BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Literacy: Word

Last Updated: Thursday March 24 2005 15:59 GMT

Dr Who: Acronyms


Dr Who, the longest running science fiction programme on British television, is back on our screens.

David Tennant stars as the 900-year-old Time Lord, who spends much of his time saving the Earth from alien menaces.

Students look at the acronym TARDIS and the difference between acronyms and abbreviations.

Learning aims
  • Identify an abbreviation or acronym
  • Learn the difference between the two types
  • Add to existing knowledge of both types

What is the Tardis?
Police box

Read out this description of the Tardis to the class.

Explain that Tardis is an acronym - an abbreviation that can be said as a word e.g: Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

Explain the difference between an acronym and an abbreviation:

Abbreviation - the first letter or letters of each important word placed together e.g: RAC (Royal Automobile Club).

Ask the students to come up with other suggestions for what the letters in Tardis stand for. E.g. Terrific adventures really deep in space.

Main activity

Notebook logo
Give out copies of this abbreviations and acronyms worksheet.

The class find meanings for the abbreviations and acronyms on the worksheet and sort them into the two types.

Answers for the worksheet:

  • Automobile Association
  • Royal Air Force
  • Video Cassette Recorder
  • Random Access Memory
  • British Broadcasting Corporation
  • Radio Detection And Ranging
  • Independent Television
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome
  • British Airways
  • United Nations
  • World Wide Web
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Irish Republican Army
  • Royal Ulster Constabulary
  • Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  • Ram
  • Radar
  • Aids
  • Laser
Extension activity

Moxx of Balhoon
Moxx of Balhoon
Students imagine they are a script-writer for Dr Who.

In groups, they outline one episode by answering the five W questions which underpin creative writing: Dr Who, Dr What, Dr Where, Dr When and Dr Why.

Who appears in your episode apart from the Doctor? Aliens? Friends of the Doctor?

What happens in your episode?

Where does the action take place? On another planet? What is the planet's name?

When does it take place? Which era of history does the doctor travel to?

Why does the Doctor go there? Is he on a mission to save the Earth?

Students may also like to answer this question:

How will the episode end? Will the Doctor save the Earth?

Students should read through their work and add as many acronyms and abbreviations as possible.

Can they abbreviate the name of their planet? Is it an acronym? What do the letters stand for.

The Doctor comes from the planet Gallifrey. If this was an acronym, what would it stand for?

    Abode of
    Lords who
    Flying saucers and
(The Doctor can remain ever young because he has two hearts. When his body gets worn out he can "regenerate" and change his appearance.)

Another good source for examining abbreviations and acronyms is the list of past stories on the right hand side of this page.


Students report back on their worksheet answers.

They present their Dr Who episode outlines to the class for feedback, explaining any abbreviations and acronyms.

Recap on differences between the two types.

The world's longest abbreviation (from the Guinness Book of Words) is from the Russian language:


Which means (in English):

Laboratory for Shuttering, Reinforcement, Concrete and Ferroconcrete Operations for Composite-monolithic and Monolithic Constructions of the Department of Technology of Building Assembly Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for Building Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR.

Teachers' background

Tom Baker

For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side of this page.

BBC Homepage >> | CBBC Homepage >>

Meet the Team | Help | Contact Us | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy