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Teaching Tips 192

Happy New Year!
Happy holidays!
Looking for answers

New Year

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all!

It's the time of year when the past year is reviewed so you can see our review of 2012 at:

It's not so much a quiz as a series of questions & photos to stimulate discussion. This is an opportunity to look back over the past year on a global level, practise past tenses, & then move onto how the year was on a personal level, before going on to look at the year ahead, the students plans & what their predictions for 2013. And there are also links there to the quizzes from the last few years to make a fun memory & discussion task. Lots of speaking practice all round.

There's a pdf on questions & answers to print off for classroom use.

If you don't want the photos, here are the questions & answers:

1. Which international star died of an overdose?

2. Where did violence break out as a result of the austerity measures?

3. Which painting broke a record?

4. Where was the first of many massacres in Syria?

5. What was Lonesome George the last of?

6. Who was the first Brit to win the Tour de France?

7. Where were the successful Olympics held in July?

8. Which pole was found to have melted at an unprecedented rate, 100,000 sq km each day melted in August?

9. Which skydiver jumped from his Red Bull Stratos capsule over Roswell, New Mexico in September and fell 24 miles?

10. What was the name of the hurricane that wreaked havoc on the US eastern seaboard in September?

11. Who was re-elected in November?

12. Who was finally stripped of his Tour de France titles?

13. What luckily didn't happen in December?

14. Who bowed out at London as the most decorated Olympian of all time?

15. What happened to the Costa Concordia liner?

16. On 4 July scientific history was made with which experiment?

17. Which country continued to dominate world football?

18. What happened in December that won't happen for another 89 years?

19. Who set the dance craze of the year?

20. On which planet did the Curiosity Rover land in August?


1. Whitney Houston

2. Greece

3. The Scream by Munch

4. Houla, Homs Province, Syria

5. His species

6. Bradley Wiggins

7. London

8. North pole

9. Felix Baumgartner

10. Hurricane Sandy

11. Obama in the US

12. Lance Armstrong

13. The end of the world according to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, notably used by the Maya. It came to the end of a "great cycle" of 13 b'ak'tuns on 21 December 2012.

14. Michael Phelps

15. It ran aground

16. The discovery of the Higgs Boson particle

17. Spain winning the Euro 12

18. Date repetition of day, month & year

19. Psy

20. Mars

Some other New Year material at the site:

New Year's Resolutions lesson plan:

As the sales are in full flow now there is a lesson plan about the sales that went wrong at IKEA:

And there's a lesson plan about taking presents back to the shops:


Here are some other links, among many, to review videos of the past year:

Psy and Nick Clegg trend in YouTube's annual round-up - BBC article

YouTube in Rewind: What you were watching in 2012

Google Zeitgeist 2012
2012 was a year of big moments, from global games to historical elections and everything in between. With this site, we've analyzed over one trillion queries to showcase what the world searched for.

The best sports clips of 2012

The top memes and viral videos of 2012

After one of the above all agree which 4/5 to view, viewing & discussing & then voting on the best.

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Happy holidays!

A short missive this week mainly to wish everyone happy holidays.

Christmas is nearly upon us & time for the festive Xmas lessons. On the site you can find activities & plans:

Xmas lesson plan

Xmas activities 1

Xmas activities 2

It's Christmas time – an EFL lesson plan by Rolf Palmberg

Kwanzaa - Lesson plan

Beat the Cheats & some Xmas links

Do you remember Buy Nothing Day a couple of weeks ago? Well now's the time for Buy Nothing Christmas & the website & material for lessons can be found at:

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace & goodwill & the theme does make for interesting discussions in class. Below there is a questionnaire about generosity & the Xmas season. The idea is that the students do the questionnaire & then they formulate the results in pairs by allocating the scores (1-3) for each question. They then write up a short profile for three bands of scores & then score each others & give out the appropriate profile.

Have you got the spirit of Christmas?

1. A colleague tells you that by working late on Christmas Eve you could let her get away to visit her disabled mother in another town. She has a reputation for being a bit of a shirker & you have no means of checking her story. Do you:

a. Agree to do so because she might just be telling the truth?
b. Agree because you haven't got the nerve to refuse her?
c. Tell her you're sorry but you too have an urgent appointment?

2. Your neighbour is a bad-tempered bore, who lives on his own & has no relatives. Do you:

a. Invite him round for Christmas dinner?
b. Invite him round for a quick drink?
c. Ignore him & tell yourself you're a hypocrite if you do otherwise?

3. Carol singers arrive at your front door. Do you:

a. Open the door & stand there wearing a Yuletide smile?
b. Appear just before they leave & give them too much money to salve your conscience?
c. Switch the lights off when you hear them coming & pretend to be out?

4. As a business Christmas present you receive a really good bottle of brandy. Do you:

a. Share it with your colleagues?
b. Tell yourself they would appreciate it & buy them a drink to make yourself feel better?
c. Pass it on as a Christmas present to an influential business acquaintance?

5. Every year you set aside a sum for Christmas charities. Is it:

a. Big enough to make you sacrifice something you really want?
b. Big enough to cut the value of your presents to others?
c. A token gesture?

6. The shops have closed on Christmas Eve & your partner realises s/he hasn't bought you anything. Do you:

a. Make a joke of it - & mean it?
b. Extract the maximum amount from her/his discomfort?
c. Fly off the handle?

7. Do you go to church at Christmas because...

a. You're a regular churchgoer anyway?
b. You're not normally a churchgoer but you feel the occasion demands some gesture of spiritual gratitude?
c. It's the done thing?

8. To which of the following can you truthfully answer yes?

a. Have you ever had an underprivileged child to stay at Christmas?
b. Thought about it but somehow never got round to it?
c. Never had it occur to you?

9. Christmas cards. When it comes to deciding who's on the list, do you:

a. Send them to all of your friends regardless of whether you received any cards from them last year?
b. Strike out anyone who didn't send you a card last year?
c. Tell yourself that the whole thing is an absurd custom & send none at all?

10. Late on Christmas Eve there's a knock at the door. A dishevelled couple stand there. They're quite respectable looking, but obviously very poor, & the girl is heavily pregnant. They tell you that they can find nowhere to stay & ask if you can put them up for the night. They'll pay what they can. Do you:

a. Invite them in, give them something to eat & make room for them somehow?
b. Invite them in for a cup of tea while you phone the local social services for them?
c. Say sorry, there's no room, you can't help them, & gently, firmly close the door?

Compare your answers with another student & work out what the scores should be - 1 = the best answer & 3 = the worst answer. Then write up three profiles of the scores;

for people who get 1-10
You are the sort of person...

for people who get 10-20
You are the sort of person who...

for people who get 20-30
you are the sort of person...

Xmas trees

A possible procedure:

1. Put 'The spirit of Christmas' on the board & elicit what it is. Brainstorm all related vocabulary. You might need to pre-teach some of the language in the questionnaire here - a shirker, a carol singer, a token gesture, to fly off the handle,

2. Give out the questionnaires & students do them individually.

3. Pair students up & they compare answers.

4. The pairs then give each questions a score, deciding which answer should get 3 points - the answer that fits the spirit of Christmas, 2 points for the next & 1 point for the least generous/appropriate answer. This should provoke an interesting discussion. You might want to think about the language needed here & briefly introduce a few exponents beforehand.

5. The pairs then write up the three profiles - see the end of the material above. Encourage the students to produce a paragraph or two.

6. Pairs then swap questionnaires & they score each others' & then hand over the profile they have written that matches the score.

7. A general class discussion about the spirit of Christmas could then take place.

If the questions in the questionnaire might be a bit difficult for your students to relate to then change them to suit. The questions are actually taken for an ancient magazine questionnaire & I have no idea where it came from.

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hands up

Looking for answers

An important part of classroom management is giving feedback on tasks. For speaking tasks we give feedback on the content, how they got on with the task, & linguistic feedback, on the language they used to accomplish the task.

We also set lots of tasks which require correct answers; true/false, gap fill, error analysis, matching & so on. The more experienced teacher will spend less time on this type of feedback as she will sort out a lot of the problems as she monitors while the students are doing the task. She will correct, help out & teach as she goes round the class monitoring. So at the end of the task the feedback has already been done & attention will be given only to the parts that were generally difficult for most students.

A couple of other ideas for feedback on answers:

- assign a student to elicit the answers. The first time you do this they will need support but after a while they will be sorting out their problems for each other as a class without your intervention. Choose a different student each time.

- put the answers on the board just before they finish & the students use them to self-monitor, asking questions about the ones they are confused about. This would be appropriate for the short matching tasks, letters & numbers, true/false, not needing much writing on the board. The answers could also be provided on the back of the photocopy or in the coursebook.

- get early finishers to put up their answers on the board, & then ask them to go round & see how their classmates are getting on, helping them out. After a while of this, lots of student-student teaching will ensue.

- let the students swap answers & correct each others & encourage them to discuss discrepancies between the two versions.

It is common for teachers to simply write the answers on the board, no matter what the task. This takes time & may well be unnecessary - think carefully before eliciting & writing on the board - the students may have it written in front of them in the coursebook.

Another consideration if you are eliciting the answers from the group is if you are just asking the group in general hoping that someone will volunteer the answer or do you elect specific students for the answers. The latter might be the quicker & more efficient way. And then when you do get the answer how do you know all the students understand why it is the correct one? Active monitoring beforehand will give you a good idea on this.

And then there is the language the students use to achieve the task in pairs - what about feedback on this? It is important classroom language, & if the class is abroad, in a non-English speaking country, this is probably the major use for the students' spoken output. You need to monitor the language being used, give feedback & help the students to expand this classroom language.

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