What Can You Do With This: ELA Edition

I couldn’t sneak this clip past YouTube or Vimeo’s copyright Cylons. Consequently, y’all will have to click a hyperlink to play along.

Download high quality here. See the pilot for instructions.

BTW: Cool stuff in the comments, but I like Mr. H’s suggestions the best, spanning passive voice and inference. (Not that I teach this stuff, of course, so help yourself to that salt lick in the corner.)

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I have to admit, when I first watched the video I was stuck wondering how this could be used in a math class. And then I read the title of the entry again.

    I’m not an English teacher, but I feel that at the very least, this could be a video showing poor diction. Have students re-write Michael’s announcement.

    I could also see a drama class using this to show how tone changes meaning. Michael could have said virtually the same phrase in a different tone and it would have been fine.

  2. Great post about body language and society norms. Gladwell dealt with this in Blink, I’m trying to put it together for this clip.

  3. I like that he first made it seem like Meredith was in such serious condition getting the horrified reactions from cohorts—then said she was going to OK with a slight “pelvical” fracture….it turns out he was driving the car. You’d think he would have downplayed the seriousness since he cause it but there was a disconnect in how he handled it. “What is wrong with you?”

  4. I am currently teaching an English class called Senior Seminar–essentially a transitional class that has two purposes: one, to prepare them for life after high school, and two, to put together their major senior project and presentation.

    I’m going to use this clip to illustrate a point I’ve tried to bring up every day–that when it comes to public speaking (or almost anything, for that matter) AUDIENCE and PURPOSE are the gods of all gods.

    Michael spoke the way he spoke because he was aware of his audience and his purpose. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is all about Michael’s manipulation of inference for me. There’s two major inferences that he pushes his audience to make right off the bat, using his language: a) that Meredith nearly died (or did die, which makes it really funny): and b) that he was the hero of the accident, versus the perpetrator. But at each stage of his speech, the questions of his audience force him to peel back, bit by bit, the curtain covering what he has left unsaid.

    I’d have kids analyze each stage for the audience inference, and map out how it changes with each exchange of information. I’d connect this to maybe, hm, three real life examples: a commercial; something from the presidential debates; and if I were really determined to get fired, perhaps an announcement my principal makes that week.

    My math teacher just did a wonderful lesson about proportions and missing information (“What does it MEAN that 4 out of 5 dentists recommended Crest?”) and to hook up with her content via this clip would be cake.

  6. 1st Point: Clip demonstrates the power of the passive voice when used to weasel out of blame (though unsuccessfully here).


    This is one thing I learned quickly in the corporate world. Passive voice is often used to hide the actor/agent.

    A quick example is Brian Williams’ reporting of Cheney’s hunting accident where he said “Birdshots fired from the vice president’s weapon apparently wounded a fellow hunter”

    Skip to about 3:50ish

    In this clip, Michael could have said “A moving vehicle apparently made contact with Meredith that caused her to lose her balance in a way that required medical attention. Fortunately, I found Meredith in time and took her to the hospital. So she’ll be OK.”

    2nd Point: Our brain often acts like a prediction machine. We recognize pattern and anticipate them.

    Michael started with “I have some bad news.” He then said “I took her to the hospital, and the doctors tried to save her … life. They did the best that they could” and we expected that he would finish with “but were unsuccessful.”

    Good writers are aware of the pattern and use/not use them to their advantage.

    Someone once told me “I bet you know what I am going to say. You can probably tell me what the word will be at the end of this …..”

    For most people, the word “sentence” popped into their heads. Being able to predict makes reading much faster. SAT’s used to have sentence completion, probably used to measure how well you recognize these constructions in writing. When I studied for SAT’s, I didn’t understand the purpose of learning them. It wasn’t until college when I read frequently that the patterns became more conspicuous. A whole paragraph reduced to one sentence where very few new facts are presented.

  7. This is great stuff, by the way. My first instinct was toward the passive voice and what a wonder of obfuscation that device is but y’all have found a few other interesting directions to go with this.