May 2001 - issue 5/01
Welcome to the Newsletter
This month's theme is devoted to the most
important mental faculty that we possess - the memory. We
talk about the need to help students remember more effectively,
as well as pushing them to regularly 'learn by heart'. There
is also a lesson plan on the site that uses a newspaper article
There are new articles in the Articles section
of the site. Professor Edna Aphek has contributed several
articles, two of which are up on the site this month, with
two more appearing next month. There's also an excerpt from
The Bluffer's Guide to TEFL below, a warmer from Lee Buckley,
lots of useful classroom & internet links.
Do keep telling colleagues to sign up for
this Newsletter & the weekly Teaching Tips. Thanks.
- THE SITE
- THE BLUFFER'S GUIDE
- E-MAIL COURSES
- WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
- TRAINING COURSES
- PS - Internet/computer-related
1. THEME - memory
Unlike Solomon-Veniaminovich Sheresheveskii
- 'S' - we don't remember everything that happens to us or
all that we try to remember. Some of us have good memories
& others complain about how easy they forget. All of us
would agree that we would benefit by improving our ability
to remember. This includes our language students.
Remembering language is essential to progress.
Do we do enough to help this process? We incorporate 'recycling'
so that students see & get a chance to use the language
again. 'Noticing' activities provide a memory jog e.g. find
three examples of a recently looked at item in the text. We
are doing the work! Ok, that's part of our job but language
learning isn't easy & does require a great effort from
the student. Maybe we should stop trying to be so nice &
put the onus more on the student.
But do we actually get our students to memorise
things. I'm sure that a lot of teachers do but I rather think
we generally don't because learning by heart & memorising
things smack of bygone methodologies no longer in fashion.
To ask students to remember a list of ten words for the next
lesson would, if it got out, expose you as an ELT dinosaur.
Maybe there's more to it than meets the eye
& we can find a way to feel comfortable with learning
by heart. A very simplified version of past ideas could be
that students were asked to remember unrelated words &
if they could come out with them in a test, the process of
learning was complete & then we could move on to something
else. So how do we make this more solid? Change 'unrelated'
to 'related' & realise the limitations of the meaning
of 'learned'. Vocabulary & formulaic expressions have
to be remembered. If the items are useful to the students
& within their grasp then why not ask them to remember
them. Don't pile too much on at a time & be organised
yourself in regularly
It's not enough though just to say 'learn
these words'. You need to pass on techniques that will actually
help them to remember. These are called 'mnemonics' - any
device that helps you remember things better. Peter Russell
in 'The Brain Book' (Routledge) points out that we remember
things better if 'we make maximum use of the factors that
naturally enhance human memory: uniqueness, exaggeration,
sensory, interactive, simplicity, creativity, sexual &
vulgar & involvement.' The book is an excellent introduction
to the brain, memory, reading skills & note taking. Mnemonic
devices such as association, peg word systems & loci are
all easily passed on. ( Did you know we get the expressions
'In the first place', 'In the second place..' from the Romans
as when they were giving a speech they were running through
the order that was in the mind - things were associated with
a particular place in the surroundings.)
There is a list of related sites below &
the excellent book 'Use Your Memory' - by Tony Buzan (BBC)
gives you more than enough techniques. Most good coursebooks
have a stab at it but I don't know any that does it enough.
The learner training book 'Learning to Learn English' by Ellis
& Sinclair (CUP) recognises the importance.
This is all especially important for the
student learning in her home country with limited exposure
to the language & probably no more than three hours a
week of class. So get to it & ask more of your students'
memories - they will appreciate it as they see they are remembering
more & making more progress overall.
There is a
lesson on memory on the site. This uses an article taken
from the Daily Mail in April.
In the Teaching Tips on the site there is
one devoted to
Vocabulary Cards. It's a system to help you & the
students stay on top of all the vocab that comes up in class.
If you want to buy any of the books mentioned
above go to the Books
page. Click on the link on the page or do the search at
the bottom of the page.
A few things to do in class specifically
connected to 'memory':
memory, to memorise, memorisation, to jog
one's memory, in memory of, a memorial, from memory, a dim
memory, loss of memory, short/long-term memory, a memory like
a sieve, lapse of memory, an aid to memory, to tax one's memory,
to keep a memory alive, to have a photographic memory, a memorandum,
a memo, to remember, remembrance, to recall, recollection,
to remind, reminder, to retain, retention
to commit to memory - to learn by heart,
to forget, forgetful, out of sight out of
mind, short-term, long- term memory & then on to other
short & long collocates e.g. long- distance runner, short-sighted
Connected language areas:
- remember to do/doing, remind to do/doing
- used to v would - we would get up at the
crack of dawn, I used to work three hours a day.
- language to express states of ignorance:
'I've got no idea what....', 'I haven't got a clue who...'
- amnesiac - this is useful language to prepare the ground
for reported speech, helping with word order problems.
alibi - two/three students leave the room
& work out an alibi from 9am to 9pm yesterday. They come
back into the class & are interviewed by the rest of the
class who ask questions in an attempt to catch them out &
break the alibi.
change appearance - present perfect - students
stand back to back & remember what each is wearing.
scenes - past simple/continuous - give out
pictures of a scene & give a minute or two to remember
it. They turn over the pictures & try to remember the
details. You could contextualise this with a crime having
happened & they are interviewed by a fellow student who
takes on the role of a policeperson.
There's a lot of information on the web about
memory. The few links below are for the layperson & are
useful to find out how our memory works & material to
use for awareness in class.
Lots of memory techniques are explained together
with practical applications.
From the Learning Network lots of games to
stimulate the mind & your memory.
A web site dedicated to helping you improve
your memory. There are tutorial articles, tips & tricks
Simon Freeman's story of his Zen awakening
& the benefits that it made to his capacity to memorize.
Experiments & memory information.
Dr Georges's overview & tips on improving
Lots & lots of information about anything
to do with the brain. The what, how, & why - excellent!
All very nicely presented. The book & web site review
Back to the index
2. THE SITE
We have a new contributor to the site this
month. Professor Edna Aphek has contributed some articles
& we've put up two this month & will follow with another
two next month. Edna is a linguist & educationalist, specializing
in the introduction of computer literacy in general and IT
in particular in educational and
social systems. She also works in the areas of development
of thinking skills in general and creative and inventive thinking,
problem solving and the implementation of change. She designs
and implements innovative educational and social systems,
designs and builds virtual learning environments and creates
The first article is a report on her two
week seminar in Shanghai entitled 'Integrating
ICT in Education - program and impressions'. She was asked
to give a course to a group of Chinese in education whose
brief was to then pass on the
information to others. It was a very positive experience for
The second article is about a learning community
that Edna set up, Kamrat,
a multicultural on-line learning community between two schools,
in Israel in 2000, connecting one Israeli Arab school and
an Israeli Jewish school.
If you've given a course or seminar &
would like to give it a public airing then do send it to:
Lee Buckley got back to me about the 'scars'
warmer I mentioned in the last newsletter. She says:
'I have to disagree about the "scar"
warmer, or at least ask people to make sure they're using
it in the right circumstances. Might not be bad with kids
or adolescents-with the latter perhaps limited to same sex
groups, since at that age body talk can be a bit iffy depending
on the mixed maturity levels-but I'm not sure it would be
appropriate for a group of adults. Unless you've reached the
age where a health scare is scary, maybe this doesn't make
sense. but please think about it. I don't mean that I think
it's vulgar or non PC-just a little too real, unless there's
a lot of trust in the group.'
This obviously makes a lot of sense. We've
always got to bear in mind the group of people in front of
us & the problems that might arise with a personalised
activity like this. If in any doubt, don't use it.
Lee then offers a new warmer:
Here's a new warmer. I dreamed it up years
ago when I was working as a tutor in a writing center in Laguardia
Community College in New York City; the majority of the students
who came for support work in English were immigrants, adult
returning students, younger disadvantaged learners (single
mothers, ex-substance abusers, etc.) that is, a population
of people who had lived a lot and were not your typical middle
class comfortable-life type. One day another teacher passed
around an essay one of her students had written about a typical
bad day-everything went wrong-no heat or hot water that morning
in the house, bad weather, lousy public transit, broken coffee
machine at work, broken photocopy machine, etc. It was hysterically
funny and a great radical statement on urban life for the
less than luxurious-living citizen.
I started by asking a group of students to make a list of
all the things in their house that didn't work - bad plumbing,
broken elevator, lukewarm fridge, creaky doors and chairs,
dead mattresses, etc. We realized that the ideal pushed at
us from US commercial culture had nothing to do with the reality
that most people live. You can stretch it to service that
doesn't come up to snuff, bad jobs that we ourselves do.....the
possibilities are endless. And all can be done with a sense
of humor, and with an eye to social criticism - how much perfection
can we expect? How much can we give? whose fault is it? It
works especially well in business classes which is what I'm
mostly doing now-the conversation frequently leads to the
conflict between corporate culture and humanism...or something
like that. Give it a try.
Back to the index
4. THE BLUFFER'S GUIDE TO TEFL
Darron passed on 'The Bluffer's Guide to
TEFL' to me & it's avery good read. Does anyone know where
it comes from? Who is the bona fide writer? If you know or
you are the writer then please get in touch as I'd like to
put it up on the site & would obviously like permission
& to give credit. Here are some excerpts:
This means 'get an answer'. Teflers do not like asking, because:
1) 'ask' has only one syllable (sorry, is monosyllabic) and
therefore sounds insufficiently pseudoscientific, 2) 'eliciting'
wastes more time than asking and 3) a bona fide tefler has
no answers as he/she is a facilitator and has nothing of value
In the good old days, 'feedback' was what happened when Jimi
Hendrix put his guitar near an amplifier. In teflspeak, however,
it involves embarrassed students reporting back with mindnumbingly
dull information like "We found that 5 people have never
climbed Everest, 4 people have eaten octopus and everybody
thinks the teacher is a cretin."
Time-wasting par excellence. Not only does the student ask
the same dull questions to his neighbour, he has to ask 18
other people as well. Why waste 2 people's time when you can
Teflers often panic needlessly about these. The tefl bluffer
should have a standard observed lesson up his/her sleeve to
wheel out whenever observation threatens. Bluffer's tip: teach
them something they already know hence making your aims a
fait accompli. Should your part in this farce be that of an
observer, your first comment should (in true post-coital fashion)
be "How was it for you ?"
5. E-MAIL COURSES
Maximise your time by getting started on
personalised teacher development course.
Back to the index
A Canadian site that offers software tutorials
(Word 2000, Frontpage 2000, IE5..) & online courses (writing,
maths, IT...) The writing section is specifically designed
for grades 4-12 but excellent all the same for our EL students
The TOEFL & Business English training is at http://www.testden.com/
Check it all out &pass the site address on to your students.
Another good cause on the net. 'The Intel-United
Devices Cancer Research Project is asking you to volunteer
your PC to help process molecular research being conducted
by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford
in England and the National Foundation for Cancer Research.
To participate, you simply download a very small, no cost,
non-invasive software program that works like a screensaver:
it runs when your computer isn't being used, and processes
research until you need your machine. Your computer never
leaves your desk, and the project never interrupts your usual
Paper craft plans courtesy of Yamaha. They've
got a series of rare animals of the world, some of their motorbikes
& symbols of the four seasons. All you have to do is download
them, print them out & cut & paste. They'd be great
for classroom use as there is a parts data & assembly
manual in Acrobat Reader format - the reading - & then
the discussion & negotiation as the students put the models
together. Could be used with the younger & more mature
Lots of different articles for use in class
from & about the Big Apple.
This site claims to teach you how to do all
the things nobody taught you to do at school. In the 'latest'
section: So You Wanna write a business plan, convert to Buddhism,
cure a hangover & lie persuasively. Hardly surprising
that they didn't teach you them at school! I don't imagine
many of your students will be too interested in reading the
article 'SYW get a sex change' but they might well want to
read 'SYW ace a job interview'. There's even a 'SYW teach
English abroad'. Lots of clearly presented reading texts.
"Hints, tips and ideas that used to
be passed down from generation to generation but which seem
to have gone astray of late". I don't know what the world's
An ad from our recently married friend Gus
Latchem - congratulations Gus!
Teaching in Nanjing (Avalon School of English),
includes teaching in school & in-house - businesses. Salary
- 5000 RMB per month. Furnished accommodation is provided
a short distance from the school. Good holiday pay & airfare
is reimbursed at the end of the contract. 1 year contracts
And one from Spain:
Attractive positions are available for 1
DOS & several EFL teachers in a professional language
school in Manresa in Cataluña. Send your cvs to Eco
7 Language Centre SL, C/Jaume 1, 7 ent. , 08240 Manresa, Spain.
Their fax number is (00 34) 93 872 00 33 or email@example.com
Back to the index
8. WEEKLY TEACHING TIPS
As always, free weekly practical teaching
tips by e-mail. Sign
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: June, July, August & September
CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA
Full-time eight-week courses: July & August
Six month part-time course: October '01 >> March '02
Reasonably priced accommodation can be arranged
for the duration of all courses.
You can see brief descriptions of all of
the current courses on the BLC web site http://www.cospa.es/blc/TED/ttframe.htm
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to the index
10. PS - Internet/computer-related links
Play against the site in a 'join the dots'
game - easy, hard & killer.
This is a very useful addition. You're about
to download a programme & you want to know how long it
will take before starting - this will tell you. You can go
to the Intel site & do the calculations or you can download
a small programme & do it from your computer. It'll also
tell you the speed of your connection.
Here's another very helpful site devoted
to computer problems & development. Info & troubleshooting
on hardware, software, operating systems & much more.
Check here first.
Now this is an interesting addition. It sends
you a series of web pages daily through your e-mail. Choose
from a series of online newspapers, albeit from the US, &
you'll get the front page or specific sections straight to
your in-box every day. View your favourite sites all at once
on one page, each page following each other as you scroll
down. A very neat way to save yourself loads of clicks.
Learn about HTML, XHTML, CSS, ASP, MySQL,
Where you've always wanted to go with your
DLL problems care of Microsoft & the DLL Help Database.
A download from PC World 'Create professional-quality
flowcharts and diagrams with this utility. SmartDraw comes
with 750 symbols and templates, along with loads of clip art.
One of its handy features: Once you connect a line to a graphic,
it will stay connected to that graphic even when you change
its size and position--a big help for creating flowcharts.
The utility works with Lotus SmartSuite, Microsoft Office,
WordPerfect, and other programs that support Object Linking
and Embedding functions.'
These sites offer small programmes that run
alongside your browser. When you open a web page you'll find
key words underlined - turned into a hyperlink - & all
you do is hold down the 'Alt' key click on them for a pop-up
window with an explanation & more links. This saves opening
other windows for search engines. Gurunet goes even further
by doing the same in any Windows application, not just on
web pages. A timesaver.
A different & trendy web site for those
in search of inspiration on well-designed web sites.
Back to the index