Spring poems – lesson plan

It's a smell of grass in dew...

I’m not a fan of ready-made lesson plans. I used to be, but the more apps I use, the more into games I am, the less ready-made lesson plans I follow. I appreciate them immensely, though, when I need to cover one of the topics I quite dislike, namely, environment.

I don’t know why, really, but, ecological as I try to be, I simply can’t stand the topic. I think everyone has their quirks – and having class about environment usually bores me to death.

Thinking about death, now, give me topic about crime and I’ll give you a great lesson on the go!

Fortunately, the book we’re covering with my teenage group (Activate B1) had the chapter about environment scheduled for the end of April, so I decided to mix it with Earth Day (22nd April) and to try to come up with something interesting – both for me and my students. So I got inspired by Twinkl and went with writing a poem, especially that it was a nice revision of vocabulary connected with senses (something we had covered a while before) and reminded them of the time we started writing poems together.

I don’t usually share lesson plans, but I want to show how combining two various sources may help create something unusual and bring some wow effect to the classroom.

Botanic Garden by Ola

Aim: to revise vocabulary connected with nature, senses and to practice comparative and superlative forms

Level: B1 and higher

Time: around 45-60 minutes

Materials: I used Twinkl and its Earth Day Amazing Poetry Activity Pack, although I only chose two sheets (MA and HA).

Task: As a warm-up activity I chose HA sheet and used it to revise vocabulary connected with nature and senses, which took about 15-20 minutes of pairwork and comparing the results.

Then I used MA sheet to practice metaphors and comparative structures. I gave some examples and asked students to work in pairs and come up with their own metaphors filling in the blanks in the sheet, which took another 15-20 minutes.

To my students’ surprise I asked them to write their own poems about nature – I shared some ideas like water, morning, snow, forest etc. I let them work either individually or in pairs, as I realize not every teenager feels like being a poet – for the same reason I only gave them 15 minutes of writing. I don’t think they realised that they would be able to write something creative and even vaguely reminding a piece of poetry, so they were really surprised when I collected their projects and read them out loud: it turned out they actually wrote quite passable poems!

It was one of those breakthroughs when learners of a foreign language realise they can achieve something they never would have even dreamed of. They were pretty proud of themselves, so I decided to make a souvenir to celebrate the occasion.

As a surprise, I rewrote the poems into nice Canva projects, printed them out and decorated school with them. My students were surprised in a really nice way, and as cherry on top there was our parent-teacher meeting which I could brighten even more by showing artsy stuff the kids were working on – come holidays, I’ll give the posters to the authors as an example of things they’ve achieved this year.

Alternatively, I would encourage students to make their own Canva projects and share them with me, but I think they’ll be more willing to do this after they’ve seen how cool their project work may look like.

Lightning by Franek and Kuba

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Make your own e-book with Storybird

storybird-design-screen

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When I was a teenager (ghastly times) my English lessons were mainly focused on following the book with a sprinkle of additional exercises (unforgettable drills by Thomson and Martinett). If I were to admit why I got to like this language I’d have to say a huge thank you to my primary school teacher who decided I should take part in an English contest and spent long hours teaching me actual communication. I didn’t win, but it was enough for me to look past the boring school classes and remember there’s more to learning a language.

I’m really annoyed by the fact that classes today – in ordinary schools – happen to look pretty much the same. It’s probably one of the reasons I gave up on the state educational system and decided to work with language schools, where I can experiment, bring new ideas, broaden horizons (both mine and my students) and put actual fun into our classes. This year I’ve started using Padlet (so far so good!), but there’s a tiny little project I’m planning to use once my students feel bored and will need a spark of creativity – Storybird.

I came across this website and just thought ooh, looks nice, I’ll give it a go… and disappeared for a few hours just to come back with a picture book about cats (duh, obviously). How come I haven’t seen this wonder earlier? This is my own story. Not about me, mind, I just saw some kitten pics and, well…

I might look lonely – enjoy 🙂

Naturally, the curse of a teacher made me think of how I could put Storybird into good use in the classroom. Here’s what I came up with:

Traditional use: Let’s Make a Story! – we can use the platform as an individual or group project when we’re discussing things like storytelling. Students register on the platform and make their own story. The great advantage here is that an account is free both for students and teachers, but there is an option of adding parents so they can observe progress their prodigy make. We can also start a story in the classroom, students will come up with its development, then choose the best one – we put the chosen one as a continuation, read it aloud and ask students to continue, and so on – to make it more of a class project.

Parental control may be a great thing in My Own Dictionary project – here Storybird is a tool for students to make their own dictionary of the words/phrases they tend to forget. Ideally students would add a word or two after every lesson to make it a really nice thing (let’s say, one page of words would be one month of learning). The best thing about this project is the possibility of printing out their dictionaries as a form of a course accomplishment.

The last idea I had about this adorable site was using it as a form of a webpage – choose a particular theme (cookbook? short stories? urban legends? favourite things?) and, as the whole group, collaborate by writing one page about the topic given. It’s a nice way to practise traditional writing – definitely looks less boring!

Also, in my next post I will give you a nice idea which topic you can choose to make a nice book – stay tuned!

I hope you’ll like these ideas, and if you want a short tutorial on how to work with Storybird – here it is.

Enjoy!

“First writing” tips

Writing can be one of the most tiresome endeavours of a student – can you recall your own papers, compositions, etc? Surely, not the funniest part of learning 🙂 My language teachers assumed I was able to write a nice story, so they never bothered to teach me how to write. Only at university did I learn what a topic sentence is 🙂

I see no reason not to pass the knowledge further on and teach some writing techniques to my own students. I’ve realised that the sooner they get the basics, the better their writing compositions are.

I think you can start even with elementary students, doing some exercises. Here, I wrote a simple sentence and asked my students to expand it by adding words and phrases. That’s what we got:

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On my last lesson, with my pre-intermediate group of teenagers, I explained what a topic sentence is and we decided to make a short outline of a story using only simple topic sentences. That’s what we got:

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Next, we thought about what exactly we are going to include in the paragraphs. We could do it together, deciding to write one story with the same plot and details, but at that moment my students started to grow their own ideas, so we just made a general outline:

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And then, I asked them to write down some keywords and phrases. It’s a pre-intermediate level, so it’s not too crazy 🙂 but on the more advanced levels I ask my students to add 2-3 items of sophisticated vocabulary, some phrasal verbs, an idiom or two, maybe a proverb. We tend to forget all those nice words while writing (especially on a test), but planning – and writing down – ideas, before we start writing, is a really good idea.

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That’s the final outline.

Next, I asked my students to elaborate the topic sentences the way we did during these simple exercises (like the one in the first photo). That’s how I’m able to monitor their work 🙂

Writing a full story (based on the outline, naturally) is their homework.

Since I include a short essay/composition on every test, I give my students more time to deal with this part, but I ask them to write not only the complete task, but also the process – topic sentences, ideas, keywords. It helps me to observe their progress and help them in those aspects they struggle with.

I hope you’ll find the idea worth giving it a try 🙂

(Thank you, group Washington, a.k.a. LeniweBuły, for your cooperation 😉 )