make the heart grow
Absence makes the heart grow
fonder - or so they say. What do you do about students who
are constantly absent & when they come they have missed
something important & their presence ends up being disruptive
to the group? It happens quite a lot, here are strategies
to try out:
an obvious starting
point is to develop a good group dynamic so that all of
the members are interested & motivated in attending.
a first step with dealing
with the individual absentee would be an individual tutorial.
See if the absences are genuinely outside committments or
excuses to avoid the class. If the latter then find out
what the problem is.
ask the group to update
absent colleagues & maybe they will feel the peer pressure
to attend regularly.
possibly assign study
buddies who update & explain to each other if they miss.
Encourage the exchange of phone numbers for outside class
updating to take place.
for those who are not
taking the class seriously, design follow-on lessons so
that when they do come, they will realise they have missed
an important part of the class. Maybe they have to sit it
out until the activity is finished & they will see they
are wasting their time by missing the previous lesson.
do not take the regularly
absent students into account when planning lessons &
just add them in when they turn up, adding them into group
work. They become 'extra members' of the class. If they
cannot attend regularly, they might realise this & accept
this kind of situation.
if abseteeism is a
general problem to the group, have a group tutorial to discuss
the problem & what you might all do about it. English
might be a long way down your students' list of priorities
& they may genuinely have other committments that they
cannot ignore. Your expectations of their interst & motivation levels might be too high.
if grading is an important
element of the the class, make it clear that absenteeism
will be taken into account when grading.
with the younger learner
it is a question of contacting the parents to see what the
if there is no alternative
& you never know who is going to be present, plan one-off
lessons that can function in isolation to previous lessons.
By far from ideal, but a possibility.
Whatever strategies you try
out, do be sensitive to adult learners as they might find
it patronising to be 'told off'. They may feel it is their
right to decide when to turn up if they are paying for the
classes. And as mentioned above, English may be a small
part of their lives.
to the contents
Being in holiday mood with
the Easter break just finishing, this week looks at holiday-related
lessons & jigsaw reading activities.
We have had jigsaw lessons
in the past - you can now find any lesson plan on the site
in the Lesson
To begin with a brief explanation
of jigsaw activities:
The students read or listen
to the different parts of the text, with or without specific
reading & language noticing tasks for each different
part of the text, & then when they have extracted the
relevant information from their texts, they join the other
students with different texts to exchange the information.
This exchange of information then gives the whole picture
& enables the students to discover or do something with
all the information. i.e. there is a communicative purpose
to the activity - it isn't just a case of exchanging the
information for the sake of it, there should be some purpose
to the exchange.
The advantages of using listening
or reading texts as jigsaw activities is that the skills
are integrated, the speaking skill is incorporated &
if the material is chosen well, interest & motivation
Below is a lesson plan that
can be used with any of the five reading texts. The texts
are taken from the
Guardian Unlimited website &each text also has a
link to the original Guardian page.
These texts are ideally suited
to this kind of jigsaw activity & each text has a printer
friendly version linked to it.
dream holidays for the 21st century
Forget the QE2, the Orient Express and a flight
on Concorde... so-ooo twentieth century. Think instead
of the Namibian dune mountains, paddle steamers in Mandalay
or a solar eclipse in the Antarctic. Jill Crawshaw suggests
20 ideas for a truly twenty-first century experience.
Somewhere different where you can feel a bit
of grit between your fingers and not worry about the nails?
Gavan Naden checks out 10 places where you can get away
from it all and come home without feeling the slightest
bit tarnished. (Advanced)
of a lifetime for under £500
Get married in Vegas, sail down the Nile, visit
Mayan temples, go birdwatching in Africa or laze on tropical
beaches - Jane Knight, Tom Templeton and Jacqui MacDermott
show you how to make your money go further. (Upper
break the bank?
Sean Dodson's guide to six
European destinations that offer a perfect weekend away
for those on a budget. (Intermediate)
Time: 60-90 minutes
Level: Intermediate upwards,
depending on the text you use.
To give detailed reading practice
To introduce/review 'holiday' vocabulary
To review & give oral practice with comparatives
To practise the language of persuasion, the language
To give freer speaking practice
That the stds will find the holidays interesting.
That the language in the text will not be too difficult & that it will be interesting vocabulary - choose
the text to match the group.
Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary is tricky so dictionaries
on hand would be helpful.
Aids: Choose one of the 5
texts listed above.
Stage 1 - Intro to
holidays & vocabulary review/expansion
1. Introduce holidays & where they might be going/have gone this year.
2. Ask if they could choose, which kind of holiday
would they like - elicit different types of holiday
- beach, safari, adventure, trekking, cycling, touring,
weekend break, sightseeing, cruise, arctic, retreat
3. If you're not going to use all of the holidays
described in the text, choose some that you are not going to use & tell the class about them, asking
them if they would like that kind of holiday, hopefully
a discussion will ensue. Possibly elicit any ideas
for other holidays that might be in the article you
choose by giving the title.
Stage 2 - Reading
mins tch<>stds, std<>std,
1. Handout different
holidays from the text to different stds or small
groups - the brief is to read for detail as they will
be exchanging descriptions later to find the most
exciting, interesting, relaxing etc. holiday.
2. Stds read - have dictionaries on hand & go
round helping when needed, encouraging the stds to
guess meaning from context whenever possible. You
could design reading & language tasks to go with
each piece of the text.
Stage 3 - Information
mins tch<>stds, std<>std, stds<>tch
1. Put on the board
Which holiday is;
the most relaxing
the most exciting
the most imaginative
the most innovative
Or choose superlatives to suit. Other
purposes could be:
- to give profiles of different
people & stds find the best holiday for each.
- stds find the most appropriate holiday for another
member of the class.
2. Put stds into groups,
each having read about a different holiday - they
have to agree on a holiday for each of the superlatives.
You might review some language that they might need
before they begin, to make the task more effective
- the language of discussion. Elicit/give & write
some exponents on board for reference.
3. Task - while it's going on you take notes on +/-
things said for feedback later on.
4. When decisions have been made get a member from
each group to visit another group to report their
findings & possibly give ideas to the group they
are with. The roving stds then report back to their
original groups who can make changes to their decisions,
if they want.
5. Class feedback - see what has been decided & ask for justifications. Feedback on the language used
during the task.
Follow up activities
The chosen holidays
could then go on to be used in different ways:
- travel agent & customer roleplays - selling
- travel agent & customer roleplays - customer
complaining as the holiday wasn't all it was cracked
up to be.
- stds could write another
description of a holiday location, that fits with
the theme of the overall text used, that they know
- stds could write postcards, imagining they have
gone on the holiday they chose.
You could follow
up on some of the travel agent links given in the
article & collect a range of materials from the
respective sites for use in similar activities. Or
if you are lucky enough to have enough computer terminals,
get the stds to do the research & make a project
So, in effect, here are five
lesson plans centred around the holiday theme & guaranteed
to promote interest, speaking & reading. And as with
all of the lesson plans & activities on the site, we
hope that they act more as a springboard to developing your
own ideas & directions.
to the contents
The Easter break is on the
way for some, including us so we won't be sending out the
Weekly Tip next week - the next one will be on the 21st
April. So this week we've got a mish mash of ideas, links & plans on Easter, festivals & Spring.
A lesson plan on 10
very strange festivals
- Easter traditions around the world - stds explain local traditions & compare
with other countries. For a few links go to
- This could be the excuse
you've been waiting for - Chocolate! - coming from
Easter eggs - what a link! There's loads of info on the
net about the art of making chocolate, recipes, the history & care of chocolate - did you know that chocolate eaten
in moderation helps you live longer - we all secretly hoped
that anyway! http://www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/exploring_chocolate/
index.html There are some amusing quotes from choco
lovers at http://www.virtualchocolate.com/quotes.cfm There are a few sites which talk of chocolate eating being
better than sex! Among many reasons given are that it doesn't
make you pregnant, it's easy to find, size doesn't matter
with chocolate, it satisfies even when it has gone soft & you can have it on your work desk without offending
anyone! When looking at the theme of chocolate you could
incorporate a chocolate tasting into the lesson - stds taste
different ones & vote - it would be better to keep the
wrappers secret until the results are announced - lots of
fun! If you are abroad do try & get hold of some chocolates
from your home country to use in the tasting.
Lesson plan on the
site about chocolate - quotes
about chocolate & a chapter from 'Chocolat' - reading
- For the younger learners
- a treasure hunt - two teams write instructions for each
other 'Look under the door for the next clue' etc until
they reach the Easter egg provided as a prize by their generous
- design & send Easter cards
- decorate eggs (getting into shapes & animal lexical
- make Easter Bunny masks
- interview the Easter Bunny
- chocolate tasting!
- Easter worksheets for the younger learner at:
As they say on the site: "What
is an "Easter Egg"? - The term "Easter
Egg", as we use it here, means any amusing tidbit that
creators hid in their creations. They could be in computer
software, movies, music, art, books, or even your watch.
There are thousands of them, and they can be quite entertaining,
if you know where to look. This site will help you discover
Easter Eggs in the things you see and use everyday, and
let you share Easter Eggs you discover with the rest of
the world." So, give your stds a different kind of
Easter Island - 'has
long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. How
and why did its inhabitants carve and transport the massive
statues which surround the island? What remains of this
culture today, and what lessons can we learn from their
legacy? This page is a resource for information on the Internet
about Easter Island, also known as "Rapa Nui"
and "Isla de Pascua".'
- Spring is the month
for fashions - cut up lots of fashion pics from magazines
- lots you can do with them - e.g. work out wardrobes for
selves/each other/famous personalities - combined with physical
description vocab - connected to mood adjectives reflected
in clothes, adjective order, blind date describing appearance
when meeting etc.
- lots of ideas on Spring & the younger learner from Teach-nology
Gardens & Gardening - not a topic that comes up much in the coursebooks & no. 1 hobby in the UK - topical at this time of year:
- get stds to design their ideal gardens/parks - if you've
got them, use cuisenaire rods.
- for the younger learner;
plant something - use the topic of Spring as the basis for
- Figurative language
- all things to do with gardening - to flourish/to nip something
in the bud/salt of the earth/raking over the ashes/a spurt
of new growth/blossoming/blooming/to have green fingers,
etc.. To get ideas on how to approach figurative language
with advanced learners check out an ELTJ article - 50/1
January 1996 - called 'Using Figurative Language to Expand
Students' Vocabulary' by Gillian Lazar. There are some very
nice ideas at the end of the article.
- Poetry - William
Blake poems such as 'Spring', 'The Sick Rose', 'My Pretty
Rose Tree', 'Ah! Sun-Flower', 'The Lilly', 'The Garden of
Love', 'The Echoing Green' & 'The Lamb'.
- & for general material
on gardening http://www.vg.com
- Virtual Gardens.com where there is a specialised garden
search engine called 'dig the net'. Lots of stuff.
to the contents
the Past Teaching Tips