A web site for the developing language teacher

December 2001 - issue 12/01


Welcome to the December Newsletter

Christmas will soon be on us & in most places over here in Europe the shopping fever is now fairly virulent. So, carrying on in the same vein as the Buy Nothing Day Nov. 19th Teaching Tip this month's theme is about shopping & consumerism. There are a few teaching ideas on the theme, quite a few links & a lesson plan from the Save web site. There are also a few new articles & plans up this month - see the Site section below.

If you're starting to thing about your Christmas lessons then check out last year's Xmas competition activities. And if you've got any more, send them in & we'll add them in.

Happy teaching!



1. THEME - buying, shopping etc..

2. THE SITE - lesson plans & articles






8. PS - Internet/computer-related links



1. THEME - consumerism, shopping etc..

This is generally a well-worn theme in coursebooks. Below are just a few ideas & vocab sets & the links will hopefully give you plenty of interesting authentic material.

There's a lesson plan that uses material from the Save Harry web site. The site demonstrates against the use of the Harry film (definitely worth going to see) by the drinks company - they have the exclusive global marketing rights. (BTW, if you haven't seen the film, I'd recommend you read the book first.) There's a lot more on the site to use, apart from visiting it for its own sake & passing on the link. Here's the lesson plan:

The lesson is suitable for teenagers & adults alike, upper intermediate upwards, although if you're teaching the former you could make the lesson a part of a larger project about junk foods.


- consumer, consumerism, consumption, buyer, customer, purchaser, shopper, user...

A couple of definitions from the Enough site - a quick matching & discussion to get the topic rolling:

Green consumerism
This is where people purchase or participate in goods or services which attempt to replace existing ones with something designed to be 'friendlier' and less damaging to ecosystems and natural planetary defences

Ethical consumerism
This is a development of green consumerism which considers a variety of wider issues than just a product's green credentials, such as whether or not the manufacturer invests in the arms trade or has supported oppressive regimes. Through a comprehensive monitoring of the behaviour of modern business, ethical consumerism aims to encourage trade to be as responsible as is possible within the current economic system.

however, challenges many of the assumptions about what is needed in contemporary society. Taking the view that the rich nations of the world are fundamentally damaging the planet and themselves in the pursuit of material acquisition, it raises the question, "How much is enough?" Rather than just buying green or ethically- produced goods, different ways of living, trading and working are advocated in order to 'live more lightly' on the Earth and be less dependent on buying things to feel good about ourselves.

- contrast - earn, win & gain & beat/borrow-lend.

- shop related: types of shops, chain store, department store, market stall, window shopping, shopping centre/assistant, out of stock, products, sell, on sale, chain stores, branches, a sample, trade mark, make, model, shop till you drop, buy, sell, to bargain, a bargain, to barter ....

- money related: special offer, receipt, voucher, refund, reduction, discount, guarantee, hire purchase, monthly installments, on easy terms, credit card, pay by cash/cheque/standing order/credit card, salary, earnings, worth....

- complaint related: complain, receipt, voucher, refund, a letter of complaint...

- to have something done - passive for talking about services, shopping lists for 'need'...

- straightforward shop roleplays are good for practicing achievement strategies - it's a thing for...., it's a thingummy that ......etc. Teach the exponents you want to practise - from a tape of different shop dialogues - & then give pictures of objects that they won't know the names for to the students who are the customers & then set up shopkeeper / customer roleplays.

- the activity 'Hard Bargaining' from Advanced Conversation Games by Jill Hadfield. Each student has to get something they need & they have something that they don't need. The task is to mingle & do deals along the way to get what they need. The activity in the book is centred around animals but could be changed to anything. Works every time!

- questionnaires about shopping habits & opinions: where do you usually shop for food/clothes/music etc, what was the last cd/article of clothing you bought, what would you cut down on if you had to etc.

- discussions on consumerism -

"...many developing countries at the Earth Summit in Rio described northern nations, which pressurised developing countries into protecting their rainforests and other habitats without addressing northern levels of consumption, as 'green imperialists'" Ethical Consumer, issue 27

& "Measured in dollars, the world's people have consumed as many goods and services since 1950 as all the previous generations put together' WorldWatch, 1989

& "but the poor do not exist as an act of destiny, their existence is not politically neutral or ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. The poor are marginalised in our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, the exploited, the workers cheated of the fruits of their work, and stripped of their being as people. The poverty of the poor is not an appeal for generous action to relieve it, but a demand for the construction of a different social order." Gustavo Gutierrez, Practical theology of liberation

& 'The plain fact is that we are starving people, not deliberately in the sense that we want them to die, but wilfully in the sense that we prefer their death to our own inconvenience." Victor Gollancz

quotes taken from the Enough site - see the sites below for more ideas on this.

- shop dialogues >> complaints roleplays >> letters of complaints

- see the Trading Standards link below for advice on writing letters of complaint.

- a few specific shopping roleplays:


Customer: You've been short-changed & you reckon it wasn't an accident. Try to get your money back.
Shopkeeper: You just served a 'difficult' customer. You want to get rid of him/her as soon as you can. You think most of these 'difficult' customers invent excuses to be difficult.


Customer: You bought an iron last week & it didn't work when you tried to use it. Talk to the shopkeeper who sold it to you & get your money back.
Shopkeeper: You don't accept any refunds or exchanges four days after selling an item.


Customer: You are trying to find out some more information about a TV that you want to buy - the different makes, sizes, functions etc. Ask the shopkeeper.
Shopkeeper: You feel it is your job to sell electronic goods but not inform the customers. You feel they should decide what they are going to buy before they come into the shop.


Customer: You are looking around a clothes shop that you come to regularly. You are actually wearing a shirt that you bought here last week.
Shopkeeper: You work in a clothes shop & you see a customer in one of your shirts. You think that s/he must have taken the shirt to the changing rooms to try on & came out wearing it as if it were his/hers. You think s/he is trying to steal it. Talk to him/her.


Customer: You are very concerned about green issues. You are in a shop that clearly imports goods from developing countries that pays the workers who make the goods a pittance. Try to convince the manager that s/he shouldn't be selling these goods.
Shop manager: You sell a variety of goods from all over the world & business has known better times. You aren't particularly sympathetic towards green issues.

- mentioned in last month's newsletter this is the 'Standard Disclaimer' - lots of warnings & disclaimers are brought together - get your students to sort it all out into the different products.

Some links related to consumerism:

'The UK's only alternative consumer organisation looking at the social and environmental records of the companies behind the brand names.'

And lots of links on this & related subjects:

The links page - to lots & lots - on the Ethical Consumer site.

The Enough anticonsumerism campaign.

Great site devoted to anti-consumerism. We were given permission to use material from this site in the Buy Nothing Day lesson plan for the Teaching Tip.

Lots of links to 'green'-related movements; anti-consumer, animal rights, ethical investment, food & genetics, gay rights, peace etc...

Big corporate criminals worldwide exposed.

The Transnational Institute, interesting in its own right but it also covers the movements of Susan George who comes highly recommended as a voice to be listened to about the Citizens' Movement.

One World's extensive site.

Media Channel's articles about Christmas consumption.

UK-based consumer rights sites:

National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux - 'Advice that makes a difference'. There's a section on volunteering & the qualities that they are looking for in applicants - nice authentic material for an interview roleplay.

The Office of Fair Trading. In the Consumer section there is a series of articles about different consumer alerts - good for an advanced jigsaw activity. There's also an informative section on how to complain. Worth a rummage around to find some good reading material.

Which Online. You need to become a member for full access to the detailed reports. They offer a 30-day trial.

The Trading Standards site. Lots of advice leaflets to print off & use in class, including leaflets on how to write letters of complaint at:

The Consumer Watchdog from the BBC - as usual from the BBC there's a lot of information & material. The reports are especially useful material for class.

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There are some new articles on the site this month.

Sarn Rich & Alex Case each have another article & plan up on the site this month. Sarn's looks at a voice setting/quality approach to phonology as a manageable way in for both our students & us.

Alex's article 'Discourse Analysis, Advanced Learners and the Cambridge CPE Exam' looks at the how discourse analysis can help our advanced students.

Gerard Eley's also got another plan up this month - 'An outline on how to present and give controlled practice of nine phrasal verbs with the particle 'up' or 'down''

If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson plan & would like to give it a public airing then do send it to:

ADVERTISING - If you are interested in advertising on the site or the Weekly Teaching Tip & this Monthly Newsletter then please get in touch at:

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Give yourself an early Christmas present - maximise your time by getting started on a quality personalised teacher development course. Take a few of the modules or the whole course - you choose.



Not really for your students but one to get you thinking - the toughest word game on the web - Etymologic.

For when you begin a topic, as well as looking at the lexical set, present them with a set of clichés to discuss.

Here's an interesting idea - 'a collaborative project to produce a complete encyclopedia from scratch. We started in January 2001 and already have over 16,000 articles. We want to make over 100,000, so let's get to work--anyone can edit any article - copyedit, expand an article, write a little, write a lot.'

Nothing to do with teaching but you might not make it to the PS section. Another noble cause - click & provide money for WaterAid, care of Thames Water.

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CELTA Trainer needed in Perth, Australia.

'I have just had your email address passed on by a friend after asking if they knew of anyone available to do a CELTA in January. We have had our January trainer unexpectedly pull out. I'm the coordinator at Phoenix English Language Academy in Perth, Western Australia. Penny Jones'

Teachers can post CVs on the site & employers can post job adverts - both are free services at the moment. Check out:



As always, free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail. Sign up!



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

Part-time twelve-week course, January >> Easter
Full-time four-week courses, January & February

Six month part-time course: January >> June '02

Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses.

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

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8. PS - Internet/computer-related links

If you've been with us a while & you actually read this part of the newsletter you may remember Snarg. They're back with more of the same.

You ever spun a person? Now's your chance.

Very neat little game. Just use the 'up' arrow key to keep going.

Generally quick loading games at a very slick site. A must visit if you're into web design - check out the 'Experiments'.

Lots & lots of free downloads - impressive.

Get your herd of penguins to the other side so that the echidna doesn't notice when he wakes up. Watch them explode when he does!

'Search Bar is a little program I created because I hated having to open a new browser window, go to a search engine site, wait for it to load and then do my search. Search Bar is a little window that sits on top of all your windows to give you quick access to many different search engines. It comes with 6 popular search engines (Altavista, Excite, Google, HotBot, Lycos, and Yahoo), but you can add almost any engine you want. You can minimize the program to an icon in the system tray for quick access to the Search Bar.' Patrick Deal

We try to cater for all types, so if staplers are your thing & life is getting to be a bit too much then this is for you. Also send a Xmas greeting stapler with:

A celebration - of old computer games & the song Fame.

Make some great mixes & add in a slice of torture.

They're all out to get you, you know. Get them first in 'the way of the stick'!



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