A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 141

Six Word Summaries - quick fun writing
Incorporating the individual
Getting personal

Six Word
Summaries - quick
fun writing

In past Tips we've looked at writing Haikus - 3 lines: 5, 7, 5 syllables - - & writing Cinquains - 5 lines: 2, 4, 6, 8, 2
syllables together with some content restrictions - .

Have a look at this article that Laura sent me that talks of six-word summaries:

Six-Word Memoirs: Life Stories Distilled

Talk of the Nation, February 7, 2008

Once asked to write a full story in six words, legend has it that novelist Ernest Hemingway responded: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

In this spirit of simple yet profound brevity, the online magazine Smith asked readers to write the story of their own lives in a single sentence. The result is Not Quite What I Was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs by famous and not-so-famous writers, artists and musicians. Their stories are sometimes sad, often funny — and always concise.

The book is full of well-known names — from writer Dave Eggers (Fifteen years since last professional haircut), to singer Aimee Mann (Couldn't cope so I wrote songs), to comedian Stephen Colbert (Well, I thought it was funny).

The collection has plenty of six-word insights from everyday folks as well: Love me or leave me alone was scrawled on a hand dryer in a public bathroom; I still make coffee for two was penned by a 27-year-old who had just been dumped.

Larry Smith, founding editor of Smith magazine, and Rachel Fershleiser, Smith's memoir editor, talk about the experience of capturing real-life stories in six words — no more, no less.

Fershleiser's six-word memoir? Bespectacled, besneakered, read and ran around. And Smith's: Big hair, big heart, big hurry.

Here people are asked to write a summary about their lives in six words. Clearly this can be extended to write about anything - last weekend, an exam, a person, a film
.... anything, and can be used as an activity to introduce a theme, as a warmer, cooler or filler, or as part of a theme.

On the same site as the above there is an article about Valentine's day summaries:
At the end there are some excerpts:

If only he wasn't a Republican.
- Holly Fitzpatrick

Tried men. Tried women. Like cats.
- Dona Bumgarner

Inevitably, his obituary didn't mention me.
- R. Sue Dodea

We "I do" -ed. Then he didn't.
- Lisa Parrack

Palindromantically: Eros saw I was sore.
- Aaron Fagan

Two marriages. The wrong one died.
- Anne Hamilton

Best family ever. Thank you,!
- Alexa Young

Marriage, children, empty nest: Now what?
- Oliver House

Try it out - quick, fun writing.

More ideas & activities on any of the above, please post for all to use at:

It's Crosswrod Puzzle Day on the 18th. For lesson material, see the Tips:
A grid, clues: down & across (9):
A grid, clues: down& across (9) - part 2:

Back to the contents

Incorporating the

As a continuation on last week's Tip 'Getting Personal' in which we looked at personalising the classroom, this week we take a look at dealing with the individual - individualisation. Most of us are teach groups & it can be difficult to cater to the individual within the group. Here are a few ideas:

- find out about your students needs, interests & learning styles & then cater for them as much as possible when you choose texts, topics & tasks.

- give regular individual tutorials to find out about individuals. See the Tip, 'Tutorials', at:

- as well as the face-to-face there is the learner diary where you can connect with individuals. See the Tip, 'Writing diaries', at:

- micro-teaching in the class. While the students are working at a task individually, in pairs or small groups, get around & help out individuals, working with them on their particular problems.

- related to the above, correction of individuals is part of individualisation.

- use the students' strengths in the classroom. For example a particular student might be good at grammar so elicit from her when dealing with grammar.

- give an individualised class now & then. If you don't have a self-access centre, take in a range of different activities & let your students choose what they want to work
on. Good for when you are occupied giving the tutorials.

- take into account the different abilities in the group when designing tasks & cater for the strong & weak members by providing extra or alternative tasks.

- encourage students to work on weak areas outside of the class.

- encourage them to research areas of interest outside of class with a view to them giving a short presentation on it in class. Give advice on language & where to look for information.

Just a couple of ideas. The important thing is to be aware of each student while you are teaching, & then the attention to the individual will happen.


'The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.'
Mark Twain

Wednesday is April Fool's Day & there's quite a bit of classroom material on the site:

Pigs can fly - the origins of the Day:
DHMO lesson:
Lesson plan about famous past hoaxes:

Back to the contents

Thumbs up
Getting personal

If we were to be asked what approach we took to our teaching I suppose the nearest we could get to it is a 'learner-based approach'. That is to say that the learner takes a central role in the process. The course would try to take into account all aspects of the learner from previous learning experiences to the way the learner likes to learn, & centred around the learner's needs & interests. Rather than trying to fit the learner into the way you teach, it should be you adapting to the learner. This might mean, at times, teaching in ways that you might not necessarily be too comfortable with.

No matter which approach one takes, there is always room for 'personalisation'. This is an attempt to make the language & the lesson content relevant & meaningful to the learner's life & experiences & as a result the language should be better retained. You are very probably involving the learner in many ways & here are a couple of reminders for personalising aspects of your lessons:

- language presentations can be personalised - see the following Tips:

Learner-based Language Presentations

Personal Graphs

- after presentations of new language, relate the language to the students. For example, you have just presented 'used to' for talking about discontinued past habits & states & the students have finished copying down the new language, you then ask the students what they used to do when they were younger. This will also act as a check on the language - 'I used to play football' from an avid player will tell you that the full concept has yet to be grasped.
The same applies to vocabulary. After presenting a group of items related to positive & negative personality traits, the students can discuss which apply to them & whether they know anyone with four or more of the negative ones.

- language practice activities can be personalised. Instead of talking about some invented characters or situations, get the the students to disclose about themselves. The present perfect simple to talk about past experiences clearly lends itself to the students sharing their experiences.
A fun mingle drill for the present simple for daily routines is to find out who is the laziest in the class by the students asking everyone in the class what time they get up & what time they go to bed. They then work out who spends the longest time in bed. Obviously done light-heartedly & containing lots of repetition practice.
The two Tips above provide ready student-made personalised practise.

- when using texts, choose interesting & relevant ones & at some point in the lesson get a personal response to the text from the students. A listening text about the homeless would lead on later to a discussion of what the group think about what was said & any further ideas about the problem.

- not only at the beginning of courses, activities to get to know each other are good for developing & maintaining a good group dynamic. Continue these type of activities in practice activities, warmers, coolers & games. Simply asking about past & future weekend plans, & whether they had a good day, are ways of making the classroom more personal. Don't forget that this aslo includes you, the teacher. You can't expect lots of disclosure from your students if you're not prepared to do the same.

- check out 'Learner-based Teaching' by Colin Campbell & Hanna Kryszewska (OUP) for lots of interesting activities that make learning more personal:

Get personal, maximise learning & have fun!

Back to the contents

To the Past Teaching Tips

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing