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Teaching Tips 89

Halloween & other things

Group Participation

A very recent posting in the Forums from Jessica poses a problem which many teachers encounter at some time - ' What are some ways to enhance class participation amongst students who fail to participate?'

It is difficult to decide on the most appropriate way to proceed without more information; the age of the student, the type of activity that turns them off participating etc.. but here are a few ideas to start from:.

1. One of the first things to do is explain why there are group activities in the class & the value of it. For example, group work in English is obviously a chance to actually develop their English & that learning takes place through the group. You could establish some classroom rules, the participation in group work being one of them. For more on these rules see the Tip, 'A classroom guide';

2. Give the individuals in the group a ten minute tutorial each. This will enable you to find out the problems & encourage them to participate more. See the Tip, 'Giving Tutorials':

& the pre-tutorial task sheets:

3. Make extra sure that the students have the English to do the group tasks before they begin. It can be frustrating to be given a task & then struggle though it without proper preparation.

4. It might be a problem with the tasks given. Perhaps they are not appropriate to this particular group, this age group - an area worth reflecting on. Possibly there is a need to add in more motivating fun type group games so that they look forward to group work as being an enjoyable part of the lessons. Begin each lesson with a fun group warmer. For warmers see:

5. The quieter students might be being overshadowed by the stronger, more out-going members of the group. For ideas on this see the Tip, 'The rather dominant student';

6. If these are adolescent students, one way to motivate them is to get away from the typical themes that coursebooks present - girl/boyfriends, parties, school & parent stuff - & treat them more as adults, looking at adult themes that ask them for their opinions. If your lessons are supplementary to the ones they receive at school, then they get all the usual stuff there so get bored repeating it in the extra lessons. Can work wonders.

7. Be enthusiastic yourself as this crosses over to the students quickly. And speak in English yourself as much as you can. If you speak in their language, then the students might not feel it is necessary to speak in English.

8. it may be that they are accuracy-conscious, that they want to say everything correctly. Explain that this is not possible as the more they participate, the more they will develop their English. And explain that you will not be correcting them in groupwork as you do not want to interfere with the flow & may pick up on interesting things after the task. If you do look at errors after, don't forget to give them a pat on the back for the good things they said.

9. If they really don't want to work with the others, then let them work on their own & they will eventually change & come round to group work.

10. Check out the two part Tip, 'The Motivation Shuffle':

Jessica's problem is a good opportunity to bring together several Tips. The number of Weekly Teaching Tips now stands at 267, so if you are a relatively new subscriber, there are quite a few ideas & activities to check out. The list of Past Tips begins at:

It's Remembrance Day, for the victims of the Second World War, on Friday 11th November. For some lesson material see the Tip, 'In Flanders field the poppies blow...':

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other things

It's Halloween time again so for lesson ideas, the Tip 'Spooky Lessons':

A couple of links for Halloween stuff in addition to the links in the above Tip:
A time to tell your students a ghost story or two. At the History Channel they have some to choose from:
For information about storytelling, how to tell effective stories, check out the article used in the lesson plan here:
And a few more ghost story sites:

Bonfire Night
And then on the 5th November it's Bonfire Night. For lesson ideas - a reading & speaking lesson, see the Tip 'Remember, remember..': would be worth exploring the contemporary comparisons to the Gunpowder Plot.

Blue Zones
I came across a couple of very different but interesting sites this week. The first is from the Quest Network, Blue Zones - The quest for the fountain of youth - Here's what they say about the quest that starts on Monday:

We're exploring the four parts of the world experts call Blue Zones - places where people live the longest, healthiest lives.

We'll unlock their secrets and help you put them to work in your own life.   The journey begins Oct. 31st in Okinawa, Japan - and you can vote to direct the team.

And then:

"Blue Zones" - or longevity hotspots - exist in some rather unexpected places around the globe.  What is the reason for these concentrations of successful aging?  What sorts of biological, cultural, and environmental factors are at work here?  And what can an exploration of these places teach us? 

We'll explore Blue Zone I: Okinawa, beginning October 31st. Each day, you can visit the live expedition section of our site to find our Daily Dispatch and other reports we'll prepare for you in the field.

We'll be using a survey, developed with help from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), to interview Okinawan centenarians about their secrets to living 100 years. We'll also do some sleuthing to understand more about why this Blue Zone is conducive to successful aging, posting summaries of our findings online as we go.


Here's what you can expect from the Blue Zones Expedition team each day:
  • Daily Dispatch - A report from the team members about their findings, including first-hand accounts
  • A list of Daily Data collected by the team
  • Video - A National Geographic video will help us uncover longevity clues
  • Image Gallery – Photos and descriptions
  • Direct the Team – Help decide where they should look for the best clues
  • Dan's Dilemma – Sometimes even team leaders need a little advice. Can you help?

Plus additional features including: Kid Profiles, Gross & Disgusting, and Mystery Photo.

If you & your students have internet access then this could make a really nice mini-project. Worth checking out:

The House of Murphy
The other site is to do with laws, Murphy's law in particular, at 'The House of Murphy': . On the History page:

"If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it."

Born in 1917, Edward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the United States Air Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981).

One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject's body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around.

Murphy then made the original form of his pronouncement, which the test subject, Major John Paul Stapp, quoted at a news conference a few days later.

Within months, "Murphy's Law" had spread to various technical cultures connected to aerospace engineering, and finally reached the Webster's dictionary in 1958.

Since then, the relentless truth inherent in Murphy's Law has become a persistent thorn in the side of humanity.

The site consists of pages & pages of Laws, such as the following:

Abbott's Admonitions:
1. If you have to ask, you're not entitled to know.
2. If you don't like the answer, you shouldn't have asked the question.

Franklin's Rule:
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.
Freeman's Law:
Nothing is so simple it cannot be misunderstood.
Poulsen's Law:
When anything is used to its full potential, it will break.
Travel Axiom:
He travels fastest who travels alone but he hasn't anything to do when he gets there.
Rule of the Way Out:
Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.
Wolf's Law of History Lessons:
Those who don't study the past will repeat its errors. Those who do study it will find OTHER ways to err.

There are hundreds of them so worth bookmarking & using in warmers, coolers, fillers & within themes. The following would review the first conditional & provide some speaking practice.

Match up the two columns
1 If you can't beat them,
2. If a taxpayer thinks he can cheat safely,
3. If everything seems to be coming your way,
4. If you don't like the answer,
5. If you mess with something long enough,
6. If it can be understood,
7. If you wish to make an improved product,
8. If there is a wrong thing to say,
9. If it's good,
10. If, in the course of several months, only three worthwhile social events take place,
11. If you drop a buttered piece of bread,
a. it'll break.
b. you must already be engaged in making an inferior one.
c. it's not finished yet.
d. he probably will.
e. you're probably in the wrong lane.
f. it will fall on the floor butter-side down.
g. have them join you.
h. you shouldn't have asked the question.
i. they will all fall on the same evening.
j. they'll stop making it.
k. one will.
1. Now look at the grammar - what tense is used in each column. What is this structure called? If the first part in the sentence is called the condition, what's the second part called?
2. Do you agree with these sayings? Can you think of any time that they might have applied to you? Discuss them with your partner.
3. Now, together, write some more sentences like this. You will be reading them aloud for the others in the class so get the grammar right.

Answers to the matching:


Check out The House of Murphy:

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Communicative competence Competence

It's sometimes difficult to keep on top of our learners' progress, language is such a huge organic area that it is difficult to know if we are providing enough comprehensive learning opportunities. Models are useful in that they can provide an anchor from which to assess the surroundings & Hymes (1971) first proposed he idea of 'communicative competence', & this was refined by Canale & Swain (1980) to include the following:

Communicative competence

Grammatical competence is a knowledge of the language, the grammar.

Sociolinguistic competence is a knowledge of how to use this language appropriately in different situations.

Discoursal competence is a knowledge of how the parts are connected, the cohesion & how the discourse hangs together, the coherence.

Strategic competence is how the learner can be an effective communicator through the use of communication & comprehension strategies to achieve communicative goals. It can also refer to the strategies that the learner uses in the actual learning process.

Most often us are given a coursebook to cover but as with any coursebook, there is always a need to change & supplement as we cater to our specific learners. Considering the four constituent parts of communicative competence helps on several levels; in the planning stages, in looking at each of the four skills - speaking, listening, reading & writing, in the execution of lessons & in the general assessment of progress.

So when asked what you are helping your students develop, instead of saying ''their English' or 'the four skills', you could say their 'communicative competence', a useful, flexible & comprehensive enough model to build your teaching on.

It's United Nations Day on October 24th & there is lesson material from a past tip at:

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