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Teaching Tips 75

From a distance
Beautiful words
Buy Nothing Day 2004 - lesson ideas

From a distance
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 & expression.

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 simple)'
&
'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 communicators.

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:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0194371328/developingteac0b

To buy the book at Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0194371328/developingteache

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Beautiful Words

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:

 

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  Mother
Passion
Smile
Love
Eternity

Are your words in the list?

Here's the article:

David Ward - Thursday November 25, 2004
The Guardian

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.

The magnificent 70
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Mother
Passion
Smile
Love
Eternity
Fantastic
Destiny
Freedom
Liberty
Tranquility
Peace
Blossom
Sunshine
Sweetheart
Gorgeous
Cherish
Enthusiasm
Hope
Grace
Rainbow
Blue
Sunflower
Twinkle
Serendipity
Bliss
Lullaby
Sophisticated
Renaissance
Cute
Cosy
Butterfly
Galaxy
Hilarious
Moment
Extravaganza
Aqua
Sentiment
Cosmopolitan
Bubble
Pumpkin
Banana
Lollipop
If
Bumblebee
Giggle
Paradox
Delicacy
Peekaboo
Umbrella
Kangaroo
Flabbergasted
Hippopotamus
Gothic
Coconut
Smashing
Whoops
Tickle
Loquacious
Flip-flop
Smithereens
Oi
Gazebo
Hiccup
Hodgepodge
Shipshape
Explosion
Fuselage
Zing
Gum
Hen night

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 words.

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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Buy Nothing Day 2004

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 plan:
http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/bnd_plan.htm

A question & answer matching about the day:
http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/bnd03_mats.htm

Lesson ideas using spoof adverts & an outline for students to develop their own adverts:
http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips44.htm

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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 unsustainable course.

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. Join now.

We've also got news and reports from previous BNDs in our archive. Be in touch as your plans come together,

Happy jamming.

http://www.adbusters.org/metas/eco/bnd/index.html

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 to evolve:

JammerGroups 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 members.
You'll automatically receive all messages sent to the address.
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...)

http://www.adbusters.org/jammergroups/

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':

Blackspot sneakers 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?


http://adbusters.org/metas/corpo/blackspotsneaker/home.html

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........


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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.

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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.

http://adbusters.org/metas/corpo/blackspotsneaker/asskick.html

Your students could write their own thoughts on the sneaker
campaign, maybe leading into a debate, the students working for
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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