7 YouTube channels to spice up your lessons

 

International Picnic Day! (1)

One of the funniest and weirdest activities you can enjoy with your friends is a so-called YouTube party. Basically, you meet your mates and have regular fun until someone says “I totally have to show you something on YouTube…” And boom, the YT party begins because everyone has seen something to share with friends.

And, oh, the depths of the Internet you may visit…

If you teach teenagers or digitally aware adults you may enjoy a little YT party as well, just try to moderate the videos presented by students as some of the videos may turn out to be somewhat inappropriate.

If you want to avoid potential embarrassment, try to show some EFL-friendly channels. Don’t know which ones are worth recommendation? Well, I’ve shortlisted some nice channels and hope you’ll find them enjoyable.

1 Anglophenia

I really love this culture-oriented channel focused on British and American celebrations, festivals and customs. You’ll find here a lot of short, funny and witty videos on various topics – from British houses (the great mystery of double taps explained) to the practical guide on how to insult like a Brit.

2 English Like A Native

I came across this channel when I was looking for good videos with various accents – I heard Anna’s short film on Scouse and it was more than enough for me to spend the whole evening watching her videos. Funny and smart, discussing the wide range of topics from accents to the ways people shouldn’t pay compliments – I’m sure you’ll love it!

3 English with Lucy

Lucy is a very popular British English teacher who focuses on more “traditional” approach to learning English, talking not only about cultural aspects, but also improving skills, remembering vocabulary etc. I’d recommend lessons with Lucy as a great homework for my students.

4 Learn English with Papa Teach Me

Want to speak like John Snow (and still know something)? Or maybe you’d like to sound like Jason Statham? Just watch Papa Teach Me channel and enjoy the “how to” films full of funny examples, but also really useful information you may find valuable from teacher’s point of view (I do!) – cockney, RP, or real tutorial how to speak like the Lannister.

That would be easy, just send your regards on the tip of the knife…

5 Learn English Kids by British Council

In case the name of the channel isn’t clear enough, let me clarify: this is a great channel for the youngest learners of English. Songs, nursery rhymes, games, stories, lessons – everything you’ll ever need to satisfy the demands of even the laziest child (and his parents). You should also try British Council: Learn English Teens channel as it’s full of useful videos for teenagers.

6 BBC Learning English

Apart from the casual news, BBC has a variety of films on its Learning English channel. “Go the Distance” is a series of videos focused on learning online, the “We Say – You Say” section provides a detailed explanation on proverbs and sayings, 6-minute English sections on Thursdays are just great with interesting topics and great vocabulary chunks… Just try not to lose your head over all those inspiring videos!

7 Learn English by British Council

Short videos, proper lessons, useful tips and interesting people – you can find it all on this channel. You may bring it to your classroom when you feel a bit lazy – or you may ask your students to watch a video as their homework, which is always a better idea than telling them to find the channel and browse it by themselves. I really recommend the series “How to improve your skills”, especially for the beginning of a course.

If you know of YouTube channels that I haven’t shortlisted please let me know, I’ll be happy to watch them – and learn – more.

Enjoy!

 

Bring some colours to your classroom (autumn lesson ideas)

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I know that your favourite season is probably summer – especially with the holidays, right? Well, the break from school is over but, with rainy days coming, your work may feel like an unbearable drudgery. Luckily for us all, I have some ideas to share – and I tested all of them and must say they’re guaranteed to bring some colours to your greyish classroom!

Create your own game!

One of the things about autumn is that your students seem not so active anymore, so you can enjoy activities that are less loud and adapted to more pen-and-paper type of creativity. One of my favourite activities is creating a board game – we play a lot of them, so it’s quite an easy work to come up with their own.

Or so they think.

I did that with teenagers and adults, and everyone liked the opportunity of revising something while creating and playing a colourful handmade game. You can come up with a contest and the group whose game was voted the best can get a prize.

When I Dream: making your own board game

Another game you may create on your own is When I Dream… a game perfect for autumn when all you dream of is closing your eyes and slowly drifting towards… hey, no napping! Get some pumpkin-spiced latte and try to play a game where your classmates create a dream for you – will you guess all the clues they’ve hidden?

The Colors of Evil

It’s a short film that will definitely brighten up your classes – be your students old or young. It’s a charming story of a cute and fluffy demon with the most valuable lesson for English students, namely: work on your spelling!

You know this joke among the cthultists – “I was browsing my old Latin book and suddenly I summoned Yog-Sothoth!”

The best thing is, the film has a great potential for follow-up activities and I’m sure they may be as colourful as the story itself: a little role-play maybe? Acting out an interview with the demon? Creating a short graphic story?

Writing poems? Easy peasy!

I can see your smiles slowly waning but wait – seriously, writing poems can be fun… especially now, as autumn in all its colourful glory simply inspires everyone to get at least a bit poetical. Even if your students don’t seem charmed with the idea, try to liven them up and show them, step by step, that they are able to write a poem – and a good one!

The sense of accomplishment is profound – they will tell you they couldn’t believe they would be able to write a poem in their native language and here they are, having written it in English!

Not doing homework? Great!

I simply love the activity. By autumn, after the first days of school are over and all new school-year resolutions have already died, the first excuses for not doing homework begin to sprout like mushrooms. Not that I’m surprised as I have already come up with a nice excuse for not writing this note on time (I’m on sick leave, see? purrfect excuse!) – so I can be not only forgiving, but also entertaining, as changing lame excuses into most improbable ones  – and then making a proper project with the wild ideas seems to be an activity that is funny, creative and team-building (which team has the best excuses?) – perfect to clear the autumn fog!

Scaredy Cat

I don’t work with children anymore – not as often as I used to, at least – but one of the cutest activities I’ve ever come up with was the one based on Scaredy Cat by Heather Franzen Rutten (I got her permission to use this story). Now – a tiny scrap of a kitten lost in a big strange world: isn’t this a situation most children can relate to? And when fear seems to overwhelm the little feline – presto! here’s an old, wise cat who shows the tiny mite that his fears are unnecessary as the strange world is full of potential friends. Add to this story absolutely cute pictures and you may enjoy many follow-up activities adjusted to your students’ preferences: role-plays, graphic stories, diaries…

I’m an Evil Teacher, aye, but the story makes my heart melt, honestly…

Now, those are the ideas tested by myself – and the memories they awoke while I’ve been writing this note made me smile, because those lessons were like colourful jewels in my previous school year. May this one be as memorable, and as vivid for me, for you – and for our students.

Enjoy!

 

7 British TV shows you can enjoy with your students

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We live in times when the only constant seems to be change. Just a few years ago piracy was ever so common, as it was the easiest, and sometimes the only way to watch British or American TV shows. Nowadays, with Netflix or Amazon we can pay to legally watch anything we want. Isn’t it just perfect?

With so many TV shows it has never been easier to immerse into a foreign culture, however I’d like to share some TV shows that may be not so famous among our younger students but which are very important in British pop culture. That is why you will not find Downtown Abbey on my list. You won’t find Sherlock either, purely for personal reasons – I loved the first season, but then was getting worse and worse to reach quite abominable level in the last season.

Couldn’t recommend such atrocity <shudder>

Here’s the list of 7 British TV shows I like, enjoy and share with my students not only for linguistic reasons, but also for cultural background:

1 Escape to the Country by BBC

The basic premise of the show is that a person or a family wishes to relocate from their current city home to a more peaceful and rural area. They are shown into three various houses, but also sample local delights, gain historical knowledge and visit local attractions to get a feel for the area they are planning to move to. For this reasons it is a perfect thing to show not only typical British houses (which vary from continental ones), but also cultural background. Another reason is my favourite presenter, Jules Hudson, whose smile and enthusiasm regularly make my day.

2 Blink – Doctor Who, S03E10

I’m not a whovian, but it’s impossible to deny the impact Doctor Who has on British popculture. The show has got famous overseas as well, but I don’t think many teenagers would remember season 3, even if it has the most brilliant episode ever.

Maybe because, there’s almost no Doctor himself.

Anyway, Blink is the film I love sharing with my students because it hints at the Doctor’s secrets but never reveals them, and I believe it’s the best  episode to explain Doctor Who’s phenomenon.

Also, this is probably the best thing Steven Moffat wrote, so let’s take a moment to appreciate it.

3 Fawlty Towers by BBC

While Monty Python with their films and sketches might be a bit too much to bite for people who have not grasped yet the complexity of British nonsensical humour, Fawlty Towers seems both less offensive and much easier to comprehend. And the only real reason students should get familiar with Mr Basil Fawlty and his misadventures is, simply, the fact, that not knowing John Cleese is not knowing anything about British sense of humour at all.

4 Blackadder by BBC1

Mr Bean is famous all right, but frankly, once you watch Black Adder you won’t be able to forget Rowan Atkinson playing Blackadder (or Black Adder, depending on season) leading us through British history together with his servant Baldrick and infamous Lord Percy the poisoner.

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It’s worth watching not only for pure fun, but also for vast historical background, as Blackadder travels through various historical affairs.

5 The Thick Of It by BBC

I watched In the Loop completely by chance, during some kind of independent film festival – and I loved every minute of it. Needless to say, when I learnt there is a whole TV series about Malcolm Tucker and his, well, objects of eternal insult – I had to watch it. I recommend it to quite mature and linguistically proficient students as the level of verbal abuse, as well as political nuances, is so high it may be lost on people not fluent in political affairs.

I believe this is the best role of Peter Capaldi.

6 Top Gear by BBC

It was a good show, too bad BBC and the TG trio parted their ways as nothing good comes out of this (sorry, Amazon, but The Grand Tour is nowhere near good old Top Gear). The thing I recommend most is choosing one of Top Gear Specials as the show culture clashes the British trio experiences on many occasions. My favourite special is definitely the US special soon after Katrina. I prepared a short comprehension test for my students to answer while watching and most of B2+ students have no problems with understanding.

7 Shetland by BBC One

Well, here you may wonder why Shetland? Why not Broadchurch, Grantchester or Inspector Morse (or Endeavour which is one of my favourite TV shows ever)? The answer is simple: this TV series shows us those areas of the UK that are usually neglected, forgotten – but nonetheless beautiful and really interesting. The atmosphere of a closed community where no one dares to openly blame another – and yet everyone suspects everybody, is just too real to ignore. I would definitely use this TV show for more mature audience who would be able to understand all the hidden messages in this surprisingly complex, and truly beautiful, TV series.

 

And that, as they say, is that – here’s my pick of seven great shows, but I’m absolutely sure you have your own ideas on which shows would be more relevant in your classroom. Why don’t you share your proposals?

Teacher, let’s watch a film…

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How many times have you heard your students moaning these words? Well – I like watching films just like my students do, but I’m not really convinced that spending two hours on watching a film is a great educational idea – fortunately in all language schools I’ve worked, I haven’t been allowed to watch such long films: a nice excuse for the students. Of course, watching shorter videos is most recommended, and I really like adding them to my lessons as often as I have Internet access + screen.

But I also want my students to watch real films, the classics, simply because they learn some cultural references. I would love my students to know what’s on my mind when I listen to their rather pathetic excuses regarding lack of homework and simply say ‘Frankly, my dear…

Well, no student’s got the point yet 🙂 But I’ve made a nice bunch of them ‘remember, remember the fifth of November‘.

Anyways, I’ve come up with a couple of nice classroom activities regarding mostly short videos, but also some ideas about watching films.

  • Short videos

I have already included my favourite sites: TED (in a homework for my students) and slideshare (in a tense presentation).  The first one is an incredibly inspiring site full of real knowledge and education. The TEDed page is perfect for language students because they learn something real, not only English – highly beneficial.

The second site comes in handy with an interactive board/ projector when I want to explain grammar – I also email links to those students who want to understand something and I can’t explain it myself (subject from a public school lesson etc.). Sure, I could make my own presentations – but why bother if there are so many good ones available?

I like youtube just as much: videos, cartoons, songs (+karaoke) – everything to your heart’s content. I especially like watching short videos with the younger groups: reading comprehension is about volcanoes? Let’s watch a short documentary about them! Videos work as great motivators: if you finish this activity nicely, I’ll show you a nice video…

I have also happened to use EarthCam as a background in the classroom. What’s cosier in the grammar review November afternoon classes than cracking the exercises glancing from time to time at people in New York? Somehow the lesson gets less boring 🙂

  • Real films

I strongly believe cross-cultural communication should be a vital part of the classes – the students have to be reminded they don’t learn only grammar and vocabulary. Cultural references should be made a part of a language course on every level and age.  It’s really easy with the Internet now, isn’t it? But since we – the teachers – have to know what’s going on in our students’ cultural environment (memes, music, events), we should also make effort and bring some of the older references to those inexperienced padawans, eh? We’re on a mission from God!

How can you claim yourself a fluent English speaker if you cannot use the Force? Not to mention the Schwartz?  So many film, so little time… plus, I cannot watch the film the classroom. So, what can I do? Well, I do the evilest thing possible and make them an offer they can’t refuse: we choose the film at the beginning of a course and they have a couple of months to watch it . Then I make the writing part of the final exam based solely on the film they are to watch. Plus, I design the questions so that the students have to watch the film and no wikipedia would help them. Last year I made my pre-intermediate groups watch the Star Wars trilogy (just the old one, I’m a purist) and questions were like: what would you do if you were a Jedi. I could easily see who had really watched the film.

I’ve been thinking on some nice films a teacher can recommend and that’s the result:

  • Elementary level

Children: Enchanted, Home Alone, The Lion King and other Disney’s films

Young adults: Legally Blonde, Transformers

  • Pre-intermediate level

Children: Cars, Ice Age, Toy Story

Young adults: Indiana Jones series, Allo, allo

  • Intermediate level

Children: Harry Potter series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Young adults: Bend It Like Beckham, Friends, the Pirates of the Caribbean 

  • Upper-intermediate and advanced level

Young adults: V for Vendetta, Dead Poets Society, Mel Brook’s films

Not-at-all homework:

I have come up with a funny activity at the end of a lesson: show the students a trailer of a film they don’t know and make them work out what’s the film about (without using the Net!). Don’t tell them whether they’re right or not, just smile significantly and say you do like their stories.

I’ll bet half of them will either watch the film or read a full synopsis before the next lesson!