A web site for the developing language teacher

May 2001 - issue 5/01


Welcome to the Newsletter

This month's theme is devoted to the most important mental faculty that we possess - the memory. We talk about the need to help students remember more effectively, as well as pushing them to regularly 'learn by heart'. There is also a lesson plan on the site that uses a newspaper article about memory.

There are new articles in the Articles section of the site. Professor Edna Aphek has contributed several articles, two of which are up on the site this month, with two more appearing next month. There's also an excerpt from The Bluffer's Guide to TEFL below, a warmer from Lee Buckley, lots of useful classroom & internet links.

Do keep telling colleagues to sign up for this Newsletter & the weekly Teaching Tips. Thanks.

Happy teaching!



  1. THEME
  6. LINKS
  7. JOBS
  10. PS - Internet/computer-related links


1. THEME - memory

Unlike Solomon-Veniaminovich Sheresheveskii - 'S' - we don't remember everything that happens to us or all that we try to remember. Some of us have good memories & others complain about how easy they forget. All of us would agree that we would benefit by improving our ability to remember. This includes our language students.

Remembering language is essential to progress. Do we do enough to help this process? We incorporate 'recycling' so that students see & get a chance to use the language again. 'Noticing' activities provide a memory jog e.g. find three examples of a recently looked at item in the text. We are doing the work! Ok, that's part of our job but language learning isn't easy & does require a great effort from the student. Maybe we should stop trying to be so nice & put the onus more on the student.

But do we actually get our students to memorise things. I'm sure that a lot of teachers do but I rather think we generally don't because learning by heart & memorising things smack of bygone methodologies no longer in fashion. To ask students to remember a list of ten words for the next lesson would, if it got out, expose you as an ELT dinosaur.

Maybe there's more to it than meets the eye & we can find a way to feel comfortable with learning by heart. A very simplified version of past ideas could be that students were asked to remember unrelated words & if they could come out with them in a test, the process of learning was complete & then we could move on to something else. So how do we make this more solid? Change 'unrelated' to 'related' & realise the limitations of the meaning of 'learned'. Vocabulary & formulaic expressions have to be remembered. If the items are useful to the students & within their grasp then why not ask them to remember them. Don't pile too much on at a time & be organised yourself in regularly

It's not enough though just to say 'learn these words'. You need to pass on techniques that will actually help them to remember. These are called 'mnemonics' - any device that helps you remember things better. Peter Russell in 'The Brain Book' (Routledge) points out that we remember things better if 'we make maximum use of the factors that naturally enhance human memory: uniqueness, exaggeration, sensory, interactive, simplicity, creativity, sexual & vulgar & involvement.' The book is an excellent introduction to the brain, memory, reading skills & note taking. Mnemonic devices such as association, peg word systems & loci are all easily passed on. ( Did you know we get the expressions 'In the first place', 'In the second place..' from the Romans as when they were giving a speech they were running through the order that was in the mind - things were associated with a particular place in the surroundings.)

There is a list of related sites below & the excellent book 'Use Your Memory' - by Tony Buzan (BBC) gives you more than enough techniques. Most good coursebooks have a stab at it but I don't know any that does it enough. The learner training book 'Learning to Learn English' by Ellis & Sinclair (CUP) recognises the importance.

This is all especially important for the student learning in her home country with limited exposure to the language & probably no more than three hours a week of class. So get to it & ask more of your students' memories - they will appreciate it as they see they are remembering more & making more progress overall.


There is a lesson on memory on the site. This uses an article taken from the Daily Mail in April.

In the Teaching Tips on the site there is one devoted to Vocabulary Cards. It's a system to help you & the students stay on top of all the vocab that comes up in class.

If you want to buy any of the books mentioned above go to the Books page. Click on the link on the page or do the search at the bottom of the page.


A few things to do in class specifically connected to 'memory':


memory, to memorise, memorisation, to jog one's memory, in memory of, a memorial, from memory, a dim memory, loss of memory, short/long-term memory, a memory like a sieve, lapse of memory, an aid to memory, to tax one's memory, to keep a memory alive, to have a photographic memory, a memorandum, a memo, to remember, remembrance, to recall, recollection, to remind, reminder, to retain, retention

to commit to memory - to learn by heart, by rote,

to forget, forgetful, out of sight out of mind, short-term, long- term memory & then on to other short & long collocates e.g. long- distance runner, short-sighted person etc.

Connected language areas:

- remember to do/doing, remind to do/doing

- used to v would - we would get up at the crack of dawn, I used to work three hours a day.

- language to express states of ignorance: 'I've got no idea what....', 'I haven't got a clue who...' - amnesiac - this is useful language to prepare the ground for reported speech, helping with word order problems.

Memory games:

alibi - two/three students leave the room & work out an alibi from 9am to 9pm yesterday. They come back into the class & are interviewed by the rest of the class who ask questions in an attempt to catch them out & break the alibi.

change appearance - present perfect - students stand back to back & remember what each is wearing.

scenes - past simple/continuous - give out pictures of a scene & give a minute or two to remember it. They turn over the pictures & try to remember the details. You could contextualise this with a crime having happened & they are interviewed by a fellow student who takes on the role of a policeperson.



There's a lot of information on the web about memory. The few links below are for the layperson & are useful to find out how our memory works & material to use for awareness in class.

Lots of memory techniques are explained together with practical applications.

From the Learning Network lots of games to stimulate the mind & your memory.

A web site dedicated to helping you improve your memory. There are tutorial articles, tips & tricks & activities.

Simon Freeman's story of his Zen awakening & the benefits that it made to his capacity to memorize.

Experiments & memory information.

Dr Georges's overview & tips on improving memory.

Lots & lots of information about anything to do with the brain. The what, how, & why - excellent! All very nicely presented. The book & web site review page:

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We have a new contributor to the site this month. Professor Edna Aphek has contributed some articles & we've put up two this month & will follow with another two next month. Edna is a linguist & educationalist, specializing in the introduction of computer literacy in general and IT in particular in educational and
social systems. She also works in the areas of development of thinking skills in general and creative and inventive thinking, problem solving and the implementation of change. She designs and implements innovative educational and social systems, designs and builds virtual learning environments and creates community/school partnerships.

The first article is a report on her two week seminar in Shanghai entitled 'Integrating ICT in Education - program and impressions'. She was asked to give a course to a group of Chinese in education whose brief was to then pass on the
information to others. It was a very positive experience for all concerned.

The second article is about a learning community that Edna set up, Kamrat, a multicultural on-line learning community between two schools, in Israel in 2000, connecting one Israeli Arab school and an Israeli Jewish school.

If you've given a course or seminar & would like to give it a public airing then do send it to:



Lee Buckley got back to me about the 'scars' warmer I mentioned in the last newsletter. She says:

'I have to disagree about the "scar" warmer, or at least ask people to make sure they're using it in the right circumstances. Might not be bad with kids or adolescents-with the latter perhaps limited to same sex groups, since at that age body talk can be a bit iffy depending on the mixed maturity levels-but I'm not sure it would be appropriate for a group of adults. Unless you've reached the age where a health scare is scary, maybe this doesn't make sense. but please think about it. I don't mean that I think it's vulgar or non PC-just a little too real, unless there's a lot of trust in the group.'

This obviously makes a lot of sense. We've always got to bear in mind the group of people in front of us & the problems that might arise with a personalised activity like this. If in any doubt, don't use it.

Lee then offers a new warmer:

Here's a new warmer. I dreamed it up years ago when I was working as a tutor in a writing center in Laguardia Community College in New York City; the majority of the students who came for support work in English were immigrants, adult returning students, younger disadvantaged learners (single mothers, ex-substance abusers, etc.) that is, a population of people who had lived a lot and were not your typical middle class comfortable-life type. One day another teacher passed around an essay one of her students had written about a typical bad day-everything went wrong-no heat or hot water that morning in the house, bad weather, lousy public transit, broken coffee machine at work, broken photocopy machine, etc. It was hysterically funny and a great radical statement on urban life for the less than luxurious-living citizen.
I started by asking a group of students to make a list of all the things in their house that didn't work - bad plumbing, broken elevator, lukewarm fridge, creaky doors and chairs, dead mattresses, etc. We realized that the ideal pushed at us from US commercial culture had nothing to do with the reality that most people live. You can stretch it to service that doesn't come up to snuff, bad jobs that we ourselves do.....the possibilities are endless. And all can be done with a sense of humor, and with an eye to social criticism - how much perfection can we expect? How much can we give? whose fault is it? It works especially well in business classes which is what I'm mostly doing now-the conversation frequently leads to the conflict between corporate culture and humanism...or something
like that. Give it a try.

Thanks Lee.

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Darron passed on 'The Bluffer's Guide to TEFL' to me & it's avery good read. Does anyone know where it comes from? Who is the bona fide writer? If you know or you are the writer then please get in touch as I'd like to put it up on the site & would obviously like permission & to give credit. Here are some excerpts:

This means 'get an answer'. Teflers do not like asking, because: 1) 'ask' has only one syllable (sorry, is monosyllabic) and therefore sounds insufficiently pseudoscientific, 2) 'eliciting' wastes more time than asking and 3) a bona fide tefler has no answers as he/she is a facilitator and has nothing of value to

In the good old days, 'feedback' was what happened when Jimi Hendrix put his guitar near an amplifier. In teflspeak, however, it involves embarrassed students reporting back with mindnumbingly dull information like "We found that 5 people have never climbed Everest, 4 people have eaten octopus and everybody thinks the teacher is a cretin."

Time-wasting par excellence. Not only does the student ask the same dull questions to his neighbour, he has to ask 18 other people as well. Why waste 2 people's time when you can waste 20?

Observed Lesson
Teflers often panic needlessly about these. The tefl bluffer should have a standard observed lesson up his/her sleeve to wheel out whenever observation threatens. Bluffer's tip: teach them something they already know hence making your aims a fait accompli. Should your part in this farce be that of an observer, your first comment should (in true post-coital fashion) be "How was it for you ?"



Maximise your time by getting started on a quality personalised teacher development course.

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A Canadian site that offers software tutorials (Word 2000, Frontpage 2000, IE5..) & online courses (writing, maths, IT...) The writing section is specifically designed for grades 4-12 but excellent all the same for our EL students The TOEFL & Business English training is at Check it all out &pass the site address on to your students.

Another good cause on the net. 'The Intel-United Devices Cancer Research Project is asking you to volunteer your PC to help process molecular research being conducted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford in England and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. To participate, you simply download a very small, no cost, non-invasive software program that works like a screensaver: it runs when your computer isn't being used, and processes research until you need your machine. Your computer never leaves your desk, and the project never interrupts your usual PC use.'

Paper craft plans courtesy of Yamaha. They've got a series of rare animals of the world, some of their motorbikes & symbols of the four seasons. All you have to do is download them, print them out & cut & paste. They'd be great for classroom use as there is a parts data & assembly manual in Acrobat Reader format - the reading - & then the discussion & negotiation as the students put the models together. Could be used with the younger & more mature learner alike.

Lots of different articles for use in class from & about the Big Apple.

This site claims to teach you how to do all the things nobody taught you to do at school. In the 'latest' section: So You Wanna write a business plan, convert to Buddhism, cure a hangover & lie persuasively. Hardly surprising that they didn't teach you them at school! I don't imagine many of your students will be too interested in reading the article 'SYW get a sex change' but they might well want to read 'SYW ace a job interview'. There's even a 'SYW teach English abroad'. Lots of clearly presented reading texts.

"Hints, tips and ideas that used to be passed down from generation to generation but which seem to have gone astray of late". I don't know what the world's coming to!



An ad from our recently married friend Gus Latchem - congratulations Gus!

Teaching in Nanjing (Avalon School of English), includes teaching in school & in-house - businesses. Salary - 5000 RMB per month. Furnished accommodation is provided a short distance from the school. Good holiday pay & airfare is reimbursed at the end of the contract. 1 year contracts are offered.

And one from Spain:

Attractive positions are available for 1 DOS & several EFL teachers in a professional language school in Manresa in Cataluña. Send your cvs to Eco 7 Language Centre SL, C/Jaume 1, 7 ent. , 08240 Manresa, Spain. Their fax number is (00 34) 93 872 00 33 or

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As always, free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail. Sign up!



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

Full-time four-week courses: June, July, August & September

Full-time eight-week courses: July & August
Six month part-time course: October '01 >> March '02

Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration of all courses.

You can see brief descriptions of all of the current courses on the BLC web site The postal address of Teacher Education at the British Language Centre is Calle Bravo Murillo 377, 2, 28020 Madrid, Spain. The phone number is (00 34) 733 07 39 & the fax number is (00 34) 91 314 5009. The e-mail address is

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10. PS - Internet/computer-related links

Play against the site in a 'join the dots' game - easy, hard & killer.

This is a very useful addition. You're about to download a programme & you want to know how long it will take before starting - this will tell you. You can go to the Intel site & do the calculations or you can download a small programme & do it from your computer. It'll also tell you the speed of your connection.

Here's another very helpful site devoted to computer problems & development. Info & troubleshooting on hardware, software, operating systems & much more. Check here first.

Now this is an interesting addition. It sends you a series of web pages daily through your e-mail. Choose from a series of online newspapers, albeit from the US, & you'll get the front page or specific sections straight to your in-box every day. View your favourite sites all at once on one page, each page following each other as you scroll down. A very neat way to save yourself loads of clicks.

Learn about HTML, XHTML, CSS, ASP, MySQL, Javascript, VBScript among many other online tutorials.

Where you've always wanted to go with your DLL problems care of Microsoft & the DLL Help Database.,fid,2015,00.asp

A download from PC World 'Create professional-quality flowcharts and diagrams with this utility. SmartDraw comes with 750 symbols and templates, along with loads of clip art. One of its handy features: Once you connect a line to a graphic, it will stay connected to that graphic even when you change its size and position--a big help for creating flowcharts. The utility works with Lotus SmartSuite, Microsoft Office, WordPerfect, and other programs that support Object Linking and Embedding functions.'

These sites offer small programmes that run alongside your browser. When you open a web page you'll find key words underlined - turned into a hyperlink - & all you do is hold down the 'Alt' key click on them for a pop-up window with an explanation & more links. This saves opening other windows for search engines. Gurunet goes even further by doing the same in any Windows application, not just on web pages. A timesaver.

A different & trendy web site for those in search of inspiration on well-designed web sites.

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