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Teaching Tips 169

Women On The Bridge
Multilingual rich
A bit of empathy

women's DayWomen On The Bridge

It's Internaional Women's Day again (, the 100th anniversary of the first time it was celebrated. Below is a lesson plan that uses an article on the history of the Day.

'Join Me On The Bridge' is one of the many projects for the Day. To an article explaining it:

The site:

Also a video, probably not for classroom use due to the description of abuse, at:

Geena Davis encorages women to join the march:

Here is some material taken, with permission, from the United Nations Cyber School Bus website with ideas on how to use it

There is quite a lot of text - two different sections; the first talks of why we have Women's Day & the second how the Day came about. I have chosen to use the first orally & the second as a reading text. And perhaps you might like to shorten the second text & only use the first part, until the dotted line.

1. Introduction - rank the women in order of their contribution to women's right. Stds in pairs rank the women. Feedback.

2. Elicit what Women's Day is & when it falls & anything the stds might know about it. Some visuals on the board would help everyone focus.

3. Read the first text aloud - stds listen. Then they compare ideas on what they heard - maybe read again if requested.

4. Set the reading task - to identify what the given dates refer to as quickly as possible. Give out text & dates. Check & reading task.

5. Stds compare answers.

6. General feedback & discussion of the events as you work through the dates - picking up on reactions, anything surprising etc..

7. Vocabulary - stds in pairs/small groups underline vocabulary specifically related to Women's Day & protest. Encourage the stds to work meaning out from the context & have dictionaries on hand if they need to confirm their guesses. See below for a selection of related vocab from the text.

8. Feedback. You might also like to exploit the reading text for some grammar areas.

9. Discussion - could begin in small groups & then bring all together for a class discussion - see later for ideas on discussion points.


Rank the following women in order of their contribution to women's rights & be prepared to justify your decisions - Margaret Thatcher, Emilia Earhart, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Eva Peron, Madonna, .....put here some famous women from you country.


Why Women's Day?

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world's women?

The United Nations General Assembly, composed of delegates from every Member State, celebrates International Women's Day to recognize that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women, and to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.

For the women of the world, the Day is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development.

You might think that women's equality benefits mostly women, but every one-percentile growth in female secondary schooling results in a 0.3 percent growth in the economy. Yet girls are often kept from receiving education in the poorest countries that would best benefit from the economic growth.

Until the men and women work together to secure the rights and full potential of women, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.

In recent decades, much progress has been made. On a worldwide level, women's access to education and proper health care has increased; their participation in the paid labor force has grown; and legislation that promises equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted in many countries. The world now has an ever- growing number of women participating in society as policy-makers.

However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men.

The majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women.

On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work.

And everywhere, women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.

Dates task

Read the article quickly & decide what events the following dates refer to.

8 March 1857

March 1859

8 March 1908

28 February 1909


19 March 1911

25 March 1911

the last Sunday in February 1913

23 February 1917

27 February 1917


December 1977





Vocab suggestions

Vocabulary connected to the lexical field

expansion and turbulence
booming population growth
radical ideologies
staged a protest
inhumane working conditions
labour union
basic rights
the workplace
marched through NY City
demanding shorter work hours, better pay voting    rights and an end to child labour
economic security
the declaration of the Socialist Party of America
an international conference
a proposal
an International Day to mark the strike
the proposal was greeted with unanimous approval
elected to
established to honour the movement
the right to vote
the declaration
a series of rallies
they demanded the right to work and an end to    discrimination on the job
lack of safety measures
led many protests
funeral march
labour legislation
the peace movement brewing on the eve of
to express solidarity with
opposed the timing of the strike
granted the right to vote

How It Happened

How It Happened -
A Brief History of International Women's Day

The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.

On 8 March 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories (called 'garment workers') in New York City, in the United States, staged a protest. They were fighting against inhumane working conditions and low wages. The police attacked the protestors and dispersed them. Two years later, again in March, these women formed their first labour union to try and protect themselves and gain some basic rights in the workplace.

On 8 March 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses", with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. In May, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday in February for the observance of National Women's Day.

Following the declaration of the Socialist Party of America, the first ever National Woman's Day was celebrated in the United States on 28 February 1909. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.

An international conference, held by socialist organizations from around the world, met in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. The conference of the Socialist International proposed a Women's Day which was designed to be international in character. The proposal initially came from Clara Zetkin, a German socialist, who suggested an International Day to mark the strike of garment workers in the United States. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, including the first three women elected to the parliament of Finland. The Day was established to honour the movement for women's rights, including the right to vote (known as 'suffrage'). At that time no fixed date was selected for the observance.

The declaration of the Socialist International had an impact. The following year, 1911, International Women's Day was marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The date was March 19 and over a million men and women took to the streets in a series of rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work and an end to discrimination on the job.

Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took place. Over 140 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrant girls working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, lost their lives because of the lack of safety measures. The Women's Trade Union League and the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union led many of the protests against this avoidable tragedy, including the silent funeral march which brought together a crowd of over 100,000 people. The Triangle Fire had a significant impact on labour legislation and the horrible working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.

As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.

With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February 1917 to strike for "bread and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went on anyway.

The rest is history: Four days later the Czar of Russia was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but coincided with 8 March on the Gregorian calendar used by people elsewhere.


Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike.

In December 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. Four global United Nations women's conferences have helped make the demand for women's rights and participation in the political and economic process a growing reality.

In 1975 the UN drew global attention to women's concerns by calling for an International Women's year and convening the first conference on women in Mexico City. Another convention was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980.

In 1985, the UN convened a third conference on women in Nairobi, Kenya, to look at what had been achieved at the end of the decade.

In 1995, Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women. Representatives from 189 different countries agreed that inequalities between women and men has serious consequences for the well-being of all people. The conference declared a set of goals for progress of women in various areas including politics, health, and education. The final document issued by the conference (called the "Platform for Action") had this to say: "The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue."

Five years later, in a 23rd special session of the United Nations General Assembly, "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century" reviewed the progress the world has made towards achieving the goals set out by the Beijing conference. This conference has come to be known as the "Beijing +5" conference. Delegates found both progress and perservering obstacles. The delegates made further agreements to continue carrying out the initiatives of the 1995 women's conference.

Discussion points

With your partner(s), consider the following points:

1. Is there a need in your country to celebrate Women's Day? Why (not)?

2. What can we do to help women's rights?

3. What could your government do to help?

4. What could be done in schools to help?

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Multilingual Rich

Heroic times in the Arab worlds. Dictators fall, & hopefully their regimes stay fallen, while others continue or begin their struggle for basic freedoms. All need our support. Numerous videos are appearing on the internet of the atrocities in Bahrain & Libya, peaceful demonstrators being shot dead, maimed & beaten. The courage being shown on the streets is amazing while the rest of the world sit & watch & hope. There's a great deal on the internet - blogs, Twitter, Facebook .... - & where we can show our support. Here's one web page among many:

Found through Twitter - @Zeinobia

A catchy music video made during the Egyptian demonstrations has gone viral & is fast becoming the song of the revolutions. CNN interview the musicians in English & you can see the actual video on the same page:

A good focus on the theme.

Let's hope that really 'the times they are a-changin''.


On the 21st it's International Mother Tongue Language Day & for classroom ideas on this see the past Tip:

We have also had a couple of Tips that deal with using the mother tongue in the classroom:
But I don't speak their language!

There are lots of ideas on exploiting the students' mother tongue in a monolingual class. But what about a multilingual class? How can we know half of our students' mother tongues? Is it worth exploiting this difference between the students? I think so. Teachers tend to be frightened of so many mother tongues in the multilingual class & so banish any reference to it. Here are a couple of ideas that help exploit & incorporate it, enriching the classroom.

1. encourage the students to discuss the differences between their mother tongues & English as they crop up. This will lead to the sharing of cultures in the classroom & foster a good group dynamic.

2. when teaching grammar, after getting different nationalities to discuss the aspects you are focussing on, get them into same nationality groups to discuss what the differences & similarities might be in their mother tongue. For homework, the students confirm their ideas with reference books & internet sources. Don't forget to come back to it in the next lessons to make sure all are fine with the grammar point. The problem with the multilingual class is when wrong assumptions about translations are reinforced, so care is needed.

3. students do roleplays in front of the class in their mother tongue & then all discuss how much they understood & why - a nice way of getting into paralinguistics in the different cultures. They then all do the roleplays in English.

4. students do a roleplay but take on an accent from someone else in the class. Or they read a dialogue/have a roleplay in their mother
tongue but use an English accent. Follow with discussions on accent,
other aspects of phonology. See:

5. the writing skill is different from culture to culture so exploit this richness by eliciting & discussing how a genre or way of writing is carried out in the different cultures of the students.

6. set up mother tongue specific activities. The book 'Learner English' by Swan & Smith (CUP) is excellent for finding out differences between English & other languages. Pronunciation problems to work on would be an obvious choice. This could be carried out inter-culturally, by getting students to teach each other, so those that don't have the difficulty teach those that do, making sure that all have something to teach. Clearly this would take time to prepare.
There is a review of 'Learner English' on the site:
The book 'English Pronunciation in Use Advanced' by Martin Hewings (CUP) encourages students to reflect on pronunciation areas in their own language e.g. in the 'Follow up' sections: 'Listen to conversations in your own language and....', 'do you use the same in your own language...' etc.

7. There are lots of imaginative monolingual & multilingual mother tongue class ideas in the excellent 'Using the Mother Tongue' by Sheelagh Deller & Mario Rinvolucri (Delta Publishing). There is a review of the book on the site at:

To get hold of 'Learner English' by Swan & Smith (CUP):

To get hold of 'English Pronunciation in Use Advanced' by Martin Hewings (CUP):

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A bit of

Once you have built up a healthy classroom dynamic it is something that needs thought & work to maintain. This involves many things on a day to day basis but then we can also use specific tasks to develop relationships. Here are a couple of activities from one of my favourite resource books for teachers, 'Classroom Dynamics' by Jill Hadfield (OUP). They are in the section 'I did it your way: empathy activities'.

The first is called 'I am you' & asks students to write about each other. Here are some examples from the handout:

Imagine you are your partner & complete the sentences.

I like the colour _______ because ________.
My favourite time of day is _______.
When I was at school I used to _______.
I enjoy _______.
I particularly dislike ______.

When they have written, they give them to their partners to see how near they were in their predictions. Lots of fun.
It is better to use the activity if the students know each other well.

The second task is called 'If I were you...', It is similar to the idea above in that the students complete the sentences for their partner. For example:

If I found some money in the street I would _______.
If I could travel anywhere in the world I would _______.
If I won a lot of money I would ________.
a perfect day for me would be one where _______.

Another activity is called 'Ghostwriters' & here the students interview each other & then write their partner's autobiography as if they were them. They then swap & discuss.

Not only do these kind of tasks promote a healthy atmosphere but they also provide specific language practice. Try them out, your students will be sure to enjoy them.

To get hold of 'Classroom Dynamics' by Jill Hadfield (OUP):

For Valentine's Day material:

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