The text from this clip is the main ingredient of this lesson plan which addresses listening/reading skills and register – perhaps suitable for exam preparation classes. The video itself is not an essential part of the activity although it can be.
- Language level: Intermediate (B1) +
- Learner type: Teens; Adults
- Time: 60 – 90 minutes
- Activity: Listening; Writing
- Topic: Housework; Listening & reading strategies
- Language: Describing a process; Register (formal vs. informal)
- Materials: Worksheet
Lesson plan outline
- Write the following items on the board:
- Different groups
- Somewhere else
- Lack of facilities
- Appropriate places
- Tell students that these words and phrases have come from a scientific text. Ask students if they can guess what the text is about.
- Tell students that you are going to read the text to them and they have to work out what it is about. Slowly read out the following text:
- Your students will probably stare at you blankly. Ask them if they would like to hear the text again. If so, read it a second time, again without telling them what it is about. Clarify any unknown language and write it on the board as you go along.
- Ask students for their answers. Alternatively, ask them to write down their answers without shouting them out. Read the text a third and even a fourth time if necessary. This is an exercise in intensive listening.
- If students are still unable to identify the topic, play hangman with the following grid: The text is about _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
- Ask students why the activity is so difficult. Tell them that there are at least three reasons and do your best to elicit and discuss them:
- Give out copies of the Worksheet (contained in the PDF download) and ask students to complete task 1.
- Let students share and compare their ideas before going over the answers (contained in the PDF download).
- Ask students to do the second task on the Worksheet. – to rewrite the text in informal English so that it sounds more natural.
- Let students compare their texts and allow them to make any changes to what they have written.
- Read out the informal version of the text below. Read it as many times as your students want. Let students compare it with their own versions and discuss choices.
The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups. Of course, one pile may be sufficient, depending on how much there is to do.
If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities, that is the next step. Otherwise you are pretty well set.
It is important not to overdo things – that is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run, this might not seem important, but complications can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well.
After the procedure is completed, one arranges the materials into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places.
Eventually they’ll be used once more and the whole cycle will have to be repeated. However, that is a part of life. So how do you do yours?
(Answer = washing clothes)
I Lexis: Words, expressions and lexis that are associated with washing clothes have been avoided. This makes it very difficult to infer information.
II Register: Listeners are told that the text comes from a scientific paper and the register of some of the language is formal (procedure, sufficient, lack of facilities, complications can arise). We probably wouldn’t expect such a text to be about the trivial topic of washing clothes. This is misleading.
III No schema activation: Students were not told beforehand what the text is about. This is a very unnatural way of doing things. Usually in life, we are given an initial framework within which we can place the information that follows.
The procedure is actually quite simple. First you sort your laundry into different piles, for example, whites, colours and delicates. Of course, one pile might be enough. It depends on how much there is to do.
If you have to go to a laundrette because you don’t have a washing machine at home, then that is the next step.
Don’t put all of your laundry in the same machine. In the short run, this might not seem important. But if you mix your loads, you could end up with pink shirts that are supposed to be white. Mistakes like these can be expensive.
When you have finished, sort your clean clothes into different piles again – underwear, T-shirts, socks, for example – and put them back in your wardrobe or drawers.
Eventually they’ll be used once more and the whole cycle will have to be repeated. However, that is a part of life.
Variations and Follow ups
- Brainstorm language related to washing clothes (laundry, laundry basket, washing machine, laundrette, whites and colours, detergent, conditioner, washing instructions, spin, hang, dry, iron, washing line, clothes pegs, etc.)
- Draw students’ attention back to the question: So how do you do yours? Ask them to write a detailed description of their relationship with laundry. If they claim not to do their own, they can still write about who does it, how often, details of the household system, reasons for avoiding it, etc.
- Ask students to prepare housework questionnaires for each other.
- Ask students to write about other household processes and procedures (washing up, making breakfast, cleaning the bathroom, etc). Encourage them to use scaffolding language from the washing clothes text.
The text in this activity is taken from the following paper:
Bransford, J.D., & Johnson, M.K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 717-726.
Images taken from Wikimedia commons: