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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Practical tricks for mixed-ability classes

mixed-ability

Let’s face it, teachers of mixed-ability classes have a lot on their plate. Weaker students may give up on work assigned to them and stronger students often finish very quickly. Both groups can switch off and start messing about. Nobody would disagree that ‘Every child matters’, but for a teacher with eight classes of thirty children, responding to each child’s needs can sometimes seem a challenge to put it mildly.

The glass is half full!

Although challenging, mixed ability classes also have many advantages. First off, they represent a microcosm of society: we’re likely to get varied input and ideas from students and these classes lend themselves to developing values like respect, tolerance and helping others: they encourage co-operative learning. Also, they may require creativity on our part, but that makes us better teachers!

Continue reading

Five things to love about teaching English

4558618339_8658982ae8_z

No two people have quite the same experience of teaching English.  My own history includes mostly private sector teaching to adults and teens (so this post might not reflect your situation exactly).  But regardless of the context you teach in, many of us, and this is undoubtedly true of any profession, might get to a time when we question why it is that we are doing it, or maybe we forget why we got into it in the first place.

For native speakers there is the added “I’m JUST an English teacher” issue to face as well, as in: I’m JUST teaching something that I didn’t have to put any real effort into learning myself, or Am I JUST taking the easiest option?  Shouldn’t I be more of a go-getter in world of increasing “go-getting.”  I would bet that this thought has crossed the minds of a fair number of you out there.  Perhaps if you are a NNS (non-native speaker) of English you haven’t had this same feeling, and the things listed below are somewhat more obvious to you.  If so, scream and shout about them!  Kick up a fuss about your profession!  And get your colleagues stoked about their job!  Because there are a great many things to love about being “just” an English teacher.

Continue reading

Help your students hit a home run with sports idioms

sports idiomsIdioms! Perhaps they are one of the most colourful aspects of language to teach, conjuring up amusing imagery or teaching our students about culture. I had a lot of fun with them in my advanced classes, though found I had to guard against overuse! But a question here for teachers is: which ones to teach? One tends to come across many a student of English who knows the expression “It’s raining cats and dogs,” but I am racking my brains to think of a single time in my life I have heard that idiom in natural conversation.

Continue reading

Ideas for Christmas Classes!

‘Twas the class before Christmas and all through the school all the teachers were searching for something to do!  Xmas Pearson

Sound like a familiar situation?  Your students have their work completed and exams taken.  Holidays are just around the corner and you need one more lesson to send them off on a positive note.  Well look no further.

In the true spirit of giving and the holiday season the Pearson Teacher Training Team for Spain and Portugal have come up with a few ideas that will put a smile on your students’ faces and save you some time so you can maybe get in a just a little more holiday shopping to boot.

These varied and enjoyable Christmas activities designed for adult and teen learners of English are the focus of our Christmas Webinars (slides available herewhich are taking place this week.  They can be easily adapted for different levels or mixed, matched and changed to your liking or particular needs.  So have a look at the menu below, click on each title, download what you like and go into class ready to get your students into the holiday spirit!

Continue reading

ACEIA 2016, Seville: a resounding success!

Over 700 enthusiastic teachers from all over Europe attended the ACEIA 2016 conference in Seville on Saturday 12 November.

Antonia plenary

Under the banner ‘Creative Minds Inspire,’ the event was headlined by Pearson’s Antonia Clare, one of the award-winning authors of Speakout 2nd edition, with her inspirational plenary session ‘Language, Learning and the Creative Mind.’ Antonia examined the ways in which learning a language is in itself such an inherently creative task and looked at how to engender creativity, both on the part of the learner but also on the part of the teacher.

Continue reading

Effective classroom management part 1: be the boss!

Socrates quote - Effective classroom management part 1: be the boss!Some of you may have noticed that I am sharing part of a quote attributed to Socrates from 400 BC. I have seen it used as a starting point for many a classroom management seminar, with the speaker aiming to show that teachers have been dealing with naughty students for millennia. However, the contents of training workshops on classroom management can of course vary wildly: it’s such a broad area. In many ways ‘How to be a good classroom manager’ is the same as ‘How to be a good teacher.’ With this in mind, I’ll be splitting this post into a series of three blog posts, each looking at a different ingredient in the recipe for good classroom management.

Continue reading

Halloween: great teaching ideas for teens

Halloween: great teaching ideas for teensGhosts, witches, black cats, haunted houses… Despite the creepy flavour of these terms, I’ve always liked Halloween: 31st of October, the spookiest day of the year, as it is said to be. As teachers, many of us celebrate this autumn festivity by decorating our classrooms with spider-webs, skeletons, bats, etc., and by asking our students to dress up as ghosts, witches or werewolves.

We have already talked about some Halloween activities that your primary students will love, but there is also a wealth of activities out there for teenagers. Just type “Halloween activities for teens” in your internet browser and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Is this just another blog post with a compilation of links? No, it isn’t. Here you will find practical teaching ideas, which require little preparation time. Continue reading