Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Camels Reading Activity

Do your students know that Wednesday is often called hump day (or humpday)? Mine never seem to know and I think it is a fun thing to teach. Everyone laughs, they'll remember the word hump, and in the future if someone in their office or their classes wishes them a, "happy hump day," they won't accuse them of sexual harassment.

When I was in the Netherlands I figured out they had a camel farm and was very eager to visit. The picture on the left is courtesy of that visit. While I was looking for this picture I found an old lesson plan I made during my CELTA course! It doesn't include everything, I no longer have the flashcards and I am not including the grammar lesson, but any of you looking for a fun reading topic may find this useful!

I used an article from Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The relevant link is here: BONUS: Since it is a radio site, there is also an audio portion you could use in your class if you wanted. You could listen before or after reading if you want your students to practice both receptive skills.

To start, I had to provide my the rationale for my text selection
This is for the pre-intermediate group. Features newspaper articles are normally written at a 7th-8thgrade reading level. Since all students are currently in the Netherlands picked an article with local relevance. I wanted to pick something light that would gain students interest without the possibility of provoking them (as with political) or using complex jargon (as with economic). As such I choose an article with an interesting topic to gain students interest.
I realize that this is a longer article, but feel that the class has excellent receptive skills and with the proper set up could do this article. I would however remove the last two paragraphs as I feel it makes the text more manageable.
Task Design 
(I wrote A LOT! I've whittled it down into simpler steps)
  1. Tel the students you enjoy eating a strange food that is good for you. I used cactus in the Netherlands, but I would probably pick a different food here in Mexico. When I tell the story I get students to try and say the words. If they can't I give them clues (like hangman). If that didn't work I tell them the word.
    • Cactus story (The words in bold are in the article later)
      I love cactus (picture). I’ve liked cactus for a long time. It is fantastic for your… (put picture of intestines up and elicit intestines) and because it sucks the sugar out of your system it is great for people on diets or who can’t handle sugar. What’s the word for people who can’t usually have sugar in their diet? (use hangman to elicit diabetic). My friends thought it was weird at first but once they looked into it (oh gosh what’s that word, like what a detective does in a case,…) oh yeah! They investigated the health benefits and thought they should give it a try. It took me a lot of tries, and I made a lot of mistakes but through (what do we call it when you make lots of mistakes, but because you keep trying you finally find the right way? The first word is like where a judge or a lawyer work... trial and error) I found some recipes that my friends actually liked! Cooking the cactus can take a long time. Some people also find it too slimy to eat. And of course, collecting the cactus can be difficult because of its spikes. But because it is so healthy (and I think tasty) all of my friends have tried cactus. Mainly because I (seriously, strongly, firmly) tell them that if they don’t try cactus they will be my…past friends…friends that I don’t have anymore, friends that used to be…what’s that word? Former!
  2. If you are their only class in English, I suggest a quick activity to get them used to speaking English again. You could hand out pictures (with captions) of other odd but healthy foods (whale meat, crickets, live baby octopus, swallows nest, thistle cheese). In pairs have students guess / explain what might be difficult about the food. Then the teacher should tell them what the good thing about the food is (this would also prepare them for the productive skills task at the end). 
    • Example: Whale meat has less calories and more protein and iron than pork or beef.
      • Students could respond that whales are hard to hunt. Many of them are endangered. Too many people think of Shamu. Etc.
    • Be sure to write down any new words on the board. This will be important later.
  3. Using pictures and trying to have students come up with the words that will be used from the text. on their own. These words (as well as the words from opening the schemata) would be written on the board (with additional relevant words that one would not find in the text). 
    • Cash Cow: When something makes a LOT of money what can we call it? (put a picture of a cow with dollar signs on it).  
      Leased When we don’t own something, but we rent it we can also say that we are “leasing”
      In Tow: Show picture of a tow truck, elicit the word “tow” then show picture of mother with three kids behind her, ask if they look the same. Show that “tow” means the same thing. “in tow” means things that follow.
    • I selected: cash cow, former, investigated, leased, trial and error, in tow, firmly, diabetics, and intestinal as my vocabulary words. 
  4. Read the headline, "Camels new cash cows for Dutch farmers?" and see if students can guess what the article is about. It is OK if they don't guess correctly, we just want them speculating.
  5.  Students scan  the text underlining the words on the board. Since not all of the words are on the board they will have to carefully scan the text. This will help students understand the basic premise of the text without focusing on each individual word in the text. This would be followed with a peer check and open class feedback.
  6. Students will answer questions about the text where the answers are explicitly in the text (see attached sheet). Students may skim the text to find these answers.
    • Here are the questions I used (with their answers)
      1. How many camel farms are there in the Netherlands? 1
      2. With how many camels did he start his farm? 3
      3. How much is camel milk per litre? 6 Euros or (about) $8.79
      4. What percent fat is camel milk? Less than 2%
      5. Why do you have to be friendly with a camel? So she won’t get stressed/ So she will give milk.

  • Finally, students will find the pros and cons of having a camel farm in the text.

  • Productive Skills Task Design
    1. Divide students into into two groups. One of the groups is the pro and the other group is the con. As a group they both separately discuss the pros and cons that they found in the article as well as brainstorming anything else. 
    2. Then “pros” group is the camel farmers and the “cons” group is the “cows farmers.” The students will be divided into pairs (one from the pro and one from the con).  The students will use the information from their brainstorming to try and convince their partner that camel farming is the way of the future, or silly. To give the students a reason for listening to their partner the camel farmers will try to pick the cow farmer who made the best argument and the cow farmers will pick the camel farmer with the best argument.
    Feedback  After they have heard each persons opinion the camel farmers and cow farmers will go back in their groups and try to pick the best person from the opposite team.

    Feedback: Write the mistakes students made on the board. Have students (individually) try to identify mistakes and then as a class correct the sentences.

    OTHER ACTIVITIES: Have students make a brochure for the camel farm, or design a campaign for camel milk! 

    It is funny to look back at this activity, but I recall my students enjoying it then... in fact I am pretty sure I'll give it a try next week...maybe on hump day!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Thanks so much for commenting. Due to spam, your comment may not show up right away, but as soon as I get a chance to approve it I will. I promise to be as fast as possible!

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...