In our first post we’re going to outline a lesson plan for used to. This is a one hour lesson suitable for intermediate level learners. It uses a listening text to set the context for eliciting the target language.
Let’s start with the main aim of the lesson and how we’ll know if this aim has been achieved:
To develop students’ ability to talk about past habits using “used to” in the context of childhood and addictions.
We’ll know if this has been achieved if, during the less restricted practice stage, students use used to to talk about past habits with a partner.
Next, here’s what we need in terms of materials:
- Some pictures of chocolate, cigarettes and coffee or, even better, some chocolate, cigarettes and coffee!
- Some pictures (or if you have the time to find them, very short video clips) of children doing typical children-like activities, like playing on the swings, dressing up for Halloween or studying at school.
- A listening text of people talking about their addictions. Language To Go Intermediate (Longman, 2002) lesson 11 has a very good text. If you don’t have access to this, try recording your own – ask 3 or 4 friends to each talk for a minute about an addiction, whether they’ve given it up, and if so, when/how/etc.
Okay, on to the lesson itself. Here are the different stages with the aim of each stage, the approximate timing, and what to do:
- Lead in – to set the context and generate interest (10 minutes)
Stick some photos on the wall around the classroom of children doing children-like things (or play short video clips if you have them). Have students in pairs look at the photos and discuss whether or not they did these things in the past and whether or not they do them now. Feedback on this from a few students. Next, ask the students to write down 3 things that they themselves did in the past but don’t do now. Give them a couple of minutes to think about it and write, and then collect the pieces of paper and keep them – you’ll need them for later on in the lesson.
- Lexis – to introduce lexis for the listening stage which follows (10-12 minutes)
Show the students your pictures of coffee, cigarettes and chocolate (or your actual coffee, cigarettes and chocolate) and have them discuss, in pairs or small groups, whether or not they use these things, how often, and whether or not they can stop using them if they want to. During feedback to this activity elicit or present vocabulary items that students may be unfamiliar with in the listening text. In the text from Language To Go, for example, you might want to elicit addict, addicted, addiction, to quit, to give up, to cut down on and willpower.
- Listening – to practise listening for gist (10-12 minutes)
As well as providing the context for the presentation of the target language, this stage has a subsidiary aim of developing students’ ability to listen for gist.Students listen to 4 people (or if you’ve recorded it yourself, however many friends you managed to record) describing their addictions. Set the following gist questions before they listen:
- What are they addicted to?
- Have they given up?
- Are they addicted to the same things as you? (This last one personalises the activity)
Feedback this activity on the board.
- Presentation – to introduce the target language and manipulate the form (8-10 minutes)Using your feedback from the listening activity, elicit or present the target language with the following concept questions, changing the addiction that you ask about depending on the recording you used:
- Did he smoke in the past? (Yes)
- Once or many times? (Many times)
- Does he smoke now? (No)
Target language: He used to smoke.
Repeat this with the other examples and then elicit or present the negative and question forms.
- Restricted practice – to provide restricted practice in using the target language, standardise pronunciation and provide a written record(2-4 minutes)
Drill the target language, including the negative and question forms, focusing on the weak form of to, for example: He /juːstə/smoke.Write the affirmative, negative and question forms on the board to give students a written record of the target language.
- Less restricted practice – to give students less restricted practice in using the target language (10-12 mniutes)
Now it’s time to bring the lesson full circle and come back to the childhood activities that you asked the students to write at the end of the lead-in. Take the pieces of paper you collected earlier and write on the board one activity form each student. they wrote three, so you should have a range of different activities, including, with luck, some funny or unusual ones. Don’t stick the pieces of paper directly on the board or your students may recognise the handwriting, which will defeat the object of the activity. Now have students circulate, asking each other questions using the target language to find out who used to do what. Monitor and encourage them to ask follow-up questions to expand the conversation beyond the limited use of the target language. Feedback the activity by asking a few students what they found out.
That’s it. Any comments, or suggestions of other ways to teach used to are welcome below…