Internet Language Exercises
Procedure--Download ManyThings.Org, Dave's ESL Cafe, and Tower of English and then develop
a) a structured grammar tutorial for lower level students and
b) an intermediate functional lesson where students would have
maximum opportunity for communicative output.
Level--High intermediate to advanced.
Skills--Reading and writing (if the exercise is done individually);
all four skills if the exercise is done in group.
Purpose--Problem solving; can also work on comparison-contrast if the
students are asked to evaluate the sites.
Web Related Follow-Up Task--You can have them evaluate the sites and make suggestions for
improvements; for example, adding or deleting material.
This encourages comparison-contrast development.
Comments--This exercise was used with fourth year university
education majors (English teachers in training) and predicates
a fairly good command of language and rhetoric. However, it
has the advantage of working simultaneously on language, content (methodology),
and computer skills.
Procedure--Download three newspaper databases:
Newslink, Newspapers.Com, and OnlineNewspapers.Com.
First describe the sites (content and graphics), then compare and contrast
(along differing criteria).
Level--Low intermediate and up
Purpose--To develop command of description and comparison-contrast
Web Related Follow-Up Task--To evaluate the sites on a personal basis and
determine which database is most suitable--i.e., "which and why"?
Comments--This exercise was done successfully with second
and third year communications majors. Again, it serves the purpose of simultaneously
working on language, content, and computer skills. Since journalism reflects a "mirror
of society, " it can be used for a wide range of student types, and since it can treat
development from description through cause/effect, it can be used with a reasonable
range of student skill levels.
Procedure--Download Earthcam. "Explore"
the earthcams from at least three countries, then answer the following questions:
Where did you go? What did you see?
Skills--Reading and writing (if exercise is done individually);
all four skills if exercise is done in group.
Purpose--To combine student's ability to order sequentially
and spatially; that is, to develop both narrative and
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Further exploration and description of the webcam site.
Comments--This exercise is a great motivator, because it's so
interesting--the web cams are located all over the world and reload
every 15 seconds to 15 minutes. Especially popular is
Africam, which places cameras at African watering holes--if
you are lucky, you can actually see wild animals at the hole.
A big plus here is that the exercise, being quite simple, is accessible
to young and lower-level students.
Procedure--Download Daily Lesson Plan from the New York Times and
Instant Lessons from English-to-Go Both of these sites offer online lesson plans for young students,
but the plans they offer differ in many respects--
write two paragraphs contrasting the differences between the two sites.
Skills--Reading and writing
Purpose--To exercise the student's ability to develop comparison/contrasts
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Have the students evaluate each site for a particular profile
of learner or have the students revise or improve the sites
Comments--Very useful for teachers-in-training and for those who are
looking for independent, self-access learning.
This company has, so far, been the leader in online book sales, more than doubling the customer
base of its nearest competitors. As you surfed this site, what reasons could you
gather for their success? Based on examining its web site, why do you think it
appeals to so many customers? Two paragraphs, please.
Skills--Reading and writing
Purpose--To exercise the student's ability to develop cause/effect
Web Related Follow-Up Task--A comparison and contrast of Amazon and other online bookstores
(Check my Education-al page)
Comments--Nothing like putting them in the "real world."
Maybe they'll buy a book or buy some of the stock.
Procedure--Check my Media page and download one newspaper
from the "Selected Newspapers" section. Choose one article of local
interest; that is, if you choose the South China Morning Post, choose an article
about Hong Kong, not the United States or Europe. Prepare a brief report
on the contents of that article in class.
Purpose--To give the student practice in descriptive development,
paraphrasing, summary, scanning, skimming, and the sub-skills of pronunciation and diction
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Look at an international story in two
newspapers, and analyze how each newspaper treats the story differently.
Comment--Good for generating interest in "the global village."
The follow-up task is difficult and demands a solid command of English.
Clear, unambiguous directions, and a fundamental review of the
concepts of point of view and editorial treatment facilitate the
Procedure--Go to Surfing The Net With Kids.
Go to the [Geography and Social Studies] section. Divide students into groups
and have them report on either a particular country; ex: China, or a feature (present or past)
of a country; ex: the Berlin Wall in Germany.
The groups will then give a detailed report in class.
Purpose--to combine content learning (geography, history, anthropology)
with descriptive development.
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Go to my Travel page and download Lonely Planet,
Frommers, and Fodors. Check the entries for your chosen country and see
how you could supplement the information found in More Virtual Travel From World Surfari.
Basically, expand and improve the country profile in More Virtual Travel From World Surfari.
Comment--Hey, you might as well have your students learn about the world as
well as English.
Procedure--Download ESPN Choose a short article
recapping a football, basketball, or baseball game. Write a precis or summary of the game
based on thearticle. Deliver the summary orally in class.
Skills--Reading, writing, speaking
Purpose--to develop summary skills; to develop formal speech presentation,
pronunciation and diction sub-skills.
Web Based Follow-Up Task--Choose a newspaper off my Media page and replicate
this exercise with a news story.
Comment--This exercise can be treated as a role play (the student as sports announcer)
or as a formal speaking presentation. The sports module is a bit more popular with males; hence my
web based follow-up task.
Procedure--Download Top Secret Recipes. Choose
a recipe that piques your interest--download the recipe and develop
an oral presentation instructing classmates how to make the dish.
Skills--Reading, writing, speaking
Purpose--To develop process organization as well as converting informational
data (recipe) to discourse (presentation); to practice pronunciation and
Web Based Follow-Up Task--Assign students to purchase individual ingredients;
as a group activity, prepare the dish.
Comment--Group activities are popular with most students. Sometimes it's a
hassle finding ingredients for exotic dishes.
Procedure-- Download Movies.Com,
Rolling Stone, and Reel Radio Repository. Evaluate these sites based on the
I. Download Speed
A. Easy to get around the site?
A. Feedback link
B. Other participatory software
Once you have done the evaluation, you will make an oral presentation citing, with support,
the strong and weak points of the site. You are encouraged to summarize your
results at the end and, you are allowed to add personal opinion (at the end).
Skills--Reading, writing, speaking, listening
Purpose--This is an analytical exercise which forces students to make value
judgements and support those judgements with details, description, examples, or
facts and statistics. Secondary aims include expressing personal opinion, following outlines,
and reinforcing their "summarizing" skills.
Web Based Follow-Up Task--If they present orally, have them write it up,
if it's a written evaluation, have them present it orally.
Comments--It combines the web and glitzy multi-media websites, a surefire
winner with today's youth. Yet, it also makes some serious language
demands on the students. Initially used with my communications majors.
Procedure--For this exercise, it is advisable to do some pre-teaching discussion to
stimulate interest and "predictive" skills, and to equip the students with some basic vocabulary
associated with retail promotion, e.g., pricing, selection, service after the sale, guarantee,
quality, convenience, layaway, installment plan (individual teachers can develop their own lists).
Have the students look at any of the following department-catalog store sites:
The students have to pick one store and then write an advertisement
promoting the store. The students will have to make conscious decisions as to what
they want to emphasize; they will have apply the advertising maxim, "accentuate the
positive, subordinate the negative." To do this, they will have to understand the major
elements of retail marketing--price, range and selection, quality, service, convenience, etc.
Purpose--Like Exercise ten, this exercise involves some analytical decisionmaking--
its purpose is to elicit both descriptive and persuasive writing.
Web Based Follow-Up Task--If the students can handle this exercise effectiveley,
have them each take a different online bookstore and write an ad for the bookstore--let fellow
students judge which ad is most effective (persuasive)
Comments--This exercise looks deceptively easy--write an ad. But persuasive writing is a
high level skill, so students should have at least an intermediate level of English.
The web based follow-up task can often elicit elaborate ads with graphics added--so much
the better, the more engaged they are, the more successful the exercise. Especially
appropriate for students interested in communications, business, or marketing.
Pre-Lesson Procedure--Sit down and brainstorm for a while about a) what
type of work interests you and b) what type of work you are qualified to
do. Just relax, pop open a beer or a soda, don't be afraid to organize your thoughts
by listing them or outlining them.
Procedure--Check my Jobs Worldwide page and spend several minutes
examining the different job boards. Choose a suitable board or boards to
do your "job search." Select an appropriate job opening and write an
application letter asking for an interview. Be sure to include the
following in the letter:
a) a formal introduction of yourself
b) a brief overview of your history and qualifications
c) a brief statement on why you are a good choice to fill the job and/or
how you can benefit the company or organization if they hire you
d) a direct request for an interview
e) a contact address, phone number, fax, or e-mail
Purpose--To hone proper rhetorical style in composing job
application letters; to hone effective persuasive development
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Develop a resume to send
with the letter. The resume should include: name, address,
contact number, educational background, work
experience, hobbies or interests.
The lesson can be expanded to include listening and
speaking (in subsequent classes) by doing role play or
simulation work in pairs--job interviewers, job interviewees
Comment--Practical, real-world work that tends to be highly
motivating (for upper intermediate-advanced students) precisely
because of its pragmatic nature--an overwhelming percentage of the
students will need job search skills during their lifetime
--An Example of Integrating Skills--
STEP ONE: Directions; have several students repeat or write on board
STEP TWO: Open ended question generated from a topic, e.g.,
tape, article, realia, student attitudes, opinions, etc.
STEP THREE: Discussion of topic in pairs working towards a solution
to a problem generated by the teacher
STEP FOUR: Writing a paragraph individually
STEP FIVE: Correcting each paragraph, then exchanging with partner
and correcting, then choosing one of the two
STEP SIX: Exchanging paragraph with another pair
STEP SEVEN: Correcting and returning to owners
STEP EIGHT: Writing on board or presenting orally
Step One: Listening, speaking, reading
Step Two: Depends on teacher, topic, and how topic is generated
Step Three: Speaking, listening
Step Four: Writing
Step Five: Reading X 2
Step Six: None
Step Seven: Reading
Step Eight: Reading, speaking, listening
Step One: Listening-thinking (because task will be performed)
Step Two: Thinking-predictive skills
Step Three: Thinking-speaking; Listening-thinking
(because a task is being performed, info is being exchanged;
solution or answer is desired)
Step Four: Thinking while writing since content and
structure will be presented and/or judged
Step Five: Thinking while reading since correction
and editing are required
Step Six: Nil
Step Seven: Thinking while reading since correction and
editing are required
Step Eight: Thinking while reading since editing is required;
(recursive x number of students)
Getting the Meaning from Context
Are your students slaves to their dictionaries?
Want to encourage them to "work out"
new vocabulary meaning without disrupting their reading process?
Getting the meaning from context has long been classified as a type 2 (higher level)
reading skill, but what exactly does that mean? Simply that English (as well as
most other languages) restates the meaning and, in other ways, gives clues
to the meaning of newly introduced vocabulary. Learning to recognize these
"discourse markers and patterns" can help students naturally comprehend meaning
without interrupting their reading--context clues can take many forms:
I. Sense of Sentence or Schematic Context Clues
1) He has many bulls, as well as sheep, on his
2) It has been a bull stock market for five years, so he has made a lot of money.
Here comprehending surrounding language (sense
of sentence) lets
the reader know that the first "bull" is a noun associated with animals
and a ranch. The second "bull" is an adjective associated with the
stock market and making money. Based on these determinations, a reader
can make a reasonable interpretation or at least a good guess at
what each "bull" means.
II. Synonym Context Clues
1) Szechuan cooking, a cuisine of Western China,
is very hot and spicy.
2) Hard currency--or currrency that is freely traded around the world--
is the type of currency favored by international businessmen.
Here the meaning of the word is restated through
a synonym or
synonomous definition. These synonym context clues are often
set off by dashes, commas, parentheses, and the conjunction "or."
III. Example Context Clues
1) Szechuan dishes, for instance, hot and sour
soup, are popular in Taiwan.
2) The smaller Western European countries, such as Andorra, Liechtenstein,
and Luxembourg, are underrepresented in the European Union.
The example context clues give an example of
what the word or term refers
to--hot and sour soup is a Szechuan dish; Andorra, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg
are small Western European Countries.
IV. Antonym Context Clues
1) Large urban areas, not the countryside, are
associated with high crime rates.
2) "Binging" is the condition whereby people consume a great amount of food
and drink--the opposite of binging is fasting.
Here the opposite definition, or antonym, helps
to define the target
word or term.
V. Stated or Stipulated Definition
1) The use of minimal pairs--words that
differ in only one phoneme or sound--
is quite popular in the teaching of pronunciation.
2) Situational ethics (a condition defined as acts that are morally evaluated
within a situational context rather than by application of moral absolutes) has
been under constant criticism by conservatives in the United States.
Here an unfamiliar term, or jargon, is often defined for the reader
I use "nonsense" words to help my students
get the meaning from
context. Using nonsense words eliminates the possibility of
them knowing the word. Here are ten sentences I gave an
intermediate group of students. I simply asked them
to define the italicized word.
1) The party is a glibbet party--everybody is welcome.
2) Bikfu drinkers are social drinkers; that is, they don't drink habitually.
3) The kickapoo in the fifth race was the
who rode the winner in the first race.
4) You wear mismatched socks and pants that don't
you really are a willoby dresser.
5) An "A" on the test, an acceptance to graduate
school, and a
job offer--things are really jimmying up for me.
6) I love active pursuits like sports and exercise,
but Dave likes a logodopanous lifestyle.
7) It's better to be polokative about problems
to just ignore them.
8) Why did you flange him--to gently criticize
would have been better.
9) The huevos, or eggs, are good today.
10) Thousands of fish have mipided because
increasing pollution in the rivers.
Pre-Teaching Review--Review theses statements and topic sentences, specifically,
what their purpose is and where they are often located in passages.
Procedure--Go to my Media Page and choose a newspaper. Look at
five, preferably brief, articles and try to determine the main ideas of the articles.
Remember, the main idea of the article is contained in topic sentences in
short articles and in theses statements in longer articles such as editorials
and news analysis articles. You can either isolate the topic sentence or state
the main idea in your own words.After you do this, look at the title of the
article and rewrite it to still reflect the main idea.
Purpose--To develop an understanding, both active and passive,
of topics and main ideas.
Web Related Follow-Up Task--Repeat with a different newspaper,
choosing longer articles.
Comment--Topic and main idea recognition constitute
the main aspects of comprehension.
Procedure--This exercise is ideal for a class
that has a relatively equal number of male and female students.
Divide the class, males on one side, females on the other side.
First, give the males the following situation:
you are on a deserted island and will have to spend the rest of your life there.
To make your life easier, you have the choice of one of the following four options:
1) 24 hour/day broadband internet service, 2) 24 hour/day high definition,
large screen satellite television with 120 worldwide stations,
3) your best male friend, 4) a beautiful woman who you don't get along with.
Second, give the females the following situation:
you are on a deserted island and will have to spend the rest
of your life there. To make your life easier,
you have the choice of one of the following four options:
1) 24 hour/day broadband internet service, 2) 24 hour/day high definition,
large screen satellite television with 120 worldwide stations,
3) your best female friend, 4) a handsome man who you don't get along with.
Students make choices anonymously, on a piece of paper,
making sure to specify their gender. Results are then written on the board,
and gender differences and similarities can be discussed.
Skills--Listening. This activity can be adapted to pairs
and small groups, which would include more of a speaking component
Purpose--This activity is a variation on the old
"values clarification" approach--it is designed as much
to stimulate thinking as it is to practice language skills
Follow-Up Task--You can do this with different groups of
students and compare results, or you could
collect reasons for choices from volunteer
students. A third task would be to discuss
strengths and weaknesses of each choice.
Comments--This exercise is designed for mature students, adult and up.
The satellite tv choice is not always a good option--some students
come from cultures where it is not common,
and some students feel there is overlap between the internet
and dish tv. Something like a large screen movie theater with unlimited movies
may be better. You could look at the options as representing four
competing desires--information, entertainment, companionship, intimacy.
The exercise is really a bit of fun, designed to get the
students thinking. It's particularly useful for a group of mature
students who are in the middle of a slow moving, uninspiring class.
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