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Teaching Tips 204

buy nothign day 13
BND '13


Thanksgiving in the US is nearly upon us which is followed by Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the US & designated as Buy Nothing Day by groups of anti-consumerism activists. On the website of the originators of Buy Nothing Day -

"Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet."
– Fawzi Ibrahim

Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always
be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we're not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.

The journey towards a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year. This November 23rd, go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours … see what happens … you just might have an unexpected, emancipatory epiphany!

Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation … as you suddenly remember what real living is all about … you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life.

Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 23/24 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let's take it back.'

buy nothing receipts

With an more advanced group the above Ibrahim quote might make an
interesting discussion to lead in. Below are a series of links & tasks for the classroom.

Buy Nothing Day lesson plan:

Buy Nothing Day - Adbusters:
Wikipedia page about Buy Nothing Day:

buy nothing day ad







Have a read of this article:

Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day

This kind of activism is the problem, not the solution.
By Jenn Farrell
Published: November 24, 2006

As a society, we sure spend a lot of money on crap. Yep, we get into debt buying stuff that becomes quickly obsolete but first drains the planet's resources and pollutes it. My own collection of lip glosses is a fine example.

So this Friday, on Buy Nothing Day, many people across North America (and worldwide on Nov. 25) will refrain from making any purchases in an effort to increase awareness of overspending and remind people that they are more than simply consumers.

If anyone needs me, I'll be out shopping.

While I agree in principle with the noble aims behind Buy Nothing Day, I use the day to throw some cash around. Other than plain pigheadedness and hating being told what to do, I have a number of reasons.

Buy Nothing Day's biggest proponents must be the well educated and well fed, who can certainly afford to take a day off from their conspicuous consumption. While it's laudable to want to do something about the problem, I question the potential influence of a bunch of people standing in front of a suburban Wal-Mart and harassing some mother of three who just wants to get in there and buy some darned detergent. Don't lecture her about over-consumption and globalization -- she just wants to get a load of the baby's sleepers through the wash while supper's cooking.

Hoi polloi politics

As a mom myself, and at one point, a single welfare mom, I can't help but remember my own "buy nothing" days all too well. Lots of them were strung together in the week before cheque-issue day, when I just kept eating from a bag of rice and saved the few remaining bananas and carrots for my kid. Good times. Now that I actually earn some money and creep ever closer to the happy side of the poverty line, I'm beyond grateful that I'm able to buy something every day if I need to. I don't ever want to go back to diluting the milk for my cereal with water, thanks very much.

So who is Buy Nothing Day really for? It's certainly not for most wealthy, high consumers, who largely couldn't give a toot what the hoi polloi are protesting about now. And it's not for those who are already not buying anything and long to escape those circumstances. So that leaves Whitey McPrivileged, who can check to make sure he's got enough toilet paper and tea bags in the house before the big day. And while the campaign ostensibly acts as a springboard to creating more lasting change, I bet a lot of participants breathe a sigh of relief the next morning, when they can get back to business as usual. Remind me again how this changes anything?

That's why I use Buy Nothing Day for what I think are better ends. I buy "consciously" all day long -- from getting a fair trade coffee at a locally owned shop in the morning, to picking up a few Christmas gifts made by independent artists and crafters in the afternoon. Rather than take my money out of the marketplace for the day, I'll put it in the hands of people who operate in line with what I believe are ethical business practices. And whatever's left over gets split between panhandlers and charity donation boxes. It's not much, but I hope it'll do more good than "nothing."

And don't even get me started on Buy Nothing Christmas.

Here's a short procedure:

1. After introducing BNDay through some of the above materials, put the headline on the board ' Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day' & put students into pairs to discuss reasons the writer might put forward for actually buying on the day.

2. students discuss - go round & help out with language & point them to some directions.

3. Feedback - collate some ideas on the board. .

4. Reading - students read quickly to see if any of their ideas - on the board - are in the article. Give a time limit to speed up their reading.

5. Students read.

6. Students compare in pairs >> feedback.

7. Vocab pre-teaching before the intensive reading - you might want to teach the following: Hoi polloi, welfare..& anything else you consider 'crucial' for the task.

8 Set the more intensive task - give out the following questions & set the task:

a. Does the writer agree with BNDay? Why/why not?

b. Who does she think might be offended by BNDay?

c. How has her life changed?

d. What type of person does she think is proposing BNDay?

e. What type of person does she think it is really directed at?

f. What is her approach to the issue?

9. Students read individually to answer the questions.

10. Students compare in pair >> feedback.

11. Elicit the 'response' to the text - what do they think of the ideas expressed in the article?

You could then return to the language in the article & do some 'noticing' tasks - vocabulary, structures & discourse aspects - choose to suit.

12. Integrate the skills - look through the above materials & develop the theme of BNDay through the speaking, listening, reading & writing skills.

Keep calm, don't shop poster

Here's the FAQ, from the BND UK site, made into a matching task:

Match up the questions with the answers below.
1. What is Buy Nothing Day all about?
2. Where did BND come from?
3. What's the point?
4. Who runs it?
5. Why is there two different dates/days?
6. But what will I achieve?
7. Do you want me to stop shopping altogether?
8. What is so bad about shopping?
9. What about the environment?
10. Is one day really going to make a difference?
11. Has the day been successful in previous years?
12. What can I do?
a. In Canada and USA Buy Nothing Day falls the Friday after the American Thanks Giving Day. In Europe we hold our celebration The last Saturday in November. We're always out shopping on Saturday, so it makes sense.
b. It's not shopping in itself that's so harmful, it's what we buy. The two areas that we need to concentrate on are the environment and poverty. The rich western countries - only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. We need to worry about the way our goods are produced. Increasingly large companies use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap and there aren't the systems to protect workers like there are in the west.
c. Buy Nothing Day started in 1993 by the founders of Adbusters and is now an international event celebrated in over 55 countries.
d. It's incredibly challenging to last 24 hours without spending any money these days. You'll feel detoxed from shopping and realise how much it uses up your free time - especially when there are 101 THINGS to do. For 24 hours you'll got your life back - that's a big achievement! We want you to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging corporations to clean up and be fair. Modern consumerism might offer great choice, but this shouldn't be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.
e. It won't hurt to stop for one day and we don't expect the UK to grind to a halt. Like we said, we want to challenge people to think about the effects of what they buy has on the environment and developing countries.
f. Buy Nothing Day isn't about changing your lifestyle for just one day - it's a lasting relationship - maybe a life changing experience! We aim to make Buy Nothing Day stick in peoples minds so they think about the future and turn their back on the throw away society we have become.
g. Literally, doing nothing is doing something! However, check out the BND-UK web site then join a JAMMER GROUP or start one up and support Buy Nothing day which is great fun!
h. As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them. The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries.
i. Absolutely, and it's getting bigger and better every year! See the home page for links to newspaper articles and other resources and news from previous years.
j. Buy Nothing Day (November 30th 2013 UK), is a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. Its a global stand off from consumerism - celebrated as a holiday by some and street party for others! Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!
k. The raw materials and production methods that are used to make so many of our goods have harmful side affects such as toxic waste, destruction of wild life, and wasted energy. The transport of goods internationally also contributes to pollution especially when many can be produced nationally.
l. You do - it's your day - so get involved! Tell all your friends, put up posters and refuse to shop on November 30th 2013 in Europe or November 29th 2013 Canada/USA. The BND-UK site is part of global network of campaigns - see the links to the left for more BND sites around the world.
Other than that try to follow this check list before you buy something.
* Do I need it?
* How many do I already have?
* How much will I use it?
* How long will it last?
* Could I borrow it from a friend or family member?
* Can I do without it?
* Am I able to clean and/or maintain it myself?
* Am I willing to?
* Will I be able to repair it?
* Have I researched it to get the best quality for the best price?
* How will I dispose of it when I'm done using it?
* Are the resources that went into it renewable or nonrenewable?
* Is it made or recycled materials, and is it recyclable?
* Is there anything that I already own that I could substitute for it?

Answers to the matching

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Here's a quiz about language from the Guardian this week - see how you do - the answers are at the bottom.

Language Quiz
Crown a language champion - who can get a perfect score?

1) Order these countries according to which has the largest number of Spanish native speakers:
a. Spain
b. Colombia
c. USA
d. Mexico
e. Equatorial Guinea

2) If you were to order "las gambas" in a Spanish restaurant, what would you receive?
a. Tomatoes
b. Prawns
c. Olives
d. Pork chop

3) In which of these countries is French not an official language?
a. Canada
b. Haiti
c. Madagascar
d. Italy
e. Spain

4) Roughly how many languages are spoken across Europe?
a. 30
b. 175
c. 225
d. 325

5) ...And around the entire world?
a. 300-400
b. 1000-3000
c. 4000-5000
d. 6000-7000

6) Which of these language groups is not European?
a. Romance
b. Semitic
c. Germanic
d. Slavic

7) Place these languages according to the largest number of speakers
a. Spanish
b. Hindi
c. Mandarin Chinese
d. English

8) If you were to say the following to a Polish doctor, which body part have you injured?
"Nie moge zgiac palca"
a. Foot
b. Finger
c. Knee
d. Eye

9) "Kikusikitishacho" is the longest word in which language?
a. Swahili
b. Afrikaans
c. Igbo
d. Malay

10) Did you know that German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union?
How many people speak German across Europe?
a. 200 million
b. 100 million
c. 50 million
d. 25 million

This was published in the Guardian newspaper to coincide with their 'language month, being run in conjunction with the British academy.

'The Guardian and the British Academy are holding a UK-wide Language Festival throughout November 2013 to celebrate the UK's diverse cultural heritage. The festival will provide a platform for schools, higher education institutions (HEIs), students, policy makers and businesses from across the UK to discuss, debate and explore the academic, cultural and economic benefits of language learning.'

Try the quiz out with your students. It would make an interesting warmer or a springboard into the theme of language.

To check it out:

There are a couple of language resource packs, primary & secondary, with ideas on language awareness to use in class. Some of the ideas may well be useful in our contexts. To view them:


Also last week the Guardian re-published a series of interesting etymology maps. These look at a selection of words & their origins in countries across Europe.
( etymology = the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history)
Designed by Bezbojnicul & first published through Reddit -

Pain in the ananas: etymology maps
Who would have thought that the marriage of two tiny little words - pine from the Latin 'pinus' meaning "sap, juice" and apple from 'apple' meaning "apple" would have split the UK from the rest of the world way back when it was first recorded in 1398?

And what about the word orange? Or beer? Or bear? Or church? Do our language lands collide or do they coincide? Find out with these eight fun etymology maps complete with terrible puns.

To view the maps:


A couple of etymology sites:

See also the past Tip, 'Word Origins':

There's a really good related dictation task in the excellent 'Dictation' by Davis & Rinvolucri (CUP).
The task is called Import/export (6.2). The students each have a world map, the teacher dictates a series of words & the students have to write the words on the map where they think they come from. After, the students compare ideas & then you give the answers & a discussion ensues.


Answers to the language quiz

1. Mexico (114 million)
Spain (47 million)
Colombia (45 million)
USA (38 million)
Equatorial Guinea (1.6 million)
2. B - Prawns
3. E - Spain
4. C - 225
5. D - 6000-7000
6. B - Semitic
7. 1 - Mandarin Chinese
2 - English
3 - Spanish
4 - Hindi
8. B - Finger
9. A - Swahili
10. B - 100 million

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Skeleton texts

Here's a nice idea for showing students that they really don't need to understand everything in a text & that they can read much quicker if they look for the information words.

You need a shortish text, blank out all of the 'grammar words', leaving all the 'content words'. Make sure that you leave enough words in to make the text comprehensible. A way to do this is to imagine it is a telegram you are sending, leaving just enough for it to be understandable. Present your students with the skeleton text, first looking at the title & predicting what the article might be about, & then give them 30 seconds/1 minute to read the text - be strict about the time limit. The students then compare their ideas about the content, before general feedback.

Then give out the full text & ask the students to read for any more information. If you had left the information in the skeleton text, there won't be any more to find. Then ask for their impressions on the difference between the two texts, & go on to discuss strategies for speeding up their reading.

You could then transfer this idea to the speaking skill by moving on to 'prominence'.

Here's a text that would be ideal for the business English class. There are ideas on exploiting the text at the end.

First, there's the example skeleton text followed by the full version:

Italian court tightens up on lax timekeeping

By Peter Popham in Rome

ITALIAN OFFICE workers - nip out - working - shopping - penalty - law - Court - appeal.

Two employees - tax department - Sicily - shopping - supermarket.

- absence - noticed - tried - make up - extra time - prosecuted - guilty - court.

- Judges - confirmed - verdict - back - Sicily - sentencing - fine. 'defendants - insisted - absence - no harm - time - made up.

- ruling - latest - judgements - deter - abusing - time. - ruling - same court - sentence - employee - phone calls - one a day - 64 days - "embezzlement of consumption". - another - made one - call - every two days - let off.

Two nurses - jailed - fined - failing - punch - cards - lunch breaks - increasing - earnings. - honours - wrestling - problem - lateness - employees - late - sacked - came - own steam - not - travelled - public - judgements - read - ignored - public employees - Italy - calls - mum - duty - know - best time - supermarket.

(If you think your students might need more or less information words from the text, just add them in)


Italian court tightens up on lax timekeeping

By Peter Popham in Rome

ITALIAN OFFICE workers who nip out during working hours to do a spot of shopping will be liable to the full penalty of the law, following a judgement this week in the Court of Cassation, the state's highest court of appeal.

Two employees of the tax department in Sicily took time off work to go shopping together in the local supermarket.

Their absence was noticed and although they tried to make up for it by putting in extra time on another day, they were prosecuted all the same, and found guilty in a Sicilian court.

This week the Judges in Italy's highest court confirmed the verdict and sent them back to Sicily for sentencing, probably with a fine. 'The defendants had insisted their absence caused no harm to the state and the time they had bunked off had been made up.

The ruling is the latest in a series of judgements seeking to deter workers' from abusing their employers' time. A recent ruling by the same court confirmed the sentence on a public employee for making personal phone calls - one a day for 64 days - under the heading "embezzlement of consumption". A little confusingly another defendant who made only one private call every two days was let off.

Two nurses were jailed and fined for failing to punch their cards in and out during lunch breaks, thus increasing their earnings. Their honours have also been wrestling with the problem of lateness, and are of the view that employees arriving late can be sacked if they came under their own steam but not if they
travelled by public transport.

These judgements will be read, pondered, digested and then ignored by the millions of public employees in Italy for whom the daily calls to mum and granny are a duty and who know the best time of day to whizz round the supermarket.

Ideas for exploiting the text:

• Lexical sets of work & the law.

• Other vocab: nip out, a spot of shopping, took time off, to make up for it, time..bunked off, let off, wrestling with a problem, came under their own steam, to whizz round.

• Grammar: past simple/present perfect, passives

• Overall text organisation: introduction - problem - solution - exemplification - conclusion

• Fun follow up roleplays from this text: Employer talking to worker about absenteeism, saw them shopping in the local supermarket etc.

• Discussion: employees rights within work time - for & against

• Writing: letters to the editor.

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