And what if you DON’T feel Christmas spirit?

(This post is not about Christmas cheer. If you’re looking for Christmassy stuff, just go somewhere else. But if you’ve had enough, even if you’re not a teacher, feel free to stay)

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Christmas carols galore, Christmas commercials and decorations, Santa Claus, elves, presents (oh, wait, those are actually cool), so much food you already have a New Year resolution ready, and, oh, not again – Christmas lessons… sounds familiar?

Fed up with the Christmas stuff? There, there, let me pat you on your back. Stop sobbing, hush. As the Evil Mistress in the making I’ve got something to help you recover – a nice list of not-so-christmassy-Christmas songs. If you feel like it, share them with your students, but I’d rather use them as a nice background music for all the teachery stuff you have to do during Christmas anyway.

Christmas at Ground Zero by Weird Al Yankovic is the first song that springs to my mind – no wonder with Fallout 4 everywhere, but still, the song is pretty cool and if I were forced to bring some Christmas cheer to the classroom that would be my choice. Lots of vocabulary to explain, you can discuss survival skills, evacuation pattern etc. Or you can just listen to the song imagining a nuke blowing up all the tests you have to correct.

Don’t Shoot Me Santa by the Killers is an ultimate teacher song – ever felt like dancing around your students with a proper axe in your hand? It’s a great song to get you in the mood! It’s Christmas time after all, make yourself a present by creating a war dance on the graves of your misbehaving students.

I don’t like Bob Dylan singing, all right? He’s a great songwriter, but he should leave singing to others. But there’s this song, Must Be Santa with just a perfect video to remind me why Christmas parties (especially the ones with teachers!) are not the best idea ever. Cheers, Bob.

If you’re interested in what exactly I am listening to during Christmas since avoiding carols sounds rather difficult, here’s the answer: The H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society! Fellow cthultists have been recording some good stuff, including two albums full of Solstice cheer fear. Take The Carol of the Old Ones, now, isn’t that cute? Just don’t get too hopeful, when the stars are right Cthulhu will devour us all anyway, cthultists or no cthultists.

Let’s leave R’lyeh and move to the UK which can also add some pepper to the Christmas punch. The one and only Eric Idle performs a song which I know by heart. It’s called, simply, Fuck Christmas. Guess what it’s about, huh. My husband’s favourite one, when I hear his cynical voice drawling the chorus I know it’s time to turn the radio off in case of Wham’s Last Christmas (ugh).

If your mood is too foul to be appeased by mere Eric Idle, there’s something most people would perceive as an overkill, namely: South Park. You can start with Kyle being A Lonely Jew on Christmas, but if you don’t know South Park well enough, be careful, it may lead you down straight to The Most Offensive Song Ever – feel warned, whoever you are! Especially if you’re my student – do not, I repeat, do not check The Most Offensive Song Ever! It’s really not worth it…

Now, if you’re tired with profanities and swearwords – I know I would be – you may enjoy good old Freddie and his Winter’s Tale, one of the best winter-themed songs… and it’s not relating to Christmas! And if you’re not tired of swearwords just start correcting tests listening to Driving Home for Christmas (I mean, seriously, how long has he been driving?).

Anyway, Christmas Was Better in the 80s, sing the Futureheads and aren’t they right? All I had to do was a) not to disturb in the kitchen b) be grateful for the presents. And I wanted to grow up, really! Why did I even bother? Oh, wait, my main responsibilities are still keeping away from the kitchen and enjoying presents…

To prove there are some things truly beautiful about Christmas, I want to remind how important musical interpretations are, you can listen to a casual Christmas carol in a version that will smite you. For example, you can enjoy listening to Sir Christopher Lee’s metal carols (they’re absolutely cute), AC/DC can also be pretty festive, not to mention the Darkness (Christmas Time is a really nice song – cheap and cheesy, yeah, but still!).

Here I want to share an old Ukrainian carol in my best-loved interpretation.

Enjoy your Christmas!

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Blurred grammar with Weird Al

The last time I wrote about music, and somehow I completely forgot to mention one of the masters of English, the funny, intertextual, one and only Weird Al Yankovic!

Frankly, I’m a fan of this guy and I’d gladly share most of his songs with my students as they’re simply funny, witty and highly enjoyable – well, I can only encourage you to listen and have fun. Weird Al has been performing for quite a while, so you can find a good piece of music for everyone and make a nice listening exercise (I highly recommend sharing the video as well).

Today, however, I want to share the parody of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. You may be familiar with the controversies regarding the original lyrics,  but there’s nothing to be worried about when it comes to Weird Al’s video, you can share it publicly 🙂

I’d introduce this video as a fill-in-the-gap listening exercise (you can find the lyrics here) as a break during some tedious grammar review classes (tenses revision or articles exercises, don’t we love this stuff?) with an intermediate+ level.

To keep the good mood, I would follow the listening activity with some groupwork, where my students could write a short poem about – why not? – their struggles with English grammar or some grammar rules they may have problems with remembering.

If you have time for a small class project, you may encourage your students to write their own proper song about grammar, either inspired by some popular pieces of music, or a completely original one – even if they’re not really into singing, they can always rap (they’ll feel more confident performing in group). With an extremely eager group you may even think about filming a proper video clip – the possibilities are endless 🙂

The truth is, you can use Word Crimes to show the students – and remind yourself – that everything can be spiced up with a little bit of fun, even if ‘a song about grammar’ doesn’t sound like fun at first.

Enjoy 🙂

Getting to know each other? Let’s face the music!

September, the month in my life when I face a bunch of disillusioned teenagers who haven’t met me yet but they already don’t feel like learning English (or they already did meet me and decided to suffer yet another year with yours truly) – rings a bell? Do you remember being a student and doing one of the most terrifying things in the classroom: sharing stuff about oneself? And the feeling of panic? What am I going to say? Will other students laugh? Should I mention I want to be an Evil Empress? Red light, red light, panic – and all that jazz.

No wonder teenagers don’t want to talk about themselves… So I usually make them work in groups, and then share information about one another, which seems easier for my students.

With teenagers, one thing is usually universal: they like music. Even if it’s Justin Bieber. Or 1Direction. Or Avicii. Or Imagine Dragons (THAT’S what they’re calling rock nowadays, seriously?). What I do, I use their interest and make them bring their favourite English songs to share with the whole class.

To jazz things up a bit, though, I ask my students to prepare their own listening exercises – teenagers love gap filling in songs, and those pieces of music we find in our coursebooks, well… are just a wee bit outdated 😉

Naturally, I also bring something nice, last time it was Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden – and believe me, I was so proud when one of my students put his pencil aside and smiled calmly, saying he knew the song by heart (indeed he did).

From my experience, this activity makes students more comfortable in the classroom, it checks their listening proficiency, and – which is also quite important – allows me to introduce some cultural aspects. It also helps me to find what my students actually like and get to know them better.

Naturally, you’re bound to listen to some songs that will make you cringe – last season I had a group of teenage girls. Only girls. Slow romantic songs galore… and I wish you all the best when it comes to the lyrics. It takes some kind of super-willpower to stop oneself from commenting and I’m just an Evil Empress in the making, you know.

Besides, my sweet teenage girls find stuff like this romantic, only it makes me feel like high-fiving the author (in the face. with a chair). I wanna take you somewhere so you know I care but it’s so cold and I don’t know where, really? Do you really wish you had a boyfriend like that? Seriously, girls these days 😉

Well, so after a nice idea and a small example of what you may encounter (gods be with you, fellow teachers! you can do it!) let me share one of my favourite romantic songs. Enjoy 🙂