Headlines Routine

 “One of the biggest challenges is to get our students from receptive to productive use, in all its forms.”

Professor Norbert Schmitt, Professor of Applied Linguistics, Nottingham University, Www.norbertschmitt.co.uk


As teachers in the Israeli school system we need to assist our students to finish high school with knowledge of approximately 5,200 lexical items in English. According to Professor Batia Laufer, without massive input there will be low word gains. Furthermore, the input needs to be at the right level, and properly spaced.

I created this speaking lesson for my 10th grade ‘Keep Talking’ class, based on Laufer’s assertion that we need to ‘activate’ our students’ passive vocabulary. Firstly, I asked my students to recall the meaning of some lexical items previously taught. I presented the words in English, and asked students to recall and translate the words into L1 (receptive skill), and then use some of the words (productive skill), to complete the given tasks, based on picture prompts.

You can see an example of one pair’s work below, and then listen to an excerpt of their ‘Pair and Share’ activity, in order to see how engaged my students were.

צילום מעיתון הארץ   Photo from Ha’Aretz Newspaper, 20 October 2009


If you get a chance to do this activity with your students, I’d love to hear about it.


Language Learning & Self-Assessment (Keep Talking)

This Double lesson plan has been created specifically for the teachers delivering the 10th grade ‘Keep Talking’ programme in Israeli high schools. I suggest using the lesson in one of the first lessons of the year in order to get the students thinking about their oral proficiency, and to make them aware of the different techniques and strategies available for effective learning.

I have included the lesson plan and the PowerPoint for you to use with your classes. The link to the student Self-Assessment Google Form is in Task 3 in the lesson plan itself.

I hope you and your students enjoy the lesson as much as I did.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.

Bullying – A Unit of Speaking Activities

Bullying is brutal. It always has been, and probably always will be an issue that too many children and teenagers have to deal with, both at school and now, due to cyber-bullying, at any time and in any place. I created this lesson after seeing a short JuBafilm – A Piece of Chalk – whilst invigilating a 12th grade Cinema Studies class.

The speaking booklet, that I have been using with my 10th grade ‘Keep Talking’ class, has a whole unit devoted to the topic of bullying, so I simply adapted that unit to incorporate ideas that were raised by the film. This 4 lesson unit plan includes a mix of speaking activities: two oral presentations, and another short film – Listen to Me – which deals with the concepts of stereotypes and bullying. The lesson plans are aimed at students from both intermediate and proficiency levels (CEFR levels B1 – C1). I have provided suggested times, however, the lessons may need more or less time depending on the class.

I have included the lesson plan and the PowerPoint for you to use with your classes.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.

Travelling – Destination Unknown (a double ‘Speaking’ lesson)

As I continue to work with my 10th grade students in the new ‘Keep Talking’ programme, I have created two lesson plans to supplement the approved speaking booklets. The lessons may be used to supplement the travel units, in each of the books, or as a standalone ‘speaking’ unit. The lesson plans are aimed at students from both intermediate and proficiency levels (CEFR levels A2/B1 – C1). I have provided suggested times, however, the lessons may need more or less time depending on the class.  My overarching objective in this course is to get the students speaking in pairs and small groups, and to make sure they both increase their lexis and their confidence, in a fun and engaging learning environment.

I have included the lesson plan and the PowerPoint for you to use with your classes.

I hope you and your students enjoy the lesson as much as I did.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.

It’s Friday I’m in Love – The Cure

A song to get students speaking!

Speaking is the most challenging of the four skills to teach in large heterogeneous classes. As speaking is interactive and demands an almost instant response, the pressure to ‘perform’ is often overwhelming for students.

With this in mind I created a fun lesson plan based on the famous song ‘It’s Friday I’m in Love’ by The Cure. Not one of my 10th grade students knew the song but they all quickly ‘fell in love’ with it.

My aim was to get the students speaking and using the lexical chunks from the song. However, to my amazement they quickly began singing the song, and asked me to play it again and again.

I have included the lesson plan and the PowerPoint for you to use with your classes.

I hope you and your students enjoy the lesson as much as I did.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.

‘The Seven Year Itch’ and ELT

7-year-itchAfter seven years in ELT management I decided that I need to live the life that I want to live and not just continue doing what I had been doing for the last seven years, just because of the ‘conditions and status’,  or because that is what everybody expected me to do.  My resignation from the Open University surprised everybody, but for me it meant going back to teaching, to learning and to working directly with teenagers.

On 30 August I rolled up to the pre-teaching in-service day at my new school feeling both excited and nervous. Those feelings were personified two days later when I stood at the door of my first class, waiting for the students to stand. How would they perceive me? Would they behave? Would they understand me? Would they participate in the speaking tasks? How was I going to remember all of their names?  I was full of doubts, but as soon as I stepped into the room, greeted the class and started off with a ‘Getting to know you’ icebreaker, those initial doubts evaporated. I left the room feeling energized and excited to be back in my own classroom, after a seven year gap.

Since then I have had a few great lessons, many ordinary lessons and some less than good lessons. Following each lesson I reflect on what went well, what could I have done differently, and did I actually meet the learning aims that I had set? I often think to myself, if I were observing this class I might have asked the teacher why she corrected that particular mistake and interrupted the student’s fluency, or, why didn’t she scaffold the task better, or had she noticed that boy in the back row, who was on his phone under the desk, during most of the speaking task.

I used to think…. But now I think… 

I used to think that if I am the best teacher I can be and plan my lessons really well, the students will respond accordingly. But I now think that this isn’t always enough.

I used to think that if I integrate technology effectively to enhance the learning outcomes, the students will be motivated and engaged. But I now think, that sometimes this is true, but quite often, it is not.

I used to think that through my teacher training I could have an impact on so many more students than I could in the classroom myself. But I now think that there is nothing more satisfying than engaging with the students themselves, in a large classroom, with all its challenges, and seeing everybody engaged and on task.

It is good to be back.



Kung Fu Panda 3 – Grade 6 lesson plan 4 the end of the year

The end of the school year is Coming Soon, so here is a lesson for you to try with your students. As in previous years (2015 –The Happy Lesson, 2014 – The Way Back Home) I went into my son’s English class and gave a lesson.  This year I chose to use the Kung Fu Panda 3 movie trailer, to provide the students with an engaging and fun lesson which would both be accessible for all learners, and challenging for the more advanced students, whilst encouraging students to work in groups.

My son’s class were very excited about the lesson, they particularly enjoyed the Quizlet vocabulary set that I had prepared, and within the limited time created some cute Compare and Contrast Panda posters.

I have included the lesson plan and the PowerPoint for you to use with your classes.

I hope you and your students enjoy the lesson as much as I did.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below.




The Past, The Present and The Future @The National Library of Israel

library 6

“What is a book?  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary it is “a set of printed sheets of paper that are held together inside a cover.”

At this year’s ETAI winter event more than 50 English teachers were taken on a book discovery tour through the impressive National Library of Israel, in Jerusalem. The 120 year old library has a collection of more than 5,000,000 books, 2000 manuscripts, 700 personal archives and 30,000 hours of recordings which are available to the public, at no cost.

As a consequence of my experience I would like to share with you ’10 things I now know about the National Library of Israel’:

  1. The map room houses the most significant Holy Land maps’ collection in the world
  2. The Ardon Windows (pictured) represent Isaiah’s vision of eternal peace
  3. The oldest book in the museum is a Koran, dating back to the ninth century
  4. Israel’s ‘Book Law’ requires  two copies of all printed matter published in Israel to be deposited in the national library
  5. The museum is divided into 4 major collections: Judaica, Israel, Islam & the Middle East and the  Humanities
  6. Gershom Scholem loved to write notes in the margins of his books, which can be seen in the Gershom Scholem Library (comprising 35,000 items related to the Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism and Hassidism)
  7. ‘Ephemeral’ means transient or short-lived
  8. The Time Travel and European Ephemeral collections are made up of  letters, tickets, posters, postcards etc., and provide a rich resource of life and culture that can be used for engaging our students in the English classroom
  9. The library has an educational partnership with the UK,  available via an online site, and  includes lesson plans and worksheets for use in British classrooms, which could be relevant to our English language classrooms in Israel
  10. The National Library has a resource rich Facebook page in English which is regularly updated, and  provides authentic materials for English teaching.

So why should English teachers teach with Primary Resources? Karen Ettinger, Project Manager for Education at the NLI, explained that primary resources are motivating, relevant, make use of authentic material, enable students to practice 21 century skills, exercise their critical thinking and research skills, whilst connecting them with their past. So if you want to do some, or all of the above I strongly recommend a trip, either physical or virtual, to the National Library of Israel.

Thank you to all of the National Library staff who took us on a journey which made me think differently about the role of the library in the English language classroom today.

The Happy Lesson

happy collage It is always fun for a DOS to get back into the classroom and give a lesson to a class of young learners. Once a year I go into my son’s class and give them a lesson that aims to engage the students, use all four skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) encourage group work and integrate technology.

Today’s lesson did all of the above in only 45 minutes. Pharrell Williams’  ‘Happy’ song was the inspiration. The students loved the Muzzy ‘Word Play’ website and were excited to see their class poem come alive literally on the screen in from of them.

I have included here the powerpoint, the lesson plan, the worksheet and the video clips for you to use.

When I asked the students why I am happy in the fourth slide, one of the students said “Because you finished the marathon.” Another student said: “Because of your man.”

Both answers were correct.

The Happy Lesson Plan

The Happy Lesson Worksheet

I hope you too enjoy ‘The Happy Lesson”.

The Red Rabbit generates the Tower of Babel

Red Rabbit from Egmont Mayer on Vimeo.

The room is set up with chairs in clusters of 4, with some facing the screen and some facing away from the screen. The guest lecturer is standing in the room as the Dialog language teachers start entering the room. Within seconds they have started moving the chairs into rows and there is little that can be done to stop them. They are expecting a lecture and are deaf to the pleas to leave the chairs as they are. Learning point – tell participants before they enter the room that they are not to move the seats, as they have been arranged in a specific formation, for a reason.

Leo Selivan, of Leoxicon, is ready to start but is struggling to be heard over the noise of 55 teachers chattering excitedly in 10 languages. Suddenly the room is silent and Leo has their attention. Leo opens the session with a discussion around the use of videos in the classroom, with a particular focus on the possibilities of generating language from silent movies. The teachers are interested but not yet convinced. Leo asks the teachers to organise themselves into language groups of up to four per group, with one person per group facing the screen and the others with their backs to the screen. The task is for the ‘watchers’ to describe what they see on the screen, while the other members of the group listen carefully and try to understand the plot unfolding, on the screen that they can’t see. After 2:46 minutes Leo stops the movie and asks the teachers to swap places, the ‘watchers’ are now the ‘listeners’, and the ‘ listeners’ are now the ‘watchers’. The narrative continues…

As the teachers listened, described, questioned, gestured and laughed aloud, I wondered around the room enraptured by the cacophony of languages being heard. This was organised chaos, and it was exciting. The descriptions of the ‘Red Rabbit’ that I could identify in so many languages, including Spanish, German, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Italian, French and English was akin to what I imagine it might be like at the United Nations. As I looked across the room I was clearly aware that the teachers were engaged and on task. The scene created was reminiscent of the story of the Tower of Babel, though this time the tower was the Red Rabbit, and the goal was to generate language rather than reach the heavens.

Four months later and the activity has been tried in a number of Dialog classes in multiple languages. An English teacher reported that one student in a pre-intermediate class was so excited by the experience, and refused to let his language limit his narrative, that as he gestured wildly he shouted; “Oh it is a big, big rabbit. It is a Rabbit Rabbit!”(Doubling a word in Hebrew, is a common way of emphasising something.) A Spanish teacher used the activity with her pre-intermediate class, and stated that though her students really enjoyed the activity they were frustrated by their limited vocabulary, she told me that she now realises that she should have pre-taught the requisite vocabulary. Reflection par excellence!

As English teachers you’re probably not trying to create the Tower of Babel but I strongly suggest using this activity, and the others Leo shares in his blog, “Not a word was spoken (but many were learned), with your learners for a fun, interactive and challenging learning experience.