A designer Lessons ESL lesson plan developed by George Chilton

I’ve taught this lesson in a couple of ways in the past. This one has been designed with Adult ESL students in mind, but it is highly adaptable  – and can be tweaked quite easily for teens and lower-level groups.

If you want to do this with a teens group, I’d suggest skipping Stage One; instead, ask them to take out their phones and explain what they like / dislike about them. However, be careful not to stray into the dangerous “my phone is better than your phone territory” – unless you want to focus on comparatives and teenage emotional distress, of course.

I’ve organised this plan a little differently, with optional activities for those of you without access to much classroom technology. That way you can pick and choose what you do in the lesson, or expand on the activities if you have a longer class. If you’re unable to do activities like the webquest in the class, you could always set them as homework.

Lesson: Apps and Mobile Technology

Level: Upper intermediate Trinity GESE Grade 7 and up (B2+)

Age group: Younger Adults and teens

Topic: Mobile technology

Skills focus: Listening / comparison / collaborative design / presentation

Time: 60- 90m

Stage one – Speculation and writing – 20-25 minutes

Write the words ‘Personal Assistant’ on the board. Ask the class to mind-map some things a PA does and add a few of their personal characteristics. For instance:

  • Arranges and co-ordinates meetings and events
  • Makes telephone calls
  • Is in charge of the agenda
  • Helps with personal chores and duties
  • Is very organised
  • Is a good communicator

Next you are going to read an edited extract describing Siri, the Apple iPhone app – it has been rewritten to sound more like a paragraph from a cover letter.

Set it up by telling your students that you are going to read out a quote from a cover letter by someone applying for a job as a personal assistant:

I am a personal assistant, able to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask me to do things just by talking the way you talk. I understand everything you say, I know what you mean, and I even talk back. I am so easy to work with and do so much.

Let them digest what you’ve read and then follow up with some questions.

  • Does the person sound professional?
  • Is there anything strange about the way they write?
  • Would they employ the person as a personal assistant?

Before they answer, read the extract again if they need to hear it. Possible responses include:

They sound too direct or confident because they claim to understand everything.

Saying “I even talk back” is confusing, and a little confrontational

“I do so much” is very vague and not very useful for a CV, they need to be more specific.

Help them form their ideas with questions if they struggle:

How does it sound when the person says “I even talk back”?

Is the phrase “I do so much” a useful thing to say?

How would you feel if someone told you to “talk the way you talk” and they will understand you anyway?

Then give the students a copy of the extract you read  (project it if you have the technology, if only to save paper ). Put them in pairs, or groups of up to 4 , depending on the numbers in your class, and give them 10 minutes to  rewrite the extract so that it sounds more professional. Monitor their texts, and offer them corrections as they go.

Once they’ve finished, ask the pairs to read out their answers. Do some on-the-spot corrections making sure the students note down their errors.

Stage two -Giving context- 5  minutes

Next tell your students that the text is not taken from a cover letter or CV – in fact, you were lying to them horribly. Explain that the quote does not even come from someone looking for a job. Ask them to guess what kind of text it is, and give them a few minutes to see if they can come up with some ideas. Give them hints if need be – for example, the person might not be “real.”

Honestly, it’s a difficult task, so don’t expect them to come up with the right answer.  After they have discussed their thoughts, have the groups give feedback, and share their ideas with the rest of the class.

Now read the original quote taken from the current (05/2012) iphone App Store:

Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.

Extract from Apple.com 14/05/12

Ask your students if they have heard of Siri before. If they haven’t, explain that, as the extract said, it is a personal assistant on the iPhone, which uses voice-recognition technology.

Here you have two options – tech or non-tech.

Non-tech option 15 minutes

Put the students in groups of 3 or 4 and  get them to brainstorm potential problems with an app that uses voice recognition software. For example:

  • Problems understanding accents and dialects.
  • Inaacurate results.
  • Language-specific, i.e – English.
  • Frustrating for user when it fails, etc.

Afterwards, get them to share their ideas, make sure to question them and have them expand on their answers. If any of them have a phone with Siri or something similar you could get them it demonstrate it for the group. If you want to extend the discussion,  ask them how voice-recognition is being used now and how it could be used in the future.

And/Or Tech option: – 15 minutes

Go over the following vocabulary to check understanding:

To launch a product  / a geek /market

I don’t really need to say it, but make sure to watch the video a few times yourself, just to note down vocabulary for your students. The lower the level, the more you’ll have to guide them.

Then show the following BBC video, which explains some issues with the voice-recognition technology understanding Scottish accents:

  1. How did techno-geeks feel when the product was launched?
  2. Why is the iphone creating confusion?
  3. What three questions do the shoppers ask Siri?
  4. Do linguists think the problem is easily solved? Why or why not?
  5. Why should Apple try to fix the problem with Siri?

Answers: 1. excited 2.the app does not understand different accents 3. Is it a nice day? /What do you think of the shopping centre here? /Where am I? 4. Liguists think it is very difficult to create software that can understand many different English accents, because accents are very varied. 5. If Apple don’t fix the problem they will have a very limited market.

Please note that the accents may make this a more difficult listening, so you may have to play it several times.

Stage Three – Optional webquest – 20 minutes

Give the class 20 minutes to the Apple iPhone App store online – (http://www.apple.com/iphone/from-the-app-store). They should work in small groups and choose their top three apps – thinking about the following:

  1. What the good and bad points of their chosen apps are.
  2. Who would use the app? (target market)
  3. Is the app free or do you have to pay? If you have to pay, is it a fair price?

They should also give a brief summary of the each app’s function.

Stage FourDesigning (20 mins) and presenting an app. (10 minutes)

Ask your students to get into groups of four and look at the following four categories, taken from the App Store:

  1. Social Networking
  2. News
  3. Sports and fitness
  4. Travel

Tell them that they must design an app that is worth £5. They have 15 minutes to decide on the category, the name, what the app does, the target market/customer. They will then present their app to the rest of the class. At the end they will hold a vote on the best app idea. Groups cannot vote for themselves of course!

Make sure to monitor and guide the students as they work on their presentations. If you run out of time, let them work on their ideas until the end of class and allow them to present in the next class.

There you have it. It is one of those lessons that’ll date in about 5 minutes – so do it while it still makes sense, or wait a few months and turn it into a history lesson.

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Designer Lessons by George Chilton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.