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Teaching Tips 152

Happy New Year
Christmas intelligences



This week takes a brief look to three online tools that can help us with our planning.

One of the most effective ways of introducing vocabulary is through lexical fields i.e. words that are connected to an area. Links are made & the words become more memorable.

When introducing a theme, it's a good idea to begin with the vocabulary of the area. Ask your students to shout out all the words they know to sink them in & then set a task where they can all go away with the words of the area. This could be completing a mind map or doing a crossword, all the words linked to the area & coming up later on in the theme.

When using reading texts, look through it to find words connected to the different areas mentioned in the text. Then after some reading skills development eg. extensive & intensive reading, ask your students to find words connected to the different areas.

And encourage them to record their vocab in their notebooks in lexical fields.

There are some online tools to help us with choosing the vocabulary in the lexical fields. The first is the Wonder Wheel from Google. To find the Wonder wheel, you have to do a search in Google, then on the results page click on the 'Show options' at the top of the page under the search box, then look in the column on the left & click 'Wonder wheel'.
There are some instructions for this at:

When you get to the Wheel page your search term will be in the centre of the wheel with connected words around it. Click on any of the surrounding words to see further connections, drag words into the centre to see all of the new words. This would be great for deciding on words to introduce when planning a topic.

The second, Google Sets allows us to generate words that might be in the same set. If you put in three car brands, other brands are generated. At times some words generated can be a bit bizarre. Try it & see what you think.

The third tool is Visuwords - - an online graphical dictionary. Apart from being visually lots of fun, it provides an amazing variety of connections. Type in 'teach' & click & watch it pop up a bouncy mind map. The links it provides can be; is a kind of, is an instance of, is a member of, is a part of, is a substance of, is similar to, pertains to, particle, attributes, opposes, verb group, entails, also see, causes, derivation...... Amazing. It is clearly much more than lexical fields. If you use Firefox, you can add Visuwords into the search bar.

Here I've been thinking of us teachers using the tools but do tell your students, give them the links & discuss their uses with them. For example, when researching an area they could begin with an overview of the area or when they are writing, they use these tools to make their texts more interesting as they have more words to express the same ideas. Visuwords is especially useful for your students as it shows clearly the relationship between words.

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Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to you all. If you've had holidays, I hope they have been relaxing.

As usual the first Tip of the year looks back over the past year & forward to the new one.

Every year we set up a quiz that can be used as a springboard to discuss what happened over the last year. You can find the 2009 Quiz at:
There is link to the answers & a pdf download of both the quiz & the answers. It is very easy & meant to stimulate discussion.

Also on the same page are links to the quizzes from the past decade - the 'Noughties' (2000>2009) - so after looking at 2009, set up a quiz about the decade. Should be very interesting for all.
Here are the links to all of the quizzes:
The 2008 quiz:
The 2007 quiz:
The 2006 quiz:
The 2005 quiz:
The 2004 quiz:
The 2003 quiz:
The 2002 quiz:
The 2001 quiz:
The 2000 quiz:

They you could move on to the more personal with students talking about their top five moments of last year. These could be personal best moments & events from their country.

Then a look at how things might've been different - using the language of past courses of action, criticism & regret eg. If I hadn't passed the exam, I wouldn't've got the job. But then I wouldn't've had to move to London.
Give them time to come up with their ideas, maybe a homework task.

And then a look forward to the new year with some New Year's Resolutions.
Start with looking at the students' general resolutions & then move on to resolutions that will help their English learning become more effective. Among many past Tips on this you might like to look at:
Promoting a healthy profile:
Take it down - notetaking:

Here are a couple of plans on the site:

New Year's Resolutions lesson plan:
The New Year: Traditions & Resolutions:

There are some ideas, including a reading, at last year's New Year's Tip:
And in a similar vein here is an article that I came across recently that looks at the difficulties in keeping to resolutions.

New year's resolutions doomed to failure, say psychologists

Many of the 78% who fail in their plans are focusing on downside of not achieving goals, research finds

It's part of the new year ritual – an annual attempt to start afresh and turn over a new leaf. But making resolutions is a near pointless exercise, psychologists say. We break them, become dispirited in the process and finally more despondent than we were before.

Less than a quarter of those asked for a university study had managed to stick to their resolutions. Of those who failed, many had followed the spurious advice of self-help gurus – which almost guarantees disaster, apparently.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, who led the analysis, said he and his team had asked 700 people about their strategies for achieving new year resolutions. Their goals ranged from losing weight or giving up smoking to gaining a qualification or starting a better relationship.

Of the 78% who failed, many had focused on the downside of not achieving the goals; they had suppressed their cravings, fantasised about being successful, and adopted a role model or relied on willpower alone.

"Many of these ideas are frequently recommended by self-help experts but our results suggest that they simply don't work," Wiseman said. "If you are trying to lose weight, it's not enough to stick a picture of a model on your fridge or fantasise about being slimmer."

On the other hand, people who kept their resolutions tended to have broken their goal into smaller steps and rewarded themselves when they achieved one of these. They also told their friends about their goals, focused on the benefits of success and kept a diary of their progress.

People who planned a series of smaller goals had an average success rate of 35%, while those who followed all five of the above strategies had a 50% chance of success, the study found.

"Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it," Wiseman said.

Making new year resolutions at the last minute can backfire, he warned, because such decisions tend to be less genuinely motivated. "If you do it on the spur of the moment, it probably doesn't mean that much to you and you won't give it your all. Failing to achieve your ambitions is often psychologically harmful because it can rob people of a sense of self control."

Other strategies that helped people to achieve their goals included making only one resolution at a time and treating occasional lapses in the plan as just temporary setbacks.

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The Christmas holidays are looming so time to get out those Christmas lesson plans. To begin with there are a few ideas, materials & links to help you out. Then we have a lesson plan from Rolf Palmberg 'It's Christmas time' which caters for all types of multiple intelligence.

Xmas activities:

Buy Nothing Xmas

The Spirit of Christmas - reading about Father Christmas being sacked for answering his mobile.

Top toys each Christmas - list & lesson outline:

Kwanzaa lesson plan:

Xmas lesson plan:

Lots of stuff on christmas from


It’s Christmas time – an EFL lesson plan* by Rolf Palmberg


In his famous Multiple Intelligences Theory from 1983, Howard Gardner suggests that all individuals have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of seven different intelligence types. These intelligences are verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Gardner 1983, 1993). Since then, Gardner has added an eighth intelligence type to the list, that of naturalist intelligence, and also suggested the existence of a ninth intelligence type, that of existentialist intelligence (Gardner 1999).

The purpose of this paper is to outline a lesson plan that caters for these intelligence types and at the same time optimises students’ talking time. The lesson is aimed at secondary school-level students of English as a foreign language (EFL) and focuses on a recurring festival: Christmas. In order to maintain maximal student activity and interest throughout the lesson, it comprises a variety of language activities and teaching techniques. Special attention has been paid to co-operative learning and peer teaching, because, as pointed out by e.g. Anita Woolfolk, the best teacher for a student is another student (Woolfolk 2001).

The sample lesson

There are eight phases in the lesson. During Phase One, the teacher introduces the teaching goals. S/he tells the students that after the lesson they will be able to talk about food and objects relating to Christmas (including making suggestions, agreeing and disagreeing). They will also be able to ask their friends about the way they celebrate Christmas and to describe their own Christmas traditions.

For Phase Two, the teacher hands out a worksheet containing two columns of Christmas-related vocabulary items (homework from the previous lesson). One column lists English words and the second words in the students’ mother tongue. The students’ task is to match the English words with their mother-tongue equivalents.

For Swedish-speaking students, the worksheet could look like this:

dekoration, prydnad
spis, eldstad
gåva, present

Phase Three involves independent learning stations, i.e. pre-designated places in the classroom where each place has been allocated to a specific type of language task. The teacher displays the correct answers on an OH transparency and then divides the class into five groups. S/he next provides each student with an individual worksheet and invites the groups to work at five learning stations (one group per station). The students are told that although they work as groups, each student must fill in all answers in his or her worksheet. They are also told that there are no correct answers at their disposal and that at five-minute intervals (timed and announced by the teacher) the groups have to move on to the next learning station.

The individual worksheet could look like this:

Station A
Spot the errors in the picture



Station B
Which of the things can you;

(a) find in a forest?
(b) buy in a department store?
(c) make yourself?
(d) eat?
(e) wrap up in a parcel?
(f) put into your pocket?

NOTE that can do many of these things with some of the things.

Station C
(a) What presents does Sheri want?

(b) Where does she send her letter?

(c) How will she get her presents?

(d) What will she do when she wakes up at Christmas?

Station D
(a) What are the Christmas words?


(b) Which is the extra word?

Station E.
Fill in the missing words:

Rudolph, the [1] reindeer [1]
had a very [2] nose. [2]
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other [3] [3]
used to laugh and call him [4]. [4]
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer [5]. [5]

Then one [6] Christmas Eve [6]
[7] came to say: [7]
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my [8] tonight?" [8]

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they [9] out with glee, [9]
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in [10]! [10]

At Station A there is a detailed picture of a living-room decorated for Christmas (suitable pictures can be found in course books and on the internet or they can be created or modified by the teacher for the present purposes). There are various kinds of mistakes in the picture, both misspellings (e.g. in Christmas greetings) and logical inconsistencies (e.g. a wall calendar displaying July the 31st or an object placed upside down). The students’ task is to spot as many mistakes as possible and list them in their individual worksheets.

At Station B students have to categorise given objects according to what one can do with them, for example:

Which of these things can you
(a) find in a forest?
(b) buy in a department store?
(c) make yourself?
(d) eat?
(e) wrap up in a parcel?
(f) put into your pocket?

(1) a chimney
(2) a fireplace
(3) a gingerbread
(4) a mantelpiece
(5) a misteltoe
(6) a reindeer
(7) a sleigh
(8) a snowman
(9) candles
(10) stockings

At Station C there is a computer preset to show a video clip selected from the Video Nation website In the video clip, entitled “Christmas List”, a little girl called Sheri is writing her Christmas list to Father Christmas. The students’ task is to watch the video clip and answer the following questions: What presents does Sheri want? Where does she send the letter? How will she get her presents? What will she do when she wakes up at Christmas?

At Station D students have to match the halves of about twenty words that have been chopped in half. One of the words is not a Christmas word. Which word is it?

Example of chopped-up words:

ca   lpiece   mist   rd
ation   fire   igh   ca
ginge   pre   rol   deer
mante   clas   ft   sent
gi   sle   stmas   decor
rbread   letoe   king   place
chi   mney  chri  sroom
rein   stoc

At Station E there is a computer preset to play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, selected from the Christmas carol collection presented on the Twelve Days of Christmas website <>. The students’ task is to listen to the song while reading the song text displayed on the computer screen. When the students have listened to the song they have to turn away from the screen and fill in the missing words in their individual worksheets (indicated by numbered gaps in the song text).

During Phase Four, when all learning stations have been visited by all groups, the teacher divides the students into new groups. In groups of three or four, they compare their worksheet notes and agree upon the correct answer for each task.

During Phase Five, the teacher introduces a communicative task requesting students to move around in the classroom and interview their classmates about their Christmas habits (this is a modified version of a task entitled “On Christmas Eve”; Christison 2005). More specifically, the students have to find out at what time their friends normally get up, go to bed, have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner, exchange presents, and watch television. They also have to make notes in specially-prepared individual worksheets provided by the teacher. A typical worksheet could look like this:

name gets up goes to bed has breakfast has lunch has dinner exchanges presents watches televison

Ten minutes later, during Phase Six, the teacher invites the students to compare their notes in order to specify the range of times that people prefer to perform the various activities. What is the biggest time difference between the earliest time and the latest time at which someone prefers to perform a certain activity?

For Phase Seven, the teacher organises the students into new groups consisting of about five people. Their task is to find out which activity has the biggest time difference and to discuss the possible reason/s for this. (Depending on the cultural and/or religious background of the students the most probable outcome will be either ‘exchanging presents’ or ‘watching television’.)

During Phase Eight, finally, the teacher asks the students to start working on individual essays entitled “What Christmas means to me” based on the group discussions and to finish the essays at home for the next EFL lesson. S/he also challenges the students to incorporate as many different Christmas words as possible into their essays.

Characteristics of learners representing different intelligence types

According to Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999), Berman (2002) and Christison (2005), verbal-linguistic learners enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing and love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories. Logical-mathematical learners display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem solving, whereas visual-spatial learners tend to think in pictures and mental images and enjoy illustrations, charts, tables and maps. Bodily-kinaesthetic learners experience learning best through various kinds of movement, while musical-rhythmic learners learn best through songs, patterns, rhythms and musical expression. Intrapersonal learners are reflective and intuitive about how and what they learn, whereas interpersonal learners like to interact with others and learn best in groups or with a partner. Naturalist learners love the outdoors and enjoy classifying and categorising activities. Existentialist learners, finally, are concerned with philosophical issues such as the status of mankind in relation to universal existence.

Catering for the various intelligence types

The different intelligence types are catered for (especially) during the following phases of the sample lesson outlined above:

verbal-linguistic learners: all phases;
logical-mathematical learners: phase 3 (stations A & D) & phase 6;
visual-spatial learners: phase 3 (stations A, C & E);
bodily-kinaesthetic learners: phase 3 (when moving between stations) & phase 5;
musical-rhythmic learners: phase 3 (station E);
interpersonal learners: phases 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7;
intrapersonal learners: phases 1, 2 & 8;
naturalist learners: phase 3 (station B);
existentialist learners: phases 1 & 8.


As early as in 1976, Earl Stevick pointed out that memory works at its best when the new subject matter appeals to the students and they can organise what they are learning into familiar patterns (Stevick 1976). The ability to remember new vocabulary items is further increased when students are allowed to use their imagination during the learning process (as during the categorisation task at Station B). Conscious effort (referred to by Stevick as ‘depth’) is required from students in order to enable the target vocabulary to be properly processed and transferred from the short-term memory into the long-term memory.

From a teaching point of view, therefore, the important thing is not whether teachers choose to base their teaching on specific course books or whether they reserve the right to interpret, select and use the types of classroom activities that can cater for the intelligence profiles of their particular learner group. It is far more important for teachers to realise that learners are in fact different and therefore require different types of classroom activities and techniques in order to code the new information successfully and store it in their long-term memory. Only in doing so can teachers fully encourage their students to try harder and at the same time make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible for the parties involved.

* This is an extended version of a paper presented at the 6th Asia TEFL International Conference held in Bali in August, 2008.


Berman, Michael (2002). A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing. Second edition.
Christison, Mary Ann (2005). Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning. San Francisco: Alta Books.
Gardner, Howard (1983). Frames of mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, Howard (1993). Multiple Intelligences. The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, Howard (1999). Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.
Stevick, Earl (1976). Memory, Meaning and Method. Rowley: Newbury House.
Woolfolk, Anita (2001). Educational Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Eighth edition.

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