12 songs to practice the pronunciation of -ED endings

As you know, the “-ed” endings of regular past tense verbs can be pronounced in three different ways: /t/, /d/ and /ɪd/, which is the one most students tend to overuse. Click here for an overview of the rules.

Over the years, I have found that /t/ and /d/ are easier to notice and to produce if the verb comes immediately before a word beginning with a vowel sound:

liked it – /laɪktɪt/
dreamed of – /driːmdəv/

To help students get their tongues around the two sounds, I usually ask them to move /t/ and /d/ to the front of the vowel sound. This makes it obvious that there’s no room for /ɪ/:

liked it – /laɪk tɪt/
dreamed of – /driːm dəv/

Out of all the ideas and techniques I’ve used in class, this has probably been the most effective.

So I decided to put together a 7-minute video containing 12 song excerpts you can use to help your students notice how /t/ and /d/ are linked to the vowel sounds that follow. There’s a good mix of recent and older songs, which should appeal to lots of different students.

The video is suitable for late A2, B1 and B2 students, who will have learned the basic -ED rules, but may still struggle to produce the sounds accurately. The on-screen activities are all self-explanatory.

You will notice that the activities do not test whether students can choose between /t/ and /d/. The difference is barely audible in fast connected speech, and it rarely causes misunderstandings. Also, since most students tend to overuse /ɪd/ and avoid /t/ or /d/, the song excerpts focus on the latter, rather than the former.

By the way, if the video is out of synch, go back to the beginning and / or refresh the page.

Thanks for reading – and watching.

Awkwardness: a video-based listening lesson

This lesson is based on a recent post in which I discussed seven ways to get maximum mileage out of video-based listening activities. Before you go any further, please take five minutes to read the original article.

The lesson is suitable for both teenagers and adults at B1 / B2. Feel free to use it as you see fit. By the way, the activities have never been formally tested, so any feedback is most appreciated. Have fun!
Continue reading Awkwardness: a video-based listening lesson

In defense of Demand High Teaching

What is Demand High Teaching?

I first heard of Demand High Teaching in March 2012, when Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill launched a low-key, no-frills blog containing a brief introduction to the concept. In their words:

“Demand High asks:

Are our learners capable of more, much more?
Have the tasks and techniques we use in class become rituals and ends in themselves?
How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?
What small tweaks and adjustments can we make to shift the whole focus of our teaching towards getting that engine of learning going?

Demand High is not a method and it is not anti any method. We are not anti-Communicative Approach. We are not anti-dogme. We are not anti-Task Based Learning. We are simply suggesting adjustments to whatever it is you are already doing in class – ways of getting much greater depth of tangible engagement and learning.”

A few months later, I attended a lively plenary by Scrivener himself in which he managed to pull off the nearly impossible: get me truly excited about yet another ELT trend – except that Demand High is not really a trend, but essentially a way of looking at teachers’ / learners’ roles and classroom processes, as he makes clear in this video. Continue reading In defense of Demand High Teaching

4 tips to help you teach advanced students

I don’t think I have ever taught or observed an advanced lesson that went seriously wrong. I mean cringe-worthy wrong. Which is hardly surprising.

After all, advanced students have been in the game long enough and know enough English to ensure that most of our lessons run – at worst – relatively smoothly.

But I have often walked out of lively, fun, seemingly trouble-free C1 lessons, wondering deep down how much learning had really taken place.  And this has bothered me at least since 1996, which is when I began to take a  hard look at advanced students and their ever-so-overlooked needs. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

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