Gareth Malone – Extraordinary School For Boys

Posted in ESL, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by EslImaginarium

When I returned to the U.K. I decided I would not have a t.v in my new apartment as I find it provides a distraction from our thoughts and is usually full of throwaway entertainment, clichéd food programmes and posh people with excess money looking for a new plot of land.  This mission to refrain from the background noise and altar of the living room did not last long and due to the package with my internet provider there was no avoidance of purchasing an HD TV and an accompanying TV licence.  Having avoided tv for 3 years and only watched HBO box sets, it was time to sit back and channel surf.  I was apprehensive about this exploration into the world of subliminal advertisement and pointless soaps and wondered if it was really worth purchasing a tv licence for unlimited access to trashy tv.

I’m amazed that people just put the tv on for some background noise to fill the void.  The tv provides comfort to people and a focus for their livingroom.  I always remember the genius of the tv programme, ‘the royal family’ where we sat down as a family to watch the tv and ended up  watching a family who were also  watching a tv in their living room.

I intend to avoid the spontaneity of channel surfing and adopt a more focused viewing schedule. There is nothing worse than stumbling across ‘the Jeremy Kyle’ show and wasting an hour of your day watching the depressing drama unfold.  I believe that the British public pay for a tv licence and thus it is important that the BBC provide quality programming for the tax payers viewing pleasure.  Recently I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of challenging and enjoyable documentaries that have been on offer.  Last week I watched a new documentary about the challenge of  re-engaging boys who don’t like school and who, like many across Britain lag behind their female peers.

Based on the most recent educational research, Gareth introduces his pupils to the concepts of unbridled competition, risk and adventure. His aim is to harness the power of boisterous behaviour and challenge the boys’ apparent aversion to standing out from the crowd so that they feel more confident about aiming for better grades.

Here is a an article about this programme:

Gareth Malone – Extraordinary School For Boys


Gareth Malone with some of the boys from his class

In the summer term of 2010 I was welcomed by Chris Thurgood, the head teacher of Pear Tree Mead Primary School, to teach a class of 39 boys. Since arriving at the school two years previously, she had been aware of the discrepancy in educational achievement between boys and girls.

Quite simply the girls were doing better and they couldn’t seem to get the boys to knuckle down. She made an unlikely choice: She accepted my offer that I, a choirmaster, might be able to help her sort out the problem.

I was advised that boys need to know who’s in charge, what the rules are, and if they will be applied fairly. With that simple adage I progressed. I can’t say I always prevailed but you have to show the boys that you are not to be trifled with.

At the same time, boys can be very sensitive and when they are scared or not getting their own way they can lash out. Training the boys to listen to each other and be respectful of each others’ feelings is the work of a lifetime.

I was amazed how often boys cry over tiny things. We have this image that crying is for girls but, wow, the boys could cry at anything: Falling over, petty injustices in the playground, or just because they were not able to do something.

From talking to the experts, teachers and parents, I’ve become convinced that modern life is pulling boys in directions that don’t necessarily help the basic skills of reading and writing.

Many boys play hours and hours of computer games every day which can be over-stimulating. By contrast a book can seem rather dull and that too much effort is required for not as much reward. In addition, children aren’t allowed to roam as freely as they were in the past.

There are obviously real safety concerns about letting kids out unsupervised but too much‘cotton-wooling’ is damaging for a boy’s sense of self belief, and I found that if I gave them responsibility to step outside their comfort zone they really rose to the challenge.

Some of the boys were very behind in their reading. It was deeply affecting and difficult to know how to help. Several times I wondered if my approach was having anything but a detrimental effect, because as a new teacher you measure your success minute by minute.

If an activity goes well then you are elated. If it doesn’t go according to plan it can leave you feeling pretty dejected and make you question yourself constantly. I think that over time teachers learn to roll with the punches.

But over the course of the term we did make a difference. I’m really proud that I tackled something that is of real importance. I’m proud of what I achieved with the boys and that the school will be taking some of my ideas forward.

I loved the excitement of the boys debating with the girls in the first programme, but camping in the school grounds was the most memorable experience. Tending the fire in the dead of night whilst the boys slept under the starlight was magical.

This has been a very busy year for me and I’m looking forward to a bit of a break. My wife – who is a teacher herself – is about to give birth to our first child and I’m absolutely convinced it’ll be a boy!

Your thoughts?

It will be interesting to see how the show progresses and if he does make a lasting impact.  I was wondering how other teachers find the problem of engagement of students and if you have any tips on how to encourage and motivate boys in the classroom.  If you have watched this programme I would like to know what you thought.  Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Sit back and relax with ‘Good Hair’

Posted in ESL, Movies, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by EslImaginarium

‘Hair is important spiritually, culturally and integral to our self esteem.’

Good Hair

Official trailer:

The Plot:

Chris Rock, a man with two daughters, asks about good hair, as defined by Black Americans, mostly Black women. He visits Bronner Brothers’ annual hair convention in Atlanta. He tells us about sodium hydroxide, a toxin used to relax hair. He looks at weaves, and he travels to India where tonsure ceremonies produce much of the hair sold in America. A weave is expensive: he asks who makes the money. We visit salons and barber shops, central to the Black community. Rock asks men if they can touch their mates’ hair – no, its decoration. Various talking heads (many of them women with good hair) comment. It’s about self-image. Maya Angelou and Tracie Thoms provide perspective.

Click the title below for listening and reading comprehension questions about the trailer and the plot:

Good Hair worksheet 1

How much does it cost?

Click on the title below for a student worksheet on the above clip and also some extra questions.

Good Hair worksheet 2

Bad hair day

Below is a clip from an article featured in the ‘Wall Street Journal.

Click here for the full article.

‘When A Bad Hair Day Brings You Down’

Scientists at P & G, with help from a Yale psychology professor, surveyed women, before and after using Pantene products, using a questionnaire that psychology researchers use to measure mood. They found women felt less “hostile,” “ashamed,” “nervous,” “guilty” or “jittery,” depending on the hair products they used, while at other times they said they felt more “excited,” “proud” and “interested.”

Lets talk about hair:

Celebrity hair styles

Ask the students if they can think of any celebrity hair icons.

Show students the following icons and ask them if they have ever had a similar hair cut or would like a hair cut like these celebrities.

Crazy hair styles

Ask students if they think a hair style can reflect your personality.

Show students the following photos and ask what they think the models personalities are.

Click below for the accompanying worksheet :

Good Hair worksheet 3

Selling a style

Ask students if they are influenced by hair advertising.

Show students the following hair adverts.

‘Because we’re worth it':

‘Hair comes alive':

Discuss the adverts:

Students are put into groups and have to discuss the questions on the worksheet.

After discussing the questions they have to come up with a slogan to sell a hair product.

Each group presents their slogan and the class vote on the best slogan.

Please click on the title below for the accompanying worksheet:

Good Hair worksheet 4

Hair Styles

Ask students if they know the names of different hair styles e.x. short/long etc.

Wordle time- Do you recognise any of the styles? can you match them with the pictures below?

Click for the accompanied worksheet: Good Hair worksheet 5

Male styles

Female Styles

Role play:

After completing the worksheet the students make pairs and pretend they are going to get their hair cut.  One student will play the role of the hair dresser and the other as the customer.

Monitor and give advice to the students.  Ask the best pairs to demonstrate their role play to the class.  Students vote on the best role play.

Some final words

For more media on this subject you should check out this excellent documentary by pop star, Jamile and  this episode from the Tyra Banks chat show.

After all this talk about hair I just realised it’s time to go for a haircut.  So I will leave you with this:

Any suggestions or comments are welcomed below & for more activities from the imaginarium please sign up.  Cheers and happy hair cuts.

さよなら Japan,おひさしぶり Scotland

Posted in ESL, you tube with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by EslImaginarium

Hey all,

It’s been ages since my last post and it’s about time I got back to the world of the imaginarium.

Since my last post I’ve been busy returning to ‘bonnie’ Scotland after 3 years teaching in Japan.

It was really emotional saying goodbye to all my wonderful students and fellow teachers.  I have so many fond memories and  miss everyone already.  Since leaving I decided to make a website for my students to keep them updated on what, ‘I like’.  I want to make it accessible to all my students so I have kept writing to a minimal for ease of understanding and i have kept it simple with mainly videos and images.  It’s like a little brother to the imaginarium but without the activities.

Check it out here.

Since returning to Edinburgh I have been really busy visiting families, friends and making the most of the Edinburgh Festival which is a fantastic cultural extravaganza.  While indulging in delicious food, wine and inspirational conversation, I have had little time to think about my upcoming Masters or this blog.  To be honest it has been nice moving my head space away and recharging so that I’m ready for the exhausting year ahead.  I will be very busy studying an MSc in TESOL and I hope I can use this blog as a place to experiment with ideas and also a place to unload some of the new information I will obtain.

I want to leave you with my favourite esl websites which I used while teaching in Japan:

1. MES english – Great flashcards and ideas for teaching Junior High School ‘English Club’

2. Dream English- Fun songs and flash cards for Elementary School

3. Englipedia – My saviour when using the comprehensive English books supplied to all  Junior High Schools throughout Japan(I contributed several lessons to this site)

4. One Stop English / English 4 U- Very useful for private lessons

Before I go I want to share this hilarious video.  I taught eigo notes last year and this video brought on a massive fit of  the giggles:

ESL Goes to Glastonbury with ‘GLOGSTER’

Posted in ESL, Music, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by EslImaginarium

Here is my first attempt at using glogster.

I learned about this application after watching the learning video by Russell Stannard.

I decided to use it as a kind of treasure hunt.

Students watch the videos or follow the links to answer the set of questions.

Click here for the direct link to this glog.

I really loved playing around with this application.  The potential for unleashing your creativity is amazing.

You need to give it go.

Summer Holidays & Vampire Weekends

Posted in ESL, Music, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2010 by EslImaginarium

Summer is here and it’s not just the weather that changes.

Ask the students the following question:

How do we know it’s summer?

Where do people go during the summer holidays and what activities do they do?

Elicit summer words from the students and ask them to write the words on a piece of paper.

ex. ice cream, sunglasses, clothes, BBQ, music, movies blockbusters, festivals etc.

The Special guests in today’s class are Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend- Holiday

Students watch the following music video and check if the video contains any of their words.

Song lyrics:

Students watch the video several times and listen to the lyrics.  Give the students the worksheet below and ask them to fill in the gaps.

Vampire Weekend lyrics gap fill

Students check if they were correct by watching the following video with the song lyrics

Karaoke version:

Song meanings:

Ask the students what they think the song is about.

Show students what the band said about the song:

“The lyrics refer to a member of my family who gave up eating meat when we invaded Iraq. They were horrified by what was happening internationally and they lost their taste for meat. It wasn’t even necessarily an overt protest, it was a physical reaction.”

Ask the following questions:

What do you think about this reaction to war?

How did you react to the invasion of Iraq?

Have you ever done anything so drastic in reaction to something? (ex. death in family, failing exams etc.)

Summer party game:

I got the following activity from my great friend and fellow esl teacher, Jeremy.  It never fails to work and the students have lots of fun trying to figure out the secret rule.

Tell the students that you’re having a summer BBQ party and you are making a guest list.

Say that  you are bringing apples to the party.  Ask students what they will bring?

Students have to answer by saying ‘I will bring a _______’

The secret rule is that the next item must start with the next letter in the alphabet.

If they say, ‘I will bring a bottle of wine’ then the teacher will say ‘okay you can come to my party’ but if they say something that does not begin with b then say, ‘I’m sorry you can’t come’.  Write the list of the people who can come to your party.  Keep playing until all the students discover the rule and everyone joins the party.

You can make up other rules for this game.  The next item could start with the last letter of the previous item.  ex. I will bring chocolate, I will bring eggs.

Getting to know the band – Vampire Weekend Interview:

Ask students if this is the first time they have seen Vampire weekend.

Ask them what they thought about the song we played previously and the interview.

Video listening comprehension:

 Students listen to the interview and answer the questions on the worksheet below.

Vampire Weekend interview questions

Vampire Weekend – Giving up the gun

Tennis is officially cool with this video, featuring RZA and Jake Gyllenhaal.  If only ‘Wimbledon’ was this exciting

Students questions:

1.How many times do you see the girl in red hitting the tennis ball?

I counted 22.

Read the following passage:

The heroine of the video isn’t an amazing tennis player, but she has heart. She stays calm despite the unfairness of it all.  Giving Up the Gun centers around Jenny (a friend of Vampire Weekend) and a number of opponents whom she goes up against in several matches; there’s a samurai, a gigantic woman, Joe, and Jake (to name a few) and she beats all of them.

2.Do you remember a time when you didn’t give up, even when things were unfair?(write an anecdote)

Song meanings:

Ask the students what they think the song is about.

Show students what the band said about the song:

I got the idea for the song from a book my Dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun. It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade, and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life.

If you were to give up something, what would it me?

How could you make your life more simple?

I hope you all have a wonderful summer.  Please let me know if you have any extra suggestions for this lesson.

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Vuvuzelas-Do they ruin the game?

Posted in ESL, Sport, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by EslImaginarium

The word ‘vuvuzela’ has to be the most controversial word that is buzzing around the world cup.

Everyone has an opinion about this word and it has been the topic hitting the headlines all over the world.

Such a heated topic is perfect for the ‘esl’ class and it will be interesting to see how it is effecting the students.

Recently there has been another ‘facebook’ protest page dedicated to banning the ‘vuvuzela’ from the World Cup.   The ‘facebook’ campaign states, ‘it sounds like a deafening mix of angry elephants trumpeting, a swarm of buzzing bees and a fog horn.’

FIFA- BAN THE ANNOYING VUVUZELA (HORN) FROM THE SOUTH AFRICA WORLD CUP !

May 27 – 173
June 3 – 228
June 8 – 235
June 11 – 4,046
June 12 – 23,198
June 13 – 80,216
June 14 – 139,110
June 15 – 194,778
June 16 – 249,000
June 17 – 267,880
June 18 – 280,352

As you can see the campaign is growing by the day.

Should we embrace this passion for the vuvuzela, which is a tool of cultural celebration and ask the protestors to buy ear plugs and shut up?

Or

Should this residule noise created by the bee flat hornet, which is spoiling our viewing pleasure be banned?

The Video clips:

Students watch the following clips and answer questions about each clip.

After watching the clips they have to write an opinion about the vuvuzela.

Please click below for the accompanied worksheet.

The Vuvuzela WORKSHEET


What is a vuvuzela?:

Cultural instrument?

Explain the Vuvuzela:

Reading comprehension exercise

Please click on the title below for the ‘guardian’ news article on the vuvuzela debate.  Students read the article and answer some questions about it.

Vuvuzela Reading Comprehension

Vuvuzela jokes are everywhere:  Here are a couple of funny clips to leave you with..

The Vuvuzela song:

Fellowship of the Vuvuzela:

I hope you liked the above activities.  If you have any other suggestions or opinions about the ‘vuvuzela’ then please write a comment below.

Please subscribe to my blog to follow the imaginarium.

Step Right Up!! The Big Brother Circus has Arrived

Posted in ESL, TV, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by EslImaginarium

The UK summer has begun and as always it’s accompanied by the cultural phenomena known as ‘Big Brother’.  The funeral has started as we joyously  say goodbye to Big Brother while trying to avoid the addiction of watching the  Final season.

I have to say that I’m pleased to be far away from the hysteria of Big Brother.  Although I admit to being an avid follower of the show in its early days.  However, over the years it has become a desperate and trashy reality TV show which is responsible for a splurge of similar hideous incarnations.

Ask your students if they know about ‘Big Brother’ and if there is a version shown in their own country.

The History of Big Brother:

The Big Brother TV Show is produced in 42 territories and has been a prime time hit in almost 70 countries. The first Big Brother show broadcast was in the Netherlands in 1999. This mould-breaking series was the UK’s first fully interactive mass TV experience and has been hailed as the ‘godfather of reality shows’.

Click here to view Big Brother worldwide

Here is a cut ‘n’ paste from ‘Wikipedia‘:

Big Brother is a reality television show in which a group of people live together in a large house, isolated from the outside world but continuously watched by television cameras. Each series lasts for around three months, and there are usually fewer than 15 participants. The housemates try to win a cash prize by avoiding periodic evictions from the house.

Activity – Judging a book by its cover:

Below are the pictures of the new contestants and a ‘wordle’ of the jobs they have.  Students have to try to match the job with the contestant.

The contestants

The jobs

Please click on the title below for a worksheet of this activity

Big Brother jobs WORKSHEET

Activity – Judging a book by its cover part 2:

Students form groups.  Each group is given an envelope with the contestants pictures and an envelope with their personalities.  The students race to match the pictures with the personalities.  When they think they are correct they ask the teacher to check.  The teacher will tell them how many correct answers they have.  The group is given time to try to change their choices.

Please click on the title below for the pictures and personalities.  Print copies for each group.Cut out the pictures and personalities and put them in separate envelopes.

Big Brother WORKSHEET 2

Lets watch a BB video clip to see what all the fuss is about:

Please click on the title below for questions about the video clip:

Big Brother Video WORKSHEET

Who would you like to live with in the Big Brother house?

Please click on the title below for Big Brother discussion topics

Big Brother Questions

Extra activity:

Predictions: Create a Big Brother poster with all the contestants.  Ask the students to write their predictions of who will win the competition.  Each week remove the picture of the contestant who is eliminated.

Who am I? – Students write out a paragraph of their own personalities.  The teacher collects each students paragraph.  The teacher randomly reads out one of the paragraphs and the students have to guess which student wrote the paragraph.

Reality TV

The reality tv debate

Is reality TV a waste of time?   Students have a debate about their opinions on reality TV.

Students who think reality TV is a waste of time go to one side of the classroom and the other students go to the other side.  Both sides think about what they can say to support their arguments in a debate.  Each side is given a time limit to present their ideas.

Please click on the title below for a reality TV worksheet:

Reality TV WORKSHEET

I hope you liked the above activities.  If you have any other suggestions then please write a comment below.

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