February 2005 - issue 2/05
DEVELOPING TEACHERS.COM NEWSLETTER
Welcome to the February Newsletter.
Spotted in a recent edition of Private Eye's 'Funny Old World'
"As a blind man, I'm used to discrimination," Yvan Tessier told
reporters at the University of New Brunswick, "bit I never
expected to encounter it here. I asked to enrol on the
university's intensive English language course, And was all ready
to start, when I was suddenly told that I'd been rejected. Why?
Because Pavorotti, my guide dog, only understands French."
University spokesperson Susan Mesheau defended the decision,
saying that "it's essential on these courses that all
communication is in English. And Mr Tessier has admitted that his
dog only understands French. With enough notice, we could
probably have trained the dog to learn some English commands, and
once it was bilingual, its master could then have taken the
English course. We've done that before. But until the dog is
trained, Mr Tessier cannot enrol here, unless he leaves it at
But Mr Tessier has vowed to lodge a human rights complaint
against the university, saying "this is prejudice against me and
Pavarotti. I have about twenty commands that I give him in
French, and he understands those perfectly well, so why should he
have to learn English? Anyway, when I'm in a class or a
discussion, I hardly ever talk to him, so why have I been
(Originally published in Canada East, August 2004)
Feel good about your grammar? Take the tests:
From the Blue Book of Grammar & Punctuation - a grammar mastery
Punctuation and capitalization mastery test.
Talking of grammar, Philip Pullman wrote an article in the
Guardian on 22nd January about the way the UK government proposes
to tackle grammar in primary schools. See what you think 'Common
sense has much to learn from moonshine':
BTW, if you don't known them, Philip Pullman's 'His Dark
Materials' trilogy is an incredible read.
We've got some free GMail accounts to give away - if interested,
get in touch.
1. THE SITE
3. TEACHING LINKS
4. DAYS OF THE MONTH
5. BOOK REVIEW
6. WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
7. PS - Internet/computer-related links
8. THE BIT AT THE END
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1. THE SITE - ARTICLES
Teachers' Perceptions of Learner Difficulty in Vocabulary
Learning by Craig Smith and Akira Tajino
Perspectives on Learner Difficulty
Teachers’ perceptions of learner difficulty (TPLD) in learning
EFL vocabulary may influence lesson planning decisions and
teachers’ feedback to learners on their performance in learning
tasks; and thus, learners’ own perceptions of difficulty.
Tajino’s review of the SLA literature (1997) reveals that
difficulty has often been viewed from a product-oriented
perspective: difficulty leads to error, and error adequately
reflects difficulty. However, a dominant focus on apparent error
or success may pre-empt efforts to understand how students arrive
at points on a continuum of failure or success. In vocabulary
learning, in particular, it is difficult to measure word
knowledge (Read , 2000 ; Nation , 2001) and thus, teachers need
to pay attention to vocabulary learning processes. A product-oriented view may not dominate vocabulary acquisition research in
coming years because a growing general acceptance of the complex
nature of word knowledge (Richards, 1976; Nation , 2001), of the
key role of the influences of the L1 lexicon (Laufer, 1997; Swan,
1997), and also, of the incremental nature of vocabulary learning
(Schmitt, 1997) will likely lead to greater interest in the
process of vocabulary learning. Both product-oriented and
process-oriented views of difficulty in vocabulary learning would
contribute to a better understanding of how teachers can support
their students as they learn vocabulary. Attempts at objective
speculations of difficulty issues need to be balanced by
recognition that individuals may view difficulty in highly
personal ways. Corder’s view (1973: 226) that difficulty is “a
matter of subjective judgment” remains largely unexamined in
vocabulary learning research. Research in the field of social
psychology provides some insight on the significance of
individual perception of difficulty. Attribution theory (Weiner,
1980; Hewstone, 1989) argues that the way we attribute the cause
of difficulty can be a motivational factor because perceived
difficulty can affect the process of L2 teaching and learning
(Horowitz, 1987; Tajino , 1997; Dornyei and Schmidt, 2001).
Explorations of teachers’ and students’ views of difficulty may
provide insights that could help sustain teachers’ and students’
motivation over the long periods of time required to build second
language vocabulary. This paper reports a study of how upper
secondary school teachers view the difficulties their learners
have learning new words.
To view the article
Adult first-time readers in a second language Martha Young-
Is there a critical period for learning to read?
Unschooled adult refugees are often resettled in countries where
survival depends on oral proficiency and literacy in a second
language (L2). Development of reading is slow; as Strucker and
Davidson (in press) note for low-literate Spanish speakers, weak
decoding skills persist even for those with an average of 6 1/2
years' native language (NL) schooling. Are adults are too old?
While language develops with mere exposure to appropriate input
for all young members of the species within a specific time span
(Lenneberg's 1967 critical period hypothesis), mere exposure to
printed text is rarely sufficient for reading. If it does not
emerge naturally, is there a critical period? A dearth of
evidence precludes an answer to this question. While much is
known about children's reading development, closing the research
gap in post-puberty first-time literacy should be a priority,
given connections between low literacy and income for L2 adults
Phonological awareness and learning to read
Considerable research links children's development of reading to awareness/manipulation of phonological units. Initial awareness
emerges naturally, with pre-school children becoming aware of
increasingly smaller units, from word to syllable to onset to
rhyme. Only through learning to read in an alphabetic script does
the child become aware of phonemes and grasp the (alphabetic)
principle that graphemes correspond with segments (e.g. Goswami &
Bryant 1990). If no critical period exists, adult first-time
readers should show awareness of word, syllable, onset and rhyme
prior to instruction, and awareness of phonemes as they learn to
read. In groundbreaking work on adult Portuguese first-time NL
readers, Morais et al. (1988) found that prior to instruction,
awareness of units larger than the phoneme existed, but phonemic
awareness emerged only with training. Robson (1982) arrives at
similar conclusions for adult Hmong refugees: alphabetic literacy
rather than education per se led to L2 reading progress. For
learners with some schooling, language proficiency seems to be a
factor determining at what point NL reading skills transfer
(Bernhardt and Kamil's 1995 language threshold).
To view the article
Philosophy of EFL management - a personal view by Piotr
'There is nothing more than the heart and the mind involved in
the continuous development of ourselves and the environment
My philosophy of EFL management presented in this short article
aims not only to show the way of managing the EFL colleges in the
micro world where English becomes a Lingua Franca, but also to
help my teacher colleagues and managers to find the right balance
between the mind and the heart in making decisions and through
that also develop as managers. There are two perspectives
analysed within my research: macro and micro. Macro from the
global EFL perspective based on the EFL institutions which I
could personally approach, hence considered micro from the
individual teacher, trainer, manager and student perspective.
Here one could ask a couple of questions:
1. What is EFL management?'
2. What are the essentials of EFL management?
Whereas managers in the commercial world receive their training
at institutions for management, most EFL managers are teachers of
English and all their knowledge and experience is based on
academic and practical "tools" of teaching and managing the
groups during their linguistic studies. Teachers of English have
to become language institution architects who are knowledgeable
not only about the methodology of teaching but about all other
aspects consolidating the whole system.
The analogy of an architect can be used here. The architect
designing a house puts his logical and mathematical intelligence
into creating a project. That type of intelligence enables
individuals to use and appreciate abstract relations, including
facility in the use of numbers and logical thinking. This
intelligence is not only about numerical reasoning but, as the
name implies, includes logical reasoning abilities that might not
involve numbers at all and that can be called 'the mind'. The
symbolic architect uses also his spatial intelligence to recreate
visual images from memory that could be called 'the heart'. 'The
heart' because the visual images from memory carry their
emotional load deeply coded in the individual's subconscious
mind. Therefore, if he makes a mistake in both cases the whole
structure of the building can collapse and many would suffer or
the overall image of the building may destroy the unity of the
natural surrounding of the considered place and cause harm to
people's esthetical perception of the world.
The same situation can be observed in the following situation:
the EFL anager's decisions influence his school directors,
teachers, secretarial work and all publicity. So, harm can be
done not only in terms of the syllabus, teaching methods and
placement of students on the right level (what is represented
here by the mind) but also the college atmosphere like relation
between teachers and students, teachers and directors, all staff
members, new comers and so on, here called the heart. And even
the most idyllic system, unless cared for, can be destroyed in
the course of time by the nature of ongoing change within.
To view the article
Thanks to Akira, Craig, Martha & Piotr
There is a pre-intermediate lesson plan around a text 'Ukrainian
hasn't slept in 20 years'
To give intensive & extensive reading practice
To introduce vocab connected to the lexical set of sleep
To review comparatives & superlatives, used to, direct & indirect
speech in news reports..........
To give freer speaking practice
Other aims depending on language focus & follow up...
To view the plan
ARTICLES - If you've given a course or seminar or have a lesson
plan & would like to give it a public airing, do 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 1500+ unique visitors a day to the
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TO GET IN TOUCH
To the index
No ordinary Master's: become an action researcher with Aston
University's MSc in TESOL Aston University Language Studies Unit:
A few recent Forum postings:
I teach Adult ESOL with hispanic immigrants and refugees. I have
noticed that many students in many different classes resist
promotion. They are comfortable with the teacher, and have gained
a sense of community with the class. I want to know any ideas or
resources people can point me to on how to make that transition
easier. My class does not promote based on a schedule or a test,
it is based on when the teacher thinks the student is ready. This
makes it a bit harder than an "automatic" move due to passing a
test or scheduling.
Things I currently do:
1) Ask students to try the next class for a day or a week. They
usually like the class and agree to stay!
2) I tell students that I will check in with them. I am not just
abandoning them, and that they can alway come say hello to me. I
then check in with the student the first few days in the new
class, and then about a week later.
3) I demonstrate that lifting weights with a pen is useless,
because the pen is not heavy enough to help me develop any
muscles. I then point out that when this class becomes too easy,
it is time to move to the next class.
4) I ask the student if they understand everything I say, if they
say yes, I smile and say it's time for them to move. (I teach
Level 1, and if they can understand what I say, it's time for
them to move.)
5) I hold up the 3 papers that are the core of my class,
(alphabet, name-address-phone, and word family reading) and tell
them that this is what we are doing in the coming month. If those
papers are easy, they often agree to move.
6) We announce and celebrate promotions at our all-school parties
every 2 months.
I think that community in the classroom is very important, and I
work very hard to achieve it. I feel total confidence in my
students abilities to succeed in the next class, or I wouldn't
want to move them. I try to be sensitive yet firm. I just hate
seeing my students feeling fear and worry. Any ideas? Books?
Articles? Similar experiences?
One of my students has asked me recently about the English word
for a device/machine that joins two pieces of paper together by
applying heat and pressure. Is the word 'welder' the right answer
or is it connected only with metals? What happens when material
we use is plastic? Is it the same name in all these three cases?
I would appreciate your help on this matter. Thank you.
Mr G. is searching for books:
I have a group of young learners that have been with us for some
time. Very happy. They have gone through the all Chatterbox books
(up to book 5) Shocked. They are not old enough to start the
adult books yet (11/12 years old). So I need help to find a good
book for them. Could anyone HELP me Idea !!! Thanks
Nedra provides ideas of using the material in the Weekly Teaching
Tip 'metrosexual paraskevidekatriaphobia...
William Tweedie gives us his ideas:
It's time for The PRIME Approach(c) - The following provides the
reader with a brief outline of the principles, theory, and
implications for practical application of the PRIME Approach. A
thorough presentation of the approach will be forthcoming in the
book: PRIME Communication in English - A Modern Approach to
Facilitating the Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language for
Young Adult and Adult Students.
William is also looking for job opportunities:
We need 50 teachers who have official Teaching Certificate:
Qualified teachers for government Elementary and High School!! We
would welcome applications from experienced, returning or newly
qualified teachers!! A fantastic opportunity for you to share
your skills with our learners in any of the College and
University positions we have open for 2005 all around Taiwan,
like Taipei, HsinChu, Tainan, Taichung, and many other locations.
High quality teaching is a significant feature of any of our
Colleges and Universities.
Video Conferenced Author/Illustrator Visits - For 10 years,
Author/Computer Illustrator, Bill Dallas Lewis was invited into
more than 600 schools around the planet to show teachers and
students the writing process and computer graphics magic. For ten
years, Bill would lug all of his computer equipment from school
to school, from state to state. Scheduling was complex. Now, Bill
offers his visits via video conferencing.
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.
To the index
SiteSkimmer.com is the website that helps you enjoy your internet
experience. We provide you with sites to visit - not just any old
site, but sites worthy of your time. There are so many web sites
that the internet can often feel overwhelming so more often than
not it is just too much work to look for new interesting sites.
SiteSkimmer.com takes the work out of surfing the net because we
have already been there. We siteskim the net to bring you sites
worthy of visiting. This selective sufing cuts down on wasted
time & also avoids stumbling across the more unsavoury side of
the internet. The SiteSkimmer Linkletter is sent by email every
two weeks in text format.
All you need to do is sign up & wait for the next issue of the
SiteSkimmer linkletter to enjoy the net. To sign up for the free
3. TEACHING LINKS
If you need information for a debate or discussion, here you can
find a host of interesting topics, each containing the context,
pros & cons, motions, useful sites, useful books, theme &
'Breaking News English Daily - Breaking news lessons for ESL -
Free and 100% photocopiable. Still-hot lessons and plans with
over 20 communicative ideas per lesson. Saves planning, and
energizes classrooms, teachers and students. As the news breaks,
Sally Jennings' Speak-Read-Write site.
To the index
4. DAYS OF THE MONTH
Some days to plan your lessons around in February:
2nd Groundhog Day
14th Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day lesson plan - A Love Story:
Ideas on love & romance as a classroom theme in a past tip:
To see the Days of the Year:
Some holiday origins.
To the index
5. BOOK REVIEW
This month we've got a brief review by Jake Haymes of 'Language
Activities for Teenagers' by Seth Lindstromberg (CUP). Here's how
This book, part of the Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers
series, is aimed at teachers of students aged between 11-16. Many
of the 99 activities include suggested variations so the teacher
really is presented with a lot of options. In the introduction,
Lindstromberg recognises the realities and potential challenges
of teaching this age group - poorly motivated students and large,
mixed ability groups. Solutions to these problems are offered
throughout. The editor also points out that the vast majority of
students in this age range are learning English in an L1
community and, as a result, will not have much opportunity to
express themselves in the language outside of the classroom in
the near future. He states that 'poorly motivated students are
rarely persuadable by such arguments as This will all be very
useful to you one day.' Therefore, the activities selected aim to
motivate learners by being intrinsically interesting and varied.
Most of the tasks outlined have clearly achievable goals, require
more than just producing the correct forms (brainteasers, quizzes
etc.), use non-language stimuli (pictures, objects, mime and
sound), and incorporate movement and humour.
To read the rest of the review
To buy this from Amazon.com:
To buy this from Amazon.co.uk:
To see the recommended book index
If you're going to Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk then please go
through our Books page. You will pay the same & we will receive a
few pennies to keep the site & newsletters free. Thanks.
To the index
6. WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.
Recent Tips have included:
- Lesson shapes - planning differently shaped lessons.
- Approach? What approach? - putting forward a learner-based
approach to teaching
- metrosexual, paraskevidekatriaphobia ... - ideas on using the
Macmillan English Dictionary's Most Popular New Words of 2004
- Best Websites - ideas for using the Yahoo website competition
To see the Past Tips
To sign up to receive them
CAMBRIDGE ESOL TEACHER TRAINING COURSES
Train in Spain - Courses running in the near future at the
British Language Centre in Madrid:
CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE IN ELT - CELTA
Full-time four-week courses, next courses February, April & May '05
Part-time course twelve-week course starts April '05
CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA
Full-time two-month courses, April/May, July/August '05
10% discount on all courses if you mention the newsletter!
Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged for the duration
of all courses.
To the index
7. PS - Internet/computer-related links from SiteSkimmer.com
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 Skimmer.com
Linkletters. Sent out free every fortnight, fifteen links every
issue to follow up & help you enjoy the internet. To subscribe:
MOJO's Top 100 Soundtracks of All Time List ("You Ain't Heard
Easy air hockey game.
Anatomy for beginners from Channel Four TV.
David Leite's recipe site.
All about coffee!
Always wondered how they do it - the secrets of lock picking!
To the index
8. THE BIT AT THE END
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