Jamie Keddie’s Six Top Youtube videos

This post, I’m joined by none other than Jamie Keddie. Jamie is the award-winning creator of Teflclips.com. We have coincided at many events, and I always bug him for a list of six youtube videos. Finally, he has delivered! And what a great multimedia list, complete with embedded videos and all. Enjoy!

Everyone knows that a couch potato is someone who watches too much TV. Well, I am a YouTube potato. My excuse is that I genuinely believe that YouTube is one of the best sources of material the English classroom has ever seen: Viral videos, notorious TV clips, comedy sketches, music videos, art projects, short films, science experiments … the list is endless. Here are 6 of my favourite clips:


1. Dean and the iPhone holder

OK, so this is certainly not the most interesting video to start with, I know. But the reason I like it so much is that it encapsulates the spirit of YouTube better than any other clip I can think of. First of all, we have this multinational corporation represented by the product of the decade – that is the iPhone. Then we have Dean, a likeable ordinary guy, showing us how to make an accessory for it out of a paperclip. This truly is a meeting of David and Goliath and that is often what YouTube is all about – a platform where the common man and the politicians, multinationals, television networks, and other traditionally established players meet in a democratic and unpredictable way. Luckily for Apple Inc., Dean’s viral video (i.e. a clip that becomes popular primarily through digital word of mouth) resulted in a good piece of free publicity for their product. But things don’t always go that way – just be glad I didn’t choose to start with the clip of the disgruntled Domino’s pizza employee putting bogies on the garlic bread! You’ll have to find that one yourself.

2. Panda sneeze


Ah that’s more like it – a cute animal clip. This is one of the most popular viral videos on YouTube in the ‘pets and animals’ category and I’d have to say that it is my all time favourite. In fact, I used this clip for the basis of my first ever lesson plan on TEFLclips – a ‘What happens next?’ activity. Of course, the problem with the clip now is that there will usually be someone in the class who has already seen it. For this reason, I will be posting an updated version on teflclips very soon.

3. Western spaghetti

When looking for ways of using a clip like this in the language classroom, it’s always worth considering how to exploit the visual narrative. One possibility here would be to write out the ‘plot’ in the form of a recipe. In fact this is the basis of a lesson plan on TEFLclips which makes use of this very video (see it here). ‘Western Spaghetti’ is art in the truest sense of the word and there is no shortage of creative individuals that are using video sharing sites to exhibit their work. As has already been mentioned, part of the attraction of YouTube and other social media is the fact that everyone is equal. So this slick clip by professional animator PES sits alongside DIY pieces such as Boogie Boogie Hedgehog. But is this latter clip art? Well, only time will tell.

4. Motrin advert

What a bombardment of the eyes and ears! This clip is representative of a fashionable advertising technique that has been born primarily through internet video culture. That is, while watching and listening to this clip, the viewer hears the words accompanied by sound effects and simultaneously, sees them in a whole array of diverse graphical representations and orientations. All of this can contribute to a strengthened learner comprehension of the text. This particular advert for a US brand of pain killers found itself on the receiving end of an online uproar from patronised ‘babywearers’ all over the blogosphere. The company was forced to withdraw the campaign and post an apology on its website. The whole story and lesson plan can be seen here

5. Obama’s Elf

What can I say? An ingenious clip that writes its own lesson plan. How many times have we had students upset that they can’t understand the words to songs in English? Perhaps the key to putting their minds at rest is to introduce them to the world of misheard lyrics, also known as mondegreens. See here for more ideas.

6. PS22 Chorus “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane

Despite all my enthusiasm for YouTube content, I passionately believe that its greatest potential is for teachers to film and upload learner-generated content. These children are singing from the heart and they are going to be able to watch themselves do so for the rest of their lives. Whether we are considering songs, presentations, stories, role plays or fictitious adverts or newsflashes, students can be filmed and the videos can be put online (of course, you will have to get permission from parents and/or students first). If students are happy with the outcomes, they might just revisit their clips from time to time and in doing so revise the language that that was recorded in conjunction with them. This, in turn, may inadvertently extend the learning beyond the classroom – always a good thing!


Jamie Keddie is a teacher and writer currently based in Berlin. He is the author Images, one of the latest titles in the Oxford University Press Resource Books series.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 10:19 am  Comments (2)  
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Six pairs of contradictory proverbs


A contradictory image...

A contradictory image...

The first time I saw an activity about Proverbs was in Penny Ur and Andrew Wright’s classic book Five Minute Activities. The activity was very simple (something like “write the proverbs on the board, compare them to proverbs in the students’ language) but extremely popular with students and teachers alike. People just like talking about proverbs I guess. Anyway, here is an updated version. There are six pairs of contradictory English proverbs below. Display these on the board (or on a handout) in a mixed up order – each proverb on a line by itself. Students have to find the pairs of proverbs that contradict each other. They then need to discuss the meaning of the proverbs and say which one they agree with more from each pair. Finally, wrap up with a comparison to existing proverbs in their own language. Neat, huh?


1. Look before you leap.  /  He who hesitates is lost.

2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  / Out of sight, out of mind.

3. The pen is mightier than the sword.  /  Actions speak louder than words.

4. Better safe than sorry.  /  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Birds of a feather flock together.  / Opposites attract.

6. You’re never too old to learn.  /  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 10:44 am  Comments (19)  
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Six rumours and conspiracy theories in ELT

Who knows the deep dark secrets of ELT? Six Things Knows!

If you stay in the world of English language teaching long enough, especially if you move from job to job (all too common for many language teachers!), there is a strong likelihood you will come across certain rumours. Whispers in the staffroom, an overheard remark at a conference, or a moment in a teacher training course when the tutor drops his/her voice to let you in on a secret… here are six rumours or conspiracy theories I am convinced are making the rounds worldwide. I hasten to add that many of these may have an element of truth! At the end of each of these I have put my own reliabity factor based on my extensive experience in the field ;-). The reliability factors go from 5 (highly reliable and almost certainly true) to 1 (very unreliable rumour, almost certainly false) 

1. Anybody who has written a book in ELT, especially if it’s a coursebook, is rolling in money. This is a harmless little rumour which often has authors of said books uttering a hollow laugh (so as not to cry…). Not to say they are all broke, but the number of “filthy rich” authors of coursebooks and especially books for teachers is much lower than you think. Where does this rumour come from? See number 2 below for an idea. 

Reliability factor: 1

2. The authors of Headway own an island in the tropics. All the rumours about money from coursebooks lead right back to two main titles: either Headway by the Soars or Interchange by Jack Richards. These authors almost certainly are… well let’s just say well-off.  I’ve heard the island rumour about all of these authors. Is it true? Has anyone actually seen one of these islands? I don’t know. 

Reliability factor: 3

3. There is a “split-tongue” operation that Korean parents force their children to undergo so that they (the children) may speak English better.This is one of the more gruesome rumours in our field. Apparently the operation helps Korean children pronounce the “th” sound in “mother” for example. OK, I’ve never met one of these people but I have read and heard this rumour enough times to believe that there is more than a grain of truth to it.

Reliability factor: 5 (pretty scary)

4. The popularity of the English Language worldwide was a secret plan crafted by the British government after World War II to replace the English Empire with “the Empire of English”. This is great material for the conspiracy theorist inside every young liberal teacher because the more you think about it the more you can believe it is true. Want quotes and anecdotes from history to back it up? Just read Robert Phillipson’s Linguistic Imperialism and you will be convinced! Unfortunately, hegemony isn’t as simple and cut-and-dried as that. There are lots of factors accounting for the position of English.

Reliability factor: 3 

5. There are people who are spreading the Gospel and forms of Christianity through English language teaching. I overheard this one at a conference and then found out more on the web. Apparently, religious groups are using English as the bait to lure students into their schools. This practice has become so widespread that it has its own acronym in the profession: TEML (Teaching English as a Missionary Language). For any of you aspiring novelists out there, there is certainly a story in here somewhere (a “Da Vinci Code” for English grammar?)

Reliability factor: 5 (also pretty scary)

6. There have been experiments conducted on a language learner’s fluency under the influence of alcohol. This is a favourite among teacher trainers when doing sessions on things like “factors influencing fluency in spoken output”. Apparently it was found that after a few glasses of champagne, fluency increased without a decrease in accuracy. Accuracy dropped with further glasses of bubbly. 

Reliability factor: 4 (only doubtful thing is if it was champagne or another kind of alcohol; I’m pretty sure this is true though)

You are of course welcome to comment here on your own views of the reliability of these or any other conspiracy theories or rumours. However, I warn you, no libellious comments please! 

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 2:17 pm  Comments (36)  
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Six ways to get your conversation class conversing

The guest lists just don’t stop! This time I’m joined by Karenne Sylvester of Kalingo English, also known as “Queen of the ELT Blogosphere” (well, to me at least). Karenne gave me some very good early advice on setting up a blog and has been very helpful since. She also makes her own materials with an eye on conversation in the classroom, so it seems only right here that I ask her to share six ways on how exactly to do that.
Right off the bat, I’ll just go on ahead and tell you that the title of this post is just to grab your attention while sticking to Lindsay’s rule of six.

There aren’t six ways to get your students actively speaking, there are an infinite number or, maybe, just one way.

Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.”  Benjamin Disraeli
Everyone is deeply, in fact biologically, designed to be completely self-interested and our students aren’t any different.

They have had lives as rich (or as poor) as your own. They have loved and lost, been angry and felt frustrated, laughed out loud, wept for days, hoped things would change, tried, failed and succeeded.

They eat food, enjoy or don’t enjoy their drink, think other people are better or greater than themselves. They have pontificated, theorized and hold strong opinions.

They all wish they spoke better English.

What to talk about in the ESL/EFL classroom boils down to six things, their:

  1. personal relationships– friends, family & enemies
  2. professional lives -work, colleagues, projects and responsibilities
  3. leisure time – their hobbies and interests
  4. casual experience of the world they live in – what they see or hear or read
  5. private stuff – their political, religious or personal belief systems
  6. dreams – their ambitions, hopes and expectations

Ask them about themselves and you will not be able to shut them up.

Karenne Sylvester

Karenne Sylvester is the author of SimplyConversationsTM, a speaking skills system designed to activate language learners’ fluency levels and she writes two blogs, one aimed at language teachers, Kalinago English, the other is aimed at English language students, How to Learn English.

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 10:07 am  Comments (4)  
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Six great ideas I’ve had that will never happen

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Like anyone in this field, I am often harbouring daydreams of projects I would do if I weren’t involved so much in English language teaching. They include television show writer, novelist (who doesn’t secretly dream of writing a novel?) and more “alternative” ELT ideas that for one reason or another are difficult/impossible to do. I figure that if I don’t get this off my chest in a self-indulgent post on my blog then these daydreams will not see the light of day, ever. So, here are six really good ideas I’ve had that will, alas, probably never happen.

1. TV idea 1. The School Door Mums – A soap opera that revolves around the lives of several mothers and is filmed primarily at the doors of the school where they drop their children off. Like a grungier, less glamorous Desperate Housewives. 

2. TV idea 2. “English Academy” A reality show in which several B-list celebrities are challenged to learn English in a period of six months. Each episode is filmed in the classroom, as they experience all sorts of different methods. The show culminates with them going to a very small town in the UK or the US to interact with the locals and are evaluated on how they did. Obviously this would only broadcast to non-English speaking countries, although I would license the rights for a “Spanish Academy” for Britain and the US. 

3. Novel idea. I’ve often thought of writing a novel in which the main character moves into a horrible old apartment and finds a little switch behind a bookshelf. The switch doesn’t seem to turn anything on or off but soon our hero realises that it freezes time for everyone except him when flipped. The catch is, time is only frozen for 20 minutes. Not really enough time to rob a bank or anything like that. Our hero happens to be a writer of grammar exercises (surprise surprise) and starts using the switch to meet deadlines and get work done. Until a mysterious woman walks through the door one day… Yep, sounds a bit dire. That’s as far as I got.

4. Video game idea. Class Simulator. Around five years ago I was working full time on Certificate courses, observing new teachers make their first faltering steps into the classroom. That’s when I first got this idea. This was in the day before Second Life and all, but I still think a Virtual Class Simulator would be a great video game. You could programme the level of the students, their ages, how well or badly they behave etc etc. Just like a Flight Simulator or a Driving Simulator. You would ask the trainee teacher to log a certain amount of hours doing a virtual class before letting them into the real one.  

5.  EFL idea. The Beatles #1 Syllabus project. A colleague of mine once suggested that you could probably teach a whole course only using the songs from the Beatles number 1 album (this album). I really liked this idea and thought it could make a great book idea (or at least an article). That is, until I  found out how guarded anything to do with the Beatles is.  God, if Apple iTunes can’t get them then I doubt I could. 

6. My BIG get-rich scheme. To invent and patent a technological invention that teachers would really find useful. I have already blogged about that here, and am still waiting for a rich patron to come along and sponsor one of these.

There you have it. I have logged this blog entry, date and all. Should any of these inventions appear elsewhere after publication of this blog (especially the TV ideas) then hopefully I can still get rich quick by suing the production company that makes them, claiming they were my idea first! Maybe I won’t need to… after all these are six ideas I’m prepared to abandon. I have plenty others up my sleeve I’m not ready just yet to divulge.

Published in: on May 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm  Comments (5)  
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