Ads, Modals and Road Safety


Since I came across this video on a teacher training programme, I’ve been wondering how to introduce it in the 6th form syllabus. Road safety is a quite significant issue in our society nowadays. It’s the second cause of death in Spain, right behind cancer. By the age of 16 to 18, our students start driving motorbikes, cars, etc. and not always in a safe way. Yesterday, a former student died in a motorbike accident because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. And this pulled the trigger to create this pack of lessons. These task-based lessons plan focused on a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia to promote rail safety. This song is written and performed by the band Tangerine Kitty; it’s available on and iTunes.

Dumb Ways to Die YouTube Video

Level: B2
Skills Involved: speaking, listening and writing
Materials: whiteboard, different colours of markers projector, computer with internet connection, blank paper for each group of four and copies of the lyrics for each student.

Sessions: 3 sessions of 50 minutes

 Write in the centre of the whiteboard the word ‘STUPID’ in capital letters and ask your students to write synonyms on the board. Try it to make it very playful and engaging by using different colour markers and allowing as many pupils as possible to go to the board at the same time or as soon as a word comes to their minds. Possible answers:“idiotic, ridiculous, daft, silly, unintelligent, dumb, senseless, mindless, moronic, imbecilic, ludicrous, dull, nutty wacky, dim, asinine, foolish, simple-minded, etc.” If you find that they have trouble finding them, you can give some hints like the meaning of prefixes (un- in unintelligent) and suffixes (-less in mindless).

 Circle the word ‘dumb’ and ask your student about the dumbest thing they have ever done. If they are too shy to answer you can always use some personal anecdotes from your childhood and your adolescence:


“One day I was really bored in Maths class and I was playing with the stapler and I wondered how strong my nail was to resist a staple. It sounded like a good idea and I staple my nail. It hurt. A lot. I started bleeding all over the table but I was so ashamed about my stupid action that I didn’t dare to tell the teacher until he approached and he saw the blood all over the place. When he saw my face of pain and shame, he didn’t ask and sent me to the bathroom. But the staple removal was even more painful than the stapling itself. I cleaned myself up and went back to the classroom with some toilet paper bandage around my thumb. I was 12 and I felt really dumb.”

“I was eight years old and I was having breakfast a Saturday morning on my own, while my mum was still asleep. I put a slice of bread in the toaster, after a couple of minutes, it jumped and I considered it wasn’t toasted enough. So I put it back, pushing a little bit thinking that the deeper it will get more grilled. My kitchen was paper-painted, no tiles, and with wooden pieces of furniture. Old style. While looking through the window and realised that the toast didn’t come up and I went to check the toaster. I had pushed too much inside and it had got stuck. The toaster was on flames and it spread to the walls, and the cupboard nearby. I ran to wake me mum up shouting : ‘the kitchen is on fire! Mum, wake up!’ She mumbled :’shut up and go back to bed’ until she smelt the wood burning. When we managed to put out the fire, the kitchen was completely damaged, she had to pay to redo the whole kitchen and money was really tight at that time. She still reminds me nowadays how expensive my toast was.”

Encourage them to use past tenses and connectors and you’ll refer to them again when you’ll work the narrative.You can right some hints on the whiteboard while they speak but avoid any correction otherwise they will not feel comfortable to express themselves. In order to show some possible answers,I ask my former sixth form students to tell me some of their anecdotes, I have selected some of them and this is what they told me.

“After watching fencing during the Olympic games, my cousin and I thought it would be fun to try it on our won. We found a couple of real swords and my grandfather’s place. We did some fencing as we had seen before until I cut my cousin forearm. We rushed to the hospital and he got six stitches even though the wound was quite deep. Nowadays I cannot look at his scar without feeling guilty.”

“Some friends and I went on holidays on our own, we were at a hotel where our room was looking at the swimming-pool. My friends challenged me to jump from our third-floor balcony into the pool. Unfortunately I landed on my belly or what’s called a bellyflop. And because of the height I injured myself and couldn’t enjoy the rest of the week without being in horrible pain.”

“My parents have got a piece of land and they own a truck. My friends and I decided to give it a ride around town without a driving license. We got stopped by the police who brought us back to our very angry parents”

“Most of us were already 18 and we’d got a driving license. We decided to go to some club nearby the capital and he got pretty drunk. It was the end of the year and we were celebrating that everybody passed the University Entry Exam. Nobody wanted to be designated driver, so when we came back home a friend drove the car thinking that he could be able to handle his dad’s car by driving very slowly. We didn’t make it: at the first curve we crashed the car against a wall. We got some bad injuries but we were alive, at least. We could get ourselves killed, the car was destroyed. I still have nightmares of the moment of the impact and it haven’t be able drive or to be inside of a car without having cold shivers in my neck.”


Warn your students that they are about to watch the beginning of an ad that’s called ‘Dumb Ways to Die‘. Just play the first 36 seconds, until the end of the first chorus and ask them what they have understood so far. Then tell them that the ad continues but they have to figure out the lyrics by group of four. In order to save some time, make the groups previously and try to compensated the levels. Hand out a copy of the lyrics of the part they have already seen with a blank space to go on. And play the ad in mute mode so the student are watching and they describe what they see on the screen, Put in repeat and give them 15 minutes to finish the task. Do not allow any dictionary or translator on their smartphones. Remind them that you’ll collect the paper after 15 minutes and that will motivate them to do it better. Here are the lyrics given to the students:

…….. …….. to your hair …….. a …….. at a grizzly bear //Eat medicine that’s …….. ……..// use your …….. parts as piranha bait//

Chorus: …….. ways to die// So many …….. ways to die //…….. ways to die //So many …….. ways to die

…….. your toast …….. with a fork// Do your …….. electrical work// Teach …….. how to fly // Eat a …….. unrefrigerated pie

Chorus: …….. ways to die //So many …….. ways to die //…….. ways to die //So many …….. ways to die

Invite a …….. inside your house// Scratch a …….. brand new ride //…….. your helmet …….. in outer space// Use your clothes dryer …….. a …….. place

Chorus: …….. ways to die //So many …….. ways to die //…….. ways to die // So many …….. ways to die

…….. a rattlesnake …….. a ……..// Sell …….. your kidneys …….. the …….. //Eat a tube of …….. I ……..//what this red button …….. do?

Chorus: …….. ways to die// So many …….. ways to die // …….. ways to die So many …….. ways to die

…….. like a moose during …….. season //…….. a nest of wasps …….. no …….. reason // ……………. the …….. of a train station …….. // …………… the boom gates at a …….. crossing // ……………. the tracks between the platforms // They …….. not rhyme but they’re …….. possibly

The …….. ways to die // The …….. ways to die // The …….. ways to die // So many …….. // So many …….. ways to die die die die die die die die die Be …….. around trains.

A …….. from Metro

After 15 min collect the papers. Ask them if they have found any difficulties to describe an action or a word and write them on the board. Right after that, separate the groups and place them to work individually and hand them the full lyrics of the song with some missing words. Make sure that they are key words or vocabulary that might appear during the rest of the year, make it challenging instead of picking up only the easiest words to guess.

Before going any further explain the following words that might be difficult to understand for them:

“grizzly”, “bait”, “unrefrigerated”, “scratch”, “brand new”, “dryer”, “outer”, “helmet”, “rattlesnake”, “kidney”, “moose”, “boom gates”, “rhyme”. Instead of explaining the vocabulary right way, you can make it far more interesting to tell the story behind those words, their origins, their use, etc. They have already started studying etymology in 2nd of ESO in their mother tongue language and there is an extensive part of the curriculum devoted to it in 2nd Batxillerat (6th form). It’d be highly recommended to mention it to your students to link both languages.


The word ‘grizzly‘ means “grizzled” (refer it to ‘gris’ in their mother tongue language); that is, golden and grey tips of the hair. This is not to be confused with the word “grisly” which means “terrifying”. Both are homophones. The naturalist George Ord classified the California grizzly in 1815 not for his hair but for his character, so he played on words with similar sound (which is called a pun), because of the many accounts of grizzlies fighting and beating longhorn bulls.

Piranha‘ was borrowed from Portuguese which borrowed from the Tupi, some indigenous people from Brazil from the time of the colonisation in the 16th century. ‘pira’ means fish and ‘sainha’ means tooth. Which fish is feared for its teeth?

The word ‘bait‘ comes from Middle English comes which borrowed it from Old Norse (a Germanic language that used to be spoken in Scandinavia). It’s a blend between the words “beit” (pasture, food) and “beita” (to hunt or chase). So, what kind of thing can be some sort of food that you use to hunt?

Unrefrigerated: if you decompose the word, you will find the prefixes “un-“(no) and “-re-“(again) and the suffixes “-ed” (past participle, adjective) and “-rate-” (receive the action of, like “consider” and “considerate”). The root “frige”, that you can link to ‘fridge’, comes from the latin “frigus” which means “to cool for preservation”.

Scratch reproduces the sounds when you mark something with a rough or sharp instrument and when you grate the surface of the skin with the nails, as to relieve itching.

The expression “brand new” means entirely new. But how “brand” which means the trademark of a product can mean completely new? Very simple: it comes from the mid 15th century and it meant “fresh from the fire” which relates to the trademark of swords and the newness of it.

Dryer: the word contains the suffix “-er” which means “does the action of” like “paint-painter”, “write-writer”, etc. So the root is “dry” that has got origins from Middle Low German and Dutch (dröge [dreugj] – droog). In old English it became “drÿge”.

Outerspace: comes from “out of space, it’s an apocope [apokapi] , which is the fact of shorten words, made in the late 19th century.

Helmet comes from Old English French, the diminutive of “helme” which took it from the Germans “helm”. An “helm” is the tiller or the tiller or the wheel that ables you to control, navigate, steer a ship or a boat. It evolves to the meaning of leadership, leader. In ancient times, the one who wore a helmet at a battle was the leader.

Rattlesnake: this word is the composition of “rattle” and “snake”. “Rattle comes from the Dutch “ratelen” which was the imitative sound to designate the sound made by the little bells worn by pets or contained in babies’ toys.

The origin of the word “kidney” is unclear, it refers to a pair of bean-shaped organs in the part of the abdominal that form and excrete urine, regulate fluid and electrolyte balance, etc.

Moose comes from Algonquian, a Indian indigenous language, a tribe which lived in the North-East of the United States border with Canada. They said ‘moosu’ to mean “to strip”, alluding to the moose’s habit of stripping trees. In fact, a moose is a large North American deer, having large flattened palmate antlers (distinguish horns and antlers)

Boomgates is the Australian version of “boom barrier” which is a bar or a pole to block access of vehicles when trains are about to pass through in order to avoid a crash between both means of transport: “crash” & “boom”

Rhyme comes from old French ‘rythme’, from medieval latin “rithmus” which is the identity of two sounds of the end or lines of verse.
Bibliography of the origin of the words.

Now, play the song, they must fill the gaps twice and then tell them to hand it out the partner whose name begins with the same letter as theirs.



itunes store: Dumb Ways to Die by Tangerine Kitty

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