A web site for the developing language teacher

December 2000 - issue 12/00


Welcome to the Newsletter.

The Xmas Draw is underway & we've received some great ideas but still keep them coming. There will be a draw for the prize of a box of cuisenaire rods. What? You didn't know about it! Have a look below about what's involved - there's one of the activities sent in as well.

As we are on the subject of cuisenaire rods we thought we might as well make it the subject of the theme this month. There are lots of ideas below with a link to an illustrative page on the site. There is also an excellent accompanying article written by our Silent Wayfarer in Barcelona, Tim Hahn.

The Christmas break is looming, the season of goodwill, so this month we thought we'd supply some more charity links. These involve free click sites & require the minimum of effort - so there's no excuse!

We're offering a 30% discount on the e-mail courses for the duration of December. This discount is for those that sign up for all of the eleven modules.

If you're looking for a teacher, don't forget our free jobs' page - mail us on the address below.

Contributions & suggestions are very welcome.

Happy teaching! Happy Christmas!

Please tell a friend about Developing Thanks.





THEME - Cuisenaire rods

These are small blocks of wood (or plastic) of varying lengths & each length has a different colour. Originally invented by Georges Cuisenaire, who was a Belgian primary school teacher, for the teaching of mathematics - his book 'Les Nombres en Couleurs' was published in 1952. He met Caleb Gattegno, the founder of the Silent Way, in 1953 & Gattegno realised that the use of cuisenaire rods combined discovery learning & language & were ideal for teaching of languages.

The rods are still widely used in the teaching of maths with a lot of information on the Net explaining how to use them. Unfortunately there isn't much information at large for language teaching.

Tim Hahn is a Silent Way specialist & he has contributed an article titled 'The Cuisenaire Rods and Silence' & looks at how the cuisenaire rods can be used to create a productive & stimulating silence. Tim has been involved in Silent Way teaching for many years & is currently based in Barcelona. He has co-authored several coursebooks for secondary and adult students and is a contributor to a number of professional magazines. He is closely associated with Pilgrims and has led training courses for them and for the British Council in the UK, and throughout Spain and eastern Europe. He is involved in freelance teacher training. Tim can be contacted on

To a lesson plan that incorporates the rods

Below are some ideas on using the cuisenaire rods. Some of them are illustrated here on the site.

Introduce them them bit by bit - get your stds used to them so at first don't ask them to do anything too taxing with the rods. Have them at hand & use them for short activities.

To teach literal representations - 'rod' & the different colours - & use these as an aid to teach other things such as prepositions of place: 'Put the red rod in front of/behind/on the blue rod. Or imperatives & one/s: ' Pick up the white rod, put down the rod one, put the green ones to one side etc..'

To highlight comparative & superlative adjectives: Which is taller; the red one or the blue one? And which is the shortest, tallest, brightest, dullest, more interesting, most boring, etc.'

For storytelling: choose any narrative & the rods represent the different things such as roads, trees, people, shops, -- whatever you want them to be they will be invested with a magical meaning.

For previewing a reading article. If you've got a tricky reading or listening article coming up in the coursebook, then tell the story of what happens before they listen/read so that the load is a lot lighter when they come to the text.

For representing just about anything - relatives & friends: stds are asked to take 7/8 rods & decide which relative or friend each rod represents & then tell a partner about them - you'll find that they pick them up & demonstrate with them, making the activity much more interesting - there is a real focus. The same could be used for talking about the area the stds live in, describing their company, colleagues etc.

For dictations: the teacher creates a scene with the rods, which the stds cannot see, & then describes the scene & the stds re-create the scene with their rods. At the end they compare with your scene to see if it is similar. The stds do the same with each other.

For memory tests to review a lexical area e.g. animals - take a rod & ask which animal it represents, put it down & then get a different coloured rod & elicit another animal, put it down & recap on the first & second rods - carry on with the ten different colours so that you have ten animals represented - don't forget to keep recapping as you go along. When all ten are out ask the stds to close their eyes & tasks 2 or 3 away, they open their eyes & tell you which animals have gone. Can be done with any related vocabulary.

For graphs: use a long rod for each axis & the others to represent trends which could come from a text or you could be looking at the language of trends - going up slowly, coming down, peaking off etc.

For telling the time: a long rod & a short one is all you need to represent the clock - use this to present the time & then give the stds a couple of rods each & they test each other - 'Could you tell me the time please? It's five o'clock Thanks'

For clarifying meaning: e.g. present & past deduction- it must/can't/might/ be behind the red/green one.

For clarifying form: the present simple affirmative, negative & question form e.g. I / get up / at /seven./ - / I / do/ not / get up / at / eight/ - What time / do / you / get up?/ Each section has a colour, lay out each utterence using the rods & the stds can see at a glance what is happening to the word order. Good also for the active/passive voices.

Directions: make a street map with the rods & use this to teach directions - turn right/left/around, go straight on etc - & if you've got a small toy car to use with it as well..

Correction awareness: For those stds who want to be corrected all the time, give each a red, green & orange rod. If they want to be corrected they put out a green rod, if they don't want correcting they put out the red one & if they want correcting at the teacher's discretion they put the orange one out - just like the traffic lights. They usually begin with green, get fed up & go to red, get fed up & end up on orange - which is what you wanted all along! See the correction triangle Teaching Tip

To use when listening a non-linguistic task e.g. for an extensive task with a difficult text they could simply use the rods - when they hear speaker A they put the rod standing up & for speaker B they lay the rod down. Or they could choose the rod that represents X.

For representing meaning: timelines & tense clarification lend themselves very much to the rods. A long rod represents the horizontal left to right time frame & the other rods can be placed to represent states, habits & events.

For clarifying phonological aspects: lots of uses here from sounds to intonation. e.g. for awareness of rhythm & stress teach the group a nursery rhyme, you will need all of the rods of two colours, & lay out the rods according to the stressed & unstressed syllable. There's an example on the illustration page & we've also put in a page of nursery rhymes, with their corresponding rod representation over in the phonology section.

For grouping stds: ask the stds to pick a colour & when all have got one they sit beside the person with the same colour. As tokens for ensuring all speak: all have ten rods & when they speak they discard a rod & when they have discarded all ten they cannot carry on in the conversation. Allows the quieter less assertive stds to have a chance.

They can be used as tokens in other activities too e.g. in a bargaining roleplay where the rods represent different things.

Apart from planning specific activities that use the rods, take a box with you into each lesson & you'll soon realise how many uses will occur to you.

If you'd like to get a box of rods, Educational Solutions will be pleased to help you out. You can contact Mike Hollyfield on . They have a web site at & they offer a small carry around set plus a bigger international set.

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Send your questions about teaching to us. Anything from classroom management problems through to grammar problems.



As mentioned above, there is a 30% discount for those signing up for a full course - all 11 modules - during the month of December only. Maximise your time over the break by getting started on a quality personalised teacher development course. To check it out.

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Christmas nearly being here gives me the chance to repeat some & pass on some new sites where you can make a donation for free just by clicking your mouse. It costs you nothing as it's all done through sponsorship. Companies donate a very small amount to the cause for every click that is made. So, the charity gets a donation, you get to feel good & the companies get the exposure! Make one of these sites your browser start page & put them at the top of your favourites/bookmarks.
Here you can play the debt-onator - shoot the chains (of debt) as they try to circle the world - an impossible task! - before going round to click a donation.
Entitled a Robin Hood linking page, this page give links to lots of free donations through clicking sites.
After you've clicked to on all of the above, get over to the site devoted to M.C. Escher - the artist who drew the optical illusions - the hands in a circle, the water tower that seemingly keeps going up etc There's also an interactive puzzle to download (350Kb) - for those lost times over the Xmas break!
From the 'Quotes Page':
"The things I want to express are so beautiful and pure"
"So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part at the stars; amen"
This site comes from CNN and Turner Learning. There are two sections - for the student & for the teacher. It is designed for mainstream secondary education but there's a lot of current affairs material there that language teachers can use. The lesson plans, based on CNN articles, for the teacher can be easily adapted. Worth a look.
This is a very useful site if you are after any kind of information about the people, geography, government & economies of hundreds of different countries. All care of the CIA World Factbook!
This is a great source of information. Lots of up-to-date facts & statistics about anything you should need. (Information Please comes from the quiz show of the same name that was on NBC from '38-52.)
This is the kind of site that you never have bookmarked when you need it. There is a huge database of acronyms & abbreviations to search through.

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A box of cuisenaire rods could be yours! Or look at it another way - the season of goodwill & sharing - let others in on your favourite Christmas classroom activities. It has to be connected to Christmas - a warmer activity, a roleplay, a lesson plan ..Mid-December I shall send you all a short e-mail with the link on the site to where you can find the full activity list that has been sent in.

So get onto it & send to
Put your name somewhere in the E-mail.

Cindy Dominick sent the following in:
'I teach Japanese students and most of my lessons are private rather than group. One favorite Christmas idea has been that they choose some kind of Origami project that we can make as a Christmas decoration. The trick is that they cannot show me how to fold the paper but must give me all verbal instructions. They usually find out a week in advance so that they can write their instructions and we do it the following week. I follow their instructions to the letter and correct when I need to along the way. It always is a lot of fun and makes for a light-hearted lesson during the busy Holiday season!'



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

Full-time four-week courses: January, February, March
Twelve week part-time course: January to April

Full-time eight-week courses: January & March, April & May, July & August

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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8. PS
A couple of newsletters ago I recommended the personal firewall from Zone Labs - Zone Alarm at I've been very happy with it but I've heard about another free firewall. This is the 'Tiny Personal Firewall' from the computer company Tiny & seems to have all you need as well.
A firewall is supposed to make you invisible when you're surfing the net. Another function is that it tells you when a programme on your computer is 'phoning home' i.e. sending some information back to the programmer. This is usually harmless information but the trouble is you never really know. If you want to find the programmes that are trying to send information out - the 'spyware' - you could download Ad-Aware. This programme finds the spyware &, if you tell it to, deletes it for you too.
When I first started out with computers & the internet I was lucky to have Gerard to sort me out. There were times when I didn't know what I would have done without the advice. I very much sympathise with those starting out now without a 'Gerard' handy. For example, everyone is on about the latest download. Sounds great but how do you actually go about downloading a programme. The above address gives the newcomer an explanation on the different kinds of downloads.
When you've sussed out the downloading situation, get on down to DownLinX & download all you need. You'll find over 40.000 programmes on their books under a dozen headings.
Another area of confusion is 'zipping'. I use the universally WinZip - but now there is an alternative called Power Archiver & it's free, easy to use & contains just about everything that WinZip does. Worth investigating if you're after a compression programme.
'A modern culmination of unique fonts on the net', they say. And loads of links to other font sites.

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