Sidney Sidney

Upper-intermediate level


In this lesson, students will practice their writing skills in the context of sending postcards.


Abc The Practice of English Language Teaching - Jeremy Harmer

Main Aims

  • To provide product writing practice of a postcard in the context of travel

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide practice of paragraph structure and revision


Warmer/Lead-in (2-4 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Teacher will show students an example of a postcard (F. Scott Fitzgerald's postcard to himself, c. 1937 ("What kind of writing is this?") Teacher asks students if writing to oneself is a strange idea. This is done to engage students in the activity and pique their interest. Teacher tells students that today, we will be focusing on writing postcards, and that they will have the opportunity to write their own examples.

Sample analysis (10-12 minutes) • a) To identify the sections of a postcard b) to identify language needed in a postcard

a) Teacher will then show students an example of their own postcard and use guided discovery to allow students to identify the parts of the postcard and create a checklist of criteria for their own samples. Teacher asks students if the sample has a structure/if it is organized in any way ("Does it have an introduction? Does it have an ending? What goes in the middle? What goes on the right side? Are postcards usually shorter or longer than letters?") This information is written on a blank slide in the Google document, so that students can refer to it as needed. Giving students a model will allow them to easily come up with their own version (Harmer, 329.) Criteria checklist and CCQs used to allow students to discover the criteria are as follows: Introduction: "Should we include the name of the person we're writing to?" (Yes) Greeting: "Should I start the letter by talking about myself or by asking about the other person?" (The other person.) Body: "Do we usually send postcards from home, or do we send postcards when we're travelling?" (Travelling.) "What sorts of things can we put in the body of the postcard?" (Activities, current events, etc.) Closing paragraph: "Do I talk about myself or the other person?" (The other person.) Signature: "What are some ways we could sign the paragraph?" (Best, much love, xoxo, etc.) "Does the way I sign the paragraph depend on whom I'm writing to?" (Yes) b) Teacher covers functional aspects of TL using Google Slides: // "We're having a great/lovely time" Meaning: I am enjoying my present activities CCQs: Is this talking about something that happened once or something that’s continuous? (Continuous) What are some other words I could use instead of great or lovely? (Fun, wonderful, etc.) Form: Collocation Pronoun + having a (fixed) + adjective + time Potential problems: Students may need clarification on the timeline of continuous past/present. Students may struggle with using diverse adjectives. Students may omit the contraction of “we’re.” Solutions: Draw timeline. Elicit synonyms. Contrast informal vs formal contraction. // "The weather’s been gorgeous." Meaning: The weather has been/is nice in the continuous past and present. CCQs: CCQs: Is “gorgeous” stronger or weaker than “nice?” (Stronger) Is the weather still nice? (Yes) Form: Collocation The weather’s been (fixed) + adjective Potential problems: Students may need clarification on the timeline of continuous past/present. Student’s may insert unnecessary article “it’s” to refer to the weather. Solutions: Draw timeline, write out full uncontracted phrase and analyse parts of speech. // "Wish you were here." Meaning: I would like it if you were here (hypothetical) CCQs: If I say this to someone, do I miss them? (Yes) Do I think that they would have a nice time if they were where I am? (Yes) Would I say this at the beginning or end of a postcard? (Ending) Form: Collocation Potential problems: Clarify usage of the past simple tense to convey desire. Students may use wrong verb tense. Solutions: Contrast present vs. simple past and elicit correct tense. // "xoxo" Meaning: Hugs and kisses CCQs: CCQs: Is this something I would say in real life or only in writing? (Writing) Is this formal or informal? (informal) Form: Abbreviation Pronunciation: n/a Potential problems: May be used inappropriately in more formal contexts. Solutions: Clarify appropriacy and the level of closeness required to use this signature. // "Yours truly." Meaning: Used as a signature, informally, to refer to oneself CCQs: CCQs: Is this formal or informal? (informal?) Do I say “truly” to let the other person know that I’m telling the truth or to let them know that I care about them? (Care) Form: Collocation Potential problems: May be used inappropriately in more formal contexts. Students may use “your” instead of “yours,” not understanding that the implication is that the speaker is “yours." Solutions: Use CCQs to elicit correct meaning and appropriacy of usage. //

Productive Task - Writing (12-15 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Students are instructed to write their own postcards on one of the blank Google slides. Writing as a group activity can be highly motivational for students, as it incorporates aspects of cooperation, research, peer-evaluation, and pride in one's work (Harmer, 329.) Each student will be able to work on the document under teacher supervision using this method. Teacher gives instructions to the students for completing the activity: "You can write to another person, or you can write to yourself. You can write from home, or you can write about a place that you've visited recently. You don't have to put an address, but you can make one up if you want to." ICQs: Could you write about what you've been doing at home during quarantine? (Yes) Could you write about a holiday/vacation that you took last summer? (Yes) Could you write to your partner/a friend/a family member? (Yes) What does your postcard need to include? (Greeting, introduction, body, closing, signature.) Teacher monitors activity and provides assistance to students who may need it.

Feedback and Error Correction (12-14 minutes) • To peer-check writing with the use of a checklist and provide feedback on students' production and use of language

Students are divided into breakout rooms and instructed to take turns sharing their screen with their partner and provide feedback using the list of criteria that they created during the sample analysis stage of the lesson. This stage also has the added advantage of being able to learn from the vocabulary usage of other peers (Harmer, 236.) Meanwhile, the teacher analyses the students' products and makes note of where the students require feedback/error correction/language upgrades, as well as where they have demonstrated positive skills and good command of the language (Harmer, 146.) Teacher uses the remaining time to perform error correction and feedback, praising good use of language and noting where criteria was met/not met.

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