Post Brexit: what are the options?

As the UK is still reeling from the result almost a week later, people are asking whether there isn’t a way out of the situation after all. This article from the GuardianUK voted for Brexit – but is there a way back” succinctly lays out our options if we do not want to trigger Article 50. So if you’re actively following the topic with your students, this will provide them with a clear overview and input for discussion.

The power of the press?

This article – Did the Mail and Sun help swing the UK towards Brexit? – by the media editor at the Guardian, Jane Martinson, questions whether the tabloid press influences or reflects the views of its readers. It looks at how the Sun and the Daily Mail played on people’s fears during the Referendum campaign.

Interestingly, “Surveys show that the British people trust the papers less than their European counterparts. As recently as September one showed that 73% of people in the UK “do not tend to trust” the printed press – the highest figure among all EU member states and a staggering 23% higher than the EU average.”

Yet, as she points out, there is evidence that the press still sets the agenda. As we have now all too sadly seen.

(“It’s the Sun wot won it!” refers to the Sun’s 1992 front page headline the day after the unexpected Conservative party victory in the general election. In the run-up to polling day they had launched an attack on Neil Kinnock, the Labour Party leader.)

You’ll find much more about “Brexit – what next?” under “Louise’s Teaching Tips” on the Münchner Kommunaler Bildungsserver für Medienpädagogik website from Monday 27th June. 

The best of April Fool’s Day

If you’re looking for something a little fun and are dealing with technology, the media or the environment, you might like to try out one or two of these April Fool’s videos with your students. They are not only fun but they will also provoke interesting discussions:


Google Nose (2013) is linguistically quite tough in places, but all students will be able to follow the general idea. Although it is meant as a bit of fun, the technology is being developed and scientists are looking into how “electronic noses” could actually be used. The following blog post on the Washington Post contains a few ideas and the students could then find out more on the Internet.

The Google Nose homepages for Germany and the US also shed some interesting light on intercultural differences: The headline on the US page was “Smelling is believing” (a twist on the saying “Seeing is believing”), but the German version had the somewhat plain and simple “Suchen und riechen”. The students should discuss why a different approach might have been chosen for each country and whether they think this was appropriate or not.

Guardian Goggles (2013) was a take on Google glass and shows how the media could influence our everyday choices. Although it is tongue-in-cheek, the students could discuss how much of what is presented is, in fact, possible (with smartphones, etc.).

Google Cardboard Plastic (2016) Google’s latest ad pokes fun at our obsession with seeing everything through special lenses and could either be combined with the Guardian Goggles above or with the following photo (a crowd of people watching an event through their mobiles and one old lady actually watching it directly) that went viral last year. It raises an interesting question of how we actually experience what is going on around us. You’ll find more suggestions at Louise’s Teaching Tips on the website where you can download the pdf “Mobile phones, social media and me” with links and teaching ideas.

The BBC video Penguins (2008) was so well-produced that many people were left wondering whether it was true or not. It is a short documentary-like clip about a special colony of birds that migrate to the Amazon each year to escape climate change … In addition there is short behind-the-scenes video Making of Penguins that shows how they managed to get the birds to fly.

Have fun and do send me your favourites!

It’s World Wildlife Day!


The theme for 2016 is “The future of wildlife is in our hands” with a global focus on the conservation of African and Asian elephants

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime produced a short film entitled “Serious About Wildlife Crime” to mark the day. It contains some very useful collocations and language and can be used as a different way of introducing the topic.

Of course, if you’re looking for more in-depth information, you could go to the WWF’s Stop wildlife crime website.



Super “Choose” Day

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, the day on which more than a dozen states and territories will hold primaries and caucuses. Here are a few useful links and videos for use in class.

In “Super Tuesday: Everything you need to know” US news anchor Katie Couric explains what Super Tuesday is and what’s at stake for the candidates in this two-minute video.

The BBC also has a good two-minute video “What makes Super Tuesday so super?” that focuses on what the day means for the candidates in terms of time and money. Katty Kay describes it as being like “a series of final exams all held on the same day. A candidate has to perform well across enough of them to graduate to the next phase of the campaign”.

“What’s the deal with Super Tuesday” a two-and-a-half minute video by the Guardian focuses more on what Super Tuesday actually means for each of the delegates, describing Super Tuesday as being “jackpot time”.

For the Star Wars fans amongst your students, the following cartoon provides a light-hearted look at what’s facing the Republican Party (published at the end of 2015, it is still very topical).

And by the way, today is “Leap Day”, the day on which women traditionally ask men to marry them. This cartoon by Christian Adams, a political cartoonist for The Daily Telegraph, puts a rather nice spin on this, showing Hillary Clinton proposing to the Democratic voters ahead of Super “Choose” Day.

Now all we have to do is wait and see what happens …


iDiots – a short film

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 18.26.32

After a talk I gave in Frankfurt, Judith Bergman sent me a link to this short video, “iDiots“. It’s a wonderful spoof on our 21st century obsession with always needing the “latest” technology. And of course, with technology companies that are willing to provide it. The four-minute video provides an excellent starting point for a discussion on our “throwaway society” that is driven by consumerism.

You could also combine it with the following infographic about e-waste in the US, which contains a wealth of information about different aspects of e-waste and recycling in the US. The students could be encouraged to find out more about e-waste in Germany (a good starting point would be here at the Umweltbundesamt).


Immigration to the UK

Seeking refuge

When I spoke in Hamburg at a modern language conference the other day, I was asked afterwards whether I knew of any short films to do with immigration to the UK. After a little research, I found these two that I thought I’d share.

Juliane by Mosaic films is part of a series of animated shorts called Seeking Refuge that offers insights into the lives of five young refugees who have sought asylum in the UK. They were screened as part of Refugee Week by BBC2 in 2012. In this film Juliane tells of growing up in an orphanage in Zimbabwe, how she was reunited with her mother, and how they were eventually resettled in Britain.

The second On Migration is a short historical documentary by Asheq Akhtar. Accounts by his parents provide an insight into how a migrant from Bangladesh experiences the UK and how those experiences affect their personal relationships as well as the world around them.

I hope they prove useful.




The #PotterItForward movement

This short article just surfaced on The Independent website about a global campaign launched by Harry Potter fans called #PotterItForward. Apparently, they have started leaving notes in library books and donated books, outlining the impact the book(s) have had on their lives. They then share photos of their notes on social media. The article contains some of the photos that have been shared on Twitter.

It makes for an interesting discussion for mid-level students upwards as to how they would react if they found a note like this in a book they were about to read. Would they find it naff? Or would they be interested in reading what the person had to say? What book would they choose, and what would they write? Is there a book or series that many agree on, and why? After they have written their notes, they could make a collage of photos of their posts.

Mankind is no island

Mankind is no island

Mankind is no island was shot entirely on a mobile phone, using signs found on the streets of New York and Sydney. The three-and-a-half-minute short film, directed by Jason Van Genderen, deals with the topics of homelessness and empathy. Its simplicity underlines a poignant message that is especially relevant today.

Before watching the film, students should speculate what is meant by the title and whether they agree with it or not.

The title is reminiscent of a famous line in John Donne’s (1572-1631) prose work Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and is from Meditation XVII. He wrote it in 1624 when he was the Dean of St. Paul’s (Incidentally, it is here that Hemingway also found inspiration for the title of his novel For whom the bell tolls).

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. 

The film’s simple format is a fairly easy one for older students to replicate. Having watched and discussed it, they could create their own films about an issue concerning the town in which they live. Alternatively, they could choose to explain a (famous) quotation of their choice. They should, however, avoid speech and use signs around them or make one or two of their own to make things a little easier.