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On the READ to LONDON!

July 08, 2021 by Maria Cleary

Welcome to On the Read, a short series of blog posts all about travel. Together, we’ll set off on an adventure across continents and oceans, through the pages of our favourite Helbling Readers, travelling across land and through time. We are going to visit six magical places, do some sightseeing, learn about culture and get some travel tips.

We start our journey in London. Get inspired by our activity and project ideas and set up some lessons to explore this iconic city. 

Travel tip: if you cannot do this project over the holidays, plan it for the next semester or year, as a reading club or extensive reading project.

London calling

For many of our students, London is the symbol of the English and Britishness, but in reality it is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. Talk about what makes the city quintessentially British and magnificently multicultural at the same time. Ask your students what they know about and associate with London.

Classroom tip: The following exercises are intended for students above elementary level. You may need to make changes to make them suitable for the level of your class. First focus on your aims and expectations, then think about the aspects you may need to change.

1 Getting ready

Start by asking your students what they would pack for a trip to London. Suggest the following, to help them with decisions and find out more about the city. 

  • Check a weather app or website about the weather forecast when you choose to travel.
  • Think about how you will get around the city. What sort of shoes and clothes will be most comfortable?
  • Think about the places you are going to visit. What clothes will you need?
2 Getting there and getting around

Once you have packed your bags, talk about different ways of getting to London from your home. Then, discuss ways of getting around London. Becoming familiar with different travel options in a city makes visitors more confident once they arrive at their destinations. Tell your students to check out some of the ideas below. Then, they can prepare their own notes and share them with each other.

  • Download a good offline map to your phone.
  • Select the most important places during your stay (hotel, places to visit, stations and airports) and write down their addresses in a notebook along with tips on getting there. This way you won’t get lost even if your phone battery dies.
  • Check out the London transportation system. Choose the best travel pass for your stay. Find out the different ways to pay for public transport. 
  • Find out about the following ways of getting around: buses, the Tube, light railway, river buses, local trains and trams. Which ones will you use?
  • If you would like to get a taxi, how will you call one? 
  • Is it possible to hire a bike and cycle around the city?
3 Top sights to visit

When you are in London, there are some sights that you are ‘expected’ to visit. Of course you can always skip them, but here are our top 5:

  • The Tower of London
  • Buckingham Palace 
  • The London Eye
  • The museums: Tate Britain and Tate Modern, National History Museum, British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum
  • Parks and gardens: Kew Gardens, Regent Park, Hyde Park 

Choose one or two places to visit. Find their websites and look for some essential information about them. Then, answer these questions.

  • What can you do there?
  • Where are they? 
  • When are they open? 
  • How much does it cost to enter?
  • Do you need to book in advance?
4 Top literary sights to visit

London has inspired much great literature and here are some bookish sights you should not miss in the city. Talk about the significance of these places. Then, ask your students to pick one of them and find out as much about it as they can.

  • Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Platform 9 ¾, King’s Cross Station
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • The British Library
  • Keats House
  • Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey
  • The Sherlock Holmes Museum
  • Charles Dickens Museum
  • Bloomsbury
5 Speak like a local

When you travel to London, it’s useful to know some of the local lingo. Practise saying these phrases in pairs or small groups.

  • Hi / Hey / Hiya / Wotcha (hello)
  • See ya (see you later)
  • Cheers, Ta (thank you)
  • Catch ya later (see you later)
  • Have a good 'un (enjoy yourself/goodbye)
Some fun slang phrases
  • Bait – Obvious
  • Blinding – Fantastic, amazing
  • Fit/fresh – Good-looking, attractive
  • Get stuffed – No chance, go away
  • Not my cuppa tea – Not to my liking
Getting around
  • Can I have a single/return to X, please?
  • Can you please tell me when it’s time to get off/when it’s my stop?
  • Can I walk there?
  • Where do I change for X Station?
  • the Tube
  • an Oyster Card
  • Can I put £10 on/Can I top up my Oyster Card, please?

6 The Helbling Readers Blog day in London 

Here is our perfect day inspired by literary places in London. Read it, then, ask your students to think about the things they would like to do and write a similar plan. Depending on the language structures you are learning/practising, you can ask students to write the texts in different ways:

  • giving tips and advice (the language of advice, suggestions, modal verbs)
  • planning ahead (future tenses, intention)
  • retelling a day (narrative tenses)
  • narrating a day (present tenses)

You can also teach the word ‘itinerary’ to your students at this stage.

9:30 After a full English breakfast, we start our day in the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. We spend a couple of hours there and think about our favourite Sherlock Holmes stories. We consider spending the day in a deerstalker and a cape to be just like our hero, but then realize we have quite a lot of walking to do and it may be somewhat impractical.

11:00 We walk to the British Library where we grab a sandwich and a coffee, and then enter the magical library. We look at the original manuscripts of the Bronte sisters, Virginia Woolf and Lewis Carroll and gaze in amazement at Jane Austen’s desk.

14:00 Time flies and we tear ourselves away from the British Library and go for a short walk to visit the Charles Dickens Museum. On our way there we have another coffee and a scone to keep our energy levels up. We try to remember the scenes in Oliver Twist and imagine what London was like in the 19th century.

16:00 We end our day with a walk around Bloomsbury, once home of Bloomsbury Group and Virginia Woolf. Walking around the parks and streets of Bloomsbury, we think about all the amazing Modernists who once walked the same pavements and imagine ourselves listening to Virginia or E.M. Forster.

18:00 We finish off our day at Dalloway Terrace in Bloomsbury, a Virginia Woolf-inspired restaurant full of beautiful flowers and a perfect poetic atmosphere.

7 London in the Helbling Readers series 

Here is a selection of stories from our catalogue that feature London. There is something for everyone, from young learners to young adults.

  • Moony goes on Holiday by Dilys Ross (Level d Cambridge YLE Movers) What happens when Moony leaves the quiet of the moon and goes to London?
  • The Blue Egg by Gavin Biggs (Level 1 A1). Tom, a poor street child, travels from London in 1880 to the London of the present day.
  • The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, adapted by Alex McLeod (Level 1 A1). A prince and a poor boy meet and swap places in 16th century London.
  • Dan in London by Richard MacAndrew (Level 2 A1/A2). Join Dan and Sue as they travel around London in search of two bag thieves.
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels by Arthur Conan Doyle adapted by Geraldine Sweeney (Level 2 A1/A2). Get to know Victorian London with Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as they investigate two exciting crimes.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron (Level 3 A2). Join Scrooge in his journey through his life and see the London of the time.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne (Level 4 (A2/B1). See London with Pip’s eyes as he travels to the great city in search of success.
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, adapted by Donatella Velluti (Level 4 A2/B1). Mr Verloc is a spy in London in the early 1900s. Together we discover a city that is often hidden from public view.
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Les Kirkham and Sandra Oddy (Level 5 B1). Join respectable Dr Jekyll on his journey to becoming the terrible Mr Hyde in the London of the late 1880s.
  • The Right Thing and A Single Shot by Scott Lauder and Walter McGregor (both Level 5 B1). Friends Josh, Trish and Suzi get caught up in a thrilling mystery in contemporary London (and Paris).
  • Father and Son by Frank Brennan (Level 5 B1). Popstar Nic Wild and his son Andy travel between London and Paris on a journey towards each other.
  • The Mystery of the Three Domes by Elspeth Rawstron (Level 5 B1). Sibel Karaman’s great-uncle Ismail leaves her a letter with a riddle that takes her from London to Venice to Istanbul.
Next destination

Next time we head towards Italy, where we will visit Rome and Venice. Get ready by reading one of these books:

  • Daisy Miller by Henry James, adapted by Janet Olearski (Level 5 B1). When beautiful young American Daisy Miller travels to Europe, her innocent and friendly manner makes her more enemies than friends.
  • The Mystery of the Three Domes by Elspeth Rawstron (Level 5 B1). Sibel Karaman’s great-uncle Ismail leaves her a letter with a riddle that takes her from London to Venice to Istanbul.