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Teaching Tips 129

Weird festivals
Different beginners
World Refugee Day - 20th June

Mud Festival
Weird festivals

We've had a lesson plan about strange festivals:

Here's another article - a little shorter - that would make a useful reading - have a read:

Five best ... weird festivals

The Glastonbury festival stomps defiantly into action this weekend, but the odd druid, "chanting dome" and James Blunt aside, you can rest assured that the truly weird festival action is happening elsewhere.

1. Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea

The rainy Glasto swamp has nothing on Boryeong city in the Chungcheong province, three hours from Seoul, which has 9.9million square metres of squidgy brown mineral-rich mud on nearby mud flats. In July it's put to good use in the form of mud slides, mud fights, mud baths, mud wrestling, mock battles and rodeo rides for a festival at Daecheon beach. All good clean fun.

July 12-20,, charges for some activities.

2. Festival of near death experiences, Spain

At the Santa Marta de Ribarteme festival in Las Nieves, Galicia, people who've had near death experiences - surviving illnesses or accidents - are paraded through the streets in open coffins. Their relatives carry the coffin to church (god forbid any of them has a heart-attack on the way), then locals gather round to hear the story of their near misses, before fireworks to lighten the mood.

July 29, free,

3. Water buffalo races, Thailand

Buffalo fancy dress, chaotic races (with jockeys riding bareback), a buffalo procession and a Miss Farmland competition lend a fun element to the serious business of buying and selling buffalo at this annual market in Chonburi, 30 miles from Bangkok.

October 1-31.

4. Global Rainbow Gathering, Mexico

Peace and love and a fair bit of nudity are on the line-up at the ultimate hippy fest, which has travelled around the world since 1972. It's free and non-commercial, drugs and alcohol are banned (except marijuana, naturally) and days are filled with massages, drumming and discussing how to heal the world etc. Not one for cynics.

November 1-30 in La Paz, Mexico, also in Wyoming, US, July 1-7. See Donation only.

5. Twin Peaks Fest, US

Set in North Bend, the town near Seattle where David Lynch made his seminal television series, this celebratory festival includes hikes and bus trips to film locations, a celebrity dinner with some of the actors, Twin Peaks related games and a Lynch movie night.

July 25-27. Tickets $200 or $220 including bus tour.

The Guardian, Saturday June 28, 2008

So what to do with it?

1. Put 'Festivals' on the board & elicit different ones from the stds' country &, if they know any, around the world.

2. Put the titles of the five festivals on the board & get stds to discuss what they might be about.

3. Feedback - put up notes that they have come up with, for use in the initial reading.

3. Stds then read to verify their ideas. For the lower level you could doctor the text & grade it to make it more accessible.

4. Pre-teach crucial vocab before the next reading task.

5. Set some detailed reading questions.

6. Stds read & then compare in pairs>> feedback.

7. Discussion: 'response' to the article - in pairs/small groups - which ones would they be interested in attending & why.
If you have access to internet, the stds could follow up the links for each of the festivals to get some more info & pictures
to share with the rest of the class - maybe a homework task.

8. Feedback - you could then go on to give some 'live listening' by giving a description of some of the festivals in the article from the lesson plan mentioned above:

9. Speaking - stds come up with their own weird festivals - they come up with the idea & then design a poster to promote it.

10. Stds then mingle & try to persuade everyone to go to their festival. The 'purpose' is to see how many people they can persuade >> feedback.

Alternatively, instead of using the whole article, you could give each std a different weird festival. They work on it as a reading & then a jigsaw task - a mingle where they tell each other about their festival - with the aim of deciding on the most interesting festival.

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Different beginners

As I was mulling over teaching beginners recently I came across the book 'Beginners' by Peter Grundy in the OUP Resource books series. In the introduction he talks of different kinds of beginners:

  • Absolute beginner
  • False beginner
  • Adult beginner
  • Experienced beginner
  • Evening class beginner
  • School beginner
  • Intensive beginner
  • No Roman alphabet beginner

He makes the point that there are still beginners around & there are lots of different kinds of beginner. He goes on to set the reader a couple of interesting tasks: With the list of beginners above, decide the proportion of their English that should be gained in class time & the proportion outside of the class. Give a percentage for each.

This clearly depends on lots of variables such as where the learner is studying, in an English-speaking country or in their home country. Try it out anyway - think through each type of beginner & see if you can see any big differences & why.

The next task looks at the differing proportions of time spent on whole class work, group work, small group work & pair work. So, for example, would there be more pair work for the Experienced than the Intensive course beginner? Again, think it through for each & decide where the big differences are & why.

As Peter Grundy says ' The purpose of ..(the tasks).. is to make us think hard about the different ways in which elements of a beginners' course will need to be combined for different types of learners (absolute, false, child, adult) and types of classes (intensive, evening, school, subject). All too often we resolve these issues intuitively rather than thinking our policy through carefully at the outset and adjusting it continuously in response to the changing needs of our students.'

Clearly the same applies to all levels, not just beginners.

To get hold of a copy of Peter Grundy's book 'Beginners':

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The UN Refugee AgencyWorld Refugee Day - 20th June


It's World Refugee Day on June 20th. Every day there are heartbreaking stories in the media of refugees, asylum seekers & displaced people. It is a huge problem everywhere in the world. Here's the front page text from the UN Refugee agency site:

World Refugee Day: Displacement in the 21st Century. A new paradigm

The refugee challenge in the 21st century is changing rapidly. People are forced to flee their homes for increasingly complicated and interlinked reasons. Some 40 million people worldwide are already uprooted by violence and persecution, and it is likely that the future will see more people on the run as a growing number of push factors compound one another to create conditions for further forced displacement.

Today people do not just flee persecution and war but also injustice, exclusion, environmental pressures, competition for scarce resources and all the miserable human consequences of dysfunctional states.

The task facing the international community in this new environment is to find ways to unlock the potential of refugees who have so much to offer if they are given the opportunity to regain control over their lives.

There are three ways we at the UN Refugee Agency are making this goal a reality: we protect, we build and we advocate. First, we protect refugee rights to safety, shelter and health, focusing special attention on the most vulnerable people, particularly women and girls.

Second, we work with our partners to build the capacity of refugees to fend for themselves once they are able to do so. And we work hard to find solutions so that refugees become self-sufficient as soon as possible.

Third, we advocate to draw attention to the plight of refugees and to raise the money necessary to get the job done. Our goal is to persuade people that it is our common responsibility to make a difference for those forced to pick-up and go through no fault of their own. Results on the ground show we are making progress. Last year, we helped hundreds of thousands of people return home. In Africa, bright spots include stepped-up repatriation to South Sudan and winding up of UNHCR's operations in Liberia and Angola. In April, we held a major conference in Geneva and mobilized international support for the millions fleeing conflict in Iraq. We cannot do this alone. But with your support UNHCR can begin to turn the tide, giving refugees hope for the future and new opportunities for their families and their communities.

The UN Refugee agency on Facebook:
And on MySpace:
And videos on YouTube:

There is already a past Tip on the Day 'A Place To Call Home' at:

There's a roleplay in the Tip from Amnesty Refugee.
Here are the role cards:

Immigration officers' arguments and options:

You can use these arguments and any others you can think of:

* They are desperate, we can't send them back.
* If we will send them back we will be responsible if they are arrested, tortured or killed.
* We have legal obligations to accept refugees.
* They have no money, and will need state support. Our country cannot afford that.
* Can they prove that they are genuine refugees? Maybe they are just here to look for a better standard of living?
* Our country is a military and business partner of country X. We can't be seen to be protecting them.
* Maybe they have skills which we need?
* There are enough refugees in our country. We need to take care of our own people. They should go to the richer countries.
* If we let them in, others will also demand entry.
* They don't speak our language, they have a different religion and they eat different food. They won't integrate.
* They will bring political trouble.

Before the roleplay, think about the following options:

* Will you let all of the refugees across the border?
* Will you let some across the border?
* Will you split them up by age, profession, wealth...?
* Will you do something else instead?

Refugees' arguments and options:

You can use these arguments and any others you can think of:

* It is our right to receive asylum.
* Our children are hungry, you have a moral responsibility to help us.
* We will be killed if we go back.
* We have no money.
* We can't go anywhere else.
* I was a doctor in my home town.
* We only want shelter until it is safe to return.
* Other refugees have been allowed into your country.

Before the roleplay, think about the following options:

* Will you split up if the immigration officers ask you to?
* Will you go home if they try to send you back?

An interesting lesson for the teen group would be to ask them to bring in newspaper articles about refugees & asylum seekers. They translate the headlines & then retell the content of the articles in English to everyone - could be a mingle. The class then discuss the bias of the different articles & the newspapers they come from. A general discussion on the topic ensues.

There's an interesting article in the Observer, 'The hell of being an asylum seeker':
A site dedicated to heartbreaking stories told by refugees. Each story comes in pdf. For the more advance class you could use several stories as a jigsaw activity i.e. give out a different story to each student/pair/small group, the read & discuss, & then they mingle explaining their story & listening to others, possibly filling in a chart of the important facts. At the end a class discussion ensues on who had the most difficult time, the most changes in their new country etc....

Some more sites on refugees:
Christian Aid site for youngsters - this section is about refugees. There are some stories that you can use in class.
Christian Aid resources for teachers & youth leaders.
Refugee Action committee - Australian.
Wikipedia - refugee.
Refugee council - UK

Refugee Week 2008
Refugee Survey 2007
Refugee republic
British Red Cross Refugee Services
Refugees International

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