Text message abbreviations and emoticons. A lesson with a worksheet for your pre intermediate English students

Can’t be bothered to read the post and just want to see if the worksheet might be something you could use? Click here for the word document: Emoticons and text messages
Do you hate people writing ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ or ‘B4′ instead of ‘before’? Lots of people do. Is it normal to feel that in some way, the language you learn, love and use is being cheapened by it being abbreviated?
As someome who teaches and writes an awful lot, I couldn’t really care less how people spell. As long as they get their message across in the right way, then what’s the problem. You wouldn’t want students to use text message abbreviations in an exam, but in the same way you wouldn’t expect them to use long winded phrases in a text message.
Here’s a lesson that gets students to think about where emoticons come from and also teaches them the most common text and web speak abbreviations.
Here’s the link Emoticons and text messages

If you like it and use, please get in touch and tell us how it went!


Reported Speech – a quick ppt to show your intermediate ESOL/EFL students

Here’s another one from the vaults, a good introduction or warmer for your ESOL or EFL class on reported speech.

Click here to download the ppt: reported_speech_arrange_the_sentences

There’s not much to say as it’s pretty straightforward. The first slide gets students to arrange the words into meaningful reported speech sentences (some of them have more than one possible answer). Once students have done this, get them to write the sentences down as they would be in direct speech as well.

The next ten slides all have pictures of people saying things that students can report back. Have them shout out the answers at you, write them down or even work with a partner or group to get them perfectly correct.

Here’s the ppt again https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/reported_speech_arrange_the_sentences.ppt

http://www.englishlanguagespacestation.com/


Guest Blog: David Clayton: SMARTphones: Student Motivation and Autonomy using Relevant Technology.

The purposes of the activities listed below are to increase students’ exposure to natural English, their autonomy, and their motivation. This will be achieved by the innovative use of familiar and valued technology, encouraging effective study skills and good practice, and by providing fun, meaningful, achievable activities using authentic materials.

A recent poll of my first year Japanese university classes revealed that just under ninety per cent of them use smart phones. According to Google, this number is set to increase throughout the world as smartphones become the most common method of accessing the internet (Google, 2011). I recently purchased a smartphone, too and was amazed by its user-friendliness, versatility and processing power (less so it’s battery life!). After a few weeks spent getting to know my new toy, I started to wonder if and how it could be used by my students to learn English. 

After consulting with my students, sharing app recommendations, and hints and tips, I came to the conclusion that although the use of phones in class is prohibited in many institutions (Shepherd, 2011), if teachers fail to at least acknowledge their existence, we will miss valuable educational opportunities. This becomes clear when we consider that smartphones are essentially high powered mini computers with broadband-speed internet access. Furthermore, many students are never without their smartphones: they eat with them, sleep with them, study with them and even take them into the bathroom. Smartphones are some university students’ most prized possessions; their owners are both extremely adept in their use and extremely interested in using them.

I am confident that institutional policies prohibiting smartphone use in class will disappear as administrators realize that students are willingly buying and maintaining their own state-of-the-art computing hardware at their own expense, and always bringing it to class. As such, smartphones are more than an inviting resource; as some groups have realised (DEB, 2011), they offer a golden opportunity to enrich students’ education at no cost to the institutions.

At present however, using smartphones in whole-class activities is not possible for many teachers and learners. For this reason I advocate encouraging students to use their smartphones outside the class to encounter natural English in meaningful – and even better, fun – ways. I hope your students enjoy the activities and resources recommended in the handout below, and that when they return with more ideas you will share them with me too.

10 great ideas for using your smartphone to learn and practice English.

  1. 1.    Install Kotoba! dictionary.

Lets you input words using all the standard methods (including drawing characters with your finger) and has example sentences to give context to the definitions. You can save the words you look up in specific list, or just look back through the history at all the words you have checked. (Review new words using Flashcards +, below). Does not require an internet connection after the initial download.

  1. 2.    Install Google Translate.

This will give you another source of information about new words and phrases. You can enter longer blocks of text to get the general meaning (do NOT rely on the translation to be 100% accurate). It has an audio function to help you with pronunciation, and a “large font” button that is very useful if you are showing someone else the translation. (Review new words using Flashcards +, below). Requires an internet connection.

  1. 3.    Install Flashcards+

This lets you create your own flashcards to review on the train etc. This is a very time-efficient method of learning new vocabulary. You can also download thousands of flashcard sets on many subjects from quizlet.com. Try searching for your English textbook and see what you find! Requires an internet connection.

When you find any new words doing activities 4-9 below, make sure you check their meaning and review them regularly using 1-3 above.

  1. 4.    Set your default language in the OS and apps you use the most to English.

It can be quite difficult to use the more advanced settings on your phone like this, so remember how to change them back!

  1. 5.    Buy graded readers from iTunes.

Several publishers now offer their graded readers as ebooks. Oxford Bookworms include a glossary, audio files and quizzes and are slightly cheaper than the paper versions. To find which level of reader you should read, go to a bookshop, open some graded readers at random and read a page. If there are more than two words that you don’t know per page, that level is too difficult for you. Choose a level which has only one or two new words on each page, then buy e-books from that level from your app store. Does not require an internet connection after the initial download.

  1. 6.    Join a Photo a Day Challenge for a month.

Go to http://fatmumslim.com.au/ and download the Photo A Day list, which shows one word for every day of the month. Your challenge is to take a picture each day that represents that word  and post them on your Facebook or Instagram page. This can be a lot of fun if you and some friends (or your whole class) do it together. Requires an internet connection.

  1. 7.    Follow foreign celebrities / sports people on Twitter.

With just 140 characters, most messages on Twitter are very simple. You can learn new abbreviations and slang this way, too. Requires an internet connection.

  1. 8.    Install Just Sayin’

This is similar to twitter, but focuses on audio. You can listen to native speakers’ messages and leave your own too. Try listening to a short message and trying to write it down word for word. If it is too fast or difficult, swipe across the track right to left to slow it down (swipe the other way to speed it up). Requires an internet connection.

  1. 9.    Install Draw Something

This is a fun game that you can play with strangers or friends. It will give you lots of vocabulary and dictionary practice, and drawing and looking at pictures will help you remember new words. (you can also add pictures to your flashcards). Requires an internet connection.

  1. 10.  Find programmes and materials to use on your phone.

Try entering the following keywords in your app store and see what you find: EFL, ESL, English Conversation. (You could try the British Council’s Learn English to get you started).

Dave Clayton is originally from England but has been teaching English in Japan for many years. He is currently a university lecturer and corporate trainer. His interests include vocabulary acquisition, bilingualism, teaching listening, Extensive Reading and English for Academic Purposes

References

Google, 2011, Mobile Internet & Smartphone Adoption, http://services.google.com/fh/files/blogs/Final_Mobile_Internet_Smartphone_Adoption_Insights_2011v3.pdf

Nation, I.S.P., 2009, Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking, Routledge, London p.133-137.

Shepherd, J. 2011, Smartphones and handheld computers: the new battleground in UK schools. Guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/oct/30/smartphones-handheld-computers-battleground-schools?INTCMP=SRCH

DEB, 2011, Smartphones for schools. Digital Education Brighton.

 http://digitaleducationbrighton.org.uk/?cat=8


Adjectives for describing character – a quick ppt show

Can be bothered to read the post?  You don’t need to anyway – get the PowerPoint lesson here https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/find-four-words-to-describe-you.pptx

Here’s another quick PowerPoint show that I found on my hard drive. I fgot the picture above on Facebook or somewhere – it’s quite famous. It struck me that it would be nice to use with a class.

1. I showed my students the picture for three or four minutes and asked them to write down all the adjectives they could see. They could check the meaning of any new words on their phones or dictionary.

2. I then asked them to write down a sentence for each word that they found.

3. Now students shared two of the sentences they wrote with the rest of the class.


Talking heads – role play with masks – for teenagers and young adults

Ok, so this is a bit off the wall but it is a quite a good laugh if you have a young class or students who have a sense of humour. This is a simple role-play class using masks of famous people.

How to run the class

The biggest part of getting this class to run successfully is how well you sell it to your students. It is a kind of drama activity and yes, it is a bit wet, but, your students will only think that if you don’t sell it to them correctly.

Say and think this :Make no bones about it, speaking and using English language creatively are absolute cornerstones of learning a language and by delivering this class you are doing your job well and the students are learning.

Don’t say or think this: this class is a bit of messing about where we all get to make up stupid dialogues and laugh at each other.

Put students into groups of three and give them a copy of the masks from here: https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/masks-of-famous-and-interesting-people.docx. You can ask students to cut them out or stick them on cardboard if they’re a little younger. If you can laminte them it will make them a little more durable. You can also cut out their eyes if you want, but you don’t need to.

Tell your students they have ten minutes to make a dialogue, they are going to hold the masks in front of their faces and  then speak as the famous or interesting person. They can use all of them, or just three of them, they can change their character at any time. They can use any subject they want as long as it’s not rude or offensive.

It all depends on you if you want them to write their dialogue down or just try to remember it. I get them to try and remember it and ad lib.

Write these three headings on the board and explain them to the class before they start:

Introduction: There needs to be a starting point, the characters can tell us where they are and what they are doing. Where are they? In the forest, at home, in their office? Tell us.

Conflict: There needs to be something that the characters have to come up against, they need some conflict to make the dialogue interesting. This could be against each other or something else. Are they at war? What problem do they have to solve? Do they have a problem with each other?

Resolution: Finally, whatever problem they have, there has to be a resolution. It has to finish and come to an end.

Now ask students to work together on their dialogue. Some groups won’t be able to do this because they are not creative enough, you have to circulate and help them. Offer any ideas you come up with and encourage them. This is a crucial stage and if you don’t help them a little bit, the results won’t be great.

When students have made their dialogue, ask them to perform them for the rest of the class. If this is too hard, ask them to perfom it for another group.

Variations

I tried to pick people that my students would know but you could use any face you like. Just go to www.googleimages.com and search for ‘famous person’s name mask’ and you’ll find loads of faces that might be more relevant to your students.

Further ideas

You could video them doing this and stick on www.youtube.com .

You could use themes that you want them to develop. You could ask them to make a patient going to see the doctor role-play or a shopping role-play or anything that fits in with what you’re studying.


Teaching English using anecdotes – some ideas

An anecdote (to quote OALD) is a ‘a short, interesting or amusing story about a real person or event’. They are a great way of learning English, they are fun, entertaining and whether you are listeing to them or telling them, they offer a real chance to practise language.

There are loads of ways you can use them in your class. First you need a good source of stories you can use.  Everybody has their own life stories and funny things that have happened to them, but, as a teacher you might not like to share what happened to you when you were fifteen or that blunder you made at a friend’s wedding.

I’ve pasted a nice one at the bottom of this blog post which I took from the fabulous ELC study zone. Here are three good places to get your anecdotes:

1. The local library. You’ll find something if you look!

2. One Stop English has a whole section of anecdotes based around the classroom. Don’t bother googling for stories, you’ll just end up reading a lot of rubbish.

3. Get yourself a nice anecdote book from Amazon. I’ve pasted a few examples below

 Anecdote Books

How to use anecdotes in the classroom.

1. Anecdote homework. Tell students a good, long anecdote (like the carpet fitter below) in your own words and explain to students that for homework, they have to find an anecdote to share with their partner in the next session. Explain that students won’t have to tell the whole class (but they can if they want to) and will only have to tell their story to a partner. Also, remind them that anecdotes don’t have to be true.

2. Anecdote reading and telling. Find two good anecdotes and print them out.  Put your students into pairs and pass one the first story and the second to the other. Ask the students to read the anecdotes and understand what they mean. When both students have finished, ask them to turn over their anecdotes so they can’t read them. Now students have to tell the anecdotes to each other from memory.

3. Finish the anecdote. Find a nice story and cut off the ending. You could use the one at the bottom of the blog. Get your students to read it and guess the ending.

Eddie the Carpet fitter (taken from ELC study zone )

Eddie was a carpet fitter, and he hated it. For ten years he had spent his days sitting, squatting, kneeling or crawling on floors, in houses, offices, shops, factories and restaurants. Ten years of his life, cutting and fitting carpets for other people to walk on, without even seeing them. When his work was done, no-one ever appreciated it. No- one ever said “Oh, that’s a beautiful job, the carpet fits so neatly.” They just walked all over it. Eddie was sick of it.

He was especially sick of it on this hot, humid day in August, as he worked to put the finishing touches to today’s job. He was just cutting and fixing the last edge on a huge red carpet which he had fitted in the living room of Mrs. Vanbrugh’s house. Rich Mrs. Vanbrugh, who changed her carpets every year, and always bought the best. Rich Mrs. Vanbrugh, who had never even given him a cup of tea all day, and who made him go outside when he wanted to smoke. Ah well, it was four o’clock and he had nearly finished. At least he would be able to get home early today. He began to day-dream about the weekend, about the Saturday football game he always played for the local team, where he was known as “Ed the Head” for his skill in heading goals from corner kicks.

Eddie sat back and sighed. The job was done, and it was time for a last cigarette. He began tapping the pockets of his overalls, looking for the new packet of Marlboro he had bought that morning. They were not there.

It was as he swung around to look in his toolbox for the cigarettes that Eddie saw the lump. Right in the middle of the brand new bright red carpet, there was a lump. A very visible lump. A lump the size of — the size of a packet of cigarettes.

“Blast!” said Eddie angrily. “I’ve done it again! I’ve left the cigarettes under the blasted carpet!”

He had done this once before, and taking up and refitting the carpet had taken him two hours. Eddie was determined that he was not going to spend another two hours in this house. He decided to get rid of the lump another way. It would mean wasting a good packet of cigarettes, nearly full, but anything was better than taking up the whole carpet and fitting it again. He turned to his toolbox for a large hammer.

Holding the hammer, Eddie approached the lump in the carpet. He didn’t want to damage the carpet itself, so he took a block of wood and placed it on top of the lump. Then he began to beat the block of wood as hard as he could. He kept beating, hoping Mrs. Vanbrugh wouldn’t hear the noise and come to see what he was doing. It would be difficult to explain why he was hammering the middle of her beautiful new carpet.

After three or four minutes, the lump was beginning to flatten out. Eddie imagined the cigarette box breaking up, and the crushed cigarettes spreading out under the carpet. Soon, he judged that the lump was almost invisible. Clearing up his tools, he began to move the furniture back into the living room, and he was careful to place one of the coffee tables over the place where the lump had been, just to make sure that no-one would see the spot where his cigarettes had been lost. Finally, the job was finished, and he called Mrs. Vanbrugh from the dining room to inspect his work.

   “Young man,” she began, as he climbed into the cab of his van, laying his toolbox on the passenger seat beside him, “while you were working today, you didn’t by any chance see any sign of Armand, did you? Armand is my parakeet. A beautiful bird, just beautiful, such colors in his feathers… I let him out of his cage, you see, this morning, and he’s disappeared. He likes to walk around the house, and he’s so good, he usually just comes back to his cage after an hour or so and gets right in. Only today he didn’t come back. He’s never done such a thing before, it’s most peculiar…”
     “No, madam, I haven’t seen him anywhere,” said Eddie, as he reached to start the van.
     And saw his packet of Marlboro cigarettes on the dashboard, where he had left it at lunchtime….
     And remembered the lump in the carpet….
     And realised what the lump was….
     And remembered the hammering….
     And began to feel rather sick….

MDH 1994 — from a common urban legend


Talking about paintings – Norman Rockwell – a ppt cooler, warmer or filler.

Here’s another PowerPoint warmer, filler or cooler for your English lesson. If you can’t be bothered to read the short blog – download the ppt file here. https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/rockwell.ppt

This week I’ve been talking about the paintings of the American painter Norman Rockwell. His pictures are great for generating conversation and speculation, although they are quite culturally ‘American’.

You can just show the ppt to your students, but it’s much better if you put students in pairs and ask them to answer the following questions.

- Describe what you see in the picture.

- Can you tell each other the ‘story’ in the picture?

Lots of these pictures reveal more about themselves the more you look at them and the story comes to life the more questions you ask. For example, why is the huge sailor getting another girl’s name tattooed on his arm? What is the expression on his face, it’s not happiness, is it?

Have fun


More optical illusions- a PPT for your EFL / ESOL classroom

This picture is not animated - it just looks like its moving!

This picture is not animated - it just looks like it's moving!

I’ve just found more another optical illusion powerpoint on my hard drive. I don’t know where it came from!  You’ll  need an IAWB or a projector to show it and it makes a great warmer, filler or cooler for your lessons.

Click the link below to download it.

OpticalIllusions : https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/opticalillusions.pptx


Dungeons and Dragons in the EFL classroom – a basic adventure ‘Rescue the woodcutter’s daughter’

I played Dungeons and Dragons for many years as a teenager and enjoyed the role-play, the creation and the dice rolling and it’s only recently that I’ve got back into the game. I’ve never taken it too seriously and so, I thought,  why not try it with my EFL / ESOL students. After all, it is a game that requires a lot of talking, communication, reasoning, reading and even some writing – all the skills you need to use a language. This adventure wouldn’t make a good lesson, it’s something you could do as part of an English club or similar.

If you don’t know what D and D is, and you’ve never played before, then this lesson is definitely not something you should try.  You can visit the official D and D website to get a quick explaination.  It’s a role-playing game set in a swords and scorcery world where you control a ‘character’ and a ‘dungeon master’ controls the game.

Set up

I played the game with four pre-intermediate students. The first thing I did was give students a character sheets and quickly exlpain how to role-up a character. I used a great and very simple character sheet from here – http://rpgcharacters.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/dyson-logos-bx-character-sheet-small.jpg. I also had a the full range of D and D dice including the pyramid shaped D4 and the mystical D20. I filled in t he THACO and the saving rolls from my old D and D rule books.

Races students could choose - orc, human, elf, dwarf, hobbit, half-elf

Classes students could choose – warrior, hunter (ranger), thief,  (no magic users to keep it simple)

Making characters took ages and ages, it required explanation of tradition equipment and an overview of what a role-playing game is, some of my students had never played an RPG before and it took a while to explain to them that they could make their character do whatever they wanted. It’s probably best just to start the adventure. 

Playing the adventure

 Again, if you’ve never played D and D and don’t know the rules – this will be meaningless. Players arrive at the woodcutter’s house on the map at the top left. Here they find the woodcutter, a tall blond man in his fourties, he’s bitterly upset because his daughter has been kidnapped by goblins and taken into their cave. The woodcutter explains that the goblins live deep in the cave under the mountain in what was once a great dwarven city, now in ruins. Hopefully players will take on the task of rescuing his daughter.

They follow the path around the great lake to the entrance of the cave with two bronze statues of ancient kings standing outside. Inside and after they come to a wooden door which is locked. They can try to smash it down provided anyone has strength of more than 16. If they knock the door will be answered by the four goblin guards inside. Player need to fight their way  past them. Players get 200 xp for any goblin they hit.

After the small goblin guard room, players encounter a giant spider. Details of this beast are on the map above. If they kill the spider there are four D6 healing potions in a chest near its web. Anyone who hits the spider gets 200 xp.

Players go through the next door into the gobin king’s throne room. Here there are four goblin guards a nd the goblin king himself to fight. Any player that hits a goblin guard will get 250 xp and anyone who hits the goblin king will get 300xp. The players will find the woodcutter’s daughter tied up in the corner if they win the fight and also some treasure in the chest near the goblin king’s makeshift throne. If they search, they will find the secret door that will quickly lead them back to the woodcutter.

The adventure ends when the players return the woodcutter’s daughter to him. He has no reward to give but players all get 500xp for finishing the adventure. That should give them enough xp to go up a level.

Notes

D and D is perhaps a little too complex for first time role-player, unfortunately it’s the only RPG I know anything about.

Some students will not be able to do this, not because they don’t have the lingusitic skill but because they lack the imagination or creativity.

Links

I looked for other ESL teachers playing D and D only and here’s what I found. There aren’t too many of us.

A blog thread on playing D and D in the classroom http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/273198-d-d-classroom.html

How D and D made me a better teacher http://randomology.org/2011/04/how-dungeons-and-dragons-made-me-a-better-teacher/

Nice ideas on running D and D in your classroom here http://waygook.org/index.php?topic=24517.0


Describing People – A quick ppt show

Here’s another PowerPoint show with loads of different types of faces and people for your students to describe. I’ve put down a few ideas on how you could get more out of it below, but if you just want to get straight to the content, click below.

Portraits https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/portraits.pptx

How to run this lesson
This ppt will work best to help practise vocab and structures used to describe people. You can pretty much use it with any level, higher students will be able to say more and lower students will be able to say something like ‘He’s got…’

1. Split your students into pairs and explain that the first student is number one and the second number two. Tell them that they are going to have two minutes to describe the face/person to their partner. Depending on how good your students are you might like to have them focus on one special aspect of the person, such as
- What they look like
- What their life history might be
- What their personality migfht be like.

2. Now show the PPT to students. Student 1 will talk about the first picture, then you tell them to ‘swap’ and the second student will describe the next picture. Repeat this until the end of the slide show.

3. When students have finished you can feedback on the language that you heard students producing (negatively or positively) or scroll back up to some of the more intereting faces and ask individual student to tell you what they think.

Here’s the PPT file again : https://chrisspeck.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/portraits.pptx


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