June 2005 - issue 6/05
DEVELOPING TEACHERS.COM NEWSLETTER
Welcome to the June Newsletter
On the Merriam-Webster Dictionary site:
What's Your Favorite Word (That's Not in the Dictionary)?
What a lovely bunch of vocabularians (persons who make up new
words) you are! Lasterday (refers to any day before today) we
squinched (action required to fit something into a space that is
slightly too small) a schmiglet (a small unit of measurement) of
your awesomtastic (so wonderful the words just meld in your
mouth) one-of-a-kind entries into this space in preparation for
today's Top Ten reveal. With so many chizzy (awesome, super,
happening) creations to choose from, we admit to becoming a bit
flusterpated (a state of being flustered that's so intense, one's
actions and words become bound up) and fahoodled (confused, esp.
when trying to think of too many things at once). We craughed (to
cry and laugh simultaneously), we troddled (to wander around
without knowing of doing so), and finally decided to use the
schwack (a large amount) of multiple entries received as the
basis for the Top Ten-this is, let's not forget, all about
From the thousands of submissions we received, here, then, are
the ten words (not in the dictionary) entered the most often:
Top Ten Favorite Words (Not in the Dictionary)
1. ginormous (adj): bigger than gigantic and bigger than enormous
2. confuzzled (adj): confused and puzzled at the same time
3. woot (interj): an exclamation of joy or excitement
4. chillax (v): chill out/relax, hang out with friends
5. cognitive displaysia (n): the feeling you have before you even
leave the house that you are going to forget something and not
remember it until you're on the highway
6. gription (n): the purchase gained by friction: "My car needs
new tires because the old ones have lost their gription."
7. phonecrastinate (v): to put off answering the phone until
caller ID displays the incoming name and number
8. slickery (adj): having a surface that is wet and icy
9. snirt (n): snow that is dirty, often seen by the side of roads
and parking lots that have been plowed
10. lingweenie (n): a person incapable of producing neologisms
This month Mark Lowe continues with the third of his series of
articles with a look at 'Is Grammar Innate?', Sara Hannam joins
us for the first time to explain 'The Chinese Student Learning
English in Greece: The Meeting of Three Cultures' & Adam Simpson
' returns with a look at 'Task Based Learning for Newcomers'.
There is also a brief review of 'Lessons From Nothing' plus the
usual sections with lots of links to follow up. Hope you find
them all interesting.
There are more free Google GMail accounts to give away - if
interested, get in touch.
If anyone is starting up their own website & is looking for a
solid domain name, then we're selling the domain name:
'eltraining.com' - English Language Training.com - for info & offers
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
Starting a website or thinking of changing hosts? Developing Teachers.com has three very affordable hosting plans - all with
Forum installations - up & ready to go without any need to know
anything about web design.
Online Course Support: Moodle installation, 300mb of space, 1gb
of bandwidth/month - $12/month. It even comes with a PayPal module
so that you can integrate charging for your courses.
Pay for the year to get two months free & your bandwidth doubled!
Pay for six months & get a month free!
Very reasonable domain registration also offered.
For more information:
1. THE SITE - ARTICLES
Is Grammar Innate? by Mark Lowe
This article aims to solve an EFL puzzle through philosophical
analysis. The puzzle is Chomsky's theory of innate grammar: is it
true or not? The answer to this puzzle has important consequences
for language teaching it tells us whether we should teach
language cognitively through understanding, or whether we should
teach it intuitively through helping students to pick up language
as young children do. To help solve this puzzle, I draw on the
ideas of four philosophers: Ayer, Popper, Wittgenstein and
Searle. Let us start with a recap of Chomsky's theory:
'The fact that all normal children can readily acquire the
language of the community in which they grow up, without special
instructors and on the basis of very imperfect and degenerate
stimuli, and further that children can learn certain sorts of
language such as are exemplified by natural human languages, but
cannot learn other sorts of logically possible languages,
provides overwhelming evidence that each normal child contains in
some unknown way in his or her brain an innate language
acquisition device (LAD), and this LAD consists at least in part
of a set of deep unconscious grammar rules'. (Searle: The
Rediscovery of the Mind, Chapter 10)
This theory has very significant implications for language
teachers. If grammar is innate, it develops naturally, like the
limbs on a body or the petals on a flower. There is therefore no
need to teach grammar. Our task as teachers is simply to provide
the right conditions and the right diet, and the grammar will
grow of its own accord, like teeth. The innate grammar theory
provides theoretical support for teaching methods based on
acquisition rather than learning. It provides a rationale for the
so-called Natural Approach and for other humanistic methods. It
has long been widely accepted in our profession as true: it has
long been part of the received wisdom of language teaching and
But in the last few years, many people have begun to have
reservations about the theory. Some reservations are on practical
grounds (eg the methods derived from the theory do not seem to
work very well, and many excellent teachers find other methods
more effective). Other reservations are on theoretical grounds
(eg the theory is confused - the evidence does not seem to hold
water, etc). Bad jokes have gone the rounds. 'You can't find
Chomsky's books in the library? Try the fiction section.' As a
teacher and director of studies, I want to be sure that the
methods I use, and the methods I encourage my teachers to use,
are coherent and based on sound theory. I look to philosophy to
clarify the issues and to distinguish valid from invalid
reasoning. I look to philosophy to help determine whether grammar
is innate or not. Philosophers have raised several objections to
innate mental phenomena. The debate is as old as Plato and
Aristotle. Locke and Hume argued strongly against: Kant argued
interestingly in favour, with his mental categories. In our time,
three powerful objections have been expressed. The first stems
from positivist philosophy: what is true must be verifiable, or
it must in principle be falsifiable (in Popper's variant of
positivism). The second derives from Wittgenstein's language
philosophy: what is true must be free of distortions caused by
language muddles, and consistent with our understanding of the
nature of language and the mind. The third comes from the
philosophy of John Searle: a theory of language must not only be
free of linguistic distortions, but must also be consistent with
what we know about the working of the brain. Let us consider
these objections in turn.
In Language, Truth and Logic, A.J.Ayer distilled the Vienna
Circle's positivist doctrine on scientific method: a scientific
theory is valid if and only if it can be verified by empirical
evidence. In his The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl Popper
proposed a generally accepted variant of this doctrine: a
hypothesis is valid if and only if it can in principle be
falsified by empirical evidence. On both counts the innate
grammar theory is invalid, because there is no evidence that can
either verify or falsify it - because there is no test that could
prove the existence of non-existence of innate grammar rules in
the brain. Since the theory does not follow the criteria for a
scientific hypothesis, it is therefore not a valid theory.
Positivists maintain that it is a metaphysical chimera.
In addition, and as John Searle (among others) argues, there is
abundant evidence to support alternative theories of language
development. For instance, in his classic study of child language
development Learning How to Mean, Halliday does not need to posit
innate grammar to explain what happens when a child develops
language. His young son Nigel starts with one-word utterances-
(Mum, cock-a-doodle-do, jam), moves on to two-word utterances
(more jam,go walk) and then produces three-word utterances (Let's
go walk, and I want Bartok - Nigel's enchantingly Hallidayan way
of demanding to hear music). Halliday explains the stages of
Nigel's language development by the functional need to
communicate, by imitation of and extrapolation from models he
hears, by his parents' encouragement, and by what is known of the
workings of the human brain. The innate grammar hypothesis is not
cited: it would be redundant. In his Introduction to Functional
Grammar, Halliday offers a detailed theory of language based on
the same principles. Again, no innate grammar is required to
explain language or language development in this study. Language
develops not in accordance with alleged abstract rules of grammar
hard-wired into the brain, but through pragmatic responses to
practical needs. Language development follows the same principles
as evolution: no separate edifice of theory is needed to explain
The innate grammar hypothesis also begs the question. In other
words, it rephrases a mystery (how do children acquire
languages?) as a solution (children learn languages by means of a
black box called the LAD). We do not know how the black box
works: we have no understanding of what goes on inside it.
Genuine scientific theories explain the unknown in terms of the
known. Either what is large is explained in terms of what is
small (for instance, matter in terms of atoms and molecules, or
brain activity in terms of synapses and connections), or a
mystery is explained in terms of a generally accepted theory,
such as gravity or evolution. The innate grammar hypothesis does
neither. The 'solution' is as mysterious as the puzzle it seeks
to explain, and is therefore not a genuine solution.
To view the article
The Chinese Student Learning English in Greece: The Meeting of
Three Cultures by Sara Hannam
BANA = Britain, Australia and North America as used by Holliday (1994a)
CA = The Communicative Approach
EAP = English for Academic Purposes
A New Trend
The last five years has seen a rapid increase in the number of
Chinese learners coming to Greece to study English. Since China
opened its doors to Western investment, English has become the
official international language of communication. Due to the
population size, Chinese people now constitute the largest
population of language learners in the world today - a
conservative 1995 estimate put the figure at 200 million
(Cortazzi & Jin 1996: 178). This development has led to a
significant increase in the number of Chinese people traveling
abroad to study, most choosing to go to BANA countries, which are
generally considered more prestigious. It has also led to an
increase in students searching for BANA educational opportunities
in non-BANA countries; one such country is Greece. tudents
usually come here to study at an institution that is affiliated
to a BANA University and offers accredited under-graduate or
post-graduate degree opportunities - English often forms part of
those studies. This throws up an exciting new research
environment which needs immediate exploration as 'we lack the
data for the range of social settings in which English is carried
out around the world' (Holliday 1994b: 11).
Why Choose Greece?
My research found that students chose to come and study in Greece
for one of the following reasons:
Preferring Greece and the Greek way of life - finding the life
style more familiar than that found in BANA countries
Wanting to be in a country that has a deeper understanding and
practical connection to the field of leisure and tourism -
particularly with a view to the 2008 Olympics and the Greek
experience in 2004
There are a scarcity of places in BANA countries
It is financially easier to live in Greece than a BANA country
Students perceived that it is easier to obtain a visa to be a
student in Greece than in a BANA country
Language Learning in China
Being able to use English in China is now seen as 'an essential
tool in changing the core of the country's economic system'
(Burnaby and Sun 1998: 221). This means that English has
gradually become part of the secondary school curriculum -
classes usually comprise 60+ students. Knowledge of English also
acts as a screening devise for scarce university places and high
levels of anxiety have been identified with 'passing' English
examinations (Yan and Chow: 2002). This mirrors similar concerns
expressed by Prodromou (1995) regarding the continual testing of
English present in the Greek system. Almost all English teaching
practitioners in China are Chinese, partly due to China's
insistence on 'preserving its own cultural integrity in spite of
interest in communicating with the West' (Burnaby & Sun 1998:
233). This is a divergence from the Greek reality which, until
relatively recently with the development of the KPG state school
examination, was saturated with externally developed
testing products. Historically in Greece, great value has been
placed on the presence of a 'native speaker' teacher of English
to promote the standard of the service offered in Greek language
schools. The last and most important point that needs to be made
in relation to the environment in China is the reason why most
people learn English. It is for the purpose of performing work-
related tasks such as reading and translating technical articles
(ibid). It is not, in many cases, for the purposes of oral
communication, a reality that should be borne in mind when
considering potential problems in the classroom.
To view the article
Task Based Learning for Newcomers by Adam Simpson
This text serves as an introduction to teachers curious about the phenomenon of task based learning, and is of particular relevance
to those at the post CELTA stage wishing to expand their
knowledge of the profession. Its purpose is to provide a basic
definition of this particular methodology, to give a brief
contrast to other methodologies, and also to indicate its pros
At the outset of my teaching career, I readily adopted what
little teaching methodology I was aware of to my classroom
practice. As with most new teachers fresh from the CELTA course,
my lessons followed the PPP (presentation, practice, production)
model, or slight variations thereof. However, as my teaching
quickly developed on a steep learning curve, so did my awareness
of other methodological possibilities, and also the shortcomings
of the method I had thus far applied. Nevertheless, I persisted
with this method. Whilst the PPP method offered a comfortable and
safe framework (1) for me as a newly qualified teacher, I
nevertheless soon realised that i) it is important to meet the
specific needs of ones learners, and ii) an authentic context
will enhance the learning experience. A failure to deliver on
both of these counts is one of the major reasons why the PPP
method is criticised. This is also the reason why I have chosen
to examine an alternative to this model: Task-based learning.
To view the article
Thanks to Mark, Sara & Adam.
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 more than a few thousand teachers every
week with the Weekly Teaching Tip & the same each month with the
Newsletter, not to mention the 2000+ unique visitors a day to the
Site, & the site has the Google PR5. If you've got a book,
course, job...anything that you'd like to advertise, then do get
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:
Simone is looking:
Does anybody know any song lyrics I can find The Simple Present
Tense? I've already used "Everybody Cries" by REM...Thanks a lot
I teach English as foreign language in Brazil and I'm looking for
penpals for my 10/12 years old students who enjoy writing
letters...They are lovely and so excited about this idea. Please
contact me as soon as possible.
aacircle has a poll which asks:
Do you think an online TESL/TEFL course is a useful qualification
for beginning teachers?
Valentin1042 tells about:
Here is a website that helps to find penpals to practice foreign
languages: www.sharedtalk.com It's an online and free language
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
Play the Punctuation Game, read an excerpt & see the Hall of
shame at the site of 'Eats Shoots & Leaves'.
Buzzin - 'Learning Made Fun'
'Penguin Dossiers - articles for learners of English. There is a
new article on the 1st of every month. There is a 'Factsheet'
too, with teacher's notes and exercises. Each article is written
at the same language level as a level 3 Penguin Reader.The
archive has all the past Penguin Dossiers. Penguin Dossiers are
great for reading and listening practice, for class discussion,
and for learning new vocabulary.'
Interesting stuff for the younger learner.
Newsweek for teenagers - readings & discussions.
Development Education Project - classroom activities.
Free graded reading materials.
Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom
The Thinking Approach (TA) to language teaching aims at an
integrated development of both language and thinking skills of
learners. The TA project is concerned with the development of
educational technologies necessary for this kind of teaching and
mechanisms of implementing these technologies with various groups
Rather than merely encouraging thinking, the TA offers certain
models for effective thinking - universal and domain independent
tools which facilitate the process of finding solutions in
problematic situations. The tools originate from the General
Theory of Powerful Thinking (OTSM) based on the Theory of
Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ). In the TA classroom students
are encouraged to apply these models when looking for solutions.
As a result, learning becomes more challenging, but also much
more motivating. Moreover, language itself is transformed from
being just a passive means into an object of exploration.
Instant haikus - click for a new one.
Resources for primary:
To the index
4. DAYS OF THE MONTH
Some days to plan your lessons around in June:
6th - D-Day
20th - United Nations World Refugee Day
21st - Summer Solstice (& Dec 21st)
27th - Happy Birthday, "Happy Birthday"
To see the list of Days
Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.
To the index
5. BOOK REVIEW
New recommended book - 'Lessons From 'Nothing' by Bruce Marsland
The review begins:
'Lessons From 'Nothing' is an extremely practical book from the
stable of Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. In this high
tech day & age it is refreshing to come across a book that
describes itself as a 'sourcebook of ELT exercises & activities
which do not require extensive resources or facilities'. The book
is designed with the 'limited-resource situation' in mind but all
can apply to normal teaching situations. Don't you get tired of
photocopying stuff & seeing students bogged down with copies that
they'll never look at again?
To read 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:
- One-to-one - ideas for teaching
- I can do it blindfolded! - lesson activities
- Museum Day - lesson ideas
- Surrender! - course planning considerations
To see the Past Tips
To sign up to receive them
To the index
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 to ADULTS - CELTA
Full-time four-week courses, next courses June 6th, July, August,
Part-time course twelve-week course starts October '05
CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE IN ELT to YOUNGER LEARNERS - CELTYL
Part-time course twenty-week course starts October '05
CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE IN ELT to YOUNGER LEARNERS EXTENSION
Full-time course two-week course in September '05
Part-time course ten-week course starts October '05
CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA
Full-time two-month courses, July/August, October/November '05
Part-time course six-month course starts October '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:
Grow your own garden online & forget about the weeding.
Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a
specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they
wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler
Convention at MIT on Saturday, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Thrift deluxe is a London Based DIY site for cool people....As
the name 'thrift deluxe' implies we provide inexpensive DIY
projects that are uber cool. This site has no real business model
other than to gain sponsorship so that contributors can
experiment enough to develop enough quality concepts for the
site. The reason this site was started was because currently
there is nothing like it and we were hoping to fulfil the
creative niche although we hope our site appeals to people not in
the creative industry.
ISBW (IShouldBeWorking.com) is dedicated to slackers, goof-offs,
procrastinators, loafers, "long lunchers", and web addicted
employees worldwide. We strive to be the best online starting
point for web surfing slackishness so bookmark this page right
To the index
8. THE BIT AT THE END
This newsletter is ReferWare. If you enjoy reading it and find useful information in this newsletter, you are asked to help spread the word about it. You can do this by forwarding a copy to your friends, telling them about it, and/or putting a link to http://www.developingteachers.com from your site. You cannot:
1.Post this newsletter in part or in whole on your site.
2.Forward this newsletter issue after issue to people - just send them a single issue and tell them to subscribe.
Has to be.
Disclaimer - all of the recommendations for computer-related software are personal recommendations. We take no responsibility for anything that might go wrong when downloading, installing or running them - not that anything should, but you never know. It's your decision, your responsibility. The same applies to the jobs mentioned above. And anything else that you can think of that we might be responsible for as a result of this newsletter!
Comments, suggestions, questions, advertising or problems unsubscribing then please contact us
SUBSCRIBE - it's free!
If you are reading a friend's copy why not subscribe yourself - it's free! Get along to the Front Page of the site & fill in the box.
Have no fears about your e-mail address - we will not pass it on to any third party.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
If you change e-mail address please use the link above to unsubscribe the old one & then subscribe with the new one. This helps us enormously. Thanks.
This newsletter is a free service of the Developing Teachers.com and is Copyright (c) 2001-2005 Developing Teachers.com. All rights reserved. No part of this Newsletter may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission.
To subscribe to the Newsletter
To the index of Past Newsletters