mors tua, vita mea

 In Emotional Intelligence in ESL classrooms

This activity for advanced ESL students originates in the historical consequences of an unprecedented rift between 10, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace represented in Netflix The Crown S4:E8 (episode 48:1), which we discussed and studied before [here]. 

The passage describes Michael Shea’s journey from Palace Press Secretary to author of political thrillers. For linguists’ delight do not miss the first few minutes [Sequence one 06:06 – 07:18] and the reading of proposed texts [28:18] that we will further down deep into.

The proposal is for Language and Literature lovers to enjoy the appreciation of one’s choice of words and to raise awareness on the impact of Language Usage in speech. Not to mention, the consequences.

The passage gives a report of this statement that needs to be signed between the UK and the 48 member countries of the Commonwealth over whether or not to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa in 1989. Michael Shea is chosen to provide the right words that Margaret Thatcher would not disagree to sign.  

The complete episode can be watched in advance so that students fully understand the historical circumstances surrounding the sudden and fatal turning point in Michael Shea’s career. Then, in class, they can be asked to watch only these small pieces: 


Sequence two [19:49 – 20:17] where it all begins

Sequence three [20:20 – 22:04] PM starts scrutinising the proposals

Sequence four [22:28 – 23:22] Palace Press Secretary studies alternatives

Sequence five [37:44 – 37:58] Code of silence between the two Houses


and, in pairs or groups of three, take notes of those words rejected by The Iron Lady as well as the synonyms she is offered each time. Students can provide their own alternative texts too, paying attention in particular to the subtle differences between pairs of words. They can give definitions of a «sanction» compared to an «embargo«,  for instance.


could you possibly rephrase that

Don’t you think it would be interesting to ask for volunteers to report the events back to the class? By  focusing on mediation techniques, like «paraphrasing» which I find super challenging and the most effective, advice your students to begin their daily practice and rewrite these  365 sentences in such a way that the meaning stays the same.




Turning subtitles on can be a good opportunity to introduce descriptive verbs  [ways of]  

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