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.


No time for corpora? No worries!

For the majority of the ELT world coursebooks and syllabi dominate, consequently teachers have little time for anything unrelated to what they teach from a book and from their set syllabus. This is arguably one of the reasons for the low take up of corpus based teaching.

Frankenberg-Garcia (2012) helpfully outlines several ways teachers can easily integrate corpus information into the classroom without having to outlay much time investment (she does though assume that the teacher knows about corpora, can access them easily and knows the principles of corpus queries, Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012, p.35).

She divides approaches based on production vs reception activities and whole-class vs individual activities.

I have written about reception (e.g. Just the word and TOEIC), whole-class (e.g. general English lexis and DIY corpus) and individual activities (e.g. GloWbE and will suit you; do also see a recent post by Chia Suan Chong/@chiasuan on encouraging learner autonomy via corpora), what caught my attention was the description of the use of corpora in production activities.

Note: I was initially alerted to the Frankenberg-Garcia paper by Wilson (2013), another recommended read for corpora based teaching.

Frankenberg-Garcia gives the example of using collocations of the word beach as a warm-up to speaking or writing about beach holidays.

Looking at Unit 1 Careers in the Cambridge Target Score book (Talcott & Tullis, 2007), gives us the following for career: wordandphraseinfo-career-collocates (click on image for larger resolution)

From the collocates (circled in red above) we can compile say the following list:

  • professional career, successful career
  • career choice, career path
  • begin career, build career

and ask students to use the list to speak say about their current career path, if they know what professional career they want to follow, if so do they know how to build their career and so on. You could give fast finishers the list of synonyms:

  • business
  • profession
  • occupation
  • livelihood
  • calling
  • vocation

and ask them how they would use these when talking about careers.

More interestingly she describes using concordances for the bus that are given to students before they write about something happening on a bus. As the screenshot shows she also highlighted some potentially useful phrases with the bus: the bus concordances (Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012, p.40)

Adapting this for the TOEIC we can use the keyword contract negotiation(s) as appears in Unit 1 Exercise 1 page 9. An extension to this exercise would ask students to write a short news report of the contract negotiation using the picture from the exercise as a prompt: contract-negotiation

(Talcott & Tullis, 2007, p.9)

COCA tells us contract negotiation(s) is most frequent in the news register which can guide us in selecting what examples to use. gives concordances to use to help students before the writing task (note some sentences are adapted and not exact example given by

  1. They were participating  as  mediators  in  contract negotiations and monitoring  growers’ compliance with labor contracts.
  2. This is specifically  for  contract negotiations and  recruitment.
  3. More than  two  weeks  of  contract negotiations between Air Canada and its pilots broke off this Friday.
  4. The  contract negotiations had   been   confidential.
  5. Trouble has arisen  over  his  fierce  contract negotiations with the management.
  6. They averted a strike and completed the union’s  contract negotiations with the three major North American car makers.
  7. The strike began last October after 10  months  of  stalled  contract negotiations.
  8. During  contract negotiations a few years later, resentment ran high .
  9. Randy  Mueller  handled  contract negotiations and   made   all   personnel  decisions.
  10. They attempted to force a new round of contract negotiations.

Students can be asked to highlight words related to contract negotiations e.g. mediators in example 1 above. They can then proceed to the writing exercise.

It is worth looking up Frankenberg-Garcia in full as she makes a great case for teachers to integrate corpora into the classroom. Thanks for reading.


Frankenberg-Garcia, A. (2012). Integrating corpora with everyday language teaching. In: Thomas, J. and Boulton, A. (Eds.) Input, Process and Product: developments in teaching and language corpora. Brno: Masaryk University Press. 33-50. Retrieved from

Talcott, C. & Tullis, G. (2007). Target Score: A communicative course for TOEIC Test preparation. (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, J. (2013). Technology, pedagogy and promotion: How can we make the most of corpora and Data-Driven Learning (DDL) in language learning and teaching? Higher Education Academy research report (July 2013). Retrieved from

Jigsaw listening with BBC Engineering Connections

Engineering Connections with presenter Richard Hammond is a BBC series (though originally on  National Geographic Channel) about general engineering. Each episode looks at an engineering structure/technology as developed from earlier/other technologies.

The sometimes surprising connections lends itself naturally to an engaging lead-in. So for the example of the Formula One (F1) racing car episode (Series 3 Episode 2) one can project the following phrases taken from the introduction of the episode:

  • A revolution in artillery
  • A new design for a jet engine
  • An ancient boat
  • Protective armour
  • Swords

and ask students how these five things are related. After some time for responses and letting the students know that they are all related to a F1 race car,  there is inevitably a lot of curiosity about how some of the 5 things could be related. The lead-in could be extended to include a discussion of the various hypotheses students may have.

Students are then put into 5 groups and assigned one of the five connections to watch and take notes on. They need to be able to explain to the class afterwards the details of how their connection is related to the topic of the episode. If you have fewer than 5 groups, each group could be assigned to more than one connection or one of the connections could be seen by all groups.

The length of each connection in an episode averages to about 8 mins (a typical episode is generally about 50 mins in total).

The class discussion involves a lot of language related to engineering lexis as well as general English lexis. And even more importantly students are motivated enough to get their classmates to explain more clearly their feedback allowing them to practice concept checking questions, rephrasing etc.

The only downside is that I don’t personally like Richard Hammond and in some of the series his inane grinning can grate!

What’s that sound…?

In issue 63 of  TESOL France magazine an article by Mike Harrison (@harrisonmike) encourages teachers to use sound in the classroom. Inspired by this push I wanted to post this lesson idea.

To get students into the mood for focused listening get them to close their eyes and listen to their environment for one minute.

After a minute, ask the class to list all the things they heard in the school environment around them. Ask them to think about what the sounds might be, how near or far away they were, whether they were discrete or continuous, natural or man-made.

Then play them track 3. Dead Wood ‘Warming’ from below.

Ask them –  What kind of words could you use to describe the sounds? What images do you see?

Here work could be done on the language the class produces in response to the questions.

Some of the following words to describe sounds could be used to prompt students:


After the class has time to respond to the questions tell them that the piece of music was made in response to a photo. So what do you think the photo was? How would you describe the photo?

Again language produced here can be worked on.

Then four photos could be shown and students are asked to pick the one they think inspired the piece of music that they heard.

Photo number three of a wooden structure peeling and drying was the photo which inspired track number 3.

There can be many follow up/alternative activities should the lesson be a hit, e.g. play some more tracks from the INSTAGR/AM/BIENT project and match to photos already shown; students can draw a response to the sounds heard; they can write a story or a scene inspired by the sounds. See the one minute listening site for more ideas.


@mikeharrison recording at #vrtwebcon 2012 where he shows how to use sound effects in the classroom.