Here is a listening lesson from the BBC’s classic learning English website on the use of jargon in the news. Both the listening text and the worksheets are downloadable.
A refreshing alternative to the usual insults we hear. Enjoy!
I couldn’t let the Bard’s birthday (and the anniverasry of his death) go by without some sort of mention. Thanks to Roseli Serra for sharing this.
This activity is one of those I described in my post ‘How to … exploit video in class’.
The objective is to get the students to produce a possible alternative script for this video clip. Play the video with the sound turned off, and ask the students to describe the situation which they see. If necessary play the video twice. Ask them where the men are, what their job is, and why the film is in black and white. Fill in cultural details as you consider necessary.
In pairs, the students should discuss what the men might be talking about, and what they have just heard on the radio. After sharing this in class, the students work in their pairs to write a possible dialogue which fits in with the changes of speaker on the video as closely as possible. Be prepared to play the video several times while they work so that they can check how well their script synchronises with the film.
Once the students have prepared and rehearsed their scripts, they perform them in time with the film in turn. I usually give them two attempts at this. It can be a nice touch to record them as they speak, then play back the recording in time with the film, so they can see how their words fit more clearly.
When all of the pairs have performed their scripts, the class watches the original version of the video with sound.
TYPES OF ACTIVITY: Speaking; Debate; Compare and Contrast; Essay writing.
OBJECTIVES: The principal objective of this lesson is to help students to develop critical thinking skills while comparing and contrasting two important world leaders. The activity models a structured approach to developing ideas for a writing task or for a class debate
To begin the class, write the following statement on the board:
‘For a leader, it is more important to be strong than to be liked’
Allow the students a couple of minutes’ thinking time, then have them discuss this statement in pairs, focusing on the personal qualities which they consider a leader should have. Once they have done this, join the pairs into groups of four and have them share their ideas. Then each group should report to the class, and an opportunity given to respond and comment. Possible lines of discussion to explore could be the difference between totalitarian and elected leaders, or the difference between being admired and being liked.
Tell the students they are going to read a short biography of a famous leader, and they have to make notes on the main points of the person’s life and decide what qualities they had as a leader. Give half of the class Worksheet A: Margaret Thatcher, and the other half of the class Worksheet B: Mahatma Gandhi. (Here is a link to the worksheets.)
Allow the students to compare their notes with another student working on the same worksheet. Then place the students in pairs with someone who worked on the other worksheet.
First, each student explains the main points of the biography of their leader, and suggests which personal qualities that leader had. Then the students work together to find differences and similarities between the two leaders, recording their answers on a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram. They should focus on the personal qualities that make each leader different and which personal qualities they have in common, as well as the differences and similarities in their political and social situations.
Once the differences and similarities have been identified, each pair of students must decide which of these can be considered significant in the development of the leader, and draw conclusions about leadership from these significant similarities and differences.
There are different possibilities for a final task to this activity. One possibility would be to ask the students to write an opinion essay with the title ‘What makes a leader great?’ The students would use their notes and ideas from the discussion phase to illustrate their ideas, and to inform their analysis of different leadership styles.
Another possibility is for each pair of students to prepare an oral presentation on the two leaders, focusing on the similarities and differences in their personal qualities. For the presentations, the students should be encouraged to find further information about the personalities and political and social contexts of the two leaders, including recordings of them speaking about their ideas and policies.
It should be a motivating experience, indeed you may even have conceived the activity as a prize, or an end of term treat, but too often the use of video in the classroom has the opposite effect. In this post we will look at some different ways to incorporate video in the classroom, in a fun and, hopefully, motivating way.
The first consideration when using video in class is what you want to achieve with the video. It can be very easy simply to put on a film for your students to watch and expect them to be motivated by it, but unless the students have a very high level of English, they will have difficulty following the dialogue, and so will become easily lost and unable to enjoy the film as entertainment. For this reason, always have a concrete activity to do while watching, which will give your students something to focus on during the film, and allow you to measure their success at the end of the session.
A second thing to bear in mind is the level of concentration necessary to do the activity on the part of your students, which is far more than a native speaker would need to watch the same clip. Because of this, I would suggest keeping the video itself short. If you want to watch a longer video, break it down into more manageable chunks, with a different activity for each part, checking comprehension before moving on to the next part. It can also be useful to watch the same part more than once, just as we would with a listening comprehension exercise, with a listening / watching for gist exercise the first time to lead the students into the scene, then a more detailed exercise the second time round.
Any video activity needs a lead-in before you put on the video itself. This can be an exercise to pre-teach new vocabulary, or an introduction to the topic. One possible lead-in is a technique known as ‘vision off’, where the students attempt to predict things about what they are going to see by listening to the sound of the beginning of the video without the pictures. They can be asked to predict where the action is taking place, how many people are in the scene, or for higher level groups, the relationship between the characters or their attitudes. Play the video twice, then allow the students to compare their answers in pairs before sharing with the class. Then play the video with the pictures to allow the students to ‘check’ their own ideas.
Another possible lead-in is the pre-teaching of key vocabulary, as in the activity ‘Pigeon Impossible’, which you can read about here. In this case, key vocabulary is taken from the film and presented to the class. The students are asked to write a story in pairs which contains all of the vocabulary given. Higher level groups could be asked to present their story orally. The video is then played and the students compare their stories to the story in the film.
For many types of activities, including the ‘Pigeon Impossible’ activity mentioned above, it is not necessary for the video to have intelligible dialogue. Indeed, there are activities which require a video without words. A useful speaking activity, which I learnt from Tom Spain, is to seat the students face-to-face, one half looking at the screen, the others with their backs to it. When you play the video, those watching describe the action to their partners. After about a minute, pause the video and ask the students who were listening to the description to describe what happened. Then change over, and play another minute or so of video. This activity can be followed by a prediction exercise, where the students work in groups to decide what happens next and report to the class before watching the rest of the film.
Another way to exploit film without sound is to get the students to dub the video, preparing the dialogues themselves and trying to sync their words as much as possible to the faces on screen. This can be done using a film which does have dialogue but with the sound turned down. This way, once the students have performed their versions, the real dialogue can be played. I have done this exercise using Armstrong and Miller’s RAF pilot sketches, where wartime fighter pilots speak like modern teenagers. In this way, I guarantee a surprise for the students when they listen to the authentic version, although it is only for higher level groups.
Obviously a video activity lends itself particularly well to listening comprehension exercises. However, as I pointed out above, it is important to bear in mind the difficulty of listening to authentic language, even with visual support. One way of getting round this is to get students to listen for specific things in the video. Choose a film which has plenty of visual humour, such as one of the Wallace and Gromit films, and pre-teach items of vocabulary or set expressions which appear frequently in the dialogue.
As the students watch the film, they are instructed to stand when they hear the pre-taught words and expressions. Different students can be responsible for different items of vocabulary, which allows them to focus on fewer words and phrases. If the students are reluctant to stand up, have them hold up cards with the correct item of vocabulary on it when they hear the word. It is useful to repeat this exercise after a few days to revise the vocabulary. Once again, the period of concentration required from the students should not be too long. If the film lasts more or less the whole class, take two or three breaks at least to discuss what is happening and possibly to find out if the students can remember any words which were said with the items of vocabulary they were listening for – in this way they start to build an idea of how the words collocate in natural language.
A video can be a useful way of introducing a topic for a class discussion or for presenting a point of view. The BBC news website is a great source for short video news reports which present topics for debate. Ideally, the class would begin with one or more of the activities described above, moving on to a class discussion on the topic presented. I had a very interesting discussion in class based on a news report about a woman who had asked to have her disabled arm amputated and replaced by a ‘bionic’ one. This video was followed by another showing a person using one of the new generation of bionic arms to do things like tie his shoe laces, or open a bottle and pour a drink. I’m afraid I couldn’t resist starting the class with the intro to ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, before showing the video news report itself – this led to a useful initial discussion about how science fiction has become fact in some cases. A good example of a lesson plan for this type of activity can be found here, on Jamie Keddie’s website.
Here is a great lesson plan for introducing creative writing in class: