Language focus: Present continuous, describing people
Procedure: Use a picture prompt of a train station platform with people on it (Check Flickr for images). Ask Ss to use the following pattern to create a poem. You may need to demo an example.
Line 1: Where are they? (is s/he)
Line 2: A (adjective) (woman/man) with (clothes or physical features)
Line 3: What are they (is s/he) doing?
Line 4: … and thinking of?
Sitting on the bench
a sad woman with a long nose
staring into space
and thinking of wasted time
Image attribution: Platform 4 by Brett Davies | Flikr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Activity 2. Preposition painting
What? A pattern for describing a picture
Language focus: prepositions
Procedure: Show Ss the picture and ask them to identify the different things in it. Then give them a decision tree like this one and have them craft a description of the picture. They should create 5 lines plus an extra one starting with “lies a” which they don’t write but have their peers guess.
Near a sofa
Under the fireplace lies a …
Next to tree
beach is a
On the bench
next to a tree
beside a lake
beneath the mountains
under a sunset sky
lies a …
Image attribution: Peaceful mind by Peter Thoeny | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Activity 3. Maternal Advice
What? Advice from a mother animal to its baby.
Language focus: imperatives, infinitives & gerunds; remember, try to take care, don’t forget, be careful + full infinitive, avoid beware of, forget about, refrain from, resist + ing
Procedure: Do you recognize this passage? Listen carefully. Who is talking? To whom? Listen and then compare ideas with a partner.
“When in doubt, any kind of doubt, Wash!” That is Rule No. I,’ said Jennie … `If you have committed any kind of an error and anyone scolds you—wash,’ she was saying. `If you slip and fall off something and somebody laughs at you—wash. If you are getting the worst of an argument and want to break off hostilities until you have composed yourself, start washing … That’s our first rule of social deportment, and you must also observe it.
`Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in you can’t go wrong if you wash. If you come into a room full of people you do not know, and who are confusing to you, sit right down in the midst of them and start washing. They’ll end up by quieting down and watching you. Some noise frightens you into a jump, and somebody you know saw you were frightened—begin washing immediately … `If somebody calls you and you don’t care to come and still you don’t wish to make it a direct insult— wash. If you’ve started off to go somewhere and suddenly can’t remember where it was you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little. It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or her feelings—start washing …
Any time, anyhow, in any manner, for whatever purpose, wherever you are, whenever and why ever that you want to clear the air, or get a moment’s respite or think things over—WASH! `And,’ concluded Jennie, drawing a long breath, `of course you also wash to get clean and to keep clean.’ `Goodness!’ said Peter, quite worried, `I don’t see how I could possibly remember them all.’ `You don’t have to remember any of it, actually,’ Jennie explained. All that you have to remember is Rule 1: “When in doubt—WASH!” ‘
Jennie by Paul Gallico
Elicit that Jennie is a cat giving advice to Peter, a kitten. How many animals can you think of? Ask Ss to brainstorm. Then, ask Ss to choose one of the animals they brainstormed and write maternal advice from a mama animal to its baby.
Activity 4. Overheard in a cafe
What? Reporting on imaginary conversations.
Language focus: Reported speech, said, replied, denied, asked
Procedure: Show pics of people and ask Ss to select two and think of the conversation they might have. Ss then uses reported speech to describe the conversation the two people might have. Charlie had some paintings in this mix including Van Gogh’s self-portrait and some quirky ones such as a dog and a cat looking at each other.
Activity 5: The house that Jack built
What? Build progressively longer sentences.
Language focus: Relative clauses
Procedure: Show the Ss the following sentence pattern.
This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built This is the rat, that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
Then ask Ss to construct their own from this photo. So their sentence would beging with “This is the photo that Jack took”. You may also want to to supply words:
Man fish girl boat wind wave whale rod camera rock beach shark cook friend chips cat
Image attribution: Bass fishing by Eileen Jones | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Activity 6: How it’s done
What: Instructions for various topics
Language focus: Imperatives and sequencing words
Procedure: Run Ss through an example of how something is done.
How to make a cup of tea
Firstly, boil some water in a kettle
When it’s hot, pour a little in a teapot to warm it
Then throw out the water and put in two spoonfuls of tea leaves
Bring the water back to boil
Pour the boiling water on tea leaves in the pot
Leave to stand for two minutes
Serve in two cups
Ask Ss to use this template to write instructions for one of the following:
- Eating spaghetti
- Falling in love
- Getting promotion
- Bathing a dog
- Going to a wedding
- Looking after a two year old
- Taking an exam
- Having a relaxing evening
Charlie recommended using these activities in conjunction with the following:
- Sharing session: Choose the best piece you wrote during the lesson and share it with others in a small group.
- Student control: After doing a couple of these activities, hand over control to the Ss. Give them a particular grammar concept and ask them to come up with their own creative exercise around it.
- Student ideas: Dialogues, sketches, poems, nonsense sentences, sabotaging the coursebook (playing around with sentences from the coursebook)
He had many other references in his list which had to do with the importance of creativity. Here’s a truncated list of language teaching references:
- Nematis, A. 2009. Memory Vocabulary Learning Strategies and Long Term Retention. International Journal of Vocational and Technical Education 1 (2), pp. 14-24
- Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House
- Schmitt, N. 2000. Vocabulary in Language Teaching. CUP