A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 156

St George's Debate
Healthier Times

St George's Day

St George's Debate

I try to avoid doing formal class debates as I have never felt that they have gone as well as they should have. This is probably because there are only one or two students speaking at any one time & it's easy for some students not to say anything at all, & then there is the finding an issue that all might find interesting. I prefer several small groups discussing/debating rather than the open class format.

Debates can have several different formats. It could simply be a statement that the two halves of the class are on opposing sides & they have a free-for-all discussion about the point. Or a debate could be set up formally as in this description from Wikipedia of a 'Mace debate':

'This style of debate is prominent in Britain at schools level. Two teams of two debate an affirmative motion (e.g. "This house would give prisoners the right to vote,") which one team will propose and the other will oppose. Each speaker will make a seven minute speech in the order; 1st Proposition, 1st Opposition, 2nd Proposition, 2nd Opposition. After the first minute of each speech, members of the opposing team may request a 'point of information' (POI). If the speaker accepts they are permitted to ask a question. POI's are used to pull the speaker up on a weak point, or to argue against something the speaker has said. However after 6 minutes, no more POI's are permitted. After all four have spoken the debate will be opened to the floor, in which members of the audience will put questions to the teams. After the floor debate, one speaker from each team (traditionally the first speaker), will speak for 4 minutes. In these summary speeches it is typical for the speaker to answer the questions posed by the floor, answer any questions the opposition may have put forward, before summarising his or her own key points. In the Mace format, emphasis is typically on analytical skills, entertainment, style and strength of argument. The winning team will typically have excelled in all of these areas.'

This is the kind of debate that I remember from school. It could easily be made more manageable for our classrooms by altering the time limits.

While looking for material on St George's Day, the patron saint of England, celebrated on 23rd April, I came over the website 'Debatewise' devoted to debates. You can begin your own debate or join in with one already running. The St George's Day debate is titled 'England should make an effort to celebrate St George's Day'. A large percentage of English people would not know which day their patron saint's celebration is - it is very much underplayed in England. In each debate on the Debatewise site the main for & against points are given near the top of the page, followed by detailed arguments of these points later on. Here are the key points for St George's Day:

All the Yes points;
Tradition is important
Myths help us dream – more important now than ever
St George represents renewal and there is no better time than now to celebrate that.

All the No points:
St George wasn't even English
Why now?
It's Corporations that are pushing St George's Day

(You might relate this attitude to celebrating St George's Day to the students' own patron saints & how they are celebrated in their countries.)

It could be a useful site to use when planning to use a debate in class. Search for related topics that you are looking at & choose one of the debates. You could simply lift the main points or you could use the texts as readings for each side of the debate, incorporating them into the preparation for the debate. Each student could read one of the detailed points & then feedback to their group, as they get all of their points together prior to the debate.

Don't forget that the point of the debate is language practice so you could feed in some language beforehand, point them to some language you have covered over the last week or so that they would find useful to use, or simply use it as fluency practice. Whatever approach you take you really do need to provide some feedback at the end on language used, both positive & not so good. So take some notes while they are speaking & use this data in the feedback after.

For more on debates check out Vivian Chu's article 'classroom debates: Shifting the Focus':

For more on making speaking tasks as effective as possible see the past Tip 'Up Front':
And the the past Tip 'Scribbling Away' for an on-the-spot correction technique:

For some excellent speaking skill resources:

Discussions That Work - P.Ur (CUP)

Conversation - R.Nolasco & L.Arthur (OUP)

Roleplay - G.Porter-Ladousse (OUP)


St George's Day
Here is some material for St George's Day lessons from the past Tip 'Slaying Dragons':

The first is a general description about the day & the second is a reduced version of the George & the Dragon story. Later there are a couple of ideas for younger learner classes & a couple of links to dragon-related websites.

An appropriate way to use this first text might be to cut up every section & ask students in pairs/small groups to put it in a logical order. Beforehand briefly look at how a text has coherence through the cohesive devices & logical links. Or leave this till after, eliciting the things that helped them decide on the order, collating the class ideas on the board & adding in a few of your own if they are missed out. When completed, the students could compare ideas & then compare with the original version.

Then you could move to the content of the text by asking if there is any information in the text that they knew about beforehand etc...

St George's Day - April 23: History

As with most saints, myth and legend surrounds St George and of how a Roman soldier came to be regarded as the essence of England.

He is most famously known as the brave slayer of the dragon and saviour of the maiden but, although this story exists in a number of different medieval texts and art, it has no historical basis.

There is very little information about the life St George, but it is known that he was not English.

He is thought to have been an early Christian martyr from the area of modern day Turkey, who was executed in Palestine in the third century.

Legends about his valorous deeds as a soldier-saint began in the 6th century and by the 12th century the famous story about his rescuing a king's daughter and slaying a dragon had become widespread.

Some experts think the tale is based on the Greek myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from a sea monster.

St George was popularised in England by Crusaders, Christian knights returning from religious wars in the Middle East.

He was supposed to have appeared to the Knights dressed in white robes decorated with a red cross during the 11th century siege of Antioch.

He became the official patron saint of England in 1425 after Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

The Red Cross of St George is England's national flag and it also forms part of Britain's Union Jack.

However, the English are not the only people to stake a claim in St George.

In the Middle East, Christians invoke his powers to help exorcise demons.

In many countries St George is associated with fertility and his day marks the very beginning of summer.

In Lithuania he is revered as the guardian of animals and in parts of Spain St George's day is celebrated with feasts and gift giving.

Tintoretti - George fighting the dragon - Tintorreti

This next short text is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopaedia & could be used as a basis for storytelling.
1. Elicit - know any stories about dragons?
2. Pre-teach vocab & give key words: dragon, appeased, sheep, failed, children, King's daughter, sacrifice, George, spear, girdle, town, beheaded.
3. Stds then try to work out a coherent story - in pairs?
4. Stds mingle telling each other their stories >> vote on the best.
5. Handout/put on OHP the excerpt - stds compare to see who had the most similar story.
6. The stds could then use their imagination to provide different endings for the story - pairs >> class discussion.
7. Discuss as a class - any similar stories to George & the Dragon in your country/ies?

Alternatively, you could use the text as the basis for a 'dictoglosss' activity. See the Teaching Tip High Speed Dictations.

"At the town of Silene, in Libya, there was a dragon, who was appeased by being fed two sheep a day; when these failed, the townsfolk offered by lot one of their young people. One day the lot fell on the King's daughter, who was led out to the sacrifice, dressed in her wedding gown. George appeared and transfixed the dragon with his spear and then using the Princess's girdle led the bemused dragon into the town, where it was beheaded."
Catholic Encyclopaedia

Dragons are a fun vehicle for younger learner lessons so here are a few ideas:

In 'Drama With Children' by Sarah Philips (OUP) there is a lovely activity about a Dragon Hunt (from the classic Bear Hunt story). As you tell the story the youngsters do the actions & repeat sections & lots of fun is had by all. A bit of space is needed. A very good younger learner book all round which you can buy through:


Then there is the Dragon with a cold story. A boiled down version is that the fearsome Dragon is miserable because his cold is spoiling his fun - he can't burn down houses, fight with knights or generally get up to mischief. So he goes to see a wizard who says he can cure him with a special potion (frogs legs, maggots - lots of horrible things) only if he promises to turn over a new leaf & put his fire-breathing to good use. He is so miserable he reluctantly agrees & now instead of people running away from him they smile & greet him, he helps with their fires, cooking & heating & with his huge weight, carries lots of things for them. And they live happily ever after.

The Monster vocabulary idea could be used with a dragon - the dragon can breath the words out. See Past Tips 44

A couple of dragon website links:
'This site is dedicated to Dragons; the ruler of the past and who know, ruler of the present even if they hide in shadow. Who has never felt a fascination for that most breathtaking of creatures, the dragon? It is hard to believe that these creatures have never existed when they are so present in the people mind, in the past of the human history, from the America to the Asia passing through Europe, all culture have someday describe a creature that can, today, be identified to a same living thing: a dragon. '
Your online dragon resource for everything you want to know about dragons: Dragon history, dragon tattoos, dragon art, pictures of dragons, as well as dragon links to find gifts, collectables and figurines for the dragon lover in your life.
Dragon webrings


Earth Day
Here are a few links for Earth Day on 22nd April:

Earth Day site:
A few more links:
Wikipedia Spring entry:
Spring lesson plans from
Spring stuff from Kids Domain:

Information about Earth:
Nasa's Earth Observatory:
Quotes about Earth:

And talking of Earth, have you tried Google Earth? If you have a broadband connection to the internet & a relatively new computer, you should be fine for running it. Free & excellent.

Back to the contents

Record Store Day

Place for discs &
recommendations (6,5)

A couple of Days to base your lessons around this week; Crossword Puzzle Day (18th) & Record Store Day (17th).
The latter, Record Store Day 'is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day..'

The official site - US:

With independent record stores disappearing every day, this Day raises awareness of their unique place in the development of popular music. A lesson could take the following form:

1. Intro to the theme - ask the students: buy records? where? names of any indie record stores? what was the first record you bought?
2. Elicit why there is 'Record Store Day' on the 17th.
3. If you can use video in class, download the Joshua Homme, the ambassador for the Day, explaining it:
If you can't use this in class, view the video, take some notes & then tell the students what was said, giving some live listening.
4. You could choose some of the quotes on & design reading tasks for them.
5. Students discuss how one could promote the Day > pool ideas.
6. Students design a poster for the Day > put them on the walls & all wander round & vote for the best.
7. Discussion:
- why have record stores declined?
- do you buy music online?
- do you think it is valid to download music without paying for it?
- what do you think of the music & flim companies prosecuting individuals?
- what do you think of the French idea of three warnings & then internet cut off?
- etc
8. End with a song - choose a song the group would be interested in - you could ask them the previous lesson for ideas on this. Here are a couple of books to help with designing tasks with songs:
Music & Song - T.Murphey (OUP)

Musical Openings - D.Cranmer & C.Laroy (Longman)


It's Crossword Puzzle Day on the 18th April.

A grid, clues: down & across (9)

Crosswords can be lots of fun at any time & there are any uses from them in the classroom. Here are a few:

- Collaborative Crossword: a normal crossword that reviews recently taught vocabulary or is leading into a theme, done collaboratively with the whole class - it's fun to do it together. Encourage them to give further clues rather than shout out the answers when they have them.

- Pairwork Crossword: give half of a completed crossword to each person in the pair. They have to make up the clues for their set of answers & then they tell each other until both have a completed crossword.

- Class Crossword: give out a crossword to each student but with a different answer filled in on each. The students think of the clue to their answer & then mingle telling each other their clues & listening to each other until all have completed the crossword. Good for revising vocab.

- Advanced Crossword: give out the crossword, with all of the clues about the vocabulary that is going to come up in the next two weeks. As the fortnight proceeds the students can do a bit more of their crosswords - the first to complete it gets a small prize. Then use the crossword to review the vocab covered.

- Invented Crossword: in pairs, get your students to make their own crosswords up based on the vocab recently covered. When finished, swap them around for each pair to do a new one. Lots of vocab reviewed in both parts of the activity.

- Coursebook Crossword: at the beginning of a course when you are showing the students what is involved in the coursebook, instead of a list of questions that asks them to look through the book for the answers, design a crossword to fill 3 across: the section near the back with lots of verbs (9, 4, 4) (Irregular Verb List).

- Comprehension Crossword: As in the above activity, when students are looking for information to answer comprehension or scan reading questions in a text, they can be presented in the form of a crossword.

- Picture Crosswords: for the younger learner, the clues are in picture form instead of definitions.

- Phonology Crosswords: design a crossword that reviews vocab but instead of putting in the letters for the words, the students put in the phonemes for the words. For word stress, choose the pattern you want to look at & for each clue give three words, the right answer being the one that fits the pattern.

Don't forget about the logistical language the students might need to do the above activities & deal with it beforehand to maximise the effectiveness of the tasks e.g.- have you got the clue for four across? - the language of dis/agreement - the language of negotiation

Most people find crosswords interesting & if integrated into classes, they can be motivating & fun for your students. And for the teacher in a non-English speaking country, normal newspaper crosswords are a great way of trying to keep your English vocabulary from diminishing.

I recently came across a History of Crosswords. Here's the text:

Brief History of Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet have a short history. The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. They were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children's puzzle books and various periodicals. In the United States, however, the puzzle developed into a serious adult pastime.

The first known published crossword puzzle was created by a journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, and he is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. December 21, 1913 was the date and it appeared in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. Wynne's puzzle(see below) differed from today's crosswords in that it was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares. During the early 1920's other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers. It was in this period crosswords began to assume their familiar form. Ten years after its rebirth in the States it crossed the Atlantic and re-conquered Europe.

The first appearance of a crossword in a British publication was in Pearson's Magazine in February 1922, and the first Times crossword appeared on February 1 1930. British puzzles quickly developed their own style, being considerably more difficult than the American variety. In particular the cryptic crossword became established and rapidly gained popularity. The generally considered governing rules for cryptic puzzles were laid down by A. F. Ritchie and D. S. Macnutt.

These people, gifted with the ability to see words puzzled together in given geometrical patterns and capable of twisting and turning words into word plays dancing on the wit of human minds, have since constructed millions of puzzles by hand and each of these puzzlers has developed personal styles known and loved by his fans. These people have set the standard of what to expect from a quality crossword puzzle.

This would make an interesting reading, & afterwards you could present the students with the very first crossword - see below - there is a link to the solutions. You might let them have a go first & then give out the answers, mixed up, to choose from to make it all manageable.

The world's first crossword puzzle

By Arthur Wynne, December 21, 1913
from The New York World



2-3. What bargain hunters enjoy. 6-22. What we all should be.
4-5. A written acknowledgment. 4-26. A day dream.
6-7. Such and nothing more. 2-11. A talon.
10-11. A bird. 19-28. A pigeon.
14-15. Opposed to less. F-7. Part of your head.
18-19. What this puzzle is. 23-30. A river in Russia.
22-23. An animal of prey. 1-32. To govern.
26-27. The close of a day. 33-34. An aromatic plant.
28-29. To elude. N-8. A fist.
30-31. The plural of is. 24-31. To agree with.
8-9. To cultivate. 3-12. Part of a ship.
12-13. A bar of wood or iron. 20-29. One.
16-17. What artists learn to do. 5-27. Exchanging.
20-21. Fastened. 9-25. To sink in mud.
24-25. Found on the seashore. 13-21. A boy.
10-18. The fibre of the gomuti palm.

And then there's an interesting article about how a crossword nearly gave the game away:

The Crossword Panic of May 1944

During World War II the daily newspapers were at their most popular even though they consisted of only a few pages. People throughout Britain could find out what was happening in the parts of the world where our troops were engaged in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis

At the beginning of the war, the news was mainly bad with the German blitzkrieg advances throughout Europe, but as the years rolled on, the news slowly became better …and in October 1942 British morale was greatly bolstered by General Montgomery’s famous success at El Alamein in North Africa.

But it wasn’t just the news that was eagerly sought in the papers; there were other matters of interest. Nearly all newspapers had crossword puzzles in them and they were very popular as they helped fill in the hours spent in the Air-Raid Shelters, waiting for trains or just simply engaged in that great British tradition of queuing.

One of the popular ‘Dailys’ of the time was the Daily Telegraph, and so too was its crossword puzzle.

It was in January 1943 that the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D Roosevelt met and agreed that the future of the war must include an invasion of northwest Europe or a ‘return to the Continent’.

Planning for the invasion started almost immediately, and after extensive research it was decided that the sheltered Normandy coastline with its wide sandy beaches presented the best option for the surprise attack that was to be the D-Day landings. The assault was code-named Operation Overlord by Churchill himself.

The US General Dwight D Eisenhower was made overall commander of Operation Overlord in December 1943, with the British hero General Bernard Law Montgomery assuming control of ground troops. It was in early May 1944 that Eisenhower decided that D-Day would fall on 5th June 1944.

A huge security blanket had been thrown over all aspects of the operation, including the place and exact date of the landings, in order to maximise the element of surprise and minimise casualties. One US major-general was even demoted and sent home for simply speculating at a cocktail party on the date of the invasion.

But while some members of MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service, were whiling away their spare moments in May 1944 by doing the Telegraph Crossword, they noticed that vital code-names that had been adopted to hide the mightiest sea-borne assault of all time, appeared in the crossword.

They noticed that the answer to one clue, ‘One of the USA’, turned out to be Utah, and another answer to a clue was Omaha. These were the names, given by the Allies, to the beaches in Normandy where the American Forces were to land on D-Day.

Another answer that appeared in that month’s crossword was Mulberry. This was the name of the floating harbour that was to be towed across the Channel to accommodate the supply ships of the invasion force. Neptune another answer, referred to the code-name for the naval support for the operation.

Perhaps the most suspicious was a clue about a ‘Big-Wig’, to which the answer was Overlord. This was the code-name given for the entire operation!

Alarm bells rang throughout MI5 …was the crossword being used to tip-off the Germans?

Two officers were sent immediately to Leatherhead in Surrey, where a man called Leonard Dawe lived. He was the crossword compiler, a 54 year-old teacher.

Why, the officers demanded to know, had he chosen theses five words within his crossword solutions?

“Why not?” was Dawe’s indignant reply. Was there a law against choosing whatever words he liked?

MI5 eventually became convinced of Dawe’s honesty and he managed to convince them that he had no knowledge of the coming D-Day invasion.

His crossword solutions it appears were perhaps just another of life’s astonishing coincidences!

Crossword maker:
I also came across an excellent free crossword generator. They say: 'EclipseCrossword is for Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP. .... EclipseCrossword is free. It contains no advertisements, spyware, or viruses. It is not a trial version.'
It's simple to install & very easy to use. Not only does it produce printable versions but also web page versions of crosswords that you produce. Check it out:

So after you've looked at the one or both of the readings above, you can present your students with your very own crossword, based on the lesson, or based on vocabulary that has been recently covered.


Puzzle Solution


Back to the contents


Healthier Times

It's World Health Day on 7th April. This year it is titles 1000 Cities, 1000 Lives & this is what the WHO say about it:

'With the campaign 1000 cities, 1000 lives, events will be organized worldwide during the week of 7 – 11 April 2010.

The global goals of the campaign are:

1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles.
1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities.'

Use this to introduce the Day - World Health Day 2010 - Promotional video:

The dedicated site for the campaign can be found at:

There is a page of YouTube videos connected with the Day - 'Hear inspirational stories and learn how individuals are contributing to the health of thousands in their city.':
A nice way of using these videos is to allocate a video to each pair, they view & take notes, & then all the students jigsaw in two groups, each telling about their video. Prepare a chart for them to complete while they listen to each other. Then bring everyone together to discuss the most interesting & useful videos & how the ideas might be applicable to the students' home towns & cities.
There's a wide variety of videos - check out this one about the Humanitarian Network in Bangalore - 'Health Champion RVM.wmv':

Our students tend to stay seated for the duration of the lesson. Here are a couple of ways to make the classroom a little physically healthier.
- get the students to do some stretching exercises at the beginning & in the middle of the lesson.
- plan an activity for the students to get up out of their chairs each lesson.
- mingle activities are good for getting the students moving around eg. find someone who tasks.
- get the students up & using the board - get them to write the ideas & answers rather than you.
- running dictations - see the past Tip 'Running around'
- ordering tasks - give out a point/picture to each student & they get up & stand in the order they all agree to.
- roleplays - scenarios that are naturally carried out standing, do the same.
- conference roleplays - easily incorporated into most themes eg. phobics' conference or sleep conference - students explain their problems & see who gives the best advice.

From the World Health Day, a lesson could move into other areas connected to 'health':
- illnesses, parts of the body & visiting the doctor - lots of vocab & functional language.
- class questionnaires - find the un/healthiest person in the class.
- advice on leading healthier lives.
- healthy diets & food.
- check out the net for an unlimited amount of material eg.

For a past Tip on 'Healthy Teaching':

And another past Tip 'Promoting a healthy profile':

Going from the healthy to the not so healthy habit of eating chocolate - fairly topical around Easter so here are a few links:
An article from the Guardian about British attitudes to chocolate:

The past tip 'Chocolate tasting' - materials, ideas & links:

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