Did you watch the Olympics?
As you know, I did, and I already shared some lesson ideas on Marcell Jacobs’ historic win in the men’s 100m race.
But today, I woke up to this video, which is… how do I put this delicately? Oh, yes, pretty funny to watch (for an Italian, that is, not so much a Brit!).
It shows the last few seconds of the Men’s 4 × 100 metres relay at the Olympics, where Italy beat Great Britain by a hundredth of a second.
The video can obviously be seen as pretty amusing to an Italian audience, but it may also have some potential for the English Language Classroom, which got me thinking:
Here are all my ideas. Of course they don’t make a coherent lesson plan: to do that, you need to follow a much more structured approach.
However, they are hopefully some inventive little ideas that you can either use in your classes or apply to other video extracts.
1. Trim the video
The beginning of the video can be a little unclear to school-age students, so I decided to make it into a 4-second (rather than 5-second, huge difference, I know!) video. The result is this video, which starts at 1 second:
Learn how you can start a video at a specific time on YouTube at this page. This can be a useful skill when you find a good video for a class but want to only show the final section.
➡️ For more ideas on good videos to use with teenagers, see our top 8 video ideas.
2. Sentence stress
As we know, stress in English utterances is specific to the language, as certain words (normally, content words like nouns and verbs) are stressed – unless of course the speaker wants to emphasise certain words on purpose.
Failure to recognise and be attuned to English sentence stress is a frequent cause of listening problems. As I discussed in a previous article, listening can be taught and developed through an approach that focuses on developing the processes of listening, one of which is recognising stressed words.
In the video extract, the speaker says:
Is it going to be gold for Great Britain? No, it’s Italy!
Ask your learners to recognise which words are stressed (e.g. ‘gold’): this will also help identify and reflect on how the unstressed words are pronounced (see below).
3. Common reductions
Listen to the video again: does the speaker actually say “going to”? No, he says “gonna”.
Gonna as a short for going to has become common, especially in spoken English. Ask your learners to try to transcribe the section and then have them focus on how going to is produced as gonna. You can then focus on:
- Other similar reductions they may be familiar (or unfamiliar) with, such as wanna or gotta
- The extent to which such reductions are appropriate for different genres and situations. We can no longer say, for example, that gonna is unsuitable for the written word or for formal situations: how about, respectively, texting and Bush and Obama using gonna when addressing the nation?
- Look up going to in YouGlish and have your learners listen to how it is pronounced differently by different speakers. As you will see, sometimes it’s not even pronounced gonna, but I’mma
4. Weak forms
The extract contains a few weak forms, i.e. syllables that are not stressed in an utterance and are hence pronounced differently, often with a schwa sound.
For example, the word for in “is it gonna be gold for Great Britain” is not pronounced /fɔːr/ but /ˈfə/. This can be a good introduction to the theme of weak forms in typical words like an, and, it, etc.
Another interesting feature of connected speech is elision, whereby a sound is dropped.
Watch the video again: which sounds are dropped?
Well, for example, the /d/ in gold!
➡️ Read more about features of connected speech in this article.
6. Glottal stop
And now onto one of the most typically British features of connected speech: the glottal stop. As the name suggests, it is a glottalisation of the /t/ sound.
Can you spot it in the video?
Yes, it’s so coincidentally in the pronunciation og Great Britain!
7. Great Britain: a bit of geography, politics and history
The video mentions Great Britain. This would be a cool springboard for a broader discussion of the term Great Britain, including:
- What it means politically and the differences with the UK or the 4 nations
- Why Great Britain is one team at the Olympics but then has multiple teams in the Euros
- The history behind Great Britain
8. Grammar: It as a dummy subject
Did you notice that the speaker in the video says “no, it’s Italy”?
Well, what does it mean in this context? Does it carry any meaning or is it used as a dummy subject? A good question for a bit of emergent grammar.
9. Intertextuality and background knowledge
Now, the video can make you chuckle if you’re Italian, there’s no question about it. It has been shared widely because it’s so funny to watch (again, for an Italian, not so much for a Brit!)
This video can be used to reflect on background knowledge: why is it funny? What background knowledge (e.g. about previous Italian wins, about the Italian-British rivalry) is needed to understand why it’s funny? This is also useful for broader awareness of the role of background knowledge in listening comprehension.
To emphasise that the video has been regarded by many as funny, show them this video: someone even made a remix of the video!
10. Personal response
People will react differently to videos and, more broadly, to events. The video can lead to some interesting discussions if learners are asked, for example, how the video made them feel or what their thoughts were on the Olympics. You may also have students of different nationalities in your classroom, so that might add to the discussion. This can also take the form of a writing task in which students choose their 3 favourite events in sports history and describe them.
Ah, believe it or not, I’ve made it to 10 ideas out of a 4-second video!
Can you add any ideas to my list? Let me know in the comments section!
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