Exam Rituals from Asia: Lesson Plan

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Prompted to write a lesson plan from a news article

Today, I read an a very interesting article on the BBC News website about rituals students and their parents undertake before a very important examination. Being inspired by such a reading, and something that would generate conversation in an English language classroom, I thought I would create a lesson about this news article.

  • Aims: By the end of the lesson, students will learn more about exam rituals from South East Asia and extend their cultural awareness.
  • Level: Intermediate or above
  • Timing: 60 minutes or more
  • Focus: Conversation and Scaffolding Emergent Language
  • Materials: Images, Headings and Text (sourced from BBC News)

Step 1: Warmer

At the beginning of the lesson, write up the following questions on the whiteboard for students to discuss in pairs or small groups:

  1. Have you taken an exam recently? What?
  2. What did you do to prepare before taking the exam?
  3. How did you do in your last test?
  4. What would you do differently for your next test?
  5. Would you take any lucky objects with you to the exam? If so, what and why?
  6. Would you eat a special meal the night before the exam? If so, what?

You could give a dice to the students and then get them to ask the question corresponding to the number on the dice that they roll. Monitor learners during the conversation and provide feedback or scaffold language where required.

Step 2: Introduce Images

Hand out the following pictures for learners and ask them to guess why they are lucky and which country these could be from and why there might be particular superstitions related to them.

If learners are having a bit of difficulty, you could get them to look at the images and ask them what they are or what they represent.

Step 3: Matching Exercise

Tell students that they will receive headings related to the images above and that they have to match the headings to the images. Demonstrate with one heading as an example and write it up on the whiteboard. For example, you could write up “Avoid washing your hair” and ask students which picture it is related to. Students should be able to match it up pretty quickly and then ask them why people would avoid washing their hair. Tell them that they need to match up the remaining headings to the pictures.

  1. How KitKat got lucky
  2. An apple a day
  3. Avoid washing your hair
  4. Going nuts over exams
  5. A slice of luck
  6. Praying for success
  7. Lucky watch versus slippery soup
  8. Chicken power
  9. Wear red underwear
  10. Pray for mercy from the “Bell Curve God”

Give students a bit of time to work together and allow them to discuss and link up the pictures. Then once students have finished, you could check as a whole class which images match the headings.

Step 4: Text Matching

The next part of the lesson is for students to match the remaining text to the headings and images. Give the students the text cut up in to ten corresponding parts. Read the first sentence and ask students what image/heading it corresponds to. All text is available on the website but is also available below.

How KitKat got lucky

Traditionally, Japanese students would eat Katsudon before or on the day of an exam, comprising a warm bowl of rice topped with egg and a deep-fried pork cutlet. The dish name’s likeness to the word “katsu”, meaning “winning” is thought to bring students luck. But KitKat in Japan has also been marketing itself as a bringer of good luck. Pronounced as “kitto katto”, the chocolate’s name is similar to the phrase “kitto katsu”, meaning “surely winning”, making it a good candidate for a good luck charm.

An apple a day

Canteens across Hong Kong University campuses serve apples, and a variety of apple dishes, in the run-up to the exam period. “The pronunciation of apple in Chinese is “ping guo”, which also means “safety”. So it’s considered that you will safely pass the exam,” says Chong Wang, from Nanjing in China.

Avoid washing your hair

In your vicious cycle of all-night revision, microwave food and highlighter pens, you may have forgotten to have a shower. But not to worry – in South Korea, it’s thought that washing your hair could wash all the knowledge out. “There was one boy in our class who didn’t wash hair before exams. The rest of the time he was very clean, but once you came to know his exam ritual, you didn’t want to go near him,” said one student about a classmate.

Going nuts over the exams

Around a month before exams start in Hong Kong, students in clubs, societies and residential halls, will gather for “superpass”, or going guo. “Superpass” is a series of activities aimed at helping you pass your exams with a top score. The first part is the superpass dinner, which is usually held at a Chinese restaurant. It’s important that students eat pork cubes with cashews, one of the signature superpass dishes. The Chinese word for “cashews” sounds like the word for “wish to pass”, and “pork cubes” sounds like “desire for a distinction”. Homophones, or homonyms, play a big part in ritual and superstition in many East Asian languages.

A slice of luck

Returning to the hall, it’s time for everyone to have a turn at slicing through a giant roast pig, considered to be an important sacred offering in China. Each participant is given one try at cutting the pig into two halves. Those who succeed are thought to go on to pass all their exams the first time round, and those who fail, will have to re-sit some. This is followed by eating kiwis, as the Chinese word for the fruit sounds like “easy to pass exams.”

Praying for success

Many students in East Asia have the attentive support of their parents, whether they want it or not. “Some parents wait for their children outside the exam hall praying for them to pass,” says South Korean teacher Ji-Youn Jung, “My mum did, but my test results turned out to be awful.” Ultra-keen parents will go as far as praying at Buddhist temples every day for the 100 days leading up to the exam.

Lucky watch versus a slippery soup

In South Korea, the slipperiness of the widely-eaten seaweed soup is thought to mean you will lose all the knowledge from the notes you’ve been revising like mad. “I try not to have seaweed soup before important plans like exams or interviews. But if I happen to eat it without consciousness, I don’t worry too much,” Ji-Youn says. But Chong Wang from China says: “My personal tradition is to have noodles for breakfast on exam day, as noodles mean “everything goes smooth” in Chinese. But I also take my lucky watch.”

Chicken power

A bit of sugar might give you an energy boost, but South Koreans also believe that this sugary snack could have exam-passing powers. Yeot, a traditional sticky food, is eaten before important exams, especially university entrance exams. Ji-Youn explains: “Yeot is a sticky sweet, and the Korean words for “sticky” and “pass entrance exam” sound the same.” Or else drink some chicken juice, which is thought to give your brain a boost. Students in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China tend to drink this while revising for exams, and on the morning of the exam itself. “It’s nothing superstitious,” says Dylan Lee Soon Yoong, a Singaporean student at University College London. “I drink chicken essence on the morning of the exam… you down it like a shot after heating it up. It’s supposed to help your concentration and is marketed pretty heavily to students in Singapore.”

Wear red underwear

Red is widely believed to be a lucky colour in China. So many believe that it’s a good idea to wear some red clothing, or more specifically red underwear, during an exam. When a person is particularly successful, there is a Chinese saying, “Are you wearing red underwear?” But Chong Wang warns: “Some people may avoid wearing red during exams because in China, fail scores are written in red on score sheets.”

Pray for mercy from the “Bell Curve God”

The Bell Curve God is an embodiment of university students’ fears of the bell curve grading system used in Asia’s top universities, such as the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. Bell curve grading means not just measuring how well you did in an exam, but rather how you did in relation to everyone else in your class. In an already high-achieving country, that pushes competitiveness to the max. Shrines to the Bell Curve God have been set up at both universities, where food and candles are left as offerings to the “God”.The National University of Singapore has gone as far as setting up a website, Facebook and Twitter account for the Bell Curve God, so that students can pray electronically. “As students, we are subject to the omnipotent, inscrutable force that is the Bell Curve God. He is the arbitrary being that decides our grades,” Dylan Lee Soon Yoong explains.

Step 5: Text Analysis

As a final activity, you could get students to read the text in more detail and do various activities such as underlying or highlighting particular words or vocabulary which learners are unsure of, getting students to write up questions for the text or for you to scan the reading and then come up with your own questions.

Step 6: Describing Examination Preparation Habits

As a final activity, the students could then share their own personal examination preparation habits with their peers. It is a useful exercise and you could exploit it further by getting students to write about their preparation habits or experiences of examinations.


Let me know how this lesson goes and if you have any feedback and I hope your learners enjoy this lesson. It can really prompt learners to share their own experiences of exam preparation in relation to their own country or culture.

Harry Potter: Intermediate Lesson Plan

Harry Potter LessonHello all. I hope you had a wonderful Easter and you haven’t eaten too much chocolate.  I have been very good and resisted as much chocolate as possible, but I have been very naughty and decided to eat it after my resistance faded.  Anyhow, I have another lesson plan – this time focused on the Harry Potter books – which you could use in class.  It is hope that students would react positively to this lesson plan and then decide to read the Harry Potter novels in their free time.

The lesson focuses on the different books, the names of the books, more specialist Harry Potter language as well as a jigsaw reading activity about Harry Potter.  For a nice activity at the end of the lesson, students have a quiz.  You can access the lesson plan and all material below but I have been kind enough to attach the lesson to this blog as a PDF file.

Please enjoy and let me know how you get on in class!

Harry Potter Lesson Plan (PDF Format)

University of Oxford Video Tour: Lesson Plan and Material

Lesson plan

It seems fitting that I continue past blogging performance with another lesson based post, but rather than post another authentic listening lesson, I would prefer to focus on authentic video.  The authentic video is related to a tour – which is rather educational itself – of the University of Oxford.  There are various gist and more detailed activities which revolve around the video itself with a final memorisation game.  A lovely supplementary lesson idea, as mentioned by a wonderful colleague, Peter Clements (ELT Planning) – who I might add is rather new to blogging but has some wonderful lesson ideas and I would highly recommend you reading his blog – suggested a tour of our school, whereby students prepare their own video tours of the school – which could be replicated by any other institution and their very own school.

Anyhow, I do hope you enjoy this lesson idea and you are able to incorporate it into your very own teaching.  All materials are available as part of a PDF download and the video of the tour of the University is embedded below.  As ever, it would be wonderful to hear how you got on with this lesson.

University of Oxford Lesson Plan and Material (Downloadable PDF)

“I Have Never Seen Star Wars”: Radio 4 Listening

In my last post, I decided to create a lesson plan on an authentic news clip from Radio 2.  It has worked remarkably well and in light of this, I have now decided to create another listening lesson but based on the Radio 4 show “I Have Never Seen Star Wars”.  The main focus of the radio show is to get participants to do things that they have never done before such as wallpapering, cooking a meal or doing the ironing.  It is a really engaging and comical show which is available on their website and I would recommend anyone to have a listen.  The presenter is Marcus Brigstocke and he really does get listeners engaged in the show.  Anyhow, back to the lesson plan.


Aim: By the end of the lesson, students will listen to someone talk about a life experience that they have never done.  They will also listen to an authentic radio program.

Level: Upper Intermediate +

Grammar Focus: Present Perfect

Time: 60 – 90 minutes

Speakers: Marcus Brigstocke, Reece Shearsmith and a Driving Instructor

1. Draw up a picture of a car on the whiteboard and ask students whether they can name any parts of a car.  Label any parts that they can name and include the following:

Mirrors Brake Seat belt Engine
Clutch Accelerator Indicator Gear lever
Seat belt Hand brake Neutral

2. Ask students if they know any verbs or phrasal verbs related to driving a car.  Write down any language that they mention but also pre-teach the following vocabulary as well:

To pull away To pull in Brake
To signal/indicate Mounting the curb To give it some gas

Other vocabulary that would be good to pre-teach would include:

Curb (n) Pavement (n) Blind spot (n)
Death traps (n) My heart was pounding (expr.) Nice and steady (expr.)
No harm done (expr.)

3. Speak to students and tell them an experience that you have never done: rode a motorbike, done bungee jumping, etc.  Ask the students to see if they have not done anything during their life up to now.  As language emerges, make a note of this on the board and provide feedback at the end of the conversation.  Ask any students if they have or will take driving lessons in the future: Have you taken a driving lesson before?  Will you take a driving lesson in the future?  What was it like? What do you think it will be like?

4. Tell students that they are going to listen to a story about someone but show the pictures up on the board and elicit from them what they think the story is about.  Board up elicited stories on the whiteboard and help out with some vocabulary.  Pictures include the following:

Car crash Robin Reliant Driving Lesson Dukes of Hazard

Radio 4 listening

The story is that a person never took a driving lesson as his grandfather was involved in an accident with his Robin Reliant, which he also experienced.  He describes the accident like a scene out of “Dukes of Hazzard”.

5. Tell students that they are going to listen to someone talk about their experiences of their grandfather driving his Reliant Robin and have a driving lesson. Whilst they listen, ask students to choose whether the following sentences from the listening are true or false.

  • You have to be 18 when you learn to drive. (False – you have to be 17)
  • His granddad crashed his Robin Reliant by hitting the side of the road. (True)
  • The person had his driving lesson on an airfield. (False – he thought it would be on an airfield, it was actually in London)
  • He doesn’t know where his blindspot is located. (True)
  • During his driving lesson he got into second gear. (True)
  • His instructor’s name is called Jason. (False – he is called John)
  • He marked himself 8 out of 10 for his first ever driving lesson. (False – he marked himself 9 out of ten)

Get students to compare in small groups before eliciting the answers from the students.

6. The next part of the listening is to get students to put the following excerpts into order that they are mentioned. Play the recording a couple of times and get the learners to work individually before checking their answers in pairs or small groups.  Here are the following excerpts in order:

  • “You told me, and I was surprised actually, you told me you’d never driven a car or had a driving lesson”
  • “We hit the side of the road, in the Robin Reliant, and it literally – Dukes of Hazzard – went upside down rolling”
  • “I now feel really bad sending you on a driving lesson.”
  • “You thought you’d be taken off to a special track?”
  • “Umm … is it accelerator, brake and that’s for this, the clutch”
  • “When you go to pull away, where is your blindspot?”
  • “Now check your mirrors and gently, nice and gently, away we go.”
  • “Have a go at pulling away, getting in to second gear, pulling in.”
  • “Nice and steady now. Wait until we get round a bend before we hit second gear.”
  • “On your first lesson, you got up to second gear.”
  • “Not all of it on a London street, some of it on a London pavement!”
  • “I thought I would be more panicked than I was.”
  • “Do you think you’ll do it again?”
  • “Excellent! Sounds like you are both back safely.”

As an extra to getting students to re-order the text, you could get students to listen to the audio again and decide who said what.  For example, “You told me, and I was …” was mentioned by the Presenter, Marcus Brigstocke, so students could put (P) next to the quote, (DI) for the Driving Instructor, and (I) for Interviewee, Reece Shearsmith.

As a final activity, and practice, get students to speak to each other using the Present Perfect and Past Simple form.  Use the board game, available in the download, to prompt students to talk to each other.  Monitor the speaking practice and provide feedback and scaffold language, where necessary, at the end of the lesson.


Well that is all from the lesson plan but all necessary material is available as a download and the audio is accessible from SoundCloud below.  Again, I hope this lesson is useful in getting more authentic listening inside the classroom and getting your learners used to a natural speed of spoken English.  Have you adapted any authentic listening for the classroom?  Do you think it empowers students to listen to more natural English or do you think that any adaptation of authentic listening reduces its authenticity?

I have never – Upper Intermediate: PDF material and lesson plan download

Authentic Listening in the Classroom: Lesson Idea

The majority of the listening that we play in the classroom is as inauthentic as possible, despite the fact that many coursebooks these days are using various authentic material such as radio interviews, podcasts or music.  However, what is incorporated to develop materials conducive to a classroom and learning environment is rather inauthentic in its application.  Nonetheless, I thought I would steer clear from coursebook listening for once and create my very own authentic listening activity to develop my learners’ ability to listen to various radio stations in their own time.  I just hope that the activities provide the confidence to my learners to listen to the radio in their free time and is not so inauthentic in its application during the lesson.

Lesson Plan

The lesson is aimed for Upper Intermediate students or above and should last between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes.  By the end of the lesson, students will be able to listen to a 4 minute radio clip featuring 5 news items and prepare them for authentic listening outside the classroom.

  1. Ask students to discuss the initial questions to each other. Give students a few minutes to discuss in pairs or small groups and then feedback as a whole class, nominating students questions and board up any emergent vocabulary.
  2. After preparing students for the topic of the lesson, handout the three gist questions for the radio listening and play the recording once or twice.  Get the students to compare their answers with each other before eliciting the answers from students.  Here are the answers to the questions:
    1. What is the name of the news presenter on the radio? Jason Kay
    2. What is the radio station? BBC Radio 2
    3. How many news items were mentioned in the radio clip? 5 news items plus 1 weather item
  3. The next stage is to get students to first use the images as prompts to help them discuss the news items.  Once they have discussed the news items, get students to put the images in order that they are mentioned.  The order of the news items are:
    1. Foreign Office summons the Russian Ambassador due to 2 bombers flying near the UK
    2. Discs containing investigations have been lost in the post
    3. Jordan wants proof that their pilot being held hostage by extremists is still alive
    4. The number of Secondary schools underperforming has doubled
    5. OFGEM say that energy companies will increase tariffs to customers despite a large fall in the price of oil
  4. Once students have discussed the news items and put the pictures in order, handout page 2 and set students to find out the definitions for those words on the worksheet either in their dictionary or online.  Allow around 15 to 20 minutes and play some background music.  Just monitor and assist where necessary.
  5. Once students have finished looking for the vocabulary, elicit possible meanings and definitions with nominated students.
  6. The next activity is for students to put the vocabulary in the corresponding gap in the transcript from the radio clip.  You can either get students to put the vocabulary in the gap from memory or get them to listen and do this while the clip is being played.  Play the radio clip a few times.
  7. Once students have finished this activity, get students to write the correct vocabulary on the whiteboard and play a final time to check the answers as a class.

I hope that this lesson plan is useful.  Have you used authentic listening before?  Have you played clips from the radio before?  How did it go?  If you have any feedback on this lesson, that would be great.

Radio News Authentic Listening (Downloadable PDF document)

Japanese Inventions: Lesson Plan

It has been a while since I have written a lesson plan for ELT Experiences and I thought I would share a wonderful picture dictation activity that is very popular for young learners.  I have used this lesson numerous times with different nationalities and they all seem to enjoy the picture dictation and the extension.  It gets students to practice describing objects but in a fun and humorous way.  This lesson could be geared towards adult students.
Aim: By the end of the lesson, students will have practiced listening to and providing descriptions of pictures.
Level: Pre-Intermediate or above
Topic: Inventions
Focus: Dictating and drawing pictures from descriptions
Timing: 60 minutes or more
Context Builder:
  • Ask students what inventions they consider important and board these up on the whiteboard.  Try to elicit and write up at least 10 important inventions.
  • When you have elicited these different inventions, ask students to put them in order of importance (1 = very important and 10 = not important).  Students should do this by themselves.
  • Once students have finished the order of importance of inventions, get students to compare in pairs or small groups and prompt discussion.
  • After discussion, elicit a class order of importance and put this up on the board for all students to see.
Main Activity:
  • Tell students that you are going to describe an important invention (as a demonstration) and students should try and draw the invention from the description,  You could choose a suitable invention (lightbulb, airplane, etc) rather than the Japanese inventions and try to find a corresponding picture for this demonstration activity.
  • Show the invention to the class (airplane, lightbulb, etc) and compare this to what they have drawn.
  • Next tell students that one learner will describe a picture and the other students have to draw the invention in their notebook or on a piece of scrap paper.  Students could work in pairs to help each other.  Nominate one student from a small group or pair of students and that student has to describe the picture to the rest of the class in English.
  • You could get students to self-nominate after the first learner has been chosen by yourself and you could bring the nominated learners to the front of the class and handing them a Japanese invention flashcard (please refer to below for recommended pictures – it is sure to bring some laughter to your class).
  • Ensure that the student describing the picture is not showing this to the rest of the class and keeps them secret.
  • Students could number the pictures that they are drawing and try to keep the inventions in order so you know which is described.
  • The next activity could be getting students to choose a name of the invention (please refer below for suggested names for these Japanese inventions), so “The Baby Mop” could also be named “Baby Cleaner”, etc.  Again students could be working in small groups for this activity.
Final Activity:
  • To finish off with, you could review descriptive language or prepositions of place.  You could also scaffold any language which emerged during the dictation activity.
Extension:
  • A possible extension could be getting students to create an advertisement, poster or write a review for a Japanese Invention.  Students could work in small groups to complete a selected task.
Shoe Umbrellas
Shoe Umbrellas
Butter Stick
Butter Stick
Solar Powered Lighter
Solar Powered Lighter
Toilet Roll Head
Toilet Roll Head
Umbrella Water Collector
Umbrella Water Collector
Eye Drop Glasses
Eye Drop Glasses
Daddy Feeder
Daddy Feeder
Noodle Cooler
Noodle Cooler
Body Umbrella
Body Umbrella
Baby Mop 2
Baby Mop 1
Baby Mop 1
Baby Mop 2

Lesson Idea: Money Idioms

Level: Pre-Intermediate +
Primary Focus: Money Idioms
Secondary Focus: Awareness of Money and Cost
Main Activity: Gapfill and Discussion
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (depending upon level)
Key Language: pay through the nose, cost an arm and a leg, cheapskate, loaded, bring home the bacon, make ends meet, pour money down the drain, tighten (someone’s) belt, loaded, bread and butter

The other week, I prepared material on Money Idioms in response to a lesson that I was teaching to adults.  Their main teacher taught vocabulary associated with money and the theme in the coursebook was related to money and shopping.  I have found that this topic is quite common in coursebooks with various listening and speaking activities.  The learners which I was teaching last week were Pre-Intermediate learners and their coursebook is a newly published book.  Their main teacher is half-way in the book but I thought I would consolidate their learning and introduce them to more colloquial language through the use of money idioms.  It was the first time that I had taught money idioms and it is usually more reserved for Intermediate and Upper Intermediate learners.

Staging:

  1. The first thing to do is to generate interest and activate learner schema by introducing the theme of money and shopping.  I would recommend that teachers write a couple of questions on the board for learners to discuss or to respond to with the teacher directing the questioning.  Write the following questions on the board:
    • What was the last thing you bought?
    • Have you bought anything online before?  If so, what have you bought?
    • “Money is the most important thing in the world”.  What do you think of this statement?
    • Which is more important health or money?  Why?
  2. Monitor learners’ language and scaffold correction or lexis where appropriate.  Provide some feedback.  There might pronunciation, collocation or grammar issues so correct when required.
  3. The next stage is to introduce learners to the money idioms and it is best to write an example sentence is context (i.e. a direct quote): “My friend bought a new car the other day and it cost an arm and a leg“.  Underline the idiomatic expression and elicit from learners what they think it might mean.  If they are unsure, provide the meaning on the side of the board.  Go through each of the idioms with the learners and try to
  4. Hand out the Idiom Matching exercise to the learners and get learners to match idioms to their corresponding definitions.  Let learners work alone and then compare together in pairs, then finally check all together as a class (answers are below):
    • Pay through the nose: to pay too much money for something.
    • Cost an arm and a leg: to pay a lot of money for something.
    • Bring home the bacon: to earn money for your family to live on.
    • Cheapskate: a person who does not like to spend money.
    • Make ends meet: to earn just enough money to be able to buy the things you need.
    • Pour money down the drain: to waste money.
    • Tighten (someone’s) belt: to spend less money because there is less available.
    • Bread and butter: a person or company’s main source of income.
    • Loaded: very rich.
  5. After the matching exercise, get learners to create their own sentences using the idiom expressions.  Use the example sentence (mentioned before) as a suitable sentence.  Let learners to work in pairs so that they are able to help each other.  Write up some of the student generated sentences on the board and either correct or use as other examples.
  6. The next part of the lesson is to get learners to fill in the gaps with the second handout (Money Idioms Gapfill).  Let learners complete the activity by themselves before checking their answers in pairs or groups.  Just monitor and support where necessary.
  7. The final stage of the lesson is to develop conversation about money and shopping by allowing learners the opportunity to incorporate the new language within a spoken context.  Either write the questions below or get students to generate their own questions on the board.
Board work from the lesson after students create their own sentences.
    • What was the most expensive thing you have ever bought?
  • What is the average salary in your country?
  • Who do you often go shopping with?
  • What do you normally save money for?  Why?
  • How many credit cards to you have?  Why?
  • What do/don’t you like spending money on?  Why?
  • Monitor the class during the discussion and make a note of any language that emerges for correction or reviewing at the end of the speaking.
  • A final activity, if time permits, could be comparing the costs of different things (milk, bread, butter, coffee, etc) in the UK compared to the learners’ home country/countries.  It provides additional discussion if you are looking for a filler.  If you are based abroad teaching English, you could get learners to complete a web-style quest to find the cost of particular items in the UK and then report back at the end of the class.
The materials for the lesson are available below but if you are unable to download them or you have problems guessing the answers for the gapfill, please feel free to email me.

Zeitgeist 2012: A Lesson Plan

Last year, I wrote a lesson plan in relation to Zeitgeist 2011.  As 2012 is drawing to a close, I thought it suitable to reflect, as I had done with the #12from12 challenge, and to review the year in a greater context to world events.  Many events occurred during this year which are highlighted very well in the Google Zeitgeist video below.

As with last year’s lesson plan, you could review learner’s of the year, reflect on their achievements and aims for the future, perhaps with the use or the making of a poster.  Get learners to bring in their most important photos of 2012 and get them to share them with the class.

Context & Introduction to Topic

When starting the class ask students:

  • what they have achieved during 2012
  • what is their most memorable event during the year
  • what was the most surprising element of 2012
  • learner and/or teacher resolutions for 2013

Monitor language for correct tense usage, monitor language as well as boarding and scaffolding emergent language.

Zeitgeist 2012 YouTube Video

  1. Tell learners that they are going to be watching a video but put learners in pairs or small groups.
  2. Describe to each pair or group of learners that before they watch the video, they need to work together and think of five important events that happened in 2012.
  3. Elicit possible important events during 2012 from the learners and write their suggestions on the whiteboard.
  4. Tell learners that they are going to watch a video that is related to 2012.  The learners need to watch the video and check to see if any of their suggestions are in the video.
  5. Play the video.
  6. Once the video has been played, ask learners to mention what events that were suggested (and transcribed on the whiteboard) are in the video.
  7. Elicit any other important events from 2012 the learners and add these to the whiteboard (if the learners can remember some of the other important events in the video).
  8. Play the video for a second time.

Discussion Time

  1. Once several events from 2012 have been written on the board, tell students that they are going to be working in groups and have to re-order the events in importance (one being the most important and the last one being least important).  All learners within the group must accept the order of importance.
  2. Monitor learners for suitable or potential language that could be used to scaffold (I think … is the most important, Why do you think …?, What do you think?, etc).
  3. After learners have completed the re-ordering activity, get several groups together and to compare results with the potential to debate.
  4. Allow sometime once the debate/discussion has finished for feedback and error correction.
If you would like to review 2011 with the class, then feel free to develop the lesson with the Google Zeitgeist 2011 video (available below).  This will broaden potential discussion and greater reflection for language learners.
As ever, any comments or feedback on the lesson idea above would be greatly appreciated.  I would like to wish all my fellow readers a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

A Day in the Life of the Queen: Lesson Plan

Image courtesy of London Moving (2012)

As it was my last day at the British Council Bucharest today, I thought I would share some lesson material that I have developed over the past few weeks with my Young Adult class mostly related to “A Day in the Life of the Queen”.  I asked the learners what they wanted to learn more about, and one student suggested “I want to learn more about the Queen”.  With this suggestion, I decided to think about a lesson and how it would help learners discover more about our great Royal Family.  Then I thought about the Queen attending Royal Functions, meeting various people and spending time at Buckingham Palace.  I suddenly realised what video to show the students (embedded below).

However, before showing the video to students, I asked learners to think about what the Queen does each day and spend a few minutes jotting down a few ideas in pairs.  Then I gave one handout to each student to make a few sentences from their notes.  After they completed the handout (embedded just below), I got students to compare in pairs.  You could use the handout below for students to make a few notes or just skip this and get them to write up their ideas in sentences with the worksheet (as suggested above).

The Queen Daily Routine

After a few minutes, I wrote their ideas up on the Interactive Whiteboard.  Next, I told learners that they were going to watch a video (the one above) about the Queen and what she did during one particular day, and that they needed to take some notes about who the Queen meets, where she is staying and where she goes, what things does the Queen and the guest see during their trip, how they travel, etc.  Then I played the video above.  After they made some notes and wrote some of their notes up on the board, which I had elicited, I handed out a worksheet (embedded below) and I asked students to work in pairs again and to write up some sentences about the video that they had watched.  The student writing can then be used for feedback, error correction, reacting to grammar forms, etc – how ever you wish to use it.

Day in the Life of a Queen

After getting collecting the student writing, I told students to think about what life must be like for the Queen and asked students to individually make a note of advantages as well as disadvantages.  Once learners made some notes, I put students into small groups (between 3 to 4 students) and I nominated the team leader to write up their list of advantages and disadvantages, of being the Queen, on the worksheet (embedded below).  They discussed in their groups and I mentioned if there was any further information that they could include (about family, life, hobbies, etc) that they could add it to Additional Information on the handout.

The Queen Debate

Once learners had completed their worksheet, I put the groups into two separate parties for a debate: one party had to debate being the Queen was good (and mention the advantages), while the other party had to debate that being the Queen was not so good (while mentioning the disadvantages).  This created a lot of emergent language that could be scaffolded and then I wrote up some useful phrases which could be used during the debate.  Next I swapped the role of each party and they had to debate the opposite this time, using some of the language on the board.  It worked really well and gave the learners the chance to re-use some of the vocabulary/lexical chunks on the board.

The next part of the lesson, I asked learners to look on their phones about what rules or etiquette is appropriate for addressing the Queen and asking a question.  Some of the learners found some information on the smartphones pretty quickly and I put their suggestions up on the IWB:

  1. You must bow when meeting the Queen
  2. Do not show your back to the Queen
  3. Etc
With this, I asked how they should address the Queen when asking a question.  I put the following on the board: “What food do you like?” – I asked if this question was suitable if asking the Queen.  The students replied that it might be unsuitable and suggested: “Your Majesty, would you mind if I requested what food one must like?”.  The learners were able to distinguish the difference between informal and formal question forms which helped the next part of the lesson.
I handed out three small pieces of blank paper to each student and told them that they were going to meet the Queen.  I said that they must write their question on each blank paper (thus they would create three questions).  Once they completed, I said that they were also going to meet Lady Ga Ga and then had to write three questions to ask her and that they should use informal/direct questions.  They wrote some really interesting questions.  Whilst they were writing their questions, I played the song “Radio Ga Ga” by Queen, just to see if they could get the connection with the song.
Once all questions were completed, I collected them all and I put them into a small box and mixed them all up.  I told learners that one student was going to meet the Queen and I nominated one student to be the Queen while another was going to be a reporter.  I mixed up all the questions and told them that they must ask the questions as it was written, so if they had a Lady Ga Ga question they had to ask it which created some hilarious reactions to both pairs role-playing as well as those watching.  All learners had a chance to role-play it and I gave each student asking the question about six questions each.  Whilst monitoring, I made a note of some of the language that had emerged and made a note of this on the IWB for feedback and possible error correction.
The whole lesson lasted a good 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I was pleased that they had enjoyed the various activities above.  Have you ever taught about the Royal Family?  What activities have you done to teach about the Queen in class?  Please let me know if you used (or plan to use) this lesson in class.

The Olympics: Lesson Plan

So the summer is meant to be here already in the UK, and the Olympics are just round the corner.  What better way to celebrate the Olympics with a lesson plan that introduces all sorts of interesting and fun facts about the Olympics.  This lesson plan allows teachers the opportunity to develop a “reading-relay” or dictation exercise, review vocabulary and sports related to Olympic Summer and Winter Sports as well as provide learners the opportunity for a fun and enjoyable sports quiz in the theme of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”.  All necessary documents for the lesson are below.  Should you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  I hope that you and your learners enjoy the material developed.  If you wish to receive a copy of the documents, please let me know and I would be able to email them to you.


Fun & Interesting Olympics Facts
Olympic Fun Facts – Reading Dication Exercise (Answers)


Reading Relay Template: Fun & Interesting Olympic Facts
Olympic Fun Facts – Reading Dication Exercise


Reading Relay: Classroom Sentences (Olympic Facts – you could stick these sentences up around the classroom)
Olympic Fun Facts – Information (Reading)


Presentation – Olympics Lesson

Presentation – Sports & Olympics Quiz