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Teaching Tips 190

Promoting tolerance
All Saints
Global Issues


Promoting tolerance

It's International Day of Tolerance.

Material & tasks on the site to go with the Day:

Here are a couple of classroom tolerance-related areas:

Tolerance of unknown language

I'm sure you have students who need to know rules & when an exception comes along they find it difficult & uncomfortable. This could also apply to the newness of cultural differences. And on the other hand, the student who is very open to the new & will accept anything but there is a tendency for a too relaxed anything-goes approach. This is all about the cognitive style of 'ambiguity tolerance' - a positive characteristic of the effective language learner.

Clearly neither of the above descriptions will lead to effective learning & a balance is needed. There needs to be a degree of intolerance as this helps to keep one on the straight & narrow as the unnecessary & impossible are rejected. And as language is organic & not particularly regular there needs to be tolerance in order to cope with the new & a dynamic, changing interlanguage.

It is said that awareness is half the battle won, so a discussion of this aspect in class can certainly do no harm, & very possibly a lot of good in pointing to the right direction. Try the following questions:

1. Do you always need to know the 'rule' or are you happy to communicate & concentrate on getting the message across?
2. If you come across words in a text, are you happy to read on & hope that you'll get the meaning from the context or do you need to know the meaning before continuing?
3. Do you find English-speaking customs strange & alien or do you find them interesting?

Developing intuition can also help. 'Does it sound right?', working out meaning from contexts, encouraging guessing & lots of oral & written fluency work for accuracy-conscious students can help to free them up.

Training in language awareness through noticing tasks & subsequent analysis helps with self study which will enable students to incorporate the new & see the wider picture of the language.

Challenge in the classroom, problem solving & treating the students as decision makers & language organisers make them into better discriminators.

This isn't an area that is looked at much on training courses & in methodology books, probably because it is hard to pin down & because the learner's personality plays a large part.


Native speaker intolerance

And then there is the native speaker intolerance. Obviously writing in very general terms, our learners find it more challenging to speak to native speakers rather than non-native speakers. The non-native makes allowances & understands the difficulties the learner is going through. The native speaker puts up the blocks on seeing the non-native, not expecting to understand or be understood. So we have to help our learners to cope in this kind of situation by trying to allay the native speaker's fears & bring down the blocks.

First of all, talk to your students about this situation, discussing how they might go about coping. Strategies to help can include giving off signals that the learner does in fact speak English & the native speaker should not have difficulties. These signals could be simply initiating the conversation with friendly greetings; 'How's it going?', 'Terrible weather at the moment' etc.. Smiling, as in most situations, can also go a long way.

Then try out some 'blocking roleplays', simulating problems of this kind. You take one of two roles in a roleplay e.g. a ticket seller at a train station. A student then comes to buy a ticket from you & your job is to 'block' the communication i.e. make it difficult for the student to continue. When the student is 'blocked' s/he sits down & another continues & again you try to block. This carries on a few more times & it is all recorded as you do it. The tape recording is then analysed as a class for how the blocks could be overcome & appropriate language work follows. You could transcribe sections of the tape before the analysis. Your students can see that you are catering for their real needs.

If your learners have the opportunity to communicate with native speakers, encourage them to report back in class about problems they had & get advice from fellow members of the class, a chance to swap strategies.

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Halloween All Saints


Halloween is nearly upon us so below are some ideas & links for the week ahead.

Nearly all the ideas are appropriate for the younger learner classes but the Catholic celebration of All Saints' Day could make for an interesting topic for more adult students:

Using the topic of death in class tends to be fairly taboo, but does it really have to be? I remember using some interesting material from the coursebook Mode 2 or Mode 3 on the theme of death. The reading text is an excerpt from The Diary of Adrian Mole. He goes to his grandmother's funeral & describes what happens - a humourous & really good choice of material which went down well with the group, & allowed the theme to be explored & vocabulary presented & practised.

Here's another story to ease into the theme:

Fate - A Hebrew Folktale

King Solomon's servant came breathlessly into the court, "Please! Let me borrow your fastest horse!" he said to the King. "I must be in a town ten miles south of here by nightfall!"

"Why?" asked King Solomon.

"Because," said his shuddering servant, "I just met Death in the garden! Death looked me in the face! I know for certain I'm to be taken and I don't want to be around when Death comes to claim me!"

"Very well," said King Solomon. "My fastest horse has hoofs like wings. TAKE HIM." Then Solomon walked into the garden. He saw Death sitting there with a perplexed look on its face. "What's wrong?" asked King Solomon.

Death replied, "Tonight I'm supposed to claim the life of your servant whom I just now saw in your garden. But I'm supposed to claim him in a town ten miles south of here! Unless he had a horse with hooves like wings, I don't see how he could get there by nightfall . . ."

After dealing with the story (eg a live listening or give out the first four lines jumbled up, the students order them, & then try to predict the continuation, & finally give out the last line to see if they were right, & then a response to the text), the lexical field can be explored: death, euphemisms - to kick the bucket, pushing up the daisies, pass away etc, coffin, cremation, deceased, funeral, wake, etc...

And then a discussion of different countries' & religions' attitudes to death, how death is dealt with in the students' environment etc... For example, when I came to Spain I found it strange that the funeral tends to be the day after a person dies, a very quick process, here one day & literally gone the next.

In Spain the play Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla, in 1844, is very much associated with All Saint's Day - Todos Santos. There is a summary of the play at Wikipedia that you could use for a live listening - careful to make it concise & comprehensible:

Clearly sensitivity is required but it certainly makes for more interesting lessons than the stock topics such as 'holidays'!


Here are some Halloween classroom ideas:

Monster consequences
This is a variation on the game consequences where you circulate papers in turn adding a bit of information, folding them over & then at the end opening out the paper & reading out the wacky result.
Here you design a monster. All students take a piece of paper & describe the monsters head at the top - this could be drawn. They then fold the paper & hand it to their neighbour to their left. Then all describe the body & do the same - fold & hand on. And on like this with a scary feature, the food it eats, something about its habits, a noise it makes & a name for the monster. At the end each student opens the paper & reads aloud about their monster.
Instead of folding the students could see the previous things & have more of an idea of the monster & a description is being built.

Scary movies
Students write a list of scary movies & explain what happens in their favourite one. Then, each group designs a new monster for a new scary movie. They decide on its name, eating habits, likes& dislikes, physical description, habits etc.

Start you own business - rent-a-ghost
People rent hosts from your company to scare others at Halloween. Design a brochure of available ghosts for hire, including a picture & description of haunting characteristics, special talents & hourly rates. Students then roleplay sellers/customers looking for an appropriate ghost. Give the customers a role card before with ideas.

Ghost interviews
You have a Rent-a-Ghost business which is going well & need to hire more ghosts. Interviewers prepare suitable questions to interview ghosts .g. ways of scaring people, special talents, why they would be good for the job etc. Ghosts also prepare mini-CVs containing previous experience, special haunting skills, ghost courses completed. They need to ask about conditions & pay at the interview. The interviews take place & the best ghosts are chosen.

Ghost hunters

Like Ghost Busters, the film, these people get rid of ghosts. All students draw a ghost & the teacher takes them in.
Std A - has spotted a ghost in their house - one of the ghosts that has been drawn, & they must describe the ghost, what it does, when it arrived, conditions in the house when it arrived etc.
Std B - works for 'Ghost Hunters' & will interview the house owner about the ghost. Also give advice on what to do to get rid of the ghost.

Radio Show - interview with a vampire
Students write down everything they know about vampires - two groups.
Grp A are the presenters on a radio show - they interview about the vampire's daily routine, clothes, habits, likes etc.
Grp B - are the vampires who prepare details about themselves.
Could record the interviews.


Design a potion
Students design a new potion & the advert that sells it. They need to decide on its magical properties, who it's for, what it contains, the packaging, name & slogan. All mingle selling their potions to each other, persuading each other they need this new magical potion.

Scary sounds
You need a tape of a series of scary sounds. Play the tape & students work out a story that fits. If no tape, you could make the noises!

Horror story writing
Students first plan the story deciding on the time, setting, characters, plot etc. (background-problem-solution-outcome) Could also look at specific vocab they might need - scared, terrified, scream, creaking, gloomy, chains, etc.

Act it out
Students discuss fave scary movie & choose a sketch to act out. They write a dialogue & then could write it as a radio play with background scary effects.

Halloween party
Students decide what costumes they would wear & what these character live would be like. Students then act out the party. Could use role cards to smooth things along.

Make a Mummy
Lots of toilet paper required to wrap round one of the children! Or teams - the first to make a Mummy.

From a brief look around at sites dedicated to Halloween it seems quite a commercial time. A lot of the sites have something to sell but keep looking & you’ll also find lots on information to use with all ages & types of classes.


A couple of links for Halloween stuff:
Lots of quality material for lessons from the British Council.
A time to tell your students a ghost story or two. At the History Channel they have some to choose from.

For information about storytelling, how to tell effective stories, check out the article used in the lesson plan here:

And a few more ghost story sites:
Reading about werewolves & links to related site
101 Halloween ideas
Clipart for all things Halloween
Bat poems


For material on special Days of the year do check out:
The Book of Days Teacher's Book: A Resource Book of Activities for Special Days in the Year - Adrian Wallwork (CUP)

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Global Issues

Outstanding news last week to hear of Malala Yousafzai's expected full recovery after being shot in the head in Pakistan. Although not completely out of danger, the prognosis is very good even though she will have to undergo skull & jaw reconstruction as she recuperates. All too believable these days that an atrocity like this can happen.


To find out about Malala's amazing campaigning for women's rights to education, have a look at the Wikipedia entry:

A website - I Am Malala - has been set up to promote education for all children in the world. . The video below from the website looks at children around the world & the need to act.

One of the concerns of the United Nations is education for all & the 24th October is United Nations Day.

Below there is a reading text about the organisation of the UN, together with some comprehension questions. This might be suitable for intermediate upwards.

At the end of the page there are also some discussion points to draw it all together.

The reading text is taken from the Cyber School Bus section of the UN web site & is well worth checking out for lots more information. Clearly, the material will need changing slightly for use with our EL students. It is well worth having a good look round, especially for the older teenager. Here are some links among many:

For younger learners the UN Cyberbus had a project to design a Peace Flag - have a look at the site to get an idea. You could copy the ones on the site & the class could vote on the best ones - then show the real winners. And they could design their own Peace Flags & then vote on the best & compare their designs to the competition ones.

The Poverty Curriculum has a lot of usable material for class use. Each section is divided into an explanation, a class activity, a community service idea & internet links. For example, the introduction has descriptions of the three different income groups in the world as well as brief profiles of children from each group. A roleplay, the students taking on the role & discussing differences in their lives, could be very productive. Lots of discussion, reading & listening to you read aloud or summarise the explanations.

"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." – Gandhi. The Peace Education section has some interesting stuff on the teacher as learner & the learner as teacher.

'"Cities of Today, Cities of Tomorrow!" The Cities project is an interactive programme brought to you by the United Nations CyberSchoolBus. Its six intense units of clear writing, exciting information and great images give you the best overview of urbanization—its history, its potential, its problems... '

Compare statistics on all member states.

Or get information on member states one at a time.

The reading task

Some questions to go with the UN text below

1. When was the UN formed?

2. What is the purpose of the UN?

3. How many members are there?

4. Where is it based?

5. What are some of the aims of the UN?

6. What might be some of the principles of the UN?

7. How is the decision-making process described for peace keeping missions?

8. What are the Specialised Agencies?

The reading text

The United Nations Organisation
Text from:

The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the UN Charter had been ratified by a majority of the original 51 Member States. The day is now celebrated each year around the world as United Nations Day.

The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people. It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems.

There are currently 191 Members of the United Nations. They meet in the General Assembly, which is the closest thing to a world parliament. Each country, large or small, rich or poor, has a single vote, however, none of the decisions taken by the Assembly are binding. Nevertheless, the Assembly's decisions become resolutions that carry the weight of world governmental opinion.

The United Nations Headquarters is in New York City but the land and buildings are international territory. The United Nations has its own flag, its own post office and its own postage stamps. Six official languages are used at the United Nations - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. The UN European Headquarters is in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. It has offices in Vienna, Austria and Economic Commissions in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Amman in Jordan, Bangkok in Thailand and Santiago in Chile. The senior officer of the United Nations Secretariat is the Secretary-General.

The Aims of the United Nations:
To keep peace throughout the world.
To develop friendly relations between nations.
To work together to help people live better lives, to eliminate poverty, disease and illiteracy in the world, to stop environmental destruction and to encourage respect for each other's rights and freedoms.
To be a centre for helping nations achieve these aims.

The Principles of the United Nations:
All Member States have sovereign equality.
All Member States must obey the Charter.
Countries must try to settle their differences by peaceful means.
Countries must avoid using force or threatening to use force.
The UN may not interfere in the domestic affairs of any country.
Countries should try to assist the United Nations.

The UN System
The basic structure of the United Nations is outlined in an organizational chart.

UN organisation chart

What the structure does not show is that decision-making within the UN system is not as easy as in many other organizations. The UN is not an independent, homogeneous organization; it is made up of states, so actions by the UN depend on the will of Member States, to accept, fund or carry them out. Especially in matters of peace-keeping and international politics, it requires a complex, often slow, process of consensus-building that must take into account national sovereignty as well as global needs.

The Specialized Agencies, while part of the UN system, are separate, autonomous intergovernmental organizations which work with the UN and with each other. The agencies carry out work relating to specific fields such as trade, communications, air and maritime transport, agriculture and development. Although they have more autonomy, their work within a country or between countries is always carried out in partnership with those countries. They also depend on funds from Member States to achieve their goals.

For links to the areas in the chart

Discussion points

With your partner, discuss the following questions:

1. Do you think it is necessary to have the UN?

2. How much authority should the UN have over individual countries?

3. Choose three of the most worthy UN projects mentioned in the texts. Why are these more worthy than the others?

4. What do you think the UN's most important priority should be at the moment?

The English entry to the UN site can be found at:

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