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Getting it right at the beginning

Breaking News Radio

An area that has really benefited from the growth of the internet has been the radio. Nowadays it's easy to pick up hundreds of radio stations from all around the world & it's well worth pointing your students to a few English language stations that they might find interesting.

I was talking to a colleague the other day about using the news from the radio in class. It occurred to us that an interesting way of using the news would be to record several different broadcasts from the same day & exploit the differences between the broadcasts, and if you're lucky, within the stories & how they develop.

The BBC World Service has the news when you connect & all you need to do is tape it to your computer - I'm sure the BBC wouldn't mind it being used for educational purposes.

Begin by sinking the students into the theme of the news by eliciting recent news. Then play each broadcast in turn and ask the students to identify the story topics. Then they compare their ideas to decide which news items continue from broadcast to broadcast.

The students listen again to all of the broadcasts, and this time they focus on detail by taking notes on the stories that evolve. Another paired comparison could then takes place. If necessary the students could listen again, maybe giving them the tape recorder to control.

Afterwards comes the 'response' to the news they heard. Focus on the evolving stories & have a class discussion about any surprises on how they changed, how they could have gone, how it might go in future & generally what they think of them.

One idea amongst many for using the radio news in class.

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Romantic round up

It's Valentine's Day next Friday, 14th February, so this week the Tip takes the form of a round up of ideas & links on the Developing site related to Valentine's Day & the theme of 'romance', as well as some useful links to other web sites.

Valentine's Day lesson plan 1    

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Chocolate lesson plan

A few links on Valentine's Day to follow up:

The Science of Love from the BBC.

The theme works well if looked at chronologically over a few lessons, beginning with attraction, through chatting up etc, then Valentine's Day, on to marriage & finally divorce, taking in related themes along the way. Ideas below from the Feb 2000 Newsletter

- Short mystery stories, with a touch of romance connected to Valentine's Day can be found at

- Debate on V day - commercialism v romance.

- Who to send a V card to - personal/the famous.

- The above could be extended to stds deciding what presents the famous people give each other, where they go to eat, what they eat, what they say to each other (reported speech) etc. Or the game 'Consequences' - name of fam. woman (met) name of fam. male (at) place ..(he said to her).. (& she said to him) . (& the consequence was) .- each piece of information is written on a paper which is folded over each time obscuring all that came before so that at the end when all is written it is unfolded & read out - lots of fun. See the Teaching Tip - Bizarre Consequences

- Romantic films - stds make a list of the top ten romantic films e.g.. Love Story, Casablanca, An Affair To Remember, The Piano, Brief Encounter, DR Zhivago, Now Voyager, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Gone With The Wind, When Harry Met Sally ...

- Lexical set: like, fancy, chat up, ask out, go out with, get on well, fall/be in love, 'go steady', live together, get engaged, get married, have children, go off, split up, get divorced ..rather heterosexual so change to suit.

- Heart to Heart/Lonely Hearts ads, the more diverse the ads the better - first decide which sex is advertising for which sex in each
- they could put a M-F code next to each ad & then compare ideas before general feedback - Then onto some scan reading; you ask a question e.g. who is looking for a red head & stds quickly look & when found answer put hand in air & when half group got hands up ask one for the answer & locate for those that didn't find it. Could do this with about ten questions. Could then get them to see if any of the advertisers could be matched up or do the stds like the sound of any of them - write their own ads or for others in the group ....

- Language of physical & character description could be related to Blind Dates which could be in the form of a letter describing self, where to meet, etc..

- Language of chatting up - could come from a tape of mini conversations & then pull out the different language being used >> practice with mini-roleplays. Useful & lots of fun for a youngish group.

- Language of invitations..could combine with a What's On Guide to use for scan reading & the language of preferences before going onto invitation role-plays, maybe on the phone which then involves telephone language .

- Role-play about parental disapproval - Mum, Dad, brother & girl who is going out with older boy. Dad is dead against it, Mum too but is more delicate, brother sides with sister & girl determined to carry on seeing boyfriend - do battle!

- Marriage: vocab - bride, groom, vows, reception etc./

- Discussions on: British v stds country wedding traditions compare/civil v church weddings/sex before marriage/alternative weddings/gay weddings/debate: live together v marriage/4 Weddings & A Funeral - the reception speech is very exploitable & enjoyable for higher levels - could lead on to a writing task/

- Problem page - there are many ways to use these e.g.. give out problem & stds write answers/ give half stds problems & other half advice & they write the opposite & after the written problem is read out to see if it matches they read out new written advice/ match up half a dozen short letters with the advice given leading on to a discussion of whether the advice given was the appropriate & if not any better.. role-plays from these: writer with friend, couple with marriage guidance counsellor. Advice language e.g..: It might be an idea to. Why don't you .?, etc.

-Hypothetical relationship situations - 2nd conditional practice - What would you do if ..all related to romance.

- The 'Couples' activity in 'Discussions That Work' by Penny Ur (CUP) works very well (well worth checking out if you haven't already!).

- Divorce - discussion on associated topics e.g.. stay together for sake of children v split up - Life after marriage / sex before marriage/life as a single person .

- All You Need Is .a song - songs & more songs.

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Getting it right at the beginning

A quick look at correction this week. When the students are involved in a controlled speaking activity, practising some specific aspect of language, this is the time to get in & correct the problems they are having with this new aspect. It would probably be a good idea to leave the other mistakes & concentrate on the target language. If you're correcting everything it could get a bit disheartening & if the students know they are doing this activity to practise some specific language, they will be putting their efforts into this.

What different techniques for correcting at the controlled stages do you use? Do you stick to a couple or do you vary your techniques? Here are a few in no particular order:

• refer to the board or a time earlier on the the lesson - Tch: 'Do you remember what G said first? Std: Yes, Have you ever..'

• part of speech - Tch: 'Noun?'

• finger counting - teacher shows fingers for each word of the student's wrong utterance& points to the 'wrong finger'. The student then self corrects.

• checking questions - Tch: 'Are we talking about the past or the present?'

• pointing to the phonemic chart for sound problems.

• emphasis - the teacher say the student's utterance again but emphasises the word/part that needs correcting. Tch: 'So you GO to the party yesterday?'

• reformulation - the teacher repeats the student but says it correctly. Hopefully the student notices the mistake.

• signal through facial expression or hand movement that there is a problem & see if the student can self correct.

• specific gestures eg. pointing back over your shoulder for the past, showing prepositions of place with hands etc.

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