Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Face Morphing (Teaching one use of the present perfect)

This blog post looks at how I introduced the present perfect tense when we are talking about things that have changed. For example: You're English has improved since I last saw you! (Which is what we all want to say to our students, right?)
The first thing I thought of for introducing this concept was one of those videos that I have seen a lot of on TV recently (at least out here in Japan) where one particular thing in an image changes veeeery slowly over 20 seconds or so. However, I had really trouble finding a suitable video on the Internet (If you [know what I am talking about and] find one, please let me know!). So instead, I found a video of how a man's face changed over a number of years. The video uses morphing technology, and is presented below. It starts with the man as a one year old child and finishes with him as he is now (well actually in 2008, but for the purposes of the lesson...) a 36 year old man.  
The second part of the lesson uses a "spot the difference" set of two images where one of the images has been changed. Students are told to find the changes and report on them as a group. There are nine changes, and I have provided both the unedited image and the one with the changes separately, as well as the answer sheet.
  • Language level: Beginner - Low-intermediate
  • Learner type: Any
  • Time: 60~90 minutes
  • Main activity: finding differences; discussion
  • Topic: changes over time
  • Language: present perfect; talking about changes
  •  Materials: Video clip and worksheet available here (.docx) and here (pdf) as well as the three image files for use in the second half of the lesson available as a zip here.

The video can be seen on YouTube here and the description reads:
All my bad haircuts from the 70s can be blamed on my mum and her selection of saucepans. Any after that are my own fault.
The program used for this was Sqirlz-Morph 2.0, which is free and simple to use. Google it or down load it here:
The description thus provides a link to the software that he used, should any of you more adventurous teachers out there(!) like to try morphing your own face.

Lesson Plan

Part 1: Face Morph
  1. Print out the worksheet and images. (Alternatively, use the images from your computer attached to a projector)
  2. Start a discussion about what has changed about yourself since you were younger. E.g. I have lost my hair, I have gained a few pounds, I've grown a beard...
  3. Ask students to give some examples about themselves. If they find this difficult, ask them to compare themselves to when they were one years old!
  4. Show students the above video.
  5. Give out the worksheet and ask students to think of things that have changed about the man. Simple things are of course acceptable. 
  6. After a few minutes, put students into groups so that they can pool their answers together. Tell them that the group that comes up with the most things will be declared the winners. Give them a few minutes to think of a few more answers. 
  7. Ask groups how many changes they have found. 
  8. Students then read and compare answers with other groups.
Part 2: Spot the difference puzzle
(Originally found here)
  1. Show the two pictures and let students think about what has changed. Let them know that there are 9 differences altogether.
  2. Ask students to write any changes they can see onto the bottom half of their worksheet.
  3. Collate answers in groups.
  4. Once a group has all the answers, they should take it in turns to tell you (meaning that all members get a chance to speak).
Following the spot the difference activity, I would then go into an explicit explanation of the present perfect tense grammar point covered. Of course, the grammar point could be covered in between the two activities, with students focusing more on linguistic accuracy during the second activity.

Student work will be uploaded soon.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


In this post I introduce another lesson plan that again uses a video found on YouTube as the source for discussion and debate amongst students.
Lesson outline

  • Language level: Beginner - Low-intermediate
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults (The video can be considered quite disturbing for some)
  • Time: 60~90 minutes
  • Main activity: Giving opinions; discussion; excuses
  • Topic: Greed; Office life
  • Language: cause and results; giving advice; future tense 
  •  Materials: Video clip and worksheet available here (.docx direct download), here (.docx mediafire) and here (pdf).

The video is by Spy Films and can be found on YouTube here
http://www.spyfilms.com After inadvertently offending a strange entity that accosts him on his way to work, a 1970s businessman quickly finds himself in the midst if a bizarre predicament. What follows is a rapid descent into madness, a journey both eerie and darkly humorous. The exact nature of the businessman's tormentor is purposefully ambiguous, lending itself to a variety of interpretations. Is "Terminus" a surreal critique of human alienation in the modern urban environment? or is the protagonist's struggle an internal one, his mysterious stalker a manifestation of his repressed subconscious mind? Either way, "Terminus"'s innovative visual effects and distinctively vintage atmosphere make it a highly engrossing experience.
Lesson Plan
  1. Print out the worksheet available here. You will need one for each student and a further copy to be handed out to each group of students. e.g. if students make six groups, you will need an additional six. These group worksheets are for students to complete after they have discussed their individual answers and decided on a "group consensus" regarding their answer to various questions. they then hand this sheet in to the teacher at the end of the lesson.
  2. Explain the lesson contents:
    1. Watch a video
    2. Brainstorm important words
    3. Answer questions about the video individually.
    4. Discuss answers as a group.
    5. Complete the group worksheet and compare with other groups.
    6. Hand group work in.
  3. Before showing the  students the video.
  4. While the movie is still fresh in their minds, ask students to create a mind map of any words that come to mind. I find it important to stress that any word, be it a verb, adjective, or noun should be included.
  5. Once they have created a mind map individually, get students to compare theirs to other group mates. Then finally, create a large mind map of words on the board. I do this by handing out three different coloured pens to random students. They write one word on the board and then pass the pen to another student.
  6. Hand out the worksheets and ask students to answer the questions as best they can on their own first. It is important to let them know that there are no correct answers, only their opinions. If they find some of the questions difficult to answer in English, tell them that they can write their ideas down in their native language at this point.
  7. After they have answered the questions on their own, tell students to compare answers with their group members.
  8. Hand out one more worksheet to each group and ask them to write down the best answers/opinions as a group. At this point, students should focus on linguistic accuracy, correcting any grammar mistakes.
  9. After a while, ask groups to share their ideas with the rest of the class comparing answers as a class. It is quite a good idea to share your own ideas at this point so the students can see that you have also completed the task. Students like to hear the teachers opinion too.
  10. Finally, students hand in their group worksheets.
Student Work

This lesson is one designed to get the students thinking. Thinking hard! However, it is important to bear in mind that not all students like to think in this way. For some, the movie may quite simlply not make any sense and thus not deemed worthy of discussion. Now for me, this is a real shame, but we have to cater for these students also. As such, it is often these students that come into their own when it is time to analyse what the group has written, and time to correct any grammatical errors. The point is that we should design lessons to appeal to many different learners and their learning style. While some students may enjoy watching a video and trying to explain what they have seen, other students may enjoy correcting grammatical errors and analysing their language.

As an additional note, this activity may be expanded/changed by altering the provided worksheet. I felt it important to provide the first few words for the answer section of the worksheet for my students, but in your own context, this may seem like too great a cognitive support. You may want the students to complete the exercise first before looking at any because-clauses or how to give advice. For this reason, I have provided the worksheet as a Microsoft Office .doc file, so that it is easily editable.

As always, comments are welcome.

Have fun, and I'll be back soon with another lesson!

    Wednesday, 10 November 2010

    The Black Hole

    The Black Hole (An adapted dictogloss lesson using YouTube)
    In this post, I would like to write about a lesson that I designed and implemented in my classes today. I introduce the lesson step by step, provide a link to the worksheet I used, and also provide some examples of students work. I finally give a critique of this activity.

    Lesson outline
    • Language level: Any
    • Learner type: Teens; Adults
    • Time: 60~90 minutes
    • Main activity: Writing; Text construction; story writing
    • Topic: Greed; Office life
    • Language: Basic present or past tense verbs; story-writing; sequencing;
    • Materials: Video clip and worksheet

      The video is available on YouTube. The description provided is as follows:
      Phil and Olly / UK / 2008
      A sleep-deprived office worker accidentally discovers a black hole - and then greed gets the better of him...
      Lesson plan
      1. Print out the worksheet available here (direct download), here (mediafire) and here (pdf). You will need enough for each student and also one more to give to each group that the students make. (∴ if students usually make six groups, you will need six additional copies.)
      2. Briefly explain the contents of the lesson:
        1. Watch a video.
        2. Make a list of words from the video.
        3. Draw a storyboard of the video.
        4. Add an English sentence explaining each scene.
        5. compare storyboards with groups.
        6. Complete a "group storyboard" and hand in to the teacher.
      3. Show students the movie.
      4. Ask students to create a mind map of important words, or words that stand out from watching the movie.
      5. Ask students to check their mind map with the people in their groups.
      6. Draw a similar mind map on the board asking students for words to add.
      7. Hand out the worksheets and explain that you have added some "useful words" at the top. Students can work in groups to check the meaning of the words.
      8. Show the movie again, this time students draw a storyboard of the movie as they watch. Also, give time after the second viewing to complete their drawings. (Don't give them too much time though. This is not an art class!)
      9. Once they have completed their storyboards, instruct students to write in either the present or past tense. It is important to make sure the tense stays the same throughout the story. E.g. "The man kicked the copier" // "The man kicks the copier".
        1. Depending on students ability, they can be introduced to sequencing words such as At first, then, next, after that, finally, last etc. to include in their write-ups. 
      10. After writing their stories, students read this to a partner. I used Andy Boon's "Kaiten-zushi" method, which is outlined in the current edition of MET. It basically involves students standing up, forming two lines facing each other and one side reading their story to the other. They change partners so they get lots of speaking practice.
      11. Following this, the students make their groups. Give out one more worksheet to each group and tell them to make a final group version. This gives students the chance to improve the written story as a group, working collaboratively on errors. During this stage, the teacher should write down any common errors that they have noticed on the board.
      12. Finally, the groups hand in their completed worksheet. It is up to you here, but I like to keep these and display student work near to my office.
      Student work
      An example of a completed story

      Discussion / Critique
      + Drawing pictures is like investing in the activity. After drawing, they want to complete their "comics" by adding the English captions.
      + The story is quick, amusing and easy to transcribe into six scenes.
      - Some groups tended to sit around and delegate work to only a few members during the group activity. This can be combated by telling groups to make each person write something on the master paper (in a particular order if necessary).

      I hope you have enjoyed this post, please have a go, and of course, I would love to receive any feedback (good or bad).

      Wednesday, 13 October 2010

      [Project 2] Create a presentation - Sharing

      Hi all,
      I see that some of you have finished your presentations already.
      In this blog post, I will talk about finishing your presentation and sharing it with me.

      Once you have created your presentation, click on the share (共有) button:

      Then click on the 共有設定 button. You should see this screen:
      Please put my email address in the ユーザーを追加 box (写真に書いてあります) and your student number in the メッセージ box. Then click the 共有 button.

      I hope that is clear. If you have any questions, please email me at the same email address or leave a comment here.

      Have fun! I can't wait to see your presentations.

      Tuesday, 5 October 2010

      [Project 2] Create a presentation - help and tips

      Hello all,

      We went over how to register for an account in class. This blog post is a review.
      1. Go to this website: http://docs.google.com
      2. If you have a gmail account, just input your username and password.
      3. If not, then you can use your present email account, or you can register for a gmail account.
      4. Once you have logged into Google Documents, click the "Create new" button at the top
      5. Then click "Presentation".
      Here is a guide about registering made by Google. This guide is in Japanese.
      Here is a guide to using the Google Documents software. It is really useful.
      Remember... You can add a YouTube video, by using the "Insert" menu:

      If you need a picture for you presentation, you can use this tool.
      Finally, please look at this presentation about how to make good.... presentations!

      If you have any questions about how to make your presentation, please email me, or leave a comment below.

      Thursday, 30 September 2010

      [Project 2] Create a presentation

      Hi everybody,
      Your next project will be to create a short presentation on your hobby or your favourite thing.
      In next week's class we will learn how to use "Google Docs" to create a simple presentation like the one I made below.

      HOMEWORK ☆宿題☆
      Please think of what your presentation will be about.
      Some things you could make a presentation on include:

      1. Music
      2. Computer games
      3. Movies
      4. Sport

      Friday, 24 September 2010

      Summer Vacation project (Part 2)

      Good evening all.

      I see that some of you have completed your homework already, which is excellent!

      I know that you have sent me a link to your voicethread page, but there has been a problem.

      When you share a link with me, you need to check the buttons so that it looks like this:

      [gallery link="file"]

      Once you have done that, I can see your voicethread.

      Lets check once more:

      1. Click the "share" button.

      2. Click the "Get a link" button.

      3. Click the four checkboxes so they have a check in them.

      4. Click the "Copy the Link" button.

      5. Share the link with me as a comment.

      If you have completed this, you have finished your homework!

      Thank you, and if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

      Auto Draft

      Wednesday, 15 September 2010

      Studying vocabulary - smart.fm

      Another new feature that I am introducing this month is smart.fm for studying vocabulary. You can learn more about this excellent resource here: http://smart.fm/tour

      The tour of the site is available in both English and Japanese. You can select the language by pressing the button in the top right corner.

      It is very important that we study new vocabulary at least once a week. Studying vocabulary will also count towards your final grade this term. There will be mini-tests based on the goals that I create on the smart.fm website.


      1. You will need to register on the smart.fm website (CLICK HERE)

      2. You can see the goals I made for both first and second grade students here. Please follow me, and choose to complete the correct goal:



      If you have any problems, please leave me a comment on this blog post

      Monday, 13 September 2010

      First Project - Summer Vacation pictures

      Hi all!

      The first project that I want you to complete this semester is to tell me about your summer vacation. I'm sure you all had a good time over the summer, but I would like you to tell me something that was particularly memorable. As an example of my own summer holiday, please look here:

      The project will be worth 10 points of your overall score for this semester. This weeks lesson will be worth 3 points.


      • We are going to think about our summer holiday and what we enjoyed the most. Here are some questions to focus on:

      Where did you go?
      Who with?
      What did you do?
      What was the best thing about your vacation?

      • Talk to classmates about their summer vacation using the same questions as above:

      Where did you go?
      Who with?
      What did you do?
      What was the best thing about your vacation?

      • Each time you have spoken to someone about your summer vacation, there will be a 2 minute break for you to think about and improve your story.

      • Once you've spoken to three people, I want you to tell the members of your group about the best story you heard.

      • Finally, I want you as a group to decide the best story to tell to the rest of the class.


      1. I want you to all create a voicethread account. (CLICK HERE) (1 point)

      2. Upload a picture from your summer holiday. (1 point) If you do not have a picture, you can use a picture from the internet.

      3. Give the picture a title (1 point)

      4. Prepare a comment for your picture (HINT: you can use the story that you made today as the comment).

      Projects this semester

      Hello everyone. The new term starts on Wednesday. I hope you are all ready to go back. I know I am! The summer holiday was long, and I got a lot of research/work done, but I miss you all so much!! I also really like to have structure in my life (which there was a lack of over summer). This term I have a lot of new ideas, whether I will be allowed to do all of them... I'm not so sure. The main thing is that I want to use this blog to introduce you to each project, and again, use this blog to provide help etc. I know that all of you use the internet, and I believe it is very important to introduce technology into lessons as much as possible. So you will be set projects using things such as YouTube and Twitter. Projects will likely span over 3 weeks each. The weeks will work as follows:

      1. Introduction to the project (via this blog).

      2. Working on the project in class.

      3. Presenting the project.

      Friday, 30 July 2010

      First Post

      Allow me to first of all say, "Hello!"

      My name is James York and I am currently employed as a full-time lecturer at Tokyo Denki University (TDU). I am based at the Hatoyama campus in Saitama. You can learn more about this campus here. I have been teaching English in Japan for close to five years. For the first four years I was based at a primary school in Moriya, Ibaraki. I really enjoyed this job and learnt a lot about how to teach English. During those four years, I obtained an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL, where my primary research interests were adapting task-based learning into young learner contexts and student motivation.

      Having made the transition from teaching at a primary school to teaching at a university, I am still getting used to working here and refining my areas of interest at this level.

      The purpose of this blog is to introduce the syllabus to all my students. It's other purpose is to provide helpful tips on learning English, based on my own study habits whilst learning Japanese.

      I hope this blog becomes a useful tool and source of inspiration for my students.