A web site for the developing language teacher

April 2004 - issue 4/04


Welcome to the April Newsletter.

Spring is nearly here in Spain although with the snow on our mountains you wouldn't think it. Strange happenings with the weather to accompany turbulent events of late. In the newsletter this month we welcome Eleanor Watts with an article on primary teacher training in India as well as another article from Adam Simpson, this time about process writing. Rolf Palmberg also returns with lesson ideas for a computer-based game & we have all the usual sections.

If you would like to contribute to the newsletter in any way please contact us through the contact page on the site

Happy teaching!



1. THE SITE - articles & plans
7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



STREAMING SPEECH: A Course in Listening and Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English - An electronic publication that aims to solve the problem of the misrepresentation of speech.

If you'd like to buy a Streaming Speech course you will receive a discount if you tell Richard you heard about it at Developing!



How do you teach English when you can't speak it? by Eleanor Watts

In many parts of the world, primary school teachers are now being asked to teach English, a language in which they are not fluent. This article is a rationale for a course involving teachers and trainers working in low-resource contexts. It is designed to address some of the interrelated needs of:

1. teachers who cannot speak English fluently,
2. trainers who have no primary experience.

The course has been planned for India, but features could be transferred to other countries where teachers are not fluent in English.

In India, state primary school teachers have received little or no training in teaching English and their own experience of learning the language was through the grammar translation method. While the communicative approach emphasises oral skills, especially at the elementary level, they are usually more comfortable with the written than with the spoken word. They tend to feel they should be the givers of knowledge and their pupils the takers. They fear a loss of face in being required to teach open-ended oral skills and feel safer with grammar which has clearly right answers. Their government expects them to use the communicative approach, but the collaborative ideology that underlies it may be anathema to them.

Their trainers, on the other hand, are familiar with the latest theories of English teaching, but typically have never taught in primary schools. They do not know how to control classes of over eighty children with no resources but a blackboard. Their experience is with smaller groups of highly motivated adults in relatively well-resourced classrooms. They have little credibility with teachers they train because they have no practical experience.

The liberal expert is now in the embarrassing position of having to choose between two popular western constructs:

· the communicative approach towards language teaching · the reflective model of teacher training propounded by Wallace (1991) among others.

If the communicative approach is chosen, the trainer becomes a kind of missionary, seeking to convert teachers to what they perceive as "alien methods". (Canagarajah, 1999, 116) If the reflective approach is chosen, the trainer does not intervene, but takes "the role of 'facilitator' or 'developer', giving little or no information, but encouraging trainees to develop their own body of knowledge." (Ur, 1996, 8)

If, as Widdowson suggests, "teacher disposition … should be preferred to researcher imposition" (1993), teacher disposition is likely to go for grammar translation methods. The very liberality of the reflective paradigm rules out attempting to change the teacher. If, on the other hand, researcher imposition is preferred to teacher disposition, the imposed "alien methods" are unlikely to stick. The westernised teacher trainer who believes that the communicative approach can be imported as a job-lot into another culture is bound to meet with "tissue rejection" - like a body that rejects a surgical implant. (Holliday, 1994, 132)

In my view, it is irresponsible to take either approach to extreme. Non-interventionist facilitators are abnegating their responsibility to offer new ideas to practitioners. However the pedagogic missionary can be both arrogant and ignorant in attempting to impose a foreign teaching style where it is both culturally and practically inappropriate. In devising a teacher education course, both the communicative approach and the reflective paradigm must be modified to fit the context.

To continue the article


Spotting the ODD MAN OUT - suggestions for a CALL/Internet lesson by Rolf Palmberg - Department of Teacher Education, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

About the program

ODD MAN OUT (OMO) is a playful vocabulary awareness program based on a popular game with the same name. The computer version outlined below concentrates on English compound words that end in '-man', and the learners' task is to decide for each set of words which word (i.e. which man) does not belong in the group. The purpose of the program is to develop learners' vocabulary awareness and communication skills. The program can be downloaded free of charge at

Pre-computer work

Ask the learners how many English words they can think of that end in '-man' (it may be a good idea to give a few examples). After a couple of minutes, give the learners a list of ten "man" words and ten definitions. Ask them, in pairs, to match each word with its correct definition.

Next, ask the learners to think about the meaning relationship between the first part of each "man" word and the "man" part. A milkman, for example, delivers something (in this case milk), but what does a garbageman do? He does not deliver garbage, does he? And what about a chairman, a policeman, and a gunman? Which is the verb that give the two parts of each compound word its meaning?

Computer work ("hands-on")

Ask the learners, in pairs, to work with the OMO program. When the program starts, they have two options. They can either familiarise themselves with the 50 "man" words included in the program and check the meaning of any words they are not sure of. Or, they can go directly to the OMO module. Point out to them that if they choose this option they can no longer consult the built-in program dictionary for word meanings.

In the OMO module, the learners' task is to choose which of four "man" words does not belong in the group. Tell the two learners in each pair that they should first decide on their individual answers and state their reasons, then compare and (if the answers differ) agree with their partner on the "correct" answer. Point out to the learners

(a) that in most cases there exists no single CORRECT answer, (b) that it is always possible to come up with several GOOD answers, but
(c) that the answer offered by the computer is always the BEST answer.

Follow-up task on the Internet

Tell the learners that there exist hundreds of "man" words in English. Next, ask them to make individual lists of additional "man" words (other than those included in the OMO program) using the Internet, and to provide the words found with good definitions. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary ( is very useful for this purpose as it allows you not only to look for words ending in certain ways but also gives you word definition(s).

Post-computer work

Ask the learners to work in small groups (three to four learners in each group) and to share their findings. Next, ask them, using dictionaries, to categorise their words according to different criteria, for example:

(a) Which "man" words can be "woman" words as well?
(b) Which "man" words refer to people who deliver things?
(c) Which "man" words refer to people who sell things?
(d) Which "man" words refer to people who are criminals?
(e) Which "man" words are gender neutral, that is, which do in
fact refer to "a person"?
(f) Which "man" words are occupations?
(g) Which "man" words relate to objects and not to human beings
at all?
(h) Which "man" words are "man" words also in the learners'
mother tongue(s)?

For homework, challenge the learners to see how many different verbs they can think of that describe meaning relationships between the various "man" words they know.

Also, ask them to come up with new OMO groups of words (similar to the ones practised during the computer session) to be presented to their classmates the next lesson.


A Process Approach to Writing by Adam Simpson


When I first started teaching writing in the English Language classroom, two issues immediately sprang to my attention;

i) the students were extremely demotivated whenever asked to write in English; ii) the end product was fairly disappointing and didn't seem to correlate with my students' abilities as displayed in other aspects of their language ability, such as speaking for example.

As my teaching developed over several years, so did my understanding as to why the students displayed such aversion to writing and why the end product of the writing they did do left something to be desired.

Numerous authors note that there has been a dramatic evolution in the way that writing is being approached in the English Language classroom, with the aim of making writing a more personal and satisfying experience for the learner. This has evolved alongside the development of different approaches to teaching in general, and a greater impetus has been placed on the role of writing in the Language classroom. Writing, however, remains one of the most difficult areas for the teacher and learner of English. This is evident in the way that it has been neglected and/or treated poorly in the past. Indeed, many high level English learners cannot write. As Baskoff (1990) notes, many writing weaknesses in advanced learners can be traced back to lack of systematic practice during the earlier stages of learning.

In this paper I will discuss how the concept of process writing has raised the profile of writing, how it differs from the traditional 'product' approach, and how the application of a process approach to writing, even at low levels, can eliminate most of the problems normally associated with this skill.

To continue the article



There is an intermediate plan based around an article that reports on a 67% chance that God exists, according to a scientist who has been researching the odds. A reading lesson that uses the text as a springboard to review the language of probability. To see the plan

Easter stuff for lessons on the site


Thanks to Eleanor, Adam & Rolf.

ARTICLES - If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson plan & would like to give it a public airing, get in touch.

ADVERTISING - We reach a few thousand teachers every week with the Weekly Teaching Tip & the same each month with the Newsletter, not to mention the 1800+ unique visitors a day to the site. If you've got a book, course, job…anything that you'd like to advertise, then do get in touch.


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No ordinary Master's: become an action researcher with Aston University's MSc in TESOL at Aston University Language Studies Unit:



Lots of different Forums to choose from. Post your jobs, your CV, your questions, finds on the net, ideas, activities, questions, grumbles, suggestions, your language courses, your training courses…they are there for you to use.

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A new list on discourse intonation from Newton Monteiro
Paul Sloane's list of Classic Lateral Thinking Puzzles
'This is the index of the rec.puzzles archive, taken from You can browse through the puzzles, and click on the Solution link to see the solution of the puzzle.'
Language puzzles.
Office haikus to go with the Hopeful Haikus

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Some days to plan your lessons around in April:

1st - April Fool's Day
2nd - International Children's Book Day
7th - World Health Day
14th - Anniversary of Titanic sinking
International Moment of Laughter Day
18th - Crossword Puzzle Day
22nd - Earth Day
23rd - St. George's Day - England

To see the Days of the Year
Some holiday origin

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This month we've got a short review of 'Learner English' edited by Michael Swan & Bernard Smith (CUP 2001) - an excellent reference book that is picked up time & again.

To see the review

To buy the book at

To buy the book at

BUYING BOOKS? If you're going to or then please go through our Books page. You will pay the same & we will receive a few pennies to keep the site & newsletters free. Thanks.

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As we are taking a short break, the Tip will return on 19th April.

Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- DHMO - April Fool's Day lesson ideas
- Advancing - dealing with advanced groups.
- GOAL - learner strategies & awareness
- Translation - using the mother tongue in class

To see the Past Tips

To sign up to receive them

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Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:

Full-time four-week courses, next courses April (12th), May, June '04
Part-time twelve-week course, M/W/F 10.30-14.00, April 12th

Full-time two-month course, July & August '04

5% discount on all courses if you mention the newsletter!
Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses.

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7. PS - Internet/computer-related links

A few computer use rules of thumb:
- make copies of all important files
- run scan disk & then defragment the hard drive
- use firewall software
- use a virus scan & update the files every week
- install security patches that software providers offer
- update your DirectX files regularly
- don't open attachments without scanning for viruses first
- don't respond to spam
- just delete & forget
- don't send personal or bank information by email
- turn off your computer at night
18 useful things that Google can do.
'Simple and fast browsing history cleaner for Internet Explorer. ' Free download.
Talking alarm clock for Windows.
Well..batteries really.
Wonder no more about those file extensions on your computer.
Want to put up a website for free? Alternatively contact Developing for a personalized web hosting quote.
The seven wonders of the world.
'This website is about the bridge building games by Chronic Logic. There are currently three of them: Bridge Builder, Pontifex and Bridge Construction Set (Pontifex II). Obviously, the point of the games is to design and test bridges. Sounds simple? Try them out! But beware: high addiction risk!'
'Add Dogpile to your browser and search from anywhere on the Web.'
The history of Linux.
Night of the zombie kitties.
The dangers of skateboarding - especially for monkeys carrying sausages!

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Disclaimer - all of the recommendations for computer-related software are personal recommendations. We take no responsibility for anything that might go wrong when downloading, installing or running them - not that anything should, but you never know. It's your decision, your responsibility. The same applies to the jobs mentioned above. And anything else that you can think of that we might be responsible for as a result of this newsletter!

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