A web site for the developing language teacher

February 2007 - issue 2/07


Welcome to the February Newsletter.


7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



This month we have contributions from two Steve's, Steve Schackne & Steve Darn, both previous article contributors. This month Steve Schackne continues his series of 'The Common Sense Approach' articles, this time looking at levelling students. Steve Darn looks at the growing importance of Emotional Intelligence in our classrooms.

We are also joined by Seamus O'Muircheartaigh as he offers readers to this newsletter the chance to take up three free coaching lessons. See the offer in the Teaching Links section.

'Fullspate', the advanced coursebook, is till available for free download of the first five units of the book. And if you like the free units then the whole book is yours for the special promotional offer of $10 = 7.5 euros.
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As ever, thanks for reading.
Happy teaching!


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We use Moodle, an excellent course management system, each course having its own password so only the individual participant plus the trainer can gain access. The central focus on the courses within Moodle is the forum & where there may be three or four different threads going on at the same time. Attached to these are a variety of resources. All are very easy to operate in Moodle. Choose between the full, seven-module course, & an elective four-module course.

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Leveling Your Students: The Common Sense Approach by Steve Schackne, University of Macau


Most EFL classes fall somewhere in the intermediate range. However, have you ever taught one of these classes when all of the students were at the proper level? That is, in the real world of EFL, do we ever see, for example, a high intermediate class where all of the students fall into the high intermediate range? A beginning class where all the students are true or false beginners? An advanced class where all the students are advanced?

Most classes, regardless of label, tend to have students of different levels. This is not necessarily a bad thing for it has been posited that mixing strong students with weak students can benefit the weak students without holding back the strong ones, but it is noteworthy that despite comprehensive strategies designed to section students by language level, most EFL classes contain students of measurably different abilities. It can be argued that with at least seven definable language levels (true beginner, false beginner, lower intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate, lower advanced, advanced) uniform leveling is impractical, but even dealing with the basic categories (beginning, intermediate, advanced), placement tests often do a haphazard job of assigning students to the “right” class.


In a previous article, I argued that EFL teachers should utilize their time in areas which make them more efficient, effective and accountable; for example, spending a bit more time on curriculum development and a bit less on grading. Here, I am proposing that, given the imperfect nature of placement instruments, teachers and schools should abandon expensive and time consuming efforts to measure student language levels.


Many schools spend untold teacher hours looking for standardized instruments or, more often, developing their own placement tests and entrance examinations. The results vary a bit, but, generally, most of the results will yield “de facto” mixed level classes. This can be a waste of both time and money, as teachers spend hours on test writing (not to mention overtime expense), and standardized instruments can often be expensive and time consuming to administer. At my school evaluative tests are developed anew each year; tests are administered only once and then distributed as “practice tests” to area high school students prepping for the English entrance exam. While offering access to previous exams through its web site is a noteworthy community service on the part of my university, the time and effort that is put into this yearly ritual is hardly the most efficient use of staff time.


Years ago, while working for an educational foundation, I solved one of the problems by using the Secondary Language English Proficiency Examination (SLEP). This is an easily administered 85-minute evaluation which measures listening and reading, and correlates reasonably well to overall language proficiency. The cost, however, comes to over $10.00 per test taker, and while my educational foundation had “deep pockets,” this cost would be over budget for some schools.

Rather, a cloze test can be developed at almost no cost, be administered quickly, and yield results which mirror standardized institutional tests. The cloze has a fixed design format—the first three and last three sentences of the passage remain intact; every 7th word is deleted, words to include articles, prepositions, adverbs, verbs, adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, but no proper nouns, with 50 blanks constituting the usual length. More recently, this standard has become flexible with from one to three sentences remaining intact, and deletions of every 7th or 5th word. The close can be scored on an exact response or appropriate response basis. Research (see Suggested Reading) has shown that a standardized cloze correlates favorably with the Michigan Test, TOEFL, and the (former) EEE at the University of Beirut, all of which were considered reliable and valid standardized measurements of language ability.

Over 20 years ago, at a Taiwan university, when a cloze test was proposed to section students, the EFL administrators balked, fearing a “fill in the blanks” exercise would not be reliable; trained linguists, however, saw more than a mechanical exercise. The cloze forces test-takers to grapple with meaning based on the surrounding language, decoding and guessing in a way that native speakers do. It is a realistic test of language ability which closely adheres to the principles of schema theory in language comprehension.

This same university conducted an informal study on leveling comparing an institutional instrument with a simple holistic approach, a 2-minute interview. The results were surprisingly similar, further eroding the case of the university test writers and professional test developers. In the end, the cloze was adopted as a sectioning instrument.


Most schools, especially universities, are expected to implement standardized leveling tests or to have professional staff develop an institutional test. These leveling tests often give a school the imprimatur of professionalism, but they can be both time-consuming and expensive, and they often do an imperfect job of determining student language levels. Other options are available which will save time and money, and will yield at least similar results. While brief interviews may not be a consistently valid determiner of language standard, the cloze format has been tested, researched, and effectively used to place students in appropriate classes. Furthermore, it carries negligible costs, and is easy to administer and grade, thereby leaving the program with more money and the staff with more time to devote to meaningful program development.


Appropriate Response: Response which fits both syntactically (grammar) and semantically (meaning) into a cloze passage.

Cloze Test: A test for diagnosing reading ability where words are deleted at fixed intervals and the reader is required to fill in the blanks.

Exact Response: The exact word deleted in a cloze passage.

False Beginner: Language student who has studied a particular language before, but still remains at the beginning level.

Holistic: As I use it, an approach which emphasizes an overall impression in a language interview, as opposed to concentrating on discrete parts, such as grammar or pronunciation.

Schema Theory: A theory of learning which emphasizes the importance of previous knowledge in building and acquiring new knowledge; as I use it and as it was often interpreted in linguistic circles in the 70s and 80s, it refers to the comprehension of surrounding language to build and construct new language; hence a reader’s ability to successfully perform on a cloze procedure would depend on the understanding of the surrounding language in order to appropriately fill in the blanks, making it a reasonably reliable test of reading comprehension.

Standardized Instruments: Tests that have been professionally developed, pre-tested, and researched; internationally recognized tests, such as SLEP, TOEFL, and IELTS fall into this category.

True Beginner: A language student who has just started studying a foreign or second language.

Suggested Reading

Aitken, K.G. 1975. Problems in a cloze testing re-examined. TESOL Reporter, 8:2.

Hanania, E. & M. Shikhani, 1986. Interrelationships among three tests of language proficiency: standardized esl, cloze and writing. TESOL Quarterly, 20 97-09.

Oller, J.W. 1973. Cloze tests of second language proficiency and what they measure. Language Learning 23, 105-118.

Poel, C.J. & S.D. Weatherly, 1997. A cloze look at placement testing. JALT Testing & Evaluation SIG Newsletter, 1, 1

Schackne, S. 2006. The Common Sense Approach: Grades and ESL. Developing Teachers

To view the article:


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Emotional Intelligence by Steve Darn, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey

In recent years, ELT has been borrowing and adapting from a variety of models and methodologies originating in psychology and neurology in order to better understand and cater for individual learners. Emotional Intelligence or EQ (Emotional Quotient) theory was originally developed in the1970s and 80s but was popularised by Daniel Goleman in the mid-90s. In the business world, EQ has become a tool in human resource planning, recruitment, management and customer relations. Why EQ? Supporters of EQ argue that conventional concepts of intelligence are too narrow and that success requires more than IQ, which ignores behaviour and character. Academic success is not necessarily accompanied by equivalent social skills. EQ acts as a complement to Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory, both recognising that individuals possess a range of capabilities and that everybody has a value. EQ argues that success requires awareness, control and management of one's own emotions, and those of other people. Goleman identifies the five 'domains' of EQ as:

* Self-awareness. This relates to recognising and being able to name our feelings. Having emotional intelligence enables a person to link the thinking part of their brain with the feeling part.
* Motivation. This relates to being able to keep yourself going despite failures such as a poor exam result. It is much easier to lose motivation if we constantly aim for perfection.
* Self-regulation. This relates to the way we handle our emotions. We are not only able to name our feelings but also do something about them before they negatively affect our lives and the lives of others.
* Empathy. This relates to being able to read the emotions of other people. People with empathy tend to be more successful with their relationships, which has a subsequent positive effect at home and at work or study.
* Adeptness in relationships. Being able to sense other people’s feelings, you are then able to handle them appropriately.

EQ also involves becoming skilled at handling your own emotions and impulses, motivating yourself and improving your empathy and social skills. EQ and ELT EQ is said to provide ways of understanding and assessing behaviour patterns and is therefore relevant to both organisational and personal development. In education, it is a concept which applies to the institution, teachers and students. The benefits can be summarised as:

* Avoiding anxiety and depression.
* Promoting academic success.
* Establishing patterns for future life.
* M aking the whole experience more rewarding and enjoyable for all.
* Developing skills that are in demand by employers.

In the language classroom, attention to EQ faces the additional consideration of emotional literacy or the ability to express emotions in L2. Thus, the teacher needs not only to focus on appropriate classroom techniques, but also on specific areas of language.
Classroom management and teaching techniques

* Ice breakers and warmers help students get to know each other and promote interest in lessons if they are related to the topic area.
* Variety of activities to maintain interest and allow for different approaches to learning and individual learning styles.
* Role-plays and simulations should be carefully set up and related to the real world. Students need to be guided and given time to adopt roles. Guided fantasy and drama techniques are useful tools in this process.
* Group work encourages cooperation. Group composition should be changed often since there is a tendency for high EQ students to work together, but EQ can be also learned by example. Tasks should be designed so that all members have to contribute and have the same outcome.
* Project work . Students are often competitive. Group completion of assessed and unassessed projects also encourages cooperation.
* Giving feedback on performance and making clear what is expected. Feedback should be specific, objective and focused on an aspect of performance that the student is able to change.
* Getting feedback on tasks and how students felt during the task.
* Brainstorming and discussion encourages the sharing of knowledge and opinions on a topic.

The language of emotions

The teacher’s job here is to draw attention to language that enables the expression of emotions and feelings. This language consists mainly of a few main verbs, a wide variety of adjectives, and the use of modals, but is best seen in terms of functions:

* Labelling feelings (I feel impatient/hurt/bitter) rather than labelling people (you are insensitive)
* Distinguishing between thoughts (I feel like/ I feel as if / I feel that) and feelings.
* Taking responsibility for feelings (I feel jealous vas You’re making me jealous)
* Respecting feelings (How will you feel if I…./ How will you feel if I don’t….)
* Showing empathy(I understand / accept / realise)
* Being positive(What would help me feel better?)
* Suggesting(I/you could) rather than advising (I/you should)
* Stating wants and needs (I/you should/could/need/want to) rather than obligations (I/you must)

EQ also involves the avoidance of language to do with strong advice, commands, control, criticism and judgement.

The institution EQ has been adopted as a management-training tool, and as such is useful in educational management and administration. The institution plays a major role in creating an environment conducive to EQ. Much of this is to do with creating a sense of identity, safety and value:

* Attachment – a sense of belonging to the school or university.
* Reassurance – that others find the experience difficult.
* Bonding – enabling the formation of friendships.
* Induction – informing students of what is available and what they can do.
* Training - in study skills, time management and stress reduction.
* Holistic approach – mind and body – sports, relaxation, cultural activities, clubs and societies.

EQ and other models and theories There are clear links between EQ and other theories, models and methodologies to do with personal development. EQ is seen as a complement rather than an alternative to these:

* Transactional Analysis (Eric Berne) is a theory of psychology which initially identifies three different states (Parent - Adult – Child) that can be used in interactions with students.
* Multiple Intelligences Theory (Howard Gardner) is a psychological and educational theory which recognises different types of intelligence and draws attention to the needs of individual students. Howard Gardner was involved in much of the early research into EQ.
* NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) (Richard Bandler and John Grinder) is a set of models and principles that try to describe the relationship between mind, language and perception. Behaviour and learning can be changed using a variety of techniques to achieve success. There is a very strong link between EQ and the NLP concept of metaprograms, and many techniques are common to the teaching of both EQ and NLP.
* Johari Window (Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham)is a metaphorical tool used to help people better understand their interpersonal communication and relationships.
* Maslow’s Hierarchy (Abraham Maslow)is a motivational model identifying layers of human needs. The provision of lower level need encourages EQ, while ‘self-actualisers’ have usually developed a high EQ.


Changes in society are affecting EQ development. EQ is initially developed in childhood and youth, and research suggests that successive generations are becoming less emotionally aware. Factors contributing to this may include changes in family structure, a reduced family role in education, mobility and the influence of technology. Whatever the reasons, the teaching and development of Emotional Intelligence is becoming important across the curriculum, from elementary to university level.

Reading and Websites

Albert Ellis, How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable about Anything Lyle Stuart 1998
Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Bantam 1997
Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bantam 2000
Adele Lynn, The Emotional Intelligence Activity Book, AMACOM 2001
Diane Schilling, 50 Activities for Teaching Emotional Intelligence, Innerchoice 1999 - an organisation devoted to emotional literacy. - The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organisations.

To view the article:


Thanks to Steve Schackne & Steve Darn


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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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Veronica at the Anglolang Academy of English in Scarborough, sent me an email the other day - 'I was wondering if had a list of contacts (either training companies, schools or individual trainers)that would be interested in running workshops for our EFL teachers. We organise training sessions for our staff (who are in the majority qualified to diploma level) during the summer months. The workshops are usually held on Wednesdays from 11 am and are 2-4 hours in length.' If you would like to help out, you can contact Veronica at:
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Complete index to and partial text and audio database of the 100 most significant American political speeches of the 20th century.'
Free Online Language Courses - 'Word2Word is pleased to provide these links in the hope of all people developing a better understanding of others through the use of language. We have attempted to place as many online courses at your disposal as possible. These sites contain lessons to help learn one language from another. The courses vary in quality and the quantity of material presented. Please note that some of the courses may require your browser to have the ability to read the language being learned.'
The Origin of Words and Names.
Concise online grammar.

Useful info for lessons: 'NationMaster, a massive central data source and a handy way to graphically compare nations. NationMaster is a vast compilation of data from such sources as the CIA World Factbook, UN, and OECD.'


This week, 4th - 11th Feb., is 'International Coaching Week'. Here's a definition of Coaching:

'Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach's job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.'

So why not try a bit of this yourself?
To coincide with the Ninth Annual International Coaching Week, Use Your Edge Success Coaching are offering subscribers to Developing Newsletters three, free, 30 minute telephone coaching sessions, with email support. To take up this opportunity and to schedule your sessions contact between February 4th and 11th.

Séamus is Coach University and Corporate Coach University trained and a member of The International Coach Federation. Séamus is also a Licensed Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, having trained with the Irish Institute of NLP. He is currently preparing his studies to become a Master NLP Practitioner.
Séamus has previously contributed to Developing with a lesson plan, article & review:


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.



A few days to plan your lessons around in February:

2nd - Groundhog Day
14th - Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day lesson plan:

To see the list of Days:

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

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There’s a review up on the site of Games for Language Learning (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers) by Andrew Wright , David Betteridge & Michael Buckby. To read the review:

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- All aboard - life coaching & what we might learn from it.
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- Happy New Year - lesson ideas

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7. 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
Lists all about 2006
100 best novels
Buddha Web
Free scan of your computer for trojans.
'Quotiki is social quotes site that lets you quickly find and enjoy quotes. As a member of our community, you can start tagging, submitting, rating and collecting quotes.'
'Free and open-source software is good for you and for the world. This is the best Windows software that we know of. No adware, no spyware, just good software.'
How to clean anything.
'Over 500 audio talks on Buddhism and meditation.'
Pleasant mindless pasttime.
Language origin.
The Icon Wars
What record was No. 1 on the day you were born?
Windows start up programmes list - find out if all is safe.
Test drive windows Vista online.

'Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor will help you determine if your current PC is ready for an upgrade to Windows Vista. It will also help you to choose the edition of Windows Vista that's right for you. Download the Upgrade Advisor to run an analysis of your current PC and use the detailed feedback to ensure that your PC is ready for the edition of Windows Vista that you want.'

'Purplenova allows secure hosting and sharing from your computer for FREE'
Click on the picture & then the next & the next.....

'FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. The recent development has hopefully turned it into high productivity tool. We are proud that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click "fold / unfold" and "follow link" operations.'
'Desktoptwo is a free web-based desktop or webtop (some call it a WebOS, although we feel that's a bit premature... for now) that mimics the look, feel and functionality of a local computer, all contained within one browser window and fully accessible from any Internet-connected device.'
Play Subspace online.
'You're in a fantastical series of worlds that seem to be floating in space, populated by strange creatures. You're in Samorost 2!'

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