A web site for the developing language teacher

Teaching Tips 90

Writing back
BND 2005

Writing feedback
Writing back

The writing skill is an important skill in many ways; for the development of the skill in itself as well as backing up general language development. This week's Tip looks at a few approaches to giving individual feedback on our students' written work.

1. Correction code: the most common approach. Here is an example:

An example correction code
wrong word
not necessary
wrong form
word order
new paragraph needed
join the idea together
what do you mean?
missing word

This is just an example - work out your own using symbols as well. Obviously the students need a copy of the code & an introduction to using it & as a way of doing this, give out a piece of writing that has been assessed with the code & get the students to make the corrections.

2. Summary chart: together with the correction code, it is a good idea to have a chart that gives overall ideas on the submitted work. Here's an example:

   Feedback on your writing
very good
could be better
general presentation            
overall task            

Again, write your own chart to suit. Staple the chart to the writing before handing back.

3. Write back: another approach is to write a few paragraphs about the strengths & weaknesses of the piece of writing. Instead of being written you could give give oral feedback by taping your comments & giving the tape with the writing.

4. Minimal response: in the above you are showing the student where the problems are. To make the self-correction more challenging, you could put the codes at the end of each line so that the student has to look through the line for the problems. Instead of the codes, you could put the number of problems at the end of the line. And to make it even more challenging you could put the number of problems at the end of each paragraph or the whole piece of writing.

To add variety, you could try all approaches over a period of time.

If you have any more ideas on any of the above, please post for all to use at:

Here are some more Tips on the writing skill:

Learner diaries:
Just write it! & Bizarre consequences
Hopeful haikus:
Writing for beginners:
Interesting writing:
Silently chatting & Budding screenwriters:
Listening in:
Keeping to the limit:

Back to the contents

BND '05

It's time for Buy Nothing Day again, on 25th November in the US, the day after Thanksgiving, the day in the US when the most shopping is done. A good choice of day to highlight the rampant consumerism prevalent in first world countries everywhere. Here's what they say on the AdBusters site about BND:

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: enough is enough. And we help build this movement to rethink our unsustainable course.

Here are some links to follow up for lesson material:

To the AdBusters Buy nothing Day website:

Some things that happened on BND last year:

Buy Nothing Day lesson plan

Buy Nothing Day UK site - the day is celebrated this year on the 26th in the UK.

Downloads of interesting materials to use in class from BND  UK:

Buy Nothing Day receipt


Buy Nothing Day fun fine 05


Buy Nothing Day leaflet 05


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 26th 2005 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 26th 2005 in Europe or November 25th 2005 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

More lesson ideas from the BND 2004 Tip:
Spoof ads lesson plan:
Wikipedia entry on BND:

Other ideas like this are Buy Nothing Christmas, No TV Week, & the No Car Days in lots of cities. A nice follow up to lessons on BND would be for the students to come up with three more special anti-consumerism events eg: No Hamburger Week/Month. They could then develop posters to advertise these, using the materials above to help with ideas. When the posters are up, the students wander around, reading them all & finally vote on the most imaginative, most needed, most possible etc...

Back to the contents


Are you getting enough? Teacher development, that is. Do you feel that you are developing your teaching? Is your school providing enough ideas & directions?

Or is it your job to provide ways for the teachers in the school to develop? Do you have enough ideas, & provide enough avenues?

More often than not the answer to the above is 'not enough'. This may be due to a lack of time, finances or interest. In the more serious language schools, teacher development is rightly seen as key to successful teaching & happy clients. Here are a few ideas to follow up:

- regular seminars on practical areas - developing listening skills, language practice activities. This is the usual way of dealing with staff development. It is also a useful way to encourage teachers to become involved in teacher development/training by inviting a teacher to give a session.

- seminars of interesting teaching/learning-related areas eg. neuro-linguistic programming. Invite specialists in to give talks on areas that may be peripherally related to teaching.

- invite publisher reps in to talk about how to use the coursebooks they sell. It's the least the publishers can do with the exorbitant cost of coursebooks & the extras in the coursebook packages, plus the regular updating & re-issuing of the coursebooks that mean extra investment.

- invite reps from the exam boards to give a talk on how best to go about training for the particular exam. Again, with the rising fees to sit the exams, the exam boards need to get into schools more & give more direction to the teachers that promote their exams.

- same level idea swap groups - for example, all teachers with pre-intermediate groups get together to share ideas, materials & options.

- lesson ideas, plans & materials swap - a variation on the above but a bit more free-for-all with all interested teachers getting together to learn from each other & share interesting stuff about their lessons.

- development group - a regular get together for a discussion of general development from own lesson observations, taped excerpts of own lessons & excerpts from teaching diaries, discussing the results of action research projects etc. You might set tasks for members to complete before each session & then use the data they bring along as the focus of the session eg. for a focus on teacher talk, members could be asked to tape three sections of three of their lessons & type up short transcripts, look at them & discuss them together.
BTW, if you have written anything about setting up, carrying out & evaluating classroom research, we would be very interested in publishing it in the articles section of the site. Please do send it in.

- co-timetabling - this is especially important with the newer teacher. A senior teacher or the DOS sits down & goes through the two or three-week timetable with the teacher. Timetable is a difficult skill as it needs experience of materials & approaches to provide a balanced diet for the students. Without this experience, the teacher understandably relies heavily on the coursebook. The helper can provide direction & cut a lot of corners for the new teacher. A very useful task for all.

- troubleshooting sessions. This is a chance for teachers to get solutions to pressing problems they might have. Careful it doesn't degenerate into a moaning session so maybe not a regular focus for meetings. Once in a while it can be very refreshing & liberating as you realise that others are going through the same as you.

- observations - the observer could be a peer of a senior teacher. Whoever observes, it is essential that the reasons for the observation are clear, that it is developmental & not evaluative. I personally have the privilege of watching lots of lessons & there is always something to be gained from every one of them.

- teacher buddies - teachers pair up for co-development through a term or academic year. The activities could include meeting twice a month, an observation of each other each month & general interchange. You could encourage the pairing up of new & experienced teachers or similarly experienced teachers.

- online development group - using a forum board or a content management system such as Moodle it is easy to stay in touch & use the medium as a vehicle to discuss teacher development. For a look at how an online meeting could look like:

Developing, through our sister site Developing, offers teachers their own web space with these programmes set up & ready to go. For more information:
For subscribers to the newsletters, there is a 15% discount on the already very reasonable fees.

The thing that all the above ideas have in common is that they are all collaborative activities. Teaching can be a solitary experience if there isn't this sharing & helping out, & sometimes we just expect it to be happening in the staffroom. Maybe it is for some, but then again, maybe it isn't for others. Formally organising development can solve this problem, making it inclusive for all.

Back to the contents

To the Past Teaching Tips

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing