Six original topical teaching ideas for May

Photo from Paramount Star Trek site

"The ship doesn't can take off?" Spock demonstrates a bold new approach to error correction. This month the new Star Trek film comes out.

And here they are, another half dozen little ideas that could spark off a class. It’s a bit too late for a May 1st activity (and anyhow, many teachers won’t be working that day) However, there should be something in here for everyone! 

1. Release your inner geek! The new Star Trek film opens May 7 so expect news stories about this and Trekkies around the world. I aim on doing a Science Fiction movie quiz with my students. Another possibility would be to find some stills from the film and get students to write a bit of hammy dialogue to go with it. If you really want to geek out you could look at the effect the Star Trek franchise has had on the English language. Beam me up Scotty! 

2. Listen to classical music! May 7 has a remarkable number of connections with classical music. It is the birth anniversaries of Tchaikovsky (1840) and Brahms (1833) and it also marks the premiere of  Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony (1824). Use classical music from one of these composers in your class. This could be as a simple background music while they do an activity or as a prompt for a writing activity. There are two ways you could do this. One is to put the music on and ask students to write whatever comes into their head while listening (freestyle). Another way would be to tell them that this music has been chosen for a new advertisement, or a new television show. Students listen and have to say what the product is/what the show is about.

3. Talk vaccines and diseases. Ok, so swine flu is the big news at the moment. You could prepare a reading with some basic facts about it, I found this site with information but I’m sure there are many others.  Or you could talk about how humans have overcome diseases in the past. May 14, for instance, is the anniversary of the discovery of the smallpox vaccine (1796). This is good material for a reading or live listening (a live listening being one in which you do the talking; giving them a live lecture in this case)

4.  Play tennis! May is Tennis month in America. Why not play a tennis-type language game? Grammar tennis (from Rinvolucri’s book Grammar Games) involves two players. One “serves” by saying the past participle of the verbforgotten. The other returns by saying the past tense forgot. The first person returns by saying the infinitive forget. Loads of fun, and could be adapted to do with vocabulary items too (e.g. one person begins with a word in a lexical set and the rally continues until someone can’t think of a word)

5. Celebrate mothers! This month contains mother’s day in many countries. Mark this event by teaching all the expressions with “mother” in English (e.g. mother-in-law, surrogate mother, mother’s boy, mother tongue, mother lode, full-time mother, Mother Earth, mother hen…). An easy activity would have students match the words to definitions (I found this list of words here). You could also mention that mother was listed as the top favourite words by language learners in a British Council survey (news story about this here). Or ask students to find compound nouns with mother and father and compare the lists both in English and their own language (e.g. Mother Earth, Father Time). Or simply ask students to write a paragraph about their mother…

6. Apologise! Teach your students various ways of apologising. You could also set up a series of mini roleplays in which one of the students has to apologise to the other. As part of the same class, explain that May 26 is Sorry Day in Australia. Sorry Day? What’s Sorry Day? your students might ask. Tell them to find out more for homework from this site and/or by watching this video.

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Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. Ah, but isn’t May the month to celebrate fertility and dance round the … maypole, of course!? You could try dressing up the students as Morris Dancers, perhaps, and teach them a few novel dances. Perhaps…


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