A couple of "birthday"-type activities included this month!

Another one of the great monthly teaching ideas list. I consider these my “open source” or “creative commons” materials writing. Go ahead and run with any of them!

1. Discuss Historical photos! June 4th is the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, which sent this photo around the world. Find (better, ask your students to find and bring in) some other iconic, historical photos and put these around the room. Students work in pairs and walk around the room, discussing the photos they see and what they know about these events.

2. Go royal! There are two royal anniversaries in June: June 2 is the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation and June 8 is her official birthday. You could make a quiz using information found here… but if that just sticks in your throat as too royalist then how about the following? The Queen sends special birthday messages to English people 100 years and older (see more here). Get students to write a Happy Birthday message to someone else in the class as if they were 100 or 105. 

3. Rewrite the Happy Birthday song! June 27th is the 150th anniversary of the composer of the Happy Birthday song – Mildred Hill. I read somewhere that her estate still gets royalties every time the song is played on the radio or tv or such. Can you imagine?!? Anyway, why not get students to write their own lyrics to the song? E.g. (to the tune of Happy Birthday) It’s the end of the year, it’s the end of the year, it’s the end of the year-ear… let’s all go have a beer!

4. Get hot and bothered in a role play! If you’re teaching in the northern hemisphere then on June 21 summer starts. I once wrote a whole set of mini role plays called “Heat Wave”, in each role play people are getting angry with each other on a hot, sweltering day. You can still find it buried at Onestopenglish  here. And I’ve just checked, it’s still free! Don’t delay, get it now before they close the loophole! There’s a free worksheet, role cards and teacher’s notes! Download download download…

5. Teach UP. Alright, I figure that the new 3D Pixar movie UP is going to have the same title pretty much everywhere, and what self-respecting English teacher can pass up on teaching a few phrasal verbs? Perhaps a quick brainstorm activity on as many phrasal verbs with UP that the students can think of, then use this to get at what “up” means (e.g. often a sense of completion, moving upwards, preventing or restricting, beginning to happen…) If you have access to a copy of this book then check page 486-489 for the full treatment.

6. Sing a song! I recently finished my beginner course with a group of twenty adults and they asked to do something I haven’t done in years: sing a song. Well, we did and I had forgotten what a great experience it can be to do that with a class. It was really a lot of fun, even though we massacred the song in question. Later on this month I’m going to post six songs that are great to singalong to with students, so stayed tuned for that one!

This post, I’m joined by none other than Jamie Keddie. Jamie is the award-winning creator of Teflclips.com. We have coincided at many events, and I always bug him for a list of six youtube videos. Finally, he has delivered! And what a great multimedia list, complete with embedded videos and all. Enjoy!

Everyone knows that a couch potato is someone who watches too much TV. Well, I am a YouTube potato. My excuse is that I genuinely believe that YouTube is one of the best sources of material the English classroom has ever seen: Viral videos, notorious TV clips, comedy sketches, music videos, art projects, short films, science experiments … the list is endless. Here are 6 of my favourite clips:

1. Dean and the iPhone holder

OK, so this is certainly not the most interesting video to start with, I know. But the reason I like it so much is that it encapsulates the spirit of YouTube better than any other clip I can think of. First of all, we have this multinational corporation represented by the product of the decade – that is the iPhone. Then we have Dean, a likeable ordinary guy, showing us how to make an accessory for it out of a paperclip. This truly is a meeting of David and Goliath and that is often what YouTube is all about – a platform where the common man and the politicians, multinationals, television networks, and other traditionally established players meet in a democratic and unpredictable way. Luckily for Apple Inc., Dean’s viral video (i.e. a clip that becomes popular primarily through digital word of mouth) resulted in a good piece of free publicity for their product. But things don’t always go that way – just be glad I didn’t choose to start with the clip of the disgruntled Domino’s pizza employee putting bogies on the garlic bread! You’ll have to find that one yourself.

2. Panda sneeze

Ah that’s more like it – a cute animal clip. This is one of the most popular viral videos on YouTube in the ‘pets and animals’ category and I’d have to say that it is my all time favourite. In fact, I used this clip for the basis of my first ever lesson plan on TEFLclips – a ‘What happens next?’ activity. Of course, the problem with the clip now is that there will usually be someone in the class who has already seen it. For this reason, I will be posting an updated version on teflclips very soon.

3. Western spaghetti

When looking for ways of using a clip like this in the language classroom, it’s always worth considering how to exploit the visual narrative. One possibility here would be to write out the ‘plot’ in the form of a recipe. In fact this is the basis of a lesson plan on TEFLclips which makes use of this very video (see it here). ‘Western Spaghetti’ is art in the truest sense of the word and there is no shortage of creative individuals that are using video sharing sites to exhibit their work. As has already been mentioned, part of the attraction of YouTube and other social media is the fact that everyone is equal. So this slick clip by professional animator PES sits alongside DIY pieces such as Boogie Boogie Hedgehog. But is this latter clip art? Well, only time will tell.

4. Motrin advert

What a bombardment of the eyes and ears! This clip is representative of a fashionable advertising technique that has been born primarily through internet video culture. That is, while watching and listening to this clip, the viewer hears the words accompanied by sound effects and simultaneously, sees them in a whole array of diverse graphical representations and orientations. All of this can contribute to a strengthened learner comprehension of the text. This particular advert for a US brand of pain killers found itself on the receiving end of an online uproar from patronised ‘babywearers’ all over the blogosphere. The company was forced to withdraw the campaign and post an apology on its website. The whole story and lesson plan can be seen here.

5. Obama’s Elf

What can I say? An ingenious clip that writes its own lesson plan. How many times have we had students upset that they can’t understand the words to songs in English? Perhaps the key to putting their minds at rest is to introduce them to the world of misheard lyrics, also known as mondegreens. See here for more ideas.

6. PS22 Chorus “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane

Despite all my enthusiasm for YouTube content, I passionately believe that its greatest potential is for teachers to film and upload learner-generated content. These children are singing from the heart and they are going to be able to watch themselves do so for the rest of their lives. Whether we are considering songs, presentations, stories, role plays or fictitious adverts or newsflashes, students can be filmed and the videos can be put online (of course, you will have to get permission from parents and/or students first). If students are happy with the outcomes, they might just revisit their clips from time to time and in doing so revise the language that that was recorded in conjunction with them. This, in turn, may inadvertently extend the learning beyond the classroom – always a good thing!

Jamie Keddie is a teacher and writer currently based in Berlin. He is the author Images, one of the latest titles in the Oxford University Press Resource Books series.

 

A contradictory image...

A contradictory image...

The first time I saw an activity about Proverbs was in Penny Ur and Andrew Wright’s classic book Five Minute Activities. The activity was very simple (something like “write the proverbs on the board, compare them to proverbs in the students’ language) but extremely popular with students and teachers alike. People just like talking about proverbs I guess. Anyway, here is an updated version. There are six pairs of contradictory English proverbs below. Display these on the board (or on a handout) in a mixed up order – each proverb on a line by itself. Students have to find the pairs of proverbs that contradict each other. They then need to discuss the meaning of the proverbs and say which one they agree with more from each pair. Finally, wrap up with a comparison to existing proverbs in their own language. Neat, huh?

 

1. Look before you leap.  /  He who hesitates is lost.

2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  / Out of sight, out of mind.

3. The pen is mightier than the sword.  /  Actions speak louder than words.

4. Better safe than sorry.  /  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. Birds of a feather flock together.  / Opposites attract.

6. You’re never too old to learn.  /  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Six rumours and conspiracy theories in ELT

Who knows the deep dark secrets of ELT? Six Things Knows!

If you stay in the world of English language teaching long enough, especially if you move from job to job (all too common for many language teachers!), there is a strong likelihood you will come across certain rumours. Whispers in the staffroom, an overheard remark at a conference, or a moment in a teacher training course when the tutor drops his/her voice to let you in on a secret… here are six rumours or conspiracy theories I am convinced are making the rounds worldwide. I hasten to add that many of these may have an element of truth! At the end of each of these I have put my own reliabity factor based on my extensive experience in the field ;-) . The reliability factors go from 5 (highly reliable and almost certainly true) to 1 (very unreliable rumour, almost certainly false) 

1. Anybody who has written a book in ELT, especially if it’s a coursebook, is rolling in money. This is a harmless little rumour which often has authors of said books uttering a hollow laugh (so as not to cry…). Not to say they are all broke, but the number of “filthy rich” authors of coursebooks and especially books for teachers is much lower than you think. Where does this rumour come from? See number 2 below for an idea. 

Reliability factor: 1

2. The authors of Headway own an island in the tropics. All the rumours about money from coursebooks lead right back to two main titles: either Headway by the Soars or Interchange by Jack Richards. These authors almost certainly are… well let’s just say well-off.  I’ve heard the island rumour about all of these authors. Is it true? Has anyone actually seen one of these islands? I don’t know. 

Reliability factor: 3

3. There is a “split-tongue” operation that Korean parents force their children to undergo so that they (the children) may speak English better.This is one of the more gruesome rumours in our field. Apparently the operation helps Korean children pronounce the “th” sound in “mother” for example. OK, I’ve never met one of these people but I have read and heard this rumour enough times to believe that there is more than a grain of truth to it.

Reliability factor: 5 (pretty scary)

4. The popularity of the English Language worldwide was a secret plan crafted by the British government after World War II to replace the English Empire with “the Empire of English”. This is great material for the conspiracy theorist inside every young liberal teacher because the more you think about it the more you can believe it is true. Want quotes and anecdotes from history to back it up? Just read Robert Phillipson’s Linguistic Imperialism and you will be convinced! Unfortunately, hegemony isn’t as simple and cut-and-dried as that. There are lots of factors accounting for the position of English.

Reliability factor: 3 

5. There are people who are spreading the Gospel and forms of Christianity through English language teaching. I overheard this one at a conference and then found out more on the web. Apparently, religious groups are using English as the bait to lure students into their schools. This practice has become so widespread that it has its own acronym in the profession: TEML (Teaching English as a Missionary Language). For any of you aspiring novelists out there, there is certainly a story in here somewhere (a “Da Vinci Code” for English grammar?)

Reliability factor: 5 (also pretty scary)

6. There have been experiments conducted on a language learner’s fluency under the influence of alcohol. This is a favourite among teacher trainers when doing sessions on things like “factors influencing fluency in spoken output”. Apparently it was found that after a few glasses of champagne, fluency increased without a decrease in accuracy. Accuracy dropped with further glasses of bubbly. 

Reliability factor: 4 (only doubtful thing is if it was champagne or another kind of alcohol; I’m pretty sure this is true though)

You are of course welcome to comment here on your own views of the reliability of these or any other conspiracy theories or rumours. However, I warn you, no libellious comments please! 

Published in: | on May 21st, 2009 | 35 Comments »

Six ways to get your conversation class conversing

The guest lists just don’t stop! This time I’m joined by Karenne Sylvester of Kalingo English, also known as “Queen of the ELT Blogosphere” (well, to me at least). Karenne gave me some very good early advice on setting up a blog and has been very helpful since. She also makes her own materials with an eye on conversation in the classroom, so it seems only right here that I ask her to share six ways on how exactly to do that.
Right off the bat, I’ll just go on ahead and tell you that the title of this post is just to grab your attention while sticking to Lindsay’s rule of six.

There aren’t six ways to get your students actively speaking, there are an infinite number or, maybe, just one way.

Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.”  Benjamin Disraeli
Everyone is deeply, in fact biologically, designed to be completely self-interested and our students aren’t any different.

They have had lives as rich (or as poor) as your own. They have loved and lost, been angry and felt frustrated, laughed out loud, wept for days, hoped things would change, tried, failed and succeeded.

They eat food, enjoy or don’t enjoy their drink, think other people are better or greater than themselves. They have pontificated, theorized and hold strong opinions.

They all wish they spoke better English.

What to talk about in the ESL/EFL classroom boils down to six things, their:

  1. personal relationships- friends, family & enemies
  2. professional lives -work, colleagues, projects and responsibilities
  3. leisure time – their hobbies and interests
  4. casual experience of the world they live in – what they see or hear or read
  5. private stuff – their political, religious or personal belief systems
  6. dreams – their ambitions, hopes and expectations

Ask them about themselves and you will not be able to shut them up.

Karenne Sylvester

Karenne Sylvester is the author of SimplyConversationsTM, a speaking skills system designed to activate language learners’ fluency levels and she writes two blogs, one aimed at language teachers, Kalinago English, the other is aimed at English language students, How to Learn English.

Published in: | on May 19th, 2009 | 5 Comments »

Six great ideas I've had that will never happen

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Like anyone in this field, I am often harbouring daydreams of projects I would do if I weren’t involved so much in English language teaching. They include television show writer, novelist (who doesn’t secretly dream of writing a novel?) and more “alternative” ELT ideas that for one reason or another are difficult/impossible to do. I figure that if I don’t get this off my chest in a self-indulgent post on my blog then these daydreams will not see the light of day, ever. So, here are six really good ideas I’ve had that will, alas, probably never happen.

1. TV idea 1. The School Door Mums – A soap opera that revolves around the lives of several mothers and is filmed primarily at the doors of the school where they drop their children off. Like a grungier, less glamorous Desperate Housewives. 

2. TV idea 2. “English Academy” A reality show in which several B-list celebrities are challenged to learn English in a period of six months. Each episode is filmed in the classroom, as they experience all sorts of different methods. The show culminates with them going to a very small town in the UK or the US to interact with the locals and are evaluated on how they did. Obviously this would only broadcast to non-English speaking countries, although I would license the rights for a “Spanish Academy” for Britain and the US. 

3. Novel idea. I’ve often thought of writing a novel in which the main character moves into a horrible old apartment and finds a little switch behind a bookshelf. The switch doesn’t seem to turn anything on or off but soon our hero realises that it freezes time for everyone except him when flipped. The catch is, time is only frozen for 20 minutes. Not really enough time to rob a bank or anything like that. Our hero happens to be a writer of grammar exercises (surprise surprise) and starts using the switch to meet deadlines and get work done. Until a mysterious woman walks through the door one day… Yep, sounds a bit dire. That’s as far as I got.

4. Video game idea. Class Simulator. Around five years ago I was working full time on Certificate courses, observing new teachers make their first faltering steps into the classroom. That’s when I first got this idea. This was in the day before Second Life and all, but I still think a Virtual Class Simulator would be a great video game. You could programme the level of the students, their ages, how well or badly they behave etc etc. Just like a Flight Simulator or a Driving Simulator. You would ask the trainee teacher to log a certain amount of hours doing a virtual class before letting them into the real one.  

5.  EFL idea. The Beatles #1 Syllabus project. A colleague of mine once suggested that you could probably teach a whole course only using the songs from the Beatles number 1 album (this album). I really liked this idea and thought it could make a great book idea (or at least an article). That is, until I  found out how guarded anything to do with the Beatles is.  God, if Apple iTunes can’t get them then I doubt I could. 

6. My BIG get-rich scheme. To invent and patent a technological invention that teachers would really find useful. I have already blogged about that here, and am still waiting for a rich patron to come along and sponsor one of these.

There you have it. I have logged this blog entry, date and all. Should any of these inventions appear elsewhere after publication of this blog (especially the TV ideas) then hopefully I can still get rich quick by suing the production company that makes them, claiming they were my idea first! Maybe I won’t need to… after all these are six ideas I’m prepared to abandon. I have plenty others up my sleeve I’m not ready just yet to divulge.

Published in: | on May 17th, 2009 | 5 Comments »

Mario Rinvolucri's Six ways of improving relationship

The guest lists continue, and this time … well, what a guest! I don’t think Mario Rinvolucri needs much of an introduction for the readers of this blog, so I will pass it directly over to him.  Here Mario shares six ways of improving your relationship with your learners.

A central aspect of a teacher’s work is getting an adequate relationship with her student/s. I would suggest that without a reasonably harmonious way of relating to her class a teacher will find it hard to get the students to take the subject matter on board.

The building of  inter-personal bridges is central to the work of all the helping professions, doctors, shamans, nurses, social workers, therapists, priests. A recent study suggests that in the US the doctors who get sued by their patients tend not to be the ones who make medical blunders but the ones who fail to achieve decent rapport with the patient.

Here are six ways of building relationship:

Way 1  Geographical rapport. If you meet a student and discover that you have both been to the same town or region you tend to suddenly feel that bit warmer towards each other. If the place is the student’s own native place or your native place…the effect will normally be stronger.

Way 2  Speaking the same language/s  If you meet a student whom you are going to teach English to and are able to say a few words in their mother tongue this act of respect will have its effect on them. If you find out that you are both speakers of a third language this can also have a bonding effect.

Way 3  Same interests. You get talking to a students at coffee break and realise that you both keep bees. If this is the case  then a whole area of sameness and warmth opens up between you.

Way 4  Humour.  You carefully choose a joke that you  reckon everybody will understand and that will not cause listening comprehension anxiety. You tell your new group the joke and, for a moment, they are all united with you in laughter. The joke-telling has given you a way of wave-lengthing with the whole class.

Way 5  Voice-pacing.you become vaguely aware that this first meeting with this student is not easy…you decide to pay attention to the tempo, or speed, of his speech and you modify your tempo to follow his…this will often, seemingly magically, improve the  initial uneasy situation between you. Please don’t take this on faith- try it out for yourself. 

Way 6  Adapting your language to the student’s main eye movement patterns.

This technique is only worth doing if you have not already got adequate rapport in easier ways.

If you see the student has a lot of upward eye movements speak to him from the picturing part of your mind, therefore using visual language.

If you see the student lowering their voice and speaking a lot with eyes cast down to their right then follow suit, lower you voice and respond to the student from the emotional part of your mind.

If you see the student speaking to you with eyes down to their left then they are probably in a sort of internal monologue in your presence…respond in kind…as if you were talking to yourself.

You will only manage the above elegantly if you give yourself loads of practice.

***

My feeling is that without rapport I have as much chance of teaching my students  as a baker has of baking bread without flour.

Mario Rinvolucri is an author of numerous books for language teachers including two of the most classic ones ever (Dictation and Grammar Games). He is a teacher trainer at Pilgrims. Mario’s new book Culture in our Classrooms, with Gill Johnson, is coming out later this year from Delta Publishing

Published in: | on May 12th, 2009 | 5 Comments »

Six things to bear in mind when teaching teens

teenworldImagine not being able to remember, or never having experienced the following: black and white televisions, Live Aid, Space Invaders, the Soviet Union, studying without the internet, phones that you dialed instead of pressed, cameras which you couldn’t see the photo you had just taken and computers without a mouse. Welcome to the world of the modern teenager. Teens are often the hardest age group for teachers to cope with. I’ve always liked teaching teens, even though my first experience with a high school also gave me my first grey hairs. A colleague and friend of mine, Joanna Budden, has just written her first resource book especially on the topic. She’s someone who has a lot of experience with teens and no grey hairs at all! I asked her for six things to bear in mind… 

1. The Natural Information-Gap

One of the great things about teaching teenagers is that there’s little need for pre-fabricated ‘information gap’ activities as there’s normally a huge, natural information gap between the students and the teacher! They may well know all about the latest music, technology, fashion trends and gadgets and you may not! So, rather than ignoring this void between you, exploit it to your advantage  to find out as much as you can about what it’s like being a teenager these days.

2. They’re still young.

Some students who are now in their late teens can be very sophisticated, and it’s sometimes easy for forget that they are still young. So, to put things in perspective and to remind you that they haven’t in fact been on this earth for all that long, remember that they were only aged between five and ten when the Twin Towers were hit. Or imagine Britney Spears being around for as long as you can remember (scary thought). Our teen students of today were aged between two and seven when Britney released her first single!

3. Parents can be your allies!

It’s sometimes easy to forget that our teenage students haven’t just arrived from another planet. When they rock into your classroom with their i-pod blaring, their trousers hanging dangerously low down, designer pants on show and their fringe covering half their face, it’s tempting to wonder if their space ship is parked outside. But no, more often than not your teenage students have parents who care about them greatly and are often investing a lot of money for their child to learn English. Therefore, if problems do occur with certain students in your class, don’t hesitate to get in contact with their parents. They can often shed light on issues that are concerning you and it’s usually useful to have the parents’ support with any challenging students.

4. Your students have lives outside your classroom.

Obviously all students have ‘real lives’ that go on outside your classroom whatever their age. However for adults it’s somehow easier for them to ‘park’ their real lives outside the door for an hour or two when they come into class. Teenagers often bring with them all their baggage from a tricky day at school, and this may affect their behaviour in your class. If they’ve just got a text message from an admirer or if they’ve failed an exam that day and have yet to tell their parents, it may be difficult for them to give your class 100% attention, or even 10%. Finding out about how your students’ week is going before you start the class is one way to give your students a chance to let you know why they may not be the model student on that particular day. Here’s a link to an activity called the Happy Graph which gives you the chance for your students to do this. It can really give you an insight into the emotional roller-coaster that is teenage life.

5. Knowing what your students are into helps.  

This may sound very obvious, but I think it’s even more important with teens than with any other age group to know as much as you can about each and every student you teach. By knowing what they do in their free time, who’s into computer games, who loves Formula 1 and who is going on a foreign exchange you will be able to tap into your students’ passions and interests in your class. Also, the better you know your students, and they know each other, the better the dynamics of the classroom will be. The five minutes at the beginning when students are arriving is vital time to chat to your students and to let them chat to each other (in English if possible) to find out what’s going on in their lives. Make sure students feel comfortable asking you questions too, obviously it’s up to each teacher how much of their ‘real life’ they want to share with their students but generally a positive learning environment is created from an open classroom atmosphere where the teacher is genuinely interested in their students. 

6. There are lots of ‘techie teens’ out there.  

Technology is inevitably a big part of your teenage students’ lives. Your students probably spend a large part of their day plugged into their mp3 player, using Messenger, Facebook, sending text messages, playing games or downloading music. They have grown up surrounded with technology so let’s use this fact to our advantage. Creating a class blog or wiki, asking students to e-mail you their homework or asking them to help you out when the class computer or IWB goes wrong are all ways of using their technological knowledge to your benefit!

Joanna Budden is an author and teacher based just outside Barcelona. Joanna has written materials for coursebooks and has produced many lessons for the Essential UK site of the British Council (lesson plans on UK culture).  She is the author of Teen World by Cambridge University Press (pictured above, click on the image to find out more about the book).

Published in: | on May 7th, 2009 | 7 Comments »

A palindrome is a word or sentence that can be read the same way frontwards or backwards. An example of a palindrome word would be “tenet” or “civic”. It gets more interesting (and fun) with sentences though. Here are six nice ones, and an idea on how to use these in class.

 

 

1. Madam, I’m Adam!

2. Step on no pets.

3. No lemon, no melon.

4. Dammit, I’m mad!

5. Was it a car or a cat I saw?

6. A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.

One way that these could be exploited in class is like this. Write the first one on the board but give the students three or four choices on what the last word could be.  For example…

Madam, I’m a) Adam b) Scott c) Janet

They probably won’t guess correctly. Give them the answer (but don’t say why). Now give them the next sentence, again with choices for the last word.

Step on no a) dogs b) pets c) cracks.

Tell them to look carefully at both sentences. Can they figure out why the last word is what it is? Continue this way with the other palindromes

Photo from Paramount Star Trek site

"The ship doesn't can take off?" Spock demonstrates a bold new approach to error correction. This month the new Star Trek film comes out.

And here they are, another half dozen little ideas that could spark off a class. It’s a bit too late for a May 1st activity (and anyhow, many teachers won’t be working that day) However, there should be something in here for everyone! 

1. Release your inner geek! The new Star Trek film opens May 7 so expect news stories about this and Trekkies around the world. I aim on doing a Science Fiction movie quiz with my students. Another possibility would be to find some stills from the film and get students to write a bit of hammy dialogue to go with it. If you really want to geek out you could look at the effect the Star Trek franchise has had on the English language. Beam me up Scotty! 

2. Listen to classical music! May 7 has a remarkable number of connections with classical music. It is the birth anniversaries of Tchaikovsky (1840) and Brahms (1833) and it also marks the premiere of  Beethoven’s famous Ninth Symphony (1824). Use classical music from one of these composers in your class. This could be as a simple background music while they do an activity or as a prompt for a writing activity. There are two ways you could do this. One is to put the music on and ask students to write whatever comes into their head while listening (freestyle). Another way would be to tell them that this music has been chosen for a new advertisement, or a new television show. Students listen and have to say what the product is/what the show is about.

3. Talk vaccines and diseases. Ok, so swine flu is the big news at the moment. You could prepare a reading with some basic facts about it, I found this site with information but I’m sure there are many others.  Or you could talk about how humans have overcome diseases in the past. May 14, for instance, is the anniversary of the discovery of the smallpox vaccine (1796). This is good material for a reading or live listening (a live listening being one in which you do the talking; giving them a live lecture in this case)

4.  Play tennis! May is Tennis month in America. Why not play a tennis-type language game? Grammar tennis (from Rinvolucri’s book Grammar Games) involves two players. One “serves” by saying the past participle of the verbforgotten. The other returns by saying the past tense forgot. The first person returns by saying the infinitive forget. Loads of fun, and could be adapted to do with vocabulary items too (e.g. one person begins with a word in a lexical set and the rally continues until someone can’t think of a word)

5. Celebrate mothers! This month contains mother’s day in many countries. Mark this event by teaching all the expressions with “mother” in English (e.g. mother-in-law, surrogate mother, mother’s boy, mother tongue, mother lode, full-time mother, Mother Earth, mother hen…). An easy activity would have students match the words to definitions (I found this list of words here). You could also mention that mother was listed as the top favourite words by language learners in a British Council survey (news story about this here). Or ask students to find compound nouns with mother and father and compare the lists both in English and their own language (e.g. Mother Earth, Father Time). Or simply ask students to write a paragraph about their mother…

6. Apologise! Teach your students various ways of apologising. You could also set up a series of mini roleplays in which one of the students has to apologise to the other. As part of the same class, explain that May 26 is Sorry Day in Australia. Sorry Day? What’s Sorry Day? your students might ask. Tell them to find out more for homework from this site and/or by watching this video.