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Looking ahead

Teaching is like driving a taxi: you need the mechanical skills as well as "The Knowledge" if you are to reach your destination - as The Teaching Challenge (Teachers' TV) demonstrates. Journalist John Humphrys, who was recently quoted as saying that reading the news was child's play, is the latest celebrity to find himself in front of a whiteboard (Friday, December 23).

So how does he find teaching? His performance is analysed in Christmas week, just to give your confidence a festive boost.

One of the BBC's most ambitious series for the New Year, Balderdash and Piffle (BBC1 from Monday, January 2) seems to have possibilities for English teaching, but it may well turn out to be one of those programmes that provide inspiration rather than actual teaching materials. The idea is that various personalities will help to hunt down the origin of well-known words and phrases, the results eventually being incorporated into the Oxford English Dictionary.

Unlike the OED, the series starts with the letter "P" and goes after a pig in a poke and a ploughman's lunch. You might get your students to do similar research as a project in English.

You might get further inspiration from Stephen Fry's new radio series, The Joy of Gibberish (BBC Radio 4, Tuesday, January 3), which considers what we mean by utter nonsense, why it is so difficult to produce and why this supercalifragilistic-expialidocious form of language gives us pleasure, even though there is no sense to be got from it. Fry turns to linguistic experts to find out the difference between Jabberwocky-type nonsense and true gibberish, to see what this tells us about the nature of language and meaning.

On January 2, the Discovery Civilisation channel is devoting a whole day to exploring the realities behind religious events and personalities. Who were Moses, the Three Kings, and Herod, for example? What does archaeology tell us to support or disprove the Bible? What is the source of the myth of the Holy Grail?

And the source of a modern myth with religious overtones is revealed in a documentary drama starring Anton Rodgers as CS Lewis (BBC2, December 31), author of the Narnia books, whose own life was a moving tangle of faith and emotions.

Robin Buss

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