English Attack

Via Views from the Whiteboard, I discovered English Attack which is a cool little resource to teach English from media. It features video clips from popular TV shows and sitcoms taken from Hulu (so I don’t know if it’ll work outside the US) with vocab reviews before watching. Then after watching there are some comprehension questions and cloze exercises. Obviously you could put something like this together yourself in the classroom, but English Attack seems like a good way to get students to practice at home.

You do need to set up an account to access any of the material but everything I looked at was free of charge.

Don't Give Up

A lesson plan that I adapted from somewhere, but I can’t remember where exactly. This is an idea that can be adapted to any lesson on a song that has a music video. Students watch the music video first, without sound, and try to figure out what the song is about. Then they listen to the song together with the music. Finally, they get a chance to look at the lyrics. Great fun as their opinion on the song changes each time.

Objectives

  • Analyze a music video as a piece of art separate from the song
  • Discuss the meaning of lyrics to a song

Materials

The Video

First of all, do not tell your students the name of the song or the artist, in case they know the song. Tell students that they will be watching a music video, but without the sound. As they watch, they should think about what the song is about.

Play the video of Don’t Give Up, with the volume off. I have embedded the video on a separate page on my site to make it easier to watch (make sure to watch it in full-screen mode). You’ll want to start at about 0:03 seconds to skip the title screen.

Once you have watched the video, ask students what they saw. What images or scenes do they remember? Eliciting small pieces of information first helps students to remember better and is also easier for lower-level students. So I always like to begin discussions with simple questions.

Once students have finished talking about what they remember, ask what they think the song is about. You can lead them by asking them how what others students said might relate to what they said. For example, in the first part of the discussion students will probably remember a car driving in the rain at the end. In the second part, if a student says they think the song is about two lovers, you might ask, “So how does the car driving in the rain fit in?” At this point, I wouldn’t confirm or reject any theories, just let them share their theories, and correct and critique each other.

Once they have exhausted their theories, ask them what kind of song they think it is. What genre is the song? Is it fast or slow? Loud or quiet? How many singers are there? (They should pick up that there are two, a man and a woman).

The Video and the Song

When the discussion dies down again, tell them that this time they will hear the song while they watch the video and play the video again, with the sound turned on.

Now ask if their opinion has changed about the meaning of the song. Prompt students by asking them again what words they remember from the song, and how the song and the film worked together.

Interestingly I find that when students watch the film, they think the song is about lovers who have broken up. But when they hear the song, they think it is about not committing suicide.

When discussion dies down again, hand out the lyric sheet. Give students some time to read them, and ask any questions about vocabulary. Now ask them again if their opinion about what the song is about has changed. Again make sure they cite specific lines from the song or give concrete reasons.

Of course, eventually they will ask you what the song is really about. You have a choice here. Personally, I like to tell them that songs are works of art and everyone has a right to interpret it as they see fit. Overall it is about how when life gets difficult, you shouldn’t give up because someone loves you and will help you. Of course, it could also be about how it feels when someone you love is depressed or in pain.

If you want to extend the discussion a bit, you can also tell them that the song is actually a reaction to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the UK in the 1980s. Specifically her economic policies led to a huge jump in unemployment and a lack of social care on the part of the government. So the hero has lost his job and can’t find another one. You might point out that the video showed the welfare office and men lined up to get their unemployment pay. This can lead to a discussion of economic policies and their effect on people.

A less serious follow-up would be to ask students what kind of music they like and why.

You could also get into an analysis of the song itself, especially the gospel-influenced bridge. I’ve also built a small vocab exercise into the lyrics sheet. You can ask students to identify the verse, stanza, chorus, and bridge.

The Environment and Slow Cities

by JoiseyshowaaA discussion lesson plan on the topic of the environment which ended up bringing in the Slow City movement as well.

Materials

Warm Up

Start out with the Odd Man Out Environmental Vocabulary game from Ted Power (The site has some great questions and vocab activities by theme as well as short readings and listenings). A simple idea for teaching and reviewing vocab, where students get a list of words and have to decide which word is not like the others. Multiple answers are possible but as kids think about it, they have to deeply think about the meanings of these words. Opening a discussion lesson with a little vocab work and controlled practice does help kids to warm up and also gives even the shyer students a chance to speak.

Discussion on the Environment

Discuss the following questions as a class, or have students discuss them in small groups. Obviously you can pick and choose the order of these questions or which ones you use. Generally, in a discussion lesson, I try to guide them but not keep too much control over the topics and sometimes students anticipate later questions. So I step in with a new question only when the conversation dies down. I do try to order questions by topic and also go from simpler, more controlled answers to freer and more profound or controversial questions.

  • Is it important to protect the environment?
  • Why?
  • What can we do as individuals to protect the environment?
  • What can the government do?
  • What can international organizations do?
  • Why do we destroy the environment?
  • Is protecting the environment harmful to business and the economy?
  • Do you think we can ever destroy the Earth?
  • Do you believe in global warming?
  • Would you give up cars, computers, mass-produced goods, etc… if it meant saving the environment?

Reading/Discussion on Cittaslow

Now looked at the Cittaslow (Slow City) movement. Ask if students have heard of it and what they know. If they don’t know anything about it, explain that it is a relatively new movement that started in Italy. Cities can become slow cities if they promote a lifestyle that is healthy, environmentally friendly and preserves traditions and relaxation over too much progress and a stressful way of life.

Now hand out the Cittaslow reading which includes an excerpt from the Charter and also what one city has done to become a slow city as well as its future plans.

Go over any vocabulary or comprehension issues and discuss the Charter. What do they think of this movement? What is the point? Is it a good idea or not? Would they like to live in a slow city? Do they think their city or town could be a slow city?

Now look at the section on Perth. Ask them which idea they liked best, which they liked worst, which they think would be best for their city, and which could never work here.

To finish up, or as homework have them think of other project ideas that could make their city a better place to live along the principles of Cittaslow. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each project.

Who Knew?

A listening lesson plan on regular verbs in the Past Simple using Pink’s song, “Who Knew”. It also gets into some comprehension questions and a bit about love and relationships. This lesson was designed for beginners but could easily be adapted for intermediate students as well.

Objectives

  • To help students practice listening comprehension
  • To review the past simple
  • To get students interested by using pop music
  • To teach some vocabulary on romantic love
  • To give students practice at literary analysis

Materials

Note: If you have a fair amount of time, one nice way to teach a song that has a music video attached to it is to play the class the video first without the sound. Make sure you don’t tell them which song it is. Ask the students what they see, what seemed to happen, and what they think the song is about. You can also ask them what kind of song they think it is based on the video (is it fast? is it slow? is it happy or unhappy? rock, country, pop, dance?). It gives students some great practice in speculating and analyzing film. After that, you can play them the video with sound

Warm Up

I like to start song lessons by writing the name of the song on the board: “Who Knew?” Ask students what it means. They should be able to parse it literally, but ask them if it has any kind of idiomatic or slang meaning. Try to elicit (or teach if necessary) that “Who knew?” is used when we want to say that we didn’t expect something to happen–positive or negative. It’s short for “Who could have know that? No one.” or “I don’t think anyone could have guessed this.”
You can give an example such as:

The other day I invited my girlfriend over for dinner. I wanted to impress her so I planned to make Filet Mignon. But while I was cooking, I got distracted by the news on TV and I burned the steaks. It was too late to make anything else. Well, it turns out my girlfriend really likes burnt steak. Who knew?

You might also want to let them know that it is often used ironically as in, “You burned yourself on the hot stove? Stoves are hot? Who knew?”

The Song

Before listening, hand out the Who Knew Questions, and have students put the verbs in the past tense (these have been conveniently colored red) and are all regular verbs (except for, arguably, “said”). Go over the answers to make sure students have it right–or have them check each other.

Now tell students that they will listen to the song and they should try to fill in the missing words (on the blue lines on the worksheet). If you want to make it easier for them, tell them that they are all words related to love. Play the song and see how well they did. You will probably need to play the song more than once.

Go over the answers: hand, words, fools, a friend, forever, kiss, darling. If you haven’t already given then any hints, ask what they think these words have in common? Possible answers include: they are about love/relationships/young love.

Now go over the discussion questions on the worksheet, which basically try to help students get an idea of what the song is about. It’s best to ask students to cite specific lines in the song to support their opinions. This gives them some practice at analyzing a text.

The last few questions focus on the parts of a song (verse, chorus, bridge and outro). The song also vamps in (or has an intro), so you could get into that as well.

Finally for homework, students should use the missing words in blue to write a poem, song or story. These can be fun because they are almost forced to write about love so you get some interesting stories of different kinds of relationships.

Bad Grammar

I stumbled upon a great video parody of Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” once, called “Bad Grammar” by Jamesatwar. I wrote up a lesson plan and did it a couple of times as a filler lesson after unit exams. It went really well. I then accidentally deleted all my lesson plans and even appear to have deleted a post I made about it on this blog–or I think I made a post on it. So here’s a reconstruction of that lesson plan that touches on bad grammar and slang used in pop music. Students will learn common terms like, “ain’t”, “got no”, and “we be”. They then discuss why pop songs often have bad grammar and spelling and also whether these terms are really all that bad.

It can actually be useful to teach students some commonly encountered bad grammar because they will have to understand it when the hear it. So while it can often sound funny when a foreigner says “ain’t” or “like”, they need the recognition skills.

Materials

Warm Up

Ask students if they have heard the song, “The Way I Are” by Timbaland. You might have a short clip ready to help them remember. Then (or alternatively) write this line on the board: “Can you handle me the way I are?”
Ask students what’s wrong with it. Hopefully they will quickly note that ‘I are’ should be ‘I am’.

You can also ask them if they can think of any other songs with bad grammar in them, but this question will also come up later on the discussion questions sheet.

Introducing the Video

This song has a few difficult words in it so you’ll probably want to pre-teach them before they listen. or you might want to wait until they have the lyrics sheet.

Put the following words up on the board:

consonants
vowels
syntax
morphology
linguistics
enunciate
articulate
prodigy
eloquence

Tell the students that two words refer to kinds of letters. See if they can pick them out (consonants and vowels). Explain the difference and write a few examples next to the words.
Tell them that one word means the study of language. See if they can match that definition to “linguistics”
Tell them that two words mean something very like “grammar” (morphology and syntax).
Tell them that two words mean to speak clearly or well (enunciate and articulate)
Tell them that one word means someone who is very good at something (prodigy)
and see if they can guess the last word “eloquence” means to speak well.

Alternatively, you could wait until they have the lyrics sheet and see if they can guess the meaning from context and your hints.

The Video

Tell the students that you are going to show them a video to a song parody of “The Way I Are” which makes fun of bad grammar in pop songs. Tell them to try to listen for any examples of bad grammar in the song.

Note: You may or may not want to show it with the captions. Also note that the video does feature a woman in lingerie and some sexual innuendo. Nothing worse than what they see on MTV, but this isn’t a great video to show to younger learners.

Show the students the Bad Grammar Video.
After they have watched, ask them what examples of bad grammar they heard. Take any contributions but make sure to correct students if they cite good grammar as bad grammar.

Now show the video again, this time with the lyric sheet. Have them listen along and note down any bad grammar that they hear/read. Ask them what they think the song is about and hopefully elicit that the song’s message is that pop music uses a lot of bad grammar.

Go over any vocabulary questions students might have–a few words you can use the video to illustrate. Grills for example is said over a still of grills on teeth. Even enunciate is very clearly enunciated.

Discussion Questions

Now hand out or go over orally the Discussion Questions (Teacher’s Sheet here). These questions help students understand “bad grammar” and think of other examples. Then the discussion can move on to whether these examples are really bad grammar or just normal conversational English.

If you have a longer class, you could get into the subject of parodies and copyright laws. Does Jamesatwar have a right to make this parody? Does it hurt Timbaland by implying that he doesn’t speak English well? Could Timbaland sue Jamesatwar? What are the laws in your country (in the US, parody is protected by free speech, but people do have the right for slanderous parody–i.e. parodies that can be proven to damage the original author)?

Extension

For homework or in a later class you can have students bring in the lyrics of a song with “bad grammar” that they have “corrected”.

Students can also go through a list of examples of dialect spelling and pick the example that they think should be adopted into standard English.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson Plan

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a great introduction to Thanksgiving particularly for EFL students who don’t know a lot about the holiday.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson PlanObjectives

  • Teach about the American holiday of Thanksgiving
  • Discuss traditions and the meaning of Thanksgiving
  • Practice understanding videos

Materials

  • Video Summary [for the teacher]
  • Video Comprehension Questions
  • Discussion Questions
  • Extension Ideas
  • Answer Keys
  • Video of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Warm up

Write on the board: “How we Celebrate”, “History”,”Meaning”,”Related Events”. Ask students what they know about Thanksgiving. Write their contributions in the appropriate categories.

Alternate Procedure Have students come to the board and write their own ideas on the board where they think they fit.

Alternate Procedure Give students 2 minutes to write down whatever comes to mind when they think of Thanksgiving. Then elicit one suggestion at a time from different students and put them on the board.

The goal of this exercise is to elicit vocabulary and get students thinking about Thanksgiving. This will also generate questions and get them articulating what they want to know. On the flip side, foreign students may be surprised at how much they do know about this American holiday.

Introduce the Video: Tell students that you are going to show a video about a funny Thanksgiving. Ask if they know who Charlie Brown is. Spend some time discussing the characters and their personality types. It’s helpful if students understand that Charlie Brown is rather shy and unsure of himself, Peppermint Patty is very assertive, and Snoopy is very creative but sometimes silly. However, they will quickly grasp these details as the film starts.

Then hand out the Video Comprehension Questions and tell students to answer the questions as they watch.

This activity has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. If you like this sample, you can purchase and download the full A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Lesson Plan there. Check out all my Thanksgiving lesson plans and activities here.

World Cup

I’ve been going over resources for teaching the World Cup in the EFL classrom. There’s a lot of great stuff up but I’ve been hunting for lessons that can reach all students, even those who aren’t interested or knowledgeable about football and, most importantly for my teaching situation, one-time lesson plans that fit into an hour or 90 minutes, because I teach a lot of groups only once a week.

So here are some worksheets and lesson plans that I really like. ESOL Courses has some nice quizzes and activities, particularly this original lesson on the vuvzela which has made such controversy.

this football game from Dave’s ESL Cafe can be used to test anything from vocab to grammar in a football spirit.

I used this drag and drop football vocab game the other day, although we didn’t have Internet so I just drew my own pictures.

Onestopenglish has some good resources: a first conditional lesson, which in and of itself is a little long, but could be shortened. My wife is also using their bracket charts to keep track of the tournament! I used this speaking lesson plan (with Teacher’s Guide) the other day at a beginner lesson, after I simplified the questions. It went really well. The first part of the worksheet, where students make longer and longer sentences with the words “I” and “football” was great for beginners because it showed them how much they could already say without realizing it.

I already Tweeted Sean Banville’s lessons on each match and those are fun particularly if you aren’t a football fan since they give crib notes on the game.

This reading and vocab lesson also looked promising.

And the BBC has a good list of basic and advanced football vocabulary as well as some slang.

I know a bunch of websites have put up best resources for the World Cup. Any other favorites?