Entries in lessons (6)


Globalisation and fair trade: a research activity

Researching and finding useful information in English can be difficult, especially if you want to present something clear and concise to the class. Here are some ideas to help you research the concept of fair trade and/or globalisation.

I suggest you limit yourself to 10-15 minutes maximum of "searching" in order to have time to use and understand the resource or resources you choose.

1. Google searches: Try to limit your search. Try searches like:

fair trade + definition

fair trade + ESL

fair trade + basic facts

2. News site searches: Sometimes it is easier and more interesting to go directly to a news site and search one specific site. Some examples of sites you could search:




NOTE: for a two-word search, don't forget to use apostrophes: "fair trade"

3. Looking for ideas? Try www.eyeplorer.com

This site helps you see different aspects of a subject and could give you a specific idea to research.

4. Podcasts? Video? Slideshows? Images?

Of course you can use this type of resource. Just check the difficulty before spending too much time on an audio or video extract.

Adding +ESL to your search can help you find audio or video extracts suitable for English students, but there are also a lot of sites that are mainly advertising, or difficult to navigate. See me if you need help.




TOEIC Listening Class Thursday February 11th

I hate February. I don't know about you, but winter in Aveyron weighs upon me starting on about, I guess, February the 1st at 6:00 am.  I suppose the only good thing about February is that it is blessedly short. But then it is followed by my second least favorite month, March, which happens to be terribly long.

Be that as it may, here we are, a week and a half away from the TOEIC. It should be nice to have this class all together in a large group; at least it will warm up the rooms!

For your lab work today, you will have a great deal of choice so do your best to use it well. There are four activities, three listening-centered, and plus an extra reading/visual activity to give you a break. You can do the activities in any order, and will report back to the class on a few things you heard or learned. Take some notes so you remember some vocabulary words, key expressions, and so that you can follow up by speaking to the class.

ACTIVITY ONE: Watching and listening to a news video

Choose a news video from VOA News. The stories with video news are marked with a TV screen. Try to choose a story of interest to you and don't worry if it's long -- "extensive listening" is good practice too.

ACTIVITY TWO: Do one or two theme-based business English listening activities

Listening to Business Spotlight podcasts can be a chance to brush up on a vocabulary theme you're not very familiar with. Many podcasts contain an exercise to do, and the answers are given at the end, directly in the audio. Try to identify if there is an exercise to do and what the task is.

The accents are authentic and a bit on the TOEICky side, IMO. Be careful because a few of the activities include German (it's a German site) but this should be indicated in the description.

There are 13 pages of podcasts, and even reading the descriptions is a good vocabulary activity.


In honor of any student who has ever been late turning in a report or other homework because of "printer problems." Of course the problem wasn't you -- it was the printer:

Why I Believe Printers Were Sent from Hell from The Oatmeal (no audio)


Go to the site Many Things. As the name implies, there are many things on this site, for example the 3,000 question Super Quiz Machine (don't worry, the quizzes are broken down in groups of 20) which can give some good practice for Part V of the TOEIC. Choose what you want to work on -- not necessarily audio.


Try to find an interesting English audio or video yourself and share the link with me, either through a comment here or by email. This can be something you already know, or something you find in class today. I'll be looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


TOEIC Listening Class Thursday Jan 28 2009: Listening to authentic conversations

Today's listening activity is based on the difficult task of listening for details in conversations. You will have two conversations to listen to on Logolab, then you will be able to check the tapescripts online.

The first conversation is called "He was born in Mississipi." You can find it on Logolab as marked on the board. The language is not too difficult, but there are a lot of proper nouns, both geographical and personal.

As you listen, make a list of GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES and NAMES OF FAMOUS PEOPLE. (There are at least 7 geographical names and two names of famous people.) When you recognize and can write a name, also note the details about it. Why is it mentioned in the conversation? What is said about it in the conversation?

After about two listenings, you can check the tapescript at the following link:



The second listening is longer and more complex. It is called "Burke's Education" and is also on Logolab. Burke is a Canadian guy and the interview starts with the history of his school education. Try to note where he did what type of school and what he studied. That is part 1, up to his answer to the question "Did you read Freud or Jung?" You might want to check that part before continuing to part 2.  

Part 2, or the rest of the conversation, is really quite difficult and may not be accessible to everybody in the class. The questions become more abstract and the two men make remarks about society, men and women, and psychological questions. If you do this part of the conversation, just take notes and see what you can understand.  

You will find the tapescript here: 

Burke's Education

(The conversations for this lesson come from the site English Conversations. There are a lot of authentic conversations with an emphasis on North American accents, although all types of accents are represented. It could be a good source of practice for Part III of the TOEIC listening test. The conversations are available as MP3 downloads.)




Sales Activity: Selling a Mobile Phone as a Sales Rep

In today's sales sketch, you are going to sell 10 mobile phones to a company that wants to equip its sales team with new mobile phones. You know that the company doesn't want to spend a lot of money on this equipment.

1. Go to the Best Buy Cell Phone page.

2. In the middle of the page, you will see the "Best-selling" phones. Study the phone descriptions and choose the one you would like to sell to the company.

3. Work individually to prepare your sales argumentation. Remember you are selling as a rep in an appointment situation, not in a shop.

4. Do the sketches with a partner. (2 different sketches.)


5. If time allows, we will listen to a few of the sketches.


Listening class December 15 2009

The holidays are coming, and I had thought about showing a film today, but with the unusual class set-up (coming in to teach only the second half,) I was a bit worried about technical difficulties...so that activity will have to wait until the New Year. I have my film chosen and everything, though.


1. Work in 10 groups of two (or alone if there are absences.) Watch the video or listen to the podcast corresponding to the letter you have been assigned.

A. Black Friday 2009: If you don't know what Black Friday is before you start watching, ask me. This is quite a long video (10 minutes,) so you will probably just want to take notes for the general idea.

B. My Top 10 Christmas Films (6:45) There are several similar lists on the same page; if you have time you could compare this one to another one.

C. Holiday Christmas TV Commercials: These are shorter, so you get a few more to watch:

- Top Four Christmas Commercials (from the 80s and 90s)

- Coke Christmas Commercial from 2009

- Target Christmas Commercial from 2009 Target is an American-based superstore chain, but this ad is for the Australian chain and features an Australian accent.

D.  Christmas Shopping in New York The title says it all.

E. Non-traditional Christmas shopping: A news report from a local American TV station.

2. Unless you are mathematically challenged, you have probably figured out that one other group has your video or audio file. Back in class, compare notes, and prepare a presentation of what you saw or heard for the class.

3. Of course, during the holidays, you can come back to the site and listen to the other files!