Number one for English language teachers

Getting more out of 'The Road Less Travelled'

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate Type: Article

Lindsay Clandfield suggests some activities to extend the onestopenglish soap opera lessons.

The Road Less Travelled worksheets

The worksheets have been written to provide you with around thirty minutes’ worth of class time. We decided to focus mainly on listening skills and one language point in each worksheet. For listening skills, there are almost always two questions – one to focus on gist and one on specific details. For language points, we chose either functional language (e.g. making requests, talking on the phone, at customs…) or a feature of spoken English or grammar (e.g. short answers, discourse markers…)

There are usually three or four questions for the speaking activity at the end of the worksheet. The speaking activity often includes:

  • a question to personalize the material, by asking students what they would do if they were in the character’s shoes
  • a question about an issue raised in the episode itself
  • a question asking students to speculate what will happen next

However, we do realise that these podcasts can be exploited much further by creative teachers. With this in mind, here are some suggestions and ideas on how to get more out of each episode.


Listening activities

1. Reorder the script
Make a copy of the tapescript for every three to four students in the class and cut it into strips. At the beginning of class, ask students to read through the strips of paper and try to put them in order.
To make this easier you can:

  • give them the first and last line of the script
  • cut strips with more than one line of dialogue (e.g. three or four)
  • Students then listen and check their answers.

2. Spot the mistakes
Choose ten sentences from the listening. Rewrite them, but change small details. For example:

Original lines:
MARK: Have I missed anything?
CHRIS: No, it’s just starting now. Put your jackets in my bedroom.
Rewritten:
MARK: Have I missed anything?
CHRIS: No, it’s starting in five minutes. Put your jackets in the kitchen.

Give copies of your lines to the students. Play the listening and ask students to spot the mistakes and underline them. They then listen again and correct the mistakes.

3. Listen and stand
Choose different key words from the episode and write each one down on a separate piece of paper. Here is an example of key words you could select from episode 1.

SAL:   Katie, have you thought about my suggestion? About coming out to California?
KATIE:   I don’t know, Sal. I’ve thought about it every day. But I have my job here, and Mark … I don’t know.
SAL:   Katie, you’re my cousin. I’m going to be honest with you. You hate your life there in England. You hate your job. You spend your free time watching football with Mark, and with Mark’s friends. You’re depressed. You’re depressed Katie, and you need a change.
KATIE: I know, I know. You’re right…It’s just… It’s just… I don’t know.

Give the pieces of paper to different students in the class. Explain that as you play the episode, they must stand up every time they hear their word mentioned.

Play the episode. At the end ask students to work in pairs and say how much they understood from the episode. Then hand out the worksheet, play the episode again and do the exercises.


Speaking and Pronunciation activities

4. Dialogue reading
One of the most classic and straightforward ways of extending the episode would be to ask the students to work in groups of two or three and read it. This can be done in closed groups, or in open class (i.e. students take turn reading lines).

Another way of exploiting the dialogue would be to copy out four or five lines on the board and ask two students to read it out. Then rub out two or three words and ask two new students to read it out again (remembering the words that have been rubbed out). Continue until all the words have been erased. Then ask students to rewrite the complete dialogue in their notebooks.

5. Dialogue reading 2
Select the text of the script and paste it into a new word document. Add space next to each line of script for students to write a word. Your script should look like this:

MARK (                 )  Hi! We’re here. We’re a bit late – Katie’s fault as always!
KATIE (                 )  Hi Chris! Hi everyone.
BOYS (                 )  Hello Katie. Hi Mark.
MARK (                 )  Have I missed anything?
CHRIS (                 )  No, it’s just starting now. Put your jackets in my bedroom.
MARK (                 )  Good. Phew. Katie, could you take my jacket?
KATIE (                 ) Yes, sure.

Give copies of your script to the students. The students must work in pairs and add adverbs to each of the lines in the manner which they think the character should say the line (e.g. happily, nervously, lovingly…) They then read out their dialogues to another pair.

6. Roleplay follow up
Many of the episodes have an element of conflict, or finish on a note of suspense. You can ask students to invent and roleplay a follow up scene. Give them time to prepare a script or an outline of a script.



Writing activities

7. Katie’s journal/Katie’s letter home
The character of Katie appears in each episode. Ask students to write 100-150 words from Katie’s point of view as a follow up. This could be:

  • an excerpt from Katie’s personal diary
  • a posting in Katie’s personal online blog
  • an email or letter from Katie to her mother

8. Half the dialogue
Copy and paste a section of the tapescript into a word document. Delete every other line. Here is an example of part of a dialogue from episode 1.

MARK:  Who was that?
KATIE:  _________________________
MARK:  Well, come on.
KATIE: _________________________
MARK: The match starts in ten minutes. We’re going to Chris’ house. They’re waiting in the car!
KATIE: _________________________
MARK:  What?
KATIE:  _________________________

Distribute the copies to the students and ask them to work in pairs and write what they think could go in the missing space. Students then listen and compare the original with their own dialogue.

9. Discussion questions as writing questions
The questions at the end of each episode are originally meant to be used in a discussion activity, but could equally be used as a short writing assignment. Some of the questions could be turned into statements – which students can then write a for or against essay about.

Here are two discussion questions from different episodes which have been transformed into writing assignments.

    • Do you ever do things you don’t really want to do just to be with your friends?
    • Do men still expect women to do all the work around the house in your country? Do you agree?

    become

    • People do things they don’t really want to do just to be with their friends. Agree or disagree? Write your response in 250 words.
    • Men still expect women to do all the work around the house in your country. Agree or disagree. Write your response in 250 words.

As we said at the beginning of the article, these podcasts can be exploited in a number of ways by creative teachers. We’ve suggested nine – can you suggest a tenth?

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