Teaching Tips 140
It is said that in the future, nations & communities are not going to be fighting over land or oil. What they will be fighting over is that scarce natural resource, water.
'In 2005 nearly half a billion people lived in countries defined as water-stressed or water-scarce. This figure is expected to increase to 2.4 billion & 3.4 billion respectively,
by 2005, with North Africa & West Asia particularly affected.'
(from the Water for Life Decade brochure -
So why not bring World Water Day, celebrated on 22nd March, into your lessons. There is a lot of information at the UN World Water Day website:
'The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro.'
Theme 2009: Transboundary water
'In 2009, the focus of World Water Day on March 22 will be on transboundary waters: sharing water, sharing opportunities. UNECE and UNESCO are the lead UN agencies this year.'
'The world’s 263 transboundary lake and river basins include the territory of 145 countries and cover nearly half of the Earth’s land surface. Great reservoirs of freshwater also move silently below our borders in underground aquifers.
With every country seeking to satisfy its water needs from limited water resources, some foresee a future filled with conflict. But history shows that cooperation, not conflict, is the most common response to transboundary water management issues.
Over the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water. We need to continue to nurture the opportunities for cooperation that transboundary water management can provide.
We share the responsibility for managing the world’s transboundary waters for current and future generations.'
To download the brochure, posters, a video, photo galleries & computer wallpapers:
- the video is rather long but excellent to use in class - it is downloadable in mpeg4.
- the brochure makes great reading material, especially if you can copy it in colour for the visuals.
- copy the posters & put them up in the classroom - catch the eye, reach the brain.
- to view the photos, you need 'flash' so take in your laptop for these.
- for the ambitious, there's even a T-shirt logo for download with instructions on printing your own T-shirt.
World Water Day 09 brochure - click on the image to download
For the right type of student, there's a booklet about the 'Water for Life Decade 2005-2015' project at:
Apart from using the material mentioned, your students could:
- design a logo for the Day.
- brainstorm events & then vote on the best one.
- design a poster.
- discussions on water problems in the students' own countries & ideas on saving water. Here are a few lists on water-saving ideas:
There's an article in the New York times about a simple water purifier that could save some of the 6000 deaths per day through water-born diseases:
World Water Day FAQ
Match up the question & the response.
1. How many transboundary river basins are there?
2. How many people live in transboundary basins?
3. How many transboundary aquifers are there?
4. How many treaties have been reached relating to transboundary water resources?
5. When was the first treaty signed?
6. Are international conflicts over water common?
7. What is international water law?
8. What does international law say about the sharing of transboundary water resources?
9. What rules apply to transboundary aquifers?
a. The UN Convention on the Law of Non-navigational uses (1997) covered groundwater in a very limited way. Ninteen articles on the law of transboundary aquifers have come in to fill this gap. They were drafted by a team of hydrogeologists and lawyers drawn from UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and the UN International Law Commission. The 6th Committtee of UN General Assembly endorsed the articles and adopted a resolution on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers on Friday, 14 November 2008. The articles have been annexed to a UN resolution, which recommends that the States concerned make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for managing their transboundary aquifers on the basis of the principles enunciated in the articles. These principles include States cooperating to prevent and control pollution of their shared aquifers. In view of the importance of these ‘invisible resources’, States are also invited to consider the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles.
b. The UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses was adopted May 21, 1997 after 27 years of development. The Global Convention sets out the basis rights and obligations between States relating to the management of international watercourses.
While the ten-year anniversary of the Watercourses Convention passed in May 2007, only 16 nations have ratified the Convention. For the Convention to enter into force, 35 are needed.
The primary substantive rules of international law is that States must utilize their international watercourses in an equitable and reasonable way and without causing significant harm to their neighbors.
c. International water law concerns the rights and obligations that exist, primarily between States, for the management of transboundary water resources. Such legal rules and principles are dedicated to preventing conflict and promoting cooperation of shared water resources.
d. The total number of water-related interactions between nations are weighted towards cooperation. There have been 507 conflict-related events as opposed to 1,228 cooperative ones. This implies that violence over water is not a strategically rational, effective or economically viable option for countries. In the 20th century, only seven minor skirmishes took place between nations over shared water resources, while over 300 treaties were signed during the same period of time.
e. The history of international water treaties dates as far back as 2500 BC, when the two Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma crafted an agreement ending a water dispute along the Tigris River.
f. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has identified more than 3,600 treaties relating to international water resources dating from AD 805 to 1984. The majority of these treaties are concerned with some aspect of navigation.
In the last century, more than 200 water-related treaties have been negotiated and signed.
g. So far, 274 transboundary aquifers have been identified. They lie under 15 percent of the Earth's surface.
h. Over 40 percent of the world’s population resides within internationally shared river basins.
i. There are 263 transboundary river basins. Over 45 percent of the land surface of the world is covered by river basins that are shared by more than one country. Over 75 percent of all countries, 145 in total, have within their boundaries shared river basins. And 33 nations have over 95 percent of their territory within international river basins.
While most transboundary river basins are shared between just two countries, there are many river basins where this number is much higher. There are 13 basins worldwide that are shared between 5 to 8 countries. Five river basins, the Congo, Niger, Nile, Rhine and Zambezi, are shared between 9 to 11 countries. The river that flows through the most countries is the Danube, which passes through the territory of 18 countries.
Answers: 1-i, 2-h, 3-g, 4-f, 5-e, 6-d, 7-c, 8-b, 9-a
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Different groups & different students need different things, & one of these is the amount of work in the classroom devoted to accuracy & fluency. Some learners might be very hesitant in freer speaking activities & need lots of roleplays & discussions to help them become more fluent. On the other hand, a group might be able to ramble on about most subjects but at the same time they may be making lots of mistakes, so they may need to concentrate on being more accurate.
In general terms, a big factor here is the level of the learners. Lower levels need not only language, but also lots more fluency work as they are very stilted when they speak, while the advanced group would need more accuracy work, making lots of mistakes & errors. Other factors might include the intensity & duration of the course, short & long-term needs, external constraints& whether the course is in an English-speaking country where there is a need to be communicative, or if the learners are studying in their own countries where there is time to work on problem areas.
Although you decide the degree of accuracy & fluency work in the classroom, a major part of achieving the right balance is in helping the learners to become aware of their needs. A fluent student who enjoys speaking may feel constricted by lots of accuracy work & quite happy making mistakes so long as he is able to communicate. It is a question of showing them how better they can be. Taping them while they do speaking activities & playing back with a task to help them focus can be a very effective way.
Here are a few questions you could ask - grade to suit:
Listen to your conversation & discuss the following questions at the end:
a. Imagine you are speaking in a real-life situation, do you think you would have achieved your communicative purpose?
b. Do you think you could have been more effective?
c. Do you think this depends on making less mistakes? If so, which areas do you think you should be concentrating on?
d. Do you think this depends on speaking more fluently? If yes, how do you think you could be more fluent?
An alternative is to play a tape of native speakers doing the same task & the students compare with their versions.
Another idea would be to bring in a non-teacher native speaker. Native speakers of the target language are less tolerant than non-native speakers so it would be interesting to see how well they fare interacting with native speakers. You might be surprised as your perceptions of your students can be markedly different to the reality of real speech.
And then there are what are called 'bridging activities', those activities that are in between accuracy-based & fluency-based tasks, a stage that can be easily overlooked. A good example is the flow chart which you can see in the past Tip 'Going with the flow':
As mentioned before in past Tips, there is a tendency to plough on through a coursebook as the school requires a number of units to be covered each term. By considering accuracy & fluency globally, & taking appropriate action, we are fine tuning the course & helping the students to become 'accufluent' balanced learners.
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DOODLE - 'A doodle is a type of sketch, an unfocused drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied. They are simple drawings which can have a meaning, a shape or just irregular forms.'
Here's a fun warmer that asks the students to doodle:
Introduce the idea of doodling & ask your students if they find themselves doing it, & if so, when do they do it - on the phone, in their English class etc - & why they might do it - boredom, to help concentrate etc...
Put the following symbols on the board - a small circle, a key, a small box, a vertical line, a wavy line, a dot - & ask the students to copy them down. Then tell them to draw some pictures very quickly, each one incorporating a different symbol - so they draw 6 pictures - & put a one or two-word description above or below the picture.
Then tell the students what each picture represents, an aspect of themselves;
the small circle - how they see themselves
the key - how they see their friens
the small box - how they see their families
the vertical line - how they see their sex lives
the wavy line - how they see their job
the dot - how they see their future
In the feedback ask what a few of them have for each picture & it should all produce a few giggles. The first picture is sometimes a flower, the third a window of a house, the fourth a tree & the last the top of a mountain. A bit of fun that can provoke some speaking practice.
Then if you want to continue the theme of doodling, here's a recent article on the usefulness of doodling - have a read:
Doodling is not rude - it helps with memory
It is considered the height of bad manners to be doodling and scribbling on a piece of paper while someone is talking to you.
It signals boredom and lack of attention but drawing shapes and symbols while listening actually helps you to remember the details of what you are told, scientists have discovered.
Volunteers who were asked to shade in shapes while listening to a dull telephone message recalled 29 per cent more details than those told not to draw, in an experiment carried out by researchers at the University of Plymouth.
After the two and a half minute tape was finished they were asked to recall the eight names of people who were going to a party and eight place names from a list on the recording.
The doodlers remembered an average of 7.5 names of people and places compared to 5.8 of the non-doodlers.
The findings were reported today in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
Professor Jackie Andrade said: "If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream.
"Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task.
"This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing."
The research coincides with National Doodle Day, a charity event organised by Epilepsy Action and the Neurofibromatosis Association
As with any text, there are many ways of using this one. You could use it in a dictogloss task. This means reading the text at a slightly fast speed with the students making notes on the main points. The speed is important
as they shouldn't have time to get all the words down, this is a high speed dictation. Then the students get together in pairs or small groups to reformulate the text - they write out the ideas in their own words. They will
need to talk about the language & the ideas which means a rich activity all round. Before they begin, tell them that their texts do not have to be like the original one but it does have to be coherent.
As they do the task, go round & help out. At the end they could read out their texts, or put them on the walls for all to read, or the class could try to collate one text on the board.
And then on to responding to the text - what do they think of the ideas - do they believe that doodling makes them concentrate better?
About.com has a page about interpreting doodles. Ask your students to doodle through the rest of the lesson & at the end they can compare each others & refer to the
interpretations & discuss why these might be the meanings.
Doodle comic strips - use them to introduce the theme.
'National Doodle Day is about having fun whilst raising funds to help people whose lives are affected by epilepsy and neurofibromatosis. Enter our national competition and doodle alongside hundreds of celebrities and help us build on the £160,000 raised so far!'
Each year Google invites youngsters to submit their doodles made around their logo.
If you find it difficult to draw on the board, the book '1000 Pictures for Teachers to Copy' by Andrew Wright (Pearson Longman) is an excellent guide. It takes you step-by-step through building up people & everyday objects.
It's International Women's Day - on 8th March - for lesson material:
Dewi Sant - March 1st is St David's Day, the patron saint of Wales, as good an excuse as any for a lesson centred around the often overlooked country of Wales.
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