Diary of a Beginner: First Lesson

I’ve just started teaching a new private student. He’s a complete beginner in his 30s, having studied Russian at school and learnt a little German when working as a waiter a few years ago. He’s recently decided that he really needs to study English as he’ll soon need it for his job (he’s a salesman in the Czech Republic). He constantly travels and spends many hours a week in his car. The lessons will be sporadic, depending on when he is away. I thought it would be interesting to catalogue my approach and his progress here, which he has agreed to.

Our initial meeting was conducted almost exclusively in Czech, as he really couldn’t understand anything I said to him. He couldn’t count to ten, so we decided to start with numbers. During our meeting, I recorded myself counting to 20 using Audacity, leaving gaps between the numbers for him to say them. I also sent him a copy of a powerpoint presentation I had made previously for young learners, without adapting it as I wanted to get him started as soon as possible.

(Feel free to download and use this with your own students if you think it will be useful)

The plan is for him to do as much self-study as possible, with internet support where applicable. He will listen to the audio files in his car and use the presentations as he likes (printing them, on-screen or on his phone). We will then consolidate what he has done by himself by practising it further in class. If there is time, I will introduce the next topic in the sessions too.

I have decided not to use a textbook and to record the audio myself, as I feel this will personalise the lessons as much as possible.

What do you think of this approach? Have you ever taught in a similar situation? Do you have any advice?

Clouding my blog

Here’s my response to Dave Dodgson’s mini challenge based on his wordclouds presentation from the 2011 Virtual Round Table conference:

In word cloud format (using wordle) you can see that I’ve just done a post on Cuisenaire rods with Ceri, hence the large ‘rods’ and ‘one’, the latter of which also comes from the articles post. I didn’t realise how much I’d used the word ‘one’ until it appeared here! As with Dave and Vladka, I’m happy that the word ‘students’ is so large in the cloud too. You can draw your own conclusions from the rest of it!

To see what I’ve done with word clouds with my students, take a look at the first part of the presentation in this post.


Podcasts for extra listening practice

One way to get your SS listening to English outside class is to encourage them to use podcasts. They don’t need an iPod or mp3 player – all they need is a computer with an internet connection. Some places to download podcasts from:

There are podcasts about everything you could possibly imagine. Here is a selection of the ones that I listen to:

  • BBC History Magazine
  • BBC Focus Magazine (Science, includes some natural discussion and some reports)
  • Digital Planet
  • Science in Action
  • Stuff you Missed in History Class
  • In Our Time (assorted topics, discussion)
  • Thinking Allowed (sociology)
  • Reduced Shakespeare Company (this is the podcast which is most like natural speech – lots of conversations)
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film reviews
  • Great Lives
  • Best of Natural History Radio
  • The Film Programme
  • Excess Baggage (travel)
  • Material World (Science)
  • Friday Night Comedy
  • Front Row Highlights (some interviews, some monologues)
  • World Book Club

There are also many podcasts specifically designed for English learners, including:

  • 6 Minute English (BBC) – a discussion programme including explanations of new vocabulary
  • Talk About English (BBC) – lots of grammar focus, as well as in-depth looks at individual items of vocabulary.

It’s important that the SS know they don’t need to understand every word, but that the more they listen to English as ‘background noise’, the easier it will become for their brains to tune into it.


Update: I have created a complete beginner’s guide to podcasts, designed for teachers or pre-int and above students.

Cuisenaire Rods

A few weeks ago, I was reading a post on Ceri’s blog and stumbled across a picture of some Cuisenaire rods. I made a quick comment on the post, and Ceri asked me if I would like to write a joint post on how we use them. Ceri is a respected ELT writer and inspirational teacher and it’s an honour to be able to blog with her for a newbie like me. It’s the first attempt at cross-posting and blogging together for either of us: hope you like the results!

Ceri’s story

I bought my box of cuisenaire rods in 1989 when I was doing my induction to the Dip TEFLA (as it was known then) at IH Hastings. I was inspired by a silent way influenced lesson I observed at the school and bought my rods on the way out.  I was fascinated by the atmosphere of engagement and focused attention, of the calm, controlling presence of the teacher and the concentration on the part of the students.  I’ve carried the rods around with me ever since. They’re looking pretty good, despite their age, I think it’s something of the aura of care and respect from that first class I saw that’s rubbed off on them.

Recently I dusted them off and used them in class. But before I did, my kids got their hands on them.  My daughter’s been using them at school for maths.  She squealed with delight and pounced on them.  “They’re made of wood!” (the ones in her school are made of plastic) and proceeded to build a “picture” showing all the number combinations that add up to ten.  There’s a real pleasure in touching them and handling them and the colours are really attractive.  The way they’re laid out so carefully in the box breeds a sense of respect and discipline. When she’d finished with her maths drawings, she very carefully put them all back in their rightful place (not something that happens very often with her toys!).

Inspired by her enthusiastic response , I  took them into my adult class the next day.  We’d been using a lot of internet, Web 2.0 and IWB materials in our classes and I’d taken the rods in as a change of focus.  I wanted to use them first of all as a kind of show and tell activity. I also wanted to know if they too had used them at school and to see what kind of response I’d get.  No-one had used them and they were interested to learn about them.  We’d been discussing the power and associations of colours in the class before so we talked about how colours can aid memory and learning.  And we conducted an experiment, associating specific rods to idiomatic expressions  and explaining why.  We put the rods away until the end of the lesson and brought them out to see if we still remembered the associations.  No surprises, we did. We brought them out again the next lesson. We still remembered.

In the second lesson I introduced them to the rods for language practice using an activity I’d seen modelled back in that lesson in Hastings.  It’s incredibly simple. Incredibly basic. And there’s much, much more that you can do with rods, but it caught their imaginations. This is how our class secretary described the activity in the lesson summary:

Ceri suggested a new game with the blocks.

First ,  she made a figure with some of them and with the explanations she gave us,we were able to make it without seeing it. It was very funny.

After this, everyone of us made a figure and we explained how to make it and the other classmates tried to find out .”

The students were focused, engaged, concentrated, paying attention to the careful choice of each word, especially the “small words” (prepositions, articles, pronouns).  This is a comment one of the students made in her summary after the class:

We noticed our common mistake is when we say “take one block and put it in front of you”. We don´t usually say “it”.We eat “it”.

This seems to be a general pay-off with using rods; the level of attention and the focus on details and precision often help students value small insights, small “noticing” moments that then carry over as a shorthand for correction in less controlled production.

As an extension task I asked the students to write instructions to build a new shape with the rods and to post it on our class blog.  Here’s what one of the students wrote (if you have a set of rods you may want to follow the instructions and see what you come up with):

Hi Ceri!

If you follow the instructions, you’ll reproduce a piece of art made with scaled-up Cuisenaire rods I found on the internet.

Take the rods: 1 orange. 1 blue, 1 brown, 1 black, 1 dark green, 1 yellow, 1 lime green, 1 red and 2 white.

Let’s go!

Take the blue rod and put it on the table in front of you, standing up.

Take the purple rod and put it standing up on the right, next to the blue one.

Take the orange rod and put it behind the blue one, standing up.

Take the brown rod and put it standing up behind the purple one and next to the orange one.

Take the black rod and put it carefully on top of the purple one, standing up.

Take one white rod and put it on top of the orange one.

Now take the red rod and put it standing up on top of the last one you have just placed.

Take the yellow rod and put it on top of the blue one in front of the two smaller rods.

Take the dark green rod put it standing up on the top of the brown one, next to the stack of orange, white and red ones.

Take the lime green and put it on top of the black one, standing up.

In the end, take the other white rod and put it on the top of the red one.

If I’ve given you the right instructions and you’ve followed them correctly, you should have got this sculpture: http://www.tetuhi.org.nz/exhibitions/exhibitiondetails.php?id=8



Follow the link, it’s worth it to see the photo!

Sandy’s story

When I was about four, my parents gave me a set of Cuisenaire rods. A couple of years later, I got a book showing how to do sums using the rods. I loved playing with them, and it’s possibly here that my primary school love of maths originated. Until I was about eleven, I used the rods all the time. Then, I grew up and they disappeared into the cupboard. If it weren’t for a CELTA session, I would probably not have thought about them again until I had my own kids. I came out with loads of ideas and the joy that one of my favourite childhood toys could have a role in my classroom. The next time I went home, out they came and into my bag of teaching tricks. Every time I’ve used them, the students have been engaged and enthusiastic, once they’ve got over the initial “What does the crazy teacher want us to do with THEM?” reaction, that is!

Re-enacting stories

After reading a story in a young learner textbook, the kids used the rods to represent the different characters and retell the story. There was a jack-in-the-box at the end of the story, and they really enjoyed throwing it across the room!

Grammar – phrasal verbs

Cuisenaire rods are great for showing sentence structure. This is a downloadable set of worksheets I created for word order in phrasal verbs (based on New English File Pre-Intermediate Unit 8).

Building models

My favourite activity uses the rods for model-building. It’s especially good for the vocabulary of houses and furniture, but I’m sure it could be used for many other things. I’ve used it at Elementary, Pre-Intermediate and Upper Intermediate levels, with groups ranging from 2-12 students, and it’s always gone down well. This is how to do it:

  • Before the class starts use the rods to build a room in your house / your whole flat (however much you have time to do!). Add as much detail as you can.
    My flat in Cuisenaire rods
  • At the beginning of class, encourage students to guess what it is. They will probably get that it is a house / flat very quickly, but working out the exact details of what is there is generally more challenging. Depending on the level:
    -Draw the outline of the house / room on the board. Students fill it in with the names of the objects. I also left a space for students to write words in Czech they wanted to know. Once we’d looked at the vocab list in their textbook they wrote the English on the board.
    My flat on the board
    – SS use modals of speculation to decide what is where and perhaps why you bought it / put it there.
    – SS describe the room to their partners, focussing on prepositions.
  • Teacher confirms or corrects the names of the furniture / rooms.
  • You could expand the vocabulary, focus on the grammar or generally build on the student-generated language at this point.
  • Students each build one room, without telling anybody which room it is or what objects they have put in it.
    Building a roomRoom
  • Their partner then guesses what is in the room, and which room it is. One really creative student once created a garage, complete with chairs stacked on top of a table. Needless to say, neither his fellow student or I could work out what it was!

NOTE: If you don’t have enough Cuisenaire rods for the whole class, encourage students to use other small objects like coins, rubbers, pencil sharpeners… I also have a box of laminated shapes that comes in very useful for many things. Every time I have a bit of space in a laminating pouch, I put in a scrap of coloured paper and cut the result into random shapes.

A box of shapes

Here are links to two great posts that follow on from this theme.

Emma Herrod wrote about using lego blocks on Barbara Sakamoto’s blog Teaching Village in a blog that appeared in two parts.
More Than Five Things to do with LEGO® in the EFL Classroom Part 1 (by Emma Herrod)
Teaching Village Rotating Header Image More Than Five Things to do with LEGO® in the EFL Classroom Part 2 (by Emma Herrod)

Michelle Worgan wrote about the power of colours and associating colours to words and language on her blog So This is English.
Colour Experience

(An) amazing article?

Articles are one of those areas of English that have so many rules that my students often give up. As a Slavic language, Czech doesn’t use articles and many students don’t see the point of them. This is especially true for my intermediate-level teenage class. I prepared this lesson to give them a bit of practice and try to have some fun along the way.

Inspired by Ceri’s post where she practised the use of ‘it’ with her Spanish students, I wrote a text about my film and TV preferences and removed all of the articles. The fastest way I found to do this was to write the text normally, highlight the articles (giving me an answer sheet) then copy and paste the text and delete the highlighted words. This was what the students saw:

I’m teacher, but in my free time I love watching films. I go to cinema three or four times month, normally on Friday evening. Next week, I want to see King’s Speech because everybody says it’s great.

I’ve got huge collection of DVDs, many of which I got in Czech Republic. DVDs I bought here are good because they have Czech subtitles, so I can practise language while I’m relaxing at home. I normally learn one or two new words every time I watch film. Normally I watch English or American films with subtitles on, but sometimes I watch Czech films too. Czech ones are difficult if I don’t know story before I watch them.

I have also bought lots of British TV programmes on DVD here. One of my favourites is Red Dwarf. Series was filmed in 1980s, but is still very funny today. In first episode deadly illness arrives on spaceship and kills everybody except for cat and human called Lister, who was frozen because he had insulted captain. After three million years, Lister wakes up to discover he is only human on spaceship. Only other living thing is Cat, who has evolved from original cat, but now looks like human. Third member of crew is Rimmer, hologram of human, who is very annoying to Lister. In second series, crew finds robot called Kryton. I think you should watch it!

What is your favourite film or TV programme? Who are characters? What do they do? What happens in story?

I challenged the students to spot the problem with the text. Once they’d identified the lack of articles, they then had to go through individually and put them back in. They compared their answers with other students. The final part of this stage was a list of numbers: 4, 8, 21, 2. I told them that this is how many articles should be in each paragraph. They were a long way short in the third paragraph, so this motivated them to look at the rules with me.

I used the set of rules from the Grammar Bank at the back of New English File Intermediate which I had typed up and cut into strips. The students stuck them to the board under the correct heading (a/an, the, no article):

the first time you mention a thing/person: I saw ___ old man with ____ dog
when you say what something is: It’s ____ nice house.
when you say what somebody does: She’s ______ lawyer.
in exclamations with What…! : What _____ awful day!
in expressions like… : three times _____ week
when we talk about something we’ve already mentioned: I saw an old man with a dog and _____ dog was barking.
when there’s only one of something: ____ moon goes round ____ Earth.
when it’s clear what you’re referring to: He opened ____ door.
with places in a town, e.g. cinema and theatre
with superlatives:  It’s ____ best restaurant in town.
when you are speaking in general (with plural and uncountable nouns):  ____ women talk more than ­­­­­­­______ men
with some nouns (e.g. home, work, school, church) after at/to/from: She’s not at _____ home today. I get back from _____ work at 5:30.
before meals, days, and months: I never have ____ breakfast on ___ Sunday.
before next/last + days, week etc.: See you _____ next Friday.

We also added the rule “before the names of people and places: ____ Jana, ____ London” under the ‘no article’ heading, as this did not appear in my original rules.

The students then returned to the text and tried to check and correct the articles they had written in. They then compared it to my original text and we discussed any problems they had:

I’m a teacher, but in my free time I love watching films. I go to the cinema three or four times a month, normally on Friday evening. Next week, I want to see The King’s Speech because everybody says it’s great.

I’ve got a huge collection of DVDs, many of which I got in the Czech Republic. The DVDs I bought here are good because they have Czech subtitles, so I can practise the language while I’m relaxing at home. I normally learn one or two new words every time I watch a film. Normally I watch English or American films with the subtitles on, but sometimes I watch Czech films too. The Czech ones are difficult if I don’t know the story before I watch them.

I have also bought lots of British TV programmes on DVD here. One of my favourites is Red Dwarf. The series was filmed in the 1980s, but is still very funny today. In the first episode a deadly illness arrives on a spaceship and kills everybody except for a cat and a human called Lister, who was frozen because he had insulted the captain. After three million years, Lister wakes up to discover he is the only human on the spaceship. The only other living thing is the Cat, who has evolved from the original cat, but now looks like a human. The third member of the crew is Rimmer, a hologram of a human, who is very annoying to Lister. In the second series, the crew finds a robot called Kryton. I think you should watch it!

What is your favourite film or TV programme? Who are the characters? What do they do? What happens in the story?

I did another set of practice at this point (which I will describe below), but in retrospect I should have got the students to write their own texts and used these for analysis. They did enjoy the other activities, but it probably did not benefit them as much as their own texts would have done.

The next stage was a running dictation. I had the first two paragraphs of a story with spaces for potential articles stuck on the wall. Students worked in pairs to get the story onto their paper 5 words at a time. They could choose whether to complete the articles as they went a long or copy the paragraph and then do all of the articles at the end. The text was given to me by a colleague. I know it came from a book, but I’m not sure which one – please let me know if you do.

This is ____ true story. It’s about ____ politician. He was ____  Member of ____  Parliament (MP) in Britain. ____  story happened back in the 1980s, and ____  MP was called Richard Alexander. At that time, ____  Irish Republican Army was conducting ____  bombing campaign in ____  Britain. A few days earlier, ____  parcel bomb had been sent to ____  government minister. So ____  politicians were warned to be extra careful about opening parcels.

One day ____  parcel was delivered to ____  Mr Alexander’s office at Redford, in ____  English Midlands. ____  MP thought he heard ____  sound of ____  ticking clock inside ____  parcel, so thinking it might be ____  bomb, he rang ____  local police station. Soon ____  squad of army bomb specialists arrived at ____  office and x-rayed ____  parcel.

I then gave the students a fictional 500 Czech crowns to ‘spend’ on deciding which articles were correct. They could bet a maximum of 50 crowns on any one space. Once they had written their bets, we went through the text and checked the answers. For a correct answer we added the amount they had bet (if any); for an incorrect one, we deleted it. They became very competitive at this point, and if the answers differed they had to explain why before they could get the points. (Another retrospective note: I could have given them extra ‘money’ for correct explanations) The score was very close, and they really enjoyed the activity.

We didn’t have time to do any more than a quick discussion about the end of the story, but the plan was then:

  • discuss what they think happened next.
  • read the remaining paragraphs and find out if they were right.
  • complete the paragraphs with the correct articles.

They saw that what Mr Alexander could hear was indeed ____  timing mechanism. Obviously, ____  only safe thing to do was to blow it up which they did. ____  squad then pieced together ____  contents of ____  parcel. It had contained ____  pyjamas, ____  toothbrush and ____  small alarm clock. ____  MP had recently stayed at ____  hotel after making ____  speech one evening, and ____  hotel had kindly sent on his belongings after he had accidentally left them there. ____  clock had been ____  present from his wife.

They saw that what Mr Alexander could hear was indeed ____  timing mechanism. Obviously, ____  only safe thing to do was to blow it up which they did. ____  squad then pieced together ____  contents of ____  parcel. It had contained ____  pyjamas, ____  toothbrush and ____  small alarm clock. ____  MP had recently stayed at ____  hotel after making ____  speech one evening, and ____  hotel had kindly sent on his belongings after he had accidentally left them there. ____  clock had been ____  present from his wife.

They saw that what Mr Alexander could hear was indeed ____  timing mechanism. Obviously, ____  only safe thing to do was to blow it up which they did. ____  squad then pieced together ____  contents of ____  parcel. It had contained ____  pyjamas, ____  toothbrush and ____  small alarm clock. ____  MP had recently stayed at ____  hotel after making ____  speech one evening, and ____  hotel had kindly sent on his belongings after he had accidentally left them there. ____  clock had been ____  present from his wife.

I probably should have done something more productive at this point – the use of the second ‘controlled practice’ activity wasn’t vital with this group, as they understood most of the rules. However, they only got about half of the answers right, so perhaps it was justified, with more ‘freer’ practice coming in later lessons.

What do you think? How do you go about teaching articles? Are they a problem for your students?

By the way, feel free to take these materials and use them however you will.


Update: I have created an articles flowchart and worksheet which you might like to use in class with these activities.

How to write an #eltchat summary

eltchat summary wordcloud

#eltchat takes place at 12pm and 9pm GMT every Wednesday. It’s a Twitter discussion for teachers all over the world. To find out more, read Marisa Constantinides’ excellent post.

If you’ve never followed the chat, they are fascinating, stimulating and full of ideas. If you’ve tried to follow the transcript after the discussion is over, you may have found it a little confusing. For that reason various contributors to #eltchat now write summaries of the discussions to create a reference after they are over. If you’re one of the lucky summary writers, here is a quick guide:

  1. Follow the chat as it’s happening (I think this makes it easier to write the summary)
  2. Wait for the transcript to be published / Go on to Twitter and scroll back to the beginning of the chat
  3. In a blogpost / a Word document write a short introduction to the chat, generally including when it took place and the fact that it’s an #eltchat
  4. Then work your way through the transcript (it’s easier to start from the earliest tweets), putting the main points under headings to divide them up a bit. It’s completely up to you how you do this. I also generally find it’s easier to put all of the links in one section, but it depends on the topic of the chat.
  5. Publish the summary on your blog / send it to one of the moderators – you’ll find their names in the transcript.
  6. Tweet a link to the summary so that everyone can read it. To see previous examples, click here. Your summary will end up here too, if you give your permission. Please do!

Depending on the chat, it could take a couple of hours to do a summary, but it’s great for your blog traffic! And it’s a good way to fix the ideas in your head – revision and all that.

Good luck!

Hiding ‘have’

A couple of weeks ago I was due to revise the grammar of ‘have’ with Advanced students, covered a couple of months previously. Wanting to make it more student-centred but being short of inspiration, I put a call out on Twitter for help. @fionamau came to the rescue with this suggestion:

Give the students five minutes to write as many sentences as they can using the word ‘have’ in any tense.

With this as my starting point, I then created a whole lesson:

  • SS did a very quick controlled practice exercise to remind them of different uses of ‘have’.
  • They had five minutes to write their sentences.
  • With a partner, they checked their sentences. I also quickly went round and offered advice.
  • With the same partner, SS wrote a text in any format they wanted to (story, review, letter…) which had to include one sentence from their list.
  • They switched texts with another group and had to find the hidden sentence.
  • They then got their original text back and with the help of a monolingual dictionary, a collocations dictionary, a thesaurus and the Internet (in the form of my laptop) they then had to make the text more advanced. By this, I meant moving away from short S + V + O sentences (if appropriate to the text type) and trying to incorporate some of the grammar and vocabulary we have looked at throughout the year. I also challenged them to include more description / emotion etc depending on the text type they had chosen. The final thing for them to look at was punctuation – in Czech, the longer a sentence is, the better.

With their permission, here is an example of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ transformation of one of the texts:

Before (sorry about the format – it’s easier to read if you click on the image)


New Irish restaurant is big disappointment

A new Irish restaurant was  opened in the city centre two weeks ago so I decided to visit it and look  the menu over. I had a delicious lunch in the afternoon, so  I was expecting a tasty  meal in the evening as well. I was excited to have a kind of traditional Irishfeast , but it turned out this  wasn´t such a good idea.  It took the  waiter 15 minutes to come with the carte du jour and finally, when I chose my meal, I was told that they didn´t have it that day . I started to be really annoyed. However, I picked something else.

I really didn´t know what my meal was going to be because the name was written in Irish, so it was quite surprising when I got undercooked potatoes with a bloody steak. It made me feel sick so I had to go home. I must say it was disgusting.

I taught the same basic lesson with two different groups and both of them really enjoyed it. They also found it useful to analyse the grammar using their own sentences, as it highlighted the problems THEY had, and not the ones which I ‘guessed’ at.

It would be great to hear your suggestions for variations / improvements on this.


Comic Relief and Red Nose Day

To me, Comic Relief is one of the greatest charities around – it raises the profile of so many organisations, and sends all of the money it makes off to where it is needed instead of spending it on admin (the ‘Golden Pound‘ principle). Every two years, with the help of the comedians who set it up, it takes over BBC1 for a night in March. Red Nose Day 2011 is on the 18th March. I’ve created a couple of lessons to share it with my students. Even if you’re not planning to use them to teach, I hope it’ll be interesting for you to learn a little something about an aspect of UK culture which isn’t necessarily well-known abroad.

Feel free to download them and edit them as you see fit, with appropriate credit. The last two slides contain teacher’s notes and the links to the pictures.

For more advanced students:

For lower-level students, including a focus on modals of speculation:

If you use it, please let me know. I’d also be grateful for any feedback on how to improve it.


Authentic Listening with British Accents

Both of the CAE courses I teach have recently encountered the Listening Part 4 tasks for the first time. For those of you who don’t know how this works, they have to listen to five speakers doing short monologues on a related theme, for example holidays, jobs or sport. While listening they have to do TWO multiple matching tasks, and they only listen twice. Some students do both simultaneously, others do them consecutively. Here is an online example.

For all of my students, the hardest part of the task is not the fact that they have to do so much at the same time; rather it is the difficult (mostly British) accents that many of them are encountering for the first time. Having previously only really heard neutral accents, with the occasional local one thrown in for an authentic feel to coursebooks, along with the American English they’re exposed to in films and on TV, they were in shock when they heard fast native speakers with accents including Somerset, Scouse, Welsh, Brummie and Irish, among others.

As a result, we’ve been adding youtube videos and other links to our Edmodo group every time we find an interesting accent. I thought it might be useful to share these with the wider world, and I’m hoping you might be able to add to the collection. We’re focussing on British accents because in Part 4 this is what they are most likely to encounter, although American ones do appear in other parts of the CAE Listening exam. I’ve tried to group them loosely by accent, but please feel free to correct me!

WARNING: A couple of these videos contain adult content, so check them before you use them with a class (I know you would anyway!)

In no particular order:

Many accents

A voicethread I made collating videos

British Library page

Evolving English world map

woices – location based audioguides (for example, there is a guide taking you through Birmingham’s musical history)

BBC Voices

Speech Accent Archive

Mixed Accents

Hale & Pace (Yorkshire and Dudley/Black Country) – Pub Hooligans and What are you looking at? (via Klara P)

Gavin and Stacey (Essex and Wales) – the girls are from Wales and the boys are from Essex

Cockney, Lancaster and Yorkshire accents in East Street (Eastenders and Coronation Street meet)

Frank Skinner (West Bromwich/Black Country) interviewing Noel Gallagher (Mancunian – Manchester)

Geordie (Newcastle)

Geordie case study from the British Library

Geordie monologue – a funny poem including lots of local words (these won’t appear in the exam – I hope!)

Ant & Dec talking about Comic Relief (see my lesson about Comic Relief and Red Nose Day here)

A local man talking about his seat at St. James’ Park (from woices.com)

Sarah Millican (Geordie comedian) solving problems

West of England / Somerset etc

Fork handles by the Two Ronnies

I’ve got a brand new combine harvester by The Wurzels (and the lyrics!)


Rhod Gilbert doing stand-up

Tom Jones interview

Irish (I know they’re not strictly British, but these are good videos!)

The similarities between Irish and Scouse

Dara O’Briain doing stand-up about mothers using other men to control their children

Ballykissangel – the opening scene


Scottish English– an interview done by an American (via Klara P)

Hamish Macbeth – the opening scene

Scottish voice-operated lift

Glaswegian surrealism – Dee Dee in the kitchen

Scouse (Liverpool)

A set of links

The similarities between Irish and Scouse

Red Dwarf – Lister (Craig Charles) is a Scouser – in this clip, he speaks from 1 minute

Brummie (Birmingham) and Black Country

Talk like a Brummie Day

Black Country Alphabet and a blog post talking about the dialect (thanks to Mark Andrews for the second link)

Allan Ahlberg reading Talk Us Through It, Charlotte (a poem)


Last of the Summer Wine: Who’s Got Rhythm?


Phil Harding talking about the Stonehenge Dagger

‘Standard’ English

Hugh Laurie discussing some American and British English differences (via Kristyna)

Please feel free to add to the list by posting in the comments below, if possible including which accent(s) the video include(s).



I’ve now created a set of materials based on some of these videos and others.

I also found a list of accents used by public figures (all from England) on Wikipedia. It could be a good starting point if you want to do further research.

Not completely authentic, but interesting nonetheless: a dialect coach gives a tour of British accents for the BBC Film Programme.