Educational TV

Apparently I'm quite a good teacher. And apparently that's quite rare.

Each class gets 200 minutes of me a day. Three hours and twenty minutes of providing distractions, conversations and games in the guise of teaching words and grammar.

That's 'grammar' as in the distinction between:
1) I used it
2) I'm used to it
3) I used to do it
...which took a good half hour to explain today. How would you explain it?

The art of teaching is one third making the students like you, one third coming up with ways to make the time pass painlessly, and one third making it look like you've got it all planned in advance. Any actual teaching that gets done in the process is a bonus for any students that want it.

Yesterday I cobbled together an 80 minute lesson on the theme of comedy - a group discussion on the different senses of humour of different nations, puns, absurdity, and the politics/history of acceptable victimisation.

My source material: Two subtitled Monty Python videos hastily found on Youtube. The Black Knight sketch from Holy Grail seems to appeal to teenagers.

Oh, and I learned one thing in the discussion - blond jokes are international. Whether you're in Kazakstan, Austria or Portugal, everyone knows jokes about how blond women are stupid.

So, how to fill the time? Videos are good, but you've got to justify them educationally. So here's my list of words, phrases and discussion points for tomorrow's video: Doctor Who, The Impossible Planet.

Queasy, Indigestion
Kit, Cupboard
Base, Sanctuary
Storm, Hurricane
Feed, Refreshment, Dinner lady
Earthquake (quake)
Log in/Log on, Log out, Online, Offline
Cattle, Herd, Livestock, Beast
Scriptures, Worship
Impact, Drill, Crush
Cave, Cave in
Black hole
Field (area, Electromagnetics)

Handy: Useful
Track: A piece of music
Confirm: To say yes
Aeon/Eon: 1 billion years
Vacuum: An area with no air
Crave: To want greatly
Trapdoor: A door in the floor
Pit: A hole in the ground
Laundry: Cleaning of clothes

We've gone way out.
Who's in charge?
What the hell?
You're not gonna believe this.
Oh my god.
That wasn't so bad.
Brace yourselves.
And yet...
Off the scale.
Pine away,
...and that's saying something.
I've changed my mind.
Kind of...
We've made it.


Life in space
Home and travel
Good and evil
Language (word magic)
And here's the phrases for the video after that - Doctor Who, The Satan Pit.
Fat lot of good
No such thing
Where angels fear to tread
For starters...
Get to work.
How's it going?
Ever since...
Over and over again
At the back of the mind.
Act of faith
All the way
Go to hell
Yes, I am introducing my students to the world of timelords and Tardises, a founding stone of British language and culture.


  1. Nice blog! And I'm happy to see you're teaching Again.

    By the way: Track can mean a lot more than music. For instance trains run on them... and what about 'track marks' and 'the other side of the tracks'?

    On second thoughts your job sounds a bit of a nightmare, really. ;)

    PS why Doctor Who and not Star Trek?

  2. The nightmare parts of the job are those outside the classroom - bureaucracy, lack of support, idiot bosses etc. Time with students is usually pretty good.

    Why not teach the various meanings of 'track'? Basically because I'm teaching people to be fairly fluent, not to be encyclopedias. Language is a skill, not a set of facts. Though in most of Europe it's still taught as a bag of translations and grammar rules.

    As for why not Star Trek...two reasons. One, most Star Trek hasn't aged well, and some was always downright dreadful. And second...I don't have Star Trek with subtitles.

  3. No, I didn't mean teach meanings by rote. But you should at least explain that some words have a shed load of different meanings.

    As for star Trek, I see your point. Besides, you like Dr Who, and teachers (and Kapitanos) generally teach material they like much better than that they don't.... Provided you don't have the Daleks aide you with ethics. ;)


  4. I heartily approve of your teaching methods!