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Teaching Tips 72

A teacher is...
A time & a place


It is World Teachers' Day on 5th October - a UNESCO promoted appreciation of teachers worldwide. Here is their pat on the back message:

On World Teachers’ Day, and on any other day for that matter, the basic message that a teacher needs to receive is quite simple. “We appreciate you”.

That message cannot be repeated often enough, by those of us in the United Nations family and by those who interact with you every day.

We highly appreciate you having chosen this profession, one so fundamental to society, and the fact that you continue in it, despite – and often because of – the challenges you face. We value the initiatives you take in opening doors of knowledge and tolerance for each girl and boy. We are aware of what your profession demands of you, of your responsibilities and of your rights. We acknowledge the difficulty of your task, and the fact that it takes professional training and a decent work environment to teach well. We appreciate the care you take to direct your knowledge at children with special needs, and your awareness that all students have individual needs. We value your ability, developed through training and experience, to listen to your students and to shift the responsibility of being a learner from your shoulders to theirs.

In sum, we appreciate you, and we call upon parents, community leaders, business people, trade unions and government officials, especially educational authorities, to find a way, this World Teachers’ Day, to tell you just that, in their own words and in their own way.

- Koïchiro Matsuura, Directo-General, UNESCO
- Juan Somavia, Director General, ILO
- MarkMalloch Brown, Administrator, UNDP
- Carol Bellamy, executive Director, UNICEF


UNESCO have started a teacher education site:

All can be found from the UNESCO Education page:


On to this week's Tip - Among the many roles that we carry out in class, one of the most interesting is that of 'monitor'. We monitor all the time & here we are concerned with monitoring oral activities. This is when we can assess our students' performance in relation to general progress or recent language & skills development. Learning doesn't develop in a straight line & neither can it be programmed so monitoring throws up surprises all the time.

One of the problems I hear quite a lot is that the teacher can't hear all of the students. With ten students in the class, if you position yourself in the middle of the class, you can usually hone in & out of the different conversations. For larger classes, you clearly need to get around & sit in different places in the room. Try to be unobtrusive & site near several pairs or groups & hone in & out so that one group doesn't feel you are just listening to them.

Do you sit in front of the students or can you get round the back, behind the students? The less obtrusive the better, so round the back & out of the line of sight would be generally better.

If during the controlled practice activity the students are making mistakes with the target language, get in there & correct so that it is an accuracy based activity. For some correction techniques: Getting it right at the beginning

And when monitoring the freer activity, what do you do when a student asks you a question as an aside, or stops the group activity to ask you a question? This depends on the activity but before the task, explain your role so that questions might be kept until the end. Get the students to take notes while they are involved on things that they wanted to say but couldn't. You can then attend to these after the activity.

While monitoring freer activities, take notes on their output for future correction & teaching. Some teachers write down everything they hear & analyse it later as they feel it is the only way to do justice to the students' output. Others note down mistakes & use these for correction after the task or feed ideas from this into future lessons.

And then there is the idea of students monitoring each other. All could be monitoring or one in each group could be given the task & at the end feeds back on observations of language or strategies used.

With large groups of younger learners it can get out of hand if they either finish the task or become bored & start playing around while you are monitoring on the other side of the room. Keep any eye on the class as a whole a dot around more frequently, being more obtrusive than in an adult class. The election of a group representative can also help keep the group on track.

And then there is the opportunity for micro-teaching when monitoring any kind of pair or group work. It all depends on your aim for the activity & what happens at the time.

What do you think? If you have any more techniques or tips on monitoring please post for all to use in the Forums.


The teacher is...
As a continuation of last week's Tip, here's an article I came across this week from the Rockford Register Star:

The key to a good teacher: listen, respect and learn

Barbour Language Academy teacher Teresa Turner's students aren't the only ones learning from her.

Picked this week by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the nation's top 51 teachers, Turner is a shining example for others in her profession. The public should be inspired, too, by the skill and dedication someone at the pinnacle of her art brings to the work.

TURNER IS ELOQUENT in expressing her philosophy about how she does what she does:

"Bottom line, you have to respect the kids. You have to respect their families. You have to respect where they come from. You have to adapt to kids coming to your room. It can't be your way; it has to be theirs. You are learning things, but you aren't the principal learner -- it's the child."

The concept would seem to be obvious and so simple, yet the shift in perspective that puts children at the center of the education process is one that other good teachers also recognize and mention. They all mention a child-focused attitude or belief that, they say, makes all the difference.

The Rockford Register Star profiles two area teachers today whose students all met state standards in math on standardized tests. The goal, of course, might be 100 percent success in every class, but reaching that mark is still rather unusual for a number of reasons.

Several other area teachers, including four at King Elementary School, Rockford's gifted academy, also hit the mark. There may be more.

THE TWO FEATURED teachers talk about their strategies. Janice Butitta teaches at Lewis Lemon Global Studies Academy, where 75 percent of the students come from homes with incomes low enough to qualify the children for reduced-price lunches.

Butitta says part of getting good results is expecting them. "You have to believe they can pass. They all have the capacity," she said. Sometimes learning is hard work, she said. Everything can't be "fufu" or fluff. She gets her students to understand that the best reward is achievement.

"It's exciting for them to think and come up with the answers," she said.

At Creston Elementary School, in a tiny farming town an hour south of Rockford, Tina Samo quickly dispels the notion that she is the magic ingredient in her students' success.

SHE IS SKILLED and dedicated, however. She attends lots of classes to improve her teaching. She minimizes or maximizes textbook use based on how well the material teaches state standards. She supplements the curriculum where she thinks necessary to get her students up to snuff.

She and other teachers in the building work together to make sure children are ready for the next grade. And she's not afraid to borrow good ideas from other successful educators.

Like Butitta, she expects students to do well: "Kids will live up to and down to your expectations," Samo said.

And that has to do with teachers' attitudes, not the students'.

As Turner of Barbour and the others so eloquently remind us: It's all about the children.


It is John Lennon's birthday on 9th October. For a lesson plan:

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A teacher is...

I'm sure we'd all like to be 'good/effective' teachers - what do you think of this list of attributes?

The effective teacher;

  • likes people & working with people.
  • is professional.
  • is organised.
  • researches & tries to know as much as possible about what is being developed & taught.
  • can organise people.
  • can motivate people.
  • uses the power of the teacher with care.
  • can foster relationships between the people in the group.
  • is capable of becoming part of the group.
  • is flexible.
  • is empathetic.
  • is patient & considerate.
  • is realistic about progress, realising that it is not always (usually?) what is taught that is what is being 'learnt'.
  • is human, makes mistakes & has off days, & admits this.
  • is interested in doing a better job. Reading, research & development are considered essential on-going ingredients.

So which do you think are the most important? Can you narrow the list down to three or four of the most important? Do you think all of these apply to you? Are there any that you could develop much more yourself?Trying to be an effective teacher means trying to continuously develop the different areas touched upon in the list above.


It's the European Day of Languages on 26th September. Last year at this time we had a Tip on this:
European Day of Languages

Lots of teaching ideas & links.

Scotland Yard began in September 1828 - a couple of links to material:
Stories from the Yard:
Metropolitan Police site:

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A time & a place

On initial training courses, trainees are told that correction of oral errors & mistakes should be corrected during the activity in controlled practice tasks where the attention is more on form & after the activity in the freer tasks so as not to interrupt the flow & allow for attention to be given to meaning & less to form. OK, fair enough but what about at other times in the lesson? And what about the students themselves who probably want more correction than they're getting. They may feel that this is what they are paying for after all.

So, if you are going to correct at other times, when will this be & what criteria are you going to use for deciding what to correct?

Any time is probably a good time, so long as it isn't distracting from the current task. If it's an aside to an individual, you could leave it at that. It would be very intrusive to stop everyone while on-task to explain a correction.

If dealing with the whole class, it may be worth correcting if you feel that the mistake is something that the student should be able to get right or something that all may benefit from a short focus on the point.

It does tend to be in the feedback stages when students are reporting answers, solutions & outcomes that problems occur. You don't want to stifle them so they feel reticent about contributing but at the same time they do expect correction & may well wonder why you let certain things go from other students. This is a case, once again, of talking to the students about correction; your criteria & their feelings about correction. You will quickly come to a consensus & they will be comfortable with you leaving mistakes, or picking up on them & delaying them a bit.

Here are a couple of other Tips related to correction:

Where to stick the grocer's apostrophe

Getting it right at the beginning

Correction Triangles

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