Southbound – song – lesson idea and worksheets

Doc and Merle Watson tuning up
Level: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: older teens and adults.
Type: scanning a text for vocabulary anomalies; listening and responding to a song; various writing- or performing-based follow-on tasks.
Skills: reading; listening and pronunciation; speaking; writing.
Language focus: vocabulary related to travel and moving (and missing) home.

Note: the song and lesson ideas below would fit in well with travel- or emigration-related vocabulary and lesson themes; or, of course, they could be used on their own.


  • This worksheet (3 pages)
  • this song (you might want to use keepvid or savevid to download it to your computer):
    YouTube Preview Image
  • you may want to print out the notes below, too (don’t worry, all lesson plans and ideas here are printer-friendly!).


  • make one copy of the complete worksheet (pages one, two and three) for yourself;
  • copy pages one and two for each of your students.

Merle and Doc Watson, black and white photo

    Ideas for warmers

    Option 1

  • Dictate the following questions (or use some of the ones from the “travel” section of my topic-based materials) – you may need to say them more than once:
    1. Describe the place where you grew up. What was it like? What was the best thing about it?
    2. Have you moved house before? If so, how did you feel when you moved? If not, what would make you move home?
    3. Where would you most like to live in the world, and why?
  • Pair your students and ask them to check what they wrote. Elicit the questions and board any which caused difficulty. Drill pronunciation as necessary.
  • Ask your students to answer the questions in their pairs. Elicit that they can ask questions you haven’t asked, to get more information. You may like to monitor your students’ output here, noting down language for subsequent feedback.
  • Stop the activity after a few minutes and get some content feedback from your learners – for example: is there a consensus on the best place to move to? What are some of your students’ favourite memories of (their first) home? How do they feel about where they’re living now?
  • Option 2

  • Draw a rough map of the USA on the board and invite your students to guess what it is.
  • Elicit approximately where New York and Chicago would go on this map. Elicit roughly where Kentucky or North or South Carolina would go (further South!).
  • Ask your students to imagine they come from a farm in a Southern US state. They’ve just moved to a big city up North. How do they feel about their new home? How do they feel about their old home now? What are the main differences between their new and old lives?
  • Allow your students to think about this for a little while, and make some notes about it. Then pair them up, or put them into small groups, and ask them to discuss their ideas. While they discuss, board the following table:
    City lifeCountry life

  • Get some content feedback from your students, helping them reformulate any grammatical or vocabulary errors and boarding their (corrected) answers in your table. Ask your students to note down any words or expressions from the table which they want to remember.
  • Poster: Doc and Merle Watson in concert

    Working with the song

  • Board “Southbound”. Explain that this describes a journey, and elicit which direction you’re travelling if you’re going southbound (South!). Explain that you have a song you’d like your class to listen to – it’s called Southbound and it’s about a man travelling back to his childhood home in the southern United States. If you like, you could ask your students if they think the man will be happy to be going back home and why/why not. They could invent a back story for him, too: why is he going back home? What’s he been doing up north?
  • Divide your students into pairs and show them page one of the worksheet (the lyrics with 10 mistakes). Explain that these are the song’s lyrics, but that there are ten mistakes. Ask them to read through the lyrics and work together to try and change any words that seem wrong or strange.
  • Hand out page one of the worksheet, one copy per pair of students. After a few minutes, ask them to listen to the song and see if they were correct. Give out more copies of page one of the worksheet, so your students each have a copy. Elicit that they can make any further changes as they listen, then play the song below:
    YouTube Preview Image
  • Play the song again if necessary, then hand out the second page of the worksheet. Ask your students to check the real lyrics against their own corrections – any surprises? Which parts of the song were hardest to understand? Check and drill pronunciation of any difficult passages for your students. You could also check unknown vocabulary here, or play the song again while students read along (or sing along with it).
  • Focus your students’ attention on the comprehension questions. Ask them to read the lyrics and try to answer the questions, discussing with their partners what the answers might be and why these might be the answers. Encourage your students to justify their answers – you might want to demonstrate the first question with a stronger student.
  • Get feedback from the class (see the third page of the handout for my suggested answers).
  • Doc Watson - family photo

    Some possible follow-ups

    Follow-up 1 – updating the lyrics

  • Board:
    Reason for moving:
  • Put your students into new pairs or small groups. Focus on what you’ve just boarded and ask each pair or group to decide together on answers to these prompts.
  • Ask them to choose a musical style they all like, and to write their own “journey” song describing how they’re feeling as they move from one place to another.
  • Circulate and help with language as necessary.
  • Students could either finish this for homework, pin their lyrics on the classroom walls for other groups to read and suggest corrections to or write questions for more information, or they could even record a song to accompany their lyrics (these could be worked on in class as part of a longer project, or added to a class blog, etc.)
  • Follow-up 2 – writing a letter or an email home

  • Board Place: from; to;, and Reason for moving:, as above, put your students into new pairs or new groups and ask them to choose answers to the boarded prompts.
  • Explain that they will write a group letter or email to someone close to them (they can choose who this is), saying where they’re moving to and why. Elicit that the letter/email will be informal and personal, and elicit (and board) a few ways of beginning and ending such correspondence.
  • Circulate and help with language.
  • For homework, students could each take a photocopy of a letter or email from a different group and reply to it.
  • Follow-up 3 – working more with the language of the lyrics

  • Focus your students’ attention on a couple of the internal rhymes in the lyrics – for example: homesick/seem to pick; street/feet. Ask them to find some more examples, either of internal rhymes or rhymes at line-endings.
  • Focus on the image of the moving train. Ask how the internal (and other) rhymes help to capture this rhythm, and how successful they are at doing this.
  • Focus on some of the informalities of the language, such as cos (for because) and burnin’ (with no final g). Ask your students what other words or expressions they can find which show the song is not very formal (some ideas: counting sheep; ain’t got a dime; big old engine; …).
  • Board some of these informal words and expressions, then set the groundwork for a new story (you could ask, and accept the first serious answers to, these questions: how many people are in the story? Do they know each other? If so, how? If not, how do they meet? How old are they?, and so on – by asking fairly closed questions in this way, and not allowing pauses before answers, you’ll quickly be able to build up a story framework with your students).
  • Ask your students to write this story, either as a narrative, a song, a poem, a letter or an email. Ask them to incorporate all of the boarded informal language in what they write.
  • Monitor and help with language, and suggest ideas (perhaps using the closed questions technique above), as necessary. Stories could be finished for homework, pinned around the room for corrections or questions from the other groups, etc.

“Double Date” Gavin & Stacey Lesson Plan

Level: intermediate to upper-intermediate.
Ages: teens to adults.
Type: discussion and language activities based around a Gavin & Stacey comedy clip.
Skills: speaking; listening; writing – note-taking. There are further activities for focussing on pronunciation and conversational fluency.
Language focus: personality adjectives; sentence-level grammar; general vocabulary consolidation.

copies of these paper-based materials (see below for how many copies you’ll need of each part);
a copy of this youtube video (you could download it with keepvid or a similar program, though I’m not entirely sure this is legal in every country!);
some blank paper (if you want to do the describe-and-draw follow-on activity, below);
some post-it notes or scraps of paper and blu-tack (if you want to do the fluency activity, below).

from the printable materials above, make:

  • copies of the pictures of the 4 main characters, one copy per group of 3-4 students;
  • copies of the expressions gapfill and answers, one per student;
  • double-sided copies of the two “flip-fill” pages, one per pair of students, and copies of the transcript , one per student (if you want to focus on sentence-level grammar after the listening and speaking activities)


  1. Mime an action in a particular state of mind (e.g., going into your lounge and turning on the telly after a long day at work, winning a game of golf). Ask your students what you were doing and how you were feeling. Ask your students how much they think they can tell about a person from their body language and appearance.
  2. Hand out the pictures. Ask your students to look through them and think about and write notes about the people’s personalities, lifestyles, jobs and ages. What do they do? Do they lead a very active lifestyle? What adjectives could you use to describe their personalities? How old are they? (It might be a good idea to ban the words, “I don’t know” from their discussion before they begin).
  3. Whole-class feedback: divide the board into 4 vertical columns, headed Gavin, Smithy, Stacey, Nessa. Elicit and board personality adjectives (and perhaps idioms or set expressions) for each, helping your students extend their vocabulary along the way. Elicit and board possible jobs, ages, and lifestyle choices (how active are they? Do they sit at home and watch the telly? Are they gym bunnies? etc.).
  4. Dictate:
  5. – do these people all know each other?
    – why are they meeting?
    – what’s going to happen next?

  6. Check in pairs and then check with the class as a whole.
  7. Play the video below with the sound off. Ask your students to look at the characters’ body language and appearance and try to answer these questions.
  8. Ask your students to discuss their ideas in pairs.
  9. Get some ideas from the class, and also ask them what they think the four characters will sound like. Who do they think talks the quickest? Who has the highest-pitched voice? Who sounds the most relaxed?
  10. Divide your students into A B pairs. Say that you’ll watch the video this time with the sound on. Ask As to check their answers to the first set of questions (do the people all know each other? why are they meeting? what’s going to happen next?). Ask Bs to listen to the characters’ voices: how would they describe them? Which do they like best? Which is the easiest/most difficult to understand?
  11. Play the video, then put As in one group, and Bs in another. Ask them to share their ideas. Do they agree with each other? What do they disagree about? Open this out into a whole-class discussion.
  12. If your students like, you can watch the video again. This time, they could focus on the language: ask them to listen out for these words – “cardy”, … and to try and write down the expressions in which they occur. Again, ask your students to compare what they wrote or heard in pairs, before discussing the language as a class. What were the expressions? Were there any words or expressions they didn’t understand? When might they use these expressions in conversation?

There are many directions in which you could take the lesson at this point. Here are four ideas:

(a) Focus on vocabulary – describe and draw
There are a number of personality adjectives, etc. on the board. You could divide your students into A B pairs, give each B a piece of paper, and ask As to mentally picture their best friend or someone they really admire, then describe this person to B, who draws what they hear. Make sure As cannot see Bs’ paper. Set a time limit of about 4 or 5 minutes, then ask A and B to swap roles. Finally, ask them to compare their drawings and describe this person’s personality, or say why they like or admire them so much, using some of the personality adjectives on the board in their answers. Bs could then stand and move one pair to their left, and then tell each other what they remember about their former partner’s friend or admired person. You could monitor the language here for subsequent feedback.

(2) Focus on sentence-level grammar
This is based on an idea by Jason Renshaw.

  • Divide your students into pairs and give out the double-sided “flip-fill” worksheets (see “materials”, above). On one side, most of the function words have been removed; on the other side, all the function words are there, but many of the content words have been removed. Hand out the worksheets with the gaps-for-function-words side on top, facing the students.
  • Set a time limit of about 5 minutes and ask your students to use their memories and knowledge of English to put the missing words back in, explaining that these are almost all “grammar” words (articles, prepositions, conjunctions, …). Ask them to guess if they’re not sure.
  • After about 5 minutes, ask them to turn their sheets over.
  • Elicit that, this time, the “grammar” words are all there and many of the content words (nouns, adjectives, verbs, some adverbs) are missing. Ask your students to check the grammar words and, using their memories and knowledge of English, fill in the missing words on this side of the paper. This time, set a time limit of about 4 minutes.
  • Finally, either repeat this activity, this time with a time limit of 3 minutes (for the grammar words) and 2 1/2 minutes (for the content words), or allow your students to flip the sides at will to check their answers and complete the gaps. If you like, you can give them the complete text at the end.

(3) Focussing on speaking fluency

  • Return to your students’ ideas about why Gavin, Stacey, Smithy and Nessa are meeting. Elicit “blind date” and “double date”.
  • Dictate these questions: have you ever been on a blind date, or would you ever go on one? What about a double date with a friend?
  • Check to make sure your students have written the same questions (you could elicit and board them), then divide your students into pairs or small groups, asking them to discuss these two questions, giving reasons for their answers. You can monitor for language at this point.

  • After a few minutes, ask your students for their views (getting content feedback).
  • Either move onto language feedback from your notes, or elicit a couple of questions your students might ask people they’ve just met to find out more about them (e.g., “what’s your favourite meal?”, “who in the world would you most like to have dinner with?”).
  • Ask your students to work in small groups, given out some blank paper or post-it notes to each group, and ask them to think of and write some more questions they could ask. Set a time limit (say, 8 minutes) and monitor this activity, helping with question forms and vocabulary.
  • Ask each group to stick their questions on the classroom walls, or leave their sheet of paper on the desk in front of them. Ask them to walk around the room, looking at the questions and checking for vocabulary and grammar mistakes. They can write their corrections; and if they’re not sure of something, they can check with each other and, if necessary, ask you. Again, monitor this activity, helping with language.
  • Divide the class into new small groups. Ask them to walk around the room again, this time using the questions to start conversations with each other. Point out that they will be practicing speaking for fluency with this activity, and elicit that they should try to give longer answers, and that listeners can ask other questions (which are not written down) to get more information.
  • Monitor the language as your students do this activity for subsequent feedback and correction.

(4) Role-play

  • Divide your students into pairs. Ask them to imagine it’s a week later. Two of the characters are meeting in a cafe. Ask your students to decide which two characters are meeting and ask them to devise and write a short dialogue, talking about their date the week before.
  • As your students write, you can monitor and help with language as necessary.
  • When your students have finished, ask them to practice their role-plays. Monitor and help with pronunciation here: how are they feeling at each point in the dialogue? How can they show this through body language and intonation?
  • If you have a confident and settled class, you might ask each group to perform their role-play, while the other students listen and note down things they liked about it (perhaps the language, or the humour, or the way the performers expressed their feelings) and things they thought could be better (were there any parts which were difficult to understand, for example?). After all the groups have performed, you can lead class feedback (perhaps you can focus on aspects of pronunciation, such as differentiating individual sounds and sentence stress), inviting the different groups to share their thoughts too.
  • If your group are not so confident, you can ask them to continue practising, while inviting different groups to walk around the class and note down things they liked and things they thought could be improved in the dialogues they see and hear. You could then lead class feedback as above.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Talia Lash, whose idea it was to do a lesson based on this video, and who first got me into Gavin and Stacey.

“Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Conchords – lesson plan

Level: strong pre-intermediate to weak upper-intermediate.
Ages: teens or (young) adults.
Type: raising awareness of phonemes; song; gapfill.
Skills: pronunciation; listening; writing and speaking (in the follow-up).
Language focus: textual cohesion (grammar and vocabulary); informal vocabulary.

Note: I found an interesting approach to using songs in the classroom in The Resourceful English Teacher, by Jon Chandler and Mark Stone. They suggest making gapfills out of the final words of songs with rhyming lyrics, especially with raps, and asking students to work together to think of rhymes and then complete the gaps with these rhyming words. They then listen and check their ideas. This lesson is an outgrowth of that concept.

Warning: if you have extremely sensitive students, you might want to avoid this song, as its lyrics contain the mildly subversive “have you ever been told that your ass is too big/… you’re mediocre in bed?/… Were you ever called ‘homo’…?” Perhaps try the Superstition or She’s Leaving Home plans instead, if you’re after song lesson ideas.

Materials: you will need access to the youtube video below (you can find it here – you might want to use a program like keepvid or savevid to download it, though beware – it may be illegal in your country to do so!). You will also need:
copies of this gapfill and the completed lyrics for each student;
copies of this worksheet for each group of four – five students;
some blu-tack or other means of sticking paper to walls.
If you’re not sure what the phonetic symbols in stage one (below) mean, this online chart will help you – and, if you have time, this presentation by Adrian Underhill will show you how you can introduce the symbols generally in your lessons.

Stage 1 – phoneme awareness

  • Board /iː/ /ɪ/ /a/ /e/ /ʊ/ and /ʃ/. Explain that these are phonetic symbols and that your students can see them in dictionaries. Explain that they show you how to pronounce words in English, and that they are all English sounds. Elicit the sounds, and elicit which one is “long” (/iː/). Show how /ː/ makes a sound longer and let your students practice saying /iː/ and /ɪ/.
  • Board /aɪ/ and ask your students to say, first, each sound separately, and then to put them together. Ask them if they can feel the glide from one sound to the other. Board /eɪ/ and do the same again.
  • Ask your students which sound on the board elicit which one is not a vowel (/ʃ/) and elicit the sound again.
  • Finally, board /ˈɪʃʊs/ and ask your students to say these sounds. Elicit what the stress marker does (/ˈ/ comes before the main stressed syllable in a word – you could also elicit secondary stress, which is /ˌ/).

Stage 2 – introducing and doing the rhyming task

  • Elicit a word that ends with /ˈɪʃʊs/ (you could draw a picture, or act, someone going “mmmm!” over a delicious plate of food here). Elicit another word that ends with the same sound (nutritious, perhaps).
  • Board /ɪɡ/ and /eɪ/. Again, elicit the sounds and elicit two words that end with the same sound (e.g., big, pig, wig, swig; away, today, hooray, eh?, …).
  • Board “rhyme” and explain that the two words under each piece of phonetic script rhyme.
  • Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4 students and show them the worksheet (it has phonetic script in bold, each page divided into 3 sections).
  • Ask each group of students to work together to find and write as many words as possible that rhyme with the sounds in phonetic script. Elicit that these words don’t have to be just one syllable, and can be nouns, verbs, adjectives or other words. Elicit they should write clearly, too!
  • Set a time limit of a few minutes and distribute the worksheets, one per group.

Stage 3 – introducing and doing the gapfill task

  • Distribute the blu-tack and ask one student from each group to stick their worksheet on the wall behind them, and then to sit down.
  • Show students a still from the youtube clip below (perhaps about 6 or 7 seconds in) and tell them it’s from a song they will hear. Elicit what kind of song it is, and what they think it will be about.
  • Show them the song with gapfills. Point out that there are some phonetic symbols (which should seem strangely familiar) next to the gaps and elicit what you want the students to do (complete the gaps with a word that rhymes with the phonetic script).
  • Elicit that, as the students’ own ideas about what words rhyme are around the room, they should take the gapfill sheet and a pen or pencil, and look at the different posters for possible missing words. Elicit that they should still work together in groups for this, so they can discuss what words might go in the gaps. Finally, elicit that they can do all this before they listen to the song.
  • Set a time limit of about 5 – 10 minutes for this, give out the gapfill task and ask your students to look at the different posters to complete the gaps.
  • Monitor and check this, giving occasional clues, or helping with unknown vocabulary, if students really get stuck.

Stage 4 – checking by listening

  • Once a group thinks it has finished (and you’ve checked their work to make sure their words grammatically fit), ask all your students to sit down. Make sure they all have a copy of the gapfill task in front of them.
  • Tell them they’ll now hear the song so they can check their ideas.
  • Play the whole song through once, then ask your students to check their work together in pairs.
  • If necessary, ask your students to change pairs and compare notes, then play the song again.
  • Give out the completed lyrics and ask your students to quickly check their answers.
  • Get their reactions to the song – what kind of song was it? Who liked it? Who thought it wasn’t their cup of tea? What song would they most like to hear? etc.

Possible follow-ups
You could prepare some discussion questions on the subject of “hurt feelings”, or do some more reading about the subject, but it might be better to return to the focus on pronunciation. You could:

  1. ask students to look at the posters again in their groups, choose their 3 favourite rhyming pairs from each poster, and make a rap or other song using those rhymes. You could board a few genres – comedy, horror, romance – to help students decide the theme of their song.
  2. board the name of your school (if you think it has some interesting rhymes) and ask your students to think of rhymes for it. They can then look at the posters again, choose their favourite rhyming pairs, and use these words plus some of the school rhymes to make a song or rap about the school.

These could (if your students are willing) be practised and performed or recited.

“The World’s Strictest Parents” Youtube Lesson Plan

Levels: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: engaging and working with interesting TV excerpts; encouraging students to justify their opinions.
Skills: listening; speaking.
Language focus: vocab – parents & children, agreeing/disagreeing/giving opinions; grammar – imperatives, unreal conditionals.

Time needed: approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Preparation: copies of this worksheet and chopped-up copies of these questions for all students. These pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (the main protagonists) – one per six or so students should be plenty. Access to a laptop or interactive whiteboard for the video part of the lesson. Whiteboard and pens.


  1. Divide students into pairs or groups of three. Draw a bee on the whiteboard and elicit what it is; board “spelling bee” and elicit what each team of two or three students must do.
  2. Dictate the following list of adjectives and ask students to write them as they think they are spelt: obedient, fun-loving, respectful, lenient, strict, lazy, hard-working, adventurous, rebellious, loving, bossy, demanding. You can go over any unknown vocabulary with them afterwards – the test now is to use their knowledge of English spelling to write the words.
  3. Pairs have a minute or two to check each other’s spelling and agree on a team list of words. They then pass their team list to the group on their left, who will give one point for each correctly spelt word. Nominate different students to spell the words and deal with any vocabulary questions as they arise. Board the words as they are spelt and elicit any corrections. Drill pronunciation as necessary.
  4. Students give feedback to their peers. Teacher asks: did anyone get more than five points? More than ten? to find the top team.
  5. Teacher boards two columns, one headed “parents” and the other headed “teenagers.” Re-group students into fours or fives and ask them to decide together which adjectives go best with “parents” and which with “teenagers.” Elicit that they must agree on their answers and that they must justify them.
  6. Get feedback from the class – which adjective goes where, and why. Promote disagreement wherever possible, as this will encourage students to justify their choices.
  7. Divide students into new pairs or threes and give out this worksheet. Ask them to decide together on the most appropriate minimum ages to do these activities, and to give reasons for their answers.
  8. After a few minutes, and if the enthusiasm for discussion is still there, combine pairs into larger groups of fours or fives and ask them to agree on a list of ages; extend this again until you have a class decision.
  9. Get feedback and find out why students have ascribed the ages they have.
  10. Board “The World’s Strictest Parents” and explain that students will watch a British programme with this title. Show the pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (see above) and ask students what adjectives they would use to describe them.
  11. Ask students what they think will happen in this programme, then play the first 1 minute 30 seconds and check their answers as a class (useful questions to ask could be: how many British teenagers do we follow in each programme? [two]; how long do they go away for? [one week]; in this episode, which country do they go to? [Ghana]).
  12. Give each student a copy of the questions on Part One of this worksheet. Explain that they will now watch part one of the programme, and ask them to listen for the answers to each of these questions. Explain any unknown vocabulary on the question sheet.
  13. Play part one of the youtube video, get your students initial reactions, go through the answers together and ask what they think will happen next. Give out the questions for part two of the video and repeat the procedure above.
  14. After playing part two and going through the answers to the questions, ask students how they think the programme will end. Do they think the teenagers’ behaviour will improve? Do they think the teenagers will miss Ghana when they return home? Do they think the teenagers will start to love life with their host family in Ghana? etc.
  15. Play the first six minutes (exactly) of Part V of the programme above. Ask your students who they think has changed the most, and whether they think Lizzie will change. Ask them how they think the programme will end and, if you have time and your students are still in the mood to watch, play the episode Finale (below).
  16. Round off the lesson with a discussion. You could use these questions to get things going or keep the lesson on track: is it good to be strict? Do you think the teenagers have changed permanently, or is it just a temporary change? How are the British and Ghanaian families different? Which family would you prefer to live with? How would your life change if you had to live with the Ghanaian family? Is your family more like the British one or the Ghanaian one? How do you feel about that?

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder – Lesson Plan

Levels: pre-intermediate to upper intermediate.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: conversation; song gapfill; first conditional practice/review.
Skills: listening; speaking; writing.
Language focus: vocab re superstitions and luck; first conditional practice.

a recording of the song “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (a great version on YouTube is here).
one copy of the song lyrics (for you), a gapfill sheet and “Call My Bluff” cards, ALL of which is here

Time needed: 50 minutes.


  1. Print some pictures or draw on the board: a black cat, a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe, etc. Elicit “superstition” and “superstitious”, “lucky/unlucky”, “good luck/bad luck”.
  2. Allow 5 minutes or so for students to think of as many superstitions as they know. This is always quite interesting, as each country will have their own superstitions that will not be known to the whole group. Some useful vocabulary will probably arise.
  3. Board their ideas. Make sure you have 13, ladders and broken mirrors on the board. Teach or elicit that an old fashioned word for mirror is looking glass.
  4. Play verse 1 and chorus of the song. Which does he mention? (ladder, looking glass and 13).
    You can listen to the song here:
  5. Play the whole song (twice if necessary) and students complete the gapfill.
  6. Ask the students what Stevie thinks about superstition. Does he think it is a good or a bad thing, and why? What do they think? Do they believe in any superstitions? Why do people believe in them? What could be the drawbacks in believing in superstitions? Students discuss in groups of three. This normally stimulates a good discussion or debate among students, and some good vocabulary (you may want to pre-teach phrases like “just in case”, “to be on the safe side”, “paranoid”, “all in the mind”).
  7. Board: If you break a mirror, you will have 7 years of bad luck.Elicit that this is a sentence in the first conditional, and that it is a real and not a hypothetical situation. Elicit form (If + infinitive, will/imperative).
  8. Tell students that they are going to invent some superstitions and see if their classmates can guess an invented superstition from a real one. Give each student a card with a real superstition on it, and tell them to create two new ones, using the first conditional. Monitor carefully at this stage.
  9. Students work in groups of three and take it in turns to read out their three superstitions. The others in their group must guess which is the real one.
  10. Feedback and error correct. Do they have any favourite ones?

Extension activity: writing (set this for homework). Do you believe in any superstitions? Do you think superstition is good or bad? Why?

“She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles – Lesson Plan

Levels: intermediate to upper-intermediate.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: song gapfill; letter writing based on responses to the song.
Skills: listening; speaking; reading; writing; pronunciation (rhymes).
Language focus: vocab as arises from the song and subsequent writing activity.

You will need a recording of “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles (a YouTube version is here),
a copy of the lyrics,
several copies of the first verse printed out (widely spaced) for the running dictation, copies of the gapfill exercise and copies of the discussion questions (all here).
You will also need a large space for the running dictation – either a large classroom or the use of a corridor.

Time needed: 50 minutes.


  1. Set up a running dictation of the first verse of the song (page 2 of the attachment). Don’t say anything about it at this stage.
  2. When over half of the pairs have finished, sit students down in their pairs and get them to compare their writing with each other. Ask them what kind of text they think it is (a letter, an article, a poem?). They will probably guess it is a song.
  3. Give them the original text and play verse 1 at the same time, so they can check their running dictation against the real text while listening.
    You can listen to the song here:
  4. Vocab input: handkerchief (demonstrate with realia or use a tissue but make sure they know a handkerchief is made of fabric. Concept check: Is a handkerchief made of paper? Is it modern or old fashioned to have a handkerchief? Elicit part of speech, syllables, stress etc)clutching (demonstrate with a board pen, first holding, then clutching. Concept check: Do I feel relaxed when I clutch the pen?)
  5. Brief discussion in pairs or groups of three: Who is this person? Where is she going?
  6. Board guesses (real answer: a young girl, probably a teenager, is running away from her parents’ house. Don’t tell them yet!).
    Play the chorus. Were their guesses correct?
  7. Vocab input: pre-teach or elicit snores, dressing gown, denied, sacrificed
  8. Play song all the way through (twice if necessary). Students complete gapfill (page 1 of attachment). Double gaps are phrasal verbs.
  9. Ask students if it is a sad or a happy song. This may get them in the mood for speaking. Give them the discussion questions (page 3 of the attachment) and go through them in pairs or groups of three. Go through the answers as a class.

Extension activity:
You could set this up in class and set as homework, or do in pairs in class. Tell the students to imagine they are this girl, and that they are leaving home. They are going to write the note to their parents. Start the letter like this and make sure all the questions are covered:

Dear Mum and Dad,

  • Why am I leaving?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do I feel? (am I sorry?)
  • Do I plan to ever come back?

Airport IWB Lesson

Levels: pre-intermediate to low intermediate.
Ages: older kids; teens; young adults.
Type:matching games; vocab revision; optional interactive whiteboard downloads.
Skills: speaking; listening; pronunciation (particular words).
Language focus: vocabulary for the airport.

a SMARTboard interactive whiteboard and a download of this IWB lesson (if you don’t have a SMARTboard, you can try this pdf version of the whiteboard screens instead;
enough copies of this text and this gapfill task for each student, or pair of students.


  1. Introduce the task by asking students what the longest journey they’ve ever taken is. Invite them to think about the details of this journey – when it was, how long it took, what the best and worst things were about this journey, etc. – and to tell their partner about this trip.
  2. Ask the students if they have ever been stuck at an airport, and what it was like – what did they find to do? Did they get bored? etc. Perhaps tell a story of a time when you were stuck in an airport.
  3. Show the students the second page of the IWB lesson (see above to download). Put them into two or three teams and ask each team to try and name the pictures. Set a time limit of about two minutes for this.
  4. Reveal the answers one at a time, awarding points for correct answers.
  5. Delete the yellow box at the bottom of the second page. Again, in teams, ask students to match the collocations with the pictures. After a couple of minutes, go through this with the class, moving the collocations to the correct places.
  6. Divide the students into pairs and ask one student per pair to face away from the interactive whiteboard. Explain to the other students that they will watch a short film about airport travel; ask these students to make notes of the journey’s stages and explain they will have to give as many details to their partner as they can remember. Ask their partners to write predictions about what the stages will involve whilst they wait.
  7. Play the first half of the video below, from 0:00 to 1:00. (NB, it’s here on youtube, and you can download it via

  8. Swap the students around, so that those who were facing away from the IWB before are now turned towards it, and vice versa. Ask the students facing the board to take notes of what they see; ask those facing away from the whiteboard to write predictions about what will happen next.
  9. Play the rest of the video. Afterwards, ask the students to face each other in their pairs and compare notes.
  10. Watch the video together, the whole way through. Were any details missed?
  11. Read out the story above (attached), which describes the start of a trip to Hong Kong. Ask students if they have been to Hong Kong, if they would like to go, etc.
  12. Hand out the gapfill sheet and ask students to work together in pairs to put the words back in.
  13. After about 6 minutes, ask one member of each pair to stand up and move one place to the left to make a new pair. Students compare notes, check each other’s work and try to complete the gapfill.
  14. Read the whole text aloud one more time, then (if necessary) allow two or three more minutes to complete the gapfill task.
  15. Hand out the completed text, so students can check their work.
  16. Put the students into groups of four and ask them to design the perfect airport. Allow about twenty minutes for this, giving ideas as necessary.
  17. Ask the students to practise presenting their airport design to the class. Explain that every student should speak for roughly an equal amount of time. Allow about ten minutes for this; go round monitoring and helping students to focus on intonation and presentation skills.
  18. Listen to the presentations as a class, and ask students to vote on their favourite airport design (they’re not allowed to vote for their own group!)
  19. If there’s still time at the end of this, I’ve included an extra visualisation task inviting students to picture their ideal holiday; feel free to use this, maybe in small groups.

Describing Body Language – IWB lesson

Levels: strong intermediate to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: matching exercise; watching and listening to a video of tight-rope walker Philippe Petit to discuss ideas about body language and how status and feelings are conveyed by native and non-native language users; optional interactive whiteboard downloads.
Skills: speaking; listening; reading; writing.
Language focus: vocab – parts of the body/ describing body language.

Note: the idea of the body language table comes from Listening by Goodith White (Oxford Resource Books for Teachers: 1998).

a SMARTboard interactive whiteboard and a download of this lesson (if you don’t have a SMARTboard, you can try this pdf version of the worksheet pages);
pens and paper;
video one and video two (from youtube);
if you want, you can download these videos via keepvid – simply enter the URL in the searchbox at the top of keepvid’s page and press enter, then right-click on the “download high quality” option near the bottom of the new page – then add them as an attachment to your interactive whiteboard lesson).


  1. Show the first page of the IWB display and give students five minutes in pairs to try and match the adjectives with parts of the body.
  2. Ask students to come up the board and try and match the adjectives by dragging them with their fingers to the appropriate parts of the body.
  3. Let the students agree on the order; when they have done so, check by showing them page two.
    Show the students page three and ask if they know who Philippe Petit is. If they haven’t heard of him, point to the picture and ask what they think he is like: a thief? a criminal? a scientist?
    Play the students the video below (taken from youtube) and explain that this is what Philippe Petit does.

  4. Elicit vocabulary from students – “tightrope walker/walking,” “a highwire artiste,” etc. and that there is no safety net or harness. Ask them what they think of this spectacle – is it art? Is it vandalism? Ask them if they would like to try a tightrope walk.
  5. Draw an outline of the World Trade Center on the board and elicit from the students what it is. Draw a rope between the towers and ask them if they would walk between the towers.
  6. If you like, you can show students this video, which shows Philippe Petit’s famous walk between the twin towers in 1974.

  7. Explain that Philippe Petit was recently the star of an Oscar-winning documentary, Man On Wire, about his walk between these twin towers, and that the students will now watch an interview with him. Ask them how old they think he is now and how they think he will describe himself – will he be boastful or modest? What adjectives will he use to describe what he does? What do they think his body language will be like?
  8. Play the third video (below) and elicit the answers.

  9. Show the fourth page and ask your students to copy the table. Explain that you’ll play the interview again, and this time they should watch out for the body language used by Philippe Petit, his director and the interviewer. What can they find out about these people from their body language? You can show page two of the IWB lesson to remind them of the words used to describe this body language.
  10. Play the third video a couple more times and allow students to write notes in their copy of the table.
  11. Ask students to compare notes in small groups; then check and give feedback with the whole class. Were they surprised by any of the interactions? How much could they tell about the people from their body language?
  12. Possible follow-up: This lesson naturally leads into job interview-style lessons, or group roleplays (for example, the banana game, which also focusses on intonation patterns).

Sentence Stress through Obama’s inauguration speech

Levels: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: older teens; adults
Type: listening for key/ prominent words in a real speech
Skills: listening; pronunciation (intonation and stress patterns in spoken English, mimicking an accomplished orator).
Language focus: any vocab as it arises.

copies of the transcript of Obama’s address for your students;
some way of displaying or projecting the speech below, with sound.

  1. Ask students if they saw Obama’s inauguration speech; discuss what they thought of it. How has the world changed since he made it? Are they hopeful or pessimistic about their futures? Why?
  2. Invite students to consider what he might have said during the speech. Give one or two examples if you think it necessary (e.g. thank the people for voting for him; thank George Bush etc)
  3. Board students responses.
  4. Explain that they are going to listen to/watch the first part of the speech and check their predictions. (NB if your class haven’t come up with many good ideas you might want to skip this stage)
  5. Students listen and check their predictions
  6. Give them the list of things he mentions and ask them to put it in order.

    In the introduction to his speech he…

    • Thanks Bush
    • Offers his gratitude to the US people
    • Underlines that the citizens of the US are together
    • Makes a comment about the war
    • Makes a comment about the economic crisis
    • Talks about hope for a new age
    • Mentions job losses, healthcare and housing problems
    • Mentions the environment
    • Talks about the US people’s fear of decline
    • Repeats and confirms his promise to the US people
  7. If you want, at this stage, you could give them the tapescript and have them underline the relevant sections. (But don’t include the last bit or your next activity won’t work.) OR you could lead a discussion about the content of the speech; their opinions of it etc.
  8. Point out that they were able to get most of these points without understanding every word; invite them to feel glad of this.
  9. Explain that the most important words in spoken language tend to be stressed (with a little more volume/vowel lengthening/raise in pitch). Explain that understanding the stressed words is usually enough to understand the whole of a text – with a bit of common sense and thinking to fill in the rest.
  10. Explain that they are going to listen to a short section of the speech and write down the key (stressed) words. Explain that they can listen to it several times but that you’re not going to pause the recording: they shouldn’t waste time writing down “and”/”is” etc.

  11. Play them this section (above); students write down stressed words. Play the tape a few times – students compare and share in pairs after each listen.
  12. Hopefully you can then elicit to the board:

    Today… you … challenges … real … serious… many… not… easily… short… time… know this… America… will … met

    You can then read these words out loud and ask if this is enough to understand Obama’s gist. (the answer, I think, should be yes…!)

  13. Invite the students to fill in the rest of the text using their memory, common sense, knowledge of grammar and/or guesswork.
  14. Give/show the original text and ask them to compare. Explain that in some cases they may have come up with perfectly correct alternatives:

    Today, I say to you that the challenges that we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or (in a) short span of time. But know this America, they will be met.

  15. Read aloud some of the text but pause in illogical places e.g.:

    today I say to // you that the // challenges we face are // real they are… etc.

    Ask students what the problem is.

  16. Tell students to mark the places where Obama could, if he wanted, pause for breath, then elicit to the board. It should look something like this:

    toDAY I say to YOU // that the CHALLenges we face are REAL // they are SERious // and they are MANy // They will NOT be met EASily // or (in a) SHORT span of TIME // But KNOW THIS // AmERica // they WILL // be MET.

  17. Invite students to listen to the speech and mime (it helps if they stand up and also imitate his facial expression and body language) The purpose of miming is to encourage them to listen closely for how some words are “eaten” while others are lengthened and stressed.
  18. Invite students to choose two chunks next to each other and practise saying them. Practise fast, slow, loud, quiet, ignoring each other. Then in open class, they tell you their choice, you repeat it to them (with perfect Obama intonation); they mimic it straight back to you, looking at your face – not at the text.
  19. If you want you could get them to learn it by heart, practise and perform it, voting for the most effective orator in the class.
  20. If you want to you can then explain to students the meaning of the words “prominence”; “tone unit”/”chunk”

I first learnt this style of lesson (steps 10-18) from Nick Hamilton at International House London. It is similar in style to lessons by David Brazil (see his “Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English”).
Tim McLeish

The relevant text:

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…


… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.