Teaching Tips 75
From a distance
Rob Batstone in 'Grammar' (CUP) talks of four
types of 'distance' that grammar can offer. These distances
are temporal, social, psychological & hypothetical. The
first two & the last are the more commonly dealt with
in teaching materials, as seen in general tense work, functional
work & in conditionals.
The social distancing, can be seen when we look
at functions & their exponents. There is a distinct difference
between the following:
'Open the window.'
'Open the window, will you.'
'Can you open the window, please?'
'Could you open the window, please?'
'Would you be so good as to open the window?'
'I was wondering if you could open the window.'
This politeness, appropriacy & formality
is generally taught but I'm not sure how much the distinction
between the different exponents is exploited.
The other distance, the psychological distancing
provides our learners with a more sophisticated type of comprehension
The psychological distance is shown in 'Grammar'
with a contrast between a description of two approaches, one
set in the past simple & the other, more favourable one,
set in the present to emphasise its vitality & superiority
over the former. Here is another example:
'There are two arguments concerned with the
direction the company should take & John & Paul put
their points forward at the meeting. John was in favour of
looking for new markets abroad & he argued that the more
contacts abroad, the better. Paul argues that we need to expand
our current base at home before we can expand abroad. As we
grow, we are able to take on different challenges.'
Batstone talks of the distinction between:
'considered outside current mental world - (past
'considered relevant to current mental world (present simple)'
And one of Batstone's example:
'Bill: Hey, have you been watching that re-run
of that comedy series on TV - Fresno, I think it's called?
Tom: Ah, Fresno, yes! Annabelle really loves that programme.
Bill: Look, Tom. I'm sorry but you really must let go of Annabelle.
She left you over two years ago, for goodness sake!'
Tom's use of the present simple is telling.
Not the kind of thing our students would pick up on immediately.
Examples of distancing in discourse will arise in the texts
you choose to use in class & it is up to the teacher to
notice them & then bring them to the students' attention.
It is this kind of sophistication that our students need to
be aware of in order to be more confident & successful
Grammar - Rob Batstone (OUP) is well worth reading,
as are most of the books in the OUP Language Teaching Series.
To buy the book at Amazon.com:
To buy the book at Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0194371328/developingteache
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What is your favourite English
word? And which word is the most beautiful word in the English
language? Are these two the same? There was a report in the
Guardian the other day about the most beautiful words as voted
by English language students across the globe. Here are the
top five most beautiful words:
Are your words in the list?
Here's the article:
David Ward - Thursday November 25, 2004
Think about the word mother: does it make
you burst into a fantastic smile as you think of the
woman you will love with a passion for all eternity,
she who guides your destiny towards freedom, liberty
and perhaps tranquility?
If your answer is yes, you will have embraced
your mum and the 10 English words that came top in a
survey of favourites conducted by the British Council.
You may, on the other hand, reply: "Oi!
I am flabbergasted that such a loquacious, hilarious
and far from gorgeous explosion of nouns and adjectives
should have been plucked from serendipity under the
umbrella of so cosmopolitan and sophisticated an organisation."
In which case, you will have clocked up 10 more words
from the list of 70 gathered to mark the council's 70th
birthday. You can use up eight more by pulling on your
flip-flop, reaching for your coconut and riding with
a giggle over the rainbow on your cute kangaroo to your
hen night before you turn into a pumpkin.
The wordlist, which contains only one
verb (cherish) which is not also a noun, emerged after
the council asked more than 7,000 learners in 46 countries
what they considered the most beautiful words in English
language. Some 35,000 other people registered their
favourites in an online poll run in the non-English
speaking countries where the council operates.
"It's interesting that mother, the
only word of the 70 that describes a direct relationship
between people, came top of the poll," said Greg
Selby, the council's communications and marketing officer,
who managed the project.
A lovely list, full of positive words. Too good
to miss for inclusion in a lesson. Here are a few ideas for
both the adolescent class as much as the adult class:
A class survey before looking at the list would
be fun. Tell the students about some of your favourite English
words, or favourite words in the students' mother tongue.
You could equate 'beautiful words' with favourite words, or
treat them differently & do a parallel survey too.
Then get the students thinking of their top five most beautiful
English words - you could give them this for homework, as
it might be difficult to come up with words off the spur of
the moment. To point them in the right direction you could
talk about why a word might be interesting/beautiful/a favourite
- it could be the sound of the word, the shape, the images
it conjures up, the taste it evokes etc.
Get the students to collate the results, giving the language
they might need to do the task.
After discussing the class results, the students then compare
their list with the one in the article to see if there are
any similarities. You might only want to look at the top 20
as, depending on the level, you could end up explaining lots
of meanings of decontextualised words.
They could also discuss why certain words came out in their
own list & the list in the article - why did people put
forward those particular words, because of the associations,
the sound of the word etc...
A follow up could be doing what the writer did in the article,
writing a sentence containing as many words from the list
as possible. If made into a competition, then the winners
are the ones whose sentence contains the most words &
also makes sense. Instead of a sentence, the students could
make it into a poem, or the younger adults could try to make
up a rap lyric, which doesn't have to make sense, out of the
Expansion tasks could be to choose a dozen words
& work on collocates for these words ie the words which
normally 'go' with them eg 'a gorgeous man' . Or the opposites,
the partial synonyms.
If you are looking at this with a higher level
then the article itself would make an interesting reading.
This type of activity & lesson is interesting
& fun, & also encourages an interest & enthusiasm
for English vocabulary. Most of the words in the list have
very positive characteristics which should lead to a positive,
fun lesson. What more do you need?
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It's Buy Nothing Day again - on Friday 26th
November - the day after Thanksgiving in the US, when people
shop till they drop, proving it to be the day of the year
that most shopping is done. Adbusters.org have campaigned
for several years now on this day against rampant consumerism
in the world at large.
In past years, we have had lesson ideas &
materials in the Tips. Here are the links:
A reading, discussion & roleplay lesson
A question & answer matching about the day:
Lesson ideas using spoof adverts & an outline
for students to develop their own adverts:
This year there is a little more material on
the site. The following is an introduction to BND 2004 from
the Adbusters site. -http://www.adbusters.org/home/
For 24 hours, millions of people around the world do
not participate -- in the doomsday economy, the marketing
mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that's become
our culture. We pause. We make a small choice not to
shop. We shrink our footprint and gain some calm. Together
we say to Exxon, Nike, Coke and the rest: enough is
enough. And we help build this movement to rethink our
In its 13 years, BND has become a flashpoint, a day
when people of all stripes come together in symbolic
protest. Visit the new BND Action Pyramid for a sample
of great ways to celebrate.
Need posters, clip-art, web banners, handbills, radio-clips
or stickers? No problem. 2004 BND promotional goods
are ready for download.
We've put together a radical new tool to keep Jammers
connected: JammerGroups, city-based email networks.
We've also got news and reports from previous BNDs
in our archive. Be in touch as your plans come together,
The first part could be dictated - normally
or a high-speed dictation (dictogloss) where the students
build up the paragraph from the notes they could glean. Lead
on to a discussion - the students will have questions about
the day so the matching, mentioned above, would fit here.
Since last year 'JammerGroups' have started
connect you with other activists in your area. Use them
to strategize, organize, and take action. We're testing
out the system for Buy Nothing Day. If successful, we'll
implement JammerGroups year round in our other campaigns.
Note: Jammergroups are not forums. Let's use them to
create change, not chatter.
Join your city's local Jammergroup. If your city isn't
listed, request it.
Once joined, you'll get a confirmation email listing
your group's single, shared email address.
Use this address to send messages to all other group
You'll automatically receive all messages sent to the
Lastly, you can log-in to manage your personal account
options (ie. choose to receive messages as they are
posted, or in a daily digest, change password, etc...)
Discussion topics could be along the lines of
what are these groups, what kinds of action could they take....
Adbusters are also selling Blackspot sneakers
(trainers) - 'the world's first global anti-brand':
||Enter the world's first global
anti-brand: the Blackspot sneaker. A shoe and a message
and a vision of the future. We've produced an environmentally
friendly sneaker that's a bold statement against sweatshop
labor. Our anti-corporate campaign is a bottom up enterprise
that prioritizes ethical consumerism and grassroots empowerment.
Join us in this quest to create an authentic, non-corporate
cool and reassert consumer sovereignty over capitalism.
The Blackspot is an alternative to the commercial,
pseudo 'culture' of the mega corporations. Nike has
always been the champion of logo culture, its swoosh
an icon of global cool. Despite this, Phil Knight flies
the flag of a fading empire. His swoosh has been hurt
by years of "brand damage" as activists fought
against his mega marketing and dirty sweatshop labor.
It's time to rethink the cool. Let's turn shoes into
a counter branding tool. Let's buy shoes from an anti-corporation
where customers have a say. Let's pit the swoosh against
the anti-swoosh. Which side are you on?
This could be a springboard into a speaking
task in which students design another global anti-brand -
they think of a very popular product & turn it into an
'environmentally friendly ...& ...anti-corporation (product)
where customers have a say'.
The ASS-KICKERS FORUM asks for thoughts on The
Sneaker - a couple of examples:
This concept and philosophy
for a sneaker has to be the greatest - in my mind right
next to hybrid cars etc........
i can't believe you guys are making this
******* shoe and promoting it the way you are (advertising?????).
its just retarded. you aren't going to effect nike in
anyway. get over it. also, you're just taking advantage
of the position you have to sell a new brand to suckers.
Just as I thought there was no hope in
the world the black spots come along and brighten up
my day. I know some people are against your billboard
posting, but as a designer, I feel it's a great way
to clog-up valuable advertising real-estate whilst also
turning heads for a good cause. Keep up the good work.
Your students could write their own thoughts
on the sneaker
campaign, maybe leading into a debate, the students working
Adbusters & they debate whether to go along with the sneaker
project or not.
Buy Nothing Day is an interesting theme for
all whether you are for or against this kind of campaign,
providing some information about the actual day, as well as
lots of language development. Check out all of the Developing
Teachers.com links & between these & the ideas above
you should have more than enough for a lesson or two from
low intermediate upwards.
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the Past Teaching Tips