Posted in Conversation Classes, Listening Classes, Proficiency

Proficiency Podcasts: Radiolab, Darkode

Image credit: www.wnyc.org

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is the first of a new series of lesson plans based around different podcasts for proficiency and post-proficiency students. They’re appropriate for high C1+.

These lesson plans work in a similar way to the Proficiency Book Club series; set the podcast as homework so that students can listen to it at their leisure and then discuss it in the following class. For this lesson plans students will need to listen to the first part of the Darkode podcast by the amazing radiolab team of Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad. Download the plan here:

Proficiency Podcast Darkode LP

Lead in

How computer literate are you?

How often do you use a computer?

Could you live without one?

What would you lose if your computer suddenly died or was stolen?

Have you or anyone you know ever been hacked?

What do you do to stay safe online?

Darkode Discussion

What happened to Ina?

Russian hackers hacked her computer and held all her files hostage for 500 dollars.

Where does she suspect the hackers are from?

Russia or the Ukraine

Why did she decide to pay?

Her husband’s tax receipts are worth more than $500.

What does she have to do?

Get $500 in bitcoins to pay the ransom

What happened when she decrypted one file?

A timer started counting down until the files would be permanently deleted.

What are bitcoins?

An unregulated, untraceable online currency.

What did she have to do to get the bitcoins?

A lot of paperwork, take a photo of her husband holding his driving licence, get in contact with coincafe.com and send them the $500 from the post office.

What different problems did she encounter?

A snowstorm, thanksgiving holiday, the change in exchange rate.

How did she overcome in the problem of the exchange rate?

Contacted her daughter in Brooklyn to get her to go to the Bitcoin ATM.

What happened next?

She paid the ransom but she was 2.5 hours late, she received a message telling her she now had t pay $1000.

How did she solve this problem?

She wrote to them in Russian explaining all the problems she had encountered and the hackers took pity on her and decrypted her files.

Who else has been a victim of cryptowall?

Police departments, universities and normal people.

How many people have been a victim of cryptowall?

1 million.

Discussion

What would you do it this happened to you? Would you pay?

How much are the files on your computer worth to you?

If you could save 1 file from your computer which would it be?

Vocabulary

Here are some phrases and words taken from the podcast:

top it up/off – to refill something to the top. I topped up my wine glass.

pay a ransom – to pay a criminal to return something or someone they have taken

playdate – US, when parents meet up so that their children can play together.

speak in airquotes – to make quotation mark gestures with your fingers while speaking to show that you’re not speaking literally.

Posted in Conversation Classes, Video Classes

TED talk: Sir Ken Robinson, How schools kill creativity

Follow me on twitter @RobbioDobbio

This is another TED Talk lesson, this time based around Sir Ken Robinson’s fascinating talk on creativity in the education system. Please find an annotated transcript below. All I’ve done is underlined some interesting points he makes and vocabulary he uses, you can use them as a jumping off point for class discussion or simply mine them for useful vocabulary.

Ken Robinson TED annotated transcript

Posted in Conversation Classes, Video Classes

TED talks lesson: The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor

This is a lesson plan for higher levels (C1+) based around Shawn Achor’s TED talk “The happy secret to better work” about ways to apply positive psychology in our day to day lives.

Shawn speaks very quickly, so some students may have trouble keeping up. I suggest setting the video as homework and giving students the link to the transcript as well (you can find it on the TED website); in this way they can watch and rewatch to ensure they understand it fully.

Or download the transcript here.

Video:

Or alternatively you could watch it in class.

Vocabulary and Comprehension questions:

Before watching give out the handout and read through the vocabulary and comprehension questions.

Vocabulary:

  • Boarding school – school where the students live on campus
  • Bunk bed – two single beds one above the other
  • Tailor st towards sb – to make something specifically to fit somebody
  • Glean information – to gather/collect
  • To be at the vanguard of something – to be leading st (This laboratory is at the vanguard of cancer research)
  • Advil – a painkilling drug

Comprehension Questions:

  1. What happens in the anecdote Shawn tells at the start of the talk? His sister falls off the bed and he uses positive psychology to stop her from crying and waking up their parents.
  2. Why does he tell the anecdote? To introduce the topic of positive psychology
  3. What is the purpose of the graph he shows? To introduce the idea of “the cult of the average” and his cynicism about modern psychological studies.
  4. What example of “the cult of the average” does he give? The speed at which children learn to read.
  5. What effect does watching the news have on Shawn’s brain? It changes his perspective of the ratio between positive and negative things.
  6. What is “medical school syndrome”? When medical students start studying symptoms of different disease, they start to think they have them all.
  7. What do Shawn’s friends assume about Harvard students? That they will all be happy just because they go to Harvard
  8. What does Shawn think of the boarding school’s “wellness week”? That it is actually a “sickness week” because it focuses too much on negative things
  9. What problems with the way happiness and success are related in society does Shawn highlight? That happiness is always on the other side of success
  10. How can we rewire our brains to be more positive? Through techniques such as: documenting our gratitude for 3 things a day, by journaling a positive experience every day, doing more exercise, meditating, and random or conscious act of kindness.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which of these activities do you do?
  2. Which of these activities would you consider doing?
  3. Do you keep a diary/journal? Did you use to when you were younger?
  4. What is the message of the video?
  5. In which fields do you think this theory would be helpful?
  6. How could they be implemented?
  7. Tell the class a similar anecdote about your childhood to the one Shawn tells at the start of the video.
Posted in Listening Classes, Recommended Websites, Uncategorized

Experimenting with English (Part 2) – Activities for learners to do outside the classroom [26 and counting!]

A great way to push students to do more outside class.

Lizzie Pinard

In my blog post Experimenting with English: scaffolding learner autonomy, I discussed how I approached helping my learners to use English outside the classroom, drawing on learner autonomy theory and methodology (e.g. Benson, 2011; Oxford, 2003; Smith 2003). Central to that project, alongside the very important element of discussion, was a handout I created for my learners.

Here is a screenshot of a sample page, taken from the listening section:

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 20.47.59 Sample page from my Experimenting with English activities handout, listening section.

As you can see, the handout consists of a series of activities for learners to try, with space for them to record when they tried it and what they thought of it. The handout is divided up by skill (reading, listening, speaking, writing). What you can’t see here is that in each subdivision, as well as the activities I’ve added, there is space for the learners…

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Posted in Listening Classes, Recommended Websites

Amazing website for songs in the classroom

karaoke

Big thanks to my colleague Ana for introducing me to this amazing website:

http://lyricstraining.com/

It has a huge database of different songs in loads of different languages. Students listen to the songs and try to fill in the gaps in the lyrics. There are 3 different difficulty levels ranging from filling in 10% of the lyrics to all of them. It really is a greta resource for filling those last ten minutes of a class or to use as a treat if students behave themselves. Also, students can use it at home to listen to their favourite songs.