ESL Lesson Plan: Oral exercises for "A Solar Pump" on pronouncing past tenses

This is the story of a woman engineer who designed a solar powered pump for a remote village in Africa where there was very little fresh water available.

The purpose of this exercise is to have your students work on the correct pronunciation of verbs in the simple past. We have used as many of the verbs that appear in our verb chart and have been worked on in podcasts numbers 46 to 48. In this follow-up there are listening parts and after every paragraph a listen and repeat section. There are also questions that solicit direct answers based on the oral narrative. Below you can find a pair work exercise for oral practice in the classroom after the students have worked on the podcasts on their own.

This listening comprehension and pronunciation exercise is meant as lab work that students can do on their own either at home or in the classroom on a mobile device. When students work by themselves to prepare a lesson with an MP3 file, the teacher can devote most of the face-to-face time to talking about the exercise and then going on to focus on the big questions associated with the general theme. This lesson (in a series of timeless listening comprehensions) is intended to introduce a variety of subjects. In this case it will be easy for teachers to evoke topics such as the scarcity of fresh water, solar power, helping Third World countries, the work of engineers and so on.

Materials found below: listening comprehension audio files, scripts of the podcasts and oral pair work exercises.

A Solar Pump

This is a very topical theme today. The narrative—in "Your English" Podcasts 49 and 50—has been cut into two parts with a listen-and-repeat section and oral questions for each part. These exercises are appropriate for all levels from A2 to C1—thus good for mixed level classes. The oral files can be used in labs, in class or as "oral" homework when students have access to computers.

Two podcasts from "Your English" on the "A Solar Pump"

You can download them here:

  • Your English No. 49 for "Inventing a Solar Pump Part 1"


MP3 - 10.1 Mb
Your English 49 Inventing a Solar Pump Part 1
  • Your English No. 50 for "Inventing a Solar Pump Part 2"


MP3 - 12.9 Mb
Your English 50 Inventing a Solar Pump Part 2
  • If you prefer you can go to iTunes, type my name "Marianne Raynaud", and get the whole series of "Your English" including Nos. 49 & 50.

The Pair Work Exercise For the Classroom

As many teachers have to deal with fairly large classes with 20 or more students, I thought it might be good for the students to work on the listening comprehension in pairs—after listening to the recorded version once, twice or even more. (Students can also listen to the recordings on their own before coming to class.) This is also a different way of working on listening comprehension "orally" instead of using a gap-fill grid.

One recto-verso paper for each recording

After the students have worked on the first part either with you in class or on their own), you hand out one recto-verso paper (worksheet number one below) to each pair of students. There are three parts. They take turns being the "teacher", i.e. they read the text aloud (without letting their partner see the text), they do the listen-and-repeat part having their partner repeat, and then they ask the sort of "display" questions we teachers tend to ask the whole class.The answers are written out for the "student-teacher" to be able to check their partner’s work. Important: the “student teacher” is instructed not to show the paper to his to her partner. It is an oral exercise.

Pair work exercise for 1st recording (podcast 49)

PDF - 207.3 kb
Your English 49 Inventing a Solar Pump Pt1 PW

"Easy" questions to liven the class

The teacher will have to walk around to see and hear whether the students are speaking correctly, but I can assure you they will all be active and they will enjoy this activity much more than having the teacher put the questions to the whole class and answering one after another.

Personally, I think it is advisable to do the second recording on a different day. The students should first be asked to memorize part one and be ready to recite it to a partner at the next session. If they seem reluctant, tell them that this narrative is full of exactly the type of simple past tenses that will be useful in their careers. Tell them they will be reciting to a partner and not in front of the whole class. That should reassure and motivate them.

The recto-verso paper for part two

During the second class you put the students in pairs. First they recite part one to each other—very important. Second if they haven’t listened to it already, they listen to the recording of part two (or you read it aloud yourself). if they are advanced students they can perhaps do the pair work exercise immediately after having listened to the podcast. I think, though, it is best to have the students memorize the narrative after having listened to it many times on their own. This way their pronunciation will be better, and they will be better prepared to ask each other questions and even to answer.

Pair work exercise for 2nd recording (podcast 50)

PDF - 208.4 kb
Your English 50 Inventing a Solar Pump Pt2 PW

I have always had great success with this theme of "providing drinking water for all the populations of the world", which today seems just as valid and up-to-date as in the past. With the lesson plans mentioned above for “The Solar Pump” as well as a similar activity “The Iceberg Project” (which can be used before “The Solar Pump”), students will be participating actively and will wind up expressing their ideas far more than when the teacher asks them to express their personal opinion in front of everyone else without adequate preparation.

I’d love some feedback

I would really enjoy getting some feedback from teachers using these podcasts and worksheets. Just write to Marianne Raynaud. You can also contact me if you have any questions.

Additional exercises to make your students speak even more

I have written many more exercises to learn semi-scientiifc vocabulary of the kind used in the podcasts above and even more specific to the sciences. All these exercises are to be found in my digital resource book in MS Word and PDF. QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book Version

All the files on this page available in MS Word

If you purchase my digital book (see below), you will get all the files mentioned on this page in MS Word. Then you’ll be able to customize them, i.e. add vocabulary in your students’ native language, additional explanations or instructions like the due date of the essay assignment. Teachers who buy the book say they are overwhelmed by the quantity of excellent materials. In fact there are 4.0 GB (with audio and video), and that’s why it is on a DVD as there is no way to use a downloading system. it would take 24 hours to download it, and first 36 hours for me to uploaded it onto the Web!

Kind regards,


Effective teaching materials

If you are looking for effective teaching materials, read about QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book Version on a DVD with 4.0 GB, which includes all the recordings, scripts and worksheets of our different series plus 1,300 other files (MS Word, MP3, PPT and video). To purchase it for €29 plus shipping according to the destination, just go to the store.

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