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Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder
Jigsaw holidays
Easter, Festivals & Spring

Absence doesn't
make the heart grow

Absence makes the heart grow fonder - or so they say. What do you do about students who are constantly absent & when they come they have missed something important & their presence ends up being disruptive to the group? It happens quite a lot, here are strategies to try out:

• an obvious starting point is to develop a good group dynamic so that all of the members are interested & motivated in attending.

• a first step with dealing with the individual absentee would be an individual tutorial. See if the absences are genuinely outside committments or excuses to avoid the class. If the latter then find out what the problem is.

• ask the group to update absent colleagues & maybe they will feel the peer pressure to attend regularly.

• possibly assign study buddies who update & explain to each other if they miss. Encourage the exchange of phone numbers for outside class updating to take place.

• for those who are not taking the class seriously, design follow-on lessons so that when they do come, they will realise they have missed an important part of the class. Maybe they have to sit it out until the activity is finished & they will see they are wasting their time by missing the previous lesson.

• do not take the regularly absent students into account when planning lessons & just add them in when they turn up, adding them into group work. They become 'extra members' of the class. If they cannot attend regularly, they might realise this & accept this kind of situation.

• if abseteeism is a general problem to the group, have a group tutorial to discuss the problem & what you might all do about it. English might be a long way down your students' list of priorities & they may genuinely have other committments that they cannot ignore. Your expectations of their interst & motivation levels might be too high.

• if grading is an important element of the the class, make it clear that absenteeism will be taken into account when grading.

• with the younger learner it is a question of contacting the parents to see what the problem is.

• if there is no alternative & you never know who is going to be present, plan one-off lessons that can function in isolation to previous lessons. By far from ideal, but a possibility.

Whatever strategies you try out, do be sensitive to adult learners as they might find it patronising to be 'told off'. They may feel it is their right to decide when to turn up if they are paying for the classes. And as mentioned above, English may be a small part of their lives.

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Jigsaw holidays

Being in holiday mood with the Easter break just finishing, this week looks at holiday-related lessons & jigsaw reading activities.

We have had jigsaw lessons in the past - you can now find any lesson plan on the site in the Lesson Plan Index

To begin with a brief explanation of jigsaw activities:

The students read or listen to the different parts of the text, with or without specific reading & language noticing tasks for each different part of the text, & then when they have extracted the relevant information from their texts, they join the other students with different texts to exchange the information. This exchange of information then gives the whole picture & enables the students to discover or do something with all the information. i.e. there is a communicative purpose to the activity - it isn't just a case of exchanging the information for the sake of it, there should be some purpose to the exchange.

The advantages of using listening or reading texts as jigsaw activities is that the skills are integrated, the speaking skill is incorporated & if the material is chosen well, interest & motivation is high.

Below is a lesson plan that can be used with any of the five reading texts. The texts are taken from the Guardian Unlimited website &each text also has a link to the original Guardian page.

These texts are ideally suited to this kind of jigsaw activity & each text has a printer friendly version linked to it.

20 dream holidays for the 21st century
Forget the QE2, the Orient Express and a flight on Concorde... so-ooo twentieth century. Think instead of the Namibian dune mountains, paddle steamers in Mandalay or a solar eclipse in the Antarctic. Jill Crawshaw suggests 20 ideas for a truly twenty-first century experience. (Upper intermediate)

Down and dirty
Somewhere different where you can feel a bit of grit between your fingers and not worry about the nails? Gavan Naden checks out 10 places where you can get away from it all and come home without feeling the slightest bit tarnished. (Advanced)

Holidays of a lifetime for under £500
Get married in Vegas, sail down the Nile, visit Mayan temples, go birdwatching in Africa or laze on tropical beaches - Jane Knight, Tom Templeton and Jacqui MacDermott show you how to make your money go further. (Upper intermediate)

Life's a beach and it's on your doorstep
Nothing beats a holiday in a house just yards from the sea. Tom Templeton and Jane Knight select 15 of the best beach billets. (Upper intermediate)

Why break the bank?
Sean Dodson's guide to six European destinations that offer a perfect weekend away for those on a budget. (Intermediate)

Preliminary information

Time: 60-90 minutes

Level: Intermediate upwards, depending on the text you use.

To give detailed reading practice
To introduce/review 'holiday' vocabulary
To review & give oral practice with comparatives & superlatives
To practise the language of persuasion, the language of discussion....
To give freer speaking practice

That the stds will find the holidays interesting.
That the language in the text will not be too difficult & that it will be interesting vocabulary - choose the text to match the group.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary is tricky so dictionaries on hand would be helpful.

Aids: Choose one of the 5 texts listed above.


Stage 1 - Intro to holidays & vocabulary review/expansion

10-15 mins tch<>stds

1. Introduce holidays & where they might be going/have gone this year.
2. Ask if they could choose, which kind of holiday would they like - elicit different types of holiday - beach, safari, adventure, trekking, cycling, touring, weekend break, sightseeing, cruise, arctic, retreat etc.
3. If you're not going to use all of the holidays described in the text, choose some that you are not going to use & tell the class about them, asking them if they would like that kind of holiday, hopefully a discussion will ensue. Possibly elicit any ideas for other holidays that might be in the article you choose by giving the title.

Stage 2 - Reading

10 mins tch<>stds, std<>std,

1. Handout different holidays from the text to different stds or small groups - the brief is to read for detail as they will be exchanging descriptions later to find the most exciting, interesting, relaxing etc. holiday.
2. Stds read - have dictionaries on hand & go round helping when needed, encouraging the stds to guess meaning from context whenever possible. You could design reading & language tasks to go with each piece of the text.

Stage 3 - Information exchange

20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, stds<>tch

1. Put on the board

Which holiday is;

• the most relaxing

• the most exciting

• the most imaginative

• the most innovative

Or choose superlatives to suit. Other purposes could be:
- to give profiles of different people & stds find the best holiday for each.
- stds find the most appropriate holiday for another member of the class.

2. Put stds into groups, each having read about a different holiday - they have to agree on a holiday for each of the superlatives.
You might review some language that they might need before they begin, to make the task more effective - the language of discussion. Elicit/give & write some exponents on board for reference.
3. Task - while it's going on you take notes on +/- things said for feedback later on.
4. When decisions have been made get a member from each group to visit another group to report their findings & possibly give ideas to the group they are with. The roving stds then report back to their original groups who can make changes to their decisions, if they want.
5. Class feedback - see what has been decided & ask for justifications. Feedback on the language used during the task.

Follow up activities

The chosen holidays could then go on to be used in different ways:
- travel agent & customer roleplays - selling & buying
- travel agent & customer roleplays - customer complaining as the holiday wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

- stds could write another description of a holiday location, that fits with the theme of the overall text used, that they know about.
- stds could write postcards, imagining they have gone on the holiday they chose.

You could follow up on some of the travel agent links given in the article & collect a range of materials from the respective sites for use in similar activities. Or if you are lucky enough to have enough computer terminals, get the stds to do the research & make a project of it.

So, in effect, here are five lesson plans centred around the holiday theme & guaranteed to promote interest, speaking & reading. And as with all of the lesson plans & activities on the site, we hope that they act more as a springboard to developing your own ideas & directions.

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Easter, Festivals
& Spring

The Easter break is on the way for some, including us so we won't be sending out the Weekly Tip next week - the next one will be on the 21st April. So this week we've got a mish mash of ideas, links & plans on Easter, festivals & Spring.

A lesson plan on 10 very strange festivals

- Easter traditions around the world - stds explain local traditions & compare with other countries. For a few links go to

- This could be the excuse you've been waiting for - Chocolate! - coming from Easter eggs - what a link! There's loads of info on the net about the art of making chocolate, recipes, the history & care of chocolate - did you know that chocolate eaten in moderation helps you live longer - we all secretly hoped that anyway!
There are some amusing quotes from choco lovers at There are a few sites which talk of chocolate eating being better than sex! Among many reasons given are that it doesn't make you pregnant, it's easy to find, size doesn't matter with chocolate, it satisfies even when it has gone soft & you can have it on your work desk without offending anyone! When looking at the theme of chocolate you could incorporate a chocolate tasting into the lesson - stds taste different ones & vote - it would be better to keep the wrappers secret until the results are announced - lots of fun! If you are abroad do try & get hold of some chocolates from your home country to use in the tasting.

Lesson plan on the site about chocolate - quotes about chocolate & a chapter from 'Chocolat' - reading lesson

- For the younger learners - a treasure hunt - two teams write instructions for each other 'Look under the door for the next clue' etc until they reach the Easter egg provided as a prize by their generous teacher!
- design & send Easter cards
- decorate eggs (getting into shapes & animal lexical sets etc.)
- make Easter Bunny masks
- interview the Easter Bunny
- chocolate tasting!
- Easter worksheets for the younger learner at:

As they say on the site: "What is an "Easter Egg"? - The term "Easter Egg", as we use it here, means any amusing tidbit that creators hid in their creations. They could be in computer software, movies, music, art, books, or even your watch. There are thousands of them, and they can be quite entertaining, if you know where to look. This site will help you discover Easter Eggs in the things you see and use everyday, and let you share Easter Eggs you discover with the rest of the world." So, give your stds a different kind of Easter Egg.

Easter Island - 'has long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. How and why did its inhabitants carve and transport the massive statues which surround the island? What remains of this culture today, and what lessons can we learn from their legacy? This page is a resource for information on the Internet about Easter Island, also known as "Rapa Nui" and "Isla de Pascua".'

- Spring is the month for fashions - cut up lots of fashion pics from magazines - lots you can do with them - e.g. work out wardrobes for selves/each other/famous personalities - combined with physical description vocab - connected to mood adjectives reflected in clothes, adjective order, blind date describing appearance when meeting etc.…

- lots of ideas on Spring & the younger learner from Teach-nology

Gardens & Gardening - not a topic that comes up much in the coursebooks & no. 1 hobby in the UK - topical at this time of year:
- get stds to design their ideal gardens/parks - if you've got them, use cuisenaire rods.

- for the younger learner; plant something - use the topic of Spring as the basis for a project.

- Figurative language - all things to do with gardening - to flourish/to nip something in the bud/salt of the earth/raking over the ashes/a spurt of new growth/blossoming/blooming/to have green fingers, etc.. To get ideas on how to approach figurative language with advanced learners check out an ELTJ article - 50/1 January 1996 - called 'Using Figurative Language to Expand Students' Vocabulary' by Gillian Lazar. There are some very nice ideas at the end of the article.

- Poetry - William Blake poems such as 'Spring', 'The Sick Rose', 'My Pretty Rose Tree', 'Ah! Sun-Flower', 'The Lilly', 'The Garden of Love', 'The Echoing Green' & 'The Lamb'.

- & for general material on gardening - Virtual where there is a specialised garden search engine called 'dig the net'. Lots of stuff.

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