A web site for the developing language teacher

November 2004 - issue 11/04


Welcome to the November Newsletter.

Interesting article from the BBC site:

Learning a second language "boosts" brain-power, scientists believe.

Researchers from University College London studied the brains of 105 people - 80 of whom were bilingual.

They found learning other languages altered grey matter - the area of the brain which processes information - in the same way exercise builds muscles.

People who learned a second language at a younger age were also more likely to have more advanced grey matter than those who learned later, the team said.

Scientists already know the brain has the ability to change its structure as a result of stimulation - an effect known as plasticity - but this research demonstrates how learning languages develops it.

The team took scans of 25 Britons who did not speak a second language, 25 people who had learned another European language before the age of five and 33 bilinguals who had learned a second language between 10 and 15 years old.

The scans revealed the density of the grey matter in the left inferior parietal cortex of the brain was greater in bilinguals than in those without a second language.

The effect was particularly noticeable in the "early" bilinguals, the findings published in the journal Nature revealed.

The findings were also replicated in a study of 22 native Italian speakers who had learned English as a second language between the ages of two and 34.

Lead researcher Andrea Mechelli, of the Institute of Neurology at UCL, said the findings explained why younger people found it easier to learn second languages.


"It means that older learners won't be as fluent as people who learned earlier in life.

"They won't be as good as early bilinguals who learned, for example, before the age of five or before the age of 10."

But Cilt, the national centre for languages, cast doubt on whether learning languages was easier at a younger age.

A spokeswoman said: "There are conflicting views about the comparative impact of language learning in different age groups, based both on findings and anecdotal evidence."

However, she said it was important to get young people learning languages in the UK.

Only one in 10 UK workers can speak a foreign language, a recent survey revealed.

But by 2010 all primary schools will have to provide language lessons for children.

The Guardian are running a spelling quiz - can you get 100% right? Check it out at:,5957,1303707,00.html

John Peel
For those of you who have been fortunate to have listened to his programmes on the BBC at some point in your lives, I'm sure you'll agree that it was a very sad moment on hearing that John Peel had died. Apart from being a genuinely nice bloke, the effect he had on contemporary music over the last 35 years has been enormous. Sorely missed.

Happy teaching!



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7 PS - Internet/computer-related links




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Recognising and dealing effectively with student goals and aspirations by Katie Evans & Seth Atkin

When an individual accesses a learning programme, there are numerous pressures and interests involved, many of which are external to the individual and the learning programme itself. These may include the labour market, requirements from other educational institutions, and a world that demands updates to understanding on a regular basis. With the complexity of demand brought by every individual learner it is becoming harder to immediately identify what their learning and longer terms needs
and aspirations may be, particularly for courses such as initial and further acquisitions of the English language.

The needs of language learners are a global discussion, involving focus on the status of English in relation to local languages. Whilst in a café in Berlin I was party to a discussion about the needs of language learners in Slovakia. At the heart of the discussion was the local requirement in Bratislavia for people who work in the service industries to speak English. This provides a brief focus on the local demand; in order to work in a café in their own country a person needs to speak English. Here we see the demands of the employer which have serious implications for the person trying to access that employment. As educators we need to ask, why should this be the case in a country where the national language is Slovak and not English, and is also a language understood by several neighbouring countries? This discussion took place just before May 2004. On 1st May 2004 Slovakia, among several other Eastern European countries, became part of the expanded European Union. As the EU
expands, travel opportunities grow, with several budget airlines opening flights to a range of new EU destinations. Therefore,> local language can no longer be defined by state boundaries alone; there are now para state blocks which enable travel and provide challenges to the more geographically confined language groups. It is not now enough just to be able to speak your mother tongue when applying for a job in Slovakia; the English language has risen to international prominence through travel and migration opportunities as well as the further spread of electronic communication via the Internet. The Internet poses further challenges to the geographically confined cultures and languages, whilst at the same time potentially making them more accessible. Thus there are demands placed on the local provision of services to the public as it is quite likely that a broader spread of people will access these services, and thus broader language knowledge is required. Media has also shaped the common language for communication over the past few decades, with American dominance in media and mass communication. Therefore the global pressure on local services has come to bear weight and English has become a requirement for jobs with public contact in countries where English is not a commonly used language and where previously it was not needed so much. Ease of travel and the development of mass communication have been accompanied by the spread of huge multinational corporations and the opportunity to work in these money-making organizations means that people in different countries have to attain a similar level of qualifications to compete with each other. With the local job market bowing to global need, the need of each individual student should not be assumed to be that of the traditional local market. The learner may well have much more complex needs than that, relating to wider issues of employment and working within the global context. As a result, demands for education services may increase and place extra demands on the education service provider. Education may then be seen as more lucrative and as services develop more competition may emerge.

This increasingly competitive world of education means that tutors will be faced with learners with a myriad of learning and long-term, wider, more global aspirations. It can also mean that students could be placed on courses for which they are not really prepared. This mean they may either have gone straight onto a course without the correct preparation or they have tried to prepare well but have been given inadequate advice as to the appropriate learning route to take to reach their learning and longer-term goals. It is imperative, in the now-demanding world of education that a tutor and learner can realize the learner's potential to ensure that the most suitable learning route is taken.

So, as a tutor, how much do you know about your learners when you first meet them? Do you assume that because a learner is applying for a certain course, then they are doing so for certain, quite obvious reasons? Do you also assume that each learner who applies for a course will have exactly the same learning needs as the next learner, whose needs will mirror those of the learner next to them? Do we take learners as an individual case-in-point, or do we throw a blanket over them all and put them in the same needs basket?

To read the rest of the article


Love in a time of TV hysteria - an upper intermediate & upwards plan centred around reality TV in India & the unfortunate situation that Arif & Gudiya find themselves in. The general aims:

To give intensive & extensive reading practice
To give freer speaking practice
Other aims depending on language focus & follow up...

To see the plan


Thanks to Katie & Seth.

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.

ADVERTISING - We reach a few thousand teachers every week with the Weekly Teaching Tip & the same each month with the Newsletter, not to mention the 1000+ unique visitors a day to the site. If you've got a book, course, job...anything that you'd like to advertise, then do 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:

annemcln is getting together a really useful list - any ideas?
Hi, I want to create a list of some good sites that can be used by teachers for research purposes. These links should have authentic and verifiable information that can be used for inclusion in lesson plans. I saw one such site -- ( They really have a huge collection of stats on all countries. A must use site. They have some nice lesson plans too - Can anyone suggest other useful sites please?

antje asks:
I am thinking about using the book "Innovations" by Hugh Dellar and Darryl Hocking, which is based on the lexical approach, next semester with my pre-intermediate/intermediate students (adults, evening classes in Germany). From the description of the book it's exactly what I want - lift students off the intermediate plateau, enable them to use the structures they have studied for so long, provide meaningful input, focus on spoken English. My question is - has anyone used this course and does it really come up to the expectations it raises? Does it work? Does it really improve students' spoken English - more natural, greater vocabulary, better listening skills? I doubt that a (although very natural and rather long) dialogue per half-unit is really enough input, and that student gain much from talking among themselves other than losing their fear of speaking. I am a non- native speaker and even though I try to use only English in class I don't think they are exposed to enough good input to really get better in a non-English environment, not even with this course. What do you think?

LMH0608 asks:
I am doing a unit plan on spiders in a few weeks. I have some ideas already, but does anyone else have anything that stands out to them that might help me??

ellis77 wants to know:
A lot of my intermediate students (121 classes) are interested mainly in conversation, therefore I need to find easy articles to read so that we can speak about them afterwards. Does anybody know any addresses where I can find what I need?

Costadina23 has a problem:
I have a problem with some students who can't pronounce the words, or rather they don't want to try. After trying to get one student to try to pronounce words correctly, I asked her why she wouldn't try, and she replied, that she can't because it isn't her language. She can spell the words after writing them several times but she refuses to pronounce them, just mumbles most. What can I do to get her to want to read?

gmoine needs advice:
Has anyone got any sound advice regarding risk assessment when planning an external trip? My pupils will only have to walk 500meters to their destination, but im still concerned about the poss risks and hazards on route....

Shelli asks:
I have a group of 32 four year olds, whom I teach for 30 minutes twice a week. Does anyone have any ideas on how I can manage such a large group? I am not too worried about discipline as I will have another teacher in the class to help, but I'm not sure how to go about activities or what kind of activities to use. Can anyone help?

Jerry Fang is looking for 30 teachers for China.

eipthailand has an interesting offer:
I run a school in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand that takes the 20 most gifted refugees from the Thai-Burma border and educates them in skills they need to run their community organizations. At EIP students learn a number of different skills including critical thinking, proposal writing skills, translation, teamwork and communication skills. EIP has become one of the most dynamic and most effective English language schools along the Thai-Burma border. One main reason for that is at EIP we have amazingly creative teachers. The teachers often experiment with different teaching methods and have had excellent results. EIP is a fabulous place to experiment with teaching because our students are extremely gifted young adults who are willing to try anything. There's an amazing energy in the classroom. I am looking for experienced, creative teachers who would be interested in working at EIP for 5-10 months. We can only offer enough money to live on (200-300$ a month), but EIP is such a dynamic place to teach that I wonder if there are countless seasoned teachers who have taught in mainstream schools for years and are dying for an adventure and somewhere that fosters creative teaching. Thanks, Brooke Treadwell EIP Co- Coordinator

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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Lovely Flash site of mazes for the general English & business English learner - reading, vocabulary & problem solving.
Christian Aid young learners' site.
'The Drama Teacher's Resource Room, a place where you can kick back and find some ideas for your classroom or production.' For native English speaking younger learners although some of interest.
Barb Wired - Online newspaper written by secondary school students in New Zealand.
Online help with some soundf from OUC International.
Literacy Stuff.
Including help with newspaper reading skills.

Have you got any teaching links? Send them in...

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Some days to plan your lessons around in November:

5th - Bonfire Night - for some lesson ideas - Remember, remember

11th - Remembrance Day
16th - International Day for Tolerance
17th - World Peace Day
25th - Eid Al Fitr
28th Buy Nothing Day (varies)
US Thanksgiving Day - 4th Thurs. in month.
Buy Nothing Day in US - day after Thanksgiving.

To see the Days of the Year
Some holiday origins.

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This month we review 'Just' a series of four books for intermediate learners; Just Vocabulary, Just Listening & Speaking, Just Reading & Writing & Just Grammar.

To read the review

Just Vocabulary

Just Listening & Speaking

Just Reading & Writing

Just Grammar

All the above link to - the books don't seem to be available at yet.

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 keepthe site & newsletters free. Thanks.

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

- A bit of creativity - a brief look at harnessing creativity.
- Get hip to chav - lesson ideas around an article about 100 years of buzzwords.
- Minimalism - minimal pair activities
- To sit or not - factors in deciding on whether to enterents for public ELT exams or not.

To see the Past Tips

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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 November 18th & January '05
Part-time course twelve-week course starts January '05

Full-time two-month courses, January/February, April/May, July/August '05

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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:
The Official God FAQ
Welcome to Random Acts Of Reality, a Blog based in London, England, written by an E.M.T working for the London Ambulance Service. Also, number one search result for "Womble porn". All names have been changed to protect the guilty. This Blog was previously known as "Why I Hate Humanity" but the antipsychotic medication seems to have kicked in.
The World's Top 100 Wonders
Join the political circus, choose your candidate & fire him out of a cannon - really nice timewaster.
If anyone's looking for a Xmas present for me...I'd send you lots of postcards, honest.
Lots of true facts to impress your friends - & students. Great material for info gaps - present & past simple, numbers etc...
'Whether news system, message board or product database - create your own web database in a few minutes - for free!'
'Wizmo is an extremely useful "Windows Gizmo" I created when I could not find anything else on the Net to do similar jobs. Wizmo is a multi-purpose, miscellaneous Windows function, "catch all" with a growing list of uncommon but useful features and capabilities.' Free.
'A complete graphical strategy game in your browser. no flash - no java - no install battle your friends online from anywhere! Free.
George's blog.
'What is Phishing? -Phishing attacks use 'spoofed' e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social security numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5% of recipients to respond to them.'

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