Rufus Vaughan-Spruce Rufus Vaughan-Spruce

Demo Lesson 27/05/13
Upper Intermediate B2 level


This lesson focuses on developing students' reading skills in the area of lexical inferencing - working out meaning of unknown words from their context, in this instance within a descriptive, narrative text (an excerpt from a short story about a skiing trip). This is one of the more difficult skills for learners to master, but also one of the most important, as it's normally how we learn and assimilate new vocabulary from reading when learning our first language.


Main Aims

  • To provide students with practice in the skill of inferring meaning of unknown words from context, initially within discrete-point sentences, and then in a longer excerpt from a short story about a skiing trip.

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide review in context of the use of the past perfect / past perfect continuous tenses in a past tense narrative.
  • To introduce and practice in context some descriptive, narrative vocabulary in the context of an excerpt from a short story about a holiday taken with colleagues.


Warmer/Lead-in (5-8 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage and interest students

Teacher writes a short (3-turn) conversation on the board, line by line. Each line has one word missing, replaced by a blank space. After each line, student are asked, in pairs / groups of 3 (depending on class size) to discuss and agree together what the missing word is. After each additional line is added to the conversation, they may alter a previously guessed word if they wish. After conversation is completed, teacher will ask some groups to give their 'version' on the conversation. When the 'real' version is shown, points can be awarded for correct or near-correct guesses. What did we know about each word in each space? How did you decide what to put there (noun, verb, past tense, regular, adjective, adverb etc).

Pre-Reading prep task (4-6 minutes) • To introduce students to the concept of working out meanings of unknown lexis from context

Teacher writes the word 'rhubarb' on the board. What does this mean? (Don't know) How can we tell, if we don't know? (We can't, without a context) Teacher adds '-ing' to the word in a different coloured pen. What can you tell me about this word now? (Verb? Adjective) Teacher adds 'I've been...//....all day' to the word, elicits possible meanings again. Then 'I've had an absolutely ...//... morning' - elicits possible meanings again - then adds :( to the sentence (it's an SMS message you got) - what does it mean now?

Reading/Inferencing task 1 (10-12 minutes) • To provide students with discrete-point single-sentence practice tasks in working out meaning of vocabulary from context

Students are given HO1, which lists 10 sentences containing an unknown word (a potentially/likely unknown word, replaced with the word 'rhubarb' for the purpose of this activity). Working individually initially, they are asked to attempt to suggest a meaning for each of the placement words. After 4-5 minutes they will compare ideas and feedback with their partner(s), aiming to agree a possible meaning between them. Depending on the class size, they may then be 'pyramided' into larger groups to compare, share and agree feedback again.

Feedback (8-10 minutes) • To provide feedback and purpose to previous activity, enabling learners to evaluate their own success in a realistic light.

Teacher works through the HO with class, eliciting suggested meanings for each word. In cases of disagreement between groups, alternative possibilities will be discussed and evaluated. The teacher will give the actual word missing from each sentence after eliciting meaning in each case. Students match it for MEANING against their own stated meaning, with points awarded on the basis of how close / accurate their given meaning was in each case. At the end of the activity: how many of the 10 words on the board did you know before now? (none, or very few). How many, however, did you accurately guess the correct meaning of, despite this?

Reading/inferencing task 2 (6-8 minutes) • To give students further practice in inferring meaning from the context of an excerpt from a story, in which the actual unknown lexis must be deduced, alongside some words introduced in the previous activity.

Students are given a short, two-paragraph text: an excerpt from a past-tense narrative story which includes many of the words featuring in the previous activity, as well as one or two others which may be unfamiliar but likewise potentially deductible from context. They are asked to read the text individually first and work out as much of the meaning as possible, referring back to the answer key to HO1 if necessary. They then compare and agree meanings of each of the 5 underlined, potentially unknown words, with their partner.

Feedback and vocabulary focus (5-8 minutes) • To allow students to gauge their level of success at the previous activity by evaluating their overall level of understanding of a lexically complex excerpt of text

Teacher elicits suggestions and ideas for meanings of underlined words from text: students compare and share as a class. Feedback / discussion: what different ways can we work out meaning from context? What can make it easier / more difficult? Why is the past perfect tense used in this text (elicit ref back to timeline used in previous class) If there is extra time remaining, students will be placed into groups of 3-4 and asked to summarise the meaning of the text in HO2 together. Depending on time, this will be done either in writing or orally: the focus being on understanding and on giving a shortened version of the story which (a) doesn't include any of the difficult words from the text itself, and (b) doesn't include all details, simply the main gist. In order to facilitate this, a word limit will be given (if done in writing), or students will not be allowed to refer to the text (if done orally) whilst producing their summary.

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