Monthly Archives: March 2015

Immigrants in their own words

On 24 March The Guardian devoted a great deal of its Opinion pages to the topic of immigration. Jonathan Freedland, the executive editor for the Opinion pages, wrote a short introduction to the topic. He points out that discussions about immigration often leave out the voices of the immigrants themselves. So, The Guardian dedicated a section to them; “Immigrants in their own words: 100 stories“, in which immigrants living in the UK have told their own stories.

I’ve selected a few for you in advance, but they are all well worth reading and shed light on how diverse Britain is becoming:

“I arrived at Gatwick in June 2002 when the World Cup was in full swing”

“I am Bekele Woyecha”

“My first year was exceptionally cold”

“I remember being struck at how quiet it was on the first day”

“Everything was strangely calm”

“And yet living here is toxic, somehow.”  

“Life could not be much better”

“As an immigrant, people don’t recognise your skills or your qualifications.”

 “I found many aspects of British society odd”

Which story did you find the most insightful?

The US President stars in an advert with a difference

In this tongue-in-cheek video “Things everybody does but doesn’t talk about” President Obama is waiting for an interviewer to arrive. The video shows the interviewer and the President preparing for the interview (in similar ways but different places). To pass the time, the President gets out a selfie stick, plays air basketball, makes doodles of his wife, practises delivering his pitch in which he tells people to sign up for his health care plan and even uses current slang at the end, saying “Yolo” (you only live once) …

The video was created by BuzzFeed, the American Internet news media company. It was conceived as a way of connecting with millennials and getting them to sign up for the President’s health care plan (there is a link to the website at the end). As interviews using traditional media, such as newspapers would probably not have reached this target group, the President took to social media. The video was posted on Facebook on 12 February 2015, and within an hour of being online, it had been viewed over 1.5 million times.

It is not the first time that President Obama has embraced different media as a way of reaching out to people, especially young people. JFK is often said to be the first president who really understood television, Obama is the first social media president: he was the first US presidential candidate to effectively use social media (Facebook and Twitter) as a major campaign strategy way back in 2008, fine-tuned this strategy for his run in 2012, was interviewed by three young YouTube stars after his State of the Union, and was also the first president to appear on a late-night comedy show while in office.

Critics have claimed that the video is disrespectful to the office of president and that such tongue-in-cheek behaviour is unpresidential. The cartoonist Michael Ramirez commented in this cartoon and Mark W. Davis, a White House speechwriter for President George Bush, wrote, “The same face that mugs in the mirror and sticks out a tongue may have to go on television to announce the beginning of a war. The same hand that holds a selfie stick will certainly have to sign condolence letters.”

To joke around or not to joke around – what do your students think?


The selfie craze

The media dubbed 2013 the Year of the Selfie and it was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year too. The trend continued in 2014, with politicians, celebrities, footballers and even astronauts posting selfies on social media. And then came the selfie stick – an expandable stick on which you put your mobile phone to take a selfie. It was one of the most popular holiday gifts in the US and the UK in 2014. However, the craze now seems to have got a little out of hand and museums in the US, the UK and other countries are banning them (have a look at the cartoon in the Australian Herald Sun). This article on the bbc website includes a two-minute embedded video, which discusses selfie sticks and why they are being banned by some museums but are tolerated by others.

Discussion topics could include whether:

  • selfies are a sign of narcissism,
  • the taking of selfies (with or without selfie sticks) should be banned in certain places,
  • it is acceptable to edit or even photoshop a selfie before it’s posted,
  • people who post too many selfies on social media risk damaging their real-life relationships
  • selfies will continue to be big in 2015 or are people beginning to tire of them?

Mouse for sale

Mouse for Sale by Wouter Bongaerts

Mouse for sale  is a great film for practising the present simple and present progressive with younger students (Years 5/6). It’s short (only 4 minutes) and does not contain any speech, which can be a bonus at times as the students can concentrate on describing what is going on.

The words “seesaw”, “earwig”, “headphones”, “button (on the headphones)”, “peanut” or “nut” will need to be given in advance, but otherwise the students should be able to use words that they know to talk about the film. The film could also be used to revise adjectives to describe feelings.

Making up new words

Go ahead, make up new words is an entertaining six-minute talk given by the lexicographer Erin McKean in November 2014. In it, she encourages her teen audience to be creative with language and to make up new words, both as a way of expressing their ideas more clearly and as a way of grabbing people’s attention. She explains six ways in which new words are created, using humorous examples to get her point across. The video is not only a fun way to analyse how new words are created but also provides a good starting point for getting students to examine and play with language themselves.

A transcript is also available.

Digital tattoos are forever

This fascinating six-minute talk – Your online life permanent as a tattoo – is given by the futurist Juan Enriquez. In this video, he talks about how the information we post online can be compared to a digital tattoo. It provides a great and less patronizing starting point for a discussion in Years 11 and 12 on what we post online. Before the students watch, you might like to ask them to think about what their online presence and a tattoo have in common.

There’s a transcript of the talk, too.