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.)
Here's an early Christmas present for all English Blog readers: our school's free app "SmartEnglish by EM Normandie" has just added a new course, created by yours truly (that's me!), and entitled Essential Business English.
Over 10 lessons, you will learn useful phrases and vocabulary for everyday business situations in English such as: — sitting for a job interview — making a presentation — taking part in a meeting — handling a telephone complaint ...
There are over 15 minutes of animation in this course that will help you learn the right phrases for each situation.
You will also: — improve your pronunciation — do lots of interactive practice — take tests to unlock prize videos — take part in simulated conversations.
And you get more than a learning app – you also get a digital phrasebook. All the phrases from the course are listed in a Reference section – with audio.
Essential Business English joins our two other courses Get Around TownandMaking Friends in English, so three courses are now available on a single app — which is 100% free. More courses will be added in future, so make sure you download the app today! Use these links or scan the QR code below.
Watching TED Talks is a great way to improve listening skills, especially as they nearly all have multilingual subtitles. However, it's not always easy to find talks with suitable content at the right language level. This problem has now been solved by a wonderful new site called Lingorank, which allows you to search over 400 selected TED Talks according to level, speech speed, duration and content. For example, here's a great one I found that would be suitable for lower level learners; it's called The World's English Mania. But that's not all — Lingorate also has pre-viewing activities and vocabulary quizzes for all the talks! You'll have to sign up to access all the resources, but otherwise it's completely free. All things considered, a really fantastic resource!
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?
The second cartoon by Bob Moran from The Telegraph shows Castro's coffin in the back of a hearse (funeral car). However, the car is in a pitiful state. It's got a broken windscreen, and the tail light and rear bumper are hanging off. The wheels of the car are also missing, and it's propped up on concrete blocks. I take this to be a metaphor for the Cuban economy during the Castro era — it didn't go anywhere. The irony is that the car is American! There could also be a reference to the idiom 'the wheels come off', which is used for saying that things start to fail or go wrong, especially after a period of success. • They were leading 3–1 at half-time, but then the wheels came off and they ended up losing the game.
Here's an ad for the new MacBook Pro that would be great to use in class.
DESCRIPTION An ambitious new ad bridges humans' discovery of fire with space travel and smartphones using a classic symbol for the power of imagination—the light bulb. A string of hundreds of the round glass lanterns, set up in the middle of a city's empty streets, explode in sequence to the sound of Rossini's William Tell Overture, tying together a montage of inventions spanning from the Stone Age to the Information Age. There is the invention of the wheel, and writing, and the plow, and the bicycle, and the locomotive, and the flying machine, and the motorcycle, and eyeglasses, and binoculars, and the rotary phone, and the typewriter—and perhaps most important, toilet paper. There's also the microwave, the camera, the record player, the television, the jetpack, the freezer, the paper clip, the Tamagotchi, the video camera, the computer mouse, the zipper, the wind farm, the jet plane, the microscope, the robotic hand, the robotic dog, the rocket ship, the iPhone, the drone, the satellite, the robotic man—and back, somewhere deep in the cave, a brand new laptop from Apple. [Source: Adweek]
LESSON IDEAS 1. Tell the students they are going to watch an ad that shows many inventions and that they must try to remember as many as possible. 2. Play the ad up to 1m28s. Stop and ask the class what they think the ad is for. Then show the end. 3. Put the students into groups and get them to list as many of the inventions as possible. This is a kind of video version of Kim's game. You could even have a prize for the best team. 4. Go through the ad again, pausing to focus on the inventions and discussing vocabulary points (you have to be quick with the pause button!) 5. Now get the groups to choose their top five inventions and rank them in order of importance or usefulness. Alternatively, you could just get them to choose the Number One invention of all time. 6. You also have a look at TIME's 25 Best Inventions of 2016, which provides a lot of material for discussion. 7. Get students to come up with their own inventions and present to the class.
NOTES 1. I'm sure there's a nod to (a young) Steve Jobs at 25s. 2. Strictly speaking, gravity is not an invention but a discovery.
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