Introducing eslactive.com – the GREEN resource website!
I recently contacted eslactive.com on Twitter to ask them about their new website, which they founded in 2018. Here’s what they told me:
“eslactive.com is a website made by English teachers, for English teachers. After experiencing first-hand the amount of paper we use in language schools every day, we felt compelled to try and make our industry a little greener. That’s why we list hundreds of free games, activities, projects and conversation ideas you can employ without printed materials.
“Another key part of our vision is the use of technology in the classroom. We recognise that it’s not always possible, and that new techniques can be daunting. However, we strongly believe that it will not only benefit the environment, but increase student engagement too. To allow you to explore the possibilities at your own pace, we’ve also developed a wide range of fun interactive games and generators.
“Most importantly, we understand how busy teachers are, so we want to make your life as easy as possible. All our resources are categorised and tagged by grammar/vocabulary topics, so you can find what you need quickly. There’s even the option to add activities to your own custom lesson plans, so you can save ideas for later.
“We hope you enjoy using the site, and are always here to help if needed.”
eslactive.com – it’s especially for you if you’re an EFL or ESL teacher – or both.
Why not check it out today!
If you run a great English language teaching resource website, and would like it to be featured on Purland Training, please contact us here!
If I came up to you and said ‘Woduvaigada?’, would you know what I meant?
What about if I added a main verb – an infinitive – afterwards: ‘Woduvaigada do?’
I’m guessing if you are a native speaker – if you have grown up listening to English your whole life – you will understand this phrase with a main verb:
However, if you are a learner of English – if you haven’t grown up with English as your main language – this lesson could help you. We’re talking about connected speech. The way that English speakers combine words in a sentence.
‘Woduvaigada do?’ = ‘What have I got to do?’ which becomes ‘What’ve I got to do?’
But how do we get a coherent sentence in English from a seemingly gibberish word? And why is it that a native speaker understands it – instinctively – while a non-native speaker may not?
The phrase ‘Woduvaigada do?’ comes from the first line of the original recording of the famous song by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (1976), above. (Super Tip: hear the syllables in more detail by playing the video at half speed or lower; just click the gear and select: Speed > 0.5.)
i. separate the words into content words (important words) and function words (grammatical words): here ‘What’ and ‘do’ are content words
ii. make any possible contractions: ‘What’ and ‘have’ make the contraction ‘What’ve’
iii. identify the stressed syllable in each content word: each content word has only one syllable, so it is stressed
iv. identify the stressed vowel sound in the stressed syllables: ‘What’ has the short o sound, while ‘do’ has the long oo sound
v. reduce the function words to make them weaker and less obvious: this is where we end up with the unusual ‘word’ ‘woduvaigada’
(We should note that it is also possible to read the sentence as ‘What do I got to do’, which is not standard English grammar but rather a mix of: ‘What do I have to do?’ and ‘What have I got to do?’ We sometimes hear ‘What do I got to do’ as a slang form, particularly in American English.)
The sentence has four weak syllables, marked in grey below:
The aim for the speaker (or singer) is to go from ‘What’ to ‘do’ as quickly as possible. The last thing we should do is put an accent (stress) on every syllable: ‘What. Do. I. Got. To. Do?’ This sounds awful and makes the sentence very difficult for a native speaker to understand, since we are relying on the stressed vowel sounds to give us most of the meaning of the sentence:
What – do?
If I said simply ‘What – do?’ while pointing at myself (‘I’) the listener could probably understand what I meant. The message is ‘What do?’ or ‘What I do?’ From this we may understand ‘What must I do?’ The problem is that ‘What do?’ has to be expressed correctly in English grammar, either via present simple – ‘What do I have to do?’ – or via present perfect: ‘What have I got to do?’ Native speakers are so familiar with the forms of these tenses that we can skate over them very quickly, barely referencing them:
In this cv connection the consonant sound t moves forward to join the schwa sound at the beginning of the contraction ‘ve’. t changes to d (assimilation), because of the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer
In this cv connection the consonant sound v moves forward to join ai and form: vai
A vc connection is what we want, so we leave it
Two of the same sounds meet: t and t. The first sound – t – disappears (elision), and the second t changes to its matching sound d. This is due to the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer
Connection 5: A vc connection is what we want, so we leave it
We further reduce weak syllables by substituting a schwa sound – the weak vowel sound in English – for any strong sounds. We do this here with the a of ‘have’ (changed to ‘ve’) and the oo of ‘to’. The o of ‘got’ becomes an a, again because of the mid-Atlantic accent adopted by the singer.
So we end up with:
A. Wo – we clearly understand this as the question word ‘what’ – despite the missing ‘t’, because of the w sound, the strong vowel sound o, and the fact it has one syllable. No other one-syllable question word has the strong vowel sound o. The others all have different vowel sounds: ‘where’ has eir, ‘when’ has e, ‘why’ has ai, and so on.
B. The second syllable contains the moved-forward t from ‘What’ changed to d, plus an embedded schwa sound from the beginning of ‘ve’
C. ‘I’ remains a full ai sound, with the v sound which moved forward in front
D. ‘got’ loses its ending sound, but it doesn’t matter because a similar sound d follows (t and d are matching sounds – the former unvoiced and the latter voiced). o has changed to a, as noted, above.
E. The vowel sound in ‘to’ is reduced to a schwa sound; t changes to d due to a personal choice about accent (mid Atlantic) made by the singer
F. The second content word ‘do’ has a long full vowel sound and is accordingly stressed by the singer
What makes this sentence unusual is not ‘What’ + four weak syllables together but the way the artist sings them so fast to make them all fit into one beat of the song:
‘What’ve I got to’ has to fit into the same length beat as ‘do’, which ends up producing the unusual word ‘woduvaigada’, which is understood by native speakers, but may come across as babble – or just ‘too hard’ for non-native speakers. Further emphasis is added by each of the six syllables having the same note.
What are the takeaways from this lesson:
Connected speech is a thing in English: we get most of the meaning of a sentence from the stressed vowel sounds: Wo – do. Learners of English have to actively learn about connected speech if they want to sound more natural and be less difficult to listen to. [You can learn about connected speech here.]
Schwa sounds are real – and really common. If you don’t use them then you will be stressing far too many syllables in the sentence, making function words too prominent and losing much of the meaning (see 1. above).
The point about this sentence is that the only two words that are important are: ‘What’ and ‘do’. You could put a variety of different function words in between them and the meaning wouldn’t change too much. The listener understands ‘What’ and ‘do’ and the rest could just as well be: ‘blah, blah, blah, blah’:
and so on. The main purpose of the middle bit is to make clear the subject – the ‘who’ of the question – ‘I’. The singer retains the full form of I – ai – rather than changing it to a schwa sound – perhaps as a way of stressing who the subject is amidst the muddle of syllables.
4. As well as the phrase ‘What have I got to…’ there are other similar structures to learn, which have multiple reduced function words. We use these unusual ‘words’ every day, so if you don’t know them, you could be missing out. If you can learn them it will be easier to listen to and understand people speaking English, for example:
and so on.
5. It’s also important to know common slang phrases (contractions) in English which represent function word phrases, because you will hear them a lot in spoken English. For example:
Not forgetting this truly epic sentence featuring no fewer than eight syllables with function words:
How other artists have treated the line:
Blue featuring Elton John (2002): ‘What I gotta do…?’:
Joe Cocker live (1992): ‘What’ve I got to…?’ then ‘What do I got to…?’:
Nataly Dawn (2011): ‘What do I gotta do…?’:
Elton John live at the Royal Albert Hall (2002): ‘What’ve I got to do’, but very fast, almost staccato:
Ask and answer the discussion questions about summer with a partner or small group:
How many seasons are there in your country? What is your favourite / least favourite? Why? Do you like summer? Why? / Why not?
How is summer different from other seasons in your country? Compare them. What do you do in summer that you don’t do the rest of the year? Do you change your habits?
How many days of holiday do you normally have in summer? Is it enough? Are you able to switch off and relax on holiday, or do you take your work with you, e.g. emailing?
Do you prefer to have a long summer holiday, or several shorter breaks during the year? Do you think school holidays are too long in your country? How long are they?
What kind of summer holiday do you prefer: seaside, lake, mountain, cruise, camping, fishing, city break, cultural break, adventure, desert, jungle, safari, etc.? Have you ever been on this kind of holiday? What did you think of it? Are there any that you wouldn’t like to try? Why not?
Do you prefer to stay in your own country or go abroad? Why? Are you an “outdoorsy” person? Do you like to camp? Could you survive “in the wild” for two weeks without access to a cashpoint, shops, and restaurants? How would you cope if you got lost without a mobile phone?
What is the best summer holiday you have ever had? What has been the most memorable place you have ever visited? Why was it? Have you ever spent the night in a tent, yurt, cruise ship, ferry, train, B & B, motel, or five-star hotel? Tell me a story about each place.
Which hotel or resort would you recommend? Have you ever made friends with people on holiday, but not kept in touch? Tell me about them. Have you ever had any disasters on holiday? What went wrong?
What special events happen in your town / country in summer (e.g. cultural or sporting)? Do you usually attend / take part? If yes, describe each event. If not, why not?
What effect does summer have on your… a) mood, b) attitude, c) health, d) motivation, e) weight, f) relationships with those around you?
What do you like to wear in summer? How does it make you feel? What kind of food and drink do you enjoy in summer? Is there anything you don’t eat or drink in summer? Why not?
Are you a good cook? Do you like to ‘cook up a storm’ on the barbecue with friends, or avoid the hot weather altogether by staying indoors?
What was summer like when you were a child? What can you remember? How was summer different to now? How did you fill the long summer holidays?
How hot is too hot for you? When was the hottest / coldest summer you can remember? Is summer weather changing for better or worse? Is climate change having an effect?
What is the best kind of summer music? Why do you like it? Have you ever been to a festival in summer? Have you ever been on a summer camp or a school exchange?
Have you ever been travelling, hitchhiking, or worked your way around the world during summer? Why? / Why not? What is your dream trip? What are you planning for next summer?
Since last Thursday I’ve been teaching cartoon story lessons with my groups. You may want to try this lesson with your classes, so here’s what we did. If you do try it, please do let me know how it goes down!
I asked the SS (students) to work in pairs and take out their notebooks and pens. I drew a three-panel cartoon strip on the whiteboard (as in the image above). I deliberately chose something simple, with some drama (the “shocked” character in the middle) and some action (the character leaving). The SS were intrigued – to varying degrees! I drew the speech bubbles and asked the SS to think of the story and write the dialogue for the four speech bubbles. I encouraged them to consider:
the expressions of the characters and what emotions they signified
After a few lessons I banned the students from using the topic of romance/love/relationships for their dialogues. Some SS asked “Why?” and I said, “Because it’s too easy.” The comic strip is rather leading in that direction. Many SS from the first groups used relationship tropes – as in “I’m leaving you…!” or “I’m pregnant! And it’s yours…!” – so when the SS had to think of something else they had to work harder, e.g. making the relationship between the characters daughter/father, brother/sister, student/teacher, customer/shop assistant, and so on, rather than romantic partners. This worked much better.
SS worked in pairs or, exceptionally, threes. After about ten minutes each pair came to the front to read out – or act out – their dialogues. (This was the presentation part.) Then I introduced the second exercise of the 45-minute lesson: I drew a series of three blank panels on the board and asked the SS to draw their own comic strip, with dialogue, and with a given topic – in the example above, Crime.
The SS had until the end of the lesson to complete this work. I monitored and checked the pairs (and threes) and collected in the work to mark it. The picture below, by Ola and Ania and reproduced here with their kind permission, was one of the best examples of SS’s work, from a class of 15 year-olds. In this case I had given the SS keywords to include in their comic, rather than a topic.
Continue the story with further panels…
Write the next part of the story…
Use the same comic strip, but change the dialogue.
Use the same dialogue, but change the pictures.
I used this lesson with almost all of my eighteen groups this week, and it evolved over the course of the week. I had started off using an A4 handout with a much longer comic strip, which the SS had to complete and then present to the class. The strip in my picture above was, to begin with, just the warmer. Over time, I realised that 45 minutes wasn’t enough time to do everything and we were getting bogged down in spelling and grammar with the longer comic strip. My job is to get them talking, after all, not writing in class.
The concept of the lesson – writing and drawing comic strips – was engaging for most of the SS, even some of those who had been harder to engage in previous lessons, which was a nice surprise. It was a fun lesson with each group.
Neither you the teacher nor the SS need to be able to draw well to pull off this lesson. The goal is to get the SS speaking and doing the presentations. The artwork does not have to be pro standard! (See my example with stick people, above.)
It was great to do a lesson without any photocopying – once I’d ditched the original idea for the lesson. The lesson was easy to deliver, with no preparation and minimal resources: just a board and pens or chalk. The resulting work was easy to mark and give feedback on.
We were also able to explore topics like using humour in the cartoons and using our imaginations.
Some of the pairs tried to pass off very short dialogues, along the lines of “Hi!” “What?” “Don’t leave!” “Bye!” I didn’t accept these and asked them to redo it. A few of the pairs didn’t feel like producing anything.
Some students complained about their lack of creativity. One very bright fourteen year-old guy, with a good level of English, said: “But I’m not creative! What would you do?” I replied: “I would try my best.” The problem was that he was not prepared to try. In the end, he refused to do the activity, so he ended up with some extra written homework.
There’s a danger that this lesson becomes about writing skills and grammar/vocabulary, with dictionaries out in full force, when what I wanted most of all was to hear the SS speak.
There are still significant (I think) issues with the SS using L1 during the preparations stages and not listening to each other’s presentations. I got fed up with saying “OK! Listen, please!” before each presentation.
Some of the SS’s work was a bit, well, boring. Their story might be: “Let’s go to the shop.” “OK. I need to buy some bread.” At the shop: they buy the bread. Result: “Let’s have a sandwich!” “OK!” I encouraged them to include drama or humour in their stories by inserting a problem into the situation: “Let’s go to the shop.” “OK. I need to buy some bread.” At the shop: “Hey! The shopkeeper has overcharged us!” Or, at the shop: “Oh no! The shopkeeper is a dolphin!” … and so on.
I’ll start this teaching blog by talking about the two latest teaching resources that I’ve uploaded to the site. I completed a lesson all about Modal Verbs yesterday and added it to the site. I’m really happy about it because, along with containing plenty of new material, it brings together – and breathes new life into – two older resources that I think really work well:
When I created these resources a few years ago I spent hours researching each one, and learned so much about modal verbs – and would, in particular – in the process. That’s the great thing about writing resources for teaching English – you increase your subject knowledge massively by doing the research and testing the materials in class. Each worksheet pack has an accompanying podcast too.
Writing about ‘would’ was especially interesting, because who would have thought there would be 26 uses of ‘would’? You might say, who needs to know that many uses of would. But anyway, here it is again, along with a lot of straightforward information about modal verbs – and new examples for each modal verb. I particularly like the blank tables for each modal verb (in Exercises) that you can print out and get students to complete. (For homework?)
Today I had the notion to create a new wordsearch for the website. They take about an hour to write and I’m trying to rack up a collection of them. When I’ve used them in class (my classes are sometimes in a computer lab) the students really liked them. One group of three particularly keen teenage girls were able to complete three of the puzzles in a very short space of time! (Not that we spend whole lessons doing wordsearch puzzles.)
I was going to do one on ‘clothes’ or ‘furniture’ or another such ESOL-ly subject, but then I thought: what about Brexit? The words started coming immediately: Michel Barnier, Nigel Farage, March Twenty Ninth (2019), Remainer, Brexiteer, and so on! I had to get to work right away. You can do the wordsearch puzzle here.
I never think it’s relevant to talk about my political views when I write resources and blogs and create website, so I don’t really want to do that here. I wonder if you can guess from the wordsearch what side of the Brexit fence I’m on? Answers on a postcard (made in Britain), please.