Page 1

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

n July 2014


nn Networking Adrian Underhill nn Designer learning Nicky Hockly nn IELTS preparation Sam McCarter nn Online dictionaries Pete Sharma

nn Teaching teenagers  Sports and English  ESP projects nn ELT leadership  Augmented reality  Blended learning nn Studying and learning  Reverse reading  EAP nn Reviews  Practical ideas  Webwatch


Contents 35 Designer learning

Editorial 3

A note from the editor


4 ‘The next session is … networking ...’

Adrian Underhill considers the benefits of networking on a range of levels.

Practical ideas

10 From the store to the classroom: teaching with shopping receipts

Elena Schvidko describes a number of activities that make use of shopping receipts to practise language and skills at all levels.

14 Using online dictionaries in English language courses

Pete Sharma discusses the benefits of online dictionaries and suggests a range of activities using them.

17 The augmented classroom

Stephen Pilton offers some practical ideas for how to use augmented reality in EFL.

20 The things people said, Part 2 Simon Mumford offers further ideas for teaching using quotes and anecdotes.

Exam preparation

23 IELTS, grammar and linguistic competence

Sam McCarter explores the reasons why IELTS students need to learn as much about linguistic competence as they do about grammar and vocabulary.

The view from here 25 ELT leadership

Meghan Beler finds out from local leaders of ELT programmes what it takes to be a good leader in Turkish education.

Professional development 28 Back in the classroom

Robert McLarty describes how it was to go back to teaching after 20 years away.

Technology matters 31 Tech news, events and Webwatch

Michael Carrier looks at some new apps, websites and Twitter feeds.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Nicky Hockly reports on a classroombased research project run in the UK using mobile-based communicative tasks.

41 How to Skype up your English classes

Professional development 66 #ELT chat – an online community of practice

Shaun Wilden describes the phenomenal success of what is more than just a live online discussion forum.

Anna Kamont discusses the huge benefits of teaching English via Skype

It made me think 44 Blended learning: where are we?

Andrew Wickham offers an update on the state of blended learning and some thoughts for the future.

English for academic purposes

Materials writing

68 ‘Reverse reading’ conversation lessons

Nicola Prentis illustrates a straightforward way of getting far more speaking practice out of a reading text by reversing the normal approach.

70 Starting your own network

Nick Robinson recounts how a group of like-minded people got together and one year later have one of the fastest growing special interest groups in IATEFL.

47 Using perspective to analyse and produce texts

In the second article of the series Edward de Chazal discusses perspective and its importance in both reading and writing

50 From studying to learning

David Addyman offers insights into bridging the gap between studying and really learning.

Teaching teenagers

53 Teaching teenagers beyond the coursebook Alastair Lane looks at ways of engaging students in the classroom so that they can concentrate on the here and now.

56 Sport: a powerful topic to generate language work

Alex Miller argues that students talk about sport in ways which could help with their language work.

60 Projects in the ESP classroom

Inna Kozlova considers some of the issues involved in running a projectbased ESP class with Spanish university students.

English for specific purposes 63 Can an English teacher successfully transition into soft skills training? Michelle Hunter discusses her move from English language teaching to soft skills training.


73 Reviews

Roger Gower

A book I’ve used 74 Cutting Edge

Clare Henderson

75 Aspire

Glenda Inverarity Business Essentials Helen Stepanova Young Explorers/Little Explorers Darren Elliott 77 Bridge to IELTS/IELTS Introduction Sandee Thompson 78 Active Listening Hall Houston 79 Presenting/Group Work Alex Case

Background books 81 Introducing Second language Acquisition Alex Tilbury 83 Disciplinary Identities: Individuality and community in academic discourse Neil McBeath

A book I like 84 English as a Global Language Roger Barnard

86  Summary of books reviewed 87 What’s new


modernenglishteacher n Ways to teach in an ever-changing modern world n Advice on managing an evolving English language n Somewhere to share research and reflections with other teachers

Subscribe from £34 today for your own printed copy, four times a year, plus exclusive access to the digital edition of Modern English Teacher

3 WAYS TO SUBSCRIBE 1. PHONE Call our subscription hotline on +44 (0)1273 434 943 2. ONLINE Order online at 3. BY EMAIL Email our subscription team on

Subscribe today!


Editorial A note from the editor

Welcome to the latest issue of Modern English Teacher. We hope you like the new look of the magazine. If you have any feedback, please let us know. I am sure that whatever your teaching situation we have something for you in this mix of articles and reviews. Since April I have been doing a wide range of things, putting together this issue, attending conferences, writing some ELT materials, doing some syllabus design and working with a team of teachers in Europe developing their own classroom content. I have also been doing some teaching but more of that later. What links all of these things is collaboration. Each project requires all the members of the team to offer their own input, support, skill and judgement at different stages and the aims are only reached if that group is creative, industrious and punctual. Leadership may change within the group as different stages take on importance, contributions may be great one week and much less the next and innovation will be replaced by routine at key stages. This sort of collaboration and networking extends to the staffroom where teachers rely on each other for guidance, advice, morale-raising or simply just a person to chat with. Within the classroom you control a network of students connected to the rest of the world by social media and one of your aims is to harness the strengths of both to create the best learning environment. Networking is a theme of this issue beginning with the opening article and spreading through articles about special interest groups, online forums and a fascinating View from here about leadership in ELT in Turkey.

he can be. He reads and researches endlessly to gain insights which he hopes he can pass on to his students. The descriptions of his best lessons, where he loses track of time and the students are totally engrossed, make great reading. He finally makes it after about 30 years so don’t be discouraged! Every time we read an article based on someone’s reflections it should give us a chance to be a little bit better, to view things from a different perspective or at least to try out something new. Talking of teaching, I recently went back into the classroom after a very long gap, probably 20 years or more. I found it nerve-wracking but extremely rewarding. You can read more later on in the issue but one thing that struck me was how much you rely on colleagues for support and understanding. A suggestion here, some tips there, a second judge on assessment, the whole shared experience. This sort of networking is vital to good teaching. In future issues of Modern English Teacher we are hoping to have a part dedicated to certain themes. This will allow us to have three or four articles around a topic, ideally with different stances from a variety of contexts. The list of topics is published later in this issue. If you have anything you would like to contribute let us know either by email or via Twitter. This has been an interesting issue to put together and I hope you will notice how various pieces overlap. Do continue to give us feedback and comment on any of the articles via email or Twitter.

When I haven’t been working I have been reading a brilliant book called Stoner, written fifty years ago and just rediscovered. It is the story of a teacher at a small American university who has a series of disappointments in both his professional and personal lives but, through it all, has one overriding ambition – to be the best teacher Editor: Robert McLarty Reviews Editor: Roger Gower Technology Matters Editor: Michael Carrier Published by Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd ISSN: 0308-0587 Published: January, April, July, October Design: Emma Dawe, Pavilion Publishing and Media Ltd Advertising Sales: Helena Hughes, Mainline Media tel: 01536 747333 fax: 01536 747520 email: Publisher: Fiona Richmond n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Robert McLarty


Modern English Teacher title and all editorial contents © 2014 Pavilion Publishing and Media Printed in Great Britain by Newman Thomson Subscriptions processed by: Pavilion Publishing and Media, Rayford House, School Road, Hove BN3 5HX tel: 01273 434943 Subscribe on our website, through major subscription agencies or contact: Subscriptions, Pavilion Publishing and Media, Rayford House, School Road, Hove BN3 5HX tel: 01273 434943 email:



‘The next session is … networking…’ Adrian Underhill


etworks pervade our professional and personal lives. This is not new, but we are more aware of it than ever: partly because we have so much going on, and partly because of the ease of communication today. In the past you just got on and met people, now you find that ‘Before dinner there will be 45 minutes for networking…’ or that ‘The next session is … networking…’ This activity used to be called ‘meeting people’ or just ‘coffee break’. So what do you do in a networking slot that you don’t already do in the coffee break? Probably you just hang loose and see who you meet, although I feel a slight pressure to get fiercely eager and stride from person to person gathering a trail of name cards. But it’s true that we have become more aware of the importance of networks in our lives, and a lot of it is done online, not at face-to-face meetings. You certainly belong to a great many more networks than you think. Some you can name like your Facebook group, LinkedIn, your learning community, and so on. Some just happen but you can still identify them, like your staffroom or your extended family, and some are just part of living and not generally visible. Humans have always got things done through the people they know. But there is something new here, and social networks need to be aware of this fact. Humans did not invent networking; it is a basic way of working of the natural world at the level of cells, soil, brains, bodies, herds, tribes, communities, ecosystems and so on. At its core is relationship, and the fact that living things cannot live unless


connected to their context. What is now being added is connecting intentionally to more people in order to receive, know, exchange and do more.

‘At its core is relationship, and the fact that living things cannot live unless connected to their context.’ So now there are network coaches who help you think about how and why you network and purport to enable you to do it more effectively. While networking is a natural thing to do, like many aspects of our lives it can become richer through examination and reflection. As an example of examining one’s networks, choose one you belong to and ask if it is like a big balloon with a single smooth edge and the members all packed into a dense cluster. If it is, it is likely to reduce the richness and variety of information you can be exposed to, which may or may not matter. If on the other hand the network is like multiple clusters with spaces between them, then you may have access to more variety as the clusters create a greater surface area with the outside world, a longer coastline so to speak, and the space between clusters means they are not quite identical, are more varied. When is similarity helpful, and when is variety helpful?

Networks and hierarchies An institutional hierarchy may be a network, but it is also a hierarchy. And while a hierarchy may be benign in intent and even serve the public good, it has some built-in snags. One of these is the distance between its vertical layers and the consequent difficulty for intelligent feedback to flow up, down and through the system as a balancing corrective. Organisations and schools (especially bigger ones) suffer because they are generally not good at listening to themselves, and one way that hierarchies compensate for this lack of connection, internal listening and feedback is through the activity of controlling, with the power to control exercised by distributing intelligence from the top. This can both inhibit, and marginalise networks. What smart schools and companies do is look for ways to release the intelligence that is already in there, to make use of and encourage the internal networks, traditionally referred to somewhat dismissively as the ‘informal organisation’. Partly to increase connection and partly to reduce costs (and pay what is saved to the CEO (?)) the flatter organisation has become an aspiration. This attempts to blend the perceived advantages of both hierarchy and network. But the true network is a horizontal arrangement, tending to distribute power and decision making and to make it less under control of any one part of the system. What holds it together is shared interest, purpose, and personal investment, which means that in looking after the network the members are looking after themselves. Networks represent a shift from vertical to more horizontal, generally adaptable social

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


formations, a shift from the traditional view of ‘power over’ vested in fewer hands (‘tidy’) to ‘power with’ vested across many hands (‘messy’), and an emphasis on relationship and interaction rather than product and action. Networks have their built-in snags too. Development of local hierarchies detracting from the good of the whole network is one, and reliance on certain members is another. Both can lead to the growth of a hierarchy perhaps undermining the network. And excess of silent or passive members is another issue, which can lead to the first two. Decision making where that becomes necessary can be another challenge, while transitory membership can be an asset or not, depending on the purpose.

Kinds of network A network can be temporary, like for the duration of a conference or course or working group or holiday, and out of these accidental meetings more durable connections may develop like a Facebook group or dinner party group. Networks may be user groups who come together to extend their expertise and benefit each other, or learning communities, pressure groups, campaign groups and so on. The more networks you belong to and the more they are networked, the greater the surface area of interaction with what is new or unknown, and by the simple move of joining and acting out your ‘memberly’ behaviour you stand to benefit from what multiple others, unseen to you, may bring, and to contribute to them. Networks flow round corners, and into nooks and crannies. In a well-networked school teachers, students, managers and administration know what each other does and how they can assist each other through their own activities, through sharing ideas, offering guidance, seeking solutions together, and having a greater sense of input into the working of the whole, and the curriculum and syllabus. Probably like most of you I have been in staffrooms which are well networked and you can feel it in the atmosphere and attitudes of the members. We hopefully work in and have helped

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

create collegiate staffrooms where we are able to be learners, helpers, advisors with different people at the same time. In a classroom this may manifest in a more learning-centred ethos where togetherness and collaboration allows questions to be asked and risks taken. I have also been in staffrooms that are the opposite – disconnected, non co-operative, competitive, even toxic – which are less supportive and more exhausting to be in. Once networks get going they network with other networks, so before long a whole community can develop, geographically apart, but linked in terms of shared practice, research, resources, and sense of what matters. Networks are not a direct result of technology but clearly technology has helped. Where teachers in the past relied entirely on their own staffroom for support, they can now reach out further. Communities of practice have sprung from this concept of networking. Networks are powered by difference and diversity, and through technology they bring us into interaction with people we have never met, yet who we talk to through our shared interest. Knowledge itself becomes a process rather than a finished product.

At least two things are happening right now, and each interacts with the other. One is the obvious fact that technology enables a volume and extent and reach of networking never imagined before, which makes many places on earth seem like just down the road. Look at how special interest groups and online forums cover a plethora of issues, big and small, giving real comfort and support to teachers in real time, to teachers working literally all over the world. The other thing which is happening right now is the increased questioning about governance, control, use of power, coupled with (limited/ cautious) willingness to experience network based modes, in turn facilitated by the technology.

Local knowledge and the political And this is another important and political aspect of networking: it is the perfect medium for growing local knowledge needed by local people in response to local concerns, as distinct from universal knowledge linked to universal solutions which may not apply in a specific context. Networking is an underlying methodology that can support the feeling that the answer lies



in inquiry, that truth is multifaceted, contradictory, contextual and local, and that universal solutions don’t solve local problems. In other words that truth is local, like solutions, materials and learning styles. Networks signal a move from reliance on experts towards self and collegiate help, and a move from passivity to agency. There can, but need not be, a sense of anti-authority in the sense of freedom from experts, the growing of local knowledge rather than universal knowledge, and a do-ityourself global culture, where shared questioning may have equal status with informed answering. Networks provide the ideal medium for reconnecting with local people’s own resourcefulness and diversity through discovering that global tools do not fix local problems, but that usable and functional knowledge needs to be locally grown, and they are the ones that can do that. Knowledge is contextual. Access to the experiences of many others enables us to articulate our own amongst equals, and to locate and co-create the ‘local’ knowledge that relates to our own needs. Truth is local, and varies from one village to the next. And in the technological age ‘local’ and ‘village’ don’t only mean just down the road, they

mean just across the digital planet. Understanding of local trends, issues, pressures, culture and language are also key in developing the best possible opportunities for progress to be made. Networks too are part of bigness. We see that in the social media, and in online English language teacher sites for training, resources and information. Teachers’ associations too are networks. Whatever their current size they generally want to be larger to benefit from a greater subscription income to offer a better service to attract more members to bring more variety, to offer more resources, to get more members… and so on round. However, most such associations are not driven by money, control, or influence, but by trying to offer what is important to their members. Their motivation is to serve. You won’t be surprised if I refer here to IATEFL, to me an excellent example of a quality network, evolving all the time not to be bigger, but to meet members’ needs better (and thereby attract more of them and become bigger) and in ever more sophisticated ways. The refreshing thing about teachers’ associations, and networks generally, is that they exist to serve

their members, and they address bigness not by competing to get bigger than the others, buying each other out, or competing each other into extinction, but by connecting together. Thus IATEFL thrives in countries where there is already a strong local teachers’ association, where it can use networked experience to help local associations to grow. It meets bigness by creating networked diversity, not by reducing it or controlling it…

Conclusions There are at least two things a network can do for you: 1) provide access to resources, knowledge, experience, support, ingenuity from the community within the network AND 2) provide a bigger window or coastline on the world outside the network than you can manage on your own. Networks get you to interact with more of life than you could on your own, and in systems of trust such as networks, people are free to create the relationships they need. And in turn, new relationships create in us new capacities that we may not have had or exercised before. So, it pays to look at your networks and to reflect on them, to think how you can help them to grow, how you can connect other people and put them in touch. If you’re a teacher, it may pay to find out about, and get involved with your local teachers’ association, or even start one.

Adrian Underhill is an international consultant, speaker, trainer and author working in areas of leadership and facilitator development, organisational learning and teacher training. He is series editor of Macmillan Books for Teachers, a past president of IATEFL and a current IATEFL Ambassador. Present interests include the roles of spontaneity, improvisation and intuition in learning and teaching.


n Volume 23

n Issue 3



dictionary is now online!

n Ways to teach in an ever-changing modern world n Advice on managing an evolving English language

n Somewhere to share research and reflections with other teachers Subscribe from £34 today for your own printed copy, four times a year, plus exclusive access to the digital edition of Modern English Teacher

up-to-date • authentic • free


1. PHONE Call our subscription hotline on +44 (0)1273 434 943 2. ONLINE Order online at 3. BY EMAIL Email our subscription team on

Subscribe today!

Cobuild ad 130x90_2.indd 1



19/05/2014 14:44

 

Pearls of the English Language consists of concentrated units of concise information. Each Pearl contains a point about the English language in a short form that is easy to assimilate and remember. The Pearls complement the detailed descriptions in A Guide to English Language Usage.

You can get an MA TESOL with no previous teaching experience and only a Band 6 IELTS score!


MA TESOL MA TESOL (Intercultural Education) MA TESOL (Educational Technology) MA TESOL (Teacher Education) for experienced professionals with high competence in English and serious professional commitment. Distance and onsite options Transfer credit offered to Cambridge and Trinity Diploma holders Progression to doctoral study is open for appropriately successful candidates Email:

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Author: Peter Harvey ISBN: print 978-84-616-8732-9 / epub 978-84-616-8918-7

Also by Peter Harvey from Lavengro Books A Guide to English Language Usage for non-native speakers Great English Mistakes made by Spanish-speakers All books are available internationally from Amazon and bookshops, and in libraries through Dawsonera. The price of £36.26 charged by for A Guide to English Language Usage is far in excess of the UK list price of £24.90. Attempts to get Amazon to change it have failed.


TEACHING ENGLISH TO SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES Open up a whole new world of career possibilities - train with UCLan TESOL. Gain an internationally recognised qualification of the highest standards. Our school provision is accredited by Trinity College London and the British Council. Study options are flexible and you will be taught by expert English Language Teaching practitioners and acclaimed researchers in the field. Courses include: • MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) with Applied Linguistics – on campus or e-learning • Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) Key features: • full/part-time (on campus) and e-learning (distance) options • open to experienced teachers and to those relatively new to the field


• taught by research-active staff with hands-on teacher training experience • research expertise in computer-assisted language learning, corpus-informed language teaching, language testing and interlanguage pragmatics

Postgraduate Advice Event, 30th June Call +44 (0) 1772 892400 Email

modernenglishteacher Follow us on Twitter @ModEngTeacher 8

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Next issue From our next issue we are making a change to Modern English Teacher. We will be having a theme for each issue which will allow us to offer a wide range of articles associated with that topic but also allow you to contribute. Our next issue will address the issues connected with teaching English to adults and young adults. nn What general topics are adults interested in? nn Do adult classes have to be work-related? nn How do you get adults to do homework?

If you are interested in contributing send an email to Articles need to be submitted by August 15th 2014. Future issues will have the following themes.



October 2014

Teaching English to adults and young adults

January 2015

English for young and very young learners

April 2015

English medium instruction (including CLIL and English as a Lingua Franca)

July 2015

Testing and assessment

October 2015

Business English

nn Why are adults too busy for English? nn Should adult coursebooks be used in secondary classes? nn Why is it harder to teach pronunciation to adults? nn Who is in charge: the teacher or the adult learners? nn How can we assess adult progress over a small number of hours?

Feedback A couple of responses to articles in our last issue nn Some thought-provoking comments on coursebooks. However, how confident can we be about the quality of materials developed by the individual teacher, and would this be at an individual lesson level or actually provide a framework for a course? nn Is one issue that the industry is now ‘big’ in the UK? Do teachers have the same profile that they had 30 or 40 years ago? nn Even those who are ‘big’ can recognise the benefit of thinking ‘local’. At Embassy we know our students want a focus on the local environment and to be able to use their English in real life situations within the local community. So we are building that into our programmes. Michael Ward Regional Academic Director Embassy Cambridge

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



From the store to the classroom: teaching with shopping receipts A simple shopping receipt can be a great authentic tool for an English class. This article describes a number of activities that make use of shopping receipts to practise reading, writing, and speaking skills, as well as some grammar concepts. Elena Shvidko


he modern world provides language teachers with plenty of excellent materials and resources that help them create lesson plans with a variety of engaging and motivating activities. Most teachers use language textbooks, teacher manuals, workbooks, and the internet on a daily basis. Without these valuable resources, the current generation of English teachers would most likely feel poorly equipped and even helpless. However, in this sea of resources, we may forget about the ‘old-school’ materials such as flyers, brochures, newspapers, which are easily accessible and often free of charge. One day, on my way out from a grocery store, I was looking through my receipt checking the prices and the items I just bought. Suddenly it hit me: this receipt is a perfect teaching tool for my class! What happened after that is obvious: I rushed to my apartment and jotted down the ideas that were already running through my mind. In what follows, I would like to share some of these ideas. I organised them by proficiency levels using the ‘classic’ nominations of the levels, ie. beginning, intermediate, and advanced. I hope that the activities described here will help you generate more ideas for your own class.


Materials you need: Shopping receipts (It’s up to you whether you make a photocopy of the same receipt for all of your students or you bring several different receipts. In fact, the nature and the purpose of your activity should be your best advisors.)

Beginning level 1. Practising shopping vocabulary Use the receipt as an authentic tool to pre-teach shopping vocabulary. Ask the students to name the items on the receipt that they are familiar with, after which you can go over the list and explain those items that they don’t understand. This activity can also be a great opportunity to practise spelling and pronunciation. You can also use it as a vocabulary-building activity by presenting other vocabulary items from the same thematic group as the ones on the receipt. 2. Practising past tense of verbs Activity A. Give the students a list of verbs related to the shopping process (eg., choose, buy, pay). Using these verbs in the past tense form, the students will have to tell their partner a short story about ‘how they bought’ the items on the receipt. For example, ‘Yesterday, I went to a grocery store. I had to buy something for my party. I needed – __________ and __________. I chose

very cheap __________, it was only __________. I bought __________ and I only paid __________.’ This activity is a great exercise for practising both the past tense of verbs and the new shopping vocabulary. Activity B: With a partner or in small groups, the students ask each other questions: ‘Why did you buy this item?’, ‘How much did you pay for it?’, ‘Was it on sale?’ etc. This activity will also give students a chance to practise asking information questions in the past tense. 3. Practising scanning For this activity, you need to prepare copies of the same receipt corresponding to the number of the students in your class. Give a copy of the receipt to each student. Then tell the students that you will ask them to find and mark several items on their receipt. Ask them to stay focused because you will move fast. Here are some examples of the instructions you can give to your students. nn Circle all items that cost less than $2. nn Underline the item that costs more than $4. nn Cross out all items that are uncountable.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


In order to complete these tasks, the students have to quickly scan for the items they are asked to find. Note: If you have a small class, you can prepare several sets of coloured pencils and use them for this activity.

these phrases on the board, so the students use them during the activity:

4. Practising measures For this activity, you need to prepare copies of the same receipt corresponding to the number of the students in your class. If you want your students to practise a variety of items (such as juice, milk, bread, cereal, toilet paper, fish, tuna, eggs, soap, cabbage, raspberry jam, soda) and measures, you probably need to do some shopping to make a nice receipt . Give a copy of the receipt to each student. On the board, write the measures that the students will practise for this activity. The examples are: a pound, a loaf, a can, a jar, a tube, a box, a bottle, a bag, a carton, a roll, a bar, etc. The students will sit/stand in a circle. Each student has to create a sentence using the item from the receipt and match it with one of the measure items from the board. However, before saying their sentence, the students will have to repeat the statements that were made by the previous students. Example: The first student makes a statement: I bought a pound of apples. The person next to the first one continues: I bought a pound of apples and a loaf of bread. Then the next student says: I bought a pound of apples, a loaf of bread, and two cans of soda. And so on. You can also have students pass a ball (or another object) as they speak.

nn Neither … nor …

Intermediate level 1. Practising describing similarities and differences For this activity, you will need to prepare three receipts with the different payment types: cash, credit card, debit card. Divide the students into groups of three and give each group three receipts with the different types of payment. The students will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these types of payment. This activity is a great opportunity to practise compare and contrast phrases for an essay. To facilitate, you can write

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

nn Likewise nn Similarly nn Both … and …

nn Compared to nn Similar to nn As … as … nn In contrast nn Different from nn Unlike nn Whereas/While nn However nn On the other hand, etc.

‘Most teachers use language textbooks, teacher manuals, workbooks and the internet on a daily basis.’ 2. Practising quantifiers For this activity, you will need two copies of the same shopping receipt, and one of the receipts will have the quantities blocked out (use a black marker or a whiteout). Divide the students into pairs and give each pair both receipts. The student that has the receipt without the quantities will ask the following questions to the partner: nn How many apples did you buy? nn How much salt did you buy? nn Did you buy a lot of bread? nn Did you buy several cans of soda? etc.

The other student will respond to these questions according to the information on the receipt. The first student should also make comments, such as ‘Oh that’s a lot!’ or ‘That is very little!’ or ‘That’s too much!’ etc. 3. Practising explaining Expressing opinions might be challenging for some students, especially when given a difficult topic. By using shopping receipts, you can have the students practise explaining relatively easy concepts. For example, you can ask the students to guess the reason why the shopper (the person who owns the receipt) purchased the items on the receipt. Was it a necessity? Was it for fun? Is this receipt an indicator of the regular shopping routine? Or was it an exceptional case? As an extension to this activity, the students can make a list of things that they either enjoy or dislike shopping for and explain why. You can also ask the students to evaluate the prices on the receipts. Are these items expensive? Cheap? Reasonable? Why? As an extension to this activity, you can divide the students into small groups and have them describe to each other the most expensive item they have ever bought. How much was it? Why did they buy it? And so on. 4. Practising cohesion in writing For this activity, you need to prepare several different receipts. Divide the students into small groups. Give a receipt to each student in the group (all receipts should be different). Tell the students that as a group, they will create several shopping stories based on their receipts. At the beginning, each student will write the first sentence of the shopping story according to his/ her receipt. Then the students pass the receipt and the paper with their sentence to the student on their left, who will write the next sentence making sure that both sentences are logically connected with each other. And so on. In the end, each group will have the number of stories that corresponds to the number of students in the group. Have the students read the stories and analyse the connections and transitions between the sentences as well as the general flow of the story.



Notes: This activity works best when the students sit in a circle. This activity can easily be adapted for the beginning level and used as a past tense exercise.

Advanced level 1. Writing a story/an essay For this activity, you can either prepare copies of the same receipt corresponding to the number of students in your class or use different receipts. Ask the students to create a story based on the grocery items on their receipt. They can write a story from the perspective of the shopper (the person who bought the items) or from someone else’s perspective. They will need to create a background, a plot, and perhaps even other characters, etc. After the stories are written, ask the students to share them with the class.

‘... in this sea of resources we may forget about “old-school” materials such as flyers, brochures, newspapers, which are freely available and often free of charge.’ Alternatively, you can ask the students to write an opinion essay, in which they will express their opinion about the person who bought these items, based on their analysis of their receipt. Some of the possible questions that they could cover in their essay are: Do you think the person who bought these items is wealthy? Why


do you think so? Is he/she a student/a worker/a retired person? Why do you think so? What do you think was the reason for purchasing these items? What is the lifestyle of this person like? Why? etc. Ask the students to explain their opinion by providing specific examples. 2. Practising debating Prepare the students for the debate by having them discuss as a class some of the advantages and disadvantages of buying with cash, credit cards, or debit cards. Then divide them into three teams and assign one type of payment to each team. Each team has to convince the others that their way of payment is the best and has more advantages over the other two. 3. Practising expressing or defending an opinion (oral discussion or writing) The receipts can also be a good starting point for further discussions on related topics. For example, you can have the students discuss the following questions (in a group or as a class):

4. Role plays (with different objectives) The receipts can also help you come up with many different role play scenarios. Make your role play activity fit the goals and objectives of your class, as well as the specific needs of your students. Below is just one example of a role play situation that makes use of the grocery receipts. Divide the students into pairs. Explain the scenario to the students: The customer bought a certain item, but when he/she checked the receipt, he/ she realised that he/she paid a bigger price than the item actually costs. Now the shopper wants to talk to the customer service representative to resolve this situation. I hope these activities can help you create more ideas for your class. So try them, adjust them as you see fit and remember: save your shopping receipts!

nn Why do many people today choose the internet to purchase things? nn What are some advantages and disadvantages of shopping in a store and online shopping? nn Do you think it is a good idea to keep your sales receipts? Why or why not? nn Do you think it is dangerous to have a credit card? Why or why not? nn Do you agree that internet shopping is more cost-effective than shopping in stores? Why or why not?

Elena Shvidko is a PhD student in the Department of English at Purdue University, where she also teaches first-year composition courses. She has taught ESL in academic and community contexts. Her research interests include sociocultural aspects in second language acquisition, second language writing, and critical pedagogy.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

From the publisher of

modernenglishteacher Teaching English One to One By Priscilla Osborne This practical book provides an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of teaching students on a one-to-one basis and will enable you to: • • • •

Develop a learner needs analysis Produce learner profiles Plan effective courses Use the learner as a resource.

208 pages

ISBN: 1-904549-03-9


Teaching English with Drama By Mark Almond This book shows you how to understand the benefits of acting skills and improve learning by using drama, plays and theatre techniques in your lessons and covers a wide range of subjects for teachers including how to: • • • • •

Plan drama-related class work Choose appropriate texts and modify dialogue for different levels of students Work with theatrical techniques Make the best of stage management Put on a play, with a step-by-step guide.

140 pages

Teaching English with IT By David Gordon Smith and Eric Baber This book shows how to use information technology when teaching English and is packed full of practical ideas, so you can: • Use IT in your teaching in the most effective way • Find IT-related activities that work with your lesson plans • Understand learning management systems • Manage IT issues. Topics covered include: email; websites; web-based activities; professional training online; text chat and much more.

180 pages

ISBN: 1-904549-01-2



ISBN: 1-904549-12-8


Lessons in Your Rucksack By John Hughes An exciting practical guide for newly-qualified teachers and teachers embarking on a gap year. This book is packed with ideas, tips and advice on how to construct and manage lessons with nothing more than the basics ... in your rucksack. A pack of cards, pens, maps, string, all play a part. Includes real-life advice and stories from teachers and student teachers about their experiences teaching around the world. This is the perfect book for anyone working towards their first teacher’s qualification, such as a Cert.TESOL or CELTA.

188 pages

ISBN: 1-898789-14-7


simple simple ways ways to to order: order:

• EMAIL: • CALL: the orders hotline on +44 (0) 1273 434 943 n Volume 23 ONLINE: n Issue 3 • GO

Pavilion Publishing and Media, Rayford House, School Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 5HX



Using online dictionaries in English language courses Pete Sharma


love dictionaries. What’s more, my students love dictionaries. I remember when I first saw a CD-rom dictionary. The presenter demonstrated, ‘If you don’t know a word in the definition, double-click on it, and you are taken immediately to a definition of that word!’ This was my introduction to hyperlinks, and I was hooked. Since that memorable moment, I have used both print and electronic dictionaries with my learners, moving from CD-rom to DVD-rom, to online dictionaries and apps, deftly sidestepping the ubiquitous electronic dictionaries so beloved of my students.

a definition. Users can click on the audio symbol to hear the word. You can choose to hear a word in British English, or American English. If you are not sure how to spell a word, and enter an approximation, you generate the question ‘Did you mean …’ with a menu of words you were possibly searching for. This is a useful feature, as students may not know how to spell the word they are looking up.

This article looks at online learners’ dictionaries. It first describes one such dictionary, the Collins COBUILD dictionary online. It then looks at some of the practicalities of using online dictionaries. Finally, it outlines a number of practical teaching ideas I have used with my learners.

Word frequency is displayed using red ‘circles’, as shown in the graphic.

Collins COBUILD dictionary online

Less frequent words have no ‘circles’. These ‘circles’ show frequency as follows:

The first COBUILD dictionary appeared in 1987. The pioneering work of John Sinclair at the University of Birmingham meant that learners’ dictionaries could include information on word frequency. Like many learner dictionaries on the internet, the Collins COBUILD dictionary is free. Visit: www.collinsdictionary. com/cobuild Users simply type in a word, hit ‘Search’ and hey presto, they have


5 circles – the commonest words in English (just over 700 words) 4 circles – just over 1,000 words 3 circles – just over 1,500 words 2 circles – just over 3,000 words 1 circle – just over 8,000 words No circle – the remaining words in the dictionary, approximately 17,900 I will now look at some practical considerations for using online dictionaries.

Practicalities Let me describe some typical teaching situations with differing access to the internet: Situation one: no internet access in the classroom. You can use your online dictionary before your class to prepare; you can suggest an online dictionary for your students to access after the lesson. Situation two: internet access via the teacher’s computer. You can demonstrate online dictionaries to your students. You can have students come out to the front to perform searches. Situation three: some or all learners have internet access, on individual computers, or mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Students can do classroom activities such as reading while accessing an online dictionary. I will now examine some advantages and disadvantages of using online dictionaries.

Advantages nn They are free! nn The dictionary can be updated in a fraction of a second. This means that an online dictionary can contain more neologisms than a print dictionary. nn There are no restrictions on space in terms of page layout. Again, this differs significantly from the restrictions of a printed page.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


nn The user can sometimes choose the level of detail they wish to see, using the buttons ‘show more’ / ‘show less’.

Disadvantages nn Users are reliant on the vagaries of the internet, with all the tech problems that this implies. nn Users of online dictionaries may be subjected to a never-ending stream of adverts, some of which appear depending on the search terms being used. This is the price you pay for using a free service. nn You cannot use the ‘record – compare – re-record’ feature which is available on a CD-rom; although this wonderful feature is creeping into dictionary apps. nn Students accessing online dictionaries on mobile devices in class may succumb to the attractions of the web, and end up off-task, checking Facebook or sending instant messages.

Six to eight cards work well. Selecting some known words, some unknown words and some guessable words creates the right amount of cognitive challenge. Laminating cards means you can re-use them with other groups. Preparing word frequency quizzes In my experience, students often know very little about how frequent a word is. They take notes on some fairly obscure words which they may never meet again. Select some words which you would like your students to categorise by frequency. Check their word frequency on an online dictionary first. Then, put the words on a worksheet and print it out for use in class. The students should transfer the words to the correct column, first guessing the word frequency individually, and then comparing their answers in pairs or small

groups. This is an awareness-raising exercise. It is not vital that students actually get the right answer; rather, it is the process of considering how common a word is that is important. Such quizzes can be used to show students how to use the new Vocabulary Organizer (Sharma and Barrett, 2014). This spiralbound notebook allows students to record words that are new to them systematically. It is divided into two sections. Section one is for words which students wish to use, in speech or in writing; section two is for words which students need to recognise only, and is arranged alphabetically. In section one, students can record useful information about words, such as different meanings and forms, pronunciation notes, and collocations.

Figure 1

nn No doubt, we can add further advantages and disadvantages to using online dictionaries. The very fact that students can access an online dictionary anytime, anywhere means, for me, they are a vital part of their repertoire of useful resources, and can prove invaluable for language study. I will now outline 10 practical teaching ideas involving online dictionaries.

Practical teaching ideas I have divided these ideas into three groups: those which need preparation before the class; those used in class; and those for students to do independently.

Part one: pre-class preparation Using vocabulary cards Decide on a set of words which you wish your students to match to their definitions. These could be words you are pre-teaching from an article. Copy the dictionary definitions from an online dictionary, and paste them into a document. You can then create a set of word and definition cards for students to match.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



includes the term: your student’s name will appear in the online dictionary alongside the word they have suggested!

Figure 2

This feature provides an insight into how dictionaries of the future may be compiled; they will be crowd-sourced, as well as being composed of words researched and added by lexicographers.

If a word has a frequency of two, three, four or five circles (ie. approximately 6,200 words), students should record it in section one of their organisers.

Part two: in class Using the pronunciation symbols During a lesson, keep a tab open with a link to the online dictionary. Whenever there is a communication breakdown due to a student being unable to pronounce a word, open the tab, search for the word, and click on the audio symbol next to each word to model the pronunciation. Alternatively, open the online dictionary and deal with all the problematic words at the end of the lesson. Students soon realise they can listen to these words themselves at home. Using a ‘Dictionary types’ worksheet Put the students in groups, and ask them to brainstorm the pros and cons of various types of dictionaries (bilingual/CD-ROM/ online), using a worksheet like Figure 1. Then, elicit ideas from each group in turn. This task raises awareness of the different types of dictionary which are available. It is useful for students to reflect on the inadequacies of a bilingual dictionary for productive purposes, such as essay writing. Point out that cross-checking words from a bilingual dictionary in a monolingual, learner’s dictionary is a useful strategy. Another thing I’ve learnt from doing this task is that many students have never loaded or explored a CD-rom dictionary, so are unaware of the excellent feature


mentioned earlier which allows them to record and re-record themselves in order to improve their pronunciation. Researching a key word We remember more words when we meet them in context, rather than randomly. The Vocabulary Organizer includes wordmap templates for students to complete. Ask students to use the thesaurus function on their online dictionary to explore words to add to a diagram of one of their own key words. Some examples of completed word diagrams are provided as models in Figure 2. Mapping words can also help with word formation, one of the trickiest areas of vocabulary.

Part three: post-class Adding a new word to a dictionary When does a word become a word which is accepted in everyday usage? ‘When it goes into the dictionary’ is one answer! As many as three to four new words enter our language per day, and clearly, online dictionaries are easier to update than print dictionaries. Some online dictionaries allow users to suggest words to go into the dictionary. Find out from your group if anyone has encountered a new word which they would like to see added to the dictionary. On, you need to sign up first. After that, you can email a word to the publisher to consider adding to the dictionary. Imagine your student’s pleasure if a lexicographer agrees and

Using specialist dictionaries When I worked as an ESP (English for Specific Purposes) teacher, I would recommend specialised paperback or CD-rom dictionaries to my students, such as technical, financial or medical dictionaries. Nowadays, there are a wealth of such dictionaries on the internet. Visit: http://www.

Conclusion As I look around my classroom, I don’t see so many print dictionaries. I do see students accessing dictionaries on mobile phones or tablets. I often wonder which dictionaries they are using – doubtless something free which may (or may not) be helpful, well-researched and based on corpus evidence. I believe it is part of my role as a teacher to introduce students to electronic tools, including a free, online dictionary which will help them with (among other things) word frequency and pronunciation. I love dictionaries. And so, I am glad to say, do my students.

Further reading Vocabulary Organizer (Pete Sharma and Barney Barrett) Collins 2014 More Information about specialised dictionaries can be found at

Pete Sharma is a consultant and training manager for Pete Sharma Associates ( He works as a lecturer in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) on pre-sessional courses for Warwick University, UK. As an ELT author, his publications include resource books on technology-enhanced language learning and (as co-author) Vocabulary Organizer (Collins, 2014).

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


The augmented classroom Practical ideas for how to use augmented reality in EFL. Stephen Pilton


he concept will be familiar to anybody who has seen a big-budget sci-film from the past 30 years: our hero activates his computer and instead of looking down at a screen, he sees the computer image hovering in front of him. Rebel forces used this technology to help blow up the Death Star; Tom Cruise used it to interpret dreams in Minority Report and Robert Downey Jr used it to help control his Iron Man suit. In the past, these scenes could only be created by special effects teams but now the technology, known as augmented reality, is real and available to anybody with a smartphone. In today’s world augmented reality has a number of applications. It allows fighter pilots to simultaneously monitor a number of systems without lowering their vision. Advertising companies can attach videos to magazine adverts so that when a smartphone is pointed at the advert, the photo transforms into a moving video. Publishers of children’s books have created books which have 3D models of dinosaurs attached to images in the book. When children look at the image with a smart phone, a dinosaur suddenly appears to break out of a crate and roar. In the EFL world, it would appear that this world of potential is so far untapped, with apparently no resources available which use augmented reality. However, there is nothing stopping us from creating this material ourselves; material which can inspire and motivate students and allow them to interact with others and the world around them in new and exciting ways.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

nn Visit your app buying service, search for and download ‘Aurasma’. nn You and your students can open and use Aurasma without registering. nn The first screen looks like a viewfinder. From here, tap the icon at the bottom which looks like an ‘A’. nn Next, touch the magnifying glass, which takes you to the search screen. From here type in ‘Kingsoxford’. nn When you have found the Kingsoxford channel, select ‘follow’. This will allow you to see the ‘Auras’ in this article. nn Tap the square at the bottom to return to the viewfinder screen. Now you can point your device at the photos to see the ‘magic’! As an example, look at the photo above. What do you think this image shows? Follow the instructions in the box and then look at the image again with your phone or tablet. In this example the close-up image is known as the ‘trigger image’ and the complete picture is the ‘overlay’. Whenever the Aurasma app sees the trigger image, it will automatically project the overlay on top of it. In this

case, the trigger image is a picture in a magazine but it would still work if you pointed your phone at the original image on my computer or if you went to look at Bluebird in its museum in the Lake District and pointed your phone at its nose. Overlays don’t need to be photos; they could be videos, documents or audio files. So how can we use augmented reality in the classroom? Here are a few suggestions.



We can write questions about film, music, history or geography then stick the pictures around the school so that the students can walk around, read the questions, watch the clips and discuss answers with each other.

Speaking task models Many of our students want to take English exams and are desperate to get as much advice as possible. Rather than writing tips on a poster and leaving it at that, we can create videos of model speaking answers and use augmented reality to attach the videos to the tips poster. This way, students can read advice about how to do well and then point their phones at the poster to immediately see an example of this advice being put into practice.

Point your phone at the question to see the answers.

Question of the week One of the benefits of augmented reality is that it ensures that certain information remains hidden, only being revealed when students point their cameras at the trigger image. We can make use of this by creating a ‘question of the week’ which can be stuck on a wall of the school.

Extension tasks It can be difficult to manage classes where the difference between the weakest and the strongest is particularly noticeable. However, augmented reality can help with differentiation by making it easier for students in the same room to be focusing on different tasks. If you feel that one page of the course book may need extension tasks for your strong students, then why not use the page as a trigger image and add an overlay showing extension tasks? While using augmented reality to reveal images or text is exciting, the technology’s real advantage is the ease with which students can simultaneously listen to or watch different material. Listening tasks can be much more student-centred when students choose their own listening material just by pointing their phones at different pictures.


Supplementing course books Augmented reality is a good way of connecting our course book lessons to the wider world. If you have a text about relationships then you can use a photo from the text as the trigger image and attach as an overlay a clip from a romantic film or the video of a love song. This material can be used with the whole class or can be given to the fast finishers, who can report back to the class once they’ve seen it.

Quizzes With augmented reality a class of students can simultaneously watch different videos. One exercise where we might want to do this is a quiz. The following picture is a sports question. What are the people chasing?

My favourite place Point your phone at the picture to see which shop the students recommend

Material created by the students is more involving, more interesting and more memorable and with augmented reality we can now not only make displays of students’ written work but also of their videos. Have your students plan an answer to a question like ‘What is your favourite film?’ or ‘What is the most beautiful place in your country?’. After researching their answer and writing a plan, they can use their mobiles to record a video of themselves. The videos can be attached as overlays to photos mounted on the walls. Similarly, students can be asked to recommend the best restaurant/club/gallery etc in town. The videos could be attached to a display aimed at students new to the area. Once these students learn how to use Aurasma, they can watch the videos and learn from their peers where they should go.

Treasure hunt Point your phone at the picture to see the video.

So far, all of these ideas have involved using trigger images in our course

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


books or on the walls of our schools. However, there is nothing stopping us from going outside with augmented reality. The students’ reviews mentioned earlier could actually be attached to the shop sign itself. This would mean that a student walking down the street could point their device at a sign and then see the sign transform into a video.

The questions attached to this image could be seen by students when they visit the cafe on their treasure hunt Another possibility is to create our own augmented reality treasure hunt. One way of doing this would be to write a number of questions about businesses in the area surrounding your school such as ‘How much does a pot of tea cost in the Green Café?’. Students should be given directions to the Green Café

and asked to walk there and point their phones at the café’s sign. Once they reach the café, students activate their Aurasma app and look at the sign to reveal the question, which they answer by reading the menu. Students follow the directions and at each stop practise their English skills in the real world. Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular and more and more students are coming to lessons with their own tablets. I believe that it’s important to spend some time investigating the potential of these devices and thinking about how we might be able to use them to add something new to our lessons. Augmented reality is definitely something new and it’s precisely this novelty value which makes it worth trying out in class. My students have loved using their devices in this way and the tasks have generated lots of excited discussions as well as plenty of great language. However, once the initial excitement has worn off, the technology still has plenty to offer. Undoubtedly, augmented reality’s trump card is the ease with which videos can be watched: there’s no need to press buttons or enter addresses, just point and play. Groups can simultaneously watch different videos, making differentiation easier. What is more, they can easily and quickly choose what to watch and how many times they want to watch it, which is a good way of encouraging learner autonomy. Asking students to produce

their own videos is a fantastic exercise and augmented reality offers a fun way to share the results without any of the hassles of uploading videos onto sites like YouTube. Augmented reality apps give teachers more possibilities for taking classes outside. It’s difficult to stick notes and impossible to stick videos to signs or buildings but Aurasma lets students stick electronic notes to these places. In this way any activity, from labelling items in a shop to creating video reviews of a restaurant can become more interesting and meaningful. Aurasma doesn’t even need a wireless network to work. Once the ‘auras’ have been created online, devices can view them whether they’re in the street or in a school with no wi-fi. It’s surely only a matter of time before publishers produce course books with augmented reality content but fortunately there’s no need to wait as with an augmented reality app, you and your students can produce your own material today.

Stephen Pilton is ADOS at King’s Colleges, Oxford. He has taught in Poland and Portugal. He is interested in technology and coaching.

How to create your own auras with Aurasma Creating your own augmented reality ‘auras’ with Aurasma is easy. Just follow these steps. nn Go to and create a user profile. nn For each ‘aura’ you need a trigger image (the image at which you want people to point their mobile devices) and an overlay (the image or video which appears over the top of the trigger image). nn If you don’t already have your desired trigger image on your computer, take a photo or copy an image from the internet. The image should be quite distinctive so that a device can recognise it. nn In the Studio Aurasma website click on ‘Trigger Image’ and select ‘add’. Give your image a title then select ‘browse’ to find the image. Don’t worry about the other boxes, just choose ‘save’.

nn Repeat with ‘Overlays’. Choose if you want the overlay to be a video, an image or a 3D model. If you want your overlay to be text, then it needs to be an image file. An easy way is to create the document in Paint. nn Go to ‘Channels’ then ‘add’ to create a channel which your students can follow. In the privacy box select ‘public’. nn Go to ‘Auras’ and then ‘add’. Under ‘Aura Details’ give the aura a name and from the drop-down boxes choose the trigger image and your channel. Under ‘Overlays’ select ‘Add Overlay’ and then choose your overlay from the box. Select ‘Save’.

Your overlay can now be viewed by anybody who is following your channel. If you have any questions, you can email me at

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



The things people said, Part 2 Simon Mumford


ollowing on from my first article on using quotations (Mumford, 2013), this second article continues the exploration of how the words of famous people and anecdotes about well-known events can be used for a variety of language teaching purposes. Quotations are widely available on the internet, and this article gives suggestions for their use in a wide range of language activities, including raising awareness of linguistic metalanguage, using similes as a focus for speaking, practising pronunciation, learning synonyms and antonyms, and recognising academic vobabulary.

Opposites Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses. Confucius nn Procedure: Explain the quotation and then give students pairs of words and ask them to subsititute these for injuries and kindness in the above quotation. This could be done as a drill, with the teacher calling out the pairs of words. Students will need

to think about which is the positive and negative in each pair before repeating. Some examples: happiness / sadness; luck / misfortune; success / failure; praise / insults; love / hate; friends / enemies; problems / solutions; optimism / pessimism; generosity / meanness; calmness / anxiety; hope / fear nn Variation: Give students pairs of football teams, cities, colours, days of the week, school subjects, cars, music styles, etc. and let them express their preferences using this format.

Exploring metalanguage Any quotation can be used to explore language and teach metalanguage terms. If you have access to a projector or colour copying, you can use colours to highlight certain language features, as follows: Give students version 1 (original) and ask students to identify the language feature (ie. grammatical form) of the coloured words. Then give out version 2 and let them check their answers.

Version 1 (original) To this day, some of my closest friends say, ‘Gaga, you know, everything’s great. You’re a singer; your dreams have come true.’ But, still, when certain things are said to you over and over again as you’re growing up, it stays with you and you wonder if they’re true. Lady Gaga

Version 2 adverb of time, some of my superlative friends say, ‘Gaga, filler, everything’s great. contraction a singer semi colon your dreams present perfect true.’ But, still, when certain things present simple passive to you over and over again as present continuous, present simple with you and you wonder indirect question. Lady Gaga


Procedure: nn Students try to recreate version 1 by looking at version 2 only. nn Students try to remember the metalanguage terms by looking at version 1 only. nn In pairs, student A and B have versions 1 and 2 respectively. Student A reads out a coloured word or phrase, and student B finds the metalanguage to define it. nn Finally, students role play the speaker saying the quote.

A famous anecdote The content of the anecdote in the box on the next page about the invention of Post-it notes provides the inspiration for this vocabulary activity. Procedure: nn Use Post-it notes (cut to size if necessary) to cover up words on two or three lines of a text, and write on them the synonyms of the words that they conceal. Give out copies of the text and sets of Post-its to groups of students, as in the example on the next page and ask them to stick the notes in the correct position. Note: In the example, colour coding has been used to show the positions of the Post-its, eg. for the green Post-it, the synonyms are dealt with = had to solve, pages = places, invariably = always. However, when using the activity with students, colour coding would make this too easy, so just use Post-its of the same colour, and no other clues.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


nn Extension: For more advanced students, give out blank Post-its and ask them to write their own groups of two or three synonyms across 2/3 lines of the text. Let them use dictionaries, and give help as needed. Students then remove their Post-its and pass them to other students, who try to find the appropriate position. Finally, using only the notes as a memory aid, students work in groups to reconstruct the text, orally or in writing.

Academic Word List quotations Quotations from formal contexts can be useful for raising awareness of academic words. In the following extracts, words from the Academic Word List are underlined: Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand. Amy Jo Martin (6)

We face a conflict between civilisation and culture, which used to be on the same side. Civilisation means rational reflection, and individual autonomy; culture means a form of life that is collective and irrational. Terry Eagleton (5) Advertising generally works to reinforce consumer trends rather than to initiate them. Michael Schudson (4) Procedure: nn Give out the quotations, without the underlining, but with the number of academic words in parentheses at the end of each, as above. Students try to identify the academic words. nn Discuss the answers and give any explanations necessary. nn Take back the quotes, and read them aloud. Ask students to stop you every time they hear an academic word. Let the students do the same in pairs or groups.

Exploring language: any vs some A pattern sometimes found in quotations is any followed by some. Thus, a general

Post-it notes The 3M Company encourages creativity from its employees. The company allows its researchers to spend 15% of their time on any project that interests them. This attitude has brought fantastic benefits not only to the employees but to the 3M Company itself. Many times, a spark of an idea turned into a successful product has boosted 3M’s profits tremendously. Some years ago, a scientist in 3M’s commercial office took advantage of this 15% creative time. This scientist, Art Fry, came up with an idea for one of 3M’s best-selling products. It seems that Art Fry dealt with a small problem every week as he sang in a choir. After marking his pages in the music book with small bits of paper, the small pieces would invariably fall out all over the floor. Suddenly, an idea struck Fry. He remembered an adhesive developed by a colleague that everyone thought was a failure because it did not stick very well. ‘I coated the adhesive on a paper sample,’ Fry said, ‘and I found that it was not only a good bookmark, but it was great for writing notes. It will stay in place as long as you want it to, and then you can remove it without damage.’ Yes, Art Fry hit the jackpot. The resulting product was called Post-it! and has become one of 3M’s most successful office products. Adapted from trivia.htm had to solve places always

n Volume 23

glue placemarker

n Issue 3

firm has increased

popular while pieces

or negative situation is contrasted with a specific or positive condition. The words any and some are stressed to emphasise the contrast. Ask students to practise contrastive stress in the following: You can’t tell any kind of a story without having some kind of a theme, something to say between the lines. Robert Wise So obviously, any religion embodies some form of rules and expectations for behaviour, and even sometimes consequences. Pat Boone I haven’t any sort of plans for the future but I reckon things will work out in some manner. Dashiell Hammett I would guess that any criticism about Wal-Mart could have some element of truth with 1,500,000 people. Lee Scott Like any show, I think some episodes are going to be stronger than others, but I think it’s a good show that people enjoy. Anthony Michael Hall Follow up: Students add any and some to the following quotes (answers given in parenthesis). (Any) situation in which (some) men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. Paulo Freire So long as we can lose (any) happiness, we possess (some). Booth Tarkington For (any) new technology there is always controversy and there is always (some) fear associated with it. Hugh Grant (Any) work of architecture that has with it (some) discussion, I think is good. It shows that people are interested. Richard Meier

Discussing similes Quotations often contain similes, which can be used for discussions with more advanced learners. Procedure: nn Give out the list of similes on the next page and ask students to look only at the left side, covering up the right



column. Put students in groups and ask them to explain the similes, e.g. Why is being powerful like being a lady? nn After they have discussed all of them, they look at the second column and match the similes and explanations. Note that the subject of the quotation often matches the author’s position/ role. (Key: 1 b, 2 c, 3 g, 4 h, 5 f, 6 d, 7 a, 8 e) nn Finally, hold a feedback session to find out if the students’ interpretations were the same as the original author’s.

Quotations for pronunciation practice Reading quotations aloud can be used to practise specific grammar / vocabulary / pronunciation points, as follows: All our sweetest hours fly fastest.Virgil. (hour sounds the same as our) The roundness of life’s design may be a sign that there is a presence beyond ourselves. Wally Lamb. (pronunciation / spelling of sign / design) Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough. Mark Zuckerberg (enough rhymes with stuff)

The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman. Daniel D. Palmer (quiet rhymes with diet)

As a writer no one’s gonna tell me how to write, I’m gonna write the way I wanna write! Jacqueline Susann

If I hadn’t left Texas, I might not have met the director Terrence Malick, and I wouldn’t have met my husband and I wouldn’t have had the children that I’ve had. Sissy Spacek (stressed and unstressed have / had: as a main verb it is stressed, as an auxillary verb it is unstressed, unless negative)

I didn’t miss the rat race, but I kinda missed the rats. Jerry Nachman

I know now that there is no one thing that is true – it is all true. Ernest Hemingway. (pronunciation of know / now / no) It’s your life. Live it with people who are alive. Peter McWilliams. (pronunciation of life / live / alive) One doesn’t recognise the really important moments in one’s life until it’s too late. Agatha Christie (the different functions of s sounds at the end of a word: plural, possessive, contracted is) The following show the pronunciation of the words to, of, and have as weak vowel sounds (the schwa), represented by the letter a joined to the previous word.

1. B  eing powerful is like being a lady

a) The softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper in sinks into the mind. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet

2. Life’s like a play

b) If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. Margaret Thatcher, British Prime minister

3. A  ngels are like diamonds

c) It’s not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters. Seneca, Roman writer

4. Love is like a precious plant

d) If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That’s how I want you to play. Mike Krzyzewski, sports coach

5. Business opportunities are like buses

e) We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water! Eleanor Roosevelt

6. A  basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand

f) There’s always another one coming. Richard Branson, multimillionaire businessman

7. Advice is like snow

g) They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique. Jaclyn Smith, actress

8. W  omen are like teabags

h) You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. John Lennon, member of the Beatles


I’ve sorta learned that I’m so tired of taking myself so seriously. It’s so great to show up at work and truly enjoy every word you say. Ian Somerhalder We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people oughta do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. John Michael Hayes There’s no such thing as coulda, shoulda, or woulda. If you shoulda and coulda, you woulda done it. Pat Riley

Conclusion Although searching for motivating teaching material can be timeconsuming, it can also be an enjoyable and even enlightening process. Suitable texts can range from short, catchy oneliners for drills to longer anecdotes as reading texts. The more sophisticated quotation websites are fully searchable, making it easier to find quotations exemplifying particular grammar structures or vocabulary items. Whatever your teaching needs, there will probably be a quote that is right for you.

References Mumford S (2013) The things people said. Modern English Teacher, Vol 22 (1) 17–19. Archives/0407/trivia.htm

Simon Mumford has been teaching for 27 years and currently teaches EAP at Izmir University of Economics. He is particularly interested in classroom activity design. He was awarded the Aston University MSc.TESOL in 2003. Email:

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


IELTS, grammar and linguistic competence Sam McCarter


n the early dawn of Greek drama, the plays of Aeschylus ‘showed’ for the first time interaction between characters exhibiting all the elements of dramatic conflict in human relationships, not just an exchange of information between an actor and a chorus. This was a cataclysmic shift from the more monodimensional ‘story-telling’ of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the great poems of Homer. The importance of this dramatic change could usefully be borne in mind still as we consider a move from an EFL/ ESOL language class where students may be describing situations and events in their personal lives to a class preparing students for the IELTS exam, with the focus on abstraction and testing competence, ie. use of the essential elements of language to express and juggle and evaluate abstract concepts rather than testing language knowledge. If the IELTS is testing linguistic competence rather than knowledge of grammar, it begs the question whether there is any point in teaching it. The washback from the IELTS exam, including the pressure from students to use ‘only exam related material’ and the time constraints faced by teachers – often on intensive courses, some lasting no more than a week – also beg the question as to whether teachers have time to deal with grammar tasks in the IELTS class, and whether students have time to learn any more grammar. And, as IELTS is an assessment of level, is it the function of the IELTS teacher to teach students grammar or should they be focusing on something else? If we look at an IELTS class where the students are around score bands 6/6.5 on a one-

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

week or one-month intensive, from a topdown perspective, teaching could more usefully involve showing students how much they don’t know about what they know, that is, they can be shown how to use the language knowledge they possess to develop their competence. Some IELTS students may know the complete cannon of English grammar and know the verb system to an advanced level. They may not, however, know how to use the language efficiently to be able to navigate ‘texts’ competently enough to deal with any part of the IELTS exam.

Some essential areas of language in the academic version of IELTS A change in approach as to how language knowledge is packaged for efficient use is essential. De Chazal (2014: 64-65) provides a useful taxonomy of essential elements for academic texts which are relevant to IELTS students and teachers, inter alia: cause/effect relationships, classification, comparison and contrast, connection of phenomena and ideas, evaluation and exemplification and a comprehensive table of the language of cause and effect (De Chazal: 109-111). If we take cause and effect as an example, students may have to deal with these essential elements in all four skills, recognising or noticing them (automatically) in questions in True/False/ Not Given or Yes/No/Not Given questions examining the relationships between ideas and concepts in a reading passage. If students look merely at the words rather than the relationship between the ideas, they may misinterpret the questions and the text or confuse a link or association

with a cause and effect relationship. For example, when evaluating ideas and concepts, in any profession such as medicine, [ ] ... is linked to ... [ ] must not be misinterpreted as [ ]... is caused by ...[ ]; and, hence, the same applies in testing use and awareness of such elements in academic discourse in IELTS. The very same elements are essential for competence in the other three skills, a fact that often seems to escape students. The elements are not just specific to any one of the four main skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking; students need to be competent at navigating these elements efficiently, actively and passively across all four of them. This transfer can be highlighted constantly by the teacher. When it comes to other essential elements, the same applies. Classification in reading can be used to focus students’ attention on using classification of their own ideas in writing responses to Writing Task 2. A top-down approach allows teachers and students effectively to carve up the grammar into ‘functional chunks’, discarding those areas that may have less importance in academic discourse generally such as: omit phrasal verbs (eg. put up with) and focus instead on prepositional verbs (eg. look into / talk about / use in), prepositions with nouns (decrease in / impact on), adjectives (beneficial to / good at). There may be greater focus, for example, on the multiple meaning of the Present Simple in an IELTS class from a functional point of view, distinguishing between facts (Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade) and general truths (Cities generally attract a lot of people from the



countryside) rather than just simplifying it to fit an EFL/ESOL construct.

am paraphrasing but this is clearly a tall order for many students.

How the teacher and the student need to adapt their perception of language and their respective teaching and learning methods

Some methodology

In the approach described previously, the teacher and the student need to operate differently from the methods they may be used to in a general EFL/ ESOL class. There is, however, little teacher training in methodology re IELTS available except for that in teachers’ books that accompany IELTS course books. Yet in institutions worldwide, teachers can often be thrown in at the deep-end and asked to teach an IELTS class at low or advanced level without any training whatsoever. It is, perhaps, not possible to put a precise time scale on how long it takes to become a competent IELTS teacher, but, perhaps, a year or more is necessary for students to feel confidence in a teacher preparing a class for IELTS. IELTS is a high stakes exam and students invest a lot of time and money not just in preparing for the exam, but preparing for the academic process that IELTS gives them access to, whether that be a university course or other professional process, such as requalification in the medical field. Achieving the necessary entry score for students is just the beginning. After this beginning, students still have a steep hill to climb when they begin a university undergraduate course where they may have to write essays of 2,000 words, or perhaps longer. This begs another question. At what level should students be accepted on to an undergraduate course at a university? This is a tricky question for IELTS stakeholders such as universities and university departments. Students at IELTS level 7 should be able to write logically, using a range of cohesive devices and showing clear progression. Each of their paragraphs should have a central topic and be frequently error-free. Their lexis should be wide-ranging and show awareness of style and collocation. I


With the number of candidates currently over two million per year, a ‘taxonomy of methodology’ for IELTS is now needed. IELTS is an international examination, which is still growing after some 25 years. The future lies in greater connection and interaction between IELTS practitioners via electronic media using online courses, conferences involving Skype, and Skype/video-conferencing presentations and workshops as follow up to conferences to collect and disseminate examples of good practice. In the meantime, however, some tasks that teachers can use to engage their students more in developing their awareness of a top-down approach to IELTS involve simple questioning, using some basic Socratic reasoning, to examine and connect phenomena in all four skills (Are these ideas connected in any way? How? What makes you think so?), to make evaluations (Is this important/useful, harmful/effective? Why? How? From what perspective? What about the cultural perspective?) Making students aware of the relationships between essential elements and areas such as nominalisation across the four main skills, and then eliciting the links or associations between ideas and the links between the various skills can be done regularly to help develop student language awareness.

Students could be given a text on a subject such as classifying birds to read to examine for homework, thinking about and/or writing some questions using basic Socratic reasoning as above. They could then discuss the text briefly in the lesson before presenting some of their questions to analyse the text. From the questioning perspective, students could also be given a task about the organisation of the paragraphs and then the organisation between the sentences in paragraphs and the development of ideas from the point of view of cohesion and coherence. They could then be given exam-type questions about the text or given a similar text on the same subject with questions. Alternatively, they can write their own comprehension questions about a text. This same process using questions can be used by students to examine and redraft their own essays at home and in class, which is a simple starting point of examining a text without the influence of the exam. To students over-focused on a bottomup approach to language, shining the light on the ‘dark matter’ that carves up the grammar into essential chunks and, hence, binds and links concepts together can lead to increased competence in the academic version of IELTS. So grammar teaching itself may not be applicable, but teaching involving grammar within essential elements is necessary.

References All this can be done as part of the examination of a reading passage and the questions. Additionally, reading passages can be used to inform the writing and speaking components, as can the listening component.

De Chazal E (2014) English for Academic Purposes. Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Questioning Encouraging students to question everything that they see is useful in the IELTS classroom, even in short courses, to help them develop independence in their studies. For example, asking students to look at a reading passage without examtype questions and to analyse it from different perspectives such as culture and education, social, financial; and also from the point of view of the purpose of the text, or the organisation at paragraph level and then sentence level.

Sam McCarter’s teaching career spans a period of more than 30 years with publications for IELTS, EAP and ESP, such as the widely used IELTS publication Ready for IELTS (Macmillan), Oxford EAP B2 course book (OUP), and Medicine 1 and Medicine 2 (OUP). His interests include materials production, including the use of electronic media, and teaching methodology.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


ELT leadership Local leaders of ELT programmes talk about what it takes to be a good leader in Turkish education. Meghan Beler


urkey’s fast-growing economy coupled with major investments in education in recent years have resulted in a huge increase in the quality and quantity of private schools. Better educational opportunities for more students have also contributed toward a stronger focus on English language education: new graduates realise the necessity of English for their future careers and parents want their children to get a head start on a promising future. Factors like these mean that private schools need to offer top-notch language programmes in order to attract the best students. As such, leaders of language programmes in Turkey must be able to guide teaching and learning in this exciting ELT context. What does it take to lead an ELT department in Turkey? What are the challenges that leaders have on a dayto-day basis? We asked local leaders of ELT programmes in the country about the issues they face in their contexts and what they think it takes to be a good leader in Turkish education. This article is part of an on-going exploratory study on leadership in language programmes in Turkey being carried out by the leaders themselves in collaboration with Oxford University Press, Turkey. The study aims to examine perceptions of leadership as well as identify best practice. Interviews also investigated leaders’ perceptions of the future of ELT in Turkey by offering leaders’ advice to those who aspire to leadership positions and identifying issues that will be at the forefront of language education in Turkey in the future.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

What would you say is your biggest challenge as a leader? Managing different stakeholders One of the biggest areas expressed in the interviews with ELT leaders was the challenge of creating harmony between all of the different stakeholders within leaders’ institutions. Leaders interact with the administration, teachers, parents, and students, all of whom have different priorities and points of view. One interviewee, who shall remain anonymous, touches on the realities of working with a diverse group of stakeholders. She says, ‘It is really difficult to work with a founder who doesn’t know English and has no idea how to teach! Moreover, sometimes parents do not know how to take part in the teaching process.’ Gülnara Yıldız of Aka Kolejleri expands on this sentiment regarding the management of parents’ expectations. ‘It is really hard to be a good leader in Turkey. There are some obstacles ... one of them is the non-English environment around kids. The other one is low motivation of students in high school and high expectations from parents of kindergarten and primary school [children], like Why don’t our children speak English fluently at age of 7–8?’. English language education in Turkey has improved greatly over the years. However, as the interviewees point out, there is evidence of a lack of common vision and priorities between different levels of leadership. Lisa Öğrek, of the Istanbul-based Koç Schools expands on the complications

of being in a leadership role when external stakeholders are involved. She says, ‘You’re in the position where you’re caught between your teachers (and keeping them motivated and performing well) and the upper echelons of management who might come out with a school policy that you don’t necessarily fully agree with, but has to be implemented. You don’t have the power to change it … and then persuading people that this is how things will have to be for the foreseeable future without them losing heart and losing motivation.’ Although many of the leaders expressed frustration in trying to satisfy all of the stakeholders that they interact with on a regular basis, they are aware of their own roles in creating harmony between these distinct groups. Adnan Gençdoğmuş of FINAL Schools explains, ‘My biggest challenge is to make people understand each other … As a team leader of FINAL Schools I’m trying to build a bridge between the brains of school directory, teachers and students.’ Banu Aldemir, of Hisar Schools adds ‘Anything related with people means there are different points of view, different ways of perceiving [situations]. The challenge is [in appreciating] the personal [and also] creating harmony within your team.’

Inspiring teams and managing change Interviewees also touched on the challenges of implementing change within their respective institutions and being able to inspire and motivate their teachers to action. Dr. Şerife Demircioğlu of Gazi GVO explains, ‘Sometimes teachers can be resistant to new ideas



or policies. To motivate them to be innovative is the biggest challenge for me.’ In some cases, managing change can cause extra stress and more work for leaders, as Gamze Durmaz of PEV Koleji points out. ‘Being a leader is in itself a challenge. Being a perfectionist, I may not always be satisfied wıth what my colleagues in my team produce. When I cannot make demands on people, I take the largest part of the burden.’ Despite the extra levels of stress and responsibility that come along with a leadership role, Gençdoğmuş clarifies the attitude he believes leaders should take: ‘From where we sit as a leader, it is not a flat world. It is one of peaks and valleys. Our mission is enriching the mental pool of the others and my own.’

What does it take to be a good leader in the Turkish context? In the survey that preceded the interviews, 137 leaders from primary ELT departments across Turkey were asked to identify the characteristics of a good leader. The qualities most mentioned by respondents (18%) were ‘fairness, honesty and transparency’, however the list created by respondents of what makes a good leader consisted of more than 35 separate qualities. This tells us that the definition of good leadership is not the same for everyone, with different individuals showing preference for different traits. This diversified view of good leadership was echoed by the interviewees. Dr Ataman points towards a realistic view of good leadership by stating, ‘A good leader is supposed to be the one that works really hard; actually, the leader should be the one who has the vision to prepare his/her team for the future.’ However, Yıldız focuses on the communicative aspects necessary for the job: ‘I strongly believe that a good leader should start with organising a dynamic and communicative team of teachers. The second step should be informing parents about strategies of learning foreign languages. And effective collaboration with administration is also important.’ Gençdoğmuş emphasises that there are lots of definitions of what


good leadership is and goes on to list 17 of the characteristics he views as essential, including ‘understanding others’, being ‘open-minded’ and ‘having a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom’.

‘A good leader is supposed to be the one that works hard; actually, the leader should be the one who has the vision to prepare the team for the future.’ Cultural leadership Aside from the general characteristics of good leadership expressed in the survey and interviews, many of the interviewees also describe what good leadership means within the Turkish context and what skills a good ELT leader in Turkey should possess. Öğrek explains: ‘To be a good leader in the Turkish context takes masses of patience and I think you need to have a good knowledge of all the changes that have happened over the last few years. Sometimes things change and then revert back. [The] Ministry of Education will make a decision that doesn’t seem particularly logical, but schools are in the position where they have to go along with things in terms of curriculum in the Turkish setting … we’re working in a system where there are a lot of exams, testing, and methods of testing that may not fit in with your educational ideology, so you have to accept that things might not change, being patient and understanding that it can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride in the system here.’

Aldemir points towards the need for leaders to have awareness of the Turkish psyche and cultural expectations: ‘The leader should definitely be understanding and helpful. As we work with mostly Turkish citizens, it includes [keeping] your focus on your team’s emotional status as well. Almost all Turkish people like to be appreciated and have personal interaction with their leaders as well.’ Funda Aznik of Toros College explains another aspect of leadership in the Turkish context that relates to the challenges leaders may experience with change management. She says, ‘A good leader should be challenging, creative, honest, motivating, helpful and thoughtful, but [here] it is really very difficult to be challenging and creative. In Turkey, you [may] be working with people who are not open to new things [and] who do not respect the experience of the leaders.’

What advice would you give to teachers who aspire to take on leadership positions in the future? As the number of private schools and universities continues to grow exponentially in Turkey, educators from younger generations will begin to fill leadership roles. Based on their own experience as leaders, the interviewees offer some advice. Aznik states ‘They must be very patient and be ready for extra hard work. They will get to know people very well when they start working as a leader.’ Dr Ataman suggests aspiring leaders focus on keeping up with educational trends and building up networking skills, while Şebnem Ali İbrahim, of Boğazhisar Eğitim Kurumları offers advice for working with teachers: ‘[A] leader must be able to establish a strong rapport with teachers so that teachers would feel close to him or her professionally to share possible problems which might come up, rather than to hide them.’ Öğrek shares insight into her own experience of becoming a leader. She says ‘I never aspired to be in a leadership position, it just kind of happened. I find myself being steered

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


in positions that meant I have to take on a leadership role, however, my motivation for taking the job [was] that I wanted to be in the position that I could put forward my ideas on the curriculum or how to teach the kids … that I would be in a position to get my passions across and make a difference. If you want to make a difference and you feel you can help teachers develop themselves, then it can be very rewarding.’ While Öğrek touches on some of the natural tendencies towards leadership, Ahmet Aytekin of Istanbul-based Biltek Koleji turns to practical issues, such as fairness and time management. He says ‘Make sure you have plenty of time and be ready for devoting yourself to get the best result. Try to do your best to [promote] fairness in task sharing.’ Aldemir points out that aspiring leaders should be aware of what they are getting into. ‘This job is definitely for people who like challenge,’ she says, ‘problem-solving, quick thinking, keeping your calm, being patient and waiting for the right time, active listening, hardworking, and empathy are necessary. The list is a long one!’ Gençdoğmuş shares the same sentiment and advises aspiring leaders to ‘Be prepared [to look] at problems as challenges.’ Interviewees also advise on the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills aspiring leaders should work on developing. Durmaz notes ‘great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader. Also, teachers with an eye toward becoming leaders need to be encouraged to expand their knowledge and understanding of education and how children learn.’ Yıldız believes that a ‘teacher who wants to be a good leader in [the] future should start with self-awareness and realise how our thoughts, beliefs and values shape us.’

What will be the most important issues language education in Turkey will face over the next five years? When it comes to the future of English language education in Turkey,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

interviewees expressed a number of predictions about what will happen in terms of both teaching and learning. Aldemir and Ataman point out issues with the skills and knowledge of language teachers, with Ataman expressing worry about the possibility of ‘less competent teachers graduating from university’, while Aldemir says ‘Teacher training! Definitely, it was in the past where school administration, parents, [and] students were all satisfied and content with their teachers. Everything changes so quickly ... the teachers definitely need a lot of support in ‘fitting in’ in this world of rapid change!’ Gamze Çiftçioğlu of Izmir-based Fatih College believes that issues with current language teaching methodologies will still exist five years from now. She says, ‘Unfortunately, we are still focused more on teacher-centred approach so that means we might face this problem over the next five years [and] maybe more.’ Gençdoğmuş predicts that language education in Turkey will be better five years from now, provided that the education system changes. He says ‘there must be linked lessons between real life and school life. Lessons must be enjoyable [and] opportunities must be given to the teachers to express themselves independently.’ Durmaz also points to the system as one potential issue in the future of Turkish education. In particular, she focuses on the current testing system, saying ‘the first one is definitely the lack of testing … students are evaluated in terms of their initial placement and their final achievement in ways that are largely subjective, intuitive and vague.’ Yıldız, however, believes one of the most important issues will be individual teaching goals and strategies rather than major system changes. She explains, ‘in my opinion, 21st century skills will be the most important language education strategy in Turkey and around the world in [the] near future. Our teaching goal should be creating young thinkers with great futures and making them learn how to collaborate and communicate with others and use creativity and

critical thinking skills in the classroom and in their daily life.’ Öğrek points out that predicting what issues will be at the forefront of language education in Turkey is not a simple issue of looking at just language teaching and learning. ‘It’s very difficult to say what the issues will be in language education in Turkey with the political situation being somewhat unresolved at the moment,’ she explains. ‘There [are] a lot of factors outside language teaching itself with will have an impact on how schools organise themselves.’ She does, however, point out that educators should focus on using learners’ needs as a starting point. ‘Teaching less content and working more on skills so that students are able to adapt to any situation that they are in, which is what will happen to these kids in the future. As far as Turkey itself is concerned, anything could happen really! It’s basically to be ready for anything.’ The view of ELT leadership from Turkey is one that, as the interviewees have explained, is full of both challenges and opportunities. As language programmes in Turkish schools continue to develop in leaps and bounds, we can be sure that leaders will need to grow along with them. Oxford University Press, Turkey would like to thank all of the leaders who are taking part in this ongoing research project into best practice in ELT leadership in Turkey.

Meghan Beler is the marketing manager and head of professional development for Oxford University Press, Turkey. She has given seminars and presentations on a variety of topics from young learners to adults in Turkey and abroad and is also a blog author for the Oxford University Press Global ELT blog. She has been working in the field of ELT for over 10 years and has taught learners of all ages in Spain, Greece, and Turkey. She is based in Istanbul, Turkey.



Back in the classroom After over 20 years away from full-time teaching, the editor got back into the classroom for a three-week course.


fter over 20 years writing, training, managing, marketing and publishing in various roles in the ELT industry I had the opportunity to go back into the classroom to teach a monolingual group for a 60 hour course spread over three weeks. I was nervous that they would notice I was not that used to teaching, particularly as most of them were not born the last time I had done it. On the other hand, I have been so close to so many changes in approach, methodology and materials over the years that I was confident that they would get a better shaped class than they would have had with the younger me. I was using new material, some I had actually published, the learners were all motivated, the classrooms were fine and I had a week or so to get ready, far more than most teachers get. What could possibly go wrong? I kept a journal of my thoughts and explored some of the areas where theory and practice do not always make easy partners.

Level The students were tested and placed in three classes of 11. I chose the middle group since the other two teachers were much more experienced. My group had expanded to 13 by the end of the first day as one student left each of the other classes in search of a more appropriate level. Despite my group being all from the same educational background, same mother tongue and same age, the differences in level were huge. Some could write at a near native level, with perfect cohesion whereas others struggled to put together two clauses in a sentence. When it came to listening, some grasped things quickly and others would still be trying now if


they hadn’t seen the audioscript. The vocabulary range was very wide, in part due to the fact that they all came from different academic disciplines covering life sciences, agronomy, education and electronic engineering. Reading was nearly always done with the sudden appearance from bags of the electronic bilingual dictionary. At first I questioned the wisdom of this but as the course developed I realised the need for difficult words in a text to be translated, particularly those which were not key to the lesson but were impacting negatively on any sense of skills development. I argued that monolingual dictionaries would be more useful but had to accept that for efficiency reasons the Japanese definition was crucial. My fond memories of ‘Using the monolingual dictionary’ were not reciprocated. Despite the individual jagged profiles within the group, they were incredibly supportive and barely used their mother tongue throughout the three weeks. I understand they even spoke to each other in English on their weekend trips to London, when no other English speakers were around. They were following a published book at B1+ level but they still found nearly all the tasks difficult. What struck me as a ‘novice’ teacher was the length of the rubrics and the time it took to set up each exercise. Often the set-up took the same amount of time as the exercise itself. Timings were varied, some exercises and activities taking much longer than planned and others over in a flash. Published books these days are very tightly written, often leaving very little for the teacher to do outside of the recommended flow. This is obviously helpful in terms of reaching

the prescribed lesson aim but can leave little room for improvisation.

Standards Over the last few years there have been various pushes in our world to increase the personalisation of lesson content, to deal with language the learners themselves produce and also to aim for production levels as close to perfection as we can get. Taking these points in order, I found the personalisation worked incredibly well on certain activities. Presentations and essays where the topic choice was left to the students brought a wide array of interesting content which the rest of the class were prepared to share. A 150-word sketch of ‘The person I admire most’ produced pieces about mothers, teachers, sportsmen, humanitarians and writers among others. A similar talk on ‘A funny thing that happened to me’ ranged from stories about pets, travel, girlfriends and acting as a tour guide. What struck me about these personalised tasks was that not only the students were more engaged but so were their classmates as they saw a new, more interesting side to them. The language required was more sophisticated but more memorable for them and it was in this kind of task that the most linguistic progress was made. One activity which was really successful in setting high standards was a collaborative essay. We chose as our theme, ‘Our stay in Oxford’ and set 200 words as our length. We felt that sentences of around 15–20 words would demonstrate the ability of the class so decided on five paragraphs with two sentences in the introduction and ending, and three in the others. As a group we brainstormed

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


ideas, expressions and words for the five paragraphs and then set out to write each paragraph in pairs. After each paragraph the pairs shared ideas with other pairs to produce the most interesting and accurate sentences. The final compilation was done as a whole class and we edited each sentence as we went along, rejecting some sentences and combining others. As we built up the essay we could see how sentences and paragraphs linked and where cohesive devices would fit naturally. I regularly reminded them to be engaging and imaginative, something they were not completely at ease with in English but grew to understand as the task developed. What they produced was a memorable essay, probably above their individual level but by using the sum of the parts one that was a true reflection of the class ability. We spent longer on this than I had anticipated, and definitely longer than I would as a younger teacher but it was well worth the investment in time. Another collaborative task was a new twist on an old classic I remembered

‘By allowing individuals to direct the lesson outcomes, everyone felt their needs were being attended to, at least occasionally.’ from my initial teacher-training course. Every day The i, Britain’s only serious tabloid, has a page dedicated to short news items from around the world. The day I used it there were 10 stories and I wrote 20 questions which were arranged in no particular order and using synonymous words so that it was

not simply a ‘find the word in the text’ exercise. The students were put into groups of four or three and told it was a race to answer the 20 questions. I also said there were two questions per story. How they organised themselves was the most telling part of the activity. Each group took a slightly different approach, some reading the questions first, others scanning the stories to get an overview, one group dividing the stories by length and another by position on the page. It was a huge success in terms of competitivity and completion and to build on it they then set their own questions, building in as much synonymous language as possible. Good training for IELTS where one of the tricks of the Reading paper is to be able to switch words from the question to find the right part of the text for the answer.

Planning As a teacher many years ago I had got into the habit of teaching away from the materials, using them as a springboard but then going with the flow of the group,

Heads down on the newspaper search. Good team-building exercise.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



trying to let the class dictate the direction things went in. This was important because my groups were invariably multilevel and often coming with very different individual needs. By allowing individuals to direct the lesson outcomes, everybody felt their needs were being attended to, at least occasionally. This approach worked well when it worked but, looking back, I am not sure it was always clear what the aims were nor indeed how much had actually been planned. Lessons were memorable for the activity but not necessarily the outcome. In today’s teaching world we all know that outcomes are everything. By the end of a given group of lessons, learners must have improved their ability to do a certain communicative task, often backed up with a CEFR descriptor or a ‘Can do’ statement. This time the aims of the course were quite clear from the beginning so there was little room for individual needs to be added to the plan. The class were being prepared to be more competent in academic situations, taking notes, listening to lectures, thinking critically, writing essays, working collaboratively and so on. As a bonus they were also going to take IELTS the day after the course finished. This meant that the course had two distinct strands: the EAP part and the exam preparation. At the same time, there was an expectation that I would also teach them grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Unlike the younger me, I continually reminded my group of what we were doing and why – this is for the exam, this is for your academic future, this is an area where you are weak. This slightly magisterial approach seemed to work: they expected the lead to come from me – I could be collaborative but I was definitely in charge. How to reconcile this with some of the more humanistic approaches I had been used to was an interesting challenge. They had to learn to challenge ideas, thoughts and texts and the best way for them to learn was actually to challenge me. It took time, it was not what their educational culture had taught them but little by little they opened up and started to ask questions. ‘Just because texts are written in books does not make them right’, I would say. One easy activity which I


did remember from the past was getting the class to write their own questions about texts. These should not be simple comprehension questions but more evaluative ones like Is it interesting? Why was it written? Is it based on information or opinion?

‘Of all the jobs I’ve had in EFL, teaching gives you the best buzz.’ Approach I have always felt teachers need to be eclectic, taking activities and ideas from different schools of thought. No methodology is a guarantee of success and what works one day will probably not work the following day. Because I have observed so many hours of teaching in my career and seen so many outstanding training workshops I had at my fingertips a whole range of techniques which don’t belong to me or any one individual but to the teaching profession. Across a four-hour teaching day I had enough time to talk a lot myself, instructing, explaining, telling stories, correcting, chatting whilst still giving them a good 70% of class-time for student production. Because none of the classes were shared with other teachers, planning was much simpler and activities that were working well could be extended whilst other ones could be contracted. We did some great choral and individual drilling, exaggerating the pronunciation to show them they could speak perfect English if they were really stretched. I encouraged a dramatic approach to dialogue work in pairs and role play to pull them out of their reticent comfort zone and into a more English sounding world. I acted as an infotainer, delivering facts in a memorable way, as well as teacher

and (probably) a cross between father figure and older brother. I must say it was one of the most professionally rewarding periods of my life.

Technology The one thing that had clearly changed since my last assignment was the technology. I was impressed by how useful the class found video, whether ELT-specific or general clips. Digital projection from a laptop makes video and images so much more striking and there is a wide range of activities which happen quite naturally. Vocabulary can be taught from a paused screen, dialogues can be invented from a mute video and a context for a reading can be created from a clip. We were doing a text on NGOs and I found a two-minute clip on Fairtrade products was a perfect lead-in. Having all the audio on an MP3 player is also incredibly practical and getting homework sent to me or handed in perfectly printed was a whole new experience. Indeed I got so into the homework that I ended up massively overloading the poor students. Having students look up things on their smartphones made the lessons go more smoothly and letting them show images and video clips made them feel much more involved in the course.

How did I do? I probably still overdo the entertaining side of teaching. I was punctual and kept up a good pace. I gave out too much homework and made a few too many jokes early on. By the end of the first week I was right back into it and by the end of the course I was sorry to see them go. I was teaching in unique circumstances in the most perfect location for EFL learners, an Oxford college, but I still think it is a great job when circumstances suit. Of all the jobs I have done in EFL, teaching gives you the best buzz. Ironically the career ladder leads us to do less and less of it whilst continuing to influence it. I would recommend a return to the classroom on a regular basis for all those who seek to bring change to the classroom just to make sure that what they are proposing makes the teacher’s life better and enhances the learning.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Tech news and events system. PRS systems used to cost hundreds of pounds, but Socrative is free. It is a smart student response system that links students and teacher via smartphones, laptops and tablets. Teachers log in through their device, choose an exercise with questions, and students answer the questions on their devices. The responses are collated on the teacher’s device and can be shown in real-time. Student responses can be multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions. All the data can be downloaded as an Excel file for teacher analysis.

App update Socrative Everyone is talking about 1:1 learning where every student has a device and

all can collaborate and interact with content during the class. Socrative is an app and web system that makes this easier, by providing quizzes with a live classroom-based personal response

The apps are available for Android, iOS and WindowsPhone, and the system also works with any web browser. If not every student has a device, they can do it in groups! More info from: http://www.socrative. com/

Site update A recent site (only one year old), is an aggregator of news, ideas, blog posts and sharing of ELT and EdTech ideas. Its mission is ‘to promote innovation and experimentation in the ELT industry, and to explore the question ‘What next for ELT?’’ especially in the areas of EdTech, gaming, mobile and online learning, publishing and learning. You can sign up for daily posts to your email or simply check the site regularly for new content. More info from:

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



Twitter feed

Conference planner

There are a lot of Twitter writers from the world of technology in ELT, and if you follow them on Twitter, you may learn about new websites, new ideas, and new techniques for use in the classroom. Each issue we’ll highlight new Twitter feeds you might like to follow:

More and more of the annual conferences feature large sections on technology-supported learning, so it is worthwhile trying to get away from the classroom for a day or two to visit one of these upcoming conferences.

@ShellTerrell: Shelly Terrell is a US English Language teacher based in Germany and very active at conferences worldwide, talking about educational technology, e-learning and professional development for teachers. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 25 countries and is a co-founder of #Edchat , #ELTChat, and the Reform Symposium Global E-Conference. More info from: play/202342?present=true

@Edudemic Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a community of educational technology specialists (not only ELT) which produces a blog, webpage and Twitter feed. They describe themselves as ‘a dedicated community of educators and technologists looking to enhance learning’ and produce The Edudemic Daily at Their core website below also has a great article on ‘20 EdTech lovers worth following on Twitter’. More info from:

If you can’t get to visit, don’t forget that many conferences are following the IATEFL example and placing video of their key presentations on their websites:

IATEFL Online Although the IATEFL Harrogate 2014 conference is now over, it still lives on via IATEFL Online which is still available at, where the conference resources and interviews from previous years are still hosted, starting with IATEFL Aberdeen years ago.

Future Conferences Upcoming ICT/TELL/CALL-related conferences you might want to plan for:

EuroCALL University of Groningen, The Netherlands, August 20–23, 2014

mLearn2014 November 3–5, Istanbul http:/

Online Educa 2014 December 3–5, Berlin

Blog roll

BETT Show 2015 Navigating the blogosphere is tough as there are many millions of blogs. To help, each issue we’ll highlight new blogs that you might find interesting and useful:

21–24 Jan, 2015, London ExCeL

Shaun Wilden Shaun calls his blog ‘A random assortment of EFL related musings …’ and it is a very useful and stimulating blog with links to his presentations, other blogs, #ELTchat on Twitter, articles and helpful resource websites. See article on page 66 of this issue. More info from:

Ela Wassell Ela is a freelance ELT teacher in London – and knitting enthusiast. She taught in both Polish and UK schools and is now learning the fiddle. So her blog reflects a wide variety of interests and is a must-read for practising teachers. Recent posts have been focusing on aspects of lesson observation. More info from: More info from:


From the editor If you have any requests for topics that you would like us to cover, please write in to MET to let us know. Please also let us know if you have an article you’d like to write about work you have been doing. You can contact me at: Michael Carrier has been involved in ELT for many years as a teacher, director, author and trainer. He is currently Director of Strategic Partnerships at Cambridge English, and you can follow him on Twitter @mcarrier3. His website is at:

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Webwatch T

his issue’s WebWatch looks at ASR: Automated Speech Recognition, also referred to as Voice Recognition. It’s been around for a few years but has not been accurate enough for use in ELT – until now. The technology

has matured and is able to work more accurately and more quickly, and so it is now perhaps ready to be used in language education (and language translation) more frequently. The sites here demonstrate some of the uses of

ASR and illustrate some of the tools and software currently available. A future MET article will look at the prospects for ASR in ELT and what impact this will have on teachers and learners.

Dragon Dictate Dragon Dictate is a speech recognition engine that works across all platforms and phones. It provides simple ASR that allows instant transcription of spoken dictation into word-processed editable text. (Disclosure: I often use it myself in my work, to dictate articles and reports.) It takes very little training, works very accurately, and improves with usage so in my setup it is over 95% accurate with only proper nouns and place names etc. causing problems. It has great applications to ELT especially for students with accessibility problems, and as a way to motivate students to speak more. There are not yet any lesson plans online for ASR in the classroom, but this may change rapidly.

More info from: http://www.nuance. com/dragon/index.htm

Google Translate Google Translate converts your speech into spoken translations in a number of different languages. It can do speech-to-speech conversions in 80 languages. The learner simply speaks into the phone/tablet running the app (available for iPad and iPhone as well as Android) and the software converts directly to speech which is played back almost immediately for listening or playing to an interlocutor. It is relatively accurate with short phrases in everyday topic domains, but it is not yet perfect. And users must be online to the internet, where all the processing takes place in Google’s ‘Big Data’ servers. It also allows learners to save favourite translations for quick access, even when offline, and to view dictionary results for single words or phrases. It seems almost like Star Trek magic … and will most likely have a major impact on language education in the future. More info from: details?id=com.smartmobilesoftware.voicetranslatorfree

n Volume 23

n Issue 3



IBM Reading Companion IBM have a comprehensive CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme that supports educational projects worldwide with grants and new research. The Reading Companion is a speech recognition tool that is used in many schools in multiple countries globally, to help students practise their reading and their pronunciation. The Reading Companion contains many stories and texts for students to read aloud from the screen, back to the computer. The software analyses the learner’s speech through ASR and then comments on it, pointing out pronunciation errors or issues of intonation and emphasis.

Access to the Reading Companion is free but needs to be arranged via the school, not individually.

More info from: http://www. ReadingCompanion/index.jsp

iTranslate iTranslate is one of a new series of translation apps for learners’ phones or tablets. Like Google Translate, it listens to learner speech, analyses it and converts it to text then translates the text, and then converts the text to speech in the target language. More info from: http://www.

eEnglish eEnglish is a website not an app, and provides learning materials for grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. It uses ASR to help students assess their pronunciation issues. The Speech Test uses voice recognition to assess the students’ recordings and analyse which lessons they should study to improve their pronunciation. Once all the 52 test sentences have been recorded the programme automatically analyses the recordings and provides feedback on which sounds are spoken correctly and which need improvement, and it suggests appropriate exercises on the website (some of which require a subscription). More info from: pronunciation-power-speech-test/


n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Designer learning The teacher as designer of mobile-based classroom learning experiences Nicky Hockly, The Consultants-E

This article is one of a series of academic papers on MobileAssisted Language Learning (MALL) commissioned by TIRF, The International Research Foundation for English Language Education. TIRF funds different kinds of doctoral and academic research into ELT, and these papers provide an account of how MALL is impacting the landscape of English language education, and what challenges lie ahead for language learning teachers and students, administrators, business professionals, and others. To read some reviews of this article go to -learning.



his paper takes as its starting point Laurillard’s (2012) assertion that classroom practitioners need to become designers of effective learning experiences. It describes a small-scale classroom-based action research project carried out with two different levels of international EFL students studying in the UK, over a two-week period. Through the experience of implementing mobilebased communicative classroom tasks with these learners, six parameters for the effective design and sequencing of these tasks became apparent: (1) hardware, (2) mobility, (3) technological complexity, (4) linguistic/communicative competence, (5) content, tutorial, creation vs. communication MALL, and (6) educational /learning context.

It is hoped that these parameters may be applicable to other fields in education. Finally, areas of concern within the study are explored, suggestions are made for future classroom-based research, and the importance of teacher training is highlighted.

Literature review If researchers are in agreement about one thing, it is that exactly what constitutes ‘mobile learning’ is difficult to define (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009; Traxler, 2009). The concept of mobility itself is problematic within any definition of mobile learning. For example, is it the mobility of the learners – the possibility that they can learn anywhere, any time by using portable devices – that is important? Or is it the mobility/portability of the devices themselves that is important (a more technocentric view)? Clearly both of these aspects are important, and current definitions also stress the importance of context, where mobile learning can take place in both formal classroom settings, and also in informal settings, across myriad devices, in a variety of physical and temporal arenas (Sharples et al, 2009; Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2009). Pegrum (2014, in press) provides a helpful way of conceptualising these interrelated aspects of mobile learning, suggesting that the use of mobile devices in education frequently falls into one of three categories, corresponding to the emphasis on devices/learners/ context mentioned above: nn when the devices are mobile

This paper describes the study and proposes these six parameters as key to designing effective mobile-based tasks for the communicative language classroom.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

nn when the learners are mobile nn when the learning experience itself is mobile

The first category – when the devices are mobile – is typical of what Pegrum describes as ‘connected classrooms’, where students use their own devices, or class sets of devices, to access the Internet, create content, etc. In this instance, the learners work within the confines of the classroom walls (or at home in a flipped learning model), so they are not physically mobile. And the singular affordances of mobile devices (such as geolocation) are not exploited, so the learning experience itself is not mobile. Pegrum’s second category – when the learners are mobile – describes scenarios where learners may be moving around the classroom or the school premises while learning, or they may be using commuting time or waiting time to access short chunks of content to reinforce learning in self-study mode. Reviewing vocabulary via mobile flashcard apps might be a typical self-study activity that learners can do while on the move. However, the learning experience remains fundamentally the same, wherever the learners may physically be at the time of using the devices. The third category – when the learning experience is mobile – refers to learners using devices across a range of realworld contexts to access information needed at that moment, or to create multimedia records of their learning in situ. Tasks relying on geolocation are clear examples of this. It is this third category of mobile learning which is arguably the most ‘disruptive’, and which relies on the specific affordances of networked smart devices. Although there are multiple devices which can be deployed in mobile or handheld learning (such as mp3



and mp4 players, gaming consoles, or e-readers) there is a trend towards convergence in devices such as smartphones and tablets in developed countries, and more basic or feature phones, or devices like XO laptops (as part of the One Laptop Per Child initiative) in developing countries. A look at recent and current international mLearning projects being carried out attest to this trend – see for example UNESCO’s reports on mobile projects: http://www.unesco. org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/ m4ed/mobile-learning-resources/ unescomobilelearningseries/ Looking at the literature documenting mobile learning initiatives within the field of English language learning, we can identify three different project approaches with significantly different levels of access to funding, different scalability, and different timeframes: nn Large scale mLearning projects, particularly in developing countries, jointly funded by NGOs, MoEs, hardware and/or software providers, mobile telephone companies, and educational institutions such as the British Council or universities (see Pegrum, 2014 for a discussion of example projects). nn Smaller institutions or universities, in both developed and developing countries, carrying out the strategic implementation of mobile devices to support language learning. Small individual language learning schools such as the Anglo European School of English in Bournemouth, and larger institutions such as the Cultura Inglesa in Brazil, the Casa Thomas Jefferson also in Brazil, or the British Council in Hong Kong, are examples of good practice in this respect. nn Individual teachers who are early adopters of technology, and experiment on an ad hoc basis with small groups of students, sometimes with little or no support from their institutions. The work of Paul Driver in Portugal, Anne Fox in Denmark, and Karin Tiraşim and Çigdem Ugur in Turkey, provides examples of these (see Hockly, 2012 for a brief discussion of some of these).


mLearning for language learning (or MALL – Mobile Assisted Language Learning) is a relatively new field within CALL and e-learning, and as such, there is still little reliable research available. Even the term ‘MALL’ has come under scrutiny (Jarvis & Achilleos, 2013), with alternatives such as MALU (Mobile for Language Use) being proposed as a more accurate reflection of how mobile devices can be used for learning. Longitudinal research studies are challenging to carry out because mobile devices are evolving so quickly (Pachler, 2009: 4). What may be the latest mobile technology at the start of a three-year mobile learning project may start to seem very limited by the end. In addition, like CALL in general, MALL suffers from a lack of a single unifying theoretical framework against which to evaluate its efficacy, and this can lead to a confusing array of anecdotal case studies that do little to contribute to a sound research base (Egbert, 2005; Levy, forthcoming). For example, CALL (and by extension MALL) researchers may decide to use an interactionist second language acquisition framework, a sociocultural perspective, a systemic functional linguistics perspective, an intercultural perspective, a situated learning perspective, a design based research perspective, and so on. Whatever theory is chosen to underpin a research study, the researcher needs to make this salient for the reader, and to be aware of what a particular focus might leave uncovered (Egbert, 2005).

with one Chinese speaker, and one Russian speaker. Half the class were adolescents (16 years old), with adult learners ranging from 20–45 years of age. The second group was of low intermediate level (B1 in the CEF) with a mix of nationalities among the 8 learners (Kuwaiti, Italian, Brazilian, Turkish, Argentinian and Chinese), and ages ranged from 16–27 years old. Each group received 3 hours of EFL instruction with me in the mornings, and a further 1.5 hours of EFL instruction with a different teacher in the afternoons, who didn’t use much technology beyond occasional use of the IWB (interactive whiteboard).

With this in mind, we turn to a brief discussion of the small-scale action research project. Given the limitations of space in this paper, what follows is necessarily a brief summary.

A BYOD (bring your own device) approach was chosen because the likelihood of most – if not all – learners owning smartphones or tablet computers was very high. This proved to be the case. Private language schools in the UK tend to attract students who can afford these devices, with professional adults attending, and adolescent learners coming from relatively wealthy backgrounds. In addition, the school had Wi-Fi connectivity: having reliable connectivity when implementing mobile-based activities is clearly a key consideration.

The study This classroom-based action research project was carried out with two consecutive small groups of international EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learners studying at a private language school in Cambridge, UK, over a period of two weeks in July 2013. The first group (week 1) consisted of very low proficiency learners (A1 level in the CEF) with a total of 12 learners. The vast majority were Arabic speakers,

The aim of the study was to use the experience of teaching in a real classroom context to explore how learners’ own mobile devices might be integrated into a course book-driven approach (set by the school) to supplement and enhance communicative tasks, and what learners’ expectations and reactions to this use of their mobile devices as part of their learning might be. The overall aim was to generate theory from practice, in an attempt to create a practical framework for designing and implementing mobile-based communicative tasks in the language classroom. As such, the approach attempts to generate a ‘mobile specific’ theory (Vavoula & Sharples 2009; Viberg & Grönlund 2013), which may have wider repercussions for task design beyond the language classroom.

With the weekly ongoing or ‘rolling’ enrolments typical of a private language school in the summer in the UK, where

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


the members of a class (and sometimes teachers) change on a weekly basis, it was impossible to know much about the learners in advance, so some planned activities had to be altered once I started working with the groups. The research design was developed as each course progressed, and focused on task design and sequencing based on contextual factors as they arose. The key research question that emerged was: What pedagogical models of task design and sequencing facilitate learning with mobile devices in the classroom and enhance its benefits?

Initial class survey In the first class of the week, both groups completed an online survey designed to check what learning experiences they may already have had using mobile devices, what devices and connectivity they had with them in the UK, and to gauge their attitudes to the idea of working with their devices during the coming week. The results of this initial survey were very similar for both groups, and affected the subsequent task design and sequencing of mobile-based activities during the week: nn Although all the learners had smartphones, not all of them had 3G connectivity, and had to rely on Wi-Fi connections either in the school, or (some) at home. This meant that any activities to be carried out outside of the school (for example, on the move or at home) could not rely on an internet connection. nn All the learners regularly used bilingual dictionary or translator apps on their mobile phones in class. None of the learners had ever used their mobile phones for any other language related activities.This suggested that the introduction of mobile-based language learning activities needed to be gradual and staged, so that learners could start off in familiar territory. nn All of the learners in both groups agreed that they would like to use their devices to help them learn English. Although the learners had clearly not had any experience of this in the past, this result did show that

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

100% of learners in both groups were positively disposed towards trying out mobile-based learning activities.

Pedagogical implementation Given that the learners of both groups were unfamiliar with using their mobile devices for language learning, beyond the use of their ubiquitous dictionary and translator apps, a staged approach, moving from simpler activities towards more complex activities during the week, seemed appropriate. It was also important that activities – all of which were designed to develop communicative competence, and focused primarily on language production – were related to the course book syllabus, and were appropriate to the linguistic level of the learners. Most of the activities were open ended, encouraging the learners to produce language in spoken and/ or written format, so it was possible to use some of the same or similar activities with both groups as learners were able to produce language to their current linguistic level. Tasks were developed by me prior to each class, and aligned to the course book syllabus and content where appropriate. This enabled an approach where learners’ feedback and our experiences with one day’s tasks informed the approach and development of the next day’s tasks. The course book and syllabus provided the content framework, so this was not as off-the-cuff as it might seem. Rather it allowed me to introduce more (or less) challenging activities depending on how the learners were progressing. On the next page is a table summarising the mobile-related tasks carried out with each group. A detailed description of each task is beyond the scope of this paper, but url links are provided to task descriptions, for readers interested in following this up. The activities listed in the table were not the only tasks carried out with the class each day. Rather, they were integrated into a range of other language learning activities, many of which were related to, or directly taken from, the set course

book. The school policy required teachers to use a pre-set course book with learners, so for this research project, any mobile activities had to be fitted around this requirement. In fact, the majority of teachers around the world are usually given a syllabus to work from, whether this is imposed by the course book, the Ministry of Education, or the institution itself. In this respect, it was a useful exercise to have to ensure that the activities using learners’ mobile devices were integrated into an externally imposed syllabus, and were congruent with this as much as possible in terms of language content and topics.

Learner feedback An end of week survey found that the majority of learners in both groups enjoyed using mobile devices and would like to continue to do so in the future. What is especially interesting about the responses to the survey though, is that one learner clearly felt that there were few benefits to the mobile tasks, with comments such as ‘useless’ and ‘it doesn’t work’. From discussion with previous teachers of the group, it had already been conveyed to me that this learner was reluctant to take part in communicative activities, and preferred very structured written grammar practice activities in class. This appeared to relate to personal learning style and preferences, and expectations about learning; it is also a clear case of the need for learner training in the benefits not only of using mobile devices, but of the communicative approach in general. The implications of this are discussed below. A fuller description of the class surveys, and a discussion of the affective factors that these addressed, can be found on my blog at http://www.

Discussion of the research question The initial online class survey (see above) carried out with learners was instrumental in laying out several parameters for task design. For example, key elements were hardware (whether learners had access to devices, and what type), and connectivity



Mobile-related tasks carried out by two groups



Beginner group (A1 level)

Intermediate group (B1 level)

*Letter dictation Reviewing questions

Online mobile use survey Described on p37

Online mobile use survey Described on p37

url codes in class Reviewing questions

*We’ve got it Sharing personal photos

*We’ve got it Sharing personal photos Water photos Collecting photos with phones, related to the course book topic *Water interviews Recording narrative interviews in pairs


url codes in class Reviewing questions

Bombay TV Viewing learner-created subtitled videos


*My mobile Text reconstruction

*Me at 16-18-20-22h Sharing personal photos

*Mobile English Sharing photos of English found around the school

url treasure hunt Review and integrated skills

url treasure hunt Review & integrated skills

*Cambridge Guide Audio recording in Woices app


* Described in Hockly, N & Dudeney G (2014) (in press)

(whether learners had access to Wi-Fi and 3G outside of class). It was clear from the survey results that most mobilebased communicative tasks would need to take place within the classroom and the school grounds, and that any mobilebased tasks devised for homework could not rely on connectivity. According to Pegrum’s three categories of mobility described earlier (whether the devices, learners or learning experience are mobile), the survey showed that any attempt to include tasks in all three of these categories would be limited to the geographical location of the school itself, as this was the only place where all learners had Wi-Fi access. This had a marked effect on mobile task design. In addition, the affordances of the mobile devices owned by the learners were clarified in the initial survey. Because all learners owned smartphones (a majority of iPhones, two Android phones, and one BlackBerry), tasks that leveraged the affordances of smartphones (audio,


video, access to apps, geolocation capabilities ...) could be included. Device considerations such as screen size are also important for task design – having learners read or produce long texts on smart phones is not ideal, and in this context, using capabilities such as taking photos, or recording audio and video, fitted better with the affordances of the learners’ smartphones. The fact that none of the learners had any previous experience of using mobile devices in their language learning (apart from translation/dictionary apps) suggested that ‘starting small’ at a low level of technological complexity would allow them to work within their comfort zone, and not overwhelm them with complicated apps or tasks too early on. On the first day of using their mobile devices, both groups did a dictation task that required them to use their smartphone note app (the letter dictation task), and a task that required them to access the internet (the online

survey). In addition, the intermediate week 2 group carried out the QR code integrated skills question review task, as they were clearly proficient at handling their own devices, and were quickly and easily able to download a QR code reader (new to all of them) via the school Wi-Fi. The decision to include this activity at the end of the first day with the intermediate week 2 group was taken on the spot, and replaced a planned course book related activity, as it was clear that this group had not just the technological competence to carry out the task, but the necessary linguistic level to quickly grasp the instructions and successfully complete it. This suggests two more parameters to keep in mind in mobile task design for the communicative classroom: technological complexity and linguistic/ communicative competence. It makes sense to ensure that the task doesn’t have a high level of technological and linguistic complexity at the same time. To have learners struggling with both the technology and the task content makes the task harder to complete successfully. In the case of the QR codes task with the intermediate group, the level of technological complexity is not particularly high once one understands what QR codes are and how a QR code reader works, and the task itself encouraged learners to share information about their hobbies in written (and then in spoken) form, so was not too demanding linguistically for this level. Four types of MALL are suggested by Pegrum (2014, forthcoming), each focused primarily on one of these areas: nn content MALL: for example, selfstudy content such as listening to podcasts or reading e-books. nn tutorial MALL: for example, behaviourist activities, such as vocabulary flashcard apps, pronunciation/repetition apps, quizzes and games. nn creation MALL: for example, activities including the creation of text, images, audio and/or video. nn communication MALL: for example, the sharing of created

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


digital artefacts via mobile devices, either locally, and/or internationally via networked groups. The first two types of MALL (content and tutorial MALL) fit with a behaviourist theory of learning, in which learners consume content, and may reproduce it in very controlled contexts. The second two types of MALL (creation and communication MALL) clearly sit more comfortably with a communicative or task-based approach to teaching and learning. These four types of MALL are not mutually exclusive, and it is possible to have several types appearing within the same activity. What is clear, however, is that creation and communication MALL require the guidance of a teacher, and are therefore arguably more suited to classroombased tasks (or to e-learning contexts) where teachers are able to provide guidance and feedback. Thus we have a fifth parameter to keep in mind in our design of mobile-based communicative classroom tasks: to what extent does the mobile-based task allow for creation and communication, or to what extent does it rely on content or tutorial approaches? In the communicative classroom, I would argue that although all four approaches may be present, they should be significantly weighted towards creation and communication MALL. However, for learners new to using their mobile devices for language learning, or from educational contexts in which behaviourist approaches are preferred or the norm, it may make sense to spend some time initially on content and tutorial MALL tasks, some during class, and particularly outside of class (eg. for homework), before introducing more communicative MALL tasks. The one learner in my intermediate week 2 group who found it difficult to relate to the tasks and approach may have benefited from a staged approach like this, along with some focused learner training. And thus we come to a sixth parameter for effective communicative mobile task design: educational/ learning context. In monolingual contexts, this is much easier to judge, and an appropriate type of MALL can be introduced at the initial stages.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Thus we see six key parameters emerging for the design of communicative tasks using mobile devices in the classroom: nn hardware (device affordances including features and screen size, and connectivity) nn mobility (devices, learners or learning experience) nn technological complexity (related to the learners’ technological competence) nn linguistic/communicative competence nn content, tutorial, creation or communication MALL nn educational/learning context (related to learners’ expectations and preferred learning styles) I would suggest that by keeping these six parameters in mind, and by ensuring a fit with the syllabus, effective mobilebased communicative classroom tasks can be designed and sequenced.

‘A teacher’s work in the classroom should form part of of a wider mobile strategy as part of an institution’s educational plan.’ Issues of concern There are a number of caveats or issues of concern connected to this research project, which need to be borne in mind when assessing the results. As noted earlier, this research study was very small and carried out with only

two groups of EFL students, with 12 and 8 students in each group respectively. In addition, I was only able to work for one week with each group to a total of 15 hours. It is unlikely that the use of mobile devices in and/or out of class continued to occur in their learning, as other teachers in the institution were not part of this project. The rapid turnover of learners and regularly changing teachers typical of the context of a UK language school in summer, meant that working with a number of teachers on a longer term project exploring the ongoing implementation of mobile devices, was simply not possible. In addition, working with an international group of adult learners (aged 16+) in a multilingual context is in many ways atypical of much EFL teaching around the world, which tends to take place in monolingual contexts. The multilingual context of the study meant that interesting challenges – such as a reluctance to take part in communicative tasks and the related need for learner training – arose. Although this affected a very small minority (one student – see above), it does highlight the importance of the educational/learning context when it comes to implementing certain types of tasks and approaches. Working with monolingual groups in a number of different contexts would allow for more context-specific decisions to be made about mobile task design, and especially sequencing. Furthermore, in this particular study, given the low language proficiency of both groups, it was difficult to solicit detailed feedback from the learners about their experiences, in English. When the researcher speaks the L1 (first language) in a monolingual context, learners with low proficiency in English can provide much more complex and nuanced reactions to the use of mobile devices, as they are able to express themselves in L1. Unfortunately this was not the case in this study. But perhaps most importantly, a major drawback of this study was its ad hoc nature. If the use of mobile devices is to be well integrated into learning, and if students are to fully reap the benefits, there needs to be institutional support for this. A teacher’s work in the



classroom should form part of a wider mobile strategy as part of an institution’s educational plan. More rigorous and longitudinal research can then be carried out in this particular context over time, and the learners’ experiences of mobile device use is less disjointed.

knowledge. In order for educators to effectively orchestrate learning within this landscape they need to perceive themselves, and indeed to be perceived by society, as techno-pedagogical designers. (Mwanza-Simwami et al, 2011: 5. Quoted in Pegrum 2014)

White Paper. In: Alpine Rendezvous, March 28 – 29, La Clusaz, France. Available at G5bLod [accessed on 12 August 2013].

However, it is hoped that this study – with its limitations kept firmly in mind – has helped foreground some of the key parameters involved in designing and sequencing classroom-based communicative tasks for mobile and handheld devices.

In addition, teachers need to feel comfortable with a wide range of digital literacies, and know how to leverage these in the classroom (Dudeney, Hockly & Pegrum, 2013). And an increasingly key digital literacy is mobile literacy. As David Parry notes (2011), ‘The future our students will inherit is one that will be mediated and stitched together by the mobile web.’ If training programmes are not equipping educators to deal with this, then we do a disservice not just to future teachers, but also to learners.

Parry, D. 2011.‘Mobile perspectives on teaching: mobile literacy’. EDUCAUSE Review 46/2: 14–18. Available at [accessed on 12 August 2013].

Future directions Given that MALL/MALU research is still in its infancy, one potential area of future research might involve investigating frameworks for the design of mobile-based tasks in education. Keeping in mind the six parameters discussed earlier may help educators decide on the most effective tasks for any given context, and help with the sequencing of these tasks. Additional context-specific parameters may be relevant in other fields in education. However, for educators to be able to implement meaningful and communicative mobile-based tasks with learners, they need to first ensure that they have the technical or ‘technological’ competence needed to work with mobile devices of whatever type: both those currently available in that context, and also to be prepared for future developments. Teacher training programmes need to ensure that the ‘technological competence’ described in Mishra and Koehler’s TPACK model (2006) is given equal weight to content and pedagogical knowledge. And teachers need to be able to work not just with (language) content; they need to be (co-) designers of effective learning experiences for their learners, whether using technology or not (Laurillard 2012). In the words of a White Paper from the STELLAR project: The challenge of education is no longer about delivery of knowledge: it is about designing environments, tools and activities for learners to construct


References Dudeney, G., Hockly, N. & Pegrum, M. 2013. Digital Literacies. Harlow: Pearson. Egbert, J. L. & Petrie, G. M (Eds.) 2005. CALL Research Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hockly, N. 2012 ‘Tech-savvy teaching: BYOD’. Modern English Teacher 21/4: 44-45. Hockly, N. & Dudeney, G. 2014 (in press). Going mobile: Teaching and learning with handheld devices. London: Delta Publishing. Jarvis, H & Achilleos, M. 2013 ‘From computer assisted language learning (CALL) to mobile assisted language use’. TESL-EJ 16/4: 1-18. Available at [accessed on 12 August 2013].

Pachler, N. 2009.‘Research methods in mobile and informal learning: some issues’ in G.Vavoula, N. Pachler, and A. KukulskaHulme (Eds.). Researching Mobile Learning: Frameworks,Tools, and Research Designs. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Pegrum, M. 2014 (in press). Mobile learning: Languages, literacies & cultures. Basingstoke & London: Palgrave Macmillan. Sharples, M., M. Milrad, I. Arnedillo-Sánchez, and G.Vavoula. 2009.‘Mobile learning: small devices, big issues’ in N. Balacheff, S. Ludvigsen, T. de Jong, A. Lazonder, S. Barnes, and L. Montandon (Eds.). Technology Enhanced Learning: Principles and Products. Dordrecht: Springer. Traxler, J. 2009.‘Learning in a mobile age’. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 1/1: 1–12. Vavoula, G. & Sharples, M. 2009.‘Meeting the challenges in evaluating mobile learning: A 3-level evaluation framework’. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 1/2: 54 – 75. Viberg, O. & Grönlund, A. 2013.‘Mobile assisted language learning: a literature review’. In M. Specht, M. Sharples & J. Multisilta (eds.), mLearn 2012: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning 2012, Helsinki, Finland, October 16 – 18 (pp.9-16). Available at [accessed on 12 August 2013].

Kukulska-Hulme, A. 2009.‘Will mobile learning change language learning?’ ReCALL 21/2: 157–65. Available at [accessed on 12 August 2013]. Kukulska-Hulme, A., Sharples, M., Milrad, M., Arnedillo-Sánchez, I., & Vavoula, G. 2009. ‘Innovation in mobile learning: a European perspective’. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 1/1: 13–35. Laurillard, D. 2012. Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. New York: Routledge. Levy, M. (forthcoming 2015).‘Researching in language learning and technology’, in Farr, F. and Murray, L. (eds), Routledge Handbook of Language Learning and Technology, New York and London: Routledge. Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. 2006.‘Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge’. Teachers College Record, 108/6: 1017-1054. Mwanza-Simwami, D., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Clough, G.,Whitelock, D., Ferguson, R., & Sharples, M. 2011.‘Methods and models of nextgeneration technology enhanced learning’.

Nicky Hockly has been involved in EFL teaching and teacher training since 1987. She is Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an online teacher training and development consultancy (www. She is co-author of ‘How to Teach English with Technology’, ‘Learning English as a Foreign Language for Dummies’, ‘Teaching Online’, and ‘ Digital Literacies’ (forthcoming 2013), and she recently wrote her first e-book:’ Webinars: A Cookbook for Educators’ ( Nicky maintains a blog at, and The Consultants-E regularly run an online teacher training course on mobile learning: mLearning in Practice.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


How to Skype up your English classes Anna Kamont


few years ago, the idea of attending an online course, be it a language, professional development, or academic course may have seemed hard to believe. The whole concept of distance learning had already been in place for some time then but in most cases students had heard of, but not really personally engaged in, this method of learning. Most e-courses had the form of blended learning instruction, with the online element being a component of more extensive face-to-face teaching. Yet with all the recent innovations in the area of distance learning and computer mediated communication (CMC) – webinars, synchronous videoconferencing, MOOCs, Khan Academy or Google Hangouts – and a whole array of CMC tools easily available (to a large extent free of charge), for many the futuristic vision of learning in the convenience of one’s own home has become a highly plausible reality. As a language instructor I have been involved in conducting one-to-one English lessons via Skype for three years now. My journey in this ‘teaching realm’ encompassed the initial scepticism and anxious beginnings, then a gradual interest boost, followed by independent exploration of new functionalities and finally a full acceptance of Skype’s learning and teaching potential. Therefore, the aim of this article is to share my experience of being an online teacher with fellow practitioners and offer a set of tried and tested online teaching techniques I have developed over the last few years of working in an online environment.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Why Skype? The videoconferencing software necessary for delivering distance courses is increasingly becoming available (eg. Google Talk, MSN) yet the choice for my teaching context was Skype for several reasons. Firstly, some of my students were already familiar with the service, having used it for their private communication purposes. Others admittedly lacked practical experience yet had some prior knowledge of the whole idea of Skyping, which helped me convince them this communication option was equally effective for course instruction. Secondly, the functionalities provided in the basic version are perfectly satisfactory for conducting effective language courses. These include: nn audio and videoconferencing facilities – which allow teachers and students to see each other through the whole session (provided the connection is strong enough, which is the case for my students but still might be an issue in other teaching contexts) nn clear and compact chat window – whose placement under the video window allows for simultaneous tracing of speaking and writing nn straightforward editing and archiving of the chat content – which provides a convenient storage for classroom language and other relevant information nn easy file exchange – which enables quick and efficient content share

nn video messages – a potent tool which allows leaving video messages in-between meetings nn screen share – giving Skype conversation participants direct access to each others’ desktop content

Skype classes – the old Skype-based language courses do not need to revolutionise the whole idea of conducting a language course. A typical English-via-Skype class can start with the teacher calling the student at a prearranged time. The cameras on both sides should be on, yet if connection issues appear, the student could switch off his camera as it seems more important for the student to see the teacher (notice the body language, coursebook content, etc.) than the other way round. The class introduction procedures follow the pattern of a regular face-to-face meeting: greetings, warm-ups, material revision, homework check, etc. The courses I have been delivering make use of all the regularly applied teaching aids: a coursebook with supplementary handouts, audio and video recordings (from CDs accompanying the book or other sources) or authentic materials in the form of documents, videos or audio files. Students can have their paper notebooks or keep electronic records of the language input. They are assigned homework and do progress tests at regular intervals. All these factors guarantee that students have a feeling of ‘attending’ a course, not just spending time online with their teacher.



However, in spite of numerous similarities between Skype and face-to-face language classes, there are still obvious significant differences. These, to my mind, are responsible for inducing a certain degree of anxiety and thus prevent some instructors who might benefit from this mode of course delivery from including audio and videoconferencing technology in their teaching repertoire.

Skype classes – the new Faced with the challenge of teaching English via Skype, a language instructor might, quite understandably, initially meet the idea with a prejudiced attitude. As any novelty in life, the transformation from faceto-face to online teaching requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone and treading into an unknown territory, a territory which at first sight might seem not as conducive to learning and teaching as the old model. Lack of a regular classroom with a board, no paper handout distribution, reservations about handling audio materials, a tricky issue of distance testing as well as sheer worry about lack of natural face-to-face contact are just a few issues that teachers raise when faced with the dilemma of delivering an online course.

How to handle the lack of a board? As there is no physical classroom, some teachers worry that the relevant language content which usually finds itself on the board will be lost. It might have been true some time ago yet nowadays a whole array of tools is there at teachers’ disposal to substitute a conventional board and board writing, for example: nn applications and software that allow users to share board space online in real-time (such as www.baiboard. com, airsketch/, www.webwhiteboard. com, nn Skype chat window nn Google documents I personally use the last two tools, thus diminishing the amount of additional technology used in the lessons (the course is basically about


learning a language not learning about technologies so students, especially adult ones, should not be overwhelmed with tech solutions). The shortcomings of these solutions are undoubtedly limited options for drawing or putting unusual signs like phonemic transcription (which with the use of extra tools could be possible though). Yet Skype teachers still have access to these techniques as they could make use of some basic drawing software (eg. Paint) and then share the screen; prepare photo images of things they have intended to draw; or simply scan paper drawings or graphs they have made by hand. The above limitations are perfectly compensated for by the new scope of possibilities that using a chat- or Google doc-based ‘board’ involves, some of which may include: nn pasting revision activities (first prepared in a word processor) – which eliminates the need for copying or printing a paper handout. Students perform the exercises by editing the content (Google docs), typing the answers below the body of the exercise (Skype chat) or answer verbally, in which case the teacher might decide to write down the answers themselves nn systematic recording of new lexical/grammatical items that appear in the course of the lesson (accompanied by translation into L1, English definition, exemplary collocations, or left without any explanation, especially in the case where the word has already appeared in the previous classes). Such an easily editable list of items could be later copied to notebooks, e-notebooks, doc files or any other forms of language organisers by both teachers and students. It could also constitute (especially when the items are devoid of any explanation) a very convenient revision material for future classes nn recurrent writing down of words which although taught previously still pose a challenge (thanks to the repeated visual stimulus – hearing and simultaneously seeing the written form of the word in the chat window – the chance for the next recall is greater)

nn instant recording of correct or reformulated versions of words or sentences during the student’s talking time – which is a highly effective feedback, as the improved version is offered in a discrete voiceless manner and thus does not interrupt the flow of thoughts or disturb the student’s utterance (for this feedback technique to be effective though, students need to be informed about the procedure beforehand to understand that the words appearing in the screen during their talk are there to guide and improve their speaking)

How to handle handout distribution? As handing out papers is not an option for distance courses, new solutions for content distribution have to be applied. Below are just a few alternatives, which facilitate e-friendly extra material distribution: nn creating Google documents (ideally with individual links for each student) with the handout content – students have the option to print them out, save them in a preferred text format or work on them online, typing in their answers nn sending scanned handouts or selected pdf pages (in the case of photocopiable materials).The materials could be sent by email or using the Skype file-sharing option, which is especially convenient when the transfer takes place during the class nn sharing the screen content – the teacher opens the file with the class material in their computer and shares the screen with the student (through the screen-share option) nn sharing links to authentic webbased material (a newspaper article, a video, a podcast, an image, etc) instead of creating extra handouts based on these online sources Lack of paper-based material distribution might deter some teachers who perceive it as a limited opportunity to supplement their courses while teaching through Skype. Yet, as can be seen from above, there are new, equally effective, and additionally more eco-friendly,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


distribution channels which ensure that distance courses are as material rich as classroom-based meetings.

How to handle listening tasks? Those instructors who fear that they will not be able to make full use of CD recordings accompanying their courses should be aware that audio or video recordings do not pose any difficulties in the context of teaching via Skype, unless there are general problems with the internet connection, in which case any online-based course might seem daunting. If the teacher’s computer has a CD or DVD-rom and reasonably good speakers, the tracks are played in the same manner as during a regular class. To ensure minimal external disturbances, students should ideally be wearing headphones (which is preferable not only for the listening part of the class but the whole of the lesson), whereas the teacher should adjust their computer system’s sound levels (completely switching off Skype speakers during the audio play to eliminate any background noises). If teachers use their own, or copyrightfree audio or video material, they can send files directly to students’ computers – during or before the class – and ask them, when the time comes, to play the recording on their own device, especially when the internet connection is weak or overloaded.

How to handle testing? Distance education is often resisted due to the supposed lack of reliable methods of assessing students. The fact that the learner is not in the teacher’s direct vicinity gives an impression that tests are insecure and are thus not taken seriously by students. I admit that online testing places a great deal of trust in students but if teachers value learner autonomy and collaborative learning then they should empower their students by persuading them that the aim of the test is to help them accomplish a new learning goal, take a new step and help them notice the progress they are making rather than impress the teacher with the final result. With such attitudes on both sides, online testing can turn into a meaningful and convenient routine, accompanied by a great degree of reliability.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

In Skype courses the following tools could be employed to test students: nn special test generating applications, enabling the creation of online tests, eg. nn Google docs – which offer a more traditional approach, ie. the teacher prepares a regular test in a word processing software, pastes it into a Google doc and then enables access to the file for the duration of the test (each student could be assigned one link designated especially for the course tests, so that all the tests done throughout the course are accessible in one single file and under one link). The student follows the link and answers the test questions, by editing the Google doc. When the test is done, the teacher could block the access to editing the content, mark the answers and then provide the student with the feedback. The additional advantage of testing using Google docs is the possibility to trace the student’s answers while they are being written in the file, which combined with the camera on, considerably limits the possibility of copying and increases a sense of supervision so inherent in the norms of test taking.

How to handle lack of face-toface contact? Lack of face-to-face contact could pose a genuine problem not only for teachers but for students as well. No physical vicinity in the case of learning a language, which in itself implies communication, contact and access to people, might appear as slightly dehumanised or artificial. Most of my students prior to starting the course shared these reservations. The psychological barrier, especially for adults, seems highly potent; yet as with all novelties and change, time and patience is the best cure. In my teaching practice I encourage students to try out Englishvia-Skype instruction at the same time offering a blended learning period, where the face-to-face and Skype interactions are intertwined. Once they are familiar and comfortable with the technology, and actually see that the tools such as video and audio streaming, screen share,

Google docs, chat etc give them a sense of being engaged in ‘regular’ learning then they open up to the concept and embrace the new experience. Skype will never substitute real-life communication and human contact but at the same time it is no obstacle to effective conveying of information and exchanging of thoughts, opinions, ideas or messages making use of speech, visuals, gestures, writing or body language. I would even venture to say that Skype greatly facilitates natural communication as students feel more comfortable and open in the cosiness of their own home rather than in a formalised classroom.

Conclusion Alvin Toffler – a famous American writer and futurist – once said that ‘the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’ (Toffler, 1970:414). Including online teaching in one’s teaching practice undoubtedly requires a great amount of unlearning and relearning: opening up to new technologies, getting familiar with frequently obscure technicalities and functionalities, trusting that the unknown does not mean inherently bad and believing that, once the initial fearful stages are overcome, the sense of achievement and professional stretching will compensate for all the time and effort invested.

References Toffler A (1970) Future Shock. New York: Random House.

Anna Kamont is an EFL teacher, lecturer and teacher-trainer based in Warsaw, Poland. She holds an MA in English language teaching from Warsaw University. She has had extensive teaching experience with adult learners, in the academic, business and general-English environment. She has published several articles on ELT, mainly on the topics of her personal interests, ie. memory in ELT, boosting students’ vocabulary and psychology of foreign language learning. Email:



Blended learning: where are we? Andrew Wickham


here is nothing fundamentally new or revolutionary about blended learning. Human beings have been learning through a blend of classroom lessons with a teacher, and classroom and personal study materials, for a very long time. But the media we use today are no longer stone tablets, sheets of papyrus, printed documents, or cassette tapes. They are increasingly virtual, interactive, and their contents are accessible in hitherto unimaginable quantities anytime, anywhere, thanks to the ubiquity of the World Wide Web. More importantly, learners today can communicate in real time with ‘live’ trainers and with other learners all over the world, using the same network. Everything is dematerializing and migrating online: the written word, voice, video, telephone, multimedia applications, etc. The boundaries between resources, trainers, delivery modes, contents and media are blurring. It is this development that is spurring a gigantic shake-up of the language training and publishing industries and that has facilitated the rise of what we call today blended learning.

But what is blended learning exactly? In language training, ‘blended learning’ generally means a course that combines ‘live’ lessons with a face-to-face or distance trainer and e-learning resources (podcasts, videos, presentations, interactive exercises, articles, games,


apps, etc.) available on different online or offline platforms. Compared to tutored e-learning, the teacher has a far more central role in the program.

The changing shape of the market Technological progress and the dematerialisation of media are blurring the frontiers between the four main language teaching businesses: faceto-face training, distance training, publishing, and e-learning. Today, these four businesses are converging and, under pressure from their corporate clients, language training providers are adapting in different ways, depending on their size and specialty. Three emerging trends can be identified in the current corporate blended offer: 1. In order to respond to their multinational client’s requirements, the largest language training providers are going global and vertically integrating three and sometimes all four of the language training businesses. They are setting up ‘online schools’ with a global reach: blended learning platforms that provide a wide range of resources and modalities, including telephone and video coaching, virtual classes, e-learning modules, translation and speech tools, subtitled news documents, etc. Some are even offering face-to-face training as part of the blend, through their own networks or through partnerships with local schools. The key development is that they are

bringing the ‘live’ teacher back into the e-learning mix. Increasingly, these companies are becoming the lead partners of major international corporations, relegating the bricks-and-mortar schools to the role of sub-contractors. Examples which illustrate this are Pearson’s recent acquisition of Wall Street Institute and Global English along with their partnership with Busuu. Berliz International recently acquired Telelangue while Rosetta Stone took over LiveMocha and Tell Me More. 2. The smaller distance and e-learning providers, whose businesses are also converging, are reinforcing their partnerships with traditional faceto-face schools. They are opening up their platforms to trainers and allowing them to customise their programs and thus provide better integrated blended learning courses. 3. The democratization of Web 2.0 tools and platforms is allowing mediumsized training organisations and even independent trainers to create their own specialised blended offers. The principal platform used today is English360, which offers schools learning management tools with student tracking and billing, together with customisable interactive content from Cambridge University Press materials (but not exclusively). The major publishers are also providing online homework resources and follow up systems, often for free, to back up and reinforce their classroom materials.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

IT MADE ME THINK Why has blended learning become so popular and why is it replacing e-learning today? In the early 2000s, many people were convinced that thanks to the development of internet-based educational technologies combined with the self-access approach to learning, teachers could be dispensed with altogether. Such e-illusions were quickly shattered: usage rates for online programs were around 10%. As a result of the failure of mechanistic self-access e-learning, tutored e-learning, in which a tutor ‘accompanies’ the learner’s e-learning program, became the norm. And when that too proved unsatisfactory, because learners weren’t getting sufficient ‘live’ personalised practice and guidance, blended learning, with the ‘live’ teacher back in the picture, became the new norm. In the field of language training, Edutech ‘revolutions’ announcing the imminent demise of language teachers have come and gone for over 40 years, leaving mountains of obsolete hardware and kilometers of unused code in their wake. Time and time again, human interaction with a ‘live’ trainer (face-toface or at distance) has bounced back. There are several reasons for this: 1. People learn languages in order to communicate with other people, not with computer programs, whose interactive capacity is extremely limited (and is likely to be so for many years to come). For most learners, regular ‘live’ communication practice with real people is thus essential in the learning process. 2. To make progress, learners need constant interactive feedback, particularly when dealing with the ‘grey’ or ambiguous areas of language, which only an experienced teacher can provide. 3. Language learning is a long process and most learners need the guidance an experienced teacher can provide. No one’s grandmother can replace a skilled trainer despite recent claims. In fact the greater the technology

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

mix, the more expertise is required from teachers. 4. For young learners in particular, the motivational role of the trainer is essential. We can all remember which teachers inspired us to learn at school and why we were more interested in certain subjects than in others. In my experience, the highest of satisfaction in every student survey I have seen has been consistently with the teachers.

Teething troubles But the early years of blended learning have not lived up to initial expectations. The technology (learning management systems, broadband, interactive web ware) is not yet up to the mark. Users have found it hard to master the complexity of the approach. They don’t have the tools or the expertise required to design and manage it, or to properly evaluate the results. Face-to-face courses have been bundled together with self-access e-learning programs and telephone modules, often purely for financial reasons. The different providers involved rarely communicate with each other. The complexity of implementation and the discouraging results of the early versions of blended learning are orienting the market towards simpler and better integrated solutions: blended learning is gradually giving way to integrated learning.

Blended learning’s advantages When it is integrated and organised professionally, blended language learning corresponds to the current needs of corporate customers, because it offers greater flexibility for learners than do traditional approaches, it reduces training costs, and can be customised by selecting appropriate modalities and resources for a given profile. The wealth and variety of a blended language learning course is more suited to the way people learn languages naturally than traditional training. In addition, the interactivity of the resources available is more motivating for learners and can enhance learning effectiveness.

How to build an integrated corporate learning project that works The definition of the verb ‘to blend’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is ‘to combine into an integrated whole’. The essential quality of a blend is thus seamless integration between the different components or modalities of a course.

Interlocking and associated resources When a learner only has occasional exposure to a language, effective learning requires a more structured approach. Such an approach, which combines classroom modules with self-study, identifies the most frequent linguistic structures, which vary according to the context, and then helps the learner to assimilate them through repetition and recycling, using progressive sequences of exercises and a cycle of controlled and free practice activities. In a multimodal blended learning course, the modalities, the resources, the contents, and the trainer’s activities that are linked to the core program need to be tightly interlocked in order to guarantee optimal pedagogic coherence and simplify the learner’s task. However, learning cannot be limited to this controlled activity only, because learners need to appropriate the language for themselves in order to become autonomous. It is thus equally important that they read texts, listen to recordings, watch videos, and have spontaneous conversations, or that they research vocabulary and grammar resources that interest them: in other words, that they explore the language freely and are exposed to immersive sequences. That’s why an effective blended learning course should include associated resources that are less tightly linked to the core program. The success of a blended learning program will depend in part on how well-integrated these two approaches are within the learning path.

Initial diagnostic and project management A corporate blended language learning project requires a prior in-depth



diagnostic of needs, objectives, and constraints. It also requires a project management approach with a carefully planned roll-out schedule. In addition, training managers need to have a clear vision of the overall project goals and communicate them clearly to the different stakeholders so as to ensure line managers, trainers, and learners understand the potential benefits of the system, what is expected from them, and collaborate effectively to reach targets.

Effective evaluation systems Effective language training requires evaluation systems that measure not just the progress in the overall level of a learner, but also the specific skills, oral and written, and the context-specific language learners need to master in order to do their job effectively. Results of training need to be measured against initial performance, on the basis of the learner’s objectives and of the programme followed. With multimodal blended learning, the difficulty is compounded by the need for specific evaluation systems for each modality, and for a method to aggregate these results to produce a coherent, reliable picture of a learner’s progress. No currently available off-the-shelf evaluation tools can do this, so special attention to this aspect is essential when implementing a blended learning project.

Implementation and management When rolling out a large training project, the complexity of blended learning, with its multiple interactions and diversity of actors, requires expert pedagogical engineering, an efficient and reliable Web-based Learning Management System (LMS) to manage scheduling, piloting, communication and monitoring, supported by fully qualified human and technological resources. Without these elements, the project can easily fall apart.

The model: trainer-led, learnercentered blended learning As we have seen, the role of trainers in blended learning is crucial to the project’s success. In addition to faceto-face training, their job is to tailor the programs and resources to individual learner’s needs, to respond to the learner’s questions and problems,


to motivate them and monitor their progress in the classroom and online. Whenever necessary, trainers need to apply micro-adjustments which ensure that the coherence of the program is preserved. It is vital to ensure trainers master the tools and resources and are allocated the time they need to monitor their learners.

Integration, integration, integration Optimal integration between modalities, resources, planning systems, and partners is required to avoid fragmentation or dissolution of the programs, lack of accountability, and loss of learner motivation. The right balance between simplicity and complexity needs to be found. Overemphasis on simplicity can have a negative impact on the wealth and diversity of content that is one of the essential benefits of blended learning, while over-complexity can defeat the purpose of the training by expanding administrative time to the detriment of pedagogic objectives and by causing stakeholders to lose sight of the overall goals.

Flexible, customised programs Considering the growing trend towards individualisation and increasingly intensive work schedules, programs need to be flexible and customised in order to train learners ‘just in time, just enough’. One size-fits-all programs that are too linear or standardised are not always well-adapted to the learner’s needs and expectations.

Learner training Before beginning a blended learning course, it is advisable to make sure learners understand and are comfortable with the approach, are able to master the tools, modalities and resources, and have a clear understanding of the learning path they will follow. Many learners will need to follow a structured procedure and be guided step by step by a trainer, particularly in the early stages. A simple, visual online/offline document should be provided, as well as a ‘learning to learn’ module, to encourage students to develop their autonomous learning skills.

The future of blended learning We hope to see in the coming years a number of major developments. Learning management platforms will progressively evolve towards full web end-to-end systems capable of managing every aspect of the training offer and integrating learning content and authoring tools over multiple platforms. Enhanced evaluation systems will emerge that can effectively measure operational results of learners following multimodal courses. And both trainers and learners will rapidly become more familiar with the pedagogy and the tools of blended language learning. Two other areas to watch in the coming years are social learning and serious games. The growing interactivity of Web 2.0 has led to the development of collaborative self-access platforms that have created a lot of buzz, but which haven’t yet proved the effectiveness of their model. These sites are now targeting the corporate market. As for serious games, there is a vast potential in this area, because language learning is more motivating and more effective when the learner’s objective is not just to memorise language but to accomplish tasks using the target language (as in C.L.I.L). However, we need to be aware of the dangers of excessive ‘gadgetisation’ that have often plagued the language training industry in the past. The real challenge for providers and clients today is to harness the potential of these new technologies to create integrated, sustainable training systems in which technology enhances, rather than depreciates, the key role of the trainer and the effectiveness of language learning.

Andrew Wickham, Linguaid Excerpts from a white paper on blended learning written by the author and published by GoFluent in 2013. http://

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Using perspective to analyse and produce texts Edward de Chazal



n the last issue of MET I focused on essential elements in academic texts and their interface with critical thinking. This article builds on this academic theme with a related phenomenon that is fundamental to a very wide range of texts: perspective. Perspective is an essentially objective way of looking at our world. This typically leads to evaluative material – which is essentially subjective. For example, we can view something from an ethical or a cultural perspective: ‘In ethical terms, this idea is unsound’. In this example, the ethical perspective, expressed using the phrase ‘in ethical terms’, frames and limits the evaluation ‘this idea is unsound’. In contexts such as a seminar or committee discussion, different people can evaluate the same proposition from the same perspective (such as ethical); while the proposition and perspective remains constant, the evaluation can vary from subject to subject (person to person). Many perspectives (eg. economic, psychological, legal) are aligned to academic disciplines (economics, psychology, law). Others are less closely aligned to a single discipline, such as an ethical perspective. As such, any perspective can be applied to any discipline. An issue or practice in the discipline of medicine can relate to a broad range of other disciplines and perspectives. For instance, an analysis of the effectiveness of a medical

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

intervention could be informed by ethical, cultural, ethnic, physiological, environmental, behavioural, economic, financial, or other perspectives. Figure 1 gives a representative range of perspectives, based on de Chazal (2014: 166). These represent many of the ways in which an idea can be approached and analysed.

Figure 1: Examples of perspectives aesthetic artistic behavioural biological business chemical commercial cultural ecological economic educational environmental epidemiological ethical ethnic ethnographic financial genetic geographical global historical ideological intellectual international legal linguistic logical logistical management mathematical medical military moral musical national philosophical political psychological physical physiological religious scientific sexual social sociological technical technological These perspectives are mostly expressed as adjectives. As they are used to classify aspects of the world, these adjectives are known as classifying adjectives. Grammatically, they tend to be ungradable; phrases like ‘very geographical’ and ‘extremely medical’ are unlikely. The adjectives are positioned directly before the noun

they modify, in keeping with the default order of adjectives in English: evaluative (eg. interesting, significant, unusual) – descriptive (eg. recent, large, blue) – classifying (international, sociological, scientific) + noun.

Using perspective Perspective is connected to not only the topic of a text but also its purpose. For instance, the main purpose of a text may be to compare and evaluate two political systems. Closely connected to the topic, which is political, are likely to be a selection of perspectives such as social, cultural, historical and economic. The choice of such perspectives lies with the writer or speaker of the text. They can choose to include some and exclude others. A major purpose of perspective is to analyse an issue or a proposition. Using perspective offers us a tool to explore, analyse, and ultimately evaluate the topic. As we have seen, although inherently objective, perspective frequently leads to evaluation, which is subjective. Through their selection – inclusion and exclusion – of perspective, students can explore their topic in potentially new and creative ways. Creme and Lea (2008: 26–27) argue for the importance of perspective when discussing or analysing ideas in texts. They explain how students can be empowered to select perspectives



relevant to their purpose for writing (ibid.). Students can weigh up perspectives during the planning stage, asking questions like ‘Is a historical perspective relevant to the title of the text?’ and ‘How can I elaborate on cultural perspectives – what main points can I include?’

The language of perspective In order to express perspective, students require appropriate language. They also need to recognise this language and understand what it relates to. A wide range of language can be used to express perspective. This language can be divided into two types: explicit and implicit. Explicit perspective language

uses the name of the perspective to express the perspective. For instance, a financial perspective can be signalled by language such as the items in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The language of perspective – explicit structures 1. Prepositional phrases from a financial point of view … / from the perspective of finance … from a financial perspective / standpoint … in a financial context … / in a financial sense … with reference to financial concerns … regarding financial aspects … in financial terms … / in terms of finance … as for finance …

2. Adverbs financially… 3. Non-finite clauses to put this into a financial context… / to illustrate this from a financial perspective… taking into account financial issues… financially speaking… / speaking financially… 4. Adverbial clauses if we take into account financial issues… / if we look at this from a financial point of view… as far as finance is concerned… These examples illustrate how a heterogeneous selection of grammatical forms can accommodate

Figure 3

The print revolution Historical, geographical, technological

Historical, business

Business, economic, historical

Linguistic, historical

868 and metal printed in China in the year The earliest known book was tury, but it was in the beginning of the 15th cen type was in use in Korea at movable metal 0 that a printing press using Germany around the year 145 type was invented. ustry. Right from from an invention into an ind Capitalism turned printing on capitalist lines. publishing were organised the start, book printing and had 24 printing printer, Plantain of Antwerp, The biggest sixteenth-century a small fraction ly On . s than a hundred worker presses and employed more grew at an ks boo of , but the production of the population was literate already been had es 0 some 20 million volum extraordinary speed. By 150 6). printed (Febvre & Martin 197 ulation of works ting was to increase the circ The immediate effect of prin popular works a handwritten form, while less that were already popular in in books that would lishers were interested only went out of circulation. Pub of production and t numbers to cover the costs sell fairly quickly in sufficien access to books by ting enormously increased make a profit. Thus, while prin reduced choice. production possible, it also making cheap, high-volume the growth of printing was that it facilitated The great cultural impact of the language in, Lat in ly books were printed national languages. Most ear in its pursuit and , ited market for Latin was lim of educated people, but the the into s ion trade soon produced translat of larger markets the book key a yed pla at this time. Printing indeed national languages emerging print, in m the ng ilising these languages by fixi role in standardising and stab te as ole obs e am and grammar books. Latin bec and producing dictionaries tury. blished in the sixteenth cen national literatures were esta

Financial, political, business

Social, linguistic

Cultural, linguistic, business, economic

Oxford University Press. (2011) Sociology 4e. Oxford: Source: Fulcher J & Scott J


n Volume 23

n Issue 3


different forms of the same word – finance (noun), financial (adjective), financially (adverb). Other perspectives can be expressed using similar structures: from a political point of view; economically speaking; as far as medicine is concerned. All the examples in Figure 2 are adverbials. As such, these adverbials can occur in different positions in the sentence or be omitted from the sentence entirely: Politically speaking, this course of action is undesirable. This course of action, politically speaking, is undesirable. This course of action is undesirable, politically speaking. This course of action is undesirable. While any of these three major sentence positions (initial, medial, final) are possible, reading the text aloud can indicate that one is most likely: the initial position. Stating the perspective up front facilitates comprehension for the listener/ reader as they can position the new information (‘this course of action is undesirable’) in a given context (a political perspective). If the perspective is not stated, as in the fourth example above, the statement is potentially difficult to contextualise, unless the wider discussion is focused on the perspective in question, ie. politics. As an alternative to explicit language, implicit language can serve to indicate perspective. This language may be very closely related; for example ‘language’ clearly expresses a linguistic perspective. Alternatively the language can be related in a wider semantic sense, such as ‘cost’, ‘outlay’, or ‘expensive’ to express a financial perspective.

Analysing an academic text for its perspectives In order to illustrate perspective, the authentic text in Figure 3 is analysed in chunks based loosely around sentences. The text is an extract from a university textbook on sociology, and has also been used in an EAP coursebook (de Chazal & McCarter 2012).

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

This analysis of perspectives illustrates the prevalence and importance of perspective. Within a text of about 280 words the topic – the development of printing – is described, explained and discussed from at least half a dozen distinct perspectives. The perspectives are given below with one example from the text: nn Historical: The earliest known book was printed in China in the year 868. nn Geographical: Metal type was in use in Korea at the beginning of the 15th century. nn Technological: A printing press using movable metal type was invented. nn Financial: Capitalism turned printing from an invention into an industry. nn Business: The biggest 16th century printer, Plantain of Antwerp, had 24 printing presses and employed more than a hundred workers. nn Economic: Publishers were interested only in books that would sell fairly quickly in sufficient numbers to cover the costs of production and make a profit. nn Cultural: The great cultural impact of printing was that it facilitated the growth of national languages. nn Linguistic: Most early books were printed in Latin, the language of educated people, but the market for Latin was limited, and in its pursuit of larger markets the book trade soon produced translations into the national languages emerging at this time. These examples illustrate that most of the perspectives in the text are expressed through implicit language. For example, a financial perspective is expressed in the sentence: Capitalism turned printing from an invention into an industry. In contrast, the following is an example of a perspective expressed using explicit language: The great cultural impact of printing was that it facilitated the growth of national languages. Each perspective is relevant and necessary to the treatment of the topic in this expository text. This analysis also shows that perspectives can be closely related,

such as business, finance, and economics. Furthermore, the authors’ evaluation is integrated in several of the perspectives. In the following example, the authors express their evaluation (‘the great [cultural] impact’) within the description and explanation of the topic (printing): ‘The great cultural impact of printing was that it facilitated the growth of national languages’. Similarly, the following extract integrates evaluation through the authors’ assessment of the role of printing: ‘Printing indeed played a key role in standardising and stabilising these languages by fixing them in print’. In short, perspective is pervasive and informative in general and academic texts across disciplines. In developing an understanding of perspective, students can effectively access and contextualise the meanings in texts, and gain an insight into the writer’s purpose. Through a development of the analytical opportunities and language of perspective, students can produce their own texts which are logical and linguistically precise.

References Creme P & Lea M R (2008) Writing at University: A guide for students (3rd ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press, McGrawHill Education. de Chazal E & McCarter S (2012) Oxford EAP Upper Intermediate/B2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. de Chazal E (2014) English for Academic Purposes (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers series). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Edward de Chazal started teaching English in 1987, specialising in EAP at universities in Turkey, Kuwait, and the UK. Edward is an author, trainer and presenter, and has co-written the multi-level Oxford EAP series and the English for Academic Purposes title in the Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers series. Email: edward@emdechazalconsulting.



From studying to learning. From classroom to world David Addyman


few months ago I met a languagelearner in a social situation, where she told me, with apparent glee, ‘I learnt something today. I learnt that we cannot to say ‘to’ with ‘can’!’ This perfectly encapsulates the disconnect between classroom activity and real-world language production that I address here: what has supposedly been ‘learnt’ in class is not put into practice in the world, even when the learner explicitly formulates a grammar rule. This disconnect is by no means rare among the learners I have taught. It’s the same when a learner, in the middle of a discussion of question forms, puts his hand up and says ‘I go to the toilet?’ or the difficulty which learners have in identifying errors in their oral or written work. The cause of these problems seems to be a confusion between studying and learning. By ‘studying’, I mean sitting in class, writing things down and doing grammar exercises – perhaps several books’ worth. By ‘learning’ I mean memorising, putting new vocabulary and grammar into use, and attending to what one says and writes in the language. The two are not mutually exclusive, but it is possible to study very hard without ever learning much. This was certainly the case with a Japanese learner I encountered in the school I work in. The learner was staying at the school for three months and, being under intense pressure from his employers to improve, worked very


hard on his English, regularly staying up until the early hours of the morning. Whenever he wasn’t in class he could be found at the same table in the school working his way through books full of grammar exercises. He never joined any social activities, and rarely spoke to anyone except his tutors (all his lessons were one-to-one). At the end of the three months his spoken production and interaction (skills which were crucial in his job) were not much better than they had been at the beginning of his stay. The cause of this, I suggest, is that his efforts – considerable though they were – were exclusively devoted to studying, to taking copious notes on grammar rules and examples. The relentless note-taking that this student (and many others like him) practised seems to be motivated by, on the one hand, a misunderstanding of what is involved in learning, and on the other, feelings of insecurity – that everything will be lost if it is not written down. However, I’d argue the opposite: writing out of a fear of forgetting becomes almost self-fulfilling: after all, so often in life we write so that we can forget – safe in the knowledge that it is written, we can get on with life. The clearest example of this is the shopping list, which we write – precisely – so that we don’t need to repeat to ourselves a long list of groceries all the way to the supermarket. Imagine we didn’t make a shopping list: I’d personally have to recite my list for over 20 minutes

during my bus journey to the nearest supermarket, and then, once there, work out how to juggle the items on my list to coincide with the order in which, moving through the aisles, I encountered the goods I needed. That would take quite a bit of mental gymnastics, adapting my memorised list to the changing, flowing situation in which I moved. That might be overly involved for a weekly trip to the supermarket, but could it work as a way of learning a language, a way to get beyond the mania for note-taking, and to progress from studying to learning? I tried the method out on myself on a recent trip to Paris. While there, not attending any kind of language training, I found French language where I could: snippets of conversations in restaurants, posters at Metro stations, a phrase in a novel that I read over someone’s shoulder in the Metro, publicity material in my hotel, etc. During the 48 hours that I spent there I didn’t write anything down, but each time I encountered a new phrase, memorised it and as the stay went on, added it to the ones I’d already memorised. Every hour or so, and particularly first thing in the morning and last thing at night I ran through my mental list, at once making sure that I hadn’t forgotten anything and also ensuring, through that selfsame act of repetition, that I didn’t. Many of the phrases were quite hefty (the hotel promised to ‘apporter une solution à un problème dont nous

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


serions les responsables’ – the use of the conditional in ‘serions’ fascinated me), but if I forgot one it was only momentary as I could mentally run back over the places I’d been – a sort of ‘loci method’ or ‘memory palace’, but on a citywide scale. These memorised phrases then became my ‘shopping list’ – the list of items that I would try to ‘cross off’ as I moved around Paris, inserting them into conversations as and when the world allowed, in much the same way that in my hypothetical trip to the supermarket I cross off items as the situation (the supermarket aisles) allows. Six weeks later I still haven’t written the phrases down, and even without regular opportunities to speak French I remember the vast majority of them. It’s noticeable that this method involves no teacher in the role of languageprovider – the world provides the language. In much the same way that I make my own decisions about what I need to buy in the supermarket based on my own intimate knowledge of my needs, I made the decisions about what language I needed to pick up. I didn’t personally feel the need to put myself in the formal language-learning situation. Where I needed clarification of what I’d learnt (the ‘serions,’ for example), I was fortunate to be able to ask some of my French learners, who answered my questions and assessed my phrases when I tried to apply the phrases in different contexts from those in which I’d seen them. But not everyone has those opportunities, and the language school has a valid role to play for those who don’t. Many of the French students I teach need to become more autonomous given the teaching style some of them have encountered up until now. As an example I first explain to my learners the dangers of studying without learning and introduce them to the idea that we write in order to forget. With a nod to Ricky Gervais’ dentist character in Ghost Town (‘remember, only floss the teeth you want to keep’), I tell learners ‘only write down the words you want to forget’. If there’s any scepticism it’s usually possible to provide evidence to back up my claim: I find that teachers often know their

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

learners’ notebooks better than the learners themselves: ‘You wrote the word last Tuesday. It’s on a left-hand page in black pen.’ Once this has been understood, I then try to put learners through something similar to my Parisian learning experience. For my French learners this means supplying them with a text – or, in the interests of greater learner autonomy, asking them to supply a text on a subject that they feel could come up in their exams – and then identifying words or phrases that could be useful to them in their own essays or in their daily spoken presentations. These are then memorised immediately – learners will rarely have time to memorise at any other point in their day. So much for the ‘shopping list’ part of my analogy; we then have to do the ‘crossing off’ exercise, where the learners mobilise the language that they have learnt. For this, I introduce learners to a ‘quota’ system, which involves the student agreeing to use a proportion – a quota – of these phrases in their essay that evening (it’s important to start the mobilisation of the language as soon as possible, so the remembered words do not get crowded out by those learnt tomorrow, and so that the learners get used to applying the language that they have learnt to the situation at hand). This is then checked the next day when the essay is submitted. With general learners there is no obvious written or spoken exercise in which they could apply the ‘quota’ of new language. Instead, I ask learners to find some language – perhaps by sending them out into the street for 30 minutes to see how much they can find – and then ask them to imagine the rest of their day and the encounters that they will have with various people (other learners, other teachers, the bus driver, their host family) and identify situations in which they will be able to use the new language. This could be posed as a question: ‘How could you use the past continuous when talking to the bus driver?’ to which one student answered, ‘My pass was working yesterday. I don’t know what’s wrong with it today’ and another, ‘I was wondering if this bus goes to Rose Hill.’ Through this kind of anticipatory

exercise or ‘creative visualisation’ (commonly used by gymnasts and acrobats) – that is, the act of inserting themselves (and their language) into their lives – the learners are then primed to use the new language when later in the day the situation calls for it; just as in the supermarket analogy imagining what’s in the various aisles will help me remember what I need to pick up when I’m actually there. In this case I tell learners to use a proportion of the new language (as much as possible) in conversation (with other learners or their host family) that evening, and then to write what they have used – writing being used here not in order to remember new language, but in order to check with an ‘expert’ (me, for short) that the usage was correct. The method does meet with some resistance; students will worry that it is ‘too hard’ to use new language (this, seemingly, is not what they signed up for). But an effective learning method is just about the most valuable thing that students can learn in a one- or two-week course. Don’t tell anyone, but the brutal truth is that students studying in language schools for that length of time are not going to learn much English – 20 words a day at most? – but they can at least learn those (rather than merely write them down and mortgage them to a future that never comes), and, more importantly, they can learn how to learn.

Dr David Addyman started his teaching career in International House, Newcastle, and worked for the same company in Barcelona and Madrid in the late 1990s. He completed a PhD on Samuel Beckett in 2008, and taught in the British university system and on American exchange programmes at Oxford University. Since late 2013 he has been head of the Prépa programme at OISE Oxford, creating teaching material, training teachers and administering the summer centres. His main area of interest is in learner methodologies.


modernenglishteacher n Volume 23

n July 2014

n Issue 3

modernenglishteacher Bringing english language

teachers together

Modern English Teacher

Clearer pronunciation for better and English n ESP projects Teaching teenagers n Sports nn com Underhill learning mun Networking Adrian nn icati on n Augented reality n Blended ELT leadership nn Hockley n EAP Designer learning Nicky nn IELTS preparation Sam McCarter nn Sharma Online dictionaries Pete nn

Reverse reading Studying and learning n nn CEF Level:n Webwatch Reviews n Practical ideas B1–C2 nn

Also available now

Volume 22 Number 2

phone calls


reviews text messaging

A2 Pre-intermediate All the


ar you


job applications

starting conversations

Volume 22 Number 2



B1+ Intermediate

in three

volum • Ide al es! for use in clas • Cam s or for brid individ Pre limi ge Eng lish ual stu : nar and Trin y (PE T), Key (KE T), dy Firs ity exa • Spe m pre t (FCE) cial par atio n and reg lexi cal foc us for ular rev iew pag eac h sec tion es


www.hel INE ACT blin g-ez IVIT IES one. com CODE






n made


1a Pop e Stre et - SE1 info@he 3PR Lond lblinglan on - UK guages .com



www.c seollinse with /collinselt www.c @CollinsE ollinse LT /collinselt

April 2013

www.h elbling

Mod Engli ern Teachsh er




WOYApril ad_2.indd MET 1 cover spread.indd

27/02/2013 12:25

chet Tel: +4 4 (0) 15 t on 36 74 Tel: +4 7333 4 (0) 15 36 74 7520 anchett @ mainline

Modern English Teacher


21/03/2013 14:40

Carole Blan


Conducting research in the classroom • Andrej Cirocki Categorization • Aleksan dra Szudy Sojak Language learning on the go • Hayo Reinders About theory and practice in ELT • Simon Andrewes Gratitude of a ‘tealeaf’ trainer • Nick Baguley Making the most of your virtual classroom • Anna Kamont




To adve rti Teache se in Modern r, the lea En EFL prof ding jou glish essiona rnal fo r ls arou world, nd the contac t:

Advertise in Modern English Teacher and get your message across.




Could our English language professionals M odern benefit from your En glish Teacher product or service?


April 201

3 Volu me

22 No. 2

Modern English Teacher is the best way to get your message out to our broad and dynamic international readership.

For more information contact: Helena Hughes, Mainline Media. Tel: +44 (0)1536 747333 Email:

Advertise here


Teaching teenagers beyond the coursebook Alastair Lane


odern teenagers and young people are masters at multitasking. They are experts at reading or referring to several sources of input at the same time, on various platforms such as their laptop, smartphone, and even an oldfashioned book. They are restless and impatient, but also dynamic. To learn successfully, they need to be actively engaged in the learning process. Asking these students to concentrate ‘heads down’ on a traditional coursebook can create classroom management problems as students lose interest in the step-bystep approach to learning. This article will look at ways of engaging students in the classroom so that they can concentrate on the here and now.

The smartphone conundrum One of the hardest features of teenagers’ behaviour is that of supposed indifference. This often manifests itself in a kind of anxious impatience. This anxiousness is a growing problem because of how technology is affecting the way we think. Research has shown that teenagers feel anxious if they do not check their smartphone every eight minutes. It makes them nervous to think that their friends are ‘liking’ posts on Facebook while they are sitting in the classroom doing another interminable gap-fill. That sense of impatience isn’t going to go away, but we can exploit it in the classroom. We can use the smartphone as a tool to add to the classroom discussion. This will remove that sense of angst that the students are missing out on all the movements in the online world.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Imagine you have a class where the same students study together from semester to semester. One of the hardest things to do with an ongoing course is to create an icebreaker to integrate new students into the class. The smartphone can help. Why not base your icebreaker around their online profile pictues? Prepare a PowerPoint slide or whiteboard screen like this:

z What does your online image look like? Describe it to your partner. z Is it a photo, a picture or a cartoon? z Why did you choose it? z Do you have more than one image or photo? Why? z If you don’t have your own image (eg. you use the default image on the site), explain why.

Once the class have discussed their choice of image, reveal the next screen on your projector, which adds a final task:

z Get out your smartphone. Show your image to your partner. Did they describe it accurately?

Some teachers worry that students may not want to get their phone out in class due to peer pressure. This is no reason to avoid an otherwise engaging task. Indeed, the main problem will be getting the phone back in the students’ bags. They often can’t resist taking a sneak peek at their Facebook page or

Whatsapp. Hopefully, they would not want to do that with another student studying the screen at the same time. The task can then be expanded along the lines of avatars used by their friends or families, the coolest avatar, the strangest avatar and so on.

The smartphone is the perfect tool The smartphone is displacing the handheld game controller, the alarm clock and the camera. Why not take advantage of this by asking your students to do a photo-based homework exercise? Students can take a photo that represents a hobby, their home town, their typical breakfast, or many other things. For example, we can change a generic exercise on prepositions of place just by asking students to take a photo of their living room or their classroom at school. Then students can describe the objects in these rooms using prepositions of place. It’s a personalised task which also engages the student’s curiosity, because it presents a window into their partner’s world. The key thing with this kind of exercise is that it should not be too intrusive, hence the suggestion of choosing neutral areas for the photo like the school classroom. Teenagers are often very private and shy individuals, but they are keen to share things which interest them if they do so in a safe way. Likewise, a task of this nature should be straightforward to produce, to prevent students failing to do the homework because of the onerous nature of the task.



Other grammar points which lend themselves to this sort of personalisation include possessive pronouns, likes and dislikes, or a simple narrative made up from a series of photos.

Passive students Some scientists are starting to argue that sitting is as dangerous as smoking. Sitting down all day at computers, we are risking our health by not being active enough. For teenagers today, it must be torment to spend so much time sitting down. In many EFL classrooms, teenagers are having lessons after school, which could mean another hour sat in a chair after their school day has ended. That’s why a successful class for teenagers should involve at least one stand-up activity. Teenagers may complain if they are asked to stand up or move around the class but once they are up on their feet they usually enjoy the task. One fun way of getting students on their feet is to create a series of tasks on PowerPoint slides or a similar program. Imagine a lesson on can where students see a series of slides and they have to stand up and prove that they can do the task on each one, such as:

Can you roll your tongue?


You can have a series of similar tasks such as ‘Can you write your name with your left/right hand?’ It drills the question form and short answer of can and it’s fun too. This exercise also serves as a review of body parts. The task is motivating because students like learning facts that their friends outside the class may not know. Many teenagers are surprised to learn that only some people are able roll their tongue. A class can be motivating by using a wide range of learning styles. Shifting the focus by doing different activities, like getting students on their feet, keeps students guessing as to what may happen next.

Mystery One thing that always motivates teenagers is ‘mystery’. People love to learn secrets. Going back to the smartphone tasks: if you ask students to photograph their breakfast, why not collect all of these images and show them as a group to the class. Can they guess whose breakfast is whose? A simple guessing game makes the class come alive.

You could also crop a photo and leave a small part of it visible. Students have to guess who or what it is. Video is an excellent tool for generating an aura of mystery in your lessons. When you find a good video for your class, make a note of the timings very carefully. Then show the video in a stop-start fashion. The trick is to stop the video just when something interesting is about to happen, and then to ask some questions. If the students protest that they want to keep watching, don’t worry. That means they are engaged in the class and so your lesson is already a success. Take the chapter on jungles in the BBC series Human Planet. The video is available online at In this sequence, a group of Venezuelan children go off into the rainforest. It is brilliantly directed in that it constantly maintains an air of suspense. Note the order in which the events happen, and stop the video after each one to ask questions similar to those on next page:

Can you open your fingers like this?

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


nn The children go into the jungle. What are they doing? nn They find an old log and poke around inside it. You hear scary music. What is inside the log? nn A giant spider comes out of the log. What will happen next? nn The children kill the spider with sticks. Why did they do that? nn The children cook the spider on an open fire and eat it with chili. How are they cooking the spider? What ingredients are they adding? All the information that the class needs is provided in a voice over. A sense of mystery goes a long way. Another simple trick is to bring a prop along at the start of a lesson and have it hidden in a bag. Students have to come up and guess what it is. Incorporate this into a wider lesson as a warmer. Many teenagers are only interested in computer games. You could channel that interest by getting hold of a foam toy Pac-Man. Place this in a bag at the start of your lesson and ask one of your teens to come up and guess what is inside by putting their hand in the bag. Even if they guess that it is PacMan immediately, the class will have been engaged by the mystery.

Collaboration Obviously placing a toy figure in a bag is not going to fill a lot of lesson time. Nevertheless, it can be a useful lead-in to a coursebook-free lesson. For a group that is obsessed with computer games, you could make your class come to life by following it up with a dictagloss. Preparing a dictagloss involves following these easy steps: nn Write a short text of about 100–150 words. nn Read this text aloud to the students. They can write a maximum of five words each. nn Read the text aloud again and allow students to write down as many

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

words as they can (you should read the text at a natural pace). nn Finally students work in teams to reconstruct the text in writing. It’s a task that always engages teenage students because they enjoy a challenge. If you just ask them to talk, teenagers often clam up because they don’t see a physical result or gain for their efforts. They may also lack the grammar and fluency to construct phrases, but they are happy to recall individual words. In many cases, teenagers cannot discuss issues even if they want to because they lack the life experience required.

‘Some scientists are starting to argue that sitting is as dangerous as smoking. Sitting down all day at computers, we are risking our health by not being active enough.’ Many coursebooks today are designed for adults, which includes anyone from 16 years of age upwards. When these books are used with high school students, they often cannot have a free discussion. A list of ‘Have you ever …?’ questions with a teenage class runs the risk of failing to produce any positive responses. The dictagloss sidesteps this by providing students with all the content they need. It does not require students to bring anything new to the class except what they have heard. Requiring students to produce a physical result, in this case a written text, also

immediately shows the students the value of the task. At the end of the lesson, students compare their text to the original. Nobody wants to produce a blank piece of paper in front of their classmates. The dictagloss inculcates the value of teamwork, because no two or three students will ever be able to capture the same information. A dictagloss is also the perfect class for a CLIL lesson. How can you get students talking about volcanoes or the nitrogen cycle and use their new vocabulary in a practical way? A dictagloss is one solution.

Conclusion Some teachers do not feel comfortable with moving away from the coursebook. They might feel under pressure to finish each unit to keep up with the syllabus. However, if you have a disruptive class, you will never finish the coursebook in the scheduled time anyway because so much class time will be lost in firefighting. Get the students onside, grab their curiosity, let them get out of their seats for a few minutes and throw a real challenge at them which forces them to work in teams, and they will start to engage with your classes. These ideas do involve a little bit of preparation but it will be returned in enthusiasm, and, once designed, these lessons don’t involve any cutting up so they can be reused again and again in the future.

Alastair Lane has been involved in ELT since 1996. He has taught in Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the UK. After three years working as an editor at Oxford University Press, he is now based in Barcelona where he is a full-time author of teaching materials, such as the Richmond Mazes and The Big Picture (Richmond) and International Express (OUP).



Sport: a powerful topic to generate language work Alex Miller suggests ideas from his American high-school classroom which could easily transfer to an ELT context.

Fumbling on first down


f, like me, you’ve entered your classroom on a Monday morning to find your students immersed in a passionate debate surrounding the 4th-quarter heroics of their favourite quarterback or criticising a coaching decision that retrospectively cost ‘their’ team a game, then, like me, you’ve noticed that sports frequently create in-class arenas wherein students employ rhetorical and argumentative strategies that are often absent from their responses to your lessons. Moreover, having witnessed such a scene, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the engagement and sense of ownership these same students convey when talking about their experiences with sports. And, if, like me, you’ve experienced the regret of having squandered an opportunity upon asking your students to curtail these conversations in preparation for the day’s lesson, you’ve probably also detected the collective pulse of the room decrease as your students shift back into their accustomed classroom roles. In an attempt to ‘get down to business’, the tenor of the conversation has shifted from dialogue to monologue. The task at hand, which should be focused on teaching the students, has demanded that you begin teaching the curriculum to the students. Though this shift seems subtle on paper, its


impact on the classroom dynamic is significant. Although it is tempting, particularly among newer teachers, to regard the shift I’ve described as a necessary, if not essential component of effective classroom management, a reassessment of the potential role that sports can play within the English language curriculum reveals that the critical thinking and communication skills that frequently occur during these extracurricular conversations are, in fact, the same skills we endeavour, frequently in vain, to establish among our students through more traditional means. Valued accordingly, sports and sports culture become readily accessible vehicles for inquiry that, when deployed strategically, are capable of leading our students to our desired learning outcomes. In this article, I outline a number of the techniques I’ve designed to harness and redirect the passions that often accompany my students’ experiences with athletics toward larger curricular goals. By addressing how the language, logic, and larger significance that surrounds our understanding of sports can complement more traditional forms of English language instruction, I hope to encourage my colleagues to reconsider their tendency to silence the conversations that often precede their lessons and, instead, appreciate

these moments and the instructional opportunities they present and use preclass communication as a momentum builder for in-class activities.

The language of the game: sports and the art of composition Before exploring the teaching opportunities that present themselves when we consider what students talk about when they talk about sports, it is worth taking pause and listening to how students talk when they talk about sports. Training your attention accordingly will reveal that, when recounting a sporting event, students frequently employ a rich lexicon of subject-specific terminology that, depending on the rhetorical situation, can perform a range of functions. Listening to our students ‘talk sports’ reveals a fluency in the nuances of connotative and denotative language that is often absent when these same students discuss their encounters with literature. For example, students readily grasp how the famous NFL quarterback Peyton Manning ‘launching’ the football to an open receiver is fundamentally different from him either ‘lobbing’ or ‘swinging’ a pass to the same teammate. Moreover, they feel comfortable employing the same nuance when using descriptive grammar to colour their own

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


narratives of specific sporting events. To illustrate the power of using rich, vivid verbs in their own writing, I have challenged my students to do just that by excerpting portions of sports journalism that I’ve purged of descriptive language and asking the class to ‘fill in the blanks’ with stronger words. In addition to provoking meaningful discussions about the rhetorical effects of word choice, this exercise has provided an analytical scaffold to both our understanding of traditional course texts and an increased appreciation of the role of literary devices within different types of writing. In addition to providing an opportunity to explore the relationship between grammar and rhetoric in isolation, sports journalism also provides a decidedly less threatening point of entry into discussions of form and narrative. Quality sports writing often shifts seamlessly between moments of description, narration, exposition, and argumentation. In fact, many of the same students who have trouble transitioning between these discursive modes when completing more traditional ELA assessments exhibit a familiarity and understanding with the logic of form when writing about sports. Due to this sense of comfort, they often understand when to focus their reader’s attention on a specific detail, and they understand how to integrate their descriptions into the story they are relating. Moreover, they can contextualise their readings of specific moments within a sporting event to provide a deeper analysis of a team’s performance over the course of a single game or an entire season. Perhaps one of my favourite activities I’ve designed to explore how students talk when they talk about sports involves showing students a YouTube clip of Marshawn Lynch’s legendary 67-yard touchdown run from the Seattle Seahawks 2010 playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. This clip, which depicts Lynch stampeding to pay dirt with all the grace of a Mack Truck, motivated a reaction so furious among the Seattle faithful that it literally registered as seismic activity at a nearby monitoring station. After viewing the clip several times and asking the students to describe what they’ve seen,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

we then watch the play in slow-motion with a tighter focus, paying attention to the precise movements of both Lynch and his would-be tacklers. Finally, I ask them to describe the crowd’s response and consider the spectacle of Lynch’s accomplishment alongside moments of comparable human transcendence. The responses this activity has generated have frequently been as impressive as the run itself. Moreover, they attest to the fact that sports can provide a productive venue for discussions of language and form.

‘these debates capitalise on the passions of my students while promoting engagment and reinforcing the effective strategies required in all forms of persuasive communication’ ‘Root, root, root[ing] for the home team’: the arena of sports argumentation In addition to providing an opportunity for a diverse range of teachable moments directed at exploring how your students talk when they talk about sports, adapting your students’ conversations about sports to your class provides an equally fertile ground for discussions of argument and methods of persuasion. Appraised accordingly, it becomes

clear that what your students talk about when they talk about sports often relies upon an understanding of sophisticated argumentative strategies that may seem foreign to students when recontextualised within the traditional confines of the curriculum. We should not restrict ourselves to sports alone. Students can talk equally eloquently and passionately about music, fashion or movies. Like all sports fans, students rarely limit their sports talk to descriptive summations of particular sporting events. Rather, these conversations almost always proceed analytically, with students attempting to persuade their audiences to see a player, a team, or a particular game in a new light. Thus, while a student may unwittingly drift into poetics when describing Cristiano Ronaldo’s on-field heroics, such descriptions are almost always employed in service of a larger, and ultimately more debatable, goal. Depending on the scope and intent of the conversation, these details may function as evidence designed to substantiate the claim that Ronaldo is the best soccer player of all time. In a different conversation, this same description may be deployed to rebut someone intent on suggesting that he is simply overrated. Thus, while they may not realise it as it’s happening, when students talk about sports, they tend to argue using a variety of sophisticated rhetorical strategies. Due to the argumentative nature of sports talk, affording your students the opportunity to evaluate how they talk when they talk about sports allows them to see how ethos, logos, and pathos work together to affect our ability to comprehend and compose different modes of persuasive communication. Moreover, addressing the unwritten rules of sports argumentation provides an engaging, and, at times, hilarious, point of entry to discussions of logical fallacies. In pursuit of these objectives, I’ve frequently exploited my school’s geographic location (we’re roughly equidistant to Boston and New York City) while staging debates designed to ‘prove’ which city has the superior baseball franchise. While students



present their prepared arguments in favour of either the Yankees or the Red Sox, the members of the opposition carefully note the rhetorical techniques and logical fallacies they’ve heard and formulate their rebuttal. Needless to say, these debates capitalise on the passions of my students while promoting engagement and reinforcing the effective strategies required in all forms of persuasive communication. Moreover, they allow students to understand ‘that an ‘argument’ is not a fight between two people but a debatable and well-supported claim’ (Gubernatis Dannen, 2012: 557). By establishing the rules of the game and creating an arena wherein my students can test their skills in an argumentative exhibition that is not unlike an athletic contest, I’ve also scaffolded my curriculum to prepare the class for an engagement with more sophisticated pieces of persuasive sports journalism. With this goal in mind, I have regularly turned to Michael Lewis’ feature article ‘The No-Stats All-Star,’ which initially appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In this piece, Lewis employs the same style of statistically-driven persuasive analysis he used throughout his best-selling Moneyball to make the case that Shane Battier deserved to be included among the NBA’s best players, despite the fact that, at the time the piece was published, Battier was generally considered an average player at best. In pursuit of this argument, Lewis introduces a new paradigm for evaluating individual performance by looking beyond the easily measurable statistics that are often used to quantify a particular player’s effectiveness, such as points per game or rebounds, and, instead, looking at the effect an individual player has on his team’s performance as a whole. Lewis then uses this premise to suggest that the market inefficiencies this flawed evaluative system creates can be exploited by savvy team owners who are willing to reconsider the value of the statistics that have historically dominated our analysis of player quality. By approaching Lewis’ piece with an understanding of how rhetorical devices affect the construction and transmission


of argumentative communication, my students have not only been able to follow this relatively abstract piece, but they have also been able to connect and explain how the various components of Lewis’ argument combine to create meaning. In the process, they’ve mastered many of the skills defined within many national education authority descriptors for reading skills. Moreover, they have arrived at these understandings while practising something that, unlike many of the activities we require of our students in the ELA classroom, seems consistent with the kinds of conversations they regularly have outside of class. Thus, by training our attention on how our students talk when they talk about sports, we can essentially ‘trick’ our students into comprehending and executing the reading, writing, and communication skills that 21st century literacy requires.

‘the integration of sports and sports talks within the classroom provides a means of improving speaking, writing and reading skills while increasing student engagement.’

Calling your own fouls: sports in/and/as cultural commentary A final way of redirecting the passion students often bring to their

experiences as consumers of and participants within sports toward your larger curricular goals involves reconsidering why students are so attracted to sports in the first place. In ‘Reflections on Teaching Sports Literature in the Academy,’ Tracy Collins (2003) considers this question and characterises the two complementary functions that sports perform within American culture as follows: ‘Sports is a complex phenomenon that acts as an agent for both social change and social control. It works on an individual level, because so many young people search for a personal identity through it. It can also describe a ritual of banding and social immersion that meets the need for community membership and safety.’ (Collins, 2013: 281) As explained by Collins’ model, sports affords its consumer the opportunity to articulate his or her individuality while simultaneously situating this identity within a larger community of fans and fellow athletes. Any fan who has ever accidentally used a first-person pronoun when describing how ‘they’ did during the final innings of a big game is unconsciously rehearsing Collins’ thesis. A fan’s team is a part of who that person is, and the relationship an individual establishes to his or her team can be as powerful as the ‘real’ relationships that exist outside of sports. In fact, an oft-deployed barometer of individual fandom measures an individual’s ability to suffer alongside ‘their’ team throughout the duration of a seemingly hopeless season. Collins provides an insightful explanation as to why many individuals are personally attracted to sports, but, like Collins, I feel that limiting our discussions of athletics to the students’ firsthand experiences runs the risk of also limiting the range of options teachers have at their disposal when integrating sports into the curriculum. When we expand the scope of our analysis and look at sports as a means of cultural expression, athletics become a productive venue for making interdisciplinary connections across

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


the curriculum. Moreover, approaching sports from this perspective allows all of your students to participate in discussions about what sports communicate about our culture and its values, for even the students who are not directly involved in athletics have valuable things to say about the role of sports right across the world, from cricket in India to baseball in Japan, from soccer in Brazil to rugby in New Zealand. In fact, by providing an alternative reading of sports and sports culture, these students can help motivate a more nuanced and challenging conversation.

Conclusion: leading your team to victory Throughout this article, I’ve addressed the variety of educational opportunities that present themselves as soon as we reconsider how our students talk about sports, what they talk about when they talk about sports, and, finally, why our students talk

about sports in the first place. Once we’ve acknowledged it as a potentially less-threatening point of entry into sophisticated discussions of rhetoric and argument, the integration of sports and sports talk within the classroom provides a means of improving speaking, writing, and reading skills while increasing student engagement. Moreover, by allowing some of the conversations that often occur prior to your lessons to continue once the bell has sounded, you allow your students to see themselves and their ideas reflected in your curriculum, and you express to them that you value their interests. Within this shift, ‘your’ curriculum becomes ‘our’ curriculum, and students begin to see themselves as informed participants in the conversations that frame our experience and understanding of sport. By levelling the playing field in this way, you can equip your students with the reading, writing, and thinking skills that they will need when tackling all of life’s challenges.

References Collins TJR (2003) Reflections on teaching sports literature in the academy. Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 3 (2) 281–5. Dannen CG (2012) Sports and the life of the mind: aports media in the freshman composition classroom. Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 12 (3) 556–61.

Alex Miller is an English teacher at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, who recently defended his dissertation on fictional representations of postmodern masculinity. In addition to reading, writing, and following sports, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

modernenglishteacher Follow us on Twitter @ModEngTeacher n Volume 23

n Issue 3



Projects in the ESP classroom Inna Kozlova, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


rojects in class are used to help learners develop autonomy and promote collaboration between students, so they are generally characterised by a) group work, where group members enjoy a certain autonomy regarding their choice of topic and their way of collaboration; b) intensive use of additional materials, which should be as authentic as possible to ensure that students have support while going beyond the vocabulary and topics studied in class; c) visible outcomes, such as a final presentation, which may be oral, written or both. The advantages of projects as opposed to other types of activities are many; in this article I am going to focus on just a few of them. Firstly, most projects are characterised by increased motivation on the students’ part, which could be explained by the fact that students are often able to choose both their collaborators and their topic. As Beare (2007) suggests, lack of participation on behalf of students may be explained by the artificial nature of the classroom. Working on a particular topic, closely related to their interests, students find themselves involved in an authentic situation and find it easier to communicate. Secondly, most projects represent complete tasks which distinguish them from partial tasks carried out both at home and in class. In other words, they result in a tangible end product providing ‘real take-away value’ (Sandy, 2006). Finally, projects make students bring into use different language aspects they have studied previously in class. In addition, the


majority of projects are interdisciplinary, a fact that allows students to establish links between their subject-specific studies and their English language work, a point which is especially relevant for higher education. The student-centered approach that allows for the increase of motivation and places responsibility for the result on the students poses, however, certain problems for the teacher. In particular, the teacher, according to Fried-Booth (1986: 5) ‘may need to develop a more flexible attitude towards the student’s work’. The questions students ask about a project reveal certain views about this kind of work that are assumed by students. For example, ‘May I do this project alone? I don’t know anybody here.’ reveals that projects are perceived as, primarily, a group activity. ‘Is it possible to work on … (a particular topic)?’ shows that some students are not sure if their topic fits into the class programme, so there is an assumption it should do so. ‘May I make the presentation some other day?’ refers to the presumably limited class time allotted for this kind of activity. ‘What should we do?’ is actually asked very rarely, for two main reasons. First, students expect this question to be unpopular with the teacher because it may look like they are not following the course properly. The teacher has already supplied them with clear guidelines for the project. Secondly, students generally seem to have their preconceived idea of a project. They actually don’t need to read the teacher’s instructions to produce their project. They just assume

this teacher’s expectations are pretty much the same as some other teacher in the past. Students often have an idea from their secondary education how projects are run, which makes it harder if you want to do things in a different way. I recommend making it clear to the students that there are certain limitations imposed on the project, which might make it different to previous projects.

Project objectives The general objective of any project, as I stated earlier, is to provide students with an opportunity to create an original piece of work negotiating both its content and its form in groups. The purpose of the particular project I will look at is more specific than that. Our students of English for social sciences class have political science or sociology as their major and they find themselves in their first year at university. It is essential for them to develop English-language skills which will allow them to discuss a wide range of topics they will study and research during their degree. In fact, our year-long course consists of two projects, each covering one semester: one of them conceived primarily as a debate and the other focusing on writing a research paper. This distinction makes it possible for both the students and the teacher to focus on certain language aspects and items while still leaving time for other course activities. In this article I will look at the first kind of project, the one that focuses on speaking and argumentation skills. During one semester the students worked in groups of three or four on a particular socially or politically

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


problematic issue, choosing general topics such as mass media, violence, abortion, terrorism, and researching some specific aspect of it 1. The topic is expected to be controversial, but it needs to be approved by the teacher. There is a calendar of steps to follow, starting from signing the project proposal identifying the group members and the topic to be debated, going on through selecting bibliography and evidence and finishing with questions prepared for the debate. Each step has to be reported to the teacher and receives assessment. On the day assigned for their debate the group is expected to make a 10-minute presentation of their topic, with all group members participating in it, and provide other students with basic vocabulary and some additional information on the topic (charts, graphs, quotes, images). The debate follows the presentation; and the organising group is responsible for the success of the debate.

Project design The general idea of the debate project was inherited from the teacher who had been teaching the same course previously (see Appendix for resumed project instructions)2. During our first years of teaching, however, we identified a series of needs and decided to introduce some changes into the project design. I will discuss three of them and report on the results.

Emphasis on bibliography My colleagues and I noticed that the original design of the debate project, in contrast to a research paper project, ignored specifying the kind of bibliography expected as if no bibliography was necessary for oral projects. In my opinion, using authentic English texts as parallel texts is essential for preparing any kind of presentation, oral or written, as it allows students to build on their vocabulary, something almost impossible to do properly using 1 Actually, often it was the group that proposed a specific case, for example, Violence in Ciudad Juarez, and it was later regarded by the teacher as fitting into the general topic of violence. 2 The author would like to thank her colleague Margaret L. West for having offered her teaching materials for common use.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

just dictionaries. On the other hand, we cannot expect our students to read entire books in English, so we chose to ask our students to look for articles in English, preferably in electronic form. Generally students had few problems in finding articles on their topic from sources like news agencies <>, online newspapers <http://>, NGOs <http://>, and they also used resources like other people’s essays, the use of which was accepted because they were only sources of information and/ or vocabulary. One of the groups had a few problems trying to find information on ‘okupas’ in English, finally coming up with the right English word ‘squatters’ and later trying to make sense from articles on immigrants in France squatting in churches. However, due to the fact that articles are relatively short texts, it was possible for students to read them in detail and for the teacher to control if they suited the topic. Finally, all the groups proved able to present three background articles on their topic thus ensuring that the vocabulary used was authentic, apart from providing new and interesting insights on the topic.

‘Using authentic English texts is essential for preparing any kind of presentation, oral or written, as it allows students to build on their own vocabulary.’ Adding post-debate summary and peer mistakes correction We believed that debating topics in class could not only benefit the students in class but also provide new ideas to the

organising group. We wanted the groups to take into account the ideas provided by their classmates during the debate. For this purpose, we added a post-debate task for project groups that consisted of writing a short summary of their topic, about a page long. It did not have to be a research paper, something that students do in the other semester. There were specific requirements concerning the format: the summary had to be delivered in electronic form with the background articles following it in the same file. All the new vocabulary used in the summary had to be hyperlinked to the articles and context translations had to be added in commentaries. The idea was to have these summaries later read and corrected by the students who participated in the debate, thus achieving the maximum benefit for all the students of the class from the debate project. It was no surprise that students initially had trouble in producing summaries according to the required format. This kind of task did not meet their expectations, as mentioned above, and consequently some groups merely produced research papers. However, some of the other groups’ summaries were good enough to use for the final task. One example is from a computer class where students had to read and correct one of their peer’s summaries, in which the teacher had marked 10 mistakes to be corrected. The theoretical framework for this exercise was Vygotsky’s ZPD model (Vygotsky, 1978) adapted to the context of collaboration between students and their use of online reference sources (Kozlova, 2007). Correcting another group’s summary thus became another purposeful activity that contributed to a better acquisition of both new vocabulary and new information in the field of social sciences.

Conclusions and further discussion Our project design in its current form faces at least two main areas for improvement. Both are related to the motivational level of the audience, which is not sufficient, in our opinion, and makes it difficult for the organising group to initiate and develop a debate.



In spite of handouts being distributed in class and the presentation delivered to the students on a topic that supposedly may interest them, many groups encountered difficulties in breaking the ice and thus obtaining initial reactions from their classmates. Considering the general dynamics of the course, this phenomenon could simply be caused by the debating skills of the organising group. While students feel relatively at ease stating their opinion and defending it, they rarely find themselves in the situation where they have to create a debate, which is generally perceived as part of the teacher’s role. Students find difficulty in eliciting a reaction; however, they reveal themselves as being quite skillful at making concessions and moderating others’ opinions.

‘we would argue that everybody in class needs to feel personally involved if we want the debate project to be successful.’ Therefore, the first challenge is to help students develop these particular ‘provoking’ skills, giving them opportunity to initiate minor debates as part of class work. Another challenge is to increase the motivation of the rest of the class in relation to the topics offered for the debate. While the topicality of the project and the fact that the students choose their own topic results in its ‘authenticity’ (Fried-Booth, 1986) for the group members, it does not work this way for the majority of other students who behave as if they couldn’t care less … Other students’ interest in the debate needs to be created through their personal involvement in the


project, which could be achieved in a number of ways. For instance, the projects of different groups could be interrelated, or they could form part of a larger project. One of my colleagues used to ask her students to write their projects as a political party manifesto, and there were elections afterwards. Another example can be found in Egbert’s (2002) article, where students explore different aspects of the Vietnam War. Taking into account that social interaction is encouraged when some participants’ information is complementary to that of others, we would argue that everybody in class needs to feel personally involved if we want the deba te project to be successful. If the final outcome of the project happens to be of real use, as reported in Benson and Christian’s (2002) collection on Classroom Projects for Community Change, we may expect students’ motivation to increase even more.

References 1. Beare K (2007) CALL Use in the ESL/EFL Classroom. Available at: library/weekly/aa112198.htm> (accessed June 2014). 2. Benson Ch Christian S (2002) Writing to Make a Difference: Classroom Projects for Community Change. NY: Teacher’s College Press. 3. Egbert J (2002) A project for everyone. English language learners and technology in content-area classrooms.” Learning and Leading with Technology 29 (8) 36–41, 54–56.

REQUIREMENTS: A. Handout: The handout should include: 1) a list of any vocabulary that you think could be new or difficult for students and 2) any information that can help the debating teams (given as a paragraph, in note form, or in tables, graphs and pictures). Evaluation criteria: The handout is well-organised and helpful. The English and the information are correct. B. Oral introduction: On the day of the debate, the group must first give a 10-minute introduction to the topic so that the class can debate the issue. Evaluation criteria: The information is detailed, clear, and complete. The group members speak in English that is loud, easily understandable and reasonably correct. C. Debate: After giving the introduction, the group must organise the debate (which could last 15–20 minutes). Evaluation criteria: The debate is interesting, innovative and well organised. The group is always in control of the situation and allows the maximum participation of all the students.

4. Fried-Booth D L (1986) Project Work. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 5. Kozlova I (2007) Studying problem solving through group discussion in chat rooms. Scripta Manent 3 (1) 35–51. Published online: <>. 6. Sandy Ch (2006) Student projects in the EFL classroom – why and how” Jalt Omiya. Published online: <http://www.eltcalendar. com/events/details/3131> (accessed June 2014). 7.Vygotsky L S (1978) Mind and Society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Appendix Instructions for the project (resumed)

GROUPS: Three to four students, all of whom must participate in doing the handout, the presentation and organising the debate.

Inna Kozlova is a Lecturer in English for social sciences and translation at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona since 2002. She is a co-ordinator of Teaching Quality Enhancement project EFECT funded by Catalonian government and a researcher in the fields of ESP and translation, with a special interest in students’ information needs and their use of reference sources. Her articles appeared in English Language Teaching Journal, Scripta Manent and Teaching English with Technology, and books and book chapters in Frank & Timme, Peter Lang and Continuum.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Can an English teacher successfully transition into soft skills training? Michelle Hunter


his question was put to me recently and has subsequently led me to think more deeply about what lies behind it and how far I feel such a transition is possible. As someone who has just left EFL teaching to pursue a career in soft skills training and coaching, I have a certain bias towards a ‘yes’ answer. In this article, I will explore what I have experienced so far in my own transition, while also taking into consideration what others have said to me on the subject. I will conclude with an overview of what a structured, proactive plan for such a career move might look like. To begin, what I feel lies behind this question, depending on who is asking it, is either a desire for 1.) reassurance or 2.) proof that certain professions should keep to their own side of the fence! 1. Looking for reassurance is something we could expect from people like me. I taught English as a foreign language predominantly to business people for 15 years. During that time, I feel I learnt a lot more than how to explain grammar rules and phonemes (among many other language-related things). I built up a set of skills which are transferrable to a general training environment: courage to stand in front of a group presenting certain facts and ideas; managing group dynamics; responding on my feet to unexpected situations; having fun

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

and going with the flow; working with participants as equals. Just the kind of interpersonal skills I often see among my EFL peers. So what are the major differences between what an English teacher/ trainer does and what a soft skills trainer does? I put this question to a couple of colleagues who have worked in both areas. Here is an erudite summary from Mike Hogan: ‘English teaching is for non-native speakers (eg. learning english for presentations), while soft skills training doesn’t have a language element to it and could actually also be for native speakers (eg. A seminar on ‘Successful presentations skills’).’ In a nutshell, Mike’s point is that each professional offers different products into different markets. That being said, he agrees that an EFL trainer could develop into a business skills trainer, provided the former has the ability and expertise relevant to the audience of the latter. These sentiments were echoed by James Culver in an article he wrote for BESIG, focusing on marketability and credibility when transitioning from English to communication skills training. He highlights three aspects: confidence, credibility and coaching. ‘Telling the right story, at the right time, in the right way is key to participants

seeing you as someone with whom they can learn.’ His point about ‘coaching’ refers to the relationship between teacher/trainer and participant(s). He puts it succinctly: ‘Building a coaching relationship rather than a teacher-student relationship helps participants know that you respect what they’ve done while offering tips for improvement.’ I will return to this aspect of ‘teacherlearner’ relationship shortly. For now, I would like to explore the second hidden agenda behind the question under scrutiny here. 2. Those who want to ensure a clear divide between teaching, training and increasingly, coaching, are understandably protective of their further professional (and usually more costly) qualifications. I have to admit to also falling into this camp. Having invested a considerable amount of time and money into my further education, I want to see a return on that investment. This could be undermined by ‘less qualified’ individuals moving into my new territory and undercutting me. Getting back to the question at hand: can English teachers become soft skills trainers? How about turning it around? How far are English teachers already soft skills trainers?



designing and delivering training programmes, I was still not fully equipped. For example: I once delivered a time management workshop which should have been practical and hands-on. The gaps in my actual knowledge of using the tools I was talking about was tangible – luckily more to me than the participants. What saved me was my years’ of EFL classroom management experience.

Anyone who has taught business English has most likely covered the usual suspects of required skills: nn presentations nn negotiations

we haven’t the specific knowledge, ability and/or experience? This is precisely what I have noticed during my transition from teaching English and delivering soft skills training. Despite the months and

nn telephoning nn dealing with conflict nn managing intercultural situations nn holding small talk conversations. We can adequately cover the language required to ‘do’ these things. We have the interpersonal skills to help us interact with our participants. The crunch comes when we move into a pressurised business environment where the cosy atmosphere of learning a foreign language disappears. What happens when we’re faced with a workshop participant who has hands-on experience of the best and worst case scenarios of critical negotiating? I can contribute my years’ of theoretical negotiations knowledge and stock phrases in correct English. Can I honestly improve that experienced individual’s skills in negotiations at the rock face? Both Mike and James noted this difference in contextual knowledge and ability – without a substantial understanding of a topic, how can we maintain credibility when delivering a workshop on a topic if


‘The crunch comes when we move into a pressurised business environment where the cosy atmosphere of learning a foreign language disappears.’ couple thousand Euros on a Trainthe-Trainer programme, and all that I learned about conceptualising,

So what else is the difference between English teaching and soft skills training? Why is one so poorly paid and the other often quite highly paid? From the discussion so far, it seems that while the interpersonal skills required in each area are not significantly different, the content and audience differs. If we look at our clients, there is a considerable difference in investment between the two products. How much is spent on English classes? How much is invested in soft skills training? In his BESIG article, James presents a figure: ‘An organisation’s investment in a single two-day seminar with 15 participants can be in upwards of €10,000 when you consider the time of the participants, facilities, transportation costs and your fees.’ Indeed, the training company I work with expects to turnover between €80,000 and €120,000 on company-wide team and organisational development projects. One day of individual training costs €1800 – which is actually mid-range in the overall business training market. So the market has a significant influence on us. English teachers are perceived as one kind of service provider within a certain price bracket. Soft skills trainers are perceived as a different kettle of fish – a more valuable one, deserving of high pay and recognition. Where do these perceptions come from, how did they arise? Could the answer lie in us? I’ve experienced two situations in which I received direct feedback from experienced professional trainers who observed that I clearly come from a teaching background. What did I do / say that gave me away? I am still unsure

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


but suspect it has something to do with pedagogy versus andragogy; an innate belief that as ‘teacher’ I know something my students don’t, ie: the English language and how it works, which comes across in a certain, stereotypical ‘teacher-like’ way. (Here’s a nice graphical summary of the differences between pedagogy and andragogy: http://www. awesome-chart-on-pedagogy-vsandragogy.html) Trainers, on the other hand, are trained with a more adult-learner-centred model. They are also held directly accountable for immediate, job-related outcomes from their training sessions. Generally, traditional English teaching tends to run over a longer period because language acquisition needs many hundreds of hours before a learner proceeds from one CEFR level to another. The exception is, of course, in ESP. When a learner has the specific, short-term goal of improving their language ability for a particular purpose, the English teacher falls somewhere between the traditional EFL teacher and soft skills trainer. Perhaps it is the current surge in the demand for ESP that has led to this whole debate in the first place. Ultimately, what it boils down to is: Do you want to offer skills training or not? There are probably numerous examples of teachers who have successfully transitioned into skills training and examples of those who have not. If I had listened to those who said it’s not possible for an English teacher to get work as a skills trainer, I would not be writing this article. I am not saying it’s easy and I’m not saying it’s possible for everyone. What worked for me was sticking to my personal motto: ‘Where there’s a will there’s a way.’ Here is what I did, turned into some step-by-step advice. Take it, use it, adapt it; figure out your own way to answer the question as to whether it’s possible for EFL teachers to transition to soft skills training. 1. M  ake the decision to become a soft skills trainer. And commit to it!

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

2. K  eep alert to possibilities to offer training in one or two-day formats (HR seldom purchases longer courses these days). Be proactive and creative. 3. Walk the talk – use the professional language of an expert soft skills trainer. Look like a professional trainer who companies are happy and confident to have train their employees and management.

‘If I had listened to those who said it wasn’t possible for an English teacher to get work as a skills trainer, I wouldn’t be writing this article.’ 4. L  everage the contacts you already have – be aware: you’ll have to gently prepare them for an increase in costs; don’t go straight to the market level for trainer daily rates (in Germany from €800 per day, up to an average of €1200–1800: http://www. was-verdienen-trainer/). 5. E  xplore additional qualification options (free as well as those you pay for). 6. Network, self-market and spread the word. Let people know you now offer skills training – potential clients as well as colleagues. 7. Join forces with a colleague and offer joint solutions. 8. Take every opportunity to practise, from voluntary peer training via your teaching associations to a workshop at a conference. 9. Don’t give up if you have a bad experience. Get straight back up on the horse!

10. Strategise. How do you want your new trainer business to develop? When can you let go of the English teaching (this took me years!)? What is your pricing policy? What are your terms and conditions (can you adapt your ELT T&Cs)? 11. Maintain your own development. Any training company expects its trainers and coaches to be continually self-developing. How can you expect your clients and participants to work on developing their skills if you don’t set an example and do the same? 12. Take time to create. Listen out for what the market is demanding; what do your current clients need? (See points 2 and 3.) What might attract new clients? Design and develop courses to meet those needs – you‘ll have an example of what you can offer and then be prepared to change it all if they want something different! 13. Start with what you know, the topics you feel most comfortable with. Then push yourself to new areas outside your comfort zone. 14. Think like a ‘trainer’ rather than a ‘teacher’ (NB: andragogy rather than pedagogy). 15. Be kind to yourself and take each learning experience in your stride. Special thanks to Karen Richardson, Mike Hogan and James Culver for your support and sharing.

Michelle Hunter A freelance business English teacher for 15 years in and around Stuttgart, Germany, Michelle began her move into skills training with a Train-the-Trainer certification in 2008–2009. This was followed by a development training course culminating in a license to deliver UK-based women’s development programme, Springboard. Most recently, Michelle has achieved a postgraduate certificate in business and personal coaching.



#ELTchat – an online community of practice Shaun Wilden


f you have never used Twitter, you may not be aware of the thriving ELT communities that exist within the 140 character world. One such community is now approaching its fourth birthday and is still a vibrant place for teacher discussions and the sharing of resources. Long before Twitter became the darling of the media world, educators had grasped the potential of using the microblogging network as a way of creating a ‘global staffroom’. While most people have now heard of Twitter, many might not be sure of how it works. As a microblogging site anything you post to Twitter can be read by its users. However given the millions of users in order for you to get an audience for your tweets you need to follow people and be followed. This way anything you tweet appears on your followers’ timelines. Though first used in 2007, it wasn’t until 2009 that Twitter began to make use of the hashtag, now prevalent on most social networks. By adding a hashtag to a tweet, it allows the sender to target their tweet to a particular topic, group tweets together and makes them easily indexed. The American education community first saw the potential of the hashtag to bring educators together at the same time and place each week. In this case the place being the virtual location of Twitter. By doing so they were able to concentrate their tweets around one topic which was then discussed for an hour. In September 2010, five teachers and Twitter users from around the world decided to work together to introduce this idea into ELT and at the same time help connect ELT professionals. Thus #ELTchat was born.


As its website says, #ELTchat began with the aim of creating a freely available social network for ELT professionals offering mutual support and opportunities for Continuous Professional Development (see In the words of one of the founders and moderators, Marisa Constantidies ‘#ELTchat is a great meeting and sharing time every week for teachers with passion, generosity and motivation to be the best teacher they can be. I think this is a thought shared by many.’ (Telfnet, 2014) While these days it might seem commonplace to turn to the internet for professional development opportunities, four years ago for many professionals this was a new thing. Additionally terms such as personal learning network and community of practice were new to many teachers’ lexicons. A personal learning network aka ‘a PLN’ is, as Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto, one of first #ELTchat moderators, describes was not a new idea: ‘Teachers have always had learning networks – people we learn from and share with. Teachers are information junkies. We’re also social. Put the two together and you have a personal learning network.’ (Sakamoto, 2012) The networked teacher is often portrayed as one functioning through technology; however, we have always had networks, they have always existed. What technology has done is make networks more widespread. The oft-used trope of ‘learning in the digital age’ is in essence a way of referring to the growing appeal of connectivism. The idea that learning takes place by making social and cultural connections, the more you connect,

the bigger your network becomes and therefore the more you learn or grow. With the popularity of Twitter, a teacher’s PLN moved from being within their local teaching community to a worldwide scale. By connecting with teachers like this, the networked teacher could access new resources, share common teaching issues and make friends well outside their normal spheres. An interesting side effect of this was the so-called tweet-ups that occurred at larger conferences. Teachers who had come to know each other through the hashtag, meeting face-to-face for the first time. Turning up at a conference and ‘knowing’ a large number of people definitely gives a conference a different feel. However, as their name suggests, PLNs are of an individualised nature, though the same teachers may appear in each other’s network, each teacher chooses for themselves who they wish to learn from. The real strength of Twitter and therefore a networked group such as #ELTchat is when all the PLNs come together to form a community of practice. The term ‘community of practice’ coined by Etienne Wenger (2014) is defined as a group of people sharing a profession and a professional interest. The group can evolve naturally because of the members’ common interest in a particular domain or area. Through the process of sharing information and experiences the group develop themselves personally and professionally. By sharing in the #ELTchat hashtag, a teacher ‘assumes the capacity – and willingness – to identify, and be identified, with the members of the target grou’ (Thornbury, 2014).

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


At its heart the #ELTchat hashtag is a way of teachers being able to share resources and classroom ideas. Twitter never closes and therefore the hashtag is there 24/7 for people to tweet into and search through. Often described as the global staffroom, if a teacher wants an idea for teaching the present perfect they can simply tweet including the hashtag #ELTchat and most times get a reply. Likewise when someone comes up with an idea they feel like sharing, they put it on their blog and share the link. While in a real staffroom the hierarchy of experience and position might be an inhibiting factor, with less experienced teachers being less inclined to share, Twitter tends to create a level playing field. As such you are as likely to be interacting with coursebook authors and well known methodologists as much as beginner teachers. Though this itself leads to one of the criticisms of such social networking sharing in that it gives everyone a voice and those with the loudest voice are not necessarily the ones with the most constructive things to say. Such sharing does not make for a true community of practice (CoP). Wenger (2014) asserts that a CoP is more than a website, or in this case a hashtag. A CoP needs the group interacting together and learning from each other. With #ELTchat this is achieved by the twice weekly ‘chats’. To ensure the inclusion of as many ELT professionals as possible #ELTchat originally took place at 12pm and 9pm GMT each Wednesday. Lasting for one hour, those people using the #ELTchat hashtag tweet their thoughts about a chosen ELT topic. To ensure that topics are community-chosen, teachers submit possible topics via the #ELTchat blog, these are then voted on with the topics coming top being discussed. To the outsider, these chat periods may appear to be chaotic with anywhere between 200 and 500 tweets passing through the hashtag during the hour. While some question the effectiveness of conversations limited to 140-word contributions, the durability of the chats, having now surpassed 350 topics, clearly resonates amongst the ELT world. As does the constant renewing of the #ELTchat community as teachers new to Twitter join in. Additionally, to give more depth to the

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

topics and further build the CoP, #ELTchat employs other online resources.

maintained and developed. #ELTchat fulfils all these things. (Li et al, 2009)

Like most CoPs, #ELTchat is community driven and ‘owned’ by those taking part. However, it does need some management in order for it to work effectively. Wenger refers to these people as facilitators. With #ELTchat the facilitators are known as moderators. Like the community they periodically renew themselves with there currently being four moderators, of which only one has been there throughout. Moderators ensure topics are submitted and polled. Additionally, they moderate the chats, providing guidance to new participants and keeping a discussion on track. They are also responsible for managing the other online resources available to the community.

Almost four years after the start of #ELTchat, it is still going strong though now only has one chat a week. One reason for this is the idea of online communities of practice is much more normalised within ELT. More and more chat groups and hashtags have been developed and interestingly in a globalised world, localised groups have now formed such as #auselt and most recently #eltchinwag in Ireland.

These resources aim to make the most of the weekly chats and provide a lasting record and accessible resource for ELT teachers. Each tweet from a chat is captured into a transcript which is then stored on a wiki. The transcripts can be accessed at any time. After a chat has taken place a member of the community volunteers to summarise it. This summary is then published on the summariser’s own, and the #ELTchat blog. They provide an open resource for a teacher wanting to find out more about a topic. Summaries and chats often inspire teachers to go deeper in to a topic and post their thoughts on an issue on their own blogs. In addition to the blog and wiki, the #ELTchat uses a Facebook group to maintain the community – this is closing in on 3,000 members. #ELTchat members also produce a podcast available free to download. All these things, help give the community a more permanent feel. To go back to Wenger’s description of a CoP, the chats and resources allow individual perspectives on an issue to be shared thus creating a social learning system that goes beyond the sum of its parts. A CoP needs three things: domain that is the common ground ie. ELT; community which is the structure that facilitates the learning; thirdly, practice which are the resources and shared knowledge that is

While Twitter may always be looked down on by some for its superficiality, there is no doubting that it has played a part in bringing the ELT world at large closer together. #ELTchat remains an active hashtag and a shining example of how networked teachers can come together to be a worldwide community of practice. So if you fancy a chat then find the hashtag and see you next Wednesday.

References Li L et al (2009) Evolution of Wenger’s concept of community of practice. Implementation Science 4 (11) doi:10. 1186/1748–5908–4–11. http://www. Sakamoto BH (2012) What is a PLN, anyway? [online]. Available at: http://www. (accessed June 2014). Telfnet (2014) Marisa Constantidies reflects on the first year of #ELTchat [online]. Available at: (accessed June 2014). Thornbury S (2014) Blogs [online].Available at: communities-of-practice/ (accessed June 2014). Wenger-Trayner E (2014) Communities of Practice: A brief introduction [online]. Available at: theory/ (accessed June 2014).

Shaun Wilden is one of the moderators of #ELTchat. When not chatting on Twitter, he is the International House World Organisation Teacher Training Co-ordinator and a freelance teacher trainer and author, specialising in online and mobile learning. He is also the joint coordinator of the IATEFL learning technologies SIG.



‘Reverse reading’ conversation lessons Nicola Prentis

Q: When is a conversation lesson not a conversation lesson? A: When it’s actually a reading lesson with some discussion questions tacked on for the last 10 minutes. A common approach to conversation lessons is that the teacher, or students, brings in an article or text as a prompt. It makes for a lesson with more structure than just trying to chat for an hour, which is a challenge for longterm classes, and provides a source of new vocabulary. The bad news for falling back on a text as a prompt is that reading and understanding the text ends up dominating the lesson. This dominance proliferates even though many of us would agree that students often ask for speaking practice above everything else. It’s not conversation about the topic that then follows, it’s responding to the text. That might mimic exams, but it doesn’t resemble real life. When was the last time you discussed something you’d read by answering a series of questions on it and then commenting at the end how much you agree? The good news is that it’s easy to overhaul reading texts to turn them into full speaking activities by reversing the tasks from the usual order of Reading -> Comprehension -> Language analysis ->Production/Speaking. For the purposes of this article I’ve used a text which has been edited for length but not level. If you’re using a text from


a coursebook, the level will be right for your class. If not, adapt it to suit.

1. Production Braindump conversation questions that raise ideas from the text. You can discard any that aren’t interesting enough to discuss, but students will linger over or skip questions according to what piques their interest so it’s better to have a long than a short list. Work in vocabulary and lexical chunks that will otherwise cause difficulties when reading, to prime students to ‘Notice’ them. You can include questions that serve as a lead in and reactions to the topic in general. Here’s a (not exhaustive) list I came up with, target language highlighted both in the questions and the text for the ease of the students when reading later. 1. W  hat devices/apps do you use every day? How often do you check them? 2. What do you know about Google Glass, iWatch or FitBit? 3. Have you used apps or gadgets to track fitness or nutrition? 4. Have you ever bought and ditched gadgets? How long did it take for the novelty to wear off? 5. Where do you keep your phone? Is it getting scratched to hell, floating around in your bag? 6. What are the benefits of wearable devices? What are the drawbacks? 7. Do you have a panic attack if you forget your smartphone when you leave the house? 8. What do you think of someone wearing Bluetooth headsets to talk

on the phone? Do they look like an insufferable geek? 9. How do you usually tell the time? Do you wear a watch? Are watches functional these days or just outdated statements of wealth? 10. Would you use visible wearable technology or technology embedded in your clothes? 11. Are we well on the way to smartphones taking over the role of the personal computer? 12. How many people in the world have smartphones? One out of every…..?

2. Language analysis Since the target language is in context in the questions, the teacher can tackle any difficulties or ‘pre-teach’ during the discussion, at the same time encouraging students to use the language while speaking.

3. Reading Often the students get so involved in the conversation, because it’s natural and not curtailed by a text that’s told them what to think, that the entire class gets taken up by speaking. Assign the text for homework in much the same way as in the Flipped Classroom approach. This way, students who want to will reinforce the language by reading and will be much better prepared to deal with the text with less support. They might not read it at all, which would suggest reading for them is not a priority. Even more reason to shift it out of the class!

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

MATERIALS WRITING 4. Comprehension questions Students could devise their own comprehension questions, as homework to be exchanged in the next lesson. Obvious benefits are further practice of the language, taking the workload off the teacher and providing an engaging revision activity as students care much more about the answers to questions they’ve written themselves. Preparing the materials is the work of 10 minutes once you get used to doing it. Simply go through the text and see if you can pick out enough language or points of conversational interest. If not, it wasn’t going to make an interesting lesson in the first place and

What’s wrong with wearables? Janel Torkington, on [full link:] I, too, want to get excited about Google Glass, the iWatch, the FitBit Force, and the rest of the next wave of wearables. Like everyone else these days, I’m riding the nutrition and fitness wave. I love data on my progress but hate the effort it takes to track it. I want an ankle thingy that tells me everything through the magic of technology. My smartphone’s slowly getting scratched to hell, floating around in my bag. I want a thingy safe from the danger of loose change and bobby pins. I spend precious seconds poking around for my smartphone to check for urgently incoming Facebook likes, maybe a full two minutes each day. That’s nearly 12 hours of rummaging each year that could be alleviated by an immediately visible thingy on my wrist or face. Unfortunately, the thingy of our dreams is not going to happen, not as a wearable, and certainly not in the near future. Here’s why:

1. There’s not enough added value Wearables are inconvenient, and current technology doesn’t offer enough added value to offset the drawbacks. This isn’t true for absolutely everyone. There are folks who truly dig knowing how many steps they walk each day,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

that’s definitely worth knowing in reverse.

Nicola Prentis is an EFL materials writer based in Madrid but about to start spending a lot more time in her home country, England. This will mean fewer late lunches but more green spaces to look at while writing. She has written Graded Readers for Pearson and CUP and a Speaking Skills book for Collins. She blogs at and tweets from @NicolaPrentis as well as contributing to

but for most of us, the novelty wears off sooner rather than later. The Endeavor Partners research quoted by the trending Guardian piece focuses on fitness trackers, which Americans are ditching en masse. About 10% of US adults bought a tracking gadget; a mere half of them still use it. If you’re going to remember another gadget, it has to provide tangible added benefit. Leaving your smartphone at home means a panic attack on your commute, plus being exposed to dreaded eye contact on the metro. Forget your FitBit and, what? You’re missing a data point on your Lose It! graph? Any reasonably-sized watch screen isn’t big enough to replicate the complexity of what a smartphone can do. Even reading a significant amount of text is out of the question. Voice controlled tech isn’t strong enough yet to facilitate complicated interactions, either. The slight convenience of not having to pull anything out of your pocket when you get a text doesn’t outweigh the effort required to deal with one more device.

2. Wearable tech is dorky A wrist- or ankle-mounted device is fairly discreet. Anything else looks ridiculous. Electronics anywhere near the face conjure up either insufferable Silicon Valley geeks or socially unacceptable cyborgs. We’re not going to get over the awkwardness of wearables anytime soon. Consider the general attitude towards Bluetooth headsets, which came out 14 years ago.

Regrettably, wrist-mounted devices aren’t the solution either, because:

3. No one wears a watch anymore The usefulness of a watch has been completely usurped by digital devices. Actual watches are only fashionable as musty, outdated statements of wealth. Watches aren’t cool. No one I know under 40 wears a watch, and certainly few folks under 30 would ever consider owning one. Smartphones are fine, because they’re not something you wear. Even if you use the thing exclusively to shoot digizombies full of bullets, it’s an eccentric hobby rather than the personal image you present to a style-conscious public. Anything worn on your person has to make it over the fickle barrier of fashion.

The alternative to wearables Wearables will work when tech renders them completely invisible – say, as contact lenses à la Minority Report, or as a device completely embedded in your clothes. We’ve got to be able to set it and forget it. My prediction: smartphones are going to completely take over the role of personal computers long before wearable tech becomes worthwhile. We’re already well on our way there; many daily tasks (checking email and social media, getting directions, reading news, etc.) have already migrated to mobile. This trend’s only set to accelerate: estimates from last December put smartphone penetration at approximately One out of every five people worldwide. The future is definitely mobile. We’re just not going to wear it on our sleeves.



Starting your own network Nick Robinson


he newest addition to the IATEFL Special Interest Group (SIG) family is MaWSIG – the Materials Writing SIG. Having just celebrated our first birthday, here’s a brief history of the SIG and what we set out to achieve. Hopefully it will encourage a few Modern English Teacher readers to join. This story of MaWSIG starts, as many of the best things in life do, in a good restaurant. Actually, that’s a tiny white lie: the story starts a few months before that, but the details get fuzzy. In the autumn of 2012, a small group of people – Byron Russell, Jill Florent, Sue Kay, Karen White, Karen Spiller and myself – met in the Magdalen Arms in Oxford. The idea of a new SIG – one devoted to materials writing – had been floated, and we were there to discuss the next steps. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know whose idea it initially was, only that Byron was the first person to ask me if I wanted to get involved. And I’m very happy indeed that he did. The process for setting up a new SIG is relatively painless. Essentially you just have to convince IATEFL that there’s a demand for it. And in the case of materials writing, that wasn’t hard at all. Early 2013 was something of a watershed moment in ELT publishing, with the slow move towards digital suddenly turning into something more akin to an arms race; with the talk of author royalties vanishing forever; with the first waves of redundancies at major ELT publishers. It felt like things were changing, and, regardless of whether that was for better or worse, it


was clear that people needed a place to talk about what was happening. At the same time, in corners of the web and in classrooms around the world, something else was happening. More and more teachers were becoming interested in writing their own materials. Some were making them freely available

‘It felt like things were changing, and, regardless of whether that was for better or worse, it was clear that people needed a place to talk about what was happening.’ via their blogs; others were selfpublishing; the majority were probably just teaching from them. In 2012, I’d launched my author representation agency, which coincided with the launch of ELT Teacher 2 Writer. The two organisations had broadly the same aim: to find a way to bring new writing talent through. I can only imagine that we’d both had the same sense that teachers

around the world really wanted to learn more about writing ELT materials and, in some cases, to get published. By Liverpool 2013, we were all ready to go. We thought we’d celebrate the launch of the SIG in style with a small gathering in a bar round the corner from the Cavern Club, where Macmillan would be hosting their not-to-be-missed annual party. In what luckily turned out not to be a harbinger of future organisational effectiveness, no one actually phoned the bar ahead to book it. Luckily, a late call from Karen White secured us a roped-off area. When we arrived, we saw that it contained about six chairs. About 100 people showed up. That’s when I knew the SIG was going to be a success. As SIG co-ordinator, my main responsibilities are to ensure that the SIG is well resourced and to fix its strategic and operational objectives. We set about thinking of what our overall mission should be; the ‘why’ of the SIG which would lead into the ‘how’ and ‘what’. What we came up with was this: Our goal is to support teachers’ professional development in terms of writing ELT materials, whether for use within a group or institution, or for a wider audience. We were keen that the SIG be as widereaching as possible in its appeal. It was never intended to be about the ELT publishing industry or about materials writers. The emphasis was always supposed to be on the act of writing materials, and I think that we’ve managed to maintain that focus over our first year.

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


I set five main objectives for year one: 1. Appoint a strong committee. 2. Organise two events: a standalone conference and a pre-conference event (PCE) at IATEFL 2014. 3. Organise at least one webinar. 4. Publish a newsletter. 5. Set up our website. I’m delighted to say that we achieved all but number 5 (and that’s imminent!). We began with our first webinar, which was delivered by one of the coursebook author greats, John Hughes. John writes extensively and eloquently on the topic of materials writing on his blog, and we were delighted when he agreed to speak for us on the topic of writing ELT materials for a wider public. It was the perfect topic, in fact, as it gave teachers who were writing their own materials – to teach themselves – a chance to see how those materials might need to differ if someone else was planning to teach them: the first step to becoming a materials writer as opposed to a teacher who writes materials. After the success of the first webinar, we turned our attention to our first standalone event: New Directions in ELT Materials Writing. We chose Oxford as a venue, as many of our members are currently UK-based, and the strong materials writing community in Oxford would hopefully ensure a healthy turnout. Luckily, it did. I was keen to experiment with a slightly different format for the conference. Many of us have grown accustomed to the typical ELT conference routine: plenaries followed by shorter talks or workshops. We kept the plenaries – an opening from Simon Greenall on the decline and fall of coursebooks and a closing from BookMachine’s Laura Austin on what ELT publishing could learn from the wider world of publishing – but for the rest of the day we opted for a panel format. This gave us a chance to explore several key issues in greater depth, with a range of opinions being expressed. In the end, we had 16 panelists speaking on four panels: Working with External Content Providers, New Ways of

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Working, Publishing without Publishers, and New Resources for Materials Writers. Between the panels, there was ample opportunity for networking, for catching up with old friends and for making new contacts. It was a great day which has set the bar high for next year. Our second event of the year took place on 1st April as part of IATEFL’s PCE day programme. Whereas the Oxford event was about breadth, the PCE was to be about depth: we decided to explore the topic of writing for digital in as much detail as one day would allow. Our four invited speakers – Kath Bilsborough, Jeremy Day, Lucy Norris and Laurie Harrison – tackled the topic from a variety of angles, giving the 60 or so delegates a chance to reflect on what materials writing really means in the digital age.

‘At the same time, in corners of the web and in classrooms around the world, something else was happening.’ More or less in tandem, we were delighted to launch our first newsletter, Building Materials, featuring 30 pages of top-quality content from some of the biggest and best names in materials writing, including John Hughes, Nicola Prentis, Claire Hart, Brian Tomlinson, Tamzin Berridge, Verity Cole, Johanna Stirling, Nigel Harwood, Denise Santos, Frances Amrani, Lizzie Pinard and Peter Viney. It’s a beautifully produced publication that we were very proud to produce. Access to it is just one of the benefits that our members receive! All of which leads us to where we are today, just over a year on: IATEFL’s newest SIG, with a fast-growing membership which reflects the diversity of the ELT

materials writing community. We’re lucky to count some of the world’s most renowned coursebook authors in our ranks, as well as many people who are just starting out in their writing careers or who are keen to simply learn more about it. One of the central tenets of the SIG is that anyone should feel at home here, whether you’re writing to be published, writing to self-publish or just writing for pleasure. It’s a real honour for me to act as co-ordinator for the SIG, but all of the credit for our achievements so far – our sell-out first conference, a successful PCE, an amazing newsletter, our vibrant Facebook and Twitter community – goes to our incredible committee. So if you ever see Sophie O’Rourke, Lyn Strutt, Rachael Roberts, Karen White, Hans Mol, Byron Russell or Jill Florent out and about, do stop and say hello – or thanks, even. In fact, I’d buy them a drink; the SIG wouldn’t exist without them. A version of this article first appeared in Building Materials, the MaWSIG newsletter, in April 2014.

Nick Robinson is the co-founder of eltjam, and also runs Nick Robinson ELT Author Representation, an agency he set up to help teachers become ELT materials writers. He’s worked in ELT publishing since 2004, Cambridge University Press and as Publishing Manager of English360, the awardwinning online learning platform. He’s also written numerous books for CUP, including Cambridge English for Marketing (2010). Before all that, he taught in Barcelona, specialising in business English and ESP. You can find him online at Twitter @nmkrobinson

If you have been inspired by these articles about materials to start writing yourself why not begin by submitting something to MET? A short response to this issue, a suggestion for a future article or simply a tweet. All contributions welcome.


modernenglishteacher W

riting an article about your own teaching or training situation is a great way to help with your own professional development. We are always keen to hear from teachers with an interesting project, idea, approach or lesson to talk about. Articles should be based on practice, reflection, experience or research.

to be brief. Articles should be 1–4 pages in length remembering that a page is around 700 words.



MET is a magazine for teachers of English to speakers of other languages at all levels and ages, with subscribers in over 100 countries. The majority of MET readers teach (often large) monolingual classes outside an Englishspeaking environment.

Please print your article on A4 paper, double-spaced and with wide margins (necessary for editing). Keep a copy for your own reference and send to robert.

Subject matter

■■ about 70 words about yourself, your teaching experience and your professional interests

MET has a number of regular sections and some occasional sections, as you will see if you look through back issues of the magazine. We welcome contributions for any of these sections (but see Reviews below). MET has a long shelf-life so a report of a conference, for example would not be appropriate unless the article was making a ‘timeless’ point.

Reviews MET cannot accept unsolicited reviews. If you would like to review a book, please write to Roger Gower, the Reviews Editor, at Pavilion Publishing and Media, Rayford House, School Road, Hove BN3 5HX.

Responses If you have a comment to make on any of the items in this issue please contact us via email or Twitter @ModEngTeacher. Your comments can be as short as you wish. We really need this sort of contribution.

Length The length of your article will depend on the topic and maybe on the section for which you are submitting it, but try


Always try to back up your comments and ideas with practical descriptions or examples. Try and give your own opinion whilst encouraging other teachers to respond.

As well as your article, please send us:

■■ your email address, if you are happy to have it published with your article ■■ a 50-word summary of your article for the website.

Illustrations Think visual – pictures can lift a page, so do think about how your article could be illustrated. Send us ideas or roughs or even finished artwork. If you are sending finished artwork, please supply originals (using black ink on a sheet of unfolded white paper). Photographs to illustrate the article – black and white prints, colour prints or colour transparencies – are welcome.

Quotations If you are using quotations, identify the sources; depending on their length, it may be necessary to obtain permission for them to be used, so please give full information.

References If you quote references, give full information.

Writing for Publication It will be assumed that your article has not been published in any other publication and that it is not being considered by any other publication. If your article is accepted, be prepared to revise it if necessary, in order to shorten it or to clarify something, for example. But do not necessarily expect to have the chance to make any changes. The article will almost certainly be edited to some extent. The changes will usually be cuts to make the article fit the available space and should not affect its overall thrust. Generally, if major changes are necessary, either the article will be returned to you for amending or the edited version will be sent to you for approval.

MET website Any article that is accepted for publication in MET may also appear on the MET website, together with your 50-word summary.

Copyright Your article will be published on the understanding that the fee you receive purchases copyright in the article. The publisher will not give permission to reproduce the article elsewhere without your permission, provided that you reply to any request within two weeks. Any application made to you to reproduce your article should be forwarded to the editor. Any fee received for the reproduction of the article will be shared 50/50 between you and the publisher. If you wish to use the article again in a publication written or edited by you, you may do so provided that its original publication in Modern English Teacher is acknowledged.

All this information can be found at: and click on ‘Writing Guidelines’

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Reviews I

n the main, British schoolchildren are not good at foreign languages. Which is hardly surprising when foreign language learning is only compulsory in state schools from 11–14 and when all the evidence suggests that 11 is far too late to start. However, from October this year, foreign language learning is to be made compulsory from the age of seven. Good, but is even that too late? Children who grow up bilingually seem to benefit educationally, and in the local primary school where I help out (in a disadvantaged area of the country where there are many ‘special needs’ children) the children learn bits of languages at the age of five and cope remarkably well. But whatever cognitive advantage this may give them in general, unless they keep their languages going beyond puberty, it’s highly likely they will lose the lot. Which begs the question, is 14 too early to stop?

of supplementary listening materials. After that two books from the Collins EAP series.

My point is that second language acquisition (SLA) is poorly understood by decision-makers. Everyone knows that children find it easier to learn languages than adults – and easier to forget them! But what is less understood is why – taking into account such things as the distinction between acquisition and learning, and the role of memory. All these are good reasons why SLA research needs wider currency. And good reasons why we are reviewing a book on the subject.

Which brings me back to the British, and the learning of foreign languages. There is no doubt that a contributing factor to our poor language skills has been the common perception in post-colonial Britain that a foreign language is a desirable luxury rather than a career necessity, a perception which is, I think, slowly changing. But more of that in a future issue. In the meantime, enjoy the reviews!

Background Books opens with the review of the SLA book I mentioned above. This is followed by quite a difficult book on ‘disciplinary identities’ but on a topic, I think, of great interest – how who we are and what we are affects the language we use in an academic context. Finally, for A Book I Like, Roger Barnard rereads a recent edition of David Crystal’s English as a Global Language and pays homage to a writer he likes and respects but disagrees with in the discussion of whether the spread of English is the inevitable result of economic and political power or caused by ‘linguistic imperialism’. (Don’t they go together?)

But before that in A Book I’ve Used, Clare Henderson reviews the latest edition of a popular ‘global’ coursebook and compares it with earlier editions, noting the added online components. This is followed by a review of another new course series from Cengage Learning/National Geographic, also with its digital elements, and a look at a series of graded readers for young children. Then another couple of books for IELTS at A1 level – IELTS books are still coming out thick and fast! – and a welcome set

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Roger Gower



A book I’ve used Cutting Edge (Upper intermediate) (Third edition) Sarah Cunningham, Peter Moor and Jonathan Bygrave Pearson Education Limited, 2013 See page 86 for details

The listening texts are longer than in the previous edition and have been re-written to fit the new units, although I did find five unchanged. The dialogues are scripted but include some natural-sounding discourse with utterances like I dunno, Great stuff and Nah, mate it’s cool. A reading text is present in every unit and always complemented by a listening. The readings are now drawn from a wider variety of sources, such as blogs, emails, news or web articles, forms, quizzes and stories. As before, these act as warmers to grammar or as models for writing.


t’s nice to see that the precipitous cliffface on the cover of the 2005 edition (the uphill struggle towards true Upper Intermediate?) has been replaced by a mellow lavender field, while retaining the characteristic purples and golds. Cutting Edge as a series was always strong visually and, in this latest edition, photos, computer-generated images, cartoon drawings, different typefaces and use of colour add vibrancy and interest. The visuals also add a contextualising element to the accompanying texts. I counted about 15 instances where the book explicitly asks students to look at a visual and comment, as a precursor to the main task or activity. Contents-wise, the 12 units are now neatly condensed and standardised to 10 pages each. We meet the same topics as in the previous edition, some slightly repackaged and with texts that have a contemporary slant (Obama’s election, space tourism, online dating, microblogging and Twitter).


The overt focus on pronunciation remains, ranging from work at sound and word level to prosodic features, like sounding sympathetic: I am listening, darling. Despite the claim there are special pronunciation boxes in every unit the one in Unit 7 is inexplicably missing! The discovery approach to grammar has also been retained. Many units of this edition still include the Wordspot sections. These highlight high-frequency items like phrasal verbs, fixed expressions and collocations and are always popular with students: right-brain or visual learners love to develop the spidergrams into wall posters. It is having such ready-made ‘chunks’ of language at your disposal that characterises the fluent speaker, hence the attention given to vocabulary throughout the book. Thankfully, Cutting Edge also retains the Study, Practice and Remember sections. Whereas these previously came at the end of every unit, they are now at the back of the book, but still easy to navigate. Gone, though, is the mini

dictionary – that admirable attempt at learner autonomy – although it’s there in digital form on the DVD-rom. The most noticeable change, though, is in the promotion of internet-based learning. Now that the internet is students’ natural go-to for answers, the new edition makes this technology a feature of lessons and actively encourages online investigation. The video material of the brand new World Culture lessons aims to promote exposure to global issues and encourage learner autonomy and critical thinking through internet research (the Find out More sections). The authentic clips lift the topic off the page and create a link between the classroom and the world outside. There are two clips per unit: part of a TV programme and World View clips, which are brief ‘talking heads’ interviews where people give their opinions on the topic. One colleague described the World Culture lessons as well-planned, switching from class work to viewings to searching online with clear instructions for the learners. I suspect, however, that only a tiny proportion of dedicated ones would take on the challenge of ‘find out more’ and ‘write up your research’, meaning that this can more profitably be set as individual or group project work during a lesson. As a class viewing, my students enjoyed the World Culture lessons on the Bermuda Triangle and The Happiness Formula, but their bugbear was that the table in which they are supposed to write notes (from the ‘talking heads’ interviews) is far too small. The World Culture lessons alternate with Language Live lessons, where the focus is on practising functional language (for example: dealing with unexpected problems; awkward social situations)

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


and writing (a covering letter; types of message; reviewing events) in lighthearted contexts. The new Share Your Task section encourages learners to ‘reflect and perfect’ by filming and comparing their work with other Cutting Edge users. I can hear my students already: ‘Too time-consuming’, ‘Too embarrassing!’, ‘Too technical.’ But that might not be true everywhere. The stalwarts of class surveys, mini-talks, narratives, problem-solving and ranking are all here: Unit 5’s task is planning a fantasy dinner party – of the potential guests, we’ve lost Marge Simpson and Elvis, and been joined by Lady Gaga and other. Tasks like this have always had their detractors, labelling them Westernised, but I’ve always found this one a useful springboard to wider discussion: intrinsically interesting with the right class and nationality mix, allowing personalisation and cross-cultural exchange (Who’s Who in your country). However, I have yet to find a class who have seen the appeal or risen to the challenge of planning an event (Unit 7’s The Mayor’s Big Event Competition). Active Teach is the software version of the coursebook for the IWB (ie. integrated audio and video content, all course tests, answer reveal, scorecard, stopwatch, warm-up and review games and an extra resources section). The fully revised online component is MyEnglishLab. Billed as a Learning Management System, students use a code provided with their coursebook to register. It provides a range of activities in grammar, vocabulary and the four skills that are instantly graded. There is instant feedback to the student (tips on reference materials and hints to get the user to work out the answer), as well as diagnostic tools for the teacher, such as the useful Common Error Report that can form the basis of remedial teaching. An individual’s progress can be monitored via the Gradebook and relevant tasks assigned. All in all, I like the look and feel of this third edition. The visuals are appealing and not simply gratuitous. Although it’s

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

not immediately clear where to find the audio, I appreciate the fact that the tapescripts are included in the Student Book and they are clearly labelled and not some random number at odds with the unit. I am happy to see grammar presented clearly in a reference section and that there are still the Study Tips, which can be used in tutorials (Improving reading speed; Studying outside the classroom; Effective revision techniques). And there’s still the handy list of irregular verbs that no coursebook should be without, even at higher levels. One of the aims of the course is to guide students through the plethora of information in English on the internet, and do this via manageable and doable tasks. Internet research is a real-world activity, so the more it is integrated into a coursebook, the better. Talking of the real world, my own internet research reveals that Cutting Edge is a hair salon in Grimsby! Clare Henderson Clare Henderson has been a teacher at Bell Cambridge since 1994 and her interests are Contemporary English and Testing.

Aspire (Pre-intermediate A2) Jon Naunton and Robert Crossley National Geographic/Cengage Learning, 2013 See page 86 for details

thinking and discussion. I particularly like the unit about shopping, which promotes higher level thinking about consumerism. The course is different from most because much of its multicultural content is drawn from the photographic, textual and video resources of National Geographic. Its well-organised two-page spreads have fabulous photographs, yet the grammar has been carefully graded and the vocabulary appropriately selected for students at this level. There is also a lot of listening material and opportunities for students to practise functional communicative English. Each of the 12 units consists of four double page spreads, each with a different take on the unit topic. For example, the unit on Law and Order starts off with pictures of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot and discussion questions and a vocabulary exercise linked to crime. The first double page spread, Catching a Thief, focuses on grammar (the past perfect), listening and pronunciation. The second, Where’s the Proof?, has a reading about the game of Cluedo. Then comes Lost and Found, followed by The Detectives, which focuses on crime fiction. The last single page focuses on listening and speaking with the topic At the Police Station. The Student Book comes with an 18-minute DVD containing six engaging National Geographic short films, and there are worksheets to help the students focus on such multicultural topics as Peruvian weavers and Kenya’s butterflies. The book also includes ‘case studies’, one of which includes an interesting reading text about GPS, its history, how it works, and the atomic clock. Other units include reading a job advertisement and a project about food from the student’s country.


n keeping with National Geographic’s mission statement, Aspire encourages teenagers and adults around A2 level to care about the planet while engaging them in critical thinking. This is not the type of course where students mindlessly fill in answers – it requires

In addition to the usual methodological support and answer key, one thing I particularly like about the Teachers’ Book is that it provides cultural notes to help with the topics. For example, in the law and order unit, there is information about Agatha



Christie so the teacher doesn’t have to research it. As well as grammar practice, the Workbook comes with its own audio CD and has a strong focus on reading and writing, covering a wide range of genres from writing postcards to letters of complaint. At the back of the book there is a word list with phonemic transcriptions and audioscripts. The course also comes with an IWB CD-rom of the whole Student Book and a content creation tool. I used the CD-rom a lot. It was easy to zoom into parts of a page and get students to focus on the point I was working with, instead of them looking down and translating anything that caught their eye. Another optional component is an ExamView CD with test manager. With this you can create online or print-based tests from the data bank, create study guides, grade tests, and keep reports of student progress. You are not limited for choice of question types, being able to choose from multiple choice; true/false; matching; yes/no; and fill-in-the-blank. You can also modify, rearrange or edit existing exams and choose from a variety of exam layouts and printing options. There is also a good range of tests provided in the Teacher’s Book. Overall, I found that Aspire works well with adults. It is interesting, thought provoking and creates enjoyable learning. We had some really valuable discussions at class and group level and the students were able to contribute from their own background knowledge. My students and I love it! Glenda Inverarity Glenda Inverarity taught ESL in Asia for seven years and is currently undertaking her Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Linguistics at the University of Adelaide and teaching ESL to migrants.

Business Essentials (A1–B1) Lucy Becker and Carol Frain Helbling Languages, 2013 See page 86 for details

the writing of letters and emails, as well as other business documents, such as agendas and memos. The reading texts are short but sufficient for the level. The book describes itself as a Practice Book, and my students enjoyed working their way through it: reading the business letters, explaining the charts, listening to the audio files and writing the business documents. They also enjoyed the speaking tasks: role-playing negotiations and telephone business conversations. These were challenging, but they coped. Most of all, though, they appreciated the subject-specific vocabulary activities in each unit, especially the matching exercises.


usiness Essentials is a skills-based book which aims to give students the basic language and communication skills they need at work. Its 15 units are based on such topics as business communication, telephone calls, job applications, company organisation, advertising, presentations and email. There are plenty of good vocabulary activities, grammar exercises and tips and activities to develop the four main skills. The coursebook contains an integrated workbook and audio CD with audio scripts. Extra activities are downloadable online.

I found the book to be a concentrated source of information and each activity purposeful. In my view inexperienced teachers will feel supported by it and yet very experienced teachers will not feel restricted – an ideal balance! Helen Stepanova Helen Stepanova is a teacher, teacher trainer and author in Latvia.

Macmillan Little Explorers / Macmillan Young Explorers Series Editor: Louis Fidge Macmillan See page 86 for details

What I particularly like about this course is that it contains a lot of useful information connected with the business environment, and that students, even at A1 level, can immerse themselves in business English right from the start. I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of grammar structures: passives, future forms, comparatives/superlatives and modals. The overall structure of the course is coherent and easy-to-follow, well focused on the end-result of making the student feel free and comfortable in the business world. The units have the same pattern. First, there is a vocabulary exercise introducing the topic, then a grammar exercise with a listening task, and finally a writing task, with support for


n Volume 23

n Issue 3



xtensive reading (ER), in various forms, has been gathering momentum in recent years. Floppy and Kipper have a stranglehold on the UK primary school market, with an oftquoted 80% of schools using The Oxford Reading Tree series. For learners of English as a foreign language all of the major publishers, and several smaller ones, have been building up their series’ of graded readers. ER is in quite a healthy state. But what about young EFL learners? The readers (like the Reading Tree) aimed at native speakers may be culturally or lexically challenging. Most other graded readers are aimed at adults, and as such the content is often unsuitable. To bridge this gap, Macmillan present the English Explorers Series. There are eight levels altogether, from the Little Explorers for beginning readers, through Young Explorers, up to Explorers for ‘confident readers’. The books’ illustrations are colourful and engaging, and although different illustrators are used the series has a cohesive and recognisable design style. The stories themselves are a mixture of traditional tales retold, such as The Big Bad Monster, a version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, adventure stories like In the Jungle and Pirate Jack, and family stories about day trips to the zoo or the beach. These are all topics children are likely to be familiar with, and they seem to be culturally neutral enough to be accessible in many countries. Both the Little Explorers and Young Explorers sets are further divided into A and B sections, each clearly colour coded on the cover. The intention is for four to five year olds to start with Little Explorers A, and to step up a level as they progress through the school years. To further help teachers and parents, Macmillan provides helpful mapping documents on their website which connect the books across the series with other textbooks in the Macmillan range. At the Zoo, from Little Explorers A, is a fairly generic experience for children in most cultural contexts. There are actually several stories or story fragments in this book, all based

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

on the same family visit to the zoo. The main structures are can/can’t and How many …, and the limited vocabulary seems appropriate for the stated age group. Most of the dialogue is in speech bubbles, as at this age children are still learning to follow a narrative. The Little Explorers B books introduce Daisy and Danny from a family of dinosaurs, this time at the beach. Vocabulary and structures are recycled, along with additional language like the present continuous. By the time we reach the Young Explorers range, the stories are becoming longer and more involved, and Aunt Rose Comes to Stay has slightly more character development and humour in the titular relative. This is a Tom and Holly story, one of several featuring the characters across the range. They feature again in the Young Explorers B book The Bike Race, in a positive message story about forgiveness and friendship. At this level, we find about 150 headwords along with past tense, comparatives and past continuous. It’s hard not to compare these books to the publishing behemoth that is the Oxford Reading Tree, and having test ridden both on my own children (four and six year old boys, English speakers in an EFL environment) I think that the reading tree stories are more interesting. Although there is a recurring family in the Macmillan books (Tom, Holly and their Mum and Dad), they do not appear in all of the books and seem rather generic. The stories, too, are well-meaning but not especially exciting. Having said that, there has clearly been some thought put into the books and there are a few features which distinguish the readers from those meant for native speakers. Whilst neither lists the number of headwords or a word count, the Macmillan books do have a full list of words used as well as a brief guide to the language structures within the book. I can certainly see the validity of this for teaching, and the Macmillan website ties the books into the relevant sections of a number of its textbooks. Of course,

this raises the deeper questions of what these books are actually for, and how they are to be used. It seems that they are being pitched as classroom tools – there are extensive teachers’ notes and very professional and engaging audio files for every book free to download on the accompanying website. This is very attractive for the teacher, but if we think about it objectively, turning a graded reader into a textbook for structures and vocabulary instruction may not be the best option. I think that ideally learners would have a certain amount of choice in selecting the books they want to read, would read them for pleasure, and would read a lot. Teachers and students would take time to read quietly, and then talk about the stories they have read. These books would make a very welcome addition to a library built on those principles. However, anyone who wants to make use of them in class will be very impressed with the additional materials. Darren Elliott Darren Elliott has been teaching and training teachers in Japan and the UK since 1999. He has published on teacher development, technology and language education, and learner autonomy. He maintains a blog at

Bridge to IELTS (Pre-intermediate 3.5–4.5) Louis Harrison and Susan Hutchinson Heinle Cengage Learning/National Geographic, 2013 See page 86 for details

IELTS Introduction (3.0–4.0) Sam, McCarter MacMillan Exams, 2012 See page 86 for details



skills, vocabulary and language and study skills. It is very clear to students what they are studying and while it may not be as visually stunning as Bridge, there are charts and graphs and some pastel coloured pages to engage the visual learner. I also liked the visuals in this text.


hese two texts are for lower level students preparing for IELTS. They both come with a Teacher’s book, Workbook/Study skills book and Class Audio CDs. IELTS Introduction also comes with an ExamView CD-rom. The grammar presented in both is similar (present simple, adverbs of frequency, past simple, present perfect and comparatives etc.) – what you would expect for an A1 level text. However, Bridge to IELTS is more like a traditional coursebook with its Pronunciation and Grammar headings whereas IELTS Introduction starts with the four skills, then language focus and vocabulary and then study skills. IELTS Introduction is more straight-forward, as it labels exactly which skills are being introduced. Bridge to IELTS has catchy headings like Bridge to IELTS and Living IELTS. However, I didn’t really know what they were referring to and found myself wishing they had simply been labelled Test Strategies and Gambits. While they are cute, I think they might confuse students and frustrate teachers, rather than clarifying and simplifying as they should. Nevertheless, Bridge to IELTS is visually very appealing. There are cartoons, diagrams and photographs of people and places from all over the world. Just about every page has a large colourful photograph, the charts are bright and colourful and each task is clearly laid out, as in a regular EFL course book. It is organised as students expect. IELTS Introduction has more white space on each page and the pictures are smaller and less eye catching overall. There is, however, a lot more material on each page and every unit is organised according to receptive and productive


Bridge to IELTS has the themes you would expect (education, work, family etc.) but it also has some unusual texts, such as Parkour and Where’s The Classroom Gone? IELTS Introduction also has traditional topics as well as some that you might not expect at this level, for example The Mind and A World With Water. In The Mind, there is an article about how napping is important for our memories, a topic that will be of interest to learners preparing for such an arduous exam and generate discussion about their own nap and sleep patterns and provide fodder for part three of the speaking exam. The task types which follow reading texts in IELTS Introduction are typical of those found in the exam (identifying the author’s claims, multiple choice and sentence completion) and provide good practice. There is also a wide variety of task type in Bridge to IELTS. For example, for writing: labelling diagrams, completing charts, matching pictures and words etc.; for speaking: describing items from prompts and pronunciation of phonemes. Listening and reading are also fully exploited with various gist and detail tasks. The authors of both courses have provided useful IELTS practice materials for lower level learners, which is much needed. Often students at this level find materials too difficult for them and this makes them become frustrated and despondent about their exam prospects. These courses will help make the exam more accessible while boosting their vocabulary and improving their listening and reading skills. Sandee Thompson Sandee Thompson is an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, Doha, Qatar and a CELTA tutor/assessor.

Active Listening Michael Rost and J.J. Wilson Routledge, 2013 See page 86 for details


his book does a lot to dispel the myth that second language listening is a passive activity. The authors have organised it around the concept of active listening, or what the authors refer to as ‘engaged processing’. The two authors are both experts on the topic. Michael Rost has written numerous books and articles about teaching listening over the last couple of decades (including Teaching and Researching: Listening), and JJ Wilson wrote the recent How to Teach Listening, a very practical introduction to teaching listening. This book explores active listening using five ‘frames’: the affective frame, the top down frame, the bottom up frame, the interactive frame and the autonomous frame. Part One, From Research to Implications, explains the five frames and gives key research findings as well as implications for them. The first frame, the affective frame, is about motivation and student involvement. The authors stress the importance of getting students interested and involved in any listening activity. The second frame, the top down frame, concerns understanding main ideas and making good interpretations. The third frame, the bottom up frame, involves perceiving and decoding what you are listening to. The fourth frame, the interactive frame, concerns listening to others in pairs and groups. The fifth frame, the autonomous frame,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


is about helping students become independent learners and developing their listening skills. Part Two, From Implications to Application, is the largest section of the book. This section gives the reader 10 illustrative activities for each frame. The activities range from fun and energetic activities (such as Action Skits, where students listen to an action skit and mime the actions) to more serious ones (such as Paraphrase, where students offer their opinions on important issues and paraphrase each other’s opinions). Altogether, this part contains 50 activities, all of which include aims, materials, clear step-by-step instructions, and one or two variations. Part Three, From Application to Implementation, covers some of the major issues that arise when teaching listening to second language learners. Some of the issues discussed here are integrating listening with other skills, organising a listening curriculum, as well as adapting and creating a listening curriculum. Part Four, From Implementation to Research, suggests ideas for professional development projects and action research related to the main ideas of the book. The authors provide a clear, concise introduction to action research, including a definition, some questions about active listening worthy of research projects, and several ways of doing action research. This section of the book contains an impressive number of research links (books, articles, blogs, and websites related to the five frames described in the book). Active Listening is a useful book for both teachers who want to learn a few new activities and researchers who want to know more about the theory and research behind teaching listening. Meanwhile, every section of the book contains many references to books, articles and research papers on teaching listening. Another excellent touch is the table of over 30 active listening strategies (in eight categories) at the back of the book.

is also a webpage with audio recordings that accompany many of the activities. I tried out one of the activities (Fly Swatter) with one of my evening classes at the university where I teach. This activity comes from the Affective Frame section of the book. In this activity, the teacher writes some vocabulary on the board for revision, then divides the class into two groups. Each group sends a member to the front of the class. The teacher describes one of the words/ phrases on the board without saying it, and as soon as one of the two students recognises the word, he/she swats it with a flyswatter. My students really liked this activity. It gave the lesson a change of pace and provided another opportunity to review some vocabulary. I’m looking forward to using more activities from this book during the next few months. I strongly recommend this book for any teacher who wants to increase their knowledge about teaching listening or try out some clever ways to help students become better active listeners.

References Rost M (2001) Teaching and Research: Listening. London: Longman. Wilson JJ (2008) How to Teach Listening. London: Pearson Longman. Hall Houston Hall Houston is a lecturer at Kainan University, in Luzhu, Taiwan, as well as the author of several practical books on language teaching, including Provoking Thought and The ELT Daily Journal.

Presenting Graham Burton Collins, 2013 See page 87 for details

n Issue 3

Patrick McMahon Collins, 2013 See page 87 for details


hese books in the Collins Academic Skills Series are less language-based EFL books than books of advice for anyone expected to give presentations or set up group work. However, Presenting also offers an MP3 CD with model language and presentation techniques. My questions, then, concern the balance between language and advice, the grading and suitability of the material for the target audience, and in what situations the books would be most suitable. Presenting has 12 chapters that can be divided into an overview, those dealing with specific kinds of academic presentations (seminars, tutorials and poster presentations), and those giving tips on more typical PowerPoint presentations (Planning and structuring formal presentations, Using your voice etc.). There are then appendices, a glossary, audioscripts, and an answer key. The appendices give eight pages of useful phrases, a general guide to citations, and a simple outline for how to organise presentation notes. Each unit starts with aims and a selfevaluation quiz where students circle agree, disagree or not sure in answer to statements like ‘I know words and phrases to use when referring to visual aids’ and ‘I know about the kinds of problems that can occur when using visual aids and how to overcome them’. The unit then has short sections with advice on aspects of the topic, for example The importance of body language, Choosing between sitting

This is definitely a modern, 21st century book, with plenty of references to websites and YouTube video clips. There

n Volume 23

Group Work



and standing, Finding the right ‘home position’. Most of these have one or two exercises: some are language exercises; some aim to get students to make sentences with good advice or analyse which good tips are being used; some are noticing exercises based on the CD; and others ask students to practise things out loud. There is a good variety of exercise type, but the level of difficulty can vary from identifying the function of Are there any questions? to guessing the meaning of metaphorical gestures. This was also true of some of the language points covered, with quite advanced points such as cleft sentences, plus some almost unteachable areas like intonation patterns. The units also have highlighted Tips, such as ‘Do not be afraid to pause during your presentation …’. I generally agreed with the ones given and thought they were appropriate for those learners likely to use the book. My favourites included: leaving the audience with an interesting thought; thinking about the position of presenters who are not speaking; practising with a long mirror to check your whole body language; practising over music to improve volume; practising looking up from notes at least once every five seconds; and putting questions rather than information on slides. Although I’d agree with all the planning stages given in the book, I’d suggest adding mind maps to aid brainstorming, organisation and editing, before narrowing down the focus of the topic. I’d also recommend more concrete aims than ‘remembering information’. Some tips I have reservations about. These include: using prompt cards (which could get mixed up), thinking about words per minute, working on weak forms and joining words together (completely unnatural and distracting when rehearsed). There also could have been something more specific on hooking an audience and using questions where people raise hands in response. Overall, there are a lot of highlighted tips, perhaps too many, and a quiz/


questionnaire at the beginning would have been a good idea to guide students to what would be most useful for them. The advice is generally well written and the language suitably graded. Although there are over 100 explanations of words used in the text, students are likely to need them in any discussion on presentations, for example on presessional courses. The Useful phrases in the text and appendix are generally at a slightly higher level than the advice and definitions and include some quite advanced phrases like In a sense, Just out of interest and Just thinking about your previous point. Indeed, some I had never thought of include Could you expand on, One thing you might not know about … is and This has implications for. In general, the book is accessible to and useful for students above midintermediate level entering an Englishspeaking university. Given the talky style and the fact that an answer key is included, this book is not suitable for whole-class homework or indeed lessons where you would want to get students to draw their own conclusions on what makes a good presentation. However, there is plenty of good advice and language that teachers could adapt, and it is well worth getting to know this book as a resource for students who need extra practice.

they are working in a group than it is with presentations. I also think it is unfortunate that there is no CD, which would be useful with exercises like ‘Listen and quickly respond to what your group work partner says’. As with Presenting, the overall format only really suits students doing extra work on their own. However, sometimes the author seems to have a class in mind. It would be difficult for a single student to take some of the advice if the other members of the group aren’t aware of it. For example, it would seem incredibly rude to use the Ground rule reminder, telling others to ‘please remember the following ground rules’ if they weren’t using the same book. If only one person brings these ideas it would, ironically, be guaranteed to upset the group dynamics! Alex Case Alex Case teaches in Japan and is the author of TEFLtastic blog (

Group Work is in the same series and covers such areas as Why do group work?, Preparing for group work, Planning your group assignment and Working collaboratively. Instead of a CD there are transcripts of interviews with students and lecturers about group work and a sample group presentation. The book is useful and I’ll be going through it again before the next academic year for advice to give to my university classes here in Japan. However, there are more caveats than with Presenting, mainly because of the topic of group work. It is more difficult for students to imagine the group work situation, practise the language, prepare for the next time

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


Background books Introducing Second Language Acquisition (Second edition) Muriel Saville-Troike Cambridge University Press, 2012 See page 87 for details


ntroducing Second Language Acquisition sets out to address three basic questions: 1. What exactly does the L2 learner need to know? 2. How does the learner acquire this knowledge? 3. Why are some learners more successful than others? One of the strengths of the book is that author Muriel Saville-Troike never loses sight of these questions, referring to them explicitly from chapter to chapter so as to develop the reader’s understanding of possible answers from a range of perspectives, and finally offering a provisional summary of findings as the book draws to a close. The content has been updated from the previous edition of 2005, and three sections added on recent work on linguistic interfaces, complexity theory, and computermediated communication. A very brief opening chapter establishes some basic terms and concepts in the field of SLA. Saville-Troike points out that the questions of what, how and why have been addressed by researchers from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives over the years, and explains that ‘three different perspectives are presented here: linguistic, psychological,

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

and social. I make no presumption that any one perspective among these is ‘right’ or more privileged, but believe that all are needed to provide a fuller understanding of the complex phenomena of SLA’ (p.3). Chapter two provides a foundation for what is to follow, establishing some widely accepted facts about language acquisition and drawing attention to some of the key questions which continue to exercise researchers. There is a section on the phenomenon of multilingualism with some interesting statistics on the world’s numerically dominant languages, and a timely discussion on the difficulties inherent in gathering and interpreting such data: how, for example, are we to define a ‘language’, and what does it mean to say that an individual ‘knows’ that language? Moving from the ‘what’ to the ‘why’ and ‘how’, the stimulus-response theory of language acquisition which predominated until the third quarter of the last century is rejected, and basic evidence is provided for the view – now, it seems, fairly uncontroversial – that children up to a certain age have some innate capacity for language learning. There’s a survey of the basic ‘pathways’ which language learning typically follows, comparing the initial, intermediate and final states of first and second language acquisition. Finally, there’s an introductory overview of the various movements which have come to prominence within the linguistic, psychological and social approaches to SLA from the 1950s to the present day. Chapters three to five form the heart of the book, focusing on each of these approaches in turn. The linguistic chapter begins with an account of earlier but still influential approaches, taking in contrastive analysis (including a useful list of different kinds of transfer from

L1 to L2), error analysis, the notion of interlanguage (and the vexed question of whether and how learner language should be measured against native speaker norms), studies in the order of acquisition of grammatical morphemes, and Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Model. In the section on contrastive analysis, we see the first of a number of inset boxes which are dotted throughout the book with portraits and basic biographical information on influential figures in SLA (in this case, Robert Lado). The middle section of the chapter looks at the work of Chomsky and the concept of universal grammar and its most recent manifestation, principles and parameters theory. The basics of the theory are clearly explained using the examples of the null subject and head first/last parameters, and there’s a discussion on how universal grammar might relate to SLA: do learners of second languages retain access to it, and if so, is this access full, partial, or in some sense mediated by the first language? The final section moves onto perhaps less familiar ground, surveying a number of functional approaches to SLA, in which language is viewed first and foremost as a system of communication which cannot meaningfully be studied in isolation from the uses to which it is put. The four specific approaches covered here are: Halliday’s systemic linguistics (according to which language acquisition means mastery of an increasing range and subtlety of functions or, in the case of SLA, the learning of new forms to express functions which are already extant in the L1); functional typology (which uses the concept of ‘markedness’ to explain why particular features of L2 are more difficult for some learners than others); form to function mapping (which views acquisition as a process of grammaticalisation, as learners move



from use of contextual and inferential resources to communicate to the lexical and finally grammatical resources of the target language itself); and information organisation (which seeks to identify the stages learners go through and the constraints under which they operate as they learn how to arrange information in sentences). Chapter four, on the psychology of SLA, begins with an account of how parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of language and, in relation to SLA, explores such questions as how multiple languages might be organised in relation to one another in the brain, and how such relations might differ with age. This is followed by an account of various psychological approaches to SLA, which appear united in taking the view that ‘learning a language is essentially like learning any other domain of knowledge’ (p.77). There’s a lucid explanation of three approaches – the multidimensional model, processability, and the competition model – which come under the umbrella of ‘information processing’, in which the task facing the learner is seen as one of moving from controlled to automatic processing of language features, from declarative to procedural knowledge. There are also outlines of two further approaches, namely connectionism and complexity theory. Having dealt with the what and how of SLA from a psychological standpoint, the chapter concludes with an in-depth look at the why? question: why is it that some learners are more successful than others? There’s a survey of various ways in which learners differ – age, sex, aptitude, motivation, learning style, and use of strategies – and a summary of findings from research on how these factors might affect the outcomes of SLA. Inevitably many of the conclusions offered here are tentative, and the author is at pains to point out the difficulties involved in interpreting the results of such research. A positive correlation between motivation and success, for example, comes as no surprise – but to what extent can we be sure that motivation is a cause of successful learning rather than a symptom?


Chapter five, Social contexts of SLA, is divided into two major sections: macrosocial and microsocial factors. The macrosocial section describes a range of possible influences on SLA such as the relative global or national status of the learner’s L1 and the L2, the pressures and constraints operating within institutions, the circumstances of learning, and age and sex – the point being made that the latter are social as well as biological categories. The microsocial section explores language variation, defined as ‘multiple linguistic forms which are systematically or predictably used by different speakers of a language, or by the same speakers at different times, with the same (or very similar) meaning or function’ (p.108–9), and suggests that language acquisition can be viewed as a process of movement from free to systematic variability. It focuses in particular on the kinds of modifications to input which learners receive from the people around them (so-called ‘foreigner talk’) and, possibly even more important, on modifications to interaction such as the use of repetition and paraphrase. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory is covered here too, and the section closes with a discussion of possible challenges to a sociocultural view of SLA: how to explain, for example, the fact that acquisition has been known to occur without interaction (and, of course, vice-versa)? Chapter six, Acquiring knowledge for L2 use, sets out to provide a summary of the knowledge and skills which comprise communicative competence. A distinction is made from the start between ‘academic’ and ‘interpersonal’ competence, and the point made that ‘activities that have highest priority in academic competence are receptive (reading and listening)’ while ‘the activities with highest priority for interpersonal competence are oral (listening and speaking)’ (p.145). There are (necessarily rather brief) accounts of the various elements of systemic language knowledge – vocabulary, morphology, phonology, syntax, nonverbal structures, discourse – and then two large sections on receptive and productive activities. The section on receptive activities outlines the processes involved in

reading and listening, and the needs of learners with respect to these skills: first in beginner and then in academic contexts. The section on productive skills follows a similar pattern, the discussion on speaking including a useful list of communication strategies based on the work of Elaine Tarone (p.178). The final chapter of the book, like the first, is brief, offering a summary of answers to the questions of what, how and why, which can be stated with some confidence, and outlining some of the fundamental areas of disagreement which remain. Any book of this kind will inevitably involve making compromises between breadth and depth of coverage and on the whole the balance struck here is excellent, but there are a couple of sections – those on connectionism and complexity theory – which perhaps need more detail and exemplification in order to give readers a firm grasp of what the theories involve. Conversely, chapter six is extremely wide-ranging and seems to lose focus somewhat on the topic of SLA, so I feel it could have been cut and the words better deployed elsewhere. For example, the section at the very end of the book, Implications for L2 learning and teaching, is, from a teacher’s point of view, disappointing: just half a page of rather vapid guidelines like ‘Consider the goals that individuals and groups have for learning an additional language’ (p.190). Of course, this book does not set out to be a teaching manual, still less a polemic, but still, more attention could realistically have been given to the practical implications of linguistic, psychological and social views on SLA at the levels of lesson design and selection of activities, perhaps at the conclusion of each of the relevant chapters. On the whole, though, this is a very good introduction to the field of SLA, covering a wide range of topics in an accessible and attractive style. Each chapter begins with a preview of the content and ends with annotated suggestions for further reading and questions for self-study (for which a key is provided at the back of the book) as well as more open ‘active learning’ tasks. Within chapters, key terms are picked out in blue type and

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


there is plentiful and generally helpful use of sub-headings. Any reader with an interest in language learning will, I think, find plenty in the book which will intrigue and perhaps give pause for thought. For myself, I found the discussion on ‘necessary’ and ‘facilitating’ conditions for language acquisition in Chapter two of particular interest. I had long understood that ‘exposure + motivation + meaningful interaction’ are the three necessary conditions for SLA, so I was grateful to the author for surprising me in two ways: first by suggesting that motivation is a facilitating but not in fact a necessary condition, and second by pointing out that even interaction is not always essential, as second languages have been successfully acquired by ‘highly motivated individuals whose L2 input was limited entirely to electronic media and books because of geographical and political isolation’ (p.20). But I wonder if the wording here implies that, for individuals in such a predicament, motivation must then be regarded as a necessary condition and not merely a desirable one? Perhaps my revised formula for SLA should be ‘exposure + (motivation / interaction)’. Alex Tilbury Alex Tilbury is a writer, teacher and teacher trainer based in Katowice, Poland. He is co-author of the English Unlimited course book series, published by Cambridge University Press.

Disciplinary Identities: Individuality and community in academic discourse Ken Hyland Cambridge University Press, 2013 See page 87 for details

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


t 210 pages this comparatively short book from the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series is backed by a very useful four-page appendix of items that have potential metadiscoursal functions, and a formidable bibliography. It is not particularly easy to read, but the reader’s efforts are rewarded with fascinating insights that explore the dynamics of author identity and the tensions between that identity and membership of recognised academic disciplines or communities of practice. The nine chapters explore the interaction of identity with specific academic communities; proximity and positioning within disciplines; selfrepresentation; authority; individuality and conformity; and the role played by gender. Overall, however, three principal themes emerge. Firstly, the book is itself an interesting example of blended quantitative and qualitative research. Hyland bases his findings on corpora of specific rhetorical acts, including representational genres such as academic acknowledgements in theses; prize applications; academic homepages; and self-representation in academic bios. He is, however, well aware of the potential limitations of corpora, citing Widdowson’s (2000) concerns about the extent to which any corpus can be said to be an accurate reflection of the studied population. Hyland also admits that his data on prize applications came from a single university, but he still believes that ‘corpora can provide an empirical basis for our investigations and conclusions’ (p.201). The evidence of this book suggests that he has proved his point, and in so doing he highlights, for example, the way in which academic bios tend to be thematically structured, referring to the writer’s employment, research interests, education, publications, achievements, community service and personal profile in that order. Themes vary according to status: junior academics devote most space to their research interests and education while senior academics emphasise their publications and achievements. Senior male academics, however, are particularly likely to direct

focus on their publication histories, while their female counterparts stress their research interests. Secondly, Hyland implicitly challenges the concept of the ‘author-neutral’ text: ‘What and how we write articulates a performance which says something to others about us’ (p.196). In other words, the very use of language, the lexis chosen for use, inevitably gives text an authorial voice. Ironically, this is a concept that has a long pedigree in the humanities, but it is sometimes denied by those teaching EAP to students in scientific disciplines. In English departments, ‘practical criticism’ may involve presenting students with previously unseen texts and asking them to deduce, from words alone, when the text was written and by whom. Some of this carries into disciplinary discourse, even though the demands of the academy may appear to dictate the use of specific generic models. Insistence on conventions like the use of the passive may be profoundly disempowering to novice writers who wish to join, or impress, particular social groups (agronomists, doctors, engineers, lawyers), but while such discourse conventions remain coded – ring-fencing signals whose use identifies insiders – Hyland suggests that they are not fixed or monolithic. There is still room for the individual voice within genres. This much is demonstrated by his use of corpora to distinguish between the ‘voice’ of Deborah Cameron (p.155–160) and that of John Swales (p.161–168). Clearly, the content of their writing is radically different, but Hyland ignores this. Instead, he uses internal textual evidence – keywords and collocational patterns – to establish authorship. What is also interesting is that Swales, described as ‘the inquiring colleague’ (p.161) makes greater use of self-referential pronouns – I, me, my – than does Cameron, ‘the radical linguist’ (p.155). This leads us to the third theme, which is that ‘identity is not an individual trait but is ascribed or attributed to an individual by others’ (p.198). ‘The point is that we can’t just claim to be who we



want to be and get away with it, or not for long anyway, as our identity claims need the support and confirmation of others’ (p.198). Swales, therefore, can be self-referential because he has an established reputation as an authority within the discipline of ESP/EAP. His extensive publications (Swales, 1990; 1998; 2004) have given him an identity which is acknowledged by the membership of the group to which he belongs. Emphasising this disciplinary identity, however, may simultaneously involve subordinating other identities, such as the fact that Swales is white, male, a particular age, and the product of British educational processes. While all of these may be salient features in other contexts, within the professional identities of academics, discipline is the most important feature. This, of course, may itself be a cause of tension. Hyland (p.162) quotes Swales as saying ‘In actual fact, I am much less sure than I used to be that I am a language teacher. I have come to believe that my classes are, in the end, exercises in academic socialisation.’ This reviewer, currently teaching Credit Level students from the College of Agriculture and

Marine Sciences at the Sultan Qaboos University has sympathy with that position, but many other EAP practitioners might not. The former colleague who stated ‘They gotta learn the rules before they can break them’ would detest Swales’ abrogation of his role as the sage on the stage, and might also take issue with Hyland’s suggestion that individuality is appropriate, acceptable and inevitable even in academic writing. Cameron (2001; 170) states that ‘A person’s identity is not something fixed, stable and unitary that they acquire early in life and possess forever afterwards. Rather identity is shifting and multiple, something that people are continually constructing and reconstructing in their encounters with each other in the world.’ If this is true, then it must also be true that disciplinary identity, as mediated through academic discourse, will inevitably reflect something of the personality of its author. Hyland has therefore performed an exceptional service by producing a book that not only provokes thought about conventions that may have been unthinkingly accepted, but also offers a

way forward. In the sub section Research directions (p.208–209) he suggests that more research is required in areas such as the construction of proximity in applications for grants, job interviews, responses to journal reviewers and submissions for promotion. He also indicates that cross-disciplinary writing is under-represented in the literature on genres, and makes particular reference to business studies, nursing and social work. Readers of Modern English Teacher who are in search of a research project need look no further.

References Cameron D (2001) Working with Spoken Discourse. London. Sage. Swales J (1990) Genre Analysis. English in Academic and Research Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Swales J (1998) Other Floors, Other Voices. A Textography of a Small University Building. Mahwah, N.J: Laurence Erlbaum. Swales J (2004) Research Genres. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Widdowson H (2000) On the limitations of linguistics applied. Applied Linguistics (21) 3–25. Neil McBeath Neil McBeath teaches at the Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.

A book I like English as a Global Language (Second edition) David Crystal Cambridge University Press, 2012 See page 87 for details



have liked this book since the first edition was published in 1997. It was shortly before then that I came to realise that teaching English as a foreign – indeed global – language was a politically very contentious, and not always a beneficial, educational activity. My realisation had stemmed from reading Robert Phillipson’s controversial book Linguistic Imperialism (1992), in which he argued that the dominance of the English language was causing considerable damage to the educational, social and political systems in many countries across the world: a legacy of colonialism, and a key factor in the rapid rise of neo-colonial liberal capitalism. I determined to explore the

extent to which Phillipson’s arguments were acceptable in the wider academic community of applied linguists. Among others that I turned to was David Crystal. It seemed to me that Crystal’s broad and profound knowledge of issues in (applied) linguistics, and specifically the topic of the book under review, would enlighten me – and indeed it did. Like the first edition, this book contains five chapters: the first considers the notion of a global language, and whether one is necessary or desirable; the second reviews the historical context of the global spread of English since the 16th century; the third, short, chapter looks at cultural foundations of

n Volume 23

n Issue 3


why English would be an appropriate global language; and the next chapter shows how these cultural foundations expanded in the 20th century and have now permeated international media, communications, and educational systems. The fifth chapter, The Future of Global English, expands the content of the original edition by, for example, a discussion of New Englishes. I will return to this final chapter, but first I will explain the impact the original book had on me in the late 1990s.

even academics in their wholehearted advocacy of the benefits of English as a global language, manifest in such matters as the increasing urge to introduce English to ever-younger children, the promotion of specific (and Anglocentric) approaches to the teaching of the language, and the current ‘pandemic’ (to borrow Phillipson’s 2009 coinage) of adopting English as the medium of instruction in content courses in schools and universities in contexts where English is a foreign language.

In the first place, Crystal (1997) provided a much longer and richer historical and cultural background to English as a global language than had Phillipson. Perhaps as a consequence, he poured cold water on the political argument of linguistic imperialism, dismissing it as ‘hopelessly inadequate as an explanation of linguistic realities’ (pp.23–24). Instead, Crystal argued that, from a historical point of view, it is most likely that the global spread of English is inevitable, and that governments need to make and implement appropriate policies to take this into account. The arguments in this book led to a polemical exchange (2000) with Phillipson who has strenuously maintained (1999) his position – and still does (2009). That Crystal also sticks to his guns is evident not only in the books and articles he has published since then but also in the fact that the 2003 edition of Global English has recently been reprinted by CUP as a Canto Classic and is available as a Kindle e-book.

But it is worthwhile to revisit counterarguments to one’s own position, if only to question or re-affirm what one believes to be the case. Thus, it was a pleasure to read again Crystal’s book, and the points he made, now 10 years ago, about the future of global English. How valid are they today? The final chapter of the book looks at two issues: the possible rejection or acceptance of the global role of English, and the development of New Englishes. The first of these is essentially unchanged from the first edition, and begins by discussing the extent to which English has been rejected in a number of ex-colonial contexts, and this is followed by a detailed consideration of contrasting attitudes in the USA. Here, Crystal reviews the political, socio-economic and educational arguments for the view that English should be the sole official language of individual states; he briefly contrasts these with those who argue for a more positive attitude towards bilingualism. This language policy issue has largely been in abeyance since the book was written as political attention in the USA has focused on the recent wars and financial crises. However, it is very likely that at some time in the future, these language issues will be revived, and thus the points made in this book will serve to remind applied linguists, and possibly politicians, of the status quo ante.

It seems important to me that in order to clarify one’s position in any academic (or political) matter, it is necessary to carefully read both (or all) sides of an argument, and relate it to one’s own experiential knowledge. I have tried to do this over the years, and – much as I appreciate Crystal’s erudition and the ‘crystal-clarity’ of his arguments – I am more inclined to the position taken by Phillipson. This does not mean that I accept his arguments in their entirety, or even all the evidence he puts forward to support his views, but my work over many years in ELT projects has made me sceptical of the motivations of certain organisations, publishers and

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

point that such features may not be exclusive to the national variety or even representative of the speakers of that variety. Since 1993, a great deal of research has been done using computerised corpora of varieties of spoken and written language, and thus the examples provided by Crystal are merely the tip of an enormous multidialectical iceberg. The question that arises is whether English will continue to be a standard language of reference – if not necessarily of use – or whether, like Latin, it will disintegrate into distinctly different languages. Crystal concludes his book by pointing out that predictions about the future of language ‘have a habit of being wrong’ (p.190), and, despite the enormous amount of research that has taken place over the past decade, this point is as true today as it was 10 years ago. It has been a great pleasure for me to re-read English as a Global Language because it has enabled me to cast my mind back to earlier years, and to understand how and why my thinking about language policies has grown – and continues to develop.

References Crystal D (2000) On trying to be crystal-clear: a response to Phillipson. Applied Linguistics; 21 415–23. Phillipson R (1992) Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Phillipson R (1999) Review of Crystal (1997) Applied Linguistics 20 265–76. Phillipson R (2009) Linguistic Imperialism Continued. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roger Barnard Roger Barnard is an Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

As noted above, the major change in the second edition is the inclusion of a discussion of New Englishes. Crystal provides copious examples of syntactic and lexical features identified by a wide range of sociolinguistic researchers in different countries, making the cautious



Summary of books reviewed Title Cutting Edge* (Upper intermediate)

Page 74



Cunningham/Moore/ Bygrave



Student Book (+DVD Pack)


Student Book (+ DVD Pack + MyEnglish Lab code)


Teacher’s Book (+ Resource Disk Pack)


Workbook (+ Audio CD + Resource Disk Pack)


Aspire** (Pre-intermediate)



Cengage/National Geographic

Student Book


Workbook (+ WB Audio CD)


Teacher’s Book (+ Audio CD)


Business Essentials


Little Explorers A (4–5)


At the Zoo



The Big Bad Monster



Little Explorers B (5–6)


Daisy and Danny


Young Explorers 1(6–7)


Aunt Rose Comes to Stay



In the Jungle



Young Explorers 2 (7–8)


The Bike Race



Pirate Jack



Bridge to IELTS***






Macmillan 978-1-4050-5993-0 Macmillan




Student Book


Teacher’s Book


IELTS Introduction****




Student Book


Teacher’s Book


Active Listening






n Volume 23

n Issue 3




Academic Skills Series









Group Work



Introducing SLA*****





Disciplinary Identities





English as a Global Language





Also available * ActiveTeach ** IWB CD-rom, Exam View ••• Class Audio CDs, Exam View •••• Class Audio CDs, Study Skills Pack ***** Hardback version

WHAT’S NEW COURSEBOOKS FOR TEENAGERS Beyond (A2+/B1) Robert Campbell, Rob Metcalf and Rebecca Robb Benne Macmillan Education (2014) Insights (Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4) Judy Garton-Sprenger and Philip Prowse Macmillan Education (2014)

BUSINESS ENGLISH Career Express (B2) Gerlinde Butzphal and Jane Maier-Faircough Garnet Education (2013) Business Update 2 (B1–B2) Hans Moi and Joanne Collie Garnet Education (2013)

Laser (B1/B2), (New edition) Malcolm Mann and Steve Taylore-Knowles Macmillan Education (2013)

in company 3.00 (Pre-intermediate – B1) Simon Clark in company 3.0 (Intermediate – B1+) Mark Powell Macmillan Education (2014)


Business Result (starter) John Hughes and Penny McLarty Oxford University Press (2014)

Open Mind (Beginner – pre-A1) Open Mind (Pre-intermediate – A2) Mickey Rogers, Joanne Taylore-Knowles and Steve Taylore-Knowles Open Mind (Elementary – A1) Dorothy E. Zemach Macmillan Education (2014)


A course which aims to combine general English with ‘life skills’ (professional, academic and personal).

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

English for Agribusiness and Agriculture in Higher Education Studies Robin Matheson Garnet Education (2014)

ENGLISH FOR ACADEMIC PURPOSES Oxford EAP (Advanced/C1) Edward de Chazal and Julie Moore Oxford University Press (2013) Access EAP Frameworks Sue Argent and Olwyn Alexander Garnet Education (2013)

EXAMINATIONS Reading for First Writing for First Listening and Speaking for First Use of English for First Reading for Advanced Writing for Advanced Listening and Speaking for Advanced Use of English for Advanced Series Editors: Malcolm Mann and Steve Taylore-Knowles Macmillan Education (2014)

Ready for Advanced (Third edition) Roy Norris and Amanda French Macmillan Education (2014)



Oxford Grammar for Schools 3 and 5 (Flyers and Preliminary) Rachel Godfrey Oxford University Press (2014)

Language Practice for First (Fifth edition) Michael Vince Macmillan Education (2014)

A new grammar series for the Cambridge English exams for schools.

Reading for IELTS (4.5–6.0) Sam McCarter and Norman Whitby Writing for IELTS (4.5–6.0) Sam McCarter and Norman Whitby Listening and Speaking for IELTS (4.5 – 6.0) Barry Cusack and Sam McCarter Reading for IELTS (6.0–7.5) Jane Short Writing for IELTS (6.0–7.5) Stephanie Dimond-Bayiraa Listening and Speaking for IELTS (6.0 – 7.5) Joanna Preshous Macmillan Education (2014)

READERS Macmillan Childrens’ Readers (Fact and Fiction) Level 5 A World of Sport/Snow Rescue Ancient Egypt/The Book of Thoth Level 6 Horses/Mr Carter’s Plan Life in the Desert/The Stubborn Ship

Macmillan Readers

IELTS Target 6.5 IELTS Target 7.0 Chris Gough Garnet Education (2013/2014) Oxford Grammar for Schools 1 and 4 (Starters and Preliminary) Martin Moore Oxford Grammar for Schools 2 (Movers) Liz Kilby

Level 3 Elementary Viking Tales Chris Rose Level 4 Pre-intermediate The Invisible Man H.G. Wells Level 5 Intermediate The Old Curiosity Shop Charles Dickens China Jennifer Gascoigne Macmillan Education (2014)

Theseus and the Minotaur Helbling Young Readers (Classics) Helbling Languages (2013)

Helbling Classics Level 1 (A1) The Prince and the Pauper The Fisherman and his Soul Level 2 (A1/A2) Little Women Anne of Green Gables Level 3 (A2) Oliver Twist Treasure Island Level 4 (A2/B1) The Picture of Dorian Gray Jane Eyre Wuthering Heights Level 5 (B1) Heat of Darkness Helbling Languages (2013)

Helbling Fiction Level 3 (A2) Zadie’s Last Race Helbling Languages (2013)

DICTIONARIES Oxford Learner’s Dictionary of Academic English Oxford University Press (2014)

Level A Starters The Hare and the Tortoise

ISBN: 1-904549-03-9

ISBN: 1-904549-12-8

ISBN: 1-904549-01-2

ISBN: 1-898789-14-7





3 simple ways to order:

From the publisher of

modernenglishteacher 88

Level D Movers

• EMAIL: • CALL: +44 (0) 1273 434 943 • GO ONLINE:

n Volume 23

n Issue 3

Modern English Teacher July, 2014  

A Magazine for Language Teachers

Modern English Teacher July, 2014  

A Magazine for Language Teachers