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Teaching Tips 133

Saving time
Spell it out
Endangering languages


Saving time

Do you timetable your lessons? It's easy to let the coursebook do it for you but that's not really taking full responsibility for the course you're providing - the coursebook writer didn't write the book for your particular group of stds. You need to see how your stds' needs are being met & how a balance & variety of skills & input are being kept.
Here's a timetabling procedure to start you off:

1.Draw up a grid - make a box for each lesson over the 2/3 week period.

Then have a cup of tea as a reward before continuing!

2.Put in the fixed things like time in the library, computer room, language lab, tests, project work etc.

3.Think back to what you've done over the past two weeks.

4.Think about what your stds need re. language, skills & interests.

5.Look at what's coming up next in the coursebook.

6.Decide what might be useful & what to discard.

7.Decide if there's anything from the last two weeks/month that you can incorporate - recycling.

8.Fill in the skills work - the listening, speaking, writing & reading.

9.Fill in the 'input' - the language work - grammar, function & vocabulary.

10.Look at the balance & change things around.

11.Write 'Provisional' at the top of the page! Try to follow it but be flexible at the same time.

12.Give a copy to each std - they can then mentally prepare themselves before each lesson.

Apart from being a logical stage in the course planning, it saves a lot of time in the long run - a couple of hours every two weeks saves no end of time in the day-to-day planning of your lessons. All you have to do each day is plan the lesson, rather than run through the timetabling decisions every day.

An excellent book to help you with your planning:
Planning Lessons and Courses: Designing Sequences of Work for the
Language Classroom
- T.Woodward (CUP)
To see the review on the site:


Ig Nobel Prizes

Have a read about the Ig Nobel Prizes:

'The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology.'

"The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar." Nature

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October 2, at the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. We will soon post video of the ceremony.

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert,, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

High level stuff if you want to use it per se. You could ask your higher level students to choose interesting overall appropriate winners & rank them in order of imaginativeness, usefulness, fun etc...
You could use it as a basis for a live listening task - you tell the students about the content & get a discussion going.

Inventions materials:
On a related theme, some more material & ideas about inventions on the site:
Past Tip - Inventions:
Inventions lesson plan:
101 Gadgets that saves the world:

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Spell it out

How's your spelling? Are there certain words that you always have
to stop & think about? Take the test - which spelling is correct.


Clearly you need to spell correctly. Have you ever been corrected by your students with your board work? If you have any doubts, check the spelling out before the lesson. To coincide with International Spelling Day on 30th September, here's the Ghoti Tip:

Have a look at the following words. Which do you think could be English words:


You can easily guess but could your students? The sound- spelling relation is a complex one in English & although some rules may be manageable, there are a lot which are just too complicated to pass on. When our students meet a new written word they either use their existing knowledge of English to guess at the pronunciation or fall back on their native language convention for the particular letter combinations. The task
above, guessing which combinations could be possible & then discussing why & why not, is a useful one.

The idea of sound values is crucial to this. Some letters can have one sound value while others can have two or more. The letter 'd' has only one sound value as in 'daft', 'did', don't' etc. The letter 'g', with very few exceptions, has two sound values - the first as is 'g' followed by 'i', 'e' or 'y' has the sound of 'dj', as in 'imagine' & 'gent'. The second is the sound
'g' as in 'gun' & 'grey'. (The exceptions to the first include the words 'give', 'girl', 'anger', 'eager', 'gear', 'get')

The letter 'c' has two sound values. Look at the following words & work out the rule: ::


It is a very confusing area & one that the teacher needs to be aware of.

George Bernard Shaw gave one of the nonsense words above, 'ghoti', as an example of the ridiculous system behind English sound-spelling by reasoning that it could have the same pronunciation as the word 'fish'! He got this by taking the 'gh' from 'tough' for the 'f', the 'o' from the word 'women' for 'i' & then the 'ti' from the word 'nation' for the 'sh' sound. A nice example for your students.

The letter 'c' rule
It's the same as with 'g' - if it is followed by 'i', 'e', or 'y' then it takes the 's' sound, otherwise it takes the 'k' sound.

To explore this area further check out 'Teaching English Spelling: A Practical Guide' by Ruth Shemesh & Sheila Waller (CUP)

A couple of spelling rules sites:

Answers to the spelling test:
(Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)

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A couple of interesting Days to pick up on in class this week:

It's International Tourism Day on the 27th September & to coincide it might be an idea to get out those ubiquitous tourist development roleplays. It usually centred around an unspoilt island that would be ideal as a tourist resort. The roles involve those for & against the development. For example;

Mayor - you are in favour of developing the island as all would benefit from the tourists. Think of a few examples to use in the discussion.

Representative of the environmental protection group - you think it would be a disaster. Tourists would destroy the wildlife & the natural parks on the island. Think of a few examples to use in the discussion.

Villager - you are for the developments as you feel it would provide employment for the younger people so they wouldn't have to leave the island in search of work. Think of a few examples to use in the discussion.

Villager - you think it wouldn't be a good idea as tourism would destroy the traditional lifestyle of the island, affecting the community as a whole. You are worried about the local language dying out. Think of a few examples to use in the discussion.

Developer - you want to develop certain areas. Think of a few arguments & examples to use in the discussion.

More roles can easily be added to suit.

It might be argued that one of the results of international tourism results in the decline of minority languages. This links to the European Day of Languages on September 26th.

For material on a past Tip on this:
Council of Europe page on the European Day of Languages: 'The year 2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. "This Charter is designed to protect and promote regional and minority languages as a key aspect of cultural heritage in Europe and to allow people who speak a regional or minority language to use it in private and public life", Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe said at a press conference. Up to 2008, in order to protect their linguistic diversity, 10 Member-states have signed the Charter and 28 have ratified it.'
Wikipedia's info on European Day of Languages.

An interesting article connected to this which might be useful for the more advanced group, used as a jigsaw reading with each student given one of the language profiles to read & explain, the communicative purpose to discuss which ones might be the most deserving to save (not that they all are!):

Peter K Austin's top 10 endangered languages

The linguistics professor and author shares a personal selection from the thousands of languages on the brink of disappearing
* Wednesday August 27 2008

Peter K Austin has published 11 books on minority and endangered languages, including 12 Australian Aboriginal languages, and holds the Märit Rausing Chair in field linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies where he is also director of the Endangered Languages Academic Programme. His most recent book is 1000 Languages: The Worldwide History of Living and Lost Tongues, which explores the state of languages around the world.

There are more than 6,900 languages used around the world today, ranging in size from those with hundreds of millions of speakers to those with only one or two. Language experts now estimate that as many as half of the existing languages are endangered, and by the year 2050 they will be extinct. The major reason for this language loss is that communities are switching to larger politically and economically more powerful languages, like English, Spanish, Hindi or Swahili.

Each language expresses the history, culture, society and identity of the people who speak it, and each is a unique way of talking about the world. The loss of any language is a loss to both the community who use it in their daily lives, and to humankind in general. The songs, stories, words, expressions and grammatical structures of languages developed over countless generations are part of the intangible heritage of all humanity.

So how to choose a top 10 from more than 3,000 endangered languages? My selection is a personal one that tries to take into account four factors: (1) geographical coverage - if possible I wanted at least one language from each continent; (2) scientific interest - I wanted to include languages that linguists find interesting and important, because of their structural or
historical significance; (3) cultural interest - if possible some information about interesting cultural and political aspects of endangered languages should be included; and (4) social impact - I wanted to include one or more situations showing why languages are endangered, as well as highlighting some of the ways communities are responding to the threat they currently face.

1. Jeru

Jeru (or Great Andamanese) is spoken by fewer than 20 people on the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is generally believed that Andamanese languages might be the last surviving languages whose history goes back to pre-Neolithic times in Southeast Asia and possibly the first settlement of the region by modern humans moving out of Africa. The languages of the Andamans cannot be shown to be related to any other languages spoken on earth.

2. N|u (also called Khomani)

This is a Khoisan language spoken by fewer than 10 elderly people whose traditional lands are located in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa. The Khoisan languages are remarkable for having click sounds – the | symbol is pronounced like the English interjection tsk! tsk! used to express pity or shame.The closest relative of N|u is !Xóõ (also called Ta'a and spoken by about 4,000 people) which has the most sounds of any language on earth: 74 consonants, 31 vowels, and four tones (voice pitches).

3. Ainu

The Ainu language is spoken by a small number of old people on the island of Hokkaido in the far north of Japan. They are the original inhabitants of Japan, but were not recognised as a minority group by the Japanese government until this year. The language has very complicated verbs that incorporate a whole sentence's worth of meanings, and it is the vehicle of an extensive oral literature of folk stories and songs. Moves are
underway to revive Ainu language and cultural practices.

4. Thao

Sun Moon Lake of central Taiwan is the home of the Thao language, now spoken by a handful of old people while the remainder of the community speaks Taiwanese Chinese (Minnan). Thao is an Austronesian language related to languages spoken in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Pacific, and represents one of the original communities of the Austronesians before they sailed south and east over 3,000 years ago.

5. Yuchi

Yuchi is spoken in Oklahoma, USA, by just five people all aged over 75. Yuchi is an isolate language (that is, it cannot be shown to be related to any other language spoken on earth). Their own name for themselves is Tsoyaha, meaning "Children of the Sun". Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six
for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person
speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for
inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round). Efforts are
now under way to document the language with sound and video
recordings, and to revitalise it by teaching it to children.

6. Oro Win

The Oro Win live in western Rondonia State, Brazil, and were
first contacted by outsiders in 1963 on the headwaters of the
Pacaas Novos River. The group was almost exterminated after two
attacks by outsiders and today numbers just 50 people, only five
of whom still speak the language. Oro Win is one of only five
languages known to make regular use of a sound that linguists
call "a voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate". In rather
plainer language, this means it's produced with the tip of the
tongue placed between the lips which are then vibrated (in a
similar way to the brrr sound we make in English to signal that
the weather is cold).

7. Kusunda

The Kusunda are a former group of hunter-gatherers from western
Nepal who have intermarried with their settled neighbours. Until
recently it was thought that the language was extinct but in 2004
scholars at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu located eight
people who still speak the language. Another isolate, with no
connections to other languages.

8. Ter Sami

This is the easternmost of the Saami group of languages (formerly
called Lapp, a derogatory term), located on the Kola Peninsula in
Russia. It is spoken by just 10 elderly people among
approximately 100 ethnic Ter Sami who all now speak Russian as
their daily language. Ter Sami is related to Finnish and other
Uralic languages spoken in Russia and Siberia, and distantly to

9. Guugu Yimidhirr

Guugu Yimidhirr is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken at
Hopevale near Cooktown in northern Queensland by around 200
people. A wordlist was collected by Captain James Cook in 1770
and it has given English (and the rest of the world's languages)
the word kangaroo. Guugu Yimidhirr (like some other Aboriginal
languages) is remarkable for having a special way of speaking to
certain family members (like a man's father-in-law or
brother-in-law) in which everyday words are replaced by
completely different special vocabulary. For example, instead of
saying bama dhaday for "the man is going" you must say yambaal
bali when speaking to these relatives as a mark of respect and

10. Ket

Ket is the last surviving member of a family of languages spoken
along the Yenesei River in eastern Siberia. Today there are
around 600 speakers but no children are learning it since parents
prefer to speak to them in Russian. Ket is the only Siberian
language with a tone system where the pitch of the voice can give
what sound like identical words quite different meanings. (Much
like Chinese or Yoruba). To add to the difficulty for any
westerner wishing to learn it, it also has extremely complicated
word structure and grammar.
Wikipedia's page on endangered languages.

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