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Spooky lessons
Unlocking beginners
A balance of power

Spooky lessons! ghost

Halloween is nearly upon us so here are some ideas & links.

Monster consequences
This is a variation on the game consequences where you circulate papers in turn adding a bit of information, folding them over & then at the end opening out the paper & reading out the wacky result.
Here you design a moster. All students take a piece of paper & describe the monsters head at the top - this could be drawn. They then fold the paper & hand it to their neighbour to their left. Then all describe the body & do the same - fold & hand on. And on like this with a scary feature, the food it eats, something about its habits, a noise it makes & a name for the monster. At the end each student opens the paper & reads aloud about their monster.
Instead of folding the students could see the previous things & have more of an idea of the monster & a description is being built.

Scary movies
Students write a list of scary movies & explain what happens in their favourite one. Then, each group designs a new monster for a new scary movie. They decide on its name, eating habits, likes& dislikes, physical description, habits etc.
(idea from )

Start you own business - rent-a-ghost
People rent hosts from your company to scare others at Halloween. Design a brochure of available ghosts for hire, including a picture & description of haunting characteristics, special talents & hourly rates. Students then roleplay sellers/customers looking for an appropriate ghost. Give the customers a role card before with ideas.
(idea from )

Ghost interviews
You have a Rent-a-Ghost business which is going well & need to hire more ghosts. Interviewers prepare suitable questions to interview ghosts .g. ways of scaring people, special talents, why they would be good for the job etc. Ghosts also prepare mini-CVs containing previous experience, special haunting skills, ghost courses completed. They need to ask about conditions & pay at the interview. The interviews take place & the best ghosts are chosen.

Ghost hunters
Like Ghost Busters, the film, these people get rid of ghosts. All students draw a ghost & the teacher takes them in.
Std A - has spotted a ghost in their house - one of the ghosts that has been drawn, & they must describe the ghost, what it does, when it arrived, conditions in the house when it arrived etc.
Std B - works for 'Ghost Hunters' & will interview the house owner about the ghost. Also give advice on what to do to get rid of the ghost.
(idea taken from Password 2 - OUP)

Radio Show - interview with a vampire
Students write down everything they know about vampires - two groups.
Grp A are the presenters on a radio show - they interview about the vampire's daily routine, clothes, habits, likes etc.
Grp B - are the vampires who prepare details about themselves.
Could record the interviews.

Design a potion
Students design a new potion & the advert that sells it. They need to decide on its magical properties, who it's for, what it contains, the packaging, name & slogan. All mingle selling their potions to each other, persuading each other they need this new magical potion.

Scary sounds
You need a tape of a series of scary sounds. Play the tape & students work out a story that fits. If no tape, you could make the noises!

Horror story writing
Students first plan the story deciding on the time, setting, characters, plot etc. (background-problem-solution-outcome) Could also look at specific vocab they might need - scared, terrified, scream, creaking, gloomy, chains, etc.

Act it out
Students discuss fave scary movie & choose a sketch to act out. They write a dialogue & then could write it as a radio play with background scary effects.

Halloween party
Students decide what costumes they would wear & what these character live would be like. Students then act out the party. Could use role cards to smooth things along.

Thanks to Samantha Lewis for most of the ideas above taken from her recent seminar handout.

witch's hat

From a brief look around at sites dedicated to Halloween it seems quite a commercial time. A lot of the sites have something to sell but keep looking & you’ll also find lots on information to use with all ages & types of classes.
A cauldron full of Halloween links
Lots of personal experiences of Halloween
Reading about werewolves & links to related site
Lots of links
101 ideas
Clipart for all things Halloween
Craft activities
Bat poems


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Unlocking beginners

With the academic year just underway in a lot of places it is interesting to see the continual drop in beginner students. From the students' perspective things might look very different in that very low level stds might well consider themselves beginners. They might feel that they know nothing when in fact, with the exposure in most countries to English, most people know something. This would obviously depend on the country of origin of the students, some languages are nearer to English than others & some have greater exposure to English than others.

Here are a couple of ideas to show the students that, in fact, they may know quite a lot more English than they think.

- Take in lots of board pens/chalk & give them to the stds & they just write all the English words they know on the board. You'll have to be on hand to point them in the right direction as they might not realise that some of the words they know are English words. You'll soon have the board covered with English words.

- Put up English things you find in their country on the walls - adverts from magazines, film titles, songs. Discuss which they have seen, bought etc.. Also ask the students to bring in as many things that they can find with English on them - works well with the younger learner.

- Get a tape together with snippets of half a dozen languages being spoken. Play & ask the stds to identify which is English.

- Put a series of obvious conversations together on tape & ask the stds to only identify the situation from a given list of situations. Make sure the conversations have giveaway background noises. If they are forthcoming you could also elicit a bit about the content of the conversations & they'll probably surprise themselves.

Don't forget that praising your learners for what they know will boost their confidence no end. So give your beginners a chance to show what they are capable of from the beginning & start on a positive note.

There is a very good activity book on teaching beginners called 'Beginners' by Peter Grundy (OUP). To buy this:

Other Tips for teaching beginners:

Writing For Beginners

The Honeymoon Is Over

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A balance of power

I suppose this is more of an observation than a Tip. Have you ever felt that you can't really give your own opinion in class discussions because sometimes when you do, you find the students agree with you, as if you had the last word on the subject. This could well be because they are too polite to disagree with you or they genuinely think that your opinion is the right one to follow.

A teacher's reaction to this authority can be represented on a
cline, going from the accidental to the unthinking to the intentional. Occasionally, I have seen in lessons I have observed, a teacher use this power to 'win' discussions in the classroom. He thinks the student's opinion is wrong & tries to win them over, using this power that he automatically has. More commonly, in the middle of the cline it is the student responding to a teacher question & the teacher then replying with 'yes, that's right', when it is a matter of opinion, & not a language matter, as in the example;

Teacher: So, how should we reduce the greenhouse effect? (asked in an attempt to get a discussion going)

Student: Put pressure on businesses.

Teacher: Yes, that's right.

It does happen - the teacher's response reinforces this idea that the teacher knows best. We do know best about language but I don't believe we have the right to know best about other things.

It's an interesting area - the power that the teacher has as the authority figure in the group. I suppose it comes down to how sensitive the teacher is to picking up & responding to this. Also realising that it doesn't really matter what opinions the students hold, so long as nobody is offended.

I know some students who won't give an honest opinion & prefer to play devil's advocate. Maybe some students don't want to disclose opinions in class. Fine - so long as all get lots of speaking practice. We can sometimes get involved with both the subject & the students to the extent that it is the actual content that becomes more important than the practice & the quality of this practice. Of course, there is the very valid argument that the more the students give their real opinions the more genuinely they are using the language, which in turn has an effect on the depth of learning. Fair enough, but perhaps we should be more sensitive to the students & our reactions to their opinions.


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