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Teaching Tips 215

Festive lessons
Olive Oil Texts
BNDay '14

xmas tree

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

A couple of external 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:


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. There is a lesson procedure after the questionnaire.

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

Back to the contents

Olive Oil Texts

Have a look at the following text I found on the Guardian Online site:

Olive oil

With olive oil prices expected to soar as rainfall in Spain reaches a record low, Ayesha Christie traces the history of the original amber nectar

Tuesday July 26, 2005

1. The drought in Spain is predicted to reduce the olive harvest there by as much as 30%, prompting dealers of extra virgin oil to raise their prices. Spain is one of the world's largest producers of olive oil, supplying a third of the world's supply to more than 100 countries.

2. The olive tree has a revered place in Ancient Greek mythology - the goddess Athena was believed to have created the first tree during her battle with Poseidon, god of the sea, for the city of Attica. Up on the Acropolis, it was decided that the one who gave the city the finest gift should become its patron. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident to create a spring, and Athena planted an olive tree. While the water in Poseidon's spring was salty, and therefore of little value, Athena's olive tree provided the people with food, oil and wood. The city was renamed Athens.

3. Olive oils are graded and judged according to their level of acidity. Extra virgin olive oil is the product of cold pressing, a chemical-free process. This oil contains no more than 1% acid, and is considered the finest and fruitiest of all.

4. Some olive trees are known to live for thousands of years. The philosopher Plato founded his academy in an olive grove, and legend has it that an original tree from the grove was alive (though no longer producing olives) until the 1980s - making it more than 2,300 years old.

5. Olive oil was originally burned as the "eternal flame" of the Olympic torch, but over the years it was replaced by various substances that often proved to be inefficient and dangerous. After the 1956 Olympics, in which burning chunks of magnesium and aluminium scorched a runner in the final relay, the flame was replaced with much safer lightweight liquid fuels.

6. "He's strong to the finish 'cause he still eats his spinach, he's Popeye the sailor man," says the song. But Olive Oyl came on the scene way before Popeye: she was originally created in about 1919 by Elzie Segar for the comic strip Thimble Theatre (later renamed Popeye). Often portrayed as flirty and fickle, Olive differs from modern heroines, with her toothpick frame, dowdy clothes and unusually large feet, but she remains Popeye's one true love. Aw.

7. The health benefits of olive oil can be traced back to the creation. When Adam complained of being in pain, God is said to have sent down Gabriel with an olive tree, telling Adam to press the oil from the olives and drink it to cure any illness. Scientific research has since shown that he knew what he was talking about: olive oil is high in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, which help to ward off cancer and heart disease.

8. There are over 700 different kinds of olives, ranging from the popular, dark purple kalamata olive to the pale green French picholine olive. The colour of the olive depends on its degree of ripeness: green olives, harvested early, have a high chlorophyll content, whereas olives harvested fully ripe at the end of the season are black.

9. Filippo Berio olive oil was voted "the one ingredient I can't live without" at this year's Good Housekeeping awards. Other winners included Jamie Oliver (most popular TV chef) and Delia Smith (the person who has influenced British cooking the most over the past 10 years).

10. Olive leaves have long been a symbol of peace, and are found on the UN emblem, which shows a map of the world encircled by a wreath of crossed olive branches. The US Great Seal also pictures an eagle carrying an olive branch. The 13 leaves in its right talon represent peace between the 13 original colonies of the nation.,,1536398,00.html

A fairly interesting text & I was wondering how to use it. It doesn't follow the same type of organisation that an article might, there is no unfurling story or argument or opportunity for interpretation of the writer's intent but a series of factual points. There is the procedure of present situation >> history >> types of olive oil >> other times olive oil is mentioned in different spheres. This could be a focus & the traditional extensive task >> more intensive task >> language focus procedure could be used but this is a good opportunity to deal with each section differently to provide a range of activity.

Introduction - the beginning could be used as a straightforward prediction to sink the students into the theme - they may know quite a bit about it already & be able to share this with the others:

Olive oil

With olive oil prices expected to soar as rainfall in Spain reaches a record low, Ayesha Christie traces the history of the original amber nectar

Tuesday July 26, 2005

Section 1 - translation. If you can, translate this part into their native language, assuming you are teaching a monolingual group, & they translate it back into English & compare with the original. Or simply translate it into their native language & then compare versions to see if anything interesting crops up.

Section 2 - dictogloss or high-speed dictation. Dictate this at normal speed a couple of times & the students take notes. Then they reformulate the text together in small groups. Tell them that the point is not to end with the same text as the original but to discuss options & get a coherent text together. Students then compare versions, discussing decisions that their groups made.

Section 3 - discourse focus - order. Give out the sentences in strips
& ask students to put them into a logical order.

a. This oil contains no more than 1% acid, and is considered the finest and fruitiest of all.
b. Extra virgin olive oil is the product of cold pressing, a chemical-free process.
c. Olive oils are graded and judged according to their level of acidity.

You could then go into the 'given-new' principle based on this section - we begin with the 'given' & move to the 'new'.

Section 4 - skeleton model. Students read the text & then decide on the skeleton & then write their own imaginative sections with this skeleton. They then read aloud & vote on the best. Here is the skeleton:

4. Some ___ are known to ___ for ___. The ___ founded his ___ in an ___, and legend has it that ___ from the ___ was ___ (___) until ___ - making it ___.

Section 5 - Textrunningtogether. Give out the text as one continuous stream & the students find the word boundaries& mark the punctuation.

OliveoilwasoriginallyburnedastheeternalflameoftheOlympictorchbutover theyearsitwasreplacedbyvarioussubstancesthatoftenprovedtobeinefficient anddangerousafterthe1956Olympicsinwhichburningchunksofmagnesium

Section 6 - reading aloud. The students analyse the section for how they might effectively read it aloud. They mark the tone units & the main stresses. Here is the section marked for tone units - a slash to signify the beginning & end of a tone unit. You might disagree & change a few of them.

/6.// "He's strong to the finish// 'cause he still eats is spinach,// he's Popeye the sailor man,"// says the song.// But Olive Oyl came on the scene// way before Popeye:// she was originally created in about 1919// by Elzie Segar// for the comic strip Thimble Theatre// (later renamed Popeye).// Often portrayed as flirty and fickle,// Olive differs from modern heroines,// with her toothpick frame,// dowdy clothes// and unusually large feet,// but she remains Popeye's one true love.// Aw./

The students practise individually & then take it in turns with a partner giving suggestions as to how to improve.

Section 7 - summarise. Students reduce the section to one sentence.

Section 8 - cloze. Students fill in the gaps made at every nth word, here every 5th word is taken out:

8. There are over 700 ____ kinds of olives, ranging ____ the popular, dark purple ____ olive to the pale ____ French picholine olive. ____ colour of the olive ____ on its degree of ____: green olives, harvested early, ____ a high chlorophyll content, ____ olives harvested fully ripe ____ the end of the ____ are black.

The third gap will be impossible but see what they come up with. Again the point is not the product but a discussion of the options.

Section 9 - expand. Students add information to the section, this time making it much longer. It doesn't matter if it is not factual, the important part is to play around with the grammar - & it can end up as lots of fun as students add bizarre information.

Section 10 - mutual dictation - jigsaw. Give out the two halves of the text to each pair & they cobble the text together by asking each other questions to fill their gaps. You might want to have a focus on question forms before starting. This could also be carried out between 3 or 4 students, each having bits of the text.

Student A
10. Olive leaves have long been a ______, and are found on the UN emblem, which shows a map of the ________ encircled by a wreath of crossed olive branches. The ________ also pictures an eagle carrying an ________. The 13 leaves in its ________ represent peace between the 13 original ________.

Student B
10. Olive leaves have long been a symbol of peace, and are found on the ______, which shows a map of the world encircled by a wreath of ________. The US Great Seal also pictures an ________ carrying an olive branch. The ________ leaves in its right talon represent ________ between the 13 original colonies of the nation.

If you have an overhead projector it would be efficient to use it with the relevant sections.

Follow up
- reactions to the information in the text - anything new, surprising...
- more on olive oil:
more on drought & the situation in the students' own countries, & how to reduce water consumption....
- fave recipes with olive oil >> into cooking in general..... some recipe sites:

It is usually a good idea to refelect native speaker tasks when using texts but for different aims & variety there are a wide range of interesting activities to choose from.

Back to the contents

BND '14


Thanksgiving in the US is nearly upon us which is followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the US & designated as Buy Nothing Day by groups of anti-consumerism activists. On the website of the originators of Buy Nothing Day -

"Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet."
– Fawzi Ibrahim

Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always
be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we're not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.

The journey towards a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year. This November 28th (US - 29th in European countries), go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours … see what happens … you just might have an unexpected, emancipatory epiphany!

Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation … as you suddenly remember what real living is all about … you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life.

Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 23/24 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let's take it back.'

buy nothing receipts

With an more advanced group the above Ibrahim quote might make an
interesting discussion to lead in. Below are a series of links & tasks for the classroom.

Buy Nothing Day lesson plan:

Buy Nothing Day - Adbusters:
Wikipedia page about Buy Nothing Day:

buy nothing day ad







Have a read of this article:

Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day

This kind of activism is the problem, not the solution.
By Jenn Farrell
Published: November 24, 2006

As a society, we sure spend a lot of money on crap. Yep, we get into debt buying stuff that becomes quickly obsolete but first drains the planet's resources and pollutes it. My own collection of lip glosses is a fine example.

So this Friday, on Buy Nothing Day, many people across North America (and worldwide on Nov. 25) will refrain from making any purchases in an effort to increase awareness of overspending and remind people that they are more than simply consumers.

If anyone needs me, I'll be out shopping.

While I agree in principle with the noble aims behind Buy Nothing Day, I use the day to throw some cash around. Other than plain pigheadedness and hating being told what to do, I have a number of reasons.

Buy Nothing Day's biggest proponents must be the well educated and well fed, who can certainly afford to take a day off from their conspicuous consumption. While it's laudable to want to do something about the problem, I question the potential influence of a bunch of people standing in front of a suburban Wal-Mart and harassing some mother of three who just wants to get in there and buy some darned detergent. Don't lecture her about over-consumption and globalization -- she just wants to get a load of the baby's sleepers through the wash while supper's cooking.

Hoi polloi politics

As a mom myself, and at one point, a single welfare mom, I can't help but remember my own "buy nothing" days all too well. Lots of them were strung together in the week before cheque-issue day, when I just kept eating from a bag of rice and saved the few remaining bananas and carrots for my kid. Good times. Now that I actually earn some money and creep ever closer to the happy side of the poverty line, I'm beyond grateful that I'm able to buy something every day if I need to. I don't ever want to go back to diluting the milk for my cereal with water, thanks very much.

So who is Buy Nothing Day really for? It's certainly not for most wealthy, high consumers, who largely couldn't give a toot what the hoi polloi are protesting about now. And it's not for those who are already not buying anything and long to escape those circumstances. So that leaves Whitey McPrivileged, who can check to make sure he's got enough toilet paper and tea bags in the house before the big day. And while the campaign ostensibly acts as a springboard to creating more lasting change, I bet a lot of participants breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, when they can get back to business as usual. Remind me again how this changes anything?

That's why I use Buy Nothing Day for what I think are better ends. I buy "consciously" all day long -- from getting a fair trade coffee at a locally owned shop in the morning, to picking up a few Christmas gifts made by independent artists and crafters in the afternoon. Rather than take my money out of the marketplace for the day, I'll put it in the hands of people who operate in line with what I believe are ethical business practices. And whatever's left over gets split between panhandlers and charity donation boxes. It's not much, but I hope it'll do more good than "nothing."

And don't even get me started on Buy Nothing Christmas.

Here's a short procedure:

1. After introducing BNDay through some of the above materials, put the headline on the board ' Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day' & put students into pairs to discuss reasons the writer might put forward for actually buying on the day.

2. students discuss - go round & help out with language & point them to some directions.

3. Feedback - collate some ideas on the board. .

4. Reading - students read quickly to see if any of their ideas - on the board - are in the article. Give a time limit to speed up their reading.

5. Students read.

6. Students compare in pairs >> feedback.

7. Vocab pre-teaching before the intensive reading - you might want to teach the following: Hoi polloi, welfare..& anything else you consider 'crucial' for the task.

8 Set the more intensive task - give out the following questions & set the task:

a. Does the writer agree with BNDay? Why/why not?

b. Who does she think might be offended by BNDay?

c. How has her life changed?

d. What type of person does she think is proposing BNDay?

e. What type of person does she think it is really directed at?

f. What is her approach to the issue?

9. Students read individually to answer the questions.

10. Students compare in pair >> feedback.

11. Elicit the 'response' to the text - what do they think of the ideas expressed in the article?

You could then return to the language in the article & do some 'noticing' tasks - vocabulary, structures & discourse aspects - choose to suit.

12. Integrate the skills - look through the above materials & develop the theme of BNDay through the speaking, listening, reading & writing skills.

Keep calm, don't shop poster

Here's the FAQ, from the BND UK site, made into a matching task:

Match up the questions with the answers below.
1. What is Buy Nothing Day all about?
2. Where did BND come from?
3. What's the point?
4. Who runs it?
5. Why is there two different dates/days?
6. But what will I achieve?
7. Do you want me to stop shopping altogether?
8. What is so bad about shopping?
9. What about the environment?
10. Is one day really going to make a difference?
11. Has the day been successful in previous years?
12. What can I do?
a. In Canada and USA Buy Nothing Day falls the Friday after the American Thanks Giving Day. In Europe we hold our celebration The last Saturday in November. We're always out shopping on Saturday, so it makes sense.
b. It's not shopping in itself that's so harmful, it's what we buy. The two areas that we need to concentrate on are the environment and poverty. The rich western countries - only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. We need to worry about the way our goods are produced. Increasingly large companies use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap and there aren't the systems to protect workers like there are in the west.
c. Buy Nothing Day started in 1993 by the founders of Adbusters and is now an international event celebrated in over 55 countries.
d. It's incredibly challenging to last 24 hours without spending any money these days. You'll feel detoxed from shopping and realise how much it uses up your free time - especially when there are 101 THINGS to do. For 24 hours you'll got your life back - that's a big achievement! We want you to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging corporations to clean up and be fair. Modern consumerism might offer great choice, but this shouldn't be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.
e. It won't hurt to stop for one day and we don't expect the UK to grind to a halt. Like we said, we want to challenge people to think about the effects of what they buy has on the environment and developing countries.
f. Buy Nothing Day isn't about changing your lifestyle for just one day - it's a lasting relationship - maybe a life changing experience! We aim to make Buy Nothing Day stick in peoples minds so they think about the future and turn their back on the throw away society we have become.
g. Literally, doing nothing is doing something! However, check out the BND-UK web site then join a JAMMER GROUP or start one up and support Buy Nothing day which is great fun!
h. As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them. The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries.
i. Absolutely, and it's getting bigger and better every year! See the home page for links to newspaper articles and other resources and news from previous years.
j. Buy Nothing Day (November 30th 2013 UK), is a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. Its a global stand off from consumerism - celebrated as a holiday by some and street party for others! Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!
k. The raw materials and production methods that are used to make so many of our goods have harmful side affects such as toxic waste, destruction of wild life, and wasted energy. The transport of goods internationally also contributes to pollution especially when many can be produced nationally.
l. You do - it's your day - so get involved! Tell all your friends, put up posters and refuse to shop on November 30th 2013 in Europe or November 29th 2013 Canada/USA. The BND-UK site is part of global network of campaigns - see the links to the left for more BND sites around the world.
Other than that try to follow this check list before you buy something.
* Do I need it?
* How many do I already have?
* How much will I use it?
* How long will it last?
* Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
* Can I do without it?
* Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?
* Am I willing to?
* Will I be able to repair it?
* Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
* How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
* Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
* Is it made or recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
* Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?

Answers to the matching

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