A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 201


International Literacy

It's International Literacy Day on 8th September & clearly very much related to our jobs.

There is an excellent video of literacy teaching in action at the Teach English website - 'Judy Kirsh explores some of the different approaches involved in teaching basic literacy to ESOL learners who have no, or very little, literacy in English or any other language. She begins with a brief overview of possible approaches and theories of literacy learning, followed by a closer examination of the 'language experience' approach.' :

Here's the Wikipedia definition of 'literacy':

'The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society." In modern times, illiteracy is seen as a social problem to be solved through education.'

There is literacy in the mother tongue & then being literate in another language. Our learners have a variety of different needs that depend on their future target situations & preferred learning aims. For learners living in English-speaking countries the needs tend to be very clear & for those wishing to live or visit one of these countries in the future, much the same needs apply. And then a lot of other learners would like this more functional approach taken with their learning as a matter of course. However there are those who do not see themselves interacting with native speakers as much as the non-native speaker in a business setting.

In the wider context, the UN has this to say about literacy:

'Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults - is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels - locally, nationally and internationally.'

'On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Despite many and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.'

Wikipedia's page on the Day:
Simplified spelling lesson from Ed Rondthaler, age 102, former president of the American Literacy Council - QuickTime video

Here are a few links to interesting & useful material:
Literacy Tools
The really useful guide to words & numbers.
Write On - an interactive web site to help you improve your reading, writing and numbers skills.
Literacy Resources for Learners of English as a Second Language
National Institute for Literacy archived content
Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy
The aim of these ESOL citizenship materials is to help the ESOL teacher develop the learners' knowledge of life in the UK, help them become more active citizens and to support applications for citizenship and settlement. If you are an ESOL teacher working with learners at Entry 1, Entry 2 or Entry 3, we hope you will find them useful anyway. But if you are teaching ESOL citizenship, they are essential. Use of Citizenship Materials for ESOL Learners in an ESOL citizenship and settlement course is now a Home Office requirement, if the learners wish to apply for UK citizenship and settlement.
Sample British-ness tests.

Back to the contents

Martin Luther King

'I have a dream...'

28th August 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights speech, 'I have a dream..', given by Martin Luther King. Below is the famous speech, together with speech the day before he was assassinated.

A BBC article about the Washington DC rally to celebrate the speech:
Some people reflect on how the speech has affected their lives:

Video of the speech on YouTube:

Below are three excerpts from two famous speeches; the 'I have a dream' speech & 'I've been to the mountaintop'.

I Have a Dream
The famous speech delivered in 1963 to more than 200,000 civil-rights marchers at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"I still have a dream"
MP3 download 247 KB - 1.03mins
"Let freedom ring"
MP3 download 218 KB - 1.20mins

The full transcript of the speech - 4.4mb.

I've Been to the Mountaintop
After narrowly surviving a stabbing, King gave this speech, saying "I may not get there with you." It was the day before he was assassinated.

"We will get to the promised land" MP3 download 215 KB - 0.56mins

Here are the scripts to the mp3 downloads:

A couple of excerpts from the text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech on August 28, 1963

"I still have a dream"

/So even though // we face the difficulties // of today and tomorrow.// I still have a dream.// It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream./

/I have a dream /that one day // this nation will rise up /and live out the true meaning of its creed.// We hold these truths to be self-evident // that all men are created equal./

/I have a dream // that one day on the red hills of Georgia /the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners // will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood./

/I have a dream...../

"Let freedom ring"

/...let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia./

/Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!/

/Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi // and every mountainside./

/And when this happens,// when we let freedom ring, // when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet,// from every state and every city, // we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, //black men and white men, // Jews and Gentiles,// Protestants and Catholics,// will be able to join hands // and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, /"Free at last, // free at last.// Thank God Almighty, // we are free at last." /

An excerpt from the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated.

/We've got some difficult days ahead.// But it really doesn't matter with me now.// Because I've been to the mountaintop.// And I don't mind. // Like anybody, I would like to live // a long life.// Longevity has its place.// But I'm not concerned about that now. // I just want to do God's will.// And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.// And I've looked over. // And I've seen the promised land.// I may not get there with you. // But I want you to know tonight, // that we, as a people, // will get to the promised land/.....

A few lesson ideas:

Intro & vocab - play one of the extracts & ask the students if they recognise the speaker >> what do they know about him....Tell them about this 50th anniversary of the speech.
Then go on to brainstorm the lexical set of 'civil rights', in pairs or small groups, at the end getting the students up to the board to add their words & so create a class mind map on the board. Get the students to clarify to each other any of the words & at the end they copy the map down for a record. Prepare your own mindmap so you can direct & slip in some vocab that comes up later on in the lesson.

Reading - Before getting on to the listening excerpts, it might be appropriate to have a reading stage on MLK's life. Here are a couple of links to copy & paste the info you need:
A brief biog:
From the King Center site:
From the same, a chronological life history:
The Wikipedia entry:

Listening - if you have looked at the area of prominence, give out the scripts & ask the students to mark the tone units.Then they listen to confirm, before going on to look at the content. The scripts above have the tone units marked - you may not agree with them all - change to suit. After getting a consensus, students could practise reading them aloud.
For more on prominence & tone units, check out the phonology section of the site:

Focus on the discourse - analyse the text for features used such as strategic pausing & repetition to add effect.

Writing - students could write their own mini-speech beginning 'I have a dream....' & then read out to the class, or if preferred, put them on the walls for all to view.

Speaking - a discussion on how much the students think has been achieved, how far to go, the situation in the students' own countries etc...

Back to the contents


If you would like a change from the coursebook this week you could look at a couple of Days coming up. International Youth Day is on the 12th & Lefthanded Day is on the 13th. Below are ideas & materials for both.

What have Pat Bonny, Paul Klee, Marilyn Monroe, Oprah Winfrey, Jack the Ripper, Paul McCartney, Nicole Kidman, Bill Clinton got in common?

Yes, they were/are all lefthanded. Not particularly startling you might think but this week we are going to use lefthandedness in some lesson ideas to coincide with Lefthanded Day, which is celebrated on August 13th. Did you know that 10% of the general population is lefthanded, although this is reduced to 0% in Japan due to the cultural stigma that has been associated with lefthandedness.

Very recently, scientists claim to have found the lefthanded gene:
Might well make an interesting article to use in class in addtion to or in place of the article that follows.

On 13th August it's Lefthanded Day so here are some ideas & materials to use in class:

Here is a procedure for part of a lesson you might like to use:

1. Put the famous people above on the board & get the students in pairs to come up with possible links.

2. Introduce the idea of Lefthanded Day. (Obviously find out if there are any lefthanded students in the class beforehand & explain there is lesson coming up on it.)
As a bit of fun, tell the students that they should write with the other hand for the remainder of the lesson.

3. Ask if the students do anything better with their left rather than with their right hands - if they are righthanded, of course. Give out the quiz to do individually & then discuss the answers.

From The Left-Handers Club:


We all, of course, know in which hand we hold a pen, but how far does this bias extend throughout your body? Are you left-eared? Left eyed? Here is a simple test you can apply to yourself.

1. Imagine the centre of your back is itching. Which hand do you scratch it with?
2. Interlock your fingers. Which thumb is uppermost?
3. Imagine you are applauding. Start clapping your hands. Which hand is uppermost?
4. Wink at an imaginary friend straight in front of you. Which eye does the winking?
5. Put your hands behind your back, one holding the other. Which hand is doing the holding?
6. Someone in front of you is shouting but you cannot hear the words. Cup your ear to hear better. Which ear do you cup?
7. Count to three on your fingers, using the forefinger of the other hand. Which forefinger do you use?
8. Tilt your head over on to one shoulder. Which shoulder does it touch?
9. Fixate a small distant object with your eyes and point directly at it with your forefinger. Now close one eye. Now change eyes. Which eye was open when the fingertip remained in line with the small object? (When the other eye, the non-dominant one, is open and the dominant eye is closed, the finger will appear to move to one side of the object.)
10. Fold your arms. Which forearm is uppermost?

If you have always considered yourself to be right or left-handed you will probably now have discovered that your body is less than total in its devotion to its favoured side. If you are right-handed the chances are that you were not able to be 'right' 10 times.

4. Tell the students some interesting facts about lefthanders:

From The Left-Handers Club:

Most left-handers draw figures facing to the right
There is a high tendency in twins for one to be left-handed
Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly if they are forced to change their writing hand as a child, like King of England George VI).
Left-handers adjust more readily to seeing underwater.
Left-handers excel particularly in tennis, baseball, swimming and fencing
Left-handers usually reach puberty 4 to 5 months after right-handers
4 of the 5 original designers of the Macintosh computer were left-handed
1 in 4 Apollo astronauts were left-handed - 250% more than the normal level.
Left-handers are generally more intelligent, better looking, imaginative and multi-talented than right handers ( based on discussions among members of the Left-Handers Club! :)

5. Students in pairs brainstorm difficulties that lefthanded people might come up against in daily life eg. Desks, machines etc.. Get them to collate a list. Feedback with one list on the board - get a student up to the board to do this, reminding her/him to use the other hand to write with!

6. Reading - below is a rather old article, but still useful.
a) Put the title on the board & get the students to predict whylefthanders still feel left out - collate the ideas on the board.
b) Students skim the article to see if any of their ideas from the prediction or the problems mentioned earlier are mentioned. Alternatively, cut up the article into paragraphs & students sequence it as logically as they can, given the genre, & then discuss why they made their decissions, looking at the cohesive features of the text.
c) A more detailed comprehension task, for lower levels?

7. Language focus - pick up on some relevant language to your group in the text, a noticing task & then clarification & practiise. Don't forget the written record.

8. Response to the text - discussion - have they heard of lefthanders being discriminated against eg. in Spain I have heard in the past of school students having their left hand tied behind their backs so they had to use the right. This could lead on to a discussion of other discriminations in society & why they might exist.

Why left-handers still feel left out

Guardian, Thursday June 6, 2002

Over the centuries they have been beaten on the knuckles, locked up, ridiculed and prevented from reproducing in case they spawned freaks.

Now left-handers are facing another affront. A psychology professor told the Guardian Hay festival yesterday that society will never stop being biologically and culturally dominated by right-handers at the psychological expense of those who hold their pencil in their left hand.

Chris McManus, a professor of psychology and medical education at University College London, trawled thousands of years of the history of cells and culture - from "left-handed" amino acids, to stone age tool-making practices and Giotto frescos - and found that "right equals good and left equals bad" in common perception.

In his book Right Hand, Left Hand, he noted how expres sions for the word "left" had become terms of abuse in every culture - something that New Labour might already be aware of.

"Our society is organised according to right-handers. Left-handers are the last of the great neglected minorities," said Prof McManus, who is a right-hander with a left-handed mother and daughter.

In Britain around 13% of men and around 11% of women are left-handed, compared with 3% before 1910. Left-handedness coincides with high incidences of genius and creativity, and also autism and dyslexia.

"The one thing that will change the suffering of left-handers is to get engineers to see that for 10% of users, their designs are still back to front. Scissors, microwave doors, power saws and water gauges on the side of kettles are a constant reminder. Psychologically, left-handers still claim to have problems. The social consequences are immense."

Here are some links on lefthandedness to follow up for more material & classroom ideas:
The Left-Handers Club
Wikipedia page on left-handedness, including a list of famous left-handed people.
The Lefthanded Universe.
For righthanded people learning to write with their left hands.
Lefthanded Liberation Society


On 12th August it is International Youth Day, 'the most important day for youth at the United Nations'.

International Youth Day at the United Nations site:
Youth section at the UN site:

A few things to do with this:

Vocab: youth, young, youngster, youthful, young blood, adolescence, teenager, in her teens, school days, young adult, age of consent, come of age, delinquent, youth hostel, youth club.....

Discussions: a few topics from the UN page - Education, Employment, Hunger and poverty, Health, Environment, Drug abuse, Juvenile delinquency, Leisure-time activities, Girls and young women, Participation, Globalization, Information and Communication Technologies, HIV/AIDS, Youth and Conflict, and Intergenerational Relations.

Here's an introductory paragraph from Wikipedia:

International Youth Day is similar to Earth, Mother's or Father's Day. It is an opportunity for Governments and others to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. Around the world people organize concerts, workshops, cultural events, fund-raisers, rallies and meetings that
involve national and local government officials, youth organizations and young people. International Youth day is on August 12 each year.

Imagine you were going to use the above text to introduce the theme, how would you use it?
Here are a couple of ideas, all transferable techniques for use at other times in a lesson:

- use it as a normal dictation: read once for the students to get the overall sense of the paragraph, read it slowly & students write down, read again for them to correct their versions, handout the texts for them to self-correct.
- running dictation: put the text on the wall, a version for each team, assign a secretary for each team & the others take it in turns to run to the text, memorise as much as possible, run back & dictate it. The team to finish first wins. Lots of fun.
- dictogloss: dictate it quickly so that the students are only able to write down the information words, the stressed words, & then in small groups they reformulate the words they have into a comprehensible text.
- sequential reading - cut up the text & the students reorder it, justifying their choices & looking at the discourse markers that helped.
- cloze text: take out every nth word & the students complete the text.
- selective cloze: the same but take out all the verbs, the punctuation etc.
- running together text: writeoutthetextwithnogapsbetweenwords&the
- give select vocab & students write a text from the clues, & then compare with the original.

Before giving out the short text, you could:
- have a guessing games: give key words & students guess the theme.
- brainstorm all vocab connected to International Youth Day: students could do this in pairs, at the board or simply shout out words - see above.

Youth now & before – differences/similarities.

A few questions:

1. How is growing up as a teenager different now to what it was like 20 years ago?
2. Are there any different challenges now?
3. And in which ways is life easier?
4. And the future?

Problems >> possible solutions for youth in the area/country. (Volunteer work, sport etc..)

Roleplays: any kind of inter-generational conflict to bring out issues for a follow up discussion. Eg.

Parents: You are unhappy about the way your 19 year old son/daughter has been behaving. S/he has stopped working hard at school/university, stays out late, hangs round with the wrong crowd, gets up late & generally does very little. You suspect s/he has be taking drugs. It is time to talk to her/him.

Son: You are thinking about what you want to do with your life, what to study, career path etc. You don’t feel ready for any responsibilities & want to have some fun before it’s too late.

Older sibling: You are in the middle as you are sympathetic to your younger sister/brother but you can see your parents’ point of view.

Project work: For the teenage group eg. investigating different youth issues in home area or different parts of the world.

Songs: Song that highlights such as Peter Tosh's 'Can't Blame The Youth' as a springboard into the topic. Here are the lyrics - use a part or whole, to suit.

You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth
(Of today)
You can't fool the youth

You teaching youths to learn in school
That cow jump over moon
You teaching youths to learn in school
That the dish ran away with spoon,

So You can't blame the youth
(When they don't learn)
You can't fool the youth
(Can't fool the youth)
You can't blame the youth
(Of today)
You can't fool the youth

You teach the youth about Christopher Columbus
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about Marco Polo
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about the pirate Hawkins
And you said he was a very great man
You teach the youth about the pirate Morgan
And you said he was a very great man

So You can't blame the youth of today
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth

All these great men were doing
Robbing, raping, kidnapping and killing
So-called great men were doing
Robbing, raping, kidnapping

So you can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth
(none at all)
You can't fool the youth

When every Christmas come
You buy the youth a pretty toy gun
When every Christmas come
You buy the youth a fancy toy gun

So You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth

But what was hidden from the wise and prudent
Is now revealed to the babes and the sucklings
What was hidden from the wise and prudent
Now revealed to the babes and sucking
Lord call upon the youth
Cause he know the youth is strong
Jah Jah call upon the youths
Cause he know the youth is strong

So you can't blame the youth
You can't fool the youth
You can't blame the youth
(Save the children)
You can't fool the youth

Don't blame them. Not their fault!

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