A-Level & GCSE Teaching materials: Activities & Ideas
We will use this page to provide ideas and activities for teaching about spoken British English developed for A-level or GCSE-level English Language students. Some of these include fully-developed lesson plans, others are ideas for shorter additional activities that can be used to complement other materials used in the class. The materials use the BNClab, an online platform developed by Lancaster University, that can be accessed here or you can find it at this web address: corpora.lancs.ac.uk/bnclab.
BNClab uses 10 million words from two large corpora, the British National Corpus and the British National Corpus 2014, to help students explore topics in the national curriculum such as the effect of gender, age and region on spoken communication as well as language change that has taken place in English over the last thirty years. BNClab offers a simple access to the data – students can type a word or a phrase and see how frequently it appears in spoken communication of different social groups or at different points in time (1990s vs 2010s).
If you have any questions, comments or to get password to access password-protected teacher notes for the activities, please email Dr Dana Gablasova at email@example.com.
How do we know a language is undergoing a change? Language change can be observed in a number of areas of language use. When a language undergoes a change, this can be demonstrated by changes in pronunciation, meaning of words (semantics), appearance and disappearance of new words (lexical changes), grammatical changes related to syntax and morphology. What causes these changes to happen? These changes are the result of various factors that affect language communication. Some of the main ones are changes in how our society functions (e.g. changes in lifestyle, attitudes, technology and channels of communication), results of contact between languages or part of a cycle of linguistic innovation.
|Language and technology||How does technology affect spoken English today? This activity sheet looks at the role played by technology in the use of language. It explores some of lexical changes in the English language that have followed technological development. The individual tasks can be used on their own or together to build a longer activity. Download the activity sheet here. Teaching notes for individual tasks are available here.|
|Why does English keep on changing?||Languages, including English, keep on changing. In many cases, the developments in language reflect the changing needs of the speakers and the changes in the environment in which we live. Tasks in this worksheet guide students to explore lexical changes that can be observed in present-day English. In particular, we will look at how changes in society affect the words we use in our everyday conversations. The activity sheet is here, the teaching notes here.|
|Why are people judged by the way they speak?||This worksheet looks at language attitudes and how the way people speak can influence how they are perceived and evaluated by others. In particular, it focuses on attitudes to language change as demonstrated by the change (an increase) in the use of split infinitive in spoken British English. Download the student handout here and the teaching notes here.|
|Language and healthcare||One of the areas in which people’s lifestyles and thinking have developed is related to the approach to health and to a growing awareness of importance of care for both mental and physical health. Activities in this worksheet explore how these changes in approaches to health have been reflected in people’s language use. Download the student handout here and the teaching notes here.|
|Never discuss religion, sex, politics or money: Do people still follow the advice?
|According to the old saying, it is best to avoid discussing religion, politics, sex and money publicly as it may be impolite to do so, causing discomfort and embarrassment to other people. In this worksheet, we are going to look at whether the way people talk about these topics changed. We are also going to explore the norms and values that may have contributed to the language shift and whether they have been affected by social variables such as age, gender and social class. Download the student handout here and the teaching notes here.|
|Language and lifestyle||Coming soon|
LANGUAGE and GENDER
The role of gender and changing attitudes towards gender in society can be seen in many different areas of language us. What are the differences between how men and women speak and what are some of the reasons behind these patterns? These are some of the questions that will be explored in this section, where we will look at gender differences related to different areas of language use (e.g. swearing, use of standard language).
|Gender and pronouns||In this worksheet, we will look at the role of pronouns in changing attitudes to signalling gender in the English language. Download the worksheet here. Teaching notes can be accessed from this site.|
|Gender and swearing||Swearing is a common feature of everyday spoken conversations, typically used in situations of anger, frustration, but also as a sign of solidarity and group membership. A common stereotype about language use is that men swear more than women do. But is this really the case? Student handout can be downloaded here and the teaching notes for individual tasks here.|
|Gender and standard language||Standard English is a variety of English that is conventionally considered to be the accepted variety for public or formal use. Many people would also regard it as the ‘correct’ use of English, as opposed to various non-standard varieties (such as regional dialects). This worksheet focuses on differences in the way men and women speak with regards to standard and non-standard language. Download the student handout here and the teaching notes for individual tasks here.|
LANGUAGE and REGION
How people speak varies across different regions of the UK. These activities look at the differences in the use of language across the UK, addressing questions such as what is a dialect and what factors contribute to regional variation in communication.
|What does a dialect look like?||When talking about dialects, we usually think of specific linguistic features related to grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation that are typical for language use from a certain region or by a certain group of speakers. In this worksheet, we look at how we can identify dialects. and discuss people’s associations with some words and uses of grammar. Download the student worksheet here and teacher notes can be found here.|
|Dialects: Where can we find them?||Many definitions of ‘a dialect’ highlight the fact that dialects are related to a particular region; however, not all dialects are defined by regional boundaries. In this worksheet, we will explore what other factors define what we consider to be a dialect. In particular, we will focus on the role played by different social groups, for example, sometimes men use more dialect forms than women or the education status will come into play as well. The student worksheet can be downloaded here and teacher notes can be found here.|
|Dialects among us: How much do we know about them?||This worksheet looks at how people from different regions in the UK use language.We will talk about questions such as whether it is easy to tell whether someone comes from a particular region and what makes their language different from the language of people in other parts of the UK and Ireland. The student worksheet can be downloaded here and teacher notes can be found here.|
LANGUAGE and AGE
The way we speak usually changes across our lifetime. This change is related to development in people’s personal lives, their role in the society as well as to the larger changes in the life of the community (for example, changes in perception of gender or technological developments). Materials and activities in this section focus on the differences in language use between younger and older speakers of English.
|Do younger and older people in the UK still speak the same language?||This worksheet focuses on the differences in language use between younger and older speakers of English. Download the worksheet here and teacher notes here.|
|Does age affect how people talk about their emotions?||Emotions play an important role in our lives, influencing how we think and behave. As people progress through their lives, the way they perceive the world around them changes gradually, which in turn has an impact on how they experience, interpret and express their emotions. Many of these changes will also be reflected in how people talk about emotions and what language they use to express their feelings. Using corpus data from the BNC and BNC2014, this worksheet explores how people express emotions through language and whether this is affected by their age. Download the student worksheet here; teacher notes coming soon.|
Spoken communication is an important and omnipresent component of our daily lives. Materials in this section will highlight features typical of spoken informal communication and contrast them with different genres of communication such as writing.
|Do fictional characters speak just like us?||This handout contains several activities that look at characteristics of informal spoken communication. The tasks use short extracts from popular young adult novels to highlight features typical of spoken language (e.g. overlapping speech) that are not usually present in the speech of fictional characters. Student handout can be downloaded here. Teacher handout is available here. Text extracts to be used in the tasks can be downloaded here.|
|Many faces of swearing: Are swearwords always bad?||Many people associate the use of swearwords with the intention to cause offence. However, the role of swearwords is much more complex than this. From the linguistic perspective, swearwords are usually defined as words that are used to express the speaker’s emotional state and to communicate this information to the listener. While the emotion conveyed by swearwords is often negative such as anger or frustration, this is not necessarily always the case. This handout explores the different functions of swearwords in informal conversations in English. Download the student worksheet here and teacher notes here.|
|Understanding corpus evidence: What do we talk about when we talk about Christmas?||In this worksheet, we look at how people talk about Christmas and topics related to it. It also uses the topic of Christmas to explore what the evidence from a language corpus (or language corpora) can tell us about language use and in what way it foes beyond what we know about language from various other sources. Download the student worksheet here and teacher notes here.|
|Many faces of swearing: Social aspects of swearing||Student worksheet and teacher notes coming soon.|