“Dear me” letters

“What would you say to your 16- year- old self if you had the chance?” That’s what 75 celebrities were asked and they wrote a letter expressing their thoughts. Dear Me Letters is a book that collects those letters.As a kind of follow-up, its website extended the idea to the public and allows readers to submit their own letters.

The Guardian published an extract from the book in an interactive article in the online version of the paper.

It is very interesting to read about the insecurities and suffering of people who would become so successful in life. And It is a very good source for an activity with (very) advanced students.You need to have a very relaxed atmosphere in class as well, and be sure that talking about the past won’t upset anybody.

Step 1

Ask your students the same question: “What would you tell your old self if you had the chance? What would you have changed?”.

Tell them about the book. In groups, each student reads one or two letters from The Guardian (print them or let them read them on their phones/tablets). Then, they have to share information about all the advice given in their letters and ellaborate a list of traits all teenagers seem to have in common.

Step 2

Tell them they are going to listen to a radio programma about Dear Me, featuring the editor of the book, Joseph Galliano. You can play the whole recording or concentrate on the first 4 minutes, when Galliano reads his letter to his old 16 self.

The students take notes and compare what they heard with the list they have written from the other letters.

Step 3

As it might be too personal to ask students to write a letter of the same kind, ask them to write a letter to someone from the past or from the future.

To illustrate the idea, play this video, in which Stephen Fry talks about letters. He is asked three questions:

  1. What letter either sent or received had an impact in your life?
  2. To whom would you write a letter now including someone form the past or future?
  3. Why is it important to keep writing letters?

Before they watch it, students answer the questions themselves in groups.


(The interview was filmed at Letters Live at the Southbank on World Book Night, in aid of The Reading Agencywriting )

An alternative to writing a letter to someone from the past or the future can be writing a letter addresed to themselves in the future. They can write a real letter o an email to FutureMe.org. This website is based on the principle that “memories are less accurate than e-mails”, so they invite you to write an email reminding your future self of whatever you want to remember . And then they’ll do “some time travel magic and deliver the letter to you. FutureYou, that is.”

You can write it as a private email to your own self or make it public (but anonymous), which will be included in the “public letters” section.





Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Gunpowder Plot

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Sandwiched between the overwhelming popularity of Halloween and all-American Thanksgiving, on November, 5th there is a festival that, in recent years, has gained its lost popularity. Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes’ Night is one of those celebrations that are not rooted in everyday activities or seasonal changes, but in the historical events that took place in the 17th century and whose main character, Guy Fawkes, has become the icon for many who fight the political power (see “V for Vendetta” or the masks of the members of Anonymous).

For those who, like us, enjoy introducing their students to the culture of the target language, here go a couple of links with materials for the classroom. If you are teaching beginners or basic levels, Activity Village (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/guy-fawkes) has a good range of basic exercises to practice vocabulary.

In case you need something more elaborate for intermediate students, the kibishiaul.com blog (http://kibishipaul.com/blog1/2006/11/05/lesson-16-bonfire-night-video/) has a video lesson with an on-line quiz. Also, for this level, we have the material from Remember Remember (http://www.remember-remember.com/schools/teaching.php#literacy) especially the punctuation activities.

Finally, there is a more humorous BBC video documentary hosted by Nick Knowles that could be a good entertaining and inspiring resource for more advanced students. In this case we have not found any activities, although we suggest students could write a short article on the events described.

If you know of any more materials that could complete this post, please write a comment. We appreciate your collaboration.

The Great Fire of London

It’s been a long long time since we last published something here. Today I’m sharing a listening activity about The Great Fire of London. The main objective is not that the answer all questions correct, but that they get to know some of London’s history.

The acitvity is suitable for B1+ and B2 students. You just need to give students the questions and play the video. You can even let them see the video without the questions first.

Finally, as follow up or just for fun, you can show them or share with them this other article which includes a video created by some De Montfort University students with a recreation of London before The Great Fire.

Simple past vs Present Perfect

This activity is thought as a revision warmer for preintermediate students. It’s meant to be short and dynamic. Other activities like this one involve the students filling gaps and deciding which tense they have to use, but this is not the case. These sentences contain information which is especially “local” for the Canary Islands (carnival, beach), so feel free to change anything if you wish.

Level: Pre-intermediate

Contents: past simple vs. present perfect

Skills: speaking, reading

Time: 15 minutes

STEP 1: Revise with your students the differences between these two tenses orally, asking them to give examples.

STEP 2: Explain to them that they are going to read some sentences and will have to “find someone who” among their classmates. Encourage them to ask some follow up questions using the first example:

       Find someone who got ill during carnival.

Follow up: “What happened to you? Did you go to the doctor?”

Searching articles by level on Google

I’m sure you all know Google is an awesome tool and both teachers and students can find lots of utilities among their services: Google search, images, videos, blogger, maps, drive, docs, etc.

Today we are presenting a way to search texts by their reading level. The tool is not 100% efficient, but can help. Just follow the steps on the image and you’ll find texts adapted to the level you are looking for.

This is an example of what you can get if you search for “carrot cake”:

Elementary:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/carrot-cake-iii/
Intermediate: http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/recipe-makeovers/healthy-carrot-cake-recipe-makeover-00412000070625/
Advanced: http://www.goodkarmafoods.com/organic-rice-divine-carrot-cake

This post is an adaptation from this one, http://wp.me/pkMQs-115


Just a quick post so that I don’t forget that this wonderful site exists 😉

I haven’t used it yet, but sounds promising. It contains gapfill activities based on songs in different languages. It also offers the possibility to create song-based activities for teachers.

And that was it 😉