COMMENTARY President-elect Donald Trump is portrayed as a spoilt, bad-tempered baby, who has broken one of his dolls. Someone (the American electorate?) is handing him a gift-wrapped globe, which has a label marked 'Fragile'. Note the cubes that spell out 'ME', a reference to Trump's narcissism. The question is: Can Trump be entrusted to handle global affairs without causing irreparable damage? I wouldn't be too confident!
It's almost Christmas Day but there's still time for one more Xmas ad. Marks and Spencer's 2016 Christmas TV ad has a modern twist on the much-loved character Mrs Claus.
COMMENT You really have to watch this ad several times to appreciate all the jokes and nice little touches. For example, did you notice that the number of the helicopter is R-DOLF and that Mrs Claus is reading Fifty Shades of Red when Mr Claus returns home? And I'm sure I noticed a nod to Bond at one or two points.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Stop the ad at 2m12s and ask students to guess what the present is. 2. You can do the same for the present at 2m49s, though we don't actually discover what it is! 3. Lots of scope for discussing students' experiences of Christmas when they were children. 4. Analyse the campaign from a marketing perspective. Who's the target audience? What's the message? (see the related M&S webpage here). 5. In what ways is this a feminist ad? Discuss.
Here's an improved and updated version of the Christmas quiz I made last year. There are 30 questions (mostly multiple choice) divided into six categories. It works really well as a final Christmas lesson activity with groups of students. You can either put the students in teams and get each team in turn to choose a question, or, if you want to keep everybody involved, you could get all the teams to answer simultaneously (getting them to write their answers on small whiteboards, for example).
This touchingly sweet Mercedes commercial, “Snow Date”, is about a father who drops his son off at the movie theater to meet a girl even though the winter driving conditions are not ideal. See below for ideas on using it in class.
TRANSCRIPT BOY: Dad, I'm ready. DAD: Did you look outside. MUM: Take him. DAD: Sure is coming down. BOY: She'll be there. VOICEOVER: Mercedes Benz. The best or nothing.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Pause the ad at 16s and get students to say where they think the boy is going. 2. Pause at 55s. How does the boy feel? 3. Pause at 1m02s. How will the ad end? 4. Pause at 1m18s. How does the boy feel now? 5. How did the ad make you feel? Was it effective? 6. Talk about the weather (snowy, icy, blizzard, snowstorm, etc.) 7. Talk about first dates, dating, etc. (go out with sb, go on a date, to date, to be dating, to stand sb up, etc.)
Of all this year's Christmas-themed ads, I think this one for Polish auction site Allegro is my favourite. It's touching, funny, and has some excellent ideas for learning English on your own. See below for lesson ideas and background articles.
LESSON IDEAS 1.Stop the video at 16s. Ask students what they think the ad is going to be about. 2. Stop the video at 22s. Ask students what they think he's doing on the computer. 3. Stop the ad at 23s. Ask students what country they think this all takes place in. 4. Stop the video at 30s and ask students what they think is in the box. 5. Stop at 47s. Ask students why they think the old man wants to learn English. 6. Stop ad at 55s. Ask students what advice they would give the old man about learning English on your own. 7. Discuss the various techniques the old man uses to learn English (all of which are excellent!) 8. Stop ad at 1m50. Ask students what they think is in the second box. 9. Stop ad at 1m59. Ask students who they think the woman is. (It's almost certainly a neighbour, who is going to look after his dog. I think we can assume he's a widower, i.e., his wife has died. That fits the narrative better than him being divorced or separated.) 10. Stop ad at 2m04s. Ask students where they think the man is going. 11. Stop ad at 2m16s. Ask students where they think the man is now (vocabulary = escalator). 12. Stop ad at 2m29 and ask who they think he's going to see. 13. Stop ad at 2m37. Ask students who they think the young man and the woman are (his son and his wife, I presume) 14. Ask students how they think the ad is going to end. 15. Show the rest of the ad. Cue handkerchiefs. 16. Q. Who is the little girl? A. His granddaughter. 17. We still don't know what the ad is for, so that can be the final question.
There's also lots of scope for vocabulary practice: lonely, widower, delivery van, parcel, kettle, boil, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, etc.
You might want to show the ad once again without stopping to get the full effect.
NOTES 1. Did you notice he mixes up the words for 'knife' and fork'? I'm assuming that's not a deliberate mistake. 2. He also pronounces 'pyjamas' wrongly. See here for correct pronunciation. 3. Britain has a big Polish community (nearly a million) which is wondering if they will be able to stay in the UK following the Brexit vote.
COMMENT It's just as well he doesn't say 'I gonna fuckin' kill you!' to his granddaughter!
This lovely short film for H&M directed by Wes Anderson has got to be my favourite Christmas ad so far this year. See below for ideas on using it in class and some background articles.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Stop the ad at 3m20s and get students to speculate about what happens next. 2. Put students in groups and get them to make a list of all the characters in the ad. Describe their appearance. Who are they? What's their 'story'? For example, why is the young boy travelling alone? 3. Get students to talk about their plans for Christmas. Are they going anywhere? Will they be travelling by train?
This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the USA, and here's a great video from History.com that I'm going to use with my EM Normandie students. You can find a series of True/False questions, a transcript, and an English-French glossary in this PDF, and I've also embedded a LearnClick quiz below. Also check out my Thanksgiving Day crossword puzzle.
Thanksgiving Day always falls on the the fourth Thursday in November in the USA, which is three days from now. I've done crosswords for most holidays and festivals at some time or other, but never got round to doing one for Thanksgiving — until now. Click here to do the interactive online version of the crossword, and hereto download a PDF version with solution and word list. You can find dozens more ESL crosswords on my Crossword English website, where you can sign up for a free daily crossword and purchase my crossword books.
The Christmas ads are coming thick and fast now. This one is for the Sainsbury's supermarket chain. It tells the story of Dave, a hard-working and devoted Dad, who realises that the greatest gift he can give people this Christmas is his time. Click on CC at the bottom to switch the subtitles on or off. You can read more about the ad here and download the lyrics as a Word file here.
LESSON IDEAS The lyrics contain useful examples of grammatical constructions (making wishes, conditionals, superlatives) and vocabulary/idoms, so would be worth studying in more detail. You could also use them to create a gap fill activity. Or get students to sing along ...
LYRICS Another year over Where do they go to? It's a mystery. Now it's December So much to remember Before Christmas Eve. I'm already late And my train is delayed Disruptions on the line. I race into work And the place is berserk Yes, it's Christmas time. I want to find the greatest gift I can give my family, But right now I don't have time to breathe. The streets are chaotic, The shops idiotic, There's a queue for the queue. A granny's taking her time at the front of the line "Ninety-one, ninety-two". There's a party at work And the manager's twerkin' inappropriately. To top off the day Another train is delayed, It's a catastrophe. "Christmas time is here". I'd like to spend the time With the ones I love so dear. I'm trying to find the greatest gift I can give my family. I don't have time, There's only one of me. Tell me how do people do it all, I'll never get it done. If only there was a way to be In two places at once. "Wait, that gives me an idea!" If I wasn't alone, What if I had a clone, I could do so much more. It would all be a breeze, With a couple more mes I'd have time galore. I want to find the greatest gift I can give my family. The greatest gift I can give is me. Now I can meet with the boss And empty out my inbox all simultaneously, Leaving me time to spend With my family and friends, Where I wanna be. I want to find the greatest gift I can give my family. The greatest gift that I can give is me. Repeat chorus
Last week UK department store John Lewis released its eagerly anticipated Christmas ad, which, to be honest, was a bit of a letdown in comparison with previous years (notably 2014's classic Penguin ad). This one for Milka chocolate is much better. You can read an article about it on Adweek.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Get your students to note down examples of Christmas vocabulary as they watch. Then go through it again pausing the video to point to vocabulary items. Students get a point for each word they got. They could do this in pairs or groups too. 2. There's a strong narrative element to this ad, so you could get students to write a synopsis as a homework assignment. You could also do this orally while going through the ad again (I always like to play the ad right through the first time so they get the full experience). 3. In pairs or groups, get students to come up with ideas for their own Christmas ads and 'pitch' them to the rest of the class.
LANGUAGE The slogan 'Tenderness is inside' is, of course, a play on words. It can refer to the chocolate or to the family.