Idiom in F

For Pete’s Sake!

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What it means:

This is an expression you would use if you are annoyed or exasperated about something.

When to use it:

Anytime you are annoyed really. There are ruder versions of that idiom (for Heaven’s sake, for F***’s sake…) so this one is pretty safe to use.

 

Here is how I would use this idiom:

“For Pete’s sake! Why do I always look crazy when I am teaching…I mean just look at my pictures, it looks like I am always pulling a funny face.”

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The Werewolf Game

What a great game! Like most games you played as a child, the werewolf game can be used in the classroom.

You can buy this deck of cards at pretty much any store that sells board games, but if, like me, you love crafts and a little challenge you can make your own!

Here is what mine looks like.

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I know the wolves look weird…wanted to try something different but it didn’t really work out as I wanted it to.

What you need:

  • cardboard
  • paper
  • scissors
  • pens, markers, pencils…
  • OPTIONAL-tracing paper

How to make it:

I didn’t make the simplest set of cards but this is the general idea of what you can do if you want something of a similar design.

The first thing you want to do is figure out how many cards you want to create. I decided to create 11 cards (plenty for my groups of students). I have 2 wolves, a cupid, a little girl, a witch and 6 villagers. You need to cut 11 cards, out of cardboard, of exactly the same size and shape. It is important that they are the same otherwise your students will be able to recognise what card is what. I used a stationery guillotine I got in the US because it has a cutter and ruler included.

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Once that’s done, cut 11 pieces of paper (I chose white) of the same shape but a little bit smaller. That’s where you will draw your characters. I decided to do mine faceless ‘cos it’s cool (but mostly about a million times easier). I also cut the corners to make it look a little bit more…refined? But that is totally optional (I also realised that the cards get less damaged if the corners are not so pointy).

Glue the drawings the the cards, add the name of each character on each card and you are pretty much done.

There is an optional step as well. On the back of the cards I wrote the word werewolf. Since this is the only side of the card the other players will see you must be extremely careful how you do that. This is when the construction paper comes into place. Draw or write whatever design you like on a piece of paper. Put the construction paper on top. Then go over the design with a pencil. Now if you flip the construction paper and outline the design (on the other side of the paper) you can transfer that design anywhere you want. It is a long and tedious process (you gotta do all the cards if you do one) but it looks so nice at the end. Do the finishing touches with a ticker marker and the set of cards is finished.

How to play:

First you need to inform the students what all the roles are.

  • the werewolves want to kill all the villagers
  • cupid forces 2 players (could be wolves, witch, villagers…doesn’t matter) to “fall in love” with each other and they MUST both remain alive until the end.
  • The little girl gets to peek and see who the wolves are. She wakes up with the wolves and pretends to be one of them.
  • the witch has 2 magic potions…one to save and one to kill.
  • the villagers roles are to debate who the wolves are and kill them before they get killed. You can give special abilities to some of the villagers as well. I created a “drunk” who is not allowed to defend himself when accused of being a wolf or the mayor whose vote count double.

Now the game is basically a story with little debate like interruptions.

Here is the story I tell my students:

“We are living in a beautiful little town. The birds sing all the time, people are friendly and the sun is always shining. Unfortunately, a plague has arrived. A hoard of hungry werewolves lives here disguised as villagers. And when the night comes…they must eat!

The night falls and everybody goes to sleep (tell your students to all close their eyes).

  • The werewolves, and the little girl awake (make sure they do open their eyes, if not circulate and have the werewolves open their eyes). They must agree upon who they will eat tonight (they must point at who their prey is). Now that the wolves have chosen their prey, they go to sleep again.
  • Cupid awakes (only during the first round) and designates who the two lovers are. Cupid goes back to the land of dreams.
  • I will now touch the two lovers on the shoulder and on the count of 3 they wake up and see the object of their undying love (make sure they wake up). The lovers go back to sleep.
  • The witch wakes up. She can now decide to use her magic and protect somebody, do nothing or execute anybody (use the thumb up or down like the Roman emperors did with gladiators).
  • The village awakes (everybody opens their eyes).

Somebody/Nobody died tonight (depending on who the witch saved or killed, you might have 2 dead sometimes). Villagers, you now have to possibility to kill the person you think is a werewolf (everybody debates). I see the village has made a decision. One by one the villagers vote (remember if, you have a mayor, you will have to count his vote as double, but only say the result once everybody has voted). Mr X, you have been voted guilty and you shall now be killed (the student can now reveal his card. He becomes a listener for the rest of the game. What I like to do is give the student that was just killed the role of story teller, that way the student gets to participate in the game a little longer).

And the night fall on the village again…”

Repeat the process until all the wolves or all the villagers are dead.

Extra tips:

Make sure that every student participate in the debates. This is really good to review suggestions, modal verbs and also conditionals (eg. If I was the wolf, why did I…).

Print the story on a paper so that the students that become the story teller know what to say. Once you have played this game a few times and that they have a better idea of what the story is, remove the sheet and have them improvise.

This is a great speaking activity that involves a lot of listening and even reading. Your students will work on improving all those skills while enjoying themselves.

 

The Movie Club

I created a movie club, maybe 6 months to a year ago, with a few of my groups and it worked really well. We did it for about two months and it was really fun.  I will do it again next year but instead of doing a movie a week it will be one a month.

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The name movie club is probably not the most appropriate as it does not involve weekly meetings. At first it was just a way of getting my students to do more listening activities and ended up being a lot more than that.

How it works: 

This movie club is basically homework; every week, your students will watch a new movie as homework and talk about it. So far nothing new right?

Now is when the activity starts becoming interesting. The movie club should not just be “watch a movie and talk about it”. For the first movie I suggest that the teacher chooses the movie (I had my students watch About Time, it’s fairly easy to understand,  there is a mix of both British and American English and the plot usually pleases men and women).

But every week, before you send your students away for the weekend, take 15 minutes of the lesson to have your students present a movie they like.  They will be very happy to defend something they like and want to share with the class. Once everybody has presented a movie (no more than  2-3 min) the students vote which one sounds the best. The teacher must have the right to veto though. My adult groups are not allowed horror, gore or too “adult”. Remember, this should be something light and fun for the students to do at home.

As the teacher you also have to watch the movie so make sure you vote the same as everybody else. The next class, ask questions about the movie and your students will start talking about it naturally.

Activity extention:

I also have my students write about the movies. For example, my Cambridge FCE students could have a review, a letter or an essay to write in the exam.

Using the movie, tweak one of the exam tasks so as to involve the movie as part of the writing process. It is easy to write a review for a movie or you could also have your students write a letter to the movie director to talk about the movie. It is more fun for students and they are still working on preparing an exam task.

I do not forbid my students to use subtitles but I strongly suggest using English subtitles. I also recommend telling your students to write down 10 new words they heard in the movie and learning them.

Idiom in D

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Devil’s advocate

This is one of my favourite idioms. I love playing devil’s advocate in my conversation classes.

What it means:

If you play devil’s advocate it means that you are giving arguments (that you don’t agree with) just for the sake of arguing. You are giving arguments that you don’t necessarily agree with to challenge the other person’s arguments.

When to use it:

I use it in my conversation classes during debates. Let’s say this is the topic of the debate: Women should stay at home.

I do NOT agree with that and because most of my students are women everybody disagrees with that statement too. It’s quite difficult to organise a debate when everybody agrees on the same topic.

That’s when I would take on the role of the devil’s advocate. I would throw arguments such as “women are better at taking care of children”, “who is going to clean the house then?” or “men earn more money anyway, so why should women bother working?”. Those arguments are obviously outrageously wrong. They go against what I think but it gets the debate going.

Use this idiom when talking with friends, when you are debating an interesting topic, if you want to challenge what your friend thinks and if his/her arguments are valid.

Now be careful who you play the devil’s advocate with… you could start a conversation you don’t want to finish!

Formal vs Informal Game

Hi guys! Here I come with a new activity to play with your students. You can focus this game on whatever you like but today, I will show you how to teach formal vocabulary and its informal equivalent in a fun and easy way.

What you need:

  • white paper
  • coloured cardboard (1 colour only)
  • staples
  • coloured markers/pens

How to make it:

Cut 20 white paper rectangles. It’s essential that they are the same size. Then cut 20 cardboard rectangles. Make sure that they are slightly bigger than the white paper ones.

Staple the write papers onto the cardboard so the cardboard forms a border around the paper (you can use glue if you like, I just think that it’s quicker this way).

Now you have to choose what words you want to teach your students. Here are some of the words I chose: meet vs get together, discuss vs talk about, inform someone vs let someone know, ask for vs request, and receive vs get.

Write each of the words you want to teach on a different card you have created. The words that mean the same should be written in the same colour. The materials are ready.

How to play:

This game is more appropriate for small groups of 2 to 4 students max.

Place all the cards face down. In turns, have your students flip 2 cards only. If they flip 2 cards of the same colour writing, they keep the cards and remove them from the table. The other cards should not move at all though. If the two cards are not the same colour, the student has to flip them back and the next students repeat the process until all the pairs have been found.

Extension activity:

I usually play this very quick extension at the end of the game. Rather than telling my students which of the words are formal and which ones are not I tell them to separate the words in two columns.

Now to spice it up I don’t tell my students what mistakes they made but how many there are. That way, they move the cards around until I tell them everything is correct. Don’t worry if it takes them a while…the longer they play with he cards the better they will memorise the vocabulary.

How to make it more difficult:

If you want to make this activity more difficult, make more cards. It’s more difficult to play this game if there are many cards.

You could also remove the colour coding. Write all the words in the same colour that way your students can only rely on they knowledge to play the game and they don’t get to use the colours as a “cheat sheet”.

 

Pardon my French

As I am spending the holidays in France I thought I would post something related to France and its culture. Here is a little idiom I thought you might like to learn about.

What it comes from:

This idiom basically means “excuse me for being rude”. The French have always been known for being rude, swearing a lot, kissing in public and all sorts of other profanities. Because of that everything rude was associated with the French.

When to use it:

Basically anytime you swear, are rude or insult somebody and want to kind of apologise for it.

But really…French people are nice…I promise.

 

 

 

Crazy English 1

Crazy English 1 is the first one of a series of little funny stories and experiences about teaching and learning English.

This first story is mine. Here are also some pictures of my year in an American high school to illustrate it.

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If you read the About section of the blog you already know that I am French/Spanish but also studied in the USA. I signed up for another year of high school after I graduated in France. I know what you are thinking….YES! I went to homecoming and prom, I played powder puff football (fell on my face right in front of everybody though…), participated in the drama club (best club ever) and I had my little locker to myself (we don’t have that in France).

I was 17 when I went there and my English was nowhere near what it is now. Let me tell you about the most embarrassing English “mistake” I made.

The first thing you need to know is that in France they teach you British English, not American English.

The second thing you need to know is that in the USA exams are little multiple choice tests that you fill out in pencil (in France they want you to use real ink all the time).

Now picture this. I was in my language art class. I was seated at the back of the class room and I had mostly guys around me (pure coincidence to be honest). That day we were going to take the first test of the year, when I suddenly realised that I didn’t have an eraser…So what do I do? I start asking the guys around me.

But to my surprise they all looked back at me with the biggest expression of surprise. I think it is safe to say that some even looked shocked at the time. Others kind of looked through their bags but everything was a little awkward.

Here is what had happened…Like I said in France we learn British English. What’s an eraser in British English? A rubber. You see where I am going now right?

Well what I didn’t know was that in the US, a rubber is a condom. So yes, I was actually asking all the guys around me in the class to give me a condom.

Advice of the day: Don’t mix up your British and your American English!

10 Easy Tricks for Teachers

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1-Introduce the vocab bag

Getting your students to do homework can be challenging. An easy way to force them to learn is by starting a vocabulary bag. At the end of every class give your student little papers and tell them to write words, idioms, grammatical structures learnt in class on those (I usually give 2 or 3 to each student). Keep those papers in a folder or plastic pocket.

The next class, have your students take papers in turns and give you definitions, synonyms, examples… If they don’t remember, explain what they mean again. By doing that every single day, they will automatically remember the things that come up regularly Once they know a papers very well you can take it out that way you can focus more on the new words.

Do it at the beginning of the class, that way the students that are always late don’t miss out on the correction of homework, the students that are here on time keep on learning and you don’t have to go over the correction of homework every time a new student walks in.

2-Always do a little cool-down activity at the end of the class

Learning English is a long and difficult process for most students. They don’t always enjoy coming to class and often come out exhausted.

Do a little fun game at the end of the class. Try to reinforce what you have taught them that day. Imagine you taught your students about the present perfect; you could play Never Have I Ever with them.

Make sure these activities are fun as this is the last thing they will remember doing in English class. That way they go home happy and pleased with your class.

The more fun your students have the quicker they will learn. They will be eager to come back to class to play and you are still doing your job of teaching and helping them to improve.

3- Have your students repeat what you have taught them

The cool-down activities and the vocabulary bag are great way to reinforce what you teach your students but you should also elicit things from them.

Whenever you review something you should have them tell you what the grammar point or the vocabulary is. If your students can reproduce the knowledge that means you did your job…they know it!

If you have a mixed level class, that allows you to challenge the more advanced students without overwhelming the lower ones.

4-Get your students moving

If like me you teach early and late classes, your students are not in the mind set for learning. They are tired and just want to be somewhere else. Wake them up by moving. Whether it is going around the room for the purpose of an activity or coming to the board to write corrections it always does the job. It allows them to stretch their legs, that kind of invisible barrier between teacher and students disappears and it is a nice change to that traditional stay at your desk two hours and listen to the teacher structure.

5-Trick your students into doing exam parts

Most students are signed up for exam preparation classes… but they don’t want to do exams. Simple right?

How can they prepare for the exam without actually doing exams from time to time? You have no other choice but to trick them.

Let’s say you have a B1 class preparing for the Cambridge exam. Don’t tell them you are going to do Speaking Part 1. Turn it into an activity where they have to learn a specific amount of things about their partner. Here is a chart I created you can use for this purpose. Speaking Part 1 Board

With a B2 class you could have them practice the use of English part 3 buy playing a different version of scatergories and using word classes as categories. Here is the template I created for it. Word Class Scategories

6-Don’t “favour” anybody

Well…duh…right?

But when I say favour I don’t mean to like a student more that another one…that’s human nature. What I mean is don’t spend more time on the weaker students or just the more advanced students. Mixed level or abilities Classes are tough but you MUST keep the more advanced students challenged and the weaker ones in the loop.

To do so, create workshops in the class that target different things your students might need and circulate between workshops. You can also pair a stronger student with a weaker student so that the stronger student reinforces what he knows while the weaker student learns from the other.

7-Be organised and show it.

After teaching for a few years, you can easily wing a class. But that’s not something you should show your students.

You should always have a lesson plan (printed, hand written, in a notebook) and keep them all. Have the lesson plan next to you in class and tick things you have done as you go. You students will then realise you know where you are going with your lessons and that you have a plan for their learning.

Keeping old lesson plans also has 2 great purposes.

The first one is that you can easily find what you have taught and what is still left to be taught. A student could also come to you and ask you for what you did the day he wasn’t there and you can answer the question easily.

The second is that if some students complain about not doing something (usually “not enough” listenings) you have proof with your lesson plans. You can also show that student that if he had come on X day he would not have missed X activity and that you did your job like you were supposed to. It is rare that you need your lesson plans for this reason… but you never know.

8-Write down interesting vocab from listenings

Teachers tend to correct writing during listening. And it’s true that if you do so you don’t have so many writings to take home.

But I have realised that going over the vocabulary in the audios is extremely useful to the students

In any exam, audio clips are usually played twice. So I actually listen to the first time and write words I think they don’t know on the board. Before playing the clip a second time I go over the words on the board and we continue with the rest of the activity.

This is a good way to make the listening task more accessible at the beginning. Once the exam date is closed, go over the vocabulary once the task has been corrected, so as not to give them help they won’t get in the exam.

9-Always assign homework no matter what

Just do it, even if it is just a little bit! Whether your students do it or not…you have done what you are supposed to and it can’t backfire.

10-Put the most challenging/boring things at the beginning

This kind of goes hand in hand with the cool-down activity at the end. Remember, you want your students to leave the classroom thinking “that was such a great and fun class” vs “this class was so difficult and boring”.

I usually put grammar and listening activities at the beginning and keep speaking, vocab and coolers for the end. The way they feel about the class at the end is the impression they take home with them!