Christmas ads 2019

Christmas is around the corner. In the run-up to Christmas, businesses and brands release their very best ads, typically tearjerkers, to catch consumers off-guard and lure them to shop till they drop. I’m well aware of their persuasion strategies, of course. And yet, every year I find myself having a look at British Christmas ads, as they tend to be longer, and usually tell a story, which will allow me to exploit them in the classroom even further than ordinary ads. This is a selection of the ones I liked the most this year:

VISA

a rendition of Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ by real shopkeepers struggling to survive in the high street.

Extended version

Alternative version- shopkeepers singing All I Want for Xmas is you

Sainsbury’s– Nicholas the Sweep

Set in Dickensian London, it showcases the story of a waif-an orphan child and chimney sweep, unfairly accused of stealing.

Resources: the ad is set in Victorian England/Dickensian London. Some related vocabulary may be useful to start with:

Click on the image to open the word cloud. Links to definitions can be found by clicking on each word.

  • What do you mean when you say that somebody is ‘rotten to the core’?
  • The story is told by a 3rd-person narrator. How would you narrate the story using 1st-person narrative…
          • a. from Mrs Sainsbury’s point of view? 
          • b. from Nicholas the sweep’s point of view?
  • Imagine the story were to be published as a book. How would you retell it?

John Lewis & Waitrose– Excitable Edgar

Resources to use the ad in the classroom:

Fortnum and Mason– What’s in a Fortnum and Mason hamper? (list of traditional Christmas foods and elements in Britain)

Watch the ad and write down as many foods, gifts and Christmas traditions as you can.

Aldi-Kevin the Carrot #4 (Let Me Entertain You):

Resources to use the ad in the classroom: The Literacy Shed

Sky– ET came home for Christmas

Joules– Wallace and Gromit

Iceland supermarkets– Frozen II

Lidl

M&S Christmas Food (Christmas market)

Smyths toys– If I Were a Toy

Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day– You may want to take part in this…

Further resources:

Apostrophe Protection Society closes down

The Apostrophe Protection Society (APS) has been forced to shut down, due to an alleged lack of interest in the subject.  Listen to the  news report below to find out more:

You can read the transcript here

You can also read this article, or have a look at some ‘apostrophe catastrophes’.

This is no trifling matter. For example,  should it be King’s Cross or Kings Cross? On the tube map, it says ‘King’s Cross’, but on the National Rail website, it does refer to the station as ‘Kings Cross’, which illustrates the insecurities in the use of the apostrophe over the centuries.

Some time ago, a grammar vigilante was claimed to roam the streets of Bristol late at night correcting bad punctuation on Bristol shop fronts.

With all this in mind, you could think of possible speaking points:

  • Can you see the APS and this grammar vigilante’s points? What’s your take on their actions?
  • Is English spelling and punctuation being neglected? If so, what may be some possible causes?
  • Would English benefit from having an ‘Academy of the English Language’, just like Spanish or French have?
  • Should written  language adopt more similar conventions to spoken language?

Follow-up to the story (Dec 9th 2019): Renewed interest in apostrophes after society closed down

Black Friday and consumerism- resources

You can find below a collection of resources which can be used when dealing with Black Friday and consumerism:

  • Black Friday-US commercial:

  • Black Friday (BBC news):

Binge shopping:

How to differentiate deals from duds on Black Friday (B2):

Black Friday- consumer expert:

Black Friday online shopping and fraud: https://natalialzam.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/black-friday-online-shopping-and-fraud/

Money- resources

You can find below a series of resources which can be used if you need to deal with the topic of money and finances:

Debit card ad:

Money and consumerism- Spotify playlist

Word cloud with idioms from songs:

Edpuzzle quiz– clip captioned in English, questions and comments aimed at working on the vocabulary of money. (C1)

Winning the lottery:

Transcript 

  • Cashless societies:
  • Pensioners splashing out vs cash-strapped millennials:

transcript

      • Facebook cryptocurrency launched:
      • Have you/Would you invest in bitcoins? Why? -Watch these clips from The Big Bang Theory (The Bitcoin Entanglement)

Finances:

Model declared bankrupt:

Transcript

Sex and the City- Ring a Ding Ding (the protagonist finds herself broke after years of splashing out on, among other luxuries, shoes)

Crime and money:

  • Cybercrime and fraud:
  • Measures to prevent fraud:
  • Using a dead woman’s card (B2):

Speaking voices in English I like

These are some of the speaking voices in English I like the most, and that I somehow consider ‘models’ of good pronunciation, stress, enunciation…At some points in life, when I have had to do public speaking, I have reminded myself of some of them, thinking, for example: ‘you should show the same poise as Audrey Hepburn when you’re speaking’.

To my mind, their voices are a delight to listen to and might prove a model to imitate when speaking English.

Audrey Hepburn:

Sabrina (1954)

Brian May:

Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4)

Benedict Cumberbatch:

‘Sherlock’ (BBC 2010-2017)

The Imitation Game (2014):

Martin Freeman:

Jeremy Irons:

‘Brideshead Revisited’ (Granada TV 1981)

Emma Thompson

Much Ado About Nothing (1992)

Kenneth Branagh:

Look Back in Anger (1989):

Hamlet (1996):

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002):

Nicole Kidman:

The Others (2001)

Hugh Grant:

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Notting Hill (1999)

Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie

‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ (1987-1995)

Kate Winslet:

Downton Abbey cast:

Michael Sheen:

The Queen (2006)

‘Good Omens’ (Amazon Prime 2019)

Jack Davenport:

‘Coupling’ (BBC 2000-2004)

‘Next of Kin’ (ITV 2018)

TV shows and films about politics and the monarchy

The following TV shows and films deal with aspects of British and American politics, as well as general views on political systems. They can help you gain insight into the history and traditions of those countries, as well as increase your vocabulary on the subject.

UK politics: 

Yes, Minister (1980-1984)/Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988)- (C2)

The Thick of It (2005-2012) [includes lots of profanity and swearwords]

Love Actually (2003)

One of the many subplots the film deals with involves the British Prime Minister:

The Iron Lady (2011):

Would you like to watch the sessions of the British Parliament live? Click here for BBC Parliament.

British Monarchy: 

The Queen (2006) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The King’s Speech (2010) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The Crown (2016-) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

A Very English Scandal (2018) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

Years and Years (2019) [show set in Manchester, some Northern accents are noticeable]

US politics: 

All the President’s Men (1976)

The West Wing (1999-2006)

(from 1’30”)

House of Cards (2013-2018)

Veep (2012-2019)

General views on politics: 

The Great Dictator (1940):

V for Vendetta (2005) [B2 and upwards- international cast, but most of them use British English RP pronunciations, regardless of their original accents]

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

School refusers- listening comprehension

Listen to this clip from Woman’s Hour about children and teenagers who refuse to go to school. Then answer the questions on the google form below. You can listen to the clip twice:

 

 

Open form in a new tab

Pay attention to the feedback given to both right and wrong answers.

You can finally listen again and read the transcript: