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Teaching Tips 216

Looking back
The birthday party
Beautiful words

Looking back

Looking back

We would all agree that reviewing a class & series of classes is a good thing. For very short intensive courses this may be limited, but our normal language courses usually span several months. Here are a couple of ideas for both individual classes & longer term.

1. At the end of each lesson elicit briefly what happened in each of the stages of the lesson. This need not take longer than a minute or two but you will be amazed at what the students do not remember. They will tend to leave the lesson remembering the last activity - so what happened to the other hour & twenty minutes! By reviewing the lesson you are showing them how much they have done, how much they are learning & what a great teacher you are!

2. A common first task of a lesson, the warmer, is used to review the previous lesson. This could be simply getting the students to look through their notes together to some competition activity.

3. When language crops up from a previous lesson, take time out to review it by asking students to explain it & give examples of how it is used. It is better if this is planned for beforehand but sometimes we miss this & only notice during the lesson.

4. Go through the timetable you gave out at the beginning of the fortnight - elicit what you did in each lesson & how they found it & what they feel they need to go over again. Don't worry if you haven't covered all in the original timetable - it was only a provisional plan after all.

5. Give out a blank timetable grid & ask the students to look through their notes & the coursebook to fill it in for the last two weeks - in the feedback a discussion ensues.

6. Give out a retrospective timetable & go through it. i.e. write one at the end of the two weeks of what actually happened.

7. As language learning is such a lengthy process, tests are important to maintain motivation. It is easy for our learners to become despondent when they cannot see they are making progress so one of our jobs is to help them see this.

8. The Snail Race - put the students into two/three groups & they look through their notes & the coursebook to prepare 10-15 questions based on the last two week's work. Then bring the groups together & have a team competition. Rotate the question & the answer teams & the winner is the group who gets most answers right.
So what about the snail? Well, draw & cut out some snails / rabbits / whatever & stick them on the board - draw a grid across the board & the snails move a square each time their team gets a right answer until they reach the other side of the board to win.
Clearly the main aim here is for the students to review their notes & then they have fun asking their questions to each other.

As teachers we are constantly reviewing & assessing our students informally so keep a notebook for each group, jot ideas down, so you have a record of areas to feed into future schemes of work.

A few of the past Tips on testing:
Discreetly integrative
Placement testing for large numbers of students
Diagnostic testing
Friendly evaluation

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birthday party

The birthday party

You may have seen the following article in the press this week - have a read:

Five-year-old misses friend's birthday party
and gets invoice for £15.95

The parents of a five-year-old schoolboy have been invoiced for failing to attend a school friend's birthday party and have been threatened with legal action if they do not pay.

Derek Nash and Tanya Walsh found a brown envelope with a £15.95 "no show fee" left in their son Alex's schoolbag last week, sent by his classmate's mother Julie Lawrence.

Lawrence claims that Alex's failure to attend her child's birthday party has left her out of pocket, and that his parents had her details to tell her that their son would not be attending.

Nash said he had been told he would be taken to small claims court for refusing to pay.

It all started with an invitation to the birthday party just before Christmas at the Plymouth Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre. Alex – who attends a local nursery in Torpoint, Cornwall – told his parents he wanted to go, so they confirmed he would be at the party.

However, his parents realised on the day that Alex had been double-booked to spend time with his grandparents.

His mother told Apex News, "Julie Lawrence and I weren't friends, we didn't talk to each other at school, but I felt bad about Alex not going to the party."

"I searched for the party invite afterwards and I'm not sure we even had one."

She added: "But to be invoiced like this is so over the top – I've never heard of anything like it. It's a terrible way of handling it – it's very condescending."

Nash said he did not have the contact details of Julie Lawrence, and so could not let her know on the day.

After he found the letter he visited Lawrence, as her address was on the invoice, and "told her I would not be paying her the money".

"It was a proper invoice with full official details and even her bank details on it." He added: "I can understand that she's upset about losing money. The money isn't the issue, it's the way she went about trying to get the money from me."

"She didn't treat me like a human being," he said.

In a short statement, Lawrence said: "All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me."

The trials of the birthday party! This might make an interesting focus for a lesson from intermediate upwards. It could be linked into the theme of the family, children, celebrations etc or it could simply be a one-off lesson. Here's a possible procedure:

1. Introduction - elicit last birthday parties attended > remember parties when a child > in pairs discuss memories of children's parties > feedback - elicit some of the more interesting remembrances.

2. Text prediction - put the headline on the board - 'Five-year-old misses friend's birthday party and gets invoice for £15.95' - check 'invoice' - in pairs students discuss what the article is going to be about > feedback - elicit a few ideas.

3. Set the extensive reading task - students read quickly to find out - Was the invoice paid? - give a 30 second time limit - tell them to skim the article, to help them speed up their extensive reading skills.
Students read > compare ideas in pairs > class feedback.

4. Set the more intensive task - put on board/give out the following questions:

1. How did Alex's parents find the invoice?
2. What will happen if the invoice is not paid?
3. Why couldn't Alex attend the party?
4. What did Derek think about the invoice?
5. What was his excuse?
6. what was Julie's response to his excuse?

What do you think?
Was Julie right to send an invoice? Do you think 'no show' guests should pay a financial penalty?

Students read & answer > compare ideas in pairs > class feedback - elicit the response to the text - i.e. what do the students think of the situation?

5. Language focus 1 - ask the students to find all the vocab connected to the legal/financial - e.g. legal action, no show fee, out of pocket, small claims court, invoiced, invoice, bank details - do this in pairs > feedback.
Language focus 2 - ask the students to find all examples of reported speech, reporting verbs & direct speech > pairs discuss - go round & ask them to consider why the author has chosen to use in/direct speech at different times > feedback.

6. Speaking - roleplay - Derek & Julie come together to try to resolve the situation - if a three then add in Tanya as well - designate roles - maybe all the Dereks & all the Julies could get together to prepare their arguments. Be on hand to offer language alternatives & further ideas to use.
Roleplay - stds discuss - take notes > feedback on the content - a resolution? - & on +/- things heard in the discussions.

7. Further discussion - if not already discussed earlier - students discuss other social situations which might require a financial penalty for a no show e.g. a wedding. You could round off by doing this as a class discussion.

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Beautiful Words

Beautiful Words

Review of the year quiz - how well do you remember the year 2014?

To begin the year in your classes try a look back with a 2014 quiz.

The questions & answers are below & at the site there are photos
to go with the questions to make it more interesting.
On the same page you can find links to the last 10 years of
quizzes on the site so why not pick a couple out to use in class
to provoke discussion.
Students could then discuss their personal highlights of the past
year & also what they would like to see happen in the world &
personally achieve in the coming year.

Clearly New Year Resolutions combined with your students' ideas
on improving their English would make a good focus for a lesson.
Other New Year classroom ideas on the site:
New Year Resolutions reading:
The New Year: Traditions & Resolutions:

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 interesting lists that would make for an interesting discussion.
Start off with the article & then get students to discuss what the words & expressions in the list mean & refer to. If you have access to the internet in class they could look the unknowns up.

Heart emoji and hashtag are 'most popular words' of 2014

Miley Cyrus uses them all the time but Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber aren't such big fans.
We're talking about the heart emoji on your phone, or emoticon, which is this year's most popular "word".

A new survey from Global Language Monitor found that the symbol appeared billions of times a day across the world.

Also making it into the top 10 of most popular words in 2014 were hashtag, vape, blood moon and nano.

The research, carried out by the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas, looked at blogs, Twitter, Facebook and 250,000 global news outlets over the last 12 months.

Ebola was top of the list of names with Pope Francis, World War One, Médecins Sans Frontières and Prince George behind it.

OK is the most understood word in the world.

This is the 15th year that the list has been put together.

Last year's (2013) most popular word was 404, as in a 404 internet error. Top phrase was Toxic Politics while Pope Francis was top name.

Most popular words of 2014
Heart emoji
Blood moon
Photo bomb
(White) privilege
Bash tag

Most used phrases 2014
Hands up, don't shoot
Cosmic inflation
Global warming
Climate change
War on women
All time high
Rogue nukes
Near-Earth asteroid
Big data
Polar Vector

Top names of 2014
Pope Francis
World War One
Médecins Sans Frontières
FIFA World Cup
Ice Bucket Challenge
The Mid-terms
Prince George of Cambridge
Malala Yousafzai
Xi Jinping
President Obama
Sochi Olympics



What is your favourite English word? And which word is the most beautiful word in the English language? Are these two the same? There was a report in the Guardian the other day about the most beautiful words as voted by English language students across the globe. Here are the top five most beautiful words:

1 Mother
2 Passion
3 Smile
4 Love
5 Eternity

Are your words in the list?

To see the rest of the Tip Beautiful words


DAYS - a couple of Days this week with lesson material on the site:

Martin Luther King Day - 19th January
Burns Night - 25th January


NEW ARTICLE by Neil McBeath

Cultural Change in the Arab Gulf;  Natural Progression or Imperialist Plot?


In the summer of 2011, Masi Noor, the Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at Canterbury Christchurch University, referred to the events of the Arab Spring, saying “We in the West have been guilty of homogenizing the whole region. We need to understand that they are all very different countries with diverse cultures, histories and needs, which until now we have not listened to, either due to ignorance or expedience.” (Noor 2011; 11-12)

The truth of the first part of that statement ought to be self-evident to anyone who has worked in the Arab World for any length of time, but Noor’s use of the terms “ignorance or expedience” raises questions. I would suggest that even scholars may have a tendency to employ general, shorthand terms when more detailed analysis may be required. What, for example, does Noor himself intend by “the West”? In the Arab Gulf, “the West” almost automatically refers to the USA and Britain, or Britain and the USA, depending on which country one is in. In Tunisia and Algeria, by contrast, “the West” usually refers to France, and in Morocco, the term could be used of France, or even Spain which maintains its enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean Coast.

To read the article:


NEW BOOK REVIEW by S.J. Shelton-Strong

Teenagers (Resource Books for Teachers) by Gordon Lewis (OUP)

English language learners are now filling classes at a younger age than before and bringing with them a stronger background of word knowledge and other aspects of English learnt from their school curriculum. An increasing reality in the world of English language teaching is that teenagers (ages 12-19) often make up a large portion of these learners, but due to the uniqueness of their situation in life and the wide range of ages involved, teachers often find many of the current course books available from publishers lacking in sufficient appropriacy and depth. While Teenagers (Lewis, 2007) may not be a new 'resource book for teachers', it is certainly a timely one and worthy of review and your undivided attention.

The read the review:

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