Inenglish digital 08

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In English Digital! Spring 2014

How Creative ! Can ! You ! Be?!

The British Council magazine for teachers of English in Lusophone countries







introduction Having recently taken up post in Portugal, I am delighted to have been asked to introduce InEnglish Digital 8. The success and popularity of this e-zine, which has reached 40,000 teachers of English from across the Lusophone world and beyond, is due in part to the breadth of topics it covers and the quality of the articles submitted. In addition, this is an excellent platform for exploring your practical ideas and shared experiences, which adds value to the ELT community.

In this, the eighth, edition of InEnglish Digital, I would like to thank all the contributors for sharing with us their creative and practical ideas for influencing the way we teach.

The theme of this edition ''How creative can you be?" opens with an article by Alan Maley, ELTons 2012 winner of the British Council’s Lifetime Achievement.

If you want to receive alerts when the next edition is published, or to receive our new InEnglish Digital newsletter, then you can sign up at:

! !

On winning the award Alan said, "I think teachers are such powerful figures and sometimes we forget just how much influence we can have and sometimes it's not because you are a great technician or a great methodologist it's because you're a human being and that's what the students remember afterwards."


Rob Pender Deputy Director, British Council Portugal


Please feel free to contact us at any time on Use this address to send us your comments on any of the articles in this issue and other ideas you would like to share.

! ! To all our readers worldwide – we hope you enjoy this very practical edition – use it, share it, tell us what you think and remember to send us your ideas and comments. We’ll publish them – if you allow us – on our new website: http://

! !

C! o n t r i b u t o r s Alan Maley

Francisco Langa

Mikolaj Sobocinski

Damian Williams

Luísa Lima

Carolyn Leslie

Celeste Simões

Helena Oliveira

Alan Maley has worked in ELT for over 50 years, working in 10 countries, including China and India. He has published over 40 books and many articles. His main interest is in c re a t i ve m e t h o d o l o g y, especially writing.!

Francisco Langa was born in Maputo, Mozambique. ! He is passionate about creative reading and writing and is the co-founder and facilitator of the Reader’s Corner reading group, and a p re s e n t e r o f r a d i o reading sessions. He writes poems and stories in English and is a prizewinner in a poetry contest on the BBC website.

I was lucky enough to study English holistically and to write my MA thesis on culture and semiotics. L a t e r o n my fe l l ow teachers inspired me to experiment with various approaches, which was welcomed by most of my students. Now I am testing gamification and flipped classroom with surprisingly positive results.!

Damian Williams is an author, writer and teacher trainer from the UK, currently based in Rio de Janeiro. He has written books for several major publishers and works as an online Delta tutor. Current interests include critical thinking and the linguistic landscape as a learning resource.

Luísa Lima is a teacher and teacher trainer in Agrupamento de Escolas Emídio Garcia, Bragança. She is involved in many different projects: reading, writing, digital citizenship, production of audio and video materials, content curation and the effective use of digital tools.!

Carolyn Leslie has been an English teacher in Portu! gal for over 20 years, has an MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL and is currently studying for a Ph.D in teaching foreign languages at Nova University, Lisbon. She teaches at the British Council, Lisbon and Nova University.!

Celeste Simões is a teacher in Carregal do Sal. She has a degree in English and German and a Post-graduate course in Translation Studies by the University of Coimbra. She is preparing the defence of her doctoral thesis on Translation Studies. She is also a textbook author.!

Helena has been teaching English since 2003 and holds a master's degree in English Didactics. She is also an EFL course book author for a Portuguese Publisher (Sebenta/LeYa) and a teacher trainer.


Paul Driver



editorial This edition of In English Digital we cast an eye at the role of creativity in the classroom. Our lead for taking this approach was from a master of creativity in ELT, Alan Maley, who suggested that the idea of exploring how far our creativity could take us in the class room should be explored. In his article, Alan explores what we mean by creativity, warning us that being creative isn’t simply the same as introducing novelty, and the genuine creativity is rule-based, requiring thought and preparation.

Creativity is not a single issue topic. Creativity ought to be the lodestone which continuously guides us in our teaching. These days, when more and more teachers across the world are being faced with barely manageable increases in bureaucratic red tape, more and more pressure from exams – orientated teaching programmes and less and less time to work with students as individuals, creativity should be an aspect which delivers both teachers and students from a life of drudgery.

This ought to be good news to those teachers who, sadly, tell the world that they ‘aren’t creative’ for genuine creativity can be worked on and built up; it can be seen as a set of tools for developing inspirational and, crucially, memorable lessons.

Of course , it won’t if teachers think of creativity as taking even more time, creating even more pressure. Which is why Alan’s reminder that it is a process that can be conquered without too much effort is well worth noting. A little creativity in the classroom can go a very long way to alleviate many of the problems that the modern teacher faces.



Alan offers some concrete examples of using creativity in the classroom, as do some of our other contributors, ranging from Mikolaj Sobocinski’s advice which suggests that if we want to teach, then we shouldn’t bother, to Damian Williams’ tracking of the way that English is used in the real world that surround students. Other regular contributors – Celeste Simões, Helena Oliveira, Luísa Lima and Francisco Langa – also discuss practical applications which will help to boost the creative content of lessons, and Carolyn Leslie offers an article which examines how groups in classrooms interact (or don’t!) and relates some analysis to her own experiences. Variously dotted in amongst these gems are smaller diamonds – poems from Mozambique from Tanguene and Sangare.



We would love to hear from any teachers about their creative experiments in the classroom – successful or otherwise. Please consider sharing with us your ideas, your lessons, your experiences in future editions of IED.


Fitch O'Connell Editor

Hhow creative can you be? Alan Maley

If you want to follow this up, check my chapter in Tomlinson (Maley 2013b), where I have tried to deconstruct the notion of creativity.

!All I will do here is indicate a few

characteristics of creativity. Clearly it involves creating something we recognise as

We could go to class wearing a swimsuit, which would be new all right, but would probably not be viewed as creative

!! So, !! what is creativity? !

‘Creativity’ is one of those buzzwords, so over-used that it has almost lost its meaning – a bit like ‘Communicative’. I will not attempt a complete definition of it here, partly because researchers into creativity seem to agree that a comprehensive definition is impossible. It seems that we recognise creativity but cannot readily define it.

new, fresh, original, unusual, striking perhaps, and something we perceive as being relevant and useful. It is not simply novelty. We could go to class wearing a swimsuit, which would be new all right, but would probably not be viewed as creative. Neither is it simply ‘letting it all hang out’, doing any old thing and hoping for the best. Creativity is rulegoverned, and the constraints it imposes are a powerful tool and support. (see below)

!In language teaching, we also need to be

clear about who is being creative. Is it the teacher, finding new ways of conducting the class? Or is it the students, learning to use the language in more creative ways? I feel both are important, and I’ll explain why at the end of this article.


Findings from creativity theory (Amabile 1996, Boden 1990, Csikszentmihaly1996, Kaufman and Sternberg 2010, Koestler 1989) suggest the importance of the following if we want to apply creative ideas in our classes:

creative process. Not everything is fun and games. • Keeping in mind, however, that delight and pleasure are an integral part of the process.

Playing around – with words, with ideas, with techniques… The playful element is key to creative learning. (Cook 2000 )

anyway? I will return to this question at the end.

!• !•

Leaving room for ‘chaos’ to operate by offering rich, varied inputs and challenging, open-ended activities


Trying out new ways of adapting old practices. (Maley 2006, Maley 2013a) (see below)

!• Using heuristics and analogy to stimulate new thinking. (see below) !• Building in constraints, which scaffold

creative activity. ‘Structure ignites spontaneity’ (Nachmanovitch. 1990) (see below)


Using minimal inputs for maximum outputs. ‘…producing great results from scant means.’ (Beethoven)


Allowing for flexibility, so that the same activity can be used at different levels, or can be adapted to suit different needs.


Allowing time and silence for ideas to incubate This contrasts with the current drive for speed and immediate returns on investment.

!• Making unusual juxtapositions using the random-combination principle. (see below) !• Drawing on other domains, outside language pedagogy for inspiration. !• Being aware that novelty is not enough, and that the system we operate in has to be ‘ready’ – or made ready - for it, and to perceive the relevance of creative ideas.


Convincing learners that everyone has the capacity for creativity. ‘…linguistic creativity is not simply a property of extraordinary people but an exceptional property of all people.’ (Carter 2004 ) • Ensuring that we give due attention to the Preparation and Verification stages of the

!But why should we be interested in creativity



ways of applying creativity in the classroom !

There are, of course, many ways in which we can introduce creativity into our classes, and into our own ways of thinking about teaching. Here I will describe five ways. Because of limited space, I can only give one example of each but I have added references in case you want to find out more for yourself.

!1. Using heuristics. A heuristic is basically a

‘rule of thumb’ – heuristics invite us to try something and see what happens. The most famous of these is Fanselow’s (1970) ‘Do the opposite’. Other heuristics could include ‘expand’, ‘transfer to another medium’, ‘reverse the order’, etc. (Maley, 1994, 1995 ) Heuristics may not always lead to positive outcomes but they help get us out of the rut of routine – and unless we try them, we will never know.

!In this example of media transfer, you give out

a short prose text which includes a lot of colourful words and expressions. You ask students to write this text out as if it were a poem, without changing any of the language, only the layout. They then compare their ‘poems’. This may seem like no more than an elaborate form of copying but it actually demands a high degree of concentration and attention to meaning in order to decide on line breaks, layout, etc. And the results are often highly creative visually.

!2. Using improvisation activities. Here we

put people into a situation which they then have to work out together, simply by interacting with others in the moment, with no preparation. There are plenty of books with ideas for improvisation: Johnstone (1981) , Johnstone (1999) , Nachmanovitch (1990), Maley and Duff (2005) , Wilson (2008).


This example is adapted from Wilson (2008). Students write down three things they want to do, using ‘I want to…’ or ‘I’d like to..’ eg. I’d like to have lunch now.’ They then mingle with the other students, and say their first sentence to a partner. Their partner then has to block their request by saying something like ‘I’m afraid you can’t.’ The first student then asks,’ Why not?’ The partner then has to think up a reason on the spur of the moment. Here is a sample conversation: A. I’d like to have lunch now. B. I’m afraid that’s not possible. A. Why not? B. Because we don’t open till 12.30.

!It is then B’s turn to make a request, which

A has to block in the same way. After the first exchange, students change partners, and use their second sentence. Then they move on to the third. . 3. Using constraints. For example, in creative writing, activities can be set up with rules which both stimulate and support creative language use, as in acrostics, stem poems, mini-sagas, etc. (Spiro, 2004)

!In this example, students write a mini-saga.

A mini-saga is a story which must be written using exactly 50 words. One way of doing this is to tell them a short story orally. They then write it out as a mini-saga. The wordlimit constraint pushes them to find different ways of saying the same thing, thus stretching their language resources.

!4. Refurbishing traditional activities.

This involves re-examining a traditional practice, such a Homework (Painter 2003), Dictation (Davis and Rinvolucri 1988) or Drilling (Helgesen webref.) and finding new ways of doing it. This example comes from Dictation:

!Find a shortish text for dictation. Tell

students you will read it at normal speed. The first time, they are just to listen, not write. When you finish reading, then they

write down whatever they can recall – words, phrases, anything. Allow them to compare notes with their neighbours. Then read it again at normal speed. This time they can write as you read. You repeat the readings until they have reconstituted the text completely accurately. Usually, three readings are enough! This is a great way of developing listening skills and of achieving repetition without boredom.

!5. Using the random principle. This

involves putting things together which have no obvious connection – and finding a connection. This example, is a creative writing activity, adapted from .Spiro (2004).

!Write up the following words in two columns: ! Love Hate Disappointment Anger Marriage Age Hope Jealousy Life Fear

a knife an egg a brush a vacuum cleaner a window a rope a mirror a spoon a banana a violin

!The activity is in two stages. In stage 1,

students write three metaphors by combining any item from the first column with any item from the second column. This should be done quickly, without too much thinking about it. For example, ‘Marriage is a vacuum cleaner’, ‘Age is an egg.’,’Jealousy is a mirror’. In stage 2, they have to choose one metaphor, and add one or two lines which comment on or explain it. This becomes a short poem. For example,

!Hope is a window that opens on a new world. !Marriage is a brush:

it sweeps away your old life.

! ?


so why bother !

with creativity?

Language is inherently creative. We need to prepare students for this.

! Learning is also a creative process, not a merely mechanical one. ! People are naturally creative. Why suppress this when we could use it? ! The teaching –learning process is unpredictable. (Underhill and Maley 2012) We should regard this as an opportunity not a threat.

! Creativity is a tool for discovery, for opening up new possibilities. !

Creative teaching – learning stimulates students’ minds and enhances their self-esteem. This leads to increased motivation, without which genuine learning cannot happen.



Creativity is enjoyable for both teachers and students.

More generally then, students need creativity to thrive. But teachers need it to survive! Survive? Yes, to survive the twin scourges of institutionalized education: the dead hand of routine, and the bondage of institutional control. To stay alive professionally over a long career, teachers must continue to develop, and to resist both mind-threatening routine and the over-regulation which passes for education in many places. (Casenave and Sosa 2007). Creativity is their lifeline.


This does not necessarily mean making radical and rapid changes to the way you teach. Even quite small changes can have disproportionately big effects. Try a few more creative activities first and see how they work out. Try changing just one or two of your teaching habits, and observe the results. Gradually, you should find that you develop confidence to move on to bigger changes.

! Good luck! ! ! References

! A Lesson Plan with Technology LuĂ­sa Lima

Class: (name, type of student): 8th graders, 13 years old, pre-intermediate

!Duration: 90 minutes !Materials: Technology component downloaded from/accessed in class at: or any other online dictionaries such as http:// or


ActiveInspire or any website that enables a quick making of podcasts.

!- School laptops with Wi-Fi connection where

all the software and a document with suggested websites has already been made available by the teacher for the students. Other material: Interactive White Board and Handouts

!Introduction !Review of previous lesson: Using the IWB and

a flip chart on Healthy vs. Unhealthy food, the teacher revises some vocabulary related to the topic food, some of which students will later find in the text.

!Objectives of this lesson: In groups of four

students (A) will read the poem "The tummy beast" by Roald Dahl, find the meaning and pronunciation of all the difficult words and record it (B) ) in an accurate way (D) using their laptops and websites suggested by the teacher (C).

!Procedure !Presentation (teacher), including key vocabulary. !The teacher will start by giving some

information about the author while eliciting some from the students themselves as this is not the first time they are reading Roald Dahl's material. The teacher will explain that, as it is usual, this lesson, although still within the scope of the topic "Healthy lifestyles" will also be included in the Reading Project this class is participating in. The teacher gives the students a handout with the text of the poem. (it can be found here: The tummy beast


Activity (students) Students read the poem and underline all the difficult words. Then, they will check the meaning of each of those words by visiting some online dictionaries. At the same time they are expected to check the pronunciation of the words they don't know using the options available in these online dictionaries. After some practice they can record the poem using the software provided. In case they still have difficulty finding the correct rhythm or intonation, the teacher may let them listen to the poem: v=tinzhrgFILE

!Learning styles addressed: Most learning

styles are addressed throughout this lesson. There are visuals at first, reading, listening and speaking activities. There is collaboration as they are working in groups trying to understand a text and it is expectable that better students will help the others with their vocabulary and pronunciation problems. There is research work that will also appeal to those who actually like to do something. And there will be a writing task to perform at home that will appeal to those who have a more linguistic style. This will also check the real understanding of the poem and it will allow for personal creativity as it will be an individual task.

!Technology alternative (in case things don't

work as planned): It is very unlikely that the IWB won't work but, even then, it would be easy to replace this activity by a similar one using flashcards. If the Internet connection is down the students can use traditional dictionaries and check the pronunciation of words with the help of the teacher's laptop. If audacity or other voice recording software is not working or if no computers are available the students could easily record the poem using their mobile phones and pass it to the teacher's laptop.

!Review before the end of the class session:

Before the end of the lesson students will briefly discuss the advantages of the activities carried out, particularly in terms of learning and practicing pronunciation and vocabulary. They will also be asked to comment on the poem and refer its relation and relevance for the topic being studied.

!Homework: Students will be asked to rewrite the story in prose and illustrate it.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: ! Exploiting the Urban Linguistic Landscape as a Language Learning Resource

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, Blockin’ out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?


(‘Signs’ – Five Man Electrical Band, 1970)

Damian Williams No 
 matter where you are in the world today, English is everywhere you look. It’s used in shop signs, products in the supermarket, the names of buildings, menus, graffiti, airports, public transport, shopping centres, notices, advertising posters and hoardings. In fact, here in Brazil there is even an English name for this type of advertising – ‘outdoor’ (as well as ‘busdoor’ for adverts on the back of buses, and ‘indoor’ for adverts in stations, shopping centres, etc.).

!It seems a little strange then, giving the

abundance of English everywhere, as well as its universal accessibility, that we don’t make greater use of it as a language learning resource.

! What are Linguistic Landscapes? !The study of the linguistic landscape is a

relatively new area, which draws from several academic disciplines such as applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology and cultural geography (Ben-Rafael, Shohamy and Barni, 2010). The term Linguistic Landscape was first used by Landry and Bourhis in a paper published in 1997, when they defined it thus;

spaces, that is the center of attention in this rapidly growing area referred to as Linguistic Landscape (LL). (Shohamy and Gorter, 2008).

!In another study, Dagenais, Moore, Sabatier,

Lamarre and Armand (2008) introduce the idea of the Linguistic Landscape as ‘environmental print’, i.e. cities as ‘texts’.

! Features of the linguistic landscape !Most studies of the Linguistic Landscape are

socio-economic in nature, i.e. they seek to find correlations between the use of certain languages (such as English) in parts of a city and compare them to the general standard of living in those areas. There is general agreement that language use in the linguistic landscape falls into one of two categories, topdown (public signs, created by the state and local government bodies) and bottom-up language use (created by shop owners, private businesses, etc.), as is summarised in the table below:

!The language of public road signs, advertising

billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combine to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region or urban agglomeration. Landry and Bourhis, 1997

!Shohamy and Gorter have since widened the scope of the definition to include: !…language in the environment, words and images displayed and exposed in public

Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara and Trumper-Hecht, 2006!

However, I prefer to think of it more as a cline, with varying degrees of how ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ the language use is, as below:

!This allows us to include things which are more

complex to define, such a T-shirts, which are designed and manufactured by a company, but in which the individual expresses a personal choice by wearing.

! Codemixing !This is a feature of Linguistic Landscapes where we can find some really creative language use. This is where elements of not only lexis but also grammar and even pronunciation of two or more languages are mixed, as in the examples below;

!Note that in the example ‘Beb’s

house’ - a shop which sells mineral water - the name ‘Beb’ is short for ‘beber’ (to drink) and it uses English grammar (‘s) and lexis (house). The ‘I (heart) liqui’ display also brings in symbols and an abbreviation.


How can we exploit the Linguistic Landscape as a learning resource?

!While the study of the linguistic

landscape is emerging in various domains of enquiry … it has heretofore not drawn much attention in the field of education. Dagenais, Moore, Sabatier, Lamarre and Armand, 2009

!! ! They go on to describe a study they did in Canada, where they gave disposal cameras to

children at school and got them to go out and photograph the English they saw in the urban environment. The learners were therefore acting as ‘language researchers’ and collated information in class.

How can we exploit the Linguistic Landscape as a learning resource?

!While the study of the linguistic landscape is emerging in various domains of enquiry … it has heretofore not drawn much attention in the field of education. Dagenais, Moore, Sabatier, Lamarre and Armand, 2009

!They go on to describe a study they did in Canada, where they gave disposal cameras to

children at school and got them to go out and photograph the English they saw in the urban environment. The learners were therefore acting as ‘language researchers’ and collated information in class.

! There are various other ways to exploit the linguistic landscape in class: ! Guess the place. Students are shown the names of shops (which could be in the local area), •

and in teams have to guess what type of shop or business it is. A free lesson plan (‘Signs of the Times’) with photos is available to download here.

• Talking about graffiti. Show students photos of different examples of graffiti in the local area, students discuss which they like/don’t like and why. Some graffiti also carries a political message (e.g. Banksy), which could be used to stimulate discussion.

!• Street view. Use Google maps street view to explore the urban environment with your class. Learners can call out when they see English used. !• The history of streets. Many building and street names are often named after historical figures. Learners could research these online and present their findings to the class. ! New urban spaces. Take a photo of an ‘empty’ urban area in your neighbourhood e.g. a •

patch of grass, under a bridge, a blank wall on the side of a building, etc. Students work in groups to design how to ‘decorate’ it and present their ideas to the class.

! Correct the errors. Often the use of English in the linguistic landscape contains errors •


(even in countries where English is the main language). Collect these and bring them to class for learners to correct.

How would you improve this?! • Improve the adverts. Collect photos of advertising posters/hoardings. Give them to learners to modify however they want to, and try to ‘improve them’ by changing words, adding comments etc. e.g. an advert for a business directory which reads ‘Whatever you want, just yell!’ – underneath you could write ‘less adverts’.

!• Create an open space. A while ago I was in Prague, when I came across this on a wall in a park:

! A popular topic in Prague, apparently.! !…the idea being that people could walk up and write their own ideas to finish the sentence. !Why is the linguistic landscape important? !LL, indeed, constitutes the very scene –

made of streets, corners, circuses, parks, buildings – where society’s public life takes place. As such, this scene carries crucial sociosymbolic importance as it actually identifies – and thus serves as the emblem of societies, communities and regions.


(Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara and Trumper-Hecht, 2006)

The linguistic landscape is important not only because it provides the backdrop to our day-to-day lives, but also as a valuable language learning resource. And the best thing about it is that it’s everywhere, open to everyone and free.

!! !


Francisco Langa

lives, or even from another story. A powerful story can influence changes or make adjustments of the reader’s own earlier experiences and feelings. Some writings are about situations which readers can turn around and apply or compare to their own lives, for better or worse. Some stories bring landscapes and decisions, or a mixture of many things that become a guide to readers. Some books become a reader’s special friends because of the writer’s craftsmanship in being able to weave things together that makes the reader becomes immersed in the story.



Writing creatively needs skills that can attract readers and glimpse imaginary worlds which have been created as a result of a creative writing process. Here there is something of craftsmanship. According to Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), “poems flow from the innermost to the outermost of a being”. Being creative is the ability to tell stories, bring out the voices of characters, create scenes, twists, climaxes and imbue feelings with the power to make readers experience them with feelings from their own


! Creative reading needs one to find a ways of accessing creative writing materials, whether poems, short stories, novels for reading, but reading alone might not always be the right way. Reading in groups can be a vitally positive experience because one has the opportunity of sharing views with others. I once shared “The Frogs and the Boys” from the Aesop’s Fables, and a member of the group commented “I think the moral of the story is that when one sees someone else’s actions endanger life one has to call out.” I, as group facilitator, about to share the moral of the story according to the author, took pleasure in learning new views and comments from readers and seeing them practice speaking as they responded to the text. It can be very exciting to read and share stories and poems in groups. I also share reading on the ELT Online Reading Group (, a space where one can find stories and poems for English Language teaching and learning. The stories are designed for teachers´ use but they include useful guide for both readers and teachers. There are also spaces for sharing comments about the stories being read which encourages members to engage in sharing their ideas. The cultural differences of members of the online group allow diversity in the kind of comments they post.



our reading by contributing with our comments for the growth of communities of readers, even though this is not always easy.

! Being creative may also mean being able to join in these forums and become involved in encouraging debates carry on. In a public debate it might appear that some people have not been reading, while the problem may be that people are reading but they are not able to share their views about it, perhaps for cultural reasons. They are reading ‘alone’. An example is the ELT- ORG that has got many members logging in but a few members post their comments about their reading. They enjoy lurking but many hesitate to contribute

To be creative in speaking and listening one needs to find his own audience where possible to make one’s voice be heard and one needs to be exposed continually to creative conversations. Here we find a connection between language skills, the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are somehow inter-connected. For instance, the face to face Reading Group also can be seen as an opportunity for members practice speaking and listing skills as discussions are encouraged and managed. Again, do not hesitate to speak at these forums, to share your thoughts and make your voice heard. I have learned a lot from being a member of the Book Club RG at the British Council resource center in Maputo, and my passion for writing stems from there when, after reading stories from “New Writing” series, there a question asked when we would be reading and sharing our own stories in the sessions. I challenged it by writing a short story in English entitled “The Grave N˚256802” and the team of facilitators drew discussion questions for the story to be used for one session. It was both a group and personal achievement. The Book Club was a space where a lot of speaking was happening. We knew we did not need to wait for our mastery of speaking English to become perfect before opening our mouths! It was more than being in the classroom, the stories and discussions would give us opportunities of “going to other places without leaving”.

It was more than being in the classroom, the stories and discussions would give us opportunities of !In my country, Mozambique, English is daily becoming a key “going to other to academic and professional progress. It is not wrong to places without suggest that the people need to be creative to learn English leaving” quickly. Many of the people by posting their comments. The stories and poems shared online also have discussion questions aimed at guiding readers. Posting is not a waste of time, the benefits return to you: it is a win-win game. Let your thoughts be challenged and then receiving feedback from other readers has a powerful teaching potential for all. We need to be creative about

learning English in private and public schools do not need to rely solely on sitting in a classroom. It reminds me a passage from The Bottle Neck (Hans Christian Andersen's short story) – “for one cannot learn a language by being shut up in a loft, even if one stays there for twenty years”.

Progress in IT has brought new ways in which readers can choose to learn English: by joining creative RGs, the ELT online RG, and e-magazines like the IED are all opportunities for progressive learning to happen creatively, because being involved in reading and writing activities is a way of learning that can even be seen as everlasting. And one needs to be committed to reading and posting. It is not that my English writing is good but it is improving because I engage in these forums.

! The development of social projects, in the form of reading groups, may be the appropriate answer to the learning needs of students of English in many places, including Mozambique. Believing that English cannot be learned just by remaining in the classroom, there is a demand for public talks that support English usage among learners, and

English usage among learners, and reading groups can open an opportunity of starting conversations aimed at learning by sharing together the experiences of reading

reading groups can open an opportunity of starting conversations aimed at learning by sharing together the experiences of reading. Creative writing and reading can really trigger successful conversations. There should be radio, TV, face to face, and online forums where readers come together and practice their English language skills. It will not come all at once, it may evolve slowly. But RGs have their cost. Budgeting reading groups is a topic worth a future discussion.

In conclusion, there are many challenges behind RGs but there are also many benefits readers can get from joining reading groups if they adhere as opportunities for learning from interactive talks, sharing ideas and feelings, views about stories, poems, and novels. I care for any RG that brings me an opportunity to practice my English, whether meetings face to face, radio or online. The expression “my English” reminds me of Chinue Achebe’s view about the discussion about whether African writing should be written in ‘African languages’ or ‘European’ ones. He bravely claimed the ownership of English, claiming that by having acquired English through education it had become his language. He asked for the freedom to write in his language and he successfully wrote African stories in his language, English. It meant the English language belonged to him. I’m a Bantu, I know English. I have acquired it. I would like to continue writing in English.


Celeste Simões and Helena Oliveira

Creativity Strikes! !More than ever, English teachers are making use

of classroom technology in order to motivate their students and make their lessons more dynamic. Student engagement is a priority when we are planning our lessons, and the Internet has provided us with a wide range of helpful tools.

!We have shared with our students the stories of three young Canadians, Ryan Hreljac, Craig Kielburger and Bilaal Rajan. The lesson starts off with the analysis of three photographs, in which we can see these three Canadians helping people in different areas of the world.

!After the students have looked at the photos and described them, we looked at a world map (we have used the app Earth 3D which you can find in the App Store ( earth-3d/id476566660?mt=12).

!Many times our students have some difficulty

identifying where certain countries or cities are. This wonderful application helps them to locate most of these places, and it also gives them some information about them. It is a very useful app and it gives us, and our students, a lot of useful, cultural information we often lack: information about monuments, rivers, capital cities, etc.

!We then moved on to listening to each of them

telling their story, and what had influenced them into being who they are today. A dash of creativity and will power helped them, from a very tender age, to start building the foundation for their projects, which today are recognised worldwide.

!Ryan Hreljac is the founder of the Ryan’s Well

Foundation (, which has been helping build wells all over the world. From the age of 6, Ryan decided that he wanted to help people have access to clean, safe water, and so far he has helped build over 822 water

projects and 1025 latrines bringing safe water and improved sanitation to over 805,813 people. In this lesson students were shown his website, some of his projects and also an excerpt of the documentary launched back in 2003 about his doings: Ryan’s Well ( watch?v=fWk2_LZ1zFM ) The students loved it and wanted to watch the whole documentary.


the time came to talk about Craig Kielburger and also about his brother Marc. At the age of 12, Craig read a piece of news about another child who had been killed while fighting against child slavery. From that moment on, he decided that we would also be involved in this plight, and Free the Children (http:// ) came to life so that children all over the world could have a better future.

“From that moment on he continued making a difference in the lives of thousands of people” We moved around their website, looked at the projects they have – watched videos, saw photos, read testimonials from teenagers who have been trying to make a positive difference in their world. Once again, students felt that they can do so much and that the future lies in their hands.


third Canadian boy, Bilaal, now eighteen years old, has also shared his story on the Internet ( His desire to help people in need, especially children, started at the age of four when a massive earthquake struck Gujarat, in India. He found a way to raise money and send it to them, and that was the moment of change. From that moment on he continued making a difference in the lives of thousands of people. In Tedx Toronto ( http:// he tells us about himself, and his life, and once again our students felt drawn into his story.

!These are three of many thousands of stories

out. The Internet has provided us with useful, creative and different tools to explore the world around us, and show our students how creative and daring they can be when it comes to changing their world.

!! !!

Celeste and Helena are the authors of the 10th year course book ‘Bridges’, published by Sebenta /LeYa.

Effective Interaction ! in the language classroom !

Carolyn Leslie Communicative Language Teaching, the objective of which is to develop ‘communicative competence’ (Hymes 1972), has been embraced by teachers around the world as the most plausible basis for language teaching today. Teaching activities involve learners interacting in pairs and small groups in the target to share information and there is now a solid foundation of research to support claims that this interaction benefits foreign and second language

(L2) learning. But how does peer to peer interaction promote language learning? Two major learning theories attempt to describe processes which lead to second language learning; cognitive learning theories, which view language learning as an activity taking place solely within the learner’s head, and sociocultural theories which emphasise the importance of language use in a social context.

Interaction and Language Learning: cognitive ! sociocultural theories and From a cognitive theoretical perspective interaction is important in the learning process. Long’s Interaction Hypothesis (1981, 1996) claims that language learning occurs when learners have the opportunity to ‘negotiate meaning’ when communication problems occur. He noticed that during native-speaker/ nonnative-speaker interaction, the use of repetition, confirmation checks, comprehension checks, clarification requests and corrective feedback were common. He suggested that learners, through checking and clarifying problem utterances came to realise the difference between their (imperfect) knowledge of the second language and correct forms which gave them the opportunity to incorporate new language into their discourse. Interaction is also important in Swain’s Output Hypothesis (1995) which suggests that interaction increases fluency, helps learners use their interlanguage (learner language) confidently and routinely and gives learners the opportunity to experiment with new language and receive either positive or negative feedback. The theory that input and interaction lead to intake has been put forward by Schmidt (1994) as a result of his own experience of learning Portuguese. He suggested that noticing, ‘for example when one notices the odd spelling of a new vocabulary word,’ leads to learning and using the feature. Sociocultural theorists take the view that development is more taking part in a social activity than acquiring knowledge. Here ‘the distinction between ‘use’ of the L2 and ‘knowledge’ of the L2 becomes blurred because ‘knowledge is use and use creates knowledge’ (Ellis 2003: 176). In the language classroom this means that learners learn new language while interacting with others, and this is eventually internalised so learners can use these new forms and functions autonomously. Unskilled

learners in the classroom require the guidance of teachers or more skilled others through supportive dialogue which helps them through successive steps of a problem that he or she cannot perform alone, termed scaffolding. Socio-cultural theory therefore also suggests active participation and interaction are at the heart of learning.

Strategy Training and Group Interaction Although oral interaction is a key element in language learning, students don’t always create the best conditions for learning when they interact. As teachers, we know that there are times when learners engage in minimal exchanges when interacting, or one student may dominate, excluding others from the interaction. Sometimes students pretend they understand to save face, and in monolingual classes students can revert to their first language (L1) when there is a breakdown in communication. But perhaps we can train learners to interact more effectively. Naughton (2006) suggests that learners can be taught specific strategies to help them maximise the learning potential of classroom group and pair oral interaction. First she suggests that the rational for using specific strategies should be discussed with students and then these strategies can be practised using roleplay activities. For example, to train students to request and give help students were provided with cards with the key points of a story to tell the others in the group, but were also instructed to ask others for help with vocabulary.


As teachers, we know that there are times when learners engage in minimal exchanges when interacting

“I asked students to also focus on inviting ! others to contribute to the interaction” As I believed my C1 teenage learners weren’t maximising their opportunities for learning during interaction I decided to introduce strategies I hoped would promote learning. With the learning theories above in mind I explained the research and the importance of requesting and giving help, requesting clarification, asking follow up questions and self and other correction using a PowerPoint presentation and asked students to focus on using these in class. In addition I asked students to also focus on inviting others to contribute to the interaction. We then discussed what each strategy entailed and I provided students with a checklist where they marked how often they used each strategy in the class and answered a few questions on strategy use. I also copied the strategies onto cards and gave a set to each group.

The Results The feedback from my students was very positive. All the students in the class thought that oral interaction with their classmates was important for learning, and they all stated they learned from others in the group during interaction. Almost all stated that, as they were paying more attention to strategy use, they used them more than usual and everyone though using the strategies helped them learn more effectively as it focused them on using English ( and not Portuguese, their L1), and meant they were more aware of their own errors. Surprisingly, more than half said they would be very appreciative of correction by a peer, although the others mentioned it would depend on who was correcting them and how it was done. Lastly, the overwhelming majority thought these strategies could be learnt, although one student commented that most were intuitive, and the students who needed to learn them would

never use them as naturally. In contrast, another student commented that if they used them on a regular basis, they would become more intuitive. Personally it seemed to me that a lot of the students regarded the whole process as a game type activity which they enjoyed taking part in. So although it’s early days yet, I’ll be encouraging students to use these strategies throughout the rest of the academic year and suggest you might like trying the same in your classes too.

! !References !Ellis, R. 2003.Task Based Language Learning and !Teaching (Oxford: Oxford University Press) ! Hymes, D. 1972. ‘On Communicative Competence’, in Sociolinguistics ed. by J.B. Pride & J.Holmes (Harmondsworth: Penguin), pp. 269-293! Long, M.H. 1996. ‘The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition’, in Handbook of second language acquisition, ed. by W. Ritchie and T. Bhatia (San Diego, CA: Academic Press), pp. 413-468 ! Naughton, D. 2006. ‘Cooperative Strategy Training and Oral Interaction: Enhancing Small Group Communication in the Language Classroom,’ The Modern Language Journal 90: 169-184! Schmidt, R. 1994. ‘Deconstructing consciousness in search of useful definitions for applied linguistics,’ AILA Review, 11: 11-26

You Wanna Teach? Don't Bother Mikolaj Sobocinski


s is probably the case with most teachers, I have no choice but to train my students to handle particular groups of vocabulary, use particular grammatical structures and to speak on preselected subjects. Both my students and I find joy in those lessons when the topic or some current news spur the discussion. But there are times when talking about fashion, weather, customs, inventions, etc. does not make my students flex a single muscle in their tongue. What then? Well, there are plenty of methodologies and techniques to help, but what is there that your students may really need and at the same time makes the course progress? Over the last ten years, I have tried numerous approaches, as you have probably done as well. Like you, I have tried real life material, books, playing games and quizzes. I even took my students to a pub (they are 19+ and we agree not to drink beer...) and I took them to a barbecue. Some of those lessons worked better than others and some did not work at all. No surprises there, until I tried something I branded Reading Week after what I had experienced when studying in England. Reading Week there meant no classes and a lot of time for reading course books. My Reading Week meant bringing newspapers into the class and... doing nothing...

!As preposterous as it may seem, it worked.

After a scheduled test and checking attendance, the remaining 75 minutes was totally devoted to doing nothing or, at least, nothing classroom-like. I did not tell my students to talk. I did not tell them to check or use any vocabulary and I did not give them any topics. And it worked! That is not the whole

truth though. I did ask them to rearrange the tables so that there were two rows of around ten chairs, as on the underground. This was the first task, “You are on the Tube, commuting to work or uni, and you'll spend the next 30 minutes with other passengers doing nothing more but waiting for your stop...” That is all I promised them. Some of my students were eager to try a new thing, some were more than hesitant. I supplied the ‘carriage’ with current newspaper (The Guardian, The Spectator, and The Daily Mail). For the next half an hour I merely announced another station every five minutes and some of ‘the passengers’ had to change seats randomly. Or to be precise I had to shout because the 20 students present in the room were talking non-stop, deeply engrossed in conversations about what they had found in newspapers and what they had done during the previous weekend. It worked! My students talked, in English only. They read newspapers and discussed them, including all the topics that we had covered and touching upon a dozen we only have in plans.

!When the train reached its final station, I told

my students that it is time to go to work. After all, that was where the Tube was taking them. They rearranged the furniture, this time creating a square with a few chairs inside and a few outside. I said “You have finished work and have called your friends to go on a pub crawl. Unfortunately, some of your mates aren't here yet, so you've got to wait a few minutes before they arrive.” This time there were no newspapers left. I was afraid it was not going to work as well as the Tube scenario. Fortunately I orchestrated the task at the real end of the classroom and the students started talking about what they would do during the break.

And then I heard one person joking “Whose flat is that? I want some tea!” I just prompted them to go to the kitchen – a space behind the square – and prepare tea. Of course now everybody wanted to drink something, and everybody wanted something else. After the next five minutes I asked if any of them smoked and a few social smokers gathered in the kitchen again, shouting through the imaginary window. Later on there were taxis, late friends, pizza and bills to pay.


!I taught this class to four different groups and

it worked well. Even the least responsive group read the newspapers and talked more than usual. Creating something unusual helped to break the routine, but you cannot turn this new pattern into a new habit. Or so I thought. For the following six months I have run the Reading Week class every 4-6 weeks. Every time I ask my students to imagine they are at a different place. And each of those 30minute sessions worked well. I did not teach them any vocabulary or grammar or phonetics at that time. I did not correct or even guide them. I just set the scene and inserted a few prompts. Some of them discussed the most trivial issues and others spoke rather infrequently. But in the end I had all the students talking together.

!After the first Reading Week class some

students came to me to tell me that it had been the best speaking class ever. To make sure that this was not said just in the heat of the moment I posted an anonymous survey on the internet. The outcome was amazing. After a week, still 70% believed it was a fantastic class and 80% wanted more. After the first term I prepared another anonymous survey about the whole term, and again most students asked for more real-life situations and newspapers in the classroom. What can I say? I can only applaud them for their willingness to talk. And to read!

!Here are some guidelines that I find useful: ! These are not role playing games, so do

not assign any roles. Simply place the students in a natural situation and leave it to

English Department & 2nd Generation Humanities


Uniwersytet Kazimierza Wielkiego, Bydgoszcz e-mail: MikolajSobocinski/Papers

! !

them. If some start to pretend to be someone else, do not interfere! These will not work well if you make them part of a normal class. Usually I finish a lesson 30-minutes quicker, give homework, and then have Reading Week activities till the end of classroom time. Have them just once a month but keep them regular. Then you will have enough ideas for the whole year and together they will boost your students' speaking, understanding and confidence. If they are too frequent, they will become ‘normal’ and repetitive. You should try simple and downto-earth scenarios like being at the dentist’s, in the waiting lounge at the airport, having lunch in a café/pub, buying tickets in the cinema, cooking simple food for unexpected guests, or just go out and play Frisbee while chatting about anything – let your students decide.

!! Examples of 8 scenarios can be found in the

full version of this article posted here: https://

!So far, I have tried most of those ideas in my

classroom, with many students, with different groups, and those classes worked every single time. Even when there was not much going on, still there was 90% of student talking time and every single person had to say something. I also noticed that when those classes are more fun, the other “compulsory topics” classes work better as well. Students feel that there are some things that we have to do, but every month there is a reward and relaxation. After all we should not give them knowledge of English, we do not train them to be experts in syntax. What we should do is to show that English can be used as a tool to do whatever they want, and that means treating the foreign language as a skill and the classroom as a practice field or testing ground only.


My Childhood

By Tanguene


I remember
 when in moonlight nights

I Apologise


I apologise for being the road Where carts, cars and people tread on my backs And go about their business


when one ran in front
 another was running behind
 trying to step on each other's shadows,
 I'm stepping on your shadow!
 I'm stepping on your shadow!
 We giggled
 we crazily laughed, 
 running towards nowhere

I apologise for being the day …


I apologise for being the night All people masked And all become worst


I apologise for being the sun The sunrays heating the air Making rain comes


I apologise for being the rain The crops grow by my strength And I have no mouth to eat a single grain


I apologise for being the rain Watering people who have no blame In the streets where live makers


I apologise for being the maker Of these lines that will tell you nothing Even if they were all but a poem


I apologise for being poems That you read and found out they have lost sense.


I apologise for being this poem Reading me, Exploring me For your pleasure Then guess I mean nothing!

Illustration: Paul Driver

! In World Cup year, can you find creative ways to combine English and football? Why football and English? Football and English are often cited as being the world’s two global languages. However, teachers usually shy away from trying to combine the two for language learning, perhaps because of syllabus constraints or a feeling that it is too much of a male-orientated topic. The gender issue is undeniable in some countries, but equally undeniable is the fact that teenage boys are usually the most difficult to motivate for learning both inside and outside the classroom! It is also true that whatever our feelings about football, the 2014 World Cup will attract global interest and a global TV audience. Over three billion watched the last World Cup in South Africa, and a minimum of 20,000 journalists and 400 TV crews are expected in Brazil. Of course, some countries will be more interested than others, and we can expect rapt attention from the 36 participating countries, and in particular the host nation Brazil, where football has had an important role in the construction of a modern Brazilian identity, and Portugal, the country with the FIFA player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo. This interest will not be gender or age restricted.

British Council Brazil, working with the Premier Skills English team, has come up with some resources which we hope will show teachers that there are opportunities to use the two, especially for autonomous learning, project work, and learning to learn skills. These resources include hard-copy worksheets, online interactive exercises, and videos, and have two types of content: ‘football English’ and ‘English through football’. The former deals with vocabulary and expressions specific to football, while the latter uses football as a hook to teach English or develop language learning skills. The majority of the resources are for the latter purpose.

My Brazil worksheets The hard-copy feature is a set of 30 self-access worksheets for learners at A2 level, with some ideas for teachers about how these could be used in a classroom, especially for project work which has intercultural or cross-curricular outcomes. The theme is ‘My Brazil’, and it has three distinct elements, explaining aspects of Brazil to the outside world, sharing common football English terms, and welcoming the world through tourism and hospitality English. This ‘English through football’ supplement has examples of the first two: one of the 12 portraits of the 12 World cup cities, looking at a distinctive feature in each (architecture, history, art, and so on), and using a variety of text-types, and one of 10 picture/text cloze activities on ‘My match day’, looking at basic football English vocabulary from the perspective of a match-day protagonist (player, coach, steward, referee, and so on).

The portraits of the 12 world cup cities provide a possible model for teachers to adopt with their own students for project work about their own country. Being able to explain aspects of your own identity and culture in a universal language like English is surely one of the main reasons for learning another language. All 30 of these worksheets will feature on the dedicated Premier Skills English website.

! MANAUS I’m sure you’d love to visit the rainforest that surrounds Manaus, the capital of Amazonas. We asked Viviane Martins, a manauara tour guide to tell us the

Walk safely through the forest!


Visiting the Amazon rainforest might be the most amazing thing you ever do, but there are risks. This simple advice will help you to stay safe and enjoy this amazing experience.



rainforest spiders

Do Do understand that you’ll get dirty, scratched, stung and possibly bitten by ants or mosquitoes. Do stay alert at all times.

insect repellent roots


long sleeves


stings scratches and bites


wild animals

USEFUL EXPRESSIONS … is a protected area because… Take care not to…

Do put on insect repellent to avoid bugs

You can find many different types of…

Do wear a long sleeved shirt and long trousers tucked into your boots.

You can identify it by…


Don’t lean on any trees. You might fi nd lots of different types of ants, spiders or even snakes.

Which word in each group is different?

Don’t approach wild animals. If you see one, move away from it.

Example: spiders ants mosquitoes insect repellent

Don’t step on fallen trunks or roots – there may be a snake hiding in there. Watch your step!

a rainforest

wild animals



b snakes


long sleeves

wild animals

c scratches




Don’t walk away from your group. Stick together!




What sort of wildlife can be found in your area? Complete the circles with ideas.







There are resorts built in the middle of the Amazon jungle surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and wildlife. Their rooms are nestled in the canopy of trees above the Amazon, and you can actually walk among the treetops, on wooden catwalks that link one tree to the next. MANAUS Population: 1.8 million. (Source: UNdata)

plant s










Use the words and expressions from the box above to talk about the animals and plants in your area. What advice would you give to people wanting to see this wildlife in your area?

ANSWERS: a) wild animals b) long sleeves c) bugs

For more English and football activities visit

© British Council 2014


dos and don’ts of Amazon trekking.

Fans in Brazil videos Given that the eyes of the world will be on Brazil in the summer of 2014 we asked a number of questions in English to a number of Brazilians. While a few of these questions were loosely about football (e.g. what words would you use to describe the way Brazil plays football?) the majority were aiming to elicit cultural information which would be of interest to others. Here are some of the questions: What other sports do you like watching or playing? What would be a useful phrase in Portuguese for visitors to learn?

These videos not only reveal interesting aspects of Brazilan society, but they also provide a model and a stimulus for possible student self-produced work, whether it be interviewing each other, or their parents and friends (and adding translation). There are seventeen of these videos in total and they will all be added eventually to the Fans in Brazil section of the website. They will all have learner self-access worksheets, and teacher notes for classroom exploitation.

What do you think visitors will find surprising here? What food would you miss if you travelled outside of Brazil? What’s the best way to learn a language? What do you like about English? What are your favourite words in English?

The English Game videos Humour is notoriously under-used in language learning. In a series of 12 short videos for elementary language learners, we have taken a globally familiar television genre, the football pundits commenting on football performance, and transported it into a light-hearted competition between two people whose native language is not English.

The competition challenges the competitors to carry out a simple task (checking in at a hotel, ordering a meal, and so on), in a UK environment. As with all video on the site, The English Game videos have online interactive exercises and downloadable support packs to complement the resource.

Player Interviews It is one thing for a teacher to try to instil good ‘learning to learn’ strategies and techniques into their students, but when they hear their football idols talking about the importance of keeping vocabulary records, learning grammar, and not being shy about ‘doing’ (sic) mistakes when speaking English, then this becomes something very popular. The Player Interviews have long been one of the most popular sections of the website, and we are launching a whole new series with Premier League players, and teenage Academy players, talking about various aspects of living in the UK (their likes and dislikes around food, clothes, music, films, books, and so on).

As always they come with complementary online and downloadable materials, and again provide a model for student production. As a package, these materials capitalise on the global interest in football – stronger than ever in a World Cup year – and use it as a springboard into exploring ideas of culture, identity and self-expression in English. Learners don’t need to know which team is top of the Premier League or who’s going to win the world cup to find ways that English through football can raise their game.

Michael Houten works for the British Council Brazil, and is based in Rio de Janeiro.

MY MATCHDAY THE GOALKEEPER It’s an important match today. It’s the 1. stop the other team scoring goals – I am the 2. I practise with the goalkeeping 3. I often practise away from the other players.

of the Cup and it’s my job to . Before the match, . My job on the pitch is different and

I put on my 4. and the match starts. I am nervous but my team are playing very well and I don’t have anything to do. We are winning 1–0 and then the striker from the other team is going to 5. . The ball is moving very fast, but I jump to my left and 6. the ball. In the 7. , the other team have lots of shots but I save all of them. Then, in the final minute they have a 8. and the ball hits a player’s hand. The referee says ‘9. . Penalty!’ Now I’m really nervous. The player puts the ball on the penalty spot. He runs and hits the ball. I jump to my right and save the penalty! The referee blows the final whistle. All my teammates jump on me. We are going to the Cup Final!










ANSWER KEY: 1. semi-final 2. goalkeeper 3. trainer 4. gloves 5. shoot 6. save 7. second half 8. corner kick 9. handball

For more English and football activities visit

© British Council 2014 / D609





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