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Teaching Tips 167

Wikipedia is 10
Happy New Year!
So this is Christmas...

Wikipedia logo
Wikipedia is 10

January 15, 2011, was Wikipedia's tenth birthday. Wikipedia, 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit' has 3,530,063 articles in English, & with hundreds of thousands of articles in thirty two other languages. An amazing accomplishment & one that, for me, sums up the incredibly positive side of the internet.

Wikipedia also comes in for a bit of criticism on the accuracy of some articles, but then the beauty of the project is that one can always go & correct & better articles. It is free & a great starting point for any research. I find myself using it when watching television quite a lot. An idea, person or event comes up & Wikipedia can be instantly consulted - excellent.

The English section of Wikipedia is a great resource for our students & we should encourage them to exploit it. Here are a couple of ideas - access to computers during the class would obviously help.

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, can be seen in this video on the 10th anniversary global call to action.

A pre-viewing task could be some prediction on the content from the title '10th anniversary global call to action' - what do the students expect him to say - list four points - they then listen & tick the points mentioned in the video.
Then the second viewing for some specific information:
1. How many people visit the site each month?
2. What is his 'call to action'?

Clearly, depending on the level, the students may well have picked these up in the first listen.

Then possibly on to using an article about the anniversary - here are a couple among many:

For the less internet-savvy, you could establish exactly what a 'wiki' is. Here's a definition:

'A wiki is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor.[1][2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software and are often used to create collaborative works. Examples include community websites, corporate intranets, knowledge management systems, and note services. The software can also be used for personal note taking.

Wikis serve different purposes. Some permit control over different functions (levels of access). For example editing rights may permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules can be imposed for organizing content.'

Direct your students to the 'Sandbox' on Wikipedia. this is where they can experiment with the idea of editing posts - without actually saving anything for publication.

You can then set up your own free class wiki at 'Wikia':
'Wikia (formerly Wikicities) is a free web hosting service for wikis (or wiki farm). It is normally free of charge for readers and editors, deriving most of its income from advertising, and publishes all user-provided text under copyleft licenses.'

And then on to a discussion about the merits of Wikipedia, & the motivation behind adding & editing articles. You could begin this with a series of questions to discuss in pairs & then bring all together for a class discussion.
1. Have you ever been to Wikipedia? What were you looking for?
2. Have you ever been to the English section of Wikipedia?
3. Have you ever written or edited an article on Wikipedia?
4. Why do you think people voluntarily write & edit for Wikipedia?

For homework, if you haven't got computers in the class, set up a scan reading task that asks them to search & find information in English on Wikipedia. Choose ares that they will be interested in - these could be about learning English & study skills &/or specific topic areas e.g. English history & geography. Here's a brief example of the former:

1. what does 'PQRST' mean?
2. what's the connection between study skills & traffic lights?
3. what are 'mnemonics'
4. what is a 'mind map'?
5. who claims to have invented mind mapping?
6. what did Osbourn say was the advantage of 'brainstorming?
7. what is 'collocation' & what is the word that is given that goes with 'tea'?
8. a 'phrasal verb' 'contains either a ______ or an ______ (or both), and may also combine with one or more _______ or ______.
9. find an example of a 'set phrase'.

And also check out Wikipedia's range of other projects:
Commons - Free media repository
Wikinews - Free-content news
Wiktionary - Dictionary and thesaurus
Wikiquote - Collection of quotations
Wikibooks - Free textbooks and manuals
Wikisource - Free-content library
Wikispecies - Directory of species
Wikiversity - Free learning materials and activities
Meta-Wiki - Wikimedia project coordination

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New Year

Happy New Year!

I hope it will be a peaceful & productive year for all.

It's the time of year to look back, take stock & look forward to the year ahead.

For the classroom there is a 2010 World Quiz on the site:
It's meant to promote speaking & as a bit of fun, the photos give a lot of the answers away.

You could review the language of present/past deduction before beginning, eg. 'It might be/have been...'
On the same page you'll also see links to the past ten years of quizzes - choose a couple to use with your classes as well.

And then for New Year's Resolutions, there's a lesson plan at:
The plan uses a text about the history of resolutions & another text on making them effectively.

A couple of sites for top resolutions made at this time of year:

Here's a short text to incorporate in the lesson about success rates from the Wikipedia site above:

'Recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. A separate study in 2007 by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol showed that 78% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, and those who succeed have 5 traits in common. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.'

This would make a good text to use in a dictogloss, see the past Tip 'High speed dictations/dictogloss':
Or a running dictation - see 'Running around':

It's also a good time to take stock with our learners & look ahead to how they could accelerate their learning. If you didn't do a tutorial with each learner before the break, now is the time. Have a look at the past Tip, 'Giving tutorials' for ideas:
With the pre-task sheets at:

Wtih the class as a whole you could look at the things in the past Tip 'Ten commandments:
This lists a variety of points for good language learning, together with how the teacher can help. Check it out.

And you? What resolutions are you going to make as a teacher?
Here are a few ideas:

- keep a teaching diary
- go to an ELT conference
- give a talk at a conference
- join or start a teacher development/support group
- write more teaching materials yourself
- teach a new type of group/learner - a new level or a new exam
- be observed by colleagues & receive feedback
- watching colleagues & give them feedback
- try out some new approaches
- find out about teaching online
- use Moodle with us -
- do some action research - mini research projects in the classroom
- discussing lessons with colleagues more that you do
- get hold of some videos of lessons & watch them
- read more about teaching
- subscribe to more newsletters such as this one
- join IATEFL or TESOL
- do a training course eg Cambridge CELTA, DELTA, a Master's
- apply for a new teaching job
- change countries
- apply for a position with more responsibility - Director of Studies, Teacher trainer...

There are lots of things we can do to make us more effective, happier teachers.

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Xmas tree
So this is

Xmas decorations

It never sinks in that Christmas has arrived until I hear 'Happy Christmas (War Is Over)' by John Lennon several times on the radio or in shops.
It's a great song, full of hope, heard the world over. For our lessons, the song is suitable for all levels, the lyrics are straightforward & they look back & forward so good for reviewing the past year & looking into the next. Here's a short procedure for using the song:

1. Intro to Xmas - do they like it - why/not? Happy remembrances when younger....

2. Play the first part - 'Happy Christmas Yoko, Happy Christmas John' - to the song to see if anyone identifies it. It's very quiet so turn the volume right up.
If they do know it, elicit if they know what it's about.

3. Set the task - match the song with one or more adjectives - sad, hopeful, angry, pessimistic, optimistic......
For more advanced learners, they could take notes etc...

4. Play the song through > students compare in pairs - go round & listen in to their conversations so you know how to handle the feedback. don't forget to ask them if they like the song - sounds obvious but...

5. Class feedback - elicit & ask for reasons for their choices.

6. You could play the song again for more detail - a task could be given eg. you could set some questions. Or for the lower levels, they could be given the script to read & listen at the same time > class feedback - if not done already, elicit & clarify what the song & the parts are about.

7. Language focus - with the script, students could look for the comparisons used - old & young, weak & strong, rich & poor, black & white, yellow & red - & discuss the message behind these.
The following pronouns be identified & discussed in pairs.
line 4 - one
line 7 - one
line 11 - one
line 19 - ones
line 23 - it's
line 38 - it

9. Speaking - as the song is about peace & war, you could get the students to think about what they might give as a present to different world leaders & those involved in conflict.

8. Speaking - on a more personal note, highlight 'And what have you done another year over. And a new one just begun' - get the students discussing what they have done this year & what they hope to do in the next. Pyramid the discussions - pairs into fours & then fours form eights....> Class feedback.

Happy Christmas (War Is Over)
by John Lennon

1 So this is Christmas
2 And what have you done
3 Another year over
4 And a new one just begun
5 And so this is Christmas
6 I hope you have fun
7 The near and the dear one
8 The old and the young

9 A very merry Christmas
10 And a happy New Year
11 Let's hope it's a good one
12 Without any fear
13 And so this is Christmas
14 For weak and for strong
15 For rich and the poor ones
16 The world is so wrong
17 And so happy Christmas
18 For black and for white
19 For yellow and red ones
20 Let's stop all the fight
21 very merry Christmas
22 And a happy New Year
23 Let's hope it's a good one
24 Without any fear
25 And so this is Christmas
26 And what have we done
27 Another year over
28 And a new one just begun
29 And so this is Christmas
30 I hope you have fun
31 The near and the dear one
32 The old and the young
33 A very merry Christmas
34 And a happy New Year
35 Let's hope it's a good one
36 Without any fear
37 War is over over
38 If you want it
39 War is over
40 Now...

Xmas decorations


Different Xmas activities:

A lesson plan about the history of Xmas, cars & puddings:

Short plan with a list of top toys each year:

A lesson plan about Kwanzaa history & celebrations:

A plan with a questionnaire on the spirit of Xmas:

Lesson plan around articles about Santa being sacked for using his mobile :


Xmas stories:

From here are some 'Fun Facts' that you can use in a true/false quiz - change a few of them. Of course you will run into lots of cultural unknowns so be prepared to explain the points you use.

* The song "White Christmas" holds the credit as the most-selling Christmas single of all time.
* Santa Claus has nine reindeer counting Rudolph that pull his sleigh.
* Saturnalia, was the Romans holiday that was celebrated in December.
* It wasn't until about 200 years after Christ's death that Christians started celebrating his birth.
* In northern Europe there was a holiday known as Yule. They celebrated this holiday by making great fires. They then would dance around the fires, yelling for the winter to end.
* Austria was the first country to issue a Christmas postage stamp.
* Silver and gold are the popular Christmas colors after red and green.
* Eggnog the popular Christmas food was an American discovery.
* The Christmas carol "I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus" was made famous by Jimmy Boyd when he was just 12 years old.
* Christmas lights were invented by the American Ralph E. Morris.
* W. C. T. Dobson invented the Christmas card.
* Canada is the largest exporter of Christmas trees.
* King's Canyon National Park, California has the world's largest Christmas tree.
* Coca-Cola made the concept of Santa Claus popular in America.
* There are twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany.
* Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally created for Montgomery Ward department stores as part of a promotional gimmick.

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