Six favourite things I wrote for Onestopenglish

As many of you know, I got started really on my writing career with Onestopenglish – Macmillan’s resource site for teachers. As I went rummaging through my old folders the other day to prepare for this post I found lesson plans that went back as far as 2002! While recently I haven’t written very much for Onestop it was sobering to think that for the better part of a decade I was producing something almost every month for that site. I started way back in the very early days of Onestopenglish, before web 2.0 had really arrived in the world of English language teaching, and long before I had even heard of blogs or wikis or stuff like that. It feels like ages ago, but 8 years isn’t really that long. Anyway, when I heard that Onestopenglish was launching its (much needed) redesign (read about the details here) I thought I’d celebrate in my own special way.

The new Onestopenglish some web 2.0 elements to it, I’ve noticed, but really it’s always been about supplying the materials. It’s probably the biggest out there. When I suggested this post to the Onestop editor she said “Won’t it be hard to narrow it down to six?!” and she was right.  However, my own site dictates that six is the magic number so here goes: half a dozen of my favourite lessons that I wrote for Onestopenglish. Now, even though many of these are in the Staff Room section of Onestop (aka the paying section), I got permission to share them all with you here for nothing!

1 A Metaphor lesson

After reading Metaphors we live by and checking out the metaphor section of the Macmillan dictionary I got really interested in this area of vocabulary teaching. Winning is like hitting is one of a series of lessons that explore metaphor in the English language.

Download the lessonWinning is like hitting

2 A Live from London lesson

Back in early 2007 I sent a proposal for the Live from London – a series of podcasts of real people on the streets of London from around the world. They were all to answer the same question and then I wrote the material to go with it. This proved to be a big hit, and spawned several other Live from Series. Buoyed by the success of this, I convinced Macmillan to include a similar thread in my new coursebook Global, called Global Voices. But this is where it started.

Download the lesson – LivefromLondonXmas and click here to get the audio

3 American Vocabulary Lessons

For around two years I wrote an American English vocabulary lesson every single month on a theme. When I went back to look at some of these I’m still amazed I could do it, and get away with some edgier stuff. This lesson is W for War, it addresses common war and peace collocations, prepositions connected to war and includes a text I loved doing with students: Six American Wars. These lessons were a bit different in that the teaching notes were quite detailed as well, so be sure to download them too.

Download the lesson AmericanWars and the teaching notes War teachingnotes

4 Hot Topics Tips (with Scott Thornbury)

Emboldened by some of the stuff that Onestop was letting me do with published material (albeit on the web), I proposed a section of topical lessons called Hot Topics. About this time Scott Thornbury was finishing a book called How to Teach Speaking, and had written some stuff for Onestopenglish already. I suggested a teaming up to produce these topical lessons on much “hotter” topics than usual – drug use, disaster tourism, the West Bank Barrier were some of the things we addressed. My favourite thing though was a series of tips that we wrote on dealing with controversy and taboo topics in class. Unfortunately I could not get a pdf of this, but the link is here, and this piece was picked up and republished in the EL Gazette.

5 The Road Less Travelled (with Jo Budden)

The latest series that I wrote was commissioned a few years ago when the editor of Onestopenglish called me up and said “Fancy writing a soap opera podcast?” I thought, why not? But I couldn’t do it by myself and so enlisted the help of Joanna Budden, a great teacher and fellow author. Together we came up with the idea of the Road Less Travelled, which actually turned out quite well. Best of all was when we created a Facebook page for Katie London, the main character in the show. This was almost three years ago remember, before Facebook had really taken off. Funny anecdote: Katie’s love interest was originally called Ricardo and was from Costa Rica or Mexico. They couldn’t find a Latin American actor and at the last minute they got someone to come in but he was from Ghana! So Ricardo became Michael Mensa and after some hurried last minute rewrites we went ahead with it.

Click here for the Road Less travelled section.

6 Teen talk Column (with Guardian Weekly)

As a university student, I had often longed to get an article or a letter published in the Guardian Weekly, a newspaper I devoured whenever I got my hands on it. So I was almost bowled over when in 2008 I was invited to have my own column in the Learning English section… for a whole year! I had just finished some courses with particularly difficult Spanish teenagers, and Teen Talk was born. The attached pdf is the one I wrote on end-of-year activities, called How to be so last year (from 2008). Events have of course changed, but the activity types and tips still work!

Download the tips here – How to be so last year

There you have it. This, combined with my earlier post on activities I wrote for iTs magazines brings to a close the materials fire sale here at Six Things. Hope you enjoy it! We’re coming very shortly to the end of this blog… so watch this space!

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 7:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Six lists that can greatly improve lesson planning

Right! We continue work here at Six Things by, erm, not continuing work but getting others to do it for us! Actually, I’m happy to have another repeat offender here, none other than Hall Houston a fellow teacher, blogger and author. Please check out his website and especially his book Provoking Thought, a collection of thinking activities for ELT (with some really nice ones on critical thinking). Here he shares some lesson planning ideas.

In a previous guest post by Vladimira Michalkova on the Six Things blog, the author suggested keeping multiple intelligences theory in mind when designing homework assignments in order to appeal to students with different needs and interests. As Vladimira put it, “Keep changing the style!”
This gave me the idea of assembling six lists for a similar purpose.

These lists could serve as…

* a reminder of the many things a lesson can contain
* a challenge to be more creative
* a gentle nudge to use a broader range of activities

There is some overlap between the lists, and there are probably many other lists that could be included here.

1. Four skills and Five systems
2. Three macrofunctions
3. Stimulus based teaching
4. Five senses
5. Seven (or maybe eleven) Multiple Intelligences
6. Higher order thinking skills

1. Focus on the basics – the four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and the five systems (structure, lexis, phonology, function, discourse). A good place to start.

2. Focus on macrofunctions – Michael Halliday’s list of three macrofunctions. These are social (for example, exchanging thoughts, opinions, feelings), service (for example, getting information from television, public announcements, or a newspaper and using it), and aesthetic (for example,  reading a poem or creating a webpage) This list can remind teachers to involve students in a wide range of functions to maximize language use.

3. Focus on adapting stimuli – Tessa Woodward’s unbeatable list of five steps for stimulus based learning. This list is recommended for teachers who want to put a little creativity into their lesson planning. Woodward describes five ways of adapting a stimulus (an object, a text, a podcast, a picture) to encourage language practice in class. These are: meeting the stimulus (introducing the stimulus to students), analysis (breaking the stimuli down to its basic elements), personalization (asking students to relate the stimulus to themselves in some way), alteration and transfer (making a change such as reducing, expanding, creating parallels or opposites), and creation (students make something such as a poster or recording). See Woodward’s Planning Lessons and Courses (P. 56-58) for more about stimulus-based learning including some examples.

4. Focus on the senses – vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. The first two relate directly to language through reading and listening, and indirectly through use of images and music. The other three provide more of a challenge to incorporate into a lesson. You can bring in realia, food and beverages for students to describe, but a more economical alternative would be to get students to use their imaginations to recall things appealing or unappealing to the senses.

5. Focus on intelligences – Howard Gardner’s Multiple intelligences theory –  The seven intelligences are visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, musical- rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In addition, there are four more intelligences that are not widely accepted , but might make for some interesting lesson ideas – naturalist intelligence, spiritual intelligence, moral intelligence and existential intelligence.

6. Focus on thinking skills – Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation) can help with guiding students through different levels of thinking. The website www.in2edu.com has an easy to follow chart for ways to exploit Bloom’s Taxonomy in the classroom. (Bloom’s Taxonomy Wheel)

So what’s missing? What lists would you recommend for other teachers? Post them here.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 3:25 pm  Comments (15)  
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