Useful Lesson Links 2.0

May, 2022 update

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Image: Do you know what this is called? I felt the need for something more cheerful and positive, and learned a new word along the way

(The image refers to a new Guardian Weekly lesson from onestopenglish. The image is from the original article that you find under the link above.)

March 2023

Time flies. I feel more than before that my two posts on Useful Lesson Links are a remnant of a not so past past. They read like diaries, which is what they somehow are: diaries of the pandemic and my switch to online teaching. Now I will retire this post too and think about how I can restructure my blog that it becomes more useful.

Update August, 2022

I have revisited Liz Wright’s TED talk on Getting Rid of 1000 Things. Sometimes we did the Guess the Accent quiz afterwards. Linked to the topic is the article in The Guardian: A trip to the dump is one of my greatest pleasures, and a series of short films mentioned in this article written by Anni Lennard et al. about the Story of Stuff.

Update June

Last year, we discussed new ways of working, home office or back to the office or a mix: what will post-pandemic office work look like? For some reason, I have not yet written a post on that topic; it is absolutely overdue. I also did not post a link to one of the videos I watched in almost all classes. In it is embedded in the article ‘Headed back to the office?…’

Update May, 2022

In one of my groups, the topic of ‘stupid Americans’ – how could so many of them vote for Trump – came up again. For an American, it is not so easy to convey the fact that the majority of Americans actually DID NOT vote for Trump.

On the website of the New York Times, I found an illustrative video explaining – as I find very well – how that could happen.

As a subscriber to the New York Times, I have access to loads of really great stuff. Under The Daily, for instance, you find regular podcast on various different topics. One that I discussed with a group was about two very different US towns threatened by flooding in connection with global warming, and how their residents, and governmental agencies, handle the respective situations. The reporters from the New York Times visited both places and interviewed some of their residents. You can also read the script. Great language practice with a topic that gives a lot of insight into regional and political diversity in the US, and shows the sometimes extreme differences between people and their lives.

Another similarly recommendable website is This American Life, also a mix of listening (videos) and reading; here you find a selection of popular episodes celebrating their 25th anniversary.

And another one: What’s going on in this picture?

January, 2022

Another year has past. The pandemic is still there and my classes are still almost completely online.

I am in the process of turning some of the topics below into lessons with suggestions for additional activities and language exercises, doing the same with some of the topics and tips in my first Useful Lesson Links post that I have now saved as a page. It is a gradual process and will take some time.

I will not retire this post yet, and what I wrote below January last year still feels very appropriate.

January 2021

A new year, a new list.

I would like to take the opportunity here and thank all English class participants who were willing to embark on our online experiment. Thanks for your patience and for staying with us. It was not always easy, especially at the beginning, but I believe we learned a lot and together. I must admit, I would probably have never done this voluntarily and alone. But now I am glad we did. There are some possibilities we have online that we didn’t have in our classrooms. Though many of you miss personal contact, seeing each other on our screens is the next best thing. I hope we continue having satisfactory meetings together.

I will continue placing links here for easier planning and access.


Here an article about the legal difficulty of interpreting emojis from the Washington Post.Can be combined with emoji sporcles.

Another topic we discussed several times, of course, was climate change. Here we recently read George Monbiot’s comment on billionaires footprint and I found an article on the study that underlies that opinion piece: What gives billionaires such a massive ecological footprint? (Here George Monbiot’s homepage)

November also means Thanksgiving is approaching. My favorite links to the topic can be found in my first Useful Lesson Links

October 2021

Time flies. Halloween is approaching. If you ever run out of ideas, here is a great list of 50 little stories where you have to decide if they are true or urban legends. There are some great Halloween quizzes on Sporcle, and the 25 best Halloween movies ever is also worth looking into. By only showing the image from the respective movie, this can be turned into a little film quiz. Most pictures will be recognizable as many of them are iconic.

A TED talk related to the topic is Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things

The Shining, also worth re-watching around Halloween, is considered to be one of the best Stephen King adaptations. For those who know the movie, there are some fun Sporcle quizzes related to various aspects of the film.

The Urban Legend topic can be linked up with an article from today’s Guardian (October 26, 2021) about Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories. As a first step in approaching the topic, try to define what makes a conspiracy theory a conspiracy theory; what are its characteristics; how do you differentiate a legitimate (scientific) theory from a conspiracy theory?

Update/addition to topic from November: In the Guardian from November 4 you find an article on possible consequences of conspiracy theories in respect of the current pandemic situation and the debate on vaccinations. Teenagers spending too much time on social media and the internet without the intellectual capacity or tools to be able to differentiate between reliable, trustworthy sources and less ones are being coerced not to protect themselves and others by getting a vaccination. He was adamant he didn’t want it….

Another extension of or addition to the topic is the following TED Ed video Why we fear the wrong things by Gerd Gigerenzer and/or The origin of countless conspiracy theories by PatrickJMT

Update July, 2021

I haven’t posted much here the last months, but basically continued using the sources mentioned in both Useful Lesson Links posts. I started a new post summarizing some pandemic and future work related issues of the last months in a new post.

May, 3

Last week was Oscar week. The Academy Awards surely were different this year. They had been postponed to April, probably in the overly optimistic hope that things would be back to whatever will be normal again once Covid 19 has been overcome. And it will be overcome. Every pandemic ends, ended in the past, will end… In any case, I had a spontaneous change of plan last Monday and decided to take a closer look at the nominated films, all of which could be streamed online. I started reading up on the Academy Awards on Sunday; Monday morning the Wikipedia text was updated: And the winner is….Together and with further help of Wikipedia and the internet we explored the winners and watched some trailers together. We had a few quite enjoyable sessions and some emotionally intense moments, e.g. while watching the trailer to The Father. I am now in the process of watching all I can on Netflix and Amazon Prime; the winner Nomad is on Hulu, which I don’t have. I will have to wait for the DVD…

Monday, April 12 UPDATE January 2022

Here is a very good sporcle on Climate Change. Together with the article from Guardian on what some scientists say what they do to fight climate change, this could make for an interesting lesson session.

Update January 2022

In connection with Climate Change we listened to the New York Times podcast The Daily together on two different American Towns and how they tackle their individual threats of increased flooding.

Monday, March 22, Links for next week Monday morning (March 29)

This morning, while I was going through my early morning news routine, I thought, why not share this with my group. It turned into a session long affair (instead of the planned 20 minutes – what WAS I thinking?); I had everyone choose one headline that would catch their interest and we started reading and discussing them. Well, actually only one, the others are for next week, which is why I will ‘bookmark’ them further down.

The one we read was about dog’s ruling the night in Kabul. Our reading and discussion extended to more general questions of dog culture and ownership in different countries. Which countries have the most dogs? Are they more pets or working dogs? The bet was on for who has more, Germany or the UK? (The UK, but only by a small margin.)

New York Times, Any travel plans to China?

The quite harrowing police recordings of the events at the Capitol on January 6th – a nine minute video.

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And a little article on the hazards of ‘smart phoning’ while walking, found under the Monday morning briefing, category ‘Science’.

In connection with this, looking at vocabulary describing the structure of a newspaper might be interesting. Identify the ‘masthead’ Op Ed, the structure of a typical (well-written) article… I found some images when typing in ‘masthead, newspaper, meaning’.


This one is a link to TED Ed, a spin-off of TED talks. I received this one per newsletter. It is titled When is a Pandemic over?

As much as I love TED talks – I find them interesting, inspiring and short enough to listen to and discuss in class meetings – there are so many that deciding which one to watch is sometimes so overwhelming that I don’t watch any. So I decided to select and make my own list that should not exceed 20 to 30 talks. So here another list: MY TED talks

Some music sporcles for Monday February 8

Can you name the band or musician in picture? And another one of those. (I am sooo bad at this.)

Musical instruments – warm up (vocabulary – images of instruments)

Musical instruments close up

Musical instruments pictograms – great fun!

Can you name the musical instrument by their sound?

Vocabulary size test and practice

New Online co op games

I’m looking for new online games to play with groups. We have tried several escape room type ones especially from the website PANIC ROOM; all good stories, but the type of puzzles might seem repetitive after a while.

Highly recommendable is the Durham Escape Room. I tried the free Durham Mr. X with two groups. So far my favorite online game, as it makes good use of the internet: google maps, street view, websites e.g. restaurant menus etc.

A little background knowledge on Bill Bryson is useful to understand his connection to Durham, especially Durham University (and necessary to solve the first puzzles. (See his 1997 book: Notes from a Small Island.) What I eventually did in class was provide some of this background: we checked wikipedia and I shared some pages from his books, especially the pages from Notes from a Small Island that made him so popular in Durham.

My favorite Bill Bryson book is History of Private Life that provides loads of material for follow up topics on …almost everything. I’m still in the process of supplementing.

The follow up to Mr X is The Hunters. A little more challenging with more puzzles and clues, more things to do. It is not free of charge, but then again, I always find it important to appreciate good work monetarily, which is why I also donated to Mr X.

I felt it necessary to provide extra material and sent my participants extra tips in form of emails for every puzzle. It was loads of work, but definitely worth it. It might have been too difficult otherwise.

Another website (or blog) on Fun, Free Online Games recommending some online escape room type games that I found recently (though they are not all free, but that’s okay).

A little fun trivia at the side in connection with houses and everyday life: The most dangerous everyday things to do. Lot’s of everyday vocabulary in one place and loads to talk about.


A colleague of mine sent me the link to an interesting blog by a fellow language teacher: Lessonsplansdigger. It offers more structured lesson plans and descriptions than I do here, as my blog is mainly there to serve my personal teaching purposes. (I might want to change that in future, but at the moment, I need it as an immediate reference tool.)


Today I found an article introducing “30 Best co-op games to play

Wish you were here sounds interesting, but seems to be only for two people. But it’s described as communication based – the two players are in different locations – so sounds perfect for what I am looking for.

This one still needs to be checked out: 10 online multiplayer games.


Every once in a while I need to go through all the favorites I collected in my list of favorites to edit, delete or revisit. I found two interesting articles:

Film topic

An interesting article about films that were banned in some countries while celebrated in others.

Another one of a similar kind that definitely is an interesting topic for me: How food has changed in the last 50 years.

And in connection with Bill Bryson’s History of Private Life I found another sporcle: Do you recognize the houses in the movies? Movies by House

Minimalism, consumerism, veganism and climate change

These topics come up again and again. In this context, we have been watching some interesting videos and Ted talks on the topic of walkable cities. Jeff Speck‘s, for instance, is an interesting one, and he speaks very slowly and clearly (I think). In a second Ted talk, he describes four ways to create a walkable city.

In his book – available as pdf e-book – Jeff Speck mentions Dan Buettner’s research into Blue Zones – areas that have a high population of centenarians – and he points out what Dan Buettner misses in his analysis of their lives. Buettner has given a TED talk on the topic. It might be an interesting addition to the topic of walkable cities, a topic perhaps better dubbed: quality of life and the many aspects as to how to achieve it.

On the side bar to these talks, you find more, like: Retrofitting suburbia, or Building a park in the sky (about New York’s highline), or Seven principles for building better cities; they are all worth watching and talking about. Eric Sanderson’s TED talk New York before the city is also quite fascinating.

I also came across some delightful little videos on special houses: one of an engineer transforming a plane into a ‘house’; another one on fairy tale cottages; and many on tiny houses (make your own pick). See the you tube show “Living Big in a Tiny House

A colleague of mine recommended a book on minimalism by a Japanese author: Goodbye Things

Loads of topics refer in one way or another to climate change. In an article in the Guardian, a group of scientists from different fields tells us what they specifically do to contribute to lowering their ecological footprint.

Our food choices are always one of these topics, especially our choices concerning meat, or, as vegans like to put it, our choices concerning eating animals. Though for an occasional (and always organic) meat eater like myself, some of these are hard to watch, Melanie Joy’s on the psychology of eating meat is at the same time intriguing as it is challenging. As is Ed Winters: Every argument against veganism.

Another topic of interest here is a TED Ed lesson on concrete, an issue I had never thought about before.Open document settingsOpen publish panel

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