A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 71

Sounding right
Gender Bending
Going For Gold

Sounding right

This week we're looking at a few common sound problems. You need to match up the sound problem, the technique for helping learners with this & the nationality that this refers to (among others).

As the text newsletter doesn't take the phonemic script we have used /../ for sounds where we can, & '...' where the sound is represented alphabetically.

For answers to the task, click the link at the end.
Sound problem
Technique for helping
1. /b/ & /v/
as in 'Thank you bery much'                           
a. Std says /u:/ & then the schwa, then put them together with /w/ i. Japanese
2. /s/ & 'th' as in 'I sink you're wrong' b. Get the std to bit the bottom lip – her own preferably. ii. Arabic
3. /r/ & /l/ as in 'He's got a yerrow yorry' c. Std holds a paper in front of the mouth, says /b/ but blows so that the paper moves. iii. Japanese
4. /s/ & /es/ as in 'I come from Espain' d. Std isolates 'sh', isolates /t/, reverse this /t/ + 'sh' = 'ch' iv. German
5. /v/ & /w/ as in 'Ve vill valk & vin' e. Std puts her finger on the alveolar ridge, touches the finger nail with the tip of the tongue & then replaces the finger with the tongue. v. Spanish
6. /b/ & /p/ as in 'A biece of baber'


f. Spanish speakers find it difficult to start the word with /s/ Move your hand & student says the /s/ sound all the time until you stop. Then make the hand movements shorter & shorter until they are just coming out with the /s/ vi. French
7. 'Sh' & 'ch' as in 'She goes to schurch on Fridays' g. Std says /i:/ , & then the schwa, then puts them together for /j/ vii.Spanish
8. /j/ & 'y' as in 'Have jou seen him' h. Std puts teeth almost together, blow out & teacher shows position of the tongue. viii. Spanish
9. /s/ & 'sh' as in 'He travels by sip' i. Std puts her finger across her lips & then wets finger with tongue. ix. French & Spanish

The 'Spanish' repeated has been left in to make is easier to use the chart as a jigsaw task on a training course.

To see the answers

Back to the contents

Gender Bending

It is generally accepted these days that there are differences between the way women & the way men handle conversations. These are essentially the dominance of men in certain contexts through the use of non-cooperative strategies & the cooperative & more sensitive nature of women's conversation.

Should this concern us as teachers? Well, it depends on your outlook to start with. If you do feel there is an unfair balance then you will be concerned. If, however, you feel this is the nature of things, then it will be less interesting. Then there is the argument that female conversation is in fact more successful in general & that it is only in certain male-dominated environments that this is an issue ie. the situation is an issue more than the discourse. In certain counselling situations, women tend to be considered more sensitive & skillful.

And our students? Would incorporating an awareness of this in class help our learners become more sensitive communicators? And would it help our female learners become more successful communicators in English. I would say so. Our learners might well find themselves as disadvantaged due to their language proficiency in situations & so an awareness of what is actually happening in conversation will help them to manage it better, no matter what aspect is being looked at.

Here are a few ideas to use in class:

  • conversational interaction awareness - find a text where gender is being used to advantage & help the students to notice what is going on. Whenever you notice this in texts you are using, make a point of drawing it out.
  • discuss how gender differences are manifested in the students' native speaker speech. (Is this automatically transferable to English on reaching an advanced level? Not even advanced - I have seen groups dominated by the men from very low levels.)
  • analyse, with the students, the target situations they will find themselves in, with respect to this issue.
  • think about how you might be perpetuating the gender bias in the materials you use & the interaction you 'allow' in the classroom. With a mixed group, carry out an experiment to see if & how much the group is dominated by the men, & how are they doing it. Share your results with the group & possibly create a more democratic environment.

It's an interesting & complex area & we are only touching the tip of it here. Clearly you need to be sensitive yourself to the learners' cultural background & tread carefully so as not to cause offence. However, awareness is half the battle won, they say.

Back to the contents

Going For Gold

We're well into the Olympics now & as it only comes every four years, it makes an interesting lesson or three for all. Here are a few ideas & materials:

Follow the Olympics with some blogs, getting your students to read them outside of class & discuss them each lesson - what has happened, what did you find interesting etc..
US swimmer Scott Goldblatt's blog from the Olympics - catch it now while it's still online as unofficial media is banned at Olympic Games. Luckily Scott hasn't been officially told to stop so on he goes.
BBC World producer Stuart Hughes is blogging from the Olympics
Journalist Robert Scheer's Summer Olympics blog.


Below are some interesting Olympic facts from - an excellent information site - which could be used very nicely as an information gap task. Give out 1 or 2 facts to each student, they read, digest & write in the relevant section on their charts, & then all mingle & fill in the remainder of the charts with as much info as they can glean from each other with the purpose of deciding on the top three most interesting facts. Clearly, grade the facts & number used to suit.

Interesting Olympic Facts - from

The Official Olympic Flag
Created by Pierre de Coubertin in 1914, the Olympic flag contains five interconnected rings on a white background. The five rings symbolize the five significant continents and are interconnected to symbolize the friendship to be gained from these international competitions. The rings, from left to right, are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The colors were chosen because at least one of them appeared on the flag of every country in the world. The Olympic flag was first flown during the 1920 Olympic Games.

The Olympic Motto
In 1921, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, borrowed a Latin phrase from his friend, Father Henri Didon, for the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius ("Swifter, Higher, Stronger").

The Olympic Oath
Pierre de Coubertin wrote an oath for the athletes to recite at each Olympic Games. During the opening ceremonies, one athlete recites the oath on behalf of all the athletes. The Olympic oath was first taken during the 1920 Olympic Games by Belgian fencer Victor Boin. The Olympic Oath states,

"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

The Olympic Creed
Pierre de Coubertin got the idea for this phrase from a speech given by Bishop Ethelbert Talbot at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 Olympic Games. The Olympic Creed reads:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Olympic Flame
The Olympic flame is a practice continued from the ancient Olympic Games. In Olympia (Greece), a flame was ignited by the sun and then kept burning until the closing of the Olympic Games. The flame first appeared in the modern Olympics at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. The flame itself represents a number of things, including purity and the endeavor for perfection. In 1936, the chairman of the organizing committee for the 1936 Olympic Games, Carl Diem, suggested what is now the modern Olympic Torch relay. The Olympic flame is lit at the ancient site of Olympia by women wearing ancient-style robes and using a curved mirror and the sun. The Olympic Torch is then passed from runner to runner from the ancient site of Olympia to the Olympic stadium in the hosting city. The flame is then kept alight until the Games have concluded. The Olympic Torch relay represents a continuation from the ancient Olympic Games to the modern Olympics.

The Olympic Hymn
The Olympic Hymn, played when the Olympic Flag is raised, was composed by Spyros Samaras and the words added by Kostis Palamas. The Olympic Hymn was first played at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens but wasn't declared the official hymn by the IOC until 1957.

Real Gold Medals
The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912.

The Medals
The Olympic medals are designed especially for each individual Olympic Games by the host city's organizing committee. Each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold.

The First Opening Ceremonies
The first opening ceremonies were held during the 1908 Olympic Games in London.

Opening Ceremony Procession Order
During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the procession of athletes is always led by the Greek team, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country.

A City, Not a Country
When choosing locations for the Olympic Games, the IOC specifically gives the honor of holding the Games to a city rather than a country.

IOC Diplomats
In order to make the IOC an independent organization, the members of the IOC are not considered diplomats from their countries to the IOC, but rather are diplomats from the IOC to their respective countries.

First Modern Champion
James B. Connolly (United States), winner of the hop, step, and jump (the first final event in the 1896 Olympics), was the first Olympic champion of the modern Olympic Games.

Women were first allowed to participate in 1900 at the second modern Olympic Games.

The First Marathon
In 490 BCE, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran from Marathon to Athens (about 25 miles) to inform the Athenians the outcome of the battle with invading Persians. The distance was filled with hills and other obstacles; thus Pheidippides arrived in Athens exhausted and with bleeding feet. After telling the townspeople of the Greeks' success in the battle, Pheidippides fell to the ground dead. In 1896, at the first modern Olympic Games, held a race of approximately the same length in commemoration of Pheidippides.

The Exact Length of a Marathon
During the first several modern Olympics, the marathon was always an approximate distance. In 1908, the British royal family requested that the marathon start at the Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness its start. The distance from the Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium was 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards). In 1924, this distance became the standardized length of a marathon.

Cancelled Games
Because of World War I and World War II, there were no Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, or 1944.

Winter Games Begun
The winter Olympic Games were first held in 1924, beginning a tradition of holding them a few months earlier and in a different city than the summer Olympic Games. Beginning in 1994, the winter Olympic Games were held in completely different years (two years apart) than the summer Games.

Tennis Banned
Tennis was played at the Olympics until 1924, then reinstituted in 1988.

Russia Not Present
Though Russia had sent a few athletes to compete in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games, they did not compete again until the 1952 Games.

Walt Disney
In 1960, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Squaw Valley, California (United States). In order to bedazzle and impress the spectators, Walt Disney was head of the committee that organized the opening day ceremonies. The 1960 Winter Games Opening Ceremony was filled with high school choirs and bands, releasing of thousands of balloons, fireworks, ice statues, releasing of 2,000 white doves, and national flags dropped by parachute.

Motor Boating
Motor boating was an official sport at the 1908 Olympics.

Polo, an Olympic Sport
Polo was played at the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924, and 1936.

The word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek root "gymnos" meaning nude; the literal meaning of "gymnasium" is "school for naked exercise." Athletes in the ancient Olympic Games would participate in the nude.

The first recorded ancient Olympic Games were held in 776 BCE with only one event - the stade. The stade was a unit of measurement (about 600 feet) that also became the name of the footrace because it was the distance run. Since the track for the stade (race) was a stade (length), the location of the race became the stadium.

Counting Olympiads
An Olympiad is a period of four successive years. The Olympic Games celebrate each Olympiad. For the modern Olympic Games, the first Olympiad celebration was in 1896. Every four years celebrates another Olympiad; thus, even the Games that were cancelled (1916, 1940, and 1944) count as Olympiads. The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney will be the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.

Student chart to complete whilst mingling:


The Official Olympic Flag


The Olympic Motto

The Olympic Oath

The Olympic Creed

The Olympic Flame

The Olympic Hymn

Real Gold Medals


The Medals

The First Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremony Procession
A City, Not a Country

IOC Diplomats


First Modern Champion


The First Marathon

The Exact Length Of A Marathon

Cancelled Games

Winter Games Began

Tewnnis Banned

Russian Not Present

Walt Disney

Motor Boating

Polo, an Olympic sport



Counting Olympiads



Below are the dates of where the Games have been held. For lower levels, this again could be made into an information gap task to practise years, numbers & capital cities.

1896 - Athens
1900 - Paris
1904 - St. Louis
1906 - Athens ("Unoffficial")
1908 - London
1912 - Stockholm
1916 - Not held
1920 - Antwerp
1924 - Paris
1928 - Amsterdam
1932 - Los Angeles
1936 - Berlin
1940 - Not held
1944 - Not held
1948 - London
1952 - Helsinki
1956 - Melbourne
1960 - Rome
1964 - Tokyo
1968 - Mexico City
1972 - Munich
1976 - Montreal
1980 - Moscow
1984 - Los Angeles
1988 - Seoul
1992 - Barcelona
1996 - Atlanta
2000 - Sydney


There is an interesting article for advanced learners that looks at why athletes shouldn't take drugs to enhance performance:

Faster, stronger, higher
The Olympic games begin in Athens on Friday, bringing together 10,000 elite competitors from around the world - and a host of officials trying to catch drug cheats. But is it really so wrong for an athlete to use performance-enhancing substances? In a controversial essay, sports academic Lincoln Allison argues that those who strive to be the best should do so by any means necessary.


Some quotes from the Olympics:

"For too long the world has failed to recognise that the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement are about fine athletics and fine art."
Avery Brundage

"It is the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people not only to compete but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral benefits to the athlete and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness the athletic dedication."
Herb Elliott

"Being an Olympian is the ultimate test of one's sporting ability."
Russell Mark

"To be part of that winning team and standing in the ring for the final decision to be announced is something I will live with for the rest of my life."
Graham Cheney

"Olympism is not a system - it is a state of mind. This state of mind has emerged from a double cult: that of effort and that of Eurythmy - a taste of excess and a taste of measure combined."
Pierre de Coubertin

"The swimming and diving were held in part of the old moat ... it was the clammiest, darkest place and the water was frigid. It looked bottomless and black"
Alice Landon, American Diver, on facilities at the Antwerp Games of 1920

"I was not talented enough to run and smile at the same time"
Emil Zatopek, champion Czechoslovakian distance runner, when asked about unusual facial expression when running.

"All I've done is run fast. I don't see why people should make much fuss about that"
Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals at the 1948 Games

"To anyone who has started out on a long campaign believing that the gold medal was destined for him, the feeling when, all of a sudden, the medal has gone somewhere else is quite indescribable."
Sebastian Coe, after losing the 800m final in 1980.


Reading text - The History of the Olympics - from

A History of the Olympics

According to legend, the ancient Olympic Games were founded by Heracles (the Roman Hercules), a son of Zeus. Yet the first Olympic Games for which we still have written records were held in 776 BCE (though it is generally believed that the Games had been going on for many years already). At this Olympic Games, a naked runner, Coroebus (a cook from Elis), won the sole event at the Olympics, the stade - a run of approximately 192 meters (210 yards). This made Coroebus the very first Olympic champion in history.

The ancient Olympic Games grew and continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years. In 393 CE, the Roman emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, abolished the Games because of their pagan influences.

Approximately 1500 years later, a young Frenchmen named Pierre de Coubertin began their revival. Coubertin is now known as le Rénovateur. Coubertin was a French aristocrat born on January 1, 1863. He was only seven years old when France was overrun by the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Some believe that Coubertin attributed the defeat of France not to its military skills but rather to the French soldiers' lack of vigor.' After examining the education of the German, British, and American children, Coubertin decided that it was exercise, more specifically sports, that made a well-rounded and vigorous person.

Coubertin's attempt to get France interested in sports was not met with enthusiasm. Still, Coubertin persisted. In 1890, he organized and founded a sports organization, Union des Sociétés Francaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA). Two years later, Coubertin first pitched his idea to revive the Olympic Games. At a meeting of the Union des Sports Athlétiques in Paris on November 25, 1892, Coubertin stated,

Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally. It inspires me to touch upon another step I now propose and in it I shall ask that the help you have given me hitherto you will extend again, so that together we may attempt to realise [sic], upon a basis suitable to the conditions of our modern life, the splendid and beneficent task of reviving the Olympic Games.

His speech did not inspire action. Though Coubertin was not the first to propose the revival of the Olympic Games, he was certainly the most well-connected and persistent of those to do so. Two years later, Coubertin organized a meeting with 79 delegates who represented nine countries. He gathered these delegates in an auditorium that was decorated by neoclassical murals and similar additional points of ambiance. At this meeting, Coubertin eloquently spoke of the revival of the Olympic Games. This time, Coubertin aroused interest.

The delegates at the conference voted unanimously for the Olympic Games. The delegates also decided to have Coubertin construct an international committee to organize the Games. This committee became the International Olympic Committee (IOC; Comité Internationale Olympique) and Demetrious Vikelas from Greece was selected to be its first president. Athens was chosen for the revival of the Olympic Games and the planning was begun.

1896 - Athens, Greece

The very first modern Olympic Games opened in the first week of April 1896. Since the Greek government had been unable to fund construction of a stadium, a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff, donated one million drachmas (over $100,000) to restore the Panathenaic Stadium, originally built in 330 BCE, with white marble for the Olympic Games.

Since the Games were not well publicized internationally, contestants were not nationally chosen but rather came individually and at their own expense. Some contestants were tourists who happened to be in the area during the Games. Athletes wore their athletic club uniform rather than a national team one.

Pole vaulting, sprints, shot put, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, target shooting, tennis, marathon and gymnastics were all events at the first Olympics. The swimming events were held in the Bay of Zea in the Aegean Sea. Gold medalist, Alfred Hoyos Guttmann described it: "I won ahead of the others with a big lead, but my greatest struggle was against the towering twelve-foot waves and the terribly cold water." (Guttmann, pg. 19) Approximately 300 athletes participated, representing thirteen countries.


Ideas on using the theme of Sport in class from a past newsletter. 
My sons are delighted at the prospect of skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport in 2020. (whatever are the Olympics coming to?) Deciding which sports to include could make for a lively discussion - synchronised swimming?? skateboarding?? monopoly??


Olympic links:
Jesse Owens - the official site
Official Website of the Olympic Movement
ResourceShelf Olympic links

Back to the contents

To the Past Teaching Tips

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing