only comes once every four years so it's
worth a lesson based around it. It's Leap Year
& the extra day is on 29th of this month.
you'd like to work out if a year is a leap year or not,
or find leap years between certain dates, click
here for a quick calculation.
are a few ideas for a lesson:
Begin with the problem to introduce the theme of 'Leap
Years' - on the board - pairwork >> feedback -
anyone have a birthday on 29th Feb? Know anyone? What
do they do about birthdays - would you do?
Ben was born in 1960, but has only had 10 birthdays
on his birth day, how could he be 44 in the year
Elicit how we work out if a year is a leap year or not.
Put the following headings on the board & students
discuss what the article might say about them.
years are leap years?
Why are leap years needed?
Is there a perfect calendar?
Students either read quickly for the general idea -
to see if their ideas come up in the article, or read
in detail to discover the answers to the questions -
give appropriate time limits for each approach. As it
is a dense text, maybe the latter might be more appropriate.
Or you could give a series of years & the students
have to work out which are leap years from the information
about the calculations in the text. Students compare
ideas, help each other out >> feedback.
is a leap year?
A leap year is a year with one extra day inserted
into February, the leap year is 366 days with
29 days in February as opposed to the normal 28
days. (There are a few past exceptions to this)
years are leap years?
In the Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar
used by most modern countries, the following rules
decides which years are leap years:
Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year.
But every year divisible by 100 is NOT a leap
Unless the year is also divisible by 400, then
it is still a leap year.
This means that year 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300
and 2500 are NOT leap years, while year 2000 and
2400 are leap years.
This actually means year 2000 is kind of special,
as it is the first time the third rule is used
in many parts of the world.
the old Julian Calendar, there was only one rule:
Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year. This
calendar was used before the Gregorian calendar
are leap years needed?
Leap years are needed so that the calendar is
in alignment with the earth's motion around the
The mean time between two successive vernal
equinoxes is called a tropical year, and it is
about 365.2422 days long. This means that it takes
365.2422 days for the earth to make one revolution
around the sun (the time is takes to orbit the
a calendar with 365 days would result in an error
of 0.2422 days or almost 6 hours per year. After
100 years, this calendar would be more than 24
days ahead of the seasons (tropical year), which
is not a desirable situation. It is desirable
to align the calendar with the seasons, and make
the difference as small as possible.
adding leap years approximately every 4th year,
this difference between the calendar and the seasons
can be reduced significantly, and the calendar
will follow the seasons much more closely than
without leap years.
day is here used in the sense of "mean solar
day", which is the mean time between two
transits of the sun across the meridian of the
there a perfect calendar?
None of the calendars used today are perfect,
they go wrong by seconds, minutes, hours or days
every year. To make a calendar even better, new
leap year rules have to be introduced, complicating
the calculation of the calendar even more. The
currently used Gregorian calendar may need some
modification a few thousand years ahead. A tropical
year is approximately 365.242199 days, but it
varies from year to year, because of influence
by the other planets.
secs (1 day every 3236 years)
mins (1 day every 128 years)
hours (1 day every 4 years)
calendar like the Julian Calendar (with every
4th year as a leap year) was first introduced
by king Ptolemy III, Egypt in 238 BC.
In ancient times, it was very usual to have lunar
(moon) calendars, with 12 and/or 13 months every
year. To align the calendar with the seasons the
13th month was inserted as a "leap month"
every 2-3 years.
Many other calendars have been and are still used
throughout the world.
permission from http://www.timeanddate.com/date/leapyear.html
Elicit any leap year traditions the students may know
about. The following reading could be cut up into paragraphs,
handed out & the students put it into a logical
order >> feedback discussing why the order chosen.
Then on to further comprehension if needed - for lower
levels. Then on to a discussion of the content - any
similarities in students' countries.
is a Leap Year!
Year was the traditional time that women could
propose marriage. In many of today's cultures,
it is ok for a woman to propose marriage to a
man. Society doesn't look down on such women.
However, that hasn't always been the case. When
the rules of courtship were stricter, women were
only allowed to pop the question on one day every
four years. That day was February 29th.
is believed this tradition was started in 5th
century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to
St. Patrick about women having to wait for so
long for a man to propose. So, according to legend,
St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose
on this one day in February during the Leap Year.
to English law, February 29th was ignored and
had no legal status. Folks assumed that traditions
would also have no status on that day. It was
also reasoned that since the leap year day existed
to fix a problem in the calendar, it could also
be used to fix an old and unjust custom that only
let men propose marriage.
first documentation of this practice dates back
to 1288, when Scotland passed a law that allowed
women to propose marriage to the man of their
choice in that year. They also made it law that
any man who declined a proposal in a Leap Year
must pay a fine. The fine could range from a kiss
to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves.
the United States, some people have referred to
this date as Sadie Hawkins Day, with women being
given the right to run after unmarried men to
propose. Sadie Hawkins was a female character
in the Al Capp cartoon strip "Li'l Abner."
Many communities celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day in
is a Greek superstition that claims couples have
bad luck if they marry during a leap year. Apparently
one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid
planning their wedding during a leap year.
A follow up might be a roleplay with a Greek couple
- see the roles below:
you would like to get married with b. but it is
leap year & you are quite superstitious &
feel it would be bad luck to get married this year.
you thought you were going to get married with a.
this year but now s/he has decided to wait until
next year, saying it is bad luck to get married
in a leap year. You think it is rubbish & an
excuse as you feel a. might be having second thoughts.
Have it out with him/her!
to the contents
week's Tip is a continuation of the
Tip 'More that meets the eye' which looked at using
pictures & the spot the difference activity as a
way of practising contrastive stress. Here are a few
Roleplay - checking information:
A: you are checking the details on a form :
name: Mrs Jane Benders
address: 23 London Lane, Cardiff, Wales
Phone number: 914627289
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
you are Mrs Paula Wenders & you live at 22 London
Road, Glasgow in Scotland. Your phone number is 914727388
& your e-mail address is email@example.com
Match the sentence with the continuation
went to the cinema with Ben, ....
He went to the theatre with Ben, ....
He went to the cinema with Josh, ...
not with Ben
not with Josh.
Work out the question to the given sentences.
saw Josh there last week. (Who/When/Where ...)
Ben played the piece a bit fast. (How/Who/What ...)
After a listening task, find examples of contrastive
stress, highlight them & stds read aloud.
Correct the teacher - as an on-going 'game' with the
group, after have looked at contrastive stress, occassionally
throw out a wrong observation/fact about the students
etc - & the group picks you up & correct. Works
well with teenagers.
Contradict me - from 'Pronunciation Games' - Mark Hancock
(CUP) - one student reads out a card with a false general
knowledge fact & partner corrects with correct stress
eg. A: Madrid is the capital of France. B: Don't you
mean that Madrid is the capital of Spain. If OK, responder
keeps the card & the winner is the one to collect
the most number of cards.
Drama integration - give out one part to each student
of matching parts of dialogues, each pair of lines containing
a contrast/correction. They memorise their line &
then just saying them they find their partners &
then work out the scene, practise acting it out &
then act it out in front of the class. Example two-line
dialogues: That's my beer you're drinking. No,
it's my beer.
to the contents
Valentine's Day is on the 14th so this week's Tip brings
together some ideas & links to help you out with
those Valentine's lessons.
a past newsletter, here are some ideas on romance:
Short mystery stories, with a touch of romance connected
to Valentine's Day can be found at www.mysterynet.com/love/valentine
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
above from the Feb 2000 Newsletter
ideas on the site:
Love Story lesson plan
& money are in the air Valentine's Day lesson plan
a text about the origins of Valentine's Day, from Sweetechnology.com
cakes & recipe on the site
Mid February was traditionally the time of the Lupercian
festival, an ode to the God of fertility and a celebration
of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a
prospective mate. In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed
the pagan festival. But he was clever to replace
it with a similar celebration, although one deemed
morally suitable. He needed a "lovers"
saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus.
martyred Bishop Valentine was chosen as the patron
saint of the new festival.
Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers
marry against the wishes of the mad emperor Claudius.
Before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in
love with his jailer's daughter. He signed his final
note to her, "From Your Valentine", a
phrase that has lasted through the centuries.
Gelasius didn't get everything he wanted. The pagan
festival died out, it is true, but he had further
hoped people would emulate the lives of saints.
Instead they latched onto the more romantic aspect
of Saint Valentine's religious life. While not immediately
as popular as the more passionate pagan festival,
eventually the concept of celebrating true love
became known as Valentine's Day.
on using this text:
a straightforward dictation task - read through first, stds
listen. Dictate each tone unit, repeating if the students
want. Read again for all to check. Give out the text &
if anyone knows the origins of VDay. Then give out choices
for students to discuss & choose possible stories. e.g.
Valentine's Day comes from the romantic character in Shakespear's
play 'Much Ado About Valentine' ...
key words on the board & students try to predict the
up the text into the paragraphs & students put in order.
out the first two paragraphs cut up, line by line, &
students order the text. Then use the third paragraph as
a dictogloss activity - read the text at normal speed &
students take notes - the stressed words. Then together
they reconstruct the paragraph from their notes. It's not
necessary for it to be the same as the text so long as it
is a coherent paragraph that fits with the preceeding two
paragraphs. Then give out the last paragraph to read &
see if their own paragraphs fit in.
follow up with the letter from Valentine to his lover before
he was beheaded (!) - could be fun.
on any current festivals they would like to replace - with
to the contents
the Past Teaching Tips