This is another guest post by Katy Wright, the co-host of our podcast 2Ts in a Pod. This is a listening activity for B2+ students based around a clip from an episode of the popular podcast This American Life. The episode is called 20 Acts in 60 Minutes. The clip in question is an interview with the actor Tate Donovan in which he recounts a particularly embarrassing moment in his life. Download all the materials below:
Show a picture of Tate Donovan. Ask students if they recognise him (he was famously Joshua on Friends)
Tell students that they are going to listen to an him talking about an embarrassing moment.
Ask you students: What would an actor find embarrassing?
Play the audio file (This American Life: 20 acts in 60 minutes)
Were their predictions correct?
Give students the transcript
Ask them to listen again to the section and fill in the gaps. Tell them that there is one word per gap
The students may need you to play it several times to get the right answer. Give them the first letter of the word to help them if they are struggling.
Tell students that these are elements of connected speech. Ask students to drill (repeat after the teacher) the connect speech. If students are too embarrassed to do this tell them that it is ok to do this quietly (mumble drill)
Ask students to listen to the section again and this time underline the stressed words. You do the first word as an example
Check their answers
Now ask students to drill the section, sentence by sentence. Using both the connected speech and the stress.
Now tell them that they are going to say the words at the same time as the audio. Do this sentence by sentence, pausing in between to help students to catch up.
Ask students if they feel this has improved their understanding of connected speech and intonation in English.
Ask students to think about an embarrassing moment that they had or someone they know has had, but not to discuss is yet!
Tell them to think for 2 minutes and write down 5 – 10 words about their story.
When time is up, turn to their partner and tell their story
Monitor the class and note down example of errors or interesting language that emerges
In open class look at the emergent language and discuss improvements or other ways of expressing the same thing
Ask students to turn to another partner and repeat their story. This time trying to use the improvements discussed in open class
Ask students to write out their story for homework and record it on their phones. They can send the audio file to you for homework
Decoding Key – Stress Underlined
So all of a sudden, the 10 minutes we’re sitting there waiting for it to start, three or four people come up to me and recognize me. I mean, they know exactly who I am. And they are quotinglines from a television show I was on. And like, hey, you were Joshua on Friends.
Tell students they are going to listen to two people, Tim and Katy, talking about their pet hates. Check their understanding of pet hate [a common, everyday thing that can be really annoying]
Ask student to predict in groups about what could annoy Tim?
Listen to the extract and check their predictions
Ask students if they also find these things annoying.
Ask students to make a list of 3 of their biggest pet hates and share them with their partner
Listening in detail
Tell students they are going to listen to the extract again. This time they write down expressions they hear related to being annoyed or irritated
You may want to play the extract again is students are struggling
Students compare the expressions they have written.
Give the students the transcript of the extract. Ask them to underline the pragmatic language related to annoyance. Did they find them all?
Check understanding of the expressions in open class. Point out the stressed words of these expressions
Ask students to repeat the expressions with their partner to practice pronunciation and stress
Go back to the list of 3 pet hates they discussed earlier in the lesson. Ask students to talk about them again but this time using the expressions from the extract
Monitor and give feedback on emergent language
Students can practice the conversation a few times with a partner and then record their conversation “podcast” style. This could then be shared among the other members of the group on WhatsApp or a wiki if they feel comfortable to do so.
1:43 – 3:00 minutes
Katy: [00:00:00] But first Tim, what really annoys you? What really drives you up the wall?
Tim: [00:00:05] What drives me up the wall. I would say, in general, inconsiderate people really get on my nerves. So, especially in public places like on public transport, for example. Here in Barcelona, it’s really common. So, say you’re on the Metro, okay, and you’re coming up to a stop and it pulls, the Metro pulls into the station and stops the doors open and people try to get on the Metro before you’ve got off. Yeah it really, really drives me insane.
Katy: [00:00:42] So annoying.
Tim: [00:00:43] If you just let us off everything would be so much easier. Yeah. It really really really really gets on my nerves. Also another thing on the metro I think it’s quite common, um, that really annoys me is people listening to music without headphones on their mobiles.
Katy: [00:01:02] That annoys me if people are walking down the street. I don’t know. Just turn it down, put headphones in. Or turn it down.
Tim: [00:01:11] Yeah. No one wants to listen to that.
Katy: [00:01:12] No one cares.
Tim: [00:01:14] So that, that’s what really really really annoys me. Yeah, It drives me up the wall.
Use the first slide on the PowerPoint to introduce the topic and have students predict what kind of coincidences two identical twins separated at birth could have experienced.
Students listen and try to write down all the coincidences they hear then compare in partners and listen again if necessary. Task check using PowerPoint slide:
Both called James
Both grew up to be police officers
Both marry a Linda
Both had sons called James Alan/Allan
Both had a dog called Toy
Both remarried women called Betty
Students listen again and write down expressions for expressing surprise:
You’re shitting me!
3rd Listen: Decoding
Students listen to the first section again and fill in the gaps with elements of connected speech:
I’ve got some coincidence stories that have happened in the world. This one’s a good one. Right. So, as I mentioned I studied psychology at University so I’d, I’d heard about these guys. This is an article that I found on boredpanda.com. And it’s called “10+ crazy coincidences that are hard to believe actually happened”. So here’s the thing. There’s two twins who were separated at birth.
Students think of a surprising story or event from their own lives and write down 6 key words needed to tell the story. They then tell the story to their partner who reacts using the expressions. Teacher gives feedback/error correction, then they swap partners and repeat the exercise having taken the feedback on board.