Tracey Ullman’s Show (BBC, UK), “Last Words”

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The Video

Tracey Ullman is a transatlantic comedy sensation, here, making a return to British TV for a prime time sketch show.

This scene takes place in a hospital where we meet a woman about to pass to the other side. The comedy arises as she starts reeling off a list of mundane regrets based around not having posted enough photos on social media.

If your students have access to social media then few will not connect with Ullman’s poignant comment on our obsession with sharing every minutia of our day with the world. Care should be taken due to the fact that the scene essentially depicts a dying person; if you have any doubts surrounding sensitivities that may arise from this subject matter, seriously consider the use of this video.

Level and Language Focus

The video is short and provides a succinct example of how the construction I wish I had… is used. The worksheet below would be a good starting point for a class about the third conditional as although this construction is not detailed, the construction I wish is explained fully and uses the same grammatical ideas (hypothetical past).

The shortness of the video opens it up to a range of different levels starting at intermediate and upwards.

The worksheet features a game but it might not be suitable if you teach students who do not have a good understanding of western “celebrity” culture.

Worksheet

thumb Find the worksheet here: Tracey Ullman Handout

Availability

You can watch the video over at YouTube.

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BBC Stories (BBC, UK), “The Invention That Helped Me Write Again”

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The Video

Graphic designer Emma Lawton was 29 when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The condition started a terrible tremor effecting her hands which caused her serious problems with drawing and writing.

In the video, we meet Haiyan Zhang who is developing an extraordinarily groundbreaking device that counteracts the tremors to amazing results.

This is a short, feel-good video about the power of technology in our lives for the good with a touching human story at its core. It is surely impossible that any student wouldn’t be moved by this incredible story.

Language Focus and Level

The language used in the video is not overly easy, but considering the help provided by the worksheet and in the video itself, you can use this video with intermediate and upper intermediate classes.

Following the story from its initial stages right through to its outcomes, we get a wide range of tenses used in context. Using the worksheet below, you can use the video to give a full review of tenses/verb forms, which include: present simple, present continuous, past simple, present perfect, going to, will…

The activity at the end of the worksheet also concentrates on a verb tense review.

Worksheet

thumb  Find the worksheet to accompany this video here: bbc-stories

Availability

Watch the video via BBC News or YouTube.

Amanda Palmer (TED.com), “The Art of Asking”

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The Video

This is a TED talk by alternative musician Amanda Palmer, most famous for her work with the band The Dresden Dolls. Palmer talks through the rise of her band and how they came to use crowd funding to release their music.

This video will obviously appeal most to music fans, but the crowd funding-model itself could provide an interesting discussion.

You could use this video in conjunction with New English File (Oxford), Upper Intermediate, Unit 9A, especially the Would You Pass the Bagel Test? article as the idea of honest contribution and “The Art of Asking”, is common to both.

Level and Language Focus

There is a lot of vocabulary in this video that students below upper intermediate level may find too much of a challenge, so this is definitely a video only suitable for upper intermediate students and above.

Inspired by the theme of asking, the worksheet below features a grammar section on the functional language of asking, specifically the use of the infinitive in constructions like “I would like you to do me a favor…”

Worksheet

thumb.JPG Find the free worksheet to accompany this video here: The Art of Asking.

Availability 

Watch the video on YouTube or directly from the TED website (subtitles available on both). A transcript is also available through the TED website.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, USA), “A Time-Share Time Machine”

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The Video

The Big Bang Theory is an internationally popular American sitcom based around five nerds sharing a flat. In this clip, Leonard gets exited about a sci-fi film prop he sees on an online auction site and places a bid without really considering the full implications of his actions. When he is the successful winning bidder and the item is shipped to the boys’ apartment, they get a big shock, with “big” being the operative word!

A fun and inoffensive comedy series, The Big Bang Theory is perfect for most teenage and adult classrooms.

Level and Language Focus

Any learner with a level lower than strong upper intermediate will certainly struggle with the video. Pre advanced and advanced learners will definitely get something out of the video too.

The worksheet below introduces the grammar of should have and third conditional; both connected to the regret the boys feel when the time machine eventually turns up.

Worksheet

thumb A free worksheet is available here: The Big Bang Theory turnitonenglish (Right Click, Save As…)

Availability

Watch the video over at YouTube.

 

The IT Crowd (Channel 4, UK), Series 1, Episode 1

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The Video

The IT Crowd is a British-Irish sitcom centred around the IT department of a big business. The comedy is a perfect bridge between old-style classic British comedy and modern tastes. Despite the odd reference to sex and mild cursing it would be suitable for teens and adults with the official age-rating being 15. A feel-good geeky comedy for a general audience, this video contains little material that could be seen as offensive.

In this episode, new employee Jen is sent to manage the IT department after writing on her CV that she has expertise in the area. It transpires that the extent to said expertise really goes no further than “sending emails…receiving emails…I could go on…” and the boys in the IT department are none too pleased at her arrival.

Level and Language Focus

The worksheet below concentrates on the Phrasal Verbs littered around the script ranging from the most common in usage (come in, shut up, get out) to more juicy examples for the vocabulary experts (size him up). If you are planning to use the worksheet, make sure you plan for enough time; it could take up an entire 90 minute lesson or two hour-long lessons. You may consider setting some parts for homework so you can watch the episode without pausing for too long.

The language used would definitely suit upper intermediate to advanced learners. You may consider using the video with especially eager intermediate students or those that work in the IT industry.

Worksheet

thumb A worksheet featuring vocabulary and phrasal verbs is available here (right click, save as…) The IT Crowd

Availability

Watch the episode on Vimeo. You can also watch the video via the Channel 4 website but you will need to complete a short registration process (free) and be navigating from the UK. If you access the video through Channel 4 you have the added bonus of subtitles.

The One Ronnie (BBC, UK), “My Blackberry’s Not Working!”

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The Video

The late Ronnie Corbett delivers his  classic style of double-entendre-filled British comedy in this video. Simple yet hilarious, this video should appeal to adults and even teens everywhere, although it should be advised that the talk of Ronnie’s “dongle” problems could take some explaining!

Level and Language Focus

This video is great for higher level students to explore word-play, one of British comedy’s key features. Using the worksheet below, you can allow the students take to piece the tricky double meanings (juice=liquid from a fruit/battery power, orange=citrus fruit/mobile phone company etc.)  that can sometimes prevent learners of English fully appreciate this type of comedy.

You can then go on to look at the functional language of describing a problem and resolving a problem, essential for any language course and perfect for role-play.

We recommend this video for higher intermediate, upper intermediate and pre advanced levels. The word play is far too complicated for lower levels although the vocabulary is not too tricky.

Worksheet

You can find the worksheet here: The One Ronnie (Right Click, Save As).

Availability

Watch via YouTube.

I Didn’t Know That (National Geographic, YouTube Channel), “Making an Artificial Eye”

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The Video

The I Didn’t Know That team visit a medical laboratory to see how artificial eyeballs are made. Every single eye is made by hand and precisely tailored to its wearer. This short video is an interesting introduction to this strange world but maybe not one for the squeamish!

Level and Language Focus

The narration is fairly slow but the vocabulary is very technical in places. Vocabulary like varnish, acrylic, mould and fibres are on the technical side but not completely useless in general life. With the downloadable transcript (below) you could use this video with levels intermediate and upper intermediate.

The video is full of examples of the passive voice (passive tense) and is ideal if you are teaching this grammar point.

The video could be especially interesting for young learners due to the content but it is equally engaging for adults too.

Worksheet

handout thumb  You can download the worksheet here: Artificial Eye Handout (right click, save as…)

Transcript thumb The transcript is available here: National Geographic (right click, save as…)

Availability

Watch the video on YouTube or on the National Geographic website.