As I described in my last post, I’ve recently finished the teaching practice of the DipTESOL. I wanted to share one of the lessons I created for the course, which was based around using Twitter to complain about service during a holiday.
The students I was teaching were all young adults who were learning English for work and travel, so this theme was a good fit for their needs. The twist was that it used tweets as an input text, and asked students to create their own tweets in the production stage, something I felt would be a relevant real-world skill (and something I have rarely, if ever, practiced in a class before).
What I found interesting about this lesson was that Twitter is not nearly as popular with Spanish and Italian young adults as it is with British and US people of the same age and social background. This was a little bit of a surprise, but something to consider as part of the cultural awareness of your group: if your students don’t use Twitter, how do they communicate with companies?
Level: B2 (or a high B1/low C1)
Language focus: reading and writing short online texts (tweets); compound nouns
Time: 60-90 mins
- To begin with, show a picture of a man on holiday, ideally someone who doesn’t appear to be having a good time. I have included some examples on the PowerPoint document. Ask students to think about why the man might not be having a good time on his holiday. Elicit some examples – e.g. his luggage might have got lost, he might have got sunburnt, he lost his money/passport etc.
- Next, show students some more pictures of problems that someone could have on holiday: the examples I have chosen are lost luggage, unappetising food, poor quality accommodation, closed attractions, and lack of legroom. Discuss the problems and any associated vocabulary, and ask students whether they have had problems like this.
- Ask students what they would do if they had any of the problems they have discussed. Take a few ideas – hopefully one or two will bring up the idea of contacting the company on social media.
- Give students the first half of the text (the first five tweets from the handout). Ask students to match the text with the problems they discussed using the pictures. Ask students to identify what type of text they are reading, and where they would expect to see this. This can lead to a wider discussion of the forms of social media writing: you can discuss the significance of the @ and # symbols, the use of dropped subjects and auxiliaries, and other informal expressions.
- The students can now look at the other half of the text, the replies from the companies. Before reading, ask students to think about what they would consider as appropriate responses to the original complaints. E.g. for poor accommodation – a change of room/hotel, or a refund of some of the cost. Then the students can read the texts and match the reply to the original tweet. During feedback, ask the students to compare the register between the two sets of tweets, i.e. the tweets from the companies are generally more formal than those of the complainant.
- As a vocabulary stage, give the students the compound nouns handout and ask them to match the first half to the second half to make a compound noun that appears in the text. Ask students to analyse the form of the compound nouns using the guide below (adj + n, n + n, etc) and match the expressions to the definitions. Drill the compound nouns, paying attention to the word stress. In a compound noun, the stress generally falls on the first part of the compound.
- Return to the list of potential travel problems and remind students of their ideas. Other ideas can be added at this point if they arise. Tell students that they are going to imagine that they are experiencing these problems and that they are going to write tweets to the companies involved. Students can do this individually, or in pairs; weaker students can model using the reading text as a guide. Students need to write about 3 or 4 tweets.
- When students are ready, exchange their tweets with another student/group. Students now need to act as the company and write a reply to the complaint, offering a solution. Monitor for errors during both writing stages.
- During feedback, ask students to decide if the “companies” offered an appropriate solution. You can then ask students to consider how well they and their partners have been able to follow the forms of the genre (formal/informal text, using abbreviations and ellipsis, etc). As self-reflection, ask students how relevant this skill will be to their future use of English.
At home, students can try to use Twitter (or another social media platform) to interact with a company or organisation in English. You could even get the class to interact with each other and look at the resulting Twitter/Facebook/Instagram feed in class.
Another idea is to use an electronic device to write and send the tweets, instead of using the paper.
The class really enjoyed this, especially the interactive “tweeting” element. If you use this lesson, let me know how it goes!