Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

voxopop.com

Website Review: voxopop.com

In short: Voxopop is a message board website. You don’t type your thoughts and read stuff that others write. Instead, you record your voice and listen to stuff that others record. It’s pretty cool. And it’s great speaking and listening practice.

For students: Check out all the different categories and add your voice. (You can just listen first, then you’ll need to set up an account to add comments.)

For teachers: You can start a private Talkgroup just for your class. You can use it for homework or for extensions on stuff you did in class.

P.S. Jason Renshaw (a.k.a. English Raven) made a great video review of Voxopop a while back. You can check it out here.

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learn English–British Council

Website Review: Learn English—British Council

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/

In Short: The best site on the internet for learning English. It’s multilevel. It’s really big. It’s really helpful.

First: Low-level, intermediate-level, and high-level students will all find great stuff.

Second: The site is really big. You can watch and listen. You can read and write. You can practice grammar. You can play games. You can make friends.

Third: The activities are helpful, interesting, and modern. The site is easy to use and looks great.

For Students: Here are three things you might really like on the site. For listening, Big City, Small World is great. Studying for the IELTS? Check out this section. Or, you might join the virtual community Second Life so you can speak and listen to real people in English all the time.

For Teachers: Send your students to the site and have them write their own reviews. Ask them to answer three questions: (1) What can you listen to on this site? Describe it. (2) Is this a good site? Why/Why not? (3) Would you recommend it to a friend? Why/Why not?

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching English British Council

Website Review: Teaching English www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

In short: The best site for English teachers on the internet. If you only have time to visit one site a day, this should be it. What do you need? Activities for you classroom? They got ‘em.  Training to make you a better teacher? Oh heck yeah. A worldwide community to bounce ideas off of, get help from, and have fun with. Si. Da. Nae. Hai. Tak. Yes. Yes. Yes.

For students: This site is mainly for teachers, but if your teacher isn’t using it, you might tell them about it. Also, check out their sister site for students: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en

For teachers: If you can’t find what you’re looking for, they also have links to tons of other sites. Oh, and make sure to like them on Facebook…

http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timing Lesson Plan

This lesson is part of a series of one-hour lessons that will help students improve their prosody skills. Prosody, in short, is word stress, timing, and intonation. For an introduction to the series, click here.

Name: I believe in Timing

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Prep Time: Just enough time to understand timing and print the worksheets.

Materials: This worksheet, and this worksheet too. (These are pdfs. If you want to change them, or you can’t download them for some reason, just copy and paste the text at the bottom of the post.)

Primary Objective: Improve Timing Skills

Other Benefits: Have fun singing a nice, slow song. Understand the different ways to use the word “believe”.

Plan:

5 Minutes Listen to “I Believe in You” by Don Williams.

10 Minutes Explain the concept of timing. Go here for more information on how to do this.

10 Minutes Complete this worksheet.  Students should choose which timing you’re using. You can read them out loud to the students. Or you can just play this track.

B didn’t like the movie.

It was…interesting.

Slowly, and slowly.

I waaaaant to go hoooooome.

Yes, No.

I loooove you.

I-love-you-too.

20 Minutes Pass out this worksheet. Students should read the song lyrics and answer the comprehension questions.

10 Minutes Read the song together. Students should listen and repeat each line. Note that the words are timed differently in order to create a steady rhythm. For instance, “mom and dad” and “you” should be said in the same amount of time.

20 Minutes Listen to the song four times. The first two times, just listen. The third time, students should quietly say the words while the song plays. The final time, everyone should sing along.

Extension: Have the students write an extra verse to the song.

Materials

Worksheet—Timing

Listen to these sentences. Answer the questions below.

 

–1–

A: How was the movie?

B: It was interesting.

Did B like the movie? YES NO

–2–

A: I want to go home.

Does A say “home” quickly or slowly?

Does A say “want” quickly or slowly?

–3–

A: I love you.

B: I love you too.

Does A love B?        YES     NO

Does B love A?        YES     NO

Read these sentences to your partner. Your partner should choose if you use short or long timing for the underlined words.

  1. I love football.
  2. Could you please call me on Saturday?
  3. She’s never worn those boots before.
  4. Tokyo was a…great city.
  5. Are we there yet?

Worksheet—Don Williams “I Believe”

Read the lyrics for the song “I Believe” by Don Williams

I don’t believe in superstars,
organic food and foreign cars.
I don’t believe the price of gold;
the certainty of growing old,
that right is right and left is wrong,
that north and south can’t get along,
that east is east and west is west,
and being first is always best. 

But I believe in love.
I believe in babies.
I believe in mom and dad.
And I believe in you.

Well, I don’t believe that heaven waits,
for only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love:
He’s down below, He’s up above.
He’s watching people everywhere.
He knows who does and doesn’t care.
And I’m an ordinary man.
Sometimes I wonder who I am.

But I believe in love.
I believe in music.
I believe in magic.
And I believe in you.

Well, I know with all my certainty,
what’s going on with you and me,
is a good thing.
It’s true, I believe in you. 

I don’t believe virginity
is as common as it used to be,
in working days and sleeping nights,
that black is black and white is white,
that Superman and Robin Hood
are still alive in Hollywood,
that gasoline’s in short supply,
the rising cost of getting by.

But I believe in love.
I believe in old folks.
I believe in children.
I believe in you.

I believe in love.
I believe in babies.
I believe in mom and dad.
And I believe in you.

Answer these questions about the song

“To believe” means to think it is true. In the song, Don Williams says “I don’t believe…” about many things. For example, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Can you find more examples of things Don Williams doesn’t think are true. 

“To believe in” is different from “to believe”. Let’s look at the difference. To believe in means to (1) trust it or (2) think it’s a good idea or (3) have hope for its future.

Find an example of (1), (2), and (3).

(1)

(2)

(3)

What is organic food?

What does “I don’t believe [in] the certainty of growing old” mean?

“Right is right and left is wrong” is about politicians. Do you know of any “right” politicians? How about a “left” politician?

What does “Heaven waits for only those who congregate mean”?

a)    Only people who believe in God go to heaven

b)   Only people that go to church go to heaven

c)    Only some people go to heaven

Does he think there are more or fewer virgins these days? a) more b) fewer

Do you know who Superman is? How about Robin Hood?

What does “folks” mean?

a)    People

b)   Dogs

c)    Cars

Answer Key

“To believe” means to think it is true. In the song, Don Williams says “I don’t believe…” about many things. For example, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Can you find more examples of things Don Williams doesn’t think are true. 

He doesn’t believe that we will certainly get old, that right is right, that left is wrong, that east is east and west is west and being first is always best, that heaven waits for only those who congregate, that virginity is as common as it used to be, that Superman and Robin Hood are still alive in Hollywood, or that gasoline’s in short supply.

“To believe in” is different from “to believe”. Let’s look at the difference. To believe in means to (1) trust it or (2) think it’s a good idea or (3) have hope for its future.

Find an example of (1), (2), and (3). Answers may be different, but for example.

(1) Mom and Dad

(2) Love

(3) Children

What is organic food? Food without chemicals added to it.

What does “I don’t believe [in] the certainty of growing old” mean? It means that we might die before we are old. (For example, maybe a bus will hit us.)

“Right is right and left is wrong” is about politicians. Do you know of any “right” politicians? How about a “left” politician? George Bush is “right”. Barack Obama is “left”.

What does “Heaven waits for only those who congregate mean”?

a)    Only people who believe in God go to heaven

b) Only people that go to church go to heaven

c)    Only some people go to heaven

Does he think there are more or fewer virgins these days? a) more b) fewer

Do you know who Superman is? How about Robin Hood? They are imaginary heroes.

What does “folks” mean?

a) People

b)   Dogs

c)    Cars

March 30, 2011 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Word Stress, Timing, and Intonation (Prosody) Lesson Plans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to explain timing

How to Explain Timing

UPDATE: Here’s a lesson plan on timing that you’ll love.

UPDATE 2: Here are some ways to teach timing in the classroom.

Timing is how much time we give to a part of a speech in relation to the other parts of speech around it.

For example: I’m reeeeeealy tired.

And: I’m really tired.

In the first sentence “reeeeee” takes a lot longer to say than the other parts of the sentence. In the second, it takes about the same amount of time.

Timing can be long or short. In the above example, “reeeee” takes a long time. Here’s an example of a simple sentence with short, normal, and long timing.

I’m good.

I’m good.

I’m good.

Timing can also be used for pauses in a sentence. Compare:

That movie was interesting.


That movie was…interesting.


Finally, note how timing can affect the meaning of a sentence. I’m reeeeeealy tired is stronger. I’m good (said quickly) sounds like the speaker doesn’t want you to care about their goodness. That movie was…interesting means the movie wasn’t interesting.

Timing doesn’t change the meaning of a word or a sentence by itself—tone, intonation, and stress are also important—but timing is a key element of speech and something students should understand.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

American Culture: Songs and Purposes

American Culture Songs and Purposes

Do you want to learn more about American culture? Here are five songs that can help.

Green Day “Jesus of Suburbia” This song is full of references about life in the American suburbs during the last ten years. Lyrics are here: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/greenday/jesusofsuburbia.html

Billy Joel: “We didn’t start the fire” This song references events from the 1950s into the 1980s. Go here for more information: http://www.teacheroz.com/fire.htm

Don McLean: “American Pie” This song is about America from the late 1950s and 1960s. Go here for more information: http://understandingamericanpie.com/index.htm

Woody Guthrie “This Land” A song that describes many traditional parts of America. Full lyrics here: http://www.arlo.net/resources/lyrics/this-land.shtml

Ice Cube “It was a Good Day A song that describes common activities and concerns for many black men in Los Angeles in the 1990s. Lyrics here: http://artists.letssingit.com/ice-cube-lyrics-it-was-a-good-day-fzcs8pw

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this song: Neutron Star Explosion

Listen to the song “Neutron Star Collision” by Muse. Then read explanations below.

You can also listen here, here, or here.

I was searching, you were on a mission
Then our hearts combined like a neutron star collision
I had nothing left to lose
You took your time to choose
Then we told each other with no trace of fear that

Our love would be forever
And if we die, we die together
Well I, I said never
Cause our love would be forever

  • I was searching sounds like he was searching for meaning in life and/or love.
  • On a mission means working very hard to do something.
  • A neutron star is the heaviest kind of star.
  • A collision is when two things hit each other.
  • I had nothing left to lose means that he could take risks because everything was already gone.
  • You took your time is from the idiom “to take one’s time”. It means to go slowly.
  • A trace is a small amount.
  • No trace of something means there is none of that something. (Here, there is no fear.)

So…there are two young people—a boy and a girl. He is searching for something and she is working hard. They meet and it is very good. He wants to be with her, but she needs time. Then, without fear they decide to be together forever. They will love each other forever. They will even die at the same time.

The world is broken, and halos fail to glisten
We try to make a difference but no one wants to listen
Hail the preachers—fake and proud
Their doctrines will be cloud
Then they’ll dissipate like snowflakes in an ocean

Love is forever and we’ll die
We’ll die together
Well I, I said never
Cause our love, could be forever

  • The world is broken means that the world has big problems.
  • A halo is a ring of light. Usually a halo is above the head of an angel.
  • To glisten means to sparkle or to shine. Think about what water looks like when light hits it. A lake glistens in the morning light.
  • To make a difference means to make things better.
  • Hail means to respect something and do what it wants.
  • Preachers are religious leaders, they are like priests.
  • Fake means not real.
  • Proud means you think too nicely about yourself.
  • Doctrines are systems of belief
  • To be cloud is not a normal expression, but it probably means that it won’t be solid.
  • To dissipate is to break into many parts and go away.

So…The world has many problems, but their love is strong.

Now I’ve got nothing left to lose
You take your time to choose
I can tell you now without a trace of fear

That my love will be forever
And we’ll die, we’ll die together
And I, I will never
Cause our love will be forever

So…This last part makes it seem like he’s still waiting for her to choose or maybe she left and he wants her back. We know because instead of saying “our love” he says “my love”.

January 18, 2011 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Teach Intonation

How to teach Intonation

Click here for some thoughts on what intonation is and why it’s important.

Here are five ways to teach it in the classroom

Play a game The concept of intonation can be hard, but students are quick to know what’s wrong when they’re listening for it. So, create a dialogue and then and read it for the class. Read some lines of the dialogue with the wrong intonation. Have the students note which ones are wrong. The person/team that correctly identifies all the wrong intonation wins.

Dialogue Tree Lots of times, you can use rising or falling intonation, but the meaning changes. (For example: “I bought a car” –vs– “I bought a car?”.) Have the students write a dialogue on some theme. Every third line, they should write two possible replies—one with rising and one with falling intonation—and then continue on writing both dialogues. Make the dialogues short or they’ll run out of paper quickly.

I only go up Give the students a discussion topic, but tell them one partner can only use rising intonation. (So, one partner will need to ask lots of one word questions.) They should discuss the question for two minutes and then switch.

Identify the weakness and make it go away Do your students have trouble with some specific intonation pattern? If so, force them to practice it in creative ways. For starters, they should write dialogues that use the pattern. Then give them discussion questions that use the pattern or discussion questions that might elicit the pattern for the answer.

Just the intonation, please After students write a dialogue ask them to label it in a way that will let them know the intonation patterns. (For examples, they can put and “up” or “down” arrow on each word. Then, they should cross out all the words and read the dialogue without words. They can just make neutral sounds (e.g. grunts) or hum the sentences.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Intonation

Intonation

Click here for some thoughts on how to teach intonation.

What’s intonation? Why is it important?

Intonation is when your voice goes up or down in a sentence. Said another way, intonation is your voice going from high to low or low to high. Your voice can start high and go down (falling intonation). It can start low and go up (rising intonation). It can go up, down, up. It can go down, up, down.

It’s important because intonation affects meaning in different ways. Lets look at some examples.

Falling intonation

I eat apples.

Rising intonation

You like apples?

Rising and then falling

Where did he go?

Note that if you change the intonation pattern, the meaning changes.

Rising intonation changes a statement to a question.

I eat apples?

Falling intonation makes a question sound unimportant to you. (You don’t care about the answer.)

You like apples?

Double rising intonation on a wh- question makes it sound like you misunderstood the first time you heard the answer.

Where did he go?

Here are some more resources for you to check out to learn more about intonation and all the ways it can affect meaning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_(linguistics)

http://rachelsenglish.com/

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~krussll/138/sec3/inton.htm

While learning all the rules for how intonation can affect meaning can be useful, just listening a lot and unconsciously imitating patterns is even better.

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

esllistening.org/eslreading.org

Website Review: esllistening.org/eslreading.org

In short: Some great materials. The best parts are the stories. You can read, listen, and read simple versions. They are written by Kieran McGovern and he is very talented. You can learn more about him here.

Though the site design has improved recently, there are still broken links. Sometimes, the site is confusing. Most links open in a new window, so if you browse the site, you need to close a lot of windows.

For students: Check out the podcasts page for an excellent collection of listening materials.

For teachers: Click on the “reading” tab on eslreading.org to learn all about choosing ESL books (readers) for your classes. You can also read an article about writing readers.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment