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Stressed rules
Student teachers
Skeleton texts

Stressed rules


Word stress is an important part of learning a word & it is probably the easier area of phonology for both the student & the teacher. We've looked at it briefly in the Teaching Tip 'A Vocabulary Presentation'

What about the word stress rules? Do you pass them on to your students? And as some are quite complicated, which ones do you look at? And then there are always exceptions to the rules!

Have a look at these groups, mark the stress on the words & work out the rules:

1. finger, father, ugly, apple, silly, happy

2. insult (n), insult (v), export (n), export (v)

3. information, decision, invention

4. automatic, infectious, falsify

5. entertain, ascertain, refugee, evacuee, Japanese, journalese, cigarette, laundrette


Here are the rules:

1. With two syllable adjectives & nouns, the stress tends to fall on the first syllable.

2. With some words that can act as a verb or a noun, such as produce, import, content, increase, the stress falls on the first syllable with the noun & the second syllable with the verb.

3 & 4. With words ending in -tion, -sion, -ic, -ify, -ious & -ify the stress tends to fall on the syllable before the suffix.

5. The suffixes -ain, -ee, -ese, -ette tend to take the stress.

There are more rules so check them if you are not familiar with them - even if you don't pass them on to your students, you need to be aware of them. You can introduce a rule when it crops up in some vocabulary or focus on it through a problem solving task as the one above. On the wall, have a word stress rule chart, adding to it when a new rule appears. Unless the students are particularly keen for more rules I should limit them to the easier ones.

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Student teachers

There are many ways of developing the group dynamics in a class. One way is to involve the students in the running of the lessons, adding new meaning to the idea of students being 'active' in the classroom. Here are a few ideas:

- at the end of an exercise - a comprehension task or a grammar gap fill - choose a student who you see has the answers correct & ask them to do the feedback, as you would normally do, by eliciting from the group.

- get the early finishers to monitor & help out the others. Encourage them to correct each other.

- to help with sub-skill awareness, ask the students how long they might need on a certain task, or how they would like to tackle it. If they say they'd like to take 5 minutes for a scan reading task then you will need to correct them but the more you do it the better they will become at gauging the requirements.

- negotiate what will be in the next two week of lessons by discussing the upcoming units & see if they are interested in the themes. Plan accordingly.

- students take it in turns to choose some vocabulary to review as a warmer. You could give them five or six activities to choose from to use with the vocab & they do the warmers for you.

- encourage student to student correction in both oral & written activities.

- if you need to do a roll call with younger learners, get them to do it, taking it in turns each day.

- also for younger learners, get them to draw & write on the board for you.

- ask the students to take it in turns to bring in an article for all to read. You could ask them to design a comprehension task to go with it. Clearly this would only work with those with easy access to English reading materials. Ask the student who brings the text to give it out, give instructions, control feedback etc..

- the idea of getting more advanced students to give presentations on areas of their interest fits in here as well.

- at the beginning of a lesson assign a student to tell all what happened in the previous lesson.

- assign study buddies - if a student misses a lesson, instead of you explaining what was missed, the study buddy does the job.

- at the end of a lesson, assign a student to run through what has been covered.

While the above are taking place, keep an eye on what is going on but make a point of getting out of the way. You may feel that some of the above ideas are asking too much of the student & that it is your job & what they pay you for. OK, but if done sensitively, you are giving the class back to the students & it will become much more enjoyable for all. Think about what the student might be able to do & transfer it over to them - not all the time at once, but now & then until they are comfortable.

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Skeleton texts



Here's a nice idea for showing students that they really don't need to understand everything in a text & that they can read much quicker if they look for the information words.

You need a shortish text, blank out all of the 'grammar words', leaving all the 'content words'. Make sure that you leave enough words in to make the text comprehensible. A way to do this is to imagine it is a telegram you are sending, leaving just enough for it to be understandable. Present your students with the skeleton text, first looking at the title & predicting what the article might be about, & then give them 30 seconds/1 minute to read the text - be strict about the time limit. The students then compare their ideas about the content, before general feedback.

Then give out the full text & ask the students to read for any more information. If you had left the information in the skeleton text, there won't be any more to find. Then ask for their impressions on the difference between the two texts, & go on to discuss strategies for speeding up their reading.

You could then transfer this idea to the speaking skill by moving on to 'prominence'. For more on this.

Here's a text that would be ideal for the business English class. There are ideas on exploiting the text at the end.

First, there's the example skeleton text followed by the full version:

Italian court tightens up on lax timekeeping

By Peter Popham in Rome
Independent - 21.3.03

ITALIAN OFFICE workers - nip out - working - shopping - penalty - law - Court - appeal.

Two employees - tax department - Sicily - shopping - supermarket.

- absence - noticed - tried - make up - extra time - prosecuted - guilty - court.

- Judges - confirmed - verdict - back - Sicily - sentencing - fine. 'defendants - insisted - absence - no harm - time - made up.

- ruling - latest - judgements - deter - abusing - time. - ruling - same court - sentence - employee - phone calls - one a day - 64 days - "embezzlement of consumption". - another - made one - call - every two days - let off.

Two nurses - jailed - fined - failing - punch - cards - lunch breaks - increasing - earnings. - honours - wrestling - problem - lateness - employees - late - sacked - came - own steam - not - travelled - public - judgements - read - ignored - public employees - Italy - calls - mum - duty - know - best time - supermarket.

(If you think your students might need more or less information words from the text, just add them in)


Italian court tightens up on lax timekeeping

By Peter Popham in Rome
Independent - 21.3.03

ITALIAN OFFICE workers who nip out during working hours to do a spot of shopping will be liable to the full penalty of the law, following a judgement this week in the Court of Cassation, the state's highest court of appeal.

Two employees of the tax department in Sicily took time off work to go shopping together in the local supermarket.

Their absence was noticed and although they tried to make up for it by putting in extra time on another day, they were prosecuted all the same, and found guilty in a Sicilian court.

This week the Judges in Italy's highest court confirmed the verdict and sent them back to Sicily for sentencing, probably with a fine. 'The defendants had insisted their absence caused no harm to the state and the time they had bunked off had been made up.

The ruling is the latest in a series of judgements seeking to deter workers' from abusing their employers' time. A recent ruling by the same court confirmed the sentence on a public employee for making personal phone calls - one a day for 64 days - under the heading "embezzlement of consumption". A little confusingly another defendant who made only one private call every two days was let off.

Two nurses were jailed and fined for failing to punch their cards in and out during lunch breaks, thus increasing their earnings. Their honours have also been wrestling with the problem of lateness, and are of the view that employees arriving late can be sacked if they came under their own steam but not if they
travelled by public transport.

These judgements will be read, pondered, digested and then ignored by the millions of public employees in Italy for whom the daily calls to mum and granny are a duty and who know the best time of day to whizz round the supermarket.

Ideas for exploiting the text:

• Lexical sets of work & the law.

• Other vocab: nip out, a spot of shopping, took time off, to make up for it, time..bunked off, let off, wrestling with a problem, came under their own steam, to whizz round.

• Grammar: past simple/present perfect, passives

• Overall text organisation: introduction - problem - solution - exemplification - conclusion

• Fun follow up roleplays from this text: Employer talking to worker about absenteeism, saw them shopping in the local supermarket etc.

• Discussion: employees rights within work time - for & against

• Writing: letters to the editor.

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