Archive for April, 2009

Wow!  Look!  There’s a new post on $4MT that doesn’t make reference to any sort of controversial subject matter whatsoever!  My lord!

No, nothing too revolutionary, but this was just something that occurred to me out of the blue in the middle of a First Certificate class I do.

I had on hand my bag of phrasal verb cards which I use to play phrasal verb reversi, and I realized that, out of luck, a few of the sentences I’d pulled from the bag could conceivably be part of the same story.

” It turned out that Bill and Mary had met before…”

“…She offered to drop him off at the station…”

“…He was so tired that he dropped off for half an hour on the train.”

So, on a lark, I gave the students the sentences, spaced out so as to imply “gaps” in the story.  Then I told them to complete the story, working together to fill in the gaps in the narrative.

In addition to providing a context to review and reinforce the meanings and forms of the phrasal verbs in question, it’s also decent practice of narrative tenses, etc.

All told, a quite easy collaborative speaking exercise that allows for review of phrasal verbs and can be extended with a writing exercise for homework.

Other possibilities for the phrasal verb story outlines:

“I came across an interesting article on the internet the other day…”

“…The police are looking into the matter…”

“…The president has promised to bring about a change…” (good ones for “newsy”, “current-events” type lessons)


“Some people find it difficult to face up to their fears in life…”

“…He came up with a solution to the problem…”

“…They carried on with the meeting as usual.”


“I bumped into Jill the other day at random in the street.”

“…I didn’t want to bring up such a sensitive subject…”

“…but he didn’t let the bad news get him down.

If you get the notion, you can suggest some other possibilities in the ol’ Comments section.  (It helps to have maybe a proper name (ie “Tina”, “James”) and then some loose pronouns in the others.)


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(Oops!!! I forgot to attach the worksheet at first! Sorry!)


guilty-conscience-task-sheet (MS Word doc, 39 KB)

– Eminem “Guilty Conscience” video (click here)

In recent months, a private student of mine, a teenage boy with a lower Upper-Intermediate (yeah, I know, right, huh?  By that I mean a kid who is basically forced to prepare for the FCE at school although he doesn’t really have the level to do so) level seems to have become obsessed with Eminem.

Evidently he saw “8 Mile” not too long ago (more than a couple of years late, I might add) and so now, instead of the crap Spanish adolescent rock-pop he was listening to before (El Canto del Loco and other lame bullhockey of that nature), he’s all into some Eminem.

He asked me if we could do something in English class related to the song “Guilty Conscience” by your boy Slim Shady himself and Dr. Dre.  And I said, “O.K.”  And in fact, as he was recently reviewing reported speech and so forth, I realized hey, this is as good a song as any for practicing reported command verbs and so on.  Matter of fact, it lends itself quite well to said linguistic chore.

And so it was that, in the process of making a worksheet to accompany this song in our private class, I seem to have a created the single most un-P.C. piece of English Language Teaching material known to man.

I realize a lesson like this will be of little use in 99% of teaching situations around the world.  If nothing else, it should just go to show that you can adapt damn near anything for use in the language classroom.

Behold: I give you the “Guilty Conscience” Song / Reported Commands Worksheet and Lesson Plan.

(note: this songs features heaps and heaps of cuss words and unsavory topics such as armed robbery, “date rape” drugs, and marital infidelity.  Strictly for use with teenagers?)

Disclaimer: $trictly 4 my T.E.A.C.H.E.R.Z. accepts no responsibility for any jobs being lost, teachers being fired, students and/or parents complaining, etc., due to use of materials presented here which may or not be considered controversial or taboo. Teachers should use good judgment in choosing materials to be used with each student or group. Just putting that out there…!

STAGE ONE / Lead-in Discussion (5 min.)

Write the word “CRIME” on the board.  Elicit some words for different kinds of crime–murder, rape, kidnapping, drug-dealing, robbery, etc.  List them vertically on a piece of paper (or on the board).  Elicit the noun and verb form for each (to murder, to rape, to kidnap, to sell drugs, to rob and/or to steal)–this will help them in Part One of the handout.

When you have a good handful of crimes, have Ss rank the crimes from the most serious to the least serious.  (In a 1-to-1 class, you can do this together with the student, asking questions about the reasons for their choices.  With a group of student, you can put them in pairs or groups and have them discuss.  Then ask questions in feedback, recording the rankings of each group next to the words on the board.)

STAGE TWO /  Listening  (10-15 min.)

1. Give S the handout and play the video.  Set the gist questions (part one) – what does each person do in the song?

(Eddie robs a liquor store.  Stan has sex with a drunk girl.  Grady shoots his wife and her lover.)

2. Play the video again.  Who says what? -in part b, S listen and mark the speaker for each sentence. (Odd numbers – Eminem, even numbers – Dr. Dre)  After the second listen, quickly check the answers.

3. Focus on the words in bold and the definitions.  S match the words and the definitions.  (With a larger group, Ss can do this in pairs, with the teacher monitoring.)

4. Ask: “who is more likely to use these phrases: a young student at the University, or an old woman?  How would an old woman say these things in normal English?”  Elicit an answer for the first one.  When S understand the task, have them “translate” the sentences in pairs.  Board and correct as necessary.

5. Ask S what they would do in Grady’s situation.  How would they react if they caught their husband and wife in bed with another man?

PART THREE – GRAMMAR (15-20 min.)

1. Review reported commands – You may need to work with the example a bit before doing the exercise, explaining the backshifting of the verb, the change in demonstrative pronoun (“this liquor store”–>”that liquor store”, etc.  Write the example on a piece of paper.  Work with the student to get the correct reported verb structure with “to” + infinitive–or with “that”.  S do the examples individually.   (Possible answers: 1. Eminem told Eddie to go in and steal the money, etc. 2. Dr. Dre recommended that Eddie think about it before he walked in… 3. Eminem commanded Eddie to do that shit. 4. Dr. Dre advised Grady to think about the baby, etc. 5.  Dr. Dre ordered Grady to shoot them both.)

Check in feedback.  Go over any structural errors on the board as necessary.

2. Have S read the information in the box.  As they read, draw two rudimentary faces, a boy and a girl (with long hair, to tell them apart).  Draw a speech bubble coming from the boy’s mouth.  Give S time to read and then draw their attention to the board.

Write the sentence: “I’ll pay you back”  Elicit a sentence using a verb from the first column. (He promised to pay her back.)

Write the sentence: “Yes, we made a mistake.” (He admitted that they had made a mistake.) (You may want to point out that this sentence is also possible with the gerund–He admitted making a mistake.)

Write the sentence: “YOU stole my sandwich!” (He accused her of stealing his sandwich.) Then write another sentence, this time from the girl.  (“No I didn’t!”)  (She denied that she stole the sandwich.) (Or: She denied stealing the sandwich.)

In pairs, S use the sentences in part II of the worksheet to summarize Eddie’s story.  Afterwards, have  volunteers explain the story, correcting any incorrect use of the structures.


1. On the board draw another three faces–one big, two small.  Put a halo on one of the small ones, and some horns on the other.

Refer to the instructions in part IV of the handout.  Tell Ss to think of a time when they were tempted to do something bad. (They can make something up if necessary.) Tell them to imagine that they heard two voices telling them to do good and to do bad, have them write a a short paragraph for each one.

2. Put Ss in pairs and have them explain their situation to their partner, and what happened in the end.  Switch partners afterwards.

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As usual, this lesson is not recommended for uptight or super-“by-the-book” type classes and cultural situations.  Highly appropriate for most Western, university-aged students.  (Although a lot of EU residents may be unfamiliar with what exactly “customs” is.)

“Do You Have Anything to Declare?” Travel English / Customs Roleplay Lesson Plan

level: intermediate / upper-intermediate

aims: practice “travel english” and customs situation; noun and verbs forms


Mr. Show “Shampoo” video

do-you-have-anything-to-declare (MS Word document, 38 KB) (more…)

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