Thursday, 23 November 2017

Introducing Travel-Talk in an ELT classroom

"Winter is coming."- Lord Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones)

This might be a way of warning for the Northners to protect their families and households during the long,harsh and cold winters in the north of King's Landing. But for the young students, this is a welcome sign of the beginning of holidays. And in holidays, they would make plans to go visit new places and experience interesting things. These days,  nearly everybody travels to other parts of the state, country/continents during holidays. Whether it is a religious pilgrimage, family gathering or a tourists package trip, it hardly matters to children. They are very excited to see new things, meet new people, learn about new places, definitely eat some tasty new dishes and click some smart selfies. 

The topic of travelling is very interesting for students and they want to share their experiences without much effort in a classroom. Sometimes, they may brag about some things which they haven't actually seed, done or tasted. Sometimes they may also talk about experiences of others as if they were their own. But, as a language teacher/ trainer, do not be too intimidated with this behaviour. As far as they talk and it makes sense, this is a good idea.

A word of caution for teachers/ trainers working in government schools in India. The classes will have a heterogenous composition of students. This means that the students' social and financial backgrounds will differ. Not all would have travelled to many places and not all of them would have used affluent means of transport. But that does not mean they would not have travelled. Encourage them to talk about any travel that they would have done. Say, for example: a school picnic, a visit to the city Park, Museum or any Fete/Fest in their city. 

Remember the keyword is : Happy experience= Happy language Acquisition time.

 A linguistic competency will be well acquired by a second-language learner only when it is taught in an impromptu way. This means, the learner will learn certain words, structures and rules of usage unknowingly when the stress is not on the rules but on their usage and meaning. And when this usage and meaning is related to some happy and pleasant memories. Remember the taxi-drivers at any airport and the waiters in a Chinese restaurant in an Indian city? They may not know the spellings of the words they utter, but they know how to say HELLO in many languages, just as the waiters who know the names of all the dishes  such as dim sum, sushi which are otherwise unknown to them.  

Here's a short plan for a lesson to practice talking in English about travelling. This lesson is designed for Second Language students of secondary classes. You can further modify it to suit your students' age-group. 

Lesson Plan: What are your plans for summer/winter vacation?

Topic: Talking about Travelling

Activity 1: Mis-Pronounced Words: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

hotel,                     restaurant,                  cafĂ©,                         fort,
square,                 street,                            roundabout,            caves,
journey,                vacations,                     holiday,                   museum,
temple,                  church,                         mosque,                   cemetery

Activity 2: Vocabulary: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

The teacher will write the following words/phrases on the blackboard and will say the words aloud. The students will repeat after the teacher. S/he will explain the meaning and their usage in context when planning a summer vacation. S/he can make judicious use of mother tongue if students fail to comprehend the meaning of words.
·       1.   tourist (by definition): a person who is visiting a place for fun.
·   2.  tourist destinations (by definition/ verbal context): places which are famous among tourists as favourite spots. Chandigarh was designed by Le Corbusier, a French man. So, we see it is a famous tourist destination for many European travellers.
·       3.   Tube: (by definition/ Illustration): the underground railway system in London.
·    4.  reservation (in hotels/restaurants): (by definition/ verbal context): to ask for a table/ room to be free for somebody’s use in future. Meera’s friends wanted to surprise her and give her a party on her Birthday. They got a reservation for ten people in Gopal Sweets for the evening.
·    5.  menu: (by definition/ illustration): a list of food that is kept at hotels for customers to read and choose their meal.

Activity 3: Role Play 1: Teacher Directed: 10-15 Minutes:

The teacher will ask the students when their vacations start and whether they make any plans for spending them. S/he will divide the students in pairs and ask them to enact the following dialogue with their partners.

Learner 1: Hello_____________! Summer is coming!
Learner 2: Yes, ______________!  It’s fantastic. I want to start holidays.
Learner 1: Me too. What are you going to do this summer?
Learner 2: I’m going to visit Amritsar. It’s a very big city in Punjab.
Learner 1: Wow! I stayed there for a week with a Punjabi family. It was a great time. I visited a lot of places in and around the city.
Learner 2: Tell me something about the trip. Is it a long journey to get there?
Learner 1: Well, we took about five hours from Chandigarh.
Learner 2: Oh! That’s nothing compared to going to my hometown in the hills.
Learner 1: Yes, of course. Journey through the hills is very long.
Learner 1: Yes. That’s why I like to stay here at home playing with my friends.
Learner 2: I like to travel in Punjab. We have many places to visit too and food is excellent here.
Learner 1: Talking about food reminds me I am hungry.
Learner 2: Let’s go and eat our lunch.

Activity 4: Feedback: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

Ask a few learners questions about their home towns and/ or places they like to visit. Review any common pronunciation problems the learners had.

Activity 5: Classroom Language: Group Work: Teacher Directed: 10 Minutes: 

The teacher will ask the students to imagine various places where they can visit in their summer vacations, say, for example: New Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai, Bangalore, Nainital, Kolkata, Shimla, Dharamshala and so on. The teacher will provide the following structures of questions to the students and assist them to plan their holiday trips.

What do we visit in the morning?

How/ Where can we travel in the afternoon?
How would we travel in the morning?

Where can we have dinner?  What can we eat?
Where can we have lunch? What can we eat?

What can we do in the evening?
What can we see in the afternoon?

Where do we stay during the trip?

Activity 6: Variation: Role Play: 5 Minutes

The teacher can now prepare a different conversation for role play where the students represent various tourist destinations in the world. Divide the learners into pairs and tell them to take turns in knowing each other with the help of the conversation. The teacher can give them various combinations of nations and cities.

Andrew:  Hello Ann! Summer is coming!
Ann: Yes, it’s fantastic. I want to start holidays.
Andrew:  Me too. What are you going to do this summer?
Ann: I’m going to go to visit New York. It’s a very huge city in USA.
I visited a lot of places near the city.
Andrew:  Wow!! I stayed there for a week with an American family. It was a great time.
Ann: That sounds interesting. Tell me something more about the trip. Was it a long journey?
Andrew: Well, We took nearly a day from Mumbai.
Ann:  Oh! That’s nothing compared to go to Australia.
Andrew:  Yes, of course. Australia is one of the farthest countries.
Ann: Yes, I know. I would like to visit Australia one day in the future.
Andrew: Yes, me too. But I like very much to stay here at home playing with my friends.
Ann: I like our country better. We have many places to visit too and food is excellent here.
Andrew: Oh yes, my mom’s dosa is the best.

Activity 7: Home Assignment: 

This activity can be done individually/ in groups. The teacher will divide the class in groups of five students each. S/he will write the following on the board and assist them to plan their holiday in say for example: London. S/he can discuss with the groups- various combinations of places they plan to visit, how and what do they intend to do at these places.



London Eye                                        By tube                                       At a fast food restaurant
London Dungeon                                By taxi                                        A picnic in the park
Madame Tussaud’s                             By bus / Double Decker bus      At a cafe'
Natural History Museum                    On foot                                        In a restaurant
Science Museum
Kensington Gardens                                                               
Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park  
Buckingham Palace
Tower Bridge   
Piccadilly Circus
Notting Hill, St. James's Park  


Go to the theatre
Go to the cinema
Go to a pub

Walk around London

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

How to teach ELT students to Describe People

In the first part of the series, we learnt about how to assist second- language learners to talk about themselves. Taking the same context one step ahead, we find that many times learners can not accurately describe themselves as well as others. Learners talk and write on the topic 'About Myself' from nursery classes, still many times learners fail to leave an impact while describing themselves. They don't know what information would be appropriate according to the context in which the other person wants to know about them. As a result, they end up telling too many unnecessary things and miss the opportunity to leave a mark in the other person's mind. 

The teacher needs to tell the learners in short about various ways of describing people. There are two important things which need to be mentioned whenever we describe a person: 
1. physical attributes such as facial features, build, height, weight, complexion and so on.
2. emotional qualities such as attitudes, moods, positive habits(strengths) and limitations
 The teacher can further  simplify this and tell them that the body, the mind and the heart of a person play an important role in describing the person. While the physical appearance may be important for a police officer to catch hold of a chain- snatcher or a thief in a market, a person's attitude towards life may be more important to a company's owner while hiring a secretary. Hence it is important to learn how to describe peoples' physical features as well as their emotional state.

Here is a simple activity based plan to make second language learners understand how to describe people in different ways. 

Lesson Plan 2: Who are you?       Topic: Describing People.     
Materials Required: Flannel/ pin up board, persons description cards, blank cards, sketch-pens/ crayons- two packets.

Activity 1: Mis-Pronounced Words: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

The teacher will use correct pronunciation of the words for students to follow the teacher’s model. Each word will be said twice, repeated by the students. Tell them about how in some of the words, there are some silent letters. Pay extra attention to make them notice and practice the words with silent letters. 
Variation: Once the teacher has done the activity once, it is suggested that a revision/memory check
of correct pronunciations can be done by writing one word at a time on the board and asking the students to pronounce it correctly. The teacher may ask some students to be the judge/ scorer and listen carefully whenever they pronounce the word. If the pronunciation is correct, the judge may give a mark to the student. In the end, the one with maximum correct pronunciations can be declared the winner.  

blonde,                                         petite,                                                       clumsy,
lean,                                             plump,                                                      ancient,
shrewd,                                        sloppy,                                                      stale,
eccentric,                                     afraid,                                                       poor

Activity 2: Vocabulary (adjectives/ opposites): Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

The vocabulary of this lesson plan focuses on words used to describe people i.e. adjectives. The teacher can encourage the learners to use them with naming words i.e. nouns. For instance: an old handsome man. Special emphasis can be given to explaining the right order in which these words will be used with nouns. (this topic will be covered separately in coming series.)The teacher can make judicious use of mother tongue if students fail to comprehend the meaning of words.

OPPOSITES (adjectives)
fat                                           - thin,
tall                                          -short,
fair                                         -dark,
handsome(for boys)             -beautiful(for girls),
lazy                                        -hardworking,
miser                                      -spendthrift,
old                                          -young,
childish                                  -mature,
boring                                    -interesting
clever                                     -silly,
intelligent                              -foolish


lonely,                shy,
messy,                bashful,
clean,                 sly,
lively,                 soft,
cunning,            strict,
simpleton,         friendly,
clumsy,              healthy,
wise,                   ill,
ugly,                   hardworking,
timid,                 slim.

Activity 3: Role Play 1: Describing People: Teacher Directed: 10-15 Minutes

The following activity will be done in groups of five- six students each.

Step 1: The teacher is to give the students of both the groups a total of five to six cards i.e., one card for one student each. One group will get printed cards whereas the other group will get blank cards.

Step 2: The group which has the printed cards will come ahead and one by one read out the card.

Step 3: The students of other group will draw a picture of the person described on the blank card. The drawing is not to be shown to the other group.

Step 4: Once all the students of group one have read out their cards, both the groups will submit their cards to the teacher.

Step 5: Now the teacher will display the drawings on the pin-up/ flannel board.

Step 6: Then, the teacher will ask each the student who has made the drawing to describe what s/he has made.

Step 7: If it matches with the description on the printed card, the teacher will pin up that card on the board next to the drawing.

Note for teacher: The students can be given following dialogues to begin the role-play.

Learner 1(Group 1): Good morning, I am going to tell you about something about myself. My name is_______ (as given in the card).

Learner 1(Group 2): Good morning, I will tell you about the person I have drawn. This person’s name is __________ (as told by the student in group 1). And this is how he looks.

Person Description cards: 

The teacher can make picture description cards with the following text and give the students some blank cards to draw matching drawings of people. 
1. My name is Suresh. I am ten. I have brown hair and brown eyes. I like music and computer games. I have a grey T-shirt and jeans.

2. My name is Dinesh. I am nine. I have brown hair and brown eyes. I like flowers. I have white shirt blue jacket and black trousers.

3. My name is Vijaya. I am eleven. I have dark hair and small eyes. I like gardening. I have a blue, white and yellow dress and shoes.

4. My name is Zeenat. I am three. I have dark hair and blue eyes. I like my pet. I have a pink and orange dress, yellow shoes and cap.

5. My name is Bimal. I am ten. I have blond hair and brown eyes. I have yellow T-shirt, denim  and shoes.

6. My name is Anand. I am seven. I have blond hair and brown eyes. I like ice cream. I have a blue dress and indigo shoes.
7. My name is Prakash. I am five. I have blond hair and green eyes. I like playing with toys. I have a yellow T-shirt, denim and shoes.

My name is Meera. I am eight. I have dark hair and brown eyes. I like reading. I have a green and yellow T-shirt and black trousers.

My name is Sunaina. I am six. I have blond hair and dark eyes. I like flowers. I have a blue and white dress and brown shoes.

My name is Megha. I am eight. I have dark hair and brown eyes. I like to go to school. I have a pink T-shirt, yellow skirt and pink shoes.

 Activity 4: Feedback: Teacher Directed: 5 Minutes

Ask a few learners to describe their siblings, their friends and /or parents. Review any common pronunciation problems the learners had.

Activity 5: Classroom Language: Match the following characters with their pictures: Teacher Directed: 10 Minutes

This activity can be done in pairs/ individually. Ask the students if they watch cartoons? Ask them which their favourite cartoon character is. Ask them if they watch the cartoon serial where a dog is always getting in the way of ghosts and mummies. Tell them that they are going to do an interesting exercise about a group of friends and their dog and how they solve crime. Give the students the copies of handouts on Scooby Doo characters and their descriptions and ask them to match the characters to their descriptions. If they are interested, you can ask them to draw or colour them in their usual way or in a way which they would want them to dress.

 Who Am I?

a) I am not afraid of ghosts and monsters. I am very small. I am the nephew of a famous detective dog.
My name is __________________________________.
b) I am always in green. I can run. My best friend is a dog. I am always very hungry. I am scared when I see a monster.
I am __________________________________.
c) I am not beautiful. My favourite colour is orange. I wear glasses. I am very intelligent.
What's my name?_________________________________.

d) I love eating. I am funny. I am brown and black. I can speak and run. Monsters are horrible. I don’t like them.
Guess my name?_________________________________.

e) I am tall and blonde. I drive the van. I like sports. I have a good intuition.
Do you know my name? __________________________________.

f) I am beautiful. I have red hair. 
Who am I?__________________________________.

Activity 6: Variation: Role Play: Rapid Fire: 5 Minutes

This activity is to be done in pairs where one person will act as the one asking questions rapidly without much pauses and the other one answers immediately. The teacher is to note the time taken by each pair and the pair that takes the shortest time to complete the activity, is to be declared the winner and given some reward as an appreciation.

       1.   What is your first/ maiden name
       2.       How old are you?
       3.      What is your surname/ family name?
       4.      What is the colour of your best friend's hair?
       5.      What is your mother's height?
       6.      What is your teacher's best expression?
       7.      What is the complexion of your brother's face?
            8.    Which is your favourite mood?
       9.    What clothes does your best friend like to wear?
      10.   What is your pet's best quality?

Activity 7: Home Assignment

Ask the students to write a short passage of about 8-10 sentences about the following and read it out in front of the class.

1. Describe your family.

2. Tell us something about your best friend.

3. How would you describe the naughtiest student in your class?

4. Describe what you like about your Art Teacher.

Based on the age-group and  level of the second language learners, the teachers can vary the time given to conduct an activity in this plan. 

This plan is made for a beginner's level and you will find that it focuses more on physical descriptions and a little bit about likes and dislikes of people.