October 10, World Mental Health Day

This Wednesday (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day, the "Weekly Teaching Tip" from DevelopingTeachers.com tells me.

If you like your lesson plans gifted to you without too much thought on your part — and directly into your own mailbox if you subscribe — the Tip is a good place to look.

Personally, I like students as involved as possible from the start. This week's Tip quotes an article on stress from the BBC. The headings are:

  • Symptoms of stress
  • Dealing with stress
  • Work-related stress
  • Tackling work stress

I'd suggest starting there and, before the students read the article, get them to brainstorm what they think will come under the headings… Getting them to find which of the ideas they came up with and what other ideas the article suggests then gives you a natural reason for reading the article, and a natural reading comprehension question.

"Stress", some wit once said, "is when you wake up screaming and then you realise you haven't fallen asleep yet." If you're already stressed out yourself by your new term, now you know where to look…!

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German kids set up own school

Here's one I spotted thanks to the fact that I'd set Ananova.com's Quirkies section as one of the default start pages that comes up every time I log on to the Internet:

In Germany, kids frustrated by "the way they were being taught" have set up their own school, believing that it will improve their chances of decent A level grades.

It was the headline — "Pupils set up own school" — that caught my eye. I wanted to read it, and I think the effect on my learners would be similar. Anything that makes kids want to read has got to be a good thing.

It also looks like a decent basis for a lesson, with a text giving me fairly obvious "before, during and after" reading activities, the "after" (and possibly also the "before") being whether or not my learners think the idea would work. They could plan (or even write about) the sort of school they'd set up…

Is your default start page one that is actually useful to you…? Do your learners have default start pages that help them learn some English…?

BBC Learning English

Another one that came to me via my RSS feeds [explanation]. I was going to start looking for a text on which to base a lesson, and there was one about the Edinburgh Festival, sitting there waiting for me, from the BBC's Learning English section.

The section has lots of things you can recommend to your learners (the Words in the News section, for example, for reading and listening practice) and stuff for you too, including lesson plans.

Bizarre stories from Ananova

In our session June 11, I mentioned an article I'd spotted out of the corner of my eye on one of my default start pages, Ananova.com, or more specifically Ananova's "Quirkies" bizarre news stories section.

The headline read:

Green blood shocker
Surgeons operating on a man were shocked to find he had green blood

Other recent stories have included:

Robber caught – by mum
A Czech armed robber who targeted McDonald's restaurants was grabbed by the ear and marched to the police station by his mum

Beatles blast for beer burglar
A judge sentenced a Beatles-loving thief by quoting 42 of the band's song titles in his verdict

What could you do with them?
With a story like the first you could obviously ask students to predict what they thought the explanation might be. They could then read the text to find out if they were right. I remember playing a game called Balderdash, in which you got a word, a correct definition of the word, and had to invent three more, with your opponents then having to guess which was the correct one; you could do something similar with stories like this one.

With the second, and others like it, there's always the question of whether or not such stories are true, or merely urban legends — a discussion topic I've always found works well.

And the third might make an interesting piece of writing: how many song titles can your learners cram in, but still make a coherent story. They could obviously use someone other than the Beatles.

Not searching, having things come to you
In our session, I mentioned Ananova.com being one of my start pages as an example of how you can have things come to you, and not have to go searching the Internet for them.

An alternative to Ananova would be Yahoo's Oddly Enough news section, with similar stories.

Changing your default start page
Check this previous post if you aren't sure how to change the default start page of your browser.

Class reader blogging project

If you use "class readers" with your students — ie you all read a book together, either an abridged "graded reader" or the real McCoy — here's something you might do with a blog, an amazing blogging project done in a Missouri high school as they read Guerrilla Season, which brings in author Pat Hughes as well as the kids.

A class library blog would also make a great project.

Why? A blog gives writing a purpose (it's no longer just to hand it in to the teacher, to keep him/her satisfied) — so that the learner wants to write.

I think a blog of this nature can also make the learner want to read a book, partly because they want to then write about it — because it's something being done and shared in a community (the class, the members of the blog…)