com
    Good for practising minimal pairs and getting ready-to-use lessons on American English pronunciation.
  9. Youglish.com
    This is an amazing website that lets you listen to the pronunciation of whole sentences, not just single words. You can search for any phrase, e.g. a famous movie quote or just some common everyday expression, and listen to all possible pronunciations. Other resources you can use for this purpose are TubeQuizard and Playphrase.me (the second one is limited to three phrases per search).
  10. Tongue Twister Database
    I personally think that tongue twisters are a great way of practising pronunciation, from single sounds to the features of connected speech to stress and rhythm. This is probably the biggest tongue twister database out there.
  11. BONUS! A 15-minute morning pronunciation practice with the amazing Hadar Shemesh. As someone who is taking singing classes and studied drama and acting (for a short while though), I know that your vocal apparatus needs to be warmed up before you can use it fully. This video introduces a range of exercises for the muscles involved in speech articulation. A tip from me: don’t resist yawning – it’s unavoidable!

Know any other useful resources? Give me a shout, and I’ll add them to the list 🙂
Have a question? Get in touch, and I’ll help you out 🙂

Banana? Banana!

This is a lesson plan I presented during the last ELT Lesson Jam, organised by Myles Klynhout, Rachel Tsateri and me.

Intonation. One of the trickiest aspects of pronunciation to master. Yet, so much depends on it. Even the simplest, the most innocent words, pronounced with a certain intonation, can sound rude and even threatening. So, how to raise awareness and provide our students with an opportunity to practice intonation?

Banana!

What I do is I say the word ‘banana’ in different ways – neutral (flat tone), unsure (rise), surprised (fall-rise), and irritated. Students have to identify the emotion involved in each different case. I then ask them to say the word using these emotions. After that, I offer them to brainstorm other emotions and try saying ‘banana’ using them (e.g. ‘enthusiastic’, ‘bored’, ‘surprised’, ‘relieved’, etc.). They then work in pairs saying the word ‘banana’ and trying to guess the emotion.

Step 2 is a role-play (image 1). Each pair of students gets a scenario. They have to role-play it, but they can only use the word ‘banana’ (they can use this word as many times as they wish). They have some time to rehearse (you can monitor and help out). After that, each pair has to perform their role-play in front of the class, and the listeners have to guess what is going on (roughly). The student whose guess is the closest to the original scenario gets a point. The student with the highest score wins (you can give some award to them).

Step 2. Role-play

Step 3 is real-life dialogues. Student A asks a question, and student B replies with different intonations. Student A has to guess how student B feels. You can rearrange the pairs ad conduct this activity one more time.

Step 3. Real-life dialogues

Step 4 is, obviously, a freer practice. Students share some short stories about moments when they experienced strong emotions. They have to use intonation as an instrument to make their stories as vivid as possible.

So You Wanna Do Delta Module 3?

I started Module 3 nine months after I sat Module 1 exam. Same as before, I took a course with the Distance Delta. Academic writing is not among my strengths so I needed a lot of guidance and feedback.

The course was organised in chunks, and there was a deadline for submitting each part (approximately 2 weeks for each part, apart from Part 2 because it requires some extra time to collect the data you will need for Parts 3 and 4). We also had a couple of weeks to work on the final draft after receiving the tutor’s feedback.

Some things I realised while working on my EA and which might be useful for those who are going to start Module 3:

  • Before running thorough needs analysis for Part 2, do a short preliminary one. This will give you some ideas about what your future focus might be and what sources you need to look for before you actually start working on your EA. As a restul, you will save some time.
  • When working on appendices, create a separate file with the list of appendices you are going to have. Group appendices according to the parts they belong to, e.g. 1a-…, 2a-…, 3a-… Apart from the title, add a short description in brackets (in case you forget what the appendix includes). Keep editing the list on the way. This will help you organise your Document 2 and not lose any appendices on the way (which is likely to happen if you have over 30 of them, and it’s a pretty common number for Document 2; I had 39).
  • Appendices to include in Document 1: 1) course syllabus and lesson plans; 2) collated needs analysis (NA) and diagnostic tests (DT) results
    Appendices to include in Document 2: 1) samples of NA questionnaires; 2) sample of completed NA questionnaires from one of the students; 3) DT tasks; 4) samples of completed DT tasks from one of the students (transcripts for speaking DT); 5) all materials used in each lesson; 6) all assessment forms; 7) all course evaluation questionnaires; 8) anything else you wish to include, e.g. charts and diagrams you refer to in the main body of your EA.
  • Learn how Word works. In particular, how to create heading styles and auto-generated contents. This will save A LOT OF time. To display the styles, press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+S. Apply them to the headings – without this, you will not be able to create auto-generated contents. To create them, go to References -> Table of contents -> choose your preferred style.
  • Do all the necessary formatting BEFORE you start typing into the document. The standard is 2.5 cm margins (all sides), font size 12. Everything else is up to you, but I’d suggest having line spacing slightly bigger than 1 (it makes it easier for the reader, i.e. the assessor).
  • If you have problems with placing both footers and page numbers at the bottom (I did), place page numbers at the top – it’s much easier to do and not against the rules.
  • Have multiple copies of your EA in case something happens to your PC or if you decide to work on it using a different PC. I know it’s pretty basic advice, but you’ll be surprised to know how many people fail to arrange extra copies and end up regretting not having done this.

Don’t be afraid to get a deferral if you feel you don’t have enough time to refine your EA. You don’t have to submit it in December even if you started your course in September. I was working full-time while writing my EA and literally had no time to finish it before the deadline. I still did all the writing but did not prepare lesson plans, just the course proposal. I then took a break from writing and came back to it in spring. This gave me an opportunity to introduce all the necessary changes (according to my tutor’s feedback), attach all the lesson plans, and submit the EA in June. As a result, I got Pass with Merit, which is more than enough for me considering how many difficulties I always have when it comes to academic writing.

And as always, a link to the treasure box where you will find:

  • Module 3 Handbook;
  • Examiner reports;
  • Some sample assignments (free public access, no laws violated);
  • And a little extra.

If you wish to have a look at my assignment, feel free to contact me (but remember Cambridge does not tolerate plagiarism).

To assess, or not to assess, that is the question indeed

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with assessment.
When I was a student in Russia, I knew that it was all about scores and rankings. At university, I realised that assessment can be different and can be aimed at measuring how good you are at providing supportive arguments and structuring your assignment. However, neither in Russia nor in the UK, it was about me as a person. In Russia, schools are doing everything possible and impossible to have as few F students as they can. In the UK, the university failed to take into consideration my background and those difficulties I had to face as an international student for whom English was a second language and who was educated in a totally different environment where different criteria were cherished.
No wonder that when I became a teacher myself, assessment became my nightmare and a constant source of anxiety.

How to measure effort? Creativity? Engagement?
How to come up with criteria that will provide you with reliable data?
How to make sure each and every student in my class will be able to complete the assignment without saying that it was too easy or too difficult but just challenging enough?

Stakeholders want numbers and pie charts demonstrating that their investments have paid off. Academic managers want proof that they made the right choice when they decided to hire you. At the end of the day, assessment becomes a tool that is used to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers. Some might say that if a teacher is effective, their students make progress. True. But your effectiveness should not be the main concern when assessing students.

In most cases, what assessment lacks is the focus on learners.

As a learner myself, I know one thing: motivated or not, too harsh on yourself or not, you always know exactly how you’re doing. You know if you haven’t been studying hard enough. You know if you have tried your best. You know when you have finally mastered some structure or topic. You know what structures or topics you still have to master.

When I assess my students, I always turn to their expertise. Who, but them, know how they have been doing all that time and what, if something, has stopped them from achieving more? I don’t grade. Grades are meaningless unless there are very specific, detailed and objective criteria – which is hardly attainable. Instead, I ask my students how they feel about their learning process. Do they think they have made any progress? What do they think they should still work on and how could they do it? If they love grades then which one would they give themselves and why?

Of course, I take notes and make comments. Of course, I do not eliminate myself from the process completely. Students need our feedback, our encouragement.

Whenever I do some progress check, I always tell my students: this is not for me, this is for you. For you to evaluate your progress and see your strengths and weaknesses. For you to reconsider your learning route. Learning is by nature a solitary activity. You can have a teacher and classmates, but your learning journey is yours only and no one else’s. And it’s totally up to you where it brings you.

My L2 Journey

I started learning English when I was 4. My mom, who has never succeeded in learning it (although she was quite good at Spanish), thought that English language was the future and so I ended up in a kindergarten where we had English classes. I remember learning animals, numbers and colours. Unsurprisingly, the elementary school where I went had English from grade 1. Of course, we were taught using the grammar-translation method, although we had some speaking as well. I even remember giving presentations in grade 7 (it was a different school though). Whenever we would have a family trip abroad, I would be the voice of our family.

My first encounter with CLT happened when I was 13. It was a summer language school in Switzerland and my very first experience of going to such a school. I think I was way more excited about socialising than language learning. Our teacher, Ms Cartier, was a fan of project-based learning as I understand now, but back then I simply didn’t understand that whole project-based-learning thing. I felt utterly puzzled, I couldn’t understand why we were doing what we were doing and how it could help me become better at English. In other words, my affective filter was way too high to leave any chance for me to enjoy the learning process. So I ended up learning social skills and some Russian slang (yes, there was a whole bunch of Russian students, including me) and hardly any English. Now I say to myself: ‘Make sure your students understand why they’re doing this particular task’.
A year later, when I went to a summer school in England, I kind of already knew what to expect and enjoyed the lessons and creative atmosphere that is impossible in a grammar-translation, ‘chalk & talk’ classroom.
When I was 14, I tried home-stay learning. In the next 4 years, I stayed in various houses in the UK and even in Wales for 2-3 weeks.

And then I decided to get my degree in Britain. I signed up for an intensive IELTS preparation course and discovered that my English was not as good as I thought it was. I also kind of hit the infamous Intermediate plateau (even though my level back then was estimated as Upper-Intermediate). I realised that the time has come for me to take my learning into my own hands. I started reading blogs and short articles in English but the main source was TV-series.

It wasn’t easy to get new episodes in English for Russians back then. No one heard of online streaming services like Netflix or HBO. You had to know places. And then you’d have to get English subtitles separately. Sometimes, they wouldn’t be synchronised with the video, so I had to learn how to synchronise them. Otherwise, I’d try different versions until I’d find one that was perfectly synched.
I learnt a lot from watching TV-series. Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars were a great source of teenage American English, Supernatural taught me some swearwords and slang, Game of Thrones presented me to a higher-level English filled with long and tricky-to-pronounce words, and Bunheads showed me how you can play with words (‘I-am-ready-to-drive-through-the-country-just-to-kill-you potential’ was my ultimate favourite).

Edinburgh was nice, apart from the fact that I couldn’t understand a single word the locals were saying. I did know that English is not the same everywhere in the UK (thanks to those 3 weeks in Wales), but somehow I thought I’d be OK. I wasn’t. In the first two weeks in Edinburgh, I learnt that ‘aye’ means ‘yes’, realised that RP was useless there and got into tiny trouble with the police (but that’s a different story). It took me 3 years to finally start understanding the proper Scottish used by people in the streets (as opposed to the so-called ‘posh’ Scottish which the lecturers spoke). What helped the most was volunteering with Age Scotland, a charity organisation that helps elderly people all over the country. My task was to call those people on the list who were still waiting to be matched with a permanent buddy and check on them. Our conversations would last from a mere minute to one hour, and it improved my listening skills tremendously.

Learning a language is a life-long task unless you have a certain goal that lets you stop at some point (like it was for me with Japanese). 24 years later, being an EFL teacher, I am still learning and I will never stop. Languages are way too dynamic and broad and diverse to be something one can fully master. There are so many Russian words I don’t know, especially slang words young people are using nowadays. The Russian language I speak is different from the Russian language my mom speaks. We all speak our own unique language. So which language should we teach then? And does it make sense at all to build borders around the language, classify it, vivisect it, make it fit our understanding of what it should be? Standards are useful because we all need something to rely on, but should they be followed vigorously? The longer I teach the more I think about this and the more questions I have. I know that I know nothing.

Unchained

I remember when I was in a kinder garden, we had English classes there, and one day, my teacher approached my mom and complained that I was pronouncing ‘father’ with the Russian rolling /ɾ/ instead of the English /ɹ/. ‘You have to pronounce it right’, my mom said. Okay, I got it, I have to pronounce it right, end of story.

I never questioned pronunciation and kept taking in for granted, even when I became an English teacher myself. As a student, I worked hard on getting rid of any tiny hint of Eastern European accent and felt the happiest when someone would say ‘You’re from America, aren’t you?’. I was proud of my enormous effort paying off.

And then the ELF concept came in. I was in my second year at university as a teacher and one of our CPD readings for summer was Murray’s English as a lingua franca and the development of pragmatic competence. While this one does not touch pronunciation (as follows from the title), my further research on ELF quickly led to the fact that everything I knew about pronunciation and its place in ELT instruction was not what it seemed.

The main question is: Does it make sense to aim for 100% accuracy (something I used to think was compulsory)?

The answer is no. And yes.

What makes this difficult is the fact that L2 proficiency is still most likely judged through the speaker’s pronunciation (Goodwin, 2001). Hide and Poel report that, in their study, the learners with audible foreign accents “were perceived as unintelligent, stubborn and malfunctioning by people in their academic and administrative environments” (2000, p.17). However, at the same time, everything we need is just to achieve a “threshold level” of speaking ability where we become intelligible to most listeners (Celce-Murcia, 1996).

Simply saying, while the main concern is intelligibility (i.e. how well you’re understood by your listeners), the anti-foreign accent views still prevail and having a foreign accent indeed becomes a sign of bravery.

So what we, as teachers, should do about this? Educate our students about ELF, teach them the basics (as prescribed by the ELF methodology) and then let them go and face those views on their own? Or do whatever we can to help them get rid of their L1 accent thus contributing to the world-wide hegemony of native speakerism?

There’s no win-win solution to this issue.

What I personally think is that it’s always a matter of choice. We can let our students know how the situation is right now, tell them about various approaches and let them decide what they want: bare intelligibility (which is good enough) or a ‘native’-like pronunciation (which is also good enough). It is they who will use this language to communicate, so it is up to them how and what they want to learn.

Before, whenever my ability to copy ‘native’ pronunciation would let me down and I would produce something Russian-sounding, I would feel devastated. Now I feel nothing close to this. It does not matter how I sound. I am Russian, so what? I am learning Norwegian at the moment and while I pay close attention to articulating single sounds, I do not get crazy about copying the very melody of the language. That is how Norwegians speak, and it is beautiful, but I am a foreigner. I am still proud of how far I got with mastering English pronunciation, but not because it makes me sound ‘native’-like. It is because it makes it easier for me to help my students when it comes to pronunciation.

Of course, it depends on your goal. If you want to integrate into local society, then probably mastering every single aspect of local pronunciation makes sense. However, most of our students simply learn the language to travel or to use it with foreign clients. Pronunciation in business is a tricky matter though, but as a client, do you expect to come to Italy and find native English speakers there to have business with? No, you will do business with Italians (and any other foreigners who work at a particular company you choose), and as long as you understand each other, it is fine.

Give your students a choice, show the opportunities they have; do not decide for them. When they make an informed choice, it becomes much easier for them to cut all the noise around them saying that sounding foreign is bad.

We feel the most insecure and unhappy about the decisions we made because we were told to.

Continue reading “Unchained”

Lesson Plan: Motivation to Buy

As you know, I love giving my students a chance to learn something interesting about the world around them using English as an instrument. After all, they are learning the language because, for them, it has some instrumental value. Advertising is a win-win topic since we’re surrounded by literally thousands of ads. However, instead of talking about such worn-out topics as how advertisement influences our lives or the types of advertisement, why not talking about something far more useful, in particular how it makes us buy? Forewarned is forearmed, so off we go 🙂

The lesson is based on this infographic article. I’ve cut some parts out, so for the lesson, you’ll need this version. You’ll also need this worksheet and these slides.
Level: B1+-C1
Duration: 80-90 mins

0. WARM-UP/LEAD-IN
1) *SLIDE 1* Students discuss the questions in pairs. Feedback: for small groups, let each student share their answers and encourage comments; for large groups, divide students into smaller groups and let them share their answers with each other.
2) Divide students into groups of 3-4 (rearranged pairs for small groups) and ask them to brainstorm any kind of techniques that are used in advertisement and are aimed at attracting potential customers. Whole-class feedback (board students’ answers).
3) *SLIDE 2* Give students some time to read through the introductory text. Drag their attention to the four factors. Tell them that now they’ll look at these in more detail.

I. READING
1) Distribute the texts. There are four texts, two shorter and two longer ones. If you have more students than texts, give longer texts so several students. Students have to read their texts and try to understand the techniques described in them. Monitor and help with any unfamiliar words.
2) Group students so that in each group there were students who read different texts (it’s okay if you have a group of 3; they then can skip some questions). Distribute the reading questions (different sets for groups A and B). Students answer the questions together.. You can add an extra focus on negotiation of meaning by instructing listeners to ask for clarification and/or repetition when needed.
3) Whole-class feedback: the goal is for each learner to get to know about all techniques.
[OPTIONAL] 4) *SLIDE 3* Students discuss the question (Are there any other motivating techniques the advertising uses to make people buy more?) in pairs. For feedback, show *SLIDE 4*.

II. TASK *SLIDE 5*
1) Students choose their favourite ad (they can google it and find a poster or a video on YouTube) and analyse it in terms of advertising strategies. How does it attract potential buyers?
2) Divide students into groups of three (pairs for small groups). Students present their ads to each other and say why they are appealing and attractive.
3) Whole-class feedback (of your choice).
4) Q&A or whatever you do at the end of your classes.

How many of these techniques did you know about? Feel free to leave a comment.
Let me know if you decide to try this lesson plan out, and I’d be grateful if you could share how it went!