A web site for the developing language teacher

October 2006 - issue 10/06


Welcome to the October Newsletter.

Some very sad news I’m afraid. Henny Burke passed away on 30 th August after a short illness. Henny was a friend, colleague, teacher & teacher trainer to many, as well as a militant feminist & gay rights advocate. She worked at the British Language Centre in Madrid as DOS & teacher trainer, & was involved in coursebook writing for CUP. It is in the role of teacher trainer that many of the subscribers to this newsletter might know her. Henny contributed the following three articles to Developing, the very first articles to be published on the site:

Listening to the Learners: The Role of the Learner Diary in RSA/UCLES CTEFLA Teaching Practice - Straight from the students' pens - how the learner, the trainee & the tutor can benefit from using learner diaries on pre-service training courses.

Using the In-Service Feedback Session to Actively Promote Teacher Self-Development - A three-phase framework to maximise feedback: post-lesson task, focussing & prescription.

Cultural diversity - Managing Same-Sex Orientation in the Classroom - An interesting talk given at the Madrid TESOL conference 2000 about how gay & lesbian culture is handled in the ELT classroom.

Henny will be very sadly missed by many & our hearts go out to her partner, Carmen.


The site – the Forums are getting many false sign ups through 'spam bot registrations', & this has got to the stage that new members are only being accepted if we are contacted through the contact form at:

A simple message - 'sign up', your email address & a name you would like to use is enough. On receipt of your message we will manually sign you up & send you an email with your password. You will be able to change your password etc when you enter.
At the moment this seems to be the only way round.

This month we’ve got three new articles. Steve Schackne returns with more common sense, this time about the syllabus, & Damian Rivers joins us for the first time with a short article about setting goals. Finally, Cambridge ESOL has sent an article explaining their new service that ‘provides teachers with the basic tools to help and encourage them to take stock of their careers’, through the use of portfolios.

Don’t forget that we run online teacher development courses, personalised & individual courses for every level of teaching experience. Maybe now’s the time to invest in your teaching. To find out more:

Happy teaching!




6. PS - Internet/computer-related links




ELT training in beautiful Switzerland!  Zurich center offers semi/intensive CELTA, CELTYL, YL extension and DELTA courses year round.  Join this globally recognized program with A++ tutors in the heart of Europe.  Housing can be arranged.  Visit for more info or write to teachertraining@flyingteachers .net for an info packet.



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Time to develop your teaching from the comfort of your computer?

The online courses are hosted at one of our sister sites, ( ). The individual, personalised courses develop with the experience, needs & interests of each participant at their own rate.

We use Moodle, an excellent course management system, each course having its own password so only the individual participant plus the trainer can gain access. The central focus on the courses within Moodle is the forum & where there may be three or four different threads going on at the same time. Attached to these are a variety of resources. All are very easy to operate in Moodle. Choose between the full, seven-module course, & an elective four-module course.

For more information, get in touch & check out


The Common Sense Approach: The Flexible Syllabus--Balancing Time and Content by Steve Schackne

The length of language classes varies greatly. I’ve seen classes as short as forty minutes, and I once taught a class that met once a week (Sunday) for 8 hours! That’s right, I flew from Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Taipei, Taiwan every Sunday morning for six weeks to teach an eight-hour class. The norm is usually an hour to an hour and a half, but two- and three-hour classes are not uncommon. Add to this the variable of weekly scheduling and holidays, and you have a wide range of teacher-student contact hours over the course of a semester. At my university, the grid ranges from 80 minutes x 2 to 120 minutes x 2 to 80 minutes x 4. Regardless of the setup, one unwritten rule at most traditional schools is “you teach or engage the students for the whole period.” I disagree with this approach.

In previous articles I have argued for variable teacher-student contact (The Common Sense Approach: How One Teacher Organized a Speaking Course for 200 Chinese Graduate Students) and for progressively reduced teacher-student contact (The Common Sense Approach: Liberate Your ESL Students, Lead Them Out of the Classroom) If a lesson plan consists of introducing language, controlled practice, free/communicative practice, and communication, common sense would dictate that the more minutes spent on practice-communication the better; that is, the quicker you can get students to the stage of communicative practice--real communication, the more students will be able to improve their language.

Communicative activities involve a spontaneity which is unpredictable by nature. The student starts speaking (or writing) and the feedback, immediate or delayed, determines the length of the communicative event. A student writing an essay may find, through teacher feedback and/or editing that a second, third, or even a fourth draft may be necessary. Depending on what each individual student produces, ideas may have to be added, discarded, or re-shaped; structure and language might need minor or major revision. In other words, the process has a time span of its own, resistant to artificial limits set by the teacher or the syllabus. The assignment might last a week or several weeks depending on class schedule and individual progress.

Similarly, speech events, which most often have immediate feedback, can be hard to shape temporally in a syllabus. A student has three minutes to express an opinion, times fifteen students, that takes up forty-five minutes, leaving fifteen minutes for transition (in a one hour class). In reality, an opinion may need to be clarified; an opinion can give rise to a counter opinion which, in turn, may engender a third opinion or, at the very least, vocalize supporters and opponents of the original opinion. The student delivering the message and sitting down within three minutes may fit the confines of the lesson plan, but it is unnatural. The reality is that speech events have time spans of their own dictated by confounding variables such as logic, agreement, clarity, and an evolving reality which can be dependent on each individual utterance. For an example of what I am describing, simply watch a jury deliberation; better yet, watch the movie, 12 Angry Men. It takes place in a jury room during a murder trial—each exchange leads one to view events and realities in a different way, so an open and shut guilty verdict at the beginning evolves into an acquittal at the end.

Syllabuses and lesson plans are great tools, especially for visualizing and organizing a course, but trying to meet the time deadlines in a lockstep fashion can be both unnatural and pedagogically unsound. How many times have we seen teachers rush through a section because of time constraints, with the result that students have an insufficient grasp of the material.

A flexible syllabus makes the most sense and is the most natural approach. I currently walk into each eighty-minute class determined to cover one or two basic concepts, and reinforce them with activities. On some occasions, this is done in sixty minutes—I don't use filler to lengthen the class; the students are free to leave early, question the teacher, or simply reflect on the material. Sometimes, the material can not be completed in the eighty minutes. This most often occurs because of the unpredictable length of language events mentioned earlier, and is often a positive—students have become energized and are questioning, analyzing, re-forming, voicing opinion, and acting in any number of ways that reflect a real communicative situation.

In a course I currently convene, we are using a text with ten units, five planned for each semester. In the first semester, each teacher covered four chapters; in the current semester we have teachers who may cover four or five chapters; we anticipate all teachers to work beyond three chapters, but even that is not a guarantee. It sounds rather disorganized, but it mirrors real communication where digressions, twists, turns, and unpredictability, most often described in applied linguistics as an information gap, determine the time boundaries of a language event.

Getting through an entire syllabus in a set amount of time can often result in students covering material, but not mastering it. The flexible approach recognizes the unpredictability of real language events where students bring a communicative purpose into the classroom, a communicative purpose that will take an indeterminate time to fulfil. And in the end, which is better? Simply covering a 100% of the material or reaching a thorough grasp of 70-80% of the material?

To view the article:


Teaching professionals to take stock with the Cambridge ESOL Teacher Portfolio

Clare Mitchell Crow, Project Manager, Projects Office, Customer Services & Clare Harrison, Subject Officer, Assessment & Operations Group

What counts most in teaching, experience or qualifications? Increasingly, with the changing demands and opportunities in the profession, what really matters is what teachers do with their knowledge, qualifications and experience, their time in the classroom; to what extent they reflect on professional development, pay attention to the ups and downs of everyday experience and make plans to change their approach.

Cambridge ESOL has developed a new service to provide teachers with the basic tools to help and encourage them to take stock of their careers. The Cambridge ESOL Teacher Portfolio is a web based tool that offers teachers a secure personal space to consolidate and document their teaching career. The benefits of this service are that it offers teachers undertaking or teaching our exams a means to record their qualifications, professional development, reflections on their teaching and work experience.

The introduction of the Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) in 2005 was the catalyst for this development. TKT aims to increase teachers' confidence and enhance their job prospects by focusing on the core teaching knowledge needed by teachers of primary, secondary or adult learners, anywhere in the world. Offering an electronic tool in which candidates are able to document and reflect on their teaching practice, while not forming part of the assessment for TKT, was seen as an ideal supporting feature. Initially the Portfolio has been made available to any teachers who have taken, or are taking, one of the Cambridge ESOL Teaching Awards or exams. During the development phase, however, it became apparent that all teachers could benefit from the use of the service, and the aim is to make the Portfolio more generally available.

Electronic portfolios are currently used on an international scale in a wide variety of educational and vocational contexts. Electronic portfolios may be defined as a collection of authentic and diverse digital artefacts, including demonstrations, resources, reflections and accomplishments that represent an individual’s learning and work over time.

Teacher Portfolios

For a practising or prospective teacher, a portfolio offers a means of storing, organising and sharing materials and information related to their teaching in a way which encourages reflection and professional development. A teacher portfolio can be used to store material a teacher and their learners produce. This could include:

* the teacher’s statement of their teaching philosophy;
* a description of their teaching responsibilities and context;
* class profiles;
* lesson materials;
* lesson plans;
* examples of learners’ work;
* learners’ feedback;
* self-reflections on their teaching and/or
* a list of personal goals for improving teaching and enhancing skills.

Feedback the teacher has been given on their teaching after lesson observations or a record of training courses attended can also form part of a teacher portfolio, as well as official documentation, such as certificates, references and employment records.

To view the remainder of the article:


False Hope & Goal Setting In The ESL/EFL Classroom by Damian Rivers

Like many other foreign teachers in Japan I possess an active interest in what motivates students to study English, whether they be High School / University students, housewives or retirees, it can be assumed that all students have motivating factors that prompt them to begin a period of study. Within some demographic populations there are patterns to these factors of motivation. For students enrolled in full-time / compulsory education like those at the High School / University level, English may, and often is, simply a means to an end. A way in which to get from A to C, unfortunately for many of these students to do this requires them to go through B, English. Those students who are not in full-time education and whom freely choose to study may do so for a whole host of reasons. Some of the more common reasons that I have encountered include:

* Desire to travel overseas and communicate in English.
* Better communication with a foreign friend.
* Work related English requirements / Hobby or interest specific English
* Situational English (e.g., at the restaurant, at the station)

I am sure that the average teacher in Japan has heard the above many, many times from students at the beginning of a class. One motivation that surprisingly pops up very often is:

* I want to watch western movies with no subtitles

At this point in the class I usually fall silent and start to comprehend the mountainous task ahead of me in satisfying the students expectations. Teaching (if at all possible) someone to watch a movie with no subtitles is a phenomenal task, especially when the same student is struggling to come to terms with ‘My name is Eriko’. On occasions such as this I begin to wonder how that student can perceive such a goal as being realistic or even attainable in their current mode of study, how can they believe that there are a specific set of transferable skills that when attained would allow someone to watch a typical western movie with no subtitles and understand the complete linguistic, social and cultural content is astounding.

In my experience motivations such as these are not only dangerous but also destructive to the ESL/EFL classroom as they immediately raise the bar of expectation so high that no matter how wonderful the teacher may be, he/she is destined to fail in the shadow of this enormous task. But of course blaming the student is not the solution to this problem.

So, let’s imagine the scene. The first 20 minutes of a new conversation class have passed and now you are considering how best to meet all of the students particular needs during the 3 month course which limits class time to a single hour per week. At this point I would advise you to stop and consider the following before deciding on a particular course of action.

Unrealistic expectations or false hopes have the power to directly effect the students’ motivation to continue with the course of study. Many students are not even aware of their own linguistic boundaries and cannot draw a clear line between unrealistic expectations and realistic expectations. Keller, (1993) looked at the relationship between motivation and student / teacher expectations across four areas of classroom phenomena. These areas consisted of interest, relevance, expectancy and outcome. The most crucial area for the ESL/EFL teacher in Japan in terms of goal setting is relevance. In order for students to maintain a consistent level of interest and motivation in a course or program it is necessary for their personal needs to be satisfied. Keller refereed to these needs as “instrumental needs” which can only be met when the course content matches what the student perceives they should be learning. In a conversation class of mixed ability students coming from different backgrounds finding a common goal is tough. At this point a degree of responsibility must fall on to the teacher, what a student should be learning and what a student wants to learn are usually two very different things. The teacher needs make an acceptable and functional compromise between the students’ needs and their wants. The varying degrees of “personal agenda” displayed by students also serves to emphasize the need for accurate and consensual goals to be set which are accepted and agreed upon by all class members. In addition to such findings Graham (1997) reported in his research that the students would give “the impression of experiencing frustration and disinclination to work to their full capacity when their agenda was felt to be in conflict with the one imposed by the teachers”. He concluded, “motivation depends on students sensing that language activities correspond to what they feel they need to learn, and to the way in which they feel they should learn”.

Whilst the idea of establishing goals in the classroom is becoming clearer, it is also important as Graham, (1997) noted to consider the actual methods in which the classroom material is delivered by the teacher. Some students may have a preference for lecture style teaching whilst some may have a preference for more student-based interaction. Likewise a computer assisted, interactive high content based class would not be the best choice for a group of retirees. The method of teaching should be a key part of any goal setting activity, in this respect it requires a skilled and flexible teacher if all students are to remain satisfied for the duration of the course or program. Students themselves may lack awareness and knowledge of various teaching methods but all students can identify methods which they dislike, for a teacher, obtaining such basic information is of great assistance when deciding just how to teach a class.

So what kind of goals should be set? Setting goals that are easily obtained may temporarily increase self-esteem and satisfaction in students but this constant under stimulation will eventually turn to boredom and frustration. On the other hand if the teacher sets unreachable goals the students will lose interest and frustration will again take over the classroom. A goal should strike a balance between being too easy and too difficult. Biggs & Moore, (1993) stated that when a teacher comes to the process of setting classroom goals with the students the “Goals should be specific, hard but achievable, accepted by the students and accompanied by feedback”. In those cases where all students do not meet the set goals it is important to provide feedback to those students to reinforce the fact that they are still ‘a part of the group’ and that failure does not mean exclusion, in cases of constant failure the goals of that individual need to be reassessed and shaped to their current ability level.

In conclusion I would advise all ESL/EFL teachers to at least consider the below points when beginning a new class:

* Language goals need to be S.M.A.R.T: (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely)
* Goals must be shaped around the abilities of the students.
* Students need to identify the strategies which they will use to achieve their goals, they should create an objective plan and follow it through.
* Student goals should be dynamic and have the ability to change according to student progression, the goals should be monitored and refined as often as possible.

If the teacher works in tandem with the students in setting goals, refining those goals, overcoming barriers and measuring student achievement, the English language classroom can become a place of intense satisfaction for all involved, including the teacher.

To view the article:


Thanks to Steve, Damian & Cambridge ESOL.


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At Developing we occasionally carry out consultancy work. The different projects have included tutoring DELTA candidates by email, offering advice on curriculum design & materials choice & short training courses in person & by email. If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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‘Short Story Radio, the internet radio station for English language short stories from around the world. You can listen to our short stories free of charge from this website. For a message, please click the "launch radio player" link above. You can enjoy our stories directly from your computer while you are surfing the net, doing your paperwork, cleaning your bedroom or office…or just sitting back and relaxing.’
’Articles on ELT methodology aimed at teachers in a wide variety of teaching situations, and of particular interest to teachers in training. Written as a blog, the site hopes readers will participate with comments and maybe even submit articles of their own.’
Teaching English in a Mobile and Networked World
Discussion list of the Global (World) Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG) of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).

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.



A few days to plan your lessons around in October:

3 rd - Reunification Day in Germany
5 th - World Teacher's Day
9 th - John Lennon's birthday
10 th - World Mental Health Day
12 th - Columbus Day
24 th - United Nations Day
29 th - Internet First Created - 1969
31 st - Halloween

Nobel Prizes

To see the list of Days:

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

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There’s a new review up on the site of ‘Global Issues’ by Ricardo Sampedro

& Susan Hillyard (OUP- Resource Books for Teachers). An excerpt from the introduction to the book:

‘Research among 11-16 year olds indicates that over 80 per cent are interested in Global Issues and feel they should learn about them at school (MORI 1998, for the Development Education Association). Social, economic, health, and environmental concerns, all Global Issues themselves, increasingly affect our lives. Every new natural disaster that results from human activity, every new war waged, and every new globalization-related problem that condemns millions to a new dose of suffering and poverty impinges upon us.

There is increasing interest in Global Issues among the teaching community world-wide. Both of the major international English teachers associations have established sections focusing on them: the IATEFL Global Issues Special Interest Group and the TESOL Social Responsibility Caucus. Local organizations such as the Japan Association of Language Teachers have also founded Global Issues interest groups. This points to a new direction in language teaching.’

To read the review:

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

Recent Tips have included:

Frightening messages – lesson ideas
Scotland Yard – lesson ideas
Warming to phonology 1 – pronunciation warmers, coolers & fillers
Accufluent – the speaking skill & accuracy & fluency
http – lesson material
Discreetly integrative – testing techniques

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6. PS – General 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
Impressive views from a model plane, all without leaving the ground.
Do your word processing online.
Clever advertising.
Strange new products.
Can your dog play ‘Simon Says’?
Free high-resolution widescreen wallpaper.
‘Tech & gadgets from a girl’s perspective.’
Check out your internet speed – very nicely done.
Tech info.
NY Public Library digital gallery.
‘It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Even with a thousand words, how do you describe the look in a Mother's eye who does not know how she will feed her children, or the look on the face of a paratrooper minutes before the D-day invasion. The simple answer is that there are some stories that can only be told with pictures. This site is dedicated to those stories, and those pictures.’
Harvard Loeb Music Library.
Which Super Hero are you?
The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Create your own historic tale.
Lots of things to keep you amused – start with ‘Fluffy the Penguin Goes Skiing’.
Fly swatter.
God’s playing field game – move your mouse in & out & click.
Helicopter game again.

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