Very quickly, before things get really ugly this week (“‘Tis the season to grade papers, fa lala lala, lala la la”), I thought I’d honor a timeworn tradition here at $4MT for the non-denominational holiday season, i.e. “Xmas crap!”  Besides, I haven’t posted anything even remotely useful for a while, and it is better to give than to receive, or so they say, so…

Here’s a link to last year’s version, with the annual link to Alex Case’s Xmas grammar goodies and my own Run DMC “Christmas in Hollis” gapfill worksheets.  Yupi!

Then there’s also my links to other Christmas stuff, a decent Mr. Bean active viewing thing, and a writing exercise from ol’ Boggle’s World.

Right, now then, without further ado, I give you this year’s model, featuring once again my favorite Brad Neely creation the Professor Brothers.  “This IS Christmas music!”

As you will find below, I’ve got this little thingy here if that’s your cup of tea–You know, a little prediction task with some stills from the video and some thought bubbles…then a little listening gapfill.  Then you know you can, like, talk about, like Christmas stuff or Kwanzaa or what have you.

Ah, I should add that the gapfill is meant to focus on the construction I wish/(s)he wishes + past/past perfect.

Prisoner pictures (the pictures)


Merry Christmas!

(Ah, and if you like the Professor Brothers and think you have some students might as well, have a look at this other lesson–talking about the future, nice for New Year, you know…)

Ah, and I forgot to mention, Hall Houston recently put up a nice list of links to holiday stuff over at his blog. So for those of you scouring desperately for something other than yule-log wordsearches or whatever, get on that.

Recently Alex over at TEFLtastic has been pondering questions such as “Why are Advanced level textbooks so crap?” and “Do you need to be able to discuss globalization to be Advanced?”

Regarding that first one, various commenters at the post in question were quick to point  to factors such as 1) “weird grammar bits and obscure vocabulary”, 2) “trying to do and crowd in too much”, and 3) publishers “don’t care that much” about Advanced textbooks (being that they don’t sell as much as Elementary level books).

In the Advanced textbook I’m using now–like pretty much every textbook of any level ever produced by anyone ever (for adult learners at least)–there’s a unit on the Lottery.

In this case, it’s an excuse to review mixed conditionals, expressing regret (“I wish I had bought a ticket”, “If only I could win the Pick-6″, and so forth), you know, all that good stuff.  Being not so enthused about the listening and the ensuing”grammary”, “conditional-y” segment in the coursebook, I dove into the multimedia miasma that is Youtube in search of some at least nominally relevant video to show the class, and came up with this:

Psyched I was, being that the target language was right there waiting for them at the end.  (“My wife said she wished she’d torn the ticket up”, “Do you wish you’d never won?”).  Plus there was the perverse attraction of doing something different–something depressing.  I’m usually one to constantly play up everything for yuks, so this seemed like a nice change of pace from my “thuggish-cracker” sense of humor (Nick Jaworski dixit).

I made a little task sheet to go along with the video, which is here: “LOTTERY CURSE“.

Before showing the video, I would play the first minute or so with the sound off, introducing the “characters” (Jack, Brandi, and Jesse), and getting students to talk about them, what their relation is, and what they think will happen to the three of them.

Then distribute the handout, play it once all the way through and have them try to complete the sentences 1-10.  You may need to start it around 4:18 the second time around for students to get the last three sentences in.  Check the answers as a class, move on to part II of the worksheet and discuss.

Then in the last part, students write a sentence using the extremely skeletal prompt in part III.  This is meant to elicit a variety of conditionals–2nd, 3rd, mixed, whatever.  When they’ve finished, have some students come up to the board and write their sentences.  Then you can compare and contrast the forms, the meaning, etc., transitioning into whatever controlled practice activity floats your boat thereafter.

So, not long ago I was talking at length about the SEETA online course on YouTube, led by Jamie Keddie.  And I completely forgot to include perhaps the most amazing thing I discovered there.  I think you’ll agree that you don’t have to be a fan of M.O.P., or of roughneck mid 90s NY hip-hop in general in order to appreciate the sheer genius involved in syncing this up (Bert’s verse is priceless):

Thanks to Jamie.  And to the rest of you, you’re welcome.

Anyways, time for a lesson plan, it’s been a while.

Right then.  I was at a loss for inspiration.  It had been ages since I’d come up with any new teaching material worthy of posting on $4MT.

But then, thanks to the visit of my main damies (good friends in Pootie Tang speak, if you must know) Danny and Viswas two months ago, I was introduced to the strange and oddly fascinating universe of Neely Comics, and somewhere deep down I knew it would only be a matter of time before I managed to adapt this weird new world to my dastardly teaching purposes.  Mbwah, ah, ah… (*maniacal laughter*)

So, I took it upon myself to make a “decaffeinated” version of one of the Professor Brothers videos most ripe for exploitation in the language classroom: “Future Thoughts”.  See my tutorial on Windows Movie Maker for the “censored version”. (To Mr. Brad Neely, if you’re reading this: Please don’t  hate me, or more importantly, please don’t take legal action against me.  Just holler and your boy will take it down.)

It starts with a group activity on describing people from  a picture, a little prediction task,  a simple little listen and match, a “sentence telepathy” activity with sentence heads, and a debate about what the future holds for us all.  And maybe, if you have the means to do so, a “vox pop” type video similar to the one featuring the Professor Brothers, Baby Cakes and other denizens of China, IL. Continue Reading »

It’s been a while since I posted any songs up here–I got started “bloggifying” my blog (making it less about posting materials and more about posting about other’s people’s posts, and posting about posts about other people’s posts, etc.) while I was out of commission with the flu, and now I’m better and ready to contribute.

Level: intermediate

aims: present and practice used to and would, talk about monarchs in history, practice writing and listening

materials: VIVA LA VIDA task sheet

video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE

Continue Reading »

Classics: “I saw you…”

So I’ve just decided to start a series of articles on $4MT dedicated to the classics.  No, not Homer or Aristotle or none of them cats–I’m referring to classic English teaching activities that every teacher has probably used (or could probably use) and which in my own experience I’ve made use of time and time again.

The first one is in this series is that oldie but goodie: “I saw you…”

I first came across this activity in the classic 700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour and Maria Popova (MacMillan English).   Its purpose is mainly to practice using narrative tenses. Continue Reading »

Want to spice up a dull food-and/or-restaurant-related unit with your Intermediate/Upper-Intermediate students?  Or you want to set up a unit related to language for making complaints?  Or perhaps you just want to give your tourist-industry class a quick laugh and have a little discussion.

If any of the above are true in your case, then I heartily welcome you to the Burgundy Loaf:

Continue Reading »

You may have noticed I’ve changed “themes” on the blog.  I’m not 100% convinced, but it’ll work I think.  Opinions from the peanut gallery?

In the interest of starting off the “new season” of $4MT with something simple, here’s a little something that occurred to me in a pinch in one of my one-to-one classes which after using it a few times seems like a decent way of doing a little tense review.  It’s very similar to another activity which I like to call “Why? Why? Why?” which I posted a while ago.

Give the Ss (on a piece of paper or on the board) some sentence heads using negative verb structures, i.e.:

I don’t

I didn ‘t

I can’t

I’m not

I haven’t

etc., etc.  This can obviously be used for an enormous variety of structures (modal verbs, future forms, conditionals, etc.) Or even for discussing a recent story or text by substituting the name of a character for “I”.

The students all write sentences.  Then in pairs, they take turns reading the sentences to each other, and the other asks “Why not?”  The other student has to explain the reason why.  The other can then ask “Why?” again.  (You may want to demonstrate this with one of your students before you start them asking and answering.)

I’ve found it to be a pretty decent and useful filler type thing.  Maybe you will too.

As promised last time, another song.

(Note: I do not like the Killers.  They are definitely not my thing.  Apart from the fact that $4MT has had a strong hip-hop/R&B bias in its musical slant, I should note that the Killers for me are well on their way to dethroning U2 for the post of Most Overrated Rock Band.

But I had another special request from a student who said it was his favorite song.  He just wanted to know what the words were.  Luckily, I was able to extrapolate a slightly more relevant teaching point than just “What’s he sayin’?”, being that there’s a ton of little phrasal verbs and what not to be picked apart.)

There’s two parts basically to this worksheet.  You may or may not want to fold it neatly in half before giving it to the students.

Mr. Brightside song activity (MS Word doc, 22 KB)

 1. Start with the words from the first part on two columns on the board and elicit combinations.  They don’t have to correspond to the ones used in the song.  Get students to give you example sentences for each combination.  Do a little mime game if you want.  All that good stuff.

2. Then students listen to the song and fill in the blanks.  Then after that you can ask them what the hell this guy is talking about.  For example, what the hell is “turning saints into the sea” supposed to mean?  (Personally, I can’t stand this sort of pretentious fake-poetry rock lyrics.  Another example from a Killers song, “Are we human or are we dancers?”–um, you’re probably both, idiot.  But I digress.)

After you’ve got at least one or two possible ideas, show them the video.

Elicit what they think the situation is–how are the singer and the girl in the video related, etc., etc.

As a writing exercise, have Ss choose to be either the singer or the girl in the video.  They must write a diary entry about what happened to them in the song, starting like this: “Last night, I went to a party and…”

I’m back!  What?! What y’all know about that? What?! What?!

Oh, ahem.  Hi, hello there.  I’ve not been doing much posting as of late.  To make up for that, I’m gonna try to double up here.

As things wind down to a close and the kids finish their schoolwork and take their exams, we’re left in a bit of a lull until the actual end of the course.  And of course, the people want songs.  Songs, songs, songs.

So here’s one.  It’s related to sports and sports vocabulary.  It’s “We Like Sportz” by the Lonely Planet, from their album Incredibad. It’s kind of hilarious.  Could be appropriate for that unit related to sports in your typical pre-intermediate/intermediate level.  The “cheating sux!” line goes perfectly with Unit 1C from New English File Intermediate, for example.

It starts with a little vocabulary word-map / brainstorming activity.  Then there’s a listen-and-tick-the-things-you-hear joint.  Then you got a little correct-the-rhyme-scheme, then-listen-and-check joint.  Then a little fill-in-the-blank action.  Then some discussion activity type flavor–do a “Why? Why? Why?” game in pairs, then talk about it together as a group.

We Like Sportz (MS Word doc, 36 KB)

And here’s the video:

My god, it’s been ages since I posted anything here.  Almost a month.  Christ almighty, where is my motivation?

Well, I guess part of it can be chalked up to that seasonal syndrome of motivational dysfunction known as “spring fever”.  Maybe it’s really a physical, neurological/endocrinal phenomenon related to the change in season.   (Maybe one of you reading in this in the tropics or Southern Hemisphere can clear me up on this?  Do the months of May and June also correspond to this particular sort of malaise?) Continue Reading »