Category Archives: Lesson Ideas

My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts

Torill Kove, the Oscar-winning director of the Danish Poet, tells a tall tale about her grandmother’s role in the Norwegian resistance during the Second World War. This beautiful animated film is the nucleus of the 7th Chapter in Reel Canada. For the detailed lesson plan see Chapter 7′s Page on the website.

My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts by Torill Kove, National Film Board of Canada

Google Translate: a Curse or a Blessing

Recently, I have been receiving student email and writing assignments that have obviously been written in their first language and then machine-translated.

Here’s an example (original language: French):

Goog Day,
My name is Xyz. I am a student at The City in the group on Thursday morning. I was missing the last two weeks due to family constraints. Right now I am trying to revise the lessons that I missed. I also like to ask you to please give me some time to prepare my presentation. I beg leave to submit the final day of court on 26 April 2012.
I would be most grateful to me the modules I have to do on computer to complete my homework.
Thank you for your understanding and wish you a good day.


I find more students are using Google Translate instead of a dictionary in class. I know some teachers are using Google Translate as a learning tool with their students.  Do you think Google Translate is a curse or a blessing?  How do your students use it?

Lesson Idea: Edit the Lyrics

Some song lyrics are notorious for their semantic or syntactic errors. These errors can be used in the ESL classroom as editing exercises to reinforce learning certain elements such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun errors (subject, object, reflexive, personal, relative, etc.), verb tenses (e.g. present progressive vs. simple present), adjective-adverb confusion, spelling, redundancy, confusing words (lie vs. lay, rise vs. raise, etc.), made up words to make a rhyme.

The ability to find mistakes committed by native speakers is very empowering for second language learners and the fact that the students get to listen to the songs as well is an obvious bonus.

Here are some examples:

I believe in the power of you and I (Nikki Yanofsky, “I Believe”) pronouns

Me and some guys from school/ Had a band and we tried real hard (Bryan Adams, “Summer of 69″) pronouns, adjective-adverb confusion

But that’d change if she ever found out about you and I (Bryan Adams, “Run to You”) pronouns

There’s a wren in a willow wood/Flies so high and sings so good (Anne Murray, “A Love Song”) adjective-adverb confusion

Believe it or not everyone have things that they hide (Nickelback, “Believe it or Not”) Subject-verb agreement

Coined words:

conversate (Beyonce, “Get me Bodied”)

bestest (Gwen Stefani, “Bubble Pop Electric”)

See this website for a hundreds of other examples.