Teaching Unplugged Activities (Part 4)

Dreams and Schemes

In Part 4 of our series about using activities from the book, Teaching Unplugged, in online English teaching, I’m going to look at activities for encouraging your learner to talk with you about their dreams, hopes and plans. These are the kinds of topics language was made for, but are sadly neglected in coursebooks and worksheets. These activities may push your learner towards using modal verbs and conditionals…or they might not!

Three Wishes

Wishes CircleYou’re going to grant your student three wishes. To help your learner come up with their personal wish list, draw five concentric circles on an online whiteboard. In the centre circle, write Me, in the next circle write My family and friends, then My work/My school, then My town/neighbourhood, and in the outermost circle write The World. (Or just use the diagram on the left – click it for full size and save it, then upload it to an online whiteboard). Ask your learner to copy down this diagram on a piece of paper and then to write down a wish for three of these circles. Help your learner by coming up with examples of your own. For example:

  • It would be nice to have a long holiday (Me)
  • I’d like to see my grandmother this weekend (My family and friends)
  • I wish they would make the buses run on time (My town/neighbourhood)

Your learner works on their wish list and then describes their three wishes to you. Support your learner with any language issues and ask follow-up questions to encourage them to expand on their wishes. As a language focus, you can look at the language they used. Did they use modals and conditionals?

The Perfect School

Ask your learner to think of as many words as they can that are associated with “school”. You can either do this orally, or type the words into Skype or on to an online whiteboard. Encourage them to come up with more words by asking questions, such as “where do we eat in a school?” and “what keeps us warm/cool in a school?”. Work together to come up with a list of ideas for the perfect school. Encourage and support your learner with language. Then your learner should choose the top five improvements they would make to their school, for example: “a bigger canteen”, “a refurbished library”, together with reasons each one is a good idea. Again, support your learner with any language needs. To finish off, your learner should describe again her five improvements to you, along with her reasons. If you want to give your learner some homework, ask them to draft a letter to the local education department describing these suggestions. Alternatively, work on the letter together during the lesson, writing the letter on an online whiteboard.

This activity can be adapted for other things: the perfect sports centre, the perfect office, the perfect shopping centre, the perfect home, the perfect park, and so on. If your learner works in a particular profession, choose a scenario relevant to their profession, such as the perfect hospital for nurses and doctors or the perfect public transport system for a local planning official.

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