Real (Teacher) World Application of

By Sharon Yoneda

     It's another Monday morning in rainy Vancouver, Canada. The students in my ESL class struggle to stay awake in the hypnotic patter of raindrops and the sullen darkness of another day without the sun. Down the hallowed halls we go to the computer lab where we view Rainy Days and Mondays performed by Paul Williams and Karen Carpenter. In instant identification with the images of rain, umbrellas and lethargy, suddenly there is something to talk about. "Yeah, I really get that song," intones a student. The day brightens up instantly.

     "In my country, it is sunny every day. Vancouver is a beautiful city, but I hate the rain," says another student. Yup. Okay. In the language of empathy, I reflect his feelings back to him, "Sounds like the rain gets you down." Then, I enter into discussion mode, "What do you think of the drinking water in Vancouver?" "Is the water different here from your country?" "Do you like turning on a tap and taking a shower with clean water every morning?" "Hey, last week you told me that you went to pick fresh strawberries in the fields, and the taste was awesome. What was that like? Do you suppose the rain had something to do with that?" Yup. Okay. That night for homework I assign Sarah McLachlan's Ordinary Miracle for students to think about all that we take for granted in our natural quotidian existence.

     As the blogmeister of two blogs ( and, I have found tools to be invaluable for students whose technological savvy sometimes exceeds that of their teachers. Although I work in an institution that doesn't provide computer access or Smartboards (interactive whiteboards) in every classroom, I can utilize this program in our computer lab. has easy access, so every student can benefit from using it at home as long as they have access to a computer and possess basic computer skills. The easy startup is one of the best features of this program.

     Many of my teaching colleagues turn to to teach iconic songs of the culture: the national anthem, traditional or popular songs and seasonal tunes such as Christmas carols. Because of the limitations of an "unwired" classroom, I often assign online songs for homework to be taken up the following day with CD players and paper cloze exercises. Additional challenges of word recall can be a part of a paper cloze with different words removed.

     Carefully selected videos can be a wealth of visual information for pre-reading and post-reading setup and discussion as well as generation of ideas for writing and oral presentations. As an example, I have had great success with the quiz, Doing Business Around The World at where I ask students to read the story in their readers, view the video for homework and the following day, design and present roleplays in gestures of greetings from the various nationalities in the class. The result is a lively classroom space of bowing, shaking hands, hugging and kissing cheeks which are all performed with spontaneity, humor with most definitely, enhanced English production.

     On the subject of production, assists in introducing and reinforcing the eccentricities of natural English pronunciation and intonation. A specialist in teaching pronunciation at my institution has built a whole lesson around native speaker linking and intonation from Avril Lavigne's hit song, Complicated –/CHIL-lout, wha' chya YEL-lin' for/. Contemporary songs are a useful media in illustrating the discrete points of articulatory phonetics. In using carefully-selected distractors in a multiple choice format, students are really challenged to listen carefully for a particular sound and use orthographic knowledge to choose the correct spelling of words. Although the tried and true method of a pedagogue standing before a class drilling the minimal pairs works – "Now repeat after me, /sheep/, /ship/; /sheet/, /sh../ oops, careful." – a streaming video of Avril Lavigne on the screen just might be more stimulating for the wired up generation of students who skateboard into our classrooms today.

     Forever mindful that the creator of is paying me nothing for writing this tome, I will summarize here by saying that has transformed my whole way of teaching. Homework assignments now include a cooling-off musical selection from my songbook, and I leave the students at choice to do the quiz; that way, I can be almost assured that they will do it. This program lends itself nicely to autonomous learning and self-correction. The natural human urge to push higher and harder compels a student of some diligence to go for that 100% accuracy, and then the quiz takes on a game-like appeal in competing with self. The best feature of all is that the quizzes are very easy to create and publish for your own students on, so /CHIL-lout wha'chya WAI-tin' for/?

Sharon Yoneda
Vancouver Community College
School of Language Studies
Vancouver, British Columbia
Study French with FLE video quizzes.