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Completing a hat-trick of seasonal lesson plan/idea/activity posts (see my snowman and turkey ideas) here’s something for the New Year.

Outnumbered is an excellent BBC comedy about a couple and their three children. The parents are played by Hugh Dennis (a really good comedian who you can see on the BBC programme Mock The Week, but whose chef-d’oeuvre is actually The Now Show) and Claire Skinner; however, the real stars of the show are the actors playing the children: Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez. I say actors, but perhaps improvs would be a better term here, since most of their acting is actually improvisation – this is the key to the comedy of the programme, I think. Ramona Marquez, who plays Karen (you can see her in the clip above) is particularly brilliant – search on YouTube for her eulogy for a deceased pet mouse, so moving.

In the clip you can see Karen talking to her mum about her New Year’s resolutions. Here are Karen and her mum’s words in a nice word cloud:

Here’s the basic plan:

Talk with your students about the following (if you have already finished teaching before the holiday, just change the questions so that they are about the past)

  • What are their plans for the holiday?
  • Will they celebrate Christmas? (you could go off on a tangent here and ask about celebrations in different cultures as well)
  • What will they do to keep practising their English over the holiday? (note – if you are asking this question after the holiday and get a very rubbish answer, challenge your students to think how they could do better, the lazy bums!)

Next use the word cloud to introduce the basic future forms (‘I will not…’ ‘Mummy will stop…’ and ‘I will…’). You could:

  • Simply show the word cloud and ask your students to make sentences using the three bigger phrases as the beginnings of the sentences, finishing them with some of the smaller words (note- me and my are bigger as they appear twice in the resolutions in the video clip – they can be used more than once. The other words should only be used once). Remember that these should make sense!
  • Copy the sentences on to strips of paper and cut them in half (you can choose exactly where to make the split) and ask your students to put them back together (see below for a list of the resolutions from the clip).
  • Dictate the list of resolutions

Here is a list of the resolutions:

I will not poke my fingers in the butter.

I will not chew my duvet.

I will not call people idiots.

Mummy will stop nagging me.

Mummy will stop giving me cabbage.

I will eat less biscuits so I get more thinner.*

I will learn Italian.

*I kept the mistake in the list I transcribed as I thought it interesting, especially if you go on to discuss the improv nature of the show, or even into the realms of language acquisition (i.e. the stage children get to when they start applying grammar rules, like Karen has done with ‘more thinner’ and children often do with ‘goed’ instead of ‘went’).

Compare the sentences that your students create with the list above, and talk about any differences (including dealing with any errors). Ask your students to think about who is speaking each of the sentences. Focus on those in the list, but you can also include any your students have come up with.

Play the clip and use the sentences to teach/check the basic forms:

I will + infinitive

I will not + infinitive

Mummy will stop + gerund (-ing form)

Ask your students this question: ‘What is a New Year’s Resolution?’. Go over the basic notions (i.e. you make them for yourself, not other people; they should be some way in which you can improve yourself or challenge yourself to do better; they should be achievable, and so on).

Finally, set your students the task of coming up with their own New Year’s resolutions. They can then compare their resolutions with each other, and you can discuss whether they are good, achievable resolutions. They could be to do with learning English (probably best if you are using them for an English language lesson) but you could invite your students to make more general resolutions as well.

More about resolutions:

A project by the British Humanist Association looking at a different take on resolutions