Number one for English language teachers

Getting more out of Owl Hall

Level: Pre-intermediate Type: Article, Teaching notes

Lindsay Clandfield gives a whole host of extra tips and suggestions for extending Owl Hall in the classroom so that you and your students can really make the most of this exciting new series.

Owl Hall lesson plans

The Owl Hall lesson plans have been written to provide you with around thirty minutes’ worth of class time. There are three aims to these lessons: to provide meaningful and motivating listening practice, to focus on an aspect of language in the episode and to provide a springboard to discuss issues arising from the episode.

For listening skills, there are almost always two questions – one to focus on gist and one on specific details. For language points, we chose from a variety of areas that are appropriate for learners from levels pre-intermediate to intermediate (grammar, vocabulary or functional language).

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 realize that the Owl Hall audio materials 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 transcript for every three to four students in the class and cut it into strips. At the beginning of the 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 transcript
  • 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:

Martin: How much further? How much further?
Kara: Be quiet, Martin.
Mum: What’s that, Kara?
Kara: Nothing. So, where are we going? We’ve been driving since this morning.
Mum: I told you, it’s a secret.
Martin: Yeah, it’s a secret Kara.

Rewritten:

Martin: How much closer? How much closer?
Kara: Be quiet, Martin.
Mum: Who’s that, Kara?
Kara: Nothing. So, where are we going? We’ve been walking since this morning.
Mum: I told you, it’s a secret.
Martin: Yeah, it’s a secret Kara.

Give copies of your lines to the students. Play the listening and ask students to spot the mistakes and underline them. They 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:

Howard: Are you lost?
Mum: Yes, we are. We’re looking for –
Howard: Owl Hall?
Mum: That’s right. How did you know?
Howard: It’s the only place around here … Apart from my house, of course. I’m Howard by the way.
Mum: Hello, Howard. Nice to meet you.
Howard: There was a sign here once. But it fell down in the storms last year. Go straight ahead and after 800 metres you’ll see a turning to the left. Go down the road and you’ll come to Owl Hall. Enjoy your stay.
Mum: Thanks!

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 turns 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. You can also add space for sound effects. Your script will look like this:

Mum (             ): Can you see anything? Wait a minute. There it is!
Martin (             ): Where are we?
Mum (             ): We’re here. Owl Hall.

(Sound effects … _________________)

Mum (             ): Please can you open the gate for me, darling?
Kara (             ): Why me? OK.

(Sound effects … _________________)

Kara (             ): Brrr … it’s freezing.

(Sound effects … _________________)

Kara (             ): OK!

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 can also add sound effects they think should be there. They then read out their dialogues to another pair.

6. Dialogue filming with phones

For this activity students will need a video camera. Any video camera will do, even (especially) one on a mobile phone. Put students into small groups and give each group the script. The group must choose a section of the script and enact it, with one person filming using the camera. Groups then show each other their films.

Writing activities

7. Half the dialogue

Copy and paste a section of the transcript into a Word document. This should be a dialogue between two people. Delete every other line. Here is an example of part of a dialogue from Episode 2:

Kara: What are you doing, Martin?
Martin:
Kara:
 Of course you can, Martin. What do you want to talk about?
Martin:
Kara:
 It’s okay, Martin. I’m listening.
Martin: 
Kara: I’m not laughing.

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.

8. Extend the episode

Give the students a copy of the transcript after you have done the listening exercises. In pairs they have to extend the episode. They can do this either by: a) writing a continuation of the scene (what happens next), or b) writing an extra scene in the episode itself.

If students have access to computers, it may be easier for you to send them the transcript digitally and then they can edit it.

Students then read out their episode extensions to each other.

9. Stay at Owl Hall!

In the story, Owl Hall is a compound of little cottages. You can ask students to imagine they are staying at Owl Hall too and write their own blog post entries. When they discover what Owl Hall is at the end, have them write their own reasons for being there.

10. 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 Episode 1 which have been transformed into writing assignments:

Original discussion questions:

  1. Martin is playing a game called I Spy in the car. Do you know this game? Have you ever played games to pass the time on a car journey? Which ones?
  2. Kara asks her mum, ’Why can’t we go on a real holiday?’. What kind of holiday do you think Kara wants? What would be a real holiday for you?

New writing assignments:

  1. What different ways can people pass the time on long car journeys? Write a short piece for an online travel website in 100 words.
  2. What do the words a real holiday mean to you? Write your own explanation of what a real holiday would be for you in 150 words.

Exploring Owl Hall in print and online!

Owl Hall is more than just a podcast series. It’s a multi-media, multi-channel experience. In addition to the podcast episodes on Onestopenglish you and your learners can:

11. Read the story in novel form!

Owl Hall is coming out as a graded Macmillan Reader in January 2012. Your students can experience the story as a novel and get further reading practice.

12. Read Kara’s blog!

At the Owl Hall website students can read the blog posts that Kara writes during her time in Owl Hall.

13. Do a virtual visit of Owl Hall!

At the Owl Hall website your learners can see images and watch Kara’s video tour of the house and grounds.

Owl Hall website banner

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Hi there,

    I think you could probably do lots of the activities above in a one-to-one setting. If the activity asks the students to work in pairs, you could take on the role of student b.

    If your student expresses an interest in a particular sub-topic in Owl Hall, you could explore that topic in the next lesson by asking your student to do some research on the topic and to report back to you. For example in episode two they talk about the house being 'creepy'. Your student might be interested in haunted houses and that could be the research topic.

    Also, you might find this area on onestopenglish useful

    http://www.onestopenglish.com/business/teaching-approaches/teaching-one-to-one/methodology/

    I hope that helps and that we get some more suggestions from other teachers using Owl Hall!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any suggestions for using Owl Hall with just a single pupil?

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