One of my favourite Christmas stories is "The Gift of the Magi" by O' Henry. It is a romantic short story, about a young married couple and their struggle to buy each other a worthy Christmas gift with little money. Its twist ending is generally considered an example of comic irony, making the story highly entertaining and adequately festive.
The version presented here is abridged, accompanied by an audio file from manythings.org/.
For this year our school has embarked on an ambitious eTwinning Plus project together with 12 other countries from Europe: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, France, Fyrom, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine. As the name suggests (The Chest of Symbols) students will learn about partner countries through symbols. It will help them understand and respect differences among people, but also to cherish and appreciate similarities. National symbols, not only the official ones, but especially those existing outside the official factfiles of the country tell us more about a country's history, culture and traditions than we can expect. Symbols and their literal or metaphorical meanings constitute part of our cultural heritage. Through studying symbols students will also learn about geography, biology and art. They will collaborate through a wide range of ICT tools to deepen their digital competences and find new ways of expressing themselves.
According to the European Framework of Key Competences there are 8 basic skills necessary for lifelong learning. They are a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context and are particularly necessary for personal development, social inclusion, active citizenship and employment. Key competences are essential in a knowledge society and guarantee more flexibility in an increasingly interconnected world. They should be acquired by: young people at the end of their compulsory education and training, equipping them for adult life, particularly for working life, whilst forming a basis for further learning; adults throughout their lives, through a process of developing and updating skills.
"1984" is a classic political science fiction novel that has had great impact since its publication in 1949. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, have entered everyday use, while because of it the adjective Orwellian has come to describe official deception, surveillance, and manipulation by a totalitarian state.
The lesson that follows is based mainly on selected extracts from the Appendix where the principles of Newspeak as a way of controlling people are explained. The pre-reading activities offer an opportunity to revise main political terms.
Suitable for older teens and adults, level B2 or higher. 1984
You can accompany the reading texts with the audio extracts I compiled in the following video:
Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes is a collection of poems published in 1982. They are a parody of traditional folk tales in verse. Dahl gives a re-interpretation of six well-known fairy tales, featuring surprise endings in place of the traditional happily-ever-after. They are known for their unsentimental, often very dark humour. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf is an easily recognisable story with a strong rhyming pattern ideal for young learners. You can also listen to Roald Dahl reading the poem himself or watch an animated version of the story.
Revising vocabulary can be tedious for students (and teachers). A fun and probably more memorable way of doing it is through crossword puzzles which you will have to devise yourself of course. There is a number of pages that can help you to design your own crosswords. One of the easiest and most helpful can be found in Discovery Education where you can also choose from a number of other word puzzles to make, such as Word Search, Letter Tiles and more. You just add the words with their definitions in the box provided and your crossword is ready with the click of a button. Below you can find the crossword I prepared for our revision of Unit 6, QSE Intermediate, Andrew Betsis Editions. Words and definitions were copied from the book's glossary.
It is always a good idea to incorporate songs in our teaching as they are highly motivating, extremely enjoyable and they promote natural learning. With the help of the Internet it is also super easy to create a lesson around a song in little time. If you are looking for songs to use after teaching about the weather here is a really big list of titles with weather vocabulary in their lyrics. Combined with the 50 ways to use music and songs in the EFL classroom provided by EFL classroom 2.0 you can prepare a song lesson for every taste and level!
A very beautiful song to use with older teenagers is "Stormy Weather" by Billie Holiday. Instead of using the typical Listening Cloze, the lyrics have been mixed-up and the students have to rearrange them by listening to the song.
Last year I had the privilege of working with a wonderful group of students in a project about British literary works that have been adapted into film. We covered "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew" by Shakespeare, "Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie, "My Fair Lady" based on George Bernard's Shaw's "Pygmalion" and "1984" by George Orwell. The latter gave birth to a Prezi presentation for which my students and I are very proud. We discussed the multiple ways the Party exercised control on its citizens. Many of the themes we covered are frighteningly familiar... You can find the presentation below (it is in Greek).
It is common knowledge that our students use social media extensively while schools on the other hand are not always tech friendly. Why not bring Facebook on a piece of paper then? It can be much more motivating than having students answer the usual "Tell me about yourself" questions. If you can get them to bring their photos, the printables can make beautiful front pages for their portfolios.
With schools opening soon I couldn't think of a better post to start the new year than an icebreaker activity to use with students you already know from previous years. Basically what they have to do is write a poem about themselves following the "I am Poems" format. The activity can be very motivating as teenagers love talking about themselves and the better their level of English the more interesting the results. If you are able to work in the computer lab the results can be surprisingly creative!
Shel Silverstein's story of a missing piece searching for its perfect match to help him "roll" is a highly moving and educating one. For those of you who haven't read it it is a lesson on relying on ourselves and understanding that nothing can really fulfill us if we are not able to feel complete from within. Here is a reading comprehension lesson where the students watch the story on Youtube and get to fill in an open cloze summary ending with a discussion on "missing pieces". Target group: Teenagers Level: B1+
Using Shakespeare's works in the EFL classroom may appear risky as we all know how baffling they can be even to the native speakers. However there is no reason why we should deprive our students of the pleasure to experience some of Shakespeare's most famous sonnets especially when they are read by famous actors such as Alan Rickman and David Tennant. The sonnet is a popular classical form of poetry named from the Italian word sonetto, which means “a little sound or song". Traditionally, the sonnet consists of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter. The English or Shakespearean sonnet is usually end-rhymed following the scheme a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. Here is a simple lessson on Shakespeare's sonnet 130 (My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun) with reading comprehension activities and a writing task where students get to write their own poem. Perfect for Valentine's Day!
Most teenagers tend to either love or hate Saint Valentine's Day. In any case it is a celebration that rarely goes unnoticed so it is always a good idea to use it in our EFL classes. Here is a Saint Valentine's lesson which includes an Open Cloze with the story of the day and a Listening Comprehension using Frank Sinatra's "Something Stupid". Level B1-B2. Key included.
I hope you enjoy it!