to the limit
Just as there are advantages in giving time
limits with reading tasks, there are also benefits in giving
word limits with writing tasks. The writing section of examinations
give a task & a word limit but here we are looking at
very reduced word limits, for example fifty words. This
reduced word limit helps students to think very carefully
about the organisation of the text & the language they
'Process Writing' by Ron White & Valerie
Arndt give 'mini-sagas' as an example. The idea came from
'The Daily Telegraph' newspaper competition which invited
readers to submit texts of exactly fifty words, with a maximum
of fifteen words for a title.
A quick search on Google came up a surprising
12.900 results, proof of the popularity of this type of
writing. Here are a couple of mini-sagas:
There are lots more on the page.
Michael Chang (China) 12th June, 2002. Planning to
study for an MBA.
"I have saved 70 pence today"
David said to his wife, excited and breathing deeply
as he arrived home. "I followed the bus back
and earned 70 pence for us." "You stupid
fool, you should have followed a taxi! Don't you realise
that you could have earned two pounds instead?"
Wind (Taiwan) 13th June, 2002. Planning to study for
A fisherman had a nice family and lived
happily near the beach, fishing only for their daily
needs. One day he met a businessman who said "catch
more fish, buy more boats and run a successful business".
The fisherman answered "then what?" "Start
a family and live by the beach."
Here's a procedure you could use:
1. Handout the texts & ask the students
to quickly read them & decide which they like best.
2. Students compare ideas >> Class feedback
3. Ask the students what they all have in
common - 50 words - & then tell them they are going
to work on producing one - elicit how they might go about
writing one - what kind of procedure & organisation
will they need.
4. Ask the students, in pairs, to choose two
texts they like & identify the situation, the characters,
the events & the overall message.
5. Feedback - drawing out common themes that
could help them with their own mini-sagas.
6. Ask the students to either write an original
mini-saga or take a known story & reduce it to its essence
in fifty words. This could be a pair work activity as they
will need to negotiate what to put in & leave out, making
it a productive speaking activity if taken seriously - you
might want to feed in some language they will need for this
Alternatively, instead of getting straight into the production
of a mini-saga, you could hand one out with gaps in, or
with a bit missing that needs completing, to bring it up
to fifty words. This might ease them into it better.
7. Swap the mini-sagas around the class so
all read each others & then you could vote on, for example,
the most imaginative or the most accurate. Also discuss
the processes they went through as they were writing the
mini-sagas, picking up on interesting ideas.
This could be developed into a school competition,
a project for the school magazine or website. However you
use mini-sagas, they provide variety to the usual writing
tasks as well as preparing students better for those very
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Do you know what the following mean?
ELT - TESOL - ESP - EOP - EPP
- EAP - EBP - EST
Acronyms are everywhere & not to be ignored
when they crop up. We may assume that they are clear enough
but our students might have no idea as to what they mean
as the equivalent acronym in their language may be completely
Here's a way of introducing acronyms & having a bit
of fun at the same time.
1. Put the following acronyms on the board:
Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Federation of Football Associations
Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation
Nations International Children's Emergency Fund
Immune Deficiency Syndrome
of Mass Destruction
Computer or Politically Correct
soon as possible
for Specific Purposes
2. Ask the students in pairs to work out what
they mean & what the acronym would be in their language
- eg. in Spanish NATO is OTAN. Some might be tricky so give
the context you might find them in, or even one of the words
in the acronym. Language to express them: It stands for...
, It means... etc eg. EC stands for European Community.
3. Feedback - clarify any unknown ones.
4. Ask the students to analyse the different
words used in the acronyms. eg North (adjective) Atlantic
(noun) Treaty (noun) Organisation (noun)
5. Feedback - clarify.
6. Mix 'n match - get the students to use
different parts of the above acronyms to make up new ones
eg. NEWEQ North English Weapons of Emergency Questions
7. Using the patterns discovered earlier,
ask students to invent their own acronyms, the wackier the
better. You could set the theme for this - eg. new organisations
to help would peace or things that bring technological improvements
to our lives eg. RWTP Remote Wrist Television Phone
8. Feedback - all voting on the most imaginative
A fun way of becoming familiar with some well-known
acronyms & practicing word order.
A few acronym search sites:
The Acronym Liar
The acronyms from the beginning stand for:
English Language Teaching, Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages, English for Specific Purposes,
English for Occupational Purposes, English for Professional
Purposes, English for Academic Purposes, English for Business
Purposes, English for Science & Technology
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I first came over this idea in the 'Dealing
with Grammar' section of the excellent book 'Learning to
Learn - A Course in Learner Training' by Ellis & Sinclair
(CUP). The teacher becomes the human computer in order to
give the students non-judgemental feedback on utterances.
The students formulate sentences & say them to the computer.
If they are correct, the teacher repeats the sentences.
If it is incorrect, the teacher says the correct version.
Student: I go to the cinema yesterday.
Teacher: I went to the cinema yesterday.
Student: She should've gone to the meeting.
Teacher: She should've gone to the meeting.
Student: I've been to the cinema at the weekend.
Teacher: I went to the cinema at the weekend.
Student: The mechanic repaired the car.
Teacher: The car was repaired by the mechanic.
This can be used as a game at presentation
& practice stages, & all ages & levels respond
to it. You can also hand it over to the students, one becoming
the computer, & others 'reprogramming'/correcting the
computer if it goes wrong.
This activity helps the students play around
with language & test out their ideas. The first time
will be a bit stilted but once the students feel comfortable
with the activity, you can use it again & again. Try
Learning To Learn - Ellis &
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buy this book at Amazon.co.uk
The 18th May is International Museum Day
Day has been celebrated all over the world since 1977.
Each year, a theme is decided on by the Advisory Committee.
The event provides the opportunity for museum professionals
to meet the public and alert them to the challenges that
museums face if they are to be - as in the ICOM definition
of museums - "an institution in the service of society
and of its development".
The chosen topic is also discussed in ICOM News, a review
of the related activities is produced and made available
to members of ICOM.
It has been recommended that this celebration
be held each year on 18 May (Given that each country has
its own specific traditions and conditions, we recommend
that members organise their events around 18 May), in
the spirit of the motto: « Museums are an important
means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and
development of mutual understanding, co-operation and
peace among peoples » '
2004 - Museums and Intangible Heritage
A lesson around this? Local museum information
in English? Or from one of the big museums from the net?
Lots to do - museums, art....
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