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Teaching Tips 119

Spooky lessons
Writing diaries


Violence & war are themes this week with the links to material for Bonfire Night, the republishing of a past Tip, 'In Flanders Field', followed by a contribution by Alicia Delahunty about protest songs & then on to the song 'War' by Bob Marley.

Bonfire Night
It's Bonfire Night on the 5th November, a celebration of the suppression of the attempted overthrow of James I by an extreme religious group in 1604. You can find some classroom material here in the past Tip 'Remember, remember...':

In Flanders Field
It's Remembrance Day this week, on 11th November - a timely reminder - as if we need it with the daily slaughter around the globe that we see on television each evening. So, one wonders, what have we learned & how far have we come since the First World War? Not a lot & not very far at all, it seems.

Below is an article from the BBC website that explains the origins of the day, the traditional poppy, the reading of 'For The Fallen', the poem 'In Flanders Field & bringing it to the present with a mention of the white poppy for the 11th September victims.

Here's a brief outline of lesson ideas:

1. See if anyone knows what Remembrance Day is. If not, get the students to guess. (The Day is not only held in the UK - countries involved in the First World War all hold their own remembrances, especially Canada & Australia.)

2. Give comprehension questions & the text - minus the poem. Students read & answer >> compare answers >> feedback.

Read the questions & find the answers in the text about Remembrance Day.

1. What does the day remember?
2. How did it begin?
3. Why the 11th?
4. What do people do on this day?
5. How is this day viewed by the majority of people in the UK?
6. Why poppies & how did the poppy wearing begin?
7. And the white poppy?

Give out the final words from some of the lines from the 'In Flanders Field' poem. Ask the students in pairs to match the rhyming words >> feedback.

4. Students then insert the words into the correct line of the poem >> pairs >> handout the poem for the students to compare >> feedback.
A follow up to this might be to get the students to invent a new ten line poem, using the rhyming words as the end of each line.
There could then be some reading aloud of the original poem.
blow - die - sky - glow - foe - fly - throw - high - row - ago

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies ____
Between the crosses, row on ____
That mark our place; and in the ____
The larks, still bravely singing, ____
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ____
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset ____,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the ____:
To you from failing hands we ____
The torch; be yours to hold it ____.
If ye break faith with us who ____
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

5. Discussion - a few prompts - do the students have a similar day in their country? If not, do they think they should have one for a particular war? In small groups, students think of a few days connected to wars in which the victims could be remembered in a similar vein, or how else could the day be remembered. Do these days have an effect? Should we continue to hold them?

There is no language focus mentioned although there are several things to things to pick up on, lexical sets eg. war - tense analysis present simple - passives etc..

And although suitable for intermediate up, you could still use the material with lower levels eg. you could tell the group about the article, giving them some 'live listening', followed by the discussion.

Remembrance Day - Poppy Day

Many countries have a special day to remember those that fell in their wars; America has Veterans Day, while France has Armistice Day. The British commemorate those who fought, and are still fighting, in wars for their country on Remembrance Day.

The British Remembrance Day is always held on the 11 November. This is the day that World War One ended in 1918, when the armistice was signed in Compiègne, Northern France, at 5am. Six hours later, the fighting stopped, and to commemorate this there is a two minute silence in the UK at 11am, every 11 November.

The period of silence was first proposed by a Melbourne journalist, Edward George Honey, in a letter published in the London Evening News on 8 May 1919, which subsequently came to the attention of King George V. On 7 November, 1919, the king issued a proclamation which called for a two-minute silence:

All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.

As well as the two-minute silence, there are marches around the country by war veterans. The Royal Family, along with leading politicians, gather at the Cenotaph, a large war memorial in Whitehall, in London.

The nearest Sunday to the 11th is called Remembrance Sunday, when church services are held in honour of those involved in wars, and wreaths are laid on the memorials which have a place in every town. Many two-minute silences are followed by a lone bugler playing The Last Post, reminiscent of times of war when trumpets were as much a part of battle as bayonets. A poem called 'For the Fallen' is often read aloud on the occasion; the most famous stanza of which reads:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Fourth stanza of 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943)

These words can be found adorning many war memorials across the country. The author, Laurence Binyon, was never a soldier but certainly appreciated the horrors of war.

Remembrance day is taken very seriously, with disrespect being avoided at all costs (which is why the vandalisation of the Cenotaph on 1 May 2000 was seen as such a horrific crime). If 11 November falls on a weekday, schools, workplaces and shopping centres generally attempt to observe the silence, although some people choose to ignore their attempts and go about their business regardless.


Remembrance Day is also known as Poppy Day, because it is traditional to wear an artificial poppy. They are sold by the Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to helping war veterans, although they do not have a fixed price - they rely on donations.

The motto of the British Legion is Remember the dead; don't forget the living, and they are campaigners for issues relating to war veterans, especially elderly ones.

The poppies are worn because in World War One the Western Front contained in the soil thousands of poppy seeds, all lying dormant. They would have lain there for years more, but the battles being fought there churned up the soil so much that the poppies bloomed like never before. The most famous bloom of poppies in the war was in Ypres, a town in Flanders, Belgium, which was crucial to the Allied defence. There were three battles there, but it was the second, which was calamitous to the allies since it heralded the first use of the new chlorine gas the Germans were experimenting with, which brought forth the poppies in greatest abundance, and inspired the Canadian soldier, Major John McCrae, to write his most famous poem. This, in turn, inspired the British Legion to adopt the poppy as their emblem.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

The American Moira Michael from Georgia, was the first person to wear a poppy in remembrance. In reply to McCrae's poem, she wrote a poem entitled 'We shall keep the faith' which includes the lines:

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.

She bought some poppies, wore one, and sold the others, raising money for ex-servicemen. Her colleague, French YMCA Secretary Madame Guerin, took up the idea and made artificial poppies for war orphans. It caught on.

In November 1921, the British Legion and Austrian Returned Sailor's and Soldier's League sold them for the first time.

The tragic events in New York on 11 September 2001, left ever increasing numbers of people feeling stronger than ever the need for peace. This, in turn, prompted the manufacture of white poppies to represent peace. They are not a new idea, though. In fact, they date from 1933, having been designed by a UK Women's Guild. The British Legion was invited to produce them twice, in 1933 and 1988, but they not only declined, they also refused to accept the proceeds from them, because they were seen as disrespectful by some soldiers. They are having a surge in popularity once again as people stop feeling as safe as they once did.

Protest Songs
Alicia Delahunty has sent in another of her worksheets for the conversation club that she runs. This is about protest songs to fit in with Remembrance Day.

This can be found on the site at:


And then there is the song, by Bob Marley 'War', that looks at protest from a different perspective.
This could be used as a listening first - for pleasure initially & then for meaning - before going on to look at some of the vocabulary & then on to a discussion.
Here are the lyrics:

Bob Marley - War

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south
War - war,
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!

There's a video of Marley singing this on YouTube at:
There's a very good programme for downloading videos for the web that you can find it at:

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haunted house

Spooky lessons

Halloween is nearly upon us so here are some ideas & links.

Monster consequences
This is a variation on the game consequences where you circulate papers in turn adding a bit of information, folding them over & then at the end opening out the paper & reading out the wacky result.
Here you design a moster. All students take a piece of paper & describe the monsters head at the top - this could be drawn. They then fold the paper & hand it to their neighbour to their left. Then all describe the body & do the same - fold & hand on. And on like this with a scary feature, the food it eats, something about its habits, a noise it makes & a name for the monster. At the end each student opens the paper & reads aloud about their monster.
Instead of folding the students could see the previous things & have more of an idea of the monster & a description is being built.

Scary movies
Students write a list of scary movies & explain what happens in their favourite one. Then, each group designs a new monster for a new scary movie. They decide on its name, eating habits, likes& dislikes, physical description, habits etc.

Start you own business - rent-a-ghost
People rent hosts from your company to scare others at Halloween. Design a brochure of available ghosts for hire, including a picture & description of haunting characteristics, special talents & hourly rates. Students then roleplay sellers/customers looking for an appropriate ghost. Give the customers a role card before with ideas.

Ghost interviews
You have a Rent-a-Ghost business which is going well & need to hire more ghosts. Interviewers prepare suitable questions to interview ghosts .g. ways of scaring people, special talents, why they would be good for the job etc. Ghosts also prepare mini-CVs containing previous experience, special haunting skills, ghost courses completed. They need to ask about conditions & pay at the interview. The interviews take place & the best ghosts are chosen.

Ghost hunters
Like Ghost Busters, the film, these people get rid of ghosts. All students draw a ghost & the teacher takes them in.
Std A - has spotted a ghost in their house - one of the ghosts that has been drawn, & they must describe the ghost, what it does, when it arrived, conditions in the house when it arrived etc.
Std B - works for 'Ghost Hunters' & will interview the house owner about the ghost. Also give advice on what to do to get rid of the ghost.

Radio Show - interview with a vampire
Students write down everything they know about vampires - two groups.
Grp A are the presenters on a radio show - they interview about the vampire's daily routine, clothes, habits, likes etc.
Grp B - are the vampires who prepare details about themselves.
Could record the interviews.

Design a potion
Students design a new potion & the advert that sells it. They need to decide on its magical properties, who it's for, what it contains, the packaging, name & slogan. All mingle selling their potions to each other, persuading each other they need this new magical potion.

Scary sounds
You need a tape of a series of scary sounds. Play the tape & students work out a story that fits. If no tape, you could make the noises!

Horror story writing
Students first plan the story deciding on the time, setting, characters, plot etc. (background-problem-solution-outcome) Could also look at specific vocab they might need - scared, terrified, scream, creaking, gloomy, chains, etc.

Act it out
Students discuss fave scary movie & choose a sketch to act out. They write a dialogue & then could write it as a radio play with background scary effects.

Top ten Holloween films for children:
At the link below there are summaries of the films, ungraded & a bit tricky at times, but you could do lots with them at a high level.

Halloween party
Students decide what costumes they would wear & what these character live would be like. Students then act out the party. Could use role cards to smooth things along.

From a brief look around at sites dedicated to Halloween it seems quite a commercial time. A lot of the sites have something to sell but keep looking & you’ll also find lots on information to use with all ages & types of classes.

A couple of links for Halloween stuff in addition to the links in the above Tip:
Lots of quality material for lessons from the British Council.
A time to tell your students a ghost story or two. At the History Channel they have some to choose from.

For information about storytelling, how to tell effective stories, check out the article used in the lesson plan here:

And a few more ghost story sites:
A cauldron full of Halloween links
Lots of personal experiences of Halloween
Reading about werewolves & links to related site
101 Halloween ideas
Clipart for all things Halloween
Bat poems

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Writing diaries

The learner diary is an excellent idea for two-way feedback between you & the individual student about the course & the learning process. The student gets a chance to privately let you know how the course is going, get feedback from you & also be involved in authentic writing practice. You get valuable feedback on your lessons.

Here's how to set it up: Provide, or get your students to buy, a notebook exclusively for the diary. The students complete them individually after few lessons, depending on the frequency of the lessons. They will need some guidelines initially, something along the lines of the following:

Which parts of the lessons did you enjoy? Why?
Which parts did you find challenging?
Which parts would you like to look at again?
Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Clearly write the pointers to suit the group. For example you might be asking them to prepare a mini-presentation outside the class to present in the class in the near future. This might be a place for them to ask you language questions they have.

It is probably better to get the students to complete their diaries in class time, 10 minutes at the end of the week, as many might not do them outside of class. And if they are of a very low level, they could write in their mother tongue.

Take in the diaries & comment in each. You are mainly interested in the content but also give them some feedback on the writing - not too much as it might put them off the diaries! You can also comment on other things that have happened in the class e.g. praise the student for a good performance in a roleplay or encourage more attention to pronunciation etc. Do give individual feedback.

Encourage the students to write as often as they like & stick to the minimum. So not only the time in the class but when they wish outside of class. You will have to talk to the students & convince them that it is a good idea to use learner diaries but once you get the project going all should see the benefits. And talk to the group about general points that crop up through the diaries.

Another format for the diary could be through emails or the Moodle software. Your students could email you their learner diary or leave their entry in their online space for you to see.

An alternative to a semi-public diary (ie. you see it) is to encourage your students to write their own diaries at home & not give them in. This would give them a purpose to write outside of class & also help them reflect on their own learning periodically. Some students would find it difficult to keep this up over an extended time.

However you choose to use learner diaries, they are sure to be useful to your students & if you get to see them, they will provide some interesting ideas on your own teaching to reflect on.

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