Question of the day

Can I help you?

In three minutes this video gave me goosebumps. It’s not the first time I encountered the idea that kindness is contagious, but it’s another thing to watch someone put it into practice. The gratefulness, the “someone sees me”, the “someone cares” leaps right out of the screen.

“Can I help you with anything?”, produced by Kindness.org, so simple yet so potent, so connected. Can you remember a time when someone just reached out and gave you a hand? Perhaps you didn’t even know you were struggling and they just cut into your bubble and helped.

I don’t have too many anecdotes, but those I do, I cherish. I also cherish times where I have stepped in and the person let me help them. In my mind, this is a unique privilege that is sometimes more about me than about them. Because it feels so lovely to feel the upside of my humanity. Better than a glass of good wine, a beach breeze or even a great tune, it ignites my soul.

Warm-up

Can you think of stories involving random acts of kindness? Either someone helping you, or you helping someone. How did it feel?

The video: Can I help you? Kindness.org

Discussion

  • What is Joe’s objective?
  • What are some of the problems he encounters?
  • What are some of the things he does?
  • Do you need money to help people?
  • What is meaningful?
  • What is the butterfly effect?
  • As a class, make a list of random acts of kindness
  • Who, in today’s world, promotes kindness?

Blessings to you…

How do you poach an egg?

How do you poach an egg? Yes, that is my discussion question for today. Easy right? In my humble experience, poaching an egg is one of the harder cooking skills I have ever had to master.

But aside from the culinary anecdotes, the mmmEnglish YouTube channel prepares cooking lessons with the goal of teaching English. Now I know it goes against the Whole Language Approach to use adapted materials, but I think this video has got all the authenticity features of first language material and is a great resource for beginner ESL material, of which I don’t have a whole lot.

So if you are looking for a good launchpad to teach food words or cooking verbs or just a good listening exercise that focuses on process, this is a short, slow, clear and useful video. Especially if you are trying, as I am, to make the perfect poached egg. Bon appétit!

Warm UP

Do a quick Mind Map of all the food words your students know. Perhaps you could also prompt a few cooking verbs.

The Video: How to Poach an Egg by mmmEnglish

Discussion Questions

  • What are the ingredients?
  • What tools are needed?
  • What are the steps?
  • Complete these sentences:
    • The water is perfect when it has small________ but it is not boiling.
    • The yoke must be _______but not hard.
    • Toast is just a ________that has be toasted in the ______
    • ______butter on the toast.
  • Make a list of all the cooking verbs. Can you put them in another sentence?

Top 7 Travel Destinations 2019

If you could go anywhere on vacation, no budget, no constraints, where would you go? Erik Conover is a filmmaker and traveler and he has used social media to help him discover new and little know traveling gems.

He challenged his YouTube followers to make suggestions for the most incredible travel destinations. From this list, he charts his course and reports his adventures on his YouTube channel.

The result is a super interesting video of incredible destinations that have definitely made it to my bucket list.

Warm-Up

-What are your top 7 travel destinations and why?

The Video: Top 7 INCREDIBLE Travel Destinations of 2019 by Erik Conover

Questions

Depending on the level of your students, you can either watch the whole thing in one shot or pause it after each country and to a quick Tell Back.

For each destination say:

  • What activities can you do there?
  • What foods can you eat?
  • What discoveries did you make?

Have you been to any of the destinations in the video?

Which destination would you choose?

Which destination would you not choose?

Where did you go on vacation?

Where did you go on vacation?

A simple question to start off the new eslcoversation.ca season. Of course not everyone goes on vacation, but usually the summertime presents opportunities for special visits, adventures, road trips and vacations. I love my vacations. My family and I look forward to them all year. And then, when they are over, we talk about them all year.

There is so much more that happens other than the vacation. No television (less of it anyway), we spend our days together, we eat special food, do activities we have never done before–It is a total break in the routine.

Hiking in Vermont

That’s why this week’s theme will be devoted to summer, vacations and routine-breakers.

Warm up

Do a quick Mind Map of the vocabulary associated with vacations.

The Discussion

My colleague Larry Pitts has an absolutely fabulous site chalked full of open-ended questions. I think this is the perfect place to start our vacation discussion.

Click on the image to go to the site.

The next posts will feature a video or perhaps an article, but for today, the good ol’ Q&A will do the trick.

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Do you have a job or a mission?

Do you have a job or a mission?

Level: mid-intermediate and advanced

Celeste Headlee, a trained opera singer turned radio show host, has some rather interest insight to share about the difference between a job and a mission. She also has a lot to say about how we get stuck focusing on our education and job expectations and miss the larger picture. But if you think she gives the same old spiel about finding your passion, being brave and embracing your true calling, you would be wrong. She knows we all have mortgages, rent, food, and stuff to pay for. And she also knows that finding your passion is complicated, changing, and doesn’t always match the needs of the market. Thankfully, she is not going to tell you to quit your job or sit at the top of a mountain to meditate.

This is the third post on this series on jobs and careers. So far we have gone through some basic vocabulary and explored what jobs are out there and then saw some fun ways to go about choosing. In this post, we will take a more analytical approach and explore the skills connected to jobs. We are going to exercise our mental flexibility and examine the components of various jobs or fields and see how they can apply to other jobs and fields.

Pre discussion

  • What do you think is the difference between a job and a mission?
  • How many job-related skills can you name? (e.g. teacher: public speaking, content design, presentation design, audience analysis, etc.)

The Video: TED Don’t find a job, find a mission

Discussion questions

  • Do a Mind Map or recap of all the main points of the talk (see our list)
  • What do you do? What are the skills involved in your job?
  • Do you like your job? What do you like and don’t like?
  • What things do you look for when looking for work?
  • If you were to do something completely different, what would it be?
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Profession: super hero

If you could do a job a week, which would they be?

If you could do a job a week, which would they be?

Level: beginner, intermediate and advance

Ever feel like you want to re-invent yourself? Like even though you are an English teacher, you could have also been a baker, or a computer programmer.

In the spirit of practicality, we usually chose one job, study for it and then go do it. But in fact, very few people work in the field they study in and even fewer people are truly happy doing what they do.

That’s why I love this video by Sean Aiken. He finds the question of finding a profession so limiting and stressful, that instead of sitting in the dark and brooding about it, he challenged himself to a different job a week. 52 weeks 52 jobs.

In this post, I am referencing the trailer to the film as a discussion launch pad.

Pre Discussion

  • Mind Map all the different jobs and fields you know
  • If you could choose 5 jobs instead of just one, what would they be?

The Video: On Week Job Trailer

Discussion

  • What is Aiken’s response to finding his passion?
  • What do you think it will led Aiken? What job do you see him doing?
  • Why is he doing this video?
  • Which jobs would you do if you could do a job a week?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy?
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What did or do you want to be when you grow up?

What did or do you want to be when you grow up?

Level: beginner and intermediate

If you are like me, that question makes you cringe. Why? Because I have wanted to be so many things. Narrowing it down was a stressful process filled with doubt–even today.

Of course it’s normal to think about it. It’s also normal to look at your children and try to see where their strengths are. Are they mathematical or artistic? Are they builders or sports enthusiasts. The answer is probably complex.

Yet to be able to pay for food and rent and get around, most of us need to narrow something down. Ideally it is work that we like and provides us with the kind of lifestyle that we like. But statistically speaking, it’s unlikely.

This is the first of three posts on this topic. In this post, I am featuring a wordless animated short by Jasmin Lai entitled When I Grow Up. It is a great launching pad to uncover all the job related vocabulary and perhaps begin the discussion of the stresses associated with choosing a job.

Pre Discussion

  • How many jobs can you name? Do a Mind Map.
  • What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  • Did that happen? Why or why not?

The video: When I Grow UP by Jasmin Lai

Discussion Questions

  • Why do she compare her clothes to the other people taking the bus?
  • Try to name as many professions as you can.
  • How do you think the main character is feeling?
  • What do you have to think of when choosing a profession? (e.g. education, talent, work conditions, etc.)

In the next post, I will feature a trailer of Sean Aiken’s film One Week Job where instead of thinking about his passion, Aiken just goes out and tries a bunch of jobs.

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Are your clothes environmentally friendly?

Are your clothes environmentally friendly? Do you even know. I didn’t. Manufacturing clothes is a complex industry that involves chemicals, non-ethical labour (child labour), shipping, and very high carbon emissions (5% over the overall carbon emission every year).

Clothes define us. Make us feel pretty or handsome, help us feel confident. I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to feel good in a job interview when you are wearing and old suit. But

Still, I know that my love of clothes is not the best for the planet. So I made one of my environmental objectives to buy more second hand clothes. In this PBS YouTube show Hot Mess they present other ways to help reduce our environmental foot print with different ways of choosing and buying clothes.

Teachers note: The presenter speaks fast. But you can reduce the speed to 0.75 and still get a natural flow. You can also add the close captions. If the rate and vocabulary is a bit frustrating for your students, encourage them to use their meta-knowledge to achieve comprehension (images, body language, guessing from context). The faster they get over what they don’t understand, the better they will feel when faced with native speakers in real life.

Pre discussion

  • Do you like to shop for clothes?
  • Do you ever buy second hand clothes?
  • What do you do with the clothes you don’t wear anymore?

Some concepts to explore before the video:

  • clothing as a status symbol
  • impact on the planet
  • textiles, garments
  • releasing carbon dioxide, green house gas emission
  • climate friendly
  • fossil fuel
  • sustainable
  • ethical labour
  • environmentally friendly shipping

The Video: PBS Hot Mess How To Make Clothes Less Terrible for the Planet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc1_kadX5nU

Discussion Questions

  • Stop the video 2 or 3 times and do a Mind Map of all the key concepts.
  • Why are clothes so important to us?
  • What are some of the impacts of polyester, rayonne, leather, and cotton?
  • What are some of the environmentally friendly things we can do to reduce the impact of buying clothes?
  • After watching this video, what could you change in your buying habits that could improve the impact of the clothing industries’ impact on the environment?
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Let me know how it goes…

Can my body language affect my mood?

Can my body language affect my mood? Your body language may not only affect how people perceive you, but it may also have an impact on your brain chemistry. Watch Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk (I suggest you break it down into smaller parts and do short Tell Backs) to find out just how profound the way we carry ourselves changes our outlook.

Teachers note: 

Cuddy speaks fast, but the vocabulary is relatively repetitive and she uses a lot of non-visuals. I would encourage you to preface this video with a bit about the Whole Language Approach. Tell them that they don’t have to understand everything. Review some of the meta-tools they have to achieve comprehension: non-verbal language, guessing from context. It may be frustrating for adults not to understand everything, but I feel it is important to expose them to first language material to prepare them for real life conversations with native speakers. Thus the more they get used to (by that I mean get used to not understanding everything) quick talking native speakers the more they will likely take their English out and use it.

Also you can add subtitles and slow the video down a bit with these features:

Pre discussion

  • Some vocabulary:
    • posture
    • body language
    • non verbal behaviour
    • power dynamics
    • power and dominance
    • assertive
    • optimistic
    • hormone
    • fake it t’ill you make it
  • What kind of body language makes a good impression?¬†
  • How important do you think body language is in communication

*You could cut the video at about 14:00 where Cuddy describes the study that supports her findings. Unless you find that interesting (which it is) it might be a little detached from the general point.

The Video: TED Amy Cudy Your body language may shape who you are

 

What is the most important element that Cuddy is highlighting?

Why is it important to be “body aware”?

What will happen if you change your body language the way Cuddy suggests?

What can you conclude about the impacts of posture on our outlook on life?

For more on this topic see Body Language Mistakes

 

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Would you rather text than talk?

Would you rather text or email than talk?

It’s just so easy. I don’t have to interrupt anyone, I can write while I’m in the moment, I don’t have to hold anything in my memory, or remember to ask what might have happened after a doctor’s visit or some sort of major life event, I don’t even have wait my turn to talk. When the thought appears, I can just shoot a message off and my counter part can react when it is convenient for them. In some case, with my more talkative friends (and family members) a digital message is the only way I can get a word in edgewise.

Plus, I can re-read, check my tone or make sure I didn’t word anything in an insensitive way. I can edit. Digital communication allows me to put forth my best self. Great stuff…right?

Sherry Turkle is not so sure. Her TED talk Connected but Alone? takes a good hard look at what digital communication may be doing to us. We have all heard that technology may be making us more isolated, so beyond this statement, just how it is doing that? Turkle gets right under the hood of our communication habits and puts forth some thought provoking concepts that definitely gave me pause.

This lesson is definitely for more advanced students. I did this with a mixed class of high level and lower level students and the lower level were a bit lost. However, I still recommend using first language material as much as you can to get their ears and minds used to native speaking. Once they get over focusing on what they don’t understand and focus on what they do, they will increase their ability to get into the English speaking community.

Pre discussion

  • Let’s hypothesize…Why do you think Turkle thinks texting and emailing is making us more isolated?
  • Make a pros and cons list for digital communication
  • What is the difference between isolation and solitude?
  • What is the difference between friendship and companionship?
You can change the play back speed
And add subtitles

The Video: TED Sherry Turkle: Connected but Alone?

There is a ton of stuff to talk about here. And rather than try to Tell Back everything Turkle says (although you are free to do that), I would jump right into the discussion with some of the following key ideas:

  • “We want to customize our lives and control where we put our attention”
  • “We are getting used to being alone…together”
  • “We are compromising companionship for friendship”
  • “We have an illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”
  • “We can’t get enough of each other, at a distance, in amounts we can control”
  • “We use technology to manage our relationships in ways we can comfortably control”
  • Technology is satisfying 3 basic fantasies:
    • We can put our attention where we want it to be
    • We will always be hear
    • We will never be alone
  • “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved”
  • “I share therefore I am”
  • “Connection is creating isolation”
  • “We need to cultivate the capacity for solitude”
  • “We need to build a self-aware relationship with technology”

And I could go on and on pulling quotes from this video. Turkle is articulate, astute and a fantastic social analyst.

I am ready to admit that I am getting caught in the fray of convenience, but short of stopping (which is not going to happen) Turkle has helped me see where I might be more self-aware.

I hope you enjoy talking about this as much as me and my students.

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