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Teaching Tips 139

Oscar time
Video viewing
Valentine's Day


Oscar time

Following on from last week's Tip on using video in class
(, it's Oscar
time with money on Slumdog Millionaire to make a few wins. Below are a
few classroom ideas:

Have a look at the following short article:

Academy has custody of some 100 orphaned Oscars
By The Associated Press – 18.2.09

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires all
Oscar nominees to sign a contract specifying that they will not
sell their statuette without first offering it back to the
academy for $1.

The so-called winner's agreement dates back to 1951, at a time
when the organization began to worry about orphaned Oscars
winding up in the hands of the highest bidder.

So, how many Oscar winners have sold their statuettes to the
academy for a buck?

None, says AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis, although Oscars
still make their way back to the academy's custody.

"We have statuettes willed back to us fairly regularly — maybe
two per year — from recipients who don't have appropriate heirs,
or who just want to be sure that nothing undignified ever befalls
their Oscar," Davis says.

The academy says it owns almost 100 statuettes that have been
returned by winners, heirs, or buyers like Steven Spielberg, who
purchased pre-agreement Oscars won by Clark Gable and Bette Davis
in order to return them to AMPAS.

Statuettes from the collection occasionally go on display at
academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, Calif., and eventually,
the organization's long-planned Oscar museum in Hollywood will
include space for more of the collection.

To use this - cut & mix up the paragraphs & students put in a
logical order. They justify their logical sequencing decisions to
all Then possibly on to some other language focus eg. direct &
indirect speech decisions.
Follow this with a discussion:- why & what uses could the
statuettes be put to? Some must have been sold as Spielberg
needed to buy them back? etc...


- Check out any of the following for good material on the cinema & the Oscars: - an excellent source of info about film. The author, Timothy Dirks, lists his top 100 all time favourite films - you'll probably disagree - there's a paragraph about each of the 100 films which could be exploited nicely in class. Lots of other related topics including the famous film quotes page.

- - a massive collection of film scripts. Gone are the days of transcribing pages of the script to use in class. Just copy & paste the part you need.

- Oscar quiz - check out the Tim Dirks' site above.

- Oscars - discuss equivalent in own country - language of prediction & comparison before 'X will win because...' - language of past criticism afterwards 'X should've won because...' - language of dis/agreement with the Oscar results

- Lexical field - actor, actress, star, an extra, a bit part, producer, cameraman, studio, to shoot a film, still, clip, excerpt, set, on location, to edit, script, lines, costumes, action, different genres (western, comedy, adventure, sci-fi etc), screening, premier, critic, reviews ...

- A good opportunity to review narrative telling.

- Past Tips around film:
Budding Screenwriters:
Shadow reading:

- Famous film quotes - match film, character & quote. - 100 quotes
'To get an Oscar would be an incredible moment in my career, there is no doubt about that. But the 'Lord of the Rings' films are not made for Oscars, they are made for the audience.'
Peter Jackson
'I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don't watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. '
Javier Bardem

- Film reviews - students could write them for films they have recently seen to swap around for colleagues to read & add comments when seen - an on-going mini-project. There are several net chat groups for students devoted to this as well.

- Cinema What's On Guide - a similar procedure as given for the lonely heart's guide we mentioned in the last newsletter - we would naturally scan a cinema guide so give out one to each students & you ask a question, the students look quickly for the answer & raise their hands when they have found it - wait till half have their hands up & elicit the answer & locate it for those who are having difficulties. Have eight to ten questions ready e.g.. Where can you see 'The Full Monty? What time/How much ...etc. It's a very good way of gauging the scanning ability in the group.

- Making a film - imperatives - beginner students act out a short scene using imperatives from the director on tape - total physical response - a great effective way of building up elementary students store of verbs. A possible procedure would be to act it out yourself, taking on both roles while students listen & watch you, after several times the students then act out to the tape & then they write their own instructions in small groups for a short scene & you can feed in the verbs they need. The one std reads out the verbs & the others from the group act - for the rest of the class to observe.
Tip - Action - TPR:

- Interviews with the stars - dubbing - this involves the class discussing a picture of a film star & writing a list of questions they would like to ask the person in the picture. When a series of questions has been complied, give the picture to a std who takes on that role & the others interview her/him. A well prepared roleplay then ensues.

- Interview with a film star - one word collective person - this is a fun, challenging roleplay. There is an interviewer & three/four students take the role of the one interviewee. Each std supplies one word in the response to a question e.g.. Why did you start acting? A:Well B:at C:school D:I A:was B:always C:involved D:in A:the B:Christmas C:play. Each std has to continue the utterance so that it makes sense. Can be difficult but lots of fun.

- Day in the life of a film star - this could come as a continuation of the previous activity - students write up a typical day by way of compiling the responses from the interview - they take notes when they ask the questions.

- Discussion topics - Does violence in movies influence real-life events? - Prefer the book or the film? - The film star you would like to meet? What say/do? - Where prefer to sit in the cinema? Front, middle, back? Why?

- Roleplay ideas - son wants to be an actor, Dad wants him to be a doctor like him, Mum is caught in the middle - you are an actor in the middle of shooting a film & the director wants to change your lines (reduce them!) & you disagree strongly etc.

- Have a class outing to the cinema & then use it in class.

- Get students to go to see films & report back to the class - if they go to the cinema a lot, this could be a regular early in the week feature of the lesson. They could write reviews for each other, recommending or not that they see the film.

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Video viewing

It's becoming so much easier to use video in class these days with the multitude of downloadable videos available online, as well as laptops becoming cheaper by the month.

To download YouTube videos I use the web page VidiMonkey: All you need to do is copy the link for the YouTube page & paste it into the VidiMonkey page & click on 'Save'.
As you save, make sure you give it a name with '.flv' on the end. So then it is on your hard drive & to watch it in 'flv' format, download the very versatile VLC media player from
And away you go.

If you want to watch the videos in 'mpeg' or 'avi' you can download the 'Pazera Free FLV to AVI Converter' from

All very easy once you get the hang of it.

So then what do you do with the videos in class. We had a past Tip 'View the video' on classroom ideas. Here they are again with some more:

  • turn the sound down & predict moods, relationships & conversation from the visual clues. Listen with sound up to confirm.
  • give out one half of a written dialogue & students view the video a couple of times to fill in the other speaker's words. Listen to confirm.
  • commentate - play a news scene without the sound & students write the commentary. Listen to confirm.
  • speculation - cover half of the screen vertically - students view & speculate on the covered part. Uncover, view to confirm.
  • with films for language students, in English with English subtitles, cover the film & the students read the subtitles - speculate on what is on the film. Uncover, view to confirm.
  • play the video backwards & students then discuss what happened. Play forwards to confirm.
  • one half of the class view the section of video with the sound off & the other half with no picture but with the sound on. After, pair up one student from each group to explain what they heard & saw.
  • fast forward - show the video sequence, eg. news broadcast on fast forward. Students predict what sequence is to be about. Follow up with comprehension task & showing at normal speed.
  • prediction - freeze the picture just before something is going to happen and ask for prediction. Could be without sound for actions, with for predicting speech.
  • viewing for pleasure - you should be able to gauge their comprehension by their reactions, esp. if humorous.
  • interesting sounds - students listen to sounds on sequence with monitor turned round. Students invent the story for sounds & then watch the sequence to compare with own ideas.
  • half a dialogue - choose a sequence consisting of a dialogue between two people. Transcribe one person's part only, creating a gapped dialogue. Play the sequence with the sound off a couple of times. Students try and fill in the second person's part. Play sequence as much as necessary. Finally watch with sound on & students compare with their version.
  • act out - write out 10-20 lines of dialogue from a video sequence, omitting characters (who's speaking) and punctuation. Students punctuate dialogue and decide who are the characters, where they are, etc. students act out dialogue in groups. Compare with actual scene on video. Good for lower levels.

A lot of these ideas can be found in the following books:

'Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom' by Jane Sherman (CUP)

'Video' by Cooper, Lavery and Rinvolucri (OUP)

'Film' by Susan Stempleski & Barry Tomalin (OUP)

There are lots more things you can do with video & the more you use it the more will occur to you. Happy viewing!

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Valentine's Day Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, is nearly upon us & no matter what kind of group & students you have there's an angle of Valentine's Day that you can use as a focus for a lesson or two to stimulate language use, develop skills & introduce & practice language. The angle you choose ranges from traditional romance through to the commercialisation of the Day. Here are a few ideas:

A Love Story lesson plan

Love & money are in the air Valentine's Day lesson plan
Chocolate lesson plan

- Students design a series of tips for lovers on Valentine's Day.

- Short mystery stories, with a touch of romance connected to Valentine's Day can be found at

- Check out videos on YouTube - e.g.:

- Debate on Valentine's Day - commercialism v romance.

- Who to send a Valentine's card to - personal/the famous.

- The above could be extended to students deciding what presents the famous people give each other, where they go to eat, what they eat, what they say to each other (reported speech) etc. Or the game 'Consequences' - name of famous woman (met) name of famous male (at) place ..(he said to her).. (& she said to him) . (& the consequence was) .- each piece of information is written on a paper which is folded over each time obscuring all that came before so that at the end when all is written it is unfolded & read out - lots of fun.

- Anti-Valentine's Day campaign - discuss reasons & plan a campaign > Buy Nothing Valentine's Day - what could you do without spending any money?.

- Romantic films - students make a list of the top ten romantic films e.g.. Love Story, Casablanca, An Affair To Remember, The Piano, Brief Encounter, DR Zhivago, Now Voyager, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Gone With The Wind, When Harry Met Sally ...

- Lexical set: like, fancy, love at first sight, chat up, ask out, go out with, get on well, fall/be in love, 'go steady', live together, get engaged, get married, have children, go off, split up, get divorced ..rather heterosexual so change to suit.

- Heart to Heart/Lonely Hearts ads, the more diverse the ads the better - first decide which sex is advertising for which sex in each - they could put a M-F code next to each ad & then compare ideas before general feedback - Then onto some scan reading; you ask a question e.g. who is looking for a red head & students quickly look & when found answer put hand in air & when half group got hands up ask one for the answer & locate for those that didn't find it. Could do this with about ten questions. Could then get them to see if any of the advertisers could be matched up or do the students like the sound of any of them - write their own ads or for others in the group.....

- Language of physical & character description could be related to Blind Dates which could be in the form of a letter describing self, where to meet, etc..

- Language of chatting up - could come from a tape of mini conversations & then pull out the different language being used >> practice with mini-roleplays. Useful & lots of fun for a youngish group. Nerd pickup lines:

- Speed dating - check out the Tip at:

- The BBC has some very good material on 'love':

- Language of invitations.....could combine with a What's On Guide to use for scan reading & the language of preferences before going onto invitation role-plays, maybe on the phone which then involves telephone language.

- Romeo & Juliet - resources:

- Roleplay about parental disapproval - Mum, Dad, brother & girl who is going out with older boy. Dad is dead against it, Mum too but is more delicate, brother sides with sister & girl determined to carry on seeing boyfriend - do battle!

- Roleplay - couple, with one forgetting VDay.

- Marriage: vocab - bride, groom, vows, reception etc.

- Discussions on: British v students country wedding traditions compare/civil v church weddings/sex before marriage/alternative weddings/gay weddings/debate: live together v marriage/4 Weddings & A Funeral - the reception speech is very exploitable & enjoyable for higher levels - could lead on to a writing task.

- Problem page - there are many ways to use these e.g.. give out problem & students write answers/ give half students problems & other half advice & they write the opposite & after the written problem is read out to see if it matches they read out new written advice/ match up half a dozen short letters with the advice given leading on to a discussion of whether the advice given was the appropriate & if not any better.. role-plays from these: writer with friend, couple with marriage guidance counselor. Advice language e.g..: It might be an idea to. Why don't you .?, etc.

- General reading on the current Valentine's Day - search in Google News for current stories.

- Hypothetical relationship situations - 2nd conditional practice - What would you do if ..all related to romance.

- The 'Couples' activity in 'Discussions That Work' by Penny Ur (CUP) works very well (well worth checking out if you haven't already!).

- Divorce - discussion on associated topics e.g.. stay together for sake of children v split up - Life after marriage / sex before marriage/life as a single person.

- Love poems: eg: Love's Philosophy - by Shelley:

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle;--
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

This would lend itself to being cut up, every line or every two lines, & the students put into a logical order. A glossary of synonyms for the difficult old-fashioned words would be necessary. And then on to a comparison with the original & a discussion of the content. A follow up could be writing a few more pairs of nature-related lines.

- Love quotes - eg:
'I love you - those three words have my life in them.' by Alexandrea to Nicholas III
'The courses of true love never did run smooth.' by William Shakespeare
'There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.' by George Sand

- All You Need Is - a song, songs & more songs. For a huge list of romantic song lyrics:


Here's a text about the origins of Valentine's Day:

5th Century, Rome

Mid February was traditionally the time of the Lupercian festival, an ode to the God of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate. In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival. But he was clever to replace it with a similar celebration, although one deemed morally suitable. He needed a "lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus.

The martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the new festival.

Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor Claudius. Before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer's daughter. He signed his final note to her, "From Your Valentine", a phrase that has lasted through the centuries.

Pope Gelasius didn't get everything he wanted. The pagan festival died out, it is true, but he had further hoped people would emulate the lives of saints. Instead they latched onto the more romantic aspect of Saint Valentine's religious life. While not immediately as popular as the more passionate pagan festival, eventually the concept of celebrating true love became known as Valentine's Day.

Ideas on using this text:

- as a straightforward dictation task - read through first, students listen. Dictate each tone unit, repeating if the students want. Read again for all to check. Give out the text & students self-correct.

- elicit if anyone knows the origins of Valentine's Day. Then give out choices for students to discuss & choose possible stories. e.g. Valentine's Day comes from the romantic character in Shakespeare's play 'Much Ado About Valentine'.

- put key words on the board & students try to predict the story, then read to verify.

- cut up the text into the paragraphs & students put in order.

- give out the first two paragraphs cut up, line by line, & students order the text. Then use the third paragraph as a dictogloss activity - read the text at normal speed & students take notes - the stressed words. Then together they reconstruct the paragraph from their notes. It's not necessary for it to be the same as the text so long as it is a coherent paragraph that fits with the preceding two paragraphs. Then give out the last paragraph to read & see if their own paragraphs fit in.

- could follow up with the letter from Valentine to his lover before he was beheaded (!) - could be fun(!).

- discussion on any current festivals they would like to replace - with what?


Valentine's Day page at Wikipedia:'s_Day
Love at Wikipedia:
Lots of links from the Kids Domain:
History Channel Valentine history:
Valentine's Day clip art:
Yahooligans links page:
Virtual chocolate site:
Cadbury's Chocolates site:
Hershey's site:
Exploring chocolate:
How chocolate works:

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