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Milking Material, part 3: Common Expressions

Hopefully from reading this series on getting the most from material you create so far, you’ve watched this Simpsons clip and seen its script.  If you haven’t, please take a look before reading on.  You’ll also need this handout (**link fixed**).

A third lesson that can easily be extracted from any video clip you select is one based on the common expressions used by the characters.  These expressions, though not inseparable from the context of the clip, should be ones that are commonly used in conversation (or with regards to the type of class you’re teaching) and not one-off randoms that students will find rarely useful in their daily lives.  This choice can sometimes be a challenging task as a teacher.  I recommend between 5 and 10 expressions in any given lesson so as to maximize learning and productive opportunity.  From this clip, I’ve chosen the following eight, for which I’ve also included its contextual meaning, form and usage:

Expression Meaning Form Context Usage
as I call it The way I choose to call it/talk about it Name + as PERSON call it When someone has a nickname or special name for something
This better be important What you are going to tell me must be important or I’ll be upset Question about reason for talking + This better be important! “Had” is dropped in conversation to emphasize better.
How do you do. It’s nice to meet you. How do you do. Said when meeting someone for the first time.  More formal.
How in the world How (emphatic) How in the world + question? Shows surprise, disbelief or anger
I’m sorry I can’t believe it I’m sorry, + question? Precedes a question to indicate disbelief or lack of understanding
Have to show for it Some accomplishment that is related to an effort/situation 1)    What + do + SUBJ + have to show for it?

2)    I have OBJ to show for it.

Usually said to sadly or frustratingly  indicate the lack of major accomplishment given the situation

What are you saying?

Confirmation of previous speaker’s meaning 1)    What are you saying? / I’m saying DIRECT MEANING

2)    What are you trying to say? / I’m trying to say that DIRECT MEANING

Usually said in disbelief or for clarification
He’s got you there He’s claimed something true that you can’t deny even though you want to He/She’s got me/him/her/you there. Often said by a third speaker; Almost never said in first person

Activity 1 – Exposure to & Recognizing the expressions
Give Ss the handout.  Show the clip.  Ask Ss to fill in the blanks with the expression at the top of the page as they watch.  Read through the script with Ss.

Activity 2 – Gaining Comprehension of Meaning, Form and Usage
Create a matching activity in two columns:  Expressions / Meanings.  Play the video again, having Ss match the expression with its meaning, based on the scene. Go over the answers together.  Encourage Ss to try justifying their answers through use of context.  Introduce form.  Elicit ideas from Ss about another context these expressions could be used in.  Put another context and example usage for each expression on the board for Ss to see how form stays consistent in different contexts.

Activity 3 – Applying Usage to Different Situations
Put Ss into pairs.  Give each one of the expressions.  Have pairs come up with a new context for it and create a dialogue which uses it.  When finished, have Ss act out their dialogues.  Give feedback.

Activity 4 – Reinforcing Context, Form and Usage
Put the expressions on scrap pieces of paper.  Divide the class into even groups (of 6 ideally).  Distribute an expression to each S.

Have groups stand in a circle, with pairs facing each other (and therefore other pairs with backs to each other, as shown).  Ss think of and then describe a situation in which they would use the expression they’ve been given.  For example, for “He’s got you there”, a student could say “You are from Mexico, so you’re native language isn’t English”.  If partners don’t get it the first try, Ss can try again.  Partners need to guess which expression would suit that situation.

After 2 minutes, each person passes their sheet to the left (as when they’re facing the centre of the circle) and turns around to face the other person beside them.  So, S1 will now talk to S6;  S5 will now talk to S4; and etc.  Then Ss repeat the task for 2 minutes.  T may interject new expressions into groups as required.  Repeat until all expressions have been used.

See also:
Milking Material, part 2:  Body Language
Milking Material, part 1:  Inferring Context & Meaning

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