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Agony aunts

Objectives: 1. To give practice in guessing the meaning of words from the context and to
widen students' vocabulary on human relationships.
2. To give students oral fluency practice in discussing personal problems.
3. To give controlled oral and written practice in giving advice.

Activities: 1. Vocabulary guessing activity - Group work


2. Language drills - Whole-class work
3. Letter writing - Group work

Level: S3

Materials: Problem page


Vocabulary worksheet
Replies to problems

Agony aunts: Steps

1. Pre-teach the term "agony aunt". Set the context of the lesson and generate student interest in the
activity by explaining that they are going to act as "agony aunts" to solve some problems.

2. Divide the class into small groups (four or five students per group is ideal). Give one copy of the
Problem page to each group. Tell the students that they have been sent these letters and will have to
answer them in their next column.

Vocabulary guessing activity - Group work

3. Explain that, in their groups, students should work out the meanings of the underlined words and
phrases from the context. Give them approximately ten minutes to do this.

4. Feedback students' ideas.

5. Hand out the Vocabulary worksheet and allow students a few minutes to match the expressions with
the definitions.

6. Check they have the correct answers.

Language drills - Whole-class work

7. Describe a typical personal problem to the class and check students understand the problem by
asking key questions.
8. Ask students What should she do? Elicit several answers and write them on the board (e.g. speak to
him, write him a letter).
9. Drill the students using should/ought to. Write up model sentences at the end of the drill:
She ought to speak to him.
She should write him a letter.
Keep the other suggestions on the board.

Letter writing - Group work

10. Tell the class that they are now going to write a reply with some advice. Brainstorm ideas to put in
the letter and discuss with the class the best order for the ideas and write a draft on the board.
11. Explain that, in their groups, students should choose one of the problems from the problem page
and discuss what they think the writer should do.
12. After discussing the problem, they should brainstorm ideas, organise their ideas and compose a
letter.
13. While the students are working on their replies, the teacher can be monitoring the class, helping
with additional vocabulary and correcting where necessary.
14. Once all the letters have been completed, they can be passed around the class and read by other
groups and a vote taken on the most imaginative reply. Alternatively, you could distribute copies of
the Replies to problems and tell the class to match these to the letters on the problem page.

Pop-up screen notes


Agony aunts

Objectives

Source: The letters are problems sent in by young Hong Kong people to various
editions of the Young Post problem page, "Ask Angie". We are very grateful to
The South China Morning Post for their generous support.

Example: The basic target vocabulary is:

to have a crush on
someone
to go out with someone
to ignore someone
to suspect something
to break up with someone
to be protective

You might find that you also need to teach the following vocabulary items:

to treat someone (badly, in a mature way, etc)


to control (oneself)
to feel depressed
to be scared
to be forced to do something
to take someone away from someone else

It is also worth pointing out to students that to date is very similar to to go out
with someone. To date is more commonly used in North America while to go
out with someone is more commonly used in Britain.

Glossary: Free practice involves fluency activities. These aim to focus students on
communicating their meanings and ideas rather than concentrating just on
producing accurate structures. Students should be encouraged to use the
language creatively and to take risks. In order to encourage students to
communicate their ideas freely and to take risks, error-correction by the teacher
should be avoided as much as possible.

Glossary: The aim of the controlled-practice stage is to give students practice in


accurately manipulating the form of the target language, ie its grammar and
pronunciation. Errors made in the target language therefore need to be
corrected at this stage.

Accuracy-based activities play an important role in the development of fluency


but their overuse could hinder this development, as they do not involve real use
of language.

Example: You ought to tell your friend exactly how you feel.
You should join some clubs and meet more people.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself and try to forget him.

Steps

1. Example: Show students a picture of a famous agony aunt and elicit what they do.
Another possibility is to build a spidergram on the board of who/where
students can go if they need help with personal problems (helplines, parents,
friends).

3. Theory: Guessing the meaning of words from the context is an important skill that
language learners need to develop. Students need to be shown that it is
unnecessary to know every word in a text, and that they can often make
accurate guesses at the meaning of unfamiliar words, using contextual clues.

6. Key 1d 2e 3b 4f 5a 6c
7. Example: Gianne is a schoolgirl in Hong Kong. She has a problem. She wrote a letter to
the problem page. Here's what she wrote:

There's this guy in my school that I like and I want him to know it, but I don't
want to speak to him because I'm shy. Please help me.

Does this guy like Gianne? (we don't


know)
Is she shy? (yes)
Does she know what to do? (no)

9. Theory: A substitution table could easily be set up using the other examples that
students suggest. This would demonstrate the flexibility of the structure and
provide variety.

10. Example: This could include a comment on the situation, an expression of sympathy,
advice and possible outcome(s) of different courses of action.

Adaptations

This activity could also be used with higher level students. For these students, as well as revising
should/ought to, other structures can be introduced/revised. Some examples are:

The first conditional

If you talk to your parents, they will understand.


If you don't talk to anyone, the situation will only get worse.

Suggest

I suggest you try to meet different people.

Modal auxiliaries

You must contact a doctor as soon as possible.


You could try joining a club.

Imperatives

Enjoy your teenage


years!
Agony aunts
Problem page

1. I have a crush on this boy in my class. He knows that I like him but he treats me very badly. Then
things got worse: now he likes another girl and is going out with her. Meanwhile, I am feeling so
depressed that I can hardly control myself. Please give me some advice as I just don't know what to
do.
15-YEAR-OLD GIRL, Hong Kong

2. I am a girl in a Quarry Bay school. I used to have a good friend but now she ignores me. All my
other friends tell me to ignore her back. But I cannot because I really like being friends with her.
Unfortunately I am too scared to talk to her. Please help!
POCHACCO, Hong Kong

3. I am 13 and I have a boyfriend who I have been going out with for three months. But I have a
problem. My parents don't allow me to date. I have talked about it a lot with them, but they refuse to
understand. They don't know I have a boyfriend but they suspect it, so every time I go out with my
boyfriend I am forced to lie about who I am going with and even about where I am going. I don't
want it to be like this - but if I tell my parents they will "kill me" and I will definitely have to break
up with him. I really love him so I wouldn't want to do that. Please help me!
CARYN, Hong Kong

4. I am 12 years old and come from a reasonably good background, and this is probably why my
parents don't allow me to go out alone. All my friends are allowed to go anywhere by themselves. I
think my parents are simply too protective. They often explain it by saying: "Because it is safer".
But I really want them to treat me in a more mature way.
ANON, Hong Kong

5. I am a girl in Form 4. There is this boy who has been my best friend for a few years now. But now
he has become very friendly with another girl and they have started going out. I am afraid that she
will take him away from me. What should I do?
WORRIED, Hong Kong
Agony aunts
Vocabulary worksheet

Match the phrases with the correct definition:


Agony aunts
Replies to problems
1. You must weigh up your decision carefully and consider all the ramifications. If you don't tell your
parents, you can continue to see your boyfriend through lies and deceit until you get caught. Once
caught, you will lose the trust and respect of your parents. If you do tell them, you will lose your
boyfriend, whom you love, but you will at least be doing the honest thing. Honesty is the best policy.
At 13, I suggest that you tell your parents that you and the boy are close and enjoy each other's
company. It is vital that your parents know where you are going, and that you establish a trusting
relationship with them from the start of your teens. Think very carefully about what you are doing -
no boy is worth jeopardising the relationship between parent and child.

2. I suggest you talk to your friend as soon as possible. No problems are solved on their own. In fact,
they only get worse if ignored. Have the courage to approach your friend to try to work things out:
you will never know if things can be resolved if you don't try. Do be friendly and ready to listen, to
understand and forgive, and I am sure you will be friends again soon.

3. Unfortunately, love is sometimes unrequited. Therefore, there is no easy solution to make you feel
better. I suggest you try to forget about the boy in question and get on with your own activities.
Tormenting yourself by thinking about what could have been or what went wrong will only depress
you more and damage your self-esteem. You must move on with your own life, concentrate on
spending time with your friends, family and school and I'm sure you will meet the right boy
eventually.

4. Your parents are only acting out of concern for you and your well-being. At 12 years of age, you
have plenty of time to grow up, accept responsibilities and have all the freedom that you wish for.
My advice is not to rush things. There is no need to do everything at once. So enjoy your pre-teens
while they last because you certainly have lots of time ahead of you.

5. It is hard when a best friend becomes romantically involved as they can no longer devote all their
time to you. But once you have accepted that you have to share his time there shouldn't be a
problem. He won't like you any less than he did before but you must both make a special effort to
spend time together, one-to-one. Friendships never stay exactly the same, they change and grow
over time. You have now entered a new phase where you must adjust and develop, so concentrate on
making the relationship work and there won't be a problem.