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Teaching Tips 155

Spring Fever
Oscar time


Spring Fever

Spring is officially with us here in the northern hemisphere & the Easter break is on the way for some, including us, so we won't be sending out the Weekly Tip next week - the next one will be on the 5th April. This week we've got a collection of ideas, links & plans on Easter, festivals & Spring.

A lesson plan on 10 very strange festivals:

- A lesson plan about Spring breaks:

Easter traditions around the world - stds explain local traditions & compare with other countries. For a few links go to

- This could be the excuse you've been waiting for - Chocolate! - coming from Easter eggs - what a link! There's loads of info on the net about the art of making chocolate, recipes, the history & care of chocolate - did you know that chocolate eaten in moderation helps you live longer - we all secretly hoped that anyway!
There are some amusing quotes from choco lovers at There are a few sites which talk of chocolate eating being better than sex! Among many reasons given are that it doesn't make you pregnant, it's easy to find, size doesn't matter with chocolate, it satisfies even when it has gone soft & you can have it on your work desk without offending anyone! When looking at the theme of chocolate you could incorporate a chocolate tasting into the lesson - stds taste different ones & vote - it would be better to keep the wrappers secret until the results are announced - lots of fun! If you are abroad do try & get hold of some chocolates from your home country to use in the tasting.

Lesson plan on the site about chocolate - quotes about chocolate & a chapter from 'Chocolat' - reading lesson:

- For the younger learners - a treasure hunt - two teams write instructions for each other, 'Look under the door for the next clue' etc, until they reach the Easter egg provided as a prize by their generous teacher!
- design & send Easter cards
- decorate eggs (getting into shapes & animal lexical sets etc.)
- make Easter Bunny masks
- interview the Easter Bunny
- chocolate tasting!
- Easter worksheets for the younger learner at:

- As they say on the site: "What is an "Easter Egg"? - The term "Easter Egg", as we use it here, means any amusing tidbit that creators hid in their creations. They could be in computer software, movies, music, art, books, or even your watch. There are thousands of them, and they can be quite entertaining, if you know where to look. This site will help you discover Easter Eggs in the things you see and use everyday, and let you share Easter Eggs you discover with the rest of the world." So, give your stds a different kind of Easter Egg.

- Easter Island - 'has long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. How and why did its inhabitants carve and transport the massive statues which surround the island? What remains of this culture today, and what lessons can we learn from their legacy? This page is a resource for information on the Internet about Easter Island, also known as "Rapa Nui" and "Isla de Pascua".'

- Spring is the month for fashions - cut up lots of fashion pics from magazines - lots you can do with them - e.g. work out wardrobes for selves/each other/famous personalities - combined with physical description vocab - connected to mood adjectives reflected in clothes, adjective order, blind date describing appearance when meeting etc.…

- lots of ideas on Spring & the younger learner from Teach-nology

Gardens & Gardening - not a topic that comes up much in the coursebooks & no. 1 hobby in the UK - topical at this time of year:
- get stds to design their ideal gardens/parks - if you've got them, use cuisenaire rods.

- for the younger learner; plant something - use the topic of Spring as the basis for a project.

- Figurative language - all things to do with gardening - to flourish/to nip something in the bud/salt of the earth/raking over the ashes/a spurt of new growth/blossoming/blooming/to have green fingers, etc.. To get ideas on how to approach figurative language check out an ELTJ article - 50/1 January 1996 - called 'Using Figurative Language to Expand Students' Vocabulary' by Gillian Lazar. And also 'Meanings and Metaphors: Activities to Practise Figurative Language' (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Gillian Lazar (CUP):

- Poetry - William Blake poems such as 'Spring', 'The Sick Rose', 'My Pretty Rose Tree', 'Ah! Sun-Flower', 'The Lilly', 'The Garden of Love', 'The Echoing Green' & 'The Lamb'.

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St Patrick

St Patrick's Day

Storytelling tends to crop up quite a bit in the Tips as it's a great way of giving your students authentic natural exposure without too much preparation.

When telling stories it's important not to read the text out loud. It won't sound natural so read it to yourself, take some notes if necessary & then tell the story from your notes. A much more natural way of telling a story. Depending on the level, you may have to grade your language & delivery but do try to make it sound natural.

Here are a couple of reasons & activities you can use in no particular order:

- to give extensive listening practice, students simply listen for pleasure, you gauging their comprehension through their reactions & questions.

- if you need more of a check on comprehension, students could have a series of pictures & when they hear something related to them they turn them over. You can see at a glance who is with you & who is not, & then take appropriate action, not leaving anyone behind.

- to convey some information that leads into another activity - an article that you have read but don't want to use in class, but the information is interesting to all, & will lead into something else.

- to preview a reading text - for lower levels to help them tackle a difficult reading text. Tell them the story first & then on to the reading. In the telling you could leave out something that they have to find when they read.

- chain stories - get your students to take it in turn to tell the next part of the story. This could be spontaneous for the more confident group or give them some preparation time.

- ask the students to retell your story but give each student a different ending to make it much more interesting. They then vote on the best ending.

- encourage the students to check their understanding - comprehension strategies - as you tell the story. See how they do for the first part of the story, stop & introduce ways they could use, & then start again, encouraging them to use the new ways of checking.

- use storytelling to introduce any way of introducing a speaking sub-skill. There's an activity in 'Conversation' by Nolasco & Arthur (OUP ) called 'As I was saying..' which gives three roles; the storyteller, the listener who uses the sub-skill, & the observer who notes down ways the sub-skill is being introduced.
In the task the sub-skill is 'interrupting', the listener's job being to interrupt as much as possible. when the story has been told, the observer feeds back to the other two & then the teacher can round up the ways of interrupting on the board, adding a few new ways in, & then on to some more practice with interrupting.
To get hold of the excellent 'Conversation' - R.Nolasco & L.Arthur (OUP)

A lesson plan that uses a Manual for Storytelling as the text:

An article by Andrew Wright about Storytelling:

A couple of related books by Andrew:
Storytelling with Children - Andrew Wright (OUP)
Creating Stories with Children - Andrew Wright (OUP)

An article by Michael Berman about Storytelling:

Check out Michael Berman's new book out 'Shamanic Journeys Through Daghestan':

As St Patrick's Day is near, now is a good time to look at Ireland in some of our lessons. There is a lot of information on the net - see the links below to Ireland in general & also specifically to St Patrick, Ireland's patron saint.

Below is an abbreviated story of St. Patrick. If you want more detail for the story check out the links below. Try out the ideas above with the story.
In Catholic countries your students might have their own Saint Day, the name of the saint being their name. Ask them to tell all about the history behind their own saints. Possibly tell the the lesson before so they can research & prepare.

- St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

- In Ireland, March 17th is a national holiday in honour of his memory.

- He is sometimes known as the Apostle of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the country.

- He was the son of a Roman officer who was stationed in Britain & he was brought up in a wealthy household.

- When he was 16 Patrick was carried off in a pirate's raid & taken to Ireland and sold as a slave to a chieftain called Milcho

- Milcho did not like Patrick, so he sent him off to Mount Slemish to look after pigs and be a swineherd. Life was very hard for Patrick on the mountain.

- One night he escaped and walked for 200 miles until he reached the sea.

- He found a ship sailing for Brittany & when he arrived there he went to Auxerre, where his Mother had some relatives.

- Patrick wanted to return to Ireland and convert the tyrannical Pagans there to Christianity.

- He entered the priesthood in Auxerre and spent several years studying.

- The Pope agreed to let Patrick go to Ireland and gave him the special title of "Patercuis", from the Latin pater civium, which means father of his country.

- Patrick set sail from Brittany in the summer of 432, and landed near Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland.

- He first went to Milcho's fort & converted him.

- Patrick then converted the rest of Ireland to Christianity.

- Patrick is famous for ridding Ireland of snakes, driving them into the sea. There are no snakes in Ireland and nowadays this is believed more the result of the island separating in the Ice Age.


St Patrick's links:

Lots of St Patrick's Day material

And everything Irish.

From How Stuff Works - How St Patrick's Day works.

The history of the day from The History Channel

Printables, lesson plans, arts & crafts, historical backround etc

Links about Ireland:

Any more ideas? Please post for all in the Forums at:

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Oscar time

International Women's Day
Kathryn Bigelow won the best film & best director Oscars, the first woman to do so in Oscar history, fitting that it almost coincides with International Women's Day, 8th March. You can find some classroom ideas at:


It's that time of the year. The results this year:

Best Picture The Hurt Locker
Best Director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Best Actor Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Best Actress Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Supporting Actress Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push” by Sapphire
Best Original Screenplay Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
Best Adapted Screenplay Geoffrey Fletcher from Push by Sapphire (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire)
Best Foreign Language Film El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina) – Juan Jose Campanella
Best Original Song “The Weary Kind” (Crazy Heart) – Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett

Did you know that:

'Popular legend has the Oscars statuette as unchanging, made of precious metals, and non-replaceable. This is not entirely the case. One-off variants have twice been produced. In 1939, Walt Disney was voted a special award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Academy presented him with one normal one, plus seven little miniatures.'


'In 1937, the supporting actress winner Alice Brady was at home nursing a broken ankle. When her award was announced, a man stepped forward to receive it, then left the stage. Neither he nor the statuette was ever seen again.'

These are from the article 'Oscars Babylon: Tales from the Academy awards - Tonight, Hollywood's red carpet is rolled out once again for the annual orgy of self-congratulation. But not everything in the history of the Oscars is a cause for back-slapping.'

Read the article, take a few notes & give your students some interesting live listening.


And here are some short reading texts about each of the films nominated for the best film award.

Best picture
9 nominations
No movie enters with as much firepower as Avatar. Cameron's $500 million epic pushed the boundaries of 3D technology & broke records at the global box office. In so doing, it assured nervous studio heads that the future's so bright that they'll have to wear stereoscopic shades.

District 9
4 nominations
The dark horse of this year's Oscars race is this Peter Jackson-produced South African sci-fi yarn. District 9 leans lightly on the allegory with the tale of a local bureaucrat charged with segregating a race of extra-terrestial 'prawns'. Critics have applauded its blend of action & intelligence.

An Education
3 nominations
Based on the memoir of the journalist Lynne Barber, as adapted by Nick Hornby, An Education stars Carey Mulligan as a precocious 16-year-old from 60s suburbia who falls in with a shady property developer (Peter Saarsgard). All hail the big British hope at this year's Oscars.

The Hurt Locker
9 nominations
It was shot for $15 million & barely made a profit. And yet Cathryn Bigelow's taut, tense tale of a US bomb disposal squad in Iraq is fast becoming the film to beat. Its creator, moreover, may yet become the first woman to win the best director Oscar.

Inglourious Basterds
8 nominations
It's the Second World War according to Quentin Tarantino, with all that this entails. Inglourious Basterds is bloodsoaked, freestyle & contains lip smacking turns from Brad Pitt & Christoph Waltz. The script takes Hitler to the movies - where by God, he gets what's coming to him.

6 nominations
Lee Daniel's film 'Precious' rattles us off the red carpet, away from the Oscars & into the dark tenements of 1980s New York. Gabourey Sidibe plays the abused, overweight heroine, while Mo'nique co-stars as her monstrous mum. Both are now in the frame for awards.

A Serious Man
2 nominations
The Coen brothers won with No Country For Old Men in 2008. But will A Serious Man prove too teasingly cerebral to snare the voters. Michael Stuhlbarg stars as the gulping Jewish academic who endures all manner of indignities in 1960s Minnesota.

Up in the Air
6 nominations
George Clooney stars as a corporate hatchet man in Jason Reitman's cool, crisp comedy-drama. Up In The air plays out in departure lounges & chain hotels. It spotlights a world that we are all passing through in search of home.

The Blind Side
2 nominations
Voters of a conservative nature will surely plump for The Blind Side. This stars Sandra Bullock as an average American mum who nurtures a troubled black football prodigy. Fans see it as a classic Hollywood heartwarmer; detractors as a slushy, racially dubious fairytale.

5 nominations
Pixar's buoyant 3D enterprise charts the odyssey of a lonesome widower who rediscovers his zest for life in the wilds of South America. UP, directed by Peter Docter, was adored by press & public alike - but can an animated film win the best picture Oscar?

A couple of ideas on using the text:
- match titles with description
- jigsaw - different students have a description each, they work on the language, & then get together to explain the films to each other, as well as teaching each other the new language they have picked up.
- students find all film-related lexis > discuss meanings & connotations.
- discuss each - who has seen the films, tell others about the plot & general opinion.
- class vote on the best film.
- students choose one of the descriptions, of a film they have seen, & write a continuation.
- students invent their own title & write a short description, & then go on to sell their film, followed by a class vote.


A few classroom ideas from past Tips on the Oscars:

Have a look at the following short article:

Academy has custody of some 100 orphaned Oscars
By The Associated Press – 18.2.09

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requires all Oscar nominees to sign a contract specifying that they will not sell their statuette without first offering it back to the
academy for $1.

The so-called winner's agreement dates back to 1951, at a time when the organization began to worry about orphaned Oscars winding up in the hands of the highest bidder.

So, how many Oscar winners have sold their statuettes to the academy for a buck?

None, says AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis, although Oscars still make their way back to the academy's custody.

"We have statuettes willed back to us fairly regularly — maybe two per year — from recipients who don't have appropriate heirs, or who just want to be sure that nothing undignified ever befalls their Oscar," Davis says.

The academy says it owns almost 100 statuettes that have been returned by winners, heirs, or buyers like Steven Spielberg, who purchased pre-agreement Oscars won by Clark Gable and Bette Davis in order to return them to AMPAS.

Statuettes from the collection occasionally go on display at
academy headquarters in Beverly Hills, Calif., and eventually, the organization's long-planned Oscar museum in Hollywood will include space for more of the collection.

To use this - cut & mix up the paragraphs & students put in a
logical order. They justify their logical sequencing decisions to
all Then possibly on to some other language focus eg. direct &
indirect speech decisions.
Follow this with a discussion:- why & what uses could the
statuettes be put to? Some must have been sold as Spielberg
needed to buy them back? etc...


- Check out any of the following for good material on the cinema & the Oscars: - an excellent source of info about film. The author, Timothy Dirks, lists his top 100 all time favourite films - you'll probably disagree - there's a paragraph about each of the 100 films which could be exploited nicely in class. Lots of other related topics including the famous film quotes page.

- - a massive collection of film scripts. Gone are the days of transcribing pages of the script to use in class. Just copy & paste the part you need.

- Oscar quiz - check out the Tim Dirks' site above.

- Oscars - discuss equivalent in own country - language of prediction & comparison before 'X will win because...' - language of past criticism afterwards 'X should've won because...' - language of dis/agreement with the Oscar results

- Lexical field - actor, actress, star, an extra, a bit part, producer, cameraman, studio, to shoot a film, still, clip, excerpt, set, on location, to edit, script, lines, costumes, action, different genres (western, comedy, adventure, sci-fi etc), screening, premier, critic, reviews ...

- A good opportunity to review narrative telling.

- Past Tips around film:
Budding Screenwriters:
Shadow reading:

- Famous film quotes - match film, character & quote. - 100 quotes
'To get an Oscar would be an incredible moment in my career, there is no doubt about that. But the 'Lord of the Rings' films are not made for Oscars, they are made for the audience.'
Peter Jackson
'I live in Spain. Oscars are something that are on TV Sunday night. Basically, very late at night. You don't watch, you just read the news after who won or who lost. '
Javier Bardem

- Film reviews - students could write them for films they have recently seen to swap around for colleagues to read & add comments when seen - an on-going mini-project. There are several net chat groups for students devoted to this as well.

- Cinema What's On Guide - a similar procedure as given for the lonely heart's guide we mentioned in the last newsletter - we would naturally scan a cinema guide so give out one to each students & you ask a question, the students look quickly for the answer & raise their hands when they have found it - wait till half have their hands up & elicit the answer & locate it for those who are having difficulties. Have eight to ten questions ready e.g.. Where can you see 'The Full Monty? What time/How much ...etc. It's a very good way of gauging the scanning ability in the group.

- Making a film - imperatives - beginner students act out a short scene using imperatives from the director on tape - total physical response - a great effective way of building up elementary students store of verbs. A possible procedure would be to act it out yourself, taking on both roles while students listen & watch you, after several times the students then act out to the tape & then they write their own instructions in small groups for a short scene & you can feed in the verbs they need. The one std reads out the verbs & the others from the group act - for the rest of the class to observe.
Tip - Action - TPR:

- Interviews with the stars - dubbing - this involves the class discussing a picture of a film star & writing a list of questions they would like to ask the person in the picture. When a series of questions has been complied, give the picture to a std who takes on that role & the others interview her/him. A well prepared roleplay then ensues.

- Interview with a film star - one word collective person - this is a fun, challenging roleplay. There is an interviewer & three/four students take the role of the one interviewee. Each std supplies one word in the response to a question e.g.. Why did you start acting? A:Well B:at C:school D:I A:was B:always C:involved D:in A:the B:Christmas C:play. Each std has to continue the utterance so that it makes sense. Can be difficult but lots of fun.

- Day in the life of a film star - this could come as a continuation of the previous activity - students write up a typical day by way of compiling the responses from the interview - they take notes when they ask the questions.

- Discussion topics - Does violence in movies influence real-life events? - Prefer the book or the film? - The film star you would like to meet? What say/do? - Where prefer to sit in the cinema? Front, middle, back? Why?

- Roleplay ideas - son wants to be an actor, Dad wants him to be a doctor like him, Mum is caught in the middle - you are an actor in the middle of shooting a film & the director wants to change your lines (reduce them!) & you disagree strongly etc.

- Have a class outing to the cinema & then use it in class.

- Get students to go to see films & report back to the class - if they go to the cinema a lot, this could be a regular early in the week feature of the lesson. They could write reviews for each other, recommending or not that they see the film.

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