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!