A web site for the developing language teacher

June 2004 - issue 6/04


Welcome to the June Newsletter.

This month we begin with another article from Steve Schackne, this time about an approach to error analysis in class. At the end of the article below, there is a link to the Forums for you to have your say on the subject. There are also more articles & lesson plans, plus the usual sections of links. If you have a lesson plan, an activity or an article you would like to see on the site, do send it in. The more diverse the participation in the site, the better.

Happy teaching!


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1. THE SITE - articles & plans - A Common Sense Approach to Treating Error in L2 Learners by Steve Schackne






7. PS - Internet/computer-related links



STREAMING SPEECH: A Course in Listening and Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English - An electronic publication that aims to solve the problem of the misrepresentation of speech.

If you'd like to buy a Streaming Speech course you will receive a discount if you tell Richard you heard about it at Developing!



A Common Sense Approach to Treating Error in L2 Learners by Steve Schackne


Much has been written regarding error correction-everything from direct prescriptive approaches to humanistic techniques which often avoid overt correction altogether. While there's no hard evidence that aggressive correcting leads to positive results any more than a hands-off approach does, a couple of general observations can be made. Error correction in the real world certainly is not as controlled as in traditional classrooms. Speakers who don't understand each other use rhetorical devices, such as paraphrasing and asking for clarification, to negotiate meaning and, hence, avoid directly confronting errors. These devices often come into play when a speaker makes global errors, those which affect comprehension. Local (minor) errors are often simply ignored. Second, most classroom teachers recognize that direct intervention is often ineffective and serves only to hamper communication, yet they are uncomfortable simply observing student error without taking action.

A Common Sense Approach

A common sense approach to treating error proceeds in stages (Investigation, Isolation, Explanation, Demonstration, Experimentation, Learning-Acquisition), and is minimally disruptive to both the flow of the lesson and student motivation.

Investigation (which also could be called assessment, exploration, discovery) engages the student in some form of communication to assess the general language level and the nature of language problems. This engagement could be a dictation, question-answer session, written paragraph, brief interview, or any other short activity.

Errors are then isolated for subsequent treatment. Isolated errors are classified along two lines: global-local, mistake-error. Global errors can be defined as those that affect comprehension, while local errors, though linguistically non - or sub-standard, do not break down communication. Mistakes are idiosyncratic, careless, and inconsistent, while errors actually involve language that has not been acquired or has been incorrectly acquired. Non-acquired or incorrectly acquired language that interferes with comprehension is, logically, the most urgent priority.

In the explanation stage, the teacher describes the error--this not only alerts the student that an error has been identified and is about to be treated, but also describes where the problem is occurring (ex: syntax, morphology, semantics, phonology, appropriacy) and what the problem involves (ex: incorrect production of a phoneme, misuse of a preposition, incorrect word use, overgeneralization of a verb, misuse of register/style).

The teacher will then demonstrate (or model) correct usage. The techniques in this stage will vary from teacher to teacher. Pronunciation problems could be addressed utilizing minimal pairs and points of articulation, while grammar correction could be handled by contrasting the unacceptable form with the acceptable form, making the transformations on a blackboard or overhead projector. Morphology and syntax problems most often involve developmental errors, such as the overgeneralization of L2 verb rules (ex: buyed instead of bought); however, contrastive, or negative transfer errors, while most often found at the phonological level, can also be seen in morphology and syntax when major differences exist between the native and target language morphological/syntax systems. Semantic problems occur at all levels, usually in the areas of usage and collocation. Appropriacy is later-acquired, and can be treated as a cultural, as well as a language, issue.

With exposure to the demonstration of correct form / usage / pronunciation, the student is now ready to embark on experimentation. This stage involves the trial use in communicative activities and/or real communication. Unlike traditional correction, where the student is drilled until the correct form is internalized, experimentation makes no short-term time demands on the student. The student attempts to correctly use the language in a real communicative environment, which may last an indeterminate period of time. The experimentation stage mimics a humanistic approach to correction, which places students in a low-pressure second language environment, hoping they will self-correct, avoiding intensive/direct correction techniques, which the humanists consider emotionally counter-productive. The difference here is that experimentation is encouraged to take place in a real world or communicative language situation where natural correction (ex: echoing, asking for clarification) can take place and re-focus the student on correct language. Arrival at the final stage-learning/acquisition-is unpredictable. Students may learn quickly, then have to re-learn later, or learn later and have to re-learn periodically for the rest of their lives. Students could immediately acquire the language or (permanently) acquire it at some future time. Some students may never acquire the language, but this simply mirrors other correction approaches, and L2 learning in general, where people learn at different speeds and achieve different levels.


The six-stage process treating error is a common sense approach which avoids both the monotony and stress of intense audio-lingual classrooms, and the disengaged approach of humanists, who often view classroom pressure as a barrier to learning. In addition, the common sense approach is less artificial and yields results as good as or better than traditional error correction.

Example 1

Investigation: A general assessment of student speaking level is undertaken using a short interview to discover personal information about a student.

Isolation: During the interview the student is unable to produce the voiceless inter-dental fricative the 'th' sound as in 'think', consistently replacing it with the voiceless alveolar fricative /s/. Teacher classifies it as a potentially global error since there is a phonemic distinction between the two sounds.

Explanation: Teacher explains the error-the 'th' is non-occurring in the student's native language, so the student has little chance to hear it or produce it. Teacher establishes a minimal pair set to check on the student's ability to discriminate between the two sounds.

Demonstration: Once the student is able to discriminate between phonemes (sounds), teacher demonstrates, through points of articulation, how to produce the sound-tongue between teeth, air passing through oral cavity, no vocal chord vibration.

Experimentation: Student then attempts to correct error via communicative activities and/or real communication. Teacher uses echoing to correct repeated error ex: [S: This is a sick book, T: Yes, that's a thick book]

Learning/Acquisition Result: After two months the student has learned the /?/ phoneme, but has not acquired it, occasionally producing correct form,occasionally producing /s/ form.

Example 2

Investigation: A general assessment of student writing level is undertaken using a short paragraph in which the student is asked to describe her family.

Isolation: Subsequent reading of the paragraph reveals structural-word use error in stating ages: [*He/she has # years].

Explanation: Teacher explains the error-it is a negative transfer from the student's native language, which states languages using (Subject pronoun)à(have/has)à(age) structure.Demonstration: Teacher demonstrates correct form-- (Subject)>>(Copula)>>(Age + "years old")
--on the board using both proper noun (names) and pronoun forms.

Experimentation: Student attempts to correct through short oral and written descriptions of classmates, where [age] is one required descriptive feature.

Learning/Acquisition Result: Within a month the student acquired the correct language structure.

To read the article in the articles section

Have Your Say - there is a dedicated thread for responses to this article in the Forums at:


This month we are joined by Emma Worrall for the first time with her article & plan, 'Problems & Solutions - Lexis at Pre-Intermediate Level'

I am going to look at the problems that my pre-intermediate students might have with vocabulary; identifying the problems and suggesting ways of overcoming the problems. I will begin the assignment with a brief introduction to vocabulary then I will go to look at some of the problems that students have with vocabulary and in particular multi-word verbs. I feel that my students need to be better equipped to deal with them before they go on to a higher level. The few multi-word verbs that the students have already encountered have been a challenge for them and I want to see how I can help them cope with multi-word verbs when they are dealing with texts inside and outside the classroom.

To continue the article

There is an accompanying lesson plan, the aims are as follows:
Main Aims:
1) To introduce the following vocabulary: take after, get on with, look like, fall out with, look after, look up to, grow up with, split up with
2) To encourage students to infer the meaning of unknown vocabulary through context
3) To introduce the concept of eight transitive inseparable multi-word verbs and encourage the students to create personal meaning from the verbs and draw their attention to the form of the verbs.
4) To highlight the word stress and connected speech patterns of the multi-word verbs
5) To give the students the opportunity to practise the new vocabulary at sentence level

Subsidiary Aims:
1) To encourage the students to use previously taught family vocabulary.
2) To expose the students to less structured, freer text material to build students' confidence in dealing with more complex listenings.
3) To give the students the opportunity to produce the language in a long speaking turn.

To read the lesson plan


Michael Berman returns with an article about storytelling 'The Storyteller: Shaman and Healer'

Storytelling is the oldest form of communication /education /healing in the history of mankind, dating back to the "storyteller" (the shaman) around the campfires of prehistoric or primitive villages. The stories painted or drawn on the walls of caves in petroglyphs, on animal skins and in the oral tradition, were man's first form of education, communication, entertainment and healing, far predating the written word. The Twelve Tribes of Israel used the "oral tradition" for centuries in passing down the parables of the Creation and Noah's Flood. It was not until King Solomon decreed that these stories be written down, that we had any records from which much of the "Old Testament" was taken. It can be argued that we have a responsibility to carry on this tradition and that mankind has a "need" for "storytellers" that is almost as great as his need for love.

It is difficult for us today to understand what the winter would have meant to our pagan ancestors in northern Europe - a time of fear, constant cold, hunger and tedium. Taking literacy for granted, we also forget that until the beginning of the twentieth century, when free basic schooling for all was first introduced, that most of our great-grandparents relied on word of mouth for both information and entertainment. It is hardly surprising therefore that one of the most important figures in the world of our ancestors was that of the storyteller - the provider of entertainment through the long dark winter nights, purveyor of wonder and magick, the transmitter of tribal and community myths, legends, teachings and values.

To continue the article at the site



There is an upper intermediate lesson plan on the site that uses an article from the Observer 'The Truth Is Out' about how much we lie these days. An interesting topic for all & good for cultural comparisons....
The main aims include; to introduce the lexical set around 'lying', to give extensive & more intensive reading strategy practice & to give freer speaking practice.

To see the plan


Thanks to Steve, Emma & Michael.

ARTICLES - If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson plan & would like to give it a public airing, get in touch.

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No ordinary Master's: become an action researcher with Aston University's MSc in TESOL Aston University Language Studies Unit:



A few recent postings:

Janet asks - Does anyone have any indoor activities for age 5-6 summer school children?

mcc responds in the thread about motivating younger learners:

Follow the ideas in 'An easy way to present perfect'

Louie needs a bit of help - 'I am working on the use of community of practice to help teachers to get in touch with each others and to improve their knowledge. ....I would be glad if someone could give me information about communities of practice as a tool to sustain English teachers' work.

Ian's looking for over 200 teachers for China to start in September:

Hanka is after info on teaching contracts in Spain - Does anybody know anything about Spanish contracts for teachers? What types are available, etc. Many teachers, of course, work on 9 month contracts but does anyone have a 12 month permanant contract?
Also, is it possible to have a contract where you work 9 months and are then guaranteed a job the following academic year? I would appreciate any information from anybody who knows.

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 Materials Development International Association strives to bring together researchers, publishers, writers and teachers to work towards the development of high quality materials for the learning of languages. To find out more about events and to join MATSDA visit '


A fun EFL site from Poland.
Estuary English is a name given to the form(s) of English widely spoken in and around London and, more generally, in the southeast of England - along the river Thames and its estuary. On this website we hope to bring together as many documents as possible that relate to Estuary English, as a convenient resource for the many interested enquirers.
Interesting Things for ESL Students - A fun study site for students of English as a Second Language.
'This site is devoted to the origins of words and phrases, or as a linguist would put it, to etymology. Etymology is the study of word origins. (It is not the study of insects; that is entomology.) Where words come from is a fascinating subject, full of folklore and historical lessons. Often, popular tales of a word's origin arise. Sometimes these are true; more often they are not. While it often seems disappointing when a neat little tale turns out to be untrue, almost invariably the true origin is just as interesting.'
Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics - 'For more than thirty years, Word Ways has explored the many facets of logology (an old word resurrected by the late Dmitri Borgmann to describe recreational linguistics). Dmitri wrote the classic book on this topic -- Language on Vacation (Scribner's, 1965), now out of print -- and was the first Word Ways editor in 1968. Word Ways is currently edited by Ross Eckler, author of the recent book Making the Alphabet Dance (St. Martin's, 1996), a survey of the field and the many new discoveries made in the last thirty-five years.'

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Some days to plan your lessons around in June:

6th - D-Day
20th - United Nations World Refugee Day
21st - Summer Solstice
27th - Happy Birthday, "Happy Birthday"
Wimbledon begins
The European Football Championship in Portugal

To see the Days of the Year

Some holiday origins.

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This month we've got a short review of 'The Cambridge Guide to English Usage' by Pam Peters (CUP, 2004).

To see the review

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Recent Tips have included:

- Keeping to the limit - a look at writing mini-sagas
- AAA - Acronym Awareness Activity
- Human Computers - giving objective feedback
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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 July, August & September '04

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7. PS - 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

The following links are taken from the Site linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, lots of links to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
'What is GameKnot? We are an online chess community where you can play chess online whether you only have 10 minutes to spare or the whole day. Either way, you are guaranteed a good exercise for your brain and you'll have fun too! No additional software to download, free registration, online chess at its best. You choose when to move and how often to move, and you don't have to finish the games in one sitting --they'll be waiting for you the next day. If you prefer serious competitive chess, you can also take your time and think about your next move for several hours. You can even play at work, or whenever you get bored!'
Keep awake at the presentation - Flash game.
Check out 24 hours of Venice from one camera - great site.
If you need advice this is the site. Submit your problem & get some advice.
Making Google advanced searching easier.
'It is the goal of the collective energy behind to expose the general public to reviews of books that may, at times, be overlooked due to lack of marketing, odd subjects, unknown authors or saturation of the market. We pledge to offer unbiased, positive reviews of books from a variety of publishers on a multitude of subjects and genres.'
If you like bragging, then this will make you the bragger of all braggers - The Brag Generator. (strong language!)
Bloglines is a free service that makes it easy to keep up with your favorite blogs and newsfeeds. With Bloglines, you can subscribe to the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs, and Bloglines will monitor updates to those ites. You can read the latest entries easily within Bloglines.
'Playing With Time is an exciting, new project that looks at how the world around you is changing over many different time periods. The project consists of two major parts: this web site and a traveling museum exhibit. The site is being developed by Red Hill Studios. The exhibit is a collaboration between Red Hill and the Science Museum of Minnesota. Here at the Playing With Time web site, unseen worlds of change will be revealed. You will see time sped up and slowed down, and behold the beauty of change. Time will be in your hands to witness, replay, and even reate. You never know... you might not look at things quite the same way again.'
Spyware Infested Software List - a quick check before installing new software.
'The Gender Genie - Inspired by an article in The New York Times Magazine, the Gender Genie uses a simplified version of an algorithm developed by Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, to predict the gender of an author.'

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