December 2002 - issue
Welcome to the December Newsletter
Lots more subscribers
again this month - welcome & hope you find it all
This month we have new
articles by Dimitrios Thansoulas, Edna Aphek & Scott
Shelton on assessment, ELT history, the new technologies
& pronunciation teaching. The book review looks
at a language awareness book for teachers 'Alive to
English' by V.Arndt, P.Harvey & J.Nuttall. And we
also have the usual sections of teaching links, jobs
& PS links.
Have you been to the Forums
yet? Elizabeth asks: 'I teach beginners and intermediate
level English at a couple of universities in Rome and
was wondering if anybody would like to do an intercambio
between students?' Get
along see what else the Forums have to offer. See
We have been nominated 'Site of the Week' by TEFL.net
- a big thank you to them - they obviously know a good
site when they see one!
1. THEME - Assessment: "Weighing
the pig doesn't fatten it"
2. THE SITE - lesson plans & articles
6. TEACHING LINKS
8. WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
9. TRAINING COURSES
10. PS - Internet/computer-related links
11. THE BIT AT THE END
1. THEME - Assessment:
"Weighing the pig doesn't fatten it" - by
We have surely heard of
the term "assessment"; but what does it boil
down to? Why should we assess ourselves and others?
What is it that we can assess? What types and functions
of assessment are there? How do IQ tests work? Are there
any alternative forms of assessment? These are the main
topics that the present paper sets out to tackle, with
a view to shedding light on the nature of assessment.
Unless teachers assess
pupils' attainments in some way, they cannot match learning
experiences (i.e., whatever is transpiring in the classroom)
with students' needs. In other words, teachers cannot
tell whether students have made any progress or whether
the former need to adjust what they are teaching or
how they are teaching it. Research has shown that learning
effectiveness is increased by appropriate and informative
feedback to pupils and teachers, and that some form
of assessment must be part of an effective learning-teaching
cycle (see Long, 2000: 46 for further details). By and
large, assessment is still relatively informal, as teachers
are aware of children's performance from the work they
have done. More information about student progress or
specific skills can be gathered from a battery of specific
tests and formalised types of assessment. Based on these,
teachers can make absolute as well as relative judgements
about learners' achievements. Nevertheless, Gipps et
al. (1983) found that teachers rarely use formal test
results, since they believe that the results are needed
by other people. At any rate, testing is certainly dominating
what goes on in schools and some teachers would probably
agree with what Black and Wiliam (1998) said: 'Weighing
the pig doesn't fatten it'.
As Long (2000: 47) notes,
'[a]ssessment is...a major part of the educational process,
and without it, teaching would be a rather unfocused
activity'. The fact remains, however, that a great deal
of testing is implemented with only limited justification.
What can we assess?
First and foremost, assessment
is concerned with attainment, that is, a student's present
level of ability or functioning in a particular area.
Such abilities can be assessed through a range of tests
covering all the main areas of general academic attainments,
as well as specific abilities or skills. Some forms
of assessment are premised upon the concept that abilities
are related to each other - if people score well on
one test, then they are likely to score well on others.
What enables them to do so is known as 'general ability'
or intelligence, and it is assessed by specialised intelligence
Nonetheless, the main
abilities that teachers focus on are related to the
curriculum. More specifically, there are three categories
of educational targets or goals that students are called
on to attain: a) knowledge (factual information); b)
skills (how to do things); and c) understanding (the
ability to use information). It is important to note
that, even though there is general agreement about the
need for such goals, research by Fleming and Chambers
(1983) found that nearly 80 per cent of all questions
in school tests dealt only with factual information.
It seems that this penchant for factual information
is due to 'the ease of using simple knowledge-based
assessments, since tests which incorporate children's
use of skills and understanding tend to be time-consuming
to design and implement' (Long, 2000: 47).
can be thought of as a body of concepts with a structure,
which includes the links between concepts (ibid.). Concepts
can be physical, or abstract, or can express relationships
and connections. They can also be combined to form factual
knowledge in the form of propositions such as 'A flower's
stigma receives pollen', or 'the word libido was first
used by Cicero'. This factual knowledge could be assessed
by means of such questions as 'What do we call the part
of the flower that receives pollen?' or 'who was the
word libido used by?' Modern views of semantic knowledge
regard it as a system of connected schemata with variables.
Assessment, therefore, focuses on the development of
generalised schemata within a subject domain, along
with the knowledge of how they function within particular
exemplars. For instance, one might be concerned with
the development of the concept of a 'chemical element',
with generalised notions of the nucleus and electron
shell configuration determining specific valence and
reactivity. The general concept could then be related
to specific exemplars, and tests carried out for knowledge
about particular elements showing different bonding
properties (ibid.: 48).
A skill relates to the
procedural aspects of how to do things. Normally, it
refers to a higher-level, complex ability, made up from
a number of other abilities that are connected and coordinated.
When someone has a skill, they are supposed to be able
to function competently with it at a certain level.
Skilled performance involves implicit knowledge and
is usually generated from the development of, more or
less, conscious abilities.
Skills can be assessed by carrying them out, although
they are sometimes part of more complex activities.
For example, a reading comprehension exercise may involve
a range of basic skillsincluding reading the text and
answering the questions that follow it.
the transfer and use of knowledge in new situations.
This is illustrated in the following example, where
students have to apply simple mathematical rules: 'If
Laura and Fred both need two pencils and each pencil
costs 15p, how much money will they need altogether?'
(ibid.: 48). As regards higher tests of understanding,
these involve holistic, real-life tasks where both knowledge
and skills are at work. In creative writing, in particular,
students may benefit from the generating of ideas and
draw on existing knowledge.
Aptitude assessments engage
with the potential for future attainment. The Reading
Readiness Profiles (Thackray, 1974), for instance, test
a child's visual and auditory discrimination, as the
basis for progress with reading. However, according
to Long (2000: 49), '[m]any such tests are only weak
predictors...unless the ability assessed is a necessary
precursor of the target ability'. Conversely, the skills
of phonological abilities and the knowledge and use
of letter sounds are deemed to be the best predictions
of initial reading progress.
read the rest of the article
Back to the index
2. THE SITE
The changing winds and
shifting sands of the history of English Language Teaching
by Dimitrios Thansoulas.
As the title implies,
the English language teaching tradition has been subjected
to a tremendous change, especially throughout the twentieth
century. Perhaps more than any other discipline, this
tradition has been practiced, in various adaptations,
in language classrooms all around the world for centuries.
While the teaching of Maths or Physics, that is, the
methodology of teaching Maths or Physics, has, to a
greater or lesser extent, remained the same, this is
hardly the case with English or language teaching in
general. As will become evident in this short paper,
there are some milestones in the development of this
tradition, which we will briefly touch upon, in an attempt
to reveal the importance of research in the selection
and implementation of the optimal methods and techniques
for language teaching and learning.'
read the article
The New Technologies:
No Place to Hide? by Prof. Edna Aphek
The paper describes two
months work with teachers, reading counselors, in a
literacy forum on the internet, as part of their training.
The writer examines the possible reasons for the absenteeism
of many teachers from the forum and their seemingly
lack of interest in it.
read the article
Making a Case for Beginning
with Suprasegmental Features in Pronunciation Teaching
by Scott Shelton
'Over the years, phonology
has played many different roles in the English language
teaching classroom, from a virtually non-existent role
in the traditional grammar translation method tobeing
the main focus of the audio-lingual method through its
emphasis on minimal pairs, phonemes, drills and dialogue
work. Until recently, phonology (and other aspects)
of language was thought to have been best learned through
a building block, "bottom-up approach." '
read the article
the accompanying lesson plan
Main aims and objectives
1. To raise awareness of how voice quality and intonation
can convey meaning.
1. To provide receptive and productive practice in how
prominence affects intonation and helps to convey meaning.
2. To provide practice in working out meaning of words
and phrases from context.
3. To provide intensive listening and reading practice.
4. To provide opportunity to develop inferences skills
via contextual and aural clues.
Thanks to Dimitrios, Edna
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This month there's a review
of 'Alive to Language' by V.Arndt, P.Harvey & J.Nuttall
(CUP). It's a language awareness book & for any
English language teacher it's well worth investigating.
can find the review
Please don't forget to
the books page when you want to buy from Amazon.com
or Amazon.co.uk . The books have links to both .com
& .uk & if the books that you want aren't there,
do a search with the search boxes at the bottom of the
Books page. We get a little bit & you pay the same.
Every little helps to keep the newsletters free. Thanks.
A few of the recent posts:
- an offer of groups of
Italian students for a writing exchange
- a call for Christmas ideas, activities & links
- looking for ideas for a seminar on exam classes
- links to material on Northern Ireland
- teaching advanced levels - some tips
along, sign up & dive in!
5. E-MAIL COURSES
maximise your time by getting started on a quality personalised
teacher development course. There are a couple of sample
pages to view.
6. LINKS FOR TEACHING
Give TEFL.net a visit!
Time Magazine's Year 2002
A few history-related links with lots of material &
information for mainstream classroom use, which we can
adapt for our purposes:
History.uk.com as a resource
for teachers and children - It is not often that a free,
safe and enjoyable learning resource comes the way of
hard-pressed teachers. History.uk.com has been designed
to be suitable for classroom use. It offers a wealth
of material to enhance teaching plans and increase ICT
interaction across the curriculum. Designed as a web
resource, History.uk.com offers a massive dynamic database
of historical data which is fast loading, accurate and
non-political in its presentation. It has simple, straightforward
presentation without the presence of distracters such
as promotional banners and spurious advertising.
'This site is being developed
by R.J. Tarr I am a full-time classroom teacher of history
and politics at Wolverhampton Grammar School, England.
All of the resources are directly connected to our scheme
of work (National Curriculum KS3; GCSE Modern World
History from AQA; A-Level Early and Late Modern History
from AQA). The most important thing about this website
is that it has been produced by a classroom teacher
and his students for classroom teachers and their students.
All of the activities have been produced with the classroom
in mind, and are often amended after being tried out
in class. It is a continually evolving resource which
fellow teachers and students are very welcome to dip
into whenever they find it appropriate.'
The BBC yet again has
masses of historical information on offer.
'On this site you'll find in-depth articles, multimedia
(like games, virtual tours and animations) as well as
bite-size material like timelines and short biographies
of historic figures. All is designed for you to get
more out of your interest in History.'
With lots of links to
other areas of history.
'I am a Secondary School
History teacher from Cambridgeshire, England. I am the
curriculum ICT coordinator, and History teacher at Neale-Wade
Community College in March. I completed my PGCE in History
and English in 1998, following my BA in History at Durham
University. I created this site to provide a safe and
convenient place for history teachers and pupils to
find information, download worksheets and basically
have some fun using ICT! The Internet has much to offer
and there are many amazing sites relevant and useful
for history but it is very difficult to quickly select
the beneficial places to visit. Since first creating
the site in June 2000 I am delighted to see how it has
grown. The site now receives an average of over 2,000
visitors a day, with a record - near GCSE exam time
- of nearly
Google History start page.
Have you got any favourite teaching links? Send them
in or post them in the PS section at the Forums.
to the index
Disclaimer - as with any
job check it out carefully. We don't endorse the schools
that advertise below. The ads are sent in & we mention
them here & put them up on the site.
A note for advertisers
- please post your advert in the Forum - see the link
from the Front Page - then we'll put it on the recruitment
page & mention it in this newsletter.
Soros International House Vilnius is currently looking
for an enthusiastic, professional teacher to work full-time,
beginning January 6, 2003. The contract would initially
last until the end of June, with possible extensions
and summer work (most likely English language camps
for children in Lithuania, Slovakia and Finland) available,
if both parties are interested. Accommodation and reasonable
wages, as well as negotiated travel costs.
If interested, please contact: Vitas Gricius, DOS@sih.lt
for more information about the school, please visit
our webpage at: www.sih.lt
Moscow Region, Russian Federation
Teacher required: $500 living allowance monthly, visa
support, flight re-imbursed at end of contract, apartment
provided. David L.D McPherson firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent CV on the site:
- a page is waiting for your CV. Please also post your
CV in the Jobs Forum.
can post CVs on the site & employers
can post job adverts - both are free services at
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8. WEEKLY TEACHING
Free weekly practical
teaching tips by e-mail. Recent Tips have looked at
Monster vocabulary - helping
younger learners with vocab
Buy Nothing Day 2002 - ideas on using their material
Runningtexttogether - activities
Stop cards - an idea for cutting down on L1
Remember, remember, The 5th of November - lesson plan
see the Past Tips
sign up to receive them
in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the
British Language Centre in Madrid:
IN ELT - CELTA Full-time four-week courses,
January & February '03
CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT
- DELTA Full-time eight-week course,
January >> March
5% discount on all courses
if you mention the newsletter!
Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for
of all courses.
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10. PS - Internet/computer-related
enthusiast's homepage - 'Welcome fellow book- sniffers
my name is Benny, founder of this site. We are an up
and coming (fringe) group who find pleasure only by
inhaling books. My habit first started when I was ten
I think, sniffing Rupert annuals, newspapers, horse
and hound magazines and religious pamphlets. However,
I had soon moved on to more harder books, finding satisfactory
aromas could only truly be found in crusty books from
many centuries ago.'
I could never get far
with Rubik's cube so you can imagine my surprise when
one of my sons presented me with a perfectly sorted
cube one day. Astounding! A genius is born! Until I
spotted the tell-tale signs of the peeling stickers.
Lots of points for initiative though. Here's a Flash
version (that takes a while to load - ho, hum) that
you can't take the colours off!
Not for the easily offended
- a different kind of horoscope from Pessmystic Meg.
Days to really look forward to.
The New York Public Library's
Digital Library Collection. 'NYPL will launch a searchable
database of visual materials documenting culture studies
and social history internationally from the ancient
world to the present. A phased rollout through 2004
will eventually total 600,000 images selected from collection
strengths in the arts, humanities, performing arts and
sciences, including artwork, maps, photographs, prints,
manuscripts, illustrated books, and printed ephemera.'
A very neat clock to play
Take a break & knock
Identifont - 'the unique
font identifier that enables you to identify a font
from a sample by answering a series of simple questions.
It is ideal if you want to match an existing typeface,
or identify a typeface you have seen in a publication.
'ieSpell is a free Internet
Explorer browser extension that spell checks text input
boxes on a webpage. It should come in particularly handy
for users who do a lot of web-based text entry (e.g.
web mails, forums, blogs, diaries).'
This to That - tells you
what glue to use. Now this is what's good about the
DigitalNowhere.com - a
community devoted to computer-related things, most notably
Microsoft things & XP things.
Looking for sounds, this
is the place.
'BuzzPhraser - A TechnoLatin
phrase generator by Doc Searls. BuzzPhrases are built
with TechnoLatin, a non-language that eplaces plain
English nouns with vague but precise-sounding substitutes.
In TechnoLatin, a disk drive is a "data management
solution." A phone is a "telecommunications
A browser add-on to access
sites recommended by surfers with the same interests
A two minute Wallace and
'The Gallery is a result
of your journey into the deepest recesses of Delphion
Research. When you come across a strange or intriguing
patent, share it with others.'
Googlism.com will find
out what Google.com thinks of you, your friends or anything!
Search for your name here or for a good laugh check
out some of the popular Googlisms.
'Looking for opinions
or points of view on the topics you care about? Want
an opinion on the best restaurants in Rome, or where
to get travel insurance in New York? Ask your Question
and Abuzz will send it to the members most likely to
have the answer.'
Can't really remember
when I last did something as pointless as this.
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