British Culture: HOUSES in GB in the PASSIVE TENSE – an amusing reading and listening comprehension activity
A REAL BARGAIN is an amusing unit on the PASSIVE TENSE taken from Streamline English Departures (Hartley & Viney, OUP 1983) – my absolute favourite not only for teaching the passive tense but particulary for imparting a culture lesson on Houses in Great Britain.
With its beautiful illustrations, rich housing vocabulary and amusing content – it makes a fun lesson on British culture.
I usually ask students to read the text taking turns to be the Estate Agent and Mr. Palmer, the prospective buyer, stopping after each paragraph to explain the vocabulary and the passive tense as it develops:
As they read the story I ask very easy listening comprehension questions, paragraph by paragraph, which they do not have so they have to understand them and reread the paragraph to reply. I only explain the vocabulary and cultural habits we have as the story enfolds since I do not want to spoil the amusing ending to the story.
Since I believe in full-immersion, I do not translate the vocabulary but define and illustrate on the board. This is also an opportunity for students to compare their homes and cultural housing traditions to the British ones – an opportunity for class discussion.
block of flats
redecorated (wallpaper is very common)
(as opposed to the old fireplace with the mantelpiece)
- dustbins emptied
- post delivered
- milk delivered
(the milkman with his silent electric van early in the morning)
It was only when a friend of mine came to visit my home in Italy that he opened my eyes to differences I had never considered: “Wow! You have real marble windowsills!” – British windowsills are made of wood which need to be constantly repainted to stop them from rotting. “You have beautiful wooden doors!” British doors are usually just painted over. “Your floors are solid marble or parquet!” British floors are loose floorboards with some kind of covering: carpet, lino…
Any other main differences your students may have noticed watching films? Mine pointed out that in the USA and GB the kitchen sink is always in front of a window – true but I had never noticed.
You can download the materials below.
I hope you find this activity as useful and enjoyable as I do.
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My name is Susan Brodar, born in London into a multilingual family and brought up bilingual English / Italian.