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Teaching Tips 164

Pronunciation patterns
United Against Hunger

patternPronunciation patterns

My impression of drilling - intensive language practice - repetition practice - is that drills are really popular with students but not necessarily with teachers. Teachers feel silly doing them & so don't do as much as they could to help their students initially with new language that is for oral production. Maybe it's a question of not knowing the range & techniques that can be used. Here is a list of the more common drills: 

A few of the more commmon oral drills

1. Repetition drill.

T: She went to the cinema.
Stds: She went to the cinema.

2. Substitution drill.

T: She went to the cinema.
Stds: She went to the cinema.
T: Theatre
Stds: She went to the theatre.
T: Disco
Stds: She went to the disco

3. Question and answer drill

T: Where did she go yesterday?
Std 1: She went to the cinema
Std 2: Where did she go on Monday?
Std 3: She went to the disco.

4. Transformation drill

T: She went to the cinema.
Stds: She's going to go to the cinema.
T: She went to the disco.
Stds: She's going to go to the disco.

5. Personalised drill

T: What does your boss make or let you do?
Std 1: He makes me work until seven o'clock.
Std 2: She makes me ....
Std 3: She lets me ....

6. Discrimination drill

T - holding pictures of people in different uniforms/job types & pictures of the same people doing their jobs. She holds up a picture & the stds respond. Present simple/continuous discrimination.
Stds: She's a teacher.
Stds: She's teaching
Stds: She's an architect.
Stds: She's drawing some plans.

And some techniques that can be used with drills:

A few techniques used when drilling

Individual drill - the teacher asks an individual to repeat the sentence.

Chorus drill - the teacher asks the class to repeat the sentence together.

Mumble drill - the stds mumble the sentence to themselves to get confident in saying it before the chorus & individual drill.

Mingle drill - the stds stand up & wander round asking & answering questions.

Backchaining - for long sentences that you are drilling to help the stds remember & say. eg.
Tch: a million pounds?
Stds: a million pounds?
Tch: if you won a million pounds?
Stds: if you won a million pounds?
Tch: What would you do if you won a million pounds?
Stds: What would you do if you won a million pounds?

Drills were used extensively within audiolingual approaches but nowadays we recognise their limitations & use them for pronunciation practice in helping the students to get their mouths round the items. It is a chance for them to say it right in a controlled, safe way before more challenging tasks with the new language. They can be used after the presentation & when correcting during a controlled activity or after a freer one. These are for oral practice so if the language you are introducing is used in the written form then give a written drill! Drills can become a bit boring & predictable if you don't keep them snappy & lively so make them fun, & with individual drilling dot around the room to keep everyone on their toes.

It's also not the case that higher, more advanced levels don't need drilling. If they find something difficult to say then drill them. Clearly they are going to find less language that is difficult to say than lower levels but all the same if it's difficult to say then help them out.

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World Food Day

It's World Food Day on 16th October:

United against Hunger

The theme of this year's observance is United against hunger, chosen to recognize the efforts made in the fight against world hunger at national, regional and international levels.

Uniting against hunger becomes real when state and civil society organizations and the private sector work in partnership at all levels to defeat hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition.

In 2009, the critical threshold of one billion hungry people in the world was reached in part due to soaring food prices and the financial crisis, a "tragic achievement in these modern days", according to FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. On the eve of the hunger summit, Dr Diouf launched an online petition to reflect the moral outrage of the situation. The "1 billion hungry project" reaches out to people through online social media to invite them to sign the anti-hunger petition at

On this World Food Day 2010, when there have never been so many hungry people in the world, let us reflect on the future. With willpower, courage and persistence – and many players working together and helping each other – more food can be produced, more sustainably, and get into the mouths of those who need it most.

OK, not much of a fun topic for the classroom, but one that is very relevant to all of us & worthy of a lesson focus.
Try starting with the Jeremy Irons' video -'Petition to End Hunger - 1 Billion Hungry Campaign', but stop it before he gets to the food bit - around second 28 - & ask the students to predict what he may be about to say - cover up the title, of course:

- 'I'm mad as hell about......' students write five sentences with this stem & then compare, going on to a class discussion.

- the short text above could be used in many different ways: put the lines in order, use as a dictogloss, analyse the overall structure of the text & then the individual sentences....

Check out the World Food Day site for other ideas.

For ideas on using global issues in class, check out:
Global Issues - Ricardo Sampedro & Susan Hillyard (OUP)

And then onto the general topic of 'food' - a couple of ideas:
- comparisons of food from different countries.
- food quizzes.
- recipes - sequencing information - linkers. Students fave foods >> they explain the recipes to each other.
- explain a recipe & others guess the dish.
- a couple of recipe sites:

Specific language:
- a few related vocab items: within the restaurant ordering - 'will' for spontaneous decisions - eg. 'I'm afraid the steak's off. Well, in that case, I'll have the fish.'
& a few food idioms: a bad egg, a big cheese, earn your bread & butter, cool as a cucumber, eat one's words, finger in the pie, in a nutshell, spill the beans, full of beans, piece of cake...among lots more.
- categories, types of food & tastes/smells.
- the language of food compliments.
- restaurant complaints - bad service, terrible food etc...could begin with a short video section from Fawlty Towers.
- good for countables & uncountables - the distinction can be clearly seen some sugar v an apple.
- ordering in a restaurant.
- fast food - collect lots of information from McDonalds, burger King - on their sites & in the restaurants - lots of reading material to justify the food.
- fast food outlet roleplay - McDonalds want to open a branch in your neighbourhood - people for: the company, local businesses etc..against: local residents etc.. Stds given a role & prepare & roleplay the meeting.
- Students' favourite restaurants, best meal ever had, strangest food eaten...
- a couple of useful links:


Columbus Day
After a 10 week journey, a sailor on the ship 'Pinta' spied land on October 12th, 1492, & the next day Columbus set foot on the Bahamian island of Guanahaní. Columbus Day is celebrated in the US on the second Monday of October & I'm sure all would agree that this was an extraordinary feat. Unfortunately the consequences led to the colonisation of the lands & the destruction of the indigenous people. This is all food for our lessons, interesting materials & controversial topics. A couple of ideas:

- first check out Wikipedia. It explains why the Day is celebrated & why there is opposition to it:

You could use this as a reading or you could summarise the arguments, leading onto a discussion/debate as to whether the Day should be celebrated. And if so, should the celebrations be changed?

- This could then be consolidated with a for/against writing task. The ideas have been generated from the previous discussion so they get on with organising the text they are to write before writing a first draft. After the draft, they could swap & correct each others & then write a second draft. The final versions are stuck on the walls for all to wander round & read. Any new arguments that arise are then discussed as a class.

- Indigenous Peoples' Literature - there's a poem on the page that could be used:

'Examining the reputation of Christopher Columbus' - article:

- Ask the students if there are any controversial Days celebrated in their countries.

- 'Columbus Day Oct. 9th - Exploring Christopher Columbus' - semi-humourous article - cut up & students match the questions & responses:

- Kids Domain - lots of links:

An interesting Columbus life timeline:

- Interview with Columbus - after looking at some background, set up interviewer & Columbus roles. Give them time to prepare - question notes - & then into the roleplays in pairs. Feedback on language & interesting comments that came up.

- Discussion on days to celebrate - get the students thinking of a new day to celebrate. They decide one in small groups, work out different reasons for it, & then mingle persuading all that it is a worthy day. At the end all vote on the most worthy - they can't vote for themselves.

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World Teachers' Day

It's World Teachers' Day on 5th October- here's a link to the dedicated site:
More from the UNESCO site:

The focus this year is on teachers in demanding situations - 'Recovery begins with teachers'.

If nothing else, tell your students that it's World Teachers' Day & see how they react, it could make for an interesting discussion. A link to a past Tip on the Day:

Teachers' Day on Twitter:

Download the English poster:

And the treat yourself to 'The Experience of Language Teaching' by Rose M. Senior (CUP).
To see a brief review of the book:
To get hold of the book:

Teacher development is crucial for a healthy job. Do you feel that you are developing your teaching? Is your school providing enough ideas & directions?

Or is it your job to provide ways for the teachers in the school to develop? Do you have enough ideas, & provide enough avenues?

More often than not the answer to the above is 'not enough'. This may be due to a lack of time, finances or interest. In the more serious language schools, teacher development is rightly seen as key to successful teaching & happy clients. Here are a few ideas to follow up:

- regular seminars on practical areas - developing listening skills, language practice activities. This is the usual way of dealing with staff development. It is also a useful way to encourage teachers to become involved in teacher development/training by inviting a teacher to give a session.

- seminars of interesting teaching/learning-related areas eg. neuro-linguistic programming. Invite specialists in to give talks on areas that may be peripherally related to teaching.

- invite publisher reps in to talk about how to use the coursebooks they sell. It's the least the publishers can do with the exorbitant cost of coursebooks & the extras in the coursebook packages, plus the regular updating & re-issuing of the coursebooks that mean extra investment.

- invite reps from the exam boards to give a talk on how best to go about training for the particular exam. Again, with the rising fees to sit the exams, the exam boards need to get into schools more & give more direction to the teachers that promote their exams.

- same level idea swap groups - for example, all teachers with pre-intermediate groups get together to share ideas, materials & options.

- lesson ideas, plans & materials swap - a variation on the above but a bit more free-for-all with all interested teachers getting together to learn from each other & share interesting stuff about their lessons.

- development group - a regular get together for a discussion of general development from own lesson observations, taped excerpts of own lessons & excerpts from teaching diaries, discussing the results of action research projects etc. You might set tasks for members to complete before each session & then use the data they bring along as the focus of the session eg. for a focus on teacher talk, members could be asked to tape three sections of three of their lessons & type up short transcripts, look at them & discuss them together.
BTW, if you have written anything about setting up, carrying out & evaluating classroom research, we would be very interested in publishing it in the articles section of the site. Please do send it in.

- co-timetabling - this is especially important with the newer teacher. A senior teacher or the DOS sits down & goes through the two or three-week timetable with the teacher. Timetable is a difficult skill as it needs experience of materials & approaches to provide a balanced diet for the students. Without this experience, the teacher understandably relies heavily on the coursebook. The helper can provide direction & cut a lot of corners for the new teacher. A very useful task for all.

- troubleshooting sessions. This is a chance for teachers to get solutions to pressing problems they might have. Careful it doesn't degenerate into a moaning session so maybe not a regular focus for meetings. Once in a while it can be very refreshing & liberating as you realise that others are going through the same as you.

- observations - the observer could be a peer of a senior teacher. Whoever observes, it is essential that the reasons for the observation are clear, that it is developmental & not evaluative. I personally have the privilege of watching lots of lessons & there is always something to be gained from every one of them.

- teacher buddies - teachers pair up for co-development through a term or academic year. The activities could include meeting twice a month, an observation of each other each month & general interchange. You could encourage the pairing up of new & experienced teachers or similarly experienced teachers.

- online development group - using a forum board or a content management system such as Moodle it is easy to stay in touch & use the medium as a vehicle to discuss teacher development. For a look at how an online meeting could look like:

Developing, through our sister site Developing, offers teachers their own web space with these programmes set up & ready to go. For more information:

The thing that all the above ideas have in common is that they are all collaborative activities. Teaching can be a solitary experience if there isn't this sharing & helping out, & sometimes we just expect it to be happening in the staffroom. Maybe it is for some, but then again, maybe it isn't for others. Formally organising development can solve this problem, making it inclusive for all.


And then on the 10th it's World Mental Health Day. We sent out a Tip on how to cope with teaching stress - check it out:


And on the 9th it would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. There are a lot of silly article about what he would have thought of the world at the moment.
All the same it does make a good excuse for a lesson, including a song. For a lesson plan:

And then all this week, 4th > 10th, it's World Space Week:

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