Olha Madylus offers a selection of teaching ideas and activities on the theme of weather.
Introducing weather vocabulary
Cloudy, rainy, sunny, snowy, stormy, hot and cold – these are good words to start with (although, with students who are able to grasp more and who have been studying English for over a year or two, more words can be introduced). A lot of coursebooks include pictures that illustrate this lexis clearly. If you can’t find any, draw simple line drawings or find photographs or pictures in magazines. For hot and cold you could mime actions or give examples of things that are hot or cold: ice cream, fire, etc.
A good lexical link for weather is clothes. Students could match suitable clothes for the different weather words: coat, scarf, umbrella, sunglasses, swimsuit, etc.
A nice game is to bring in some of these items, call out a weather word and ask students to run and pick up a suitable article for that weather. (For larger classes divide your class into groups to play this game.) To expand practice, older students can write sentences like: ‘When it’s snowy I wear a coat and scarf.’
Total physical response (TPR)
For the key lexis, choose appropriate actions.
- For ‘rainy’, walk hunched up pretending to hold an umbrella
- For ‘windy’, walk as if blown from side to side
- For ‘hot’, wipe off pretend sweat from your brow
... and so on!
Music and song
The following song is on the theme of weather and is sung to the tune of ‘London’s Burning’. The words were written by Karen Hall and Jesse Barnecutt , two eighteen-year-old teacher trainees I had the delight to learn from on a recent course preparing them to teach English in India. Although there may not be songs already written to practise the target vocabulary, it is not so difficult to adapt / write them – and bring out the songwriter in you!
The teacher sings the song first and does appropriate actions. Sing one verse at a time (slowly) so the children have plenty of time to digest meaning and get used to the words. It may take a couple of lessons for younger students to become confident/comfortable with the whole song. There will be a great feeling of success at singing the whole thing through.Bringing in the items of clothing will make meaning clear. The song combines music, total physical response and a nice lexical link.Here are the lyrics (see also the attached lyric sheet below):
The sun is shining, The sun is shining
Get your sun hat, Get your sun hat
It’s hot! It’s hot!
It's raining, It’s raining
Get your brolly, Get your brolly
I’m wet! I’m wet!
It’s snowing, It’s snowing
Get your scarf on, Get your scarf on
I’m cold! I’m cold!
Go inside, Go inside
I’m scared! I’m scared!
It’s windy, It’s windy
Hold your hat on, Hold your hat on
Blown away! Blown away!
The topic of weather lends itself nicely to contrasting is/was. Children can look out of the classroom window and see the weather and will understand ‘It’s sunny today’, which can then be contrasted with yesterday’s weather – ‘It was rainy yesterday’.
After the children have been initially introduced to weather vocabulary, at the beginning of every lesson ask the children ‘What’s the weather like today?’ and praise their responses. Children may say ‘snowy’ on a hot sunny day not because they have forgotten the meaning but to make a joke – don’t correct too quickly. Making jokes in a foreign language is a sure sign that they are acquiring the language and enjoying using it – hurrah!
Have flashcards with a picture of and word for the weather conditions to stick onto the board or wall to reinforce the language.
Prepare cards with weather words and matching pictures and play the pelmanism ('pairs') game:
- Take a set of vocabulary items, e.g. seven weather words, and make a set of fourteen cards. On seven, write the names of the types of weather, and on the other seven, draw or stick on pictures of those types of weather.
- Spread the cards upside down on a table or floor and muddle them up. The object of the game is to find a match.
- Each player picks up two cards, looking at them and showing them to the other players.
- If they match (the name of the weather and the picture of the weather are the same) they keep them; if they don’t they must put them back exactly where they found them and the other players must try to remember where they are.
- Children pick the cards up in order until all the cards have been matched. The student with the most pairs is the winner.
While playing the game children must read the key vocabulary, understand meaning and also attempt to remember the location of the cards. In my experience children usually say the words out loud as they read them and often help each other to find the match. It’s a popular and enjoyable activity that helps students remember and practise vocabulary.
This topic lends itself well to learning about / revising some basic ideas about world geography. Children can begin by using the lexis to describe their country – hot and sunny in the summer, rainy in the winter, etc, and move on to talk about the weather in other countries/regions like the North Pole or the Sahara desert. Pin a big map of the world to a wall and get the children to write sunny/hot/windy, etc on little stickers and then stick them onto countries they know about. It also helps to teach the English names for countries.
This approach could lead into a nice wall display project: children collect pictures of countries (the pyramids of Egypt, Thai beaches, Alpine mountains, etc) from magazines, newspapers, the internet or draw their own and paste them onto big sheets of paper. They write labels for each picture using the weather vocabulary and any other words they know to describe those countries. This allows an opportunity for children with higher language levels to use language they know – and makes the classroom look bright and interesting. Also, other students visiting the classroom will have opportunities to learn from the display.
Telling a story
Introduce ‘teddy’ to the students.The teacher, holding teddy and making appropriate movements and facial gestures and using slightly exaggerated intonation, tells the story:
The content of the story will depend on how much English the children know and how enthusiastically they offer suggestions.
If they offer suggestions in the mother tongue, the teacher can accept them and repeat them in English, giving the children the opportunity to repeat them. It’s a chance for children to be imaginative and creative and work together to produce a story.
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