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I really, really, hate board pens.

This morning the ^above^ happened to me. I am getting a bit pissed off with board pens, as this is about the 4th shirt that has been splattered by pen ink in the past couple of years. Bummer =(

But was I gonna let this get me down? Was I heck!

It just lead me down an unplugged path for 2 hours of class this afternoon, with the cherry of focused exam practice for FCE Speaking Part 2 roped in at the end (dear dogme gods, we could have spent the lesson doing practice Reading papers – boring! – so don’t smite me down).

We started with the Teaching Unplugged activity ‘A problem shared…’ (reference below), at the start of which I proceeded to tell my students how annoyed I was by my exploding board pen! They gave me some advice:

Just throw it away!

You could go to Primark and buy a new one…


They then thought of a situation or person that was bothering them and shared these in pairs, then giving each other advice. Some were banal – ‘I don’t think I have money enough to buy clothes to go to Portugal’ – while another student told something a bit more serious about trouble with her host family. Lovely language emerged and we talked this over, highlighting 2 ways to give advice – the imperative verb form and modal verbs of possibility (You could do this… You should do that…).

One piece of advice (about saving money) made us laugh…


…so I put the class into two groups to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of following such a piece of advice. I then borrowed the initial writing technique I saw on Alan’s blog to elicit some well known phrases to do with money. See if you can guess the two below…


I was pleasantly surprised when they got them both =)

Discussion ensued for a bit, and I then used the initial writing in reverse to test their memories of what had been written on the board.

I shoe-horned in a bit of exam prep at the end, but in a slightly different way than usual. I took a couple of pictures in our college library and language lab before the lesson:

This was followed by my adap of the FCE Speaking part 2 task – where candidates have to compare and contrast two pictures on a related theme, and answer a question. Instead of giving them the full picture, I took a leaf out of Ceri’s book and asked them to imagine they had ‘stepped back’ from the close-up and then widened their view – what could they see happening in the library and lab? I then gave them the task – compare and contrast and say what people can learn in each of these places.

As a round up of the lesson, I asked the students to write down three words or phrases they had learnt during the lesson. I think I better check my instruction-giving, as what I got back were useful, interesting, fun… adjectives describing the lesson! Oh well not going to complain about that.


Initial impressions by Alan Tait

Unleashing the power of images, IATEFL Brighton 2011, workshop by Ceri Jones

‘A problem shared…’ p39, Teaching Unplugged, Meddings and Thornbury, Delta Publishing (2009)