Posted 10/1/11

The protagonist of this story is not a blob – it is a bear. But I used Microsoft Paint to protect his identity. As a result, students hear the story of a bridge rescue in the Sierra Nevada mountains, California, without knowing who the main character is until the very end.
  • Language level: Intermediate (B1) +
  • Learner type: Young learners; Teens; Adults
  • Time: 50 minutes
  • Activity: Listening; Writing
  • Topic: Animals
  • Language: Past narrative tenses; Modal language of deduction/speculation; The /dʒ/ sound
  • Materials: Slideshow
Blob on the bridge: Lesson plan pdf [downloaded 5655 times] Blob on the bridge: Slideshow pdf [downloaded 5366 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Tell students that they are going to hear a true story.
  2. Show the word cloud on Slide 1 (see below). Tell your students that the words and items in the cloud are featured in the story and explain any unknown language. Also draw students’ attention to the black blob, which obscures a key word – the protagonist of the story.
  3. Put students into pairs or small groups and ask them to:
    • Guess what the hidden word is.
    • Guess what the story is about and what happens in it.
  4. Conduct feedback and allow students to share ideas.
  5. Tell students that you are going to show them the story in photographs. Show Slides 2 – 7 (see below). Explain that as before, the protagonist of the story has been covered by a black blob.
  6. Ask students to guess who or what the protagonist is but don’t tell them that it is a bear at this stage. Use language of speculation/deduction/elimination for this purpose. For example:
  7. * Could it be a bungee jumper? It might be.
    * It couldn’t be an eagle because an eagle would fly away.
    * Surely it isn’t a cow. Why would there be a cow in the mountains?
    * It probably isn’t a cat either.
    * I don’t think it’s a bear. The black blob is too small to cover it.
  8. Ask students to give the protagonist a name. They should be able to do this even though they don’t know who or what the protagonist is at this stage.
  9. Show Slides 3 – 8 a second time and read them the story below. Don’t tell students that the protagonist is a bear. Refer to the bear using the name that your students gave it. In the example below, it has been decided that the protagonist is a male called Chulín.
  10. One day, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, California, Chulín was walking over a bridge, minding his own business. When a car passed, Chulín got scared and jumped over the side of the bridge. Somehow, he managed to catch a ledge and pull himself to safety. News of Chulín reached the authorities and when they arrived at the scene, they found him fast asleep on the ledge. It was getting late so they decided that nothing could be done that night.

    They returned the next morning with a net, which they positioned under the bridge. They shot Chulín with a tranquilizer dart and waited for him to fall asleep. They used a pole to push groggy Chulín off the ledge and into the net. Chulín was lowered to the ground and set free.

    “My wife is never going to believe this,” Chulín thought to himself as he went on his way.

    Note that if the protagonist is given a female name, you will have to change the story accordingly. For example: “’My husband is never going to believe this,’ Katia thought to herself as she went on her way.”
  11. Tell students that they are going rewrite the story in their own words but first they are going to hear it a second time. As you read the story a second time, draw attention to any key structures that you would like your students to include and write these on the board. For example:
  12. * Minding his own business
    * Over the side of the bridge
    * Off the ledge and into the net
    * As he went on his way
  13. Ask students to write their reconstructed texts. Give them access to the word cloud on Slide 1, which contains key language.
  14. Allow individuals to pair up and compare what they have written. In response to this comparison step, students may make changes or improvements to their texts, even if this means copying parts of their partner’s work.
  15. Show students Slides 10 – 15. They will now see that the protagonist of the story is a brown bear.
  16. Give out copies of the Bear Story text so that students can compare it with their own. Take in students’ texts for marking if necessary.


I originally received the bear story images as one of those viral PDF slideshows that gets passed around by email. Despite the fact that the photographs are posted all over the Internet (here and here, for example) I have been unable to find out who owns them.

Posted 10/1/11

12 Responses to The blob on the bridge

  1. Kathleen Verwaest says:

    Today I used this package in 4 classes and the students were really enthusiastic. I will certainly use more of your lessons!

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Kathleen
    Just tried to answer your other message but your email didn’t work. Great to meet you in Antwerp!
    Jamie :-)

  3. anna Higgie says:

    All I can say is, your a ****ing genius. I work freelance and do teaching part time, and sometimes don’t have time to plan amazing lessons. this website is an absolute godsend. i’ve lost count of how many lessons of yours i’ve done, but they are all amazing. and that is the opinion of my students, not me! thankyou so much! please never stop…

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Wow – I don’t know what to say Anna. Lovely to be appreciated :-) Maybe I can put your comment on the front page of the website! Say hello to your students from me.
    Thank you
    Jamie :)

  5. WAFA says:

    It’s very nice way to give a chance for speaking and thinking.I like it a lot.Thank you for sending me these thoughts,I hope to remmber me other time.

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Wafa
    I am gld you like it
    Jamie :)

  7. Angelina says:

    This was the first lesson of yours I tried (being stuck for time and not having anything of my own planned) and I am now hooked. Really engaging and with very clear and useful language objectives! I suppose the clearest indication that a lesson has been successful (apart from your students telling you how much they loved it) is when they make a point of using that language in future lessons….they were deducing and speculating all over the place! Thanks so much Jamie, going to try your Message in a Bottle lesson next :)

  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Angelina
    Great to hear that it worked well. Did you see the demonstration video of the text being used for a Storytelling Gapfill?
    Good luck with Message in a Bottle!
    Jamie :)

  9. Ingrid Benninga says:

    Back at your site again and once again thanks!! I love this one and have used it 3 times now for B1 and B2, the B1 class found it challenging but they are quite a low B1 level. I really love this one and it’s a nice way to judge their written skills, within a class I have had very varied results. Amazing how little people use their memory! I think it it great to include this challenge in a class ( like in your Things 2 do b4 u die) this skill is so closely linked to learning a new language – especially our wonderful, exception-ridden English language! Keep up the great work.

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Ingrid
    Great to hear about your experience. I really agree with you about memory. In case you are interested, I would recommend this book by a friend of mine:
    Jamie :)

  11. Lucie says:

    Hi Jamie,
    I´ve started using your lessons quite recently and a number of them were a great success with my students, Blob on the Bridge especially, thank you very much for sharing them!