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Teaching Tips 74

Three approaches
In Flanders field
A bit of creativity

Three Approaches

How do you decide on which approach to take to the presentation of new language? Say you're going to present 'should've/shouldn't've' to criticise past actions, which of the following do you do?

1. - simply put the structure on the board & explain it to the students.

2. - create a situation & elicit the language when the need arises within the situation.

3. - put some examples on the board, together with some examples
of present advice - you should go to the doctor / you should've gone to the doctor - ask the students to look at the contrast & work out the rules of meaning & form.

Maybe your coursebook has enough variety that you rely on it to provide the way you present new language but it is certainly a consideration to take into account. Here are a few points about the above three basic presentation approaches.

1. - this is the teacher giving a straight explanation with the
students concentrating & processing this information before putting it into practice in the oral or written controlled
practice activities. Although this traditional approach is teacher-centred, it can save time & is good for those areas that are very difficult to elicit or work out.

2. - this is good for lower levels who don't have the language to be able to talk about & understand language explanations. It can be very entertaining as the students sit back as the situation is built up through eliciting & visuals. It does run into the problem of taking up quite a lot of time.

3. - this problem solving approach is the newest of the three & asks the students to actively combine what they already know with the new language area. Of the three approaches there is more mental effort - cognitive depth - involved here, making the presentation more meaningful & memorable. The teacher has to make sure that there is enough to go on so that a degree of context is visible, & that it does build on current knowledge, as well as the students having the language, in English, to be able to talk about the items.

All of these approaches could well start with a text, a listening or reading text, so a context is established. This is more preferable to just picking the language out of thin air. Certain language items lend themselves to either a reading or listening text eg. with functional language, a listening text would be an appropriate vehicle as the intonation is an important aspect.

The approach you take depends on many considerations such as the item itself, the level, the students, the mother tongue of the students, the time available etc... Providing variety is always important & a well executed presentation paves the way for effective practice.

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Australian Remembrance Day '04 poster
In Flanders fields the poppies blow

It's Remembrance Day this week, on 11th November - a timely reminder - as if we need it with the daily slaughter around the globe that we see on television each evening. So, one wonders, what have we learned & how far have we come since the First World War? Not a lot & not very far at all, it seems.

Below is an article from the BBC website that explains the origins of the day, the traditional poppy, the reading of 'For The Fallen', the poem 'In Flanders Field & bringing it to the present with a mention of the white poppy for the 11th September victims.

Here's a brief outline of lesson ideas:

1. See if anyone knows what Remembrance Day is. If not, get the students to guess. (The Day is not only held in the UK - countries involved in the First World War all hold their own remembrances, especially Canada & Australia.)

2. Give comprehension questions & the text - minus the poem. Students read & answer >> compare answers >> feedback.

Read the questions & find the answers in the text about Remembrance Day

1. What does the day remember?
2. How did it begin?
3. Why the 11th?
4. What do people do on this day?
5. How is this day viewed by the majority of people in the UK?
6. Why poppies & how did the poppy wearing begin?
7. And the white poppy?

Give out the final words from some of the lines from the 'In Flanders Field' poem. Ask the students in pairs to match the rhyming words >> feedback.

4. Students then insert the words into the correct line of the poem >> pairs >> handout the poem for the students to compare >> feedback.
A follow up to this might be to get the students to invent a new ten line poem, using the rhyming words as the end of each line.
There could then be some reading aloud of the original poem.

blow - die - sky - glow - foe - fly - throw - high - row - ago

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies ____
Between the crosses, row on ____
That mark our place; and in the ____
The larks, still bravely singing, ____
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ____
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset ____,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the ____:
To you from failing hands we ____
The torch; be yours to hold it ____.
If ye break faith with us who ____
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

5. Discussion - a few prompts - do the students have a similar day in their country? If not, do they think they should have one for a particular war? In small groups, students think of a few days connected to wars in which the victims could be remembered in a similar vein, or how else could the day be remembered. Do these days have an effect? Should we continue to hold them?

There is no language focus mentioned although there are several things to things to pick up on, lexical sets eg. war - tense analysis present simple - passives etc..

And although suitable for intermediate up, you could still use the material with lower levels eg. skim reading followed by listening with you telling them about the day in more detail, followed by the discussion.

Remembrance Day - Poppy Day
Many countries have a special day to remember those that fell in their wars; America has Veterans Day, while France has Armistice Day. The British commemorate those who fought, and are still fighting, in wars for their country on Remembrance Day.

The British Remembrance Day is always held on the 11 November. This is the day that World War One ended in 1918, when the armistice was signed in Compiègne, Northern France, at 5am. Six hours later, the fighting stopped, and to commemorate this there is a two minute silence in the UK at 11am, every 11 November.

The period of silence was first proposed by a Melbourne journalist, Edward George Honey, in a letter published in the London Evening News on 8 May 1919, which subsequently came to the attention of King George V. On 7 November, 1919, the king issued a proclamation which called for a two-minute silence:

All locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.

As well as the two-minute silence, there are marches around the country by war veterans. The Royal Family, along with leading politicians, gather at the Cenotaph, a large war memorial in Whitehall, in London.

The nearest Sunday to the 11th is called Remembrance Sunday, when church services are held in honour of those involved in wars, and wreaths are laid on the memorials which have a place in every town. Many two-minute silences are followed by a lone bugler playing The Last Post, reminiscent of times of war when trumpets were as much a part of battle as bayonets. A poem called 'For the Fallen' is often read aloud on the occasion; the most famous stanza of which reads:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Fourth stanza of 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943)

These words can be found adorning many war memorials across the country. The author, Laurence Binyon, was never a soldier but certainly appreciated the horrors of war.

Remembrance day is taken very seriously, with disrespect being avoided at all costs (which is why the vandalisation of the Cenotaph on 1 May 2000 was seen as such a horrific crime). If 11 November falls on a weekday, schools, workplaces and shopping centres generally attempt to observe the silence, although some people choose to ignore their attempts and go about their business regardless.


Remembrance Day is also known as Poppy Day, because it is traditional to wear an artificial poppy. They are sold by the Royal British Legion, a charity dedicated to helping war veterans, although they do not have a fixed price - they rely on donations.

The motto of the British Legion is Remember the dead; don't forget the living, and they are campaigners for issues relating to war veterans, especially elderly ones.

The poppies are worn because in World War One the Western Front contained in the soil thousands of poppy seeds, all lying dormant. They would have lain there for years more, but the battles being fought there churned up the soil so much that the poppies bloomed like never before. The most famous bloom of poppies in the war was in Ypres, a town in Flanders, Belgium, which was crucial to the Allied defence. There were three battles there, but it was the second, which was calamitous to the allies since it heralded the first use of the new chlorine gas the Germans were experimenting with, which brought forth the poppies in greatest abundance, and inspired the Canadian soldier, Major John McCrae, to write his most famous poem. This, in turn, inspired the British Legion to adopt the poppy as their emblem.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

The American Moira Michael from Georgia, was the first person to wear a poppy in remembrance. In reply to McCrae's poem, she wrote a poem entitled 'We shall keep the faith' which includes the lines:

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.

She bought some poppies, wore one, and sold the others, raising money for ex-servicemen. Her colleague, French YMCA Secretary Madame Guerin, took up the idea and made artificial poppies for war orphans. It caught on.

In November 1921, the British Legion and Austrian Returned Sailor's and Soldier's League sold them for the first time.

The tragic events in New York on 11 September 2001, left ever increasing numbers of people feeling stronger than ever the need for peace. This, in turn, prompted the manufacture of white poppies to represent peace. They are not a new idea, though. In fact, they date from 1933, having been designed by a UK Women's Guild. The British Legion was invited to produce them twice, in 1933 and 1988, but they not only declined, they also refused to accept the proceeds from them, because they were seen as disrespectful by some soldiers. They are having a surge in popularity once again as people stop feeling as safe as they once did.

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A bit of creativity goes a long way..

Creativity is said to be the combination of one's past experience & new knowledge that produces a new or innovative result. And research has shown that not only that everyone can be creative - nothing new, but that it can be greatly improved with practice. Going to one extreme of creativity, it apparently took Mozart 16 years to produce a piece of music of lasting greatness.

In the business world, creativity is recognised as essential to keeping the edge over competitors. Hewlett -Packard issued the following outline for fostering a creative environment:


Rules of the Garage:

  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together
  • Share - tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution everyday. If it doesn't contribute, it doesn't leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.
  • Invent.

"I believe that if you carry these rules with you on your journey, if you create an environment where people's hearts and minds are fully engaged, where strategy is ennobling, where great aspirations are powered by the desires of people to do something worthwhile, then you will have touched others you encounter on your journey."
Carly Fiorina, President and CEO of HP, 2000

A very nice outline on which to to base your staffroom & teaching approach.

Teaching is clearly a very creative activity, the kind of activity that can become stale quite quickly if creativity dries up. Creativity, both in the planning of lessons & in the actual flow of lessons, can be both actively persued & developed on the spot. And after the event, reflection helps us add to our experience.

Creativity in the planning stages is usually present if we want to make a lesson interesting & useful for our students, as well as interesting for ourselves. We save time by using successful plans, stages & activities that have worked well in the past but we also have to think how to deal with new materials, language & skills development. Each group & individual is different , forcing us to adjust our approach each time. One way to do this is to return to the definition of creativity above, the combination of the old & the new. Say we have a new language area we want to practise with our 15 year olds, we can think back to other activities & combine these with the new. This is something that we can do automatically, but by consciously applying this we can become much more creative & productive. A pelmanism activity(1) for verbs & their past simple counterparts can be used for a grammatical terminology matching, a vocabulary review of pictures & names, a functional sentence match to their situations etc... A flow chart(2) used to practise the language of complaining can be used for any type of contextualised language - suggesting, comparing, inviting etc.. It is the idea of generalisability that is important here, using the past (the activity) with the present (the new demand, eg. the new language) to provide new results (a new practice activity).

This is all about the idea that we take creativity seriously & consciously try to apply some principles in order to help us become even more creative, provide an interesting service for our students, as well as an interesting time for ourselves. Have another look at the HP garage rules & think about how they might be useful for you, your students & your school. And have a look on the net for stuff on creativity - there's a lot there.

(1)Pelmanism consists of lots of pairs of cards face down on the table, jumbled up, & in two teams, a player has to turn one card over & then another to see if they match. If they do the player keeps the pair. If not, they are placed face down again & a player from the other team has a go. All try to remember where the replaced cards are, as the object of the game is to get as many pairs as possible.

(2) For ideas on using flow charts: Tip 'Going with the flow' & examples of flow charts.

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