A web site for the developing language teacher

February 2005 - issue 2/05


Welcome to the February Newsletter.

Spotted in a recent edition of Private Eye's 'Funny Old World' section:

"As a blind man, I'm used to discrimination," Yvan Tessier told reporters at the University of New Brunswick, "bit I never expected to encounter it here. I asked to enrol on the university's intensive English language course, And was all ready to start, when I was suddenly told that I'd been rejected. Why? Because Pavorotti, my guide dog, only understands French."

University spokesperson Susan Mesheau defended the decision, saying that "it's essential on these courses that all communication is in English. And Mr Tessier has admitted that his dog only understands French. With enough notice, we could probably have trained the dog to learn some English commands, and once it was bilingual, its master could then have taken the English course. We've done that before. But until the dog is trained, Mr Tessier cannot enrol here, unless he leaves it at home."

But Mr Tessier has vowed to lodge a human rights complaint against the university, saying "this is prejudice against me and Pavarotti. I have about twenty commands that I give him in French, and he understands those perfectly well, so why should he have to learn English? Anyway, when I'm in a class or a discussion, I hardly ever talk to him, so why have I been banned?"

(Originally published in Canada East, August 2004)

Feel good about your grammar? Take the tests:
From the Blue Book of Grammar & Punctuation - a grammar mastery test.
Punctuation and capitalization mastery test.

Talking of grammar, Philip Pullman wrote an article in the Guardian on 22nd January about the way the UK government proposes to tackle grammar in primary schools. See what you think 'Common sense has much to learn from moonshine':,,1396040,00.html

BTW, if you don't known them, Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy is an incredible read.

We've got some free GMail accounts to give away - if interested, get in touch.

Happy teaching.



7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Teachers' Perceptions of Learner Difficulty in Vocabulary Learning by Craig Smith and Akira Tajino

Perspectives on Learner Difficulty

Teachers’ perceptions of learner difficulty (TPLD) in learning EFL vocabulary may influence lesson planning decisions and teachers’ feedback to learners on their performance in learning tasks; and thus, learners’ own perceptions of difficulty. Tajino’s review of the SLA literature (1997) reveals that difficulty has often been viewed from a product-oriented perspective: difficulty leads to error, and error adequately reflects difficulty. However, a dominant focus on apparent error or success may pre-empt efforts to understand how students arrive at points on a continuum of failure or success. In vocabulary learning, in particular, it is difficult to measure word knowledge (Read , 2000 ; Nation , 2001) and thus, teachers need to pay attention to vocabulary learning processes. A product-oriented view may not dominate vocabulary acquisition research in coming years because a growing general acceptance of the complex nature of word knowledge (Richards, 1976; Nation , 2001), of the key role of the influences of the L1 lexicon (Laufer, 1997; Swan, 1997), and also, of the incremental nature of vocabulary learning (Schmitt, 1997) will likely lead to greater interest in the process of vocabulary learning. Both product-oriented and process-oriented views of difficulty in vocabulary learning would contribute to a better understanding of how teachers can support their students as they learn vocabulary. Attempts at objective speculations of difficulty issues need to be balanced by recognition that individuals may view difficulty in highly personal ways. Corder’s view (1973: 226) that difficulty is “a matter of subjective judgment” remains largely unexamined in vocabulary learning research. Research in the field of social psychology provides some insight on the significance of individual perception of difficulty. Attribution theory (Weiner, 1980; Hewstone, 1989) argues that the way we attribute the cause of difficulty can be a motivational factor because perceived difficulty can affect the process of L2 teaching and learning (Horowitz, 1987; Tajino , 1997; Dornyei and Schmidt, 2001). Explorations of teachers’ and students’ views of difficulty may provide insights that could help sustain teachers’ and students’ motivation over the long periods of time required to build second language vocabulary. This paper reports a study of how upper secondary school teachers view the difficulties their learners have learning new words.

To view the article


Adult first-time readers in a second language Martha Young- Scholten

Is there a critical period for learning to read?

Unschooled adult refugees are often resettled in countries where survival depends on oral proficiency and literacy in a second language (L2). Development of reading is slow; as Strucker and Davidson (in press) note for low-literate Spanish speakers, weak decoding skills persist even for those with an average of 6 1/2 years' native language (NL) schooling. Are adults are too old? While language develops with mere exposure to appropriate input for all young members of the species within a specific time span (Lenneberg's 1967 critical period hypothesis), mere exposure to printed text is rarely sufficient for reading. If it does not emerge naturally, is there a critical period? A dearth of evidence precludes an answer to this question. While much is known about children's reading development, closing the research gap in post-puberty first-time literacy should be a priority, given connections between low literacy and income for L2 adults (Burt 2003).

Phonological awareness and learning to read

Considerable research links children's development of reading to awareness/manipulation of phonological units. Initial awareness emerges naturally, with pre-school children becoming aware of increasingly smaller units, from word to syllable to onset to rhyme. Only through learning to read in an alphabetic script does the child become aware of phonemes and grasp the (alphabetic) principle that graphemes correspond with segments (e.g. Goswami & Bryant 1990). If no critical period exists, adult first-time readers should show awareness of word, syllable, onset and rhyme prior to instruction, and awareness of phonemes as they learn to read. In groundbreaking work on adult Portuguese first-time NL readers, Morais et al. (1988) found that prior to instruction, awareness of units larger than the phoneme existed, but phonemic awareness emerged only with training. Robson (1982) arrives at similar conclusions for adult Hmong refugees: alphabetic literacy rather than education per se led to L2 reading progress. For learners with some schooling, language proficiency seems to be a factor determining at what point NL reading skills transfer (Bernhardt and Kamil's 1995 language threshold).

To view the article


Philosophy of EFL management - a personal view by Piotr Jednaszewski

'There is nothing more than the heart and the mind involved in the continuous development of ourselves and the environment surroundings us.'

My philosophy of EFL management presented in this short article aims not only to show the way of managing the EFL colleges in the micro world where English becomes a Lingua Franca, but also to help my teacher colleagues and managers to find the right balance between the mind and the heart in making decisions and through that also develop as managers. There are two perspectives analysed within my research: macro and micro. Macro from the global EFL perspective based on the EFL institutions which I could personally approach, hence considered micro from the individual teacher, trainer, manager and student perspective.

Here one could ask a couple of questions:

1. What is EFL management?'
2. What are the essentials of EFL management?

Whereas managers in the commercial world receive their training at institutions for management, most EFL managers are teachers of English and all their knowledge and experience is based on academic and practical "tools" of teaching and managing the groups during their linguistic studies. Teachers of English have to become language institution architects who are knowledgeable not only about the methodology of teaching but about all other aspects consolidating the whole system.

The analogy of an architect can be used here. The architect designing a house puts his logical and mathematical intelligence into creating a project. That type of intelligence enables individuals to use and appreciate abstract relations, including facility in the use of numbers and logical thinking. This intelligence is not only about numerical reasoning but, as the name implies, includes logical reasoning abilities that might not involve numbers at all and that can be called 'the mind'. The symbolic architect uses also his spatial intelligence to recreate visual images from memory that could be called 'the heart'. 'The heart' because the visual images from memory carry their emotional load deeply coded in the individual's subconscious mind. Therefore, if he makes a mistake in both cases the whole structure of the building can collapse and many would suffer or the overall image of the building may destroy the unity of the natural surrounding of the considered place and cause harm to people's esthetical perception of the world.

The same situation can be observed in the following situation: the EFL anager's decisions influence his school directors, teachers, secretarial work and all publicity. So, harm can be done not only in terms of the syllabus, teaching methods and placement of students on the right level (what is represented here by the mind) but also the college atmosphere like relation between teachers and students, teachers and directors, all staff members, new comers and so on, here called the heart. And even the most idyllic system, unless cared for, can be destroyed in the course of time by the nature of ongoing change within.

To view the article


Thanks to Akira, Craig, Martha & Piotr



There is a pre-intermediate lesson plan around a text 'Ukrainian hasn't slept in 20 years'
To give intensive & extensive reading practice
To introduce vocab connected to the lexical set of sleep
To review comparatives & superlatives, used to, direct & indirect speech in news reports..........
To give freer speaking practice
Other aims depending on language focus & follow up...

To view the plan


ARTICLES - If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson plan & would like to give it a public airing, do 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 1500+ 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 Forum postings:

clmathew asks:
I teach Adult ESOL with hispanic immigrants and refugees. I have noticed that many students in many different classes resist promotion. They are comfortable with the teacher, and have gained a sense of community with the class. I want to know any ideas or resources people can point me to on how to make that transition easier. My class does not promote based on a schedule or a test, it is based on when the teacher thinks the student is ready. This makes it a bit harder than an "automatic" move due to passing a test or scheduling.
Things I currently do:
1) Ask students to try the next class for a day or a week. They usually like the class and agree to stay!
2) I tell students that I will check in with them. I am not just abandoning them, and that they can alway come say hello to me. I then check in with the student the first few days in the new class, and then about a week later.
3) I demonstrate that lifting weights with a pen is useless, because the pen is not heavy enough to help me develop any muscles. I then point out that when this class becomes too easy, it is time to move to the next class.
4) I ask the student if they understand everything I say, if they say yes, I smile and say it's time for them to move. (I teach Level 1, and if they can understand what I say, it's time for them to move.)
5) I hold up the 3 papers that are the core of my class, (alphabet, name-address-phone, and word family reading) and tell them that this is what we are doing in the coming month. If those papers are easy, they often agree to move.
6) We announce and celebrate promotions at our all-school parties every 2 months.
I think that community in the classroom is very important, and I work very hard to achieve it. I feel total confidence in my students abilities to succeed in the next class, or I wouldn't want to move them. I try to be sensitive yet firm. I just hate
seeing my students feeling fear and worry. Any ideas? Books? Articles? Similar experiences?

Brzozka asks:
One of my students has asked me recently about the English word for a device/machine that joins two pieces of paper together by applying heat and pressure. Is the word 'welder' the right answer or is it connected only with metals? What happens when material we use is plastic? Is it the same name in all these three cases? I would appreciate your help on this matter. Thank you.

Mr G. is searching for books:
I have a group of young learners that have been with us for some time. Very happy. They have gone through the all Chatterbox books (up to book 5) Shocked. They are not old enough to start the adult books yet (11/12 years old). So I need help to find a good book for them. Could anyone HELP me Idea !!! Thanks

Nedra provides ideas of using the material in the Weekly Teaching Tip 'metrosexual paraskevidekatriaphobia...

William Tweedie gives us his ideas:
It's time for The PRIME Approach(c) - The following provides the reader with a brief outline of the principles, theory, and implications for practical application of the PRIME Approach. A thorough presentation of the approach will be forthcoming in the book: PRIME Communication in English - A Modern Approach to Facilitating the Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language for Young Adult and Adult Students.

William is also looking for job opportunities:

iaa_taiwan offers:
We need 50 teachers who have official Teaching Certificate: Qualified teachers for government Elementary and High School!! We would welcome applications from experienced, returning or newly qualified teachers!! A fantastic opportunity for you to share your skills with our learners in any of the College and University positions we have open for 2005 all around Taiwan, like Taipei, HsinChu, Tainan, Taichung, and many other locations. High quality teaching is a significant feature of any of our Colleges and Universities.

Sillbill offers:
Video Conferenced Author/Illustrator Visits - For 10 years, Author/Computer Illustrator, Bill Dallas Lewis was invited into more than 600 schools around the planet to show teachers and students the writing process and computer graphics magic. For ten years, Bill would lug all of his computer equipment from school
to school, from state to state. Scheduling was complex. Now, Bill offers his visits via video conferencing.

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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SITESKIMMER.COM is the website that helps you enjoy your internet experience. We provide you with sites to visit - not just any old site, but sites worthy of your time. There are so many web sites that the internet can often feel overwhelming so more often than not it is just too much work to look for new interesting sites. takes the work out of surfing the net because we have already been there. We siteskim the net to bring you sites worthy of visiting. This selective sufing cuts down on wasted time & also avoids stumbling across the more unsavoury side of the internet. The SiteSkimmer Linkletter is sent by email every
two weeks in text format.

All you need to do is sign up & wait for the next issue of the SiteSkimmer linkletter to enjoy the net. To sign up for the free linkletter:


If you need information for a debate or discussion, here you can find a host of interesting topics, each containing the context, pros & cons, motions, useful sites, useful books, theme & discussion board.
'Breaking News English Daily - Breaking news lessons for ESL - Free and 100% photocopiable. Still-hot lessons and plans with over 20 communicative ideas per lesson. Saves planning, and energizes classrooms, teachers and students. As the news breaks,
teach it.'
Sally Jennings' Speak-Read-Write site.

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Some days to plan your lessons around in February:

2nd Groundhog Day
14th Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day lesson plan - A Love Story:

Ideas on love & romance as a classroom theme in a past tip:
To see the Days of the Year:
Some holiday origins.

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This month we've got a brief review by Jake Haymes of 'Language Activities for Teenagers' by Seth Lindstromberg (CUP). Here's how it begins:

This book, part of the Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers series, is aimed at teachers of students aged between 11-16. Many of the 99 activities include suggested variations so the teacher really is presented with a lot of options. In the introduction, Lindstromberg recognises the realities and potential challenges of teaching this age group - poorly motivated students and large, mixed ability groups. Solutions to these problems are offered throughout. The editor also points out that the vast majority of students in this age range are learning English in an L1 community and, as a result, will not have much opportunity to express themselves in the language outside of the classroom in the near future. He states that 'poorly motivated students are rarely persuadable by such arguments as This will all be very useful to you one day.' Therefore, the activities selected aim to motivate learners by being intrinsically interesting and varied. Most of the tasks outlined have clearly achievable goals, require more than just producing the correct forms (brainteasers, quizzes etc.), use non-language stimuli (pictures, objects, mime and sound), and incorporate movement and humour.

To read the rest of the review

To buy this from
To buy this from

To see the recommended book index

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:

- Lesson shapes - planning differently shaped lessons.
- Approach? What approach? - putting forward a learner-based approach to teaching
- metrosexual, paraskevidekatriaphobia ... - ideas on using the Macmillan English Dictionary's Most Popular New Words of 2004
- Best Websites - ideas for using the Yahoo website competition 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 February, April & May '05
Part-time course twelve-week course starts April '05

Full-time two-month courses, April/May, July/August '05

10% 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 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 Site Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, fifteen links every issue to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
MOJO's Top 100 Soundtracks of All Time List ("You Ain't Heard
Nothin' Yet!")
Easy air hockey game.
Anatomy for beginners from Channel Four TV.
David Leite's recipe site.
All about coffee!
Always wondered how they do it - the secrets of lock picking!

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