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Teaching Tips 104

Working with dialogues
Developing Millennium

Working with dialogues

Dialogues are clearly a very important focus in the classroom & we use them for many purposes in class, from focusing on language to providing a structure for speaking. Here's a round up of a few ideas in no particular order:

1. Dialogue building - this is where you elicit dialogue prompts onto the board, drilling each line as you go along so that the students then have the dialogue in pairs. They repeat the dialogues, taking it in turns to take a role, & then they substitute different ideas into the dialogue but still keeping the structure of the dialogue. See the past Tip 'Building it up' for more:

2. Dialogue completion - students fill in the missing parts to check that they understand the target language of the lesson, & then the dialogue is read aloud to each other. If the dialogue is open-ended, the students continue it with their own ideas, hence incorporating a degree of fluency practice at the same time.

3. Dialogue drama >> give out a 6-8 line dialogues, assign roles & students practice the dialogue 4 or 5 times, enough so that they memorise the dialogue. Then they discuss the situation, what came before the dialogue & what came after. Then they act out the whole scene & finally act it out for the class.

4. Mutual dictation - choose a dialogue that contains language you want to review. Give out one side of the short dialogue to student A & the other half to student B. They read aloud their parts & write in what the other says until they both have complete dialogues. Then focus on the language in the context of the dialogue.

5. Unjumbling dialogues - copy & cut up, jumble up & the students put the dialogue in order. It's a good way of contrasting formal & informal language if you jumble up two dialogues.

6. Chain dialogue - students take it in turns in providing the next line to a two-person dialogue.

7. Pronunciation focus - any dialogue can be exploited for pronunciation awareness. After a listening, give out the tapescript & students mark certain features such as the tone units & prominence, weak forms, intrusion & elision etc.. After marking the students listen to verify their versions.

8. Flow charts - very underused dialogues with choices - see the Tip 'Going with the flow':

9. Simple written dialogue - if you are at a loss for a practice activity, simply ask the students to write a dialogue containing the target language items.

10. Transcribing dialogues - while the students are doing a speaking task, tape them & type up a section & then use the transcript to focus on a language area. You might even get the students transcribing dialogues to bring into class for use.

11. Shadow reading - hand out a dialogue, the students listen to it & read silently. They then read along to the dialogue in exactly the same manner as it is being played on the tape. Assign roles & they read these aloud at the same time as the tape & gradually turn down the volume as they become better at the dialogue so that it is the students sounding exactly like the original on the tape. See the Tip 'Shadow Reading':

12. Presentation dialogues - check out the two past Tips 'Lifting it off' & 'Using the script' for ideas on presenting language from dialogues.

Sometimes the problem with using teacher & coursebook -produced dialogues is that they tend to sound unnatural & fail to contain features of natural speech. A tape of you & your friends can be very revealing when used in class. Students can see all the hesitations & false starts & see that native speakers make mistakes & that conversation is not the neat dialogue that they see in coursebooks. Focusing on these features help them to become more effective communicators.

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multiple intelligences

Last week we looked at using material about the United Nations & I mentioned that it might not be to everyone's taste. Jennifer, teaching in China, made an interesting post in the Forums about choosing topics for classroom use:


One of the factors in choosing how to approach the different aspects of a lesson is how your students best approach learning tasks. Several means have been devised to find out about learning styles & one of these is through multiple intelligences. The seven intelligences put forward by Howard Gardner (1983) are:

Linguistic - learning through the spoken & written word
Visual/Spatial - learning visually & organising things spatially
Musical - learning through rhythms, music & patterns
Bodily/Kinesthetic - learning through interacting with the environment
Logical/Mathematical - learning through reasoning & solving problems
Interpersonal - learning through interacting with others
Intrapersonal - learning through affective factors

(A little later on he thought the following were worthy of inclusion in the list; Naturalist intelligence, Spiritual intelligence & Existential intelligence.)

I won't go into these in any more detail here, so for more & a host of links do check out, among many sites on the net,:

The applications of this are obvious; if you find out your learners' 'intelligences' then you are better able to teach them, you can channel your lessons through these intelligences. Fair enough, you might say, great for one-to-ones & small groups but what if you have twelve students in the class, how can you possibly take into account everyone? I agree, so how about looking at it from a different angle; find out about your intelligences & then consciously include the intelligences you are missing so that you provide a broad range in the hope of providing a bit for everybody & missing no one out. So if don't know already, go check out an idea of your intelligences, with the test at:


There are some halloween lesson ideas at the past Tip 'Spooky Lessons':

Halloween worksheets for younger learners - pictures to colour, short stories, logic problems etc...

Horror short story websites:

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UN Millennium Development


The 24th October is United Nations Day & there is some reading material about the UN in general & Kofi Annan, plus a variety of links, in the past Tip 'United Nations Day' at:

There is now a Secretary-General-Designate, Ban Ki-moon, who will take over in January. The BBC has a profile on him which could be the basis of a reading lesson.

There is also a page about him at Wikipedia:

On 8th September 2000, the UN made a Millennium Declaration that laid out an action plan to tackle eight crucial areas by the year 2015. Kofi Annan said:

"We will have time to reach the Millennium Development Goals – worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries – but only if we break with business as usual.
We cannot win overnight. Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between now and the deadline. It takes time to train the teachers, nurses and engineers; to build the roads, schools and hospitals; to grow the small and large businesses able to create the jobs and income needed. So we must start now. And we must more than double global development assistance over the next few years. Nothing less will help to achieve the Goals."

The Eight Goals are as follows:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
- Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

2. Achieve universal primary education
- Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

3. Promote gender equality and empower women
- Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015

4. Reduce child mortality
- Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five

5. Improve maternal health
- Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
- Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

7. Ensure environmental sustainability
- Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
- Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water
- Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020

8. Develop a global partnership for development
- Develop further an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction— nationally and internationally
- Address the least developed countries' special needs. This includes tariff- and quota-free access for their exports; enhanced debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries; cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction
- Address the special needs of landlocked and small island developing States
- Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt problems through national and international measures to make debt sustainable in the long term
- In cooperation with the developing countries, develop decent and productive work for youth
- In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries
- In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies— especially information and communications technologies

There is a photocopiable Fact Sheet about the Millennium Declaration:

Clearly all this material is not suitable for all groups of learners. For the right group it could all make for a very stimulating class or series of classes. Here's a brief straighforward outline:

1. Introduce United Nations Day. Elicit all they know about the UN, what they think of the organisation etc..

2. See the UN Tip for material about the general running of the UN. Carry out the reading task.

3. Introduce the Millennium Declaration - what it is.

4. Handout the Fact Sheet
You could just look at the chart at the bottom & ask some scan reading questions, focussing on the numbers eg. How many young children die each year? What does $12 billion refer to? Students find the answers & put their hands in the air, when half of the hands are up, elicit the answer & show for those still looking. A good way to see scan reading ability in the class.

5. Vocabulary focus - you could expand areas that are mentioned - Poverty, Hunger, Women, Education, Disease, Environment, Globalisation. Each group could take an area & with dictionaries find five new words which they then mingle & teach each other.

6. Discussion - students could rank the eight areas into order of priority. This could then lead into a discussion of the feasibility of the project, given the 2015 limit. And then onto one or two of the areas & possible action that could be taken.

For the very motivated group this could spread out over several lessons, into a mini-project, with the students going away & collecting information on the internet to feed into the activities in the class.

If you are interested in this type of content for your lessons, check out the review of Global Issues by Ricardo Sampedro & Susan Hillyard (OUP- Resource Books for Teachers):

As mentioned, not everyone's cup of tea, but inescapable issues in this day & age, & although not to push onto our students, not areas to shy away from either.

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