Teaching Tips 120
When designing writing activities it's sometimes difficult to decide how much information to give students before they begin drafting. If you give too much, they end up copying out what was given, but if too little is given it becomes a free writing task with demoralising results.
To coincide with St Andrew's Day on the 30th November have a look at this series of points about the Saint:
St Andrew's Day is November 30.
Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Romania and Russia and was Christ's first disciple.
Other facts in brief
* He was born in Bethsaida in Galilee
* He was born and brought up as a Jew
* He spoke Aramaic
* Andrew's Greek name was Andreas which means 'manly'
* He was the elder brother of Saint Peter
* Andrew was a fisherman by trade
* He was the second person to be baptised by John the Baptist after Jesus
* Andrew was martyred for his faith in Patras
* Legend has it that some of St Andrew's bones were taken to Scotland by St. Rule (also known as St Regulus) in Pictish times
* His bones once lay in St. Andrew's Cathedral
* The first church in England to be dedicated to him was in Rochester
* His emblem is a cross Saltire
* The flag of Scotland, the Union Flag, the Arms and Flag of Scotia all feature a Saltire to commemorate St Andrew
* He is also patron of the Order of the Thistle, one of the highest ranks of chivalry in the world
(St Andrew profile at the BBC:
By just giving the above & asking the students to write a profile of St Andrew, the students would tend to keep very much to writing this out with little creativity. If you add in some more information, they will need to vary their texts. Below is a text that you can use as a listening, integrating the skills at the same time. You read out the text & the students take notes - read it several times. They then combine their notes & the points in the first text to produce a first draft of St Andrew. They then go on to refine their drafts through peer collaboration & teacher input. Here's the listening text:
---text to be read aloud ---
Saint Andrew: Provenance of a Patron Saint
Saint Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, and St Andrew's Day is celebrated by Scots around the world on November 30 each year.
The original Andrew was a fisherman in the Holy Land, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus helping to spread the Christian faith.
He is believed to have been martyred at a place called Patras in Greece, crucified by a Roman governor on an X-shaped cross that was to become the inspiration for the cross that forms the Saltire, Scotland's national flag.
His bones were entombed until, 300 years later, the Emperor Constantine the Great decreed they should be moved to his new capital city of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in Turkey.
Legend has it that before Constantine's orders could be carried out a monk, who was either Greek or Irish and called St Rule or St Regulus, was warned in a dream.
An angel told him to take what bones he could to the "ends of the earth" for safe-keeping. The monk obeyed. He removed a tooth, an arm bone, a kneecap and some fingers from Saint Andrew's tomb and set out on an epic journey that ended when he was shipwrecked off the east coast of Scotland and washed ashore with his precious cargo.
He found himself at a Pictish settlement that was soon to become known as St Andrews.
Another version of the story is that Acca, Bishop of Hexham, who was a renowned collector of relics, brought the relics to St Andrews in the seventh century. There certainly seems to have been a religious centre at St Andrews at that time, either founded by St Rule 100 years before or by a Pictish King.
Whatever the truth, the relics were placed in a specially constructed chapel that was on the same site as the Cathedral of St Andrews which was built in the eleventh century.
At that time St Andrews was the religious capital of Scotland and a great centre for Medieval pilgrims who came to view the relics.
St Rules Tower still stand today among the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral. It is not known what happened to the relics of St. Andrew which were stored in St Andrews Cathedral, although it is most likely that these were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation when many churches were ransacked and treasures destroyed.
The larger part of St Andrew's remains were stolen from Constantinople in 1210 and are now to be found in the town Amalfi in Southern Italy.
In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent a small piece of the Saint's shoulder blade to the re-established Roman Catholic community in Scotland. During his visit in 1969, Pope Paul VI gave further relics of St Andrew to Scotland with the words "Saint Peter gives you his brother" and these are now displayed in a reliquary in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.
The chivalric Order of Saint Andrew, also known as the Most Ancient Order of the Thistle, was created by James VII in 1687 and is an order of Knighthood restricted to the King or Queen and 16 others.
St Andrew is also the patron saint of Russia. It is said he can best be invoked against gout and a stiff neck.
(Saint Andrew: Provenance of a Patron Saint
Clearly, the text might need to be graded & reduced somewhat to suit the level.
It's the same with most skills development, the content variable, how much information you give will vary the results. So with the writing skill, finding interesting ways to provide the information that encourages both creativity &, at the same time, giving a clear structure to use, can make the task interesting & worthwhile for all.
Here are a few links where you can find some useful classroom material on Scotland to use at the same time as the above texts on St Andrew:
St Andrew's Day at Wikipedia:
Scotland at Wikipedia:
Scottish Tourist Board:
Current news on Sctoland from the BBC:
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High or low?
Which levels do you prefer teaching; elementary or advanced? Each have their challenges. Elementary students have everything to learn but few tools to draw on, whereas more advanced students have covered a lot of the language but still make lots of mistakes.
Some teachers shy away from the advanced group because of the tricky grammar, while others find dealing with very low level students, & their lack of language, a challenging job. Here's a very brief general comparison between the two:
At lower levels the students:
- have little language to talk about language.
- have little language to express themselves which may be frustrating for adults.
- may have limited previous learning experiences. This lack of an academic framework can make learning the language a slow process.
- may find materials patronising.
- can be highly motivated as they learn a lot quickly & progress can be easily seen. The Cambridge Preliminary English Test is a good exam to show far they have come after two or three years.
At higher levels the students;
- have lots of language to discuss language.
- their inaccuracies may have become ingrained.
- have fairly ungraded access to materials.
- may be over-reliant on communication strategies leading to fossilisation ie. the students can cope with the language they have by working round unknown language & as a result there is no need to push forward to learn new things. This leads to stagnation in their learning, sometimes called 'fossilisation'.
- may have a fairly low level of motivation to push on, progress being difficult to see. An external exam such as the Cambridge Advanced can help enormously with this problem.
It is generally agreed that the advanced students, who are fluent already, need more of a focus on accuracy in the lessons, while the elementary students need language but tend to need a bit more fluency to activate the language they have & also to develop their skills.
At the end of the day, every level is interesting & a challenge to teach in their way. It is a question of recognising & responding to the challenges & using the advantages of the level. When we are offered new classes, it's easy to just choose the levels that we know best & double up on those levels as well, but maybe, at times, this can be self-defeating. A new challenge in the form of a new level can keep us on our toes.
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Use the language
The recycling of language on courses is always a consideration. You might plan a freer speaking task for the students to practise a language area & you find they use everything but the language you want them to practise! If it is not recycled then it is work lost so here are a couple of ideas for reintroducing language into freer speaking activities.
1. Before any speaking task, put up some stems on the board for the students to use. For example, a roleplay where the students need to give advice, you put up some exponents of the function on the board for them to refer to. And tell them to use them, be direct about it. The activity becomes less free but the classroom is for rehearsal after all.
This could be language that they know but wouldn't naturally come out with. Or you could simply introduce a variation of language they know eg. 'Another way of saying 'You should..' is 'You ought to...' & after a quick drill leave it on the board. Careful not to expect too much of the students, make it language that is similar in form, here it is '+ infinitive without 'to'' for both structures.
2. A variation of the above is to set out the task they will be doing & let the students think of the language they will be using, with you going round helping out & guiding them towards the language you want them to practise. This planning time will prepare them for the speaking task.
3. This is the 'Train compartment' activity: Get the students to imagine they are strangers in a train compartment - get them sitting opposite each other in groups of four. Elicit what people usually talk about on the train - the weather, where they are going/coming from etc. Tell them you are going to give them a line to memorise & that it's secret - give them out, students memorise & you take them back in.
Then explain what they have to do - to say their lines as naturally as they can in the conversation without the others guessing it is their line. So they have to direct the conversation so that they can say their line naturally, without the others noticing. They must have one conversation & not split into two as the others will miss their lines when they come to say them.
The lines you give them could contain a language item that you have recently been looking at or off-the-wall sentences (eg. My girlfriend sleeps in the garden). I had to do this in a Spanish lesson when I first started learning the language & my line was 'Yo tampoco' - 'Me neither' - so I had to wait for a negative to say my line.
At the end the students then tell each other what they thought were each others' lines. It's an activity that you can use again & again & it's lots of fun!
4. The above idea can be used in the general day-to-day running of the classes. Give out lines to each student & they have to say them during the course of the lesson, as naturally as possible. At the end of the lesson elicit if the sentences/words have been said & ask the others what they think they are. This makes for a fun element through the lesson & is especially useful for expanding classroom language.
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