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Favourite words
Monster vocabulary
Buy Nothing Day 2002

Favourite words
Inspiring students

We can clearly encourage our students to become enthusiastic about learning by being enthusiastic about it ourselves, and this is true in that all-important area of vocabulary. There's so much of it that it can easily become overwhelming so one way of encouraging your students is through 'favourite words'. Here are a few ideas:

• Begin by telling them about some of your favourite words in a foreign language. Then get them to think of a couple. They could then mingle & tell all their words & why they like them.

• Ask your students to think back over the past couple of weeks & choose 5 words they 'liked' for some reason - the sound, the appearance etc.

• In their vocabulary notebooks get them to keep a page for these words that particularly appeal to them because of their meaning, form or sound.

• As a warmer, ask them to choose one of their favourite words & just with that word they have a 'conversation' with a partner, who also uses using her favourite word - one word conversations. They will have to use intonation & paralinguistics to get their message across.

• They could go round & sell their words to each other.

• Put a big piece of card on the wall & add favourite class words as they come up - the students agree on five words for the week. At the end of the month use the card to review the vocabulary of the month.

• For the younger learner they could choose their favourite word & put it on a sticker which they wear during class. When they use the word naturally they get a point. At the end of the week add up the points to see who had most & award a chocolate bar.

One way of developing more of a curiosity for the language & added interest in increasing their store of language.

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Monster vocabulary

We've looked at a way of recycling vocabulary with adults in the Tip 'Vocabulary Cards'.

Helen has said several times recently that her younger learners are really enjoying the monster way of recycling vocab. I thought I would investigate & pass it on here. It is an idea from Sarah Phillips' book 'Young Learners' (OUP). Here's what you do:

On a big piece of card, draw a big monster, or robot - with a big mouth & a big stomach - & get the children to give him a name & colour him in. Stick on the wall where all can see him during the day/class. Explain that the monster eats English words.

When new vocab comes up, get the group to write it on cards or you do it if they are too young, & stick it around the monster. Leave the words up a couple of days, telling them to try & remember the words. Then pick words at random & elicit the meaning or a sentence with it in & if you feel the majority have got it you stick the word over the monster's mouth. Then after a further check a couple of days later, stick the word on the monster's stomach - he has eaten & digested the word. You'll need a big space for the mouth & stomach. Of course, words that haven't been learned are regurgitated by the monster - yuck!

The youngsters love it & it does the trick - they learn the vocab! And for the very young learners this also helps them to start reading, using whole words.

There is a link to Sarah's excellent book on the Book page.

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Buy Nothing Day 2002
Curbing consumption

It's that time of year again - time for Buy Nothing Day on 29th November, the day after Thanksgiving & the busiest shopping day in the US. Last year we supplied a lesson plan with material from the Buy Nothing Day website. You can see the plan ..

And the BND site..

There's also a Buy Nothing Christmas site

Here are a couple more ideas to go with the plan. You will need to download some pages from the BND & the Curbit sites. (Text & images used with permission from the sites.)

Start off with giving out some spoof adverts which will provoke a discussion:

spoof ad - vodka spoof ad - benneton spoof ad - mac donalds

Then explain that they are going to create an advert & first they are to read through the stages of writing the ad. Unfortunately, the information has been jumbled up so they will need to match the headings with the descriptions of the stages.

Create your own print ad
1. Decide on your communication objective
2. Decide on your target audience
3. Decide on your format
4. Develop your concept
5. The visual
6. The headline
7. The copy
8. Mistakes to avoid
Match the stages above with the descriptions below.
a. The single most common mistake is visual clutter. Less is always better than more. So if you're not certain whether something is worth including, then leave it out. If your ad is chaotic, people will simply turn the page, and your message will never be read. The second most common mistake is to have an ad that's unclear or not easily understood (haven't you ever looked at an ad and wondered what it was for?). The best way to safeguard against this is to do some rough sketches of your visual with the headline and show it around. If people aren't clear about your message, then it's probably because your message is unclear. And however tempting, don't argue with them or assume that they're wrong and that your ad is fine. You'll be in for an unpleasant surprise. Proofread your ad, then give it to others to proofread, then proofread it yet again. Typographical errors diminish your credibility and have an uncanny habit of creeping into ads when you least expect it.
b. The concept is the underlying creative idea that drives your message. Even in a big ad campaign, the concept will typically remain the same from one ad to another, and from one medium to another. Only the execution of that concept will change. So by developing a concept that is effective and powerful, you open the door to a number of very compelling ads. So take you time developing a concept that's strong.
Typically, an ad is made up of a photograph or a drawing (the "visual"), a headline, and writing (the "copy"). Whether you think of your visual or your headline first makes little difference. However, here are a few guidelines worth following. outline of advert
c. Is it going to be a poster, a half-page magazine ad, or a tiny box in the corner of a newspaper? Make this decision based on the target audience you're trying to reach, and the amount of money you can afford to spend. If you're talking to kids, a poster in one high school will not only cost less, it will actually reach more of your target audience than a full-page ad in the biggest paper in town. When it comes to deciding on the size of your ad, the more expensive it will be to produce and run. Don't let that discourage you. You can do a lot with a small ad so long as it's strong, clear, and properly targeted.
d. The most important thing to remember here is that your headline must be short, snappy and must touch the people that read it. Your headline must affect the reader emotionally, either by making them laugh, making them angry, making them curious or making them think. If you can't think of a headline that does one of these four things, then keep thinking. Here's a little tip that might help: try to find an insight or inner truth to the message that you're trying to convey, something that readers will easily relate to and be touched by. Taking the rutabagas example once again, it might be tempting to write a headline like: "Stop Exploiting These Migrant Workers." However, with a little thought, a more underlying truth might be revealed - that Migrant Workers are as human as we are, and that our actions do hurt them. From that inner truth, you might arrive at the headline: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Of course, the headline doesn't have to be biblical, though that in itself will add meaning and power for many people. Finally, whenever possible, avoid a headline longer than fifteen words. People just don't read as much as they used to.
e. Though you don't absolutely require a visual, it will help draw attention to your ad. Research indicates that 70% of people will only look at the visual in an ad, whereas only 30% will read the headline. So if you use a visual, then you're already talking to twice as many people as you otherwise might. Another suggestion is to use photographs instead of illustrations whenever possible. People tend to relate to realistic photographs more easily than unrealistic ones. But whether you choose a photograph or an illustration, the most important criteria is that image be the most interesting one possible and at least half your ad whenever possible.
f. The communications objective is the essence of your message. If you want to tell people not to eat rutabagas because it's cruel, then that's your communications objective. A word of caution: though perhaps the most important of your 8 steps, this is also the one that beginners tend most to neglect. A precise and well-defined objective is crucial to a good ad. If your objective isn't right on, then everything that follows will be off as well.
g. Here's where you make the case. If you have compelling arguments, make them. If you have persuasive facts, state them. But don't overwhelm with information. Two strong arguments will make more of an impression than a dozen weaker ones. Finally, be clear, be precise, and be honest. Any hint of deception will instantly detract from your entire message. Position your copy beneath the headline, laid out in two blocks two or three inches in length. Only about 5% of people will read your copy, whereas 30% will read your headline. By positioning your copy near your heading, you create a visual continuity which will draw more people to the information you want to convey. Use a serif typeface for your copy whenever possible. Those little lines and swiggles on the letters make the reading easier and more pleasing to the eye.
If you have lots of copy, break it up with interesting subheads, as we've done in the graphic above. This will make your ad more inviting, more organized, and easier to read.
The signature
This is where the name of the organization belongs, along with the address and phone number. If you don't have an organization, then think of a name that will help reinforce the message you're trying to convey. Perhaps "Citizens for Fairness to Migrant Rutabagas Pickers" would work for the example we've been using. This isn't dishonest. Your organization doesn't have to be incorporated or registered for it to be real.
h. Who is your message intended for? If you're speaking to kids, then your language and arguments will have to understandable to kids. On the other hand, if you're speaking to high income earners (for example, if you're writing an ad to dissuade people from wearing fur coats), then your language will have to be more sophisticated. So define who your target audience is, because that will decide how your message is conveyed.

Answers to the matching


You could pre-teach tricky vocab & after pick up on some interesting language. The students then work through the stages of designing their own print ad & put them on the wall for all to see, & possibly vote for the most imaginative.

On the related Curbit site

'Curbit, Chap!
For Buy Nothing Day on November 29, we asked you what characters should appear on posters and billboards worldwide boldly proclaiming, “I want you to curb your consumption!” Oddly, North Americans made more suggestions for other countries than for their own. Some folks felt knowledgeable enough to make suggestions for a half-dozen different countries at once. However, we did get lots of ‘homegrown’ ideas originating from different countries, too.'

Download & copy out the stickers & get your students deciding on who should be on them.

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