It's Oscar time again. You may think it all a complete waste of time & unworthy of attention but it does provide interesting content for your lessons. Students will have seen some of the nominated films, have an opinion about them & all can have fun.
Did you know that:
'Popular legend has the Oscars statuette as unchanging, made of precious metals, and non-replaceable. This is not entirely the case. One-off variants have twice been produced. In 1939, Walt Disney was voted a special award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Academy presented him with one normal one, plus seven little miniatures.'
'In 1937, the supporting actress winner Alice Brady was at home nursing a broken ankle. When her award was announced, a man stepped forward to receive it, then left the stage. Neither he nor the statuette was ever seen again.'
These are from the article 'Oscars Babylon: Tales from the Academy awards - Tonight, Hollywood's red carpet is rolled out once again for the annual orgy of self-congratulation. But not everything in the history of the Oscars is a cause for back-slapping.'
Read the article, take a few notes & give your students some interesting live listening.
Below are the 2014 nominations in the main categories, together with last year's winner. Among things you can do with them:
- students can explain the film plots & their opinions to others who have not viewed them.
- view the trailers to some of the films on YouTube.
- with the films all have seen, have a mini-Oscar voting discussion, or just from the trailers & what they promise.
- discuss last year's winner - deserving or not.
- write short summaries of films seen.
- write a review of one of the films - for an exam-based group that needs practice with this genre.
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Last year's winner: Argo
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Last year's winner: Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Last year's winner: Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Last year's winner: Christoph Waltz - Django Unchained
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Last year's winner: Anne Hathaway - Les Miserables
Best Animated Feature
The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson)
Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Chris Meledandri)
Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner, Didier Brunner)
Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)
The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki)
Last year's winner: Brave
A few classroom ideas from past Tips on the Oscars:
Have a look at the following short article:
Academy has custody of some 100 orphaned Oscars
By The Associated Press – 18.2.09
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires all Oscar nominees to sign a contract specifying that they will not sell their statuette without first offering it back to the
academy for $1.
The so-called winner's agreement dates back to 1951, at a time when the organization began to worry about orphaned Oscars winding up in the hands of the highest bidder.
So, how many Oscar winners have sold their statuettes to the academy for a buck?
None, says AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis, although Oscars still make their way back to the academy's custody.
"We have statuettes willed back to us fairly regularly — maybe two per year — from recipients who don't have appropriate heirs, or who just want to be sure that nothing undignified ever befalls their Oscar," Davis says.
The academy says it owns almost 100 statuettes that have been returned by winners, heirs, or buyers like Steven Spielberg, who purchased pre-agreement Oscars won by Clark Gable and Bette Davis in order to return them to AMPAS.
Statuettes from the collection occasionally go on display at
academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, Calif., and eventually, the organization's long-planned Oscar museum in Hollywood will include space for more of the collection.
To use this - cut & mix up the paragraphs & students put in a
logical order. They justify their logical sequencing decisions to
all Then possibly on to some other language focus eg. direct &
indirect speech decisions.
Follow this with a discussion:- why & what uses could the
statuettes be put to? Some must have been sold as Spielberg
needed to buy them back? etc...
- Check out any of the following for good material on the cinema & the Oscars:
http://www.filmsite.org - an excellent source of info about film. The author, Timothy Dirks, lists his top 100 all time favourite films - you'll probably disagree - there's a paragraph about each of the 100 films which could be exploited nicely in class. Lots of other related topics including the famous film quotes page.
- http://script-o-rama.com - a massive collection of film scripts. Gone are the days of transcribing pages of the script to use in class. Just copy & paste the part you need.
- Oscar quiz - check out the Tim Dirks' site above.
- Oscars - discuss equivalent in own country - language of prediction & comparison before 'X will win because...' - language of past criticism afterwards 'X should've won because...' - language of dis/agreement with the Oscar results
- Lexical field - actor, actress, star, an extra, a bit part, producer, cameraman, studio, to shoot a film, still, clip, excerpt, set, on location, to edit, script, lines, costumes, action, different genres (western, comedy, adventure, sci-fi etc), screening, premier, critic, reviews ...
- A good opportunity to review narrative telling.
- Past Tips around film:
- Famous film quotes - match film, character & quote.
http://www.afi.com/docs/tvevents/pdf/quotes100.pdf - 100 quotes
'To get an Oscar would be an incredible moment in my career, there is no doubt about that. But the 'Lord of the Rings' films are not made for Oscars, they are made for the audience.'
'I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don't watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. '
- Film reviews - students could write them for films they have recently seen to swap around for colleagues to read & add comments when seen - an on-going mini-project. There are several net chat groups for students devoted to this as well.
- Cinema What's On Guide - a similar procedure as given for the lonely heart's guide we mentioned in the last newsletter - we would naturally scan a cinema guide so give out one to each students & you ask a question, the students look quickly for the answer & raise their hands when they have found it - wait till half have their hands up & elicit the answer & locate it for those who are having difficulties. Have eight to ten questions ready e.g.. Where can you see 'The Full Monty? What time/How much ...etc. It's a very good way of gauging the scanning ability in the group.
- Making a film - imperatives - beginner students act out a short scene using imperatives from the director on tape - total physical response - a great effective way of building up elementary students store of verbs. A possible procedure would be to act it out yourself, taking on both roles while students listen & watch you, after several times the students then act out to the tape & then they write their own instructions in small groups for a short scene & you can feed in the verbs they need. The one std reads out the verbs & the others from the group act - for the rest of the class to observe.
Tip - Action - TPR:
- Interviews with the stars - dubbing - this involves the class discussing a picture of a film star & writing a list of questions they would like to ask the person in the picture. When a series of questions has been complied, give the picture to a std who takes on that role & the others interview her/him. A well prepared roleplay then ensues.
- Interview with a film star - one word collective person - this is a fun, challenging roleplay. There is an interviewer & three/four students take the role of the one interviewee. Each std supplies one word in the response to a question e.g.. Why did you start acting? A:Well B:at C:school D:I A:was B:always C:involved D:in A:the B:Christmas C:play. Each std has to continue the utterance so that it makes sense. Can be difficult but lots of fun.
- Day in the life of a film star - this could come as a continuation of the previous activity - students write up a typical day by way of compiling the responses from the interview - they take notes when they ask the questions.
- Discussion topics - Does violence in movies influence real-life events? - Prefer the book or the film? - The film star you would like to meet? What say/do? - Where prefer to sit in the cinema? Front, middle, back? Why?
- Roleplay ideas - son wants to be an actor, Dad wants him to be a doctor like him, Mum is caught in the middle - you are an actor in the middle of shooting a film & the director wants to change your lines (reduce them!) & you disagree strongly etc.
- Have a class outing to the cinema & then use it in class.
- Get students to go to see films & report back to the class - if they go to the cinema a lot, this could be a regular early in the week feature of the lesson. They could write reviews for each other, recommending or not that they see the film.
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Warming to phonology
There are several ways of looking at pronunciation in the classroom. It can be in isolated pronunciation activities that highlight a useful aspect for the learners, it can be integrated or it can be looked at in correction as it crops up. We have briefly looked at integrating it in a previous Tip 'Phontegrated':
And in the Tip 'Sounding right' we looked at sound problems & correction:
Another way of integrating & consolidating phonology is through warmer, cooler & filler activities. Here are a few ideas:
Short activities with sounds:
- introduce a couple of new phonemes - give words containing the sounds, students work out the predominant sounds & go on to think of other words with the same sounds.
- phonemic hangman.
- put a phoneme on each students' forehead with sellotape & they wander round saying words to each other containing the sound they see on the other foreheads & each student guesses their phoneme from what they hear.
- bingo with phonemes.
- dictate words - minimal pairs - & students put in the correct sound column.
- tongue twisters - 'She sells sea shells on the sea shore' - students practise saying them as quickly as they can.
- spell out words & students guess how they are said.
- give the spelling & students guess how they are written.
- info gap maps - give out maps with streets that have minimal pairs - eg. Ship Street & Sheep Street - students ask each other for directions.
- Check out the following pages for these activities:
Short activities with word stress:
- dictate words & students put on correct stress columns.
- review a couple of stress rules by getting the students to work out which rules from a group of words.
- give a series of words - find the odd word out - the word with the different stress.
- give each students a word & a different stress pattern. The students wander around humming their stress pattern & when they hear the pattern of their word they get the pattern from the hummer.
Short activities for prominence:
- give newspaper headlines or telegrams & students write them out in full form. After highlight the information function of prominence.
- students write telegrams on each others' backs, a letter at a time. After, same as above.
- find a short text, maybe one the group have already looked at, & copy it twice, tippexing out & adding different information in one. The students read out their texts & correct each other. Good for contrastive/corrective stress.
Most of the phonology ideas on the site can be reached from the phonology index page at:
For a list of general warmers. fillers & coolers:
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Chemistry & the first date
No matter what kind of group & students you have there's an angle of Valentine's Day that you can use as a focus for a lesson or two to stimulate language use, develop skills & introduce & practice language. The angle you choose ranges from traditional romance through to the commercialisation of the Day. Here are a few ideas:
The Guardian have an article about what makes couples who meet for the first time 'click'. One of the deciding factors was the mutual language they used:
It turns out, that it is not just what you say, but the way that you say it that flags up a successful date. One such indicator appears to be the use of function words such as personal pronouns, articles and conjunctions.
"The more you use this group of words, called function words, similarly, the more you like each other," says Molly Ireland a psychologist at Texas Tech University. Ireland and her colleagues studied how such words are used by heterosexual men and women by examining 40 speed dates, using special computer programs to analyse the speakers' language. The study found that speed dating couples were more likely to mutually wish to see each other again if their language style matched better. "When two people are matching each other's use of, say, personal pronouns and articles, that means that they are on the same wavelength in terms of how they are connecting their thoughts and how they are thinking about the situation," she says.
So if your date is speaking in a detached fashion, using "the", "it" and "that" often but you are throwing in plenty of "I" and "we", then chances are there is no point swapping numbers. "It's a very strong predictor," says Ireland.
To read the article:
A useful lesson would be to start with this reading & then go on to a speed dating activity - the students sit in rows facing each other & talk to each other for a couple of minutes to see if they have anything in common & then they change & talk to the next person. You could give them role cards that supply their dis/likes. And also give half the class a card that tells them to to try to use the same language as each other - to mirror the person they are talking to. At then end see who had most in common & get the people with the mirrioring card to tell how they did using the same language as the prospective partners. And in the group discuss the usefulness of this technique in conversation.
A Love Story lesson plan
Love & money are in the air Valentine's Day lesson plan
Chocolate lesson plan
The Guardian ran an article on fourteen short articles on first dates - lots of interesting, useful reading, speaking & language material - choose the articles to suit.
- Students design a series of tips for lovers on Valentine's Day.
- Short mystery stories, with a touch of romance connected to Valentine's Day can be found at http://www.mysterynet.com/love/valentine
- Debate on Valentine's Day - commercialism v romance.
- Who to send a Valentine's card to - personal/the famous.
- The above could be extended to students deciding what presents the famous people give each other, where they go to eat, what they eat, what they say to each other (reported speech) etc. Or the game 'Consequences' - name of famous woman (met) name of famous male (at) place ..(he said to her).. (& she said to him) . (& the consequence was) .- each piece of information is written on a paper which is folded over each time obscuring all that came before so that at the end when all is written it is unfolded & read out - lots of fun.
- Anti-Valentine's Day campaign - discuss reasons & plan a campaign > Buy Nothing Valentine's Day - what could you do without spending any money?.
- Romantic films - students make a list of the top ten romantic films e.g.. Love Story, Casablanca, An Affair To Remember, The Piano, Brief Encounter, DR Zhivago, Now Voyager, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Gone With The Wind, When Harry Met Sally ...
- Lexical set: like, fancy, love at first sight, chat up, ask out, go out with, get on well, fall/be in love, 'go steady', live together, get engaged, get married, have children, go off, split up, get divorced ..rather heterosexual so change to suit.
- Heart to Heart/Lonely Hearts ads, the more diverse the ads the better - first decide which sex is advertising for which sex in each - they could put a M-F code next to each ad & then compare ideas before general feedback - Then onto some scan reading; you ask a question e.g. who is looking for a red head & students quickly look & when found answer put hand in air & when half group got hands up ask one for the answer & locate for those that didn't find it. Could do this with about ten questions. Could then get them to see if any of the advertisers could be matched up or do the students like the sound of any of them - write their own ads or for others in the group.....
- Language of physical & character description could be related to Blind Dates which could be in the form of a letter describing self, where to meet, etc..
- Language of chatting up - could come from a tape of mini conversations & then pull out the different language being used >> practice with mini-roleplays. Useful & lots of fun for a youngish group. Nerd pickup lines:
- Speed dating - check out the Tip at:
- The BBC has some very good material on 'love':
- Language of invitations.....could combine with a What's On Guide to use for scan reading & the language of preferences before going onto invitation role-plays, maybe on the phone which then involves telephone language.
- Roleplay about parental disapproval - Mum, Dad, brother & girl who is going out with older boy. Dad is dead against it, Mum too but is more delicate, brother sides with sister & girl determined to carry on seeing boyfriend - do battle!
- Roleplay - couple, with one forgetting VDay.
- Marriage: vocab - bride, groom, vows, reception etc.
- Discussions on: British v students country wedding traditions compare/civil v church weddings/sex before marriage/alternative weddings/gay weddings/debate: live together v marriage/4 Weddings & A Funeral - the reception speech is very exploitable & enjoyable for higher levels - could lead on to a writing task.
- Problem page - there are many ways to use these e.g.. give out problem & students write answers/ give half students problems & other half advice & they write the opposite & after the written problem is read out to see if it matches they read out new written advice/ match up half a dozen short letters with the advice given leading on to a discussion of whether the advice given was the appropriate & if not any better.. role-plays from these: writer with friend, couple with marriage guidance counselor. Advice language e.g..: It might be an idea to. Why don't you .?, etc.
- General reading on the current Valentine's Day - search in Google News for current stories.
- Hypothetical relationship situations - 2nd conditional practice - What would you do if ..all related to romance.
- The 'Couples' activity in 'Discussions That Work' by Penny Ur (CUP) works very well (well worth checking out if you haven't already!).
- Divorce - discussion on associated topics e.g.. stay together for sake of children v split up - Life after marriage / sex before marriage/life as a single person.
- Love poems: http://www.lovepoetry.com/ eg: Love's Philosophy - by Shelley:
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle;--
Why not I with thine?
See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
If it disdain'd its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
This would lend itself to being cut up, every line or every two lines, & the students put into a logical order. A glossary of synonyms for the difficult old-fashioned words would be necessary. And then on to a comparison with the original & a discussion of the content. A follow up could be writing a few more pairs of nature-related lines.
- Love quotes - http://www.romantic-lyrics.com/lovequotes.shtml eg:
'I love you - those three words have my life in them.' by Alexandrea to Nicholas III
'The courses of true love never did run smooth.' by William Shakespeare
'There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.' by George Sand
- All You Need Is - a song, songs & more songs. For a huge list of romantic song lyrics: http://www.romantic-lyrics.com/
Here's a text about the origins of Valentine's Day:
5th Century, Rome
Mid February was traditionally the time of the Lupercian festival, an ode to the God of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate. In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival. But he was clever to replace it with a similar celebration, although one deemed morally suitable. He needed a "lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus.
The martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the new festival.
Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor Claudius. Before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer's daughter. He signed his final note to her, "From Your Valentine", a phrase that has lasted through the centuries.
Pope Gelasius didn't get everything he wanted. The pagan festival died out, it is true, but he had further hoped people would emulate the lives of saints. Instead they latched onto the more romantic aspect of Saint Valentine's religious life. While not immediately as popular as the more passionate pagan festival, eventually the concept of celebrating true love became known as Valentine's Day.
Ideas on using this text:
- as a straightforward dictation task - read through first, students listen. Dictate each tone unit, repeating if the students want. Read again for all to check. Give out the text & students self-correct.
- elicit if anyone knows the origins of Valentine's Day. Then give out choices for students to discuss & choose possible stories. e.g. Valentine's Day comes from the romantic character in Shakespeare's play 'Much Ado About Valentine'.
- put key words on the board & students try to predict the story, then read to verify.
- cut up the text into the paragraphs & students put in order.
- give out the first two paragraphs cut up, line by line, & students order the text. Then use the third paragraph as a dictogloss activity - read the text at normal speed & students take notes - the stressed words. Then together they reconstruct the paragraph from their notes. It's not necessary for it to be the same as the text so long as it is a coherent paragraph that fits with the preceding two paragraphs. Then give out the last paragraph to read & see if their own paragraphs fit in.
- could follow up with the letter from Valentine to his lover before he was beheaded (!) - could be fun(!).
- discussion on any current festivals they would like to replace - with what?
Valentine's Day page at Wikipedia:
Love at Wikipedia:
History Channel Valentine history:
Virtual chocolate site:
Cadbury's Chocolates site:
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the Past Teaching Tips