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Video, Lyrics & Lesson Planning

Here you can watch the video clip of the song Still ill by The Smiths. I got it from the site, which is interesting because it displays the video of a vast array of songs. As they say, "Listen to your Favorite Music. All Genres. Updated Everyday. 100% Free". There is also a gallery of poetry, to where you can submit your own poem! One nice aspect is that you have the option of clicking for visualizing the lyrics while listening. But what I want to do here, apart from enjoying some Smiths, a band I love, is invite you to a little reflection about how to work with songs in the classroom.

Below I present some tips for using Still ill with your students, followed by a model handout for a class activity.

Lyrics: Still ill by The Smiths

I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine - it owes me a living
But ask me why, and I'll spit in your eye
Oh, ask me why, and I'll spit in your eye
But we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
No, we cannot cling to those dreams
Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body ?
I dunno...
Under the iron bridge we kissed
And although I ended up with sore lips
It just wasn't like the old days anymore
No, it wasn't like those days
Am I still ill ?
Oh ...
Am I still ill ?
Oh ...
Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body ?
I dunno...
Ask me why, and I'll die
Oh, ask me why, and I'll die
And if you must, go to work - tomorrow
Well, if I were you I really wouldn't bother
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know, because I've seen them
But not very often ...
Under the iron bridge we kissed
And although I ended up with sore lips
It just wasn't like the old days anymore
No, it wasn't like those days
Am I still ill ?
Oh ...
Oh, am I still ill ?
Oh ..

Working with Still ill by the Smiths in the classroom

1. Of course it seems obvious, but it is not a good idea to simply present the students a handout with the lyrics (as above) and then play the song once or twice for them to listen - and eventually  translate or go through the difficult words and phrases. No matter if you use an audio CD or even have the option of using the DVD  (or the WEB). By doing so you would lose a good opportunity to explore language details that could contribute for the whole process of the term or semester. You would lose a nice chance to make the learners "be active."

Surely enough it is a plus to present songs anyway. The class always goes interesting with some music.

2.It seems to me that it is also important to work with lyrics that present some aspects in common with your curriculum or syllabus. When the teacher presents contents which are not linked to the course, one could always say that he is just killing class time -- as the literature teacher who works with films that have nothing to do with the general plan. 

3. Finally, we all know that it is quite simple & easy to work with a song. There are hundreds of possibilities and the "right way" ends up being dictated by each teacher's choices. In fact, there is not a thing called "the right way" when teaching language methodology is concerned. 

Here follows some very simple & practical ways of working with a song when you don't have pre-prepared materials or handouts at your disposal:

  • Simply print the lyrics and cross out some words using a felt-tip pen. Photocopy and take the worksheets to the students to listen & complete. Then you check using the board. Like this:
I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine - it owes me a living
But ask me why, and I'll spit in your eye
  •  If you don't even have the photocopy service, use the board and leave the spaces in blank to be filled in by the students. 
  • Pre-teach the vocabulary (you select) doing a dictation.
  • Suppose you have just few copies to use. Say, four. Divide the class in four groups. Hand out each group the lyrics - in the form of slips of paper you have just produced by cutting the sheet and dividing the lyrics into stanzas. Each group will listen and rearrange the scrumbled parts of the lyrics.
  • You don't always need to present a handout -- sometimes it's impossible for us to have one anyhow!. Just play the song, after having gone through a brief warm up for contextualization. Then ask the students questions about possible themes present in the song (love, hatred, desire, lust, nostalgia, strong social awareness etc.) . After that, write some parts of the lyrics (stanzas, lines) -- you can choose at the moment -- on the board. Here you leave some blank spaces. By then it's up to you to decide whether the students will copy what you've just written on the board or not. Play the song again as they fill in the blanks. Check answers.
  • This is a perfect song for debating the association we can grasp between rock artists and the famous Romantic poets of the nineteenth century (Poe, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats). As wikipedia points out, the band picked their name in part as a reaction against names they considered fancy and pompous such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. In a 1984 interview Morrissey -- the singer --said that he chose the name The Smiths "...because it was the most ordinary name" and because he thought that it was "...time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces". It is exactly the same thing the early Romantic poets -- such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge -- stated in relation to the aesthetics of poetry, in the end of the eighteenth century. Art should be the one of the simple men. Moreover, you can say something about the tragic and heroic lives of the Romantic poets. You can debate  themes like love, sadness, death, distress and the strong attachment to a romanticized past. In the song by The Smiths, you can pinpoint phrases like "life... Is simply taking and not giving", "England is mine -- it owes me a living", "the old dreams" and  "the old days",  which tend to involve the reader/listener in an atmosphere of negativity and sadness.

As we can see, these are just some of the tactics a teacher can use in the busy everyday routine. Besides, at those moments when there is no sufficient time for the desired thorough elaboration of a classroom worksheet, the teacher must be creative. And music always enlivens our classes.

The following handout I've prepared follows just a few steps and covers just a few aspects among several possible others. Enjoy!

Worksheet will be published here soon, I promise!

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Link TV: Television Without Borders

My friend Maria Martins Vieira from Florida sent the suggestion for Link TV. Interesting: it shows what others don't. The players below bring streaming news. That means you can come back here whenever you want for different programs. See Link TV's own presentation:

Link TV broadcasts programs that engage, educate and activate viewers to become involved in the world. These programs provide a unique perspective on international news, current events, and diverse cultures, presenting issues not often covered in the U.S. media.

Who We Are

Link TV is the first nationwide television channel dedicated to providing Americans with global perspectives on news, events and culture. The channel was launched in December 1999, on DIRECTV and added to EchoStar's DISH Network a few weeks later. Currently, the channel is available as a basic service in over 29 million U.S. homes that receive direct broadcast satellite television (DBS). The DBS broadcast rights for Link TV were obtained under FCC guidelines requiring the DBS operators to allocate 4% of their channels for non-commercial public service programming.

LinkTV is operated by Link Media, Inc. a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed through a partnership between Internews Network, a leading supporter of independent television around the world, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), an experienced supplier of independently-produced programs for public television, and Internews Interactive (InterAct), a specialist in participatory TV programming.


Flash Player 8 or higher is required for video playback in the user's web browser.






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About IELTS The English Language Testing System


About IELTS The English Language Testing System
English4Today has been running a very successful IELTS Preparation Course for over 18 months but one of the things that strikes me when we are contacted by students interested in the course is how little they actually know about IELTS - the International English Language Testing System. Most prospective students know that they need to have a certain IELTS score, usually 6 - 6.5, to get into a university in countries like Canada, Britain, Australia or the USA, or they know that they have to sit the exam if they want to work or migrate to one of these countries. But very often they do not know what the exam itself involves or which English language skills are going to be tested. I recently caught up with Michael Fay, a senior Australian education consultant with the ASEAN focus group and one-time director of INSEARCH at the University of Technology. Michael not only has extensive experience in providing IELTS courses but is also an IELTS Examiner himself - an ideal person to advise you on what the examination contains and how it is used by educational institutions and governments to determine your English language level.
IELTS  english  language  examination  international  english  language  testing  system  examinations  exams  english  migration 


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Bring the World Into Your Classroom With Video from NBC News

From historic footage to the latest events, NBC News and the Site HotChalk will help you bring the real world into your classroom in a safe, secure online environment built with you and your students in mind.

A searchable archive with thousands of historic video resources, mini-documentaries, primary sources, text resources, and images aligned to classroom instruction    
Access to current event topics tied to core curriculum in a safe, student-friendly environment
Special bonus video collections including Decision 08', Black History Month, Women's Studies, Global Studies, Forensic Science and so much more!
Daily topics added so your video resources are always current and up-to-date -- FREE lesson plans, classroom ideas from NBC News Producers, instructional advice, and more!

You just need to register for free 

HotChalk provides you with access to a vast digital library of educational content aligned with standardized curriculums. HotChalk content –- including lesson plans, worksheets, textbooks, articles and images, as well as a wide selection of video to enrich your curriculum for the YouTube Generation.

Search over 3,000 FREE,
original Lesson Plans

Here's an example of a videoscript. You watch the video online and can download the PDF file with the script. 

More businesses are requiring their employees to take remedial basic writing classes due to frequent mistakes in spelling and grammar. Roger O'Neil reports on America's grammatical decline.

Decline of Grammar
We've already received e-mails tonight because of a grammatical error in one of our
reporter's stories this evening. We said “less” when we meant “fewer”, and we
apologize. Though it's hardly just us, we are in the middle of a bad grammar epidemic in
this country. Perhaps you've seen signs of it yourself in memos, documents and
computer-speak on the Internet. Grammar and spelling have really gone the way of the
black and white television set these days. The good news is some people are taking
much-needed action. And we assigned this story to our own Roger O'Neil because he
writes good.
ROGER O'NEIL reporting:
It seems us Americans ain't talking too good. Don't write worth a lick and worser with emails.
Our grammar, punctuation and spelling are, is, abysmal. And Corporate America
is saying, "stop." When Texas Communications Company Valor discovered its workers,
including managers, weren't communicating...
Mr. JEFF HARRINGTON: No more than two subject-verb combinations.
O'NEIL: It enrolled them in remedial business writing class.
O'NEIL: Jeff Harrington thinks computers are partly to blame for dumbing down
Mr. HARRINGTON: OK. People who are used to using Blackberries, instant
messaging, and they're transferring that way of writing into all forms of writing.
O'NEIL: A recent survey found Fortune 500 companies spending more than
$3 billion a year retraining workers in Basic English. Even writers have trouble writing.
Mr. DON MORRISON: This sentence is 45 words long.
O'NEIL: Sacramento Bee columnist Don Morrison sees the enemy every time he looks
in the mirror. Morrison is a client of Roger Peterson, who was among the first to notice
Americans butchering their language.
Mr. ROGER S. PETERSON (Business Writing Instructor): How about this expression,
"For all intents and purposes." What does that mean? "At this point in time." What does
that mean? How is it better than saying "now"? Awfully. "That was an awfully nice
dinner you just served me." Well, was it a nice dinner or was it an awful dinner? Make
up your mind. We simply now must salvage American English.
O'NEIL: "Unbelievable," one of today's in words, overused or used incorrectly.

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Talks on the Web: A Nice Way to Improve Your English

It doesn´t necessarily need to be something on Applied Linguistics especifically. Any interesting presentation or talk can be used to improve language skills. Either at home or in the classroom. There are several sources. Of course the teacher will have to select & prepare if he wants to work with these in classroom. 

Ted talks

There are many fantastic videos at the TED talks site.  Here  follows one example.

Clifford Stoll: 18 minutes with an agile mind

Filmed Feb 2006; Posted Mar 2008

About this Talk

Clifford Stoll could talk about the atmosphere of Jupiter. Or hunting KGB hackers. Or Klein bottles, computers in classrooms, the future. But he's not going to. Which is fine, because it would be criminal to confine a man with interests as multifarious as Stoll's to give a talk on any one topic. Instead, he simply captivates his audience with a wildly energetic sprinkling of anecdotes, observations, asides -- and even a science experiment. After all, by his own definition, he's a scientist: "Once I do something, I want to do something else."

About Clifford Stoll

Astronomer Clifford Stoll helped to capture a notorious KGB hacker back in the infancy of the... Read full bio »

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Making presentations in English: Video Resources for Teachers and Advanced Learners of English

Here are some words about the importance of considering the use of videos for teaching & learning English, by Lori at the website [email protected]

Many of my students tell me that they want to learn how to make presentations in English. Additionally, many teachers of English are required to teach presentation techniques (or at least require their students to make presentations) during their courses.

I think that of the best ways to help yourself become a better presenter is watch great presentations and see what you can learn from them. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find audio and video examples of well executed, inspiring presentations in mainstream English teaching materials. When I come across a great presentation video on the Internet, I save it for my upper-intermediate to advanced students of English. Here is a collection of some of my favorites so that [email protected] readers can benefit as well. I hope you’ll find them useful.

The author: 

My name is Lori, and I’m the owner, maintainer, principal writer, and fez-sporting Grand Poobah of Better at English. In non-virtual life I work as a corporate language instructor, editor, and translator in southern Sweden. But I’m not Swedish — I emigrated from southern California as an adult. If it means anything to you, I hold an RSA CELTA, a BS in Education and an MA in English, for what those are worth (add me to the list of people who think that the school of LIFE is where real learning takes place).

Some video talks suggested by Lori

This is Broken by Seth Godin

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

Identity 2.0 by Dick Hardt of Sxip


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Tips and Tools for EFL and ESL Learners: Spell Checking Online

Transcript Hi, Lori here, welcoming you to tips and tools for ESL and EFL learners, from This episode marks our first videocast, so those of you who have video iPods can listen and watch. If you have feedback or questions for us, you can email them to info [AT] BetterAtEnglish [DOT] com or stop by our forum, which you can find at

Today’s topic: spelling and spell checkers.

Judging from the email I get from many of my students, it seems as if some of them have a “who cares?” attitude toward spelling in email. Sometimes their spelling is so bad that I can tell right away that they didn’t even bother run a spell checker. :roll:

Maybe spelling doesn’t seem important anymore because modern English language teaching often focuses on “successful communication” and “just getting your message across” rather than “boring” details like grammar and spelling. While this may help give learners confidence in their ability to use English to communicate effectively, there is a downside. The covert message is that spelling isn’t important anymore.

Good spelling is still important. Very important.

Yes, even in email. In fact, I’d say that it’s particularly important in email and online. Why? In the world of email and online communication, your spelling and language reflect who you are. If you use sloppy spelling in your online communications, people may not see through it to discover the brilliant, charming person that you are. This is particularly important for first impressions – say, when you’re writing an email to someone for the first time. When people read your email, not only will they be interested in your message; they’ll be trying to form an idea of who you are. And if your email is full of bad spelling, their first impression of you could well be that you are a loser.

mean teacherIs spelling really such a big deal? It can be. Remember the movie Forrest Gump? Well, writing to someone for the first time is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. And if you get someone like this, she’ll take one look at your bad spelling and careless mistakes and come to the conclusion that you are stupid (or careless or lazy).

Fortunately, there is some good news. Free tools are available, tools that make bad spelling piece of cake to fix. And they are really easy to use. In fact, it’s so easy to run a spell check these days that there really are no excuses.

Let’s look at some of the free spelling tools available for two of the most popular browsers, IE and Firefox. They will help you check your spelling in everything you write online: email, forums, comments on blogs, even filling in online forms. Of course, no spelling checker can fix ALL of your mistakes, but that’s still no reason NOT to use one. I estimate that using a spelling checker will catch a huge percentage of your errors.

First we’ll look at Internet Explorer, the most widely used browser today. There is a useful spelling and dictionary tool for version 5.0 or higher. It’s a plug-in called IE Spell, and you can download it at Once you’ve installed it, it works in a similar way to the spelling checker in MS Word.

In addition to a spelling checker, IE spell also has a cool dictionary look-up function. When you are reading text online and come across a word you don’t know, you can simply right click on it to look it up in a variety of online dictionaries.

Moving on now to add-ons available for Mozilla Firefox. Now, I have to take a moment to rave about Firefox. Firefox freaking rocks. If you are not using it already, you should be. It is so much better than IE that I don’t even know where to start. You owe it to yourself to at least try it.

Why am I so keen on Firefox? It’s got tons of free language tools and useful add-ons, it’s safer than IE, and it’s not Microsoft.

Some of Firefox’s useful language tools for EFL and ESL learners include a spelling checker for multiple languages – you can switch between languages with the click of a mouse; it’s also got lots of different dictionary look-up plug-ins and translation tools in many languages. The Firefox browser and add-ons are all available for free download at

For those of you who are web savvy, this is probably all you need to know to get started with spell checking in IE or Firefox. If you need more guidance or help downloading or installing these spelling tools, feel free to stop by our forum and ask for help.

Remember, checking your spelling can make a huge difference in how people perceive you in your emails. It only takes a minute to check your spelling, and I promise you, people will think that you rock for doing it.

That’s all for this time. We encourage you to check out our podcast and forum at where we offer free help for EFL and ESL learners. Bye for now!

Download this English lesson mp3Download PDF transcriptDownload MSWord transcript

IE Spell download page
Firefox download page
Dictionary Search add-on for Firefox)
Multi-language spelling dictionaries for Firefox.


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Video English Lessons at YouTube

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