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TUNISIAN English Teaching Forum The










Issues in Testing Writing in Tunisia



An interview with

Testing Reading

To Assess the Assessment Assessment: Types and Objectives 20


Test Preparation

I s s u e 2

January 2010




Student Motivation


TUNISIAN English Teaching Forum

4 Editorial Review Board Mohamed Salah Abidi

Issue 2

January 2010

Testing Reading Some pitfalls of testing reading comprehension in the Tunisian context and suggestions on how things can be improved. Mohamed Salah Abidi

Perma nent contributors: Mohamed Salah Abidi Fathi Bouguerra Tarak Brahmi


Design a nd Layout:


Tarak Brahmi

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum is a quarterly magazine issued and published by The CREFOC, Sidi Bouzid. Any copyrighted articles appearing in The Tunisian English Teaching Forum are reprinted with permission of the copyright owners. To be considered for publication, manuscripts should be typed on a floppy disk or CD that has been virus-checked. Letters, floppy disks or CDs should be sent to : Mohammed Salah Abidi L’Inspecteur d’Anglais Lycée Tahar Haddad Regueb 9170 Sidi Bouzid Tunisie or e-mailed to: For guidelines for writing articles and the latest news and notifications, please visit our blog here:

To Assess the Assessment

A critical approach to assessment and the way it is carried out in schools. Pedro Moura

Issues in Testing Writing in Tunisia

A synopsis of the problems related to testing writing in Tunisian schools and some recommendations to overcome these problems. Abdessalem Bouafia


Interview with Steve Peha


Assessment: Types and Objectives

Steve Peha talks about writing, assessment, his website and the qualities of outstanding teachers.

The what, how and why of assessment. Nawfel Zouidi

26 29

Test Preparation

Steps that should be taken before having students sit for tests. Tarak Brahmi

Student Motivation

How to motivate students and the positive outcome of motivation on the learning process.


Fathi Bouguerra

Teaching Poetry

A lesson plan detailing the steps of teaching a poem by Thomas Hardy.


Abdelhamid Rhaiem

The Lighter Side Riddles and jokes


es in to happy tim d te ec n n co ine is the school our e-magaz the start of t t a a th ed e h se is to bl utors, as pu pleasure at the contrib ce ious issue w th ev e It is a great pr op e h h I T . 0 s. 1 pea s reader Year 20 and live in the lives of it sue comes with the New s come true m a re d is r ei is th year and th n beings see nd all huma a s er g teachers, d a re e th debate amon th or w . is ty t a ri a theme th and prospe ent. eoretical we focused on e, su is is ing from th ders: Assessm th g ol n h In e ra k s a le st ic ll rt of a nnected to ts and a ugh a series ical sides co ro ct educationis a th e pr su to is g e testing ise th d testin objectives of d We tried to ra luation, assessment an n a s pe ty t abou e test in eva to prepare th in this issue approaches to d ow a h re t u ou bo Y a debate and focus. enriches the fel ZOUIDI IA the theme in F ou a A N U O by B lem ntinue the written MI. Abdessa isia and I co H n A u in an article R T B in k g re n a writi issue with le by T the previous es in testing another artic in su is ed e rt th a t st u at I ght on the icle abo prehension th e, I have tried to shed li m with his art co g in d a ve to re . In this issu debate relati ing reading ch a te to other t u bo a iving concern g an article d n . a g ce in a d a ng sp on in an ing re from allotti ts’ motivati s issue of test en u d d u te st t en u ev bo da elhamid not pr ent. You rea All this has rticle by Abd sm a es n a ss a in om ry rent fr teaching poet issues diffe guerra and ou B i y article th a F and a worth article by A S U e th English from Macmillan Steve PEHA om R’HAIM. fr of A w ie R U rv O te g in ro M i has An interestin s the assessment” by Ped agazine. Tarek Brahm es m e rse and F. ss a u th o r co “t r fo doors ch thei entitled ri ew en n to en se op u in he Tunisian s can Brita d issue of T that teacher n Campus in s co d a se of is n th io to select ds some fun made a nice side page ad r te h g li ’ ra Bouguer azine. online mag ELT Forum

lah Mohamed Sa


Mohamed Salah ABIDI teacher trainer and

ELT inspector

in the area of

Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

A Print Version? Really?! The Tunisian ELT Forum magazine, which is only at its second issue now, is generating more and more favorable reactions: We are really excited about sharing the news that the CREFOC of Sidi Bouzid -under the direction of Mr. Belgacem Zaidi- has generously offered to make available a printed version of the magazine. Copies of the two issues will be shortly available in the CREFOC's library. This will guarantee that teachers and readers who have no access to the internet get their own copy so that they can read it and put its contents to good use. We so appreciate the CREFOC's support and contribution. CREFOC, Sidi Bouzid Founded in September 1999 and located in Lessouda, a small and calm town in the vicinity of Sidi Bouzid, the Regional Center for Ongoing Training (Centre Regional de l'Education et de la Formation Continue) has quickly established itself as a benchmark of ongoing training. For more than a decade now, the center has been providing a diverse suite of professional development workshops, presentations and training sessions which have addressed the needs of hundreds of trainees (not only novice teachers of English but also teachers of all other subjects) that come to the center every year. Following are some of the workshops and training programmes (for teachers of English) that took place in the CREFOC during the first term of this school year: Lesson planning: workshop/ target audience: novice teachers and those coming back from technical cooperation programmes  Teaching critical reading: two training sessions and workshops/ target audience: high school teachers Video-presentation of a demonstration lesson target audience: novice teachers and those coming back from technical cooperation programmes.

Check The CREFOC’s website on ( A new design starting from February 2010)

Belgacem ZAIDI

Director of Crefoc, Sidi Bouzid




14-16-23 & 30 / 1/2010

-Technical aspects of the CREFOC ‘Language Laboratories’. -Pedagogical use/integration of the ‘Language Laboratories’.


Teachers of 2nd cycle Basic Education

Training about the Language Laboratories for teachers of English


The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

January 2010


Mohamed Salah ABIDI


Teacher trainer & ELT inspector in the area of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

Abdessalem BOUAFIA


Teacher trainer & ELT inspector Gafsa, Tunisia.



Teacher trainer Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.



Teacher of English Lessouda Secondary School Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.



Teacher of English Lessouda Secondary School Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.



Sales and marketing executive at Macmillan English Campus

Abdelhamid RHAIEM


M.A. English Department, Higher Institute of Languages, Gabes




By Mohamed Salah Abidi, Inspector & Teacher Trainer

“Teach what you preach and test what you teach.” This principle, which ranks among the pillars of the modern classroom, shows that the strength of the interrelation between teaching and testing is crystal clear and any attempt to dissociate between them sounds unwise and unnatural. Both teaching and testing have a common target, which is fostering learning. While teaching sequences focus on fostering learners’ skills and competencies to enable them to succeed in the process of learning, tests concentrate on the measurement of the degree of success and failure of the products of learning. The second aspect of this interrelation is the effect tests may have on the ways teaching is conducted. This is what is known as the backwash effect of testing on teaching: the test provides information that helps teachers to regulate their course of instruction in a more effective way that favours success and minimizes failure in the process of learning.

1. The qualities of reliability and validity in testing reading Given the fact that reading ranges among the essential pillars in learning English as a foreign language- indeed, in learning in general, I aim in this article to shed light on some test qualities recommended in test design and discuss some techniques of testing reading comprehension skills which have gained popularity among teachers to the point that rarely do we see a reading comprehension test that does not use one or some of them. This is an attempt to raise awareness of the need to improve tests as measurement tools and make them agree with the two most common and mostly considered 6

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

qualities in the field of testing and evaluation: reliability and validity. Lyle F. Bachman and Adrian S. Palmer specify six qualities of the notion of usefulness (reliability; validity; authenticity; interactiveness; impact; and practicality.) They assume that “the most important consideration in designing and developing a language test is the use for which it is intended, so that the most important quality of a test is its usefulness...”p17 in “Language Testing in Practice” by Lyle F. Bachman & Adrian S. Palmer. a. Reliability is the consistency of measurement. It is concerned with the precision of the

January 2010

measurement and a test is said to be reliable when 1. The redundancy of the same type(s) of testing the same group of students taking the same test techniques. at different times and in different settings achieve 2. The fact that the same reading micro- skill or the same or almost the same score. reading strategy may be targeted more than once The point is that the very nature of reading while another is not considered. makes it difficult to develop reliable reading 3. The lack of objectivity in scoring: very often, comprehension tests. There is wide distinction there can be more than one answer to the test item between the process of reading, which is the and score may vary from one rater to another. concern of teaching, and the product of reading, 4. The adoption of full credit in scoring has affected which is the concern of testing. Besides, reading the test takers’ grades negatively. is a cognitive process concerned with drawing 5. The answers of the test takers are sometimes meaning from the printed page and interpreting based on their prior knowledge or chance rather this information appropriately. (c.f. Grabe & than on the reading of the proposed passage. Stoller, 2002, cited in the 18th Annual English Australia Education Conference 2005.) 3. Suggestions to improve matters Due to this nature of reading, readers as takers a. Vary the testing techniques: During the course of the reading test do not automatically respond learners come across a varied number of tasks, to the conditions of reliability. Their reading activities and comprehension questions and teachers experience is mental, invisible and private and is are trained on how to be creative and recommended still enigmatic for researchers. to observe variety as a key principle Briefly, no guarantee is there to in their lesson plans. But, when it ensure that the administered comes to assessment of learning they The very nature of test yields the same results are rigidly asked to select from a list reading makes it independently from the time it of testing techniques specified in difficult to develop is administered, the people who the ministry’s circulars and part of reliable reading administer and score it. the evaluation of their work consists comprehension tests. b. Validity is concerned with in whether the tests they design the issue of whether a test respect the official texts regulating the measures what the tester ongoing assessment or not. wants it to measure. This is difficult because the Indeed, one can see that the document entitled mental processes involved in the experience of “Baccalauréat de l’enseignement Secondaire - Nature reading are not demonstrable and the reading test et Consistance de l’épreuve d’anglais” and the shows neither the process nor the product of that document “Ongoing Evaluation in the Secondary experience, “...let’s not forget the unobservable Education”, both issued from the Directorate of nature of cannot see the process of Programmes and Further Training- Ministry of reading nor can one observe a specific product Education & Training, do not agree on whether the of reading...All assessment of reading must reading material in the test is strictly one text or may be carried out by inference.”p184 in Language be more than just one text. In the first document, Assessment Principles and Classroom Practices the recommendation is: “Le texte doit être en étroite by H. Douglas Brown, 2004. The question is relation avec le programme officiel et d’une longueur what should the focus of assessing reading be. approximative de 350 mots”p26/58 [The text should The assumption is that it is up to the test rater to be closely related to the syllabus and totalling interpret the testees’ answers so as to decide on approximately 350 words.], but in the second how much their reading skills have progressed. document we read « 4. The reading comprehension component: It consists of one linear text, a linear 2. Some pitfalls of testing reading comprehension and a non- linear one, or two complementary texts in the Tunisian context totalling 250, 300, and 350 words respectively for The reading comprehension component in tests the 1st, 2nd and 3rd and 4th year levels.” in Tunisian schools and in the Baccalaureate exam In practice, it has always been only one text and this at the end of high school have for a long time choice favours one of the qualities of usefulness: been subject to negative comments. The weakness authenticity, But this is at the expense of validity and resides mainly in: reliability. Hughes and Alderson recommend that



in order to achieve “content validity and acceptable reliability, we should include as many passages as possible in a test”( cited in Academic Reading: How do we teach it and test it in EAP,by Sorina Grasso in the 18th Annual English Australia Conference 2005.) As for the types of questions and tasks, both documents recommend a wealth of possibilities the test designer can choose from. It may be more adequate to classify these types into whether they are objective or subjective tests of what is being read. The following figure is a classification in a way that may help teachers to see the specific features of each of the recommended typology of tasks and questions: TYPE OF TEST


Objective Test

- Give justified answers to Yes/No questions. - Answer one or two reference questions. -Transfer information by completing a table, a diagram, a list or a chart. - Complete a sentence or a paragraph with words or phrases retrieved from the text. - Find antonyms or synonyms of given words or expressions. -Identify the topic sentence of a text or a paragraph -Match texts or paragraphs with the appropriate titles, subtitles, captions or visuals. - Give justified answers to Yes/No questions. -Select the appropriate alternative in multiple choice questions related to the title, or main idea of a text, or specific ideas in the text, or the meaning of a given word. -Identify the function corresponding to a given statement.

Subjective Test

-Write short answers to Wh-questions, including inference questions. - Complete a sentence or a paragraph with own words or phrases. -Reacting to the text.

N.B. Italicized items are from the document entitled: “Baccalauréat de l’enseignement secondaire”p29/58.

Teachers enjoy freedom in the design and selection of their teaching procedures and tools while they are expected to observe strict rules in the design and selection of assessment instruments. These tight rules affect the degree of the reliability and validity of the test as an assessment instrument.

These types can also be grouped according to whether they are used for testing literal comprehension or inferential and evaluative comprehension. Indeed, even objective tests require the testee to make a choice or to select from a given set of options and this implies a degree of subjectivity in the test. The notion of objectivity is related to the way the test is scored.


The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

If a test is scored differently by two raters, it is not an objective test. Another possibility of grouping these types depends on whether they are open-ended or close-ended items according to the freedom the testee has in selecting or producing the answer. Examples are provided in the following figure:

January 2010



-Write short answers to Wh-questions, including inference questions. - Complete a sentence or a paragraph with own words or phrases. -Reacting to the text.

- Find antonyms or synonyms of given words or expressions. -Identify the topic sentence of a text or a paragraph -Match texts or paragraphs with the suitable titles, subtitles, captions or visuals.

It goes without saying that teachers enjoy freedom in the design and selection of their teaching procedures and tools while they are expected to observe strict rules in the design and selection of assessment instruments. These tight rules affect the degree of the reliability and validity of the test as an assessment instrument. The techniques chosen may not target all the invisible cognitive processes in the experience of reading and the products of the reading experience may be different if the reading test is based on other different techniques. b. Weightage: For the time being, the choice is the adoption of full mark or nil in scoring reading in the Tunisian context. But, we may wonder


Answer & Justify Yes/ No questions

Answer reference questions

Transfer information

Complete sentences & paragraphs

whether all the reading micro-skills we include in the test are equally important. If not, wouldn’t it be more efficient to opt for partial credit with some questions, e.g. inferential and evaluative questions and questions where the testee is asked to justify the answers. Teachers as assessors should target as many reading micro-skills/strategies as possible in the reading test. For this, it is essential that they keep a detailed record of the techniques they considered during their teaching. The following figure is a suggestion of a record format of the reading comprehension tasks considered in the course during a term with an average of 10 lessons covered in the syllabus:

Antonyms & synonyms

Identify topic sentences, titles…



React to text


L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6 L7 L8 L9 L10

The teacher ticks the box(es) corresponding to the task(s) considered in the lesson and at the time of designing the test by the end of the term, they will make a reflective choice of what questions and types they will use to test their students reading skills.



c. Partial credit scoring: The adoption of full credit scoring favours the notion of objectivity and ensures that raters allocate the same grade independently of the time the test is graded and this is a key criterion of test reliability. Nevertheless, full credit scoring affects the equity and fairness of the test. These are two pillars the test designer should not neglect and they can be considered through partial credit. d. Text dependency: The test of reading is not easy to design because the test designer cannot predict what prior knowledge the testees come up with when they answer the test. Owing to this factor that may interfere and disturb the reliability of the test, it is essential that test designers strictly observe that the answers result from reading the text rather than from prior knowledge of the topic or the issue of the text.

5. Conclusion It is evident that constructing reading comprehension tests is a difficult and complex task. It is, also, certain that this article does not claim to be the magic stick to solve the problem. But, it is an attempt to shed light on some of the issues the teachers as test designers may face when they construct measurement tools to assess their students’ reading skills. References

Brown, H. Douglas (2004), Language Assessment, Principles and Classroom Practices, Longman Bachman, L.F. (1996), Language Testing in Practice, Oxford University Press Chitrvelu, Nesamalar et al, ELT Methodology, Principles and Practice, 2nd edition, printed in Malaysia Fletcher, J.M.Department of psychology, University of Houston, Measuring Reading Comprehension Grasso, S. Academic Reading: How do we teach it and Test it, 18th Annual EA Education Conference2005 Abidi, M.S. Improving Students’ Reading Skills! Can’t Bloom’s Taxonomy be one of the ways?, The Tunisian ET Forum Online magazine, Issue1.

4. Reminder of the contents of the reading test To cut it short, the aims of the reading comprehension test are the assessment of the reader’s ability to: a. extract information from the reading material. b. construct meaning from the reading material. Bloom’s taxonomy can be a reasonable framework in order to achieve the aforementioned aims. The following figure illustrates the interrelation between the different cognitive levels as specified by B. Bloom and the aims of the reading comprehension test.

Test aim Cognitive level

Extract information -Knowledge -Comprehension -Application -Analysis

Construct meaning -Application -Analysis -Synthesis -Evaluation

NB. Italicised levels apply to both aims.

The verb chart of Bloom’s taxonomy (c.f. The Tunisian ELT Forum online magazine, issue 1, p12) provides a wealth of verbs that test designers can use to develop the instructions for the test of reading comprehension. The verbs appropriate to the cognitive levels linked to extracting information can be used to develop objective tests and those linked to constructing meaning can be used to develop subjective tests.




workshops articles resources news 10

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

January 2010

Climate Conference, Copenhagen 2009

Just another missed chance!

“There are moments in history where the world can choose to go down different paths. The COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen is one of those defining moments: We can choose to go down the road towards green prosperity and a more sustainable future. Or we can choose a pathway to stalemate and do nothing about climate change leaving an enormous bill for our kids and grand-kids to pay. It really isn’t that hard a choice.” Connie Hedegaard, Minister for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen 2009 (Before the conference)



to assess

assessment the

By Pedro Moura,

Sales and marketing executive at Macmillan English Campus

One of the most interesting questions to intrigue ELT teachers, and indeed teachers of other subjects, is how to assess a student fairly and properly. How much of our understanding and articulation can that end-of-the year examination grasp if, together with dramatic nervousness and fear of “what might happen afterwards”, comes the lack of a natural atmosphere for the application of students’ language skills? Is the result of what students produce in half an hour of intense pressure the most faithful portrait of the knowledge they have been acquiring throughout the school year?


uring my teaching years, I was surprised by students’ inability to reproduce accurately their classroom standard when they were removed from that classroom framework and asked to produce language within an atmosphere where they were aware that some sort of judgment was taking place. Here confidence always plays a larger part, with excellent students being betrayed by exterior pressures: parents’ expectations, special certification needs for educational or professional purposes among others that have nothing to do with the quintessential motive of why one is learning English – which is simply to communicate in English.

decided to gather all his students outside in the park before the exam began to have a quick chat about what happened throughout the year and make plans for the forthcoming semester. He said he wanted to obtain feedback on his classes and the way he was conducting them. Without giving prior notice, he then interrupted them with questions related to certain topics with no sign of any evaluation of the language they were producing but only acting as a natural listener in a natural everyday conversation. Suddenly, one student asked – “when will the exam be?” The teacher replied – “It is happening already”.

Indeed, as a great writer once said, psychology goes beyond psychology. What seemed the most I was once struck by a pedagogical experiment unpretentious and relaxed conversation turned carried out by a colleague who decided to relieve out to be the moment when students revealed this pressure that afflicts students and “catch them” without giving notice that they were being examined. themselves at their best. It sufficed to remove the constraints of a single barrier: consciousness of This lovely trial felt indeed like taking a surprise snapshot with which you capture people’s features in being judged. a more natural moment rather than the artificial lines Unfortunately, as happens with the best discoveries, the immediate application of this practice was made up of poses and preparations. He simply 12

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January 2010

rather inconvenient and impracticable as ironically enough it involved too much naturalness... an essential feature that is most ignored in these times of excessive standardisation and certification, where students have to memorise bits and pieces to re-produce chunks of language rather than producing language by articulating chunks of language. Apart from that, such a mode of examination would also clash with the demand for an objective marking system to more subtle skills such as reading and writing. However, this lovely attempt to assess students at their best is still valuable as a means of pointing out the defaults of more traditional final examinations. It shows that students are in fact able to produce better results and cannot be measured by some limited standards in an equally limited time. One might ask then – What to do? What to do?

short texts, journals, assignments and reports. These materials will henceforth provide the source from which teachers draw on their feedback. According to Blythe, different types of feedback are applicable, but they need to follow a certain pattern in which they: •Occur frequently, from the beginning of the unit to its conclusion, in conjunction with performances of understanding. Some occasions for feedback may be formal and planned (such as those related to presentations); some may be more casual and informal (such as responding to a student’s comment in a class discussion). •Provide students with information not only about how well they have carried out performances but also how they might improve them. •Inform planning of subsequent classes and activities. •Come from a variety of perspectives: from

Indeed, as a great writer once said, psychology goes beyond psychology. What seemed the most unpretentious and relaxed conversation turned out to be the moment when students revealed themselves at their best. It sufficed to remove the constraints of a single barrier: consciousness of being judged.


Ongoing Assessment The idea of ongoing assessment is not unfamiliar in other areas that also require a progressive building up of integrated skills in order to achieve a common goal. Tina Blythe illustrates the issue with the example of a theatrical company, with its actors involved in ongoing assessment through constant rehearsals. Instead of being assessed only after the staging takes place, they receive constant feedback on their acting from the director – a process that involves much more natural interaction and discussion than a simple evaluation with a marking system (1998). When translating this idea to the classroom, teachers would provide “assessment that fosters understanding rather than simply evaluating it” (Blythe, 1998). Besides, the analysis of mistakes and common errors would actually take into account actual defaults instead of lapses. Another interesting feature is to be found in the ongoing production of coursework that may serve as a portfolio of students’ progress. Among the activities that best qualify for this purpose are:

students’ reflection on their own work, from classmates reflecting on one another’s work, and from the teacher. In a context where combined skills require active testing, ongoing assessment has become a necessary classroom tool. Ongoing assessment is also suitable for criterion-referenced testing, in which more objective points, such as grammar and orthography, are thoroughly analysed within a context in which teachers play the role of the theatre director who “gives initial instructions, offers advice and further direction while the scene is in progress, and convenes more formal feedback sessions at various points during the rehearsal” (Blythe). Fortunately teachers have been discovering the benefits of ongoing assessment and have started to apply the idea in the classroom. I do welcome more experiments such as that of my friend, as they really try to focus on a more dynamic and interactive relationship between teachers and students. It shows how much more students in fact know than we know. References

Blythe, Tina (1998). The Teaching for Understanding Guide. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco Hughes, A. (1990). Testing for language teachers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Issues in

testing writing in Tunisia

By Abdessalem Bouafia, Inspector & Teacher Trainer

Testing writing presents two particular problems. The first is to make decisions about the matter of control, objectivity of the evaluation and naturalness of the writing test. If we decide to test writing in a controlled way that can be graded objectively, we must do so in a way that does not necessarily reflect how the learners in the real world use writing. If, on the other hand, we test writing in a way that would reflect how students use writing in the real world, it is difficult to have control over the writing and to evaluate the learner’s work objectively. The second problem with testing writing is, if the test is done in a way that it cannot be graded objectively, it is necessary to develop a scale that allows it to be graded as objectively as possible.


n Tunisia, no matter how we test writing, our main concern has always been to divorce subjectivity and espouse objectivity. And as impressionistic grading proved to be unfair and unreliable in spotting weaknesses and strengths, we have adhered to a more analytical grading which has helped to inform teachers as to the learners’ levels of competency in writing. This type of grading is both inspired from and based on the ability to write which at least involves six component skills. They are: 1. Grammatical ability: The choice to write English in grammatically correct sentences. 2. Lexical ability: The choice of correct words and their appropriate use. 3. Mechanical ability: The correct use of punctuation, spelling, capitalization, etc… 14

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

4. Organizational skills: The ability to organize written work according to the conventions of English. 5. Judgment of appropriacy: The ability to make judgments about what is appropriate depending on the task, the purpose and audience. These abilities have been in use for years. They contain most, if not all, of the language skills to be evaluated in writing and they are used with variation and adaptation to the different levels with which the teachers are dealing. The following grid contains that have to be taken into consideration when marking students’ writings.

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LEVEL MARKS 1. Communicative effectiveness: a) Adherence to content. b) Cohesion and coherence. c) Fluency. 2. Accuracy: a) Grammar and vocabulary. b) Mechanical accuracy.

Figure 1.1 Grid mostly used to mark 3rd and 4th form secondary education students’ writings The above grid is mostly used to mark 3rd and 4th form secondary education students’ writings. As far as the other levels (1st and 2nd form secondary education – 7th, 8th and 9th form basic education ones), alternative evaluation grids derived from the above one are used by teachers. We might suggest the following ones: LEVEL MARKS 1. Adherence to content. 2. Accuracy: a) Grammar and vocabulary. b) Spelling and punctuation.

Figure 1.2 Grid mostly used to mark 7th form basic education students’ writings LEVEL MARKS 1. Communicative effectiveness: Cohesion and coherence. 2. Accuracy: a) Grammar and vocabulary. b) Spelling and punctuation.

Figure 1.3 Grid mostly used to mark 8th and 9th form basic education students’ writings

LEVEL MARKS 1. Communicative effectiveness: a) Adherence to content. b) Cohesion and coherence. c) Organization. 2. Accuracy: a) Grammar and vocabulary. b) Spelling and punctuation.

Figure 1.4 Grid mostly used to mark 1st and 2nd form secondary education students’ writings



The above grids were tested during workshops on teaching and testing writing held at the CREFOC of Kebili (January 6th 2005). The following students’ writing samples of different levels were handed to

As impressionistic grading proved to be unfair and unreliable in spotting weaknesses and strengths, we have adhered to a more analytical grading which has helped to inform teachers as to the learners’ levels of competency in writing.

the teachers. Then, the teachers were provided with the following instructions: “Each two of you will concentrate on a piece of writing. Individually, mark it according to the appropriate grid. Then compare the grades allocated.” a) Sample 1: (8th form basic education) Topic: Write a short letter to invite your friend to a birthday party.

Dear Kamel, How are you my friend? This week I will celebrate my birthday party. Can you come to my home on Sunday at 7? Good bye. From Nizar, your new friend. b) Sample 2: 9th form basic education) Topic: Speak about a day you spent shopping for clothes.

Yesterday, I went shopping for trendy clothes in the super market. First, I looked for sales I was happy because I found a sale of 50%. Second I checked the opening hours. Third, I found out about the price and I entered to the shop. - Can I help you? Said the shop assistant. - Yes, I would like to buy this blue jacket. Then I paid about 30D and I went upstairs. After that I had a hot drink because the weather was very cold and Finally I left the shop happily. c) Sample 3: (1st form secondary education) Topic: Year by year the problem of road accidents grows. Write an article where you advise people to be careful, mention the major causes of this problem and its harmful effects on people’s lives. 16

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

Year by year the problem of road accidents grows in Tunisia and we see that in television or journals so all drivers must respect the traffic signs because it is one of the dangerous causes of accidents. Also when drivers are in their cars they shouldn’t be drunk or something like. Moreover the pedestrians should respect the traffic signs and never cross the road when the light is red. The most dangerous accidents is when a car undercover an other with a high speed and we see the victims of those accidents died or injured. So I advise the people to be responsible and take care when they drive or when they cross the road. We see the familes of victims how they are sad and we hope that god help them. Accidents may result in very bad things like injuries, sufferings, deaths damage of roads and cars. Furthermore it is so difficult to lose your friend or your father in an accident so I repeat it: you should be responsible and never drive when you are drunk, don’t drive old cars and never sleep when you drive because that may cause an accident and you will lose a dear person. I hope that all people will understand this advice and if they do we will live in a very nice environment without accidents and problems. d) Sample 4: (4th year secondary education) Topic: The academic year is coming to end and you are taking the baccalaureate exam soon. You are stressed by your parents’ behavior. You write a letter to your best friend in which you complain about these conditions that “add insult to injury”.

Dear Larrah, I write to you on behalf of my situation which is caused by having the baccalaureate exam sooner. In fact, having an exam is the most serious and difficult condition. I’m so depressed and upset. I’m also nervous and annoyed. Believe me the nearer the exam gets, the more anxious I become. I’m really in a mess I’m worried about the exam. I live in a state of pure panic and agony. That’s why I spend sleepless nights. My parents discourage visitors to help me to work. We are cutting the television. I overwork to exhaustion to accomplish a good success. My parents are so stressed and nervous that they are in a real mess. I’m so stressed and tired that I can’t concentrate during my revision. I can’t neither eat nor sleep which adds insult to injury. I become Ill. I’m so worried from the baccalaureate exam that success

January 2010

becomes a matter of life or death. I hope that I will succed. My life becomes boring. I work very hard so that I can succed. The atmosphere at home is so serious and calm which help me to work to exhaustion so that I can accomplish my dream. Please, help me Larrah to avid this situation. Why don’t you send to me some advice which may help me. Please try to help me. Really need you. With much love See you very soon Faithfully yours. We noticed that a fairly degree of objectivity was reached, which was the desired result. We also noticed that many a student’s writings leave much to be desired. Therefore, in order to ensure that our students’ writings will be improved, the following recommendations were drawn: 1. More time should be devoted to the writing skill and efficient teaching approaches should be used. 2- More emphasis should be put on the teaching of grammar and vocabulary, the general belief being that grammar is the skeleton of the language and vocabulary its flesh. 3. Cohesion and coherence as well as genre should be taught – whether implicitly or explicitly- so that a certain writing logic will be acquired by the students. 4. Project writing should be more and more encouraged and teachers’ guidance should be present at every stage of the project. Conclusion In marking a test of writing, a number of factors need to be taken into account, depending on the students’ level of proficiency, their purpose for learning to write and so on. Of course, it will always be somewhat subjective, but the use of clear descriptors for each level of the marking scheme can at least help make the marking consistent and as objective as possible.

learn English

live English

love English

real examples, usage notes, submit your own words, pronunciations, clear integrated thesaurus definitions, key vocabulary current BuzzWords, blogs Macmillan Online Dictionary © Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2009



with w e i v r Inte

e v e t S

a h Pe

Interviewed by

Tarak Brahmi,

Teacher of English

Steve Peha is the president of Teaching That Makes Sense. For more than ten years, he has been concerned with helping to make teaching more practical for teachers and learning more fun and meaningful for kids. Steve Peha is an educator, writer, technology consultant, and software developer. He has presented more than 300 workshops in reading, writing, math, assessment, and test preparation at all grade levels K-12. He has also written The Effective Learning Series, a bi-weekly column on research-based best practice teaching techniques for The Seattle Times that won the 2001 Innovators in Education Award from the Newspaper Association of America. Prior to starting Teaching That Makes Sense, he held top management positions with several technology companies. As founder of Music Technology Associates, a multimedia consulting company, he developed Music Mentor, an award-winning music education program for the Windows Multimedia PC platform.


We know Steve Peha mainly through a collection of handy, well-designed and extremely useful resources about writing like “What is good writing?”, “Prompted Writing”, “The Writing Process Notebook” and other documents. What else can you tell our readers about yourself?

A: 18

I’m married to a prolific journalist named Margot Carmichael Lester. We live in Carrboro, North Carolina (just next door to Chapel Hill home of the world famous University of North The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

Carolina Tar Heels). We have two cute black dogs, Marvin and Mookie. Margot and I love sports. And right now, we can barely get all of our work done as all four of the “big” pro sports – baseball, football, basketball, and hockey – are playing at the same time. In addition to being my wife, Margot also works for Teaching That Makes Sense as one of our consulting associates. She loves working in January 2010

classrooms with teachers and kids. For my part, I get to work once in a while for her company, The Word Factory, as a writer, editor, and workshop presenter. You might be interested to know that we use the same writing strategies at The Word Factory that we do at Teaching That Makes Sense. The same tools we give teachers to teach to kids, we use with adults in large corporations and small organizations as well. We call this the “K-to-Corporate” curriculum. I think the best thing about my life is being married to a woman who really understands me and what I do. Education can be allconsuming and there have been times when Margot and I have been consumed by it. But Margot has really hung in there with me and I appreciate that tremendously.

Q: A:

writing the book, “Reading Allowed”. I believe that reading and writing must be taught in an integrated fashion and I have designed a model for that called, not surprisingly, Integrated Literacy. You can download an overview of the model here: literacy.pdf

Q: A:

The rationale was pretty simple: I had a business and all businesses need a website. As I was putting it together, however, I knew that I wanted to make all the teaching tools easy for teachers to find. So I just put them over on the left in a big list. The rest of the site was just my personal effort to make something reasonably attractive. I’ve done some graphic design in my life but I’ve lost most of those skills by now. However, I have a sense of what looks appropriate so I just took a look at other sites I liked and appropriated colors and basic design elements. The most important thing, however, was giving teachers easy access to their tools. That was always the top priority.

Writing is one of the most challenging skills to teach and to learn. It is not uncommon to hear teachers complain about low achievement and lack of motivation among students: Why did you choose to specialize in writing assessment and instruction in particular? Well, actually, I started with math. It was fun because I love it and I was great at when I was in school. Then I jumped to reading because clearly it was more important and because it was by far the most complicated subject to learn about. I got into teaching writing by accident. I was already a professional writer and teachers would often ask me to teach writing lessons for them. So I started to develop some tools and I learned how to run a Writer’s Workshop. Then I started doing some consulting. I was trained by Vicki Spandel and Ruth Culham of Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in the Six Traits method of assessment. I used it for a while, and still keep it in my bag of tricks, but ultimately I found it to be an ineffective and cumbersome assessment tool. However, at this particular time, writing consulting was very hot in my home state of Washington. So I got very busy. Teachers seemed to need a lot of help and many different kinds of tools so I made them up. I’ve always been more interested in reading. And for the past few years, I have concentrated my work there, sharpening my Reader’s Workshop skills and


Your website, “Teaching That Makes Sense”, is certainly one of the websites that stand out from the rest both in terms of content and in terms of design. What is the rationale behind creating this website?

You might be curious to know that we have had about 1,000,000 visitors to the site now. And about 400,000 downloaded sets of teaching materials. While most of our visitors are from the US and Canada, more than 20% come from over 120 countries around the world. I believe our materials are now in use on every continent in the world. Oh, and we’re just about to launch a brand new site with lots more stuff on it. So keep your eyes open over the next couple of months.

Q: A:

What are, for you, the reasons that may account for students’ poor results in writing assignments?

1. Lack of actual experience in authentic writing. Kids should be writing every day for at least 45 minutes on topics of their own


2. Poor writing instruction. I have nothing more to say about this. In general, writing instruction in the US is abysmal. I make the assumption things are more or less the same everywhere else but, of course, I don’t know for sure. Perhaps Tunisia is the writing instruction capitol of the world!

effectively and use this as an asset in modeling their own ways of solving common real-world writing problems.

Writing is, first and foremost, an exercise in language fluency. Much like readers require fluency in order to make sense of the text, writers require fluency merely to produce enough text to begin thinking and learning about how to write better.

choosing for audiences they understand – like other kids in the classroom. If you want to be a better writer, you have to write every day. Writing is, first and foremost, an exercise in language fluency. Much like readers require fluency in order to make sense of the text, writers require fluency merely to produce enough text to begin thinking and learning about how to write better. Most of the learning comes in revision and editing, but we can’t get to those stages if we don’t draft a lot first.

5. Teachers need to realize that writing is individual personal expression – not the fulfillment of a series of class assignments given for the primary purpose of collecting grades. As such, writing can only be fun if kids feel “safe” to express themselves. This means that evaluation must be kept to a minimum. I do not EVER grade an individual paper. I only evaluate a large selection of writing over time as in a portfolio. And I always let the student tell me his or her assessment first. That way, I know what they know about their own writing. This helps me scaffold their efforts to improve without having to correct them. No correction, no harm. The day we all agree to stop harming our students is the day we’ll all think writing is fun.

3. Poor writing assignments. Most school writing assignments are contrived rather than being authentic. When we ask kids to write, we should ask them to write the kinds of pieces that exist in the real world, not traditional forms from the academic world. For example, both my wife and I have been professional writers for 25 years each. We think we’ve written approximately 5000 “writing assignments” for a wide variety of publishers. Yet no one has ever asked either of us for an “expository essay” or a “persuasive essay” or a “five paragraph essay” or anything like that. In the real world, forms of writing have real names. And writing instruction would make more sense to kids if their writing assignments made sense. Asking kids to write something they can’t find in a bookstore or a newspaper or a library just makes everything harder on everyone.

Q: A:


6. Class publications are the best motivator in my opinion. Almost every class that I get to work through the year with does a regular newspaper or magazine. The kids love this. It makes the work authentic. It gives them a great sense of purpose. And it turns the classroom into a newsroom or publishing house – something infinitely more exciting to all of us than a classroom.

And what do you think can be done to help teachers and learners see a writing session as a gratifying activity rather than a daunting experience?

1. Teachers must write with their kids. 2. Students must be able to choose topics they are interested in and know something about. 3. There must be an authentic audience writers can share their writing with. 4. Teachers must admit to their students their lack of confidence in their ability to instruct The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

Q: A: January 2010

You are not only a writer and educator but also a technology consultant and a software developer. In what ways can technology enhance the way teachers teach writing?

I have as yet found no reason whatsoever to use technology in the writing classroom. The only possible exception I have found to

this is the use of blogs as places to store kids’ writing and give them an easy way to comment on each other’s work while not in school. Neither I, nor any of our ten consulting associates at TTMS, uses any kind of technology in the teaching of writing – except a whiteboard and a marker. Kids should be typing up their papers during the publishing stage of the writing process as soon as the middle of 3rd grade or as soon as they can touch-type at least 25 words per minute. But technology holds little or no promise for writing instruction as far as I can see. This doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally pop up an article from the Internet when I have a video projector. But I only do that to save paper. I could just as easily print out copies. And for kids with poor vision, this is often a better choice anyway.

Q: A:

I have experimented with 4-, 5-.6-, and 7-stage processes. But I have found that the traditional 5-stage process works best for most writers and for most writing teachers, too.

Q: A:

How does “writing as a process” fit in the whole framework of the communicative approach to teaching English? Writing is a process. So we can’t avoid teaching it that way. If we do, we’re not teaching writing. So I don’t see this as a philosophical question or something that must be justified as part of a pedagogical model. How else would you teach writing? I mean, how else would you teach writing in a way that worked? Take, for example, the difficulties many students have with punctuation. If you don’t have an “editing” stage in your process, when are these students going to learn to punctuate their own writing? Think about how difficult revision is for kids. How will they get better if they don’t spend a lot of time in the “revision” stage of the writing process? Finally, think about all the structured prewriting we can help kids with. How would kids learn to organize their ideas if we didn’t give them an explicit pre-writing stage? I see no way of teaching writing effectively without using a process of some kind. If you don’t like the traditional 5-stage process – pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing – try a different process.



Methodologies are seen as “shifting sands” that constantly change. How do you see the future of teaching writing in an ICT era? Is the current approach to writing prone to change in the near future?

Methodologies are seen as shifting sands primarily because the majority of teachers have no methodology. Therefore, as each new methodology arises, it is ignored by the majority. (I’m speaking very directly here about my experience all over the US; I have no idea how this issue plays out in your country.) In reality, there are no shifting sands. Methodologies are constants. They’re always there. The only question we have to ask is, “Do we want to use one?” Then we just find one that works. Again, most teachers don’t ask the question or find any methodology. At least that’s the way it is here in the US. (We have a very anti-intellectual teaching corps here. So things like “methodologies” are unpopular simply because so many of our teachers don’t really know what a methodology is.) The only methodology that has ever proven effective across all grade levels and all abilities of students – over a long period of time and in millions of classrooms all over the world – is the “workshop” methodology. Frankly, Writer’s Workshop is the only viable method today, in my opinion, because it is the only method for which there exists a large enough body of professional literature – and tools like the ones I have – to support its use in a large number of classrooms. Workshop has been around since the early 1970s in the US but it did not gain serious traction until the late 1980s. Still, that’s 20 solid years where one methodology has endured over all others. And it’s growing faster than ever now. I think the sands may have settled. ;-) You wrote in one of your articles, “I always do my best to make my teaching as real as possible.” How can a teacher make his teaching sound real?




To what extent is teaching writing to native speakers of English different from teaching writing in the context of teaching English as a Foreign Language?


The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

What are the implications of these differences (if any)?


Funny you should ask about this, I just spent three years doing it. In one sense, there is no difference at all. I use the same tools, the same process, the same methodology. But I do keep several things in mind: 1. How close is the student’s language (L1) to the target language (L2)? If (L1) is Spanish and (L2) is English, that’s not too bad because they share some commonality in the areas where they both derive from Latin. But what if (L1) is Russian or another Cyrillic language and (L2) is English? Now I might have some serious work to do with letter formation and other very basic elements. This will be even more difficult if the student is moving from a pictographic language like Chinese to an alphabetic language. 2. Is the student literate in his or her own language? If so, we’re in good shape to start learning a new language. If not, I have found better success in helping the student learn a bit of his or her own language first. 3. What is the student’s level of proficiency in the target language? The lower it is, the smaller the chunks of text I will work with. So for very low kids, I will start with a single sentence and work from there. A slightly higher kid? Work at the paragraph level. Wait until the student is reasonably confident in the target language before working too much on multi-paragraph pieces.

Real human beings don’t give grades, they give feedback writers can use to make their writing better. Real human beings are readers first, teachers second. Real human beings have feelings about their own writing and are therefore extremely conscientious about the feelings of the writers they interact with.

January 2010

The idea is not to make it “sound” real but for it actually to be real. Here’s what I mean: I just asked my wife to read my personal statement for my admissions essay to Harvard. She walked back over to my computer and said, “It’s pretty good. There were only three or four places where I thought you might want to change something.” And then she told where those places were. I listened, asked for a little clarification, and then fixed them. This is real. First of all, I’m writing a real piece of real writing for a real audience and a real purpose. Second, I’m using a real process real writers really use to make my piece better. Tomorrow, for example, I’ll be e-mailing my essay over to England so that one of the best writers I know can give me his feedback. Then I will revise again. And so on. Fortunately, for all of us, we see and experience writing in our everyday lives. To the extent that we pursue writing in the classroom in a manner consistent with how writing exists in the real world, our teaching of writing will be real. Finally, as teachers we must act like real human beings. Real human beings don’t give grades, they give feedback writers can use to make their writing better. Real human beings are readers first, teachers second. Real human beings have feelings about their own writing and are therefore extremely conscientious about the feelings of the writers they interact with. Real human beings read real writing regularly and experience it viscerally, the way real human beings experience all of real life. To teach real writing, be a real person. Put away your pet peeves and peccadilloes (and yes, I know those words mean the same thing; don’t get mad at me or give me a lower grade or drown me in red ink; I’m just learning ;-) ), take a deep breath, and just be yourself. Treat your students with at least the same respect with which you treat your own children. And if you don’t have children of your own, think about how you would treat someone else’s children if you were taking care of them. Care is crucial. It is essential to our humanity. And teaching is all about being human.

As with so much of learning to read and to write, fluency seems to be the most

important to strive for at the beginning. So I don’t worry too much if second-language learners can’t write big, long pieces for me. What I want to see is if they can easily translate their thoughts in (L1) into words in (L2). My favorite teaching technique when working with kids who are just starting to become bilingual is to have them write on a split page. Let them write in (L1) first on the left side and then have them translate that into (L2) on the right side. This is a great way to help kids gain confidence. It also helps them see – literally – how their language (L1) is rendered in the target language (L2).

Q: A:

What are, in your opinion, the qualities of an outstanding teacher? Hmmmm. There are dozens of indicators. Many have been studied. A professor here at the local university is rather famous for his work in this area and he thinks there are five – though I’m sorry I can’t remember them. So I’m going to tell you that I truly believe there is only one vital quality of an outstanding teacher: You must be an outstanding learner. The best teachers are always outstanding learners in their own lives. This gives them a built-in advantage over all other teachers: they can identify with their students while their students are attempting to learn. They have empathy. They have compassion. They know what it’s like not to know something. And they know how to go about learning it. When they share their own experiences of being a learner with their students, they become human in their students’ eyes. When teachers’ put their humanity out in the world for all to see, students want to follow them wherever they decide to lead. Teaching is really just leading, isn’t it?

TeachingThat Makes Sense offers tools, training, and technology support for K-12 schools in reading, writing, math, test preparation, and assessment. 


ASSESSMENT Types and Objectives By Nawfel Zouidi, Teacher of English

Teachers do their best to make lessons successful and help learners find the most effective ways to understand, practice and exploit every detail of a lesson. That is only one part of teachers’ mission. The second part is as important as the first. It is assessment. Assessment includes notions such as appraisal, evaluation, analysis, and worth. That is why assessment is a vital component of any educational system.


Informal assessment is mainly based on classroom ssessment allows specialists to make decisions observation. Pupils take part in different classroom based on data gathered from assessment records. People’s attitudes towards assessment differ according activities and teachers observe and take notes that describe the progress in each learner’s performance. to their role in the educational system. Pupils hate it since it means pressure, fear, luck and marks. Parents Reports, discussions, speeches, and other tasks done by learners provide teachers with a worthy means never care about the notion of progress. They just want their children to get the best marks to be proud to check whether students show development in learning. Informal assessment sounds more reliable of them. Teachers always struggle to be fair and to and authentic but the problem is that some pupils design excellent tests or activities that reflect their never take part in classroom activities for different pupils’ levels. reasons. Sometimes brilliant There are two main types of assessment: formal and informal. Formal assessment provides learners find it very difficult to interact with their peers or face Formal assessment is based upon documented data and an audience to deliver a speech formal tests. Teachers assign tests authentic statistics which as a speaking activity. Others to check how well learners are help decision makers are lazy and indifferent but they progressing in a particular skill. evaluate, change or develop get excellent marks in written Of course formal assessment an educational system. formal tests. So it becomes very depends on standards set by difficult for a teacher to find the the legislative authorities and exact words to describe a pupil’s experts in education who rely on performance. It’s hard to decide whether a student is documented data to call for some changes. Formal unable to do something or unwilling to do it. assessment therefore provides documented data Assessment whether formal or informal still satisfies and authentic statistics which help decision makers the needs of educationists and decision makers evaluate, change or develop an educational system. and for that reason huge efforts have been made to Some important questions may impose themselves improve assessment techniques in order to provide here: are the available data reliable? Do they really reflect learners ’levels? As teachers we know there are experts with reliable data and therefore make of some factors that certainly affect pupils ’performance. future educational projects a great success and a way But documents and statistics don’t take these factors to development. into account.


The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

January 2010

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well.” Aristotle

For more inspirational quotes about teaching, visit:



test Preparation By Tarak Brahmi, Teacher of English

There are various inhibiting factors that may account for why many students fail and achieve poorly in the standardized tests in our schools. In this article, I try to put forward some tips on how to boost our students’ confidence while taking tests and how to help them go beyond some of the inhibiting factors that keep them from performing well.


lthough tests more or less vary depending on what is being tested, who the tester and the testee is, where the test is administered, and how it is mediated, they have some features in common: They are stressful, decisive, short and unpredictable. Sitting for a test is an experience that is laden with anxiety and trauma. A test usually culminates in the decision of whether a person should pass or is going to fail: The decision, whether it relates to fitness for the job we are competing to get, readiness for the driving license, being qualified for admission to a university course, eligibility for a visa, being prepared for going to the next level at school, is always of great significance and durable impact. Tests are also meant to be taken over a short period of time: They try to encompass as much content as possible in as less time as possible. Tests also tend to be unpredictable: You cannot make accurate guesses about the questions and the topics that a given test will include. They are usually picked at random or sometimes based on criteria that are undisclosed to the testee. 26

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

Before setting forth the tips, I am going to consider tests and testing from both the teachers’ and the students’ perspective in the Tunisian school context: Poor achievement in tests is seen by teachers as evidence of students’ growing lack of motivation, rising lack of seriousness, and an alarming indication of a weakening educational system. The test is more often than not set between two frames: Before the test, teachers usually fall short of allocating some time for the revision and test preparation because of time constraints and an “overloaded” syllabus. After the test, teachers hand out the papers while wondering or thinking loudly: “What have I been teaching for a whole term?” or “How can’t you manage to answer such easy questions?” Students, on the other hand, complain that they cannot see the connection between what is being taught and the way they are tested. “I don’t review for the exam because, anyway, it is not going to be about what we have been learning for a whole term”, one student admits. “The English test is

January 2010

like a football betting sheet: I have no clue which answer is correct, but I can have a few marks,” another student remarks. “I feel nervous on the day of the test: All of a sudden, everything changes; the school looks different. The seating arrangement is different. Even our teacher, who usually smiles, looks unsympathetic and different,” one student shyly speaks his mind. So, what can be done to help both teachers and students adhere to a more optimistic view of testing? As tests are not optional but rather the only equitable tool, at least for the time being, for discriminating between those who are going to succeed and those who are not, we, as teachers, are invited to incorporate test preparation in the natural flow of our instruction. Here are ten tips on how this can be achieved: 1-Make a classroom poster of all the reading, language and writing skills that need to be taught. You can use the handouts concerning Assessment in Basic & Secondary Education posted by ELT Inspector, Mohamed Salah ABIDI to the forum or the Test Sampler to devise a chart of skills to be taught.

2- For reading, familiarize students with the four common types of questions. Here is a list elaborated by Debra L. Gastelum: a-“Right there” type of question: Locating the information is straightforward. The answer is in the text, and is usually easy to find. The words that are used in the question will usually be there in the text as well. b-“Think and search (putting it together)”: To answer this type of question, the student needs to look in different places in the reading passage. The words used in the question are often not like those in the text. c-“Author and you”: To answer this type of questions, students need to rely on your “background knowledge”. Besides, they need to be familiar with notions like the writer’s attitude, point of view, etc... d- “On my own”: The answer is not in the text. With these types of questions, reading the text

statements to justify with details from a specified paragraph

Wh-questions Choosing a phrase

or word to complete a sentence or a paragraph through multiple choice alternatives

Choosing an appropriate title Completing (a) statement(s) or with words from the text


Finding synonyms / antonyms in the text Guessing meaning from context Contextual reference Completing tables / charts / diagrams (information transfer)

Determining the function Reacting to the text

/ type of the text

Figure 1.1 A sample of a chart of skills to be taught (reading)

Source: Assessment for Secondary Education (document issued by the Ministry of Education and Training)

Try to cover all types of questions by modeling a given question for a week, for example. Drill those questions by incorporating them in the texts you are teaching as part of the curriculum or by bringing sample tests to your classroom now and then.



Poor achievement in tests is seen by teachers as evidence of students’ growing lack of motivation, rising lack of seriousness, and an alarming indication of a weakening educational system.

is supposed to trigger a personal reaction to what has been read. Students need to use their own experience and prior knowledge. You can also encourage your students to sit in groups and to write their own questions for a sample text following the four types of questions above. They may use colors to write different types of questions. 3- Teach test taking strategies explicitly: Explain that to answer a question that begins with “why”, you need to look for contextual clues like “because” or “to”. Remind students that answers about “when” or “where” a story takes place, for instance, are usually found at the beginning and that questions about how the problem is resolved are often found at the end. Encourage them to look for words like “first”, “then”, “next” when sequencing events. 4- When dealing with reading comprehension activities, always ask your students to support their answers with details from the text by asking for further explanation. For example, “Where did you draw that conclusion from?”, “Can you justify your answer?”, etc.. 5-Make sure that you use questions that engage students’ critical thinking skills when dealing with reading comprehension (Using Bloom’s Taxonomy):


You can refer to Mohamed Salah ABIDI’s article: “ Improving students’ reading skills: Can’t Bloom’s taxonomy be one of the ways?” (The Tunisian English Teaching Forum, p. 6-12, September 2009). Training students on how to use comprehension, evaluation, analysis and other skills is a great way to ensure they do well in tests. Who is Shakespeare? (Knowledge) Why did Leontes become jealous? (Comprehension) How do you feel about his change of attitude towards his friend and wife? (Evaluation) Compare and contrast Antigonus and Camillo in terms of their reaction to the King’s orders (analysis).


Figure 1.2 Skills for Life: Lesson 9 (The Winter’s Tale) : using Bloom’s taxonomy

6-Make revision for the tests fun: Give your students the opportunity to sit in groups and to exchange information concerning how to deal with tests, stress, revision strategies, etc.. Occasionally, prepare games that model the actual tests. Organize periodic competition between groups of students where they can practice answering various types of questions in a funny and stress-free environment. There are great famous game (PowerPoint) templates that can be downloaded from the internet ( Jeopardy, Who wants to be a millionaire?, The weakest Link, etc..) 7- Drawing on students’ common mistakes, you can come up with your own simple but efficient strategy for teaching a particular skill, point, etc.. A friend of mine told me that he requires his students to write capital letters and full stops with a different color because he noticed that they often forget to capitalize their words or use a comma instead of a full stop. I tried it and it also worked for my students. 8-One of the myths that are rife among students is that filling spaces provided for writing assignments with anything like excerpts from the reading comprehension texts or replicating the question itself can get them points. Explain that this is only a waste of time. Maybe this stems from the fact that test observers, teachers or parents keep saying “Don’t leave your paper empty” which may send the wrong message that students can fill the test paper with anything they like. 9-Before or during tests, it is essential to try to be friendly without being lenient. Just try to remember how you felt when you had to take one of those tests and you will understand how your students feel. Try to alleviate the students fear by reminding them that 28

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

a test is only a test. It is important but it doesn’t define them as persons. 10-Test correction is a great opportunity to give feedback on how the students did on the test. Try to alternate more favorable and less favorable remarks. Instead of blaming the students for their poor grades, you can ask them to sit in groups and discuss the answers together. Be ready to help when needed. Avoid giving the papers at the beginning of the session: this may distract them from the correction. The Ministry of Education and training in Tunisia(2009). Assessment for Secondary Education. ABIDI, Mohamed Salah. (2008, September). Improving students’ reading skills: Can’t Bloom’s taxonomy be one of the ways? The Tunisian English Teaching Forum, p. 6-12. Online references:

Gastelum, Debrah. Question-Answer Relationships. Retrieved December 2, 2009 from

“It is a site to provide anytime, anywhere professional development with teachers teaching teachers. As well, it is a site where teachers can post videos designed for students to view in order to learn a concept or skill.”

January 2010

Motivation STUDENT

By Fathi Bouguerra, Teacher Trainer

Although its effect on teaching and learning remains elusive because it is quite challenging to measure and harness motivation is still a key factor in language learning. We can’t achieve better results if students are not motivated. For this reason the official in charge decided to add extra time for the preparatory school known as the third hour.


upils study in groups –group session and teachers are urged to use songs, puzzles and games to make learning better and easier for both the teacher and the student. To cater for the lack of material, the Ministry of Education has held regional seminars with the coordination of the British Council to sensitize teachers to the wealth of material on the internet besides using some websites, among them www.go4english .com. To ease the tension and motivate learners , textbook writers have cleverly included some funny pages in the new curriculum-7th year: time for joke ( p106) ; 8th year : the lighter side(p56) ; and jokes ( p103); 3rd year : fun pages( p 40 ). The rationale is that the use of humour makes classroom atmosphere more pleasant, increases interaction between teacher and student and makes learning more meaningful and enjoyable. We can also motivate students by modifying evaluation methods. The new programme brings with it a considerable emphasis on formative evaluation which takes into account variation in students’ needs and interests. Therefore, evaluation


has become an integral part of overall teaching process. Formative evaluation is an ongoing process. 4th year-Skills for life- p63: What I can do now *Read an ad * Describe a place * Imitate a paragraph * …………………………… *……………………………. *Complete as you wish

One of the alternative ways of assessing students is the use of portfolio which is described as “a purposeful collection of students’ work that demonstrates to students and others their efforts, progress and achievement in given areas.” (4th year: p122). “Check how many pieces of writing your portfolio contains. Make a list of the writing tasks you have completed so far. Because SP integrates teaching and assessment on a continuous process, students are given tips on how to organize their portfolios” (4th year: p 257).


Using formative assessment can help decrease the level of anxiety generated by concentration on linguistic accuracy, increase students’ comfort zone and feeling of success by stressing communicative fluency and boost motivation. I look forward to having “students who are assessed more on the strength and eloquence of their argument , rather than on how much information they have absorbed.” ( 4th year :p. 130). For teachers who often complain about students

The use of humour makes classroom atmosphere more pleasant, increases interaction between teacher and student and makes learning more meaningful and enjoyable.

displaying passive classroom attitudes I have found the following strategies very valuable in encouraging learners regardless of the type of classroom. 1.Set realistic goals that can be met with the available resources. 2.Involve students in the learning process and get them speak more English. 3.When assessing students , try to think of this value in terms of words rather than marks ( grade writing assignments with : good / fairly good / well / you can do better) 4.Remember that more time on tasks means more learning.

English in Action Vocabulary and Grammar activities Quizzes & Games Teachers of English Teaching Tips Lesson Plans Worksheets

Fun for Kids Songs Stories

Test Yourself

Research has shown that students in preparatory versus secondary school classroom can be characterized as having different levels of motivation, which could in turn affect how a teacher approaches these contexts. A web-based English language learning centre for the Arab world, provided by the British Council. 30

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

January 2010

Lesson Plans

Poet ry By Abdelhamid Rhaiem, M.A., Higher Institute of Languages, Gabes

Last Week in October By Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

The trees are undressing, and fling in many places On the grey road, the roof, the window sill Their radiant robes and ribbons and yellow laces, A leaf each second so is flung at will, Here, there, another and another, still and still

A spider’s web has caught one while downcoming That stays there dangling when the rest pass on; Like a suspended criminal hangs he, mumming In golden garb, while one yet green, high yon, Trembles, as fearing such a fate for himself anon


Vocabulary: 1.Fling: to throw forcefully 2.Dangle: hang 3.Yon: that 4.Anon: soon, shortly



n this section of the magazine we will try to analyze “Last Week in October”, a poem by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928). Our analysis will fall into the plan that follows: 1. Objectives 2. Analysis 3. Summary 4. Conclusion 1. OBJECTIVES: The main objective of this section is to expose learners to poetic language and help them distinguish between prose writing and verse writing. It also aims at encouraging pupils to read a poem critically. 2. ANALYSIS: In this part, we will try to answer two questions: what and why? - What is the poem about? - How does the poet use the language to convey his message? 2.1. The title: We may resort in this part to semantic mapping. It will help pupils expand on the title so that they will be able to decode the poem’s language and meaning. Death Season/Autumn

Last Week in October


End {week, month, season}

a. Ask pupils to guess the meaning of the poem. b. Ask them to read the poem several times and see “how the land lies” with them; i.e. how true were they in their guesses? 2.2. What is the poem about? - In the first stanza, the speaker describes the ‘undressing’ trees. - The leaves are depicted as clothes (radiant robes


The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

– ribbons – yellow laces) - In the second stanza, the speaker describes the leaves. - He focuses on two leaves. The first is yellow (‘downcoming’), while the other is green (‘while one yet green’) that is still on the tree. - The image is familiar to the ordinary eye watching any tree in the last week in October. Yet, for the ‘inward eye’ of poetry the image carries deep connotations. This is clearly achieved through the use of language. 2.3. How does the poet use the language to create a particular meaning? 2.3.1. Personification: a. Look at these examples: - The trees are undressing (line 1) - Their radiant robes and ribbons and yellow laces (line 3) - Trembles , as fearing such a fate for himself anon (line 10) b. The trees and the leaf are attributed human characteristics (wearing clothes) and features (fear). Why does the poet compare the trees/ leaves to humans? 2.3.2. Alliteration: a. Focus on lines 2 and 3: - On the grey road, the roof, the window sill Their radiant robes and ribbons and yellow laces b. Why is the initial letter /r/ repeated? What does the repetition bring to mind? 2.3.3. Assonance: Look at these words (road, roof, window, ribbons, downcoming, yon, anon …). Why does poet use the /o/ sound excessively? What does this sound symbolize? 2.3.4. Repetition: a. Focus on line 5: Here, there, another and another, still and still b. The speaker repeats the words ‘another’ and ‘still’ twice each time. Why? What is the role of repetition in the general meaning of the poem? 2.3.5. Diction: Read the second stanza and sort out all the words that denote death. 3. SUMMARY: 3.1. The main figure of speech in this poem is personification; that is the attribution of human characteristics and qualities to non-humans or inanimate things. The poet personifies the trees in the first stanza and the leaves, one yellow and one green, in the second stanza. For example, like January 2010

humans, the trees are ‘undressing’ (line 1) putting off their ‘radiant robes and ribbons and yellow lace’ (line 3). The image is reminiscent of human beings in the process of getting undressed. 3.2. The process of falling leaves is clearly illustrated through the repetition of ‘another’ (twice) and ‘still’ (twice). Moreover, the use of alliteration of the /r/ sound in words like ‘road’ and ‘roof’ in the second line and ‘radiant’, ‘robes’ and ‘ribbons’ in the third serves to evoke the sound of the rustling of leaves. 3.3. The mood of the speaker is sad and the atmosphere of the poem is ominous suggesting that death is coming. For instance, the image of death is all about the poem. Words such as ‘downcoming’ (line 6), ‘dangling’ (line 7), ‘suspended’ (line 8), ‘hangs’ (line 8) and ‘fate’ (line 10) may bring to mind the idea of death. The /o/ sound in ‘downcoming’ (line 6), ‘on’ (line 7) and ‘anon’ (line 10) may reflect a feeling of grief and sadness. 4. CONCLUSION: Going back to the title, we can safely conclude that the poem is not merely about the trees in the ‘last week in October’ , rather, it is about humans in the last stages of their lives. 1

When asked to comment on the title, one of my students, funnily enough, stated that the poem is not about the last week in October but about “the first week of November”!

Looking for poems or poets? Check this nice-looking blog:

Check MAPS: a comprehensive learning environment and scholarly forum for the study of modern American poetry




The Lighter side

Q: Why A: Beca

Q: Wha pencil? A: -So,

Q: Wha incorre A: Inco

By Fathi Bouguerra, Teacher Trainer

Q: Wha has onl A: An e

“ What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity .They are trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” Joseph Adison


Fun wi

Logical Intelligence

Find the odd man out.

1. saxophone stairs guitar drums 2. depressed motivated pollution anxious 3. sunshine stairs saxophone emotions 4. emotions stairs saxophones sunshine

Problem Solving Problem A

My 1st is in bug but not in rug My 2nd is in peas but not in please My 3rd is in shut but not in shot My 4th is in one but not in two When you find me, I will be sad

Problem B

A little boy lives on the 15th floor. Every day, he tells his mom goodbye, takes the lift down, and goes to school. In the afternoon, he comes back home, takes the lift up, and stops at the 7th floor, then continues home on foot. Why?




answers on back cover

The Tunisian English Teaching Forum | Issue 2

January 2010


W mixed U knowledgea UP, look the In a desk-siz almost 1/4th to about thi to it, you m of the man take UP a l don’t give with a h threate cloud sun sa

nny Riddles

y is a math book so unhappy? ause it is full of problems.

at did the pen say to the ? what’s your point?

at word is always spelled ectly? orrectly!

at’s an eight letter word that ly one letter in it? envelope

ith Prepositions

We seem to be pretty UP about UP. To be able about the proper uses of e word UP in the dictionary. zed dictionary, it takes UP h of the page and can add UP irty definitions. If you are UP might try building UP a list ny ways UP is used. It will lot of your time, but if you e UP, you may wind UP hundred or more. When it ens to rain, we say it is ding UP .. When the n comes out we ay it is clearing UP ...



What our readers said about the previous issue of the magazine

“[It] is the produce of good will and hard work. We all wish you the best in your noble pursuit..” Abdelmalek Hadji Senior Teacher & ICT Teacher Trainer Nabeul, Tunisia “I can not but express my deep gratitude to Mr. Abidi and those working on the same project .It is really a great effort..” Faten Romdhani Teacher Of English Nabeul, Tunisia “After reading this magazine all I can say is, WOW. This is a well thought out/written publication that incorporates every facet of education; from having a successful start to the school year, to how to best implement technology into education.” David Kapuler, Media & Technology Specialist, Greendale School District, U.S.A “It is a very enjoyable, informative read and makes for a great practical resource, which can be referenced again and again.” Patricia Donaghy ICT Teacher Dublin, Ireland “I have just come across your extremely elegant online magazine and I was delighted to be able to learn so much about ELT in Tunisia.” Susan Thornhill ,Regional Sales Manager North Africa Macmillan Education, Oxford

Solutions to the riddles on page 34-35

Find the odd man out 1. stairs (it is not a musical instrument) 2. pollution (it is a noun) 3. emotions ( it doesn’t start with an s) 4. sunshine (it is a non countable noun)

Problem solving: Problem A: BLUE Problem B: The boy is too short to reach the 15th button.

The Tunisian ELT Forum issue 2  

A magazine for and by teachers of English in Tunisia and worldwide

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