A web site for the developing language teacher

December 2005 - issue 12/05


Welcome to the December Newsletter.

We're running a bit later than usual this month - busy times. Richard Kiely finishes his three-part series of articles about using television, the article this month is titled 'Television in TESOL - The research agenda'. Greg Gobel also returns with an article & lesson plan around the theme of pragmatics, 'Some problems with functions and speech acts and some solutions through pragmatics to help upper intermediate learners.' & there is a lesson plan about a rat found in a jar of gherkins.

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Happy teaching &, for those of you who have them, happy holidays!




7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Television in TESOL - The research agenda by Richard Kiely

1. Introduction

In my previous articles I presented an overview of television in TESOL, and a detailed discussion of how I used a specific piece of television data in my own teaching. These articles represent a conventional teacher's perspective, where the goal is to furnish the programme with activities which engage, motivate and inspire the students and teacher, while focussing on aspects of language form, language and communication, and the wider cultural context of language use. The teacher's concern is about making the classroom an effective learning environment. Teachers know from experimentation with different material types, data sources and teaching strategies what works to create the kind of classroom they are interested in. What may not be clear from teaching action alone is WHY and TO WHAT EXTENT. As practitioners, teachers have a real time sense of what is successful and what is less successful with particular groups. Where an activity is successful, they re-use and extend the idea. Where it is unsuccessful, they leave it, move on and try something else. This process constitutes valuable learning in itself, and is an essential element of that factor so appreciated in employment contexts: 'experience'. It does not however, lead to explanation, either for the teacher or the wider professional and academic communities. A research perspective is one way of working towards explanations and thus, understandings of the links between classroom processes and learning.

There are many different perspectives on research carried out by teachers, in many ways different routes and modes of transport towards the destination of knowledge construction. We can consider the ROUTES as traditions of enquiry...

To view the article


Some problems with functions and speech acts and some solutions through pragmatics to help upper intermediate learners by Greg Gobel

'All learners of a foreign language are familiar with the disturbing sensation of understanding every word, and the literal meaning, but somehow missing the point.' Cook (1989: 41)


Functional language has been a focus in ELT over the past three decades with varying amounts of emphasis, from the Functional-Notional syllabus to a minor component in multi-layered syllabuses. However, in my experience learners often do not get the 'whole picture' regarding understanding and using functional language from coursebooks that teachers and learners are often expected to use and 'work through' in many language schools. I am currently teaching an upper intermediate course in which the learners have difficulties coping with appropriately interpreting and using functions. This paper investigates some problems that learners have with functions and suggests possible solutions for helping upper intermediate learners.

Speech Acts/Functions

McCarthy says, 'Speech acts refer to the communicative intention of what is said or written. In speech-act theory, all language is seen as doing things' (McCarthy, 1998: 179). Dörnyei and Thurrell say they 'carry out an action or language function' (Dörnyei and Thurrell, 1992: 80).

'No utterance is completely context free in terms of meaning and function. Nevertheless, is possible to classify utterances into a very small set of functions' (Hatch, 1992: 121). Searle determined five general types of speech acts (summarized from Hatch, 1992: 121-131):

Directives - trying to get someone to do something
Representatives - committing, in some way, to the truth of an utterance
Commissives - committing to doing or not doing something
Expressives - expressing emotion in some way
Declarations - bringing changes to the way things are

van Ek (1980) describes six self-explanatory main functions of

* imparting and seeking factual information
* expressing and finding out intellectual attitudes
* expressing and finding out emotional attitudes
* expressing and finding out moral attitudes
* getting things done
* socializing (Finocchiaro and Brumfit, 1983: 23)

Sub- and micro- functions can be categorized, e.g., instructing, commanding, suggesting, and requesting are types of 'directives' or getting things done'. Although speech acts may be direct (e.g., Put that gun down!), 'the majority in everyday conversation are indirect' ( Dörnyei and Thurrell, 1992: 80). 'Language learners can easily misunderstand indirect speech acts and take what has been said at its face value' so 'making learners aware that such structures have a "surface" and "real"
meaning can therefore be very important' ( ibid : 80-81). In other words, there is often a hidden meaning of utterances which can be problematic for learners to convey and interpret.

Consideration of the response that a speaker expects from her listener is necessary. There are two possible responses, 'an expected, polite reaction (e.g., accepting an invitation or complying with a request), and an unexpected, less common or more"difficult" reaction (e.g., turning down an invitation, or refusing to comply with a request). These two types of reaction have been called preferred and dispreferred answers respectively' ( ibid: 43). Yule says that preferred responses show less
distance, 'closeness and quick connection,' while dispreferred responses show more 'distance and a lack of connection' (Yule, 1996: 82).

To view the article

The accompanying lesson plan:
Time: 60 minutes
Level: Upper-Int

Main Aim:
Learners will be better able to use functional chunk expressions to give instructions and ask about how things work in the context of giving and receiving instruction to operate a device. (stage 4,5)
[Expressions: First of all..., Can you see a ___ that says ____ ? , The next thing is to..., What you need to do is..., Have you got that?, Got it? You should be able to see a..., Look out!, Hang on a minute., This one/thing here?, If you want to _______ then you have to _______, What if I want to..?

Subsidiary Aims:
To sensitize learners to prominence and tonal movement. For learners to make attempts at identifying these. (stage 3)

For learners to be able to classify chunk expressions into specific pragmatic categories: telling how to do something, checking instructions, warning or correcting what someone is doing, saying that you understand, asking for help or asking for more time. (stage 3)

If time allows and learners are not overwhelmed with the expressions and subsidiary aims above another subsidiary phonological aim will be to raise learners' awareness of linking in the expressions, e.g., final consonant linking with initial vowel, some assimilation, some intrusion, some elision. (stage 3)

For learners to practice extensive listening while putting pictures in order. (stage 2)

For learners to practice intensive listening by identifying expressions in the listening text. (stage 3)

Timetable fit:
We are currently progressing through module 4 in the coursebook, Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate. The lesson previous to this one was a review lesson for the upcoming internal upper-intermediate exam, after which we will have three days left before the winter break to go over problematic bits on the exam and finish module 4.
At the beginning, the learners will do some vocabulary matching sheets focusing on language that is particular to the devices that will be used in the lesson. This pre-teaching will hopefully help them feel more comfortable and more successful in giving instructions to each other through the lesson. The lexis will include (washing powder, liquid, drawer, knob, power button, mouse, mouse pad, icon, screen, viewfinder, handle, lens cap, record button). Additionally, learners will get the instructions chart and think of a few expressions for each functional category to see what they know and prepare for the mini-test in stage 1. The last 15 minutes of this particular class will be spent either continuing to practice giving instructions if learners are still interested or with a quick question/answer session to review for the internal end of term exam that is coming up. In a future lesson we will look at written instruction.

Lesson Rationale
In general
This lesson focuses on functional language for giving and responding to instructions in the context of how to use devices. The coursebook ( Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate, page 47) is a good departure point, but needs to be adapted to help learners more fully manipulate, use and understand this functional language. This class understand the usefulness of functional expressions from previous lessons, but we need to take a deeper, look, spending more time learning and using them - especially in more pragmatically contextual and realistic ways, which the book does not always provide.

Lesson Stages
The lesson follows a test-teach-test format - an appropriate strategy because the learners will have a clearer reason for using the new language in the second test phase knowing they had not used it at the start of the lesson, or will be using it more comfortably and effectively than at the start. Also, from the teacher's perspective, I tend to feel more comfortable knowing which areas need more focus based on the first test.

In stage 1, giving each other instructions on how to operate a device, learners get some fluency practice early on and test out how effectively they can give instructions, and especially how they respond to instructions. I have noticed in the past that learners tend to listen to operational instructions without taking a very active role in the conversation.

In stage 2, learners listen to a dialogue in which the interlocutors give and receive operational instructions. I have adapted the coursebook's dialogue to include additional and slightly different functional language and to increase the challenge and authenticity by having the new speakers speak a bit more naturally than the coursebook speakers do. The task in this stage is to order pictures (catering to visual and auditory
learners) according to the interlocutors' instructions and responses to gain an overview of the dialogue and prepare for the more intensive listening and language focus. In stage 3, attention is focused on target functional language through a sequence of lifting the expressions off the tape (to increase challenge and interest, rather than simple tape dictation into gaps), identifying the appropriate function and pertinent pragmatic information about the expressions, chorus and individual drilling, and identification of prominence and tonal movement. This should provide learners with a helpful introduction to the target language from both conceptual/usage and phonological perspectives. The book suggests focusing learners on whether the expressions are for giving or receiving instructions, but I feel a more helpful and precise categorization scheme will lead to more appropriate and confident usage:

* The giver: 1. telling how; 2. checking instructions; 3. warning and/or correcting.
* The receiver: 1. preferred responses, i.e., acknowledging you understand; 2. dispreferred responses, i.e., requesting help.

Stages 4 and 5 give learners the opportunity to give and receive instructions in semi-controlled and freer speaking tasks, which ensure the receivers are involved and have a reason to listen. This should help learners become aware that instructing is a cooperative type of communication, not simply a one-sided affair.

To view the plan


Lesson plan
Asda in a pickle after rat found in gherkins.

Time: 60 minutes??
Level: Intermediate upwards
To give extensive & intensive reading practice
To review the present perfect tense
To give freer speaking practice

To view the plan


Thanks to Richard & Greg.


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A couple of recent posts:

Jennifer has got a really interesting teaching scenario:
Engaging students comes out as key in classroom participation, and it has an important role in developing and supporting learners' sustained study outside the classroom too. When I did my original EFL training (at BLC in Madrid) the value of individual tutorials was stressed, just as it has been in the latest DT Tip.
But now I'm teaching in China, in most of my classes I have 60 students, and I teach about 360 students each week. In previous years I've tried to see each student, but the amount of time it takes now feels overwhelmingly impossible. Could anyone manage it? At the same time I'm marking work for this number of students, so I don't have much in the way of free time!
This sort of scale of problem isn't uncommon in a lot of countries around the world. It's a feature of the wealth of a country, the political decisions about how much to invest in education, the shortage of teachers available simply to put in front of a class, let alone a teacher who's actually trained and can speak English.
So, I'd like to know what anyone else does to try to engage their students when tutorials may well not be feasible. Or feasible maybe once in a year? There must be others using DT's forums with similar experiences - and maybe good ideas. On the positive side, I'd like to say that until I was given these enormous classes this year, I'd have doubted anything useful could be achieved, and I'm actually surprised at how successful lessons are sometimes.

smelboe asks:
I'm searching for the solutions for the Unit Tests in the Longmans CAE Gold coursebook for the Units 3,4,5 and 6. Our teacher just "corrects" our tests by saying to us whether our answer is wrong or right. If it is wrong we don´t get to know which answer is right. Please help my learning for my cae test and tell me the solutions for the units 3,4,5 and 6. Thank you to everybody here.

Lina would like some advice:
I have a group of 26 seven year old Greek children whom I teach for 40 minutes 4 times a week. They're all lovely and smart children, but I have problems with discipline. I've been teaching for two years only, but I am full of energy and willing to do anything to make the lesson as interesting as possible. The only problem is that I work in a private primary school and I am not the one who decides about the lesson plan (what to be taught, homework, pages to be covered etc). Besides that, the headmaster has made it clear to all of us that "noise" cannot be an issue in our school. I really can't think of a way to keep them quite Sad
The truth is that among my students there are some children who need special attention and care. I have one mildly autistic child (who until recently could not be kept inside the class but is extremely smart), a child with an atrophic arm (who keeps on teasing the other children) and a child who studies English for first time in his life and thinks he's unable to catch up with the rest of the class. Please give me as many advices as possible to check which one can work best with them. Thank you ps: I've tried incentive cards and stickers but don't help. We get on very well and they like me but they seem unable to control their energy and voice Confused

Brenda would also like some advice:
I am not an Elementary teacher yet. I will graduate from East Carolina University in May of 2006. I've been in several classrooms but now I am doing my student teaching and am in the classroom the whole day and I've noticed some things about a student that I could use some help with. I hope I am not bothering anyone here, but I would be glad if someone could give me information about how to deal with problem students. I have a student that seeks attention and misbehaves. The regular teacher and assistant just ignore the fact that it is repetitive and the child seeks attention of me. He is very loving and wants to hug me constantly and hold my hand in the hallways, but misbehaves in the classroom. The teachers say that he is just bad and thinks I don't know what he is all about. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should do to try to change the way he acts or what could be happening? The teachers have been teaching for a while and I'm sure this method is effective for them, but I feel that the student needs something more Do you have any help or suggestions?

bayan needs some ideas:
I have studied English language in my country & would like some expressions & phrases used in the class by the teacher to his/her students?

Debbie would like to know:
I teach ESL in a Middle/High school and my students are Hispanic. I am looking for a national organization/club for my students. There are many different clubs at school but none that my students can relate to. I would like to organize a chapter of some type of club for my students so they can feel like they have a place of their own. I have heard there is a national culture club of some sort. If anyone has any information I would really appreciate it.

Myztique asks:
What are some ways to enhance class participation amongst students who fail to participate?

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Lots of different Forums to choose from. Check them out. 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.


At we occasionally carry out consultancy work. The different projects have included tutoring DELTA candidates by email, offering advice on curriculum design & materials choice & short training courses in person & by email. If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.



If you have visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would like your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.

Podcasts are making the news these days. These are basically mp3 downloads of radio programmes, one of the early sponsors being Apple, hence the name. Fur teachers they are clearly a very useful source of exposure & information for our students as well as information for us as teachers. Here are a couple of links:
Good article about podcasting from the BC/BBC site.
Yahoo launches its own Podcasts - 'audio recordings posted online, much like short radio shows'. Lots of authentic listenings to download for free.
Madrid Young Learners' Podcasts
bit by bit
'English Conversations is the collaborative work of Kyoto-based educators, Mark White and Aaron Campbell. We believe that internet based audio and video casting applications hold tremendous potential in global education and second language learning and plan to explore their uses on this site over the next several years. Our goal is to create learning resources and have fun doing it.'
' offers you short, interesting tidbits on a variety of topics, made by people from all over the world.'
Lots of podcasts to choose from.
Education section from Podcast Alley

Talking of podcasts, Ricky Gervais, of The Office, together with Stephen Merchant (co-writer of The Office) and Karl Pilkington started a podcast on the Guardian Online on the 5th. The cult of Karl will be with us shortly to be sure. To download it:,5860,1648976,00.html
Get your students following the instructions online to build the
perfect paper plane.



A few days to plan your lessons around in December:

1st - World Aids' Day
7th - Pearl Harbour Day
21st - Winter Solstice (& June 21st)
World Peace Day
24th - Christmas Eve
25th - Christmas Day - Xmas lesson ideas:
26th - Boxing Day
31st - New Year's Eve
Tolerance Week - 1st week of Dec.
International Language Week

To see the list of Days

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.



A new review up - 'English for Business Life' - Elementary & Pre- Intermediate Courses by Ian Badger & Pete Menzies (Marshall Cavendish). An excellent course series for the business student.

To read the review

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- Questioning it - more on writing feedback - student questions about their work
- Writing back - approaches to individual feedback on written work.
- Buy Nothing Day '05 - teaching ideas
- Developing - ways to help yourself develop
- Participation - in answer to the Forum post above - ideas to
get students involved
- Halloween & other things - lesson ideas & links to useful

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Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the
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7. PS - Internet/computer-related links from

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 Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, fifteen links every issue to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
The Louvre online.
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Nice effect irregardless of the choice of characters.
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Interesting optical illusions
Check out The World of Zen.
If you're interested in Deja Vu....
Handwriting tips.
' provides a simple and independent source for popup
window testing. Whether you are developing a popup killer software or you are thinking about purchasing one, you can use our sample popups to test the effectiveness of the application.'



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