A web site for the developing language teacher

DECEMBER 2008 - issue 12/08


Welcome to the December Newsletter.


6. PS - Internet/computer-related links


1. Hello

This month we welcome Rama Meganathan with an article titled 'Materials Development in English (as a second) language: An Indian Experience'. It must have been very interesting to have been part of the process. We also welcome Hank Kellner with a series of articles about 'Using Photography To Inspire Writing'. This & the other articles are aimed at mainstream education but the ideas are a useful reminder for all of us.

And Steve Schackne returns with an article 'The First Fifteen Minutes' that looks at beginning lessons.

There's an interesting booklet to download on Global Citizenship in the English Language Classroom, published by the British Council. They say 'The final version of the booklet Global Citizenship in the English Language Classroom is now live on the site:

This 54-page booklet comprises a collection of papers with contributions from leading researchers on global citizenship in language education in several corners of the globe. It provides not only sound theoretical frameworks for investigation but also practical findings for application in diverse segments of ELT, ranging from university environments to public schools and from EFL to ESL contexts.'

The Christmas season will be here before too long so Season's Greetings to all. If you celebrate it, may it be a good time.


An interesting article for your students about English word origins. The article is accompanied by 26 photos of the objects mentioned. We used this in a recent Tip - ideas can be seen at:

A-Z of English words with surprising origins

Award-winning etymologist Henry Hitchings thought he did, until he studied the origins of English

When I set out to write a study of the history of words, I thought I had a decent grasp of where even the most curious English ones originate. Those with the prefix al- - as in alchemy and alcohol - often have Arabic roots, and many seafaring terms - skipper, schooner, land-lubber - are Dutch.
Many words in common usage, like dachshund, flamenco and tattoo, have foreign origins

But there were plenty of surprises. Who knew that marmalade, for instance, while eternally associated in my mind with Paddington Bear, is in fact Portuguese? So here is an A-to-Z of some of my favourite English words that have been absorbed from and inspired by other languages.

A is for…Avocado, which comes from Nahuatl, a language spoken by the Aztecs. Their name for it, ahuacatl, also meant ''testicle".

B is for…Bonsai. Although we think the tree-cultivating art is Japanese, it originated in China.

C is for…Coleslaw. Supposedly eaten in ancient Rome, it comes from the Dutch kool-salade (''cabbage salad").

D is for…Dachshund, a compound of the German Dachs (''badger") and Hund (''dog"). Originally the breed was known in Germany as Dachs Krieger, or ''badger warrior".

E is for…Enthusiasm. From the Greek entheos, which means ''to be within energy", suggesting being spiritually ''possessed".

F is for…Flamenco, from the Spanish name for a Fleming (i.e. someone from Flanders).

G is for…Goulash, an invention by Hungarian herdsmen whose name derives from gulyas.

H is for…Hotchpotch, used in Norman legal jargon to denote property collected and then divided.

I is for…Intelligentsia, a collective term for the intellectual class which derives from Latin but came to us from Russian.

J is for…Juggernaut, Sanskrit for a giant carriage used to transport an image of the god Krishna.

K is for…Kangaroo, from gangurru, the large black male roo in the Guugu Yimidhirr language.

L is for…Lilac, which comes from the Persian nilak, meaning ''of a bluish shade".

M is for…Mandarin. The name of the fruit feels as though it ought to be Chinese, but may well have come from Swedish.

N is for…Namby-pamby. Nickname of the 18th-century poet Ambrose Phillips, coined by the satirist Henry Careybecause of his sentimental verses

O is for…Onslaught, from the Dutch aanslag - related to a word in Old High German for a shower.

P is for…Penguin, a compound of two Welsh words, pen and gwyn, which mean ''head" and ''white" - even though penguins have black heads. It is likely that 'penguin' was at one time the name of similar, now extinct bird which had a white patch near its bill.

Q is for…Quack can be traced to the Dutch kwaksalver, literally someone who hawked ointments.

R is for…Regatta, from Venetian dialect, it originally signified any kind of contest.

S is for…Sabotage. Supposed to derive from the tendency of striking workers to damage machinery by throwing shoes into it - sabot being an old French word for a wooden shoe.

T is for…Tattoo, Captain Cook saw Polynesian islanders marking their skin with dark pigment. Long before that the word signified a signal or drumbeat, a Dutch expression for 'Close off the tap', used to recall tippling soldiers.

U is for…Umbrella, appeared in English as early as 1609 (in a letter by John Donne). In the middle of the 18th century the device was adopted by the philanthropist Jonas Hanway as a protection against the London rain.

V is for…Vanilla, ''little sheath" in Spanish.

W is for…Walnut, a modern rendering of the Old English walhnutu ('foreign nut'), so known because it grew mainly in Italy.

X is for…Xebec, a little vessel with three masts, from the Arabic shabbak, a small warship.

Y is for…Yogurt, a mispronunciation of a Turkish word.

Z is for…Zero, whose immediate source is French or Italian, but its origins are in Arabic - and before that in the Sanskrit word sunya, which meant both ''nothing" and ''desert".

The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English' by Henry Hitchings (John Murray Publishing, £16.99)


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The Christmas season will be here before too long so Season's Greetings to all. If you celebrate it, may it be a good time.
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Materials Development in English (as a second) language: An Indian Experience by Rama Meganathan

This paper presents the process of recent curricular revision and material development in English at the national level in India in a limited way. Teacher’s needs and wants, their participation in the development of materials, the dilemmas of teachers and their implications for classroom transactions are discussed from the experiences of one of the members of the materials development team. The paper attempts to answer the following questions: (i) Should India need a textbook at the national level? (ii) Should methodology influence material or vice–versa? (iii) What can be material for textbook in English in countries like India? (iv) Can teachers make good materials? Is it possible to include materials development as part of professional development of teachers?
Materials development for teaching of English as a second language has been witnessing significant changes during the last three decades in countries like India. The concerns informed by research on language learning and learning theories have impacted the methods that in turn resulted in change in thinking in materials development. This along with other reasons which are mostly to achieve uniformity or commonality in the system resulted in making the teacher–learner / teaching-learning activities textbook centric. Though teachers are not much heard in the process of textbook development, their participation is recognized as a positive trend. Teachers, on the one hand expect materials to do all wonders, on the other their needs and wants clash with each other and also with needs of learners and learning. This creates many dilemmas in teachers and also in materials developers. The recent curricular revision undertaken in India made an attempt to address these issues and problems by brining in people from varied contexts to develop materials.

1. The Process

With the change of the government at the centre (national level), the National Council of Educational Research and Training (1) was directed to take up the revision of the school curriculum. The Education Secretary’s letter to the Director of NCERT annexed with the National Curriculum Framework 2005 (NCF) makes it clear the agenda of the government, as it quotes the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986 and its Programme of Action (POA) (1992) calling for a revision of the curriculum once in five years. Major opposition to the textbooks developed as a follow up to the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE- 2000) was that the right wing ideas of the Hindutuva ideology have been brought into the textbooks, particularly in the textbooks of social sciences. The left leaned academics and liberal forces opposed the NCFSE -2000 vehemently and it was lead as a movement.
Revision of national curriculum was initiated with the setting up of (2) National Steering Committee (ii.) National Focus Groups (3) (21 groups). The Steering committee had had around 35 members from many fields and people from NGOs. The issues in language education were deliberated in the two National Focus Groups – Teaching of English and the Teaching of Indian Languages. The major issues in both the groups could be listed as: (i) Medium of learning – teaching /instruction (ii) Language policy in school education – three language formula (iii) Introduction of English as a language (iv) Language teacher education – teachers’ professional development (v) Teacher’s Language proficiency (vi) Methodologies of teaching (vii) Materials for teaching the language(s) (viii) Multilingualism as a strategy in classroom transactions
The syllabus committee in language(s) translated ideas of the position papers into reality. The syllabus listed themes and suggested varied ways for class transactions in a broader sense. After the syllabus committee, the textbook development committee plunged into action to design textbooks for various classes in a phased manner. In the first phase (2005-06) textbooks for classes I, III, VI, IX and XI and during the second phase (2006-07) textbooks for classes II, IV, VII, X and XII were brought out. The following sections describe the discussions, debates of one textbook development committees for (class X) on various occasions on the important issues and concern to develop materials that would make an impact in the classroom to enable children in learning the language.

To view the remainder of the article:


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The First Fifteen Minutes by Steve Schackne

Example 3: Sometimes a pedestrian and insignificant fragment of your life can be a trigger for a communicative language event. I began a class during the winter doldrums one day, not really clear about what I wanted to do. I sat on a desk facing my students, and caught sight of my new athletic shoes, purchased just the day before.

Teacher: See my new shoes?
Students: [No response]
Teacher: How much do you think I paid for them?
Student A: What brand?
Teacher: Lotto
Student B: Where did you buy them?
Teacher Ho Lan Street
Student A: 360?
Teacher: 275
Student(s): No way
Teacher: I got them on sale
Student(s) Where?
Teacher: Sports Attic
Student(s): Where is that? (Ho Lan Street is a strip of many sporting goods stores)
Teacher: The big blue store right across from Watsons (several students started writing this down).
Student C: I prefer New Balance
Student D: Nike and Adidas are both better than New Balance
Student C: But New Balance has….

At this point the conversation morphed into a discussion about the relative merits of different brands of athletic shoes. An insignificant part of my life turned out to be something more significant to my students. Sneakers are a fashion statement here in Asia, along with blue jeans and mobile phones. The students know quite a lot about these things, and I had tapped into both their interest and knowledge by pointing out my new shoes.

At the end of this discussion, they were awake. The topic had engaged them, the discussion had stimulated them, I was more than halfway across the E-S-T continuum. I forget if we had a really successful class that day. Sometimes the “T” is hardest part, but without the “E” and “S” the “T” will always be less than ideal.


There are many reasons for students to arrive in class unprepared to learn. The class hours are assigned and often don’t fit their lifestyles; it is the students who have to adjust to the school’s schedule. Also, school is often associated with boredom and drudgery, at least in the traditional sense. It can be viewed as a process students have to muddle through in order to be rewarded at the end. The period starting at adolescence and ending at young adulthood is marked by major change—friendships are being formed, demands are being made both by families and the community. Their bodies are changing, along with their emotions and view of the world; normal biological impulses are bubbling inside vying for their attention. It’s not surprising that conventional classroom instruction is often an uninteresting routine for them.

Textbooks have tried to address the issue; they have become more visually arresting; they have tried to adopt topics that are more interesting and relevant for today’s learners. Many of these texts have preparatory modules corresponding to my “first 15 minutes,”
but their approach is often structured and unnatural. Typical texts use warm-up questions to predict the topic of the chapter. A picture is used as a prompt and then questions are discussed in pairs or small groups. Sample: What does the picture show? What do you think the person in the picture is thinking? Is she angry? Surprised? Happy? What do you think the title of the unit means? What do you think this unit will be about? These are legitimate questions that will stimulate prediction, but they are questions presented to students without their input. Are they genuinely interested in the topic? Will the picture and the questions be enough to trigger engagement and stimulation?

The function of language is finite. We use it to persuade, to educate, to inform, to amuse and entertain. If there is no communicative purpose, discourse often won’t take place. By purpose, I mean language students have to have an underlying desire to communicate, whether it be to make you laugh, to persuade you to give them a “B” not a “C” or to inform you that they will be absent on a particular day.

Granted, getting students interested at the beginning of class can often be a hit or miss proposition, but using the real world and understanding their role in it, their interests, their hopes and fears, and what specialized knowledge (want to know about cell phones, ask a teenager) they bring into the classroom, is more often a superior springboard to real communication than even the best textbook. And engaging them at the beginning can mean the difference between success and failure in the classroom.

Further Reading

Schackne, S. "Language Teaching Research-In the Literature, but not Always in the Classroom" Journal of Language and Linguistics 1/2 2002.
Schackne, Steve. “The Common Sense Approach: How One Teacher Organized A Speaking Course For 200 Chinese Graduate Students,” in DevelopingTeachers.Com, 2005.
Terrell, T. “A Natural Approach.” Innovative Approaches to Language Teaching, ed. R.W. Blair, Rowley, Mass: Newbury House
The Mickey Mouse Club” Wikipedia

To view the article:


Using Photography To Inspire Writing by Hank Kellner

Words and pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either alone.”

William Albert Allard
American Photographer

If “One picture is worth a thousand words,” can one picture also inspire a thousand words? Of course it can. That’s why educators are becoming increasingly aware of the power photographs have to unlock students’ imaginations and help them express themselves through written language.

Whether you want to teach specific writing skills or simply to help students overcome their reluctance to write, you’ll find that photographs are powerful teaching aids that can inspire students at all levels to create both expository and creative compositions. What’s more, when you use photographs in your classroom, you can be as directive—or as non-directive—as you choose to be.

For example, you could show this photograph to a group of students and ask them to let their imaginations guide them as they respond to it in writing. But if you want to be more directive, you could ask them such leading questions as: What is the woman in the photo thinking? Why is she standing alone in this scene? What does it feel like to wait for someone who is late? What kind of a family does this woman have?
You could even use short poems to complement photos that help to initiate responses from students. Here’s an example of one such poem that worked well with this photograph at the middle school, high school, and community college levels.

Many educators who have used photographs successfully in the classroom are eager to share their photowriting experiences with other professionals. At Piedmont Virginia Community College, Charlottsville, Virginia, former Adjunct Assistant Professor Justin Van Kleeck showed his students a photo of a baby macaque and a pigeon who had “adopted” each other as friends. “I asked the students to freewrite after showing them the photo and giving them information about how the animals came together,” he writes. You can see the photo at “The students wrote about everything from how different
species can get along so easily while humans cannot, to the human behaviors that stress animals, such as poaching,” he concludes.

At the Prairie Lands Writing Project, St. Joseph, Missouri, Teacher Consultant Mary Lee Meyer asks her high school students to write “I am From” poems based on photos that are significant to them in terms of their lives. To support this activity, she asks such questions as Where are you from? Who are/were your grandparents or great grandparents? What occupations did some of your ancestors have? Meyer has also used this exercise at a writing institute for teachers. You can see samples at under “I Am From…Example 1 Michelle.” You can also find a great deal of valuable information about teaching writing at Meyers’ blog,

To view the remainder of the article:


At Developing 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.

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The ELT e-Reading Group was created by a collective of English language educators from all over the world with the support of the British Council. It aims at encouraging ELT professionals to read literature in English, helping to build bridges between cultures and contributing to build tolerance and intercultural competence through the discussion of works literature.
The group meets online and participants post their comments to a discussion board, sharing their points of view on short stories and poems written in English.
Our mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.
Since 2003, over 35,000 everyday people have shared life stories with family and friends in our StoryBooths. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the Library of Congress. Millions listen to our broadcasts on public radio and the web. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.
'The phenomenon of video sharing in general and YouTube in particular is currently asserting its influence on news, politics, law, music, entertainment, advertising and many other areas of society. For the language teacher, YouTube may be the single best source of material the classroom has ever seen.
This website has been set up in order to address some of these questions. Through a series of lesson plans and teaching ideas, the aim is to explore the possibilities for the use of sites such as YouTube in education with a special emphasis on language teaching.'
Excellent - great choice of videos & exploited well.
'Welcome to the Phrontistery! I'm your host, Forthright. Since 1996, I have compiled word lists in order to spread the joy of the English language. Here, you will find the International House of Logorrhea (an online dictionary of obscure and rare words), the Compendium of Lost Words (a compilation of ultra-rare forgotten words), and many other glossaries, word lists, essays, and other language and etymology resources.'
Generate word clouds - do check it out - instant topical lesson material when you 'Paste in a bunch of text'.

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

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A few days, among many, to plan your lessons around in October &

1st - World Aids Day
7th - Pearl Harbour Day
10th - Human Rights Day
21st - Winter Solstice (& June 21st)
World Peace Day
24th - Christmas Eve
25th - Christmas Day
Xmas in general:
26th - Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa lesson plan:
Boxing Day
31st - New Year's Eve
Tolerance Week - 1st week of Dec.
International Language Week

1st - New Year's Day
6th - Three King's Day
7th - Coptic Christian Christmas .
8th - Elvis Presley's official birthday
20th-ish - Martin Luther King Jr Day - 3rd Monday of Jan.
25th - Robert Burns' Day - Scotland's national poet
26th - Indian Republic Day
26th - Australia Day
Eid ul-Adha - on the tenth day of the Islamic
Month of Dhul Hijja - varies in the Gregoriancalendar
Chinese New Year

To see the list of Days:

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:

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You've probably heard lots about Moodle, the framework for providing online courses. Have you thought about having your own? At Developing (a sister site of Developing we provide you with your own Moodle for only $12/month or $60/seven months. Your Moodle installation comes with 500mb of space & 10gb/month of bandwidth.

We set it all up for you & you provide the courses. You don't need to provide the actual course, this can simply be an online presence, a way of keeping in touch with your students, a meeting place with individuals or whole classes, an extension of your lessons.

We like it so much that we run our own online development courses at Developing with Moodle. For more information:

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:
- Word origins - Lesson ideas
- Eye to Eye - Speaking & communication
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6. PS – General 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 Top 10 Everything of 2008 - Time
'Most Popular Top 10's of 2008' - tech & geek stuff
'Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 80 missions involving thousands of undercover agents. The group is based in New York City.'
Madrid info.
'The Secunia PSI is a free security tool designed with the sole purpose of helping you secure your computer against vulnerabilities in programs.'
Tells you if you need to upgrade any of your software.
Search for computer wallpaper
'Product Reviews from people like you.'
7 Better Alternatives To Common Windows Apps
Most Popular Desktops of 2008
'Our music, our culture, our science, and our economic welfare all depend on a delicate balance between those ideas that are controlled and those that are free, between intellectual property and the public domain. In The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Yale University Press) James Boyle introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws. In a series of fascinating case studies, Boyle explains why gene sequences, basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, why most of 20th century culture is legally unavailable to us, and why today’s policies would probably have smothered the World Wide Web at its inception. Appropriately given its theme, the book will be sold commercially but also made available online for free under a Creative Commons license.
Boyle’s book is a clarion call. In the tradition of the environmental movement, which first invented and then sought to protect something called “the environment,” Boyle hopes that we can first understand and then protect the public domain – the ecological center of the “information environment.”'
Download the book.
'Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you've come to the right place. By entering in a URL in the text field below, we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires.'
100+ More Ways to Organize Your Life (- with the help of the web)
Round up the sheep - game.
100 Useful Tips and Tools to Research the Deep Web
Photography tutorials.
The Essential Time-Saving Guide for Busy People
The International Space Station turns 10 - photos.
Tech news collection.
How to Backpack - Starting From Scratch
Publish your own books.
Places on the web for chess.

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