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Blog: October 5, 2021: Using “Everyday” Texts to Build Language Skills

Now that most concert venues are offering in-person performances, I’m getting daily messages about upcoming events. These texts, emails and printed brochures provide lots of authentic language for musicians learning English! Take the latest text from The New York Philharmonic’s recent postcard as an example:

This informative postcard can be mined and used for dictionary, reading, writing, listening and speaking practice. Some ideas follow:

A. Prediction: Students are shown only the top portion of the card and predict what the card will be about based on the NY Philharmonic logo, title and photos.

B. Reading and Listening: Students read the postcard silently and then listen to it read by the teacher. Students can ask questions, discuss the accuracy of their predictions and comment on whether or not the concert is of interest to them.

C. Comprehension: The teacher concept checks and quizzes students on the content.

D. Vocabulary and Pronunciation: Students preview, guess, look up and discuss the meanings and connotations of some or all of the following words (depending on students’ level). Students also discuss and write other forms of the words (#2-#9). The teacher drills pronunciation (Author and teacher Scott Thornbury has creative methods for drilling – a topic for another blog!)

1. triptych (n.)

2. innovative (adj.)

3. inspired (v.)

4. frenetic (adj.)

5. virtuosity (n.)

6. autobiographical (adj.)

7. anxious (adj.)

8. depiction (n.)

9. synthesizer (n.)

After exploring their meanings, students rate the words according to personal usefulness, use them in sentences and create conversations with a partner. The teacher can exploit the students’ work for pronunciation, rhythm and intonation practice. Conversations can be performed in class.

E. Scavenger hunt: Students search the postcard text for:

· (Grammar) 3 examples of the imperative tense. One is different from the other two. How is it different, and why did the writer use it?

· (Cultural references) 3 references to American culture

· (Literary device) An example of metaphor and alliteration

F. Collocations (words that “go together” in English)

Students look up the meanings and use their favorites in a project below: ,

G. Create: Groups of Students create

· a postcard or social media post for a concert of their own, featuring the vocabulary, grammar, cultural references (if applicable) and literary devices

· a radio ad for the concert, recorded and/or presented live to the class


Imperatives: Hear the innovative work; Get 25% off tickets; please visit (“softened” imperative uses “please”)

Cultural References: 1950s cartoons; encounter with the police (given the current American societal climate); You Have the Right to Remain Silent (5th Amendment Miranda Rights)

Metaphor and Alliteration: A solar system of sound

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