A web site for the developing language teacher

August 2004 - issue 8/04


Welcome to the August Newsletter.

News from the site - Developing is now offering teachers the chance to provide a stable online support for their language students. Among many possibilities are the following:

- support for group classes
- support for one-to-one classes
- support for telephone classes
- whole online courses

This is through the virtual learning environment, based on Moodle. We set up a website with this programme installed for individual teachers or organisations & they provide the courses for their students. It is very easy to use as setting up & running courses is all a question of a few clicks. Please do check out the information on our Developing site:

We've mentioned the excellent English-to-Go site a few times in the past but did you know that they have a sister site called Self ? The ETG site is for teachers & this one is for your learners. Check it out at:

This month we are joined by Kendall Peet & Paul Meehan for the first time with articles on grammar & lexis respectively, and there are all the usual sections that we hope you find useful.

BTW, I came across our Warmers page the others day. If you haven't seen it, you can find a list of 73 warmers, fillers & coolers - and if you've got any to add, send them in!

Happy teaching!



1. THE SITE - articles & plans






7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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To grammar, or not to grammar? by Kendall Peet

There is currently a debate raging concerning the place of grammar within the EFL/ESL curriculum. On one side of the fence, arguing that grammar is a fundamental component- perhaps the fundamental component- of any syllabus, stand the ESL publishers, the authors of the published student texts, the stolid linguists, and a handful of prominent published individuals, such as Harmer, Sinclair, and Tonkyn. On the other side of the fence, arguing against the use of "packaged language" textbooks, with a grammar based linear syllabus, stand a growing body of weighty figures, such as Allwright, Lewis, Underhill, and Thornbury, who are joined by a not insignificant number of teachers in the field experimenting with different teaching methods. It is not within the scope of this article to present a comprehensive history or indeed a current account of the arguments for or against a grammar-based syllabus, but rather the purpose of this article is first to examine the argument against grammar-centred teaching, and then to look at practical alternatives, suggested by Scott Thornbury in Uncovering Grammar, that can be tested by teachers in the best interests of teacher development.

The Argument against grammar-centred teaching

In the text Uncovering Grammar, and in a series of articles, Scott Thornbury puts forward a convincing argument against the use of pre-packaged, grammar-based textbooks as the central means to teach English as a foreign or second language to students (1). He bases his argument partly on research into first language acquisition, stating that, in line with Lewis, language is first learnt in "prefabricated chunks," and that there is a natural progression from lexis to grammar, but that grammatical knowledge cannot be applied until the learner has, as Lewis writes, "a sufficiently large mental lexicon"(2). He also argues that grammar-based lessons do not lead to oral fluency, and it is oral fluency that the majority of students want most. In effect, what Thornbury is saying is that language is acquired, rather than learnt, and in doing so is reviving, in part, ideas raised by Krashen, Allwright, and Prabhu, taking a somewhat Humanistic Approach, whilst at the same time supporting the limited use of relatively new theories such as TBL (task-based learning), LBT (learner-based teaching, developed by Campbell and Kryszewska), and The Lexical Approach (developed by Michael Lewis)(3). In arguing that language is acquired, rather than learnt, Thornbury is arguing for a teaching model based on a process, being the process of "emerging grammar", and not on the traditional
hierarchical model of transmission.

To continue the article


Lexis - the new grammar? How new materials are finally challenging established course book conventions by Paul Meehan

Course materials are, at long last, showing signs of moving away from the prescriptions of the traditional course book. A sea change has taken place in recent years in the way language teaching and learning is viewed, and course book writers are beginning to reflect this. The 'natural English' syllabus (Oxford University Press, 2003), compiled by Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman, is a good example of this, for it chimes in with more contemporary theoretical perspectives, which view the acquisition of lexis as the driving force behind language learning. This represents a challenge to the traditional assumptions behind generations of course books underpinned, as they have been, by inherited and highly durable grammar-centric notions of language learning (arising from a written model of the language based on the grammar of written English). This grammar bias is clearly misplaced if one considers that most language learners need, primarily, to communicate through spoken English. What is more, the notion that improved communicative skills are to be achieved through gradual exposure to increasingly complex grammar structures, item by item, as the structure of the traditional course book requires, creates a distorted perception of language learning; and the consequent measure, that this perception gives rise to, for assessing linguistic competence and progress made i.e. the extent of the student's mastery over these structures, is a false yardstick.

To read the article


The Art Of Storytelling by Michael Berman

Storytelling is the art of orally sharing a story or experience with an audience, usually face to face. As a learning tool, it can encourage students to explore their unique expressiveness and can heighten their ability to communicate thoughts and feelings in an articulate, lucid manner. These benefits transcend the art experience to support daily life skills. In our fast-paced, media-driven world, storytelling can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken words are powerful, that listening is important, and that clear communication between people is an art.

Becoming verbally proficient can contribute to a student's ability to resolve interpersonal conflict non-violently. Negotiation, discussion, and tact are peacemaking skills. Being able to lucidly express one's thoughts and feelings is important for a child's safety. Clear communication is the first step to being able to ask for help when it is needed.

Both telling a story and listening to a well-told tale encourages students to use their imaginations. Developing the imagination can contribute to self-confidence and personal motivation as learners envision themselves competent and able to accomplish their hopes and dreams.

Storytelling based on traditional folktales is a gentle way to guide young people toward constructive personal values by presenting imaginative situations in which the outcome of both wise and unwise actions and decisions can be seen.

To continue the article


Thanks to Kendall, Paul & Michael.

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 1000+ 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 Aston University Language Studies Unit:



A few recent postings:

If any learners would like to improve their English vocabulary then they can now add their words to the Word Surfing Vocabulary Forum at Hopefully - as a result - the Vocabulary Builder at will soon become a resource that is full of good ideas - and grammatically correct example sentences - from learners all around the world. If you make a contribution, you'll not only get some valuable practice yourself - but also help to teach other language learners something at the same time. Anyway, I hope that the Vocabulary Builder will help some learners to improve ........ and that teachers will want to encourage their students to take part in the project (started 26.07.04)

On July 15, 2004 I created a new language exchange forum where you can practice your Spanish and help a Spanish speaker with his or her English. Here we take turns being teachers and students.

The present perfect runs & runs:

The M.I.T. Center has offices in North Italy and specialises in Business language courses around Italy. We are currently recruiting freelance teachers for onsite weekly English language courses in Rovereto (Trento) and Pratovecchio (25 kms from Arezzo/ 45 kms from Florence). Applications are requested from native English speakers with teaching background and/or business experience. Please contact office on 011 8170110, fax CV/resume to 011 8170130 or email details to (They also have an ad for work in Rome as well)

Troy generously writes:
If you are interested and CELTA qualified, I highly recommend contacting these people I have just finished a year contract and found it wonderful. Feel free to contact me about it.

ECC (Thailand) is looking for qualified (CELTA or equivalent + degree) English teachers to join us. We are the largest private language school in Thailand and our classes range in age from young learners upwards and in ability from beginner to advanced level. For suitably qualified candidates we are offering the following package: 35,000 Baht per month guaranteed salary (115 teaching hours), 12,000 Baht end of contract bonus, visa and work permit and medical insurance scheme. If you are interested in joining us please contact Tely at or visit our website at

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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The 1500+ pages archived on this site have been written by me over the past eight years. Several more are added virtually every week. Most are about English words and phrases-what they mean, where they came from, how they have evolved, and the ways in which people sometimes misuse them. A few others concern issues of grammar, style and punctuation.
Teaching in Madrid? Get together with other teachers in Madrid.
For people perplexed about the reactions that words, jargon and slogans cause at work, at home and just about everywhere - and what can be done about it ...An interview with the site's author, Michael Quinion, in the Guardian:,3605,1265841,00.html
'For people perplexed about the reactions that words, jargon and slogans cause at work, at home and just about everywhere - and what can be done about it ...'
'Wordcounter ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse (is everything a "solution" for you?) or maybe just to find some keywords from a document.'
Word of the Day from the New York Times

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Some days to plan your lessons around in August:

1st - World Wide Web Anniversary
12th - International Youth Day
13th - Lefthanded Day
13th-29th - Athens Olympic Games
31st - Malaysia Independence Day
La Tomatina Festival, Spain
The Burning Man Project in Nevada

To see the Days of the Year
Some holiday origins.

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This month we've a review of Jeremy Harmer's new coursebook 'Just Right'. (Cavendish Marshall, 2004). If you have been in teaching for any length of time, you are sure to have come across one of Harmer's books, probably 'The Practice of English Language Teaching'. With so much dross on the coursebook market, this is one not to be missed. Check out the review

To buy the book at

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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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- Phontegrated - ideas on integrating phonology
- One of the pleasures in life - listening to music for pleasure in class
- Where to stick grocer's apostrophe - a lesson plan about native speaker error
- Looking in - teachers reflecting
- Noising it up - using background noise with audio material

To see the Past Tips

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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 September, October & November '04

Part-time, six month course, October >> March
Full-time two-month course, January/February, April/May '05

15% 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

The following links are taken from the Site Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, lots of links to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
Moments to be philosophical. It could happen to you.
Natural garden chairs. One of those, 'Now why didn't I think of that!'
Nobody here, just me. Put your mouse over the links & watch the reaction. Plus the links!
Disgust - from the BBC - Test your sensitivity to disgust and take part in a real science experiment & it has 20 questions and should take between 5-10 minutes.
Arty site
The Iliad By Homer
Dylan music & words picture.
Art on the net.
Welcome to the Celt Digital, a source for Celtic Information on the World Wide Web.
Tightrope walking skills required for this game.
Volunteer to act like a chimp?

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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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