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Teaching Tips 172

The Real Thing
Lively Limericks

coca cola bottle
The Real Thing

It's 'International Museum Day' on 18th May. Below are some ideas from a past Tip for a lesson on the Day. This year the theme is 'Museum and Memory: Objects Tell Your Story' - they say:

'In 2011, the theme of International Museum Day is Museum and Memory. Through the objects they store, museums collect stories and convey the memory of our communities. These objects are the expressions of our natural and cultural heritage. Many of them are fragile, some endangered and they need special care and conservation. International Museum Day 2011 will be an occasion for visitors to discover and rediscover individual and collective memory.'

This reminded me of the well used activity where students bring in an object of personal value to them & tell others why it means so much to them. This provides very personalised speaking practice & could also be used to practise certain structures.

Realia, real things rather than visuals, can bring lots of activities to life. On the site there is an article giving ideas on cutting down on lesson preparation. One of the ways is to exploit what you have in front of you - the students & the classroom itself. There are ideas on using this realia, as well as ideas on using one object as the sole focus in a lesson, in this case a bottle.

This is not suggesting that you go into most classes like this. It is to demonstrate that a little thought and imagination can go a long way.

A bottle - a few ideas in no particular order.

- Elicit what it is - brainstorm different types of drinks, different liquids put into bottles

- Think of ten different things you can use a bottle for, apart from containing liquids.

- Students invent a dialogue in a bar with the bottle as the central focus

- Give 3/4 more vocab items & students invent a story using them Introduce language of invitations 'Would you like a drink?'

- For higher levels formal/informal language

- Processes - present simple passive - bottling of a drink.

- Prepositions of place

- Materials - glass to other materials Interview roleplay - found dead rat in bottle while drinking (barman - customer roleplay) and goes on to negotiations for a settlement over compensation for the outrage (company rep.- customer roleplay).

- Bottle is a new invention - prepare an advertising campaign to promote this revolutionary product.

- Vocab - smash, crack, shatter, break poss. combined with other 'breakage' vocab & then to go on to area of complaints.

- Message in a bottle - students write one to each other, put mysterious one on board & students ask questions/discuss to discover meaning.

- Tribe find bottle washed up on shore, never seen one, discuss uses from their point of view & the go on to discussion on civilisation and then desert island - desert island discs/possessions take/who take with you etc.

- Alcohol - uses & abuses & then role play with bottle central focus - alcoholic & counsellor/partner.

- Class questionnaire - most/least popular drinks.

Check out the article at:

The past Tip on Museum Day:

Here's the link to the Day's website: It might seem to be a bit of a dry subject to some but it could be fun & easily tie in with units on art, likes/dislikes, discussion etc... Here are a few classroom ideas:

1. A few quotes to discuss:

"You should go to picture-galleries and museums of sculpture to be acted upon, and not to express or try to form your own perfectly futile opinion. It makes no difference to you or the world what you may think of any work of art. That is not the question; the point is how it affects you. The picture is the judge of your capacity, not you of its excellence; the world has long ago passed its judgment upon it, and now it is for the work to estimate you."
Anna C. Brackett (1836–1911), U.S. author. The Technique of Rest, ch. 4 (1892)

"Museums are the cemeteries of the arts"
Alphonse de Lamartine (French poet, writer and statesman, 1790-1869)

"Museums and art stores are also sources of pleasure and inspiration. Doubtless it will seem strange to many that the hand unaided by sight can feel action, sentiment, beauty in the cold marble; and yet it is true that I derive genuine pleasure from touching great works of art. As my finger tips trace line and curve, they discover the thought and emotion which the artist has portrayed."
Helen Keller American author and educator who was blind and deaf. 1880-1968)

"The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums."
Peter De Vries

"An ideal museum show would be a mating of Brideshead Revisited with House & Garden. provoking intense and pleasurable nostalgia for a past that none of its audience has had."
Robert Hughes (Australian art critic and author, b.1938)

"I seldom go into a natural history museum without feeling as if I were attending a funeral."
John Burroughs (American essayist and naturalist, 1837-1921)

"Attitudes to museums have changed. If it had Marilyn Monroe’s knickers or Laurence Olivier’s jockstrap they would flock to it."
Jonathan Miller (b. 1936), British doctor, humorist, director.
Daily Telegraph (London, June 7, 1989)

2. Museum discussions - a few questions:

1. Which are the most popular museums in your area?
2. Are museums popular in your country?
2. When was the last time you visited a museum?
3. Was this for a specific exhibition?
4. Are there any small museums in your area?
5. Can you think of a new museum that would be interesting to have in your area?
6. Do your museums charge for entry? How much?
7. Do you think museums should be free?

3. If your students are art-savvy, they could decide on 10 exhibits that they could have in their ideal museum. Then they could rank them in order of importance to humanity, most popular etc..

4. Students could work out a series of activities to promote Museum Day. The site suggests some activities for this: After working in groups on ideas, they could compare with the ideas on the page & decide on five important action points.

5. Copy lots of paintings, sculptures etc from the internet, let the students decide which to put in their museum. Post the copies on the walls round the classroom, review the language of likes/preferences & let the students take as tour of the museum, discussing the different exhibits.

6. With the same pictures from the net, working on the language of present/past deduction, the students could try to place them in time - it could be from the 17th century....Poss. presented as a competition.

7. General picture activities - choose three & make up a story, imagine a history behind a painting & maybe compare with the real-life story....

8. Get some brochures & leaflets from local museums for discussion work. If they are in English all the better, but if not, the discussion will be in English. Maybe a short translation task of an excerpt of the brochure as well.

9. Writing - a for/against museums essay, about their favourite painting, letter to the editor.

10. History - if the topic is looking at a period in history, discuss/create a museum of the period.

11. Younger learners could create their own museum by drawing pictures, making things such as robots. This could be a museum for the future to reflect the moment, what they consider important day-to-day at this time in history, so they might draw a Game Boy, skateboard etc..

12. A few links:

Check out the famous museums as most have virtual visits e.g.
The Prado Gallery Online
Yahoo's directory of museums.
'Your First Stop for Art Online! Discover over 100,000 works of contemporary art. Search by medium, subject matter, price and theme... research over 200,000 works by over 22,000 masters in the in depth art history section. Browse through new Art Blogs. Use our new advanced artwork search interface.'
International Council of Museums.;action=list
Unusual museums on the internet.

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Lively Limericks

There once was an English teacher,
With one distinguishing feature.
Whether young or old,
All her students were told,
They were good, and all did believe her!

The unofficial Limerick Day, the birthday of Edward Lear, is on May 12th. Here are a couple of well known limericks by Edward Lear:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!'

Edward Lear limerick image

There was a Young Lady whose chin,
Resembled the point of a pin;
So she had it made sharp,
And purchased a harp,
And played several tunes with her chin.

Edward Lear limerick image

Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense

First of all, the structure behind the limerick - It is a five line poem that consists of a triplet & a couplet. The 1st, 2nd & 5th lines rhyme, with 3 beats per line, while the 3rd & 4th lines rhyme, with two beats per line. The last line is usually the punch line.

Here are a few ways of using limericks:

For reception, limericks are good for helping students to become aware of rhythm. As you read out the limerick get them to beat the stress by knocking on their desks or clapping their hands. They can then go on to read limericks out loud to each other. See the links at the end for sources of limericks.

If you have cuisenaire rods, give out a couple of colours to each pair & ask them to represent the rhythm with the rods. To see this done on the site with nursery rhymes

Asking students to produce limericks can be fun but challenging. You might want to start off by giving some limericks with gaps the missing vocab jumbled up. The students have to choose the most appropriate word to fit the limerick. For example:

There once was a man from ______
Who interrupted two girls at their ______
Said he with a ______
"That park bench, ______
Just painted it right where you're ______

Missing parts:
well I
Great Britain

And another one:

There was a young woman named ______
Whose speed was much faster than ______
She set out one ______
In a relative, ______
And returned on the previous ______

Missing parts:

Then go on to giving out the first lines of 3 limericks & also the other lines all mixed up. Through the content & the rhythm, the students unjumble them all.

Then to the first line of a limerick to all of the students:

'There was an old man from Ham'

Brainstorm all the words they can think of that rhyme with 'Ham' - am, clam, cram, dam, damn, dram, gram, jam, lamb, ma'am, ram, Saddam, scam, slam, spam, swam, tram, wham. Then give out your list & go through them. The students then invent their own limerick. You could get them to rotate their limericks after each line, with a new pair adding the next line to each limerick.

Here's another teaching-related limerick:

Democracy takes education
And commitment to the relation.
If people would come
With their homework all done,
There wouldn't be so much frustration.

A couple more limerick sites:

Other Tips about using poetry:
Hopeful haikus:
Burns Night:

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There are lots of noises, unwanted sounds, around, the top one for me being the incessant barking of dogs. However people have different tolerance to different sounds & one person's noise is another person's sound. International Noise Awareness Day is on 27th April so here are some ideas for using noise & sounds as a theme:

- Lexis; a noise, make a noise, noisy, noiseless, noise pollution, sounds, unwanted sound, soundproof, silence, silence is golden, quiet, quiet as a mouse, quietness..

- When students are involved in a speaking activity, put on some background music - good for the quiet group as this tends to encourage them to speak louder.

- To get them to listen to each other, put them in pairs but each on different sides of the room, put on some loud music & let them get on with it, as they have to speak over the music to be heard & understood - lots of fun - but careful not to upset neighbouring classes.

- Students list 5 most pleasant noises & 5 worst noises & then compare to see if they have any similarities.

- Sound association - students discuss which sounds/noises they associate with different periods of their lives - could also include smells as well.

- Chinese whispers - write out a long sentence, containing something you have recently covered. The first student memo rises the sentence, whispers it to the next student, who then whispers it to the next & so on until the last student hears it & tells the class what the sentence is & usually it is very different from the original.

- Order the following in order of irritation, most to least:
* aircraft
* loud neighbors
* traffic
* leaf blowers and other lawn equipment
* loud music, "boom cars"
* sirens, car alarms, horn honking
* barking dogs and other animals, jet skis, snowmobiles
* other?

- Play a series of sounds & the students work out a story - see the Tip 'Sounds Intriguing': ATP://

- Develop comprehension strategies, ways to clarify comprehension, by introducing language such as 'I didn't catch that.', 'Could you repeat that, please?', 'Could you talk a little slower, please?'... Maybe make your own audio recording of a conversation with lots of background noise that makes the dialogue difficult for both speakers, & include some of the clarification exponents. Deal with the content of the dialogue with appropriate tasks & then notice & pull off the language, clarify it & go on to practise it.

- Noise complaint role plays - e.g.
A: You are fed up with the noise from your neighbors. At all hours there is music coming from their flat. You would like some peace & quiet. Go & talk to your neighbours about the problem.
B: Your neighbours are very sensitive to noise, totally over the top. You play music but don't play it excessively, or loudly.

- For a lesson plan on neighbours & complaints:

- Noise quotes for discussion:
'The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise.' Benjamin Franklin
'Silence is the true friend that never betrays.' Confucius
'Silence is a source of great strength.' Lao Tzu
'The Arctic expresses the sum of all wisdom: Silence.' Walter Bauer
'Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.' James Thurber
'Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.' Margaret Lee Runbeck

- Check out the film 'Noise' (2007) starring Tim Robbins about a man who is being driven crazy by the noise in New York City decides to take vigilante action against it. Use excerpts in class to promote discussion.

- Reading - from the League for the Hard of Hearing - lots of short reading that could be used for some nice jigsaw reading - see the following - change the texts to suit:
Facts on noise:
* Noise & Hearing
* Noise & Health
* Noise in the Workplace
* Recreational Noise
* Personal Stereo Systems & Headsets (mp3 players)
* Noise & Music
* Noise & Health Clubs
* Noise in the Home
* Noise Levels Common in Our Environment
* Airport Noise
* How To Handle A Noise Complaint

- Recipe for A Quiet Diet - from the above site - students brainstorm what they might do on the Day & then compare with the list of things below, deciding on the best ideas. The same for the younger learners but they try to do the tasks as quietly as possible, whispering to each other.

Take these few, simple steps to preserve the peace and quiet in your life:

Pay attention to the noises you make and respect your neighbor's right to peace and quiet.
Turn down the volume two notches on your radios and personal stereo systems with headphones.
Turn down the volume one notch on your television.
Do NOT honk your horn, except in the case of imminent danger.
Do NOT tip cab drivers who honk their horns illegally.
Avoid noisy sports events, restaurants, rock concerts and nightclubs unless you use hearing protection.
Replace noisy activities with quiet ones such as taking a walk, visits to libraries and museums.
Ask your health club instructor to lower the music.
Ask the movie theater manager to turn down the volume.
Wear adequate hearing protection if you must be in a noisy environment (the subway, mowing the lawn)
Turn off the television during dinner and have a quiet conversation instead.
Get a free hearing screening.
Organize a town meeting to review (or develop) a local, enforceable noise ordinance.
Participate in the Noise Center's letter writing campaign to reestablish the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Noise Abatement & Control.
Spread the word about the danger of noise,

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