There are many useful things I always keep in my teacher´s toolbox:
Apart from the basic classroom supplies, I always have a stack of the post-it notes with me. The sticky notes not only help me stay more organized but also are an incredibly useful teaching tool. They help increase students´engagement in the lessons, especially needed when developing writing skills, and make the classes more motivating and memorable. The following lesson idea aims at improving students´writing skills using the power of the post-it note:
We use written communication more often now than ever before. Teaching how to write effectively is one of the most important life-long skills we can provide our students with. Moreover, in the FCE Writing Paper students are required to carry out two tasks: a compulsory task in Part 1 (a transactional letter) and one from a choice of four questions in Part 2 (an informal letter, an article, a discursive composition, a short story, a report, a letter of application).
In the following lesson idea, students will practise their informal letter or email writing skills.
Level(s): (B1+) Intermediate/(B2) Upper-Intermediate/C1 Pre-Advanced
Aimed at: Teenagers/young adults/adults
Aims: Speaking/informal e-mail or letter writing – useful words and phrases/vocabulary in the context of things we write
Materials: Post-it notes for the Jumble Activity/Handout 1: Useful phrases for the Jumble Activity
Copied from the following link:
Time: +/- 1h 20 min
1. Brainstorming/Things we write
Have students work in small groups and make a list of different things we write on daily basis:
– At school
– At work
– At home
Have their ideas listed on the board and add some of your own ideas to their lists. Take it as an opportunity to introduce vocabulary, e.g. eulogies or minutes. At the end of this activity you should have something similar to this on the board:
+/- 10 min
2. Speaking/Things we write/Difficulties with writing emails in English
Students work in pairs and tell each other about the things they have written this week.
The majority will probably mention emails. At this point, ask students about their greatest challenges when writing emails in English. Have them discuss their answers in pairs.
One of the most common problems we often hear about is how writing emails in English can be extremely time-consuming. Why? Have students brainstorm their ideas in pairs.
At this point, someone will most likely mention the lack of formulaic expressions as one of the main problems. Tell students that you are going to look at some useful phrases to help them organize their emails.
3. Jumble activity: useful words and phrases
Ask students what are the different parts of an email and write them up on the board. At the end of this activity you should have something similar to this on the board:
Have students work together (if it´s a small group) and rearrange the words, on the previously preparred post-it notes, to make meaningful sentences for each part of an email. If you have a big group, divide the task between them: one group does all the useful expressions for Asking, another for Making suggestions, and so on:
Have them put the words into the correct order on the board:
At the end of this activity you should have something similar to this on the board:
+/- 30 min
4. Writing an informal email to one of the classmates
Distribute Handout 1 to each student and a piece of paper with a name of one of their classmates on it. Get students to follow the structure of an email from the board and use some of the useful phrases from Handout 1 (or the board – they are the same) to write a short email to their classmate. They can choose to write a request email or, perhaps, an invitation. Ask them to use their imagination and humour!
Here are some of the emails written by my B2 students:
+/- 20 min
5. Responding to emails
Have students read the emails they received form their classmates. Once they have finished, ask them to stand up and approach the person who wrote to them. Explain that they have been walking in the street and run into the classmate from the email. Have them talk about the emails they received. For example:
Hi! How have you been? I´ve just seen your email! Thank you so much for writing to me!
Unfortunately, I can´t make it to your party this Saturday. It sounds like a lot of fun but I already have plans for Saturday, etc.
Have a brief class feedback +/- 5 min
This lesson idea worked really well with my students and I truly recommend it. They really enjoyed the hands-on-approach of the Jumble Activity and the way the post-it notes were displayed on the board helped them to follow a standard structure of an informal email.
Don´t forget to reuse the post-it notes in your future lessons! Keep them safe in your toolbox!
Hope you´ll find it useful!
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