January 2006 - issue 1/06
Welcome to the January Newsletter.
A Happy New Year to all.
A slightly shorter newsletter this month as we try to get out of
holiday mode. There's another article & lesson plan from Greg
Gobel, this time about motivating the advanced learner through
grammar. There are the usual link sections & a link to a simple
year 2005 quiz to use as a springboard for discussion.
More free Google GMail accounts to give away - if interested, get
1. THE SITE
3. TEACHING LINKS
4. DAYS OF THE MONTH
5. BOOK REVIEW
6. WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
7. PS - Internet/computer-related links
8. THE BIT AT THE END
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The online courses are hosted at one of our sister sites,
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individual, personalised courses develop with the experience,
needs & interests of each participant at their own rate.
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. For more information, get in touch & check out:
How Grammar Can Help to Maintain Motivation of Advanced Learners
by Greg Gobel
Teachers often feel challenged to think of ways to motivate
themselves and their learners to want to learn grammar, i.e., as
Rinvolucri points out, how to get 'the "game" locomotive [to
pull] the grammar train along.' Fair enough, as a certain
scariness or insecurity seems to be associated with grammar. I
have heard it called the 'Grammar Monster'; Batstone calls it a
'beast.' Perhaps these worries are sometimes in the wrong place,
though, judging by two surveys I have recently done to compare
teachers' and learners' attitudes to teaching/learning grammar.
The results showed an interesting contrast in attitude regarding
grammar in relation to motivation. Learners expressed a much more
optimistic view of grammar as a motivating tool than did the
teachers. 'Somehow or other, teachers (or "the system") fail to
capitalise on the students' curiosity and enthusiasm.'
Grammar teaching and learning has traditionally been very form-
focused. As a result, it then went through a phase in the 80's on
the periphery or not focused on at all. From both perspectives,
focusing on grammar would not motivate learners. This paper,
however, is written with two assumptions about grammar in the
classroom, as suggested by Thompson:
* 'Although...it is now fully accepted that an appropriate amount
of class time should be devoted to grammar, this has not meant a
simple return to a traditional treatment of grammar rules.'
* '...the focus has now moved away from the teacher covering
grammar to the learners discovering grammar.'
With these assumptions in mind, this paper explores how we can
exploit methodologically progressive ideas for dealing with
grammar to help maintain advanced learners' motivation. In doing
so, we also help our learners improve their overall communicative
competence by increasing their grammatical proficiency.
Why is maintaining motivation of advanced learners important?
Dornyei highlights the importance of maintaining and protecting
learners' motivation, saying it 'needs to be actively nurtured.
'Maintaining advanced learners' motivation can be difficult at
times to the point where at least one activity book has been
written specifically for this purpose. Advanced learners, I have
noticed, have reached a stage where they are highly efficient in
using the language, their learning curve is not as immediately
evident as with lower-level learners so they may perceive they
are not improving, and some even feel that they have learned
enough. These conditions can easily lead to lethargy. In my
experience, even having a goal such as passing the CAE does not
always maintain their motivation. The surveys: what advanced
learners tend to think about grammar
The teacher survey was completed by colleagues at work and other
teachers that I know. The learner survey was completed by CAE and
CPE level learners through paired discussion followed by
individually writing notes to summarize their opinions. The
surveys were not scientific, but give me a good indication of
general beliefs. One survey item asked what some good reasons to
teach/learn grammar are, with one of the choices being to
motivate the learners. Of the learners, 82% were positive, 12%
were not sure, and only one said increasing motivation would not
be a good use of grammar. In contrast, only one teacher thought
that grammar could be a tool for motivation. This informative
difference shows learners seem to view the potential effects of
focusing on grammar quite differently - more positively - than
many teachers. For me, this is rather alarming because it means
that teachers, including myself, may not be aware enough of what
actually helps their learners want to learn.
To view the rest of the article
And the accompanying lesson plan:
To raise learners awareness of a more authentic way of reporting
in English. For learners to help each other work out patterns and
types of reported speech (i.e., summary and
For learners to interpret dialogue from television show segments
and make somewhat successful attempts to report these to their
peers by using summarizing and approximation/constructed dialogue
style of reporting.
We are progressing through Unit 8 in the Advanced Gold
coursebook, which includes a small section practicing reported
speech in the typical way that grammar and coursebooks present
it, which Yule calls 'quite inadequate accounts of
what...learners are likely to encounter...outside the classroom'
(Yule, 1992: 245). Two lessons prior to this one, we took a look
at those activities because I wanted to find out what the
learners already knew about reported speech. The downside to this
is that perhaps it reinforced these mechanical rules. The upside,
however, is that I know they are quite good with these mechanics.
I elicited their opinions about these mechanical rules and they
said they were quite hard and that it seemed unnatural to have to
slow down fluency to make sure they change all the tenses
correctly. I told them not to worry, and that we will investigate
another way of approaching reported speech soon.
At the start of the lesson, we will spend some time brainstorming
and discussing types of 'life change' and any personal
experiences the learners may have had or anticipate to help
activate schemata and set the scene and topic for the rest of the
lesson. Learners will also listen to the authentic taped segments
that will be used in Stage 1 in the lesson plan below. The
learners will listen for gist understanding of each segment by
deciding who the speaker in each segment is and what 'life
change' he or she is talking about. This way they will have a
better chance at success in stage 1 and the weaker listeners will
be more comfortable with the recorded material.
Homework: Learners will get a summarized version of the
information that Yule presents about authentic ways of reporting.
Their task will be to read it and come to the following class
with any questions they may have. As in class we will be taking
an inductive approach to the grammar area, I think it would be
helpful for learners to get a clear description of what they
discover in class for reinforcement and further clarification.
In part of a future lesson, the learners will take part in mock
CAE speaking exams. They will take turns being candidates and
examiners. In their role as examiners, they will have to report
to other 'examiners' how the exam went and what their
'candidates' spoke about. This will give learners more practice
and reinforcement with using summarizing and constructed dialogue
types of reported speech.
Learners will appreciate and relate to the summary-type of
reported speech as this is a natural way of reporting in Spanish.
Learners are capable of discovering the pertinent concepts of the
focus language themselves (i.e., learners are capable of guided
Using authentic materials and real people's voices (audio
recordings and DVD) will help motivate learners.
Teaching and learning these styles of reporting are useful and
helpful for learners at advanced level.
Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:
Learners may be intimidated by being asked to report what they
hear from a real television show. Solution: Playing the DVD
segments more than one time and letting learners take notes and
consult peers to get ready to report should help reduce anxiety.
The room can get stuffy and hot. Solution: T will be aware of
room temperature and open the door to let some fresh air in when
Learners may not be that forthcoming with a personal life change
in stage 5. Solution: Let them know that the life change could be
a positive one and that it need not be that serious if they are
not that comfortable with that.
One of the audio clips talks about a father dying from cancer.
Some learners may be sensitive to this issue. The speaker speaks
sensitively about the issue, so hopefully this will prevent
possible problems. This class is mature, so I think they will see
the audio clip for what it is and not let it affect them too
much. Solution: That said, if a learner does become emotionally
overwhelmed, he/she can step outside the class if needed.
Learners will be used to reporting mechanically and not
automatically adjust to a more authentic style of reporting.
Solution: This is to be expected, so in making attempts to report
more naturally they are starting to solve this on their own; they
cannot be expected to be able to do it perfectly in one lesson's
The lesson is reliant on audio material. I must be ready for
malfunctions with the machines or a power outage in the school
(which has happened already this school year). Solution: I will
also have the CD recordings on tape in case the CD player does
not work well. Also, I will have batteries for the tape player in
case there is a power outage. I will also have all the
transcripts handy as a last resort. I will act out the Seinfeld
dialogues for the learners if there is a power outage.
Learners may have trouble understanding some of the Seinfeld
characters' dialogue. Solution: Multiple playings of the cd to
give learners enough opportunity to listen. They are encouraged
to help each other understand it, so they do not have to
understand every little bit. Also, as they do not need to report
every word, they do not need to understand every word.
In previous lessons I have spent too much time in T-S feedback to
activities and lost precious time in the lessons. Solution: Less
time will be spent in T-S feedback than in prior lessons.
Number of learners:
An odd number of learners would mean that during the reporting
sequence with the DVD there would be one group of three.
Solution: Use a group of three and two learners would share the
Much of the grammar included in Advanced Gold, the coursebook we
are using, is revision and consolidation of grammar points from
earlier levels. This is useful for learners, serving as a
reminder and re-focusing their attention on what the CAE exam
assumes they should know. However, based on past experience, I
believe that high-level learners need more than just revision of
grammar to sustain their motivation. Although this coursebook does include new grammar points as well, opportunities to make
revised grammar points into new and exciting ones are often
One such opportunity arises in unit 8 with reported speech. Like
most published material focusing on reported speech, Advanced
Gold (pages 96-97) takes a mechanical approach, asking learners
to change tenses, perhaps change deictic markers (with no
explanation of why, though), with brief attention to reporting
verbs and dependant prepositions. Yule, however, rightly
indicates that these areas of reporting could be broadened to
include more authentic and natural approaches saying, 'This
situation is particularly problematic for those learners who have
mastered the widely taught mechanics of converting direct to
indirect speech forms, yet still need guidance in becoming
familiar with the range of options used to present reported
discourse...' (Yule, et al., 1992: 245). It is this 'guidance'
and some of this 'range of options' that this lesson seeks to
help learners to discover and explore. Even though these are
advanced learners, they will likely be surprised by these new
possibilities of reporting, so I do not want to overload them by
presenting all of the range Yule proposes. I have limited the
focus to 'summarized reports' (see Yule, 1998: 275-276) and
'constructed dialogues' (see Yule, 1992: 248-249) because they
seem very useful, common and achievable for learners.
This lesson draws heavily on authentic material (stages 1,2,3)
from well-known personalities, real reports, and the American
sit-com Seinfeld and takes a retrospective approach (see
Thompson, 1996: 11) featuring guided self-discovery (stage 2) to
aid awareness and comprehension of new language. The lesson,
taking into account its place in the timetable fit, is an
extended test-teach-test. The first test was in a previous
lesson, taking a look at some of the coursebook's brief revision
of reporting, useful perhaps for the CAE English in Use paper,
and working out whether the learners knew about Yule's suggested
possibilities of reporting. I felt it was important to discover
how informed the learners were of more natural reporting
techniques. The learners were clearly very confined to the
mechanical reported speech of classic grammars. Based on this,
stages 1 and 2 are the teach phase, giving learners opportunities
to discover and discuss summarizing and constructing dialogues.
Learners will have plenty of time to avoid feeling rushed through
this discovery phase. Stages 3 and 4 are the second test phase,
giving learners opportunities to report what they hear from the
DVD and also from personal experience, thus catering to as many
learners as possible through engaging tasks with both guided and
freer speaking and active, participatory listening. Learners will
have reason to listen out of curiosity: what they did not see in
the DVD and to learn about their peer.
Acklam, Richard and Sally Burgress. 2001. Advanced Gold
Coursebook. Pearson Education.
Thompson, Geoff. 1996. 'Some misconceptions about communicative
language teaching.' ELT Journal, Volume 50/1 January 1996. Oxford
Yule, George, Terrie Mathis, and Mary Frances Hopkins. 1992. 'On
reporting what was said.' ELT Journal, Volume 46/3 July 1992.
Oxford University Press.
Yule, George. 1998. Explaining English Grammar. Oxford University
To view the plan
The Year 2005 - a simple quiz to provoke speaking skills practice.
To view the quiz
Thanks to Greg.
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I teach in Portugal in a school which is a perfectly pleasant
place to work except that they are completely clueless about
testing students. Most of the students are aged from seven to
seventeen, and are aiming at some time to take Cambridge exams.
Another teacher and I have a fairly good idea how to put together
tests that will provide a fair and balanced measure of the
students' progress. However, we expect to meet some resistance as
the school has been using the same archaic test methods for many
years. We want to back up our arguments with written matter - you
know how people love to believe the printed word.
Can anyone recommend a book or two (ideally by a respected
author) that will outline some of the testing methods preferred
by modern EFL schools?
I'm just wondering if anyone is pursuing or has pursued the Asian
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CV posted & looking for offers.
Hi, my name is Joy from ETEC (English Teachers' Employment
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3. TEACHING LINKS
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.
New Year Resolutions article for the classroom, including a brief
summary of NY traditions in a selection of countries.
An article for a lesson focus for the internet-focussed learner
about the most frequent searches made on the internet during the
And similarly, the 2005 Google Year End Zeitgeist
Business cartoons to use as a springboard.
Biz lesson plan from Biz/Ed - lots of other materials to check
'The Earth Calendar is a daybook of holidays and celebrations
around the world.' Useful for lesson planning.
4. DAYS OF THE MONTH
A few 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 list of Days
Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.
5. BOOK REVIEW
'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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7. PS - Internet/computer-related links from SiteSkimmer.com
A few computer use rules of thumb:
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- use firewall software
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- install security patches that software providers offer
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- don't respond to spam - just delete & forget
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The following links are taken from the SiteSkimmer.com
Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, fifteen links every
issue to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
Relax with random pics, videos, facts, laws, phobias....
All about Thai food!
How many seconds can you survive?
'Musings of a design junky.'
Find out 'Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age' - just type in your age to see.
Spherical Perspective - a brief tutorial - 'I'm here to undermine
your world view. We always assume that what we are taught about perspective is the way we actually see. But it's not.'
Travel & explorer literature.
'The National Recording Preservation Board, mandated by the
National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, is an advisory group
bringing together a number of professional organizations and
expert individuals concerned with the preservation of recorded
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