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

22 Lesson Ideas

22 Private/Small Group Lesson Ideas…all you need is a laptop and a dream. And you don’t really need the laptop.

  1. Look at pictures of places and discuss.
  2. Read “The Road Not Taken” and discuss.
  3. Read “The Lottery” and discuss.
  4. Discuss trips you’ve taken. Start by thinking of all the adjectives you can.
  5. Think of a business situation and role play it (interviews, etc.).
  6. Summarize a movie.
  7. Summarize a book
  8. Summarize a trip.
  9. Summarize a past project.
  10. Summarize a future project.
  11. Visit the Centers for Disease Control website and discuss.
  12. Read an article from The Economist and discuss.
  13. TED.com videos (watch, discuss, comment).
  14. Learn speaking techniques at rachelsenglish.com.
  15. BusinessEnglishPod has 20 minute listenings you can expand into lessons.
  16. Pretend you’re making a hotel reservation online.
  17. Go shopping online and buy presents for the people you love.
  18. Or, buy stuff for yourselves online.
  19. Go to craigslist.com and try and sell something online.
  20. Order a pizza for a charity. Practice, then make a real phone call.
  21. Comment on YouTube videos. Like this one.
  22. Comment on Blogs. Like these.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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

Talking about Technology

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: Technology

Objectives: After the discussion, you should be able to technology

Materials: Six devices (for example, iPod, cell phone, remote control, camera, laptop, toaster, GPS, etc. They can be anything.) A computer with an internet connection would also help for the last activity.

Grammar: Imperatives, present simple questions

Expressions

Listen and repeat these expressions.

How’s that work? Say this when you want to understand how something happens.
What’s that do? Say this when you want to understand what something does.
First, you should… Say this to explain how to start doing something.
Next, you should… Say these to explain the middle steps of a process.
Now, you have to…
Then, you…
Finally, you… Say this to explain how to finish a process.
First, you should get some bread. Say these to explain how to make toast
Next, you should put the bread in the toaster.
Now, you have to wait a minute or two.
Then, you take the toast out of the toaster.
Finally, you put butter on the toast and enjoy!

Vocabulary: device, first, next, now, then, finally

Vocabulary Practice 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.)

Your Devices Look at your six devices. Answer the following questions about each device:

  • Why do people like it?
  • Is it popular?
  • Could you live without it?
  • How often do you use it?
  • Do your parents use it too?

Describe how to use things Think of three devices. Write directions for how to use them (follow the toaster example). Share your directions with your partner

Answer Questions Discuss the following technology questions

Is technology important to you?

What are the most important technologies in the world?

Do you like learning how to use new things?

Do your parents like learning how to use new things?

Are people who play video games better with new technology? Why?

Are you good at explaining how to use technological devices?

Your Questions Now write five technology questions of your own. Discuss them with your partner

Web/Field Trip Go to a website or a store with lots of technological devices. Find ten things you want to buy and explain why you want to buy them

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Speaking, Studying Strategies | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Ways to Practice Stress

Five ways to practice stress

Two weeks ago, we discussed word stress. Here are five ways to teach it.

First off Start by giving them a handout of, say, ten sentences. Write the first one on the board and underline the stressed words as you read it out loud.  Then, move towards having them do it on their own. Ask the class to discuss which words are stressed. Then, they can do it in groups. Finally, they can try it alone or even take a quiz.

Quizzes Nothing like a quiz to get students motivated. Ask students to listen to something and then underline the stressed words on a transcript.

Just the Stress Read something and only say the words you would stress when saying it. For diminished words, ask the students to fill in the blanks. (See this lesson plan.)

Music Listen to songs that have the same lines again and again. In a song, stressed words are often even more obvious. They’re louder, longer, and the pitch changes to boot. Here’s a song you might use. Here’s another.

Throw Your Hands in the Air Use physical gestures. Read sentences with the students. The more stressed a word is, the higher everyone’s hands go while reading.

Focus on Reductions Rather than focusing on the words that are stressed, point out all the unstressed words. Often, these words get said like one word. For example “Jawanna” = “Do you want to” and “I’m going to go” = “I’m gunna go”. Teach common ones so the students know which words usually aren’t stressed.

Beaker Method Beaker was a character on The Muppet Show (popular in the U.S. in the 1970s). He could only speak making “Meep!” sounds. He communicated entirely with word stress, timing, and intonation. Have your students try the same. Here’s a lesson plan to help.

 

October 8, 2010 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

trainyouraccent.com

Website Review: trainyouraccent.com

In short: 16 paragraphs that you can listen to. While listening, you can read paragraphs that show “reductions”. For example, you will see:

Also, I can take and send pictures

And

Also, I kntake ən’ send pictures

Reading the paragraphs out loud will help you speak more natural English.

For students: Good speaking skills are much more than just saying the sounds correctly. You also need to say some words louder and longer (stress them) and say other words quickly and softly. This site will definitely help you practice this skill.

For teachers: Read the about section to get a wonderful overview the six speaking skills.

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

accentmaster.com

Website Review: accentmaster.com

In short: They sell software or lessons to help students improve their accents. The software is different depending on your language (so you don’t waste time practicing sounds that are easy for you). In addition, they don’t just focus on making sounds, but also on things like intonation and word stress.

For students: This software (or the lessons) will definitely help you improve, but if it’s too expensive, remember to listen to as much English as possible and try to repeat what you hear. When you repeat, focus on the sounds, but also on intonation, word stress and timing. Try to copy things exactly.

For teachers: Check out the YouTube site at youtube.com/user/AccentMasterLynn. Unless your students have a pretty high level, these’ll be too tough for them to understand, but you can learn a lot about what’s important when teaching speaking.

September 2, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment