One of my biggest challenges (and obsessions) as a new teacher is preparation, especially finding resources and materials that suit the needs of my students. Luckily, there are hundreds of ESL websites, many of them providing free materials, as well as articles that help teachers refine their techniques. I’m greatly indebted to my anonymous internet-based colleagues for the time they’ve taken in designing and sharing their worksheets, lesson plans, game printables, PowerPoint files, articles, and more.
In an effort to show my gratitude, this will be hopefully the first among a few posts where I share my successful lessons and materials. So if you’re an English teacher, particularly an ESL teacher, hopefully you’ll find the following lesson plan and attached worksheet and PowerPoint file useful.
For you non-teachers, you might find this generally interesting, but even if you don’t, skip ahead to the Chain Stories section, where you can read some entertaining meandering stories, which feature all the grammatical errors one would expect from such a class of varied ability. You can read about the Chain Story activity in the Lesson Plan to understand why these stories feel so incoherent.
First, I’ll share a bit of the context for this lesson. The class is a mix of Upper Intermediate to Advanced Learners, in Secondary 6 in Thailand. Their ages range from 17 to 19. Their nationalities include Thai, Russian, and German, and many of them are mixed nationalities—that is, their fathers are usually Westerners and their mothers Thai.
Some of them speak English so well you’d swear they’re native speakers. A couple of them write so well you can’t wait to look for their novels on Amazon. Then others…need a lot of work.
But they all share a deficiency in vocabulary. So I’ve implemented a learner-directed component to the class to help them expand their vocabulary. Essentially, they have to write down in their journals any new words they encounter in their weekly reading activities. I’ve even allowed them to include words they encounter outside my class.
At the end of each week, I check their notebooks and make a list of their words, keeping a tally of the ones that more than one student identifies. By doing this, my students essentially get to “vote” on their vocab for the following week. The following Monday, I give them the definitions of the words, clarify any nuance or connotations, and spend the rest of the week drilling the vocab before a weekly test.
So the lesson you’re about to see incorporates vocab words that the students selected themselves. Feel free to download the worksheet and PowerPoint file and alter them to fit any lexis you wish to cover in your class.
NOTE: The staging of this lesson basically follows the CELTA staging for a text-based lexis lesson.
- Lead-in: Ask the students about any experiences they had spending time in nature. What was their most memorable experience? Since my students are fairly compliant, I allow them to choose their partners for this and future discussions (NOT the CELTA way!). Then sample some of their responses.
- Pre-Text: Show the students the Jeep Story PowerPoint. Show them each photo one-by-one, and explain that they are to predict what happens in the story. Show the last slide (all four photos) to help them discuss these predictions with their partner. (You can also print and pass around a handout of the PowerPoint if displaying it electronically isn’t feasible.) Sample their predictions.
- Text: Read the text to them once (the full text is in the notes of the fifth slide of the PowerPoint), and instruct them to compare their predictions. Then hand out the worksheet. Tell them to complete the gap fill as you read the text a second time (a third reading might be needed for the slower students). Check their answers as a whole class.
- Clarification: Have the students answer the multiple-choice questions. If you want, you can have them compare answers before checking them as a whole class.
- Practice: Story Chaining. Tell the students that they are going to write their own stories (which don’t have to be the same theme as the model story) using the vocabulary words they identified from the worksheet. But tell them there’s a catch: they won’t be finishing the stories on their own. Tell them to take out a sheet of paper (lined paper makes this activity easier to perform; no notebooks).
- Choose a vocab word at random and tell them to write the first sentence of their story. Tell them to write one sentence only.
- When they complete their first sentence, have them pass their paper to their left (facilitate the end students passing their papers). Choose a new vocab word, and instruct them to write the next sentence of their new story. Make sure they start this sentence on a new line.
- When they complete their second sentence, tell them to fold the top of the paper over so that it covers only the top sentence, and still shows the sentence they just wrote. Have them pass their papers to the left. Pick a new vocab word and have them write a new sentence on a new line in their new story.
- Repeat step c, instructing them to cover all except the sentence they just wrote before they pass the paper, until they have written a sentence for each vocab word.
- On the last vocab word, have the students open their stories and read them.
- Have a few students read their story aloud, highlight good vocab usage, and correct poor vocab usage.
It was such a fun lesson. Make sure students have ample time on the practice stage. With feedback at the end, it took almost 30 minutes in my class. As you can see in the stories below (included purely for amusement), some students demonstrated very good understanding of the vocab words. Others, not so much—but that’s why it’s important to leave 5 to 10 minutes at the end to offer feedback and help them understand their mistakes.
Chain Story A
The snowflakes beguiled me as I walked past the pine trees. It literally held my breath for a minute. Everything started to become blurry and dark and the next thing I remember is waking up inside a pothole. I got myself out of there and astounded when I saw the elephant. My feelings at that moment was deliciously full of joy and excitement. And I would bewildered to do more things. But the things we do is also limited.
Chain Story B
We were driving beguiled. And the driver literally couldn’t find the way out from this dark forest. My car was in the pothole, because we’re sticked in a mud and were starting to sink down. But then all of the sudden, an astounding horse came out of the nowhere, with it a man who put a rope on the car, and the horse started to pull us out. Back at home we eat horses, so deliciously I looked at the horse and said, “That would make one great dinner.” My neighbors are so bewildered that I will kill a horse for dinner. The horse was limited edition. It was a pink horse with a rainbow tail.
Chain Story C
The new guy in class was so beguiling he made all the girls blush and giggle. Literally, they want to embarrassing me. I was soooo shy. So to cover my shyness I put a horse mask on my head so no one could see my face, and I ran away, running into a pothole, and I was about to fall. My astounding belly broke my fall. I’m deliciously enjoying myself I’ve done. The old man was bewildered of what you done he got an heart attack. But lastly, he couldn’t make it through the limited time that he needs to operation.
Chain Story D
He was absolutely beguiled because of what he saw. The woman literally looked like an angel. But we looked like a potholes on the road. And it was astounding that no one stepped in one of the potholes. In a home I had deliciously dinner, I ate a lot of food which I didn’t try before. It was delicious. But then all of the sudden a friend told me there was horse in the food, and bewildered me, and I threw up all the food. Everything that we had to eat was full of horse meat. The food I could eat wasn’t even limited because literally everything had horse in it.
Chain Story E
“Stop trying to beguile me with gifts, you deceptive hobbit. Your gift literally smells like fish.” My feelings were like going through a hundred of potholes. And it doesn’t seem very astounding at all. When we came to a restaurant not far away from we all thought the food looked deliciously good. I was so bewildering, because the food was tasted deliciously. I’ve never try it before. And for my surprise it was horse meat—limited horse meat. Since then I love horse meat more than everything else, and eat it every day.
Chain Story F
She beguiled me with her unusually high voice. I literally slapped her to teach her a lesson…and made her face looks like a pothole. It was astounding in a negative way. But it could be deliciously as well for some reason. But then suddenly we all got bewildered when the car suddenly stopped and a bear was standing in front of us. But was have limited time to thinking about it, we’re running away from the car.
Chain Story G
That man beguiled the woman with buying her a drink at the bar. When she was literally smile at him and started to talk to the men. She was like a pothole, deep and unexpected. It was astounding that she was just ten years old. I found it deliciously satisfying to steal her candy when her mom wasn’t looking. I unwrapped the candy, ate the wrap, then threw away the sweet, then bewilderedly started choking. With limited oxygen in my throat.
Chain Story H
Her family beguiled her with money and love. Her family literally gives her everything thing she wants. But her family has a pothole of secrets that never been reveal. They knew people would be astounded if they found out what it was. It was deliciously teasing to keep this secret inside. I felt absolutely bewildered. At the end of the day they limited my choices of options.
Chain Story I
So there was I, standing in front of that horse, holding that carrot to beguile it into letting me ride it. I literally felt an immediate deep connection with the horse that I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We’ve been through good and bad times. Yesterday the horse ran into a potholes. Luckily it didn’t get hurt. It was an astonishing news that the horse didn’t get hurt. It was deliciously dangerous what the horse going through the night. But they are afraid of everything. Even one unfamiliar noise can bewilder them. They were too limited in time to save their lives.