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Teaching Tips 191

Jumping through hoops
A hands on approach
BND '12

Jumping through hoops

Jumping through hoops

Last week we looked at visual ways of responding to reading & listening tasks, students putting up their hands or knocking on the desk. Other things they could do as a non-linguistic responses could be to choose pictures, hold up the correct card, circle & tick answers etc...

I often wonder whether this completion of tasks & moving on is simply asking students to jump through hoops. They jump through them, they get the tasks correct, all are happy, so let's move on because there are a lot of other things to do. But just because they've completed the task does not necessarily mean that they have developed their reading or listening skills. Clearly the more students read & listen in English, the better they can become at that skill, & this includes also the productive skills of speaking & writing. However this is only half the story. The other part is looking at the sub-skills of each skill & helping students look at & develop these - the combination of skill practice & sub-skill development is the way towards efficient skills development.

Here are a couple of ideas:

- talk about the problems your students encounter, & get them into the habit of making notes while they are on task of problems so they can ask afterwards. Obvious really but the more you do it the more they're going to get out of it & the more independent they are going to become, so make it a regular stage.

- get the students to collaborate & exchange strategies they use, problems they have etc..

- decide which sub-skills you are going to look at beforehand & choose suitable materials to match.

- for listening, after extensive & more intensive tasks, give out the scripts for the students to listen & read at the same time so that they can see where they had problems. They could then compare ideas with a fellow student. Get around & help out.

- when going through the answers go to the sections that were difficult for them, helping them to understand why it was difficult. With listening more often than not they cannot work out the word boundaries & it all sounds like one string of speech. They need to be made aware of 'sounds in combination' problems. Spend time on prominence. Spend time on prominence. see the Phonology section on the site for lots of ideas:

- give the students the tape recorder; they decide when to stop it & when to listen to a part again.

- draw on their mother tongue approaches to the different skills & discuss differences when they use for those skills with English. Talk about the sub-skills & efficient strategies that they can use when reading & listening - awareness is half the battle won! They are then in a better position to consciously use these strategies outside of class & cope much better.

It is a question of pulling up your sleeves & getting down to work. Above all be sympathetic & helpful - find out about sub-skills & incorporate development into your plans & your lessons.

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A hands on approach

When using reading material in class it is always a good idea to match the materials you are using to the skills that native speakers use with that material. So, if you were using an entertainment guide we would usually look for specific information e.g. a particular film, a cinema, the times etc - we would scan the material. If it were a newspaper article we would probably read it very generally to get the general idea - we would skim the article. Using this approach is more authentic & helpful for the students; talk to them about the sub-skills & the texts & they will know how to read it efficiently when they meet it outside the classroom.

When developing the skill of scan reading in class we usually give out a list of questions for the students to answer & a time limit in which to do the task to speed up their reading ability. The questions for the entertainment guide mentioned above could be: What time is 'The Hobbit' showing?, Where can you see 'Star Wars', What's the phone number of the Odeon cinema? etc.

Try this as well; have the list of questions ready & read out a question & the students look quickly for the answer & then they put their hands up when they have found the answer. Here you can see the varying levels of ability in the group. When about three-quarters have their hands up, elicit the answer & identify where it is in the text for the weaker readers to find it. Then you go on to the next question in the same way. Vary who you elicit the answer from. A good way of assessing scanning ability.

This visual evidence of task achievement is similar to a noticing task when students are listening. Ask them to listen out for certain language - vocab, structure, function - & when they hear them they knock on their desks. You can instantly see who is recognising the items & who isn't. It's lots of fun too.

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Thanksgiving in the US is a little earlier this year, which is followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the US & designated as Buy Nothing Day by groups of anti-consumerism activists. On the website of the originators of Buy Nothing Day -

"Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet."
– Fawzi Ibrahim

Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always
be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we're not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.

The journey towards a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year. This November 23rd, go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours … see what happens … you just might have an unexpected, emancipatory epiphany!

Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation … as you suddenly remember what real living is all about … you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life.

Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 23/24 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let's take it back.'

With an more advanced group the above Ibrahim quote might make an
interesting discussion to lead in. Below are a series of links& tasks for the classroom.

Buy Nothing Day lesson plan:

Buy Nothing Day - Adbusters:
Wikipedia page about Buy Nothing Day:
International Buy Nothing Day:








Have a read of this article:

Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day

This kind of activism is the problem, not the solution.
By Jenn Farrell
Published: November 24, 2006

As a society, we sure spend a lot of money on crap. Yep, we get into debt buying stuff that becomes quickly obsolete but first drains the planet's resources and pollutes it. My own collection of lip glosses is a fine example.

So this Friday, on Buy Nothing Day, many people across North America (and worldwide on Nov. 25) will refrain from making any purchases in an effort to increase awareness of overspending and remind people that they are more than simply consumers.

If anyone needs me, I'll be out shopping.

While I agree in principle with the noble aims behind Buy Nothing Day, I use the day to throw some cash around. Other than plain pigheadedness and hating being told what to do, I have a number of reasons.

Buy Nothing Day's biggest proponents must be the well educated and well fed, who can certainly afford to take a day off from their conspicuous consumption. While it's laudable to want to do something about the problem, I question the potential influence of a bunch of people standing in front of a suburban Wal-Mart and harassing some mother of three who just wants to get in there and buy some darned detergent. Don't lecture her about over-consumption and globalization -- she just wants to get a load of the baby's sleepers through the wash while supper's cooking.

Hoi polloi politics

As a mom myself, and at one point, a single welfare mom, I can't help but remember my own "buy nothing" days all too well. Lots of them were strung together in the week before cheque-issue day, when I just kept eating from a bag of rice and saved the few remaining bananas and carrots for my kid. Good times. Now that I actually earn some money and creep ever closer to the happy side of the poverty line, I'm beyond grateful that I'm able to buy something every day if I need to. I don't ever want to go back to diluting the milk for my cereal with water, thanks very much.

So who is Buy Nothing Day really for? It's certainly not for most wealthy, high consumers, who largely couldn't give a toot what the hoi polloi are protesting about now. And it's not for those who are already not buying anything and long to escape those circumstances. So that leaves Whitey McPrivileged, who can check to make sure he's got enough toilet paper and tea bags in the house before the big day. And while the campaign ostensibly acts as a springboard to creating more lasting change, I bet a lot of participants breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, when they can get back to business as usual. Remind me again how this changes anything?

That's why I use Buy Nothing Day for what I think are better ends. I buy "consciously" all day long -- from getting a fair trade coffee at a locally owned shop in the morning, to picking up a few Christmas gifts made by independent artists and crafters in the afternoon. Rather than take my money out of the marketplace for the day, I'll put it in the hands of people who operate in line with what I believe are ethical business practices. And whatever's left over gets split between panhandlers and charity donation boxes. It's not much, but I hope it'll do more good than "nothing."

And don't even get me started on Buy Nothing Christmas.

Here's a short procedure:

1. After introducing BNDay through some of the above materials, put the headline on the board ' Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day' & put students into pairs to discuss reasons the writer might put forward for actually buying on the day.

2. students discuss - go round & help out with language & point them to some directions.

3. Feedback - collate some ideas on the board. .

4. Reading - students read quickly to see if any of their ideas - on the board - are in the article. Give a time limit to speed up their reading.

5. Students read.

6. Students compare in pairs >> feedback.

7. Vocab pre-teaching before the intensive reading - you might want to teach the following: Hoi polloi, welfare..& anything else you consider 'crucial' for the task.

8 Set the more intensive task - give out the following questions & set the task:

a. Does the writer agree with BNDay? Why/why not?

b. Who does she think might be offended by BNDay?

c. How has her life changed?

d. What type of person does she think is proposing BNDay?

e. What type of person does she think it is really directed at?

f. What is her approach to the issue?

9. Students read individually to answer the questions.

10. Students compare in pair >> feedback.

11. Elicit the 'response' to the text - what do they think of the ideas expressed in the article?

You could then return to the language in the article & do some 'noticing' tasks - vocabulary, structures & discourse aspects - choose to suit.

12. Integrate the skills - look through the above materials & develop the theme of BNDay through the speaking, listening, reading & writing skills.


Here's the FAQ, from the BND UK site, made into a matching task:

Match up the questions with the answers below.
1. What is Buy Nothing Day all about?
2. Where did BND come from?
3. What's the point?
4. Who runs it?
5. Why is there two different dates/days?
6. But what will I achieve?
7. Do you want me to stop shopping altogether?
8. What is so bad about shopping?
9. What about the environment?
10. Is one day really going to make a difference?
11. Has the day been successful in previous years?
12. What can I do?
a. In Canada and USA Buy Nothing Day falls the Friday after the American Thanks Giving Day. In Europe we hold our celebration The last Saturday in November. We're always out shopping on Saturday, so it makes sense.
b. It's not shopping in itself that's so harmful, it's what we buy. The two areas that we need to concentrate on are the environment and poverty. The rich western countries - only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. We need to worry about the way our goods are produced. Increasingly large companies use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap and there aren't the systems to protect workers like there are in the west.
c. Buy Nothing Day started in 1993 by the founders of Adbusters and is now an international event celebrated in over 55 countries.
d. It's incredibly challenging to last 24 hours without spending any money these days. You'll feel detoxed from shopping and realise how much it uses up your free time - especially when there are 101 THINGS to do. For 24 hours you'll got your life back - that's a big achievement! We want you to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging corporations to clean up and be fair. Modern consumerism might offer great choice, but this shouldn't be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.
e. It won't hurt to stop for one day and we don't expect the UK to grind to a halt. Like we said, we want to challenge people to think about the effects of what they buy has on the environment and developing countries.
f. Buy Nothing Day isn't about changing your lifestyle for just one day - it's a lasting relationship - maybe a life changing experience! We aim to make Buy Nothing Day stick in peoples minds so they think about the future and turn their back on the throw away society we have become.
g. Literally, doing nothing is doing something! However, check out the BND-UK web site then join a JAMMER GROUP or start one up and support Buy Nothing day which is great fun!
h. As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them. The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries.
i. Absolutely, and it's getting bigger and better every year! See the home page for links to newspaper articles and other resources and news from previous years.
j. Buy Nothing Day (November 26th 2005 UK), is a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. Its a global stand off from consumerism - celebrated as a holiday by some and street party for others! Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!
k. The raw materials and production methods that are used to make so many of our goods have harmful side affects such as toxic waste, destruction of wild life, and wasted energy. The transport of goods internationally also contributes to pollution especially when many can be produced nationally.
l. You do - it's your day - so get involved! Tell all your friends, put up posters and refuse to shop on November 26th 2005 in Europe or November 25th 2005 Canada/USA. The BND-UK site is part of global network of campaigns - see the links to the left for more BND sites around the world.
Other than that try to follow this check list before you buy something.
* Do I need it?
* How many do I already have?
* How much will I use it?
* How long will it last?
* Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
* Can I do without it?
* Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?
* Am I willing to?
* Will I be able to repair it?
* Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
* How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
* Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
* Is it made or recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
* Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?


Answers to the matching

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