Saturday, 12 October 2013

The ‘World Famous’ Zombie Lesson – EFL lesson for English language students

Being an English teacher can be difficult and sometimes when energy is low in the class I feel this lesson really helps to bring the levels right back up. It's great for General English and I have mainly done it with upper-intermediate and advanced students but the truth is this lesson has so much scope and depth for language learning that you can add to it and take as much from as you want.... so ladies and gentlemen I give you the world famous Zombie lesson invented by myself (because I love zombies and you should always use your passions and interests to re-enforce your lesson cause I believe if you love it, your students will too)... and it is my proudest achievement so far to date in the English language learning world. J

Introduction – I usually start with the topic of zombies – 'what they are' etc to illicit the vocabulary that they will need such as – death, re-animation (this one can be tough), zombie, walking dead etc. I also ask them if they have watched ‘The Walking Dead’ as this can scupper the gist task 2... so you need to establish who has seen season one of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and who has not. Once you feel you have enough vocabulary feel free to move on.

Gist Task 1 – I show them the first of two videos. The first is the longer version of the season one trailer for ‘The Walking Dead’ and takes about four minutes. I ask them to watch so they can tell me what is happening in the trailer.

After watching the above trailer the students will then quickly talk in pairs and discuss what they saw. What you can teach here is passive and active voice such as ‘the car was being chased by the police’ against ‘the police were chasing the criminal’ or ‘the policeman was shot’ and ‘the criminals shot the policeman’
You also want them to tell you what happened in the trailer – you can watch it above to list your own objectives. I usually use it to teach present continuous with present simple or past continuous with past simple (interrupted past). I will usually have taught this structure in a lesson before. So for example ‘the police were chasing the car when it rolled over’ or ‘the Sheriff was riding a horse when he bumped into a horde (crowd could be more useful J) of zombies. They should also mention the fact that the policeman is looking for his wife and son.

Follow-up to Gist task 1 - I usually get them to write up the story of the trailer to re-enforce the grammar and vocabulary used. (You can already see how many different points you can focus on in this lesson)

Gist Task 2 - So now I show them the second, slightly shorter, 2 minute trailer and this is the point you need to have established who has watched the show or who not. This second one is similar but just more concise. What I get them to do is watch the video and then in pairs make predictions about what will happen during the season. I give them the protagonists name (Rick) to make it easier for them. If there are people who have watched the season I always put them together with people who haven’t to ask them questions. 'What do you think will happen to Rick?' etc. 

Here you may need to pre-teach how to express opinions such as ‘I think, believe, feel (teach them as synonyms in certain cases and that in these cases think and feel are not used in the continuous tense), reckon and even hope etc along with making predictions such as ‘I think Rick will find is family’ or (using evidence in the present) ‘I feel we are going to see a lot of zombies being killed’ (again passive voice).

Follow-up Task – Well here you can do a few things such as make a presentation about what they think will happen or again a writing task to re-enforce the language or just leave it as a speaking task and report back to the class.

Main Task (option 1) – Here is where things get a little more fun and I teach ‘making suggestions and expressing opinions or negotiation skills’ which could be the main aim of the lesson (it usually is with mine). I set a scenario of a zombie apocalypse and tell that, in my case, zombies are all over London and on Oxford street but they have not yet entered our building. That it is just us left and for the exercise imagine that their families and friends are safe. Tell them that we need to escape before the zombies come in and kill us all.
Before I give them this task I usually pre-teach modals and grammar structures such as:

‘Need’ for necessity

‘Must and Have to’ for obligation and very strong suggestions

‘Should and Ought to’ for strong suggestions

‘Could and can’ for possibility and ability

‘Second conditional’ (If I were you...) to make suggestions


there is so much language that can be taught here. You can also re-enforce that when acting as a modal ‘have and ought’ need to have ‘to’ or the ‘infinitive with to’ while the other modals use the ‘infinitive without to’ except for ‘need’ which uses the ‘infinitive with to’ or a noun. You can also show them that second conditional to make suggestions usually uses ‘were’ and not ‘was’ so ‘If I were you’ not ‘If I was you’ but you can teach them neither is wrong in reality, just that ‘were’ seems to be preferred.

After this I get them to write down a few ideas with a partner such as ‘we need to take water with us’ or ‘we should make a weapon’.  After a few minutes I split the room into groups and get them to make a plan of how to escape so ideas like ‘build a ladder’ or ‘steal a car’ (you can talk about the alarm attracting the attention of the zombies) or ‘run for your lives’ have all been ideas I have heard. When they have created a plan I get them to tell the room their plans. Then I tell them they all need to agree on one plan. Here they should use comparatives such as safer and better or superlatives.  When they agree on something I get them to report the final idea and the lesson could be/is over and ‘we escape’.

Main Task 2 – this is an alternative or an extra depending on how long your lesson is or how you feel J. It is a writing task.

I ask the students to write a story. This is creative writing so you need to ask them to decide in pairs the characters and the setting for the zombie apocalypse. I get them to write a 180 – 250 word short story. In this they will use ‘past perfect, past simple and past continuous’ among other tenses and get them to read it back to the classes. This only works if you’ve pre-taught the tenses.

Again the scope from here is limitless as sometimes I get the students to choose their favourite and then tell them Steven Spielberg has bought the rights to the movie so now they need to write a scene from it and then get them to act it out... oh and specify that all students must be human, being a zombie just allows them to avoid using English haha.

Conclusion... well I hope you love my Zombie lesson as much as I do... and I am sure there is so much more scope to be had from it so I would welcome any ideas you all may have.  It has always been a success in class and raised the energy levels and trust me when I say I have done it quite a few times J.

Thank you for reading and let me know how it goes.


PS thanks to AMC for giving me something so amazing to teach :)