Rat Race, giving directions

This is not my idea, I got it as I was searching for videos related to directions by youtube user dabitkim [Update – youtube version no longer available, added google drive version]:

Also the notion of starting from the middle of a recording comes from this post on listening by Rachael Roberts/@teflerinha after John Madden.

Typically I use this video after I have done previous work on giving directions.

I made my own cut of the scenes without the subtitles and also extracted the sound file as an mp3. (Let me know if you want a copy, I don’t want to tempt any copyright issues by posting to the blog).

I draw three columns on the board, I label the middle column first – “What I heard” and say to students to note down as much as they hear.

I play the audio mp3 recording from the middle of the scene, where the squirrel lady says “Now listen carefully” (1.09) up to when the driver says “Thank you very much”.

After a few listens I ask students to compare their transcription with a neighbour. Then I play the audio recording phrase by phrase and, with the help of the class, write down the dialogue on the board.

Once the dialogue is written I go through some alternative language for directions that one could substitute into the dialogue.

-Now listen carefully.

-You wanna go straight

down here exactly 1.8 miles.

– 1.8.

– And make a left at the Totem Pole Ranch.

-Go 5.4 miles and

then go up a big hill.

-And you’ll see a big yellow sign

with some graffiti on it.

-There’s a little the dirt road, take that on the right.

It’ll take you right to the interstate.

– Thank you very much

Then, referring back to the three columns on the board, I ask students what they thought “Came before” (I write that in the first column) and “What comes after” (I write that in the third column).

During the preceding section, after Madden, I may prompt them and ask about who they think the characters are, their emotions, their relationship.

Before playing the video recording I ask them to listen out for a word and a phrase related to giving directions – “shortcut”, “it’ll save you …”.

I then play the video and the ending usually gets a laugh. This activity lasts about 20 minutes more or less depending on the level of your group.

Hope you like it and do comment if you have used this video already.


Used this recently and added a little production activity, after students watch the video – ask them to imagine that the squirrel lady gave the correct directions because the two lost people bought a squirrel.


7 thoughts on “Rat Race, giving directions

  1. Really good!! I’ll certainly use it in the future. Thanks!
    It was nice to be reminded of ‘listening from the middle’, I used to do that quite a lot many years ago, after I read about it in the iteslj as well. One of those good formats you end up forgetting after a while.

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