A web site for the developing language teacher

January 2005 - issue 1/05


Welcome to the January Newsletter.

Another year & time for those resolutions yet again! Always an interesting theme for lessons just after the Christmas break. On the site there is a short lesson plan about resolutions, & another one about the Kwanzaa African-American celebrations. Links below.

Also among the new stuff on the site, this month sees another article & plan from Jake Haymes, this time about the speaking skill. In another article, Beril Yucel, a new contributor, combines multiple intelligence theory & materials design. Again links below.

And, as this is the end of 2004, there is a Year 2004 Quiz which makes for a springboard into a discussion on the past year.

Happy teaching & a very Happy New Year!



7. PS - Internet/computer-related links


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8 Smarts in ELT Materials by Beril Ayman Yücel

" Each student is unique and all in individual ways offer valuable contributions to human culture." (Campbell, L., Campbell B. & Dickinson, D.1996)


ESL/EFL teachers very often observe a lot of individual differences among students in terms of their learning. There are some students who can use visual aids or pictures successfully in their learning. There are some who are gifted in writing poems or stories. Some are good at sequencing. Some students find it easy to work with peers, cooperate in activities and understand others' feelings. Others are good at identifying their own strengths, weaknesses, feelings and moods. Some students are really successful in using their body and movement while some others can create melody or rhythm easily. And there are also some students who can do classifications very well. So as teachers how can we plan our lessons and design our materials to address to these different groups of students who have developed different intelligences? Fortunately, there are various strategies and materials teachers can make use of to improve the quantity and quality of learning in their classes. However, teachers should continuously be asking themselves what they know about their students and how they can appeal to individual needs and ways of learning.

To view the article


The Development of Interactive Oral Proficiency in the Classroom by Jake Haymes


I think speaking is special for two reasons. The first one is that most learners come to class and are prepared to invest a considerable amount of time and money in order to achieve the ultimate goal of speaking the language fluently. In this respect, we can say that the development of oral proficiency is the most important aspect of language learning (1). The second reason is that orally communicating one's ideas is personal and goes beyond the cognitive even for a native speaker, doing it in a code you do not yet command incorporates both affective influences and linguistic considerations. I think it is also true to say that the success of most teaching and learning is evaluated in terms of our students' ability to speak. PPP methodology has been questioned and in many quarters rejected because its discrete item approach is an ineffective means of incorporating new language into fluent production. This methodology also fails to embrace the realities of talk exchange such as openings, closings, adjacency pairs, vague language etc. or the phenomena of real-time delivery such as "repetitions, false starts, re-phrasings, self corrections, elaborations, tautologies and apparently meaningless additions such as 'I mean' or 'you know'." Ur (1984).

Although people speak for many different reasons, these can be broadly categorised in two ways:

1. transaction - using language to get things done. e.g. requesting and giving factual information and service encounters.
2. interaction - using language for social intercourse. e.g.conversing, discussing, making friends and story telling.

This assignment will attempt to examine the second type of exchange. Brumfit (1984) states, "natural language use, for most people is primarily discussion and conversation." Despite this assertion, the focus of speaking activities in the classroom seems to be on transactional competence. Perhaps this is because it is easier to develop and assess. Transactional exchanges usually follow a fairly predictable pattern or routine. They tend to require shorter speaking turns and the functional language presented in course books is often more suited to this type of communication.

To view the article

Jake's accompanying lesson plan:


Main Aims:
To provide extended oral fluency practice in anecdote telling.
To increase learners' awareness of and give practice in some of the sub-skills of fluency speaking. e.g. intensifiers and fillers.
To encourage students to listen to and interact with each other.e.g. ways of showing interest etc.

Subsidiary Aims:
To provide listening comprehension practice. Specific detail.
To transfer recently studied language (past simple and adjectives of feeling 'fed up', 'embarrassed' etc) into active language via a personalised situation.
To raise awareness of phonological aspects of anecdote telling. Intonation to show interest, surprise etc.

Lesson Rationale
The lesson aims to provide the learners with an opportunity to combine previously studied language with some of the sub-skills of speaking to prepare and deliver an anecdote. It is to be hoped that the students will find the class challenging, achievable and beneficial. If successful, the learners will begin to transfer some passive language into oral production, thereby consolidating knowledge whilst communicating their own ideas and memories. The speaking activity should also make the learners aware of the value of student-student interaction and help to create positive group dynamics.

The lesson can be divided into six main stages, the first four aim to prepare students to be able to achieve the speaking activity.

In stage one, the students are given the opportunity to start the anecdote checklist with their L1 knowledge of the skill. By allowing the learners to express their feelings towards the subject, I hope to engage their interest and make them receptive to the later stages of the class.

By showing how this class fits in with previously acquired knowledge it is hoped that students will see the relevance of the following stages. The students are then asked to consider important first experiences. This should prepare the group for the listening activity which follows and provide ideas, should they be required, for their own anecdotes.

In order to be successfully exploited, the coursebook listening (pp 22-23 Cutting Edge Pre-Intermediate) requires vocabulary input, lead-in, intensive and extensive questions. As the main aim is extended oral fluency I feel the focus of the lesson may become confused were the class to follow the material in the students' book. The home-made listening text is intended to provide students with an anecdote model.

By starting the language focus at a text level the learners should become aware of a fairly typical pattern of anecdotes and this may well be copied by the students in their own anecdotes thereby extending speaking time. While moving directly from aural to oral skills is perhaps the most natural approach, I feel there is a greater possibility that students will grasp the key ideas if they are given the opportunity to analyse the features of an anecdote on paper. Having them mark past tenses and intensified adjectives with highlighter pens should facilitate the transfer of these language areas to their own anecdotes

Students' attention is then drawn to intensifiers such as really, quite and very. I feel that learners could easily combine these words with the adjectives of mood to substantially increase their active language.

While students will be made aware of fillers, I believe that drilling at this stage could be counter-productive and may lead to stilted and unnatural production

Interaction between speaker and listener will be the next focus. In order to be truly communicative the anecdotes must include listener reaction and perhaps some negotiation of meaning. Indeed the learners will be made aware that communicative interaction is a vital part of the activity.

The preparation time affords the learners an opportunity to combine all the relevant components of an anecdote and include any areas of language they feel are necessary for the following activity. I will monitor progress and provide help when required. If students appear slow to start, I may encourage them to discuss ideas in pairs.

The students will be reminded of the importance of the communicative element before beginning the fluency activity. This should promote more interaction.

During the production stage I shall unobtrusively monitor performance and I will not intervene unless there is a complete breakdown in communication.

After completing the activity students will be encouraged to evaluate their own performance via an exchange of views with other learners. The final stage, in which the learners reflect on the morning's work is essential to show what has been achieved and the place of the lesson in their learning programme.

To view the lesson plan


Thanks to Beril & Jake



How well do you & your students remember the year 2004? Lots of questions to use as a springboard into discussion.



Kwanzaa lesson plan
A 60 minute lesson for intermediate & up.
To give intensive reading practice
To examine an aspect of the Christmas celebrations
To give practice with working out meaning of lexis from context
To give freer speaking practice

To view the plan

New Year's Resolutions lesson plan
A 75 minute lesson for low intermediate upwards.
To give skim reading practice
To give freer speaking practice

To view the plan

See also the New Year Resolution Teaching Tip - for resolutions on learning strategies:


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 1000+ 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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A few recent Forum postings:

ajaneric asks:
I'm teaching Thai university students who have great difficulty with many consonant clusters and terminal consonant sounds, especially terminal ones. For instance, they are unable to aurally distinguish the difference among "match, mad, and mat" or "fast, fat, and fad", and therefore have difficulty orally producing them. I cannot think of a more boring, or more unproductive, exercise than presenting minimal pairs. Nonetheless, they need to focus on these sounds. Thai students have a low tolerance for boring classroom activities, as do I, so I want to come up with a game or interesting activity that focuses on aurally and orally terminal sounds.

sillbill offers:
I'm author/computer illustrator Bill Dallas Lewis. In the last 10 years , I've presented in 600 schools around the world in person. Now, I'm testing making my visits via video conferencing. I'm looking for a school that would like to try it for free.

Nina Bas asks:
Is there anybody out there who has experience with / access to ELT classroom material for psychotherapists / psychologists whose first language isn’t English? I’d be very grateful for some hints / tips etc.

flint would like some ideas:
I need suggestions for some material ideas for an adult intermediate English language class. The class is composed mostly of students who are trying to improve their spoken English, but need work reading as well. All are business people learning around their various jobs. Any suggestions? Thanks.

taray wonders:
Why do many teachers and students in some countries not see the value of modern language teaching approaches/methods such as communicative language teaching(clt) approach?

Lotte Carlsen is looking for ideas:
I'm teaching English conversation to young people who are studying to become preschool teachers in Ethiopia. I can't find any books which are not either too childish or too difficult for them. Maybe someone has an idea for me Question I have been thinking that there might exist something for refugees learning English. Preferably made by someone who has English as his/her mothertongue. Please help me

ayusa offers:
Excellent part-time opportunity for teachers. AYUSA International is a non-profit high school foreign exchange student organization. We welcome teenagers from over 60 countries worldwide and provide host family placement and ongoing supervision for 5 and 10-month academic programs. The Community Representative is a part-time position designed for people with a strong desire to do something rewarding in the community and earn some extra money to help supplement their income. Applicants best suited for this work should enjoy teenagers, have a strong interest in cross-cultural communication, and feel comfortable networking in the community. Basic responsibilities include recruiting and interviewing host families, providing ongoing support to families and students and maintaining professional contact with local high schools. All applicants must be available during some evening and weekend hours. Full training and support will be provided through branch offices located throughout the

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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'The way we speak - Listen to England's changing voice. Extracts from the Survey of English Dialects and the Millennium Memory Bank document how we spoke and lived in the 20th century.'

A few 'different' dictionaries:
Dictionary of one-letter words.
Dictionary of Winds.
'A Growing Dictionary of Old and New Words From the Fringes of English.'
Dictionary of witty words.
The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues.
'The world's largest online encyclopedia of graphic symbols! contains more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. The signs range from ideograms carved in mammoth teeth by Cro-Magnon men, to hobo signs and subway graffiti.'
Dictionary of English Phonesthemes - phonestheme: a meaningful portion of a root.
'An ongoing project to collect and distribute the most obscure and rare words in the English language. It also contains a few words which do not have equivalent words in English. At present, the dictionary contains approximately 2300 words, though it is constantly growing.'
'The Alternative Dictionaries - Slang, profanities, insults and vulgarisms from all the world.'
'The Foolish Dictionary - an exhausting work of reference to un-certain English words, their origin, meaning, legitimate and illegitimate use. People who live in glass houses should dress in the dark.'
'...the place where words you've made up can become part of an actual online dictionary! slang, webspeak, name it, if you know a word that should be in the dictionary but isn't, submit it and we'll post it on this site (with credit given to you of course).'

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Some days to plan your lessons around in January:

1st - New Year's Day
6th - Three King's Day
8th - Elvis Presley's official birthday
20th - Martin Luther King Jr Day
22nd - Chinese New Year
25th - Robert Burns' Day - Scotland's national poet
26th - Australia Day

To see the Days of the Year
Some holiday origins.

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This month we've got a brief review of 'Using Newspapers in the Classroom' by Paul Sanderson CUP). Here's how it begins:

Newspapers have always been an important source of classroom material, although teaching abroad it has been an expensive source of material, as well as being slightly out of date by the time you can actually get your hands on the newspaper. This has recently changed with international newspapers being published locally & being available on the same day, & since the internet began, availability has become so much easier. This ease of availability clearly applies to both the teacher & the learner & our learners are now more than ever reading newspaper articles in English, principally on the internet. So, although 'Using Newspapers in the Classroom' was first published in 1999, & is currently on its fifth publishing in 2003, it is a timely reminder as to how useful & important as a learning tool newspapers actually are both in & outside of the classroom.

To read the rest of the review

To buy this from
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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- Keeping them busy - ideas for continuing learning & studying during thje Xmas break.
- The spirit of Christmas? - lesson ideas
- From a distance - a brief look at grammar & how it can provide 'distance'.

To see the Past Tips

To sign up to receive them

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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 January 10th & February '05
Part-time course twelve-week course starts January 10th '05

Full-time two-month courses, January/February, 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:
Shoot the bubbles game.
Ralph Steadman art.
'It's time to go to Extremes! Welcome to the home of Extreme-Accounting: a new phenomenon that pushes accountants to their limits and beyond! Are you bored with the everyday routine of extreme sports? * Are you so far "out there" that you're practically back inside again? If so, then maybe you should try injecting the adrenaline rush of accounting into the whole experience...'
The Fun Area.
Nick's Matheamatical Puzzles - 'The puzzles presented here are selected for the deceptive simplicity of their statement, or the elegance of their solution. They range over geometry, probability, number theory, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, and logic. All require a certain ingenuity, but usually only pre-college math. Some puzzles are original.'

'Music and the Brain - What is the secret of music's strange power? Seeking an answer, scientists are piecing together a picture of what happens in the brains of listeners and musicians.'

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