Eye in the Sky

Joe Cocker’s version of  “With a little help from my friends” is widely considered by music critics to be the greatest-ever cover version. For our first post of 2012, we ‘ve gone for a radical revision of “Eye in the Sky” by Noa, she of the hauntingly beautiful voice. The original, of course, was by The Alan Parsons Project. Which will your class prefer? There’s also a lovely lead-in to see how much attention you and your students actually pay to the lyrics of your favourite songs…

Eye In The Sky Teacher’s Notes

Beef Wellington

This lesson is based on a clip from the Gordon Ramsay TV show The F Word.

About a year ago, Jamie Keddie of the excellent Lessonstream pointed me in the direction of this clip when he was writing for the TeachingEnglish website. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to use it in class; it just seemed made for exploiting in the ELT classroom. Have a look and see if you agree.

Since this programme was broadcast, Gordon Ramsay has updated the Beef Wellington recipe for Christmas. For homework, ask students to watch and note down the differences between the original and the Christmas version, and make one of them themselves. And that’s all from us for 2011. Enjoy the holidays and check back in the new year for the next update.

Beef Wellington Teacher’s Notes

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

I came across this and was spellbound by the beautiful music, the wonderful little boy and the unexpected ending. It also fit the bill perfectly for a jigsaw-style video activity I’ve been wanting to try for a while now. It’s taken a good hour-and-a-half with every class we’ve tried it out on but they’ve all said the time flew. And they were desperate to see the ending! Try it out and see what you think, but first, watch it yourself!

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want Teacher’s Notes

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want Student Worksheet

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want Webquest


Steve’s Talk at TESOL France

Thanks to everyone who came to my talk. As promised, here’s the handout:

Tried and Tested TESOL France

My Blackberry Is Not Working

As a “mature” EFL teacher, I have fond memories of the classic comedy show “The Two Ronnies” on the BBC. Among their most famous sketches was one which took place in a hardware shop and is known simply as Four Candles. It was based entirely on complicated but very clever puns or double meanings. This week’s post is an updated version of that sketch starring the survivor of the original duo, Ronnie Corbett, but this time set in a fruit shop. It’s a little piece of scriptwriting genius, and I think I can guarantee that all students will get it from the brilliant opening exchange……

My Blackberry Is Not Working Teacher’s Notes

My Blackberry is Not Working Student Worksheet


I met Sophie Pietrucci, a teacher in Paris at  TESOL France at the beginning of November. She had also spotted the classroom potential of My Blackberry Is Not Working and made a worksheet, which you can find here:

My Blackberry Is Not Working by Sophie

Check out the space she has set up on nicenet (username and password: tesolswapshop) for teachers to share materials and links.

Thanks, Sophie!


Steve Jobs at Stanford

After a long summer break and a very busy start to the new term, we’re back to update our neglected blog with a lesson based on Steve Job’s 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

In the speech, he told three stories about his life – stories which were quite personal, very revealing and extremely motivational -  and the speech went on to be a huge success on YouTube. Since his death on 5 October 2011, extracts from the speech have been widely quoted in the media. The text is reproduced in full here .

We decided to use this speech both as a listening exercise, to start with, but more importantly as a good example of public discourse in terms of chunking, rhythm, stress, and rhetorical techniques.

Steve Jobs Teacher’s Notes

Steve Jobs at Stanford

Steve Jobs Chunking

Steve Jobs Student AB

Pigeon Impossible

I love activities which really push students’ vocabulary skills to the limit and help make them more aware of what exactly they can and can’t do. With that in mind, this kind of back-to-back viewing activity in pairs is a great example and can be done with almost any piece of film. But of course it’s better if it’s action-packed or funny or, in this case, both….

Pigeon Impossible Teacher’s Notes

The Saddest Lines

In 1994 to promote the film “Il Postino” Miramax released  The Postman (Il Postino): Music From The Miramax Motion Picture, which, besides the film’s score, includes Pablo Neruda’s poems recited by many celebrities. Today’s lesson is based on the beautiful reading of Love Poem No. 20 by Andy García. It’s a translation exercise and, although the example here is from the original Spanish, I’ve included links to versions of the poem in other languages. It appears to be very easy to find in almost any language on the web as it’s so famous. What I like about using poetry is that it makes people think about how to express themselves in a much more creative way. And of course, there isn’t necessarily a correct answer…

Neruda Teacher’s notes

The saddest lines in Spanish

The saddest lines in English

Here are translations into other languages:

The saddest lines in French

The saddest lines in German

The saddest lines in Italian

The saddest lines in Portuguese

The Walking Dead

In this lesson students watch two clips from the TV series The Walking Dead, which is based on the graphic novel of the same name. First, students predict the title of the TV series from the word cloud, which is made up of most of the words in this newspaper article . Then they test their observation skills by watching the first scene of the first episode and answering some true/false statements about it. The next task is to listen to a spoken description of a scene, note down key words, reconstruct and then watch the scene in order to identify the differences between the two. Finally, students talk about a scene from a TV series or film which sticks in their mind for some reason.



The Walking Dead Teacher’s Notes

Blind Date

This activity is based on the beautifully animated Aardman clip Blind Date. Apart from finding or downloading the clip, there’s no preparation required. The activity starts off with a vocabulary game and finishes with storytelling. Between the two, students watch the clip, order the vocabulary and predict the ending. I’ve done this activity with several classes over the last few months and they’ve all really enjoyed it.

Blind Date Teacher’s Notes


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