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Teaching Tips 171

A couple of Days
Feeling lucky
100 Words

A couple of Days

As I'm on a short break here's a collection of a couple of past Tips about some days coming up this week; Crossword Puzzle Day (18th) & Record Store Day (16th - just gone but still worth a look), St George's Day (23rd) & Earth Day (22nd).

Record Store Day 'is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day..'

The official site - US:

With independent record stores disappearing every day, this Day raises awareness of their unique place in the development of popular music. A lesson could take the following form:

1. Intro to the theme - ask the students: buy records? where? names of any indie record stores? what was the first record you bought?
2. Elicit why there is 'Record Store Day' on the 17th.
3. If you can use video in class, download the Joshua Homme, the ambassador for the Day, explaining it:
If you can't use this in class, view the video, take some notes & then tell the students what was said, giving some live listening.
4. You could choose some of the quotes on & design reading tasks for them.
5. Students discuss how one could promote the Day > pool ideas.
6. Students design a poster for the Day > put them on the walls & all wander round & vote for the best.
7. Discussion:
- why have record stores declined?
- do you buy music online?
- do you think it is valid to download music without paying for it?
- what do you think of the music & flim companies prosecuting individuals?
- what do you think of the French idea of three warnings & then internet cut off?
- etc
8. End with a song - choose a song the group would be interested in - you could ask them the previous lesson for ideas on this. Here are a couple of books to help with designing tasks with songs:
Music & Song - T.Murphey (OUP)

Musical Openings - D.Cranmer & C.Laroy (Longman)


It's Crossword Puzzle Day on the 18th April.

A grid, clues: down & across (9)

Crosswords can be lots of fun at any time & there are any uses from them in the classroom. Here are a few:

- Collaborative Crossword: a normal crossword that reviews recently taught vocabulary or is leading into a theme, done collaboratively with the whole class - it's fun to do it together. Encourage them to give further clues rather than shout out the answers when they have them.

- Pairwork Crossword: give half of a completed crossword to each person in the pair. They have to make up the clues for their set of answers & then they tell each other until both have a completed crossword.

- Class Crossword: give out a crossword to each student but with a different answer filled in on each. The students think of the clue to their answer & then mingle telling each other their clues & listening to each other until all have completed the crossword. Good for revising vocab.

- Advanced Crossword: give out the crossword, with all of the clues about the vocabulary that is going to come up in the next two weeks. As the fortnight proceeds the students can do a bit more of their crosswords - the first to complete it gets a small prize. Then use the crossword to review the vocab covered.

- Invented Crossword: in pairs, get your students to make their own crosswords up based on the vocab recently covered. When finished, swap them around for each pair to do a new one. Lots of vocab reviewed in both parts of the activity.

- Coursebook Crossword: at the beginning of a course when you are showing the students what is involved in the coursebook, instead of a list of questions that asks them to look through the book for the answers, design a crossword to fill 3 across: the section near the back with lots of verbs (9, 4, 4) (Irregular Verb List).

- Comprehension Crossword: As in the above activity, when students are looking for information to answer comprehension or scan reading questions in a text, they can be presented in the form of a crossword.

- Picture Crosswords: for the younger learner, the clues are in picture form instead of definitions.

- Phonology Crosswords: design a crossword that reviews vocab but instead of putting in the letters for the words, the students put in the phonemes for the words. For word stress, choose the pattern you want to look at & for each clue give three words, the right answer being the one that fits the pattern.

Don't forget about the logistical language the students might need to do the above activities & deal with it beforehand to maximise the effectiveness of the tasks e.g.- have you got the clue for four across? - the language of dis/agreement - the language of negotiation

Most people find crosswords interesting & if integrated into classes, they can be motivating & fun for your students. And for the teacher in a non-English speaking country, normal newspaper crosswords are a great way of trying to keep your English vocabulary from diminishing.

I recently came across a History of Crosswords. Here's the text:

Brief History of Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet have a short history. The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. They were of an elementary kind, apparently derived from the word square, a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally, and printed in children's puzzle books and various periodicals. In the United States, however, the puzzle developed into a serious adult pastime.

The first known published crossword puzzle was created by a journalist named Arthur Wynne from Liverpool, and he is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. December 21, 1913 was the date and it appeared in a Sunday newspaper, the New York World. Wynne's puzzle(see below) differed from today's crosswords in that it was diamond shaped and contained no internal black squares. During the early 1920's other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers. It was in this period crosswords began to assume their familiar form. Ten years after its rebirth in the States it crossed the Atlantic and re-conquered Europe.

The first appearance of a crossword in a British publication was in Pearson's Magazine in February 1922, and the first Times crossword appeared on February 1 1930. British puzzles quickly developed their own style, being considerably more difficult than the American variety. In particular the cryptic crossword became established and rapidly gained popularity. The generally considered governing rules for cryptic puzzles were laid down by A. F. Ritchie and D. S. Macnutt.

These people, gifted with the ability to see words puzzled together in given geometrical patterns and capable of twisting and turning words into word plays dancing on the wit of human minds, have since constructed millions of puzzles by hand and each of these puzzlers has developed personal styles known and loved by his fans. These people have set the standard of what to expect from a quality crossword puzzle.

This would make an interesting reading, & afterwards you could present the students with the very first crossword - see below - there is a link to the solutions. You might let them have a go first & then give out the answers, mixed up, to choose from to make it all manageable.

The world's first crossword puzzle

By Arthur Wynne, December 21, 1913
from The New York World



2-3. What bargain hunters enjoy. 6-22. What we all should be.
4-5. A written acknowledgment. 4-26. A day dream.
6-7. Such and nothing more. 2-11. A talon.
10-11. A bird. 19-28. A pigeon.
14-15. Opposed to less. F-7. Part of your head.
18-19. What this puzzle is. 23-30. A river in Russia.
22-23. An animal of prey. 1-32. To govern.
26-27. The close of a day. 33-34. An aromatic plant.
28-29. To elude. N-8. A fist.
30-31. The plural of is. 24-31. To agree with.
8-9. To cultivate. 3-12. Part of a ship.
12-13. A bar of wood or iron. 20-29. One.
16-17. What artists learn to do. 5-27. Exchanging.
20-21. Fastened. 9-25. To sink in mud.
24-25. Found on the seashore. 13-21. A boy.
10-18. The fibre of the gomuti palm.

And then there's an interesting article about how a crossword nearly gave the game away:

The Crossword Panic of May 1944

During World War II the daily newspapers were at their most popular even though they consisted of only a few pages. People throughout Britain could find out what was happening in the parts of the world where our troops were engaged in the fight against Hitler and the Nazis

At the beginning of the war, the news was mainly bad with the German blitzkrieg advances throughout Europe, but as the years rolled on, the news slowly became better …and in October 1942 British morale was greatly bolstered by General Montgomery’s famous success at El Alamein in North Africa.

But it wasn’t just the news that was eagerly sought in the papers; there were other matters of interest. Nearly all newspapers had crossword puzzles in them and they were very popular as they helped fill in the hours spent in the Air-Raid Shelters, waiting for trains or just simply engaged in that great British tradition of queuing.

One of the popular ‘Dailys’ of the time was the Daily Telegraph, and so too was its crossword puzzle.

It was in January 1943 that the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin D Roosevelt met and agreed that the future of the war must include an invasion of northwest Europe or a ‘return to the Continent’.

Planning for the invasion started almost immediately, and after extensive research it was decided that the sheltered Normandy coastline with its wide sandy beaches presented the best option for the surprise attack that was to be the D-Day landings. The assault was code-named Operation Overlord by Churchill himself.

The US General Dwight D Eisenhower was made overall commander of Operation Overlord in December 1943, with the British hero General Bernard Law Montgomery assuming control of ground troops. It was in early May 1944 that Eisenhower decided that D-Day would fall on 5th June 1944.

A huge security blanket had been thrown over all aspects of the operation, including the place and exact date of the landings, in order to maximise the element of surprise and minimise casualties. One US major-general was even demoted and sent home for simply speculating at a cocktail party on the date of the invasion.

But while some members of MI5, Britain’s counter-espionage service, were whiling away their spare moments in May 1944 by doing the Telegraph Crossword, they noticed that vital code-names that had been adopted to hide the mightiest sea-borne assault of all time, appeared in the crossword.

They noticed that the answer to one clue, ‘One of the USA’, turned out to be Utah, and another answer to a clue was Omaha. These were the names, given by the Allies, to the beaches in Normandy where the American Forces were to land on D-Day.

Another answer that appeared in that month’s crossword was Mulberry. This was the name of the floating harbour that was to be towed across the Channel to accommodate the supply ships of the invasion force. Neptune another answer, referred to the code-name for the naval support for the operation.

Perhaps the most suspicious was a clue about a ‘Big-Wig’, to which the answer was Overlord. This was the code-name given for the entire operation!

Alarm bells rang throughout MI5 …was the crossword being used to tip-off the Germans?

Two officers were sent immediately to Leatherhead in Surrey, where a man called Leonard Dawe lived. He was the crossword compiler, a 54 year-old teacher.

Why, the officers demanded to know, had he chosen theses five words within his crossword solutions?

“Why not?” was Dawe’s indignant reply. Was there a law against choosing whatever words he liked?

MI5 eventually became convinced of Dawe’s honesty and he managed to convince them that he had no knowledge of the coming D-Day invasion.

His crossword solutions it appears were perhaps just another of life’s astonishing coincidences!

Crossword maker:
I also came across an excellent free crossword generator. They say: 'EclipseCrossword is for Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, and XP. .... EclipseCrossword is free. It contains no advertisements, spyware, or viruses. It is not a trial version.'
It's simple to install & very easy to use. Not only does it produce printable versions but also web page versions of crosswords that you produce. Check it out:

So after you've looked at the one or both of the readings above, you can present your students with your very own crossword, based on the lesson, or based on vocabulary that has been recently covered.


Puzzle Solution



St George's Day

I try to avoid doing formal class debates as I have never felt that they have gone as well as they should have. This is probably because there are only one or two students speaking at any one time & it's easy for some students not to say anything at all, & then there is the finding an issue that all might find interesting. I prefer several small groups discussing/debating rather than the open class format.

Debates can have several different formats. It could simply be a statement that the two halves of the class are on opposing sides & they have a free-for-all discussion about the point. Or a debate could be set up formally as in this description from Wikipedia of a 'Mace debate':

'This style of debate is prominent in Britain at schools level. Two teams of two debate an affirmative motion (e.g. "This house would give prisoners the right to vote,") which one team will propose and the other will oppose. Each speaker will make a seven minute speech in the order; 1st Proposition, 1st Opposition, 2nd Proposition, 2nd Opposition. After the first minute of each speech, members of the opposing team may request a 'point of information' (POI). If the speaker accepts they are permitted to ask a question. POI's are used to pull the speaker up on a weak point, or to argue against something the speaker has said. However after 6 minutes, no more POI's are permitted. After all four have spoken the debate will be opened to the floor, in which members of the audience will put questions to the teams. After the floor debate, one speaker from each team (traditionally the first speaker), will speak for 4 minutes. In these summary speeches it is typical for the speaker to answer the questions posed by the floor, answer any questions the opposition may have put forward, before summarising his or her own key points. In the Mace format, emphasis is typically on analytical skills, entertainment, style and strength of argument. The winning team will typically have excelled in all of these areas.'

This is the kind of debate that I remember from school. It could easily be made more manageable for our classrooms by altering the time limits.

While looking for material on St George's Day, the patron saint of England, celebrated on 23rd April, I came over the website 'Debatewise' devoted to debates. You can begin your own debate or join in with one already running. The St George's Day debate is titled 'England should make an effort to celebrate St George's Day'. A large percentage of English people would not know which day their patron saint's celebration is - it is very much underplayed in England. In each debate on the Debatewise site the main for & against points are given near the top of the page, followed by detailed arguments of these points later on. Here are the key points for St George's Day:

All the Yes points;
Tradition is important
Myths help us dream – more important now than ever
St George represents renewal and there is no better time than now to celebrate that.

All the No points:
St George wasn't even English
Why now?
It's Corporations that are pushing St George's Day

(You might relate this attitude to celebrating St George's Day to the students' own patron saints & how they are celebrated in their countries.)

It could be a useful site to use when planning to use a debate in class. Search for related topics that you are looking at & choose one of the debates. You could simply lift the main points or you could use the texts as readings for each side of the debate, incorporating them into the preparation for the debate. Each student could read one of the detailed points & then feedback to their group, as they get all of their points together prior to the debate.

Don't forget that the point of the debate is language practice so you could feed in some language beforehand, point them to some language you have covered over the last week or so that they would find useful to use, or simply use it as fluency practice. Whatever approach you take you really do need to provide some feedback at the end on language used, both positive & not so good. So take some notes while they are speaking & use this data in the feedback after.

For more on debates check out Vivian Chu's article 'classroom debates: Shifting the Focus':

For more on making speaking tasks as effective as possible see the past Tip 'Up Front':
And the the past Tip 'Scribbling Away' for an on-the-spot correction technique:

For some excellent speaking skill resources:

Discussions That Work - P.Ur (CUP)

Conversation - R.Nolasco & L.Arthur (OUP)

Roleplay - G.Porter-Ladousse (OUP)


St George's Day
Here is some material for St George's Day lessons from the past Tip 'Slaying Dragons':

The first is a general description about the day & the second is a reduced version of the George & the Dragon story. Later there are a couple of ideas for younger learner classes & a couple of links to dragon-related websites.

An appropriate way to use this first text might be to cut up every section & ask students in pairs/small groups to put it in a logical order. Beforehand briefly look at how a text has coherence through the cohesive devices & logical links. Or leave this till after, eliciting the things that helped them decide on the order, collating the class ideas on the board & adding in a few of your own if they are missed out. When completed, the students could compare ideas & then compare with the original version.

Then you could move to the content of the text by asking if there is any information in the text that they knew about beforehand etc...

St George's Day - April 23: History

As with most saints, myth and legend surrounds St George and of how a Roman soldier came to be regarded as the essence of England.

He is most famously known as the brave slayer of the dragon and saviour of the maiden but, although this story exists in a number of different medieval texts and art, it has no historical basis.

There is very little information about the life St George, but it is known that he was not English.

He is thought to have been an early Christian martyr from the area of modern day Turkey, who was executed in Palestine in the third century.

Legends about his valorous deeds as a soldier-saint began in the 6th century and by the 12th century the famous story about his rescuing a king's daughter and slaying a dragon had become widespread.

Some experts think the tale is based on the Greek myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from a sea monster.

St George was popularised in England by Crusaders, Christian knights returning from religious wars in the Middle East.

He was supposed to have appeared to the Knights dressed in white robes decorated with a red cross during the 11th century siege of Antioch.

He became the official patron saint of England in 1425 after Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

The Red Cross of St George is England's national flag and it also forms part of Britain's Union Jack.

However, the English are not the only people to stake a claim in St George.

In the Middle East, Christians invoke his powers to help exorcise demons.

In many countries St George is associated with fertility and his day marks the very beginning of summer.

In Lithuania he is revered as the guardian of animals and in parts of Spain St George's day is celebrated with feasts and gift giving.

Tintoretti - George fighting the dragon - Tintorreti

This next short text is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopaedia & could be used as a basis for storytelling.
1. Elicit - know any stories about dragons?
2. Pre-teach vocab & give key words: dragon, appeased, sheep, failed, children, King's daughter, sacrifice, George, spear, girdle, town, beheaded.
3. Stds then try to work out a coherent story - in pairs?
4. Stds mingle telling each other their stories >> vote on the best.
5. Handout/put on OHP the excerpt - stds compare to see who had the most similar story.
6. The stds could then use their imagination to provide different endings for the story - pairs >> class discussion.
7. Discuss as a class - any similar stories to George & the Dragon in your country/ies?

Alternatively, you could use the text as the basis for a 'dictoglosss' activity. See the Teaching Tip High Speed Dictations.

"At the town of Silene, in Libya, there was a dragon, who was appeased by being fed two sheep a day; when these failed, the townsfolk offered by lot one of their young people. One day the lot fell on the King's daughter, who was led out to the sacrifice, dressed in her wedding gown. George appeared and transfixed the dragon with his spear and then using the Princess's girdle led the bemused dragon into the town, where it was beheaded."
Catholic Encyclopaedia

Dragons are a fun vehicle for younger learner lessons so here are a few ideas:

In 'Drama With Children' by Sarah Philips (OUP) there is a lovely activity about a Dragon Hunt (from the classic Bear Hunt story). As you tell the story the youngsters do the actions & repeat sections & lots of fun is had by all. A bit of space is needed. A very good younger learner book all round which you can buy through:


Then there is the Dragon with a cold story. A boiled down version is that the fearsome Dragon is miserable because his cold is spoiling his fun - he can't burn down houses, fight with knights or generally get up to mischief. So he goes to see a wizard who says he can cure him with a special potion (frogs legs, maggots - lots of horrible things) only if he promises to turn over a new leaf & put his fire-breathing to good use. He is so miserable he reluctantly agrees & now instead of people running away from him they smile & greet him, he helps with their fires, cooking & heating & with his huge weight, carries lots of things for them. And they live happily ever after.

The Monster vocabulary idea could be used with a dragon - the dragon can breath the words out. See Past Tips 44

A couple of dragon website links:
'This site is dedicated to Dragons; the ruler of the past and who know, ruler of the present even if they hide in shadow. Who has never felt a fascination for that most breathtaking of creatures, the dragon? It is hard to believe that these creatures have never existed when they are so present in the people mind, in the past of the human history, from the America to the Asia passing through Europe, all culture have someday describe a creature that can, today, be identified to a same living thing: a dragon. '
Your online dragon resource for everything you want to know about dragons: Dragon history, dragon tattoos, dragon art, pictures of dragons, as well as dragon links to find gifts, collectables and figurines for the dragon lover in your life.
Dragon webrings


Earthy Day '11

Earth Day
Here are a few links for Earth Day on 22nd April:

Earth Day site:
A few more links:
Wikipedia Spring entry:
Spring lesson plans from
Spring stuff from Kids Domain:

Information about Earth:
Nasa's Earth Observatory:
Quotes about Earth:

And talking of Earth, have you tried Google Earth? If you have a broadband connection to the internet & a relatively new computer, you should be fine for running it. Free & excellent.

Back to the contents

Feeling lucky

Do you think that being lucky is the same as being fortunate? I think of myself being fortunate but not particularly lucky. Maybe 'lucky' could refer to things like winning prizes & 'fortunate' something more general. At the end of the day they're probably the same. I came across an article 'Why do we believe in luck?' on the BBC website & give a brief lesson plan to go with it below.

First check out the 6x6 dice game:
You need two dice & each player takes turns to roll two dice in secret & then do as instructed on the board - the others then guess what numbers were on the dice. Alternatively they just roll the dice for all to see & do as instructed on the board. To see some boards click on the image below - some are for learners & others for teacher trainees.

boards link

An alternative to the boards is with the Snakes & Ladders format - for a Snakes & Ladders template:

Here's the article:

Why do we believe in luck?

Is there such a thing as a lucky person or a lucky streak? And does belief in good and bad luck play a part in whether we are prepared to take chances, asks Megan Lane.

I won a pair of cinema tickets recently. Then a free haircut. While sceptical about luck, I couldn't help but wonder if it might run in threes.

The next day, I had a third stroke of luck. A mugging. Was it bad luck that I had my bag snatched? Or good luck that I was unhurt?

Neither. It was a chance event. When weighing the risks of walking down an unfamiliar street, feeling lucky didn't come into it (much). Subconsciously, I balanced the time of day - early evening - and the presence of street lighting against the area being unexpectedly isolated.

"Luck is a really interesting aspect of risk and chance," says Cambridge University psychologist Dr Mike Aitken, co-creator of BBC Lab UK's new Big Risk Test, which explores the type of person likely to be a risk-taker or risk-averse.

"We can all remember days when good things happened to us, and days when less-good things happened, and we attribute the difference to a lucky day and an unlucky day. You could argue that luck exists in that sense."

But some people believe luck influences external events - that if they buy a lottery ticket on their lucky day, they'll be more likely to win.

"That's a much harder belief to justify, because there's no way the day you buy your lottery ticket can influence the likelihood that you're going to win," says Aitken.

"Research has suggested that people who think of themselves as lucky actually are lucky, because they are more willing to take advantage of opportunities."

The BBC's risk test aims to find out whether belief in luck affects how we perceive the risks of day to day life.

In part, it draws on the BIGL - belief in good luck - scale developed in 1997 by two Canadian psychologists. This does what it says on the tin, measuring the extent to which a person believes in luck. Some think luck influences events in their favour; others think luck is random and unreliable.

The Canadian study that led to the BIGL scale debunked ideas that belief in luck was related to a person's self-esteem and general life satisfaction.

But those who believe they are inherently lucky tend to be of an optimistic bent, and get more optimistic about the likelihood of future success after a seemingly lucky event - a "lucky break" makes them more confident and optimistic.

Feeling lucky

Believing that one's success is down, at least in part, to good luck leads to attempts to control it.

Athletes and gamblers often carry out superstitious rituals in the middle of a winning streak, such as wearing the same lucky shirt, or eating the same lucky meal. Because then they might keep on winning.

Touch wood.

There are two approaches to deciding whether to take a chance and leave the outcome to luck, whether it's placing a bet, hang-gliding or even deciding whether to take an umbrella in case it rains - head v gut.

"There's risk as analysis, where you work out the odds of [winning] the lottery," says test co-creator David Spiegelhalter, professor for the understanding of risk at University of Cambridge.

"Then there's risk as feeling, which can be influenced by you feeling 'this is a good day for me, I'm going to take this risk, do this bold thing'."

Perhaps that's why I didn't turn back and instead took what looked like a shortcut down a lonely road - I was feeling lucky. Maybe I should have crossed my fingers. Or was there a black cat that crossed my path?

But believing in luck can serve a useful function. psychologists say.

It may help us coping with chance events, such as being involved in an accident, a mugging or natural disaster, as it can help people feel more optimistic when circumstances are beyond their control.

Maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket that day after all...

Send us your stories of good and bad luck using the form below. A selection will be published later.

I passed my driving test on the 3rd attempt (third time lucky) on Friday 13th 2005.

Michael Egan, St Helens, England

Being from a nautical family we have various things which we try not to do; set sail on a (long) voyage on a Friday, paint a boat green, rename a boat and whistling. Some of these were taken to such an extent by my boat builder grandfather that he wouldn't launch a new boat on a Friday. If a customer asked for it to be launched on a Friday, he would drop it in the water the day before and then haul it out again ready for the customer to watch it being launched for the "first time" the following day.

Tim, Colchester, Essex

A black cat ran in front of my car - splat. Within the next two weeks I was 1. arrested 2. got a parking fine 3. got three points and a fine 4. lost a £210,000 contract 5. got another parking fine 6. four of my number came up on the lottery, but I had forgotten to buy a ticket. Up till then I had never been superstitious, but that lot seemed like "evidence".

Alasdair Macmillan, Banbury, Oxon

Tabletop wargamers, like gamblers, roll a lot of dice and often become very superstitious about them. Common conditions include never referring to a "missile launcher" because it contains the word "miss", avoiding rolling dice on their own because dice can't handle the pressure, and rolling dice before games to "use up the ones". Indeed, one popular games company's April Fools joke was a 126-page book on how to roll dice.

Tim Peers, Great Yarmouth

My sister always seems to win on scratch cards much more than the rest of the family put together. Then I realised, she buys more scratch cards than the rest of the family put together.

Ed, London

Magpies. Singles are bad luck, unless there's someone else to see it too - then it's negated. My housemate saw a singleton on the morning she went to work; later that day I was in a car crash. Couples, however, are very good luck. One has to hope that the omens are out there and easily readable.

Alice, Eastleigh, Hampshire

I am quite prone to splinters but hopefully won't get any today - touch wood.

David Clark, Gloucestershire

1. Introduce the theme by eliciting words related to 'luck' - lucky, chance, fortune, fortunate, lucky dip, lucky guess, bad luck, superstitions, third time lucky, bring good luck, strike it lucky, touch wood, thank your lucky stars, your lucky day, lucky you........

2. Set up the reading task - that they read the questions & then read as fast as they can to answer them - see questions below.

3. Students read - monitor to see who is struggling & which questions they are having problems with - so you know what to concentrate on in feedback.

4. Students compare ideas in pairs

5. Class feedback.

6. Set up a discuss - small groups/pairs - see questions below.

7. Students chat - monitor - help out as needed 6 take notes on language production for later feedback.

8. Feedback on the content of the discussions & the language used.

Language focus:
You could return to the text to do some 'noticing' of some language followed by some practice.
An extension could be to look at the first conditional through superstitions - 'If you see a black cat, you'll have bad luck' etc...
Or going to/future probability with palm reading.....

Each student has won the lottery in the past but the results were not good. Get the students to think about how the winning affected their lives. They then attend a 'Lottery winners' conference' - they all mingle explaining what went wrong & get advice from the others - Students could be encouraged to use - should(n't)'ve......

Reading questions

A few questions:

1. Why does the author in the second paragraph 'wonder if it might run in threes'?

2. What's the term for a person who avoids taking risks?

3. Why do people who think they are lucky, tend to be more lucky?

4. What does 'BIGL' stand for?

5. Is luck related to self-esteem & life satisfaction?

6. What superstitions are mentioned in the article?

7. What's the difference between 'head' & 'gut'?

8. Why can believing in luck serve a useful function?

Discussion questions

Questions to chat about:

1. Are you a lucky person? Why do you think so?

2. Do you buy lottery tickets? Have you ever won anything?

3. Are you superstitious? What kind of things do you do?

4. Do you agree with the ideas in the article that lucky people are those that think they are lucky?

5. What do you think of the comments from readers that follow the article?

Back to the contents

100 words

Have a read of this excerpt from a recent Guardian article:

Language lessons with Fabio Capello

England manager Fabio Capello recently defended his limited grasp of English, saying he needed not more than "100 words maximum" to communicate with his players. Here are some other professions where 100 words of English might suffice.


You sit quiet please everyone now enough gum tie shirt homework yes today excuses no book open page talking stop discipline noise courtesy while others trying learn warning first second final exam board bored absent detention suspend imagery Shakespeare GCSE mock coursework maths note paper whose phone confiscate yes I can speaking class assignment Tuesday read chapter important attention chair face this way why bother hours lack support pay cuts thankless bloody babysitter can't control teach students ignore education why inspire nonsense thanks bunch Jamie fucking Oliver total waste think quit retrain landscape gardener maybe life coach shut it Callum.

Taxi driver

Where left right lights immigration stop roadworks traffic not being funny but come over here free council houses bloody liberty politicians all same lying sorry which terminal mate cheeky my right of way pillock anyway immigrants EU taxpayer whole country hell handcart Cameron Clegg Obama not racist bone in body but still Berlusconi hand it to him his age complete mess blocked off cops everywhere dunno go round high street this hour Friday night innit North Circular could do petrol Libya unemployment celebrities Amy Winehouse you'll never guess who had back cab other day that Lionel Blair no me neither.


In the article there is also a profile of a health and safety expert & public relations manager. Perhaps Fabio Capello's lack of vocabulary may go some way to explaining the English football team's recent performances.

Interesting but difficult to use with our students due to the cultural references. It does provide the idea for students to recycle vocabulary in a similar vein. A nice idea would be to give students a couple of profiles such as the ones above, graded to the level, & they decide which jobs are being referred to. They then go on to write their own for different professions - you could reduce the number to 50 to make it a bit more manageable. They could begin by writing it out in their mother tongue & then translating into English. Feed in language & have dictionaries at hand while they prepare their 50/100 word monologues. They then read them out for others to guess the profession.

For the group interested in football, they could write out Capello's 50/100 words.

This reminded me of the Tip 'Dramatic Monologues' - here it is:

Do you know the book 'Dramatic Monologues' by Colin Mortimer (CUP)? Unfortunately, I believe it's out of print at the moment. A great little book with 24 monologues & accompanying questions &, of course, the tape. The back cover says that 'the monologues are designed to increase students' responsiveness to implicatory language by helping them to listen intelligently & interpret what they hear.'

Each monologue is centred around a situation - e.g. a bank manager talking to a client whose newly wed young wife is spending all of his money, a couple stuck in a lift, someone in authority sacking an employee, a convict asking to stay in prison over the Xmas holidays rather than being released the day before Xmas (my favourite) etc....

The way I usually deal with a monologue like this is to play a little bit of the monologue (the first sentence or first few words) & then ask the students in pairs to discuss what they think is happening, then another bit, then more discussion & so on until they work it out or we reach the end of the text. If they still have problems, I then give out the script & they listen to the whole text & read at the same time. Then on to the questions, which they answer in pairs & finally we look at some interesting aspect of the speaking skill or language in the monologue.

The students are not only using their inference skills to work out the situation, the language of past & present deduction could be highlighted for use during their many discussions, but there are very rich conversations taking place when they compare ideas. Listen to the kind of things they are saying & feed in more options for them. A follow up task could be to write the silent person's responses.

The book's monologues provide challenging listening but they can be re-recorded to make them easier & you can easily write your own if you want a monologue on a specific topic to fit into your scheme of work.

Here are some monologues I made up & used:

Monologue 1

Well, I wouldn't usually ask this, as you know, but it has been playing up lately..I haven' missed more than two or three days a year since I started working. I'm not the type to shirk my responsibilities. I prefer to soldier on & soon it goes away. But I must admit that it is uncomfortable.. ...quite severely, at times. A warm bath usually sorts it out. I remember you suggesting that a massage might be beneficial but I've never got round to it. So I thought what with the event coming up &, you know..frankly it is a special occasion & I wouldn't want to miss it. You're going too, aren't you? Yes, it should be quite something to remember. If you'd be so kind, I'll be on my way & not waste any more of your time. It only need be for a couple of days..a cover, sort of....

Monologue 2

Well, you must know the situation. It's been in the papers & now I'm afraid it's time to take some action. As you know, it isn't the easiest of decisions to take & it's as difficult for me as it is for you. But someone has got to do it, just as someone has to be on the other end. One day it might happen to me &'m just carrying out orders.... So, I'm sure you'll find something else before too long & I really do wish you every success in the future. You have been an important part of the team, I must admit & if there'd been any other solution you can be sure we'd have taken that but with the situation as it is....Anyway, that's that & there really isn't anymore to be said. ..... I was looking in the paper last night & there are several openings for a man of your maturity & experience.

Monologue 3

You must be aware why I've asked to see you. It's not as if this were the first time this has fact, if my memory serves me well, this is the seventh time and we are getting a bit fed up. We've got enough to do without catching him at it all the time. I honestly thing that it's high time that a firm hand were taken in the home. This is the best solution, really. Do you let him do it at home?...No, I don't imagine that you do. And do you or your husband? No....Well, possibly you could look out for the telltale signs; you know, the smell on his breath & his clothes & see if he has any on him. I mean, seven is quite an early age to start & what with the warnings we're getting these days about it...well, it can't do him any good, apart from anything else. The other boys see him & want to do it too & you know we can't have that. You don't er...give him money each day, do you? Stopping that might be a way to sort this out. Anyway, That's what I wanted to say & if it happens again, we'll have to take much stronger action.

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