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Some Ideas for Motivating Students



1. Students read the excerpt from the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.
From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters who, in an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the black-crocketed spires of the early June hollyhocks, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive, and the dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

2. Students do vocabulary practice.
What do you call:
1. a picture of a person
2. a picture of a countryside
3. a person who paints or draws pictures
4. the innermost part or spirit of a person or thing
5. a strong, rough cloth used by artists for painting on, usually with oil paints
6. a work of art such as a painting, film, or book that is made with great skill; masterwork

Complete the phrases with the words below.
smell, scent, odours, perfume, aroma, fragrance
• a delicious …………… of freshly baked bread
• …………… from the local brewery
• the …………… of lilac
• fruits full of exquisite ……………
• an expensive French ……………
• the distinctive …………… of fresh coffee


3. Follow-up: Flower idioms

Bouquet of orchids – If someone deserves a bouquet of orchids, they have done something worthy of praise.
Come up roses – If things come up roses, they produce a positive result, especially when things seemed to be going badly at first.
Come up smelling of roses – If someone comes up smelling of roses, they emerge from a situation with their reputation undamaged.
Never a rose without a prick – This means that good things always have something bad as well; like the thorns on the stem of a rose.
No bed of roses – If something isn’t a bed of roses, it is difficult.
Nip it in the bud – If you nip something in the bud, you deal with a problem when it is still small, before it can grow into something serious.
Flowery speech – Flowery speech is full of lovely words, but may well lack substance.
Gild the lily – If you gild the lily, you decorate something that is already ornate.
Shrinking violet – A shrinking violet is a shy person who doesn’t express their views and opinions.
Cut down the tall poppies – If people cut down the tall poppies, they criticise people who stand out from the crowd.

You can find much more flower idioms here



1. Students answer the questions.

1. What title would you give to this painting?
2. What does this painting remind you of?
3. Pretend you are inside this painting. What does it feel like?
4. What sounds would this painting make (if it could)?
5. Which word best describes what you feel while you are looking at the painting:
a. excitement b. depression c. joy d. longing e. surprise g. serenity
6. What do you think it would be like to live in this place? What makes you think that?
7. Which objects seem closer to you? Which are further away?
8. What can you tell me about the colours in this painting?
9. How would you describe this painting to a person who could not see it?
10.Do you like the painting and would you like to own it?
11.What questions would you ask the artist about this work, if he were here?
12.What interests you most about this work of art? How do you think the artist made this work?

2. Role-play – Students make a dialogue between a journalist and the painter and practise speaking in pairs.



With a Flower
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I hide myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too —
And angels know the rest.
I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.

1. Read the Emily Dickinson poem aloud to the class. Sounds of words can contribute powerfully to a poem’s effect and meaning. Which words sound beautifully in this poem?

2. Ask students to illustrate the poem.

3. Students do the writing practice:

1. Dickinson’s poems are full of distinct visual imagery, although she also leaves much to the imagination. The theme of this poem is ________________________. I like this poem because ____________________________. I also find it interesting because _____________________________________.

2. Emily Dickinson described herself in a letter: “[I] am small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur – and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves” (L269). So few words give the reader an ample verbal portrait, but they also reveal other things about her. Discuss this description with your students, then challenge them to write a similarly concise but creative description of themselves.

3. Some students can choose a favorite Dickinson poem and use a line from it as a prompt to write their own poems.

You can find Emily Dickinson’s poems here


About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

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