A web site for the developing language teacher

August 2000 - issue 8/00


Welcome to the Newsletter.

The 'silly season' is upon us. This is the time of year when everyone is on holiday & the news media frantically looks around for something to report. As there is nothing much of interest we tend to get 'silly' news. So not to be left out the theme is about this - basically an assortment of amusing & weird.

Not sure if we're going to have a September issue of the Newsletter as the holidays will be upon me. I'll mail you anyway to let you know.

A request from Jennifer - she's off to China soon & is looking for imaginative ideas on using the language laboratory - please send them in.

Contributions on any of the sections are welcome - e-mail them to

Happy teaching!




5. PS



-jokes & anecdotes - techniques on how to interpret & tell them & their structure: 'there was this man who was walking down the street .' It is a very difficult thing for our students to tell a joke or anecdote in English but for receptive purposes, i.e. listening, they do need an awareness & this will then have an effect on their production too.
The structure behind jokes is more or less as follows:
An opening statement: Have you heard what happened to Joe?
The setting: You know, the guy who works in Accounts.
Main events: Well, he had a lion at home.
Conclusion: And it bit him badly on the hand.
Link to the present world: And now he won't go anywhere near any type of animal.
Throughout, the teller has to make it worth listening to - what McCarthy calls 'evaluation' - & uses devices that add interest through exaggeration, noises, intonation etc.
Other openers: A funny thing happened to me the other day/Did I ever tell you about../I must tell you about../Have you heard the one about...
For more on joke/anecdote analysis see 'Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers' by Michael McCarthy (CUP).

When listening to jokes & anecdotes it may be enough to just play & listen for pleasure, rather than give a task. You can see whether they understand or not from the expressions on their faces. Then you can give out the tapescript & focus the students on the structure of the joke. If you wanted some production you could give the skeleton of a joke, a different one to each pair & get them to write it up using the structure you had previously looked at. They then mingle & tell each other the jokes.

There's a very nice activity in 'Pronunciation Games' by Mark Hancock (CUP) - activity C8 which looks at anecdotes, giving practice with the discoursal function of intonation: proclaiming & referring tones.

Don't forget to tell your stds about funny things that have happened to you - they will then be more prepared to tell the group about amusing things that have happened to them.

For a joke a day sent to you by e-mail.

-Here are a few links where you can find interesting & amusing texts:

News of the Weird was founded 1988 is a widely read bizarre-but-all-true news feature in the US. You can sign up for e-mail delivery of articles - the items are four weeks later than they appear in the newspapers.

Oxymorons - contradictory terms that are used in conjunction such as; pretty ugly, working holiday, terribly pleased, small crowd, almost exactly, living dead, alone together, Microsoft Works ..the list goes on which brings us on to 'OXymoron' which comes out of Merton College, Oxford & is named after the well-known British wit, Paul Merton. Fun materials for lessons

Lots of spoof news articles - loads of great material.

Scottish humour from a site all about Scotland. Wonderful country, spent some memorable summers there when I was younger - the further north you go the better it gets - is that because you're further away from England or there are less Scots around? Give a lesson or a few about the country - there's a lot on the site about Scotland & the net in general.
Here are a couple of jokes from the site;
A Scots boy came home from school and told his mother he had been given a part in the school play. "Wonderful," says the mother, "What part is it?" The boy says, "I play the part of the Scottish husband!" The mother scowls and says: "Go back and tell your teacher you want a speaking part."

An Englishman, roused by a Scot's scorn of his race, protested that he was born an Englishman and hoped to die an Englishman. "Man," scoffed the Scot, "hiv ye nae ambeetion?"

Nice looking site - check out the spoof on the Big Brother TV programme.

Doonesbury cartoons - you could supply your upper intermediate/advanced students with daily or weekly supply sent free by Info Beat. Or get straight along to although I've had problems getting through to this address.

Rosemary West's Weird Web World - a site that links you to the weird on the net, an amazing collection. The Guinea Pig Television had me riveted.

One of my favourites on the net. Max Cannon's walk on the wild side of humour. Fresh meat, meat locker, newsfinger, meat conference, meat buy-products & meat wagon. Probably not for classroom use but some great cartoons.

Again not sure of the usability but worth a mention here all the same. From the Colmanballs section:
"He was a great tennis player, rather like a chess player, always trying to thread the ball through the eye of a needle." Presenter, Talk Sport (R. Stubbington)
"Now's the time for those deaf ears to become unplugged; so they don't sleepwalk..." TONY BANKS, BBC1 (Nick Brackenbury)
"One accusation you can't throw at me is that I've always done my best." ALAN SHEARER, BBC1 (William Font)
And from the Funny Old World section:
"I feel like a branded animal," Liana Gedz told a New York court, while giving evidence in her $5million legal action against Dr Allan Zarkin. "When I agreed to have my baby delivered by caesarian section, I had no idea that he was going to carve his initials into my abdomen during the operation. I now have three-inch-high letters 'A' and 'Z' carved permanently into my flesh, and I want compensation." Defending Dr Zarkin, lawyer Kenneth Platzer told the court "my client is a flamboyant character, and is known among hospital staff as 'Dr Zorro'. He admits to having 'signed' several previous patients, like an artist signing a canvas, but until now he has only carved his initials in very small letters. However, he felt very close to this woman, and something clicked on and off in his brain, and he decided to carve much larger letters. I shall later be presenting evidence that he suffers from a frontal lobe disorder." (The Boston Globe, 22/1/00.)

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Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:

CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE IN ELT - CELTA Full-time four week courses: October & November

CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA Full-time eight-week courses: October/November Part-time six month course: October to Easter

You can see brief descriptions of all of the current courses on the BLC web site
The postal address of Teacher Education at the British Language Centre is Calle Bravo Murillo 377, 2, 28020 Madrid, Spain. The phone number is (00 34) 733 07 39 & the fax number is (00 34) 91 314 5009. The e-mail address is



- &
I've mentioned the first site before - 'Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.' They also have a sister site with a weekly newsletter titled 'Heroic Stories' - stories of people doing good - which might bring a smile to your students' faces. A bit corny at times.
From the front page of This is True:
-A man sued his doctor because he survived his cancer longer than the doctor predicted.
-A woman had her husband's ashes made into an egg timer when he died so he could still "help" in the kitchen.
-Only 68 of 200 Anglican priests polled could name all Ten Commandments, but half said they believed in space aliens.

Check out this very nice 3D thesaurus & pass the address on to your students.

On-line English grammar - pretty standard but OK for a quick check on some major areas. Anybody know of any grammar sites?

A look at more than 20,000 lives - a never-ending source of reading material. There's no excuse now to use outdated or fictional biographical reading texts from coursebooks.

Get you students to use these instant on-line translators & bring in the results for analysis.

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Sign up - it's free! This week - a roleplay variation - a circular roleplay with advisers.


5. PS

Similar to mentioned in the April edition of the newsletter. Not as interesting but maybe I didn't hang around long enough.

The new 'donate with a click' site is about the big cats - a click gives a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Society - so you may as well get along & click on them all. - -

- And now you can help the turtle! Twenty percent of all advertising revenue goes towards turtle conservation. You can get e-mail here as well.

If you're lost on where to go here are a couple of useful sites.
Seen at the list of comedy sites at one of them:
The Pope and Queen Elizabeth were standing on a balcony beaming at thousands of people in the forecourt below. The Queen says to the Pope out of the corner of her mouth, "I bet you a tenner that I can make every English person in the crowd to go wild with just a wave of my hand." The Pope says, "No way. You can't do that!" The Queen says, "Watch this." So the Queen waves her hand and every English person in the crowd goes crazy, waving their little plastic Union Jacks on sticks and cheering, basically going ballistic. So the Pope is standing there going, "Uh-oh, what am I going to do? I never thought she'd be able to do it." So he thinks to himself for a minute and then he turns to her an says, "I bet you I can make every IRISH person in the crowd go wild, not just now, but for the rest of the week, with just one nod of my head." The Queen goes, "No way, it can't be done." So the Pope headbutts her.

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