A web site for the developing language teacher

June 2006 - issue 6/06


Welcome to the June Newsletter.
James Frith joins the article section this month with an article & plan about webquests, & Greg Gobel returns with an article & plan about using models & samples to develop the writing skill.

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5. PS - Internet/computer-related links



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Webquests - an experiment by James Frith

Recent years have witnessed an explosion in the use of personal computers in all walks of life, coupled with the almost overnight influence of powerful communication tools in the internet and email. These developments have obviously had a profound effect on mainstream education and I think it is only a matter of time before we experience significant changes in the world of ELT as a whole (1). For this reason, I feel it prudent to try to be prepared.

But why should ICT have such an impact? Computers have the potential to be an extremely learner-centred resource. Firstly there is an unlimited amount of authentic material available on the internet, along with published games and a number of rapidly improving ELT sites, which means that there is something to suit every student's needs and interests. Because websites are updated daily, the information is also far more topical than a coursebook can ever be. But it is not just the variety that is appealing. In addition, computers combine visual, audio and kinaesthetic stimuli. Motivation can also be provided through providing tasks which mirror those performed in the real world. For example, using email and chat and even designing websites provide real purposes to language use. With sufficient training, I believe that computers offer the student a gateway to genuine autonomy in language learning across all four skills.

Exciting though this sounds, my experiences with ICT in the classroom have until now been somewhat limited. I have experimented with research homework in which students have, for example, compared tabloid and broadsheet reporting styles; I have used the 'BBC Learning English' site to work on vocabulary from the news; I have worked with pages and texts from the internet in a similar way to which I would work with any other text, but I have always felt I am not doing justice to the vast possibilities available. I have felt in need of guidance as to how to best exploit the medium.

I also feel concern about the possible pitfalls. My knowledge of computers is limited demand as such I do not feel confident in overcoming technical difficulties. Whilst on the negative issues, it is important to highlight the practicalities of cost, space, connection speed and software which I imagine will be the most important obstacles, in schools around the world, to the implementation of computer-based teaching in the near future. When I mentioned to a colleague that I was interested in looking into ICT for my experimental practice paper, he thrust an article on 'webquests' into my hand. Was this what I had been looking for? In the article, Brabbs (02:39) describes a webquest as: 'a project which uses the internet as its main source of information'. He goes on to describe the step-by-step process which involves a task modelled on a real life one.

To view the article at the site:

Lesson Plan - the preliminary information
Time: 60 minutes
Level: Upper-Intermediate
Main aims:
i) Develop communicative skills through provision of useful language
ii) Students transform information to produce a final product

Subsidiary aims:
i) Develop reading sub-skills
ii) Provide opportunities for reflection through writing, peer evaluation and self-evaluation and encourage these techniques as autonomous learning tools

To view the plan:


Models and samples as a resource for writing by Greg Gobel


Recently, some colleagues have said they would not use models to help their learners write saying they constrict and limit the learners. In my experience, though, I have found models tend to help learners with both the process of writing and in creating a reasonable product. However, my colleagues' comments raised doubts in my mind. So, I have decided to research the use of models to determine how useful they actually are and to discover more uses of them to improve my ability to help my learners write more effectively.

A brief background: Models and four approaches to teaching and learning writing

Models are essential in product writing, which focuses on a final product and where 'the learner is engaged in imitating, copying and transforming models of correct language' (Nunan, 1991: 87). Process writing recognizes 'that competent writers do not produce final texts at their first attempt' and thus the priority of using models was reduced in favor of the skills that learners would need to write, i.e., a focus on 'how' to write, rather than just 'what' to write (summary of Nunan, 1991: 87). The genre approach revived the use of models,- as focusing on 'what makes' a genre (a type of written discourse) became prioritized. The process/genre approach combines the benefits of the others, making it inclusive and versatile (Badger/White, 2000).

To view the rest of the article:

Lesson Plan

Level: Advanced (CAE)

Main Aims:
* To enable the learners to write an information sheet (for homework) by sensitizing them to the appropriate language (Stage 7,8), form/structure/style (Stage 3,5), and content (Stage 4,6,7,8) that the CAE expects for this type of writing.
* By the end of the lesson the learners will have written an outline/plan for the CAE information sheet type of writing. (Stage 8)

Subsidiary Aims:
* To be able to use their worldly knowledge to assess a situation involving cultural interaction in a film (Stage 1).
* To brainstorm topics that could lead to cultural gaffes. (Stage 4)
* Learners will practice their noticing skills by looking for inappropriate language in an information sheet and by comparing that by looking for appropriate language in a second information sheet. (Stage 7)
* To encourage learners to have confidence in writing what is likely a new genre of writing for them. (Stage 3,5,7,8)

Timetable Fit:
This will be the sixth week of the school year. We are just finishing Unit 2 in the CAE Gold course book.

For the CAE exam, there are many particular types of writing that students must learn to do effectively. One of these is the 'Information Sheet'. In Unit 1, the students focused on writing a formal complaint letter and an informal note. The note was a type of writing not part of the FCE, as is this Information Sheet. By the end of Unit 2, the students will therefore have experienced two 'new' types of writing. This is important to do focus on early in the course so that the new types of writing are not left until the end. As students have some room for choice in the Writing Paper of the CAE, it is important that the students experience writing all the types of papers they may be asked to do, but also to think about which ones they are more comfortable writing so that they feel confident when taking the exam.

This particular lesson focuses more on the planning/generating stages in the process writing cycle. This is not to downplay the other stages, but 60 minutes is just not enough for all of the process stages for such a long composition. Drafting will be focused on in the following lessons in this manner: first, the students will make a draft at home thinking about the five guided questions for drafting in Unit 2; then, they will bring the homework in and I will check it for errors, register, style, format and write some questions for each student; then, I will bring those back in and the students will help each other address the issues that I guide them to. The students will then have the choice to rewrite the information sheet at home. They are very busy, so I feel that giving them this choice caters to their busy work or student lifestyles (we must be realistic and understand that English class is not the only thing in our students' lives)
and also encourages them to take more control of their learning. In this way, also, the drafting process becomes a thread through several lessons and helps the students keep in mind that they may have to write an information sheet in the exam, thus minimizing the problem that students and teachers sometimes seem to focus on something for a day, only to forget about it for months.

To view the lesson plan:


Thanks to James & Greg


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If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


'TDP? This program is designed to prepare people who want to tutor English as a Second Language on a one-on-one and home tutoring basis.'
'the talent website: an online community of over 14,000 English, Literacy and Numeracy teachers....a searchable database of teacher training courses in London: .
Learning Theories
The Teacher Trainer - This practical journal for those who train, mentor and educate TESOL teachers edited by Tessa Woodward has been relaunched this year with a new design to celebrate its 20th Anniversary. The new look website is packed with back articles and information about subscribing.'Using
English for Academic Purposes - A Guide for Students in Higher Education'
ICT Research.
'This website is a free collection of training modules in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for Language Teachers, the outcome of a project originally funded by the European Commission. All the training modules are continually revised and updated.'

'VideoNation is a way to meet people from across the UK and hear what they say about their lives and the world around them.' - from the BBC World Service.
The Roots of English from the BBC Radio 4.
'AERA is the most prominent international professional organization, with the primary goal of advancing educational research and its practical application. Its 25,000 members are educators; administrators; directors of research; persons working
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'Storybook Online Network - A Storytelling Community For Children'
'Franklins Lab has been created for pupils studying Key Stage 3 science. It covers material students have learnt in class, helping them to revise. The content covers area's of Science within the UK National Curriculum, including Energy, Fuels and
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Garfield game for younger learners.
The National History Museum - younger learner stuff.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online is an online version of the CD-ROM of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English - Free to Use.
'Are you a teacher or student of the Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or Certificate of Proficiency in English? Do you need up-to-date advice about the Cambridge FCE, CAE or CPE exams?'

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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.

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A few days to plan your lessons around in June:

6th - D-Day
20th - United Nations World Refugee Day
21st - Summer Solstice (& Dec 21st)
27th - Happy Birthday, "Happy Birthday"
World Cup - football
Mother's Day
Wimbledon begins - tennis

To see the list of Days:

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


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- Encounters - vocabulary acquisition.
- Looking for causes.. - of interlingual errors.
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5. 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,,29069,00.html
50 best World Cup goals - videos from the Times Online.
68,105 was the last count for alien cow abductions.
We don't always see what we think we see - follow the instructions.
The Mind of Leonardo.
Excellently produced site - analyses the expressive movements of
the face. Level 3 gives you the lowdown.
The human clock - a new picture each minute of the day.
Send a fax for free - North America.
'Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.'
Weather & astronomy stuff.
Lots of astronomy stuff.
'If you're interested in satellites or astronomy, you've come to the right place! Our aim is to provide you with all the information you need to observe satellites such as the
International Space Station and the Space Shuttle, spectacular events such as the dazzlingly bright flares from Iridium satellites as well as a wealth of other spaceflight and astronomical information.'
Strange new products. I like the sideways printed books for bed reading - about time.
Everyday mysteries explained - fun science facts from the library of congress.
Silly walk generator.

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