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.

Integrating pronunciation into your classes

As we get back into the swing of things this new school year we look back at our three part series on an area which can be problematic for teachers and students alike.

pronunciation cloud

Part One: The Basics

Pronunciation.  It’s often the area most avoided by new teachers for lack of confidence, and also the first thing experienced teachers leave out due to lack of time and a desire to get on with the “meatier” issues of vocabulary, grammar and skills work.  But like it or not our students are aware of the importance of pronunciation and will expect us to work on it with them, so getting comfortable with it and finding the time should be one of our priorities as teachers.

The following is the first part in a three-part series outlining some basic tips for successfully integrating pronunciation in your classes.

Continue reading

Ask a Stupid Question Day

Interrobang

When you saw the title of this post you probably thought that this is just the latest example of a world gone crazy with yet another apparently random silly holiday.  Better think again.

Ask a Stupid Question day, far from being a pointless unofficial holiday, was created in the 1980’s by a group of teachers with a very specific purpose in mind: encouraging their students to participate more in class by asking questions. They knew that most of them had lots of questions but believed they kept many to themselves for fear of being laughed at.

It takes place on the 28th of September, but it’s commonly celebrated on the last day of class this month. Since its creation, this has been an annual tradition in American schools, and has recently become popular in Britain and India.

So how might we English teachers take advantage of this date at the beginning of the year to foster a more participative classroom which focuses on the needs of our learners? Continue reading

Top tips for dealing with common errors in your classes

errorIn a previous post, we pointed out 5 common errors Spanish speakers make in English. We also stated that errors could be ignored if they are not impeding communication. However, there are times when error correction exercises are needed for the students to make progress in the language. Here are five top tips for dealing with common errors that will help your students to 1) become aware of their own mistakes and 2) make them responsible for their own learning. Continue reading

A carnival quiz for carnival season!

800px-venice-carnival-masked-lovers-2010-

Masked carnival-goers in Venice (Frank Kovalchek – Creative Commons)

Do on your costumes, revellers and partygoers, if you haven’t donned already, and don’t do them off until it’s over – carnival season is upon us! Traditionally, these boisterous festivities were the time for Catholics to indulge before Lent, the time to eat up all the rich food in the house before the long pre-Easter weeks of fasting, piety and prayer. The roots of the revelry go back even further, however, to pre-Christian pagan festivals. These days, of course, it’s more the costumes, masks and music that come merrily to mind. Here’s a little quiz for you and your students about the various carnival celebrations in full swing around the world. Answers on a sequin or in drumbeat, please!

Continue reading

To La Rioja with love :)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region.

The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!). Continue reading

Tweeting, yapping, frothing… and teaching (English onomatopoeia)

kapowFor the last ten years or so, delicate birds in English-speaking countries the world over have been complaining about social networking – or to be more precise, about one site in particular. It’s not Facebook that has upset them, or LinkedIn, nor is it Instagram or Tumblr. It’s Twitter that has ruffled their feathers. The reason is simple; they can no longer do one of the things that delicate birds in English-speaking countries most like to do, at least not without everyone expecting them to keep it short and simple and add a couple of hashtags to the message. They can no longer twitter or tweet.

‘Why they had to go with our particular sound is beyond me,’ tweeted Warner Bros. veteran Tweety Bird, in an exclusive interview for Pearson ELT Learning Journeys. ‘Why couldn’t they have called it Oinker or Mooster? The pigs and the cows wouldn’t have minded. They could’ve done with the publicity.’ Meanwhile, groups of birds from other countries have expressed their relief that the site chose to go with English onomatopoeia rather than sound-words from their own languages. ‘Chu-u chu-u!’ chirped a Japanese spokes-bird, visibly relieved, while a Spanish owl in Madrid hooted in to say, ‘It’s bad enough that the pedestrian lights here go pío pío. Frankly, I’m relieved you’re not all pío-ing.’ Continue reading

Show and tell

A while ago I visited a school in the community of Madrid, a public bilingual school called CEIP Cantosaltos, and while I was there talking with Maria, a wonderful and professional teacher, a girl approached us and said so excitedly: “Teacher Maria!!  Tomorrow It’s my turn to show and tell!”

I asked Maria, what that was about and she told me that since she wanted to improve her students oral skills she had implemented this simple but powerful activity at the beginning of every Monday session. Show and tell is a very typical American game. And it goes like this:

A student brings a secret possession to school and they keep it covered up inside of a bag or inside of a box so the other students can’t see. The other students have to guess what’s inside the bag. The student who has the secret possession stands in front of the class and give clues about their hidden object, so they can say “it’s very big” or “it’s small” or they can describe what colour it is, or they can talk about why it is special for them, and then the students in the classroom get to ask that boy or girl questions like: “Is it round? Is it square? Is it blue?” The game ends when they figure out what it is.

It’s great for the children because it gives them the opportunity to practice questions and answers and to play with the language as well as share with their friends what is important for them turning this into a really meaningful learning experience.

Maria’s language assistant explains it in this video.

We hope you find it useful!!!

11 ideas about the teacher profile

Sometimes I feel like a treasure hunter when I travel. There are amazing educational jewels hidden in schools, and I love to find them.

It goes something like this:  You visit a school and start to talk to a teacher or a headteacher.  Nothing out of the ordinary so far.  A normal school in a normal town.  But suddenly you hear them say something that catches your attention, like the glimmer of a shiny jewel.  Just follow it, ask the appropiate questions and…there it is!

A while ago I found one of these gems in a school called Betania-Patmos located in Barcelona. They had been asked by the regional governtment what kind of profile a teacher needs in this global era, but they didn’t rush to write down hasty conclusions as teachers.  They did something smarter.  They turned this into a task for their last year high school pupils.  This is what they told them:

 

“Imagine you work in human resources and you have to hire a teacher.  What profile would you be looking for?”

 

And those teenagers (you know, the ones everyone describes as being “lost”) worked in teams for a week, and then presented 11 ideas that demonstrate they might not be the ones who are lost after all, but the ones looking for someone who isn’t.

 

11 ideas about the Teacher profile required  for a global era.

Recruiters: Last year High school students.

 

This first set of requirements had complete consensus amongst the group.

 

1.-   Teachers commited to helping their pupils, who care for them, are close to them, and instill confidence through  respect and generosity.

2.-  Teachers with a deep, broad and up-to-date knowledge of their subject area.

3.-  Teachers that can express themselves clearly and make themselves understood using structured methods.. Good communicators balanced and mentally organized

4.-  Teachers that exude emotion about what they are explaining, and are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject and respectful of other disciplines.

 

Requirements with a very high level of consensus

 

5.-  Teachers who have mastered different types of learning – from paper to the latest generation of technologies (drawing, writing, sound, image, and mixed media), following the idea of introduction not substitution.

6.-  Teachers  who have mastered different languages, with English being considered absolutely necessary.

7.-  Teachers that teach critical thinking and promote alternative ways of doing things.

8.-  Teachers with patience, modesty, energy and coherence.

9.-  Teachers that promote participation, interactivity and practice.

10-   Fun teachers, with a sense of humour that can make teaching and learning a pleasure.

 

Requirements sine qua non:

 

11.- Teachers that are punctual and don’t miss classes.

 

The first time that I read this I was struck by two things:

–   When a teenager says that he is looking for someone stable and mentally organized…it makes you think about what he has seen

–   Technology appears in a discreet second place. First people, then gadgets.

 

So, as you can see here, our youth are just looking for a stable reference in a confusing world.  They are looking for educators that can teach their mind and their soul, someone who can maintain the essence of the educational experience even when all the elements keep changing.  Because essencially our young generation is alone and we are letting them grow up alone with no tribe to guide them.

As usual Mafalda said it first and better: “Educating is harder than teaching. To teach you need to know, to educate you need to be” .

 

 

Gamification and stickers

Have you heard about badges and gamification? You like the idea but you are not sure how to implement it with your younger learners?

We have a freebie for you!

Here is our proposal. It uses the familiar idea of stickers as badges to complete a collection of skills.

We hope you enjoy it and if you do…share it!

And here are some more stickers for day-to-day use.