Here's a nice, generic listening and speaking activity that you can do with many YouTube videos, which I've described previously.
The summarise and present activity suggested there requires the learners to:
Watch the video, taking notes as they go along
Discuss it in a group of 3-4
Agree on a summary of what is being said
Watch again to check their summary includes the most important information
Prepare a presentation of it, using a maximum of 3 PowerPoint (or whatever) slides
Present it to the class in 60 seconds
Hold a Q+A session lasting 3 minutes (which you might allow to go on longer, if the discussion generated is fruitful)
Getting more out of the same activity
The activity works particularly well if you (or your learners) can find a different video on the same subject for each of your groups.
If you also have somewhere like a class blog or Edmodo group where the discussion can continue — and your learners can post the different videos, perhaps to be watched later, outside class — that's also fantastic.
This post nearly didn't make it out of "draft", but the activity works so well that, when I was doing the spring cleaning this last weekend I thought I'd post — five years (!!) after first saving it — rather than trash. I think I must have found the video on a post on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog.
Posting it had nothing to do with the young lady in the static image before the video starts to roll, you understand 😉 !
I'm a huge fan of Kieran Donaghy'sFilm-English.com, with its brilliant selection of YouTube and Vimeo clips and accompanying lesson plans, but sometimes you just see other clips that look just so amazing for class — except that you don't have a lesson plan.
Below, generic ideas that lead to the production of a lot of languagewithout your requiring any more material than the clip itself.
1 | Commentators and listeners
With this one, you put learners in 3s, and have two sit with their backs to the video (sound initially off) while their partner provides a running commentary, with as much detail as possible, as in the illustration, above. The example I gave:
Look for videos (like Simon's Cat) which have plenty of action in them, the more bizarre the better (Mr Bean, someone suggested in the workshop), as in this crazy ad.
2 | Brainstorming a better list
Everyone loves lists, don't they? YouTube does too!
But before you get your learners to watch (and before you start typing up and photocopying a True/False exercise for them!), give them the topic, and get them to (1) brainstorm their own list in small groups; then (2) watch and check off which things on their list are mentioned; if they then (3) list everything mentioned in the video they can then (4) compare lists: theirs, the video's, and those of other groups; and finally (5) discuss who produced the best list.
Here's the hilarious video I suggested as an example:
Here's another example, with a fuller outline of the lesson. Look for "how to" videos, or just about any video with a title starting "7 things…", "10 ways…" etc.
3 | Summarise and present
The brilliant Joe Hanson [ YouTube channel ] has lots of clips this idea will work with:
What they're then doing in class time is making the short oral presentations (I suggest 60-90 seconds, maximum 3 slides), with Q+A time at the end to ensure maximum participation of the whole class.
Look for videos with lots of information and/or presenting ideas, with TED being another site with videos this will work with.
4 | TED feedback
If you watch videos on TED, you're probably familiar with how their rating system works. If you choose to rate one of their talks, you get a pop-up window with a selection of adjectives you can use:
With any video — not necessarily from TED — you can do the same thing. It works particularly well with videos that divide opinion and reaction in your class (like this one, for example) and if you allow your learners to come up with their own adjectives to "rate" it.
If you then pool the adjectives they're come up with and have them pick which 3-5 best describe it, you've got the basis of a class debate.
5 | Video clips as storytelling prompts
One of the things apart from YouTube that we looked at in the workshop was digital storytelling. I'll return to that in a separate post, but mentioned that video clips that tell stories are great as writing (or speaking) prompts for kick starting ideas (and language) to be included in digital storytelling projects.
In Friday's workshop I suggested this Springsteen song but they tell me Taylor Swift is kind of more popular now 😉 :
The Taylor Swift song has worked well (thanks, Kim) with teens who (1) brainstormed a list of what they guessed would be in a Taylor Swift love song clip; (2) checked that off in a first watching (sound on); (3) listened to the lyrics on a second watching; (4) in 3s, used the song for a dictogloss activity, with their versions then being checked against the actual lyrics; (5) debated what exactly happens in the story — clip and lyrics; before (6) recycling the language that had come up in class into their own collaborative stories (some produced in text, some in audio form).
Look for song video clips that tell stories, which then also give you a text (the lyrics) you can then exploit in the usual ways.
6 | Football (etc.)
One not mentioned in the workshop, but football is always a winner in class, isn't it? My son (one of my key sources for video clips for class) showed me this amazing Facebook page with sports clips the other day.
Generic lesson plan? Pick the right clip (look for controversy!) and you probably don't need one! With certain learners, they'll talk endlessly (possibly not always intelligently 😉 ) on the subject…
The Guardian disagrees with what the Telegraph claimed about the monkey owning copyright (!).
Here's the video of the original theft:
I'm not that sure that I'm going to get a lot of language — always the objective — out of either the articles or the video, but it's the idea that I like: couldn't we get a lot of fun, a lot of interaction and language out of imaginingwe're the monkey and have actually learnt how to use Facebook and Instagram and so on?
IDEA #1 | The Facebook post and/or tweet
So we have the picture (though, how many of my teens can themselves pull great monkey faces, and use their own images…?), how about our learners write the Facebook post and/or 140-character tweet that the monkey would upload to their new account?
We want to get the interaction that will produce more language so each learner (or pair of learners) has to be (a) the monkey that stole the camera and then (b) another jealous — or not — monkey without the camera and has to respond to the post, which would need to go on something like an Edmodo group. You could use a Facebook group (or with adults a private G+ Community), but I'm all for the greater, ad-free privacy that Edmodo offers.
No technology? You could use pieces of (scrap!) paper and "post" on your classroom walls…
IDEA #2 | Give me my phone back!
Alternatively, again if you have an Edmodo group, how about dividing your class up and have them negotiate recovery of the phone?
One of the learners is the monkey
Others are other monkeys, who also want the phone and/or have stolen other phones
One of the learners is the tourist, the original owner of the phone
The rest are other tourists, who could also have had their phones stolen
To keep your Edmodo stream a little under control, I'd recommend no more than about a third of your learners as monkeys, and only monkeys being allowed to post new "notes" — people are only allowed to "respond" to notes. You probably also want to take email "alerts" off for the duration of the activity (!).
Twitter might also be a fun way to do the same activity.
On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post only one thing a day (frequently not even that), always and exclusively things I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.
Here's one we saw in my technology session on a CELTA course last week.
When I first meet a class I get them to write their names on pieces of A4 pulled out of the recycle bin, fold them and hang them on the front of their chairs/tables so that we all start to learn each other's names.
I also like to get my learners to draw something in the first class — in this case, in the example above, I asked for "an animal or insect that you find in some way repulsive".
Doing that identifies who enjoys drawing and subsequently I like to group people with at least one budding artist per group and have my learners illustrate any project work with their own illustrations rather than things stolen from the evil empire (AKA Google Images).
In this particular case, the drawings also then led on to the video we were then to watch, suggested for levels B2 and above.
Here's the video:
A rough outline of the lesson plan…
From the drawings, talk about what animals and insects we find repulsive and why, providing any vocabulary help that might be required
In pairs/threes, watch approx the first 0'45" of the video, with one person/two not watching, one providing a running commentary
Stop and answer any "How do you say…?" vocabulary questions
Ask (in open class) "What's going to happen next?"
Swop roles and continue to 1'30"
Answer any further "How do you say…?" questions
Ask (in open class) "How is it going to end?"
Have everyone watch the last 15 seconds of the video and see if they can explain exactly what happens
The running commentary idea works with lots of YouTube videos — with more examples here.
For the vocabulary taught to become vocabulary learned, it needs to be recycled. A few ideas for that:
Perhaps after class, discussion of what does in fact happen at the end (does the cat kill the spider…?), something which works great if you have an Edmodo group, where you can share the video and then have people comment
In pairs/threes, writing a script for Scary Legs II (possibly using a shared Google Drive document), which then has to be "sold" to the rest of the class (possibly via Edmodo), who are writing rival scripts
In pairs, telling the story of how one or other partner came to find the animal/insect drawn at the start of the lesson repugnant (and including the drawing made)
I like all writing activities to be collaborative — so that, for example, in the last suggestion there we're not writing individually and handing the piece in to the teacher, but producing one piece of writing between two and sharing that with everyone (for which Edmodo is again ideal), and hopefully commenting on each other's work as well.
The commenting on what others write is important, as it provides opportunities for furtherinteraction and (re-)use of language but it actually needs to be built into the task and required of the learners. Having learners "buy" other people's scripts (as in the second suggestion above) and/or award each other "prizes" (best, funniest, corniest, etc., script) are just two of the ways you could ensure that.
This one came from the amazing BuzzFeed, where I probably spend more of my free time than I should, but find some real fun material for class in doing so, with the video above being an example.
Such things are great because for the 60 seconds it takes you to spot them (OK, maybe I was there a bit longer!) you've got a ready-made lesson, because it comes with a ready-made question that is doing to generate 60 minutes of lesson, and quite possibly more.
They're also great because the video is your material: you really don't need anything else, and instead of wasting time producing material (and this is a strictly no-photocopies lesson!), any preparation time can be spent on how to squeeze the maximum amount of interaction and language out of it.
A very rough lesson outline for just about any level B1 or above:
Pyramid discussion on "What athletes eat before they compete"
In small groups, brainstorm and then rank the top 10 resulting ideas
Agree as a class on a top 10
Then (and only then) watch the video, with no note taking
With a partner, note everything you recall being mentioned, and attempt to produce the top 10 from the video
Watch again to see if we were "right"
Assign one meal to each pair (or let them pick the most interesting, most weird…) and have them investigate the science (or lack of!) behind what the athlete eats, with mobile phones providing an ideal, in-class research tool
Optionally, if your learners are also athletes (or have been, at whatever level, including school), have them — or one group — research and report on what they eat
You can get so many great lessons out of brainstorm > watch/read > compare > research > report/present, because it generates so much interaction and therefore language.
If you have an interactive whiteboard, if you keep stopping the video (you'll need to be quick!), you can easily screen capture the different meals, import them into your IWB software, and then export them as a series of images.
Better still, have one of your learners do that for you. (You'll never have to deal with fast finishers again 😉 !)
I've added a new category to my blog: Smash the photocopier! With the exception of banning Google Images, and possibly the mandatory use of smartphones in all classes, that's possibly the one thing that would most transform English language teaching, IMHO…