Lesson Kit 2: Cup stacking

This post provides some items that one could use to construct a lesson or activity based on the following video:

h/t Dr. Alec Couros ‏@courosa

This is more a lesson idea than a kit like the last Star Wars puns. But since I have not done another kit, a kit it shall be.

As I was teaching a module on understanding numerical information I used some numbers from the video as a pre-viewing activity.

1. Ask how are the following numbers related?:

1.786s    (world record for fastest time)

622809 people (world record for most people stacking at same time)

5.3s (time journalist achieved)

A frequent response from students here was the rate of births and deaths. (Instead of numbers you could ask say how the following are related – cups, 3-6-3, California)

2. Then ask which of the following is a (Junior) Olympic sport:

Jump rope

Sport/cup stacking

Baton twirling

They are all (Junior) Olympic Sports. Some time may be spent on discussing what these sports are exactly.

3. Next ask students which of these sports are related to the numbers mentioned initially.

4. Tell them the first time they watch the video to not make any notes but simply be prepared to give a reaction/comment.

5. The second time to take notes and invent some questions to ask their classmates.

6. Play for a third time depending on level of your students. Another option is to split the video at about the 4min mark before the part on the specific techniques. And get students to ask questions based on information up to this mark.

Possible vocabulary queries may include what P.E. means (physical education).

Some questions to prompt class if they are feeling taciturn:

What may be problematic for the future of the sport?

When and where did the sport originate?

What features of the cups are mentioned?

What is a scratch?

What is the most frequent pattern?

What do the numbers presented at the beginning refer to exactly?

What is merch short for?

One class wit came up with – When was this form of mental illness discovered : /)

7. As a second stage you can get students to work on some bottom-up listening skills by running the video URL through TubeQuizard.


Click image to go to exercises.

Thanks for reading, hope the video gives you further ideas which I would love to hear about.

Yeah but…A first debate lesson

This post suggests a first lesson for debating. It shows students, via a transcript and its related video, how a formal debate speech is done as many of my students are used to a more free-for-all kind of style.

1. Write on the board the following:

Who’s that?
Right on!
True that.

Tell students that these three things refer to three important ways to persuade people. Invite students to guess what they are.

It is likely they will first recognize the third one – True that. Inform them that this refers to the logic and reason of your arguments. Also known as Logos.
Then add that Who’s that? refers to the credibility and character of the speaker otherwise known as Ethos. Right on! refers to emotion and appeals to the heart, classically called Pathos.

There was a short comment/discussion on what Hilary Clinton & Donald Trump seemed to prefer in terms of Ethos, Pathos and Logos. This can be an opportunity to categorise the style of whoever happens to be the talking point of the moment.

2. Next write on the board 6 bullet points. Tell them that these refer to how the structure of a typical speech is arranged. Ask them to guess what they are.

As students respond add the following to the 6 bullet points:
a. Introduction
b. Statement of facts
c. Division
d. Proof
e. Refutation
f. Conclusion

Add more details to each of the parts, I took mine from Classical Rhetoric 101: The Five Canons of Rhetoric – Arrangement.

I also noted that the statement of facts can be critical as this is where you get the chance to frame your debate. Hence if your opponents try to shift ground you can claim that they are being irrelevant with respect to how you stated your concerns initially.

3. Next in groups of 3 (or 2) instruct 2 (or 1) of them in the group to put in order a jumbled text (I split the text into 10 parts but you could change this, see end of post). The other person will have the text in the correct order. The person with the text can monitor the people/person that have to rearrange the text. Also the person with the text can check whether the text follows the Arrangement outlined previously.

4. After this have a discussion on the text in terms of arrangement. Students may point out that there is not a real Refutation part. This is true though the lines “But like this is only ordinarily regrettable.” and “It’s not hugely harmful.” could be pointed to as being short admissions of weakness.

5. Now play the video. After playing the video ask class for comments about the delivery. Students may mention things like hurried delivery at times, use of “like” and “right”.

6. Ask students to search the text for any things they notice about the language used.

E.g. Use of humour at start – “So my job tonight like all good feminists is to make you hate things you love and to, like, ruin the simple pleasures of life, like going out.”;
Exaggeration/irony“But then what happens was that Taylor Swift has one coffee with Lena Dunham and the whole of the history of feminism was altered for ever.”;
Repetition and groups of three“But, secondly it is just a huge amount of cultural power mis-spent. It’s a huge number of interviews and a huge amount of airtime that she could be spending,”

This lesson took me about an hour. For the remaining 30 mins I asked them in small groups of 5 (or 4) to pick a debate from the idebate.org 100 most popular motions. They then had to work out positions to argue. This was rehearsal for next week’s session where they would perform in their groups in front of the class.

Thanks for reading and I would be very interested to hear about other debate class lessons or ideas or resources.

Lesson Resources:

Video Transcript
So my job tonight like all good feminists is to make you hate things you love and to, like, ruin the simple pleasures of life, like going out. So I’m gonna explain to you why you should be deeply regretful of the rise of Taylor Swift. I’m gonna explain to you why you should wish that she had never exploded the way that she did onto the music scene and why specifically we should regret her faux feminist awakening and all the ways that has helped all the women in the world, specifically Taylor Swift.

So, like, first let’s have a little chat about Taylor Swift pre-feminism. I know it seems like a long time ago but this was only last year, right. This was, like, the album she released before 1989. When she was happy to write lyrics like “She’s an actress better known for what she does in the mattress. She wears high-heels I wear sneakers. She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts.” And of course “I’m not that kind of girl”, right. Lyrics designed to make clear the superiority of Taylor Swift over, like, some un-named slut-shamed other in her, like, pursuit of the man in the song, right. But like this is only ordinarily regrettable. This is only, like, standard beautiful white woman popstar is imperfect in the mass-media, right. But then what happens was that Taylor Swift has one coffee with Lena Dunham and the whole of the history of feminism was altered for ever. So the the rest of my speech is broken down into what I’ve called Girl Power Squad Feminism, White Feminism, and then lastly Self-Serving Taylorism.

So firstly Girl Power Squad Feminism. What is this? Well, like, basically, this is when Taylor Swift parades out large numbers of supposedly successful but noticeably very beautiful women, stand behind her while she talks about solidarity and girl power. Which means, incidentally, buying tickets to Taylor Swift tours, right. Like, firstly, this is just not good enough, right. That’s not what feminism is. It’s not enough to be just successful and claim that you should be behind her just because she’s a woman. But like, secondly, it’s this really strange version of feminism where she declares that she’s supporting other women by letting them stand behind her on her stage whilst she makes a fortune. Like when she drags out the women’s soccer team and gets them to all stand behind her on a stage, at the, whatever the equivalent is of the Wembley Arena is in New York. Like no-one is helped but Taylor Swift. Like, this is just not interesting feminism. It’s not hugely harmful.

But then we come to White Feminism. And because when your feminism is that simple some women necessarily get left behind. Some women are necessarily not helped by a brand of squad girls, white girl feminism. So let’s see for example her exchange with Nikki Minaj labelled a spat or a cat fight or something other, something else gendered and boring in the media.

So what happens is Nikki Minaj tweets saying that women of color are structurally disadvantaged in the music video. Taylor, poor Taylor, feels victimised and plays the solidarity women card which is what feminism is, remember. She says “All I’ve ever done is love and support you” and then says “If I ever win something you can come and stand behind me like you could at one of my concerts, right. This is, like, a kind of strange feminism that just, like, revolves around Taylor, one, not getting it, not getting like the patriarchy affects women of color differently, that it affects queer women differently, that it affects disabled women differently. That your access to a version of empowerment that is built around looking like Taylor Swift is only available to you if you are a woman who looks like Taylor Swift but, two, this is an example of her like, like getting in the way of other women trying to explain some real problems in the world in order to advance her own personal, likable, girl next door brand.

And this is the thing with Taylor Swift’s feminism it is so transparently self-serving. It’s like so completely designed to enable her to use the language of an emerging social movement, popular feminism for her own PR and financial gains. It’s a way for her to deflect criticism and protect her girl next door likability. So if another artist criticises her for getting undue attention because she is a privileged white woman writing inoffensive pop songs as opposed to a woman of color celebrating black female bodies and empowerment in the music industry. She gets to say that, like this is a breakdown of feminist solidarity right. Because of course to be a feminist is to love and support Taylor Swift. It enables her to defend herself against the less powerful right. In the same way that she like uses her enormously powerful team of legal experts to sue people who make “Shake it Off” branded mugs and sell them on Etsy for six dollars. Taylor Swift is using her power against those less powerful than her which includes like Etsy vendors, Niki Minaj and all other women who aren’t Taylor Swift.

So we’re proved she’s not a perfect feminist but does that make her by herself especially regrettable? Well I think it does for several reasons.

Because firstly she hijacks the emerging movement of popular feminism. Something that is, like, building a groundswell of support amongst young women who are starting for the first time to call themselves feminist. And makes it about something just too simple and too easy and that crucially does absolutely no good to anyone but a tiny number of women, right.

But, secondly it is just a huge amount of cultural power mis-spent. It’s a huge number of interviews and a huge amount of airtime that she could be spending, like, actually helping someone, raising money for women’s charities or, like, doing something else.

But lastly, like, it just obscures the work it takes to live a properly feminist life, by making it too easy, by making it all like squad girls, goals and selfies and for me that’s not good enough. Propose.

From 1m45 to 7m33

Lesson Kit 1: Star Wars puns

This post provides some items that one could use to construct a lesson or activity based on the following video:

h/t John Spencer ‏@spencerideas.

The kit includes a bingo pdf (generated from http://print-bingo.com/) and a docx of the relevant puns.

One idea is to test listening skills via the bingo card (columns L and A are the winning columns), further work could be done on explaining the first three/four puns in the text file.
Another thing to do is use phonetically transcribed word in bingo card.

Do let me know of other things that could be done.

Hope this is a lesson kit you are looking for : )


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qslJQUMc9yA



Using BYU Wiki corpus to recycle coursebook vocabulary in a variety of contexts

Recycling vocabulary in a variety of contexts is recommended by the vocabulary literature. Simply going back to texts one has used in a coursebook is an option but it misses the variety of context.

I need to recycle vocabulary from Unit 1 of my TOEIC book, so I take the topics from the table of contents as input to create a wiki corpus.

The main title of Unit 1 in my book is careers, with sub topics of professions, recruitment, training. I could also add in job interview, job fair, temp agency.

Note for more details on various features of the BYU WIKI corpus do see the videos by Mark Davies, for the rest of this post I assume you have some familiarity with these.

So when creating a corpus in BYU WIKI corpus in my Title word(s) search I enter career* to find all titles with career and careers.

Then in the Words in pages box I enter professions, profession, recruitment, training. Note search for plural and 300 as number of pages:

Screenshot 1: corpus search terms

After pressing submit a screen of a list of wiki pages is presented, you can scroll through this to find pages that may be irrelevant to you:

Screenshot 2: wiki pages

After unticking any irrelevant pages press submit. I won’t talk a lot about filtering your corpus build here. As mentioned do make sure to watch Mark Davies series of videos to get more details.

Now you will see your newly created corpus:

Screenshot 3: my virtual corpora

Tick the Specific radio button:

Screenshot 4: specific key word radio button

and then click the nouns keywords. Skill is the top keyword here which also appears in the wordlist in my book:

Screenshot 5: noun keywords

What I am more interested in is verbs so I click that:

Screenshot 6: verb keywords

The noun requirement, which by the way does not come from the careers unit, appears in the book wordlist but not the verb. So now I can look at some example uses of the verb require that I could use in class.

One step is to see what collocates with require:

Screenshot 7: collocates of require

Clicking on the top 5 collocates brings up some potential language.

Another interesting use is once you have a number of corpora you can see what word appear most in each corpora. The following screenshots show corpora related to the first 3 units of my book i.e. Careers, Workplaces, Communications:

Screenshot 8: my virtual corpora

The greyed lines mean those corpora are omitted from my search. This could be a nice exercise where you take some word and get students to see how they are distributed. So for example you may show the distribution of the verb fill:

Screenshot 9: distribution of verb fill

We see that it appears most in the recruit* corpus. One option now is to get students to predict how the verb is used in that corpus and then click the bar to see some examples.

After this demonstration you can now ask students to guess what words will appear most in the various corpora and do the search for the students to see the resulting graphs.

Hope this has shown how we can use BYU WIKI corpus to recycle vocabulary in different contexts.

Do shoot me any questions as this post may indeed be confusing.

A tipple of the TED Corpus Search Engine

Maybe a series of short posts if things pan out 🙂
Two of my classes are learning the phonetic alphabet, they have already been introduced to it, they have had a couple of exercises on it and they have had a go playing with the Cambridge English phonetics focus set of games and activities.

In a bid to keep a low level of revision going the Ted Corpus Search Engine (TCSE) could be useful. Taking the example of neither (borrowed from a Guy Aston workshop on spoken corpora at Lancaster TaLC 11 this summer) I intend to ask them how they think it is spelt phonetically.

Then I will ask them to search for the word in the TCSE and to look at entry 555 – Michelle Obama and then entry 768 David Cameron and get them to see if they can transcribe the phonetic differences (/ni:ðər/ and /naiðə/ respectively).

Update 1:

I used the above in my classes recently and it went very well, it was integrated with another worksheet they were already doing on pronunication and phonetics. I introduced it with Google images of Michelle Obama and David Cameron.

The following are some more words I may try in future classes:

880 Rory Sutherland: Sweat the small stuff UK

1931 Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? US

1911 Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify Fr

561 Yann Arthus-Bertrand: A wide-angle view of fragile Earth Fr

1768 Didier Sornette: How we can predict the next financial crisis Fr

535 Al Gore: What comes after An Inconvenient Truth? US

1699 Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with lions Kenyan

735 Kiran Sethi: Kids, take charge Ind

1701 Colin Camerer: Neuroscience, game theory, monkeys US

1103 Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering  US

2069 Andrew Connolly: What’s the next window into our universe? UK

2067 Martin Rees:Can we prevent the end of the world? UK

2035 Chris Domas: The 1s and 0s behind cyber warfare US

1979 Michel Laberge: How synchronized hammer strikes could generate nuclear fusion Fr

Update 2:

The TCSE puts in a delay of 10 seconds when playing the youtube video, to get youtube to play your search term immediately you need to add in 10s, have a read here by the developer on how to do this.

Update 3:

TCSE plays your search term immediately now with an option to play 10 seconds earlier.

Videotelling notes

I caught a video as I was heading out to class this morning called What is that? from my wordpress feed courtesy of An idea a day. I was quite taken with it as I recently had my father visiting and recalled a few times I got annoyed with him for asking me a question repeatedly. I was also looking for an activity for my class that would fill in 20 mins or so.

Having seen Jamie Keddie demonstrate video telling I knew that this could work very well with this video. The following is an example script which I managed to think of as I was running the class, bonus :).

There is an old man and young man sitting down.

What do you think they are they sitting on? You often find it in pubic places?

They are sitting down on a bench. The kind you might find in a park. However they are not in a park.

Where do you think they are sitting?

The bench is near the back of a house. In what seems to be the back garden.

What do you think is the relationship between the old man and the young man?

The young man is reading something.

What do you think he is reading? It is something people read everyday.

The young man is reading a newspaper. The old man sees something.

What does he see?

He sees a bird. The old man then asks a question.

What does he ask?

He asks this question a number of times.

How many times does he ask this question?

The young man gets very annoyed and angry.

Why does the young man get angry?

The old man leaves to fetch something from the house.

What do you think he gets? It is like a notebook, people write down their experiences in it.

The old man shows a diary to the young man and points to an entry. He says one word to the young man.

What does he say?

After reading the diary entry the young man does something.

What does he do?

The young man hugs the old man and kisses him on the head.

Why do you think he does this?

So what do we know about the story so far?

Discussion questions after watching:

What is your reaction?
What do you think is the message of the video?
Who has ever gotten annoyed by questions parents ask? Maybe they ask you about computers all the time?

One addition to the video telling I made was to ask the class to summarize what we knew about the video before we watched it. I also shared with the class my recent experience with my dad as a way to encourage them to share their experiences for the discussion questions after the video.

I discovered afterwards that Jamie Keddie is putting up a series of videos titled Taking video apart. Highly recommended and he has some nice concepts like language pulling and language pushing.

What is evident in video-telling is that the video needs a strong story so that the script one makes from it can flow easily, and also it does not even have to be in English as demonstrated by the video in this post.

I did have some practice with video telling as I had copied used Jamie’s Scratch Card story some time previously which allowed me to see the challenges in this kind of activity. So I would recommend doing that before using your own scripts.

Thanks for reading.

Easy micro-listenings

John Field has made the case for micro-listenings which are “examples of the same word/phrases in different voices and contexts” (John Field 2013, New directions in second language listening:rethinking the Comprehension Approach presentation, slide 13) that can be replayed easily.

Such listenings helps to develop a learner’s decoding skills. These micro-listenings can be embedded into a task that includes say transcription exercises.

An easy way to get such micro-listenings automatically is to use Videogrep. This tool allows you to search a subtitle file for a word, a grammatical form or hypernym and then able to make a new super cut/edited video containing your search word/grammatical form/hypernym.

I have a 1-to-1 adult student who is keen on motorbikes and wants to see a documentary film of the Isle of Man TT races called TT3D – Closer to the edge (yeah can u dig it, get your motor running, headout on…ah um back to post). He has yet to see it due to lack of time so as a way to take advantage of this interest I created a supercut video using Videogrep.

I initially fed the subtitle file into AntWordProfiler to see what word I could cut, I wanted one that was in the 1st 1000 of the GSL (general service list) but  that did not have  too many hits so get although very interesting (and I may well use that later) had 512 hits so was way too many for a micro-listen. Looking down the list I noticed set with 9 hits. I had read somewhere that set has the most meanings of any word in English.

Anyway this seemed ideal so here is the super cut of set:

Notice we have examples of upset, upsetting, settle so a great way to see if my student can distinguish these from the other uses.

Field recommends a task approach so one can set the instruction before first listen as: The clips have something in common what is it? and then before the subsequent listens one asks the student to transcribe what uses of set they hear.

I’ll report back here how the student got on when I can.

If you want, check out some more examples that includes a search for adjective-noun grammar forms in a Big Bang Theory episode.

Thanks for reading.

Update 1:

The two students I have used #videogrep-ed micro-listenings with liked them a lot. There were some issues about difficulty of transcribing some of the clips which could put off less hardy souls.

Some notes on using videogrep – you can use regular expressions or regex to tighten up searches so for example if I just wanted uses of set and not upset, upsetting, settle I would use \bset as the search term where \b is the regex for word boundary. Here is a list of regexes though I have yet to have a use for anything other than \b so far – http://www.pyregex.com/.

Also you will find you need to expand some clips which are cut early so add the command --padding and a number measured in milliseconds so for example --padding 500 would pad out the beginning and ends of clips by 500ms.

Update 2:

There is an (experimental) graphical interface version for the Apple OSX (103MB) useful for those not comfortable with using command line.