Posted 1/4/08
This video comes from a great series by Lev Yilmaz titled Tales of Mere Existence. The activity uses a technique called L2 – L1 – L2 translation. That means that students translate the target language (in this case English) into their mother tongue (L1) and then back into English (L2). You’ll see what I mean in the lesson plan. I love this technique. I used it to to teach myself Spanish when I first moved to Barcelona. Some people feel uneasy about using translation in the class room but they shouldn’t.
  • Language level: Intermediate to Advanced (B1 – C1)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 60 minutes
  • Activity: Reading; Translation
  • Topic: Work
  • Language: The verb to get
  • Materials: Video; Worksheets
Procrastination pdf [downloaded 7130 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Casually tell your students that they have “a lot of stuff to get done” today. They may look at you blankly. Perhaps they don’t know the word stuff. Write the phrase on the board.
  2. Today, we have a lot of stuff to get done.

    Point out that the word stuff is functionally similar to the word thing. One major difference is that stuff is uncountable.

  3. Tell students that they are going to see an animated comic by filmmaker Lev Yilmaz called Procrastination. Ask students if they know what this word means. If anyone knows, that’s great. If not, don’t worry and don’t tell them at this stage.
  4. Play the video with the sound turn down and make use of the pause function to elicit/teach the following vocabulary, which can be written on the board.
    * A desk
    * To spill coffee
    * To clean up with a sponge
    * Cereal
    * The grocery store
    * To do your shopping
    * To make an omelette
    * To do the dishes
    * To squeak
  5. Note that you can also clarify the name of the animated comic series – Tales of Mere Existence. Tell students that mere is an adjective that is used to emphasise that something is small or unimportant.
  6. Ask students if they can guess what the story is about now that they have seen the pictures.
  7. Put students into pairs. To each pair, give a copy of Worksheet 1: Procrastination. (This is included in the PDF download.) Ask students to cut up the 8 pieces of text and put them into the correct order according to the story. While students do this, answer any questions about unknown words or expressions.
  8. Let pairs share their answers with each other. Then let them check their results by playing the video in full with the sound up.
  9. Ask students if they can identify Lev’s accent. If your students are more used to British English, ask them if they can identify any words or expressions that are associated with US spoken English.
  10. Check students’ comprehension of any remaining words or phrases in the text that have not been mentioned. Do this by asking them to “find a verb that means come to the conclusion that”; “find another word for stuff”; “find an expression that means I wasn’t in the mood for cereal”, etc. (The PDF download contains a glossary of terms found in the text.)
  11. Ask students if they would like to see the video again. If so, play it second time.
  12. Ask students if they can now tell you (or elaborate on any previous definition of) what procrastination means. Find out if your students procrastinate and if so, in what situations.
  13. Procrastination is the act of delaying, deferring or putting off actions, tasks or pieces of work to a later time. It is associated with things we don’t really want to do. There are three criteria for a behaviour to be classified as procrastination: it must be counterproductive, unnecessary and delaying.
  14. Give out a copy of the second worksheet (included in the PDF download) to each student and drill pronunciation of the eight ‘get’ sentences.
    * This morning I got up and got ready quickly.
    * I spilled my coffee so I got a sponge to clean it up.
    * When I got to the grocery store I remembered some other stuff I needed to get.
    * When I got home I didn’t feel like cereal any more.
    * I went out to get some oil from the hardware store.
    * When I got back it was getting late.
    * I just have to make sure I get to bed early.
    * I want to be well-rested tomorrow so I can get my stuff done.
  15. Ask students to translate the eight sentences into their own language. They should write their translations on the first set of spaces on the worksheet marked MT (= Mother Tongue). See diagram below.
  16. Note that this type of activity may work best when it is done collaboratively. For this reason, ask students with the same linguistic background to work together to write consensus translations.
  17. (For monolingual classes): Allow different pairs or groups of students to compare their translations and refine them if necessary. If you have knowledge of their language, you can get involved.
  18. Ask students to fold the worksheet along the dotted line (see diagram below). This should allow them to see their own Mother Tongue translations but not the original sentences in English. Ask them to translate their own MT sentences back into English and write them on the second set of spaces marked Eng.
  19. Let students unfold the worksheet and compare what they have written with the original sentences in English.
  20. Let students pair up and test each other. Student 1 says sentences in student 2’s mother tongue and student 2 must recall them in English. After a while, roles are reversed.
Posted 1/4/08

18 Responses to Procrastination

  1. Francisca Verdooren says:

    I’m a rookie in this field but am loving it. I’m teaching in Milan at the moment and have used this lesson with my Italian students. I left a time gap (and subtly filled it up with some idle conversation) between the exercise of translating from English to Italan and Italian to English. Because I thought that some of the students with a good memory may be able to just memorize the original English version. And the results in the end were really interesting. You can really see how L1 influences them.
    I think your website is great. It’s clear and easy to use, and I (being a rookie) especially like your step by step guidance.

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you very much for your comment Francisca.
    I’m really happy that you and your students enjoyed the activity. Translation is a fantastic tool for students. Last month, I saw a great talk by Guy Cook talking about it in London. It is online. Here is the link:

  3. Ernest says:

    Hey Jamie! Love the activity and the vid is great really.
    Thanks for sharing!! Are you planning to come to argentina some time?

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Ernest – really nice comment
    I’d love to come to Argentina. Just waiting for an invite!
    Jamie :-)

  5. Manuel Gonzalez says:

    Hi Jamie! I’ve tried this activity with my advanced-level students and I think it’s brilliant! It helps activate language spoken by native speakers, which students can easily recognise but never use. Students are “forced” to remember and then write down words like the verb “get”, with so many different meanings, or particles such as “out” and “up” which non-native learners tend to avoid all the time. Some of them were confused when they were asked to translate into their own language, but when they had to translate again, now into English, they understood (I hope, anyway!)! what the point of this activity was. So thank you, Jamie, nice one!!
    See you in the next TESOL next year!!

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Manuel
    Thanks for the feedback. We can only ever hope! Glad you liked the activity.
    See you next year in Bilbao
    Jamie :-)

  7. Stephen says:

    Thanks a lot for uploading this brilliant class. I have used with a variety of levels from intermediate up to advanced and it has worked well with all of them. I am going to experiment more with translating with my students in the future.


  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Stephen
    I will be presenting a translation activity this weekend in Turkey. It’s good to get some feeback like this before. A bit of a confidence boost! I appreciate the comment.
    Thank you :-)

  9. Dana says:

    Thanks for this great website Jamie, brilliant ideas and beautiful design!

    I will definitely try this lesson, I’ve never done translation activities but I think it would be useful for my students. I’ll come back and let you know how it went!

  10. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Dana
    Great to hear from you. Good luck with the translation. I’ll be interested to know how you get on
    Jamie :-)

  11. Ali says:

    I love using translation in this way – for some students it’s a great way of fixing stuff (!) in their heads. I also used the sound from the video to raise awareness of how you sound if you don’t put some oomph into your intonation.

    Thanks for all your great ideas!

  12. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Ali
    Yes – this is my favourite way practising chunks when I learn a language. Good idea to use the intonation as model for what not to do. That is part of what makes the clip funny I think.
    Jamie :-)

  13. helen keenan says:

    Hi Jamie

    I just wanted to say that I use this lesson regularly with various groups from Int to Advanced, anything that helps students understand and are able to use collocations, expressions and of course those killer phrasal verbs.

    I find I am using the internet far more in classes these days, the students find the visual element more fun than looking at me : ) and it really does provide a very real contact with English.

    Cheers! Helen

  14. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Helen
    Thanks for the feedback. It’s good to know that it works. It sounds like you like the translation technique for the same reasons as me. Will have to post another L1 – L2 – L1 activity soon.
    Jamie :-)

  15. Laura Green says:

    HI Jamie
    I used this lesson last night and I was surprised at the reaction from the students. They were an advanced ESOL class. Some forund it easy whilst others found it difficult. I couldn’t pair them up though as I had too many different nationalities.
    They did enjoy it though(so did I). Love the site.

  16. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Laura
    Thank you for the comment. Yeah – this L2-L1-L2 activity never goes without a reaction to students who haven’t used it before. Glad you enjoyed it.
    Thanks for the nice words
    Jamie :-)

  17. Nuria Cabellos says:

    Happy New Year, Jamie! Thanks again for sharing. Procrastination is a great idea for New Year’s Resolutions.Best wishes. Nuria :)

  18. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Nuria
    Procratination seems to have been the theme of my Christmas holidays.
    On the topic, a friend of mine sent me this clip:
    Jamie :)