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Teaching Tips 205

Looking back
Reviewing the term

As this is the last Tip before the Christmas break, here are some
links on the site for Christmas lesson ideas, materials & links:

Buy Nothing Christmas:
Posters to get into the theme - students then design their own poster:
Song by Joel Kroeker - 'Buy Nothing At All':
'What would Jesus buy?' - the full movie:


With the end of an academic term, you might well be filling out reports on individual students. They can be a nuisance with the extra work but there are clear administrative reasons for them. Have you tried giving your students a copy of the blank report form to fill out about themselves? You then take them in & combine your thoughts with theirs to provide a more rounded report. It would be nice to have the form designed so that half is for the students & half for you to fill in, making it a collaborative work. This clearly helps the students to assess their own progress, & you could see it as the students doing half of the work for you

As we fill out the reports, we are probably assessing how the different courses that we teach have been going & how to tackle them in the next term. Here are a few questions to consider that look back over the term:

- How has the last term been? Mainly enjoyable, challenging, difficult....Why?
- Do you feel that you have you been developing your teaching?
- What were some of the really good things that happened?
- Have there been opportunities for outside class development - seminars, teacher development group, reading?
- If you have had the opportunity, are you maximising co-planning with colleagues?
- Are you spending less time, more time, or the same amount of time on preparing your timetables & lessons?
- Are you varying the materials you use? Are the materials interesting for the students?
- Are you varying the activities & approaches you use?
You & the students:
- Are you happy with your students' progress?
- Have you covered what you had planned eg covered the language & skills development you had planned or the number of units on the coursebook?
- Is the group getting on? Is there anyone who appears to be a little distanced? Is this something to do with some dynamic in the group?
- If a colleague came into your classes, what kind of atmosphere would they pick up on?
- Have you solved any problems that have arisen over the term?
The students:
- Are the students happy with their progress? How do you know?
- Are the students happy with you & their classmates?
- Have you given them tutorials? (See the tip 'giving tutorials' - )
- How about class tutorials on how it has been going & ideas for the next term?
- Are they working outside the class eg in the library, doing the homework you set, reading at home?
Now, having answered all the questions, which ones can you & want to act on in the next term?

At the end of the term you could email each student a questionnaire about the course for them to email back during the break. This would provide a degree of distance from the course, both physical & emotional, which might produce some interesting more objective comments.

Our teaching changes, some periods are full of development & others can feel fairly mundane, & we're never going to give perfect classes & courses, but every course we teach is the best so far & the next is going to be even better.

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Odour judge

Strange Jobs

After last week's selfie' phenomenon mention, this week there was a story about a woman in New York taking a selfie with a man in the background on the verge of throwing himself off a bridge. Dubbed by the New York Post as 'Selfie-ish' she became famous for her thoughtless selfie. For an article for higher groups:


It's Human Rights Day on Tuesday 10th December - a couple of links:

It's really nice when you're browsing a newspaper or on the internet & you come across some perfect classroom material. I came across the Strange Jobs' photos below last week in the Guardian newspaper- look at the photos & guess what the job is & then match up with the descriptions below:

'1Dog food tester

Artificial inseminator

Coin polisher

Crisp inspector

dinosaur duster

Crack filler

fish counter

Golf ball collector

Mens underwear designer

10Odour judge

rubber chicken maker


(Right click on your mouse & 'Save as..' to download the photos to print off.)

Odour judge

Cincinnati, Ohio
At 50-year-old Hilltop Labs in Cincinnati, odour tests are carried out daily on axillae (aka armpits), breath, feet, cat litter, and nappies. Here a test is being performed on a subject who has followed strict protocol for the deodorant efficacy study. Betty Lyons began her career 35 years ago as a subject herself. She then trained for almost a year and is still tested monthly to measure her acuity. Odours are judged on a scale of one to 10, and most odour judges are women: they are able to make finer distinctions, apparently.

Golf ball diver

Kissimmee, Florida
Jeffrey Bleim says his work is always 'picking up'. Clad in three layers of wetsuits and towing 45lbs of scuba gear, 18lbs of weights at his waist, and 60lbs of golf balls in a net hanging from his neck, he glides through the waters of Orlando-area golf courses picking up after the mistakes of others. On a typical day like this one at Falcon's Fire Golf Course, he scores 5,000 balls, making his weekly take 25,000. Last year he retrieved 800,000 balls, weighing in at 40 tonnes. He ships them off to a refinishing company, which in turn sells them for half price. Jeffrey's take: somewhere between 5 and 10 cents a ball.

Dog food tester

Manhattan, Kansas
Dog-food testing is not for the squeamish, because the best way to test it, claims Patricia Patterson, is to taste it. At the Sensory Analysis Center on the campus of Kansas State University, she analyses samples of dog food for flavour, of course, but also for texture. Typically, dog owners don't like dog foods that make lots of crumbs. Patricia may conduct a test in which she compares the hard texture of a mini steak-shaped dog biscuit to seven very different human food samples: cream cheese, hard cheese, egg white, olives, frankfurters, nuts, and candy. Occasionally, she may be called on to test a competitor's product. If, for example, another dog food manufacturer claims that their product is beefier, Patricia will have the final word on where's the beef.

Men's underwear designer

New York, New York
Originally a designer of men's ties, Jennifer Fischetti spent 20 years working in various facets of menswear before getting down to their underwear. Once there, she quickly realised she had some serious design challenges ahead. With today's men being so fashion conscious, the long-time favourite – 'tighty whiteys' – have some real competition. As vice-president of men's underwear at Nautica, she designs new fits, such as the trunk, and works with new synthetic fabrics, but, as always, comfort takes top priority. Jennifer is forced to get up pretty close and personal to some hunky models, making certain they're comfortable, both fore and aft.

Potato chip inspector

Hyannis, Massachusetts
One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four – what can a potato chip inspector be looking for? According to Cindy Pina at the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory in Hyannis, Massachusetts, she looks for over-cooked chips, but more importantly, for chips that are clumped together. Such clumps will ruin the whole bag. Cindy has been inspecting potato chips for 12 years and, she admits, eats far fewer chips today than when she began the job. She also reveals an occupational hazard: when she does eat chips, she can't keep herself from inspecting them closely.

Artificial inseminator

La Sal, Utah
As a theriogenologist, Jim O'Neal is handy at his work, artificially inseminating hundreds of heifers a day. From late April through late June, Jim can be found visiting one of the many ranches he services in his custom-built trailer. He doesn't roll up his sleeves but, as you can see, he unzips his specially designed work suit, dons a plastic glove that covers the entire length of his arm, and reaches deep inside the cow. As soon as he feels her cervix, he injects her with 6m to 10m live sperm contained in a vial he holds in his other hand. With a 65 to 70% pregnancy rate, his success is undeniable.

Crack filler

Keystone, South Dakota
He looks like a fly on Thomas Jefferson's nose, but Jeffrey Glanzer is doing the very important job of crack filling: repairing the wear and tear in the Black Hills of South Dakota since the sculpture on Mt Rushmore was begun in 1927. (It was completed in 1941.) The rangers who do this conservation work formerly used a mixture of granite dust, linseed oil, and white lead powder. However, since 1989 they've been using a silicone sealant. Maintenance is done on an annual schedule, and there's no denying that it's a monumental job.

Rubber chicken maker

Salt Lake City, Utah
With a catalogue of more than 1,000 joke items, Gene Rose can boast that rubber chickens have helped make him a millionaire. He's been selling them all over the US for the past 25 years. No one can explain the rubber chicken's great appeal – least of all Rose – but he gives credit to Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show for helping to popularise his prize poultry. Having launched his career as owner of a magic shop at 17, Rose, now an octogenarian, has demonstrated that with the right product, and a bit of luck, anyone can hit the jackpot.

Dinosaur duster

Washington, D.C.
For more than 30 years, Frank Braisted has been dusting 145m-year-old bones. Frank is the one and only dinosaur duster at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Five days a week in the early hours of the morning, he has the dinosaurs all to himself as he grooms them with a feather duster and a vacuum cleaner. One thing he never does, however, is touch the bones. Here Frank appears with the Stegosaurus. His favourite is the Allosaurus, a meat-eater with impressive teeth and claws.

Fish counter

Seattle, Washington
There's something decidedly fishy about Julie Booker's job. Working only during spawning season, from June through October, she stays awake some nights until 1am, counting fish every 10 minutes. She works at the Ballard Locks, which separate Seattle's Lake Washington from the Puget Sound, and her fish counting helps to regulate the fishing rights in the area. Often Julie is joined by a roomful of tourists. At peak spawning time, Julie records sockeye on one counter and chinook on another. The most sockeye she's counted in a 10-minute period: 450. The most chinook: 75.

Coin polisher

San Francisco, California
The St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco has been laundering their money for more than 50 years; and for 20 of those years, Arnold Batliner was the man in charge. Every weekday morning, Arnold went to work shining all the quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies by passing them through an old silverware polisher borrowed from the kitchen. Arnold passed away several years ago. All the old-timers at the hotel remember him as the real treasure.

Among many things you can do with the materials:

- the prediction & matching that you have just done & then onto a ranking task - put the jobs in order of best to worst.

- the photos could be on the walls, the students wandering round, matching & reading the descriptions.

- use six of the photos for the Cambridge First Certificate Speaking test part 3 - the student have to discuss the photos & then choose two on some specific criteria. For these photos the task could be: Talk to each other about why people might enjoy these jobs & then decide which two jobs would be most interesting to do.

- alternatively choose two for the part 2 where students need to compare & contrast the pictures. The task could be - Compare the two photographs & say which you think would be the most interesting to do.

- students could be given one job, they read about it & they then take on that role. A 'strange job conference' then takes place with students mingling asking about & explaining the jobs - the communicative purpose, given before they begin, is to to decide who has the most unusual job.

- before reading the texts, students could write about the job, a short profile, using their imaginations, & then read to see if they were close.

- Clearly the texts as they stand contain lots of challenging vocabulary. You could rewrite them for lower levels or you could turn this into a live listening - you read & memorise salient points about each & then you tell the students about each picture. The students could be making a non-linguistic response with a matching task, true/false or a more linguistic response with a notetaking task.

- a writing task could be writing an email to one of the people applying for a training job with them. they explain why they want to train up for that profession - lots of fun.

- as a follow up students could invent their own strange jobs.

- following on from last week's phone camera use in the classroom,
students could strike poses of their invented jobs, take photos
of them, send or simply show them & others guess the job. Then they
could choose from all the texts that the students have written about
their jobs.

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Oxford Dictionaries recently announced their Word of the Year - & it is - drumroll.......'selfie'.
This is what they say about the word:

'A picture can paint a thousand words

The decision was unanimous this year, with little if any argument. This is a little unusual. Normally there will be some good-natured debate as one person might champion their particular choice over someone else's. But this time, everyone seemed to be in agreement almost from the start. Other words were considered, as you will see from our shortlist, but selfie was the runaway winner. It's not a new word. For starters, it has already been included in Oxford Dictionaries Online (although not yet in the Oxford English Dictionary), and we wrote about it as part of our occasional Words on the Radar series back in June 2012. But our Word of the Year need not be a new word. However, it does need to demonstrate some kind of prominence over the preceding year or so and selfie certainly fits the bill. It seems like everyone who is anyone has posted a selfie somewhere on the Internet. If it is good enough for the Obamas or The Pope, then it is good enough for Word of the Year.

When it started

But what of the word itself? While it is safe to say that selfie's star has risen over the last 12 months, it is actually much older than that. Evidence on the Oxford English Corpus shows the word selfie in use by 2003, but further research shows the earliest usage (so far anyway) as far back as 2002. Its use was, fittingly enough, in an online source – an Australian internet forum.
2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept.

"Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie."

The term's early origins seem to lie in social media and photosharing sites like Flickr and e past year or so. Self-portraits are nothing new – people have been producing them for centuries, with the medium and publication format changing. Oil on canvas gave way to celluloid, which in turn gave way to photographic film and digital media. As the process became snappier (pun intended) so has the name. And now as smartphones have become de rigueur for most, rather than just for techies, the technology has ensured that selfies are both easier to produce and to share, not least by the inclusion of a button which means you don't need a nearby mirror. It seems likely that this will have contributed at least in part to its increased usage. By 2012, selfie was commonly being used in mainstream media sources and this has been rising ever since.'MySpace. But usage of it didn't become widespread until the second decade of this century and it has only entered really common use in th

The runners-up are:

bedroom tax (n)
- (in the UK) a reduction in the amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than is necessary for the number of the people in the household, according to criteria set down by the government.

binge-watch (v)
- to watch multiple episodes of a television programme in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming. [ORIGIN 1990s: from BINGE + WATCH, after BINGE-EAT, BINGE-DRINK.]

bitcoin (n)
- a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank. Also, a unit of bitcoin. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from BIT, in the computing sense of 'a unit of information' and COIN.]

olinguito (n)
- a small furry mammal found in mountain forests in Colombia and Ecuador, the smallest member of the raccoon family. (Taxonomic name Bassaricyon neblina) [ORIGIN 2013: diminutive form of OLINGO, a South American mammal resembling the kinkajou.]

schmeat (n informal)
- a form of meat produced synthetically from biological tissue. [ORIGIN early 21st century: perhaps from SYNTHETIC and MEAT, influenced by the use of '- -, schm - -' as a disparaging or dismissive exclamation (e.g. fancy schmancy: 'some of the gourmet sauces you get in fancy schmancy places are just too spicy for me').]

showrooming (n)
- the practice of visiting a shop or shops in order to examine a product before buying it online at a lower price. [ORIGIN early 21st century: from SHOWROOM 'a room used to display goods for sale'.]

twerk (v)
- dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance. [ORIGIN 1990s: probably an alteration of WORK.]

And what about words that came & then went within the year? Here is the list of 'blips of our radar':

Harlem shake

For definitions & comments see


A couple of ideas on this word theme for our classes:

- Favourite word of the lesson - at the end of each lesson elicit the students' favourites & vote for a winning word. The criteria could be anything; how the word sounds, looks, usefulness, personal relevance etc..

- Favourite word of the week - collating the words of the lessons & voting on one for the week.

- Favourite word of the month - collating the words of the weeks & voting on one for the month.

When voting the students could try to persuade each other on their choices. And then get them to keep a special section for these words in their notebooks.

Keep a record of all the winners for use later on in review tasks e.g. conversations where they get a point for each they use, mime words to each other, guessing games etc... The winning words could be added to a chart on the wall for easy reference.

For trying to keep track of all the vocab that crops up in a lesson, see:


To return to the 'selfie', phones with cameras have made it very easy to capture anything these days either as a still photo or a video. Here are a few ideas to exploit phone cameras:

- video the students doing a speaking task - feedback, not only on language use, but also on paralinguistics & body language.

- students take photos of something on the theme of the coursebook eg housing - they take photos of their homes & views from their windows - they show each other & interesting discussions ensue.

- students take & show photos of friends, families, group photos - others can speculate on the people before photo taker tells.

- encourage students to keep a photo record of the board stages in the lessons - it will certainly help you think about organising your board work & keeping it tidy!

- students choose 4/5 photos from their phone photo gallery, for them or other students to use, & invent & then write a story that connects the photos.

- students look back through their photo galleries & explain what has happened to the people in the pictures & how things have changed.

- students take photos of work covered to send to absent classmates.

- describing photos for lower levels, students choose photos to describe for basic vocab & prepositions practice.

- exam class students could find two photos, on a similar theme, on their camera for others to describe & compare.

- make your own 'spot the difference' tasks - take a photo of a scene eg an office, then make some changes to the scene - move things around - then take another photo of the same scene. Then 'send' photo 1 to student A & photo 2 to student B - they then discuss their photos, without looking at each other's, & discover the differences. At the end they look at both photos together to find missed differences & verify found differences.

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