A web site for the developing language teacher

July 2005 - issue 7/05


Welcome to the July Newsletter.

Does it annoy you when you visit a forum & find intelligent debate expressed through awful English. Here’s a posting from Slashdot – news for nerds:

Strom Carlson asks: "Over the last few years, I've noticed that a surprisingly large number of native English speakers, who are otherwise very technically competent, seem to lack strong English skills. Mostly, this seems to manifest itself as varying degrees of poor spelling and grammar: 'definately' instead of 'definitely'; 'should of' instead of 'should have'; and I even see the names of products and companies misspelled from time to time. It baffles me that a culture so obsessed with technical knowledge and accuracy can demonstrate such little attention to detail when it comes to communicating that knowledge with others, and it baffles me even more that many people become enraged when you attempt to help them correct and learn from their mistakes. Do hackers and geeks just not care about communicating effectively? Do they not realize that a mediocre command of written English makes them appear less intelligent? Am I missing something here?"

To read the long list of replies:

Here’s a thought-provoking article about Afghanistan & overcoming the problems they have through learning English:

1,001 tales - Mohammad Faiq says local context is the key to teaching English in Afghanistan

The world in which Afghan children grow up has become more complex, more uncertain and more risky but also potentially more rewarding. Diversity and innovation should be the defining features of the society in which Afghans live. Exposure to foreign languages is vital for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Direct experience of a foreign language as it is used in everyday environments, such as the workplace, is a rich and powerful resource. Such examples can be used in the classroom as a tool to encourage and develop language learning, forcing students to apply their growing knowledge and understanding of English in a real life context that will help them connect to the world beyond the school, helping to bring meaningful change into Afghans' lives.

Afghans are straightforward and emotional people. They love their religion and traditions more than anything. They need an English language curriculum based on the philosophy of social reconstruction and global interaction. They need to be exposed to the modern world through media and the internet.

An Afghan society faced with acute problems such as violence against women and children and drug addiction needs to learn acceptance and conflict resolution. The curriculum should incorporate authentic materials such as press clippings and real stories of the impact of violence, while also taking into account the ethics of Afghan society.

Afghan folk stories, proverbs, events from Afghan history and the present day, stories from refugees, widows and orphans, the role of the loya jirga (Afghanistan's grand council of elders) - these could all be useful tools for English-language students. Pictures of shattered schools, hospitals and roads could form part of the teaching material. Interviews with displaced families, people disabled by land mines and facing sex discrimination could inspire Afghan students into working for the reconstruction of their homeland. It is worth mentioning here that teachers should be particularly sensitive towards those Afghans who have suffered the brutality of ethnic wars.

Imported literature will be of little use to students of English in Afghanistan, nor will learning English grammar or stories from other cultures serve them. They need a curriculum that provides them with opportunities to reflect upon their own experience of the decades-long fighting in their country. The curriculum should be contextualised, based upon the cultural and social values of the Afghans. It should reflect current social issues as well as the aspirations of the Afghan people. It should support social reforms and help to produce a better society for Afghans based on reason and equality.

Teachers can get students to write about stories from Afghan life - perhaps responding to news stories or the images that accompany them. Using authentic, native sources helps to engage students and means they learn more than just passively. Such sources include film, news broadcasts, TV dramas and websites as well as photographs, magazines, newspapers and travel brochures. Teachers can adapt their use of authentic materials to suit the age and language proficiency of the students.

Interactive teaching is an effective way to impart a second language. Students are actively involved in asking questions of each other and responding to them. They use argument and rationalise their ideas.

Small-group exercises encourage students to work collaboratively and independently of the teacher, learning skills of planning, organisation, argument, sharing knowledge, dividing tasks and compromise.

Inquiry methods of teaching English are also useful to Afghans. The strategy promotes logical, rational thinking and a systematic approach to decision making. This method mostly involves working out solutions to certain problems - teachers can use social and cultural issues as their material and students can put forward their own, local problems for discussion. Students might collect data about folk stories and their impact on the minds of the people. They can study the lives of Afghan poets and other literary figures. Physical games and role-playing are also very useful and interesting strategies for teaching languages.

From the guardian Online - Friday July 1, 2005:,15090,1519023,00.html

Still more free Google GMail accounts to give away – if interested, get in touch.

This month we are rejoined by Prof.Edna Aphek with a reassessment of an earlier article about children & technology. Greg Gobel has the first of a series of articles up, this one is about oral interaction & the CAE exam & Vivian Chu looks at classroom debates.

Happy teaching.



7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Highly connected children: implications for education by Edna Aphek

In the past decades tremendous digital-technological innovations have flooded our lives. The impact of these inventions on socialization, ways of thinking, and modes of learning, is far reaching. The new digital technologies challenge many of our concepts and beliefs and make new demands on us as to understanding the new high-tech, digital culture .In order to do so one has to be skilled in digital literacy.

According to Yoram Eshet-Alkalai, a scholar from the Tel- Hai College in Israel, the new digital literacy is penta componental[1] .These five cognitive thinking strategies can help the perplexed:

1. Photo-Visual Literacy

2. Reproduction Literacy

3. Lateral Multidirectional Literacy

4. Information Literacy

5. Socio-Emotional Literacy

Let me elaborate on each of these components:

1. Photo-Visual Literacy

Eshet- Alkalai points out to the shift from alphabetic literacy to Photo-Visual Literacy, in which icons have become the new letters. This Photo-Visual Literacy is based on the notion of using vision to think.

If we look for example at our computer desktop, at out car panel or at the cellular phone, we’ll see that they all give us iconic information. These photo –visual signs serve as shortcuts for action and do away with the mediation of the cognitive skill of deciphering and understanding the alphabetic symbols.

The use of emotics e.g.; L ;-),(-: and the shortened internet writing such as b4b and cu, all emphasize the tendency to break away from the traditional, alphabetic writing.

2.What is Reproduction Literacy?

Reproduction Literacy could be likened to what John Kao calls jamming: “taking a topic, a question, an idea, disseminate it, break it, manipulate it, and reassemble it...creating something new”[2]

Dali’s Mona Lisa with the moustache, could serve as a good example of what Eshet means by reproduction literacy.

In the information world, an enormous amount of information and spiritual creations are ‘out there’ in cyberspace. Billions of pages carrying artistic work, articles, essays, music and graphics, can be accessed and made use of.

We are therefore, faced with a new challenge –to use these existing spiritual treasures in innovative ways, thus creating new concepts and forms.

3. Lateral literacy

A strategy much needed for deciphering and navigating in the new digital literacy, is lateral- multidirectional thinking. This literacy marks a shift from the more structured, well planned traditional book- like literacy.

Unlike the closely structured book environment in which the amount of information and the order of presenting the information are predefined, the net environment is open to rearrangement.

Linear structures following sequential logic, give room to non- linear, hypertext, associative structures. On the one hand this loosely netted structure fosters creativity and is open to new creations and interpretations, on the other hand the new open- ended exploratory environment is dynamic and even chaotic.

New cognitive skills are needed in order to navigate freely, yet mindfully among the many sites, and from site to site, while using the hypertext. The ability to focus, as well as integrative and summative skills are necessary in order to reconstruct knowledge out of huge chunks of information arrived at in an unstructured manner.

4. Another problem, we are faced with, is that of reliability: how do we know that what we read, saw or heard comes from a reliable source? How do we evaluate the information gleaned?

Yoram Eshet suggests a cognitive tool in order to cope with this problem: Information Literacy: Trust nobody

This literacy acts as a filter:” It identifies false, irrelevant, or biased information, and avoids its penetration into the learner’s cognition.... without a good command of information literacy, how can one decide which, of the endless pieces of contradicting information found on the web, to believe? Which of the news on the web to trust? Which political opinion posted on the web to adopt?” [3]

5. The fifth literacy advocated by Eshet Alkalai is the Socio-Emotional one.

Much of the work and information sharing done on the internet is conducted in cooperative learning or any other form of information sharing: in chat rooms, online communities, groups and forums. Meeting of the other and Cooperative Learning necessitate socio-emotional abilities.

The socio- emotional literacy also has to do with the ability to tell right from wrong and good from bad: to know how to roam the web with discretion and to tell the sincere and honest person from the imposter; to spot disseminators of hatred and paedophiles, and to take precautions at the chat room and the instant messengers. This literacy has to do with protecting oneself from the dangers of the digital, highly-connected world and at the same time to guard the rights of the other by adhering to the rules of netiquette: the etiquette of the net.

To view the article


Classroom Debates: Shifting the Focus by Vivian Chu

While debates can be a useful means for language learners to practice fluency and exchange opinions, they can easily turn into disastrous sessions where hostility run rampage out of adamant views and unexamined preconceptions. When there is risk of the latter happening, particularly with complex and controversial debate topics, it is necessary to balance spontaneity with structured pre-debate activities and controlled language practice to facilitate a cooperative learning experience. This article offers suggestions and classroom materials to shift the focus of debates from winning arguments to appreciation of diverse perspectives, critical thinking, and language skill development.

Key Words: critical thinking, multiple perspectives, functional language, debate strategy.

Have you ever witnessed your classroom turn into a battlefield, where your genial students become aggressive extremists with unyielding opinions, and wondered what happened to your role as an educator and what on earth were the students learning and experiencing? While clashing opinions are inevitable during class debates on contentious topics, balancing fluency practice with an organized structure can shift the focus on winning an argument to sharpening critical thinking skills, developing multiple perspectives, and gaining a better command of functional language.

To view the article


Teaching Interaction Management Directly: Helping Learners with Part 3 of the CAE Speaking Exam by Greg Gobel

Discovering an opportunity

While my learners were recently practicing the CAE speaking exam I noticed they struggled most in Part 3, involving ‘[t]wo-way interaction between candidates’ and ‘negotiating and collaborating; reaching agreement or “agreeing to disagree”’. Perhaps I should have noticed this problem earlier in the course, but we had been focusing more on Part 2 because the learners had expressed that they felt speaking for one minute was more challenging than the interactiveness of Part 3. Although, we have practiced Part 3 at times, in the context of doing an entire practice speaking exam in class there was a clear discrepancy between their effective Part 2 performance and their less effective Part 3 performance. These areas were somewhat problematic:

  • saying too much about one aspect of the task, thus not allowing enough time to discuss the other aspects,
  • not being comfortable bringing up new topics or knowing when to bring up new topics relevant to the task,
  • being selfish in the conversation, i.e., not giving up the floor to their partner at appropriate times, and
  • not being comfortable to take the floor from their partner with relevant points.

This paper addresses these by looking into interaction management to help learners to improve their conversational skills in preparation for the CAE.

Relating Interaction Management to CAE Speaking Part 3

Cook says there are differences in types of spoken language, i.e., ‘between “one-way” speech (for example, a lecture) and “two-way” speech (for example, a conversation): a division, in other words, between speech with a high degree of reciprocity and speech with a low one.’ In Part 2 of the CAE speaking exam, each candidate speaks for one minute comparing and contrasting pictures. They do not interact with their partner, so this demonstrates a low degree of reciprocity. However, Part 3, which my learners now struggle more with, involves a high degree of reciprocity challenging them to work together discussing and ultimately agreeing on a decision in three to four minutes. Part 3 fits best into Littlewood’s communicative task category called ‘processing information,’ where the ‘stimulus for communication comes from the need to discuss and evaluate…in order to solve a problem or reach a decision.’

This task type makes it necessary ‘for learners to develop skills in managing the interaction at the interpersonal level…’ Bygate proposes focusing on two main areas of interaction management: agenda management and turn-taking. ‘The first refers essentially to control over the content, that is, the choice of topic of an exchange, while turn-taking relates to the obvious aspect of who speaks when and for how long.’ Bygate’s starting point is the idea of the interlocutor’s freedom in the conversation, being able to ‘exercise their rights over many aspects of the interaction directly, and without the intervention of anyone else’ . From observing the learners attempting Part 3, it seemed they were uncomfortable with or unsure of how to make the most of this freedom to help them navigate through the conversation.

Agenda management is ‘the basic freedom to start, direct, and end a conversation without conforming to a script and without the intervention of a third party’ . It involves several rights of the participant: to choose a topic, to choose the way the topic is developed, and to choose how long the conversation will be. Thornbury ‘loosely’ defines a topic as ‘what is being talked about over a series of turns.’

Bygate suggests five useful skills for managing topics:

  • knowing how to bring up initial topics
  • developing a topic
  • bringing a new topic as an extension of the previous one
  • switching topics
  • opening/closing conversations.

My learners struggled with bringing in new topics as extensions and with switching/shifting topics resulting in time management problems – none of them ended on time agreeing or agreeing to disagree. Encouragingly, they wanted to continue discussing the task for much longer than the very short four minutes allowed in the exam. They expressed that this time limit was too short to go into any depth. In other words, in the real world these learners would be very willing to participate in lengthy conversation. But, they will have to learn to exploit their freedom of interaction to manage their topics within this imposed time limit. The task provides the general topic, but learners have control over how to manage each smaller topic of the task as extensions from, or contrasts to, each other and how to move from the general discussion to the specific decision-making phase.

To be effective at turn-taking, Bygate says a speaker ‘has to be efficient at getting a turn and to be good at letting another speaker have a turn.’ Rost points out, ‘In most conversational settings, interlocutors switch back and forth between the roles of primary contributor and primary interpreter.’ The underlying problem learners may have is identifying appropriate transition points to allow for the switching back and forth that helps move the conversation beneficially. This is difficult primarily because the exchange structure ‘is worked out during the conversation rather than being pre-planned.’ This element of unpredictability is surely a challenge but learners can work at overcoming it by developing the following skills:

  • signaling to speak
  • recognizing the right moment to get a turn and knowing contextually appropriate ways of interrupting
  • using ‘turn structure’ to hold a turn and not lose it before finishing
  • recognizing other people’s signals to speak
  • knowing how to let someone have a turn

My learners had some trouble recognizing their partner’s signals and ceding the floor, instead opting to turn short turns and short long turns into much too long turns. This reflects Nolasco’s observation that ‘[m]any students have great difficulty in…knowing when to give up their turn to others…’ However, Richards says, ‘Conversation is a collaborative process. A speaker does not say everything he or she wants to say in a single utterance.’ (16) For the exam, learners should interact by concisely contributing to the conversation in short turns or short long turns.

To view the article

The accompanying lesson plan:

Time: 60 mins
Level: CAE
Main Aims:
For learners to become more aware of useful turn-taking mechanisms to help them interact more fluently in real-world conversation and in Part 3 of the CAE. (stages 2,3,4)

Subsidiary Aims:
To prompt learners to take shorter turns than they are accustomed to doing
To increase learners awareness of fixed expressions for interrupting
To practice recognizing prominence and tonal movement in expressions and high key, rising intonation and falling intonation for, respectively, trying to hold or gain the floor, trying to hold the floor, and ceding the floor
For learners to become more aware of turn-taking mechanisms by monitoring their peers’ attempts at using them
For learners to practice Part 3 of the CAE and make some attempts at integrating some turn-taking skills from earlier stages

To view the lesson plan



The band U2 are currently on tour promoting their new album so here is a timely lesson plan from big U2 fan Seamus O’Muircheartaigh. It is an integrated skills lesson based around the song ‘One’ & deals with the song itself, different interpretations & related themes.

To view the plan:

This week’s Tip gives ideas for a lesson around the Live 8 concerts, the plight of Africa & the G8 meeting this week. To view the ideas:


Thanks to Edna, Vivian, Greg & Seamus.


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It’s been a very quiet month on the forums – here are a couple of recent postings:

chrissyuk still needs volunteers:
I have a TEFL and I am currently studying for my Masters where my dissertation is focused on the area of training for teaching Business English for teachers who teach English as a foreign language. I was wondering and hoping if anyone would mind completing a questionnaire for me about their teaching experiences and attitudes to different types of training please.

Suggest your own favourite songs fro classroom use:

eslmatrix is looking:
Is there a teacher training course in July in Korea? I have some experience teaching EFL but need a refresher course.

Mario has jobs in London to offer:
We need two teachers in London who will work with a group of 25 students (each group 12 / 13 students). Students are Spanish and on work experience programme in UK. Dates are 08th Aug – 12th Aug Morning – 3 classes each 45 min - 15 classes in total max. We have materials etc. Pay is £250 per teacher. Please contact us for more info.

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.


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:


Clear site full of facts for the younger learner.
Your ultimate resource for global project-based learning, problem-based learning, and online collaborative learning. Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN) partners with schools, communities and businesses to provide collaborative educational, scientific and cultural learning activities that prepare students for the workforce
and help them to become literate and responsible global citizens.
Wide Angle – lesson plan index - WIDE ANGLE's documentaries and Web  episodes are valuable resources for teachers and students. The WIDE ANGLE Global Classroom offers lesson plans and activities for middle school and high school teachers. All episodes of WIDE ANGLE may be taped and used for educational purposes for one year from the original date of broadcast.
Active listening & ‘I’ messages
All things education - huge!
Ohio University Teacher Resources



A few days to plan your lessons around in July:

1st - Canada Day
International Joke Day
4th - US Independence Day
14th - French Bastille Day
Tour de France bicycle race

To see the list of Days:

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



Here’s a list of the books reviewed so far:
Lessons From 'Nothing by Bruce Marsland (CUP)
Teaching English Spelling by Ruth Shemesh & Sheila Walter (CUP)
Language Activities for Teenagersby Seth Lindstromberg(CUP)
Using Newspapers in the Classroom by Paul Sanderson (CUP)
Just - intermediate by Jeremy Harmer (Marshall Cavendish)
Pronunciation Practice Activities by Martin Hewings (CUP)
Just Right - Intermediate by Jeremy Harmer (Marshall Cavendish)
Meanings and Metaphors: Activities to Practise Figurative Language (Cambridge Copy Collection) by Gillian Lazar (CUP)
The Cambridge Guide to English Usage by Pam Peters (CUP)
700 Classroom Activities by David Seymour & Maria Popova (Macmillan ELT)
Learner English (2nd edition) Edited by Michael Swan & Bernard Smith (CUP)
Uncovering Grammar by Scott Thornbury (Macmillan Heinemann)
English Pronunciation In Use by Mark Hancock (CUP)
Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal (CUP)
Personalising Language Learning by G.Griffiths & K.Keohane (CUP)
Learner Autonomy by Ágota Scharle & Anita Szabó (CUP)
Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom by Jane Sherman (CUP)
Stories - Narrative activities in the language classroom by Ruth Wajnryb (CUP)
Methodology in Language Teaching - An Anthology of Current Practice Ed. Jack Richards & Willy Renandya (CUP)
Storytelling with Children & Creating Stories with Children Andrew Wright (OUP)
Laughing Matters Humour in the classroom by Peter Medgyes (CUP)
Using the Mother Tongue by Sheelagh Deller & Mario Rinvolucri (Delta Publishing/English Teaching Professional)
Alive To Language by V.Arndt, P.Harvey & J.Nuttall (CUP)
The Language Teacher's Voice by Alan Maley (Macmillan Heinemann)
Discussions That Work by Penny Ur (CUP)
Teaching Languages to Young Learners by Lynne Cameron (CUP)
Planning Lessons & Courses by Tessa Woodward (CUP)
Communicative Business Activities by Marjorie Rosenberg (obv&htp publishing)
Teaching for Success, The Brain-friendly Revolution in Action by Mark Fletcher Brain-Friendly Publications)
The Minimax Teacher by Jon Taylor (Delta Publishing/English Teaching Professional)
Knowing me, knowing you - Classroom activities to develop learning strategies and stimulate conversation by Jim Wingate (Delta Publishing/English Teaching Professional)

For links to the individual reviews:

BUYING BOOKS? 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.



Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- Live 8 – lesson ideas around the day’s concerts, Africa & poverty.
- Take it down – a couple of notetaking ideas
- It’s in the content – ideas on incorporating ‘content teaching’
- Influential English – vocabulary use & Neuro-Linguistic Programming
- Present it – ideas for presentation skills

To see the Past Tips:

To sign up to receive them:



Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:

Full-time four-week courses, next courses August September, October '05
Part-time course twelve-week course starts October '05

Part-time course twenty-week course starts October '05

Full-time course two-week course in September '05
Part-time course ten-week course starts October '05

Full-time two-month courses October/November '05, January/February ‘06
Part-time course six-month course starts October '05

10% discount on all courses if you mention the newsletter! Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses.


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:
Play Urban golf.
Strange stuff on EBay.
Like a fish – revolutionary underwater breathing system - An Israeli Inventor has developed a breathing apparatus that will allow breathing underwater without the assistance of compressed air tanks. This new invention will use the relatively small amounts of air that already exist in water to supply oxygen to both scuba divers and submarines. The invention has already captured the interest of most major diving manufacturers as well as the Israeli Navy.
Google Earth – Explore, Search and Discover - Want to know more about a specific location? Dive right in -- Google Earth combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips.
The Longevity Game! See how your lifestyle can affect you in the years to come by answering just 12 quick questions. Looks like I might make it to 88, with lots of luck!
'Masquerading as the true story of a Mid Life crisis, this is really an exploration of a neurotic psyche. A self-help guide, except it's no help. An attempt to understand why, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, I insist it's a good idea to keep bouncing off that old glass ceiling. Feel The Pane and do it anyway.'



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