Just been reading Larry Ferlazzo’s excellent English language teaching blog and one post that jumped out for me was using Simon’s Cat videos in your lessons (actually I found his blog because I was Googling this topic!)
Simon’s Cat is a fantastic (and very, very funny) resource that encourages students to use descriptive language, meaning lots of nouns and prepositions, lots of verbs, and if you want to push your student further, adjectives and adverbs too. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because I’ve used Simon’s Cat in my online lessons a lot. All you need is to share your screen using Skype and (assuming you have a webcam or external microphone), ensure the sound is loud enough for your student to hear the audio. Here’s a breakdown of what I normally do.
Lesson Plan for a typical Simon’s Cat video
AIM: student describes the events of the video (either in real-time or with the help of the pause button, depending on how advanced your student is).
1. PREDICTION: Start showing the video, and after a few seconds (before the action starts), hit the pause button. Ask your student to describe the scene and predict what’s going to happen in the whole video (basically ‘have a guess’ – this engages them).
2. (optional – experiment with this) SHOW THE WHOLE VIDEO: then discuss the video with your student. What happened? What went wrong? How did Simon feel? What did the cat want? (Usually food!)
3. SHOW VIDEO IN SEGMENTS: Replay video, except this time hit the pause button every few seconds, depending on what’s happening. Ask your student to describe what is happening.
4. FEED IN LANGUAGE AND REFORMULATE STUDENT LANGUAGE: Your student will probably need help (in fact, your student will hopefully need help, as this gives you something to do!) So during the pauses, help the student with any language they need to describe the scene they’ve just watched: feed in any new language and reformulate some of the more crucial errors. Your student should note down useful language. You can also ask your student to predict what’s going to happen next.
5. Repeat 3 and 4 until the video is finished!
Note: there’s plenty of opportunity to use different tenses, depending on what your student needs: “the cat is jumping on the fly”, “the cat was jumping on the fly”, “the cat has just jumped on the fly”, “the cat was eating its dinner when a fly flew in”, and so on.
6. TASK REHEARSAL: After we’ve been through the video bit by bit, with me gradually feeding in language, we watch the video again and the student starts to describe the action in the video with me and the pause button giving support where necessary.
7. MAIN TASK: After a few rehearsals, a more advanced student might be ready to describe the video in real time.
FOLLOW UP: You could also provide the student with an error-strewn description of the video, which they correct, or a gap fill. For a text reconstriuction activity you could give your student a list of around 10 sentences describing the video which they need to put into the correct order – just paste the words into Skype or paste them, onto an online whiteboard. Often Simon’s Cat inadvertently trashes Simon’s house, so you could even do a spot the difference activity. See below!
The main thing, as with all English lessons, is to have fun and be creative! If you’ve got a good idea for using Simon’s Cat in your lessons, please add it in the comments below.
Here’s one of my favourite Simon’s Cat videos, the 103 second long, Crazy Time. Any thoughts on a verb to describe what Simon’s Cat is doing at 29 seconds?!