RATE ISSUES SUMMER / 2008

Editor's Notes:

There are many things that we, teachers of English in Romania, need these days. Among others, we need recognition for our work and for our worth as well as opportunities for professional development. Unfortunately, state authorities, institutions like the good old Casa Corpului Didactic  have repeatedly and frustratingly failed to provide these due benefits. The question now lying ahead of us is whether we should fall into the old habit of crying out merciless fate and take on the convenient role of the victimised nobleman in their ivory tower or whether we should take a stance and build the things that we lack all by ourselves. It may not be fair or easy, but it is indeed in our power to build the Romanian Association of Teachers of English into an imposing institution such as the ones the state fails to organise for our benefit. Thus, we could create personal and professional development opportunities for English teachers throughout the country, give reliable credit to the best of us, create in-service training courses, provide mentorship and, above all, help to connect teachers young and old, experienced and inexperienced, etc. If our federation proves consistently good at doing that, then the incoherent government will feel forced to give official recognition to the fruit of our work and to use us as a source of professional expertise. May this electronic magazine be one successful step in that effort!

Ovidiu Aniculaese

 

 

Message to Language Teachers at the REAL Seminar from Leonard Orban, European Commissioner for Multilingualism

I am delighted to have this opportunity to address you and to be able to speak to you about languages and multilingualism in Europe. I am sure that you, more than any other group, will understand my message – and hope that you will also agree with it and support it. I know that the ideas and questions I am dealing with here will not be unfamiliar to you. 

First and foremost I would like to stress that the history of Europe is also the history of its languages. Like me, you know that linguistic diversity is the everyday reality in our countries and in our towns, that our languages are an integral part of our identity and that they are the most clear expression of our individual cultures.  I hope, too, that you share with me the idea that this “natural” linguistic diversity in Europe is a huge asset, which we should exploit and use to our advantage. In a world where the possibilities of communication technology seem to grow each day and where distances - both real and virtual – are more easily covered, the ability to communicate in several languages is an added value for our citizens, for organisations and for European business. I am committed to the preservation and promotion of this fundamental characteristic of the European venture.

Our European multilingual policy has three major strands:

1. to contribute to economic competitiveness, to more and better work opportunities;

2. to encourage the lifelong learning of languages and to promote linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue;

3. to develop a forum for European political dialogue, through multilingual communication with its citizens;

Let us begin with the first of these strands: multilingualism clearly supports European economic competitiveness and contributes to the attainment of the objectives of the Lisbon strategy, which is to make the economy of the Community the most advanced in the world. A study recently instigated by the European Commission underlines that there are real commercial opportunities in Europe which remain undeveloped due to the lack of language skills in businesses.  To better understand how we can strengthen linguistic competence in business, in order to help to penetrate new markets and improve the employment prospects and mobility of European workers, I have decided to create a business forum on multilingualism, which will take place in the second half of 2007. This forum will be preceded by a conference entitled “Languages Mean Business” which will be held on 21 September 2007 in Brussels and will be devoted to the theme of languages as a competitive asset for Europe.

These events will allow us to better define the links between linguistic competence and business performance in order to improve them. We must also bear in mind that multilingualism itself represents an important sector of activity and creates many jobs. 

The second objective of our multilingualism policy is to encourage the lifelong learning of languages and to promote linguistic diversity and intercultural dialogue in Europe. Our message is clear: it is never too late to learn or to brush up on a language, with all the benefits this brings with it. This objective of encouraging language learning and linguistic diversity is one of the specific objectives of the Lifelong Learning programme, the European education and training programme.

In the framework of this programme a number of linguistic activities and initiatives will be financially supported in different sectors of education: for example partnerships between schools, assistantships, professional development of teachers, linguistic upskilling and mobility in Europe, networks, conferences and research studies, information campaigns, and multilateral projects like REAL. All languages in the world are eligible in the programme.  

We must remember too that language learning is an important channel for intercultural sensitivity and understanding. There is thus a need to guarantee the contribution of multilingualism to intercultural dialogue.  2008 will be the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. We have just created a group, Intellectuals for Intercultural Dialogue, which met for the first time on 29 June. Its role is to define the contribution of multilingualism to the Year, as well as its subsequent contribution. 

The third strand of our policy is to develop a forum for European political dialogue through multilingual communication between citizens and our institutions. In order to achieve this we rely on the translation and interpretation services of the European Union. Translation and interpretation allows citizens of all Member States to read and understand the laws to which they are subject and allows their democratically elected representatives to defend their interests and their ideas without language being a hindrance. To improve communication between citizens of the Union, the European Commission will strive, within its means, to extend the linguistic cover of its websites.  

It is clear that the multilingualism portfolio within the European Union has a distinct transversal dimension: it interacts with other Union policies such as culture, education, communication, social policy, employment, justice, freedom, security etc.  Consequently we need to examine in depth the contribution of multilingualism to the elaboration and development of community policies - both internal and external – and to promote its positive effects as far as possible.

To do this I intend, in the second half of 2008, to present to my colleagues the Ministers of Education of the Member States, a statement which will set out the basis of a new strategy for multilingualism in Europe.  The results of the work of the groups mentioned above, such as the Business Forum on Multilingualism or the group working on intercultural dialogue, will feed into this statement, as will the conclusions of the report on our 2004-2006 Action Plan for Languages,  to which many Member States contributed.

In addition, towards the end of this year, my department will organise an online consultation, open to everyone, on multilingualism in Europe, the results of which will be taken into consideration in the new policy statement. I invite you now to take part in this consultation; you are some of the best placed people in Europe to help us in the creation of this new strategic framework for multilingualism.

The importance of a project like REAL seems to me to be evident in what I have just outlined. The creation of a European network of language teacher associations would be a great step forward for the promotion of multilingualism in Europe. This network would, among other things, allow for the wide diffusion and a better understanding of the importance of language learning in our society and could become a key player alongside national and European authorities. It would highlight linguistic and cultural diversity and would certainly give a great added value to the languages cause. You have already made the first step in this direction; I can only urge you to continue on your way. 

I wish you every success.

In this issue:
 

Articles:

Project Reports and Feedback:

 

ISSN 1844 – 6159

 HOW TO… Evaluate Teaching Books, by Luciana Popescu, Scoala Gala Galaction, Mangalia


The following article is aims to assist Practitioner Teachers in their everyday professional life.
It is widely accepted that school owners and teachers select their teaching materials (books) during either the summer period or early autumn. With such variety of book titles and overlapping contents out in the publishing market it is natural for anybody to feel a bit “lost”, confused and hesitant to decide about what to use at each teaching level.
What follows is a checklist of factors/criteria (for the student’s and the teacher’s book) which might help you decide about the most appropriate material for your teaching style, the learners` needs and the teaching context.
Of course, there are many more questions to be added in each category presented below and each time you use this list you should add to the questions to mach your specific needs.
For each question, note down your answers. When you finish evaluating all the books in questions, compare and…decide.



The checklist - Student’s materials

Here is a list of the factors and criteria to consider and some possible questions.

Rationale: Is the reason why the material was written clear?
Is it specified for any particular target learners?
Is it for a specific teaching context?
Is the material language-learning or test-passing oriented?
Student’s support materials: Is there any ‘workbook’ ‘companion’ to accompany the main book?
What is its value/contribution to the course?
Is there any self-help type of materials? I.e. reference tables, vocabulary lists etc.
Does it include visual materials? Is it in colour?
Organisation: How is the student’s book organized? (Units /Themes…)
Is there information about the book for the learners?
Are the units ‘patternised’? (All units in the same style).
Is there a story line? How is it presented?
Is it easy to use it in your classroom setting?
Are the units balanced in terms of content and time?
Approach: Is the approach adopted structural/functional/notional/multi-syllabus or other?
Is the syllabus offered enough/too much for the needs of the class?
Is the language learning processes assumed to be discovered by the learner/provided for the learner or a combination or a combination of both?
Methodology: Is the material based on a certain teaching method?
Are there pair work activities? Games? Songs? Translation activities? Communication tasks ? Exam preparation tasks? Etc.
Are the activities organised in a natural procedure?
Which aspects of language system and from are covered? (from –grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation)
(use-skills/appropriacy/grammatics/discourse)
What are the roles of the teacher and the students in various parts of the material?
How much time and space, proportionately, is devoted to the interpretation of meaning by the students?
What about expressing meaning?
Selection and Grading: Is the material at an appropriate language level?
Does it continue to further levels?
Topics: Are they appropriate to the student’s age maturity?
Do they reflect general education matters?
Do they promote the students ideas on sensitive issues?
Are they exam oriented? Are they biased?
Presentation material: Is there contextualised presentation of new language items?
Are the texts authentic? Are there any visuals?
Is there a balance between reading and listening texts for presenting new language?
What text types are included?
Vocabulary presentation/materials and practice: How many new words will the students learn in each unit/ text/ lesson?
How is the new lexis presented?
How often are they recycled? How?
Practice materials: Is the practice material offered adequate in quantity?
Are the exercises varied? Meaningful?
Are they appropriate to the context, students’ needs and interest?
Does the material allow for revision, testing, and on going evaluation?
Are there enough controlled/ less controlled and freer practice activities?
Authenticity Are the texts authentic or sanitized?
Is there authenticity of language and tasks?
Are there tasks communicative and real life oriented?
Layout and graphics: Is the material in question attractive?
Is there any difficulty in the arrangement of the material?
Are the fonts used readable?
Are there enough motivating pictures/ photos/ photographs/ visuals?
Physical characteristics: Does the material impose any specific physical restraints? i.e. language laboratory, PC room etc.
Is there enough space to write in the book?
Does the material impose a certain seating arrangement?
Cultural appropriacy: Is the author’s sense of humour or philosophy obvious and appropriate?
Does the material enshrine stereotyped images of gender, race, social class or nationality?
Are there accurate views of the USA or British culture represented?
Flexibility/ Sufficiency/ Adaptation Is there a need to follow the sequence of the material in a strict order?
Can the teacher and/ or the student change it?
Is the book complete enough to stand on must the teacher produce a lot of ancillary bridging material to make it workable?
Is there ‘space for all types of adaptations?
Development and Cohesion: Do the units and exercises link in terms of topic/ situation?
Do they progress naturally?
Is there adequate recycling of grammar items and lexis?
Pace Is the general pace of the material fast/ slow for your learners?
Availability: Is all the material out in the market available to the teacher and the students? How much does it cost?
Is there assistance by the publisher’s representative for further information on pedagogical information on pedagogical details of the book?
Tasks: Is the more than one type of task presented in the material?
Which types of task seem to be most conductive to learning?
What is the objective of the tasks? How meaningful are the tasks?
Could you avoid or add a task without affecting the natural flow of the material?
Overall: Is it motivating for the teacher and the students?
Is there any educational validity in the material?
What kind of English is taught? (dialects/ style/ register/ medium)
What do you think is missing from the material?


The checklist - Teacher’s book

Target teachers: Is the material suitable for experienced/ less experienced, trained/ less trained teachers?
Is the reference to the students’ different learning strategies and suggestions for improving them?
Rationale and organisation: Is it clear why the teacher’s guide was designed?
Is it designed by the author/s and /or the publisher?
How explicit is the teacher’s guide expressing the views of the author/s?
Is the format easy to use when preparing and when teaching through the book?
Does it encourage teacher’s self-evaluation procedures?
Teacher assistance: Is the teacher’s guide in L1 or L2?
Is there support material for the teacher?
Is there information about language teaching and methods to apply it?
Does it provide opportunities for teacher development?



 

DIVIDE AND … CREATE INVOLVEMENT

by Gianina Todirica, Raluca Murarasu, Claudia Pricop, Oana Blanaru and  Mirabela Ursescu,  “Al.I.Cuza” High-school , Iasi

Taking into account the following division of types of learners, we devised activities not only to suit these different types of learners, but also to emphasize the importance of developing social skills and of encouraging group work and collaborative tasks:

 

 

The following mind maps illustrate different ways we can address our learners:

  

 

  

 

 Ultimately, there functions another division: solitary vs. social learners.

 Our activities were meant to emphasize the fact that effective teaching cannot occur without motivating activities that rely on students’ independence and sense of self-competence:

 

Modern teaching methods are definitely focused on interactive communicative approaches and therefore rises up an utmost demand for participative techniques. But how can a teacher involve all his students if not by team work? Still, group work seems also to be a worn-out method…So what is it to be done if not to revive it!

 

The first activity – devised by Gianina Todirica and Raluca Murarasu

 

The was called “The New Planet Activity”. Students were divided in groups of 4 – 5 and were given a list of people – they were supposed to choose 5 people to send to another planet on which the human species could start all over again since Earth is on the verge of extinction. Afterwards, one spokesperson from each group was supposed to present the decision of the group. Needless to say, the lists were different and the students started to debate and defend their own point of view. Although the activity was devised as a warm-up, the students got so involved in this little ‘story’ that we continued the debate for the whole class.

 Here is the list of people the students receive – but you can adapt it according to other topics you discuss (discrimination, jobs, pollution – are just a few): 

1)      12 year old male, straight A student, wants to be a police officer            2)    18 year old male, high school drop out, does not have a job

3)    24 year old female, pregnant and expecting twins, teacher                      4)    25 year old female, fashion model

5)    15 year old female, pregnant, high school student                                  6)    16 year old male, boyfriend of #7, baby’s father

7)    30 year old male, garbage collector, has a wife                                       8)    70 year old male, retired lawyer

9)    50 year old female, doctor, cannot have children                                     10) 45 year old male, investment banker, very wealthy

11)  40 year old male, dentist                                                                      12) 30 year old male, famous actor, known to use drugs

13) 38 year old male, pilot and astronaut, has the flu                                     14) 29 year old female, botanist (studies plants/trees)

15) 49 year old male, governor of California                                                  16) 30 year old female, cook, owns her own restaurant

17) 60 year old female, astronomer                                                              18) 22 year old female, singer, dancer, actress, smoker

19) 28 year old male, professional basketball player                                      20) 33 year old male, carpenter, has the chicken pox

           

The second activity – devised by Claudia Teodora Pricop

 I have decided to turn to the old but still effective group work due to its ability of involving all of my students in a ‘for’ and ‘against’ discussion over surveillance systems. And to make things more difficult or more exciting the students had to put up with a cameraman that recorded all their activities.

       But all things went for the better because, though the students felt a bit shy and not very confident in the beginning, they eventually grew relaxed and performed naturally and their interaction proved benefic for the dynamics of the class.

      The students were given a task to work in groups of 4 and decide over the advantages and drawbacks of having surveillance systems in our society. Two students were designated to supervise the whole activity and to observe how the four teams interacted, whose intervention was the most pertinent and what team was the fastest in coming up with their final decisions. These two observers had a clear-cut mission to provide a feedback and to report to the class what team performed the best in terms of language, ideas and interaction. After finishing writing down their ideas on a large chart the spokes person of each team delivered the consensus they have reached regarding the theme given. In the end the teacher drew the common ideas on a different chart so that each team’s ideas would be taken into consideration and be fully appreciated. The two observers gave a final touch to the lesson by delimitating the participation of the four groups and their performance.

      If we were to enlist the benefits of such an activity, we could definitely mention the fact that group work gives students the chance to participate regardless the skills they posses in English or their boldness. It is well acknowledged that there are some students who are not very self-confident or simply shier than other who are extremely active, if not impulsive, that take the lead during the classes. Therefore this type of activity encourages different type of characters to participate evenly and feel the sense of being active and given the opportunity to stand out.

      Another benefit of this technique is that the students have the chance to negotiate and reach a consensus related to their theme and they understand that everyone’s idea is important and matters in the overall contribution of the group.

      Needless to say, this sort of a task gives the teacher the chance to step in only when it is absolutely necessary to clarify certain problems that might appear, otherwise , the teacher is the least participative one and this offers the students the chance to feel in charge of their work and self-confident.

      If such a method is being effective or nor is for everyone of us to decide ,but it cannot be denied that sometimes collective work is better than individual work because one gets the chance to take roles in the group and therefore accept limits and rules which is for everyone’s advantage.

 

Teaching Culture and Civilization by Role-Play and Drama, by Cristina Nechifor, "Mihai Viteazul " National College Bucharest

In a computer-ruled world, with children and teenagers bewitched by the fair amount of and easily accessible information by means of and only 'tool', teaching culture and civilization, to both intensive and regular classes, has become a real challenge .

With me, it all started with Shakespeare (luckily present in the 9th grade syllabus) as a brick to build my defence against 'the precious' (though necessary) tool that had made youngsters a bit lazy and skeptical, as far as the written text - in general - and classic literature - in particular - are concerned . Before that , with Chaucer, the audio-cassette of "Past Into Present" by Roger Gower had done the job for me, stirring their interest and amazement at the sound of Middle English (as no one but a native speaker could have read and interpreted the old text better, to make it attractive to such a technically -oriented generation). We, then, worked with the text ,like puzzle, trying to identify , as in a competition, the words of French or Latin origin in the text .As a writing project of ' narrative essay', I, then, stimulated them to write their own 'frame story' a more modern location (in time and place).

Shakespeare was too famous and complex to approach just by listening and text analysis. A video-cassette (that had been presented to us by a former teacher-trainer in the 90's, Annette O'Dell, made the introduction. Two famous directors from the `Royal Shakespeare Company"( John Barton and Sir Peter Hall) were splitting the text and reciting in Elizabethan English , insisting on the vocabulary, lexical innovative gift of Shakespeare, showing them the man and the genius . Famous quotations were revealed to them as having first been used by ' great Will', in his plays, and becoming, ever since, heritage of the English Language :

- 'We are such stuff that dreams are made of'
- 'This precious stone, set in the silver sea'
- 'Frailty, thy name is' woman' "
- 'More in sorrow than in anger'
- 'The time is out of joint'
- 'More matter with less art'
- 'To be or not to be'
- 'The Lady does protest too much '
- 'To the manner born'
- 'Brevity is the soul of wit'
- 'I must be cruel only to be kind'
- 'The play's the thing'
- 'The rest is silence'
- 'A horse! My kingdom for a horse !'
- 'Nothing will come of nothing !'
- 'Oh, brave New World !'

and many others , alike.

Then, I remained alone with the text and I thought of continuing its approach in the same spirit of verisimilitude; so , I presented Sonnet 18 to them ( I must confess I have always been attracted by the stage!) as a dialogue with an imaginary friend, speaking it rather than reciting it, like a diary page, out-loud. After the theme and the message were identified by the students, metaphors, personifications, rhetorical questions, syntactical parallelism were easily exemplified in the text. We found clear and beautiful embodiments of these, otherwise too theoretical, issues, for example.:

a. 'Shall I compare thee with a summer's day?'(rhetorical questions)
b. the eye of Heaven" / ' 'Thy eternal summer'( metaphors)
c. ' ..and often is his gold complexion dimm'd '/' Nor shall Death brag thy wonders in His shade' (personifications)
d. ' Nor lose possession of that fair thou owst
      Nor shall Death………..'
    ' So long as man can breathe and eyes can see
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.' (syntactical parallelism)

Sonnet 130 brought him closer to them by an unconventional portrait of the beloved woman, built by rejection of the traditional clichés of the Renaissance sonnet and that of the love poetry (old or new) ; they had fun !

' My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red than her lips red.
If snow be white, why, then , her breasts are dun ?'…..

The romantic girls were reassured by the message ( love is unique, and needs not be adorned with false images) while the rebellious teen-age boys were delighted by the so modern , contemporary rejection of sentimentalism , that lack of 'syrupy-sweet taste of traditional love poetry.

"Julius Caesar" , with the selection of two masterful speeches (Brutus' and Mark Antony's) brought history and politics into real life. I acted the two monologues myself , exaggerating a bit on gestures and poses so I could point at the differences between the two great speakers( and friends of Caesar's) as well as to emphasize the language gift of Shakespeare who made of them an idealistic philosopher (Brutus) and a down to earth strategist (Mark Antony).

The students were , then, given the roles of the citizens , who were interfering and commenting the speakers' words; I was thrilled to see how they were trying to imitate my intention of showing character by interpretation. They were allowed to read the text (first) silently, and afterwards, together, on roles, they commented upon their characters making assumptions , using the language used by the characters in the text as support-arguments for their observations on : social class, level of education, character features.

Victory !

The text had hooked them and I was happy to have helped ( even though by the dramatic strategy) .After all, we always have to put up some acting skills in front of them, putting ourselves in other shoes each time we teach a new topic, don't we?

The evaluation of Shakespeare-unit was both a challenge and fun for both students and myself : they had to select a scene or a longer monologue from any play they wished (from Shakespeare) , act it in front of the class, and then answer some questions about the philosophical and prosodic peculiarities of the text. They prepared , got costumed, were nervous , funny and… gorgeous ! (I often meet ex-students who can still quote line from Shakespeare : so , it wasn't in vain !)They started enjoying literature by looking at poetry and drama from an other perspective.

With prose, role-play also helped .Let's take Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles", for instance: omniscient narrative approach, difficult language (architectural terms, especially) tragic topic… It had to be brought down to their age by something: role-play. The 'vocabulary' section was of help; whether it is scheduled for that unit or elsewhere in the text book , the vocabulary of 'crime and law' was (by me) before the text from "Tess". (legal terms, type of crimes / criminals , punishments etc). The students had been asked (at the beginning of the school year ) to read the novel . The evaluation project combined both vocabulary and literature: 'The trial of Tess D'Urbervilles' (from the perspective of the 21st century ). Students were divided into groups (of their choice, so they could better cooperate ): judge, prosecutor, defence lawyer, bailiff, witnesses, jury . They had to watch (for 3 weeks - the project dead-line) detective movies and put down specific expressions used in Court , meet for working at the cross-examinations questions (we also had a class dedicated to putting things together (on groups), presenting the evidence (especially quotations from the novel)and objects brought along by them for that purpose.

I was amazed to see how involved they got into the process of gathering facts from the novel , or , during the trial, in defending or accusing Tess, giving arguments , building (and acting ) their pleas like real lawyers. According to the eloquence of the barristers she was found either guilty as charged (!) or institutionalized on the grounds of 'temporary insanity'. They practiced their knowledge and apprehension of the novel , their vocabulary and also , their moral principles. I'm sure they acknowledged ,in a more realistic way , the novel, the 19th century moral and social background as well as the differences that the 21st c brought about.

My revelations on the students’ skills and potential gave me the idea of organizing a drama group, (first , we staged: "Hamlet"- a 4 hour-show, with sound track, costumes, effects and all , "The Importance of Being Earnest", "Pygmalion" and some Romanian plays as well ) with which we won quite a lot of prizes to their satisfaction, and our Principal's (and my own) joy. In April 2006, on behalf of the Bucharest English Teachers Association and by the help of open-minded and supportive educational Institutions, we initiated an International Drama Festival , called "Shakespeare's Heritage" that included 18 drama groups from Romania, Belgium and Croatia, a jury made of Romanian actors and directors with international experience (Maia Morgenstern - who played the Holy Mother of Christ in "The Passions of Christ"; Adrian Pintea, also with a Hollywood experience ) as well as Mr. . Paul Edmondson - Director of Education at "Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford" and Mr. Paul Goetzee, dramatist (Liverpool). Some of you may remember the first edition.I do hope the second will also be worth remembering.

I am convinced, now, that, by putting yourself as a teacher, as well as the students, in the shoes of the characters, can bring history and literature closer to their hearts .

Enhancing Collaborative Learning by Exploring   e-Learning, by Rodica Vulcanescu (Liceul “Mihai Eminescu” Iasi) and Rada Balan (Colegiul National “Emil Racovita” Iasi)

 What is e-Learning?

The term e-Learning was coined in 2000 and it is also known as "web-based learning" and "internet-based learning". E-learning is an approach to facilitate and enhance learning through the use of devices based on both computer and communications technology, including personal computers, CD-ROMs, digital television and more. Communication technology enables the use of the Internet, email, discussion forums, collaborative software and team learning systems to enhance the learning process. E-learning may also be used to support distance learning through the use of WANs (Wide area networks), and may also be considered to be a form of flexible learning where just-in-time learning is possible.

In short, e-Learning is the convergence of learning and the Internet. It is seen either  as an alternative to the face to face formal education environment or as a complementary way to this when learners in  face to face classes have access to on-line materials and support, as it can happens in blended learning and distance learning.

E-Learning can be synchronous learning and asynchronous learning

In Synchronous Learning, interaction happens simultaneously, in real-time. This requires the participants to be logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. In this virtual classroom setting, the instructor/teacher maintains control of the class, with the ability to "call on" participants. In most platforms, students and teachers can use a whiteboard to see work in progress and share knowledge. Interaction may also occur via audio or video-conferencing, Internet telephony, or two-way live broadcasts.

Asynchronous Learning involves people being online at separate times and conversing and participating with a time delay. This enables students to participate according to their own schedule, and be geographically separate from the instructor. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email.

Why e-Learning?

Some features of e-Learning  make it attractive.

e-Learning is dynamic. It makes easy access to today's content in real time, as opposed to “old news” or "shelf-ware”, consequently a favourite source  for teenagers and young people.

e-Learning is collaborative. People learn from one another. eLearning connects learners with experts, colleagues, and professional peers.

e-Learning is individual. Every e-learner selects activities from a personal menu of learning opportunities most relevant to their own background, job, and career at that very moment.

e-Learning is comprehensive as it  provides learning events from many sources, enabling the e-learner to select a favourite format or learning method or training provider.

These features are not to be ignored by any teachers and especially by those teaching  English, the language of the internet itself. On the other hand,  using eLearning in our teaching, whenever available and appropriate,   helps us keep pace with our students and  not become obsolete. We are not pleading for abandoning face to face format. What we are pleading for is a reasonable and intelligent use of what eLearning can contribute to enhancing collaborative learning in the English class.

How to enhance collaborative learning using e-learning?

Different resources are available via internet and the simple information on these resources is an asset.

On-line courses and tutorials:  e.g. Hospitality (providing English for tourism and services) or How to be a Gardener (all about plants and gardens)

Interactive game shows and simulations which can bring variety and fun at some point in the regular lesson ( eg Mastermind Games: Jeopardy, Who wants to be a Millionaire / From Rags to Riches ,  Hard Spell )

Sites which can be used for the information they provide: for example YouTube , a popular free video sharing website which lets users upload, view, and share video clips. It is definitely the teacher’s duty to check the content before sharing it with the students so as to avoid using inappropriate materials in the classroom. Another site which is free and  rich in information is youtube.com/eutube created by the European Comission and appropriate for social, political and legal topics or profiles.

 Wikis - websites built in parallel by many people (from many to many):   e.g. Wikipedia/wikitravel(e.g. Visit museums, Find out about food at www.eatme.wikispaces.com,

http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome gives free access to  a new  site, “a kind of Wikipedia of education curriculum”.

For those who want to create a wiki there is the address  www.wikispaces.com

There are different tools or  live e-Learning systems which can be used by both teachers and students to become familiar with or to  create different learning and testing materials, such as Microsoft Office Live, Centra, Horizon Live, webex, Breeze Live (bought by Adobe and called now Acrobat Connect,  

There are also useful sites for creating online courses.

Quia is such a site  for teachers (or others) to create activities on line. The administrator of the site offers a free trial for 30 days. When  entering  the Instructor zone,  tools to create activities are available and samples of  all kind of activities offered by other teachers. Teachers can download while students  can only connect.

Whiteboard can be creatively and collaboratively used by 2-4 students working together on one ‘page’. They can write group short stories, carry out live conversations, or brainstorm ideas on different topics or do different  vocabulary activities.

Hot Potatoes (e.g. Hot Potatoes 6.2. to 6.9 Installer Windows) is a free programme  by which teachers can easily build, save  and print different types of activities: quizzes,  gap-fill, crosswords, jumbled sentences, matching exercises.

 

Mark E. Damon powerpoint teacher site (which is not free anymore)

All the materials created can be uploaded using a platform like Moodle or a Course Builder like Dreamweaver (unfortunately not free – yet…)

Blogs, very trendy lately,  can be sometimes used for their educational value: for example the blogs of famous people provide topics for debates or discussions. They are also a valuable source of live language.

e-Learning provids access to a variety of learning resources, but there are also dangers about using it inadequately.  Therefore,   teachers should be aware themselves and make students aware of sites which may have a negative impact on personality development. For example, by accessing  Second Life, which makes use of  immersive technology, you can choose a persona for yourself, a name, what you look like, where you live, you can buy/sell virtual land, a house, furniture, clothes, etc, using Linden dollars – (now exchanged to real dollars). You can choose what you look like, your profession, your friends, your status, your holiday destination, so you can have a second life… Very attractive, but potentially deceiving and alienating, even to the extreme. 

Conclusions
We honestly  accept  the view  that  eLearning provides faster learning at reduced costs, increased access to learning, and clear accountability for all participants in the learning process. We share the opinion that eLearning  brings small and large groups together , that it also brings learning to people. We believe that  in today's fast-paced culture, by   implementing  eLearning in our teaching,  we simply provide our students  with the ability to use change  and technological progress to their advantage.

 

Archetypes and Modern Drama, by Paul Goetzee, Good Friday March 21 2008

 

Professor Cristina Nechifor asked me if I would write something about archetypes and modern drama. I was a bit stumped so I went to the nearest dictionary.

The OED defines archetype as ‘a primordial mental image inherited by all’.

Further reading directed me to psychology. The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung used archetypes in his study of the human mind. He found eternal boys, mothers, tricksters, wise old men, scarlet women, faceless men, cosmic people, children, artists, inventors, seekers, dreamers, shadows, the anima, the animus, the persona, the self and strange beings that unite the conscious and unconscious without losing the qualities of either, called Syzygy.

With these strange magical creatures that sound like the credits from an episode of Dr Who, he explored the bewildering convolutions of people’s minds.

The stories that these creatures enacted were the Myths or “the culturally elaborated representations of the contents of the deepest recess of the human psyche: the world of the archetypes.”

They all made up the collective unconscious, the innate thoughts, feelings and memories that reside in the unconsciousness of all people.

So, archetypes are useful to psychologists of a certain school. Jung invoked the shadow-people of a distant time, a time when man had just begun to know himself, to cure our modern madness.

In religion too, where would we be without the archetype? Job the endurer, Jesus the saviour, Judas the betrayer, Mary the quintessential Mother, Mohammed the prophet, Buddha the wise man and so on. In all religions, there are saints and prophets, sinners and miracle-workers, angels and devils. Before psychology was invented, priests and theologians had already absorbed the archetypes and reprocessed them for their own ends.

 But what about the professional storytellers, the weavers of these myths? Do they use archetypes in their work? Did Shakespeare? Do contemporary playwrights? What is the playwright’s relationship to the archetype?

Shakespeare of course used archetypes. Prospero the magician-hero, Hamlet the eternal boy, Falstaff the trickster, Lear the mad king. He also drew on folklore and his plays are populated with ghosts and spirits and fairies. The ancient Greek playwrights knew even more about them: Tiresias, the blind seer; Cassandra, the prophetess of doom; Oedipus the father-killer; Electra the avenger; Clytemnestra the wronged wife and Medea, the wronged mistress and child-killer. Ferocious women are documented through the ages: from the Mesopotamian goddess Ereshkigal , who impaled her sister on a spike, through the man-dismembering Bacchae to Medea and Lady MacBeth and, in modern times, to Hedda Gabler, the original femme fatale, and Brecht’s Mother Courage the mother who suffers and endures as a victim of war but who is also the agent of her own suffering.  Among the male contingent, Prometheus, the tragic fire-bringing titan. engendered  Oedipus and Lear  and more recently  Ibsen’s Master Builder, Arthur Miller’s Eddie Carbone  and Dennis Potter’s Son of Man.

Each epoch has its gods and monsters and its wily heroes, adapted to its own age from ancient blueprints. However, in contemporary England at least (and I have to emphasise this is a very personal view), we see less of them on our stages.

A TV soap is more likely to have a convincing villain or a cunning trickster or a wise old woman than a stage play. More in vogue are dysfunctional families and failing relationships and crises of identity, played out in cold, naturalistic detail. Now and again writers will try and invoke demonic and tyrannical and amoral archetypes but not often. Our stages are full of the flawed interactions of thirty-somethings. One just needs to take a look, for example, at the plays that won prizes in the prestigious Bruntwood competition at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last year. Not an archetype in sight. People are lost, identities are blurred. There’s a war on in Iraq and all the English are concerned about apparently is who we are. It seems we don’t go to the theatre in England to watch a play anymore. We go to study sociology.

Are we too sophisticated, too steeped in irony to allow the primordial mental images in? Have they outlived their usefulness in describing our existence to each other?  Are they too simplistic, even a bit suspect?  Has theatre become a suppository for the emotionally constipated middle class?

I don’t know the answer to these questions- except possibly the last one. All I do know is that I admire the playwrights who are not too sniffy to make use of the creatures that lurk and shape-shift down the ages in our unconscious.

Playwrights like Howard Brenton, who has always flown the flag of big themes from Romans in Britain to Pravda to his new play Never So Good about our own archetypal villain, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan. Before that he wrote  a play about the original proselyte, St Paul. Martin McDonough in his fabulous play The Pillowman shows us a storyteller whose own stories inspire his brother to commit horrific child-murders.

For me anyway, writers like these invoke a dark, ancient magic where the shadows of the archetypes flicker in the firelight on the walls of our collective cave. Unfortunately they are few and far between.

Teaching Fantasy Literature. A Journey Worth Taking

by Anabella ENACHI, ‘Grupul Scolar Ion Holban’ Iasi

          Today, computers and media have practically invaded our lives, so, it is vital to bear this in mind when teaching our students. Fantasy is closely linked with high technology and it can restore reading to its proper place among teen-agers and the youth, addicted to computer games, the internet and movies. Fantasy has generated a fashion and boosted the book sales making people read again, due to the massive promotion of movies, computer games, soundtracks, DVD’s, blogs (personal public journals), blooks: serialized books on weblogs, literary and movie sites on the internet, the MOO (Multi-Object Oriented) on-line chat rooms that stimulate discussion among book and film fans worldwide in the common language which is mainly English. Although, fantasy has been labeled as escapist literature it has, nevertheless, deep roots in reality, offering archetypal, everlasting vistas of the human experience, giving the modern man, a chance to keep his humanity, to reflect upon the past and hopefully learn his lesson in building his future.

        Fantasy fiction is a captivating, fun, motivating, rewarding, encouraging language acquisition, shaping and stirring both emotions and the intellect. It stimulates shaping of opinions through speaking, effective reading and creative writing and expands the interest in the specific target culture being a valuable authentic educational resource. Literature helps improve students’ abilities to interpret situations and characters, to shape a modus operandi, to develop a critical, independent, creative thinking.

       The difficult texts can be adapted for younger learners, generating a variety of student-centered tasks in: Pre-reading, While reading And Post-Reading Activities. The teacher is a guide and resource provider who stimulates the pupils to actively involve themselves into reading and discover their own responses to the text, providing only the basic principles of interpretation. The students’ aesthetic and educational growth proves the value of literature which also stimulates the learners’ initiative and awareness to studying.

                                                                     

                               HOW TO TEACH FANTASY FICTION?

        Teachers could start teaching of fantasy literature by presenting:

A. Fantasy features: hard core characteristics to help students recognize it.

B. Major writers: J.R.R. TOLKIEN, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling.

C. Sub-genres: high/epic fantasy, humorous, sword & sorcery, children’s fantasy etc, illustrating each sub-genre with a fragment.

        Tolkien the father of modern epic or high fantasy, created a believable ‘secondary universe’ of his own, in his masterpiece ‘The Lord of the Rings’. He said that fantasy appeals to all minds and it is a path to knowledge. Tolkien brilliantly mixed various elements from myths, legends and fairy tales in his trilogy.

                WHAT BASIC SKILLS SHOULD WE TEACH OUR STUDENTS?

 

        The Development of the literary competence. An effective reader masters certain skills and converts the literary text into literary meaning. Conventions: are the product of the reader’s exposure to literary texts they lead to interpretation on the basis of a set of expectations. The teacher initiates the student on various aspects of the literary work: text structure (surface/deep content structure), the author and the reader (implied or real).  Students are trained to recognize the distinctive features of a fantasy fiction and develop literary competence skills: a) The plot. b) The setting. c) The characters. d) The narrator’s point of view. e) The language.  f) The theme.

                                            PRE-READING ACTIVITIES

      The pre-reading activities stir the students’ interest, help them relax, get them into the fantasy mood in order to approach the sample text. The teacher tries to: access the students’ prior knowledge; build students’ content knowledge; set a purpose for reading and motivate learners. Some activities can also be done as post-reading activities.

- Brainstorm/Cluster map -  warm up exercise related tot the topic of the story, students review the typical characteristics of fantasy fiction, specifying and speculating on their expectations about it.

                                         

- Photo – Problem Solving- the teacher divides the class into groups and lets each group choose a photo or drawing related to the story then asks them to write a speech, set up a story line, make predictions as to what they think is going on in that particular scene of the story. Activities: 1. write a speech for the character, present it to the class; 2. If you made a play about the situation your character is in, what would your first scene be?

- Archaic versus Modern Matching Vocabulary Activity: a pre-reading activity, the language used is Middle/Old English or academic style that is less accessible to students. The students have to match the archaic with the modern word, guess meaning etc.

- Word Webs, Star Diagrams or Cluster maps bubbles – other types of pre-reading activities that focus students’ attention while they brainstorm the major characteristics of fantasy literature.

                             

- Knowledge Chart: ‘Know, Want to Know, Learned – the graphic organizer helps students share their information about a story/topic and ask research questions which they will answer during a unit of study. The teacher checks what notions, language structures and vocabulary etc the students already know. Next, students will have to list what they would ‘Want to know’. The last rubric ‘Learned’ is filled in after the unit is finished and the students list what they have found out.                                     

               KNOW

     WANT TO KNOW

             LEARNT

They are trilogies. They have specific characters: elves, wizards, trolls, dragons, spells etc. They have happy endings.

Specific traits in Tolkien’s fantasy: characters – Orcs, Hobbits. Specific influences: fairy tales and Scandinavian myths etc.

 

- Think – Pair -(Quickwrite) –Share: students think about a topic or theme and tie it to their own experience. A. Think: The teacher invites the students to think of a topic, for example, a time when something miraculous happened to them. B. Pair: Next, students find partners, tell their stories to them. * Quickwrite - Their colleagues take notes to remember details, if they want to. C. Share: the first pair gets together with another pair of students. Each person takes a turn retelling his or her partner’s story. The group can select one or two stories, bits of information to share with the class.

                                               WHILE-READING ACTIVITIES

- a. Jigsaw Reading; b. Reciprocal Reading; c. Echo Reading; d. Popcorn Reading collaborative learning techniques.

- Completion of blank summary – a god memory exercise after the reading of the sample text students can review the main ideas.

- Building sentences/paragraphs – students re-arrange the jumbled elements or key-words to make up sentences; or re-arrange bits of sentences to make up a paragraph related to the sample text: summarizing it, characterizing the protagonists.

- Character development and plot – fragment analysis and predictions check.

Characters

TLOR

As they are in the book

As you imagined them

Aragorn

Compassionate, brave, smart

Strong, mysterious, tall …

Gandalf

Wise, skilled, kind, brave

Old, Wise, tall, funny…

Frodo

Kind, innocent, brave

Fat, learned, generous…

Pippin

Curious, impatient, brave

Naughty, curious, lazy…

 

- Photo Speech – students read the fragment, get a photo of the characters in the sample text and try to make up a speech, commenting on their decisions and the situations.

 

- Thought Tracking – Scenario – is a good theatre/drama/directing activity.

1. The Teacher gives the students sheets of paper with the story/fragment.

2. They lie back with their eyes closed and listen to the scenario. While the teacher tells them the plot, they think of a character they would like to be within the story.

3. The students to take turns and tell their characters’ version/view of what happened.

4. When all the information is gathered the teacher helps students re-create it into scenes.

                                            POST-READING ACTIVITIES

 

- Jumbled events – students get strips of paper with statements written on or photos of the characters/events in the story and have to re-arrange them in the chronological order or they specify the fantastic elements in the text. Application for ‘Eragon’.

 

Statements – ‘Eragon’  (by Christopher Paolini )

1. Eragon leaves his home after Garrow, his uncle, is killed by the Ra’zac who are looking for the dragon egg.

2. Arya casts a spell on the blue stone and it lands right in front of Eragon who is hunting in the mountains.

3. The blue dragon hatches. It is called Saphira and Eragon is her Rider. He is marked with the Dragon – Rider’s mark ‘gedway ignasia’ on his right palm.

4. Brom the story teller speaks about the former days and the Dragon Riders saying ‘that one Dragon -Rider’ will return and save the people of Alagesia fighting evil and King Galbatorix – prophecy.

 

- GRAPHIC ORGANUZERS: 1. Venn Diagram; 2. Character Sociogram; 3. Timeline; 4. Fishbone 5. Story Board; 6. Detail Map.

 

- The Venn Diagram: a graphic organizer of interlocking circles that helps learners to visually organize the similarities and differences between characters, stories or other elements. The common traits are placed in the middle section.

Application to ‘The Subtle Knife’ Philip Pullman.

 

 

- Character Sociogram: students make a graphic, on big chart, reflecting the relationship of a main character with other characters in the story. Students work in groups. 1. Learners write the names of characters in separate boxes. 2. On arrows drawn between the boxes they write a word or two describing the relationship between the 2 characters. 3. They write a question one character can ask another. 4. Students assume the roles of the various characters and answer the questions. 5. Students can add other characters and boxes if appropriate. Application to ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

 

                          

 

- The Fishbone: 1. The teacher writes the final outcome of the story on the board, in a box at the top of the Fishbone. 2. Students write the main causes or the outcome on the “fish-bones”. 3. The smaller but significant details should be written in between the “fish-bones”. Application to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Tolkien.

 

- Story-making using guide-lines: students write a story according to the plan: 1. Main character is positive or negative. 2. He/She has an aim, goes on a quest. 3. He/She passes through several trials/tests/events in order to fulfill her/his task. 4. The last event is the most difficult. 5. Happy ending. Evil is defeated. The dead come back to life. The activity can be done as a contest. The best story is chosen by the students.

 

- Plot Profile – is a graphic organizer activity that helps the students clarify their perception on the events in the story and the level of involvement/excitement of the characters in these events.

                      

                                       

1. Students work in groups and fill in the ‘plot profile’ worksheet. 2. Students write sentences in the first slot from 1 to 12 to summarize the plot. 3. Students draw the graphic in the second slot reflecting the level of involvement of the character(s) their evolution in the story, they use different colours for different protagonists.

 

- HOT SEAT - Character Analysis: group activity that allows the students to become a character in the text, analyze the hero of a story and answer questions from other colleagues in the group from the protagonist’s point of view. 1. The teacher divides the class into small groups of 3 to 5 students. Each group writes 3 or 4 questions to ask the character, related on his/her motivation for doing something. 2. Each group sends one person to the next table or in front of the room to be in the “Hot Seat”. The “Hot Seat” students answer questions from the other groups.

 

- Thought Bubbles – is a good post-reading activity during which the students use the sample texts or book quotes and fill in the chart, analyzing what the characters say and think. For instance, ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

 

        Character says

       Character thinks

               I think

ARAGORN: says his name is Strider and he is a ‘mere Ranger from the north’. He tells Frodo the Nazgul are close and he is not carrying a trinket.

He thinks Fordo and the Hobbits are in terrible danger. He knows Frodo caries ‘The One Ring’ and his destiny is to help all those who oppose the evil Sauron. He fears they will get caught.

I believe that Strider is a hero and his identity and mission/part will be revealed later on in the book. He will manage to help the Hobbit run away form the enemy.

 

-  Story Pyramid – revises the fragment or book and helps students organize the story elements into a pyramid by filling in its 8 sections on a worksheet: 1. The name of the main character(s). 2. Two words describing the main character(s). 3. Three words to describe the setting in the story. 4. Four words to state the problem. 5. Five words describing the first event that caused a problem. 6. Six words to describe the second event which lead to conflict. 7. Seven words describing the 3rd event that lead to the climax of the conflict. 8. Eight words describing the solution, happy ending in the tale.

                   

                                           

 

                                          NON-LITERARY AUTHENTIC FORMATS

 

   Students are shown a model in order to observe: the layout, style, length and register:

1. Guide to a TV or Radio serial: The teacher tells students that the work they are studying is serialized on TV or Radio. They are shown an example of he “TV Guide and Radio Guide” in a newspaper and then they must write a very brief account of a scene of their work as though for that publication.

2. Newspaper Articles: The teacher asks the students to choose a highlight scene from the work they are studying. She shows them examples of genuine newspaper articles. The students write about the events in the literary work, for one of these newspapers. Students can be given a headline for a prompt and a maximum number of words.

3. Missing Person: the format is applicable to many literary works. The teacher shows the students an example of such a missing person poster. She asks them to write one for a character who has gone missing in the story they are reading.

4. Blogs - reflect the transition from the printed page to the electronic format turning diaries into ‘weblogs’ or ‘public diaries’, commentaries originating in the virtual world, becoming blooks printed texts to read. Bloggers make ordinary daily observations on life and using the internet to write blog books or blooks which they pay to have printed. Sometimes, ‘blook’ can refer to a serialized book on a weblog with chapters published one by one on separate ‘blog post’. A good idea would be to have students write and exchange their ‘bolgs’ and make comments on whatever topic is of interest for them during on-line classes. This would stimulate on-line communication, access to information and cultural exchange through dialogue among different communities. Students’ awareness on global concern issues would raise: the relationship between private and public space, respect for authors’ rights, safety of published content and originality and quality of texts.                                        

 

Steps to Success. The Lesson as a Journey, by Camelia Arhip,Catalina Gazi, Mihaela Ardeleanu, Adriana Athes - C.N. “M.Eminescu”, Iasi

A journey! Plans, dealing with the unexpected, finding or losing your way. An exhilarating or a daunting experience, especially if you travel for the first time. Maps are wonderful. You find your destination and then…then you need to see very clearly where you stand- and this changes throughout your journey. We, as teachers plan our lesson and know our destination and we think we know the best itinerary. But what if on our way we come at a crossroad that was not on the map ? What if our students and the lesson do not follow the pattern suggested by the methodology course?

Steps to Success organized by The British Council, MATE, ISJ and CCD addresses newly qualified and beginner teachers and intends to combine theoretical aspects with practical issues like the ones mentioned above.

Nowadays one of the most important aspects related to teaching is definitely that of effective learning, of accumulating experience which can be used in various contexts to create our own “maps”. This can’t be achieved without reflection and an essential component is the Learning Diary. We all reflect as teachers, on our activity and very often exchange opinions with colleagues. However the advantage that a Diary brings is that thoughts which might be lost are recorded on paper. In doing this we become more objective and while trying to find the right word we become more aware and more coherent. Writing itself invites to reflection, which leads to a change of perspective and eventually to finding answers to our questions.

Steps to Success offered teachers an opportunity to share experiences and reflect together. It was an opportunity to become aware of the dynamics of the teaching-learning situation and of the difficulties that all teachers share in this matter, and it also worked as a reminder of what we are as teachers – part of a community - , stepping thus from an individual level to a collective one.

On the road to greater learner autonomy, the role of the teacher is to guide students towards this goal, and such tools as syllabuses, textbooks or lesson plans should be adapted or modified according to the needs of each learning environment, of each possible destination, route-map or chance to pursue individual interests on the way.

Shakespeare's Heritage 2008, by Cristina Nechifor, BETA

Bucharest English Teachers' Association (BETA) organized the second edition of the International Drama Festival for Youth , “Shakespeare’s Heritage” in which participated students from : Belgium ( “Sint Ursula Instituut”), Bistrita Nasaud (“Liviu Rebreanu “ National College) , Constanta (“Mircea Cel Batran” National College ) and Bucuresti (,,Mihai Viteazul” National College, Scoala Centrala and “G. Cosbuc “ Bilingual National College.
The second edition of the festival took place between 3rd - 5th May 2008 at Nottara Theatre, within the traditional ’’Bucharest Cultural” Spring events and was dedicated to Adrian Pintea.
The repertoire of this edition will include Shakespeare – as a permanent theme , as well as American drama( Edward Albee and Arthur Laurents).
Our jury members were: Maia Morgenstern(actress), Paul Goetzee (dramatist- Liverpool , Matt Amstrong (drama specialist - Warwick University) and Cristian Nicolaie
(actor/director- Nottara Theatre) . The members of the jury from Great Britain held a series of interactive work shops with the participants , after the first festival day, at „Mihai Viteazul „ National College,on play-writing and staging, from text to the stage.
The winners were :
Andrei Manasturean Col. Nat "L.Rebreanu"
Bistrita - best Actor (Adrian Pintea Award)
Adela Bengescu Col.Nat.,,Mircea Cel Batran”- Constanta - best Actress;
Andrei Gurlui Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazu”-Bucuresti - best supporting actor
Corina Moise studenta -UNATC - best supporting actress;
(REB-CLUB) Team work Col.Nat,,L.Rebreanu” Bistrita - best Director;
Razvan Diaconu (Orpheus group) Student UNATC - best staging;
Stefan Ilies Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazul-Bucuresti - best boy-dancer;
Tatiana Vana Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazul" Bucuresti - best girl-dancer;
Stefan Ilies, Krista Sandu, Alexandru Popescu Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazul" Bucuresti - best choreography;
Tania Perceli (5 ani) Constanta - best first appearance;
Roxana Dumitru Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazul-Bucuresti Miss Festival;
Alexandru Popescu Col.Nat. ,,Mihai Viteazul-Bucuresti Mister Festival;
Liviu Ion ,,Sc. Centrala”-Bucuresti Popularity Award;
Nicoleta Nutu ( Brainstorming-Group) Col.Nat.Bilingv,,G.Cosbuc Bucuresti - best Show;
Daniel Sossi Sint Ursula Instituut Belgia - best script.
 

REAL - European Network of Language Teachers Associations, by Victoria Sechelea, MATE

 

REAL is the French acronym for the European Network of Associations of Language Teachers. The aim of the project is to study the feasibility of organizing a pan-European network of associations of language teachers.

Partners

The REAL team is made up of the following organisations and associations:

Context

The REAL project brings together language teacher associations of many different shapes and sizes.  What they have in common is the desire to promote linguistic diversity and the teaching of languages, and to support language teachers. 

REAL has grown out of the simple fact that, on the one hand, education authorities, European policies and teachers of modern languages in the very centre of the EU, are not working together. However, the European Commission is now moving towards a more active linguistic policy, as demonstrated by the recent appointment of a Commissioner for Multilingualism. As a consequence the Commission is very open to all suggestions made by teachers in the field. In order for these suggestions to be made efficiently,  a clearly identifiable platform is needed.

On the other hand, recent studies show that within Europe the teaching of modern foreign languages is evolving in a common direction but according to very differing methodologies. Associations would therefore have a lot to discuss and learn from each other as they work towards common ideals. 

Aims

The REAL partnership is working towards the creation of a European network of language teacher associations. We firmly believe that such a group would have numerous advantages, both for education authorities and for associations of language teachers.

Associations are in an ideal position to make speedy and efficient contact, via their members and activities, with teachers in the field. Potentially, they can have a very real impact on the quality of language teaching in Europe. 

Principal expectations

This network would enable associations to:

  • share good teaching practice and discuss new ideas
  • share information about how our associations work and learn from one another
  • keep teachers up-to-date with what is happening in language learning in Europe both at a political level and with regard to methodology
  • act together to influence policy at national and European level
  • promote multilingualism and support cultural diversity
  • make contacts with other networks both inside and outside the European Union

Activities

Research of associations

In the first phase of the project we have tried to identify and contact as many associations of language teachers as possible.

A paper, to be produced in Autumn 2007, will present the data gathered during this research period and will lead the way for future development.

Meetings

October 2006

May 2007

September 2007

Our address: real@ciep.fr

 

Traditions across Europe—an Online European Project Meant to Promote Interculturality, by Liliana Mihalachi, Scoala cu clasele I-VIII Comanesti, Jud. Suceava

In the European year of intercultural dialogue, the eTwinning project Traditions across Europe is aiming to facilitate intercultural communication and make students and internauts familiar with national, regional and local traditions the way they are collected and perceived by the students of the partner schools involved.

The project consists in a blog which can be accessed at traditionsacrosseurope.wordpress.com, where the students and teachers of the 21 partner schools have posted and will be posting nice and interesting materials about old and new traditions in their countries, regions or towns. The materials are posted as the events take place, the project being not only a simple collection of traditions, but a blog celebrating   events which are lived and reported from their proximity.

Traditions acros Europe started in February 2008, having celebrated so far the Italian Carnival, the Lithuanian spring festivals, Mother’s Day, Martisor Day, St. Patrick’s Day and the Catholic Easter through articles, photos, recipes, drawings, cards, audio and video files. Students’ and internauts’ message exchanges and commentaries have made our virtual space a place where cultural dialogue and communication in general are at home.

New materials will be posted soon, so we all look forward to reading your opinions, suggestions and why not messages that you can enter in our guestbook on the blog.

eTwinning is the main action of the European Union’s eLearning programme and is meant to bring students and teachers closer to their European colleagues by means of online partnerships. Two of its main aims are to improve students’ and teachers’ ICT skills and their foreign language abilities. The eTwinning platform can be accessed at www.etwinning.net.

For those looking for a good practice example, I can recommend our previous eTwinning project called Carolling in Europe (carollingineurope.wordpress.com), which got the European Quality Label in January 2008 and was presented by the Romanian minister of Education, Mr Cristian Adomnitei, as a good Romanian practice example at the eTwinning conference (Bucharest, 14-16 March 2008), along with other two Romanian eTwinning projects which got the European Quality Label. 

Ideas for Teaching a Business English Lesson, by Teona Codreanu, 'Vasile Alecsandri' National College, Bacau


LESSON AIMS
1. Communicate effectively (send message across and give response effectively);
2. Use specific vocabulary necessary in a company / an office

MATERIALS

The ready made materials on the market are not suitable for all business English courses. It is necessary to develop materials to meet the specific needs of this group. The materials should be tailored according to the needs analysis made before starting the course.
Business skills training materials: reference books (exercise books for English grammar and Business vocabulary), PowerPoint presentations (writing a resume – the experience part), video materials and business simulation games (can be found on the class blog – uploaded by the teacher), worksheets (grammar, vocabulary, language reference, exercises), laptop, tape / CD, whiteboard, markers, ‘blu tack’, projector, screen.
Authentic materials: business e- journals; models of materials for writing skills, audio and video materials from trusted business sites, job-specific materials (procedures, internal regulations, etc.)

Anticipated PROBLEMS and solutions to overcome them

The students might have difficulty in forming questions correctly in English. - A short contrastive approach reminding them that intonation is not enough to form correct questions in English: auxiliaries and inversion are compulsory in this case.
Shyness, fear of making mistakes Talking in small groups before delivering presentations in front of the others. - Teacher monitors activities unobtrusively and intervenes only when needed using the target language.
Low impact at the very beginning (only), little initiative at first. - The teacher chooses the topics carefully i.e. topics that students can rely on and which are relevant enough. This lesson allows them to practice activities all the language revised, taught and previously known. It is important for them to see how each section works towards the final activity.
Other problems - Teacher’s experience and skills



Stage & Aims, Procedure
WARM UP
1. prepare students for the English lesson
2. Have fun and use English.
Discuss a funny cartoon(for example)
LEAD IN
Personalized Speaking
1. put the students at their ease by giving them an opportunity to talk about familiar, day-to-day topics
2. revise asking and answering questions
3. assess the communication between students while working in pairs



Speaking In Pairs (question cards)

This is a personalized speaking activity for learners to do in pairs. Students work in pairs: Student A takes a card and asks Student B the question. When Student B has answered, he or she picks up the next card and asks Student A another question, and so on. The teacher monitors the activity unobtrusively. She may fill in the feedback forms. The most frequent mistakes will be discussed in plenary. The good examples will be praised to stimulate students’ involvement in the task. The correct forms and the good examples will be written on the whiteboard.

LISTENING

Tune in
- to overcome the limitations of listening to recorded material by easing learners into the recording with a fairly guided task.
The tune in extract is very short and it is the first part of the longer text to be listened to. This activity enables learners to get used to the voices and the context.
First time listening Task
Answer the following questions :
1. How many people are talking?
2. Where could they be?
Listen carefully
1. To spot details while listening
2. Revise forming question
3. Listen to vocabulary related to business environment
This time they listen more intensively to the whole passage and they have a more demanding task. The learners are given detailed instruction so that they listen carefully to the whole passage.
Second time Listening Task:
Fill in the blanks with the missing words: the first text has some missing words while the second has the first letter of the missing words as well as it is longer.
Listening Challenge
1. practise the new vocabulary and structures
2. listen and familiarizes with different speakers of business English
This activity is adapted to every class needs and taken from one of the many useful free sites for teachers of English. Students have the opportunity to listen to a different audio file but the register is the same. Here follows an example from a trusted site of internet resources for teachers.
Task:
Imagine you are unhappy with the behaviour of a member of your team. You have decided to raise the issue with this person and tell him or her that you would like to see an improvement. What words or phrases might be useful in this tricky conversation?
· Tick the phrases you may find useful.(worksheet from bb http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/business/talkingbusiness/unit4negotiations/1tricky.shtmlc)
· While listening tick the phrases you have heard
· Check your understanding after reading the script
vocabulary practice
· Do the quiz

GRAMMAR REVIEW – asking ‘wh’ – question

1. prevent some of the most common errors learners at this level make;
2. reinforce previous knowledge.

Students are asked to fill in a conversation. The missing parts belong to the questions that match the answers. Most of this should be revision for intermediate level learners. If some learners still have problems with one particular area (tenses) there are explanations and reinforcement exercises on the worksheet with the language reference. This will enable them see how language learnt can be used in this activity and will refresh their memories. Some examples are written down on the whiteboard and explanations on how to form questions if necessary.

ROLE-PLAY

Problem – solving and decision making (ideas borrowed from management training)
This time students are asked to role-play a situation and try to reach a solution.
The cards describe the situation and the roles for each person. The teacher photocopies and cuts up the cards, keeping the pairs together. It is possible to use the same situation for all students or to use all the three situations for different pairs at the same time. In the former case the last 2 situations can be used for extra practice.)
The students take one card each from the pair, study the situation, and prepare their role.
The teacher encourages them to add any details they wish. They have about 2 minutes to do this. When they are ready, they begin the role-play. The teacher reminds them that they should not simply read their cards to each other. During the activity the teacher monitors the class and checks if the pairs are doing the task correctly.

FEEDBACK on Extended Speaking

The teacher makes notes on examples of language use which are particularly good and where there are problems as well. At the end of the activity the teacher gives them positive feedback on the activity and checks if they can correct some of the errors they have made.

SETTING HOMEWORK

Writing a resume – the experience section

1. discuss and write about aspects of their work
2. use specific vocabulary
3. set homework

The learners are introduced to a PowerPoint presentation on how to write the experience section of a resume. Job experienced learners will be given the opportunity to discuss and write about aspects of their work and use specific vocabulary as homework. The homework is not long as the learners have a busy schedule and do not have time to accomplish more elaborate and longer assignments. If there is enough time at the end of the class they can do their homework during the class. This can motivate them not to waste time while doing the other tasks.

LESSON FEEDBACK

Students (individual or in groups)
Answer the following questions:
1. What do you like about the English class?
2. What didn’t you like about it?
3. What else would you like to do during English classes?
They discuss and fill in the forms. The teacher invites particular people to tell the others what they have written down.
The teacher fills in her /his diary page.









 

Michael McCarthy's “Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers”. A Book Review by Irina MARDARE, Col. Nat. “Emil Racovita”, Iasi

Second language learners nowadays are taught to comprehend and produce the spoken language more than the written one. In other words, our students learn to understand, speak and read the language fairly well, but they do not quite learn how to produce it in its written forms. They are generally asked to write essays and compositions of many kinds, but their lack of training in this domain is rather obvious. The English they use actually reflects the forms of the spoken language, mainly because the vocabulary and the syntax of semi-formal and formal written English have (almost) never been taught to them as such.

Many textbooks practically ignore the stage of writing, but as teachers, it is our duty not to treat it so briefly. The first step that we need to take in this direction is to have a general discussion with our students about the differences between spoken and written English, about register and levels of tone, etc. It is very important for them to understand which forms should be used and which avoided, how to replace them, and so on.  Afterwards, they are ready to begin – but not at the paragraph level (as it is generally required in textbooks), but at the sentence level. Students need to be taught how to produce various types of sentences confidently, from the simplest to the most complex. Then, they learn how to arrange the sentences in order to come up with paragraphs and finally, essays. The latter can be either ‘free’ or ‘guided’, but they should be, at least at the beginning, on different topics they are interested in for the purpose of raising their motivation. This step requires a lot of class-work and discussion, as organizing ideas into well-constructed paragraphs and then into essays is quite a difficult process.

Another important aspect in the writing practice is vocabulary. However, the learning process should be as natural as possible – students should learn how to pick up vocabulary through reading, how to guess the meanings of words by examining the context in which they are used, etc. In other words, teaching vocabulary should be, in my opinion, contextualized and not isolated.

Consequently, teachers should provide the student with the tools he or she needs to be able to write confidently, to develop valid writing skills in English which may turn out to be useful not only in school, but also on exams and in everyday life.

McCarthy’s “Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers” does not provide a method for teaching languages but it certainly provides a different way of looking at it. After reading it, we find out more about form and function, about spoken interaction and written texts, about linguistic, social and cultural features that help us interpret and understand different texts and types of speech.

The first chapter gives a historical and functional overview of discourse analysis. It touches on different notions, such as: coherence, clause relations and textual patterns in written language.

I enjoyed reading this chapter because I learned more about what discourse analysis is concerned with, and about form and function – I was interested in one aspect in particular, how to interpret grammatical forms and use various conventions (in different situations) in order to express a specific communicative function in written language.  

The second chapter examines contextualized uses of structures and grammatical items. It touches on the notions of: cohesion -- reference (anaphoric, cataphoric and exophoric), ellipsis and substitution; theme and rheme; tense and aspect.

Here, I found very useful the sub-chapter on reference, as it very important to teach our pupils how to use different connecting items (such as personal pronouns, demonstratives, articles, etc.), that are vital in the construction of more natural texts.

The third chapter looks at the role of vocabulary in discourse. It explores lexical cohesion, lexis in talk, textual aspects of lexical competence, register, modality and different other text-organizing items.

My favorite sub-chapter here, ‘Lexical cohesion’, brought to my attention the concept of reiteration. This is again a very important aspect to be included in our lessons, because pupils need to learn how to restate an item in a later part of their written work by repetition, synonymy or hyponymy, ‘in the name of’ naturalness and sophistication.

The fourth chapter focuses on pronunciation, rhythm, word stress, prominence and intonation, while the fifth chapter, although it is concerned with spoken language, it examines various points relevant to written language. It looks at mutually dependent utterances called adjacency pairs, exchanges, turn-taking, interactional and transactional talk, stories, anecdotes and jokes, etc. 

The sixth chapter looks at text types, contextualized speech and writing, large patterns of discourse organization, the learner and his or her competences, culture and rhetoric, the reader and the process of reading.     

In my opinion, McCarthy’s “Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers” is very practical and relevant for language teaching as it examines very clearly the notion of ‘discourse analysis’ and the ways linguists approach spoken and written language. It includes reader activities throughout each chapter and very useful notes at the end of the book. It is so well illustrated with what “people actually do with language” (171) that it convinced me to test it as soon as possible in my classroom activities…  

 

The Memories of an NQT, by Ioana Hanchevici, Colegiul National “George Cosbuc”, Cluj-Napoca

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the Q’Tiest of them all? No poisoned apple thrown among, however very difficult to choose when surrounded by 23 blooming buds and three fairies wrapped in freshness. Toddlers at the very beginning, reserved, with no sign or intention of breaking the ice, we took steps to what afterwards proved to be our own success.

Steps to Success, organised by the British Council, CETA- Cluj English Teachers Association, the Cluj County Inspectorate and Casa Corpului Didactic, is a course meant to help the newly qualified teacher- the N’QT. Not only did it lead to one’s professional development, but it also initiated the fresh-ladies/gentleman in one of the most challenging processes :Teaching.

In turns we learnt what class management is and how reading and comprehension can be approached. We found out that reading is more than giving some strict tasks, when reading the story written with our own group. Writing itself became more than articles, news reports or reviews: it was an Icaric tool given to the students to spread their wings and fly in the land of imagination. We understood that playing with grammar is fun and very productive, that speaking can bring us together and that listening is the key word both in learning and teaching.

Wearing the hats of our students opened up the eyes of the sleeping child inside, eager to find out more, frustrated when misunderstood, proud when rewarded with smiles, relieved when saved by the bell. Beside this, there was no such joy like the delicious refreshments offered by Monica during the break. In other words, the experience of the long forgotten memories of school brought another halo around our students: we were just like them, they are not worse or better, they are flesh and blood and vision upon which we try to build knowledge. Excellent directors, Merry Mihaela, Charismatic Cristiana and Tender Teo, knew exactly how to use the script, how to choose the roles and how to point us out.

Up-to-date materials, new techniques, unknown stories cat-walked on the stage where hard to stand lesson plans proved to be useful and where the experience of class observation taught more than any book on methodology.

The end of the course coincided with CETA Open Day. It aimed at bringing together N’QTIES and G’OLDIES- more experienced teachers, and at highlighting CETA’s role. Not only did we have a chance of better understanding the meaning of belonging  What can CETA do for me if I decide to join it? but we also found out what we, though pretty green, can do for it.

The group discussions on Class Management, Observation and Reflection and Alternative Means of Assessment lay like a bridge over what had been thought as a terrible gap between us and them. It showed that learning is a two-way highway: the G’OLDIES can as well learn from the N’QTIES.

Consequently at the end of the course we got rid of the idea that more experienced teachers are hard to approach. We saw that despite their golden strength they are easy to melt, teaching us one of the most important features of the Teacher: flexibility. Two different generations were standing one in front of the other, mirroring themselves in what they had been and what they could become.

All in all, the eight month experience was more than learning what teaching could be: it was a step waiting for others to be taken towards success.

 

Actor: Intricate Ioana

Directors: Mihaela Lazar, Cristiana Osan, Naiba Teodora

Main Assistant: Monica Marasescu 

 

Copyright © Romanian Association of Teachers of English             ISSN 1844 – 6159                       Edited by Ovidiu Aniculaese