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Teaching Unplugged Activities (Part Two) | The Online English Teacher

Teaching Unplugged Activities (Part Two)

Talking about Feelings

In yesterday’s article, I introduced the ideas behind Teaching Unplugged and described some activities from the book, adapted for use by the online English teacher.


If we follow a coursebook, which almost all classroom students and many online students do, a student’s feelings are irrelevant to the lesson, but talking about your feelings, and reacting appropriately to those of others, is an important part of communication. Today’s activities are ways to encourage your student to talk about how they feel.

Ups and Downs

On an online whiteboard, sketch your mood across the previous couple of days, ideally showing some clear ups and downs. Here’s one I did on IDroo.


Tell your student that you are going to talk about your mood over the last two days, about the times you felt good or not so good, happy, sad or content, or just plain bored! Show them your ‘mood diagram’ and explain that it shows how you felt over the last couple of days. Ask your student to copy the diagram on to a piece of paper. Tell your student about your highs and lows as you go through the diagram and ask your student to make notes of the words you use on their copy of your diagram. Also explain the reasons behind your mood changes, and encourage your student to ask questions.

Now ask your student to draw their own mood diagram. Ask them to describe their mood diagram to you. Encourage and support, feeding in language where necessary and ask a few questions about their mood changes (or mood swings if your student is a teenager!)

To finish off, discuss the language your student used, both effective and less effective. You could also read out some words describing feelings, and ask your student if they are good feelings, bad feelings or somewhere in between. Possible words include: ecstatic, lousy, grumpy, bored, restless, delighted, fantastic, awful, dreadful, terrible, down, ok, so-so.

Good news, bad news

The next activity encourages your student to share their news, and use appropriate language to react to yours.

Make a note of two things that happened to you recently, one good and one bad. These should be relatively trivial since you don’t want your student to feel obliged to contribute something very exciting or unusual; after all, most of the time our news is pretty mundane anyway!

Tell your student about your good news, for example “I sold a copy of my eBook” or “I finally found a CD I’ve been looking for”. Encourage your student to react in some way to your news, and ask follow-up questions. Then tell your student your bad news, for example “I tried cooking a new meal last night, but I didn’t have all the ingredients and it tasted awful”. Again, encourage verbal reactions and follow-up questions from your student.

Together, look at the kind of language we use to react to other people’s good a bad news. For example:

Really? That’s awful.

Oh no!

You poor thing!

You lucky thing!

You lucky devil!



The meaning of “Ahhh…” isn’t all that clear when it’s written down because when we say “Ahhh…” to show sympathy for someone’s bad news, we would use falling intonation (our voice goes deeper at the end). Similarly, with “really?” we would speak with rising intonation (our voice goes up at the end). So next we need to practise the correct intonation and stress with these reaction phrases. Also speed: how would you say “Oh no!” to indicate shock? If you wanted to take things one step further, practise appropriate facial expressions, to show things like shock, horror and delight. Practise these with your student.

Next, ask your student to tell you their piece of good news and piece of bad news. Reformulate their language as necessary. Now, ask them to say it again, but this time, you react in the appropriate way. Finally, tell your student another piece of good news and bad news, and see if they can react appropriately.

Try out these activities yourself, and write a comment about how it went, good or bad. And if you found this post useful, please like it and share it.

Tomorrow we’ll look at activities to encourage talk about sharing and comparing.

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One comment on “Teaching Unplugged Activities (Part Two)
  1. Ana says:

    Hey Charles, thanks for these posts! I’m just starting to teach online and also finding the courage to unplug in both online and face-to-faces classes to the extent that I would really like to. I am delighted to find these helpful posts tailored for the online teacher.

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