Here comes an April set of 5 budding lesson ideas:
- HEY, FUTURE YOU! – based on postcards students write to their future … selves
- HEADLINES FROM THE FUTURE – based on a site forecasting the news of the future
- THINK WRONG – inspired by Facebook’s “slogan factory”: the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory
- TALK TO MY … AI – inspired by IBM Watson’s personality analyzer
- KNOCK, KNOCK – a complete lesson plan from Story Barrio, inspired by this lady
They come with a sunny promise of spring approaching and apologies for a slight delay :)
Scroll down, explore the budding lessons and tweak them … in the bud. Please let me know what works and what needs a major makeover.
See you in a month with a brand new set of budding lessons!
HEY, FUTURE YOU!
A personalised writing activity (revision or practice or exam prep)
Minimal level: A2
Language focus: up to you
This idea adds a personal touch and a thrill of adventure to your regular writing practice.
It was inspired by this postbox with a message, which I came across (and took advantage of!) during a conference in Dublin.
Not a new idea perhaps but it struck a chord with me. The postcard I wrote to myself is expected to reach me in 12 months. And here is how the idea can translate into a lesson.
BEFORE THE LESSON
- Depending on your lesson aims, decide on a language-driven aim (e.g. have students review a set of lexical items before a test; get them to use the target grammar point during a freer writing practice activity; have them practise writing informal emails).
- Select a text type, depending on the students’ level and interests.
- Plan how you are going to deliver the messages to students and when (12 months may be too long).
THE MESSAGE-WRITING LESSON
- Set the context for a “Hey, future me!” writing task. Create an incentive. Get students excited about the prospect of receiving the message they write today in 2, 3 or 6 months from now.
- Provide clear instructions and a model text. Preferably, design a visually attractive template or have students design it themselves. See the clean design of these postcards:
- While students are writing, encourage them to ask all the questions that spring to mind to ensure that the message they come up with is as accurate as possible. At the same time, make sure students keep their messages personal and genuine.
- Have envelopes ready so students can keep their messages away from the prying eyes.
THE MESSAGE-OPENING LESSON
- Store the sealed messages until the deadline.
- Plan how to celebrate the message-opening part of the lesson. Here are some ideas:
- Students write the messages on the first day of the term and then open them in the final lesson. Focus on aims accomplishment or the progress they have made during the course (e.g. if preparing for a written exam).
- Students write the first message during the first major revision lesson. With each subsequent revision lesson, they open the message and add to it/refine it, each time using the newly acquired language.
- For grammar buffs: Students write the message early on in the course. Then when they open it, use this as an excuse to introduce reported speech (e.g. I thought…; I wondered…; I asked myself…; etc.).
HEADLINES FROM THE FUTURE
A grammar-rich lesson (based on forecasts of the near future)
Topics: future, progress, science, tech, innovation, media, news
Minimal level: C1
Language focus: more advanced structures to talk about the future, e.g.:
- Future Continuous
- Future Perfect
- Future Perfect Continuous
- definitely, surely, possibly + future forms
- be bound to + infinitive
- future time clauses
- only when … + inverted will
This is inspired by a news website forecasting the future: http://www.newsoffuture.com/
BEFORE THE LESSON
- Select some headlines/news bites from the website: http://www.newsoffuture.com/ Cover different walks of life. Add dates. Examples:
Space Trip – Christmas Present of the Year (December 15, 2030)
Euro Banknotes Invalid by Friday (September 26, 2040)
Now You Can Have Your Therapist 24/7 (September 1, 2040)
The World’s Largest Cross-Country Skirace Is Cancelled … Forever (August 8, 2025)
- Depending on your students’ level and time available, use as little or as much text as possible. Ideally, to promote extensive reading, send students online to select the 3 most intriguing headlines.
DURING THE LESSON
- Put the headlines with dates up on the walls around the room. Have students walk around in pairs and predict what each article says about the future. Time allowing, let students compare their guesses with the actual news bites.
- Using the grammar structures you want to focus on, paraphrase the headlines and use the marker sentences to clarify the target structures. Alternatively, encourage students to complete your gapped paraphrases and elicit the target structures. Examples:
By the end of 2040, banknotes and coins will have disappeared from the market.
Only when the major psychological associations back the project, will people get 24/7 access to AI therapists.
- For further (speaking) practice, have students use the target grammar points to discuss their answers to these questions:
Which of the forecasts seems the most/least likely? Why?
Which of the forecasts will be the most/least problematic to promote among the elderly? Why?
Which of the forecasts will have the most detrimental/positive effects? Why?
- Finally, let each pair of students choose one newsbite from the site. Based on the idea presented in the article, student A creates an optimistic vision of the future while Students B creates a highly pessimistic scenario. Both students use the target grammar to either make their mini-speeches or debate the issue in pairs.
A conversation-rich lesson (Business English or General English)
Topics: the social media, innovation, leadership, company culture, millennial entrepreneurs, modern workspaces, advertising, marketing, creativity
Minimal level: B1+
Language focus: up to you
- Give students some background info about the Facebook Analog Research Lab:
The Lab is a workshop at Facebook’s headquarters created to get the staff away from their computers. They can use the tools available in the Lab to make posters, booklets, T-shirts and other objects as long as these represent Facebook’s company culture. Groups of employees visit it on a weekly basis to create posters and objects with motivational messages that often are displayed in Facebook’s offices.
- Have students discuss the idea in 2 groups:
- Group A is in favour of the idea – they generate arguments in favour.
- Group B opposes the idea – they generate arguments against.
- Students work in mixed pairs (A+B) to discuss whether the Lab should be kept or closed. Give them selected quotes from this article about the Lab (see some examples below) to fuel the discussion. Encourage students to use the arguments brainstormed earlier in groups.
“The lab is partially intended as an outlet for the online-obsessed to work with their hands.”
“This analog antidote to the social network’s digital world underscores Facebook’s effort to avoid an identity crisis as it grows, and ensure its employees — whether there are 10 or 10,000 of them— are well-versed in its mission and values.”
“(The Lab is) the nerve center for the internal evangelism that shapes the company’s soul and a playground where Facebook’s employees can get offline.”
“(The Lab is) Facebook’s “secret propaganda arm.””
“(The Analog Research Lab is) trying to (…) stay true to the startup culture, hacker culture, that made Facebook successful all along …”
“When you make a book or make a poster, it’s a strong signal that this idea is worth paying attention to.”
“If people take ownership of their physical space, then they feel like they’re empowered and in control.”
- Get students to complete these slogans taken straight from Facebook’s office walls. Have them proceed in two steps:
Step 1: Students get into the shoes of Facebook employees to reflect that company’s culture.
Step 2: Students complete the slogans for their own company (real or imagined).
- Doubt …
- Think …
- What would you do if …?
- Fortune favours …
- Fail …
- … is better than …
- Begin …
- Likers gonna …
- The journey is …
- Students compare their ideas with the Facebook Lab’s original slogans and paraphrase each to work out the message behind them.
- Doubt your doubts.
- Think wrong.
- What would you do if weren’t afraid?
- Fortune favours the bold.
- Fail harder.
- Done is better than perfect.
- Begin anywhere.
- Likers gonna like.
- The journey is 1% finished.
- In groups, students discuss their answers to these questions:
- What do the slogans tell you about (i) Facebook’s company culture and (ii) your own company’s culture?
- To what extent is the Lab a propaganda tool in the hands of Facebook’s CEOs?
- What better/other ways of reinforcing the company’s culture and values in a modern company can you think of?
TALK TO MY … AI
A speaking & vocabulary lesson (based on a conversation with AI)
Topics: artificial intelligence, progress, future, technology, science, psychology/personality, teamwork, recruitment
Minimal level: B1+
Language focus: lexical chunks used in this text: http://www.ibmpersonalitee.com/personalities
Online tools: Students need access to mobile devices outside the classroom to have an online chat with Watson – an AI program developed by IBM. The chat is designed as a test which helps to define the student’s personality type. It is available here: http://www.ibmpersonalitee.com/
BEFORE THE LESSON
- Do the test yourself to see the scope of questions asked: http://www.ibmpersonalitee.com/
- Do not tell students anything about the 5 personality types.
- Get students to have an online chat with Watson: http://www.ibmpersonalitee.com/ Tell them to take notes of Watson’s questions and comments.
DURING THE LESSON
- Based on their own Watson test results, ask students to match these descriptions to the 5 personality types (See all the profiles here: http://www.ibmpersonalitee.com/personalities)
(1) … is a dedicated and loyal friend whose willingness to stand up for others makes people look to them as a trusted advisor. They have the ability to keep everyone together and on target.
(2) … is a person who, at their core, cares passionately about the human experience. They value empathy above all else and are often able to comprehend details that others completely miss. They take time to listen and respond accordingly.
(3) … is an “old soul”, relying on their past experiences to provide insight on what is coming next. They can answer all sorts of different questions with surprising accuracy and have a healthy attitude about life.
(4) … is constantly seeking new experiences. They are restless adventurers who are constantly finding wonder & curiosity in the world around them. They are unique and are rarely in the same place twice.
(5) … is an energetic individual who naturally captivates audiences. They are adept at bringing people together to work through problems and are a seemingly endless source of ideas.
- (1) Navigator
- (2) Connector
- (3) Mentor
- (4) Maverick
- (5) Dynamo
2. In pairs, students guess each other’s personality types.
3. Focus on the language: Select 6-8 phrases from the text and have students work out their meaning. Ask a few concept checking questions before you get students to activate the new lexis.
4. In new pairs, students discuss this scenario, activating the new vocabulary:
You are launching a new company. You need to hire a super efficient team of 3 people. You two will be in charge of the business but also take part in team projects. Before you start recruitment, decide which personality types you need on your team, apart from you.
5. In groups, students discuss these questions:
- How did it feel when you had an online conversation with AI?
- Do you trust its verdict?
- Should we allow AI to define human personality types? Why?/Why not?
- How can AI affect our future, as regards our (i) personal life and (ii) professional life?
- Who should monitor the development of AI worldwide and how?
NB: If your students need more input about AI, give students access to this info about artificial intelligence:
- 5 AI Trends To Know In 2018: CLICK HERE
- Artificial Intelligence Will Replace All Human Workers In The Near Future, Says AI Expert: CLICK HERE
- Infographic “AI and Opportunities” via @ipfconline1
A speaking/writing/vocabulary/reading lesson (story-rich)
Topics: dreams, plans, goals, risk-taking, life stages, crime
Minimal level: B1+
Language focus: lexis from this story, related to dreams coming true
Download the lesson plan and handout here. Have a closer look at these two activities which can be used outside this particular lesson:
- the 1-3-5 activity (writing)
- the 4 WHY questions activity (writing/speaking)
Photos: Jana Jedinak and Zoltan Tasi via unsplash.com
Featured image: Ryoji Hayasaka via unsplash.com