Bizarre news photos for class

Orange News (formerly known as Ananova), as well as having some great quirky news stories, which are great for class, also has a "News in pictures" section with some fun things in its quirky photo gallery.

At Yahoo, you have a similar source of bizarre news stories, in its "Oddly Enough" section. I find that they are particularly good for dictogloss, and both the stories and images work great on the interactive whiteboard.

On the IWB, it's so easy to import things, for a start, and separating pictures from captions gives you and easy-to-create drag-and-drop, matching exercise.

Man smashes 27 TVs at Wal-Mart

One from one of my favourite blogs, BoingBoing, of a man caught on security cameras smashing 27 TVs with a baseball bat he'd picked up in the same store.

The video itself isn't that interesting, perhaps but played with no prior explanation it would give rise to some speculation about what is actually happening (try it in pairs, with half the class not looking at video, the other half commentating for them).

The comments, as with most YouTube videos have lots of language in them (particularly of a colloquial nature), which can also be exploited nin various ways, including working out meaning from context.

With an interactive whiteboard, it's so easy to capture text from the internet, which can then be dragged-and-dropped and reordered, in this case we could column the comments into such categories as serious, facetious, etc.

BoingBoing has lots of similarly slightly crazy stuff that at the very least will make for a nice change from your coursebook.

The most annoying invention ever

Karaoke: if it's such fun, can it really be the most annoying invention ever?

Because its quirky news stories make great texts for use in class, is one of my default home pages: I spend 20 seconds a day there when I log on scanning the headlines in case there's something I could use in class.

One that caught my eye today: The most annoying invention ever: the Karaoke.

As well as the language and reading comprehension work that might come out of the text, my 20 seconds are about long enough to image my students, pre-reading, brainstorming their own lists of the world's worst inventions; and, post-reading, writing up their suggestions on a class blog and then taking a vote on it, possibly involving students in another class — and possibly using the poll option that you can easily include on your blog if you are using Blogger to publish it (the steps being Layout >> Add a gadget >> Poll).

20 seconds a day scanning the stuff that comes to me: that, rather than wasting the day trawling Google-is-Evil

Series of online articles on reading

Reading: what kind of help and motivation should you provide?

Over on, Dave Willis has started a four-part series on reading, the first being Reading for information: Motivating learners to read efficiently.

Among other things I liked in the first article of the series was the idea that we should we should provide "a context and a reason for reading", though if — as suggested — we're reading to answer the questions generated by discussion, I think some at least should be student-generated questions.

If some of the students' questions don't then get answered by your text, then go webquest (even if "only" for homework!)

The rest of the series:

>> Part 2 Form focus and recycling: getting grammar
>> Part 3 Techniques for priming and recycling
>> Part 4 Techniques for form focus after reading

More evidence that Google is Evil ,- ) !

My husband… Now would that be "Google search" or "I'm feeling lucky"?'s bizarre news "Quirkies" section is one of my default start pages — partly because some of stories amuse me greatly and partly because there's often a text there that you can use in class.

Among the headlines this morning, "Wife's £5m Google surprise":

A woman is suing her husband after she Googled his name – and found out he had won £5m on the lottery. >> Full story

What could you do with such a text…?

  • Before reading, you could speculate from the headline what the story might be, something which you might do in pairs, with each pair then telling the whole class "their" story
  • During reading, you could get people to determine which pair they think got closest to the actual story, which can get them to read more closely, and gives a natural reason for "talking about meaning"
  • After reading, there are any number of discussion points that might come up — do they believe the story, what can they guess about the people involved, have they ever "Googled" their own names (or those of their spouses!)

Persuade your learners to change their default start pages to a website where they are going to get themselves some reading (or listening) practice — it's one of the most useful things you can do for them!