The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 7

Today, Varinder Unlu goes back to using the coursebook after trying Dogme out for a day.

This is Varinder’s account of her 7th Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder

3rd May 2012

For those of you who have been following this teach-off from the beginning, you may remember that when I started two weeks ago I asked the class to pick a book to read and they choose Sherlock Holmes – short stories.  We talked about the first story in one of the lessons last week and yesterday the students asked me when we would be talking about the rest of the book, so I in keeping with what the learners want – I did that today for the first part of the lesson.

Objectives for today’s lesson:

To discuss Sherlock Holmes stories

To introduce/revise reported speech – questions and statements

To improve student speaking

To improve student listening

The class started almost on time – I was a few minutes late.  When I got to the classroom there were seven students already there.  I didn’t want to start the first activity until more of the learners were there so we played “back to the board”.

By about 9.15 most of the students had arrived.  I divided the class into two groups and put the discussion questions (see below)up on the IWB.  I went through the questions with them to make sure that they knew what was being asked of them.

  • Did you feel that the book met your expectations? Were you disappointed?
  • Did you enjoy the book and stories? Why? Why not?
  • How did the book compare to other books by the author (or other books in the same genre)?
  • What about the plot of the different stories? Did it pull you in; or did you feel you had to force yourself to read the book?
  • How realistic was the characterization? Would you want to meet any of the characters? Did you like them? Hate them?
  • Did the actions of the characters seem plausible? Why? Why not?
  • How does the setting figure into the stories? Is the setting a character? Does it come to life? Did you feel you were experiencing the time and place in which the stories was set?
  • How would the stories have been different if it had taken place in a different time or place?
  • Did the stories end the way you expected?
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers? To your close friend? Why/why not?

The groups started their discussions and I monitored and occasionally asked questions to help things along.    There some great answers to the questions.  Once the students had finished their discussion we did a class feedback of their answers.  At the end of this we talked again about the importance of reading especially as some of the students were saying that they had learned a lot from the book and it had helped them to see words in context.  I explained that they should go to the school library and borrow more books to read and continue reading in English for pleasure.

Varinder’s board work with mind map


  1. To lead into the first activity in the book (page 70) I wrote the word “speak” on the board and asked the students to discuss in pairs the different ways of speaking.  During feedback we got a lot of lovely language from the learners:  slowly, quickly, loudly, quietly etc (see pic of whiteboard for rest).  I then added some of the ones they had not got:  whisper, sigh, mumble, groan.  I drilled the language as the words were put up on the board by asking students how the word was pronounced and the picking the best pronunciation to model for the rest of the class.  I prefer to drill in this way as it takes the focus away from me and there is always one student in the class who can be used to model it.
  2. I then asked the group to look at page 70 and the read the instructions for the first activity.  I usually allow students to read the instructions for themselves as it is an invaluable skill for them to have to be able to read instructions and follow them – particularly important when they’re taking exams but also in their day to day life.  I checked that they had understood the instructions by asking: How many people are you going to listen to? How many phrases are there? What do you have to do with the people and the phrases?
  3. I played the listening and students listened and matched up.  I allowed students to check their answers in pairs and played the listening one more time for consolidation and then conducted quick class feedback.
  4. Next I asked the student to look at the words in the grey box in exercise 2 and went through the pronunciation.  I then asked the students to work with their partner to explain any words they knew the meaning of and their partner did not.  The students then did the activity which was to match the words up to the sentences which had their definitions in them.
  5. During feedback there were a few questions, especially as the form of the word sometimes had to change if students were to say the sentence with the word from the grey box.  One was likes to chat/chatting.  Students wanted to know if this could be used in both ways ie like + to + infinitive or like + verb ing. As they seemed keen know this I thought that after the break we would go through the sentences again.
  6. After the break focused the students’ attention back on the sentences and asked them to re-write them using the correct form of the word.  We went through them and students were asking questions about why like and love can be followed by the infinitive with to and the verb + ing.  So I gave the students the grammar exercise at the back of the book on page 148 for homework.  It  gives a brief explanation of verbs followed by –ing and infinitive with to.  I will ask them in tomorrow’s lesson if they have an questions and will clarify if there is still confusion.
  7. We moved onto the lead in for the Reading activity.  I asked the students to look at the two questions and discuss with their partner.  We went through their answers briefly.  Here there was confusion over overheard and eavesdrop, which we went through and also the word gossip. 
  8. I then asked the students to read the conversations on page 71 and decide which one they thought was the funniest.  Students discussed their answers with their partners.  I conducted class feedback and went thought any problems with lexis – squirrel, pay check, salary, wages.  One of the Brazilian students said that in Brazil they refer to payslip as the onion because every time you open it makes you cry!! (I thought this was really funny and so did class).  Students enjoyed this activity and there was a lot of talking and asking of questions.

I think because the class now know each other well and I know their different characters and a quite a lot about their personal interests, we could joke about things and everyone knew what was being talked about.

  1. Finally I went through some of the pronunciation of words and some meanings that were up in my vocab column on the whiteboard.

As is often the case in real life teaching (as opposed to CELTA or DELTA observation lesson), we didn’t get to the reported speech part of this lesson.  Something we will continue with tomorrow.

Varinder enjoying the lesson

I have been thinking about this lesson a lot, especially when students brought up the questions about like and love.  Of course because the lesson focus was reported speech I didn’t want to spend too much time on this but wanted to help as well.  That’s why I thought it better to give them something to do by themselves and then see if they have any questions rather than start focusing on that.  I think my teaching in ESOL taught me to keep things simple and manageable so rather than overloading the learners with various things in one lesson, I feel it’s better to focus on one thing.  This has worked for me and my learners in the past and I have achieved a great level of success with students by giving them manageable chunks of language to focus on.

This is a lovely lesson in the Global and there’s a lot that comes out of it for the learners.

The Teach-Off – Coursebk Day 6

This is Varinder Unlu’s account of her 6th Day using the coursebook.

Click here if you need a refresher on what’s happened till now.

Meanwhile, let me hand you over to Varinder

Varinder's boardwork for today

30th April 2012


Today’s lesson objectives:

To recap use of “wish”

To differentiate between formal and informal language

Making formal phone calls

To improve listening and pronunciation

Pages 86 and 87 from Global Intermediate

We spent about the first ten minutes of the lesson talking about what the students had done over the weekend. The following language emerged: festival, farewell party, other than, raining cats and dogs, postcards.

I then went through what we were going to be doing in today’s lesson.

  1.     I gave students an activity taken from resource sections at the back of  English File Intermediate on wishes.  There are a 12 sentences with the same number of blank circles below them.  Students (A and B) have to choose 7 of the sentences they want to talk about and write something in the correlating circle below.  All sentences are about wishes.  I gave students five minutes to write down their answers before working with a partner to ask them about what and why they have answered the way they did.
  2.    Once students had completed their circles I matched up student A and B together (they had different sentences) and students asked their partner about their answers.  This activity seemed to go down very well with the learners and they asked for clarification on language as I went round and monitored.  I allowed the activity go on as the students were clearly enjoying what they were doing and using a lot of excellent language to speak to each other about their wishes. 
  3.     I conducted some feedback after the activity not by going through each wish of each student but asking students to tell me one interesting wish they had found out about their partner. Language emerging from this activity: on/to the moon, patience, mint, earth and of course the target structure with wish: I wish I didn’t have to swim, I wish I could go swimming, I wish I had more patience are just a few examples of the kind of things the learners were expressing.  I corrected where necessary.
  4.      We then moved onto the first activity in the book on page 86.  There are two pictures: on of a call centre and another in a doctor’s surgery.  Students worked in pairs to discuss where they would like to work if they had a choice.  Most of the class preferred picture B (Doctor’s surgery).  One pair of students said neither because both looked boring.
  5.      We then move onto exercise 2 and again students worked in pairs to discuss the questions about mobile phones.  The conversation centred round mobile phones and how much we use them.  Two of the students work for mobile phone providers in Brazil and so had quite a lot to say about this.  We talked a little about what it life was like before mobile phones and that many people in the class probably didn’t know a life without them. Language emerging from this: stock exchange, competitors, behind the scenes, backstage, landline, handsets, emergencies, in the past.
  6.      I now asked the students to look at the sentences in the Listening activity and gave them some time to have a look at them.  I then explained that they would be listening to three conversations and one of them doesn’t match the pictures at the top of the page.  I played the listening and students checked their answers in pairs before I asked for class feedback.  They got the right answer but there were a few comments about the listening and that they couldn’t hear some of the things that were being said.  The students found the third listening funny as they had all been in that situation and we discussed how they felt about this kind of phone call.  Language emerging from this part: automated response
  7.      Next the students had to say whether the sentences were true or false.  I played the listening again and students checked in pairs before class feedback.
  8.      The final activity before the break was the Language focus activity where students had to say if the sentence was said by the caller or the person who answered the call.  They did this in pairs before we had feedback for the answers.
  9.      After the break we focused back on the sentences in the Language focus activity and looked at stress and intonation in the sentence.  I played the listening again and students had to decide which one sounded the most polite and which the most formal. 
  10.     I then gave students a hand out with formal – informal language for making phone calls (idea taken from our Executive centre’s handbook).  It also had the NATO phonetic alphabet (ie a for alpha, b for bravo etc).  I thought the students might find this useful especially if they ever had to spell things out over the telephone – I know I always have to spell my name to people when speaking on the phone because it’s not Susan!!
  11.    The students were then put in pairs and I gave them their role-paly instructions on pieces of card (taken from page 86 of Global).  I asked the students to work together with one person playing the receptionist and the other the patient.  I did the dental surgery role play only because I thought it would have been too much for the students to do both suggested of in the book.  I may come back to the second one later in the week to reconsolidate the language of phone calls.  I monitored and helped during this stage.
  12.    During the feedback stage students listened to each pair and commented on how polite and formal they sounded.  We also focused on some error correction during this part.
  13.    We then looked at formal and informal language in social English and what is acceptable or not when meeting and speaking to someone they have met for the first time.  Language emerging from this stage:  small talk, text speak, how do you do, can I introduce you to…/I’d like you to meet.., pleased to meet you.
  14.    Students were interested in small talk and I explained what this was and the difference between text speak and small talk.  We went through a few examples of text speak: c u l8tr, btw, omg, lol etc which amused them.
  15.    I gave the students the reading on page 87 for homework.


An interesting lesson which can be adapted and extended.


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