Fresh & Festive Ideas for your Teen Classes

Festive ideas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. We can almost hear the sleigh bells ringing. Home Alone is on the TV. There are endless perfume adverts and we all want to eat our own body weight in Christmas goodies.

It’s been a long first term and to be honest, we’re all VERY tired. We’ve finished our exams and we just want to throw on Netflix, relax and wait for the three wise men to bring us lots of presents.

We already know what Mariah wants for Christmas so why not leave the Christmas song gap fills in Santas sack? Looking for some video inspiration?

Now, you might not win “El Gordo” this year but In today’s post we’ve got the next best thing.  We’re giving you 4 Christmas class ideas to keep your teens motivated until they’ve opened the last window on their advent calendar.

A Gift from afar

Here’s an idea we developed everyone’s favourite Youtube teacher Charlie’s Lessons. It all comes from the idea that the people of Oslo donate a huge Christmas tree to Trafalgar Square every year. (This video explains why)

After watching the video allocate students in the class a random city around the world. Ask your students to research the city a little and see what gift they would send them from your home town. Then ask the students to suggest what gift that city might send in return.

For example we landed on Nashville Tennessee. It soon became clear that Nashville is the home of Country music. So our gift to them would be a set of castanets. We could send them with a “How to play castanets” video or guide.

In return Nashville could send us a fancy neon guitar sign or something from the wonderful celebration of Tomatoes, The annual Tomato Art Fest.

If you want to take this one step further, why not get in touch with a school in your random city and exchange some ideas about each other’s hometown at Christmas?

Santa’s Sustainable Christmas

We’ve already written our letters to the Three Wise men and Santa. Telling them we’ve behaved well all year; asking for a new iPhone or more socks than a centipede could use. Why don’t we send Santa a letter asking for him to make a real difference in the world?

Amidst the excitement of Christmas, the tradition of writing letters to Santa often revolves around material desires and personal wishes. However, as teachers of English as a second language, we have a unique opportunity to instill in our students a sense of global responsibility and sustainability.

Encouraging our students to write a sustainable letter to Santa can foster empathy and awareness about real-world issues. Instead of solely focusing on personal wants, this exercise prompts them to consider the bigger picture. Students can express their concerns about the environment, advocate for social causes, or suggest ways in which Santa, the symbol of giving, can contribute to making the world a better place.

This activity not only enhances language skills but also cultivates a sense of agency in students. By channeling their wishes into requests for positive change, they learn the power of their voices and the impact of collective action, instilling values that transcend the holiday season.

Snow Balls

Is there anything more exhilarating than a snowball fight? I didn’t think so. Imagine capturing that excitement in a super-fast, low-prep classroom activity that ingeniously repurposes those old, seemingly endless scraps of paper.

Start by prompting your students to jot down their heartfelt Christmas wishes on these pieces of paper. As the wishes accumulate, the anticipation heightens. Then, in the spirit of a lively snowball fight, crumple these papers into balls and let them fly across the classroom in a flurry of hope and joy.

Free Snowball Fight Winter photo and picture

https://pixabay.com/photos/snowball-fight-winter-snow-snowy-589668/

The real magic begins when the flurry settles. Students embark on a quest, picking up the scattered wishes. The challenge? To unravel the crumpled pieces and, with curiosity and camaraderie, decipher whose wish they hold. This lively interaction not only recycles paper but also encourages students to engage actively in forming questions, fostering a playful yet educational atmosphere.

For instance, imagine a student unraveling a wish that reads, “I wish for a world with no hunger.” They turn to their peers, querying, “Hi Pepe, do you wish for a world with no hunger?” Another might discover a wish for “A new map on fortnite,” sparking a round of inquiries to uncover the wishmaker.

Cracker Jokes

Free Celebration Christmas photo and picture

https://pixabay.com/photos/celebration-christmas-decoration-83158/

The best thing about Christmas dinner isn’t the food is it? No, it’s the terrible Christmas cracker jokes. Start by presenting a few classic Christmas cracker jokes to your students. These often feature playful wordplay and puns. Encourage students to read and discuss the jokes together, identifying the humor and the wordplay elements embedded within them.

Guide them through the process of dissecting the jokes:

  1. Identify Wordplay: Break down the jokes to highlight the double meanings, homophones, or clever twists in the language used.
  2. Explain the Humour: Discuss why the jokes are funny and how the wordplay contributes to the humour. Help students understand the cultural context if necessary.
    1. “What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck? A Christmas Quacker!”
      • Deconstruction: This joke cleverly plays with words that sound similar but have different meanings. It uses a pun on “Quacker” (a sound a duck makes) and “Cracker” (a traditional festive item). By combining “Santa” and “Quacker,” it creates the humorous image of a Christmas-themed duck, merging the idea of Santa Claus with the quacking sound, resulting in a playful and pun-filled phrase: “Christmas Quacker.”
    2. “Who is Santa’s favorite singer? Elf-is Presley!”
      • Deconstruction: This joke relies on a play on words and a clever twist. It combines “Elf” (Santa’s helper) with “Elvis Presley” (a famous singer), creating a wordplay fusion, “Elf-is Presley.” This wordplay substitutes “Elvis” with “Elf,” humorously suggesting that Santa’s favorite singer would be a play on the famous musician’s name, indicating the mythical Elf as the preferred singer.

    If your students are feeling brave why not go on to step three and get them to Create Their Own Jokes: After analysing a few jokes, encourage students to try their hand at crafting their own Christmas cracker jokes. Provide prompts or examples to help kickstart their creative process.

As we wrap up these festive activities, may your days be merry and bright and filled with warmth. Wishing you all a Christmas  – where laughter sparkles like tinsel and joy resonates like the sound of sleigh bells. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Hair-raisingly good Halloween English Reader activities

Halloween reading activities

Halloween is just around the corner, and it is a wickedly wonderful way to encourage your older teen and adult students to broaden their vocabulary, consolidate their grammar and practice their reading skills by using classic horror or thriller English Readers in class. Pearson has a collection of more than 300 Pearson English Readers which are easy to use and contain lots of extra materials.

Some spook-tacular Halloween selections from the classic English Readers are:

  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Dracula
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Dr Faustus
  • Hamlet
  • The Locked Room and other horror stories
  • Misery
  • Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • The Canterville Ghost and other stories

If you want to use a Reader with your students in class, for Halloween or for any time of the year, here are some ideas to compliment the book.

Word Lists

Every Pearson Reader has a word list at the back of the book that gives a brief definition of the essential vocabulary used. Use these lists to design a ‘treasure hunt’ style game. For example:

Find:

  1. Three animals
  2. Two jobs
  3. Two places for dead people

After students have read the story, you can also play a quiz game where you read out a definition of a word and students buzz in and tell you the answer. Alternatively, another fun revision game is that you say a word and students must come up with a grammatically correct sentence using that word to win. It’s a fun way to practice new vocabulary.

Character Conversations

Once you have started to read the book with your students and the characters have been introduced, you can ask students to imagine that they are some of the characters in the book and to have a conversation with each other. For example, in the story Dracula, the Doctor comes to visit Lucy as she is under the spell of Dracula and is acting strange. A dialogue may look like this:

Student A: You are Dr Seward. Ask questions about how Lucy is feeling.

Student B: You are Lucy’s father, Arthur. Explain how Lucy is feeling.

Conversations can also take place between characters in the form of Instant Messaging, or mobile phone text messages. Students can collaborate on a shared document, such as Google docs, and read and respond in real time to their classmates’ messages. You can also do this via traditional pen and paper messages.

Another conversation practice can be character interviews. Student A is a very famous TV talk show host and invites one of the characters from the book on to their show for an interview. Student B is one of the characters. Students can prepare the questions together before acting out the dialogue.

Radio Plays

Ask your students to recreate the entire story, a chapter or part of the story in the form of a radio play. They not only have to be the characters but they also have to be foley artists. If you have permission from the students and/or parents, you can record them performing! Give students plenty of time to prepare their dialogues, scripts and find the props they need to make the sounds. If students are watching each other, provide some listening activity for the audience to do, such as:

Watch your classmates perform their radio play.

  • What did you like the best?
  • What sound effect was the most realistic?
  • Was their dialogue accurate from the book?
  • What was your favourite line?

Creative Writing

Try to find opportunities in the story to encourage different writing styles. For example, in Dracula, we could set these tasks:

  1. You are Dracula trying to sell your castle. Write a description of it.
  2. You work for the police. You want to tell people about the dangers of vampires. Write a report answering these questions: How will I know if a person is a vampire? What should I do if I see one?
  3. You are Jonathon and you have just spent the first night in Dracula’s castle. You send a text message to your fiancée Mina. Arrived safely. Dracula v. strange. J xx. Reply as Mina and then continue the conversation between them both.
  4. The book publisher wants you to write a 100-word description for the back of the book that will encourage people in the 21st Century to read it – careful, do not reveal the ending of the story!

Personalisation

Many of these Readers are suitable for Halloween because they play on our fears. Some are supernatural, such as vampires or werewolves, but others are more real, such as locked rooms or insects. Personalising questions either before students read the text or after is a great way to either build anticipation or check understanding of the story, and it helps students to use quite specific vocabulary. For example, in the short story The Ash Tree, we can ask our students before they read:

Which of these situations would frighten you most?

A You are walking alone in an open field at night. You see a black shape with two very bright eyes.

B You are driving along a road on a stormy night. Tall trees on each side of the road are moving wildly.

Or in The Barrel of Amontillado before students read:

This story involves a slow death and a barrel of expensive wine. Discuss how the person might die.

and in The Locked Room after the students have read it, we can discuss and speculate what we might do in the same situation:

Imagine you have just been into the locked room for the first time. You saw the clothes move and you heard the steps behind the door. What will you do now? Talk to another student.

Debates

Debate

Debates are great because not only do students practice speaking but they also have to give logical reasons as to why they are defending a particular idea, which is a very useful skill to have. We can choose to have a two-sided debate, such as after reading The Phantom of the Opera, the debate could be:

The mayor of Paris and the Captain of Police wants to tear down the Opera House after the recent scandals, but the locals want to protect the historical and beautiful building.

The class then splits 50/50 and they prepare their ideas and arguments before debating. Alternatively, the debate can be character based with multiple opinions. For example, after reading Faust, the debate could be:

In groups of five, imagine and act out this scene. The characters are:

  • The Pope
  • The army officer
  • The King of Germany
  • The Duke of Vanholt
  • Robin

A world organization thinks that Faustus should receive its top international prize for his services to science. Do you agree? Make short speeches and then have a discussion.

Halloween is the perfect time in the academic year to introduce readers to your class if you have not done so already. The Pearson Readers form part of the ‘Connected English Learning Program’ as it is part of the vast resources available to help your students to learn English through topics they love.

Life hacks for online teachers

Life Hacks for Online Teachers

The digitalisation of education was already in motion even before the events of this year, which has seen more and more classes taught online or in blended scenarios. The transition brings with it great opportunities for innovation, but it’s certainly not without its challenges, too! We’re sometimes spoilt for choice with a plethora of digital tools and platforms and apps with ‘bells and whistles’ so there’s a lot to be said for taking a step back and focusing on what’s important. In this blog post I’d like to share some of the ‘life hacks’ I’ve learned as an online teacher which I hope will help simplify and make more efficient your digital teaching lives…

*Should you wish to delve deeper into this topic, check out the webinar I delivered – you can access the recording and slides at the Pearson teacher training hub

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To Translate or Not to Translate: That is the Question

Guest post by: Karen McGhie

Karen McGhie is Head of Teacher Training and Development at London School in San Sebastian. She will be speaking on Embracing Translation in the Classroom with her colleague Iñigo Casis at the 3rd Annual ELT Conference in San Sebastian on March 30th.

‘Teacher, he’s molesting me!’ Imagine my reaction when, as a newly qualified English teacher in Spain with very little knowledge of Spanish, I was confronted by this comment from a 10-year-old student. Little did I realise back then what an important false friend this was in English and how many times I would have to remind students of this mis-translation in my subsequent years of teaching (and will have to for many years to come).

Ok, so after that trip down memory lane, let’s kick things off with a little quiz. Are you ready?

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Five techy tricks to practice your English over the summer

Picking up a book, writing a pen-friend or doing a language exchange in English are all tried and tested ways to keep improving and practicing your English over the summer months.  In fact I would suggest them all to my students and many of the activities below are based on them in one way or another. But with the devices and tech tools available to our learners I thought I would put a bit of a spin on the typical summer learning ideas.

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Once upon a time: 10 story activities for the primary classroom

Children love stories! Stories appeal to their vivid sense of imagination and appetite for fantasy. They help children understand and accept their own feelings and are a vehicle to teach values and about other cultures. And from a language perspective, they are a rich source of vocabulary and structures in context and lend themselves to both serious and enjoyable learning for our pupils.

In this blog post we will consider 10 classroom-ready activities to use alongside stories in the classroom. These are divided into three sections: before reading, while reading and post-reading

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Top games for helping our Spanish-speaking students’ pronunciation (Part 1)

If you have taught English to Spanish speakers for a while, I’m sure you already have an idea of what the main pronunciation problems for them are. As a teacher of English and native speaker of Spanish, I have not only experienced those problems myself but also have always tried to help my students with effective and engaging techniques that I will be explaining in this post.

Below, you can find some of most problematic pronunciation areas for Spanish speakers (take a look at the Speakout Study Booster for Spanish speakers)  and how to get around them in class by using games.

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Scaffolding: Giving our primary pupils the support they need

The following is an outline of the ideas and activities covered in my webinar on scaffolding at primary for Pearson Spain and Portugal on 20 February 2018.

Teaching primary learners can be rewarding and sometimes challenging. The enthusiasm and energy can be extremely satisfying and help keep us engaged as educators. To be successful, we often hear about providing support to help our students achieve success. Support can cover a variety of different aspects of our learners’ social and emotional development, their cognitive learning and their language needs. Unlike adults, who have experience we can draw on to create connections and foster learning, when we work with our primary and secondary students, we are often responsible for introducing students to new information for the first time. When this happens, the support that works best for success is referred to as scaffolding. Scaffolding helps us present new ideas and concepts while making sure learners have the tools they need to be successful.

That said, what is scaffolding and what does it really mean? When you think about how you first learned to do something you can get a sense of what scaffolding is all about.

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The art of questioning. Helping our teenage students to become critical thinkers

In today’s world, where news spreads like wildfire, it is not uncommon to find our teenage students taking things for granted and believing whatever is “on the internet”. As teachers, we want our students to become critical thinkers so that they can make sense of this VUCA world. Helping our students to develop strategies for asking (good) questions will not only prepare them for their future but also help them develop critical minds that will maximize their learning experience across disciplines.

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Ten expressions (with talk) to get your students talking

speach bubbles

Stuck for something to talk about in class?  Well here are ten useful expressions in English to stretch your students’ vocabulary plus a quick activity to get them chatting as well.

Teach the expressions anyway you see fit.  You might start out by putting the word “talk” on the board and ask students to think of different ways of talking, or as many expressions with “talk” as they know.  You can then include the expressions you want them to learn and have them guess at the meaning and use a dictionary to check, or have them match expressions to their meanings.

Here are my ten (but you can use others if you like):

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