Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

How to listen to this song: In My Life by The Beatles

How to Listen to This Song: “In My Life” by The Beatles

You’ll use this song to review different verb tenses.

First, listen to the song “In My Life” by The Beatles. You can listen here or here or here.

Now, let’s quickly review some verb tenses. (These explanations and examples are just quick reminders. For much better explanations, visit perfect-english-grammar.com.)

Future Simple: will+base form of the verb*, used for things that happen at one specific time in the future

Examples: I will go to the party at 7pm. I’ll meet you on Saturday

Present Simple: base verb + s/es, used for things that are generally true and the specific times aren’t important because they’re always true/false or the same.

Examples: I love pizza! He sleeps on the floor.

Past Simple: base verb + -ed (2nd form), used for things that happen at one specific time in the past (and we know when).

Examples: I walked home yesterday. I called her at 5pm.

Present Continuous: base verb + -ing (present participle), used for temporary (non-permanent) situations

Examples: I am eating, but I’ll finish soon. I am working as a waiter, but I want to change jobs.

Present Perfect: have/has + base verb+ed, used for things that happened and finished in the past, but we don’t know (or don’t care) when they happened.

Examples: I have already watched that movie, so let’s see a different movie. I’ve visited Canada. I’ve baked a cake!

* The base form of the verb is the form you find in the dictionary. For example the base form of “go” is “go”. The base form of “went” is also “go”.

Next, listen to the song and read the lyrics

There are places I remember

All my life, though some have changed

Some forever, not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends, I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life, I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers

There is no one compares with you

And these memories lose their meaning

When I think of love as something new

Though I know I’ll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I’ll often stop and think about them

In my life, I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I’ll often stop and think about them

In my life, I love you more

In my life, I love you more.

After Listening Now, looking at the lyrics, make a list of all the examples of each verb tense you can find. (Answers below)

Three more things…

Can you memorize this song? If you can, then you’ll always remember your verb tenses.

Listen to the song and try to sing it too.

Finally, use each verb tense to write three practice sentences (three Future Simple, three Present Simple, etc.)

Answers:

Future Simple: I’ll never lose affection, I’ll often stop and think

Present Simple: There are places, I remember, Some remain, Some are dead, There is no one, No one compares with you, These memories lose their meaning, I think of love, I know, I love you

Past Simple: These places had their moments, People and things…went before

Present Progressive: Some are living

Present Perfect: Some have changed, Some have gone, I’ve loved them all

August 10, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this..., Using Songs to Teach Grammar | , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Talking about Music

This is another speaking topic for students. Click here to read the introduction to the series.

Students, remember, you can only speak English while you do this activity. Don’t speak your native language for at least one hour. You can do it!

Teachers, you can adapt these for lessons, or give them as homework.

Topic: Music

Objectives: After the discussion, you should be able to discuss music.

Materials: A computer with the internet or a CD Player and CDs

Expressions

Listen and repeat these expressions.

That sounds great! Say this after you hear good music.
Hmmm, it’s not really my style. Say this after you hear bad music.
Her voice is beautiful. Say this after you hear good singing.
His voice is terrible. Say this after you hear bad singing.
I like the beat. Say this after you hear good rhythm.
I don’t like the beat. Say this after you hear bad rhythm.
It has a nice melody. Say this after you hear a good melody.
It has a bad melody. Say this after you hear a bad melody.
Oooh, cool bass line. Say this after you hear good bass sounds.
Ouch, bad bass line. Say this after you hear bad bass sounds.
Crank it! Say this because you want the music to be louder.
Aagh! It makes my ears hurt. Say after you hear really bad music.

Vocabulary: Melody, Voice, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Rhythm

Vocab Activity: Do a Google image search for each word and discuss the pictures with your partner. (You can also draw pictures of each word and discuss the pictures with your partner.)

Play some songs Play songs for your partner. Each partner should play two songs. (See below for some suggestions, but it’s better if you choose). While you listen, you should write answers to these questions (example answers are in italics).

Do you like this song? Yes, I like this song because…

Do you like the melody? No, I don’t like the melody because it makes my ears hurt.

Do you like the singer’s voice? Yes, her voice is beautiful.

Do you like the guitar/bass/rhythm? Yes, I do because… No, I don’t because…

Does this song remind you of another song? Yes, it reminds me of The Beatles.

Now, discuss the song with your partner. Ask your partner these questions. You should both answer each question.

Did you like this song? Why?

Do you listen to similar music?

Is this good music for dancing?

Is this good music for walking?

Can you say three adjectives to describe this song?

Question Time Ask your partner these questions about music.

How often do you listen to music?

What are your favorite bands? Why?

What is your favorite genre (Rock, R&B, Classical, etc.)? Why?

Do your friends and you listen to the same music?

What kind of music do your parents listen to?

Do you listen to music from other countries a lot?

Your Questions Now write five discussion questions about music. Ask the questions to your partner.

DJ Pretend that you are a DJ on the radio for one hour. With your partner, choose the songs you will play. Practice introducing five songs. For example:

DJ: Now, we will listen to Michael Jackson’s biggest hit “Thriller”. It’s an old song, but I love it.

Something Else Here are some other songs you might like. You should be able to find them on YouTube.

Owl City “Fireflies”, Marit Larsen “If a Song Could Get Me You”, Peter Bjorn and John “Young Folks”

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , , | 1 Comment

Using Songs to Teach Grammar

Using Songs To Teach Grammar

UPDATE (Sep.14.2010) Click here to see all the posts about using songs to teach grammar.

Grammar is the life of a language. Grammar is what holds it all together. Grammar gives a language its personality, its beauty, its breath.

Grammar, some might argue, is boring.

But we can all agree that using songs is a great way to teach grammar. Here’s a list of eleven songs and the grammar you might teach with them*

Future Simple (Passive)—Maroon 5 “She Will Be Loved”

Passive Voice—The Beatles “All You Need Is Love”

Present/Future Continuous—Ayo “Down On My Knees”

“I’d rather”—Kings of Convenience “I’d Rather Dance”

Verb Tense Review—The Beatles “In My Life”

Using Modals to talk about the past, present and future—Muse “Resistance”

Various Past Tenses—Human League “Don’t You Want Me?”

Present Simple—Queen “Somebody to Love”

Present Unreal/2nd Conditional—Bare Naked Ladies “If I Had A Million Dollars”

Present Unreal/2nd Conditional—Wizard of Oz “If I Only Had a Brain”

Present Unreal/2nd Conditional—Beyonce—If I Were a Boy

* You can use these songs in many ways. Here’s one:

(1) Listen to the song.

(2) Explain the targeted grammar.

(3) Have the students do some simple exercises.

(4) Print off and pass out the lyrics.

(5) Have the student underline the targeted grammar while you listen.

(6) Have the students write something related to the song using the targeted grammar.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies, Using Songs to Teach Grammar | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Studying with Songs

Student Self Study: How to listen to music

Everybody knows that if you listen to a lot of music in English, then it’s easier for you to learn English. Listening to English music helps you learn faster. Just think about the people you know that speak English really well. How many of them listen to a lot of English?

Why is this true? Imagine that you learn a new English word. Let’s say the word is “poisonous”. It means that something is harmful, usually if you eat or drink it. For example: You can’t drink that. It’s poisonous. If you drink it, then you’ll die. But, now let’s say you learn the word “toxic”. It means the same thing as “poisonous”. For example: You can’t drink that. It’s toxic. If you drink it, then you’ll die.

Which word is easier to learn? Well, in 2004 the answer was “toxic” because we kept hearing “Toxic” by Britney Spears on the radio.

The same is true for everything in English. Grammar, pronunciation—listening to music reinforces them. For example, “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles, is great reinforcement for the passive voice.

And don’t think that studying in a classroom has to come first. If you heard “Toxic” 20 times and then looked it up in a dictionary, then you’d never forget what it means. So, listening to songs can be a great way to prepare yourself to learn more in the future.

You don’t have to do anything else. Just listen a lot! But, you can do more. Here are five ways to really get the most out of songs.

Five ways to really learn a lot using songs

#1 Look up the lyrics. (The lyrics are the words in a song.) If you go to Google and search for your song’s title and the word “lyrics” you can easily find the lyrics to your song.

Try it. Go to google.com and search for “toxic lyrics”.

#2 Before you look up the lyrics, try to write them down yourself. You’ll become better at listening for details if you do.

#3 Can you sing? It doesn’t matter. Even if you sing by yourself, it’ll be good for your memory, so don’t be shy, sing along with the song.

Sometimes it’s really hard to understand English because people speak too fast. If you can sing along with a song, you’ll get used to listening to English quickly. It will also improve your pronunciation, intonation, and stressing of words.

#4 Memorize some or all of the lyrics. Then you can sing them anywhere!

#5 Share a song with a friend. If you teach a song to a friend, then you’ll really remember it well.

Tip: If you don’t know the words, this is a great online dictionary

http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Studying Strategies | , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this song: “Chinese Translation” by M. Ward

Student Self Study: How to listen to this song

Song: “Chinese Translation” by M. Ward

The goal of listening to this song is to improve word stress. Stress means how strongly you say the word. Word stress is usually really hard for East Asian students. Unfortunately, native speakers have a lot of trouble understanding people who stress words in strange ways.

“Chinese Translation” is a nice song for practicing word stress. Enjoy.

Do these things…

Listen to the song: You can listen to it here, or search the internet. Listen to the song first. Don’t read the lyrics the first time. Listen first, then you can read the lyrics next.

Read the lyrics (and listen again):

I sailed a wild, wild sea,
climbed up a tall, tall mountain.
I met an old, old man
beneath a weeping willow tree.
He said now if you got some questions,
go and lay them at my feet,
but my time here is brief,
so you’ll have to pick just three.

And I said…

What do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?
And how can a man like me remain in the light?
And if life is really as short as they say,

then why is the night so long?
And then the sun went down,

and he sang for me this song.

See I once was a young fool like you,
afraid to do the things,

that I knew I had to do.
So I played an escapade just like you.
I played an escapade just like you.

I sailed a wild, wild sea,
climbed up a tall, tall mountain.
I met an old, old man,
he sat beneath a sapling tree.
He said now if you got some questions,
go and lay them at my feet,
but my time here is brief,
so you’ll have to pick just three.

And I said…
What do you do with the pieces of a broken heart?
And how can a man like me remain in the light?
And if life is really as short as they say,

then why is the night so long?
And then the sun went down,
and he played for me this song.

If you want, you can look up new words here: http://www.ldoceonline.com)

Note word stress: Listen again. Don’t look at the lyrics. Fill in the sheet below. Put an X in places where the word is stressed. Listen as many times as you need to. We did the first sentence for you, but there is no perfect answer. You can disagree. Listening and trying will help your word stress skills a lot.

_ __X____ _ __X__, __X__ ___,

_______ __ _ ____, ____ ________.

_ ___ __ ___, ___ ___

_______ _ _______ ______ ____.

__ ____ ___ __ ___ ___ ____ _________,

__ ___ ___ ____ __ __ ____,

___ __ ____ ____ __ _____,

__ ______ ____ __ ____ ____ _____.

___ _ ____…

____ __ ___ __ ____ ___ ______ __ _ ______ _____?

___ ___ ___ _ ___ ____ __ ______ __ ___ _____?

___ __ ____ __ ______ __ _____ __ ____ ___,

____ ___ __ ___ _____ __ ____?

___ ____ ___ ___ ____ ____,

___ __ ____ ___ __ ____ ____.
___ _ ____ ___ _ _____ ____ ____ ___,

______ __ __ ___ ______,

____ _ ____ _ ___ __ __.

__ _ ______ __ ________ ____ ____ ___.

_ ______ __ ________ ____ ____ ___.

_ ______ _ ____, ____ ___,

_______ __ _ ____, ____ ________.

_ ___ __ ___, ___ ___

__ ___ _______ _ _______ ____.

__ ____ ___ __ ___ ___ ____ _________,

__ ___ ___ ____ __ __ ____,

___ __ ____ ____ __ _____,

__ ______ ____ __ ____ ____ _____.

___ _ ____…
____ __ ___ __ ____ ___ ______ __ _ ______ _____?

___ ___ ___ _ ___ ____ __ ______ __ ___ _____?

___ __ ____ __ ______ __ _____ __ ____ ___,

____ ___ __ ___ _____ __ ____?

___ ____ ___ ___ ____ ____,

___ __ ______ ___ __ ____ ____.

Sing along: Finally, using the two sheets, sing along with the song. Go back to the lyrics and circle the words that are stressed. (Circle the words that got an X.) Then, sing the song.

July 6, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this..., Listening, Speaking | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Learning Styles and Lesson Planning

Learning Styles and Lesson Planning

Some thoughts on learning styles and four activities for the classroom

The truth that different people have different learning styles seems pretty darn self-evident. If you think about yourself, you can probably pretty quickly decide if, for instance, images (visual learner) help you when learning. Or maybe songs and sounds (auditory learner) stay with you easily.

Fine and dandy. But what does it mean for the ESL classroom? If you’re exclusively teaching cellists how to speak English, then you can probably build a bunch of auditory lesson plans and everyone will be happy. Most classrooms, though, will have a mix of styles.

So, you need to try to incorporate lots of different styles into your lessons. In much the same way that not every student needs every explanation you give, not every student will get the most out of each activity. But they’ll all benefit more than if you only taught to one learning style or didn’t think about learning styles at all.

Moreover, thinking about learning styles is an easy way to increase the number of memorable moments in the classroom. Memorable moments are the funny or interesting or emotional moments in a classroom that the students will remember the next day—and hopefully attach the target language to. Pictures, sounds, and objects are all likely to coincide with memorable moments.

Finally, thinking about learning styles is an easy way to break lesson plan writer’s block. If you’re in a rut and need some new ideas, focusing on learning styles is a nice way to get yourself out of the rut and put some fresh ideas into your classroom. In other words, “how do I teach the past tense?” can be tricky. “How do I teach the past tense in a visual way” is easier.

To review, if you’re always thinking about learning styles, three things will happen:

  1. You’re students will learn more because their learning style will be used at least sometimes.
  2. Your classes will be more memorable.
  3. It’ll be easier for you to come up with activities. You won’t get stuck because you’ll have a way to start thinking about how to make activities.

To illustrate the point, below are four of the big things we teach in the classroom (vocabulary, speaking, writing, and grammar) and an activity inspired by thinking about learning styles.

Vocabulary

Visual Style: Give each student three to five new words. If you have access to a computer lab, have your students go into the lab and do a Google image search for their words. They should click on one of the pictures and write a sentence or two that describes it and uses the targeted vocab word. (For instance, if they Google “width”, they might see an image of a ruler under a nose. They could write “The width of the nose was 1.5 inches.” When everyone finishes, return to the classroom and have the students describe the pictures they saw.

Notes: It’s a good idea to not distribute all the words right away. Then, when some students finish quickly, you have some extra words to give them.

If you don’t have a lab, you can also give this as homework and have the students report on it for the next class.

Instead of searching on the internet, students might search through magazines and find pictures related to their words.

Speaking

Physical Style and Visual Style: Bring in a deck of cards and think of four topics that you’d like the students to speak about. For example, you could use this for a review day and have them speak about four topics you’ve already covered in class. Explain what hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades are. Draw the symbols on the board. Next to the symbols, write the topics you’d like them to discuss. Ask the students for an example discussion question on each topic and write those on the board too.

Now, walk around the room and have each student draw two cards. Depending on the suit they get, they should write discussion questions on that topic. You’ll probably have extra cards. Students who finish quickly, should draw more cards until everyone has written at least two questions.

Once everyone has written their questions, everyone should stand up and find someone to ask their questions to. Their partner should draw one of the student’s cards to determine the order of the questions. After they’ve asked and answered, they should find someone new to ask their questions to. Repeat it as many as times you can.

Click here to read about this activity in more detail.

And click here for another Physical activity using origami fortune tellers.

Writing

Logical Style: Writing an introduction to an essay can be tricky for students. This is especially so because the common English way to write an introduction (triangle pointing down, from general to specific) is often very different from how introductions are written in other languages. A Russian introduction, for instance, is more like a star. (If that doesn’t make any sense, then now you know how your students feel.)

So it can be helpful if they have a fill-in-the-blank (logical) method for writing their introductions.

Explain to the students that the introduction should look like this:

First sentence: Introduce the general topic. (e.g. Lots of people love animals.)

Second sentence: Narrow the topic towards the specific question. (e.g. Dogs and cats are the two most popular animals in the world.)

Third sentence: State the exact question that the essay will address. (e.g. It is an interesting question: Is it a good idea to own a pet?)

Fourth sentence: State your exact opinion on the topic (thesis). (e.g. I firmly believe that owning a pet is a good thing.)

Note that the example sentences aren’t the most amazing sentences and the introduction isn’t the most amazing introduction. This is on purpose. The examples you give should make the structure clear. It’s easier to do that with simple sentences. You’re not teaching them style write now. You’re teaching them a structure, so focus on it.

After presenting the whole thing, take a step back and have the students practice writing sentence three, sentence four, sentence one, and sentence two (in that order because they get progressively harder). Then have them practice writing whole introductions. Give them topics that match what you’ve been working on in class.

Note: The memory is a little fuzzy, but this idea was probably inspired by Cambridge’s TOEFL Prep book, which is excellent and can be found here.

Grammar

Auditory Style: Playing a song can be great, especially if the targeted grammar is in the song. The song “If I Had a Million Dollars” by Bare Naked Ladies is super for teaching present unreal/second conditional.

You’ll, of course, first need to get the song. If you have a laptop, you can just load the video on YouTube before going to class.

Before introducing the structure of the conditional, play the song for the class. It’s a wonderful thing to do at the beginning as a warm-up activity. The students can just listen to English for a few minutes and allow their brains to switch into English-mode (so to speak).

Now have the students all write down twenty things they want to do, but can’t because they don’t have enough money. Model it on the board by writing: I want to go to France, but I can’t. I don’t have enough money. I want to buy an airplane, but I can’t. I don’t have enough money.

While the students work, on the top of the board, write: If I had a million dollars…

Then, below it write the following phrases:

  • I’d buy you a house
  • I’d buy you an airplane
  • I’d buy you forty cars
  • I’d buy your love
  • I’d build a tree fort in our yard
  • I’d take a spaceship to the stars
  • Well, I’d buy you a fur coat
  • Well, I’d buy you a new mobile phone
  • We wouldn’t have to walk to the store
  • We’d take a limousine ’cause it costs more
  • Well, I’d buy you a green dress
  • Well, I’d buy you France
  • Well, I’d buy you a monkey
  • I’d be rich

Play the song twice more. Students should write down the phrases they hear in the song. Most of the ones on the board are in the song, but not all of them. And there are some in the song that aren’t on the board.

Review which ones were right.

Now show the students how to change their sentences into the conditional. (e.g. I want to buy an airplane, but I can’t. I don’t have enough money becomes “If I had a million dollars, I’d buy an airplane.”

Next, explain the structure of the second conditional (i.e If+past simple, modal+bare infinitive) and show them some other uses. (e.g. If I saw a bear, I would run. If I met the president, I would tell him to lower taxes. Etc.) Then, explain that it is for impossible situations and the result.

Finally, have students write some of their own examples.

(If you’d like to learn more about learning styles, this is a pretty good site.)

July 1, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to listen to this song: “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn, and John

Student Self Study: How to listen to this song

Song: “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John

The goal of listening to this song is to improve word stress. Stress means how strongly you say the word. Word stress is usually really hard for East Asian students. Unfortunately, native speakers have a lot of trouble understanding people who stress words in strange ways.

“Young Folks” is a nice song for practicing word stress. It’s about a boy who likes a girl. He’s worried that she won’t like him because of his past, but she doesn’t care about his past. They both only care about talking with each other. Enjoy.

Do these things…

Listen to the song: You can listen to it here, or search the internet. Listen to the song first. Don’t read the lyrics the first time. Listen first, then you can read the lyrics next.

Read the lyrics: Listen again. This time, read the lyrics.

A: If I told you things I did before, told you how I used to be, would you go along with someone like me? If you knew my story word for word, had all of my history, would you go along with someone like me?

B: I lived before and had my share, it didn’t lead nowhere. I would go along with someone like you. It doesn’t matter what you do, who you are hanging with, we could stick around and see this night through.

A and B: And we don’t care about the young folks (talkin’ about the young style).

A and B: And we don’t care about the old folks (talkin’ ‘bout the old style too).

A and B: And we don’t care about our own folks (talkin’ bout our own stuff).

A and B: All we care about is talking, talking only me and you.

B: Usually when things has gone this far, people tend to disappear. No one will surprise me unless you do.

A: I can tell there’s something going on, hours seems to disappear. Everyone is leaving I’m still with you.

A and B: It doesn’t matter what we do, where we are going to, we can stick around and see this night through.

Note word stress: Listen again. Don’t look at the lyrics. Fill in the sheet below. Put an X in places where the word is stressed. Listen as many times as you need to. We did the first sentence for you, but there is no perfect answer. You can disagree. It’s important for you to listen and try. It’s not important for each student to put Xs in the same places.

A: _X_ _ ____ ___ ___X___ X _X_ ___X___, __X__ ___ ___ _ __X__ _X_ _X_ , __X___ ___ __ _____ ____ ____X___ __X__ _X_? __ ___ ____ __ _____ ____ ___ ____, ___ ___ __ __ _______, _____ ___ __ _____ ____ _______ ____ __?

B: _ _____ ______ ___ ___ __ _____, ______ ____ _______. _ _____ __ _____ ____ _______ ____ ___. __ _______ ______ ____ ___ __, ___ ___ _______ ____, __ _____ _____ ______ ___ ___ ____ _____ _______

A and B: ___ __ ____ ____ _____ ___ _____ _____ (______ _____ ___ _____ ____).

A and B: ___ __ ____ ____ _____ ___ ___ _____ (______ _____ ___ ___ _____ ___).

A and B: ___ __ ____ ____ _____ ___ ___ _____ (______ _____ ___ ___ _____).

A and B: ___ __ ____ _____ __ _______, _______ ____ __ ___ ___.

B: _______ ____ ______ ___ ____ ____ ___, ______ ____ __ _________. __ ___ ____ _______ __ ______ ___ __.

A: _ ___ ____ _______ _________ _____ __, _____ _____ __ _________. ________ __ _______ ___ _____ ____ ___.

A and B: __ _______ ______ ____ __ __, _____ __ ___ _____ __, __ ___ _____ ______ ___ ___ ____ _____ _______.

Sing along: Finally, using the two sheets, sing along with the song. Go back to the lyrics and circle the words that are stressed. (Circle the words that got an X.) Then, sing the song.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this..., Listening, Speaking | , , , , , | 1 Comment