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Driving to class I was in a terrible mood.  My gran was having eye surgery, my school careening towards bankruptcy, and it turns out that taking dogs to Morocco isn’t exactly cheap.

Anyways, although I had a few ideas for the class based around people’s phone usage, I just wasn’t in the right state of mind.  Luckily, my students came to the rescue and much to my delight, out of the initial discussion a fully-formed lesson emerged.


Chatting with the students who had arrived early, one of them commented that I looked tired.  I quipped that frustrated was probably a better word and from there we were off – the students were interested and I was happy to share.


To start, the class brainstormed areas of life in which frustrations can arise and we created a mindmap on the board with topics life money, family, girlfriend, traffic, work, etc.  I then checked the boxes that applied to my terrible day.

About me

Next, pairs come up with questions about the checked topics to see if they could find out more.  All kinds of useful lexis arose as they struggled to ask specific questions and the resulting discussion about business, moving, health and credit cards was excellent.

About the students

With everyone engaged in the topic, I gave out slips of paper which I always carry and had them complete a sentence starting I always get frustrated when… I then collected them all, read them out, and the class guessed whose paper each was and why.

Because they were such interesting, personal opinions, I decided to try to exploit them further. I gave out the slips at random and in groups the students came up with advice.  The advice was then read out and commented on while I made copious notes.

Language focus 1

I noticed during the presentation stage of this little task cycle that all the advice was being given either as commands or prefaced with you should, so I decided we would try to expand their range a little bit.  After boarding some of the student utterances, I managed to elicit what they had in common, a few more basic exponents for giving advice, and then I added a couple more of my own.  After the usual drilling, CCQ’s, etc. I thought we were ready for a little practice.  Once more I dealt out the same slips of paper but this time each student took one and held it in front of them for others to see.  They then mingled, giving advice to each other and trying to use the new language.

Language focus 2

Having worked on expanding learners’ range, I moved on to dealing with accuracy.  So while they were still mingling I boarded some of the output from the activity, about half of which contained errors.  The errors all involved either language we had studied previously (ed/ing adjectives) or collocations with make and do.

The class was divided into two teams who chose their own names: The Angels and, a bit awkwardly, The Black Boys (for the colour of their t-shirts!).  Starting with $1000 each, they had to decide whethe sentences were correct or incorrect, and if so, what the correction should be.  They also had to wager their money depending on their level of confidence.  Highly entertaining.

Continuing on from this stage, I drew two columns for make and do on the board.  I would call out phrases like a profit and one member from each team had to run to the board and write it in the correct column.  At the end we clarified a few issues with meaning and discussed alternatives.

For practice, pairs wrote short stories entitled The most frustrating day ever, trying to incorporate as many of the collocations as possible.  The stories were hilarious involving pregnancies, accidents, and affairs.

Wrap up

At this point the class was basically over so we had some reflection on what they had learned/liked and they entered some of the new lexis onto cards and into their notebooks.

As a teacher I’m not sure what I took away from this lesson but it definitely cheered me up!  Next time I’ll have a bit more serious reflection on what I could have done better but for now I’m just glad that my day ended on a high note.