This be the post

Sadly, very true.

The Secret DOS

I am beset by existential angst. Normally this is the preserve of the troubled teen and I can only just about remember those days. But it’s coming back to hit me in a big way. prompted in no small part by @geoffjordan’s recent blogpost that served as a heartfelt and well-justified j’accuse of the con-game that is ELT. I have recently taken to advising people to stay away from ELT as a career and am beginning to rue the day that I ever handed over my hard-earned cash to finance my induction into this corrupt little game. When you are half way between your apprenticeship and your retirement, this is not a good situation to find yourself in.

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Steal this mix tape!!!

Google images

This is more of a lesson extension than an actual lesson plan. The original idea comes from the excellent blog by Kieran Donaghy, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Image   conference last week. The lesson can be found here at Kieran´s excellent website Film English –

I added two activities to the lesson plan. The first involves an authentic text from the Guardian  and the second is a practical homework idea for the students.

Activity 1

The first activity is working with this text I found on the Guardian website,

I didn’t do much with it other than chop and edit the text so that it was level appropriate for my FCE class and add some comprehension questions. You can find the edited document here – Last night a mix tape saved my life

The article is perfect for extending the lesson and adding some depth to the subject.

Activity 2

The second activity involved some work on my part and then setting the students some homework.

Basically, I made my own mix tape and shared it with my students. I created the tape using Google drive and the presentation feature it offers. This is basically Google’s version of PowerPoint, but much easier and smoother to use as well as easier to share. I have made a short video to demonstrate exactly how I did it and to show a student’s mix tape.

Enjoy the lesson idea. I hope it’s useful.

Eat my goal!

Google image

This lesson idea is inspired and directly linked to a lesson I used from the excellent website, Designer lessons, which is put together by George Chilton and Neil McMillan. Here is the link to the website – The lesson that inspired this post is called ‘Make it count’ and the link for it is here –

That lesson is based around a video by a guy called Casey Neistat, who is asked to make a commercial for Nike, but instead decides to use the money to go on a round the world trip and films it, making this the actually advertisement. The advertisement is about a Nike product called the fuel band, more of which later. Neistat is actually quite a prolific film maker and has his own YouTube channel which can be found here – I’m pretty sure I will be using many more of his videos in the classroom, in the future.

After doing the ‘Make it count’ lesson I found the sequel to the advertisement which actually  explains what the Nike fuel band does and is based around the theme of setting goals and eventually achieving them.

Lead in:

  • Ask the students to re-cap the previous lesson and to talk with their partner about what happened in the video. (If some pupils missed the class get the class to describe the video and then replay it, to see if the description was accurate and if anything was missed out)
  • Ask the students if they can remember what the video was supposed to be advertising. If they can’t remember show them a picture and ask them what they think the device does. (*Icons)
  • If you haven’t done the previous video lesson simply introduce the picture of the fuel band and ask the students what they think it does.
  • Get feedback and possibly board the suggestions the students come up with.
  • Introduce the video and ask the students to watch and listen carefully to find out exactly what the Fuel band does. The answer comes in the first 1min 25secs. You could pause the video here to get feedback or simply allow the students to watch the video all the way through and then check.
  • Ask the sts to watch the video again and to work out what the main message of the video is. Give them a clue by getting them to concentrate on the one word that is repeated at the end of the video. Answer – Goal and goal setting.

Main aim:

  • Ask the students if they make goals and if they manage to achieve them. Get feedback and some examples. I always find it helps to give a personal example to prompt the students to open up a bit.
  • Now introduce this worksheet – – The link should take you straight to the 7th page of a PDF document and is titled Goal summary. The rest of the document could also be exploited as part of the class. Ask the students to try to add at least one goal to all of the topics, some might not be applicable to your students.
  • After completion get the students to compare with their partner and see if they have similar or different goals.
  • Now ask the students exactly what they have to do to achieve their goals. Again, a personal example would be useful. Try to elicit personal qualities and not just the practical requirements that are needed. put the students into groups and get them to discuss.
  • Get some feedback from the students and feed in any vocabulary.
  • Now might be a good time to do some work on conditionals. I didn’t do this in the original class but getting the students to perhaps write out a goal plan using conditionals or even using some of the future tenses might be a good idea.

If I study for 4 hours a night, I will have a better chance of passing my exams.

If I pass my exams, I will get into university.

If I get into the right university, I will have to work even harder to pass my exams. If I don’t, I could be kicked out.

  • Now ask the students what could prevent them from achieving their goals.
  • Feedback and board ideas.
  • Tell the students they are going to look at an article which names 10 things that prevent people from achieving their goals.
  • Original article –
  • Edited article ready for class room use – Eat my goal worksheet 1
  • Cut the worksheet up so that you have ten problem titles, ten problem definitions and ten quick fixes.
  • Ask the students to come up to the board and match the problem titles to the definitions. leave the quick fixes to one side. You may need to deal with any vocabulary students don’t know, as it comes up. E.g Procrastinating, vague and two of the acronyms FOMO = Fear of missing out SMART = see top picture
  • Once completed and the students are clear on all the problems, put them into groups and get them to come up with solutions for each of the problems.
  • Feedback and then get the students to match the quick fixes to the problems and definitions already on the board. Get students to see if any of their own ideas were the same.

Extra activity/Continuation of lesson

  • Ask the students if they would like to be paid to achieve their goals.
  • Now ask if they would like to be fined for not achieving their goals.
  • This caused a little confusion in my class so a clear and simple to follow example may help here.
  • Ask students if they would use a website to help them reach their goals.
  • Tell the sts that these kind of websites exist and that they are going to see a short video which explains how it works.
  • Show video and ask students to explain how the website, Stickk, works. Be careful as my students found this listening a little difficult (B2)

  • If you want to do a second viewing you may want to use the three simple questions in worksheet 2
  • Ask the students if they think the websites are a good idea and if they have changed their mind about using them.
  • For homework or class use, depending on time, give the students the article that accompanies the video and set a reading activity. Look at worksheet 2 to see what I did. (please note the I have edited the article)

Eat my goal worksheet 2

I appreciate that there is an awful lot here so cut and paste the lesson as you please. I managed to squeeze some into the end of the ‘Make it count’ lesson and then use the rest for another lesson and then give the article for homework.

I would say it was applicable for B2 classes and above and my FCE teenage class really enjoyed all the activities.

I hope you enjoy the lesson and, as always, I would appreciate any feedback.

Your future self

This is a very quick lesson idea that I recently did with my FCE teenagers, who are turning out to be my guinea pig class.

I have been meaning to use Fotobabble ( for a while now and after experimenting with it briefly last year, I really wanted to do something useful with it this year. Very briefly, Fotobabble is a site that allows you to upload a photo from anywhere and then record a minute of audio over the top of that image. Russel Stannard provides a very thorough training video of how to use it here –

I wanted to help the students with part 2 of the FCE exam, which requires them to speak for one minute about two photos. While the speaking wasn’t a huge problem, getting them to fit everything in to a full minute was proving to be slightly more difficult. This was where Fotobabble came in.

Instead of just asking the students to talk about any old photo, or linking the speaking to one of the out of touch topics from the book, I opted for a more unusual approach which was at first inspired by one video and then reinforced by another.

I was introduced to the video below by Matt Ellman (@mattellman), who suggested it might be good for class room use. The video is called ‘a conversation with my twelve-year-old self’ and involves the protagonist, Jeremiah Mcdonald, interviewing himself at both 12 and 32 years old, cleverly using video editing technology and some sharp humour. Check out the video below.

I could have done a million things with the video, but I didn’t. I simply asked the class to talk about how Jeremiah feels when he remembers the cartoons he used to draw. After discussing this I asked the students what would be the pros and cons of talking with themselves in the future. They mostly agreed it would be positive. In fact one of the students asked if she could show a video which was related to this one and would show how positive it could be, why not I thought. I asked her to give an outline of the video and we watched it. I couldn’t believe my luck!

Unfortunately, the video is in Spanish, which was perfect for my class, but the main idea was there. Recording a video for your future self, which was the idea I had originally had but this video served to reinforce it. I asked the students if they thought it was a good idea and they all responded keenly.

I then introduced Fotobabble by showing them two examples that I had made. (These aren’t a message for my future self but just an example of how Fotobabble worked, the idea came after.)

The students seemed interested and I then told them it was their turn and that I wanted them to record a message for themselves in the future, similar to the ones in the videos we had seen. They could say whatever they wanted as long as it was one minute long and contained some sort of message/advice.

One week later, three of my students had the courage to share their videos in class and I was taken aback by the quality of their speaking and the meaningful messages that they conveyed in their one minute speech. It was clearly evident that the students had practised and made numerous attempts until they had got the timing right as all the videos came in at exactly one minute, with the students mentioning that they had to re-record several times. The students used photos of themselves or images related to their lives to talk over.Just yesterday another of my students, who had been dragging his heels slightly, eventually showed us his Fotobabble and again the standard was excellent.

What excited and pleased me so much about this activity was the fact that the students also seemed excited about it. The end product showed that it was something that they cared about, and for teenagers to show off work in front of other teenagers, and to do so off their own back, goes to show how well it worked.

Not only does this activity practise speaking, but also the drafting and editing process to get the message to last for one minute. Then there is the obvious feedback stage and analysis of the students recording which is probably best done privately if you have the facilities. Or to get the students to share their work in a shared document (Google docs) to comment on each others work. Something which I will do next time. Unfortunately, due to the students ages I can’t share their work, but I would highly recommend trying this activity. Fotobabble is useful for all levels and if incorporated correctly into class, can produce excellent results.

I hope you enjoy the activity and please let me know how it goes.