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Credit for the idea for this lesson plan must go to Anna Musielak, in yet another example of Twitter to the rescue:

Last night, I tweeted that, because my college had been closed due to snow, I had no idea what I was going to teach today. Luckily, Lika was on hand for some help with my Entry 1 class (beginner to elementary level) and some ideas for snow related activities, and Anna helped with a great suggestion for my upper-intermediate students in the afternoon.

Here’s how I set up the theft of a snowman role-play:

  • I wrote the word snow in big letters on the board and asked my students to write words or phrases they associate with it; there followed a brief discussion, asking them to explain the choices behind some of their words or phrases
  • I then handed out the following word cloud with words from this news story reported recently on the BBC News website: Woman dials 999 to report snowman theft in Kent

  • I asked my students to think of sentences using words in the word cloud to predict what the story was all about
  • Then I showed them this word cloud, with words from the headline, and asked them to rearrange the words:

  • I then played audio from the story (available at the BBC link above, and there is also a video version on YouTube – see below)
  • We then discussed the woman’s use of language, and revised the students’ suggested sentences

Role play

I assigned the role play in three parts. Students were one of the following: the snowman’s maker, the snowman himself, or the snowman’s kidnapper. I had 9 students for this activity, so I had three students playing each role. First of all, students were grouped with others playing the same role. I asked them to think about what they wanted from the situation (e.g. the snowman wanting to be reunited with his maker or not, the kidnapper demanding a ransom, etc.). They had about 15 minutes to draft up a backstory and think about what they would say for the next stage.

Students were then regrouped so that there was one snowman, one snowman maker and one kidnapper in each group. I then gave them 10 minutes to resolve the situation (they did it in 5!)

The lesson was rounded off by a quick dictogloss activity using this text as a basis:

A woman from Kent dialled 999 to report the theft of a snowman. She thought the police were needed as she used coins for eyes. She noticed the snowman had been stolen when she went out to have a cigarette. The police informed her about what a 999 call was for.


The first part of this lesson wasn’t as successful as I had hoped – I sometimes find it hard to motivate this group; however, I think this might be due to the fact that it is an afternoon class and they’re tired – hmmm. The role play prep and actually doing it was slightly better, and there was some inspired work from the more ‘awake’ students.

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18 Responses to The theft of a snowman – lesson plan

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Miguel Mendoza and Cecilia Lemos Coelho, Mike Harrison. Mike Harrison said: The theft of a snowman – lesson plan (first part) Thanks to @AnnaMusielak for inspiration =) [...]

  2. Hi Mike,

    Twitter to the rescue, huh?! I just love this kind of activity. It certainly helps us see what learners know and remember prior to trying to teach them something they might already know. And let’s not even get started on all the language produced by students themselves, huh?!


    Henrick – from the country where we only see snow on YouTube videos.

    • admin says:

      Henrick, Twitter to the rescue indeed!

      I really enjoyed the lesson, tried to get it as student-centred as possible, but did find it hard to get them going at the beginning. The role play was a lot better and I enjoyed listening to them perform their roles.

      Mike =)

  3. Great lesson plan, Mike. Seems a little difficult for beginner to elementary, but I hope they handled the challenge okay.

    I particularly like the sequence of your lesson, a very nice development of the topic and great integration of skills. The word clouds are great!

    I may just use this lesson with my own elementary students next week — can I get your permission? :-)

    - J

    • admin says:

      This wasn’t the elementary class, Jason! It was the upper-ints. I’ll post what I did with elementary a bit later – it was a bit more active and prep for a short dictation on Wednesday.

    • admin says:

      Oh, and of course, if you want to use the lesson plan in any way (maybe not for the very elementary students, though) – as for anyone else – the idea is there for you to run with. Let me know how it goes if you do it?

      Mike =)

  4. Emma Herrod says:

    Hey Mike,

    I love this! Thanks for posting. I shall also use if you don’t mind. I think I’ll add some dictionary work to it – so do that brainstorming at the start and see what they can recall, then come back to it later with a dictionary and see if we can grow a visual vocab note for SNOW (icy, snow plough, snowman, snow day, snow fall, freezing, thaw etc etc).

    Great work :)


    • admin says:

      Not at all, would love to hear how it goes, Emma.

      Another offshoot could be looking at the slang vocab used by the woman – nick, fag, ain’t. That was something my students on Monday asked about, and you could probably shape another lesson entirely around.

      Mike =)

  5. Vladka says:

    Dear Mike,
    thank you for your lesson plan. I hope you don’t mind that I used it yesterday as I got 4 extra (unexpected) classes.
    ….and it went really great, they loved the lesson!
    We started talking about the weather outside and then in teams they tried to come up with snow related words (and prepared a ppt with pics for them to inspire them a bit) and then they worked with your amazing word clouds and finished with listening.

    I am not writing all the details but generally it was really great!
    Thank you Mike for nice and inspiring ideas.

    • admin says:

      Of course I don’t mind you using the idea/plan. That’s why they are here =)

      Glad you got a good lesson from it!


  6. [...] resolutions, will Completing a hat-trick of seasonal lesson plan/idea/activity posts (see my snowman and turkey ideas) here’s something for the New [...]

  7. Ann says:

    Hi Mike,

    Really liked this and and the one about thieving penguins. Have just posted a link to it on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check there for comments.



  8. [...] with intermediate and advanced students too. It suggests the use of word clouds and a video about The Theft of a Snowman (click to see the activity on the original blog). This idea can be used with other videos or [...]

  9. [...] with intermediate and advanced students too. It suggests the use of word clouds and a video about The Theft of a Snowman (click to see the activity on the original blog). This idea can be used with other videos or [...]

  10. [...] with intermediate and advanced students too. It suggests the use of word clouds and a video about The Theft of a Snowman (click to see the activity on the original blog). This idea can be used with other videos or [...]

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