This is a really memorable, creative lesson I designed for my FCE teen class as a fun way of reworking the classic B2 tense review. They loved the context and the creativity, as well as the explicit grammar and pronunciation focus through the lens of TV drama.
Level: B2 (Upper-Intermediate)
Time: 90-120 minutes, depending on the size of your class
Materials: 1 worksheet per student (comment for files)
By the end of the lesson, students will have written and performed a short dialogue in the style of TV courtroom dramas.
Students will also have reviewed the meaning, form and pronunciation of past and present tenses in the context of eyewitness testimony.
1. Prediction: Write “How to get away with murder” on the board. Tell students that this is the title of an American TV show. In pairs, students predict what the show is about (genre, characters, plotlines).
NOTE: You might want to clarify “get away with“. Quite a few of my students assumed it had something to do with getting away from the scene of the crime.
2. Feedback: Supply any courtroom vocabulary that students might need later in the task (e.g. to be on trial, eyewitness testimony, give evidence), perhaps reactively as you listen to their predictions. See my #ELTwhiteboard below for examples.
3. Reading: Individually, students skim-read the script and discuss the three questions. 4. Feedback: Establish that the aunt is accusing her niece and nephew of murdering their parents.
NOTE: Now is a good time to deal with any unfamiliar vocabulary in the text, although students should be able to do most of this work themselves, inductively.
5. Grammar: Write “timeline of a murder” on the board. Draw a timeline and mark “PAST” and “PRESENT”. Elicit the sequence of events from students, and mark a few on the timeline. In pairs, students finish the timelines in their books. Fast finishers can write their answers up on the board for other students to compare with.
6. Feedback: Clear up any confusion, focusing only on areas where students disagree. I had to use a few CCQs for “I’ve been staying”, but the other verb phrases were fairly straightforward.
7. Prep for writing: In pairs, students imagine a different crime storyline and use it to create a new timeline. Fast finishers can be prompted to flesh out the details, e.g. What was the motive? What happened immediately after the crime was committed?
8. Grammar: Individually, students look at the second version of the script and correct any verb errors. Fast finishers can peer-check their answers.
9. Feedback: Students unfold their worksheets and check their ideas against the original script. Focus on any common areas of misunderstanding in open class. Here we had some nice debate about the difference between, for example, I’ve been staying there and I’ve stayed there.
10. Writing: In pairs, students return to their self-created crime timeline, and use it to write a 10-turn dialogue between the lawyer for the prosecution and the key witness. Fast finishers can swap scripts and give peer feedback on how clear the narrative of the underlying crime is, as well as how interesting the actual dialogue is.
NOTE: When giving instructions, elicit why each turn is relatively short: the lawyer’s questions must be clear and easy to follow; the witness can only answer the question asked by the lawyer; the witness must state only the facts.
11. Prediction: Ask students to return to the original script and predict any pauses, changes in speed and other features of intonation, giving reasons for their answers.
12. Feedback: If you have a Netflix account, you can play the real scene from the TV show. (If not, have two other teachers audio-record the scene for you.) Either way, students can listen and check their answers to the prediction task.
13. Pronunciation: Split the students into two groups: witnesses and lawyers. As a class, “witnesses” and “lawyers” shadow-read, i.e. read aloud with the actors as the scene plays. Then “witnesses” and “lawyers” read aloud again, but without the audio/video in the background, imitating the intonation from the recording.
14. Prep for performance: In pairs, students think about intonation for their own dialogues. They practice, memorising the lines just as actors would do.
15. Performance: In pairs, students perform their dialogue for the rest of the class. After each performance, invite students to give peer feedback, focusing on clarity of storyline and effectiveness of intonation. Add your own feedback at the end.